WEST VALLEY — Elder Siosiua Andrew Taufa, 20, was remembered Friday as a humble young man who was a valiant servant to the Lord.
Elder Taufa had been serving as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Guatemala Retalhuleu Mission for 18 months. A tragic electrical accident took his life last week after he came in contact with a high-voltage wire while mending the roof of his apartment.
Funeral services were held for Taufa at an LDS Church building in West Valley Friday. Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve and Elder Mervyn B. Arnold of the Seventy spoke at the funeral service along with Governor Gary R. Herbert. Elder John H. Groberg, an emeritus member of the Seventy, was also in attendance.
Family and friends gathered around parents Aiveni Mosese Taufa and Sulieti Fusi Taufa and their four children before and throughout the service. Some of the talks and musical numbers were given in Tongan, with translation provided by the Sereni Care Funeral Home.
Both parents spoke, remembering and celebrating their son's life.
Sulieti Taufa spoke of her son's love for football. He had even promised his mother he would play professionally and buy her everything she ever wanted. But knowing missions would be important, Sulieti Taufa said she always taught her sons to make the Lord and mission service their first priority.
"I knew football meant a lot," Sulieti Taufa said, "but he knew he had to serve."
Sulieti Taufa reflected on the first month of her son's mission, noting that she did not have any contact with him in that time. Feeling concerned, she contacted his mission leaders to confirm his safety. They assured her that he was safe and that they would make sure he got in contact with her shortly.
The next day, Sulieti Taufa received a call from her missionary son.
"Mom, what are you doing?" Elder Taufa said. "P-day is not play day — it's preparation day."
"I know that he gave his all," Sulieti Taufa said. "He was just a humble low-profile kid."
Sulieti Taufa also showed a necklace and a letter she received from an LDS general authority in Guatemala following her son's death. The letter included kind statements about the mother of five: "You are an angel mother and God loves you," "You will all be in heaven one day," and "May the peace and knowledge of God be in your heart forever."
Sulieti Taufa closed by remembering the peace and comfort her faith brings her.
"I know that I will see my son again, even though I miss him so much."
Aliveni Taufa also shared his thoughts: "It's a celebration to me. He just got drafted to the number-one team."
Shortly after the accident, Aliveni Taufa and his oldest son, Marc Taufa, traveled to Guatemala to identify and claim Elder Taufa's body, and bring him back to Salt Lake City.
Aliveni Taufa said this experience humbled him. After meeting with those his son taught and baptized, Aliveni Taufa said he knew his son loved the people of Guatemala.
"I am so grateful to the gospel. It is true," Aliveni Taufa said. "I will see my son again because of a loving Heavenly Father. He also knew the gospel was true — because of that, we will see him again someday."
After a testimony shared by Pisope Sosaia T. Tu'itupou, bishop of the Riverside 2nd Ward, six male cousins in shirts and ties performed a musical number.
Gov. Herbert then addressed the congregation, saying he felt honored to join the family in celebrating their son's life.
"Ivan and I are cousins," Gov. Herbert said as he expressed his closeness with the family, Aliveni in particular, as he is a member of the governor's security team.
Gov. Herbert then shared several scriptures that had come to his mind as he prepared for the service. The governor first referenced Mosiah 18:8-9, reminding the congregation that "if we are God's people, we will bear one another's burdens."
The governor also referenced Luke chapter 7, in which Jesus Christ comments on a particular man's great faith. Gov. Herbert said many have known of the Taufa family's physical strength, noting that Aliveni Taufa had lifted his youngest son over his head before. But the governor expressed how during this trial, the family has shown their spiritual strength as well.
"Part of mortality is to face trials and tribulation," Gov. Herbert said. "We all need to work on our spiritual muscles. ... We never know when we will be called to do some heavy lifting."
Elder Arnold then spoke, expressing his love for the family and all who have supported them during this time. He said it was in the pre-existence that Elder Taufa was prepared for his life mission.
"What a divine destiny Elder Taufa had," Elder Arnold said. "There is no question in my mind that your son and brother was prepared (in the pre-existence) to go serve those people in Guatemala. I'm so thankful that your boy accepted to go. ... Before this, we all knew our Heavenly Father personally and so did your son."
Elder Arnold assured the family that their son had simply completed his mission on earth and is "continuing to preach and labor among those who are in darkness."
Elder Nelson also addressed the family in his closing remarks, commending them for responding with such great faith. He then read a letter written by the members of the First Presidency.
"We earnestly pray that the comforting spirit of our Heavenly Father will attend you in this hour of sorrow. Missionaries are so dear to the entire church that the loss of one is felt deeply by all who know of it,” Elder Nelson read. "Draw comfort in the realization that your son could not have been engaged in a more worthy service."
Elder Nelson addressed the importance of knowing where Elder Taufa is now and how family members can prepare to join him again.
"When a loved one is taken from us, two important questions arise: What will we do, and what will he do? Let me begin with a little counsel of what we should not do. Please do not torture yourself with 'what-if' questions," Elder Nelson said.
"Replace them with a further explanation that when he passed through the gateway that we call death, he was dutifully and completely on his errand from the Lord. Elder Taufa chose to live righteously, by precept and by example; he was helping others to prepare to meet God. He was a missionary in the loftiest sense of the word. Now he is safely in the Lord's care."
Elder Nelson then expressed the importance of the family mourning their loss.
"We cry — we weep tears of sorrow. The Lord wants us to cry; he gave it to us as a commandment," Elder Nelson said. "Our tears testify our love for this righteous, wonderful, exemplary, irreplaceable Elder. Our tears also testify of our obedience to this commandment of the Lord."
Elder Nelson said that Jesus taught, "He who loseth his life for my sake shall find it." He said that it is when we see things as God does that we gain an eternal perspective.
"For Elder Taufa and the Lord, it is a homecoming," Elder Nelson said.
In conclusion, Elder Nelson spoke about possible concerns the family may have for Elder Taufa, as he did not receive the blessings of marriage or fatherhood. In response, Elder Nelson said, "In the Lord's time, all will be given him. ... In the eternal realm, he will be crowned with light and glory. Not only that, he has gone to prepare a place for each one of you in his precious family, that where he is, there you may be also.”
Elder Nelson then placed a blessing on the family "that they may be delivered from grief and continue as beacons of light." He continued to bless them that there will be "no empty chairs in your ultimate celestial reunion."
Family members gathered at the gravesite where several doves — a Tongan symbol of peace — were released.