We had a good week once again. It started out a little slow but ended really well. Wish I had more time to tell you about it but once again P-day is basically over so I'm going to have to at least try to be brief.
We had a lesson with Michael, one of our less active members, again. He is great. We taught the plan of salvation and he took it well and learned a lot. Although we did hit a doctrinal roadblock at the degrees of glory. He's got some concerns there that are super hard to figure out and get past, and we ended up having to cut the lesson short. It's got us both thinking and studying a lot though which is good.
We also mowed and weed whacked Crystal's lawn for her. It was actually Elder Frederick's first time ever mowing a lawn - I guess they don't have lawns in Arizona? It was fun, especially when it started dumping rain out of nowhere right near the end. Tennessee rain is crazy, it can be totally dry one minute, and then literally 60 seconds later it could be absolutely pouring. I love it.
Had a really great zone training meeting. President Griffin was late (he was actually taking care of Elder Lakko's current companion Elder Smith, who got hit by a car which only nearly missed Elder Lakko, and he is in pretty bad shape...) and was super tired but still gave an epic training, as always. He talked about a story involving the prophet Samuel and King Saul. Saul was given a specific commandment by the Lord to wipe out everything living in a particular city, in consequence of that city's earlier attack on the Lord's people. Saul obeyed at first, but then decided to hold back just a little, and spare some of the animals and the King of the land as trophies. He then tried to justify his disobedience by saying the animals were for a sacrifice to the Lord. Samuel replies to his lame excuse by teaching him that "to obey is better than to sacrifice." What figurative sheep are we holding back from the Lord? What small things do we continue to hold back in disobedience, perhaps even justifying them as somehow helping us be better disciples and Christians, or as not really applying to us? It is tempting to hold back just a little, and to try to justify ourselves, but that is not God's way. Obedience is the first law of heaven. The Lord asks for all we have, not just most of it and some lame excuses.
Those are just some of my thoughts from the training. It was super good.
After that, we went on exchanges with the other Elders. I went with Elder Nelson and we ended up talking a lot more than we should have, but it was still fun and we still were able to see Crystal and Camille and Cameron. Elder Frederick went with Elder Merrill, his mission "grandpa." They sounded like they had a ton of fun.
We taught Esther for one last time this week before she moved to the Nashville area. It was super powerful. We drew out a chart with her of what Nephi and Laman and Lemuel were each commanded of the Lord by the prophet Lehi to do - first to leave Jerusalem, then to obtain the plates from Laban - and how each of them responded to those commandments. Then we drew another column for Esther and what she has been commanded to do - first to be baptized, and then to tell her parents about her decision to be baptized - and how she has chosen to respond. She was able to see that she has responded like Nephi to the commandment to be baptized - she has prayed, she has studied and exercised faith, she has followed the promptings of the Spirit - but more like Laman and Lemuel to the commandment to tell her parents. It can be really hard to help Esther understand some things sometimes, but this time it seemed to really get through to her. I'm a little sad to see her go, but I'm sure she'll be in good hands with the Hermitage missionaries.
Found a couple new investigators this week as well. One is named Amy. We saw her name in our phone and didn't recognize it, so we called. She's the ex wife of an inactive member. She's going through a tough time right now and is really reaching out to God - finding her when we did was actually really well timed. We had a good visit this week and she wants us to come back.
The second is named Andrea. We were about to leave an area when we were prompted to knock on a specific door, and sure enough, she answered and was really friendly. It is crazy how it all lined up actually. She only answered because she didn't see us through the peep hole, and then she only talked to us because of my hot pink tie that gave us away as not being Jehovah's Witnesses. She is just now starting to try to get back in church for the first time in years. We came back this Saturday with a member and had a really great first lesson, and she came to church on Sunday! We are really excited about her.
We also had a second meeting with Crystal and Camille and Cameron on Sunday at the Valdez's house (awesome members here in the ward). Crystal is doing great still, she's slated to give a talk next week actually. Camille and Cameron have started reading the Book of Mormon together now, and they accepted a baptismal date of September 24th. Cameron feels ready, but Camille feels a little unsure because she is struggling to recognize answers to her prayers. But she is willing to trust the Lord and work towards a date.
Wish I had more time for a message. I'll leave you with the bits of President Griffin's thoughts I shared above, and a challenge also to examine your attitude about the Lord's commands to you. Are you choosing to be more like Nephi, with an attitude of "I will go and do," seeking for ways to do as you have been commanded and moving forward with trust and faith even when you do not know exactly how to act, or when you don't feel like it, or when it is hard? Or are you choosing to be more like Laman and Lemuel, making excuses and seeking ways to get out of doing it, or even trying a few times but giving up when success is not immediate? Is being a true disciple of the Lord a priority in your life, or an annoyance? I think we are all like Nephi sometimes and about some things, and also like Laman and Lemuel (and Saul) at other times and about other things. Let's choose to be more like Nephi. And remember, "it is our duty to be better today than we were yesterday, and better tomorrow than we are today."
I love you all! Christ lives, He loves us all, His gospel is true, and His Atonement is real! Make yourselves a great week!
Elder Alex Swindler
Pictures and Things
1) "Hey, this porch is actually pretty nic--oh gosh, is that a dead rat??"
2-3) We tracted into a master woodworker. This guy is seriously incredible. I am going to go back and take as many pictures of his work as I can. This is like the least of it, but I didn't think to take pictures until he showed us this at the end. He didn't even make it, his friend did, but the wood grain is incredible and the work is so pretty, I had to take a picture.
4) Elder Frederick examining the local wildlife
5) Goodbye to Esther
6) Hillbilly clothesline
Video) Elder Frederick fell asleep