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

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