Monday, November 30, 2015

Transfers? What?

Hey folks!

We've had a crazy week this week. Lots of good stuff though.

Wednesday we pranked the other Elders back. We used our copy of their key to let ourselves into their apartment while they were at a dinner appointment, and then we unscrewed all of their lightbulbs and hid them in random places around the then-super-dark apartment (like in the fridge and microwave and under the bed). It was awesome. :)

Thursday was Thanksgiving. We went and played flag football at the neighboring ward's Turkey Bowl in the morning, then stuffed ourselves full of food for the rest of the day. We had our first meal appointment with a less active family at 11, our second one at 4 with the Bishop and his family, and ended the night with amazing dessert at a cool recent convert's house. It was an awesome day.

Friday we had a great lesson with Austin, our investigator. He told us that he's noticed that when he reads the Book of Mormon and comes to our church, he feels peace and like a weight is taken off his shoulders. But when he doesn't, and when he goes to his church, he feels anxiety and like a weight is on his shoulders. We didn't suggest it to him, he just told us. It was pretty neat, and a testimony to me that the feelings of the Spirit are real, and that anybody who is a sincere seeker of truth will feel them when they read the Book of Mormon and come to church. We think Austin knows the Gospel is true, but he doesn't know he knows it yet, and he's afraid. He's facing a lot of opposition from his family, friends, and church. He could use your prayers if you're willing.

Also on Friday, we had dinner with the Bishop and his family again. Their son Sterling who is on a mission has a friend named Jeff, and they ran into him at the store and invited him to come hang out with them. They told Sterling about it, and he told them that Jeff had been on his mind all week and that they definitely needed to try to share the Gospel with him again (he took the discussions about a year ago but it didn't go anywhere). So they had us come to dinner with them to meet Jeff. And it went super well. It turned out that me and Elder Bateman had read a lot of the same books Jeff had, and we all had similar interests, and it was just a big geek-out session. It was awesome. Afterwards Elder Bateman told us in the car that he really wants to stay another transfer in this area. Things are going really well, the work is picking up, there's a lot of people here he really loves...

And then on Saturday we got a call from President Griffin. He asked for Elder Bateman, and told him that there was going to be a small early transfer on Monday and he would be leaving the area, going to Cleveland, TN.

So Saturday and Sunday were spent packing and saying goodbyes. It has been rough, especially for Elder Bateman. Leaving an area is always hard. Missionaries kind of emotionally brace themselves for it whenever transfers roll around. Elder Bateman didn't really get the chance. He was pretty upset. We had the transfer today, and he's gone now. I was sad to see him go, I've really loved serving with him. Through all of this though, we've all felt the Spirit testifying that this really is the Lord's work and that this is His will. That's helped. But we could all use your prayers, especially Elder Bateman.

Message for the week:

We've just had Thanksgiving, and now we're officially in the Christmas season. I'd like to invite all of you to consider the real reason we have Christmas. Take time to be grateful that we have a Savior. There's a really good video that just got put out by the Church about what the world would be like if Christ was never born. I can't find the link. Just go to christmas.mormon.org and click on "Imagine A World Without a Savior." Also - there is another big video put out by the Church called "A Savior Is Born." It talks about why Jesus Christ's birth is so important to all of us and each of us. It's at the same link as the other video. All of you - go watch it! And then make sure to share it with people! On that website, you can print pass along cards with A Savior Is Born on them and you can share the video on social media. Let's all do our part to help everyone we can to "discover why" the Savior was born. :)

I love you all!

Elder Swindler


Fotos (lots of goodbyes):

1) Elder Bateman with Roger and Mayetta and their grandkids


2) Elder Bateman with Pete


3-4) Elder Bateman with Austin





5-6) Us with the Bishop and his family

 
7) Last companionship selfie :( 

8) President Griffin had Gossner milk in his fridge! Utah!! :)

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Book of Mormon

Hey everyone!

I'm sorry I didn't email last week, I ran out of time. We've had a great couple weeks though! We've got several pretty good investigators right now. We've been working a lot with Joe, Austin, and Brissa, and we've also started working with Roger and Mayetta's granddaughters who haven't been baptized (they are living with their grandparents). Teaching their grandkids is kind of crazy, it's really hard to get them to pay attention (they're 13, 12, and 7) but it's going better than we thought it would so that's good. We're really trying hard to help Austin gain a testimony of the Book of Mormon. He has really been struggling with understanding that the Bible and Book of Mormon go together (not for lack of trying on our part, but Austin's mildly autistic and he has a hard time understanding things sometimes), but really he's just an extreme case of what is true for everybody - that no amount of explaining can ever substitute for a witness from the Spirit that the book is true. Brissa is pretty awesome, she's very willing to read and pray and she seems to understand really well and like what we have to say. She just hasn't made it to church in the last couple weeks and we've had our last appointment or two with her cancel, so that's kind of hard. And Joe is awesome too! A month or two ago none of us would have expected this but now he's probably our top investigator. He's come to church two weeks in a row now and he seems to be really liking it. We've got to get him to read and pray about the Book of Mormon though. He's been reading a little but not very seriously yet. We'll work on helping him understand the importance of it when we see him this week.

We actually had a pretty awesome training on the Book of Mormon last week for Zone Conference. The HUGE importance of it, how to use it more effectively in teaching and finding, how to use it more effectively in our studies and personal lives, how to help members use it more effectively in their personal and family studies and share it with their friends... Stuff like that. President Griffin always gives phenomenal trainings so it was pretty great. And we were also trained on using more professional and dignified language fitting of representatives of the Lord, instead of inappropriately casual language and slang. The three of us have been trying to stop using replacement swear words (dangit, crap, fetch, etc.) and stop overusing the word "like" and it's been really hard... Haha it's actually really funny. One of us will accidentally say something we're trying not to and the others will point it out and it's just really funny.

Random story, last week we got preached at for like an hour by a crazy guy in the ghetto who had literally just smoked marijuana. We know he did because he told us. Haha it was hilarious. My companions got videos of it and I wish I could send them but the files are too big. He was going off on all sorts of stuff and I'm not sure if he ever really got to the point he was trying to get to in the first place. Something about the Israelites... It was awesome.

We also played street basketball with a teenage kid named Chase we saw when we were out knocking on a couple doors, and ended up talking with him and his mom about the Gospel. They were pretty open to meeting with us. That was pretty cool.

One more story and then I'll get to my message. On Friday night we were super tired and we decided to go to bed without planning for the next day, even though (we found out later) all three of us had each had an impression that we should. The next day we got a call from the Bishop asking us where we were. We had totally forgotten about a super important appointment that his wife had set up with a
less-active... Then she sent us a text that sounded super angry, and we felt terrible, and she wouldn't answer her phone... It was bad. We were all freaking out. We thought we'd ruined everything. But then later she called us back, and after we apologized profusely, she just started laughing at us. Apparently what actually happened was that the text she sent was totally sarcastic and she wasn't upset at all, she was just messing with us, and then she'd left her phone on the counter and gone and run an errand. It was hugely relieving... And a valuable lesson too. And also pretty funny.

Message for the week:

Like I was saying, the Book of Mormon is awesome. It can have a powerful effect in our lives if we will make consistent and prayerful use of it. I'd like to suggest something that President Griffin - and Nephi too - suggested to us to try as we study the Book of Mormon. In 1 Nephi 19:23, Nephi writes:

"...for I did liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning."

Also consider the words of the prophet Joseph Smith concerning the Book of Mormon in the introduction to the book:

"I told the brethren that ... a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.”

If you want to strengthen your relationship with Christ, if you want to be closer to Him and experience the changing power of the Atonement in your life, I challenge you to join me in taking Nephi's challenge to "liken" the scriptures to yourself. Get yourself a fresh copy (just talk to any missionary or a member of your bishopric), start reading (prayerfully!) from the beginning, and try to put yourself into the book. Put yourself in the place of each of the people in the book. Put your name where their name is. Find common ground with them or consider how their stories are like your own life's story. Apply the doctrines and principles learned to yourself and your own life and challenges. Put yourself in the book! I promise you that it will change your life.

Another thing I'd like to invite you to do comes again from the introduction to the book:

"We invite all men everywhere to read the Book of Mormon, to ponder in their hearts the message it contains, and then to ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ if the book is true. Those who pursue this course and ask in faith will gain a testimony of its truth and divinity by the power of the Holy Ghost. (See Moroni 10:3–5.)

"Those who gain this divine witness from the Holy Spirit will also come to know by the same power that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, that Joseph Smith is His revelator and prophet in these last days, and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s kingdom once again established on the earth, preparatory to the Second Coming of the Messiah."

All men. Everywhere. Does that include you and me? Yep! It doesn't matter what your circumstances are, what concerns or questions you might have, or how many times you may have done this already, this invitation and promise are extended to you. Study and ponder the Book of Mormon. Get on your knees and ask God if it's true. I promise you He will answer you. In today's crazy world we can't expect to continue onward without continually renewing and strengthening our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, His chosen prophets, His Church, and the Book of Mormon. Please try this with me. I promise you it will help you. Just try it with a sincere heart.

I love you all! Make yourselves a great week!

Elder Swindler

Pictures:

So we left the other Elders our apartment key to get something they left, and they left us a little surprise... Haha they turned everything upside down, put our mattresses in the closet and the shower, and left q tips all over the place. But what they don't know is that we made a copy of their apartment key this week... >:)














 















We were cleaning off the roof of an old couple in our ward and the leaves would not blow off the roof. It was pretty funny actually.

 Elder Milne

President and Sister Griffin. Such mustache. Much blackmail. :)



Elders Bateman, Milne, Castleberry, me, and Beard. We all wore gray suits to church (not on purpose).



Elder McRae, me, and Elder Shurtleff on p-day [Posted back in October from the mission blog]



We opened the door one morning and this random cat just walked into our apartment. And then it looked super confused, like, wait a minute, something's not right... It was so funny. We fed it milk. And then it wouldn't stop following Elder Beard. Haha!




Elder Castleberry

Me



Gotta love the South



Hmm... Seems secure.



 Selfie with Elder Beard

Video:

Elder Bateman and I getting our tracting faces on. #fierce
video

Monday, November 9, 2015

Trio, 6 Months, and Borrowed Light

Hey folks!

We had an awesome week! We got a third companion on Wednesday. His name's Elder Castleberry. He's from Pleasant Grove. He's been out for 23 months and he'll be going home at the end of this transfer in December. He's pretty fun and he's a great missionary, and I think this'll be a great transfer. I'm hoping to learn a lot from him. And being in a trio is a ton of fun so far, so that's good. :)

I passed my 6 month mark this week! I've officially been a missionary for 6 months! Which is so weird... The time goes so fast. It's been a great 6 months though. There's nowhere else I'd rather be, and no other work I'd rather be doing.

We were on bikes this week, which kind of stinks, but it also makes us feel way more accomplished at the end of each day (not to mention how well we sleep haha). We met with Brissa's husband Glen and he was pretty receptive to the Restoration. He's a very smart guy and he understood well. He is pretty impressed with our church so far and seems to agree with a lot of our beliefs.

We took one of the recent converts in the ward, Roger, on a team-up to see Joe, and it went pretty well. And on Sunday Roger had a great experience in Gospel Principles. It was on eternal families, and when he found out that he can be with his two sons again (one of whom passed away as a baby) he got pretty emotional. God's plan for us is truly amazing. I'm so grateful for the knowledge that I have that because of Christ I can be with my family forever.

Will you all keep praying for Mayetta? She's still struggling to stay off of cigarettes, she gave in and smoked a few over the weekend. She's doing better now but she still needs help.

My message for the week:

Consider the following quote from Heber C. Kimball:

"The time will come when no man nor woman will be able to endure on borrowed light. Each will have to be guided by the light within himself. …

“… If you don’t have it you will not stand; therefore seek for the testimony of Jesus and cleave to it, that when the trying time comes you may not stumble and fall."

Consider also this quote from Elder Douglas L. Calaster in the October 2007 General Conference:

"In the genius of the gospel plan, there ultimately only has to be one witness, but that witness must be you. The testimony of others may initiate and nourish the desire for faith and testimony, but eventually every individual must find out for himself. None can permanently endure on borrowed light.

"The restored gospel is not truer today than when a solitary boy walked out of the Sacred Grove in 1820. Truth has never been dependent on the number who embrace it. When Joseph left the grove, there was only one man on earth who knew the truth about God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. It is necessary, however, that each find out for himself and carry that burning testimony into the next life...

"...If you want to know...a price must be paid. And you alone must pay that price. There are proxies for ordinances, but none for the acquisition of a testimony.

"Alma spoke of his conversion in these beautiful words: “I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me” (Alma 5:46)."

In today's chaotic world with its quickly shifting moral standards and antagonism towards those who have faith, it is no longer possible for us to "endure on borrowed light." We each must have our own
testimonies of the truthfulness of the Gospel, the reality of God, and of the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. We must have a testimony of the restoration of His gospel and priesthood authority.
And we must have a testimony that the Prophet and Apostles who lead His Church today are indeed called and led by Jesus Christ Himself. And more than that - we must all have the faith to act on our
testimonies. It is not enough merely to know - we must do!

I challenge all of you, wherever you are with your own faith and testimony, to strengthen your testimony and exercise the faith to act on it. I suggest that you follow Alma's example of sincere and
heartfelt fasting and prayer that you might know the truthfulness of these things for yourself. And remember that there is nothing wrong with having questions, concerns, or doubts -- that is normal and okay. What is not okay is "...discard[ing] something we know to be true because of something we do not yet understand" (Neil L. Andersen, Oct 2014). Hold fast to the Old Ship Zion, as Elder Ballard has recently put it. Hold fast to the truths you have been taught by the Holy Spirit. Exercise the faith to press onward with what light you do possess, praying for and exercising faith that you will receive
further light and understanding as your Heavenly Father sees fit. I have seen this happen in my own life multiple times -- being blessed with greater understanding or answers to questions or resolutions to concerns only after I chose to continue to exercise faith in the things I have received witnesses from the Spirit are true. And I know the same will happen for you. Don't lose faith, don't abandon ship, remember the spiritual experiences you have had and the things you have been taught by the Spirit, and don't give in to distraction or disengagement. We can't afford to do that in the latter days. And if you feel you don't have a testimony -- follow Alma's example and get one! The beauty of it is that God speaks to all of us, and He does it uniquely according to our needs, because He loves and knows each one of us. You can gain a witness that He lives and that the restored gospel is true. Follow the counsel given in James 1:5, in Moroni 10:3-5, and also in the introduction to the Book of Mormon. Study it out for yourself and ask God with a sincere heart and real intent, and He will "manifest the truth of it unto you by the power of the Holy Ghost." I promise you that this is true for you, too - no matter what your circumstances or past or struggles or concerns or whatever. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen!

I love you all! The Gospel is true. Stay strong and faithful, and make yourselves a great week! :)

Love,
Elder Swindler

Picture from the mission blog taken at transfers:

Monday, November 2, 2015

Transfers!

Hey folks!

We had kind of a mixed week this week. A lot of stuff fell through, and there was a lot of wasted time (which we are repenting of this week!), but we also had some really good and exciting stuff happen. I'll focus on that stuff. :)

To start with, this upcoming week is transfers. We found out Elder Hoyt will be leaving, which is a little sad but not unexpected. Elder Bateman and I are both staying. And we also found out we'll be getting a third companion! That's crazy!! Haha we're pretty excited for that.

We had a bit of an adventure on Wednesday. We were invited by one of the young men in the ward to come with him to play dodgeball at a Baptist church in town (which a friend of his had invited him to). We were all for it. We figured it'd be maybe a couple dozen people in a little church gym and a great opportunity for us to meet some people, get some good exposure, and have some fun. No sir. We pulled up to this absolutely massive church (it was seriously bigger than my high school) and saw easily over a thousand people there. This was no mere Mutual activity, this was a full blown high school party. Loud music, dancing, immodestly dressed girls... Definitely not a good place for missionaries to be. Not to mention the looks we were getting in our white shirts and ties... Hahaha it's hilarious now but at the time we were pretty freaked out. Needless to say, we didn't play dodgeball that night.

We also went on exchanges this week, which was fun. We had our last district meeting too. And on Halloween all the missionaries got to call it a day at 4pm and basically take the night off. We played tennis with the other elders and had a great time.

Mayetta made it a whole week without smoking!! That's a huge accomplishment for her! Thank you for your prayers, and please continue praying for her. She's making huge progress. :)

We got another new investigator this week! She's a Venezuelan lady named Brissa. She just randomly showed up at the West Hills ward one week. She told the missionaries there that she'd driven past our building for years on her way to work and kept feeling like she should go sometime. She lives in our area, so one of the missionaries there went on an exchange with us to teach her the Restoration and hand her off to us. The lesson went really well. She felt the Spirit and understood. And she came to church again and had a great time. She told Elder Harris (the missionary who came with us) on Sunday that whenever she's learned more and feels like she's ready, she would like to be baptized, and she wants him to do it. Which is awesome, except he goes home this week... Haha we're going to have to try to change her mind about having him do it, but we're super excited that she's showing a desire to be baptized! We're pretty excited about her in general, actually. She is pretty awesome.

So. Message for the week. I wanted to share Elder Uchtdorf's Conference message about simplifying our discipleship, but I'm short on time and he says it better than I could. So I challenge all of you to study it with me this week (it's called "It Works Wonderfully!") and apply the following counsel from President Thomas S Monson:

"It is not enough to want to make the effort... It's in the doing, not just the thinking, that we accomplish our goals."

I love you all! The Gospel is true and the Savior lives!! Please turn to Him! I promise He will help you and heal you. Remember to simplify your discipleship and start where you are.

Make yourselves a great week!

Love,

Elder Swindler

Pictures:
1-4) Our last district meeting of the transfer. We all wore ugly ties. :)

(Featuring [from left to right]: Lengthy Lizard, Bouncing Panda, Mormon Meerkat, Wailing Walrus, Rockin' Robin, Zippy Zebra, Rolling Armadillo, and Squatting Gorilla.)




5) I wish my iPad had a better camera, this was gorgeous. The fall colors here are amazing. :)


6. Car selfie with a recent convert named John