Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Seventies Times Seven (And Divided By 3.5)

Unfortunately, my time is dwindling. This week we had two General Authorities (Seventies), Elder Uceda and Elder Clayton, come to our mission. The experience was marvelous. I don't have much time to go into detail, but I will say that I know that these men, and the Apostles and President Monson and all the other people we sustain, are actually called of God. I know that they love us. I am with Elder Miller. He is awesome. He is also done emailing, and is waiting for me. In the meantime, he is entertaining himself by scooting himself around on a rolling chair backwards, making interesting noises. His sporadic bursts of jerky movement remind me vaguely of a large one-legged frog trying to get to the pond in the middle of a dry spell. So yeah, I should hurry up. He is getting bored. He is way awesome, and he is from Draper, Utah. This is definitely going to be a fantastic transfer. Listen to the words of the prophets and apostles. They will protect you. Always listen to the still, small voice. It will protect you. Remember that God wants you to be happy. Have a great week!

Elder Benge

Publishing Them Haikus

It seems one of my haikus may have been put into a book of haikus! How cool is that. Here is the photo with the haiku written on it.

Elder Benge

Monday, August 22, 2016

Every Day I'm Shu-Shufflin'

This week was certainly filled with mix-ups, plot twists, exchanges, and absolutely hilarious happenings. 

One classical comedic idea is the idea of mistaken identity, in which someone is mistaken for someone else and it causes a whole slew of mishaps, problems, and ultimately, comedy. We can easily think of a few movies involving this or some aspects of it, such as "Hot Lead and Cold Feet" and "The Court Jester", among many others. We can even go back to Shakespeare and see this comedic concept portrayed in "A Comedy Of Errors" (Which is a fine comedy, if I do say so myself)>
However, I must admit that I have never seen such a situation play out in real life... until this week. Boy oh boy, I was having a hoot and a holler. Allow me to set the stage...

This week we were scheduled to have dinner with some of the Ward Missionaries in our ward, the Swensens. I should also mention that on this day we were on exchanges, so I (still new to the area) was the only one who knew what was going on at all. Now, the Swensens had been on vacation for quite a while, and were thus a little bit out of the loop on who we were teaching and had baptized recently, etc. Anyway, we had planned to have one of our recent converts, Vick (an older gentleman with a fine sense of humor), attend dinner with us as well so he could feel more welcomed in to the ward. As we were knocking on the Swensens door at the appointed time, we heard a car coming up behind us. Naturally, I assumed it was Brother Swensen returning after having picked up Vick for dinner. I was right, but I was also somewhat wrong. You see, Brother Swensen was driving the car, and he definitely thought  he had picked up Vick, but let me tell you: It was not Vick. It was some random guy I had never seen before. I wasn't sure what was going on until Brother Swensen got out of the car and said, "Welcome to our house, Vick!".  The supposed 'Vick' then promptly walked up to me with a confused and desperate look in his eye and said "Hello, I'm John". Right then and there, I knew dinner was going to be awesome. 
"Hello, John! Nice to meet you!" I responded, hoping Brother Swensen would get the hint. He didn't. and he escorted the bewildered John into his house, and started introducing him to his family as "Vick". After each introduction, John would great his new acquaintance with an increasingly exasperated and desperate cry of "Hello! I'm John." Nobody seemed to catch on. At this point, I couldn't hold it in and I hurriedly went into the bathroom where I started laughing out of both nerves and humor. Yeah, it was a funny situation, but it might also end badly if I didn't figure out how to remedy the situation. I quickly waved Elder Seegmiller (from Layton, Utah, by the way) in to the room and explained the situation to him. This whole time we keep hearing John hopelessly trying to correct the error with even more fervency after each subsequent introduction, while still trying to be as polite as possible. "Hello! I am JOHN." 
Anyway, as we came in to the room, it was still clear that no one had any idea as to the true identity of this stranger, and everyone still seemed unworried and totally convinced that he was Vick. Finally, Brother Swensen, sensing some disturbance in the force, pulled out a business card John had apparently handed to him earlier and looked at the name on it. Then he nudged me and leaned over. "I don't think this guy is Vick." He whispered conspicuously, pointing at the name. Way to go, Sherlock Swensen. I hastily and emphatically shook my head, indicating my relief and verifying his suspicions. After that, it all cleared up, and we had a wonderful dinner with John. (Apparently, Brother Swensen had picked him up for church a few months ago and couldn't remember his name, but thought it was John. It seems John had no qualms about jumping unexpectedly into a car to go to an unscheduled dinner with the Mormons. Meanwhile, poor Vick is sitting at home bewildered, wondering where his dinner we up with him was)
Anyway, we called Vick, and everything ended up good. I almost started busting up laughing in the middle of dinner several times as I imagined Brother Swensen knocking on John's door and saying. "You ready for dinner?" 
To which John, though almost certainly befuddled then responded trustingly "Yeah, sure."
Maybe he has people randomly pick him up for dinner all the time. Who knows?
Anyway, it was a great experience, and there is a gospel application behind it. Our identity is very important because our identity determines our potential. Most people do not understand our identity in this world. In Acts 17:28-29, Paul teaches that we are the offspring of God. Still, most people do not understand what it really means to be a child of God. Have you thought about it recently? That should be our first and foremost identifying thought about ourselves. I urge you all to remember what it means to truly be a child of God. You have the spark of divinity within you. God loves you and wants what is best for you. He has a plan to bring you to your fullest potential, and to a fullness of joy. Anyway, that is all I have for you, but remember that. As it says in Lion King, (insert majestic Sky-Lion Mufasa voice) "Remember who you are..."
Psalm 82:6

Oh yeah, I almost forgot. We also got transfer calls this week. I will be staying and getting Elder Miller. Hathaway will be leaving to Tacoma! Have a great week, dear friends and family!

Elder Benge

Monday, August 15, 2016

Dunk... Dunk... GOOSE!

This week was a whirlwind of wonderfulness! On Monday, we invited an investigator named Andrew (who had previously been reluctant to accept a baptismal date) to be baptized 5 days later, on Saturday. He accepted, and against all odds was baptized two days ago! It was such a wonderful and miraculous experience. Let me begin at the start...
4 weeks ago, we received a referral from to bring Andrew a Bible and a Book of Mormon. We met with him, bringing the required materials, and taught him the Restoration. He listened well, but talked about how he was a member of another church. He came to our church that week, but had to leave early to go to his other church. He also rejected our invitation to be baptized. He didn't seem to be progressing, so we dropped him a few lessons later. Fast forward to last week.....
We suddenly receive another referral from it says the exact same thing as the other message. We are not sure where it came from, because it looks like the earlier one was somehow duplicated and sent to us again. We decided we should go back. This time, he told us he had been reading the Book of Mormon and had seen miracles in his life from it and believed it. He was still reluctant at the thought of being baptized, but he came to church again, this time to Fast and Testimony meeting. When we met with him the next day and invited him to be baptized, he accepted, saying that after reading the Book of Mormon and hearing those testimonies in church, he knew that God wanted him to be baptized. He also shared with us a very personal and miraculous experience he had had many years earlier that now finally understood to mean he needed to be baptized. I won't share the experience here because it was very personal, but suffice to say it was incredible, and I definitely know that God watches out for his children knows who he wants in his church. Anyway, I'm sorry I didn't make that very interesting, but I loved the experience. Being able to watch someone you have come to love be baptized is as indescribably wonderful as watching a baby stand for the first time. 
God knows us. He understands our weaknesses and has prepared a way through the Atonement for us to overcome them. I am so very grateful for this Gospel, and I know that this church is true. Also, here is my address for now:
300 Kenyon St. NW unit U4
Olympia, WA
I love you all, and I am so very grateful for all of you who have been examples and blessings in my life. I'm even vaguely grateful to those of you who were bad examples and curses in my life. (just kidding, none of you were those.)

I would also like to leave you all with a quote that has actually helped me make a lot of good decisions in my life. This quote is from one of the books in the Fablehaven series, and for some reason the quote has stuck with me for a long time (By the way, I think the author, Brandon Mull, is a Mormon):
"Smart people learn from their mistakes, but the real sharp ones learn from the mistakes of others."
So true. This is why we have parents and other adult leaders. I suggest that you learn from them.

Psalm 1:1-2

Elder Benge

Monday, August 8, 2016

The Blacker The Berry, The Sweeter The Juice

I've been quoting a lot of songs in my titles recently, haven't I?
Me holding some freshly picked blackberries:

Elder Benge

The Rainbow Connection

Why are there so many songs about rainbows?
And what's on the other side?
Perhaps in seeing these words typed you can imagine hearing the melodious voice of Kermit the Frog (one of my heroes) vocalizing his ponderous wisdom as he carefully considers the mystical power of rainbows, or perhaps you even hear my shoddy impersonation of his silky-yet-goopy voice. You may even catch a few twangs of the banjo, echoing and reverberating deeply throughout the majestic marble halls of your memory. Or perhaps you imagined the last Skittles commercial you saw.
Rainbows are one of God's most awe-inspiring creations. They strike wonder in the hearts of nearly all who see them. No matter what you are, atheist, buddhist, christian, muslim, missionary, or meat-tenderizer, you have to admit that rainbows are simply brilliant. Yesterday, we were talking to people in the parking lot, when we noticed someone looking into the distance. "What are you looking at?" we inquired diligently, as we slowly turned to look... Whammo. We were mesmerized. It looked like the horizon was wielding a giant, arching, multi-colored lightsaber. It was seriously one of the most vivid rainbows I have ever seen. The woman we were talking to spoke up. "It's an amazing rainbow. That's a sign of God's covenant, right there."  No, she was not Mormon.
We hastily agreed, and we parted ways, but I was impressed that someone in Olympia still new the real meaning behind the rainbow. The world has lost so much by rejecting God. He is so obvious in His handiwork. His symbolism and wisdom is mind-blowing and incomprehensible. "Thy mind, o man, must stretch...". I am so grateful for a loving God who covenants with his children. The rainbow is a reminder of God's covenant with Noah that he will not flood the Earth again. However, we as Latter-Day Saints know that it also is a reminder of God's covenant with Enoch, that the Zion of Enoch will come back and the Lord himself will also come again.
Covenants are powerful. I love that rainbows always come after rain, something we often equate metaphorically to trials in our lives. The power of covenants can aid us in times of duress, and free us from bondage by linking us to the power of the Atonement of Christ.(See Mosiah 24:12-17)
This week we had quite a few followers of Islam who accepted our invitation to come and check out our church. I was very happy to see them there. Hopefully they will be able to progress as we teach them. I love this mission. I have seen many amazing things, and there is simply nothing better than teaching someone about the restored truth on this earth. We all have weaknesses, but we all also have a loving Savior reaching out to us inviting us to be a little better, to stand a little taller, and to reach a little higher. I have a testimony that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the World, and that he lives and guides this Church today. I am grateful for his power, His Atonement and His mercy. May you all have a wonderful week! 

Elder Benge

Monday, August 1, 2016

Some Dates: Don't Worry, I'm Over Sixteen

Elder Benge

Dates To Remember

Let us all take a moment to remember the inspiring words of a poet:

David walked into the valley
With a stone clutched in his hand
He was only a boy
But he knew someone must take a stand

There will always be a valley
Always mountains one must scale
There will always be perilous waters
Which someone must sail

Into valleys, into waters
Into jungles, into hell
Let us ride, let us ride home again with a story to tell
Into darkness, into danger
Into storms that rip the night
Don't give in, don't give up
But give thanks for the glorious fight

You can tremble, you can fear it
But keep your fighting spirit alive boys
Let the shiver of it sting you
Fling into battle, spring to your feet boys
Never hold back your step for a moment
Never doubt that your courage will grow
Hold your head even higher and into the fire we go 

Are there mountains that surround us?
Are there walls that block the way?
Knock 'em down, strip 'em back boys
And forward and into the fray

Into terror, into valour
Charge ahead, no, never turn
Yes, it's into the fire we fly
And the devil will burn

Someone has to face the valley
Rush in, we have to rally and win boys
When the world is saying not to
By [Golly], you know you've got to march on, boys
Never hold back your step for a moment
Never doubt that your courage will grow
Hold your head ever higher and into the fire we go 

Let the lightning strike
Let the flash of it shock you
Choke your fears away
Pull as tight as a wire
Let the fever strike
Let the force of it rock you
We will have our day, sailing into the fire

Someone has to face the valley
Rush in! We have to rally and win boys
When the world is saying not to
By [Golly], you know you've got to march on, boys
Never hold back your step for a moment
Look alive! Oh, your courage will grow
Yes, it's higher and higher and into the fire we go
Into fire!
Onward, ho!

Sorry, I know that was long, but I absolutely love that song. You know, sometimes life can be very hard. Courage is a very powerful attribute. How can we have courage? Through faith in God, and through love, for perfect love casteth out all fear. God can be the source of our courage, and the source of our power.  To mind come the words of Isaiah in Isaiah 41:10:

Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen the;, yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.

I also think of the words of Matthew 5:5:

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

The world teaches that courage means charging the man who has wronged you and fighting him even though he is bigger and stronger. While there are times we must stand and fight, meekness is bolder and more courageous. Anyone can charge the offender and fight him, but who has the strength to turn the other cheek and walk away. Meekness and humility is a sign of true spiritual strength. When opposition comes, be not afraid, but remember who your strength is.
On another note, there are many people in our area who have come from Saudi Arabia and other areas in the middle east. They are all very nice, and are usually very interested when we tell them that God has called another prophet on the earth. We have already handed out one Arabic Book of Mormon, which is way cool! However, basically every single time that we teach someone from the middle east, they seem to feel compelled to feed us some dates. The first time we were handed dates, they were smothered in a grayish goop that looked sort of like the maple glaze on maple bars. Of course, I thought it would be delicious because it looked fantastic. The moment delicacy touched my tongue, however, I knew I had made a mistake. The date tasted alright, but the viscous tar-like substance tasted like paste made from Elmer's glue and the residuum of a frequently used ash tray. Blech. Sometimes it is very hard to be polite. The next time we were fade dates, however, they tasted fine, once I got over my trepidation and actually stuck one in my mouth. Anyway, that's all of got for this week. It was very stressful because an Elder in our Zone got hit by a car while on back, and they'd just barely lost their phone. He's fine, but we had to keep checking up on him and calling the mission president for him (since they didn't have a phone).
We also got to go on exchanges with the Assistants, and it was awesome.
I love the work here, but I must go now. Have a great week!
Elder Benge