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