Monday, August 31, 2015

Fear of Man

Hey folks!

Had a great week this week. I feel like I'm starting to adjust well to being with Elder Livingston. He's a good missionary and fun to serve with. :)

So I'm trying to start writing shorter emails, because super long emails are fun for nobody. So if this email ends up being way shorter than the other ones usually are (hopefully it does), don't worry, it's on purpose :)

Major events this week:

We had a combined zone training with the Chattanooga zone in Athens on Thursday! It was really cool. I got to see Elders Merrill, Nelson, and Galaviz again! Merrill and Galaviz are both in Chat zone, and Nelson's area is closer to Athens than to Asheville (where his zone conference was), so they were all there. That was sweet. At the conference we got the Area Book Planner app, and we've started using it since then. Right now we're putting all of our paper records from our area book into the app, which is a pain, but it's going to be a huge help. Paper area books are a pain in the butt, they're always a mess, and if missionaries even keep it up to date, a lot of the time the handwriting is super hard to read anyway. So I'm loving that. The planner part of it though is kind of a pain, it takes a whole lot longer to pull out my iPad and make an appointment than it does to just whip out the paper planner and write it down. I wish we could keep using the paper planners and just transfer the stuff to the iPads, but they won't give us more paper ones :( So I guess I'll have to just adjust. Haha

We also got these black boxes in our cars called "Tiwi" boxes ("Teenage I-Witness"). They track our driving and keep us from speeding or driving aggressively. (Siiiigh...) I was thinking that President Griffin would start getting inundated with emails like "Elder So-and-so was going 51 in a 50" as soon as they put them in, but they're actually pretty forgiving. You can go like 5 over before it does anything, and then it just warns you to "watch your speed" (using Hal 9000's voice, btw) and if you slow down, it doesn't penalize you. So that's nice. But it's still obnoxious. :P

President Griffin gave an awesome training on the Sacrament. That's something that's being talked about a lot lately, at least around here. The Sacrament, Sacrament meeting, keeping the Sabbath Day holy... I think the first presidency is trying to change the culture of the Church, and the attitude towards Sunday, church, and especially sacrament meeting and the sacrament. The sacrament is incredibly sacred, and we need to keep it that way. It is the only ordinance we do for ourselves more than once. And I've heard it said that sacrament meeting is the most sacred and important meeting in the Church.

This week we also got a new ward mission leader! I don't remember if I mentioned it last week, because I'm not sure if it was this Sun or last Sun that he was called, but we definitely started meeting with him this week. His name is Bro Mioduski (pronounced mih-DO-ski), and so far he seems really eager to get involved. Which is awesome. As much as I love our last ward mission leader, he didn't really do anything. :P

Aaah! It's getting long already! I'll hurry and finish!

We got haircuts from Sis Woods. Elder Livingston told her she could go a little shorter on the top, and then he heard "NEEEAAARRRRRWWW" and saw a ton of hair falling... It's like, military short now :) He wasn't too happy about it at first (he was nice to her anyway though) but honestly it looks good, and I think it's starting to grow on him (pun totally intended).

Oh, also. So there's this girl in the ward named Shasta. Both of us thought she was a member, but I guess she's not. She's a youth, and her family came back out of inactivity around the same time I got here, and they've all been coming regularly ever since, and she's been making friends with the other youth, and even coming to early morning seminary. She was just never baptized. On Sunday Bro Mioduski came up to us and told us, "Hey, so, Shasta wants to get baptized, and she lives in Rockwood, so you guys will be the ones teaching her. So let's get that set up." And we were both like WHAT??? That seriously does not happen. People never just come up to us completely ready to be baptized. It's pretty amazing. We told her there are 5 lessons, and she came back to us an hour later with a piece of paper with 5 dates and times listed and at the bottom "Baptism - Sep. 12." It's crazy! 

Phil and Marylou are getting married next week. And Wanda is progressing really well! We had a great lesson with her this week, answered a lot of her questions. :) She has Word of Wisdom struggles though, and I don't know if she's quite ready to change yet, but she is so ready. She loves everything we've taught so far (Plan of Salvation and Restoration), especially eternal families. So that's cool.

Also we went to early morning seminary this morning. :) That was really fun.

I'll share a quick thought from my week.

Lately I've been working on conquering my fear of man. For a lot of my life I have kind of gone with the flow. I've grown up around friends with high moral standards, and whenever a situation started to get sketchy, or we weren't really doing the right things, or whatever, I could almost always count on someone else to stand up and say something.

Heber C. Kimball said the following:

“… To meet the difficulties that are coming, it will be necessary for you to have knowledge of the truth of this work for yourself. The difficulties will be of such character that the man or woman who does not possess his personal knowledge or witness will fall. … The time will come when no man or woman will be able to stand on borrowed light. Each of yowill have to be guided by thlight within himself [or herself]."

I think the principle taught here applies not only to gaining a testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel, but of being true to that testimony. I also believe that time is now. None of us can expect to make it on borrowed light. We cannot rely wholly on borrowed light and expect to be safe. We must have our own light, and act on it. We must not only believe, and pray, and study, we must stand up and act, like Captain Moroni in the Book of Mormon.

In Doctrine and Covenants 3:7-8, the Lord gives the following counsel:

"For, behold, you should not have feared man more than God. Although men set at naught the counsels of God, and despise his words--

"Yet you should have been faithful; and he would have extended his arm and supported you against all the fiery darts of the adversary; and he would have been with you in every time of trouble."

The Lord's chastisement in these verses has lately started to sting me. I felt guilty because I am afraid of what other people will think of me, and that sometimes keeps me from standing up for righteousness, honesty, obedience, and truth. I felt discouraged. But today, when I was reading it again, I realized for the first time that this chastisement was directed at Joseph Smith. The very prophet of the Restoration struggled with the same thing! That gave me hope that I can change. And then I saw verse 10:

"But remember, God is merciful; therefore, repent of that which thou hast done which is contrary to the commandment which I gave you, and thou art still chosen, and art again called to the work"

God truly is merciful. If I will repent, and do my best to stand up and be faithful, He will "extend His arm and support me."

And He will do the same for you!

If you, like me, want to do the right thing but are at times held back by a fear of man, a fear of standing up and taking action, there is hope for you! You are in good company. Even Joseph Smith struggled with fearing man.

I promise you that as you follow the counsel of the Lord to repent, seek His forgiveness, and begin to do your best to be faithful, you will discover for yourself the reality of the power of Christ's Atonement. He can not only take away your sins and failures and shortcomings, but His grace can enable you to overcome your weaknesses and become strong. He can lift you up, sustain you, protect you, strengthen you, comfort you, do anything you need. All He asks is that you try, and have faith in Him.

That's my challenge to you. :) In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen!

(Dangit, this turned out super long again... Sorry everybody!)

Love,

Elder Swindler
Fotos:
1)  I caught a rooster!!

2) Rockwood Reunion :)

3) Missionary action shot (after the zone conference we went to a member's house in Athens with a bunch of other missionaries)

4)  2) Just a regular day in Rockwood :) (This is like the third or fourth time I've seen the cops come to our neighbors' house since I've been here haha) 

5) The Ball family (members here) has birds. Lots of them. This one was gorgeous though, and super friendly. :)
They also have like 9000 dogs. When they opened the door for us to come in it was like opening floodgates to a river of dogs...

6) We found an old abandoned firetruck! I thought it was so cool!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Another week in Tennessee

Hey folks!

It's been another week. :) I hope you're all doing well. I had a pretty good week this week. The work is going well, I'm learning to work with Elder Livingston, and we're both having a lot of fun.
 
Tuesday we saw Ronnie. He didn't come to church last week even though he said he would, but he felt really bad about it. He told us that something came up last-minute with his daughter and he had to go help her instead of coming. But then he didn't come yesterday either, so I don't know what happened. I hope he starts keeping his commitments better, I don't want to drop him :/
 
We also saw the Jennings, who are doing awesome. :) Brother Jennings is progressing towards receiving the Melchizedek Priesthood, which is fantastic. We shared some thoughts from Alma 26:14-15 and 2 Nephi 31:19-20 (see the end of this email).
 
Wednesday we had 2 of our 4 appointments fall through, but we ended up seeing different people in place of the ones who fell through, so it worked out. We saw the Brumleys, a part member family we haven't seen in like a month or two. Bro Brumley is a member, and he's a country singer in a band called High Brass. Their album is coming out really soon. And his wife is really cool and really nice. We want to start working with them every week if we can.
 
We saw Raymond and Tammy, and they sort of dropped us. They like the Book of Mormon, and they want to keep meeting with us, but they like the church they're going to and they want to stay there. I don't think they really understand the significance of the Book of Mormon. But we'll keep working with them, we think there's hope.
 
We ate dinner with Phil and Sister Madden, but didn't have time to share a lesson. We both had to be somewhere. But then our appointment fell through. So instead we visited an "eternigator" family, the Ishams. They're awesome, I really like them. They've been investigators for like a year or more I think. Bro Isham studies the Book of Mormon a lot, he even has a big chart of BOM scriptures about the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. I don't think he really fully understands the significance of the BOM either though. We are hoping to get him studying to find out if the book is true, and get them on date for baptism.
 
Thursday we visited Austin/the Williams. Theu fed us, and then they wanted to play Bible Trivia with us, so we did that (I totally won). And they're doing really well, physically and spiritually. Sis Williams is recovering well from her illness, and all three of them seem to be growing stronger spiritually and coming unto Christ. Austin really wants to get baptized. And he met with President Griffin briefly on Sunday, and Pres G is really confident that we'll be able to set a date soon, so that's awesome! :) He just needs to confirm with some higher-ups. 
 
Friday was district meeting, which was fun. And afterwards we got to see Brad and Martha. I feel like they are progressing still, but it's definitely slow. Brad is still reading from the Book of Mormon. He still hasn't really prayed to find out if it's true though. I think he's afraid of the answer he'll get - he doesn't really want to change, it's uncomfortable. At least that's what I think. But we'll keep working with them, I think it'll happen. :)
 
We also got to see the Weavers, a cute investigator family we've taught just once because they're super busy. Bro and Sis Weaver are both awesome, and their daughter is adorable. Bro Weaver used to make duck calls for Duck Commander, which is really cool. And Sis Weaver is really intelligent, she actually did the reading we assigned her and had questions about who was making the comments in the narrative (we taught her about Mormon). 
 
Saturday we saw Wanda and taught her the Restoration with Bro Kelly (the whole thing - last time we only got through half). She loves our visits but was definitely a little taken aback by the idea of another prophet. But she's willing to read the Book of Mormon, and she is not only willing but wants to ponder and pray about this for herself. So that's awesome.
 
Yesterday President Griffin came and spoke in our sacrament meeting, and it was super good. After church we went to a birthday party for the brother of a couple of members of the ward (they invited us). The food was delicious, especially the lemon meringue pie. And then after that we went to another birthday party for another ward member, and got fed again. Aaaand then we went home and crashed. :P
 
Anyway. That was our week. :)
 
I have a funny story and some random stuff and then I'll be done. Sorry this is so long.
 
So this girl who either lives or was staying next door to us (not sure - she's been hanging around with the people there for at least a week or two but she disappeared a day or two ago) sent a couple of the little girls who live there over to our house to get our number. She sent a note with them that had her number and a note that said "I'm 19!" Then she tried to flirt with me (apparently she wasn't interested in Elder Livingston) for about a day or so. It was super funny. I had her convinced I was actually 13 until she saw me driving. But (have no fear Mom!) we then told her basically that we'd be happy to teach her about the Gospel but otherwise...sorry. I guess she wasn't too interested in that, because she stopped texting back.
 
Random facts I learned this week:
  • Rockwood's population is about 5,500, Spring City's is about 2,000, and Oakdale's is 219. Elder Livingston told me this is the most rural area he has ever served in.
  • Oak Ridge is nearby, and that's where the Manhattan Project went down.
  • I guess a lot of people throughout the mission call missionaries the "Jesus People," but the other elders were telling us today that the other day someone called them the "God Squad." Never heard that one before, but I sure got a kick out of it.
  • I found out (a few weeks ago actually, but I forgot to mention it) that that cute Mexican song La Cucaracha is actually about marijuana... Go figure. O.o
Okay, I'm done. :)
 
My message for this week is two parts. The first is the message we shared with the Jennings that I mentioned earlier:

"Yea, we have reason to praise him forever, for he is the Most High God, and has loosed [us] from the chains of hell.

"Yea, [we] were encircled about with everlasting darkness and destruction; but behold, he has brought [us] into his everlasting light, yea, into everlasting salvation; and [we] are encircled about with the matchless bounty of his love..."

"And now, my beloved brethren, after [we] have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for [we] have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.

"Wherefore, [we] must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if [we] shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life."

The second is from President Griffin's talk on Sunday. He shared a story about an experience he had as a young boy on a backpacking trip. He found himself separated from the group, having taken the wrong turn at a fork in the trail, and the path he was on had just ended, and it was dark. Through his tears, he did what his mother had taught him and said a prayer: "Heavenly Father, please help my bishop find me. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen." He opened his eyes, fully expecting to see his bishop standing there, but for a while, nothing happened. Then he heard a quiet voice in his mind tell him to go stand in the meadow in front of him. He did, and a few minutes later, he heard a loud whistle, looked up, and saw his bishop on horseback on a trail a little above him.
 
President Griffin told us that this was the first time in his life that he knew for himself that God knew him by name.
 
I testify to you that God knows you too. If you ever find yourself alone at the end of a dark trail, I promise you that if you will turn to Him in prayer, He will help you. You are not alone. As one of our AP's put it, when you kneel in prayer, He puts the universe aside for a moment to kneel beside you. You are His child; He has not forgotten you and He never will. Take the time to talk to Him personally. Have a relationship with Him. As you reach out to Him, you will find He is reaching out to you too.
 
And do not forget to do the one thing that is sure to bring and keep you close to Him: study His words, every day! As Nephi taught, "ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save." With Nephi and President Griffin, I promise you that as you take time every day to "[feast] upon the word of Christ," you will become converted unto Christ, you will find He is never far away, you will find joy, your soul will never hunger, and you will find God knows you, is guiding your way, is always nearby you, and loves you more than you would believe.
 
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen :)
 
Love,
Elder Swindler

Photos

1) A selfie. Featuring Elder Livingston, Elder Udy, me, and Elder Stringham.

2) Elder Livingston: "Das mah buddy! I need a picture with him."


3) Elder Livingston: "That's good. But I'm lookin' a little fat, let's take another one and I'll kinda turn to the side."


4) People around here love two things: Jesus, and University of Tennessee football (the Tennessee Vol's).


5) One of the members lives here. The house was built in 1892. You should see the inside, it's gorgeous. :) It's cool to see the old Southern architecture, and the house just feels very welcoming and lived-in. I like it a lot.


Videos
1) Downtown Rockwood. Blink and you'll miss it.
video

2) Aaaaand that's it, folks! Hope you enjoyed Soarin' through Downtown Rockwood! Please exit the ride quickly, exits are to your left and right...
video


Monday, August 17, 2015

Fainting Goats

video

Patience

Hey folks!

This week was crazy with transfers and stuff. On Monday night we went to a goodbye party thing at a member's house, and there were a bunch of people there. It was really fun. We ate good food, and played this game where the missionaries each had a team, and we had to put Vaseline on each person's nose and then stick a cotton ball to their nose, and then they had to run to a plate and put the cotton ball in the plate without using their hands... It was pretty funny. And on Tuesday Elder Merrill and I saw Ronnie and Douglas and the Beyers one last time, and ate dinner with the Jennings (who are doing fantastic, by the way. We were talking in the car, and he was saying that it's been such an amazing blessing for us to play a part in helping the Lord change their lives so much. They have come so far even just in the short time we've been meeting with them. It's wonderful, and it makes me so happy:) )

Wednesday was transfers. We drove up to Farragut with Bro Sprague, the same member who drove us when I came in. The meeting was great, it was cool to be with so many missionaries. The energy there was huge. It was so exciting. President Griffin talked about going to work and doing the hard, everyday things. That's what the Lord needs - servants who go to work. We must do all we can with what we have, as is appropriate within our abilities and our calling. The Lord will give us our desires, whether they be good or evil, and we will have to deal with the blessings or the consequences. Find the desire to serve Him and do His work, and He will give you the call, and the abilities, and the capacity. One quote I especially liked was "You don't need to do these big, grand things. You just need to be obedient and have faith... It's things we all can do."

It was a little sad to say goodbye to Elder Merrill, Elder Galaviz, and Elder Nelson, but I'm glad they get to go on and serve more people in new areas, and I'm grateful for the time I've had with them. Elder Merrill is in Chattanooga Valley South area (which I think might actually be in Georgia, I'm not sure), Elder Galaviz is in Signal Mountain, TN, and Elder Nelson is in Blairseville, GA.

We got 4 new missionaries in our district! A new Sister missionary whose name escapes me is training in Louden with Sisters Fowers and Rowley; the new Harriman Elders are Elders Udy (pronounced YOU-dee) and Stringham; and my new companion's name is Elder Livingston. He's from Fruit Heights, Idaho, and he's really cool. I like him. He's very different from Elder Merrill, and this transfer is definitely going to be a growing and learning experience for me. But it's going to be a good one, too. :)

We didn't really get much done the rest of the week. Elder L. has been settling in, and we had district meeting on Friday. We've mostly been visiting a bunch of people and introducing him to the members and our investigators and all that stuff. Hopefully this week we can get back to working hard, I've missed having a lot of lessons and stuff. It has been nice to spend time with people though, and Elders Udy and Stringham are fun to hang out with. :)

Last night we got to have dinner with a couple families in the ward and a non-member family who lives next to one of the members. It was a lot of fun. And the members have fainting goats, which was awesome. (Yes, there is a video)

My thought for this week is about patience. I read an article on LDS.org that I really liked. (Here's a link to it: https://www.lds.org/liahona/2015/08/young-adults/patience-more-than-waiting?cid=HP_MO_8-10-2015_dPTH_fLHNA_xLIDyL2-4_&lang=eng) I'll share a few quotes from it that stood out to me.

'...committing to patience doesn’t mean we shrug our shoulders and give up hope. Elder Maxwell taught: “Patience is not indifference. Actually, it means caring very much but being willing, nevertheless, to submit to the Lord and to what the scriptures call the ‘process of time.’”1 I had always thought of patience as a somewhat passive response to life’s experiences, a sort of relenting. But patience is not relenting. Patience is a manifestation of inner strength and devotion to the Lord.'

'Elder Maxwell also taught: “Patience is a willingness, in a sense, to watch the unfolding purposes of God with a sense of wonder and awe, rather than pacing up and down within the cell of our circumstance. Put another way, too much anxious opening of the oven door and the cake falls instead of rising. So it is with us. If we are always selfishly taking our temperature to see if we are happy, we will not be.”2 This idea really resonated with me (and not just because I am an impatient baker). It’s discouraging when plans fall through or don’t pan out as expected. To our mortal minds, divine timing can be hard to understand. But what I can understand is that God is a loving Father who has a plan that guarantees eventual happiness if we are faithful, and I am learning to accept His timing with confidence—not with anxiousness.'

I hope you all have a wonderful week!! I love and pray for you all!

Love,
Elder Swindler

Pictures:

I have a lot of pictures from past weeks that haven't been sent, so bear with me.

1) Post-haircut selfie 

2) Elder Merrill and I with Austin and his dad

3) Seen across the street (your guess is as good as mine)

4) A weird sign


5) Elder Merrill and I saw a turtle!

6) Elder Merrill and the turtle

7) Action shots of the South 


8) Doorbell and a giant spoon

9) Yuk! This monster was hanging by the gutter of one of our investigators. It's huge... And earlier that day, Elder Livingston and I had been doing service for a guy named Bill Leffew, clearing out piles of okra stalks from his garden, and in the middle of it Elder L spotted not one but TWO freaking huge spiders in the piles. *shudder*

10) More yuk! I swear Elder Livingston is attracting giant bugs, we've been seeing them ever since he got here. That's Elder L's shoe for comparison. The thing was huge.

11) Ronnie and Elder Merrill

12) The Jennings and Elder Merrill

13) The Beyers with Elder Nelson, Elder Galaviz, and Elder Merrill

14) This transfer is gonna be fun

15) Elder Galaviz next to a clever church sign

16) I caught a baby fainting goat :)

Monday, August 10, 2015

Transfers!

Hey all!

Crazy week this week. I wish I could remember it all, but I forgot to bring my planner and that's how I usually remember what happened each day. Haha :)

I do remember a few significant events though. We finally got in to see Wanda, an elderly lady who we've been trying to teach almost since I got here. She is almost always by herself, and we can't come inside anyone else's house unless there's another responsible adult of our same gender (missionary rules), so we haven't been able to come in. And her health isn't very good, so it's hard to plan when we can come because she never really knows until the day of if she's going to be feeling up to it. But she has always been very interested in hearing from us, and she really likes us, and we have been super excited to teach her about eternal families because she's lost her husband and some of her kids and grandkids.

But! We finally were able to get a member to come with us on a day that she was feeling well, so we got to come in! We taught her about the Plan of Salvation and she really liked it, especially the principle of eternal families, which we really tried to emphasize. We asked her a few times if she felt like it was true and she told us with this huge smile on her face that yes, she did, it felt right inside her heart. :) We've visited her on her porch a couple times since, and she's read through the pamphlet like 3 or 4 times, and she's been giving copies of it to her neighbors and her daughter. She is so golden. And she's the sweetest old lady ever. I love her to pieces. :)

We also got to teach another person that's been super hard to catch. Her name is Tresa (and that's actually how it's spelled, Mom). She's been in almost the same situation as Wanda - single lady with crazy medical problems - only she's not as old. Her family and friends have also been over there a lot, and they really don't like us (they shut the door in our face every time we try to visit when they're there), so that's made it hard too. But she's wanted to meet with us, it just kept falling through.

We were finally able to get a member over at a time when she was feeling well and there weren't other people there to interfere, and it went super well! She is very open and wants to learn about it for herself. She isn't fazed by the opposition from her family and friends, and she's willing to study and pray to know if it's true. She's had a lot of people throughout her life cram their religious beliefs down her throat, so it's refreshing to her to talk to us. She feels like we really sincerely care (we do), and she likes that we don't cram it down her throat, and that we invite her to study and pray about it for herself. She's also pretty golden, she's just got a lot to learn. She's had a lot of Jehovah's Witness doctrine crammed down her throat (nothing against the JW's, it was just her ex husband who was pushy) and it's pretty different from traditional Christianity, so we're having to kind of start from the ground up.

We also got to see Phil, and the Jennings, and Ronnie, and Douglas, and Austin. Phil has progressed a lot, and he's also opened up to us a lot. He's not nearly as combative, he's much more friendly and sincere, and I think he wants to be baptized. We're continuing to not push him at all, because that seems to have worked pretty well. The Jennings are going through some rough times, they could use some prayers if y'all wouldn't mind. We might have to drop Ronnie for awhile, he doesn't really keep commitments. It's sad, but it may be the best thing for him right now. Douglas is still hung up on priesthood authority, but he's willing to keep studying and praying and trying to understand. And Austin is awesome. He and his family seem to be doing much better, thank you all for your prayers. :) He still really wants to be baptized (we're working on it - he'll need a presidential interview), he's already finished up through 2 Nephi, and he's starting over again on a 36-week BOM study schedule.

Oh, also, TRANSFERS ARE THIS WEEK!! OH MY GOSH!! This transfer BLEW past, I can't even believe how fast it went. And get this, I am the only missionary staying in Rockwood Ward! Elder Merrill, Elder Nelson, and Elder Galaviz are all leaving!! Holy smokes, that's nuts!! We're getting 3 new elders! I'll have to not only take over Rockwood West area (my area), but help the two new missionaries who are whitewashing Rockwood area and know nothing about it. Holy smokes... It's crazy. I have faith that it's the Lord's will, and that this is all according to His plans and intentions. This is a big leap of faith for me though. And for all of us. Elder Galaviz especially isn't happy about leaving, he really loves their area and their investigators and I think it's hard for him to leave it in the hands of two missionaries who know nothing about it. We all are having to trust the Lord a lot on this one.

Anyway. That's my big news for the week. :) Oh - also - Elder Merrill is going to be a district leader in his new area!! I think he'll do an awesome job, he's a great missionary and a great leader :) I'm grateful to have had him as my trainer.

My message this week is about small and simple things. There was a thought I had this week that I recorded in my study journal. This was the gist of it:

The small and simple choices determine destiny. If you do not choose to follow the Lord in the small, seemingly insignificant moments - when it's easy - how can you think that you will choose to follow the Lord when it "really counts," in the big, significant moments - when it's really hard? But on the other hand, if you choose to follow the Lord in the small, simple, everyday moments - the moments that don't seem to matter or that aren't a big deal, the moments when no one is watching and it wouldn't really make that much of a difference anyway - when a big and significant and difficult moment comes, the decision won't be hard at all because it will have already been made.

I believe that the person we really are is the person we choose to be when no one else is watching. A lifetime of small, seemingly insignificant decisions to follow the Lord, like brushstrokes on a canvas, becomes a magnificent painting.

I was talking to Elder Merrill about this, and he brought up the story of Abraham being asked by the Lord to sacrifice Isaac. This must have been incredibly hard for Abraham - but he did not hesitate to follow the Lord. For Abraham, the decision had already been made. Abraham had a lifetime of small, insignificant, everyday moments when he had chosen time and time again to follow the Lord. And "line upon line, precept upon precept" (D&C 98:12), he had thus gradually developed unshakeable faith and trust in the Lord and an unwavering commitment to follow Him. When the call came to sacrifice his son, though it was hard, he did not hesitate - and in blessing, the Lord not only spared Isaac, but promised Abraham that "in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice."

In the Book of Mormon, the prophet Alma wrote the following:

"Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise.

"And the Lord God doth work by means to bring about his great and eternal purposes; and by very small means the Lord doth confound the wise and bringeth about the salvation of many souls." (Alma 37:6-7)

I challenge all of you to choose now to follow the Lord, in the small, everyday, seemingly insignificant moments of your lives. When you'd rather go to bed early, choose to study the scriptures and pray anyway. When you'd rather sleep in after a late Saturday night, choose instead to get up and go to church. When no one is watching and it doesn't really matter, choose to be righteous. Then when it really does matter, even if it is hard, you will not hesitate. Your faith will have grown to be unshakable. :)

Remember the counsel in Helaman 5:12:

And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.

A foundation is not built all at once. It is built before the house, and it takes time and patience and diligent effort. And it is not big or impressive or noticeable. But a house built on a strong foundation, a foundation patiently built and maintained in a lifetime of small decisions, a foundation built on the rock of Christ, will never fall, no matter how strong the storm. :)

I love you all!

Love,
Elder Swindler

Fotos
1) Elder Merrill and I with George (I wish he'd have smiled, I love his smile)

2 and 3)  I made enchiladas and they were delicious :)


4) A last district foto. This is our "prideful" pose. (one of the sisters' idea)

5) Elder Merrill with Phil and Sis Madden. Typical of them. Haha

6) Elder Merrill with Brad and Martha. :)

7, 8, and 9) Why Photobooth is allowed, I'll never know. But now you get to deal with my selfies ;)



10) Pre-haircut selfie

11) Video: A view from the drive to Grandview, a community in the mountains just outside of Spring City :)
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Monday, August 3, 2015

Weakness and Happiness

Hey folks!

Highlights of this week:

On Tuesday we brought a less active member with us named Bro Dodson to a team up to see two investigators, a former investigator named Frieda and her mom Christine. We taught the Plan of Salvation. We're not sure how much Christine understands, she's pretty old, and a little senile, and very set in her ways. But Frieda is very open (and very lucid). She was taught before by some Sisters, she just had troubles with the Word of Wisdom. But she's willing to try again. The lesson went really well, and Frieda agreed to read from the Book of Mormon and pray about it. Bro Dodson really worked well with them, and he offered to come back with his wife and kids and talk to them more. It was neat. :)

We also had dinner that night with the Jennings, and Phil and Sister Madden came too. We taught them about Family Home Evening. Phil seems to be opening up, he's a lot more friendly than he was when I first came in. And he's finally getting married like I said, which is huge progress for him.

Wednesday was awesome. We drove up to Spring City with our bikes on the bike rack and biked around to all our appointments to save on miles, which was actually really fun. We met with another former investigator, Sean. He's super open and a really great guy, and he's got a cute family. He agreed to read from the Book of Mormon too, hopefully that'll go well.

We also saw Raymond and Tammy. They are on date for baptism on September 19! They've been praying about it and they feel good about it so we're going forward with it. We read from the Book of Mormon with them and with Tammy's mom who was there too, and we talked a little bit about enduring to the end. The Word of Wisdom is going to be a concern for them though...

We visited an inactive family, but the parents weren't home, just the kids and their grandma. We talked with the grandma for awhile, and their daughter and her friend came outside too. They said we could come back another day, and we thought that was the end of it. But then later that day, we were biking in the area and the daughter happened to be walking past. She stopped us and had a bunch of questions for us -- wanted to know what it is we believe. We taught her the Restoration and gave her a Book of Mormon, and hopefully we'll be able to start teaching her. It was super exciting.

We also taught the Restoration to a guy named Ryan who had requested a free Bible from the Church website. He was totally cool with it until we mentioned the name "Book of Mormon," and after that he just closed off a lot. Hopefully he'll read, we asked him to, but he wouldn't make any promises. :/

And all of that was in one day. It was awesome.

Thursday we did some yard work for a member who lives out in the boonies in Oak Dale. We also saw a potential investigator family named the Weavers who we've been hoping to teach since I got here. They are the cutest little family ever. We taught the Restoration. They agreed to read from the Book of Mormon and pray about it. If they'll do it, I don't doubt that they'll get an answer.

Friday we had district meeting, then afterwards we went on exchanges. I stayed in Rockwood with Elder Larson the District Leader. It was super fun. I got to drive for the first time in months, and we saw a whole lot of people (we were trying to get return appointments mostly), and got a new investigator named Will. He was at another investigator's house (drinking a beer with her actually) when we came by. We taught about half of the Restoration. He liked us a lot and was super open and wants to hear more (although I think the beer might have had a little bit to do with that haha). He hasn't been to church since he was a teenager and he'd like to learn more about the Savior. Hopefully that goes well, he seems really promising. :)

We also stayed up till almost midnight talking about music and playing guitars. Elder Larson and I have super similar taste in music, apparently.

Saturday Elder Larson and I went with a member of the ward to help clean up a fundraiser put together by some of the sisters in the ward. While we were waiting for them to finish up, he decided he wanted to wander around Flea World (it's like an indoor flea market) so we thought we'd go too. It was bizarre... Like concentrated Southern weirdness all in one place.

After the service we exchanged back, and Elder Merrill and I tried to contact some referrals but they weren't home (again... we've tried them like 5 times now. We decided to just drop them for now).

Sunday we went to the wedding reception of our ward mission leader's daughter, which was fun :) She's moving to Lehi with her husband. And today we helped move an elderly sister from Athens into an assisted living center.

All in all it was a really good week. I hope you all had good weeks too!

My thought for this week is something Elder Merrill told me on Saturday. I was feeling bad because I stayed up so late the night before, and that I hadn't been very productive that day, and I just didn't feel much like a good missionary. He told me that it was okay that I stayed up so late, and reminded me that "men are that they might have joy" (2 Nephi 2:25). He then told me, "if you choose not to be happy because you're not perfect, you're never going to be happy."

He's right; we will never be perfect on our own in this life. I was basing my happiness on a perfect performance, which is unhealthy and unrealistic. Don't fall into this trap! It is a trick of the adversary. He wants nothing more than to make us miserable (2 Ne 2:18, 27) and he will use anything he can to do that. He will even use our righteous desires -- a desire to be obedient and to be more like our Savior -- to his advantage, if we will let him. Don't fall into the trap. Perfectionism -- a refusal to be happy until you are perfect -- is not healthy or helpful or good.

Nephi teaches us that "men are that they might have joy." God did not make a mistake when he made us. He did not intend our happiness in this life to hinge upon a perfect performance on our part. That's why He sent His Son. What's left for us to do is to choose whether we will follow Christ or not (2 Nephi 2:27-28) - and then when we choose to follow Christ, to choose whether to allow ourselves to embrace the peace and joy He offers us (John 14:27; Mosiah 2:41), or push it away because we are unwilling to forgive ourselves (and others) for being imperfect (see Doctrine and Covenants 64:10 and Matthew 18:21-35).

Consider the counsel of Moroni in one of the final verses of the Book of Mormon:

"Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God."

Also consider the Lord's counsel in Ether 12:27:

"And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them."

Be patient with yourself. You are still growing. As you come unto Christ, throughout your life, He will help you to continue to grow and improve, if you are humble and willing enough to let him. When He "show[s] unto [you] [your] weakness," don't despair; it is not a sign of your insufficiency or inadequacy. You are not a failure because you are weak! You are merely human. Choose to be humble and patient. He will help you become strong.

I love the counsel given by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland in his April 2013 talk, "Lord, I Believe:"

"So be kind regarding human frailty--your own as well as that of those who serve with you in a Church led by volunteer, mortal men and women. Except in the case of His only perfect Begotten Son, imperfect people are all God has ever had to work with. That must be terribly frustrating to Him, but He deals with it. So should we. And when you see imperfection, remember that the limitation is not in the divinity of the work. As one gifted writer has suggested, when the infinite fulness is poured forth, it is not the oil’s fault if there is some loss because finite vessels can’t quite contain it all. Those finite vessels include you and me, so be patient and kind and forgiving."

I hope we can all apply this counsel in our lives. :) Let us all choose this week to be kind and forgiving of our own imperfection -- and the imperfection of the others around us. Let us all choose to "come unto Christ, and be perfected in Him" -- and choose to allow ourselves to receive the joy that comes from that. :)

Sorry this is so long and scattered. I love you all!!

Love,
Elder Swindler

Fotos and Videos

1. So last Sunday when we ate dinner at the Qualls, Bro Qualls passed around these little peppers. Elder Galaviz and I took one, and hoo boy, they were HOT. But I survived, and I kept a fairly straight face (somehow.)

Well, unbeknownst to me, Elder Merrill took one too. But he hid it in his pocket to eat a couple days later at the apartment, because he didn't want to eat it in front of everyone.

So, naturally, I took a video (with his permission of course) :) The video is 5 minutes after he took a bite.
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2.  I made German pancakes and eggs :)

3. I'm seeing the beginnings of the fulfillment of this quote right around me. :) It's so cool to play a part in this work. It's truly a blessing.

4. Saran Wrap: I did this to Elder Merrill early one morning like a month ago and it worked beautifully, but he was in his underwear so I couldn't send y'all the video. And I've been trying to do it again ever since, but the problem is, whenever he is wearing clothes he is also fully awake and can hear me. :/
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5. Courtesy of Elder Peterson (cameraman) and our district leader Elder Larson (in the back)

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