Monday, September 28, 2015

Trust the Gardener

Hey everybody!

So I got transferred this week. Which means I spent all of Tuesday running around saying goodbye to EVERYONE and packing like crazy. It was really sad to say goodbye. I really love the people in Rockwood and I'm sure gonna miss it there. It was kind of like leaving on my mission all over again. Exciting but also sad. I'm sure gonna miss those guys a lot. :/

But! Things are also really good. I got transferred to Knox West area, serving in the Knoxville 1st ward. It's a great ward and a great area and I'm excited to serve here. :) I really like my new companion. His name is Elder Bateman, he's from Harriman, UT, and we get along really well. He's a great missionary, and really fun, and a great friend, and I'm really enjoying having him as my companion. Also my new district is super fun and I like them all a lot. I'm really excited for this transfer. :)

This area is pretty different from Rockwood. For one thing we're in a big city and there are a lot more people. Also, we only have a car every other week (we bike the other weeks), and there are a lot of hills, so hopefully I'll have great thighs by the time I leave. And the University of Tennessee campus is in our area, so there are a lot of college kids (and a lot of college girls... which can make it really hard to focus sometimes haha) and lots of cool stuff to do and places to eat and all that. It's fun. :)

We did a lot of service this week. We helped out at this senior appreciation thinger at a park on Friday most of the day, and it rained basically the entire time, so we got pretty wet but it was still fun. Mostly we helped escort old ladies across the field from tent to tent under our umbrellas. And on Saturday we spent most of the day helping out at an emergency preparedness fair, which was also fun.

Sunday was really good. I met a ton of people and I'm still trying to figure out everybody's names. We had great meetings and I felt the Spirit and learned a lot.

My message for the week is mostly stolen from President Griffin at transfer meeting. He quoted from Jacob 5 in the Book of Mormon, the great allegory of the tame and wild olive trees, but he told us to consider the verses he shared as a parable rather than an allegory. An allegory is an incredibly complex narrative where every little piece is symbolic of something. A parable is a simple story with a simple moral meaning we can apply to our lives.

Before he quoted the verses, he asked us all to think about times when we have asked the Lord "Why me? Why have you put me here in these circumstances? Why are you letting me go through this trial? I need this, or that, or the other! This is too much for me to handle! Why aren't you helping me?" I think it's safe to say we've all done this in one way or another. I know I have.

Here is the part he quoted (Jacob 5:19-23):

"And it came to pass that the Lord of the vineyard said unto the servant: Come, let us go to the nethermost part of the vineyard, and behold if the natural branches of the tree have not brought forth much fruit also, that I may lay up of the fruit thereof against the season, unto mine own self.

"And it came to pass that they went forth whither the master had hid the natural branches of the tree, and he said unto the servant: Behold these; and he beheld the first that it had brought forth much fruit; and he beheld also that it was good. And he said unto the servant: Take of the fruit thereof, and lay it up against the season, that I may preserve it unto mine own self; for behold, said he, this long time have I nourished it, and it hath brought forth much fruit.

"And it came to pass that the servant said unto his master: How comest thou hither to plant this tree, or this branch of the tree? For behold, it was the poorest spot in all the land of thy vineyard.

"And the Lord of the vineyard said unto him: Counsel me not; I knew that it was a poor spot of ground; wherefore, I said unto thee, I have nourished it this long time, and thou beholdest that it hath brought forth much fruit.

"And it came to pass that the Lord of the vineyard said unto his servant: Look hither; behold I have planted another branch of the tree also; and thou knowest that this spot of ground was poorer than the first. But, behold the tree. I have nourished it this long time, and it hath brought forth much fruit; therefore, gather it, and lay it up against the season, that I may preserve it unto mine own self."

Consider that we are like the "natural branches" of the olive tree, and God is the Lord of the vineyard. Sometimes we, like the servant, ask the Lord why we have been planted in such poor soil. We look to heaven and ask God "don't you know that I need this, or that, or the other?"

The Lord's response in these verses is key: "Counsel me not; I knew that it was a poor spot of ground; wherefore, I said unto thee, I have nourished it this long time, and thou beholdest that it hath brought forth much fruit."

At times like this it is easy to forget that God is the master gardener, and He knows exactly what He is doing. He loves you, and He is not stupid. The Lord teaches in Matthew 6:

"Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? ...For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things."

When we are tempted to look to heaven and try to counsel God, we have to pause and humble ourselves. We have to remember to trust Him. Instead of pridefully trying to resist Him, and telling ourselves that we know better than Him, that we are the exception to the rules, we must instead seek to take up the nourishment of the ground wherein He has planted us. We can't pick and choose, either. The questions we should be asking the Lord, instead of "why me," are "what is it? what do you want me to learn here?"

Consider the words of the Savior in Matthew 6:7-10:

"But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

"Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.

"After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

"Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven."

I'll close with the words of Elder Christofferson, from his April 2011 talk "As Many as I Love, I Rebuke and Chasten:"

President Hugh B. Brown, formerly a member of the Twelve and a counselor in the First Presidency, provided a personal experience. He told of purchasing a rundown farm in Canada many years ago. As he went about cleaning up and repairing his property, he came across a currant bush that had grown over six feet (1.8 m) high and was yielding no berries, so he pruned it back drastically, leaving only small stumps. Then he saw a drop like a tear on the top of each of these little stumps, as if the currant bush were crying, and thought he heard it say:

“How could you do this to me? I was making such wonderful growth. … And now you have cut me down. Every plant in the garden will look down on me. … How could you do this to me? I thought you were the gardener here.”

President Brown replied, “Look, little currant bush, I am the gardener here, and I know what I want you to be. I didn’t intend you to be a fruit tree or a shade tree. I want you to be a currant bush, and someday, little currant bush, when you are laden with fruit, you are going to say, ‘Thank you, Mr. Gardener, for loving me enough to cut me down.’”

Years later, President Brown was a field officer in the Canadian Army serving in England. When a superior officer became a battle casualty, President Brown was in line to be promoted to general, and he was summoned to London. But even though he was fully qualified for the promotion, it was denied him because he was a Mormon. The commanding general said in essence, “You deserve the appointment, but I cannot give it to you.” What President Brown had spent 10 years hoping, praying, and preparing for slipped through his fingers in that moment because of blatant discrimination. Continuing his story, President Brown remembered:

“I got on the train and started back … with a broken heart, with bitterness in my soul. … When I got to my tent, … I threw my cap on the cot. I clenched my fists, and I shook them at heaven. I said, ‘How could you do this to me, God? I have done everything I could do to measure up. There is nothing that I could have done—that I should have done—that I haven’t done. How could you do this to me?’ I was as bitter as gall.

“And then I heard a voice, and I recognized the tone of this voice. It was my own voice, and the voice said, ‘I am the gardener here. I know what I want you to do.’ The bitterness went out of my soul, and I fell on my knees by the cot to ask forgiveness for my ungratefulness. …

“… And now, almost 50 years later, I look up to [God] and say, ‘Thank you, Mr. Gardener, for cutting me down, for loving me enough to hurt me.’”

I challenge all of you to join me in considering your own relationship with God. Let us all choose to trust His will and strive to align our will with His.

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen. :)

I love you all!!

Elder Swindler



1) The Woods family (minus the younger kids)

2) The Beyer family (minus Bro Beyer)

More Goodbyes

1) Wanda

2)  The Jennings (they may have been my hardest goodbye)

Even more goodbyes...

1) Sis Kelly and Miss Dianne

2) Austin and the Williams

3) Bro Beyer

Selfies and a truck:

1) Redneck jeep

2) Elder Bateman stole my iPad

3) Elder Milne and Elder Hoyt stole my iPad

Monday, September 21, 2015

Transfers and Pride

Hey folks!

So guess what? Transfer calls were on Saturday, and I found out I'm getting transferred! I have mixed feelings about it. I'm sad to leave Rockwood because there are a lot of people here that I've come to love a lot. But I'm also excited for the future. I'm looking forward to meeting new people, and coming to love them too, and seeing a new area, and serving in a new ward with a new companion. There's a lot to look forward to.

We saw Ronnie again this week, which was nice. We haven't seen him in awhile. He's not really progressing, but he likes our visits and he does learn things. We taught him about the principle of "opposition in all things" and how there are really only two choices (choosing to serve the Lord or the devil - and we can't not make a choice) from 2 Nephi 2, and it seemed like it clicked for him, at least on some level. He seemed like he liked it. He's a weird one though, hard to read and hard to teach. I will miss him though.

We had dinner with the Jennings again this week. It was great. I always look forward to going to their house. The Spirit was there, and we had a great visit, and a great discussion. And the food was awesome, as always. I was thinking about it this week and I realized they are two of the people I'm going to miss most when I leave.

Cool story actually. The Jennings are awesome about missionary work and sharing the gospel with the people in their lives. I wish all the members (including me) had their fire. :) And this week Sister Jennings told us about a lady at the nursing home where she cuts hair. The lady had a Book of Mormon on her walker, and when Sis Jennings asked her about it, she said that an elderly couple had given it to her and that she "didn't know how anyone could believe that it's not straight from the mouth of Jesus." She invited her to come to church with them one of these weeks and she agreed!

And then the next day we got a call from Pres Griffin, who told us he had a referral for us (and president never calls to give referrals, like ever, so it was definitely an important one). Apparently a senior couple in a nearby area had given a Book of Mormon to an old lady in a nursing home in our area and had been working with her a bit. Turns out it was the same lady! :) Elder L will be working with her with the new guy, and the senior couple and the Jennings will be involved too.

We also went with the youth in our ward this Wed to play volleyball and other games with a Baptist youth group, and that was fun. And I had a fantastic exchange with Elder Larson, my district leader. It was a wonderful experience and gave me a lot of hope. He's a great missionary and a true friend.

So. My message for the week:

So on Sunday there was a theme in the topics at church, and it really struck me. The theme was pride. And I am definitely guilty of pride.

I am convinced that pride, in one form or another, is the root of every sin. President Ezra Taft Benson defined pride this way:

"Most of us think of pride as self-centeredness, conceit, boastfulness, arrogance, or haughtiness. All of these are elements of the sin, but the heart, or core, is still missing.
"The central feature of pride is enmity--enmity toward God and enmity toward our fellowmen. Enmity means 'hatred toward, hostility to, or a state of opposition.' It is the power by which Satan wishes to reign over us." (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, 232)

I'm just going to share a bunch of quotes I liked from Chapter 18 of the book I just referenced.

“Pride does not look up to God and care about what is right. It looks sideways to man and argues who is right. …

“Pride is characterized by ‘What do I want out of life?’ rather than by ‘What would God have me do with my life?’ It is self-will as opposed to God’s will. It is the fear of man over the fear of God.

“Humility responds to God’s will--to the fear of His judgments and to the needs of those around us. To the proud, the applause of the world rings in their ears; to the humble, the applause of heaven warms their hearts.”

The proud wish God would agree with them. They aren’t interested in changing their opinions to agree with God’s.

The proud make every man their adversary by pitting their intellects, opinions, works, wealth, talents, or any other worldly measuring device against others. In the words of C. S. Lewis: “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. … It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone.”

Pride is a sin that can readily be seen in others but is rarely admitted in ourselves.

Pride is a damning sin in the true sense of that word. It limits or stops progression. (See Alma 12:10–11.) The proud are not easily taught. (See 1 Ne. 15:3, 7–11.) They won’t change their minds to accept truths, because to do so implies they have been wrong.

I also really love this scripture in Jacob 2. Today, when I read it, it seemed very pointed to me:

20 And now, my brethren, I have spoken unto you concerning pride; and those of you which have afflicted your neighbor, and persecuted him because ye were proud in your hearts, of the things which God hath given you, what say ye of it?

21 Do ye not suppose that such things are abominable unto him who created all flesh? And the one being is as precious in his sight as the other. And all flesh is of the dust; and for the selfsame end hath he created them, that they should keep his commandments and glorify him forever.

And when you read that last bit, remember what God's glory is (Moses 1:39):

For behold, this is my work and my glory--to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.
I challenge all of you to join me in doing some soul searching. Let's all apply the counsel found in Elder Uchtdorf's fantastic talk "Lord, is it I?" and ask ourselves, and the Lord, "Lord, is it I?" Let's all strive to yield our hearts to God (Helaman 3:35), and humble ourselves, and let go of ourselves, and give ourselves to His work - loving and serving and lifting our fellow men.

I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen. :)


Elder Swindler


1) Me with Ronnie :)

2) Tried pickled pig's foot this week. (It was gross)

3) Selfies from the long car ride back from dinner at the Qualls. :)


4) Tennessee sunset

Monday, September 14, 2015


Hey folks!

Once again, trying for a shorter letter this week. We'll see how that goes. :)

This was a really good week. We did a lot of service. We helped out at the food pantry downtown on Tuesday and Wednesday, they needed a lot of help this week. And we helped Bro Beyer move a bunch of stuff into a storage shed. They're moving pretty soon and they're starting to get everything packed away, but they're just moving down the street so it's not too big a deal.

Also, we finally finished entering all the former investigators in our area book into the iPads. That's been a huge pain, so I'm super glad it's done now. :)

On Wednesday Phil and Marylou got married!!! :) Haha it's about time. Missionaries have been trying to get them to get married for ages, since long before I got here. At least a year. It's funny, he's super stubborn and if it's not his idea to do something or if he feels like someone else is trying to get him to do it he's not going to do it (sound familiar Mom and Dad?). When we decided to back off of the whole baptism subject and teach other, less directed-at-him lessons (that were secretly marriage-oriented, and definitely inspired by the Spirit), all of a sudden he proposed. And now they're married. This is huge progress, guys, seriously. I am so excited, in case you can't tell. :)

Also, Shasta got baptized this weekend!! :D It was great. There were a lot of people there, and it was a good experience. I think a lot of people felt the Spirit. I know I did. She asked her uncle, our ward mission leader, to baptize and confirm her. I think it was a really good experience for her family as well as for her, they have just come back to church after years of inactivity and avoiding the Church, and now they're active again and doing really well. I think this was a really good experience for them. This has been a blessing for us too, I'm grateful that we got to participate in this. Really this was such a handout blessing from the Lord, we didn't do anything to find her or even persuade her to be baptized, she just decided she was ready to be baptized and we were just there to teach her the lessons.

Lately we've really been getting in with the youth in the ward, and in the city. I didn't really realize that's what's been happening until like yesterday. Last week we played basketball with some guys downtown who are always playing on the public courts, and we've been asked to substitute teach the youth class at church for two weeks now, and a bunch of the youth have been involved with the lessons with Shasta, and on Friday we got permission to go to the Rockwood/Kingston high school football game (big rivalry, and both cities are in the ward) which was super fun, and we hung out with a bunch of the youth and met some of their friends there... We're friends with the youth now, and it's awesome. I realized yesterday that the youth have more non member friends than any of the other active members of the ward, because of school. And member referrals are the best, of all the ways missionaries find people, member referrals most often are what lead to new converts.

Crap, now it's getting long. I'll get to my message.

There is a Mormon Message I saw this week, and a line in it really got me. It's President Russell M Nelson talking:

"For the individual who is weak in the heart, fearful in the heart, be patient with yourself. Perfection comes not in this life, but in the next life. Don't demand things that are unreasonable, but demand of yourself improvement. As you let the Lord help you through that, He will make the difference. I'm so grateful for the Gospel of Jesus Christ that allows me that kind of strength in these tumultuous times."

I love that. I am so hard on myself, basically always. I beat myself up over past transgressions, shortcomings and failures, and basically because day after day I am still not perfect. Elder Nelson reminds us that we must let go of perfectionism because being perfect in this life is not our job. That was Christ's. Our job is to use Christ's Atonement to become clean from our sins and to improve ourselves, and allow Him to perfect us over time.

I loved the thoughts my mission president shared in his weekly email to the missionaries this week:

The following thoughts I have compiled from one of my favorite authors Wendy Ulrich.

I would like to start by asking you each several questions: "Does God really mean it when He promises the gift of forgiveness? Is it okay to forgive ourselves? Can we afford to trust that even our most terrible sins are within His reach?"

As you ponder the above questions would you consider the following from the scriptures? 

"Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." (Isaiah 1:18)

"For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more." (Hebrews 8:12)

"But as oft as they repented and sought forgiveness, with real intent, they were forgiven." (Moroni 6:8)

"Behold , he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more ." (D&C 58:42)

And finally, here is one of the most powerful statements anywhere on the consummate power of the atonement, from President Boyd K. Packer at he November 1995 general conference of the church:

"Restoring what you cannot restore, healing the wound you cannot heal, fixing that which you broke and cannot fix is the very purpose of the atonement of Christ. When your desire is firm and you are willing to pay the "uttermost farthing" (see Matt. 5:25-26), the law of restitution is suspended. Your obligation is transferred to the Lord. He will settle your accounts. I repeat, save for the exception of the very few who defect to perdition, there is no habit, no addiction, no rebellion, no transgression, no apostasy, no crime exempted from the promise of complete forgiveness. This is the promise of the atonement of Christ."

God's promise is clear and oft repeated: when we repent, He forgives.

I promise you that as you let go of perfection, forgive yourself, and allow the Lord to take your life into His hands, you will find He gives you peace and happiness in this life, and shapes your life, and you, to become like He is, and gives you Eternal Life in the world to come. That's something I'll be working on this week. I've got a lot of things I have to let go of, a lot of favorite demands I like to beat myself with. It's going to be hard to give those up to the Lord. But I've realized I need to. I challenge you to do the same. :)

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Sheesh, every time I start I'm like, man, I've got nothing to write, I better start fluffing, and by the end I'm like, dang, when did this get so long?? Sorry again for the long email guys. Haha

Love you all! Make yourselves a great week!

Elder Swindler
1) Mawwage - Phil and Marylou after the wedding :) I didn't get any pictures before she changed out of her dress, but I'm asking for some from other people, so hopefully those will come soon. Also, Phil cried when she was walking down the aisle (he seems gruff and rough and cantankerous and grumpy on the outside but he's secretly a sweet old teddy bear on the inside. I love him). And typical of them, instead of "I do," he said "Yes, ma'am" and she said "...yeah, I will." Haha :)

2) Baptism - Elder Livingston and I with Shasta and a bunch of the youth after Shasta's baptism. :)
3) Bae - Elder Udy borrowed my iPad. :)

Tuesday, September 8, 2015


Hey folks!
Sorry this is a day late, we had a crazy p-day yesterday and I didn't get to send it before the end of the day.
I'm gonna try for a shorter email again this week, so bear with me. Hopefully it works out. :)

Man, the time goes fast. I hit my 4 month mark yesterday. That's crazy!

This week was good! I'm doing better with Elder Livingston, we're learning to work together better, and I'm learning to really love the guy. He's a good missionary, he really cares about people and he's a hard worker. He's also good at reading people, and making decisions. I think I just needed to learn to see him better, if that makes sense. I think we're both learning to see each other better.

We had a lot of appointments fall through this week, which was dumb. But we still saw some people and got a lot done. We saw the Jennings, who are still doing awesome. They're like my favorite people here. And it's so amazing to see how much the Atonement has impacted their lives. They have come so far in the past year, it blows my mind. (Bro Jennings is a recent convert of like 6 months and Sis Jennings came out of inactivity around when he was baptized)

We saw Wanda too. She's still not coming to church, but she still loves meeting with us and loves the lessons. I don't think she really sees the need to change yet, or maybe she doesn't want to see it. We think she needs fellowshipping most right now. Why would she come to a church where she doesn't know hardly anybody and has no friends? We want to start bringing a lot of team ups to see her. Even if people believe the Gospel and the Church are true, they need friends and a support system if they are going to change their life and join the church.

Wanda could use some prayers though, her health isn't super good. It makes it hard for her to plan to meet with us, and to read what we assign, and to come to church... But it is improving, so that's good. :)

Austin is still doing awesome. And Shasta, the girl I mentioned last week that wants to get baptized, is doing awesome too. Her baptism is scheduled for this Saturday. We're super excited for her.

Sis Madden and Phil are getting married this week!!! I'm so happy!! :D

We had a fantastic fast & testimony meeting yesterday. It was very centered on Christ and the Atonement, and the Spirit was strong, and there seriously wasn't a single break. People were lining up at the pulpit. It was definitely led by the Spirit. I know I learned things I really needed to hear, and so did the other people I asked. And the other elders had investigators come this week, so that was perfect. :)

Funny story from this week. So on Friday night I was twirling my glasses, and all of a sudden the glasses just fell off of the earpiece! The hinge just broke, I guess.. But hey, it's all good, I still have a spare, right? Think again. The next night I was wearing the spare pair (which have the exact same frames), and I reached up to adjust them a little bit, and I heard a little pop. Ah crap. I took them off, and guess what? The hinge broke and the earpiece fell off! Gaaahh!! Haha that's both pairs in two days. :P Heads up Mom, I'll be sending them home for a repair this week. And I duct taped my backup pair, so I'm good for now. :) #hickfix

Message for the week:

I've been thinking a lot about the Atonement in the past couple days. One important part of the Atonement is Grace. It strikes me as important that grace is an enabling power. Grace is not a power that does things for us. Noah is a great example. The bible teaches us that "Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord" (Genesis 6:8). But Noah still had to cry repentance to the people, and build an ark, and get the animals. Noah still had to do work. Grace didn't take away his problems or do the work for him. The grace of God enabled Noah to succeed, but he still had to exercise faith and act.

Something that stood out to me in the fast and testimony meeting yesterday was that the power of the Atonement is overwhelming. It is beyond our ability to even begin to comprehend. And something else that has been on my mind lately is that God knows you, loves you, and wants to help you be happy.

No matter what you are going through, I promise you that if you will rely on God, and trust in the overwhelming power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, you will overcome and will be better for it. Remember that Christ isn't necessarily going to take your burden away from you and do it all for you. He teaches in Matthew 11:

"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

"Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

"For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

Christ does not promise to take your burdens away from you. He asks you to take upon you His yoke, and let Him pull with you. He promises that if you will start to pull with Him, you will find that your burdens are made light and easy to bear, because they become His burdens too. You will find that His grace enables you to pull loads beyond your ability to pull, when your strength is completely gone and you don't know how you are still going. You still have to pull. Noah still had to build the ark. But you'll find you are able to, because Christ is shouldering your load alongside you. :)

My challenge to each of you is to turn to the Savior, with whatever you are going through right now, and choose to let Him pull with you. Take His yoke upon you, and let Him pull your load with you. I promise you that His promises are true. You will find that His yoke is easy and His burden is light, and you will find rest unto your soul.

You may not always be able to see Him pulling alongside you, and guiding your path. You may at times feel abandoned, lost, confused. But He is never far away. Hold to the rod, as Nephi and Lehi put it, which is the word of God, and you will be safely guided through. Be patient and keep pulling with faith, and I promise that you will see His hand revealed, and you will look back and realize that He really was pulling alongside you the whole time, and leading you safely through.

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen! :)

Whoo! It's only... Like just as long as the other emails. Haha dangit. :P I'll keep trying next week. Sorry guys!

I love you all! The Gospel is true. Make yourselves a great week. And try to make a great week for the people around you too. :)

Elder Swindler