Monday, February 27, 2017

An Epistle

Hey folks!

It's about time that I write y'all another of my huge emails, and I actually have time this week, so brace yourselves. :) I'll try to catch you up a little on the area as well, since I didn't say much last week. 

We had a pretty awesome week this week. I have decided that Asheville is officially the best. I love this area!! The ward loves us and trusts us and works with us, we have a lot of really progressing investigators, the work is moving forward, and it's the greatest. Also, I love Elder Creasey a lot. He's so kind and genuine, and he's super solid in the gospel, and he's also super on top of things here in Asheville. I kind of hope I stay with him until the end of my mission, but I also have a feeling that I'll probably have one more companion before all is said and done. We'll see. But for right now, we're working hard together and moving forward and things are going great. 

We met with a girl named Karla this week. Karla is really cool. She's 18, she's from Venezuela, and she's just here for a few months to prepare to come to college in the States. She started meeting with missionaries a month or two ago. It's actually a crazy story. She took an Uber across town one day, and during the 2-5 minutes she was in the car, she mentioned to the driver (who happened to be a member of our ward) that she's thinking about going to school at a place called LDS Business College... So he asked her if she knew anything about the Church, and would she like to learn? She said she didn't know anything, and she would love to meet with missionaries. She had actually been praying just days before for God to show her how she could follow Him. Cool right?? We had a great visit with her at our Bishop's house. She opened up about how she struggles with feeling unworthy even though she has repented of her past mistakes. We talked about the Atonement and repentance and God's love for her, and it was reeeally good. The Spirit was really strong. She set a date for baptism for March 17, and she picked the day herself!

We are also meeting with a guy named Bill who has investigated for ages but is just now starting to move forward. He finally has gotten engaged to his girlfriend who he's been living with, which is super exciting! That and some Word of Wisdom concerns were all that were holding him back from baptism. And he's agreed to start coming to the Church's Addiction Recovery Program, which will help a lot with his Word of Wisdom concerns. 

We had a great visit with an excommunicated member named Wayne. He is coming to church now but still has some concerns that hold him back from being rebaptized. But we had a great discussion with him and I feel like he could really change his life for the better. He seems to me like he's ready, even if he doesn't realize he is. He met with the Bishop this week which is huge progress for him!

I'm pretty sure I mentioned Lora and Griffin last week, the mother and son who were baptized right when I got here. They are doing great! We saw them like 3 times this week and talked to them a lot on the phone. Lora has tons of questions for us and is just on fire about the Gospel. It's pretty amazing to see just how much the Savior has changed her life for the better. And I love how excited she is to learn as much as she can. It reminds me of just how beautiful the truths of the gospel really are. Too often I take them for granted. 

One more cool story and then I'll finish up. We came back to the church for something a couple hours after church on Sunday, and the Bishop was on his way out, and told us he had a referral for us! Just a little before we got there, a man named Shakur (shuh-KOOR) walked in and started talking to the Bishop and one of his counselors. He told him about a lot of his struggles and how he's trying to get his life back in order, but that he has a lot of things in his past that he regrets. He asked if somebody could teach him about repentance. It was way cool! We called him right away and were able to meet with him that afternoon. He's got a lot of potential. 

My message this week is about prayer and how we can make our prayers more effective. There's a quote from the LDS Bible Dictionary that stood out to me this week:

"Christians are taught to pray in Christ’s name. We pray in Christ’s name when our mind is the mind of Christ, and our wishes the wishes of Christ--when His words abide in us. We then ask for things it is possible for God to grant. Many prayers remain unanswered because they are not in Christ’s name at all; they in no way represent His mind but spring out of the selfishness of man’s heart."

When we strive to align our own will with the will of our Savior, even when doing so is difficult and requires uncomfortable changes and even sacrifices, our lives will begin to reflect that of the Savior, and we will begin to bear fruits that bring us and others real joy. We do that by striving to make our prayers "...the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other" (-Bible dictionary). Truly praying in the name of Jesus Christ, as we are commanded, is more than simply saying "in the name of Jesus Christ, amen." It is trying to pray as Jesus would pray if He were kneeling next to us and praying for us.

We can bring our own will in harmony with the Savior's by abiding in Him - by striving to keep His commandments, to be like Him, to do as He would do, and to fill our minds and hearts with His words.

"Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. ...If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples." (John 15)

As we strive to bring our lives and our own wills in harmony with God's, I testify that He will help us. "...and every branch that beareth fruit, he [my Father] purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit." (John 15) I testify that the Savior lives and that He loves us. I testify that He is orchestrating our lives for our good. If we will seek His will for us and try to align ourselves with Him, we will find greater joy than we have ever imagined. 

I love you all!

Elder Alex Swindler

Monday, February 20, 2017


Hey folks!

I am out of time this week. Suffice it to say that I'm doing well and loving Asheville and Elder Creasey. There was a baptism this week! A lady named Laura and her son Griffin were baptized. I didn't teach them at all, I got here just in time to see their baptism. But I've talked to them since then and they are awesome! Laura told me her story and she went from being pretty agnostic to being totally converted as she humbly, faithfully and sincerely sought answers from a God she wasn't even sure existed. The gospel is true. God lives. Jesus Christ is our Savior. I love you guys.

Elder Alex Swindler

Pictures: (Alex didn't label any of these, so I'm just guessing.)

(1) Fun with darts

(2) Last district pic in Lebanon

(3-4) Goodbyes in Lebanon

(5) Reunited with his mission "sons"

(6-7) Driving into Asheville

(8) Baptism for Laura and Griffin

(9-12) District hike on Mount Pisgah

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

To Asheville

Hey folks!

We had a bit of a crazy P day yesterday and in the midst of it all I didn't send y'all an email. But I got permission to send this a day late, so here we go.

We had a pretty good week this week! It was kind of crazy though. For one thing, I found out that I will be transferred this Wednesday to Asheville, North Carolina. I've actually wanted to go to Asheville for awhile. I've heard that it's a good area, and also that it's really pretty, so I'm excited to go. But I'm going to miss Lebanon a lot. There are a lot of people here that I have grown to really love. And it's hard to leave a place after putting a lot of hard work and love into it.

One super awesome thing that happened this week was that the Nagy family (part member family we have been working with) came to church, for the first time since I've been here in Lebanon!! It was awesome! We weren't expecting them to come at all, it was just out of the blue. We were actually waiting at the door expecting another person to come, a less active boy named Donny, and while we were waiting for him, up walked the Nagy's! We were so excited. And Donny did end up coming as well, which was awesome.

Another big thing this week is that we seem to finally be gaining the ward's trust. We were able to sit down and talk with the Bishop after church last week, and we had a good meeting. He even wants to come out with us tomorrow night to see Ronnie so that will be good. The Elders Quorum President also seems to be beginning to trust us a lot more too.

Ronnie is actually doing really well. We brought a member named Brother Reeves with us when we saw him his week and they seemed to click pretty well. And the lesson went great. We invited him to baptism, and he has concerns about it (mostly it's that he has already been baptized), but he also told us that he has prayed about meeting with us and about the Book of Mormon, and that the answer he has gotten is to continue to meet with us. He says he knows the Lord wants him to be studying with us. He agreed to pray about baptism and seek the Lord's direction.

I have been saying a lot of goodbyes the past couple of days. We said goodbye to the Hokanson family, the family that is related to me. It was bittersweet. They have really helped this ward to feel more like home. They fed us so much food that night that we thought we were going to die haha. We also said goodbye to the Nagy family on Sunday night. I love them a lot too. And then last night we said goodbyes to the Ward Mission Leader and his wife. I'll miss them a lot. I'll be back to visit them for sure. They are awesome. I'm sad to be leaving this district - I love these missionaries here a lot. And I'll be really sad to leave Elder Urry. He has been such a good companion and friend to me. But I know he'll do great things here in Lebanon, I know things will continue to move forward here, and I'm excited for what the future holds. This is the Lord's vineyard, after all. It is His work and He is in charge of it, and it will move forward under His direction.

Well, I better go. I trust that the Lord is leading me where he needs me to be. I know that as we move forward with faith in Jesus Christ, He truly does lead us and strengthen us to become all He knows we can become. I urge you to seek, listen to and follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit. There was a scripture Elder Urry shared this week, and I'll share it with you:

"Wherefore, we search the prophets, and we have many revelations and the spirit of prophecy; and having all these witnesses we obtain a hope, and our faith becometh unshaken, insomuch that we truly can command in the name of Jesus and the very trees obey us, or the mountains, or the waves of the sea." (Jacob 4:6)

As we search the words of the prophets, both ancient and modern, and as we listen to and follow the revelations given us by the Holy Spirit, we obtain hope, and we begin to develop unshakeable faith in Jesus Christ, which faith we will need to move forward where He asks us to go, do what He asks us to do, and be who He asks us to be. He will help us strengthen our faith if we let Him, and love Him, and put forth the effort.

I love you all!

Elder Alex Swindler
11320 Station West Dr. Ste. 101
Farragut, TN 37934

1-2) We cleaned out our fridge this week and found this. Yum.

3) Goodbye to the Nagy's

4) Goodbye to the Hokanson's

5) The Westbrooks (ward mission leader) made us cake :)

Video 1: Waiting for an oil change on exchanges with Elder Vellinga. Mission life can be so hard sometimes.

Video 2: Some fun on the guitar with Elder Urry.

Monday, February 6, 2017

The Book of Mormon

Hey folks!

This week was great. Probably my favorite thing that happened was on Friday night. It was like 8:50pm and we were about to go in for the night after a fairly unfruitful day, but we decided that we'd just try one more person before heading in. There was one name in our records that stood out to us, a former investigator named Delbert. So we went by, and all the lights looked to be off, but we figured we'd knock quietly anyway. Well, he turned out to be home, and he let us right in even though it was late. He had met missionaries in the past but they hadn't really taught him anything. He seems to have a very real and string relationship with the Savior and he has studied the Bible a TON. We taught him about the Book of Mormon and he was ok with it but was a little wary, until we handed him a passage in Moroni. He read it, and then he just kind of kept on reading, and then started flipping around and reading a little more... His whole attitude changed as he read. He kept saying "this is just like what I studied this morning!" or "wow, that's just like this thing in Jeremiah" etc. When we asked him to pray about it he told us "Oh, I can already see that this book is the word of God!" and he was so excited to read more.

I also know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. I have tasted of it for myself and found it to be good and true. Following its principles has brought me so much closer to Jesus Christ. I know that we all can receive this witness and enjoy the power and blessings of the Book of Mormon in our lives if we will take the time to taste of it each day, involving the Lord as we do so, and asking Him in sincere prayer to teach us of its truthfulness. I actually did that again this morning, and it was confirmed to me again that this book really is the word of God. I know this to be true and I am grateful to be here to share it with others. I love you all!


Elder Alex Swindler

Picture of a Tennessee sunset: