Elder Benson - South Africa Jo-Berg Mission

Elder Benson - South Africa Jo-Berg Mission

Monday, September 25, 2017

What a Tree Taught Me

Hello one and all!  I hope this week's post finds you happy and healthy.

This is it.  The last month of my mission.  23 months, 699 days, 16,776 hours, and an infinite amount of memories and experiences later, I've been caught completely unaware that my time in South Africa is ticking to its close.

Calls from my fellow missionaries are filled with wishes to finish strong.  Weekly letters from my mission president are saturated with encouragement to finish on a high note.  Emails from family and friends filled with scriptures, general conference talks, and insights to uplift my spirit in my final days as a missionary.  Promptings from the Spirit that guide me in how I can sprint through the tape.  It seems that I have a solid support system to help me in this final home stretch.

But with all the love I've felt, there's an undeniable force pushing the opposite way.  Lucifer is striving by all means to halt or detour this divine work.  Whether it be physical, mental, or spiritual obstacles, my companion and I have witnessed and felt it all.  We hold dear to the promise that 'all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good (D&C 122:7)'.  Though we are at times unsure of what good could be coming from some hardships, we continue to work with all of our heart, might, mind, and strength.

As we've continued to labor in the vineyards of South Africa, we've noticed a distinct change in the landscape as we've entered into a new spring season.  What was various shades of yellow and dead is now transforming into a vibrant green, lush with life.  To see signs of life return to this corner of Africa is a relief and a joy.

Much change has sprung forth in the past month, but the past week has brought to us the most pleasant surprise.  As we've driven to and fro, we've noticed slight pockets of violet striking the skyline.  With every day, the speckled patches of purple have invaded the trees in the streets and mountains, adding to the Rainbow Nation of South Africa a happy glow.

The trees that are responsible for this transformation are called the Jacaranda Tree.  Famous for its purple bloom just before the rainy season, the Jacaranda's limbs slither high into the sky, shooting forth beautiful petals, scorching the African sky with beautiful shades of lavender.  Its beauty is awe-inspiring to any visitor or resident of South Africa. 

As we've witnessed these trees beginning to bloom, I've been reminded of the trials and tribulations I face as a missionary and a child of God.  Too often, in times of spiritual drought, I've often wondered to myself why the rains don't come.  I question whether I should continue shouldering on and if I'll benefit from the hardships.  Then I am reminded that, like a Jacaranda Tree springing forth its beautiful petals, I too will bloom, that if i can endure these trials for a small moment, that the rains will come and supply my soul with living waters.

I promise you that God is aware of you.  He knows you perfectly.  He knows when you are due to bloom.  If you trust in His timing, and are patient in the dry seasons of life, you will begin to bloom amidst your persecutions and will be supplied with the living waters of Christ.

"...Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." (John 4:14)

Let us bear with patient the afflictions which are placed upon our shoulders.  It was never easy for Christ, and it will never be easy for us.  Life was never meant to be easy.  The time will come that we will look back at our trials and hardships with gratitude for the lessons which we gained from them and for the trust which we cultivated in Christ Jesus.  We can trust in Him, for He is mighty to save.  In the midst of the hardships of life, don't forget that you're beginning to bloom.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Four Insights for the New/Preparing Missionary

Having my mission come to a close has given me a lot of time to think about the valuable lessons I've learned. Idk if you'll be able to tell from the previous emails, but I love missionary work!!  The lessons I've learned have proven time and time again to be invaluable.  I recently received an email from my cousin who has received his call from the Prophet Thomas S. Monson to serve in Rome, Italy.  In this email, he asked for a few insights on how he could best begin his two years.  Here's a few insights I would share to him and to anyone who desires to begin their missionary service on a consecrated note.

1. First and foremost, pray for the Lord to confirm that the place that you have been called to is where the Lord needs you to be for the next two years.  Missionary service is to be a joyful experience, as it has been for me, yet I've seem too many elders who have struggled with obedience or confidence or other problems, all stemming from the fact that they haven't gained a personal testimony from the Lord in their call.  This testimony to get you through the rough times.  It will increase your joy in the good times.

Remember the words of David A. Bednar: "A missionary is not called to a place; rather, he or she is called to serve...As missionaries strive to be ever more worthy and capable instruments in His hands and do their best to fulfill faithfully their duties, then with His help they “cannot go amiss”—wherever they serve. Perhaps one of the lessons the Savior is teaching us in this revelation is that an assignment to labor in a specific place is essential and important but secondary to a call to the work. (Called to the Work, April 2017 Conference)"

2. Second, prayerfully set SMART Goals:

Specific - To give you direction
Measurable - To track your progress
Achievable - To fuel your faith
Realistic - To kill your doubt
Time-bound - To keep the pressure

Too many missionaries, fresh from the MTC, set a goal similar to this one: 'I am going to be the best missionary ever!'  It's not specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, or time-bound!  Be SMART in your goals, and they will help you in your focus.  Set long-term goals for your mission, and set short-term goals to help you achieve the long-term.  The simpler the goal is, the more power it has.  I could go on for days about goals but I'd just be boring everyone!  If you master the principles in Chapter 8 of PMG you'll have a solid foundation for becoming a PMG missionary.

3. Third, commit to be exactly obedient to the Missionary Handbook.  Be like the Nephites in the Book of Mormon. "And, notwithstanding we believe in Christ, we keep the law of Moses, and look forward with steadfastness unto Christ, until the law shall be fulfilled.  For, for this end was the law given; wherefore the law hath become dead unto us, and we are made alive in Christ because of our faith; yet we keep the law because of the commandments" (2 Ne 25:24-25).  Anything less than exactly obedient is disobedient.  If you can't cross yourself for the Lord these two years, how do you expect to cross yourself in the eternities ahead?

4. Last, engrain 'Preach My Gospel' into every fiber of your missionary service.  It hasn't been until recently that I discovered that my PMG looks more like a coloring book!  All the notes and quotes from various trainings and meetings that I've written in the margins of my PMG continue to teach me long after I first wrote them.  If you look at 'A Successful Missionary' under PMG Chapter One, all of the bullet points at the bottom of pg 10/top of pg 11 connect to at least one chapter of PMG.  If you master PMG, you master your mission.

I have gained strength in the words of Bruce R. McConkie:  ”I am called of God. My authority is above that of the kings of the earth. By revelation I have been selected as a personal representative of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is my Master and he has chosen me to represent him. To stand in his place, to say and do what he himself would say and do if he personally were ministering to the very people to whom he has sent me. My voice is his voice, and my acts are his acts; my words are his words and my doctrine is his doctrine. My commission is to do what he wants done. To say what he wants said. To be a living modern witness in word and deed of the divinity of his great and marvelous latter-day work.”  I know what is declared here is true.  Striving to stay true to it takes faith and repentance on a daily basis, but overtime it is achievable!  The Lord endows his true servants with power.

You have two years to do it, and an eternity to remember it.  "This time, like all times, is a very good one, if [you] but know what to do with it." -Ralph Waldo Emerson

This is the work of Jesus Christ.  Nothing shall hinder it.  "Persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent... 'til the purposes of God shall be accomplished... (Joseph Smith)"  I add my witness that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, that he was called to restore the Church of Jesus Christ to the earth in these days.  Serve with all you heart, might, mind, and strength.

Elder Benson

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The Adventures of Elder Benson and Brumpton

Part One

Rustenburg, or 'Rusty Dusty' as it's called in the SAJM, is located in the Northwest Province, approximately two hours from Johannesburg.  Herein live two missionaries who break the mold of what would be a traditional missionary companionship serving in the outskirts of the mission.  The highlights of their adventures of the past week are summed up as follows:

The elders spent most of their week in preparation for a new companionship joining their ranks in the Northwest village of Phokeng.  From marking investigator's homes in the GPS to saying goodbye to members they loved, they clung tight to the bittersweet moment of saying goodbye.

Part Two

As the elders continued to proselyte in Rustenburg, mission headquarters sent them the address of a foreign exchange student who recently arrived in South Africa from Provo, Utah.  She currently resides in Tsitsing, a village located thirty kilometers outside Rusty Dusty.  Her parents requested that the elders visit her with her host family and supply them with the chapel address.  The missionaries responded to the call and quickly began their journey to Tsitsing (not forgetting to take pictures along the way).

Part Three

The chapel in Rustenburg is among the prettiest in South Africa.  Having been converted from a mosque, this beautiful building has stolen the eyes of many saints around the world.  In the past week, however, the chapel has been broken into twice, leaving to the dynamic duo to patch up holes in the roof, take inventory of lost chairs, and climb in the rafters of the ceiling.

After their energy was spent from a long day at the chapel, the elders were in much need of nourishment.  They gallivanted to Nando's, a popular restaurant in Rustenburg.  They later treated themselves to some township sweets. 

Part Four

For Sunday worship services, the elders attended the Phokeng Branch, who are excited to be receiving their own set of elders this week!  Their services are held in portable units, a common sight for the Church in Africa.

As the worship service ended at the chapel on Sunday, many of the congregation were asked to give service at a local wedding of a relative of a member.  Weddings in South Africa are nothing short of a celebration.  They block of an entire street, put up a massive tent, and proceed to celebrate the couple's union with a live band, dancing, a catered feast, and singing.  Here is a picture of a 'squad' enjoying some of the delicious food.

The food in South Africa is amazing!  Pictured is a dish called 'Seven Colors' representing the seven colors of the South African flag.

Part Five

As the sun set in the West, the cold winter winds sent the elders seeking for shelter.  Luckily, with the help of their friend Mothusi, they found refuge in the home of the Sekete family, who helped them to warm up with a blanket and some herbal tea.

Overcome with gratitude, the elders shared with them a spiritual thought relating to missionary work.  The entire Sekete family joined in on the missionary fever and committed to reach out to a number of their friends, as shown in the picture.

Part Six

From visiting the humble saints to serving the extraordinary people, this companionship is savoring every moment they can in this special corner of South Africa.

L-O-V-E you all!! #sixweeksleft

Elder Benson

Monday, August 28, 2017

My Dumbfounding Remembrance

Funny story: the internet at the chapel mysteriously tinkered out in the past week, leading E Brumpton and I to email at a local internet shop.  Believing that these computers have more viruses than you could shake a stick at, I'm withholding pictures for one more week to protect my camera from complete annihilation.  But they will be here next week!

We have an investigator, Keolebogile, who has just received a witness that the Book of Mormon is true (and there was much rejoicing)!!  We're looking forward to continuing to work through hurdles preventing her from accepting a baptismal date, but we have complete faith that she'll be on date soon.

Her next door neighbor, who we've recently tracted into, is golden.  She read the entire Restoration pamphlet, took notes, and answered all the questions in the back before our second meeting.  She's soaking in the Living Waters of the Gospel like a sponge!  After she practically taught us about the Restoration, she committed to follow Moroni's promise:

"Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read [the Book of Mormon], if it be wisdom in God that ye should read [it], that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.

And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

And by the power of the Holy Ghost, ye may know the truth of all things." (Moroni 10:3-5)

Seeing this promise having been fulfilled for Keolebogile and being fulfilled by Ororeseng has been truly humbling for me, as their journey towards complete conversion is well underway.  There's a lot of power in these two verses if one applies unto them with faith like these two sisters.  

Whenever I've read Moroni exhorting me to 'remember', I've immediately looked back into history to remember the miracles of God's grace towards His people, which are nothing less than marvelous.  But as I've recently read about King Mosiah receiving the peoples of Zeniff and Alma, and reading their records to his people, I was totally caught off guard how his people remembered:

"And now, when Mosiah had made an end of reading the records, his people who tarried in the land were struck with wonder and amazement.  For they knew not what to think; for when they beheld those that had been delivered out of bondage they were filled with exceedingly great joy." (Mosiah 25:7-8)

Though the people proceeded to mentally think and ponder on the mercy of God in the verses following, I was taken back by the fact that they first beheld the people in front of them to remember the mercy of God; their first step of remembrance was to look to the present!  I found that so interesting as I read these verses.

Reflecting on my attempts at remembering God's mercy, I'll be the first to admit that I've rarely looked first to what was in front of me before looking to the corridors of history as I've been exhorted to remember God's mercy.  Yet as I pondered on how these people remembered by first beholding what lay in plain sight, I looked up from my copy of the 'Book of Mormon' and attempted to 'remember' by first 'beholding'.  Here's what I beheld in a few objects that were around me:
  • A loving companion, who's example continues to strengthen and support me in my final weeks of my mission
  • God's Word, strewn around me in abundance, for my pleasure and education during my morning studies
  • Warm sunlight, filtering through the window, filling the room with energy and light and testifying to me of the existence of my Father in Heaven
After beholding these few objects only, my heart ached with gratitude and love towards my God in His richly blessings towards me.  Like the people in Zarahemla, I was filled with exceedingly great joy!  These feelings of love and gratitude were indescribable.

I think overwhelming experiences such as these point to what Moroni describes for one to 'receive these things'.  I was dumbfounded at my receiving of so much joy my simply 'beholding'!  As I remembered by first beholding, I received these feelings that only God could provide with such power.

Through this experience, I've come to know that as we remember, by both examining the past and beholding the present, we open our hearts to the Spirit, filling our souls with feelings of gratitude and love, and testifying to us personally that what we are reading is true.

So, my friends, remember to remember.  Remember by beholding.  It works for me, Keolebogile, and Ororeseng, and it will work for you.

Monday, August 21, 2017

My Prophecy and My Song

Tumelong!  I hope this week's letter finds you happy and healthy.

The great land of Phokeng is lighting up like a wildfire.  The members are continuing to respond well to the social media initiative, and referrals are coming in quickly.  From the small handful of investigators we are currently seeing, they are growing rapidly in their desire to know the truth.  They are truly being taught repentance, and are transforming into true converts.  This little corner of South Africa is a goldmine for the gospel!

I love working with my companion, Elder Brumpton!  He has such a desire to be 100% committed to the work, and is willing to do whatever needs to be done in order to do so.  At the beginning of the transfer, we realized that we have different teaching styles that were difficult to configure, but we've since made leaps and bounds!  We're going to finish this transfer with a lot of momentum.

I totally forgot to bring my camera today!  Eish, I was going to give y'all the inside scoop of the magic happening down here in South Africa.  I guess next will be the great unveiling.

Yesterday we had the great privilege of receiving training from Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, General Young Women's President.  She's also a member of the Missionary Executive Commite (MEC).  Going into this missionary devotional, I had two questions: 'What more can I do to finish my mission on the best note possible?' and 'What must I do to prepare to return home?'  It was no surprise that I found what I was looking for.

As we first met her, it wasn't difficult to see her love for missionaries, as we had a great time with her and her husband.  All of her comments were so inspiring and uplifting.  She said,"You are blessed to be here when the work is exploding.  There is no other place in the work like South Africa."  She also related to us that, as she was preparing to come to South Africa, she had a conversation with Elder Bednar, who has stewardship over Africa as a whole.  These were his words to her: "I prophesy that when you're about to come home, you'll hear my voice saying 'I don't want to leave.' "

Both of these comments stuck with me, seeing that I am left with eight weeks in my mission.  I have been richly blessed to be here when the work is exploding.  There truly is no other place in the work like South Africa.  Elder Bednar previously declared,"This is the Kirtland Era for the Church in South Africa."  I have been so blessed to work with so many pioneers of the gospel in this great land of South Africa, from members, recent converts, and investigators alike.

I know the prophesy spoken by Elder Bednar is as true for Sister Oscarson as it is for me.  As my mission is coming to a close and as I'm about to depart for home, I'm hearing his voice saying 'I don't want to leave.'  Would I have the opportunity to extend for even a few more months, I would graciously and enthusiastically accept!!  There has never been more joy in my life as I've lost it for the Lord.  As Sis.  Oscarson said,"There will be few times in your life that you will serve the Lord for twenty-four hours a day.  Cherish this time."

I'll end this week's post with the words of the South African National Anthem.  It includes five of the eleven official languages in South Africa (Xhosa, Zulu, Sesotho, Afrikaans, English).  There's power in this prayer, which is probably why I so often find myself singing it in the shower and throughout the day.  "For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads. (D&C 25:12)"

Nkosi sikelel’ iAfrika
Maluphakanyisw’ uphondo lwayo,
Yizwa imithandazo yethu,
Nkosi sikelela, thina lusapho lwayo.

Morena boloka setjhaba sa heso,
O fedise dintwa le matshwenyeho,
O se boloke, O se boloke setjhaba sa heso, Setjhaba sa, South Afrika.

Uit die blou van onse hemel,
Uit die diepte van ons see,
Oor ons ewige gebergtes,
Waar die kranse antwoord gee,

Sounds the call to come together,
And united we shall stand,
Let us live and strive for freedom,
In South Africa our land.


God [Lord] bless Africa.
May her glory be lifted high.
Hear our petitions.
God bless us, Your children.

God we ask you to protect our nation.
Intervene and end all conflicts.
Protect us, protect our nation, our nation, South Africa.

Ringing out from our blue heavens,
From our deep seas breaking round,
Over everlasting mountains,
Where the echoing crags resound,

Sounds the call to come together,
And united we shall stand,
Let us live and strive for freedom,
In South Africa our land.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Just an Informal Update

The area is doing good, but it's approaching a better future. Elder Brumpton and I are looking forward to strengthening Rustenburg especially. This week we were able to come into contact with a majority of the investigators taught previously by Elders Ebite and Kagimba; all of them are incredibly humble. Besides on an exchange with Elder Mkwizu, we haven't been finding through our own efforts in Phokeng. We plan to condense our teaching in Phokeng only with current investigators on two days of the week, which we will probably achieve by next week.

Member work in this area is beginning to thrive! When I arrived in Rustenburg, many of the members had a casual relationship with the elders. Elder Brumpton told me that 2/3 of the work he and Elder Schnepf achieved together was through visiting members, and that he craved to do more missionary work rather than missionary things. We've since put a big emphasis on social media with the members both in Rustenburg and Phokeng, which is displaying fabulous results! Every family we've initiated with social media has displayed growing interest in becoming better member missionaries. They're not only asking for copies of the Book of Mormon to give away, but are striving to do so effectively (inviting them to read and pray about it, asking for their phone numbers, etc.). Referrals have been slowly building as they learn how to do quality missionary work.

Elder Brumpton and I are taking note of the patterns that we see with every family after we introduce social media. We've scheduled a meeting with the PEC and Relief Society in Rustenburg, where we can discuss how to hasten the work here. There is a lot of potential out here.

In many social media lessons and during sacrament meeting yesterday, I've played the violin. The members love hearing the music and it helps them to feel the Spirit.

I love being out here!  I've passed the 22-month mark this weekend, which is giving me butterflies just thinking that I only have two months left!  I'm planning on arriving home exhausted (both from working hard and from jet lag).

Good news: I found my camera charger!  Photos to come next week!

Love you all!

Elder Benson

Monday, August 7, 2017

Light Our Minds With Heaven's View

Hello all!  I hope you're having an awesome week thus far!

This week has been amazing.  You may have heard that we're in Rustenburg, but we're also a village called Phokeng!  We focus primarily on Rustenburg, but we often travel to Phokeng throughout our week.  Complete with dirt roads, fruit trees, and towering mountains, this corner of South Africa is a little slice of heaven.

This week, as we were traveling in Phokeng for an appointment, we had to slam on the brakes to avoid running over a kitten that had waddled into the middle of the road.  We quickly exited the car, ran to the wandering puss, and scooped it up in an attempt to save it from oncoming traffic.  After our daring rescue, we asked nearby homes whether or not the kitten belonged to them, but none claimed the poor creature.

So here we were, standing on the side of the road, cuddling a lost kitten no older than a month, with no idea of how to help our newfound friend.

We quickly traveled to the home of a nearby member, explained the situation, and ran off to buy a carton of milk for the poor little kitty as the member watched over it.  Together, with the help of the member's children, we managed to give the kitten some much needed nourishment.  We also discovered that it was a she!

The members happily agreed to look after Simba, the newly-named kitten, for the weekend until we could return on Monday and give Simba a home at the SCPA, a local animal shelter.  Elder Brumpton and I visited the members on Sunday after attending church, and I had the chance to hold Simba again.  By this point, Simba had become quite comfortable with me and she quickly snuggled up in my arms for an afternoon nap.  I've never been much of a cat guy, but I found that my heart was melting for this cute little fella.

This Monday morning we drove to the member's house to pick up Simba for the last time.  What we found shocked everyone: little Simba had passed on during the night.

After saying one last goodbye to our little friend, we began our journey back to Rustenburg.  While driving I caught myself pondering about life, in all its variety and shapes.  Like Christ of old, I have on occasion considered the birds and the lilies, and how God so graciously provides for them.  Yet, in crossing paths with little Simba, I've developed a even greater appreciation for the gift of life.  I'm grateful that I had the chance to know Simba and to provide a shelter for her as she entered into her rest.

As Simba has run her course, so will we all.  But we don't have to be uncertain of what lies ahead!  God has revealed his plan for our salvation.  From this Plan of Salvation, we discover that we lived with Heavenly Father before this life, that we came to Earth to inhabit a mortal body and to learn to apply the Atonement of Christ, and that we have the chance to inherent eternal life in the mansions eternity.  This knowledge is disclosed from billions of God's children upon the Earth. This is a reason why I'm serving as a missionary of God because, like tens of thousands of full-time missionaries like me, I desire for all to feel the deep peace that comes from this plan.  For those of us who have a knowledge of these things, we can take it a step higher.

Bonnie L. Oscarson once said of the truths of the gospel such as this plan,"We have a knowledge of these things, but do we believe them? If these things are true, then we have the greatest message of hope and help that the world has ever known. Believing them is a matter of eternal significance for us and for those we love.  To believe, we need to get the gospel from our heads into our hearts!"  To illustrate how one takes the gospel from the head to the heart, we need to go to the beginning of my missionary experience.

At the beginning of my mission, I learned how to testify of what I knew to be true in the restored gospel.  Yet, as the weeks continued and as I continued to testify to strangers about simple truths of eternity, I often found myself questioning if I really knew if all these things were true.  Yes, I had been raised to sing songs about following God's Plan of Salvation and to read the word of God since my earliest days, yet I was uncertain if I knew if I had a bone-deep conviction of it all.

One night, long after sleep had escaped from my mind, I knelt in prayer and expressed to my Father in Heaven that I believed everything to be true, yet desired a deep spiritual witness of its truthfulness from the Holy Ghost so that I could be more bold in declaring to others the truthfulness of the gospel.  Immediately after closing my prayer in the name of Christ, I heard a voice speaking to my heart.  The simple phrase it communicated to me transported everything I had ever learned about the gospel deep into the sinews of my being: "You know it's true."

And it is true. All along I had known that the truths taught in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was true.  All that was missing in my conversion was a witness from the Holy Ghost that it was the complete truth, perfect and without spot.  This experience redefined my testimony.  From that point onward, I have had no fear to testify of the gospel because I know, from a power beyond myself, that it is true.  In testifying to others of my witness of the gospel, I've discovered that a testimony of the restored gospel that is shared with others allows them the opportunity to feel for themselves the divine testimony of the gospel.  Yet a testimony from another isn't enough to gain a bone-deep conviction of the truth.

Bonnie L. Oscarson also said about conversion,"True conversion is a process that takes place over a period of time and involves a willingness to exercise faith.  It comes when we search the scriptures instead of the Internet. It comes when we are obedient to the commandments of God. Conversion comes when we serve those around us. It comes from earnest prayer, regular temple attendance, and faithful fulfillment of our God-given responsibilities. It takes consistency and daily effort."
Keolebogile (Lebo for short) is going through this process currently.  She's investigating the gospel at fifteen years old, and she is such an amazing girl!  When we first met her, we taught her about the Plan of Salvation.  She found so much joy in knowing where she came from before mortality, what her purpose was for living on Earth, and who she could return to live with after death.  Her desire to return to God had never been greater to that point.

This week we taught Lebo how she can gain a deep, abiding testimony of the Plan of Salvation and other truths in the restored gospel: by reading and praying about the Book of Mormon.  After discussing with her this process, we asked her what she was feeling.  She sat in silence for a brief moment, analyzing how she felt.  Eventually she looked us in the eye and said, with simple conviction and quiet enthusiasm,"I need to know it's true."

She has accepted the invitation to read, ponder, and pray about the Book of Mormon.  For if it is truly more of God's word revealed to man in these days, that means that Joseph Smith was a prophet, that Jesus is the Christ, and that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the Lord's kingdom upon the Earth, preparatory to his Second Coming.

Conversion isn't easy.  It requires daily, consistent effort.  But, after a period of time and an experiment of faith, it can be achieved.  I am converted every day to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, and I know, with a power beyond myself, that it is true.  Let us all gain this conviction so that we can wake up with determination and go to be with peace and assurance, regardless of what may come our way.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Find Yourself

A destination can be a place where we're going.  Bright lights and the fast lane, crashing waves on the coasts of Cali, tropical jungles near the equator--vacations, dreams, adventures, all of these have an overarching sense of excitement and adrenaline.


A destination can be a place where we're being sent.  Discerning the difference between the two is often the quest that we are all subconsciously striving to discover. Will our destination reward us with accomplishment or joy? Will our destination allow us relaxation or nirvana?

We've heard over and over again that 'Joy is in the journey.'  We've heard over and over again that we need to take a step back from focusing on the end result and enjoying the way we get there.  In reality, however, we need to know if our destination a place that we're going or a place where we're being sent.

Stop looking.  Stop searching.  Stop losing.
Start looking.  Start searching.  Start losing.

This message sounds confusing, doesn't it it?  To stop looking, searching, and losing only to start looking, searching, and losing all over again.  What in the world does this message mean?

The key to figuring out this message is found deep inside the question:  'Is my destination a place where I am going or being sent?'  Differentiating between the two takes a lot of pondering and internalizing.

A destination could be where we purchase a plane ticket and hotel room; or could be found on one of our Pinterest boards blanketed with sandy beaches or snowy mountains; or could be riding a board either on a wave or down a slope.  But are these the destinations we should really be searching for? Are these temporary, short-lived destinations where our focus should be? It's time for us to get off of the internet, search engines, and social media in our quest to find the ultimate destination. It's time for us to...
Stop looking.  Stop searching.  Stop losing.
Start looking.  Start searching.  Start losing.

The words of a world-wide famous rapper may get us closer to arriving to the answer: "You've got to lose yourself...  you've only got one shot, do not miss this chance...  this opportunity comes once in a lifetime."

You might be thinking,"How in the world do we lose ourselves?" or "Why in the world is it only once in a lifetime?"  To the wisest of people, it's the easiest question in the world! They have spent their life entertaining the quest of looking, searching, and losing. They've mastered the very meaning of losing yourself.  They don't own a nice car, they don't vacation every other week in the year, and they don't spoil their children with a personal debit card. Yet they travel 24/7 around the world, they hold massive conferences tuned into by millions, and they motivate every soul they come into contact with.  Who are these people? They are those who have lost themselves. They have absolutely mastered it and, because they are the best in their field, they have found the ultimate destination.

No need to fear: you are about to find out the secret to their success. Surprisingly, the secret has been known for millenia.  It's found in the best-selling book, which just happens to be the oldest book in the world. To unlock the secret, turn to the Bible. The best-kept secret is found in Matthew 16:25.  It reads as follows:

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.

This verse is taken from when the man named Jesus of Nazareth is speaking to twelve of his most avid followers.  They followed him, witnessing many miraculous events and awe-inspiring words of wisdom every day in every location that they were with him. This Jesus is renowned in the world's most popular religions as either a great teacher, an inspired prophet, or a Messiah. Even now, thousands of years after his death, he is still quoted by millions of preachers, teachers, and leaders for his wisdom-saturated words.

In this short verse, we find the answer to the riddle that has been repeated again and again:

Stop looking.  Stop searching.  Stop losing.
Start looking.  Start searching.  Start losing.

Jesus acclaimed himself as the Son of God, the leader of God's forces for justice and mercy. The twelve men, the apostles, who followed him had received a divine witness that Jesus was the Christ that had been prophesied by the prophets of old. They earnestly gave heed to his words. When he spake to them yet again on this occasion, they gave strict attention to what he said.  Let's look again at the verse:

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.

Simply put, whoever loses their life for the sake of Jesus Christ shall find it. To the rest of the world, it may take a bit of time to understand his saying. For myself I've finally understood what that remarkable man meant. And I've found myself! After 20 years of searching for my ultimate destination, I've discovered the location of my destination!

This destination wasn't just where I was going. Plane tickets, hotels rooms, and transport was a big part of it. The way I found the destination was because I was, quite literally, sent there. Here's a picture that shows where I was sent:

Looks exotic, right?  Complete with a chain-linked fence, tin shack, and limited yard space, this is where I found the ultimate destination.  If I had seen five years ago that this would be where I'd find myself, I honestly would have laughed out loud.

This little spot of ground is found in South Africa, where I've been serving as a missionary of the Lord Jesus Christ.  I received a call by one of his designated representatives that I would embark on a full-time voluntary mission for the space of twenty four months.  After thousands of dollars spent, hundreds of miles traveled, and a few moments of rest, I arrived in this beautiful country.  To some, what is imagined in South Africa are giraffes, lions, and monkeys.  To others, what is found is poverty, corruption, and danger.  For myself, I have found the meaning of what Jesus Christ meant all those years ago.

I now know what is meant by the words:

Stop looking.  Stop searching.  Stop losing.
Start looking.  Start searching.  Start losing.

All my life I was looking for where I could find myself. I was searching myself for what I desired to accomplish out of life.  Through that painful process, I lost a lot of valuable time that I could have spent in wiser pursuits. I lost my sense of direction in life. I lost what it meant to lose myself.

As I answered the call of Jesus Christ and embarked in his service, I didn't have all the answers. To be honest, I had no idea how the end results would appear as. But as I started looking for ways to serve others, as I searched for those who I could help in some way, I lost myself. I discovered that, in saving my life in an attempt to make the most out of it, I completely lost its meaning. Yet as I closed my eyes and stepped forward in faith, believing that I could make a difference, I found a greater purpose in life. I found souls that needed divine help. I found myself.

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.

Stop looking for purpose. Stop searching for meaning. Stop losing hope. Start looking for ways to serve. Start searching for charity. Start losing yourself. You'll be surprised about how much you'll accomplish.

So, returning to the question 'Is my destination a place where I am going or being sent?'  Well, it's both!  If you wish for the ultimate destination, eternal life, your destination is a place where you're going.  But more importantly, it's where you're being sent and who is sending you. If the one sending you is Jesus Christ and you're are being sent for His sake, you'll find yourself and the ultimate destination.

Stop looking.  Stop searching.  Stop losing.

Start looking.  Start searching.  Start losing.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A Spiritual Twist

Eta! Hallo! Sanibonani! Lumela!

I hope that this letter finds you happy and healthy.

I'm going to begin this week's letter with a slight twist:

Betty Botta bought some butter;
“But,” said she, “this butter’s bitter!
If I put it in my batter
It will make my batter bitter.
But a bit o’ better butter
Will but make my batter better.”
Then she bought a bit o’ butter
Better than the bitter butter,
Made her bitter batter better.
So ’twas better Betty Botta
Bought a bit o’ better butter.

Tongue twisters are an peculiar source of fun, especially when one attempts to recite one in a second language.  Like many of you are aware, in this side of South Africa, the language spoken most frequently, isiZulu, contains a lot of clicks and sounds that would twist your tongue in an everyday conversation.  However, if you journey down to the cape, you'll find yourself among the Xhosa people, whose language is saturated to the brim with a vast arsenal of clicks and sounds.

If you ever find yourself crossing paths with a Xhosa man/woman, I highly recommend that you kindly request from them a Xhosa tongue twister.  But be warned, you will be blown away from what you will hear coming out of their mouth.

Here are a few examples (the 'q' makes the click that sounds like popping a bottle):

1. Ugqirha uligqabhuzile iqhakuva elisemqolo kaqondie qhumfu
2. Iqaqa laqabaleka iqhini latyibalika laqhawula uqhoqhoqho

To any non-native Xhosa, the spectacular play on the Xhosa language in these tongue twisters invokes smiles and applause.  But if they were to investigate the meaning of these twisted tales, one would be left in confusion.

Here are the translations of the previous tongue twisters:

1.  The doctor squeezed the pimple on his back.
2. The polecat crossed the hill, slipped, and broke it's larynx.

Like 'Betty Botta' and her bitter butter, these tongue twisters entertain only the auditory senses, leaving logic and reason less than amused.
Luckily, some tongue twisters can leave us with a more  indelible impression.  In my latest reading of the Book of Mormon in isiZulu, I discovered one such tongue twister hidden deep within its pages:

'Ngalokho-ke, kufanele kube khona ukholo; futhi uma kufanele kube khona ukholo kufanele futhi kube khona ithemba; futhi uma kufanele kube khona ithemba kufanele futhi kube khona isihe.'

After a failed attempt in translating the meaning of this poem with my limited knowledge, I reverted to my English copy of the Book of Mormon.  What I read left a profound imprint on my soul.  Quoting from Moroni 10:20 :

'Wherefore, there must be faith; and if there must be faith there must also be hope; and if there must be hope there must also be charity.'

Having read this scripture many times previous, it wasn't until I stumbled across this spiritual tongue twister that I had desired a deeper study of this verse.  As I investigated the scriptures for such understanding, another famous scripture popped out as I read:

'And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.' (1 Cor 13:13)

As I continued to study, I uncovered a more meaningful meaning of charity.  While I could go on for millennia preaching about the benefits of charity and the need one must cultivate in order to attain this divine gift, I believe you would benefit greater from .  This activity won't take more than 30 seconds and will bless you with a more powerful focus towards becoming a true disciple of Jesus Christ.

Read through this inspired list from 'Preach My Gospel'.  Keep a prayer in your heart that the Spirit may assist you in your personal reflection as you honestly seek on how you may more perfectly attain the gift of charity:

I feel a sincere desire for the eternal welfare and happiness of other people. (Mosiah 28:3)
When I pray, I ask for charity—the pure love of Christ. (Moroni 7:47–48)
I try to understand others’ feelings and see their point of view. (Jude 1:22)
I forgive others who have offended or wronged me. (Ephesians 4:32)
I try to help others when they are struggling or discouraged. (Mosiah 18:9)
When appropriate, I tell others that I love them and care about them. (Luke 7:12–15)
I look for opportunities to serve other people. (Mosiah 2:17)
I say positive things about others. (D&C 42:27)
I am kind and patient with others, even when they are hard to get along with. (Moroni 7:45)
I find joy in others’ achievements. (Alma 17:2–4)

That was quick, eh?

From what you felt and what you thought as you peered through this list, I hope you have narrowed out a few points to improve on in your path of discipleship.  I invite you to study out this divine gift of charity.  I benefited much from my studies on this topic, and felt a guiding hand as I read through pages referenced about the topic of charity.  I know the Spirit can help you discover something greater if you will simply open your scriptures and pray in the name of Christ for this gift.

As I've been released as an Assistant this week, I appreciate the moments that armed me with experience to overcome Satan, to exercise charity, and to follow Christ.  I love being a missionary in this consecrated land of South Africa!  With my last 12 weeks of my mission ahead of me, I am looking forward to an eternity in the service of God.

I'll catch you next week in Rustenburg/Phokeng!

Elder Benson

Note: This below video is from our skype visit with Elder Benson last year. He's sharing a tongue twister in Xhosa.


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Baba Benson Goes to Swaziland

Busy can't even describe the state that we've been in during the past two weeks!  We held an emergency MLC this Monday to discuss a few items.  We were also joined by our new ZL's out in Swaziland! Because they haven't received visas to allow them entrance to South Africa, they joined us via Skype.

Like previously mentioned, conducting workshops during interviews was a success.  Here are the pictures as promised:

After the workshops, we hit a bittersweet note as we dropped off the Wells at the airport.  Together they served valiantly in the battle against dust, cockroaches, leaks, and unmoved furniture.  Elder Adams and I almost went them on their detour to Paris, but decided it would be better for us to stay because of the big week ahead.

The Blacks, another beloved senior couple, are leaving to return home.  It was a highlight of my mission serving with them out in Mpumalanga.  They treated us elders to zip-lining, elephant riding, Kruger National Park, self-hosted Pickleball Tournaments, and countless meals.  They gave our four-man district  a home when we were four hours from everyone else.  I'll miss them kakhulu!

All the senior couples and office staff joined up at El Rosa, one of the only decent Mexican restaurants in South Africa, to celebrate their honorable release.  (Also pictured in the restaurant are the Duncan's, a couple out in Klerksdorp.  ¡Feliz cumpleaños Sister Duncan!)  The food was almost as great as the people we were with.  Sister Hunt (Mission Office Secretary) dared me to try the hottest salsa on the menu, which I boldly accepted.  Little did I know that, after downing a hefty spoonful of liquid death, I would soon be spitting and sputtering and guzzling any drinks within my reach.

After conquering the salsa, I felt ready to take on another Zone Conference with the staff. This Zone Conference was one of the bigger hurdles to jump, especially since we've needed to add an extra day to accommodate the Swaziland/Mbombela Zone.  Zone Conferences in the SAJM require a lot of preparation, but always turn out to be a highlight of the transfer.  It was bittersweet hearing Elder Zitumane bear his departing testimony.  What an awesome companion he was!

The morning following the two Zone Conferences in Roodeport, we began the long drive to Swaziland.  If you haven't read from the previous weeks, Swaziland has been assigned to our mission.  It was formerly in the Mozambique Maputo Mission (Portuguese speaking), but was given to the South Africa Johannesburg Mission (English speaking) on the account that two of Swaziland's most spoken languages are English and siSwathi (a relative of Zulu).  After heaven's approval, Swaziland joined our borders and twelve elders joined our midst.

Four and a half hours later, we arrived at the Mbabane chapel for interviews. Pictured is Elder Feliciana, giving you a tour of the Employment Center and the Library.

One of the elders I had talked to over the phone prior to our arriving in Swaziland was Elder Alvarado.  Earlier in his mission in Mozambique, while waiting for a new companion to arrive, a conflict between the government and rebels blocked anyone from entering his area, leaving him without a companion!  He continued to teach his area with members for two and a half months until they could vacate him from the area.  His father is Brazilian and his mother is Honduran, he speaks four languages, and loves telling scary stories.

While President got to know the new elders, the ZL's and I hurried to get some food for everyone.  While waiting for the food, we played a contacting game, in which we each took turns approaching people in the mall with a specific word given to us by the other elders (such as elephant, banana, monkey, etc.) that we had to say within the first ten seconds of the conversation.  If we successfully included the word and either handed out a card or gained a referral, a point would be earned. (For prospective elders/sisters: if you are to play this game, remember that the purpose of this game is to invite others to come unto Christ.  Nothing should be done that would interfere with the Spirit of the work.)

After all was said and done, I came up short.  Unfortunately the video is too large to share which shows what the ZL's decided to have me do for losing the game.  Let's just say I wouldn't suggest drinking a raw egg to anyone after this encounter.

All the elders in the zone are either Brazilian or American, and all speak English and Portuguese.  Elder Feliciana helped me to learn a lot of Portuguese this weekend, which was much easier due to my four years of Spanish in school. (¡Gracias Señora Dimas!)  They're also photogenic!

Saturday's Zone Conference was very memorable with these elders.  Their previous mission specifically told them not to bring suits on their mission, which explains all of the white shirts.

Elder Adams and I attended church with the ZL's at the Ezulwini Branch.  I'll be the first to say that these saints know how to sing!  (If you hear a monkey screeching in the background, don't be mistaken; it's me trying to sing.)

After the block meeting, we rejoined with the staff and began the long commute back to Roodeport.  The wasn't so long as it was when we first drove in, mainly because I zonked out after crossing the border.  I loved this weekend in Swaziland!
Pictured is E Brown, Mina, and E Feliciana

Other highlights of the week:
Birthday Package from Mom😊

Finding a Hidden Room in the Roodeport Chapel ('Adventure is out there!')

Dropping of Elder Eki at the Airport

Just Juice and Spot It👌

Cool Quote Wall in Swaziland

Showing President How To #selfie with a Selfie Stick😂