Monday, June 11, 2012

Coming Home

Well, as many of you now know, I am home a earlier than expected. There were some health issues that needed to be resolved and so my mission president felt it best that I return home and I agreed. Since most of the problems were stress-related, just being home has been quite the cure. Now, don't let any of that fool you, I am still going to work. I am still striving for missionary opportunities and will update this blog with my adventures. Thank you all for your wonderful love and support for the last four months. I loved getting your letters and packages and just hearing what's happening from you and my family was so much fun. I wish I could have stayed longer, but I know that this is the best choice for me. I know that I am where God needs me to be right now.

Monday, June 4, 2012

BONUS POST-- Pictures!

She sent this one because V for Vendetta is one of my favorite movies. :)

 First companion!


New companion!

So much driving!

So on Tuesday, we got a ride to Raleigh to drop off Sister G and pick up my new companion. Surprise! It's sister W again! My MTC companion. She is really fired up and I'm working to keep up with her but we are going to see miracles here. It's way different with a new companion but change can be good :)

E came to church! Testimony meeting was amazing and perfect - the Spirit was so strong. Quite a few of our lessons have been bailing out on us, though. We need to find more people to teach!

Then on Friday we had a sleepover with the Greenville sisters so that we could make it to Raleigh on time on Saturday. We had to be there around 8:30 and are not allowed to leave the Residence until 6:30. It was fun to be with the other sisters. Saturday was a mission conference with Elder Holland. It was amazing and, as tends to be the case with this particular Apostle, I walked out of there feeling soooo not good enough but ready to do better. He linked the Fall to the Atonement in such a simple way and it made the Plan of Salvation make sense. Before the fall, Adam and Eve were stuck. They could not have children in the Garden, they could talk with God, but had no progression. So they chose to progress, knowing that there would be a Savior who would come and allow them back in the presence of God, but in a position where they could have a family and learn and grow and progress. Heavenly Father really does love us.

The first thing we did when he walked in was everyone got a chance to shake his hand. He said that that was his interview with each of us. Back when the missionary force was much smaller, each of the missionaries were interviewed by an Apostle every year, but now, with 50,000 missionaries, it's a bit much. So in those few seconds, he is able to feel the spirit and allow himself to learn what the mission needs to hear.

For those of you that don't know, our church has 12 Apostles, just like Christ had apostles, and a prophet. These men are called of God to be special witnesses of Christ and they hold all the keys of the priesthood (or the power and authority to act in God's name).

Wednesday we did get lots of rain. We had to drive to our district meeting 45 minutes away and it was no fun - especially since I'm the driver now. But it was fun.

I got a lovely package from the Maneys and a note that was exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Changes!

No, I do not know who my new companion is yet. We have the transfer meeting tomorrow. The way it works is that new missionaries arrive late on Monday night, spend the night at the Mission Home, get orientated on Tuesday Morning, go to the transfer meeting and head out to their area Tuesday night. Departing missionaries head out to the transfer meeting, spend the night at the mission home, and head out on Wednesday. So tomorrow, we drive to Raleigh. You find out on Friday or Saturday night if you are being transferred or training or whatnot. I am a little nervous - so is Sister C. We hope our new living companion is easy to get along with.

We got to have a little Cottage Meeting on Saturday. We went to the B's home (the one with the farm) and invited investigators and a few members. Had a little lesson and then food and fellowshipping. It was really fun. Only one investigator ended up showing up (one of the Elder's investigators) but he brought family. His wife is on the Mercy Ship? Anyway, grandfather is staying with them and he really misses his wife. I believe she is a member. His sons are really cute.

We also taught a great man on Tuesday. We went to lunch at a less active member's home and she was like "well I'll come out with you" when we started talking about needing to find someone to go with us. It was awesome. They were both military and bonded. He was babysitting and his wife was at work. They totally met online and he went out to the Philippines to pick her up. Her family is very religious. He really enjoyed being around them. He accepted baptism! It was a really powerful lesson. I think the reason it was so powerful for me was because I had really been studying up on the Restoration in Preach My Gospel. I was reminded of what a miracle it is that God still talks to us today. Prophets aren't only a thing of the past.

Basically, if you read the Book of Mormon and ask if it is true, believing that God will tell you the answer, then you will know. Actually, the promise is that if you ask if it is *not* true. That book is a miracle. It is another testament of Jesus Christ! Everyone should read it because it will remind us of how merciful God is and how much we are loved, cared for, protected, and guided. I know so many people don't get why bad things happen or refuse to believe in God because if there was a God, then there would be no suffering. God allows some to suffer so he can punish the wicked and those that suffer will be exalted in their righteousness. Yes, it is hard to know that they are suffering. I don't like hearing about the terrible things that happen or that I see, but I know that they are beloved sons and daughters of a Heavenly Father who loves us enough to allow agency. He loves them and knows exactly what they are going through.

I love you!

Monday, May 21, 2012

There's a storm a comin'!

Hm. I don't really have much to report this week. Teaching, attempting to find new investigators, visiting people, studying the scriptures.

We just found out that Elder Holland will be coming to our mission conference on June 2. That is exciting!

I am very sad because this is Sister G's last week. It will be interesting to have a new companion.

Sorry this email is so boring, I just can't think of what to say right now other than that I know that Christ lives. I know that he is my Savior and Redeemer and that because he came to earth and suffered in the Garden and on the Cross, my imperfections are taken care of. This is what I am here to teach people - faith in Jesus Christ and his Atonement.

-----
Sent about an hour later:

So the reason the subject heading was about a storm, is because apparently there is a big storm coming. Hahaha! Just realized I never said that.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

NO LETTER THIS WEEK

...because we got to talk with Sister Benning on the phone for Mother's Day! She gets to call home twice per year: Mother's Day and Christmas.

She is doing well, is appreciative of all the letters and packages, and is excited to be serving the Lord.

Monday, May 7, 2012

When it rains, it pours

We had a NC storm on Saturday night. We had to pull over for a bit because we couldn't see out the window - it was like going through a carwash. There was lightening and thunder! So much fun! However, it caused some problems. E. and her family had a "sewer gas leak" right after we left their house and they got moved to a hotel for the night, meaning that she didn't make it to church and she smoked a ton (she has been trying to quit) because of the stress of it all and we have to push her baptism date back. We talked to her a bit about vision on Sunday. Where does she see herself in the future and what does she need to do to get there and how can the Gospel help her.

We heard the sweetest testimony from one of my favorite members on Sunday. They are converts of almost a year and right after they were baptized, they did a "construction paper prayer" for a family activity. They sat there and talked about what they wanted as a family and made a picture out of construction paper and popsicle sticks and whatnot. Then a friend pointed out to her the other day how eerie it is that it is exactly their life now. The house looks like the one they moved into a few months ago, they have their trampoline and dogs and van. True evidence that God listens to us.

My thing this week has been the family. I give you "The Family: A Proclamation to the World." http://www.lds.org/family/proclamation?lang=eng. When the family doesn't work, nothing happens. The family is where we learn about God and how to be good people and how to do things. Yes, we are taught at school, but it isn't anywhere near as effective as learning at home from loving parents on a constant basis. Everything is a teaching/learning opportunity. It breaks my heart to watch some of the families we see where the parents forget their divine role as caretakers of the children God has entrusted to their care. If you aren't ready to take on that responsibility, then maybe you shouldn't be doing what you are doing.

More info on families: http://mormon.org/family/

 

Editor's Note: In a short missve sent last week, Laura instructed us to thank the Merry Miss girls for her package. I have no idea what was in said package, but she used words like "awesome" and "thoughtful." :)

Monday, April 30, 2012

Missionary Work

Time flies when you are having fun! This week has just flown by. We taught 17 lessons - which is way big. The biggest news is that E and her four oldest children have a baptismal date for May 19th! There are still a lot of struggles, but we all have them. I love teaching that family, especially the girls. They are so interested and just love to hear more. They have the best questions.

We have been meeting with a lot of less active members. Sometimes they just say something like "that was a long time ago, I'm not interested right now." Sometimes it's more fun. There was a mother/daughter (70s and 50s?) who just talked over each other and were all over the place in their topics. Then the mother briefly read sister G's palm and told her that she would have a long life and had many trials and something big is coming her way. She looked at me (not even my hand) and started asking about if I was married. I said "No, I'm a missionary." Then she said to be careful who I marry, my second husband would be great. I am also going to have three children. The daughter remembered more about church and paid more attention when we started talking Gospel things. It was a fun experience.

We also got to start someone on the Stop Smoking Program the church has. Which is seriously amazing. Vitamin C and grapefruit juice and cinnamon gum mixed with prayer and scripture study and a good diet. Good stuff. I think we are going to go do yard work with her later this week.

I had the most amazing insight the other day. Christ didn't come to Earth *because* Adam and Eve ate the fruit. Rather he was always going to come and they knew that they had to eat the fruit in order to help all us out. "adam fell that men might...have joy." The greatest joy we have is in our Savior. This life is a time to learn and grow and the only way we could grow is if we left the nest - left the presence of God. Like when a person goes off to College, there is so much growth and learning in that trial time. We always have prayer/the phone to reach parents and they guide us and remind us of what is important.


Monday, April 23, 2012

Laughing through life

Note to self - reading in character from the bible during companion study is probably not a good idea.

We were reading Acts 2:37-41 which says "Then Peter asaid unto them, bRepent, and be cbaptized every one of you in the dname of Jesus Christ for the eremission of sins, and ye shall receive the fgift of the gHoly Ghost." I may or may not have started being goofy and shortly thereafter both of us were literally on the floor laughing. I have been praying to find more joy in my studies though, so God answers prayers

So yesterday I had to play the organ for Sacrament meeting. Now, usually, the hymns are more along the lines of a dirge. So I said to myself, I'm going to pick up the pace. People even told me to play tempo when they found out I was playing. I was doing alright, my prelude was OK. I messed up a ton, but whatever. So we get to that opening hymn, and the chorister gets up there and I play the intro at speed, and then we are singing and she is fighting me the whole way. I would get almost a measure ahead of her at some points. I just started laughing, and then Sister G. starts laughing and I'm playing, I can barely see, my palms are sweaty from nervousness and it was quite an experience.

Church only got better because Shirly was there!!!! We have been teaching her for almost 7 weeks now, her daughter is a member and she had been to church once before with her, many months ago. She loved it! The talks were especially good. Bro F. (kind of like Mr. F hahahaha) was assigned 3 Nephi 11 and he just went through and tore it apart. His wife spoke on strengthening our families by strengthening spirituality. It was just way good. And our Relief Society lesson was on prayer.

I have somewhat to say concerning prayer. Yes, we use the language of scripture when we pray - with the thees, thines, thous, thys, etc. But that in no way means that you cannot, in your most personal prayers or moments, break down any barriers and speak to our Heavenly Father however you feel comfortable. We were with one of the members that I am very close with and her heart was broken because her Visiting Teaching companion mentioned (in a way that was not meant to offend, but to teach) that she might need to be a little more formal in her prayers. She will refer to Heavenly Father as "daddy," and you know what, she needs that! She has been brought up from a horrible place and she needs to know that she is much closer to her Heavenly Father. She shows the utmost respect for him when she says that. I've noticed that they teach that whole "daughter of a king" thing much more in Young Women than in Relief Society. Yes, he is a King, and we must honor, respect, and revere Him. But he is also our Father, and that means that he understands us personally. Someone in our ward said that we need to be vulnerable in our prayers, to lay it all out in front of him. I like that idea.

"As soon as we learn the true relationship in which we stand toward God (namely, God is our Father, and we are his children), then at once prayer becomes natural and instinctive on our part (Matt. 7:7–11)" (Bible Dictionary).

Now, I step off my soapbox. Sometimes, I wish I had an actual soapbox to preach from...

Also, these are my scriptures of the last few weeks. President read them with me and taught me to ask questions and then to follow all the promptings of the Holy Spirit. As we do this, as we ask and follow, we become "as a child" and "as a saint"

"Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, I said unto you, bfeast upon the cwords of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will dtell you all things what ye should do. Wherefore, now after I have spoken these words, if ye cannot understand them it will be because ye aask not, neither do ye knock; wherefore, ye are not brought into the light, but must perish in the dark. For behold, again I say unto you that if ye will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will ashow unto you all things what ye should do." (2 Nephi 32:41)

"For the anatural bman is an cenemy to God, and has been from the dfall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he eyields to the enticings of the Holy fSpirit, and gputteth off the hnatural man and becometh a isaint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a jchild, ksubmissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father". (Mosiah 3:19)

Thank you for the package! I love those apple rings and the crackers and the nuts. I share sometimes. I haven't gotten the AZ pictures as yet, but probably sometime this week. We have interviews with President on Thursday and I am so excited! I learn so much from those interviews. We got a new district leader and he is really pushing us to become better missionaries and to build our testimonies. He challenged us to pray for all the missionaries in our district by name and I can really feel the power of that. Prayer is amazing!!!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Practicing the Piano Pays Off!

So I was thinking a few weeks ago how I really need to get up on my hymns, just to be ready. And lo and behold, the opportunity knocked. I played (not well) for two baptisms this week, for primary, and I will be playing on Sunday since the organist will be out of town. Yay for hymns and yay for Darlene :)

Tomorrow marks the beginning of my second transfer, Saturday was nerve-wracking because that's when we find out if we are being transferred. It was unlikely that either I or my companion would be transferred, but who knows! President doesn't even know for sure where everyone is going until he tells them at the transfer meeting on Tuesday. Changes are being made up until that point. They stop forwarding mail for the weekend so that if we do end up moving, there aren't mail issues. So if you sent anything, I may not have gotten it yet.

But, I did get a package from the Hugheses, full of Easter goodies (which I promptly devoured), from Joleen Hughes I got PB to go and lots of conference talks, and Jessi sent our journal :) And thank you to Brother Radding for the testimony journal. I don't know if I said that before, but I have it and am using it. I am a little behind on my letter writing, so I will get back to everyone who has written as soon as I can, but we aren't supposed to write except on P-day and boy, time flies on Mondays!

 On Thursday we had a Zone Conference/Activity Day. Basically, we had a few hours of instruction and talked a lot about revelation through prayer and missionary work. It was amazing. Then we went to a park where someone had prepared a half a pig for us - literally. Pictures to come. It's called a Pig Pickin' and it was good. Then we were split into groups and played volleyball, capture the flag, soccer, frisbee. It felt a little bit like a Benning Family Reunion. It was great to just run around and have fun.

Then that evening, we had dinner with a sister who comes out with us a lot. She made the most amazing Medeterranian feast! Hummus, tzatziki, pita bread, quinoa, greens, tomatos, falaffal. Such a break from the usual.

 I promise, we do missionary work in addition to having fun. We contacted some great people this week and have lessons for next week. It's weird to me  how full our weeks are. When I got here, we had to start from scratch, so our planners were empty, now it's hard to fit everything in. Just goes to show how the Lord is preparing his children to hear about the Gospel and to bring them to him.

 I've been studying up on Christlike attributes lately and this morning it was obedience. It is through obedience to the commandments that we are blessed. Someone said something recently that really hit me. She said that the commandments aren't just the ones found in the bible, but they are whatever the Lord tells YOU to do. You have to listen to the spirit and figure out what your, specific commandments are so that you can best become like Christ and be blessed. The goal is eternal life with God, but it requires us following the commandments. This is the hardest thing to get people to do. They are willing to listen to us, but not to act. Faith is active.

 I leave that thought with you in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Miracles DO Happen

This email arrived on 4/9/2012. Sorry for the delayed post!

I got a letter from Kimberly! It's a miracle! It only took almost two months, but it has happened.

First, lemme tell you about our temple trip. It takes a little over two hours to get to the temple from New Bern. Sister C. (our house-mom) drove us there and back and she got to spend the day with her daughter who lives up there. The temple is amazing, it's my favorite place. Just like with General Conference, it always helps to have a question in mind when you go to the temple (or to church or when you read your scriptures or pray or whatever). It doesn't have to be a huge question, but having a question shows the Lord that you want to receive revelation and instruction from Him and you will receive it! The funny thing is that my questions weren't exactly answered at the temple, but in an interview I had with President Cotterell right between the temple and lunch. He invited me to go to my scripture study with a question and an open notebook with a pen poised to write any thoughts. Not just thoughts pertaining to the question, but whatever hits you. I know a few of you are trying to make it through the Book of Mormon right now and I suggest you do the same. It will help focus your reading and help strengthen your testimony of the Book of Mormon and the Bible and about the Plan of Salvation and our Savior, Jesus Christ and... you get my point. Anyway, after the temple, all the sisters went to the mission home and had a lovely dinner and little testimony meeting with President and Sister Cotterell. Then Sister C. came to pick us up. She took us to Sam's Club on the way home and bought us groceries. Lemme tell you, if you want to do something for the missionaries, buy them groceries and drive them places. We only get so many miles a month and so we have to be careful. Today we decided to run/walk to the church to use the internet :)

Yesterday we went to meet with a member who is in a long-term care facility. About ten years ago she had a stroke and she did not recover as well as some people I know.  She can't use words very well and I can tell it frustrates her, but she is very animated when she talks and she has the sweetest spirit. Unfortunately, she doesn't get too many visitors. We brought her some Easter Cookies I made (ps make chocolate chip cookies with all butter, use dark brown sugar instead of light, and do half pb chips and half mini choco chips and you will be in heaven). After we shared a spiritual thought just before we left, she said she had a question. She pointed to a picture of an old man and told us, in her broken words and gestures, how they had met one day in the dining room and they became friends, he asked her to marry him...THREE TIMES she said 'no' each time and now really regrets it. He passed away and just wanted to know if she would get the chance to be with him in heaven. We assured her that Heavenly Father knows her and her desires and that she will have the chance to be married because marriage is an eternal principle and everyone will get the chance.
We are also meeting with Robert...a. Miss/Mister Robert takes great care of his mother and just really needs someone to talk to. It is hard for us to get a word in edgewise.He wants us to hold bible study in the courtyard of the housing complex he lives in and offered to hold a bake sale to raise money for us. A non-member wanting to help us do missionary work! But we asked him to find his favorite scripture for next time, so hopefully our lesson will have more of a focus.

We also got to teach Ebony's daughters and they are sooooo sweet and amazing. I love teaching. I can't even describe how amazing it is to watch people as they come to realize how much God loves them. Their eyes change. Their countenance changes.

For Easter, I made a great lunch. I had been having a hard few days and Sister G.(companion) asked if there was anything she could do for me and I said "you can let me make lunch." We had tilapia fillet packets with yellow bell pepper, tomato, onion and garlic, and frozen veggies (spinach and asparagus stir-fry) that I spiced up and made fancy, and some frozen rolls that sister carter wanted to get out of teh freezer. The three of us ate outside and chatted. It was a great Easter. But it isn't about all that. Even the primary children know what it is really about. Sister C. was telling us about how her primary kids knew that Easter isn't all candy and eggs and bunnies, it is about the atonement and Resurrection of our Savior. It is about how much God loves us and how much of elder brother loves us and how, together, they provided a way for us to become like them. We can be made clean of all our sins and our pains and afflictions. I can't even describe it. Have any of you watched the new church video? It is amazing.Go to lds.org right now. Watch it. Then pray about what the atonement means for you, personally. I realized, yesterday, what it means for ME. We always say that "Christ died for OUR sins" forgetting that he knows each of us and felt it all just for one person at a time. He prayed for each person individually. I mean, I don't know exactly how it happened, but I like to think of it that way.

Thank you all for letters and love and prayers :) Love you!!!!!!!!

Monday, April 2, 2012

One Month

On Friday, I will have been in New Bern for exactly one month, which is crazy. It feels like so much longer because we do so much it can't possibly have fit into one month. Seventeen more to go...

Thank you all who sent letters, I will not get a chance to write back until next Monday because we are going to the Temple on Friday and that is our P-day (other than email and quick grocery shopping) and we don't write letters except on P-day. But I love getting letters and you all make me smile :)

 I love General Conference!!!! And lemme tell you, actually going to the Church building and watching it there, in Sunday clothes, is such a different experience. When we watch it at home, it is easy to get distracted, or too comfortable and informal. There is also something about the commraderie of watching it with your fellow members and being able to talk about it right after. We had two investigators attend!! One came with his family (who are members). We aren't sure if he was actually awake for it, but hey, he was there. The other was Ebony. She always surprises me and reminds me that miracles do happen. Just to look at her, you wouldn't think that she would be able to get past the boredom of two hours of being talked at, but right after it ended, she said that she wished she could have watched the other sessions and that all the questions she came with were answered. We invited everyone we talked with to go to Conference with a specific and relevant question that they needed answered. Conference is amazing that way - no matter what they say, even if it had nothing to do with your question, it will be answered. I know my questions were answered.

I've finally gotten a chance to bake and I feel so relieved. All that pent up cooking energy... turned into cupcakes (with my homemade frosting) and muffins (from a box, but whatever) and my yummy granola (which I finished very quickly). It makes me happy. We have also started walking up and down the street during part of our companion study. We discuss what we learned in our personal study, and it keeps me more focused since I have trouble sitting for so long.

We had an interesting experience the other evening. Well, we always have interesting experiences, but I can't share them all because I don't have the time. Anyway, we were walking back to the car and we both needed a bathroom, but I saw some houses down the street and I thought, "we should do those houses, there are only a few and we can hold it a bit longer." So we went. An just before we knocked on the first door, a man biked up to us and started talking, asking what we believed. He got to his point really quickly. He just needed to know if he was condemned to hell because he had killed people while serving in the Army. We assured him that no, defending family and country are exceptions to the "thou shalt not kill" rule. It made me think of the title of liberty, which I love! Then at Conference, Pres Uchtdorf (?) and others talked about protecting the family and whatnot. The family is the most important thing we have. It is so hard for me to be away from my family right now, but I know that you are being blessed for my service and that I get to help other families get to the point where they can be sealed in the Temple for time and all eternity. I get to help them "strengthen home and family, make and keep sacred covenants, receive the ordinances of the Temple and enjoy the blessings of exaltation."

I invite you all to pray about who you know that needs the gospel of Jesus Christ in their lives. Because I can tell you that the answer is everyone. Heavenly Father *has* prepared his children to receive this message of love and light, but he cannot speak to them except through us. We need to guide them to the path and help them along it, just like we welcome help along the path. If there is one thing I have learned in the past month, it is that.
Thank you to Ashley who, from what I hear, makes my blog amazing <3 and to my family who sends me happy gifts <3

God loves you, I love you!

---
Here's President Uchtdorf's talk to which Laura referred:

New Pics

I'm still trying to figure out how best to post Laura's pictures on this blog. Until I get all that sorted out, here are some recent shots she sent us.




Friday, March 30, 2012

Life in NC

So I have been getting a lot of questions about the ward and daily life.

Our ward technically has 600 members, but only 33% show up. We (the whole ward, us included) are working on cleaning up the records and contacting all the less active members to see what happened to them and why they don't come to church anymore. Our area is huge, we drove 30 minutes the other day and were still well within our boundary. There are a lot of amazing members and some that aren't so helpful, but it's like that in every ward. We have so much support from the leaders that the work moves along easily.

A typical day for me goes something like this. We get up each morning and run for 30 minutes. Sometimes, I feel like dad, running ahead and doing pushups or something since I run faster than Sister G., but she is totally getting faster. I'm not pushing her, but it is something she wouldn't mind being better at. Then we get ready and do personal study for an hour, and then companion study for two hours. Since I'm new, we have to do two hours of comp study, which drives me insane becasue I can't stand sitting for that long. But we always have good study. Then we make calls and get things ready, have some lunch and then we are out the door. Some days we have appointments, some days we don't. but we always have a list of people to visit. Either less active members, or referrals, or we pull names out of the "former investigator" book. Everyone deserves a second chance and we are careful to stay away from the people who said not to come back, but contact the ones that just dropped off the face of the planet. And while we are in the area, we knock doors. We have a giant map and every evening we highlight where we have been - our goal is to have an entirely yellow map.

Ashley also asked about our house-mate. Sister C. is probably in her 50s, *maybe* older. She is a CPA and is working non-stop right now, but always has time to talk with us. She knows everyone in the ward and who their family is and their life story. She comes out with us for lessons sometimes or takes us to dinner. She gives me PB. She also loves a good deal, so she has a lot of stuff that she just gives us because it was on sale or something. She is constantly giving to other people. She told us our first night something like "I'm wealthy, but I'm frugal." And it's true.

Something that has come to my attention is food storage and being prepared. I am just beginning to fully realize how bad everything is going to have to get before it gets better. When was the last time we even looked at all that wheat we have under the island? Do we even know how to cook with it? I was reading an Ensign article about how this woman learned how to make cheese with powdered milk.

For Mom and Dad: Thank you sooo much for the package. The apple rings taste like the ones we bought in Germany, though these are more chewey. The skirt is perfect, and it is so nice to have the GPS mount. Sister G. doesn't have to turn around as much when she can see the street coming up on the GPS - for some reason, my saying "turn at the next street" and Gary repeating it millions of times doesn't get into her head. But I love her. We have had a few experiences this week that have just led us to know that we were meant to be companions for each other. Not huge experiences, but just the little things. We work really well together and help each othe out in the best way.

I love my family!!!!! The Book of Mormon is true. READ IT! and then PRAY to ask if it is true.

Also, do you have your questions ready for conference next week? If you come with specific and relevant questions, it's amazing how they will be answered.


Monday, March 19, 2012

"I love being a missionary."

Editor's Note: The videos embedded in this post were added by me. :)
Every morning and multiple times throughout the day, this is what my companion says to me: "I love being a missionary." She is going home in about 10 weeks and I will miss her terribly. We had such a great bonding experience last night as we were teaching and on the drive home. I know that the Lord has put us together for a reason and put us in this area for a reason. I have only known this Sister for two weeks, but I have learned so much from her and just love her. Because she is so amazing, I haven't had any major breakdowns. I received a letter from my MTC companion and she mentioned the trouble she was having getting used to this whole thing. While I love and miss you all and think about you multiple times every day, I know that the work I am doing is so important and I know that you love me and will still be there when I return.

Now about that lesson last night. We have been teaching the father of one of the recent convert. He is probably in his 60s and loves his son, daughter-in-law and grandkids (we teach at their house and he lives right next door). But, he has had a lot of troubles in the past - I'm talking prison, drugs, alcohol, abuse, etc. He cannot believe that God is loving or that he is worth anything and therefore choses not to fully accept the atonement in his life. The first time we taught, Sister G. bore her powerful testimony about her experience coming to know the Gospel is true and last night I had that same opportunity. It was not me speaking, but the Lord telling me what to say through the Holy Ghost. I shared some things that I really hate to bring up but I knew that he needed to hear this particular story. He needed to hear how I came to know that I was worth something to God. We even got him to pray!!!! Before, he would only pray by himself, alone, but with some encouragement and a reminder that he is the patriarch of that family and that his son and grandkids want to hear him pray, we got him to lead us in prayer. After our lesson, he was so excited. He wanted to take us out to dinner when he gets paid on Friday. Luckily, his daughter-in-law is in charge of our meal calendar and she scheduled the whole family for a dinner at Golden Corral on Saturday.

We also had the opportunity to receive a taste of our own medicne this week. We contacted this older couple and they invited us back. The second lesson basically ended up being the same argument in circles for an hour and a half and ended with his praying for us to be converted from our ways and turn back to God and the bible, "the infallable word of God." It was so frusterating! He kept insisting that we don't know the bible even though we totally proved that we do and he was so sure that the seventh day is a Saturday, so that's the Sabbath.  We kept having to calm each other down and I had to remind myself multiple times to not use logic, but to listen to the spirit. We ended up just leaving our number and praying that they actually do read and pray and come to understand what the gift we were trying to give him is.


We contact a lot, but I kind of enjoy it. We get to walk around town and meet people and sometimes they are really prepared for us. We met a woman who said that she was just so glad we came to her house and that she was looking for a way to grow closer to God. And the promise of the Book of Mormon is that a man can draw closer to God by abiding it's precepts than by any other book - or something like that. Sister G. decided I was ready to go on splits so I had the opportunity to teach this woman again with a woman from our ward (who is soooo a rockstar. Marine, masters in diplomacy, three young boys, and a strong testimony).

I love this work, I love this place. I'm not a fan of the thin layer of yellow dust (pollen) that covers everything but luckily I am blessed that I don't have allergies too bad.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

I had a boy in my bed...

His name is Clovis, he is a slightly overweight cat who loves to be around us. On our first night, I got in bed and he hopped right up and just decided to cuddle up under the covers. Now, he is my boyfriend. He likes to sit on our scriptures when we are studying and knock pens off the table.

 We are in the New Bern area - which is basically on the coast, but not quite, though the Neuse river runs right through our area. We are opening this area for sisters and wow do they love us. Apparently President just emailed two areas and said whoever can find housing first gets the sisters. New Bern acted fastest. We are staying with a member and she is so amazing. Her husband died like 8 years ago and she lives alone and loves the missionaries. She works all day long, so we don't see her much, but she knows everything about all the ward members, so she is a great resource. She takes great care of us :) We have a bedroom and bathroom (basically the whole second floor) to ourselves and then we share the rest of the house. Our room is really cute and we live on a golf course.


 The sister missionaries are celebrities out here. I keep thinking about Sister Waldman and hoping that she is getting the same treatment. They fight over us for meals and the young women have been wanting to talk to us. The ward is amazing. The leaders are really ramping up the Missionary effort and have been really helpful - especially since this is a new area for Sisters so we have to start from scratch. The Elders gave us a few referrals, but other than that, it's just us. We spend a lot of our time marking up maps and contacting, though we have already had quite a few lessons. When we called in our numbers last night, the District Leader was a little impressed (cuz we are amazing).

 My companion is Sister G. from Delano, CA and I LOVE HER!!! She is the perfect trainer for me and we have been getting along really well. This is her last 12 weeks though, so I will have to kill her off :(

 The weather has been lovely, which is great for contacting. The people here are really polite to us - even if they don't want to hear from us, they just say so and it's no big deal. We have some return appointments for people whose doors we knocked on.

 On Saturday night we taught this woman and we brought Sister C. with us (the woman we live with). This woman's daughter is convert of almost a year and she just wanted to hear about the church. I loved to teach her. Sister G. asked "if there were prophets before, did you ever wonder if there were today?" and this woman was like "hmm...I guess I never thought of that," and she loved talking with us. Then Sister C. took us to visit someone in an assisted living home. Unfortunately it was a scene that was very familiar to me and fresh in my mind from Grandma's passing away. I could tell that our visit was very welcome. Then Sister C. took us out for dinner. When I say she takes care of us, I mean she takes care of us. We got home last night and there was a giant jar of PB on the counter for me that she had taken out of her stock-pile (no she is not an extreme couponer, but she likes a deal. "I'm wealthy, but frugal" that's what she told us).

One last thing. I have been so impressed by this one family in the ward. They are converts on their way to the temple and the mother just has the best kind of Faith. She truly knows that God loves her and answers her prayers. She has seen true miracles. And they are also great because they are new converts and want to share the Gospel with everyone, so they set up a lot of appointments for us.

 Oh, wait, one last funny thought. At our district meeting last week, our leader said something about "time to hold the counting," talking about everyone sharing their numbers for the week and I started laughing thinking about Cold Comfort Farm.

I love NC, it's not LA, but it's amazing. I love this work and while I can't wait to get back to my family, I couldn't think of anyting else I want to be doing with my time. Love my family!

Love the letters! :)
Sister Benning

PS-I can't remember my exact address right now for mother's Google Maps purposes, but I can say that the church building is on Forest Drive in New Burn and we live like a minute away on West  Fairway drive by the golf course. You should be able to get the church address on lds.org and go from there.

Friday, March 9, 2012

A letter from the Raleigh mission office

Dear families of missionaries in the North Carolina Raleigh Mission,
We are thrilled to have welcomed your missionary to our mission!  We received 12 new missionaries so it has been a very exciting time!

Their flight on Monday ended up arriving two and a half hours behind schedule, but they arrived safe and with all of their luggage.  After they arrived we took them to the mission home for dinner, interviews with President Cotterell, a testimony meeting and dessert.  After that everyone was ready for bed.  The elders all slept in the basement and the sisters slept upstairs here at the mission home.

After breakfast on Tuesday morning, all of the missionaries were taken to the mission office to meet the office staff and to be oriented in some of the things they need to know to be a missionary.  From there everyone traveled to the Raleigh Stake Center to meet their trainers.  This is a wonderful experience for them to meet the missionary who has been specially picked to train them and to set the course for them to have a successful mission.   Everyone had pictures taken with President Cotterell and I, and then with their trainer.  They learned about the new 12 week training for new missionaries and then I fed them lunch. 

Our transfer meeting was also held at the Stake Center.  At this meeting all of the missionaries in the mission who are being transferred (about 1/4 of the mission this time) come to find out where they are going.  They then leave for their new areas.  Many of our new missionaries asked me what they would be doing when they got to their area on Tuesday night.  I assured them that they would get right to work with either teaching appointments or contacting.

It is a pleasure to serve with your missionary.  We felt a great strength from each one of them and we look forward to get to know them individually, working and learning with them. 

These are the missionaries, their companions and the area they are assigned to:

Sister Benning is serving with Sister G. of Delano Ca in New Bern
Your missionary will fill in more details in her next email to you.  Our preparation days are on Monday. 

All mail should come through the US Postal system and be mailed to the mission office using this address:  

Missionary’s Full Name  (we have several with the same last name)
North Carolina Raleigh Mission
6508 Falls of Neuse
Suite 100
Raleigh, NC 27615

The day the mail is received it is forwarded on to your missionary.  This can only be done if the mail is sent by First Class, Priority or Express mail.  If you choose to use UPS, Federal Express or parcel post mail it cannot be forwarded.  Those items will get to your missionary, but they must wait at the office until someone travels to your missionary, which could be several weeks.

Once again, it is a pleasure serving the Lord in the North Carolina Raleigh Mission with your missionary.

With love,
Sister Cotterell
North Carolina Raleigh Mission
With President Cotterell (the mission president) and Sister Cotterell

With Sister Gallege, Laura's new companion

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Last MTC email before NORTH CAROLINA!

From Laura, with special mention of Kelli and the Michaels...

First of all, thank you Michaels for the wonderful cookies! I can't wait to share them with my District/class tonight! They are going to go crazy!!!! And a huge thank you to everyone sending me mail and Dear Elders - it is so nice to hear about anything and everything from back home. Also, thanks for sending me my tea and chocolate chips - they were gone so fast! Everyone loved it :)




The most amazing thing happened last night. Every Tuesday evening, we have a devotional with all 2,000 missionaries and someone comes and talks to us. Every once in a while, one of the Apostles comes and last night was one of those nights. Usually, about 15 minutes before it starts, we sing a few hymns together, which is usually my favorite part. We were on our last hymn and suddenly everyone starts to stand up. Elder Holland had walked into the room. When that happened, we all forgot to sing for a few measures, then remembered that we were singing and sang so loudly and beautifully for the rest of the hymn. It was like we had to prove that we could sing. I started laughing.


Pic by Ashley because, why not?
There were a few main points from his talk that I want to share. First, he basically said that we are not allowed to come home and go back to who we were. If we are expecting those we teach to change and come unto Christ, then we have to do the same thing in our lives and how dare we think that our actions won't affect them. A lot is expected of the missionaries. We don't have a symbol of our church (like the cross) but if we did, it would be a picture of two missionaries. Missionaries are referenced in sitcoms and books and people know who we are and so we have to live up to those expectations. One of the things that he said - and this is not the first time I've heard this at the MTC, but probably only the second - is that we are the Lord's investigators. Just as we are teaching others, he is teaching us. If there is one person we convert on our missions, it should be ourselves. Then Elder Holland likened us to the Apostles. We are doing the same thing that they do in building the Kingdom of God on earth only without the same authority and Priesthood keys that they have. While we are missionaries, we are apostles - little 'a.'  Then came the amazing part. He read the first few chapters of the book of Mormon with us. It was like being in the best English class and Sunday School class combined. He pointed out all kinds of things. In that first chapter we see that prophets exist, they pray, have spiritual manifestations, dreams, get records, have spiritual promptings, call people unto repentance, receive revelations. Not only that, but anyone has access to that kind of power if they want it. Nephi didn't just take is father's word for it, he prayed about what his father, the prophet saw, and Nephi saw it too. Elder Holland called us out on reading the Book of Mormon. It is through reading scripture that we can gain the holy ghost to be with us always. One more note on this devotional, he told us that we need to teach "after the manner of the working of the Spirit" (Moroni 6:9) rather than just with or by the Spirit. We teach simply, directly, with the spirit, individualized lessons, persuasive, provocative (call to action), and cleanly (worthy of the spirit). Just something interesting to ponder on. Teaching like the Spirit, not just with the Spirit.

On Monday I had a bit of an adventure off the MTC campus. My companion, Sister W., was supposed to have a doctor's apt. And through many miscommunications (not on our part, but ont he MTC staff's part) she did not make it, but was able to reschedule (miraculously) for the next day. So we didn't get to leave like we expected, but that's OK, because after dinner, we had to go to Instacare (the same one that Ashley had to go to when she snapped her ankle moving me in). She was having her cereal course (I've taught my district well) and started coughing. We didn't think much of it until about 20 minutes later when she still was coughing and ended up barfing. We went to the front desk since the medical clinic was closed, they called the doctor, he said to just calm her down, it wouldn't get any worse, but if it did to call him back. She kept coughing and crying and throwing up and it was not pretty. Eventually they just sent us to Instacare. She vomited one last time in the waiting room and then seemed to calm down a bit. They said that it might have been an allergic reaction, but she wasn't eating anything that she hasn't had at every meal at the MTC. It was weird to be outside - we don't leave except to go to the Temple which is just across the street.

I have little patience in general, but especially with people who go over their allotted time and then get mad at us when we are late for our next meeting/class or don't like it when we have to get up to use the restroom because we didn't get a break. It's part of public speaking - you need to know how to end on time.

We leave for NC on Monday. Our flight isn't until 7, but we have to be ready to go, in the bus at 4am...wooohoooo (sarcastic). We have an hour layover in Georgia. We have been getting a few letters from some of the Sisters in NC. When we arrive, there will be 14 sisters in 7 areas. It was so wonderful to get little notes from them. Some send pictures. They gave us advice and words of encouragement and excitment. I can't wait to meet and work with them.

I had a CD made of my pictures, I'll be sending that home ASAP.

Um, I think that's all for now. Love you!!!


PS Kelli, I have been getting your Dear Elders - I only have your Tarzana address, so my letters back are going there. My District enjoyed your jokes. Also, I wore your hat and everyone loved it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

First week recap

An email from Laura (edited, because I can't help it):

Sorry I didn't get to write earlier in the day, my email wasn't working so we had to go get it fixed and then it was temple time.
So the MTC. Basically, we work all day long. It feels a lot like EFY sometimes, but with no breaks or laughter or secret flirting.We have classroom instruction with either Brother Nate or Brother Pinnock for about 6 hours a day. Then we have Zone teaching, where we are currently playing investigators for the other, more experienced zone members. Gym time for 50 minutes (more on this later). Meals at ridiculous times considering we don't really get more than water and bathroom breaks. Personal study, companion study and planning. It's insane, but the busy-ness makes it easier. I haven't had time to think about being homesick until basically today - though I do think about you all constantly.
My companion is amazing. She is so full of love and forgiveness and the Spirit. She is helping me become a better person - more friendly and a bit quieter. (Nobody else gets to talk in our class... oops.)
Throughout the week, when something reminds me of you I put them on a list of things to tell you...I love lists <3
  1. I broke a bowl. I picked it up quickly to get some cereal course (after dinner) and it hit the sneeze shield and flew out of my hand. Better luck next time.
  2. Dad, I want the list of scriptures you were challenged to memorize on your mission - I think it would be really helpful in accomplishing my goal of being able to cite my sources. I don't want to just say things and not have anything to back me up. If an investigator questions me, I want an answer from God, not me. If that makes any sense. I've been writing down the ones I come across in my tiny notebook and trying to memorize the gist with the reference as I have a spare moment here and there.
  3. The sister missionaries are special and we get 6am optional exercise. Monday is step class, none on tuesday :( , Wednesday is aerobics, Thursday is yoga, Friday is kickboxing, and Saturday is Pilates. I love this part of my day. It is the best way of waking up. The elders don't have any special gym time, but that's probably cuz there are a lot more of them. Regular gym time is at random points throughout the day, which makes for awkward getting ready in the middle of the day as well as the morning. The way the gym is set up the track (10 laps to a mile) goes past the elipticals, and so I crank up the resistance on the eliptical and my companion and another sister in our district run around the track and we memorize things. I give them a line, then they run a lap and then repeat it to me. So far we have gotten the missionary purpose (PMG 1), the first vision account (shortened in PMG), part of D&C: 4, and most of the Articles of Faith. What a great use of time! This is also when I get my personal scriptures down. There is also another gym in a different building where they do P90X and have TVs with General Conference or Mormon Messages running. They have free weights there.
  4. My district doesn't get the need for cereal course or PB. I have PB with every meal (mostly because the meat here scares me a lot of the time, but I need my protein and fat and I love PB). They also think I'm weird for mixing cereals, but so do you. Editor's note: I don't know why she thinks this. Our family is KNOWN for mixing cereal. I am especially fond of Peanut Butter Cap'n Crunch mixed with Cheerios.
  5. Ashley, the hynmbook has been so wonderful. It is getting "Sister Benning" on the front and I use it multiple times every day. We sing a lot.
  6. Tea please!!! Peach and apple cinnamon spice and raspberry, whatever we have in the cupboard. Also some Chocolate Chips. We had a lesson on how the fundamentals of the gospel are like the chocolate chips in a choco chip cookie. Without them, it isn't a choco chip cookie. I want some to share with my district. We are planning to send some herbal tea and chocolate chips later this week.
  7. Along with PB I also love the wrap bar. They have all kinds of options for innerds for you to wrap and it is very happy :)
  8. Our District Leaders are going to Finland. They are fun people. One of them says "anyong" for 'Hi.' (If you caught the Arrested Development reference, you are right on, though I did have to guess the spelling)
  9. Al Jazeera did an interview that will be airing in April with some of the missionaries. I'm not on it, but possible in the background as they were filming in the cafeteria as we were eating.
I have learned so much!!! My faith and testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and his Atonement have been strengthened tenfold and will strengthen even more. As I was in the temple this afternoon, I was hit with the amazing feeling it will be when Christ welcomes us with open arms and says, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."
My challenge to you all this week is to read the Book of Mormon and sincerely pray about it, for it is through the Book of Mormon that we can know of the truth of all things and of the fullness of the Gospel of Christ. We have been working a lot this week on helping investigators understand and relate the BoM to their lives. It is an amazing book, with so many truths your mind will explode. This sounds a bit messy. I wonder if they give missionaries rubber gloves to clean up the mess after they blow the minds of investigators...
Also, I challenge you to family prayer - both these challenges apply to everyone, not just my LDS readers. In 3 Nephi 18:21 Christ commands us to pray with our families that we may be blessed. There is nothing more beautiful than sharing the experience of kneeling in prayer with those you love the most and humbling yourselves before God so that he may bless you.
I love my family - your personal letters are on the way. Wow, 30 minutes goes fast. I just had to write this (rather lengthy) email and I'm running out of time!
'Til we write again,
Sister Benning
ps I love signing my letters like that!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Surprise MTC pics and a letter!

We got our first letter from Laura on Saturday, followed on Sunday by some pictures taken by my mother's dear friend Gigi. Gigi and her husband have been in callings at the MTC and she managed to find Laura in the mass of students. Thanks, Gigi!

 Remember, you can send Laura a letter at the address in the right sidebar, or go to www.dearelder.com and put in her information to write her a letter electronically. Dear Elder prints the letter and delivers it to the MTC with same-day service if you submit before noon. This service is FREE, though they ask for donations if possible. Laura's P-Day (Preparation Day, or, the day she is allowed to write and send letters) is Wednesday for her time at the MTC.

Also, don't forget to sign up for email notifications whenever there's a new post on this blog. Just fill out the form in the right sidebar and I'll add you to the list.

Laura's letter:

Dear Family,
I am alive and well. Just barely made my flight! Katie, Kayley, Sadie, and I went to Subway, then took a picture at the temple, then screamed to the MTC.  It was fun. Since they kept the energy up, I couldn't get nervous.

My companion is Sister Wilson and she is going to North Carolina with me. I think she is actually the solution to the odd numbers. She moved up her MTC day by six weeks. I love her enthusiasm. Also, my purple dress-- she has. And my orange turtleneck thingy she has in purple.

They have extra morning exercise for the sisters. This morning was yoga at 6am and it felt so good to move. Tomorrow is kickboxing. Pilates on Saturday, then we have gym time everyday (except P-Day). I haven't experienced that yet.

Our District Leaders are really nice. One of them has a knit TARDIS hat (I got a pic). They are all going to Finland. Helpful boys elders are everywhere! They bus our trays and hold doors. Everyone says "Good morning" to each other.  Wearing a dork dot is a bit like wearing an "I'm Celebrating" pin at Disneyland; everyone welcomes you to the MTC.

The food is eh, but there is PB!

Our lessons have been a lot about seeing people as God does and understand why they, specifically, are important to Him. Just something for you to think about.

I love my family, miss you terribly, but working hard.

Love,
Sister Benning

Hehe! I have a nametag! :)

"The worth of souls is great in the sight of God." D&C 18:10

Laura and her companion

Laura and Gigi

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

At the MTC

This is Laura's sister, Ashley, officially taking over as the scribe on this blog for the next 18 months. I'll update whenever Laura sends a letter home or when we hear any news about where she is or what she's up to.

Laura left this morning on the 6:30 am flight to Salt Lake and spent lunch with some of her dear friends--past roomies-- Sadee, Katie, and Kaylee.  Katie was awesome enough to remember to take pics and post them on Facebook so I could steal them.  Here is Laura just before entering the MTC, or Missionary Training Center, where she will live for the next three weeks before shipping out for Raleigh, North Carolina. Want to learn more about the MTC? Click here.




Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Setting Apart

I am leaving in less than two hours to be set apart and I thought I'd do one last post before my sister takes over.

Being set apart is basically when I officially become a missionary. The Stake President (leader over a group of about 5 congregations, called wards, led by bishops) will put his hands on my head, and with the authority of the priesthood, give me a blessing and make me a missionary. It is called a 'setting apart' because he is setting apart my life to this one specific purpose. In our Church, everyone who has a job is set apart in that job - from the nursery leaders to the bishop and his counselors. It is a really cool experience to get a blessing, it's like God is talking directly to you.

Packing today was not fun, but packing never is.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Farewell Talk

It has been requested that I post my farewell talk. Please keep in mind that this is only what I wrote, not what I said.

Good morning, brothers and sisters. I am so excited to be here today, to be able to share my thoughts with you before Tuesday when I will be blessed and set apart as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And since Tuesday is also Valentine’s day, I decided to chose love as my topic. Valentine’s Day is one of my favorite holidays because it isn’t a real holiday and because the history of St. Valentine is actually a bit gruesome. I love it because suddenly pink, red, and purple don’t look so weird together. I love the unspoken rule about wearing pink and red on February 14th. I love candy and Love Potion #31 ice cream from Baskin Robbins. I love it because it gives everyone a reason to express love. As I was preparing this talk on love, I couldn’t help but think of the great love that Christ has for everyone and the love that we experience on a daily basis. There are moments in our lives when we get a little glimpse of how God feels about us. I got to experience the world through God’s eyes back in December.

There is an interesting phenomenon that occurs when opening a mission call. Suddenly you know and care about a whole group of people without having any knowledge of them other than their locality. I remember reading the letter from the First Presidency, not knowing what to expect but, for the first time, being truly frustrated that the full name of the Church is so long because it took that much longer to get to the good stuff. “Dear Sister Benning: You are hereby called to serve as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You are assigned to labor in the North Carolina Raleigh Mission.” Suddenly everything felt right. The anxiety of the previous weeks seemed silly. Of course I would be called to serve in North Carolina I love the North Carolinians – seriously, those were my thoughts, never been there, but duh I love them because God loves them. No matter where I am serving the Lord, I want the people I meet to know of God’s love for them, the love that I glimpsed and can barely comprehend.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). The people I go to serve – and all of us for that matter – are loved and important enough for God to send his only begotten son to earth, to suffer for our sins so that we can return to live with him in heaven. I am not Christ, not even close, but God is sending me to serve these people: to remind them how much God loves them and of his desire for them to accept the atonement and the plan of salvation so that they can live with him again. How hard it must have been to send us all off to Earth, to learn and grow and then to sit in heaven, anxiously waiting our return, knowing that some wouldn’t make it all the way back.

Whether or not you have any religious background, everyone needs the reminder that they are important and that there is someone watching out for them. It is easy to forget this when bad things happen to good people and in those moments when life makes no sense. But it’s true! God lives! And because He lives, we have the potential to be made clean and live with God. The way is perfect in its simplicity, not ease, but simplicity. This always makes me think of the Israelites and the serpent of brass. It was the easiest thing, God commanded Moses to make a serpent of brass and hang it on a pole, the people then only had to look at the serpent and be healed. But many of them did not even look. So simple, but yet so hard to overcome pride or to allow ourselves to have the faith required to turn our heads (Numbers 21). All we must do is recognize that we have sinned, that we are not perfect, but that through the atonement of Christ, the price of our imperfections is paid and we can be made clean to return to Heavenly Father. Isaiah quotes the Lord saying that “though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18). We make mistakes, but we are not forever condemned for them. God has perfect love and can forgive perfectly if we but ask him for it.

It is hard to comprehend this kind of love because it makes no sense in our little human brains that any one person can love and know every human that has ever or will ever live, or that he created everything. President Uchtdorf, in his talk during last General Conference, remarked that “we may look at the vast expanse of the universe and say, ‘What is man in comparison to the glory of creation?’ God Himself said we are the reason He created the universe! … the vast expanse of eternity, the glories and mysteries of infinite space and time are all built for the benefit of ordinary mortals like you and me. Our Heavenly Father created the universe that we might reach our potential as His sons and daughters. This is a paradox of man: compared to God, man is nothing; yet we are everything to God.” I have seen the hand of God in my life and in the lives of others. There is a story about a young man throwing pearls into the ocean.

Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work. One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.

As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.

He came closer still and called out "Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?"

The young man paused, looked up, and replied "Throwing starfish into the ocean."

"I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?" asked the somewhat startled wise man.

To this, the young man replied, "The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them in, they'll die."

Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, "But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can't possibly make a difference!"

At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, "I made a difference to that one!"


Alone, we cannot accomplish everything, we cannot throw every single starfish into the ocean, but we can make a difference to the ones around us. We can be God’s hands and show His love for each of his starfish."
It is for this purpose that I have chosen to serve a mission. Too many people do not feel the great love that God has for them. I often wonder what life would be like without the great blessing of the atonement, that ultimate example of love, as an active part of my life. What would it feel like not to understand that the pains of human life are only a short blip in an eternal perspective and that I can live with my family forever in the presence of our Heavenly Father? It would be hard, that’s what it would be like. The death of loved ones would cripple me if I didn’t know that I would see them again. I would feel so worthless compared to the amazingly talented people around me. When life seems to be too hard to handle, there would be no eternal perspective to get me through it all.

But I am not just the one throwing the starfish back, I am also a starfish. Growing up in this Church, we are taught of our diving nature as sons and daughters of God. This knowledge has shaped my life. I have participated in countless lessons on my worth as the spirit daughter of a King and how that makes me a princess. I really took it to heart for those of you who remember me coming to Church in tiaras. But on one lesson, Sister Waldman took a different spin on this important lesson. She emphasized the ‘daughters’ part and not the ‘God’ or ‘King’ part saying that just how my own father is ready and willing to help me with whatever I need, my Heavenly Father is there in the same way. Whenever I turn to him, he is there, ready to reply. God is great in our sight, but Doctrine and Covenants Chapter 18 emphasizes the reciprocal idea that “the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.” He looks as us and is proud of our accomplishments and wants the very best for us. I cannot say it enough, but God knows us individually. He knows and cares about the things that matter to us, he understands our trials and pains and rejoices with us in our successes. If there is one thing that I know, it that God loves each and every one of us. He guides our leaders so that they can keep throwing starfish back in the ocean – it is a constant process, but it is a work of love. Perhaps we should take the time to send Him a valentine this season. A simple thank you for the wonderful and countless blessings he bestows on us every second of every day.

Dieter F. Uchtdorf. "You Matter to Him."October 2011 General Conference

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Farewell California

My dear friends, the time has come, the time is now, Sister Laura Benning will you PLEASE GO NOW! (if you didn't catch the Dr. Seuss reference, you were obviously a neglected child)

I have been called to serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the North Carolina Raleigh Mission. I report to the Missionary Training Center in Provo, UT on February 15th. There, I will learn as much as possible and prepare myself to enter the field. I can't wait to devote everything I have to serving and loving the people of NC.

This blog will be updated by my lovely sister with my weekly emails home, pictures, address information (letters are always welcome) and whatever else she decides to post. So any questions, comments, concerns, or complaints should be directed to her.