Monday, January 25, 2016

Tomorrow We'll Discover What Our God in Heaven Has in Store

Transfers are this week, by the way! And now we don't find out if we're leaving until the morning before (so tomorrow morning). But we decided to take a last district picture anyway. We're pretty sure Sister Cameron (far left, with the crutch) is leaving, and Elder Langsmith (our district leader, blue jacket, third from the left) is going home. Elder Hoff might be leaving too, we're not sure.


Heyyy folks!

We had a pretty good week this week. We got two more new investigators! Last night we visited a lady named Frankie, who requested a free bible, and we taught her and her mom the Restoration, and they liked it. They especially liked the idea of modern prophets. They agreed to read and pray about the Book of Mormon, which is great. We'll be seeing them again this week if plans don't change. And hopefully we'll be seeing Tonya too (the new investigator we found last week) - they had to cancel on us this last week.

Things got a little crazy Friday and Saturday. It snowed a little on Wednesday but only like 2-3 inches, but then on Friday and Saturday we got about a foot and our mission president told us not to travel unless it was absolutely necessary. Friday we were able to try to see a few people nearby and have dinner with a super cool recent convert family but Saturday it was bad enough that we couldn't go anywhere and we had to stay home all day (we should have stayed in on Friday too honestly but whatever. Haha) So we did some stuff around the apartment, like cleaning and rearranging the living room, and tried not to go too crazy.

I always laughed at the stories of Southern schools closing at even the hint of a possible chance of a snowflake, but it's seriously a thing. People just kind of hunker down when it snows here. We went to the grocery store and there was seriously no bread. I think it's a combination of not having the equipment to deal with it very well, people not knowing how to drive in the snow, Southern snow being more slick than Western snow (seriously!), and all the sketchy, hilly, winding Southern roads.

My message for the week is stolen from my mission president's weekly email to all the missionaries. It's a quote he stole from Tad R. Callister's book The Infinite Atonement. It's kind of long but it's totally worth reading. Please read it and ponder on how you can apply the cleansing and consoling powers of the Atonement more fully in your life.

"Among its blessings, the Atonement brings peace. It not only cleanses us, but it consoles us. I have found from practical experience that these two blessings do not always come hand in hand. On occasion, I have met with good Saints whom I believe have fully repented and partaken of the cleansing power of the Savior's sacrifice, but who still confess that they live with troubled consciences. They do not see how the Lord can possibly forgive them for what they have done. This forcibly struck me when I was conducting a temple recommend interview with a convert of about fifteen years. He had been faithful and devoted from the day of his baptism, but he wondered if the Lord could truly forgive him for his checkered life before he heard the gospel message. Such forgiveness seemed to much to ask. I do not believe he was alone in those feelings. 
While believing in Christ and his Atonement, some people have innocently, but incorrectly, placed limits on his regenerative powers. They have somehow converted an infinite Atonement into a finite one. They have taken the Atonement and circumscribed it with an artificial boundary that somehow falls short of their particular sin. Stephen Robinson made a similar observation: 
"I have learned there are many who believe Jesus is the Son of God and that he is the Savior of the World, but they do not believe that he can save them. They believe in his identity, but not in his power to cleanse and to purify and to save. To have faith in his identity is only half the principle. To have faith in his ability and in his power to cleanse and to save, that is the other half." 
These Saints are tougher on themselves than even the Savior might be. In a sense they have adopted their own parameters of justice and mercy. C.S. Lewis offered this counsel: "I think that if God forgives us we must forgive ourselves. Otherwise it is almost like setting up ourselves as a higher tribunal than Him." Such an attitude can even engender the wrath of the Lord, as observed by Zenock: "Thou art angry, O Lord, with this people, because they will not understand thy mercies which thou hast bestowed upon them because of they Son" (Alma 33:16). In short, these Saints are their own bar to peace of mind. That is one reason it is so essential to understand the Atonement and its infinite nature, to seek after the whys and hows, as well as the consequences, for as our understanding of the Atonement increases, our ability to forgive ourselves and others increases as well. 
When we more fully understand the depths to which the Savior descended, the breadth to which he reached, and the heights to which he ascended, we can more readily accept that our own sins are within the vast sphere of his conquered domain. We then become believers, not only in the Atonement's infinite expanse, but in its intimate reach. The Savior's loving offer, "My peace I give unto you" (John 14:27), transforms itself from some abstract hope to profound personal reality. At such a time we receive not only of the cleansing power, but also the consoling power of the Atonement. Paul spoke of this blessing: "Our Lord Jesus Christ...hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace" (2 Thessalonians 2:16). It is through his consoling power that our "burdens may be light, through the joy of his Son" (Alma 33:23). We can then appreciate and accept Jacob's invitation to his people, "Let us remember him, and lay aside our sins, and not hang down our heads, for we are not cast off" (2 Nephi 10:20; emphasis added). We can receive the "exceedingly great joy" that comes to those who have received a remission of their sins after having "come to the knowledge of the glory of God" (Mosiah 4:11). 
While serving as a priesthood leader, I became acquainted with an exceptionally good man who some years before had committed a transgression that brought him great remorse. His suffering was prolonged and intense. My heart went out to him. In time I believed he was fully prepared to seek renewal of his temple recommend. I encouraged him in this pursuit, but he was reluctant to proceed. Even though I felt he had been forgiven, he could not seem to forgive himself. He may have been cleansed, but he was not convinced, neither was he consoled. As a result he deferred his return to the House of the Lord. His condition weighed on my mind. One day, while reflection on him, my mind was forcibly struck with this impression: "Brother ____________ has paid the uttermost farthing." A short time later the same impression returned with equal force. I shared the experience with this good brother and soon thereafter he found sufficient peace to renew his temple covenants. I have subsequently wondered, why did the impression come to me rather than the man himself? Perhaps his inability to forgive himself proved an impenetrable barrier to spiritual promptings. Perhaps he would have dismissed or rationalized away as self-generated any such impression if it had come directly to him. Maybe the Lord, in his loving kindness, knew the only way to reach him was by a message through an outside source, namely, his priesthood leader, which would be impossible to dismiss as his own wishful thinking. In any event, peace, that peace that heals and comforts and consoles the wounded soul, eventually found its place in another human heart. 
The people of King Benjamin struggled for that peaceful, consoling power, They saw ''themselves in their own carnal state" and felt "even less that the dust of the earth." In unanimity they pleaded, "O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins." Then came the divine response: "The Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ" (Mosiah 4:2-3). The Atonement did not just cleanse them, but it also consoled them."  
I love you all. I hope that is as meaningful to you as it is for me right now. I know I'm pretty hard on myself. It is definitely hard for me to forgive myself. I hope you'll all join with me in working to believe Christ and allow His infinite Atonement to cleanse, heal, and console you. :)

I love you all! The Gospel's true! Make yourselves a great week!

Elder Alex Swindler


1) Wednesday's snow, the first real snow I've seen since I left Utah
2) Text we got from President Griffin Thursday night. Fun stuff.

3-4) We were going to contact someone at this address on Sunday but after we saw their driveway we figured we'd give it a snow check.

Monday, January 18, 2016

New Investigator!

Hey folks!

I had another crazy p-day today and now I'm out of time. Sorry!

Quick updates from the week: we found a new investigator! We called an old potential investigator named Tonya and she said she'd like to have us come and meet with her and her husband Michael. When we did we found out her husband is a less-active member and has been wanting to get back into church. We taught them the Restoration and they loved it! She was crying a little, and she loved the First Vision. She saw the painting and got all excited. She has such a testimony that God does answer prayers, and she really related to Joseph Smith's question about which church to join. She accepted a soft baptismal commitment (meaning she said she would like to be baptized if she finds out for herself this is true) and she told us it all felt true. She was excited to start reading the Book of Mormon. So basically we have a golden investigator now. :) I'm super excited about her. Thank you to anyone who has been praying for us to find people to teach!

Also, we made some progress with Anna this week! She agreed to give up coffee completely. And (after a lengthy conversation and some direction from the Spirit) I think we helped her see she's come further than she thinks she has. She was willing to consider reading the Book of Mormon again, but this time with an open heart (she admits that the first time she read it she was sort of "putting it on trial" and not really opening her heart to it). She also told us she isn't sure she knows how to recognize answers and promptings from the Spirit. She's had a few powerful experiences in the past, but she knows God doesn't always talk to us that way. So I think we'll focus on that with her this week. Helping her learn to recognize the promptings of the Spirit. Hopefully we'll also help her come to the point where she can open her heart and listen for what God wants her to find. :)

Wish I had more time. For my message this week I'd just like to bear my own testimony to you that God is our loving Heavenly Father, and He really does hear and answer our prayers. Please take time to turn to Him in prayer. Maybe you haven't prayed in years or maybe you haven't missed a day in years, but I challenge you to make an extra effort to involve Him in your life (and your family's life) through prayer. Just bear your heart to Him. Tell Him about your struggles, your feelings, what's on your mind. Ask for help, for yourself and for others. Thank Him for the blessings He has given you. I promise you He is there, and I promise you that if you will do this consistently you will see a difference in your life. He is our Father, and He wants nothing more than to help us and be actively involved in our lives. And He will. But there's only so much He can do if we don't let Him in. So let Him in! Start where you are and make an effort to improve. We all have room to improve.

I love you all. :) The Gospel's true!

Elder Alex Swindler

P.S. Please remember Sister Cameron from my district in your prayers, if you would. She had a pretty nasty accident today at the trampoline park we went to and we're really hoping she won't need surgery!

1-2) Sisters Verdejo and Cameron and Elders Baird, Hopkins, Hoff, and me at the trampoline park today

3) Heheh. :)

Monday, January 11, 2016

Week the 36th

Hey y'all!

We had kind of a slow week again. But! We did get to contact a bunch of less-actives and potential investigators in Bluff City, and yesterday we had a good lesson with a cool part-member family, the Bartons. We shared Elder Christofferson's "Daily Bread: Pattern" Mormon Message (whoa, that was a lot of capital letters) and had a discussion with them about the importance of daily scripture study and prayer and seeking for nourishment and answers from God. They talked about how they're about to go through a really difficult time, and how holding fast to the word of God has helped them through things in the past. It was good. And we played racquetball today! That was good too.

I was studying this morning to learn more about why the Lord doesn't always immediately stretch out His hand to help us when we are going through something hard, even when we are living righteously. I was reading in 3 Nephi when the Savior is quoting Isaiah and His words really stood out to me:

For thy maker, thy husband, the Lord of Hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel--the God of the whole earth shall he be called.

...For a small moment have I forsaken thee, but with great mercies will I gather thee.

In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment, but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer.

...For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee.

O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted! Behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colors, and lay thy foundations with sapphires.

And I will make thy windows of agates, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy borders of pleasant stones.

...In righteousness shalt thou be established; thou shalt be far from oppression for thou shalt not fear, and from terror for it shall not come near thee.

Behold, they shall surely gather together against thee, not by me; whosoever shall gather together against thee shall fall for thy sake.

Behold, I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire, and that bringeth forth an instrument for his work; and I have created the waster to destroy.

No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall revile against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord.

The Lord's purposes and love for us are so much greater than we can see from our perspective. He is our Creator, our Redeemer, and our God. He will not break the covenants He has made with us for our peace. He tries us and lets us struggle so we can grow. And He is never far away, even if we can't always feel Him near. He cares about us too much to let us fail if we are doing our best to follow Him. Consider it a sign of His love and trust if you are given an opportunity to struggle. And His grace will enable us to overcome things we never would have been able to overcome on our own. Whatever you are struggling with, know that He has a purpose for letting you struggle. He is the Master and Creator and He knows what you need. And He trusts you to learn it, which is why He gave it to you. And He is never far away. Turn to Him in prayer and you'll find the strength you need to get through each day (see the Daily Bread: Experience Mormon message).

My mom sent a quote from President Howard W Hunter in her email that I like a lot:

"Please remember this one thing. If our lives and our faith are centered upon Jesus Christ and his restored gospel, nothing can ever go permanently wrong. On the other hand, if our lives are not centered on the Savior and his teachings, no other success can ever be permanently right.”

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

Elder Alex Swindler


1) Seems legit. Let's go tracting, Elder!

2-3) Pretty Southern sunset

4-5) Pretty view from someone's backyard. :)

Monday, January 4, 2016


Hey folks!

Hope you all had a great New Years!

We had a pretty good week this week. New Years was fun, we spent the evening hanging out with the other Elders playing Munchkin and drinking Martinelli's because we weren't supposed to proselyte.

We did a lot of service this week, but we didn't have very many lessons. We really need to find more people to teach (prayers would be much appreciated!). We did have another lesson with Rickie though, and a couple other less-actives, and our eternigator Anna. Anna can be a little frustrating because of just how close she is. I swear, she knows it's true. She keeps showing us Bible verses she finds that predict a restoration of the fulness of the Gospel in the last days, and she keeps talking about how she "can't deny what she sees" in the lives of the Mormons she knows. "There's just something different about you that I don't see in any other church," she keeps telling us. But she's not quite ready to make the change. She's made a lot of progress in the past three years and she's still making progress. It's hard to know what to do next with her though. Prayers would be appreciated in this regard too. I love her to pieces and I think it's only a matter of time until she decides to be baptized, and even if she doesn't, she's awesome, and I'm glad I get to know her.

Message for the week:

I was reading from President Packer's final conference talk this week ("The Plan of Happiness" from the April 2015 General Conference; it's pretty powerful and worth looking up). I feel it's significant that the two things Elder Packer emphasized most in his final testimony to the world were the infinite and personal power of the Atonement and the eternal and supernal nature of the family. I'd like to share with you some of my favorite parts of his talk:

"Many years ago, after World War II, I was attending college. There I met Donna Smith. About that time I read that two essential ingredients to a successful marriage are a cookie and a kiss. I thought that was a pretty good balance.
I attended college in the morning and then went back to Brigham City to work in my father’s auto-repair garage in the afternoon. Donna’s last morning class was home economics. I stopped by her classroom before leaving. The door had a frosted glass window, but if I stood close to the glass, she could see my shadow outside. She would slip out with a cookie and a kiss. The rest is history. We were married in the Logan Temple, and that began the great adventure of our lives.
Over the years I have frequently taught an important principle: the end of all activity in the Church is to see that a man and a woman with their children are happy at home, sealed together for time and for all eternity.
...Sister Donna Smith Packer and I have been side by side in marriage for nearly 70 years. When it comes to my wife, the mother of our children, I am without words. The feeling is so deep and the gratitude so powerful that I am left almost without expression. The greatest reward we have received in this life, and the life to come, is our children and our grandchildren. Toward the end of our mortal days together, I am grateful for each moment I am with her side by side and for the promise the Lord has given that there will be no end.
I bear witness that Jesus is the Christ and the Son of the living God. He stands at the head of the Church. Through His Atonement and the power of the priesthood, families which are begun in mortality can be together through the eternities. The Atonement, which can reclaim each one of us, bears no scars. That means that no matter what we have done or where we have been or how something happened, if we truly repent, He has promised that He would atone. And when He atoned, that settled that. There are so many of us who are thrashing around, as it were, with feelings of guilt, not knowing quite how to escape. You escape by accepting the Atonement of Christ, and all that was heartache can turn to beauty and love and eternity.
I am so grateful for the blessings of the Lord Jesus Christ, for the power of procreation, for the power of redemption, for the Atonement--the Atonement which can wash clean every stain no matter how difficult or how long or how many times repeated. The Atonement can put you free again to move forward, cleanly and worthily, to pursue that path that you have chosen in life.
I bear witness that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, that the Atonement is not a general thing that is for the whole Church. The Atonement is individual, and if you have something that is bothering you--sometimes so long ago you can hardly remember it--put the Atonement to work. It will clean it up, and you, as does He, will remember your sins no more. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen."

Something I am coming to understand and appreciate more deeply and fully on my mission is the how and the why of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and God's great Plan for us. The how is the Atonement of Christ. I bear testimony with Elder Packer that the Atonement is truly both infinite and intimate in its power and reach. If you will rely on His Atonement, you can overcome anything. Any sin, any weakness, any fear, any regret, any trial, any sorrow... Anything.

I also bear testimony of the grand purpose of the Plan that rests on the Atonement: that all of us may have the opportunity to live together with our families, forever, in God's presence, having a fulness of joy. I've lived to see three of my grandparents pass away, as well as two cousins and a couple of friends. And since coming out on my mission and not being able to see or talk to my family much at all, I've come to realize just how much I love them and miss them and how desperately I want to be with them forever. I am forever grateful for Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father and Their plan for me and for all of us. I know that because of the infinite Atonement of Jesus Christ, I can be with my family forever - even after this life. And I know you can too.

I challenge you to use the Atonement of Christ to make whatever changes you need to to be closer to your family and worthy to live with them forever. He truly can heal anything and help you through any trial or challenge no matter how difficult. The promise of eternal life with our families is worth any sacrifice. Please turn to Him! He will help you. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

I love you all! Remember to look for opportunities to share the Gospel this week! :)

Elder Alex Swindler

1) Elder Hoff. "Extra, extra! Getchya free scripchas heah!"

2) "Ask us about today's special: The Book of Mormon!" Haha hey, it's worth a shot.

3) Had some amazing loaded nachos from Bristol BBQ. I will definitely be going back for more. :)

4) SNOW!