Thursday, August 30, 2012

Don't forget to write Elder Benson! (Note from Kelly)

Elder Benson leaves for Slovenia in less than 3 weeks. Try to send him a letter this next week and he can write you back before he leaves.

As soon as I find out his Slovenian mailing address, I will post it on here.


Monday, August 27, 2012

Time counts down now instead of up!

Zdravo moj prijatlski!

How is everyone doing this great week? Here in Utah the trees on the mountains are starting to change colors, and it's no longer sunrise or already day when we wake up anymore. It's become dark in the morning really quickly! Life is marching forward, ever forward here and is as fantastic as always.

This week we had two districts in our zone leave to go to Mesa, Arizona and Anchorage, Alaska, but we also had our first district come in with Elder Burdette and I as Zone leaders! So we got to do a few orientations with them to welcome them to the MTC more or less and help them transition into the mission life here. They’re a great group going to Millings, Montana, and Tallahassee, Florida. Also, two of the Elders in the new District, Elders Lovell and Buhler are our new roommates! They’re good guys. Elder Lovell in particular is great. He's highly visually impaired as so walks around with a cane and has to use a cool magnifying device to read. But he's so committed to serving and won't let his disability stop him from achieving his dream of serving a mission. As both his zone leader and roommate, Elder Burdette and I have had the blessings and opportunities to be able to serve him in helping him through his day occasionally. It's truly through serving others that we become more like Christ and become a better person.

A quick side note that applies, we watched a video of a devotional Elder David Bednar (a living apostle of the Church of Jesus Christ) gave here at the MTC last Christmas where he talked all about the character of Christ. One of the components needed to have faith is to know the "Character, Attributes, and Perfections of God" (Discourses on faith by Joseph Smith). As such, "There would have been no Atoning sacrifice without the Character of Christ" - Elder Neil A. Maxwell. What is the character of Christ? To turn outward in charity when we, as natural men, would selfishly turn inward. One of the examples Elder Bednar gave of this is during the Atonement, in the garden of Gethsemane, after being let down by his three most trusted disciples sleeping while he took on the guilt, shame, sins, and regrets, etc., and being betrayed by another of his disciples with a kiss, what does He do? He selflessly heals the superficial wounded ear (eternally speaking) of a guard. When we would shrink into ourselves in our self-centered mindset, he turns out. He turns out when we turn in. That was a little longer than a side note....

On the language front, it gets better and better every day. Elder Burdette and I are getting to the point of eliminating the awkward long pauses of not knowing the language well enough when we teach and speak the language. I've set the goal of being fluent by this Christmas. I think it's easily attainable. I know, KNOW that there is no way I could be fluent by the time I get to Slovenia in three weeks (three weeks, three weeks, three weeks!!!!) But with a few months being immersed in the language and being driven to reach the goal, I know I can be able to reach it. Who knows, maybe I can reset the goal to be fluent by Thanksgiving?

Last Tuesday, for the devotional, we had an apostle, Elder Neil A. Anderson come and give a talk. He was Amazing! The power he testified of the reality, divinity and doctrine of Christ was aweing. It’s a feeling I've only felt a few times before in my life. As he finished his talk, he ended with the point that to become converted to Jesus Christ is the most important part of the church. All things return to Jesus Christ if it is true. It is our job to testify of Him, to know His life, to know His teachings, to speak of Him. We are promised that not a single day of our lives will be wasted if we do this. Jesus Christ is the relief from anguish. Elder Anderson testified of it and I know it is true because I have felt and experienced it. Christ is the Savior. There is no more important sentence in the world.

Hope everyone is well home in Texas. I haven't heard from many of you recently, and would love to know what's new in your lives. I have been gone for coming up on two months now. Remember, if you write me I promise I will write you!

Well Wishes-
-Starešina Benson

Monday, August 20, 2012

Preparation brings love

Hey all!!!

Hope you are all doing well back home. Life is great and amazing here in Utah!! The weather is starting to get cooler which is strange since it's only August and not December yet. That's how it's supposed to go, right? Cold in December like Texas?? Guess not. But it's so strange to pull out my cold p-day (preparation, basically relaxing day) clothes in August.

The week has been good language wise. I have finally convinced myself that the best way I learn is NOT with flash cards. Who would have thought? Granted I’ve never used them in my life before this. Instead, I'm starting a new method of grabbing a dry erase marker and drawing the meaning of the word and the actual word on the board. It actually makes learning the vocab really fun, especially when I mess up really badly and I can't even tell what I drew. But that makes it even more memorable! Like trying to learn the verb to cut - rezati, my attempt to draw a knife in 5 seconds was so bad... but I learned it after that!! We'll see how this goes.

As I mentioned last week, we had our half way day here in the MTC last Saturday. It's only down hill from here. I absolutely love it here now. I learned this week that the more effort I put into my time here preparing, the more love I am expressing for the Slovene people when I get there. President Monson had a great quote from last General Conference in the Priesthood Session Last October (basically the leader of the Church at the large biannual conference) where he said, "When the time for action comes, the time for preparation has passed." It is so true! In four weeks, I will be boarding a plane to go to Central Europe, and the more time and effort I put into preparing for the moment when I first talk to a Slovene person, the more love I can show and helpful I can be.

It's so strange though. All the Elders and sisters learning Bulgarian and Polish on our floor are leaving Tuesday, as well as the two districts who have been here for three weeks. It's going to be so quiet. But then Elder Burdette and I will be the "old" people on the floor. Tomorrow, before all the new Bulgarians and Poles arrive though, it's going to be sooooooo quiet. But then new people to meet, get to know, and help will arrive!

This week in class we had a great, inspired discussion on sacrifice. As a missionary, we are asked to sacrifice so much, who we were, in some cases our passions, our time, our focus, etc. But even so, none of it can compare to the sacrifice Christ made for us. As people, we are required to make sacrifices to be able to achieve our eternal destiny. Each of us is already perfect. But, like a beautiful, perfect sculpture, is hidden under a block of marble, we must chip away the "excess marble" of our lives to be able to achieve that perfection. Allowing God to shape and form us will result in a far better person than we of our own efforts could have made. And so when you feel weak or unable, that mean's you are doing what is right. Change is a result of that sacrifice, and makes us feel that way. The problem would arise when we feel comfortable or strong in what we are doing. This means we have stopped growing, stopped stretching ourselves so that we become more than we were before. This is the time we need to revaluate ourselves and see how we can change in our lives to become grater. If we don't God will eventually force us to and that is even more uncomfortable or difficult than it could have possibly been on our own. But know, that we are given weaknesses and challenges so that we may become humble, and so weak things may be made strong to us. (Ether 12:27) This is the process God uses to shape our perfection. All of which is only attainable with the grace of Christ.

I love you all. I hope the best for everyone and hope none of you ever stop seeking your potential. Even so, now is always a great time to start.

-Elder Benson

Monday, August 13, 2012

Fourth email

It's all about "agency" – or the ability to choose. If you want to have a good day regardless of what happens, choose to!

Hi all!

Hope everything is going great back home down south. Utah and the MTC are still Utah and the MTC. Elder Burdette, my companion, is still Elder Burdette. And Slovene, is still Slovene. Not too much changes around here other than the speed of time, the meals and the people who talk. It seems like every day goes by a little faster than the one before. Before too long, I'm going to just wakeup and suddenly be back in my bed wondering what I did that day. Six hours of language class a day Monday - Saturday really goes by fast when you're picking up more and more of it. It's ok, when I actually get to Slovenia and the people speak a million miles an hour, it will be like a totally different language!

The language has been moving along really well on that note. I still know practically nothing, but we have A LOT of the grammar finished. Just need to start using it and getting it down. My learning words has really picked up, too. I'm up to learning ~25 words a day and have the goal of being up to ~50 words a day in a week or two. The more I learn and use the language, the more naturally it comes. Progress! Always progress!

Want to know a crazy thought? This week is our half way mark at the MTC. We're half way to being in Slovenia!! It feels like both eons ago that I was in the real world, and just yesterday since I was thrown into the fire of not speaking any English for three days from the teacher at all. But now, as of today, we've set the goal of never speaking any English in the classroom at all, well, without asking in Slovene first. It's good though; we need to start speaking more now. If you don't start speaking, when will you use it?

It's been really cool this week getting to know the new district in our ward who got here a week and a half ago. They're going to Mesa Arizona, and all really cool elders and sisters. One of them is from Alaska. We've spent a lot of time getting to know them as the group who came in with us left to go to Fresno, CA. We're the old people in our branch now, and before long we'll be the old ones on the dorm floor. A bunch of Elders are leaving next week to go to Poland and Bulgaria. We can basically understand each other's languages even though they're not the same. That's going to be strange when they leave...

We had an awesome devotional yesterday by an MTC administrative director. Faith is the first principle of the Gospel of Jesus Christ from which everything else stems off of. How can you tell if someone is growing in faith? Watch what they do. Faith in this case is a VERB, not a noun. What we do in all aspects of our life is based on what we believe; such is faith - acting on faith. If we exercise but a tiny particle of faith in something good and let it grow without casting it out with doubt, it will blossom and bear fruit making us better people we were before, and we will know beyond a doubt that what we tested, or had a little faith on, is true. It doesn't take much to find truth. As such no one ever can find all truth in this life. It is a life long journey of seeking more, testing, and seeing if any good comes of it.

I know that the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is true because it has blessed my life beyond imagining. The person I would have been if I hadn't been introduced to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is but a mere shadow of who I am now. I have performed the experiment, and gown to be a significantly happier and better person from the fruits of the gospel's goodness. I can and now do live a life guiltless of anything I have done wrong in my life. And so, how is what you believe effecting what you do? And what are the fruits of your labors?

I love you all and hope to hear how your life is going before too long!

-Starešina Cameron Benson

PS: I love, love, love the packages everyone has sent me, but please, please, please no more candy, chocolate, cookies, or treats of the sort. I'm pretty sure I have more now in my room than I ate all of last year. But be creative, entertainment is not in excess here. :-)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Pictures from Elder Benson's Camera

July 2012

Cameron with Brother and Sister Smith

Cameron and Elder Sorenson

Cameron with Brother Hopkin

Cameron with Elder Howell

Cameron nearing the MTC

Cameron and Kelly, before the drop off

Cameron just minutes before entering into the MTC

Elder Benson's name tag and first shot at learning Slovenian

Elder Benson and elders in his zone

Elder Benson and his first companion, Elder Burdette

Take two

Elder Benson's District: Elder Benson, Elder Burdette, Sister Giles and Sister Compare

Elder Burdette, ready to learn

Monday, August 6, 2012

Third email! He's been in the MTC for 19 days

Hey All!!

Life is going great here at the MTC! The language has progressed so fast it's kind of amazing. As of last Wednesday, we were up to about half of all the grammar principles in the language, so after that it'll just be learning vocab forever and ever and practicing the grammar until I’m fluent. It's really cool. I've only been here for three weeks and the language seems to get easier and easier every day. Now that doesn't mean I'm anywhere close to being fluent right now, I still have A LOT to learn, but we're getting there. I've still got like 6ish more weeks here too, so we'll see where I am when we get there!

Time here is the eeriest thing ever. The first week it felt like the days took as long as a month to get through, and now it feels like the days are only a few days long. Looking back though, I feel like I've barely been here. Like it's only been a week at most, when it's been three! The food is starting to scare me, too. It's really really good food, but yesterday we had Chicken cordon bleu, which was our first meal when we got here. Hopefully there are a few more meals to go through before it starts cycling through again and we have the same things over and over and over again.

This last Wednesday we had two new districts come into our zone/branch/church, twenty new people!! Most of them are going to Arizona, but four Sisters are going to Temple Square in Salt Lake City. They are really cool people. One of the Sisters is from New Zealand and has an awesome accent - Sister Vaivai. Otherwise, it's interesting seeing everyone start all over again and see just how little we still know, knowing we were like them three weeks ago. The other district that came in with us though is leaving tomorrow. It's really bittersweet to see these people we've gotten really close with over the last few weeks to go away, but I'm really excited for them. If I had been called on an English-speaking mission, I'd be going out with them.

This last Sunday was the first Sunday, which means it was Fast and Testimony Sunday. This day is a day when all people in the Church are asked to fast for two meals on a specific request to the Lord and donate the money they would have spent to welfare. It was a little different here at the MTC, since here everyone fasts since the lunchroom doesn't open until 5, but I think yesterday was the best day I've had since I've been here. In addition to the regular Sunday Devotional where we have an accomplished couple come to give a talk or sermon Sunday night to all the missionaries here, we also had Mission Conference, where the MTC Presidency all gave talks on different topics they felt inspired to tell.

One of the things which really struck me was the fact that we can't be saved in ignorance, that simply burying your head in the sand won't bring you closer to knowing your Heavenly Father and seeking to return to Him, but rather seeking knowledge and truth is what will help us gain a greater understanding of God, and MOST importantly, our Savior's sacrifice for us, which by His grace we are even able to return. No unclean thing can dwell in the presence of God, and so we must seek Jesus and learn of Him and have faith to be cleansed from the wrong, guilt forming things we do, sins. As such is why I am here serving. IF Jesus is Divine, truly the Son of God, and if Joseph Smith was a prophet, and if the Book of Mormon is scripture like the Bible, then there is no important thing to do than to serve them. I will return to my profession later, this I am sure, but there are things of eternal significance, instead of worldly significance, which I seek to labor for. As such is what I am doing. If this work is true then it is the most important work of our generation. We grow and learn and progress in our lives through ignorance, as such would be like being an infant. And so I continue to seek out truth where I find it, because there is no greater labor in life.

I know Jesus lives, and he suffered all things, which you have suffered. He is our personal Savior, and all things of the gospel, particularly the restored gospel point us back to Him. I know this because I have found peace, which only He can provide, and divine direction and guidance, which I could not have, thought, but the results - or fruits - of such were joyous beyond measure.

Hope everyone out there is well. I DO want to hear from you! I'm a little behind on writing reply letters, but will definitely be back on top of it today.
Be safe and don't stop seeking!!


Elder Cameron Benson