Monday, October 26, 2015

Investigators and Bike Wrecks

Hey folks!

We had a really good week this week. We are seriously being blessed a lot with our investigators. Just 6 weeks ago we didn't really have any promising investigators but now we've got like half a dozen who are all pretty great. We had a lesson with an investigator named Joe we've been trying to have a full lesson with for awhile now, and were finally able to teach the Restoration. There were multiple places in the lesson where we were clearly led by the Spirit in what to say, and he understood really well for the first time. We're pretty excited about him now.

We also had a lesson with an investigator named Austin, who we've been meeting with for months. But this time was different. It was similar to Joe's lesson in that there were multiple places where we were clearly led by the Spirit in what we said, and for the first time ever, he began to understand what the Spirit feels like and recognized that he's been feeling it as he's met with us. Austin's a little bit autistic so he's mentally about 10-12, and he's been very concerned about going to hell for listening to us, so this is great progress. He's just become one of our top investigators. We're pretty excited about him too.

And then on Sunday Austin came to church! And not only him, but Don came too!! (Don's the guy that John introduced us to last week) Both of them had a wonderful time and really liked it, and both of them want to come back. We were super excited about that. We'll be working with both of them this week, and we're hoping to get Austin on date for baptism.

Crazy story. So on Saturday we went biking with Pete, a crazy member from Thailand who feeds us a lot and is awesome. We went on this really pretty greenway with lots of trees and autumn leaves and it was gorgeous and wonderful. But then we were going through a tunnel and Elder Bateman decided to run his hand against the wall, and he lost his balance and crashed pretty epically. Luckily he was wearing a helmet and he didn't break anything, he just got pretty scraped up and twisted his ankle. And there was a Walgreens nearby, so Pete biked to it and bought some bandages and alcohol and we cleaned him up and biked on.

But THEN, like an hour later, we were almost home when we hit a little patch of gravel, and Pete lost his balance and ate it too! And he fell into the road, and almost got hit by a car, and when he stood up his pinky finger was pointing perpendicularly away from his ring finger (shudder). So we ended up taking him to an emergency clinic and waiting for like 3 hours for the people there to do paperwork so the doctor could spend 5 minutes relocating his finger. Haha but it's all good. We definitely felt God's protection that day. Elder Bateman could have easily broken his ankle, and Pete could have been killed by a car or at least broken his finger. Instead it was all okay. :)

Quick message this week, stolen from President Griffin. At the end of our zone conference this week he stood up and shared 8 points that had come to his mind during the conference. I invite you all to consider them too:

1. Cynicism creates numbness toward life.

2. Instant gratification is counterfeit happiness.

3. Commandments/Laws/Rules help you learn.

4. You are not the exception to the rule.

5. It’s the daily little decisions in life that determine our destiny.

6. Surprise! Every missionary or member is not yet perfect.

7. You get as much out of something as you put in it.

8. Working in the Lord’s vineyard is AWESOME!!!

When considering these points, I invite you to also consider the counsel given by King Benjamin in Mosiah 4:10:

And again, believe that ye must repent of your sins and forsake them, and humble yourselves before God; and ask in sincerity of heart that he would forgive you; and now, if you believe all these things see that ye do them.

If there are things you need to change in your life - based on these points, based on what the Holy Ghost has been telling you, based on something you've learned, whatever - do it! Use the Atonement of Christ to change yourself. Repent of your sins and forsake them. Humble yourself before God and ask sincerely for His forgiveness. And if you believe all these things - do them! It's all useless if you
don't choose to use what the Lord gives you, to do what He tells you. Remember His counsel in D&C 58:27-30:

Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;

For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.

But he that doeth not anything until he is commanded, and receiveth a commandment with doubtful heart, and keepeth it with slothfulness, the same is damned.

Who am I that made man, saith the Lord, that will hold him guiltless that obeys not my commandments?

I hope you all choose to make the changes in your life the Holy Ghost directs you to make. Seek the Lord's counsel and correction. And choose happy. :) I love you all!

I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen!

Love,

Elder Swindler

Fotos:
1) Elder Milne with a ginormous pancake at the bishop's storehouse


2) Bishop's storehouse roof selfie


3) Tennessee sunrise


4) Spiderwebs outside our apartment


5-8) We played tennis in the rain today and got drenched :)





And finally some photos from Sister Griffen's blog, taken on P-day and at a training:


Monday, October 19, 2015

Yeilding our Hearts unto God

Hey folks,

This week was great. :) I hope you all had as much fun as I did.

We were on bikes this week again. I never really understood how the phrase "uphill both ways" could be true until I came here... But I survived.

On Tuesday we did some service for a really cool guy in our ward named Al. We helped him start laying stone for a back patio. And we also got a really cool new investigator named Don! A recent convert named John that we work with a lot invited him to come to church with him this week, and Don had some questions about what to expect, so John invited him to come over to his house and meet with us. We answered his questions and ended up teaching him the Restoration and it was pretty amazing. It was probably the best first lesson I have ever had on my mission. The Spirit was so strong, and he understood really well, and he was excited about the Book of Mormon and promised us he'd read it... It was great. :) But then he got sick Sunday morning and couldn't come to church. Sigh... there's always opposition. But we'll try to see him again this week.

We are also going to start teaching the daughter of a recent convert (Samantha) again. The girl's name is Dominique, and she used to be a pretty promising investigator, but she wasn't able to start living the Word of Wisdom, and things just kind of petered out. But she wants to start meeting with us again, and we're going to do the 15 step program with her. She came to church this week and she signed up to feed us dinner on Friday, so that's awesome. :)

We started the 15 step program with Mayetta, and she did really well! Well, at least, up until Sunday. But that's huge progress for her, so we're still excited! We're going to keep working with her and her husband on preparing for the temple. Could you guys pray for her? Quitting smoking is very hard and she could use the help.

Church yesterday was great. John received the Aaronic Priesthood, and Samantha brought her sister Mortisha to church! And the talks in sacrament meeting were awesome. One quote I really liked was something along the lines of "God promises us that when we repent of our sins, He remembers them no more (D&C 58:42). We ought to be like our Heavenly Father and do the same thing. We must repent, leave our sins in the past, and move on, facing the future with hope."

The Lord has really blessed us with new investigators this week and it's amazing. We basically got 3 new investigators (Mortisha, Dominique, and Don) and none of them were really from anything we did. I'm feeling pretty grateful to the Lord. Thank you all for your prayers, too. :)

My message this week is based on Helaman 3:35:
"Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God."
I love this verse, and there is a lot to be learned from it. Like how fasting and praying often helps us become humble and develop strong faith. Or how humility and strength go together, and we are strongest when we are humble (see "Humility" in True to the Faith, it's a pretty awesome - and short - little section). Or how strong faith is not an abstraction or illusion but is firm and concrete and stabilizes us. But I think the most important part is the end bit: "...which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God."

Our purpose in life is to one day receive all that our Father in Heaven has to offer us. In order for us to do that we must both be cleansed from all sin and become like our Savior, becoming converted and developing His attributes. We must not only repent of our sins and be washed clean by His atonement, but we must change and grow and be made something new by His grace. At baptism we are washed clean from all sins and are spiritually reborn. We then receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost, that He may be our companion and guide along our journey on the "strait and narrow path." That journey requires us to change and grow, to become like our Savior. It requires us to be not only clean, but become purified and sanctified.

And how do we become purified and sanctified? This verse teaches us that we must yield our hearts unto God. As we do this, praying and fasting oft, and waxing stronger and stronger in our humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, our souls will be filled with joy and consolation, even unto the purifying and the sanctification of our hearts.

I challenge each of you to join me in yielding your heart unto God. Pray often. Fast. Strive to become humble and increase your faith. Seek to learn His will and do it. Be willing to give up your own desires and will to do His, trusting that He has your best interests - and your eternal life - at heart. I promise you that as you yield your heart unto God throughout your life, you too will find that your hearts are filled with joy and consolation, and that they will be purified and sanctified. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Love,

Elder Alex Swindler

Pictures:

1) Me and Elders Bateman, Hoyt and Milne after the service project (this is the patio we started)


2 and 3) We call this hill Level 10

Monday, October 12, 2015

Chili and Conversion

Hey folks!

We had a pretty busy and crazy week this week. Monday and Tuesday morning we helped out at the bishop's storehouse in Farragut, which was fun. It was pretty cool to see how smoothly and carefully and precisely things are run there. It was pretty different from the food pantry I helped at back in Rockwood. The Rockwood one was still good, it was just a lot less orderly.

We had another visit with Roger and Mayetta and it went really well. We felt like we should work with them to help them prepare to go to the temple together. Mayetta has been struggling with the Word of Wisdom, and in the lesson both of us felt prompted to bring up the 15-step program and invite her to try it again (she tried it once before and was able to quit, but she fell back into old ways). She agreed, and she told us at the end of the lesson that before we came she had been praying for help quitting. She felt like our invitation was the answer to her prayers. I thought that was pretty cool. :)

One of the perks of having two major hospitals in your area is that you get asked to give a lot of priesthood blessings. This week we got to give two blessings to members from other areas in the mission. Both were pretty cool experiences. The first one was for a member in the ICU. It took us three attempts on three different days to finally get in to see her (we kept missing the visiting hours and catching her asleep). When we finally did manage to come at the right time, her family was there and we were able to talk with them and help them before giving her the blessing. It was a really amazing and spiritual experience and it wouldn't have happened if we hadn't been unable to give her the blessing those first two times. Heavenly Father does know what he's doing. :)

The second one was less of a cool story but was just as powerful. It was an older lady who had had an aneurysm and was feeling pretty down. We got to talk with her for like an hour and it really lifted her spirits. And the Spirit was very strong there as we gave her the blessing. It was great. :)

On Friday we ended up having two dinner appointments. The first one was with a family in the ward who live super far away from us, and we were super low on miles this week so we called them and left a message cancelling the appointment because we just weren't going to be able to make it. And then, after we'd already made an appointment with another member for the same night, they called back and told us they'd found us a ride. Both of the members really wanted us to come, and we didn't want to hurt their feelings, so we decided to go to both.

The first member we ate with fed us chili. He is notorious for feeding the missionaries tons of food, and he certainly lived up to his reputation that night. Granted, the chili was possibly the best I have ever had in my life (it was hickory smoked, oh my goodness), but I have never eaten so much chili in one sitting in my life. I thought I was gonna pop. And then, guess what the next member fed us? Chili. I hope I don't eat chili again for at least a month.... :P

My message for the week has to do with conversion. Consider these quotes from Elder Dallin H. Oaks' Oct 2000 talk "The Challenge to Become" (which is an awesome talk, and if you get time this week, I invite all of you to study it):

'From such teachings we conclude that the Final Judgment is not just an evaluation of a sum total of good and evil acts—what we have done. It is an acknowledgment of the final effect of our acts and thoughts—what we have become. It is not enough for anyone just to go through the motions. The commandments, ordinances, and covenants of the gospel are not a list of deposits required to be made in some heavenly account. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a plan that shows us how to become what our Heavenly Father desires us to become.

'...Jesus’ challenge shows that the conversion He required for those who would enter the kingdom of heaven (see Matt. 18:3) was far more than just being converted to testify to the truthfulness of the gospel. To testify is to know and to declare. The gospel challenges us to be “converted,” which requires us to do and to become. If any of us relies solely upon our knowledge and testimony of the gospel, we are in the same position as the blessed but still unfinished Apostles whom Jesus challenged to be “converted.”

'...Now is the time for each of us to work toward our personal conversion, toward becoming what our Heavenly Father desires us to become.'

It is not enough for us to simply know that the Gospel is true. The Gospel is a pathway, a way of life that changes our very being if we will allow it. Consider Nephi's words (from 2 Ne 31:17-20):

'...For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost.

'And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life; yea, ye have entered in by the gate; ye have done according to the commandments of the Father and the Son...

'And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for 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.

'Wherefore, ye 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 ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.'

It is essential that we not only enter the gate to the pathway of eternal life, but that we continue on that path. Otherwise we will never reach our destination. We must not only do the things we're supposed to do, we must become the people we are supposed to become. We must become like our Savior in order to receive all that He desires to give us. We must be converted.

The Savior knows this is too much for us to do on our own. That's why He wrought His Atonement to enable us to repent and do things beyond our capabilities, and that's why He gives us the Gift of the Holy Ghost after baptism to guide us along our path.

I challenge all of you to join me in actively choosing to become more like the Savior. Study His life and example. Pray and ask the Lord "What lack I yet?" (see https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2015/10/what-lack-i-yet?lang=eng) and choose to make the changes you feel prompted to make. Consider D&C 58:26-28:

'For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.

'Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;

'For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.'

I challenge each of you to use your agency to become more like the Savior. Humbly ask the Lord what you need to change, and then make the change! I promise you that as you do this He will help you. His grace is sufficient for you. (Ether 12:27)

I love you all!! Make yourselves a great week!

Elder Swindler
 
Pictures:
 
1) Chili and Pot
Post-chili selfie (round one of chili)
 
Spotted in an apartment complex
 

2) Cats
The fattest house cat I have ever seen

The largest house cat I have ever seen
 
 Videos:
1) FOR NARNIA!!
video
 
2) FOR GONDOR!!
video
 

Monday, October 5, 2015

General Conference!

Hey folks!

I hope you all got to watch conference this weekend. I loved it. :) But more on that in a minute!

This week was good. We didn't see very many people but it was still fun. This was my first week on a bike, and hoo boy, people aren't kidding when they talk about the "hills of Tennessee." Hopefully I'll have some pretty epic thighs by the time I leave the area. :)

We did see a few less-actives and recent converts, and that went well. One older couple, Roger and Mayetta, are both recent converts and less-active, but recently they've started doing a lot better. Last week they came to church, and it was great. :) This week we invited them to watch general conference, and to have at least one question apiece written down (and prayed about) to look for answers to as they watched. (Don't judge my grammar, not sure if I Englished that sentence right... haha)

We also hung out with a really cool member in our ward from Thailand for his birthday. He's really eccentric but has a huge heart and loves all the missionaries. His real name is hard to say so he just goes by Pete. And he loves Star Wars, so we all (Elders Hoyt, Milne, Bateman and me) pitched in to get him a 3-foot-tall clone trooper action figure. It was really fun.

I had a really good experience watching conference. I decided to do the same thing we challenged Roger and Mayetta to do - go into conference with questions written down. And I got answers to my questions! The answers weren't all straightforward, but they all made sense to me, and they all required me to act in some way. Which makes sense. After all, God's purpose is to bring to pass our immortality and eternal life (see Moses 1:39), and He can't do that if He doesn't help us progress and learn. Giving us all the answers to all of our questions without requiring us to put forth any effort would be counterproductive.

I hope all of you had similarly good experiences watching conference. I hope you all learned things, and felt the Spirit teach you and testify of the truthfulness of the words of those who spoke. My challenge to you this week is to reflect on the things you heard and felt during general conference (unless you didn't watch it, in which case your challenge is first to go and watch it!). Go back and study your notes if you took notes. Watch or read again the talks that stood out to you. I know that if you prayerfully look back and ponder the things you heard and learned and felt, you will find things that stood out to you, things that you feel impressed by the Spirit that you need to do. Because God loves you, and He desires your happiness and progression, and He knows what is best for you, He will always invite you to do something, to act. When we listen to His words, the Spirit whispers to us and quietly impresses upon us things He would like each of us to do. I invite you to find what those things are - the things He would like you to do - and then DO THEM. Act!! God desires so much to bless us and help us progress, but He will never force us, so it is up to us to choose to act. When we act, we have His promise that He will help us.

I challenge you to exercise the faith to act. I promise you can do it. I promise He will help you. Trust Him. He loves you and won't let you fail if you will do the things He asks you to do. And don't try to do everything at once. Mosiah 4:21 teaches:

"And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order."

Remember also the words of Nephi in 2 Nephi 28:30:

"For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have."

He won't give you more than you can handle at once, and He doesn't ask you to try to do everything at once. He gives "line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little." And that is how He asks us to improve and learn and grow. Be patient with yourself, choose to act now, exercise faith in the Lord, and take it one step at a time.

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen. :)

I love you all! Thank you for your prayers and support. Make yourself a great week. :)

Elder Swindler
 
Fotos
1) Elders Hoyt, Milne, me, and Bateman at the Sun Sphere in Knoxville

 
2) Because we can adult
 
 
3) Conference dogpile
 
 
4) Pre-conference selfie
 
 
More fotos...
1) Redneck mirror
 
 
 
2) "Get your freshman fifteen here"
 
 
3) A victory for Tennessee literacy
 
 
4) Post-conference selfie
 

Gotta love the South!
1) Redneck fan
video
 
 
2) Yes, that is a lawn mower in the back of a car