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Elder Wakolo Teaches Tongan Graduates ‘Lessons from a Bug’

Enterprise, Alabama is half a world away from Tonga, but this week, graduates at Saineha High School were transported there through the storytelling of Elder Taniela B. Wakolo, a member of the Pacific Area Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Graduates at Saineha High School on the Tongan island of Vava'u. 8 November 2023.
Graduates at Saineha High School on the Tongan island of Vava'u. 8 November 2023.
Graduates at Saineha High School on the Tongan island of Vava'u. 8 November 2023.© 2023 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

Elder Wakolo taught the students about the thriving American cotton industry of the 1800s that was struck by a tiny enemy—the boll weevil.

These small pests not only decimated crops, but also livelihoods and entire communities.

The cotton farmers could have given up, Elder Wakolo explained, but instead, they dug deep and came up with a new agricultural strategy that included a diverse range of crops.

Towns in the former cotton regions bounced back, with a variety of new crops being grown and bringing wealth to many towns.

Elder Wakolo likened this account to the personal challenges we all face. He shared three “lessons from a bug” with the graduates.

“First, inherent in every challenge is an opportunity waiting to be discovered,” he said. “There are times when things happen in our lives that spur us to respond in a way that we might never have previously considered but that is ultimately for our good.”

Elder Wakolo continued: Second, changing course often requires faith. The farmers I described earlier had, no doubt, done everything they knew to do to rid themselves of the bugs and allow their cotton to grow. It’s sometimes tempting to think their efforts were in vain, but nothing could be farther from the truth. If they hadn’t tried and failed, they would not have been compelled to try something new.”

“Third, practice rigorous gratitude. In his letter to the Thessalonians, Paul the Apostle directed them, ‘In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you,’” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Elder Wakolo added: “There are simple ways that you can actively practice gratitude including thanking Heavenly Father in prayer, doing service for others, and recognising blessings in your life (even those disguised as bugs).”

Elder Wakolo encouraged graduates to exercise and strengthen their faith in Jesus Christ. In particular, he encouraged the youth to worship in the temple and in weekly sacrament meetings; as well as continue to give service in the Church and in the community, including missionary service.

He also encouraged students to read from the Book of Mormon, highlighting “every reference to the name of the Saviour as part of your preparation.”

Elder Wakolo promised graduates that as they do these things, their lives “will be transformed for the better.”

“Take opportunities to recognise the hand of the Lord in your life every day, every day, every day.”

Watch a video on Facebook about the graduation.

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