Saturday, December 29, 2012

WOW!

Holy Cow! I just snuck onto the computer in the church.

Russia is so cool! I'm so excited for you Stefan!

I'll write more on Wednesday.

Love Ben

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Hello again!

Skyping was so fun yesterday. I loved seeing you. It's hard to describe how much fun it is too see you guys. Lately I'm amazed at just how normal it feels to just email and then skype once every few months. I just can't believe how I've gotten used to it. I think it's kind of like getting used to being hungry though. I can do it, but it will be so fun to be back at home. I can't wait to hear about Stefan's call.

Save some Marzipan cake for me.

Love Ben

p.s. I haven't had any picture opportunities mom but I promise I'll get you a picture.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Oh hello dear family/

Guess what? I'm back on the italian keyboard that acts like an italian keyboard so we get to play the punctuation game again. We're emailing from the church again and the computer is sooo slow. It's actually not too bad it just means that when I try to watch the london video for the hundred millionth time the computer goes crazy.

Okay before I forget. Skype- Well unfortunately I don't have the most solid answer to give you. Here's the situation. We're going caroling at the galleria in Milano christmas eve and then we're going to midnight mass at the duomo. Cool huh? The only problem is that we have yet to figure out how we're getting home afterwards.

I think I need to start keeping a gratitude journal again. I was really good about it for a long time but then when I finished by little notebook I never got a new one and kind of fell off the boat. I can tell that it's time to start again. I wouldn't say I've been grumpy but I could say that I could be more positive. Another challenge is that living in four, it's hard to find a second to think about what I'm grateful for. I do love living in four but the only thing I miss is the time to just be quiet. It's nice to just sit every once in a while.

The mountain we climbed last week was really cool. We could see lake como and lake lecco from the top. There was a giant cross on the top of the mountain and we climbed on top of it's big concrete base. We climbed up one side and hardly saw anyone the whole time. then when we got near the top we figured out that there was a road on the other sided and there was a big lodge right at the top filled with old people. The member we went with had sandwiches that his mom made for us so we ate them at the lodge and then went the last little way up to the cross at the very top. We ran down the mountain because we were short on time. My knee has been hurting ever since. It's getting better but still hurts. Besides my knee though I was sore for days. I haven't done anything like that for so long and my body was not used to it. I'm afraid that every time I do anything other than walking or riding a bike when I get home I'm going to have to deal with days of soreness.

As far as mail goes I have been getting your letters. Last week after telling you I hadn't been getting any the next day I got four. That seems to be the pattern. Every few days I get three or four letters at a time. I love the book you've been sending and I actually like just getting a few pages at a time. It gives me time to read it, get excited about what I read and think about it and then I get a new set of pages. I also loved the pictures of Anz. Chipman as a teddy bear. He liked them too...I think. Speaking of Anz. Chipman, this is his week to be the senior companion and it came at the perfect time. He's learned a lot and was getting to the point where he was comfortable enough to start questioning my methods. It was the perfect time to make him start taking on more stuff by himself and it was a good reminder to me to back off just a bit and let him learn for himself.

It's gotten cold here and I'm so glad we take the bus. We had to borrow the other Anzianis bikes for a morning and we got so wet and dirty. It was miserable.

I hope Stefan is feeling better in time for Christmas. I remember when I got my wisdom teeth out it took so long for my mouth to heal that I was afraid that I would never be normal again. I was so worried about having holes in my mouth forever and being able to eat nothing but yogurt and milkshakes.

I forgot to ask last week but whatever happened with the TA girl Stefan? That will be a great question for Skype! That and asking about Hans' dates. I still can't believe the way Hans looks.

Oh no I'm running out of time what else do I have to say....

Work is going well. Actually we've had lots of people not showing up to their appointments so we just run around to appointments where people don't show up. It's driving me crazy. At first it was nice because we were finding lots of people but now no one is showing up. That's just the way it seems to work though.

Think of questions before we skype.

Have a great week and I'll see you soon.

Love Ben

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Love, Ben

Well hello family,

Sorry this email is a bit later than normal. This morning we left early to go climb a mountain with a guy in our ward who is leaving for the New York South mission next week. The mountain was called Cornizzolo. I haven't done anything like that in such a long time. It was so fun.

Where do I begin...

First of all I've gotten two letters but a get the feeling there should be a lot more. Oh well. They'll get here when they get here. The first letter I got though was enough to satisfy me for a while. I can't believe this Noemi! I'm so excited about this. When did she write? What did you tell her? What's happening now? I was so excited about her.

OK so skyping... I'm not exactly sure. I'll let you know more details next week. If I understand right though you should be free anytime. For once we won't have to worry about church times either. I asked mom last week when you have church because every time I've called home it's been a Sunday.

Wow I cannot seem to think of things to write about this week. It sounds like there's a lot going on at home. Do you think Stefan is going to go to France? I wouldn't be surprised. With the shortened MTC times I expect they'll be taking advantage of people who already speak a language. Speaking of which, do you guys realize what a big deal this is? I figure you do. Mom wrote a pretty good email about it, but do remember what I said about the hastening a week or two ago? It's a constant topic of conversation among the missionaries. Everyone seems to have a renewed sense of duty and need to preach the gospel. There's also a real sense of preparation. We're getting ready for a huge wave of missionaries right when I go home and along with that lots of baptisms. This is a real true sign of the times. And along those lines I loved moms blog post. I can understand why she would be hesitant about writing it but I think it was good. I also think that it's more and more important for good people to be good and not be afraid about it. Technology addiction is a real problem. I also love how insistent mom was about how careful we are about guarding internet connection and stuff like that. It's a huge problem. Parents who think their boys can be trusted don't know anything about testosterone. So many adults seem to be so oblivious but I think it really takes a team effort and it is so important. That's one of those things that I just have a fiery hatred for. Argh. When I think about this scriptural phrases like fighting like lions and dragons come to mind.

Checking my email for Stefan's call- I still haven't asked. I bet I'll be able to though. We have a computer in the church that I can use so it shouldn't be a big deal. My prediction though- like I said- France.

Anz. Chipman is doing well. It's amazing to see him learning and growing. He doesn't realize how well he's doing though. I learn a lot from him too. We have very different strengths. I'm smart. I get things done. I'm organized and efficient by nature. He's kind, thoughtful and cares about people so much. It's good for me.

How am I doing really? I'm doing well. The hastening has been on my mind a lot. I really feel a difference lately. It's also good to be training. We get an extra hour to study in the morning and we follow a great training program that takes us through PMG really well. I really feel a need to be on the right side. Good and evil are separating quickly and it's only getting worse. I'm getting ready for the war.

Oh I love you. I could write all day but unfortunately I need to go now.

Love you lots. Love Ben

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

lots of love

Hello dear family

Oh dear. For the second week in a row I'm writing on an italian keyboard that the computer thinks is an english keyboard so don't be surprised if my punctuation gets a little crazy. We "how did ben really want to punctuate that-"

Well what's new> Where do I begin> What do you want to hear about>

Let me ramble just a little bit to begin with. I loved the pictures of California. they were so cool and it made me so excited for next year. Then I remembered that Stefan won-t be there. Still exciting, but also sad. What are we going to do for the next ten years? The next time we have everyone around for the holidays I could have my own six kids! Before I forget I have to say thank you to the Mitchells for both of their envelopes of letters. They were so nice and made me laugh forever. I also felt very flattered getting another letter from Lizzy even if it was just because she needed to send a letter asking for money to ten people. Sorry I cannot send any money but I was happy to get the letter.

This week went well. Good old Anz. Chipman is doing well. I don-t remember how we got onto the subject but yesterday he told me that he hates being told what to do. I just burst out laughing because I tell him what to do all the time. When I asked him if I had been driving him crazy he just smiled. I think I'm naturally a slightly bossy person and I do need to remember that he does know how to do plenty of things without my help. Anyway, for this week I've decided to not tell him how to do things unless he asks for help or is in serious danger.

In other news our work got a nice boost this week when we had a wedding and a baptism within two days and we got lots of great referrals. The ward here is really good at bringing people to activities.

Does anyone else feel like it's just become too normal for us to just email once a week? Sitting here trying to think of news and stories I just can-t believe how normal it feels to see pictures of people I hardly recognize and hear you reminisce about past trips and parties that I wasn-t even there for. And then I don-t remember what I've already told you about or what you would want to hear about. It feels weird but the weirdest thing about it is that it doesn-t feel too weird. Well I'm just a mess of weirdness now. My hands are getting cold because it's getting cold here and this room doesn-t have the heat on.

Oh I love you guys. I miss you a lot too. I'm really happy to be here too though.

I love you lots. Have a good week.

Love, Ben

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Hello dear family

Hello dear family,

Oh dear. Can I just begin by saying that your emails this week were so insensitive? You need to make life at home sound about a hundred times less fun and you need to do way fewer fun things. No more Les Miserables, no more chocolate, no more books. Oh dear. I actually do love hearing about it. Don't stop writing me about the cool stuff you're doing just so I don't think about home. Hearing about all the cool stuff at home only motivates me to work hard enough and find all the cool stuff in my life here. But, boy oh boy life sounds so fun at home. I can't believe mom's list of cool stuff. I feel like I'm going to spend the first month after I get home reading, listening to music, and eating. Life is great, isn't it?

Let me tell you about a few of the cool things on my end. This week we got a very promising referral from some members. She's from Brazil so she speaks Portuguese, and because she lived in Spain she speaks Spanish- but no Italian. She speaks with the members in Portuguese because the wife is from Brazil and then I have discovered that I'm actually pretty good at Spanish. I'm learning Spanish or rather I have and I'm getting a lot better at it.

Speaking of Anz. Chipman he's doing really well. It's so fun to watch him adjusting to missionary life. He says a lot of really funny stuff in Italian and in general he's just got a really happy Springville, Utah character. He's so nice and luckily he laughs at himself a lot, which is good because I laugh a lot. As dad predicted living in four is also really fun. I wrestle a lot more and we have a lot of fun. It's also nice because whenever one companionship has success we all get excited about it so it's like having twice as much success.

Speaking of companions I can't believe Stephen is with Gunnar. I was just writing Stephen a letter. What a small funny world. I'll tell Stephen to watch out for Gunnar's yoga moves.

In other news I've been having so much fun with this new study method of looking for patterns in my notes. It has been so cool. I love it so much that I would recommend that everyone do it and buy a cool notebook to do it in. Like a moleskine. Oh I love moleskine notebooks. They're so cool. They've gotten really big in Italy and a few weeks ago I found a little moleskine store. Normally they just sell the notebooks in other stores but this was a store all just for them. It was so cool. I'm proud to say though that I was far ahead of the trend. I liked moleskines way before everyone else thought they were cool.

I was thinking, with all these letters you are sending, would it be possible to get any bit of this cool reading material? A cool talk or a chapter or anything really.

Can you believe how time is passing. I'm on the other side of the ocean so mom can't kick me in the shins, but maybe it's the combination of being with someone who was so recently at home or the fact that I really am coming home soon-ish, but it doesn't sound so far away anymore.

Oh I love you. Mom, make sure you keep a good book list for me. I'm excited to read some talks.

Life is good here in little old Muggio. I miss you lots. Have a good week.

Love Ben

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!


Hello family, and Ruth and Bill and Lizzy, Zoey, John and Will,

How is thanksgiving. Are you eating lots of cranberry ice and pie for me? Mmm I hope so.

What's new this week?

Well I feel really old. Last Thursday I picked up my new companion Anz. Chipman in Milano and we made our way to Muggiò. Anz. Chipman is from Springville, Utah and guess what? He graduated last spring. He's the same age in school as Stefan. Having a brand new missionary is pretty fun and not that I'm getting cocky or anything but it really makes me see how much I've learned and grown since being a missionary. Anz. Chipman is the best trainee I could ever ask for. He's like a big teddy bear and is so nice and just wants to do what's right and work hard.

Muggiò is really cool too. We are living with the zone leaders and I really like living in four. I always think about the happiness book when it talks about getting strength and support from our social network. Muggiò is a huge area and even though it's not actually much bigger than any of the other zones I've been in but the difference in Muggio is that there isn't really one big city but rather lots of little cities so there are people to work with spread out throughout the whole zone. We're going to be spending a lot of time on buses. The ward is one of the biggest and strongest I've ever seen. There are about 180-200 people in church every week and lots of really strong families. In fact there are two sisters from the ward serving at temple square. So if you ever meet an Italian sister at temple square I probably know their families.

Other exciting news is what has taken the name of the hastening. The zone leaders came home from consiglio really excited and told us that President had been talking about a hastening in the work. President said that this hastening is something he has been waiting for since his mission. When they got telegrams in Italy he thought it was the hastening and then the internet and lots of other things he thought about the hastening beginning, but at a mission presidents conference last week all the general authorities were talking about the hastening. Anz. Chipman was telling me about when Elder Bednar spoke at the MTC and he talked about how it makes him laugh when people speculate about different reasons for the age change. The real reason he said was that the Lord will hasten his work in his time. I think it totally makes sense. Missionary work and missionary preparation is changing a lot because of the age change and it has got to mean something big is happening. It's a sign of the second coming so get ready. D&C 88:73 talks about it. Anyways enough end of the world talk.

I'm so happy Hans is 16 and that he's my brother and that he's alive. I hope I'm like him when I grow up.

Well I love you lots. Happy thanksgiving. I hope you made it to California safe. Oh I love you so much family. I wish I could think of more stories to tell you about this week. I'll have to think of some for next week.

Love Ben

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Goodbye Torino

Oh hello dear family-

Monday morning I got a call from President and he told me I was going to Muggiò. Or was it Monza? Well the idea is that Muggiò has a really big area so I'll be going there and taking the Monza section. Monza from what I understand is just north of Milan. I'll also be training. I've always thought training would be a fun adventure so I'm pretty happy about it.I just realized that it won't be too long before Stefan is getting trained in some part of the world. I've had dreams about Stefan leaving really early, coming to the Milan mission and me training him. Oh it would be fun.

Transfers always give me such a mix of emotions because I'm excited for what's to come but always so sad to leave. I've started to feel so at home in Torino and there are some people that I hope to be able to stay in contact with. I'm always surprised and flattered when people notice and even care that I'm leaving. They see so many missionaries come and go and I know that I am really cool, but... Anyways I'll be sad to leave Torino. Yesterday we went over to the stake missionary leader's house because he wanted to talk to us about some stuff and at the end I told him he was leaving. He lives a few floors above his mom and when he heard I was leaving he improvised and invited us down to his mom's. They got us pizza and we had one of the funniest dinners of my life. At the end the mother kissed me on the cheeks (which is very normal and traditional, but also not allowed for missionaries, but she did it anyways) and sent us home with a giant 6X6, inch thick bar of famous Piedmontese chocolate.

I love the people (and the chocolate) of Torino and I'll miss them a lot.

I'll also miss Anz. Roisum. I'll always remember Anz. Roisum for the way he loves the scriptures. I love having a companion that likes to study because we have an hour to study together every morning and it can be miserable if someone doesn't enjoy studying, but equally wonderful when you get two people who like to learn.

I also can't believe how old I'm getting in the mission. Hearing about Taylor, Ryan and Nick being/going home is crazy too. I'm glad I've got training to think about otherwise it would be too easy to get lost daydreaming about going home. I can't believe how close it is. Now I hope I don't set mom off saying this, but It really doesn't feel like that much time. Monza could easily be my last city and more and more of my mission friends are going to be home soon. Which reminds me of Christmas.

What can you send? Well let me give you the inside scoop because I was the one who took care of the packages for a while. Italian customs are well, very Italian. Sometimes packages will get charged for customs, sometimes they won't and it's almost impossible to predict. It you send meat or anything that sounds too much like food you're pretty sure to get charged. The mission asked people to stop sending packages because as Italy got more and more into debt more and more packages started getting charged for customs. The mission pays for the customs because the packages have to be payed for on the spot in the office and it can be a hassle and take a bit of trust to get missionaries to pay the mission back. So technically you can send whatever you want, but the office might curse your name and I might have to use personal money to pay for customs. My suggestion would be to send stuff in envelopes because my bags are already stuffed and pictures and letters are some of the nicest things you can send right next to socks which you can also get into an envelope.

Alright Hans here are your questions- tell me about the play and your dance date.

Stefan I'm really jealous of your study time and I'm jealous of everyone else for their igloo.

I love you lots. Have lots of fun in California and write good letters. Thanks for the article mom.

Love Ben

Thursday, October 18, 2012

I love you lots


Oh my dear wonderful family-

Could I ever start a letter any other way? No not really. I can't believe how much has changed since I left. For example- I've only met the Garlicks once. I still feel like I know them though so make sure to tell them that I say hello this week. What do I have to say this week?

Let me take care of a few items of business before I forget. Thanks for the election update Dad. Mom mentioned getting an envelope that would let me vote from Italy and asked if I wanted her to send it to me or if I just wanted her do it for me. Well I know that especially in Utah my vote probably won't make much of a difference so the whole point of it for me is the thrill of voting. So please send it to me. It's much more fun that way. Also I was wondering if you could send me the rest of Mom's friends thing on the scriptures. It was so good and I've been thinking about it all week. I was also wondering if I was going to get any new pictures anytime soon. Sorry to whine about pictures so much- I just really like you guys.

Well...I loved mom's blog posts especially the one about getting older. It really reminded me of my journal. A lot of the time people say dumb stuff to me without even really thinking about it and a lot of the time, especially lately, it sticks with me and I have to stew over it and try and figure out what they really meant to get some sense out of what they said. Were they trying to be mean? Why would they say it like that? Maybe I just need to be more like Dad and be Mr. Insensitive. I loved the blog post though because so often I sit writing in my journal writing out the reasoning and explanations I need to just be calm and not be bugged about stuff. Maybe I've been doing it more lately because the weather is getting colder and the sun is out a lot less and I'm getting into my winter grizzly bear mode. Now that I think about it I have felt just slightly grumpier lately and I think it's because of that. Oh the sensitive soul that I am. I wish I was Mr. Insensitive.

I can't believe Anz. Rodriguez wrote you. That's so nice of him. Anz. Rodriguez became one of my favorite companions. Anz. Rodriguez is such a good friend now. I'll probably be friends with him for forever.

Like I said before I've been thinking about the scriptures thing all week long and I've just enjoyed reading the scriptures in a whole new way. I like to imagine the scriptures cleaning my brain and making them pure, washing away the filth and grime of life leaving my brain pure and clean. Lately the mission has been talking a lot about desire and I've been thinking a lot about what I really want in life and more importantly what God wants. I think we are all born with lots of desires and they pop up all throughout life. We can develop our desires and curiosities by giving them time and attention. But, our time and energy is limited so we have to choose which desires are worthwhile. The scriptures give us a clear view of what's important and just as importantly they can give us a constant daily reminder of what we really want.

I think when we stop and think about it our true desires are pretty clear- family, kindness, righteousness...But it's so easy to get distracted and so often we don't consciously get led into sin, but we really just get distracted and slowly led down to hell. Oh it's been a good week for thinking about the scriptures. My favorite scripture study tool I've discovered as a missionary is a study journal. I write down the things that stick out to me and the ideas that I come up with. The coolest part is that oftentimes many days and weeks will all tie together making the pages of my journal like building blocks. With all my ideas ready at hand I can put them together learning something new.

One last story before I'm done. Last night we were standing on a street corner when a lady walked up to us. She apologized for disturbing us and then explained that she had been looking for us. She said she wanted to come back to church, but because it had been more than ten years since she had gone to church in another city she was wondering if we could help. I can hardly describe the way I felt, but just that moment would make my whole two years worth it. Every hard moment would be worth that one beautiful moment. I feel so blessed. She hadn't even seen Elder Nelson's "Ask the missionaries" talk. Oh it was so good. It was one of those moments I'll never forget.

Well I love you. Have a good week. Hans tell me about your favorite class and the book you are currently reading.

Love, Ben

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

This is war

Oh dear wonderful family.

What a week. Where do I even begin?

I don't know.

I realized that the age change would bring big changes but I feel like the effects are felt much more at home. I was the only one who gasped in shock and excitement when Pres. Monson made the announcement, but even I didn't think of all the changes that will come. It sounds like Utah and especially BYU is in an uproar of change. I also loved the blog posts about the scriptures. I don't know if it's just because I've been reading the Old Testament lately but all of this feels very much like preparation for the end of the world. That sounds so dramatic but even the conference talks seemed much more down to business about choosing between good and evil because the gap between the two is growing. Did you notice a few of the apostles talking to people outside the church. It's almost like they were saying "quick get on board with us because for now you can find good outside the church but before long we will be going into open warfare and if you want to be on the right side you need to be all the way over. The days of the middle ground are coming to an end."

I've been reading the old testament manual when I find time and it's so interesting to see how much of the ancient prophecy is dedicated to the end of the world. The history of the world is pretty well centered around the house of Israel, their scattering and their gathering. Anyways enough end of the world talk.

Anz. Rodriguez is on the other side of the country now and I was so sad to see him go. But my new companion Anz. Roisum is fantastic. The other night as we were getting the numbers at the end of the week I realized just how young our zone is when I noticed that I'm the only leader to have ever been in a leadership position before. None of our district leaders have ever been district leaders before. It puts a lot more pressure on me to take the lead and do a lot of teaching.

Oh I miss you so much. I can't believe that next conference I'll be home. It's going to go fast. I can already feel it. There's so much to do to. There are still so many things to figure out and learn. I know I don't need to be perfect but wouldn't it be nice to be. If I became perfect as a missionary I wouldn't have to worry about it when I got home!

What else, what else? I would be careful about your availability date Stefan. Don't cut things too close with finals. I would hate for you to not get to say goodbye to us. Finals and leaving are both stressful enough that you probably don't want both of them landing on the same day. If you did leave the weekend of finals I think I would just come and live with you right before you left so I could take better advantage of your study breaks.

Work is going alright although I'm still waiting for the flood of people responding to Elder Nelson's talk to come and start asking us things.

I love you all very much. Have a good week.

Love Ben

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Like father like son...with a bang‏

Well where do I begin?

Does anybody remember Dad mentioning a time on his mission when he fell asleep at the wheel? Well, I do. At least vaguely. I think I'd like to hear Dad retell the story with a few more details.

Anyways, this week was good. Transfers this week were good and I am sorry to bear the sad news that President's feeling about Anz. Rodriguez only staying one transfer were true and tomorrow he will be taking a nine hour train ride across the country to go to Udine. I will be staying in Torino and my new companion will be Anz. Roisum. I hardly know anything about him, but the things I've heard are good. He is by far the youngest companion I've ever had and as a new zone leader I suppose I'll be teaching how to be a zone leader. It's always so sad to see a good companion go, but also satisfying to think that I've made a friend good enough that I'm sad to see go. There's also the reality that before long we'll all be back at BYU. Speaking of BYU there are quite a few missionaries who already went to BYU before and they have now swayed lots of other missionaries to go to BYU so before long I think most of us will be there. I talked to Anz. Blaga the other day and even he said he was thinking about going to BYU.

In my stew of transfer emotions I also always have a little bit of anxiety about my new companion. Even when I hear good things about them. I think it's mostly because I know I'll have to change my habits and routines but there are also always worries about just not getting along with a companion. Well I think my worries I can just get over by being hopeful and having faith that everything will work out, but the change is inevitable and there are always benefits of trying something new, but it definitely requires a leap of faith. From studying to planning to cooking and working good companions get to know each other and find ways to compliment in each aspect and then when it's changed we have to start over relearning a new set of habits and preferences.

Well, maybe you're curious about the beginning of my email.

I loved the pictures of Timpanogus. In fact at the beginning of the transfer I covered the walls around my desk with pictures and used almost all of those pictures.

OK, fine I'll tell you.

Sunday afternoon we ate lunch after church and then set out to go to Cuneo. I was driving. After about an hour of driving we were getting close to Cuneo and Anz. Rodriguez was singing the Hallulejah chorus on the Christmas CD. I woke up to myself screaming and the burnt smell of airbag smoke. I fell asleep at the wheel and crashed the car. We hit the sidewall and wrecked the car.

Immediately after the fact I felt terrible. I couldn't help but think of all the times the situation could have been avoided ponder my rotten luck. How could I have done something so dumb and put us in such a dangerous position? Oh I felt bad. But as we walked away from the wreck I think my happiness training started to kick in and I realized that I could choose to feel bad about the situation and let it make me be a sad, embarrassed little missionary, or I could learn from it and emerge from the wreckage a better, stronger, more awake person. I chose the latter.

And as I look back I can't help but see more and more the grace of God in the accident. No one was hurt. The highway was practically empty. The only other car on the road was behind us and before we even got out of the car the driver, a nice Italian lady, was on her phone making all the necessary calls. The insurance expired that day. Anz Rodriguez and I escaped with nothing more than a few bruises and sore necks. As time passes I feel more and more blessed. I'm grateful for the grace of God- that even when my own stupidity merited a fate much worse, He saw fit to catch me, and prevent too great of a fall. Because the truth is that it could have been so much worse. Now instead of counting the times when it could have gone better it has become obvious that there were many more times when it could have gone much worse. And why didn't it go worse? Is it because I deserve it? No. It's because of grace.

So now please don't worry. I've written email after email in my head of how to tell you, trying to decide what would be the best way. I decided that if I err in the spectrum between toning it down to not make you worry and being honest I would rather be too honest. Because if I toned it down too much you would be able to tell and you would assume something way worse than what actually happened. So don't worry. I've told you what happened and you don't need to imagine anything worse.

I love you. I'm glad I have a family so nice. Dad if you would be so kind as to tell me about when you fell asleep at the wheel I would appreciate it. Lately I've found great comfort in hearing other people's stories about accidents because it makes me feel less dumb. I'm going to need it too because I'm going to be seeing a lot of missionaries in the next few days and I know there will be teasing.

Have a good week and drive safe.

Love Ben

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Nice long letter

Well today rather than giving a nice short update that I might have initially felt like giving I've now taken mom's line "write us a nice long letter tomorrow" as a good challenge. Sometimes I'm held back by questions of what might or might not be important, or by wondering who gets this letter and what they might think about what I say. Will they think I'm a lame missionary if I say anything about Mary or about work being hard or will they think I'm trunky if I talk about anything after the mission? Well this is p-day Ben writing. And to be honest Anziano Lehnardt work day Ben isn't perfect either. Anyways who knows what I may say in my ramblings, but I trust that whoever may read this knows me well enough to not think I'm lame or maybe they'll appreciate my honesty enough to forgive my shortcomings.

Gosh I worry a lot about keeping up the missionary look. Look at me I just wrote an entire paragraph about being worried about what people think about me because I'm a missionary. Lately I've found that I have a lot of good motivations that are sometimes turned against me and realizing my good intentions makes it easier for me to forgive myself for my worries. In this case I think it's because I really care about being a good missionary and working hard and making the most of this time that is so important and most of all not letting down the God that I serve.

Anyways...this morning I was studying when I came to Alma 62. Last week dad wrote me about it and I made a note to go read it, but then I forgot. Well this morning I got to it on my own and remembered Dad's email. Everybody goes home after the war is over. Pahoran goes back to judging, Helaman to preaching and the one that interests me the most Captain Moroni goes home. His whole life had been consumed by the business of war. He turned the army over to his son. He had a son so he must have had a wife. I wonder what kind of a reunion that was. Someday I'll go home too. The war will end- at least for me- and I'll go back to other things in life. It makes me enjoy my time a little more. I want to talk to more people and eat more gelato and more kebabs and get to know other missionaries while I can because someday it will all be over.

I think at this point in my letter I will turn a little less profound and get a little lighter. Missionary life is full of turns like this. I think it comes from dealing with such a profound work all the time while still being a 20 year old. I'm trying to think of a good example but I just don't have one right now.

Life with Anz. Rodriguez is really fun. I may have already mentioned his girlfriend and the following story but I'll repeat it just in case. A week or two ago her mom emailed him and said she was excited to hear that we were companions because someone showed her the blog and she has been hoping we would be companions for a while. Well we have lots of fun and we have to make the most of it because Anz. R will probably be leaving next week. At the beginning of the transfer President made a mysterious comment to me about how Anz. R will probably only stay in Torino for one transfer. Who knows why or if it will actually happen. You never know. In the mean time I've been learning Spanish which is actually surprisingly easy. The only problem is that seeing how easy Spanish is makes me daydream about learning french too and then by then I'll be such a master at learning languages that I might as well learn German. I've always wanted to learn German and still think I'll try someday.

Dad asked about the zone and well it's seen better days. Lately I've been sticking to the theory that sometimes things just go really well and other times not so well and we can learn from prosperity or struggles regardless of which one we have. I don't know why nothing is seeming to go well, but I'm sure things will change soon and we just need to stay on track even if the track isn't so smooth. I sure hope it's not my fault that the zone isn't doing so well but I don't think it is. I've been working hard and doing my best. I was reading about Jeremiah and the only people succeeding then were the Babylonians. I don't blame Jeremiah though. He was just called to be a prophet in a tough time.

I loved mom's blog post. Lately I've been thinking a lot about not worrying about what other people think and just doing what's right. It kind of reminded me of that. I wonder if I'm afraid of failing or not? I don't think I'm too afraid. I think it depends on the circumstances though.

Unfortunately my long letter must come to an end now. I hope you enjoyed it. I hope I get some pictures in the mail soon and maybe a new video sometime too. I love you very much. Have a good week.

Love Ben

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

I am like a finely aged cheese

Oh dear family-

How are you this week? What news do I have for you?

Yesterday we had a conference in Milano and I took Stefan's advice and rather than eating the lollipop they gave each of us I put it aside to give to someone else. I forgot about it though so maybe I'll have to use it later. I got such a thrill not eating the lollipop even if I didn't actually give it away. The conference was really interesting because they already had a conference for all the sisters and for all the missionaries who had been here for six months or less. The conference yesterday was for everyone else. I and the rest of us at the conference are in a very different phase of our missions. I like to think of myself as a nice aged cheese or wine. No, it's not that I've been sitting around long enough for mold to grow on me or yeast to ferment in me, but that what I may lack in wonder and excitement that most new missionaries have I've gained a lot of skills which still make me useful. Maybe I'm just an acquired taste though.

I feel like my life is a constant battle to find balance between perfectionism and being relaxed. All the added rules and pressure of being a good person in missionary work just seems to make it harder. I've decided it's just who I am though and I can't really get rid of it so the best approach is to just learn how to handle it. Most of the time I just get myself so hyped up about all the things I should be doing better that it drives me crazy. One time when I was in Siena I was sick and Dad sent me some nice nasal spray. The instructions said to spray it up my nose and then take several deep breaths. Taking deep breaths made me feel so relaxed that even after I wasn't sick anymore I would just take a minute to sit and take some deep breaths. My companion thought I was crazy at first, but then he tried it and we both became deep breathers.

Lately the zone hasn't been doing as well and our own work is lacking too. I've thought a lot about what I've done during times of great success and also times where it seemed there was no success at all. I've been looking at other zones too and some seem to be doing really well, while other like us seem to be on a down swing. My conclusion is that success will come and go on its own and it's up to us to make the most of the circumstances whatever they may be. The thing is that I don't think some zones suffer just because they have bad missionaries who don't work while the successful zones have really great missionaries. Everyone has a pretty good mix of missionaries who are all pretty good. Then in my own work of course I have my own ups and downs but they don't really match up to the success I've seen. I guess the whole thing depends on what you define as success. I guess the success I've been talking about here is numbers as in baptisms and lessons taught etc. Anyways I've realized that true success in my mind is making the best of the situation. Whether there are lots of people who want to hear about the gospel or not a single one for miles, there's always something to be learned from the situation. C.S. Lewis wrote about it in The Screwtape Letters how life is always going through ups and downs. Both ups and downs can be used by Satan, but also by God. The downs can humble us or discourage us and make us lose hope. The ups can inspire us and make us happy or they can make us proud. Anyways those are my thoughts on the matter.

I hope I don't ever make you bored with my emails.

Anz. Rodriguez has a really nice girlfriend that is totally from our world of books and pictures and art. Last week her mom emailed him and already knew about me from the blog. She even said that she had been hoping for a while that we would be companions at some point.

Maybe I'll be a videographer. That would be fun. Last night after the conference we were at the office and took advantage of the computers and watched a bunch of you videos.

Well life is good. I really am happy. Have a good day.

Love, Ben

p.s. Gabe congratulations on reading the Narnia books. They're some of my favorite.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

an ode to the name of Lehnardt

How do you think I'm going to begin this letter?

If you guessed an ode to my wonderful family you guessed right. Every week I read your emails and I'm just amazed at how wonderful and smart you are. And I'm not just talking about things like sports and books but Gabe wrote his entire email in on breath. What a feat! In all seriousness though you have to be the most amazing group of people ever to walk the face of the planet. I just hope I'll be able to keep up when I get home.

This last week at consiglio (zone leader consel- much like jedi counsel) they made a big announcement about blogs. Apparently the church has gotten complaints about missionaries in our mission who have their letters on blogs and some of them are pretty open in talking about problems with their companions and investigators and members. Anyways I know that Mom puts my letters on a blog and although I'm pretty sure mine wouldn't be a problem because I just spend my emails praising you guys I just thought I would restate the need to make sure that anything I say is heavily censored.

It made me think a lot about what I do write because when they made the announcement I had to go back and do a mental check of what I've written recently. I've realized that most of my emails really are spent talking about you guys and funnily enough I really enjoy writing about things I've learned in the scriptures lately. The funny thing is that that's a lot of what I hear from you guys too. I loved Dad's email this week and I highly recommend it. Maybe someday we can write a book of the emails we exchange.

Today I read about Captain Moroni when it talks about if everyone were like him the very foundations of hell would be shaken. I was trying to figure out how he became such a great guy and then I thought about what his life must have been growing up. Right around the time he was born Alma the younger was converted and then right after that the sons of Mosiah went off to be missionaries among the Lamanites. Then Alma stepped down as chief judge and went to preach to everyone. A while after that seven converted Lamanite cities immigrated to the Nephite lands because they would rather die than risk losing their faith and Ammon and his brothers didn't want all their new converts to die. By the time Moroni was 25 he had seen 2 anti christs, Alma the younger, Amulek, the martyrdom at Ammonihah, Ammon and his brothers and Amilici attempting to make himself a king. He had had a pretty action packed life and I'm sure that he took advantage of all the great teachers and learning opportunities. Anyway, the idea is that the Lord prepared him because they needed a really good captain and Moroni took advantage of the preparation (or at least I assume he did.) Now go ahead Gabe and be ready to be a captain by the time you are 25. I would start by hanging around at home and hanging out with our brother Nephi when he's home from BYU.

I hate to say it Dad, but I'm counting it as a blessing that yore trip got canceled because I would have felt so bad having you so close and not seeing you, but I really wouldn't be able to handle seeing you. I think my little missionary head might explode if I saw you right now. You seem to understand pretty well what a mission is like at this point (what you said was pretty on point how at this point things get really focused and time just flies by.) I kind of can't believe lately how normal missionary life feels and a visit from the outside world might melt my brain.

I like what you said about influencing people so that they will have a positive influence on you. I feel like I learned the lesson of choosing good friends, but then when I came on my mission I felt like I had no choice but to be with people that whose influence I didn't always want. I've now noticed though that a reputation can work wonders. Missionaries who get a reputation for being really lazy normally let other missionaries feel like they can relax when they are with them. Missionaries who have a good reputation for working hard on the other hand have already won a battle before they even show up because their companion, whether it's for a transfer or for just a scambio, put on their best because they expect to work hard.

I love you lots. I'm doing well. Anz. Rodriguez is good and lots of fun. The work is going well and I'm just happy to be here. Have a good week .

Love, Ben

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Five Worlds

Oh dear family-

The weather here finally started to cool down a little bit and the timing was perfect because I was thinking about fall and everyone going back to school. You might be surprised at how excited I got about the beginning of a new school year and I wasn't even going back to school. I can't believe how old you are though. Stefan going to college, Hans at high school and taking 3 AP classes while he's at it. How did you get yourself into that Hans? You'll do great though, you're smart and you know how to work hard. Do you love Mother Wood? And Mrs. Farr? Oh they were my favorites. Where is Stefan living? It didn't look like dorms. I just get excited thinking about new books and pens and pencils and notebooks and learning new things. Oh it sounds fun.

Oh I can't believe Stefan is at BYU.

I really thought a lot about you guys going back to school this last week and I remember when I went down to BYU. The biggest lesson I learned was just how much I loved our family. It's a lesson I'm still learning, but I was so surprised at just how much you meant to me. I remember one weekend when I came home for something. We went to church and had pancakes and played ticket to ride and life just felt so good at home. As I drove away I wanted to cry and to my surprise I did. I stopped crying long enough to pick up Mary and talk to her family, but then as we passed Wasatch I couldn't hold it back any more and after about thirty seconds I had to pull over and Mary was in shock asking me what was wrong. I said I didn't know, just that the day at home had been so good. After a minute I pulled myself together still not completely sure of what had just happened.

The point is that I love you and everyone in our family.

This week we did a scambio in Genova and I went with Anz. Jeter. It was a scambio unlike any other because before I even arrived he knew more about me than just about any other missionary because he followed the blog. Just after I got my call and mom announced that I was going to Italy Milan he said he had three people tell him about the blog. One of them was, Elliot Newton, a family friend of the Lunds and I don't remember who the other two were. The idea is that it's amazing how many people read the blog. Anz. Jeter found it and loved it so much that he read the whole thing. It was pretty funny to mention a story and have him already have heard about it and seen pictures.

The Torino zone will be a lot happier this transfer because our transfer plan is more or less based on the happiness advantage. Its a bit out of the ordinary because most of the time zone visions focus on things like number of lessons or new investigators, but I like trying new things and people have been reacting well to it. I am a little nervous, however, that president and the APs will think I'm a weenie.

Anz. Rodriguez has to pick up his legal papers in La Spezia tomorrow so we came to see Cinque Terre today. It was so cool. I really can hardly describe it and I don't have the cord to send pictures. We will have to come back here someday and go swimming in the ocean. I really wanted to jump in the ocean after the hike through the trails but I resisted the temptation.

Things have been going well and I am happy. Anz. Rodriguez has lots of energy and a funny sense of humor. President told me to just expect him staying in Torino for one transfer because of the way things are working with zone leaders lately. That means we have six weeks together and I'm going to make the most of it and try to learn spanish at the same time.

I love you very much and miss you a lot.

Have a good week.
Love Ben

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Be Happy!

Oh hello family-

How did we ever get so lucky as to have such a good looking smart bunch of people in one family? I still can't believe you went to London.

We went to go do email yesterday (I'll explain why) and I knew I wouldn't have any emails but instead went to watch a few old videos. Little did I know that vimeo had a super cool new video waiting for me. I watched all eight minutes of you guys running and dancing through London at least four times. Oh it was glorious.

The reason we were doing email yesterday is because Anz. Sciarretta is leaving Torino to be a traveling AP and he needed to be in Milano today. The APs told me to do email on Tuesday and I told them they were crazy and that I was going to do it today. So now I'm doing it today. Don't they know that I didn't have any emails yesterday? Now I'm at the office in Milano. My new companion will be Anz. Rodriguez. He was born in Mexico and raised in Texas. He didn't learn English until he was 11 so I'm hoping he can help me with Spanish. I actually met Melvin before at BYU and now he's Anz. Rodriguez. He's a nice guy and I think it should be a fun transfer.

Did I mention how much I loved the London video?

This transfer went by pretty quickly and I think this upcoming transfer will be just as busy. I think I've said it before, but I'll say it again. I'm still very happy being a missionary- in fact I'm actually very happy and feel good- but life at home seems to be materializing before my eyes. I'm actually going to go home someday. I can't believe it. I remember when I had been in Italy for about a month and I talked to a missionary who had been here for about four months and I remember thinking to myself that if I could just make it to my third transfer I would be OK. Well I made it to my third transfer and now I've made it a little bit further. I can hardly believe how the time has flown. Do you remember when I was in Siena and the only good thing I had to write about was how beautiful the city was? That was a year ago! I know the time hasn't gone fast for everyone and it hasn't even always gone fast for me, but I'm still just excited to have made it past my third transfer.

Life in Torino is good and most of the members should be coming back soon. I feel like the work in the city really improved this transfer, so the next transfer should go well. We have to come up with a zone vision for the transfer. It's basically a battle cry or what we want to focus on for the transfer. I just want to show everyone mom's videos and read them dad's happiness brain washing training. Life is so much better when it's happy.

Thanks for your letters; I can always count on you. It's so nice to feel a little unconditional love. Even if I was a lame missionary I think you would still love me. The mission is definitely an extrovert place and I just love seeing videos and pictures of our family because it reminds me that there are other people in the world just like me. I love the thought that somewhere there's a place where I fit in perfectly.

Anyway, this is just your introvert son who is faking as an extrovert telling you how much he loves you. Yore the best mom.

Send me pictures soon and don't forget about your promise to make MHRP for me when I get home.

Oh I love you so very much. Until next week.

Love, Ben

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Letter of Love


An explanation of Ben's use of 'yore.' We were discussing how people confuse and misuse their, there, and they're and also your and you're. Stefan pointed out that people rarely misuse the third one, which is yore. As in "Yore hair was not so grey in days of yore". We had a lot of fun making up silly sentences based on this word. The coliseum is yore's. That's just one of the many things that keeps us entertained for hours. Sad, but true.

Oh dear family how do I love you? Yore the finest of the fine.

I often feel like I could compose a love letter to you, but that might be a bit strange. I really can hardly tell you just how much you mean to me and just how much I love you. You will never know.

Thanks for the expressions of missingness because it made me feel that I was definitely not forgotten which left me to just be really happy about yore crazy summer. I really can hardly believe all the fun and excitement and activity you were able to cram into one summer but I have the feeling that even though I may have missed out on one exciting summer it certainly won't be the last. In fact I have a feeling that there will be many to rival it. Just think of it- we will always have the usuals- Lake Powell, the Mitchells that will forever remain classic Lehnardt things, but from now on I will always be willing to play tour guide in Italy and then before long Stefan will have another cool place to talk about and so on. Our life is just too short for all the good things. Oh I love my mom and dad that taught me to love and enjoy life. I loved the pictures too mom. You guys are all so good looking too that I figure I too must belong in that beautiful group of people.

I could continue waxing on about yore beauty and perfection but I won't.

We got really lucky today finding that our usual internet shop was open only because the owner had to come in for a bit. Today is Ferragosto and everything is closed. Literally everything. It's the high point of a lasting August Italian phenomenon. Italians have what they call "ferie" which really just means vacation. Italians are totally crazy though in that they will leave for weeks and weeks on end. It's all pretty unplanned too. Lots of people we talk to say they're going away and they'll come back when they run out of money. Lesson to be learned: Italians take vacationing very seriously and aren't afraid to leave everything behind for weeks on end. August 15 you will find that idea firmly rooted in mind.

Yesterday I had no one to celebrate my half-birthday with. Everyone thought I was crazy for even remembering that it was my half-birthday. Poor people. They probably never had mothers who remembered things like that. To celebrate I bought myself gelato yesterday, and the day before and I'll probably get some more today.

Work is going well. We really just need to find more new people.

Thanks in advance for the promised book reports. I really loved the pictures you sent too. They were so cool. Oh I really can't believe them. I loved the one of Gabe and the London eye and Mary twirling in front of the castle. You really are amazing.

I'm glad that you miss me. I miss you too. Have a good week and do lots of fun things like writing me letters or making videos to send me.

I love you lots.

Love Ben

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

P-day in Dover

After reading my emails Anz. Sciarretta and I will be heading over to Dover to check out the castle. Holy cow I don't think I've ever heard of such a cool place in the world. Castle plus history, plus cannons, plus Lehnardt craziness sounds like a good afternoon. I tempted to just hop over the Alps and the Channel and come for a visit. Wow I'm jealous of you guys. I can't believe our family is capable of just picking up and going to go see and do so much cool stuff.

Our family voyages sure have changed a lot. Do you remember when dad plugged Stefan's nose and made him throw up on the train? Or when Mom passed out on the Metro in Boston and then threw up in Fanuiel Hall? The obvious trend is that our past trips involved a lot more vomit than today's adventures to Dover castle. Although I'll always treasure my memories of spaghetti being regurgitated through Stefan's nostrils, I really look forward to the no stroller, no child carrying Lehnardt adventures. And they're definitely adventures. Vacation just doesn't seem like the right word.

Things in Torino are going pretty well. The big challenge is to find new people to teach. One challenge is that it's August and everyone is going on vacation for the whole month. In my opinion though the real challenge are the people that seem so good the first time you meet them but then constantly give you bidoni. Bidoni is when they don't show up to appointments. We make time for them and plan for them and then they don't come and we ended up using our time and energy on them instead of something else. The hardest thing is that it seems like such a good thing to put time aside for them, but when it goes on for weeks and weeks there's hardly anything worse for the work. It's hard too because Anz. Sciarretta is much more emotionally attached to a lot of people and so it's hard for him to let go of anyone.

I really like Anz. Sciarretta though. I love his east coast accent when he says things like "aunt" and other stuff and it's definitely got me thinking about living back east at some point. He's got the funniest personality that really seems football-ish. He's really nice and loving, but he also has the potential to be really intense. The kind of intense required to tackle someone to the ground. We're really different but the nice thing is that we both realize it and we make it work well.

I'm starting to like Torino a lot more. I never didn't like it, but for the longest time I just had a weird feeling that I wouldn't really be staying long. I've settled in a lot more and the more I get to know the members and the city the happier I am.

I'd really like to get some of my questions answered especially about Stefan going to school. Give me some details, Stefan. I know you've been busy with fish and chips and castles this week but next week I want to hear about school. I want to see more pictures too. Oh I just love you guys. Have you read any good books lately Mom and Dad? Feel free to summarize them and send them to me. If you can manage to put your deep spiritual thoughts into words I'd love that too although I understand how challenging that can be.

Well chaps have a good week in London and a safe trip home. Hope you enjoyed your holiday. Send me blog posts and movies next week.

I love you much.

Love Ben

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Have a jolly holiday

Good day chaps-

I hope jolly old London is treating you well and that you aren't eating too much rubbish on holiday. Actually I would eat lots of rubbish if I were you. It's poppycock that you say that croissants are your favorite British food- croissants are french.

Well I've exhausted my British vocabulary unless you're driving a lorry. Oh how's your flat?

Oh mom I've been thinking about the photography thing a lot and I was thinking just what you said. It would be a great job/skill to have and it would be perfect for being in school because it's so flexible. Not to mention that I have an expert teacher. Anyways I get excited just thinking about it.

Lately I've gotten kind of obsessed with Preach My Gospel. It really started when I was in the office. I started noticing that the best of the best always went back to PMG. When Elder Causse, who is now Bishop Causse, came and visited our mission he pointed out that he had never served a mission because he was a convert, but he was still going all over Europe teaching missionaries how to be better missionaries. How did he know how to do missionary work? He read the manual- PMG. When I was in the office I realized that our time to do missionary work was so limited that we had to just do the very best work possible and it had to be done efficiently. I started studying PMG like crazy and the work suddenly became so much more fun and enjoyable.

When I first got to Torino after a few days Anz. Sciarretta said "if I had a dime for every time you said PMG I'd be a rich man." I'll admit that I do talk about it a lot, but it's only because it's the best way to do things. One of my favorite things lately is studying. It makes everything else go so much better which makes me happier.

Well my time has flown by. I really don't have much news for this week. I'm still a missionary doing missionary things. I don't have any complaints, well actually I really hope to get some pictures next week. Especially of the bikers. I heard that mom had to shed blood to get a good angle.

Why is my email so short? I'm wondering why I just don't seem to have as much to say lately? I have been doing a lot of the same stuff for a while now so there isn't as much new news to share, but I feel like I've still got new stuff going on. I need your help. Next week ask me some good questions. What do you want me to write about? Maybe you could give me some good conversation topics. Did you like David Copperfield, Stefan? When do you go down to BYU? Are you excited? Where are you staying? What about the rest of you? I know you're in London but what have you been doing lately? I need a good blog post or two to keep me updated.

I expect a good update on all of you next week with juicy details and everything. How much longer will you be in London? I have this weird feeling about Torino. I'm still trying to settle in. It just doesn't feel like I'm going to be here for a long time.

Well have a good week. I love you guys. Don't forget- I expect good updates next week. Have fun and be safe in London.

Love Ben

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Be nice

Oh my dear family.

Where do I even begin?

First answers to questions.

Transfers aren't until a week from Thursday and I won't know where I'm going until the Monday before. As far as where I might go I have no idea. Actually I have a couple, but transfers are nearly impossible to predict so I just try not to have any expectations. Anyways I'll still be in the office for another week and a half.

Anz. Angel is my replacement and he got here last week. He is a long time friend of one of Mary's good friends from BYU. It's kind of crazy training him in the office because the office is so different so he already has kind of a crazy transition going on, but on top of that I have a ton of stuff to teach him. I feel bad because sometimes I feel like he's getting overwhelmed, but there's really just a lot to teach him. I never realized how much stuff I knew and did around the office without even thinking about it. Luckily I've put a lot of time into organizing stuff and making my job more efficient so things will be easier for him.

Oh I don't know what you want to hear. The most exciting thing I did this week was organize the storage box more. I really do love organizing things.

I'm glad everyone had such a good week at Lake Powell on my houseboat. I hope you took good care of it.

I heard mention of a trip next May. It's funny because just this week I started thinking about what I might do when I get home. I was thinking about doing spring semester, but I really have no idea what might be going on.

Oh my crazy family have a good week. Have lots of summer fun.

Mom if the Garffs really do have plenty of room could you send them with old spice deodorant and a tube of tooth paste?

I really shouldn't be helping to coordinate things like this. I feel bad coordinating pass bys so I'm just going to act surprised to see them.

Have a good week. Do crazy summer things.

Love Ben

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Crazy Week

What a crazy week.

Let me begin with a list.

1. I got hit with my usual mystery mix of a cold and allergies. I'm not really sure which it is, but it does fill my head with mucus, make it hard to breathe and leave me sneezy, coughy and wheezy.

2.

3. My other toe, not the last ingrown toenail, erupted into a red, angry, swollen, puss-oozing state.

4. After my last toe experience I got toe surgery right away, and now I'm back to wearing flip-flops.

5. My stomach was feeling pretty bad. Anziano Niccoli reassured me that IBS is not contagious so I'm pretty sure that I just have a bug in my stomach.

9. Italy got hot. It was not hot and then it was hot. One day summer kicked in and it got blistering hot. It's a good thing it's nice and humid though, otherwise I wouldn't get to sweat as much.

10. Anz. Niccoli and I took the liberty of carrying our mattresses around the corner out of our oven of an apartment and into the air conditioned office. We spent the hottest nights in the office. Don't tell anyone though because it's our little secret.

11. Yesterday President called me into his office and told me that my time in the office has come to an end. Next Tuesday my replacement will come in and I'll finish out the transfer training him to be the next Captain Cool.

We've had a lot of excitement. I loved Dad's analogy of the boat in the wind to keeping steady in life. It reminds me of a lesson I learned from President Wolfgramm. He takes a gyroscope and gets it spinning. Everyone who watches is amazed at how it can balance on a string and on the tip of your finger. He explains how in big airplanes and enormous ships there are gyroscopes inside that keep it steady even through waves and turbulence. But, as the wheel slows the gyroscope begins to tip and finally fall on it's side. "Each of us," he explains "has a wheel of faith inside of us and praying, reading the scriptures, going to church, etc. keep our wheel spinning." When the wheel is going we can do anything.

I'm so grateful for Dad. My last weeks Father's Day wishes were weak sauce. Dad is the best. He is the one who has taught me to build rock piles and pound nails. He makes me want to learn everything. He makes me want to be huge, but without drinking dirt. He has taught me that not eating cookies and chocolate is not an essential to dieting. In many hard moments I've kept going and not given up because I've known that Dad would expect better of me. He is the best. I feel good when I feel like I'm becoming my dad. I miss my Dad.

I hope you all have fun at Lake Powell. Try to keep my half of the houseboat clean.

I loved the video. I'm so glad that I have a great family. Have a good week. Love you guys.

Love Ben

Saturday, June 16, 2012

dear sweet family

Oh dear Family...

You make me feel so goofy and crazy that I don't know if I'll be able to write anything but jokes in my email now.

Yesterday we did a lot of extra driving because of a scambio. We burned through some extra gas and before long the gas light was on. As we drove to our next appointment we discussed the matter. We didn't have a lot of time and we didn't have any cash. Getting cash from a bancomat would take more time. I thought of all the times I drove plenty of miles or kilometers with the gas light on and I voted that we just go for it. So we did.

Don't worry-we got to all our appointments just fine. But, as we were heading back I felt the car lurch. The engine sputtered, we rolled into a roundabout and the car gave one last little push and the motor died. It was 10:00 pm and we were out of gas. Anz. Niccoli jumped out to push while I steered and showered him with encouragement and compliments like "faster!"

Earlier that day, shortly after deciding against getting gas, I had prayed that we wouldn't actually run out of gas because really we were just trying to get work done and do what was right with a little bit of extra risk. We did run out of gas, but my prayers were answered. We drove through a lot of country roads where the only thing around is bunches of corn, wheat and the occasional lady of the night (but we never ask them for help.) We ran out of gas though right as we pulled into the little town of Melegnano after having crossed kilometers and kilometers of farmland. After 100 meters of pushing we found a bancomat (ATM) and then after just another half kilometer there was a gas station. If we had run out of gas any earlier we would have found ourselves in the dark lonely country, any later and we would have been on the highway which is just as desolate of gas stations but more full of speeding cars.

We learned our lesson, I probably will be a little more wary of the gas light, at least as a missionary, but in learning the lesson God didn't let us fall too hard.

We've been working really hard and just about everyone in the little town of Vaiano Cremasco knows us after this week. There are three member families that live there and we've gotten a good bunch of investigators there in the last little while. We've been there almost every day this week and people are starting to recognize us. Yesterday we had a lesson with a little old lady and right when we got in she started waving her hands and pounding the table and asking "Who are you? Where do you come from? What do you want?" She had lots of question because she has seen us going to her rowdy neighbors for the last week or two and wanted to know what a pair of boys in white shirts and ties were doing going to one of the wildest siciliano houses in the neighborhood. She mostly just laughed at us because she liked to laugh a lot, but at the end we made a new friend in Magdalena.

My half vegetarian life is going pretty well. Monday night we made up our own recipe for peach salsa (the peaches were my idea) and made a giant bowl. We made some tortillas to go with it the next day and the day ofter that we made a giant pot of beans to go with it. Then after three days with no meat while I was on scambio I got a pizza with prosciutto on it.

We're working really hard trying to be excellent in both of our lives meaning in the office and out in Lodi and all the little towns in the area. I've never worked so hard, never been so tired, but also never had as much fun.

I loved all the blog posts I got this week. Mom of course, the Linkouses and of course the beautiful Israeli Princess. I love hearing what you guys have to write. Happy Father's Day, Dad. You're the best. It really is a shame that we don't get to call on Father's day too. I don't know if Italians celebrate Father's Day, but if they do I didn't hear anything about it.

Speaking of Dads this week I was doing orders for the mission which means I spend a couple days running around in our little stock room boxing up all the supplies that missionaries order. I always like to listen to General Conference talks while I do it and this time around it seemed like every speaker talked about families and families and families again. I couldn't believe it. I love my family.

Have a good week with lots of fun and happiness.

Love Ben

Saturday, June 9, 2012

late night potato burritos

Guess where I went today Dad- H&M?

Even though I already knew what it was I really appreciated your description of it. I won't repeat it here, but just know that we all liked your description. I think I found your not pink shirt and I now know for myself that it is not pink even though it looks like it from more than three feet away.

I decided it was time to get some new pants. Long days on bikes has taken a toll on the crotch of more than one pair of pants. On top of that I haven't been thrown out of any airplanes lately so I don't think I need the extra wide parachute pants all the time. This would be a good time to give some advice for missionaries shopping for clothes. When the Mr. Mac salesman hears that you're going to Italy on a mission don't let him sell you clothes for a man 20 pounds heavier than you. I still remember when I started wearing my suit jacket last fall. Another missionary saw me with my jacket for the first time and said "Wow, have you lost weight?" No. I just came on my mission prepared to gain 50 pounds. I didn't go to H&M in the end, but went to the much cooler Zara.

Summer seems to be in full swing around the world. It has gotten really hot around here and I'm sweating like crazy. I think you guys should start trying to enjoy all your fun summer activities with a shirt and tie on.

Office life has been super busy. The Internet breaking this week didn't help. We ended up fixing it enough so that one person at a time could be plugged into the router. The four of us in the office had to keep asking each other for turns to send emails. We've had a lot going on lately and I've been working really hard. I really don't stop working from 7:00 am until 11:00 at night. We're on summer schedule now so everything is shifted back an hour.

Anz. Niccoli is really cool and I really like serving with him. We have a lot of fun together and I really enjoy working with him.

I'm doing well. I'm happy and time seems to be rushing by. I feel like I've been in a blur of work and trying to get everything done while also teaching 20 lessons because there's a lot of pressure to be an example and teach 20 lessons. Because of that the week just rushed by and I feel like it was just yesterday that I was emailing.

One day we were so busy that we kept putting off eating lunch until it was time to go. We came back at 10:00 and made ourselves a feast of potato burritos. Maybe not the best idea, but it was kind of fun to do some late night cooking.

Well have a great week everyone. Good luck on all your summer projects.

Love, Ben

Saturday, June 2, 2012

I am an eat-meat-sparing-er, thank you.

I feel like I have so many comments from the emails and pictures today that I'd better just do them in bullet form before I forget.

-Thanks for registering me to vote mom. I know it sounds funny, and I really don't worry that much about political stuff lately, but I saw an envelope full of voting stuff come for another missionary and I thought it was a great idea. Then I kept hearing more and more stuff and I don't want to miss out on voting for a Mormon.

- Congrats on your graduation, Stefan! Oh I love my brother, even if he is a little shy. Say hello to Elizabeth for me. In fact maybe you could say ciao- that might be a little more cultural for your new girlfriend Stefan.

-Nice pink shirt Dad- very Italian.

Well I just can't believe how wonderful and beautiful you all are. Seeing Stefan's graduation pictures right after mine had a strange effect. Just don't forget about me, OK?

I'm really impressed with the summer goal setting plan. It sounds like in a few months there will be a new piano player and a new Arabic speaker in the house. What is everyone else doing? You should get Preach My Gospel and look at chapter 8. Not only will you be a more effective goal setter and plan maker, but you'll hit the mission field way ahead of the crowd. I've decided that my future New Year's resolutions are going to be way beefier. No more goals to stop picking my nose or or survive 365 days- I'm going to learn German or learn to play the guitar. In fact last week I had a big realization on what I want to do for a job. I realized that all of my interests boil down to one common thing. I really just like to learn. I've been driving myself crazy by wanting to do so many different things and I realized that I just need to get a job where someone will pay me to constantly learn new things. Now that I've found the idea of the job I just need to figure out where and how this would work. Those are just details though.

Anz. Niccoli is the best. He's from Provo, but his name is Nico Pietro Niccoli. His family wishes they were Italian the way we wish we were German. I tried to be a GEM and be a vegetarian along with him but I only lasted a week. I've now moved to the system of only eating meat when other people give it to me. I still don't buy meat or cook it- which is saving me money- but whenever people prepare meat and give it to me I eat it. It's a good balance because I really missed it and I really think I could feel the lack of protein and iron. I'm just not a vegetarian and that's all there is too it. Maybe I could invent a new category of "eat meat sparing-ers." I totally agree that we normally eat too much meat and I've loved having my eyes opened to eating lots and lots of fruits and vegetables. I have to watch out though. Anz. Niccoli is very protective of little baby animals and will fight fiercely for the rights of chickens everywhere. Just kidding. He's a purely medical case of vegetarianism.

This week has been absolutely crazy with 10 arriving missionaries and 12 departing ones. We ran around like crazy and then after a few days came back to lots of office work and missionary work. We might not get 20 lessons this week. I got a little surprise in transfers that I wasn't expecting. I'm the district leader now and I really like it. I love the people in our district, but they just make me laugh and shake my head sometimes. This will be a fun new adventure. It will be crazy too to add just a little bit more to our already crazy schedule. That's alright though. I would rather have too much work to do than not enough.

Yesterday I went to do my first baptismal interview. It was a guy named Gianni who I taught when I was in Milano 3. He's really ready to be baptised and has just been waiting to get married. He had a super cool story where the office Sorelle before me were visiting a less active woman. She was living with Gianni and he was not interested. They told us about when they went to visit and he would make fun of them while he cooked in the kitchen. The Sorelle prayed for a miracle. Gianni's heart changed and now goes to church along with his wife, Octavia.

Anyway, they got married last week and the baptism is today. We did the interview and it went really smoothly. He stayed to talk to the Assistants for a minute. As soon as we left the building the thought came so clearly to me that I had forgotten to ask about the Word of Wisdom. I debated it in my head for a second and then in the end decided that even though it might me embarrassing to go back in front of the APs, and even though I was sure Gianni didn't have any problems I decided to go back just to make sure. I went and asked him and he said "No you didn't ask me and I thought it was a little weird. No coffee, no tea, no alcohol, no tobacco, no drugs?"

"Oh good. Perfect Gianni. Will you live this commandment?"

"Yes."

Well I messed up my first interview, but I learned a good lesson about integrity and listening to the Spirit.

I love you all very much. Please don't forget about me.

Have a good week.

Love Ben

Saturday, May 26, 2012

happy summer!

I can't believe how beautiful the world is this week. Spring/Summer has come to all of us, school is about to end and now both of my favorite women in the world are writing blogs.

Maybe the happiness training has really been working or maybe life has just been really good lately, but life just seems to have a golden glow lately.

I realized from your emails today how little information I give you. I guess I've just forgotten that you really only know what I write you. I'll try to be better and give a few more details. First of all when I was in Siena I walked everywhere on cobblestone roads, which I think is why I got an ingrown toenail. I didn't ride a bike for the first six months of my mission until I got to Padova. Driving a car is really unusual in the mission. Until last transfer it was just us and the assistants who had cars. We don't have mileage limits because having a car is such a rare thing that it's not really well organized. On top of that we have to run strange errands sometimes.

Italian fact: There is a church for just about every saint- Maria, Joseph, Maria, Antonio, Maria, Paul- but not a single one for Jesus.

Last Sunday night I had a dream about a really bumpy car ride. Right after that I woke up to Anz. Niccoli saying "Did you guys feel that?" I then wondered why our building was swaying. There was an earthquake down in Reggio Emilia and we felt it all the way from there. Luckily no missionaries were hurt and no apartments were damaged.

Anz. Anderson is still here and will be until Thursday. Anz. Niccoli is really fun and I'm really excited to be with him. Just like Dad said, changing companions is always so weird because of the mix of emotions. Excitement for something new, a little bit of sadness of leaving behind the good things and saying goodbye and sometimes I even get a little afraid. This time it has been especially weird because my new companion has come while the old one is still here.

How am I doing? This is for you Mom. You told me to take the question seriously. I am doing good. Here are my recent thoughts and feelings. I can relate to your lack of faith blog because lately I haven't been not-faithful, but I just don't feel the burning excitement and assurance that I think would be ideal. This morning I started reading Matthew and I really liked it. I remember you saying that you loved the gospels as comfort scripture more than the BofM. I try not to compare but I think they have really different roles. They're like two different friends and I think that sometimes the gospel might be a more comforting friend while the BofM would be more of the action packed, go getter kind of friend.

I've also been realizing how much I've been changing lately. I feel like since I've gotten to the office I've felt more focused and lost in missionary work. I can't believe how much fun I've been having with missionary work. It's kind of weird for me but I feel like I've changed a lot lately. Along with that though in the last day or two I have also felt like I could give my friends at home and in Jerusalem just a little bit more love and details. Even though I feel very focused lately I don't want to forget about the people I love. I'll try to be better and give more details in letters and stuff like that.

I loved the happiness tip dad. I think that might have to do why life can be so hard for new missionaries. As I've spent more time in the mission I've gotten to know more and more missionaries and it's made things more fun. When I first got here though I didn't know anyone and I had to start my whole social life over again.

Well I hope I put a good amount of detail into this email because time is gone. I hope you all have a great fun filled week.

Love Ben

Saturday, May 19, 2012

my brain can't catch up

Guess what? I have a new companion.

On Tuesday we dropped President's car off after getting it serviced. He told us to come take a seat on the couch and then told us that he was making some changes.

We had been expecting him to bring someone new in the next transfer to be trained by one of us and then one of us would leave at the end. Instead he told us that in two days Anz. Niccoli would come in to take Anz. Anderson's spot.

Right now we're in a threesome and in about two weeks Anz. Anderson will leave.
Anz. Anderson is sad to go and no matter what happens I find that there's always at least a little bit of sadness every time a companion leaves; a part of my life comes to a close and it always makes me think.

We just picked Anz. Niccoli up yesterday. He's from Provo and is just one transfer younger than me. He has some stomach problems and ever since he trained a vegetarian he hasn't been eating meat. I think I'll experiment and try being vegetarian with him. I've always been curious about what it would be like and now I have a chance to try.

I really don't feel like I have too much to say. Right now I feel like I'm still trying to adjust and get used to having a new companion. Anz. Niccoli seems really good, but I hardly know what to think and being in the office in three is a weird situation in which to get to know someone. I really haven't had much time to stop and think about it and I always want to get along with my companions, but sometimes I get nervous about it. Oh I should probably just relax. I've never had problems with companions, why do I worry? Hah.

I'm pretty impressed with the mother's day video. It had a pretty clear theme and a great one line script.

I loved your pictures mom. I noticed my blanket being used as a prop. Whatever you do make sure you're careful with that blanket. I plan on being buried wrapped in that blanket. I liked the pictures though. Who is the happy couple?

I loved the happiness lesson Dad. My brain is already working on all kinds of habits to make and break and how I'm going to change the activation energy to my advantage. I love some good secular learning every once in a while. The other day I jotted down a theoretical list of classes for my first semester back and I think it would make you laugh. There were about six different classes and each of them was one thing I might like to do. Unfortunately engineer was not among them. I have to admit though that I've thought a lot about the six sigma thing. We cleaned out our storage box this week and just by organizing and throwing away useless stuff we totally transformed the box and made it so much better. Who knows? Luckily I don't have to decide today.

Oh yeah. I do drive. It is pretty fun even though we don't drive a Ferrari or even a Fiat. I can't believe you didn't remember that I drive. I'm sure I told you. Oh well. I guess it's just proof that mom really does hide my emails from everyone.

Stefan, now that you're done with your AP tests you should have time to write me great stories. I want to hear more about who you are dating. This is so strange and exciting for me. You need to write me more.

Well have a good week everyone. I miss you and I love you.

Love, Ben

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Skype tomorrow!!

Well I hardly know where to begin. Where to begin talking about my week, not so much. Where to begin talking about you guys is way harder.

This week was fine. I did lots of work in the office yesterday I finally brought a three week long project to an end when a DHL truck came and took away all the extra boxes of Book of Mormons that we wouldn't use in a hundred years and they just took up space in our storage unit anyways. I feel quite accomplished. We do use the BofM, but the trouble is that we stock 80 different languages because Italy just sits in the middle of the Mediterranean sea waiting for all of Africa and Eastern Europe to jump on board. Anyway it causes lots of problems when you have 16 boxes of Bulgarian Book of Mormons.

We decided to whitewash Lodi. A whitewash is when both the missionaries get transferred away at the same time and two new ones come in fresh. We didn't really whitewash Lodi, but that's kind of been our theme this week. We had lots of really good people that haven't been so interested lately. They cancel appointments or don't keep commitments so we decided to just let all of them go and leave them for future missionaries to find. That means that we're starting over on finding lots of new people.

I think that pretty much sums up the events of my week.

Summer has arrived and it is hot. In one day it jumped from being warm to being 90 degrees. Summer is here. The funny thing is that the last time I was in weather this hot I was in Italy. I remember riding buses in Bologna and dripping in sweat.

So tomorrow I'll plan on Skyping at about 7:00 pm which would be 11:00 am for you. Good.
Is anyone else very excited about Skype?

Mom I loved your blogpost/email. I laughed at the part about not worrying about Mary's freak out. It only took five other kids to figure it out I guess. I've noticed something really weird lately. I don't think parenting is easy. I thought it was something that everyone just did and was good at, but lately I've noticed while talking to Sorella Wolfgramm, because she always talks about what great preparation a mission is for life and being a parent, but I've realized that there are lots of conference talks on parenting because it must be hard and if you mess up you mess up someone's life. Maybe because mom and dad made it look so easy I always just thought it was just something you did and there was no worry about doing it right or wrong. That's kind of a joke though because as the oldest I have totally seen mom and dad change as parents.

So Stefan- I can't believe you haven't been writing me about your love life. Who did you go to prom with? You're supposed to tell me about these kinds of things.

Other comments on mom's email:

I like how Xander was kicking the kid and not the ball in the picture.

I can't believe the new library is open. I'm so jealous. We live right next to a library and just the other day I was remembering how Mary and I used to always go to the library.

I loved Dad and Mary in the background of the prom picture.

Who sleeps in which rooms now? Are Hans and Xander in what was originally my room?

Once again- Who did Stefan go to prom with? Is Stefan really a senior? I know that's right, but I don't remember him being a junior so it's hard for me to believe. Where's he going to school and what does he want to do?

This week I ended up talking to the Lynchs, the senior couple in the office, about what I want to do and it got me thinking about what I want to do. Anz. Lynch was a partner in his own California accounting firm. Needless to say he's been very successful. As an accountant he doesn't see any value in studying things like writing or history or photography. The funny thing is that a couple of his kids did just that. The best advice that I got from them is to do something you love. The problem is that I love so many things and I think I could have fun do lots of different things. Working in the office has made me think about doing economics and then doing six sigma stuff. I've just had so much fun organizing things and cleaning stuff out. Who knows.

Does it bother anyone that I don't give a more detailed analysis on my missionary work? I feel like I'll have plenty of stories to tell when I get home, in fact just the other day I was reading my journal and it was pretty exciting, but whenever I email I just feel like talking about you and things we have in common. I guess I just gravitate to the common ground whenever we email. Besides so many of the stories will be better after the fact, after they've been resolved.

One bit of exciting news is that I bought a new journal this week. We had an adventure into Milano to find it. I just got another red moleskin. It will be my third. Just think of all the exciting stories. Anz. Anderson got a Star Wars themed moleskin. I was tempted but in the end I decided it wasn't for me.

Lately I've really started to love Preach My Gospel. It might have been the "triple your earning potential" story but I've started to realize how good it really is in missionary work and for life after the mission.

I'll see you soon. Have a great day until we talk again.

Love Ben

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Eight days!

Dear family-

You are the best.

Really.

Every week I'm just amazed at how happy and fun you are. You weren't always like this before. Why did you all graduate from diapers and teething and screaming right before I left?
I was just showing Anziano Osborn the bee pictures and when I mentioned to him that the hives are right next to the chickens I realized how farm-ish we are. I think a cow should be our next addition. Just think of how complete our little farm would be with fresh milk? I guess goats produce milk, but I don't think mom will ever drink goat milk again.

I really am in shock at how our family is growing up and changing and how much fun you are. Stefan is about to graduate from high school, there are no babies in the family, and you seem so free to do all kinds of cool projects and stuff like that. Gosh.

Well Betty and Luis Miguel got baptized this week. The baptism went well and they were very happy.

I can't believe missionaries showed up to our house this weekend. I have to admit that I only remember missionaries having a presence at church once. They came to priest's quorum and all I remember is that they asked if they could have some of the skittles that the bishop had to give to primary kids on their birthdays.

It's funny how much differently I look at missionaries now and how much more willing I will be to help them out and give them referrals.

It's funny that you should ask what we do on p-day lately. We rarely get a full p-day because we're so busy. Today a family in our branch asked us to come help them move. It was a little bit crushing because this has been such a crazy week and I was looking forward to playing basketball with the AP's and president. It "Ben's Busy Day" all over again. After lots of effort I'm finally pulling myself into a good attitude.

Well what do I have to say?

Mom- you cannot shut down the blog. I love the blog so much and it would be a shame- mostly because I know that I wouldn't get as many pictures and news from home without it. The world needs beautiful pictures and happy stories. Have you ever thought about keeping a journal for all your more open writing?

Oh I almost forgot- Mother's Day is next week!

We're planning when to do our Skyping and we are planning on being available from about 6-8 our time. That would be from about 10-12 am. When do you have church? I'm going to need you to set up a skype account for me because I have no idea what my old one was.

I was noticing that little Mary has some nice moles on her face- I hope you're proud of that Mary. Your hair looks nice and long too.

How am I feeling? I feel a little bit like I've been so focused that I'm starting to get a little tired of being focused. Then again I feel like that most times that I email. I don't have any big complaints. Anz. Anderson is a fine companion. Our work is still going well. Gelato is back in season which is really good news.

I'm excited to hear about the package and I'm glad it was a thick envelope. The mission is actually discouraging packages lately and I forgot to ever say anything about it. The problem is just that customs have gotten so crazy because Italy is trying to pay off some debt. The other problem is that we can't seem to be able to figure out any pattern as to which packages get charged and which don't. All I really want from you are letters and pictures. Oh I love pictures!!! As for music we recently had a change in the music rule- music is now all supposed to be devotional quality music. It's kind of unclear, but that's what it is. I don't really like it, but I kind of understand it.

Speaking of pictures I would love to see some pictures of Israel.

Have a great week everyone. I love you.

Love, Ben