Monday, February 24, 2014

Elder Szendre and Elder Brewer - - Friends at BYU, now missionaries at the same time.
From Feb. 18th:

Wow this has been a productive week, so many miracles have happened. The work has really gone forward powerfully, especially since we don't have 20 inches of snow... That's hard to hear, but I'm glad the cars are working and everyone's safe.

We've got a few new investigators to work with, a few are falling off the wayside but we're having success nonetheless.

We haven't been too sure about Kevin for the last two weeks until last night. Last week a family that had dinner with the Smiths decided to stay for the lesson with Kevin, which was good, but then two more of Kevin's friends showed up and there were 12 people at the evening, and so we didn't try to talk with Kevin about his baptismal date, there was no way he was going to open up about his life with so many people. The Smith family had an FHE last night, and we separated for a few minutes just to talk about his experience with the Church and his decision to be baptized. He was still pretty certain about it, he had had an experience where he prayed about the Book of Mormon, his grandparents won't be in town until March and so we scheduled March 8th with him. I was struck last night about how easy it was to teach and soon baptize him, it's always been a challenge knowing how to best find and help people come unto Christ. He was just a friend of Breck S., a girl in the ward and came to a lesson when we invited him. He started reading the Book of Mormon then and was 200 pages into it after 2 weeks.

Michael's struggling pretty hard right now with smoking. We're hoping to get him to an addiction support group that goes on Tuesday nights at the Meridian seminary building. We'll bring him to Kevin's baptism and help him there.

So one of my good friends Andy B. - from BYU - showed up to Zone Conference, he was coming directly from the MTC to get a visa from the Mexican consulate here in Boise and forgot his temple recommend, so he had to wait at the mission office where our zone conference happened to be going on. He came in and sat in the only empty chair (right by me), and we were just stunned at what had happened. We had lunch together and then he had to leave but it was incredible to see him. I had a hard time refocusing on zone conference, but I took enough notes to take later. I think he needed to hear how much I love it here in Boise. He's fluent in German and is doubtless struggling with a call to serve in a language other than German. The Spirit is the same wherever you go.

We taught a man man named Volodymir today, a tiler who's helping build a home of a ward member. It went super well, he's nervous but has wanted a Russian copy of the Book of Mormon now for a long time. He's going to come to Church one of these weeks, and we're super excited because he's going to bring his 5 kids that are at home.

We went over to a neighbor with a departing missionary to offer service. He said goodbye and we asked if there was a time that we could share a message with her. A return appointment was set and she was very receptive to what we taught, she's Baptist but would love to learn more. Truly the field is white and ready to harvest, that's two people in the last week.

I'm so thankful for the gift of repentance. It's a part of the doctrine of Christ (best found in 2 Nephi 31-32) the foundation of everything we teach. This passage applies to everyone regardless of whether they have joined or not, as:
Yea, I say unto you come and fear not, and lay aside every sin, which easily doth beset you, which doth bind you down to destruction, yea, come and go forth, and show unto your God that ye are willing to repent of your sins and enter into a covenant with him to keep his commandments, and witness it unto him this day by going into the waters of baptism (or humbly taking the sacrament, promising to strive to serve God and not repeat the same mistakes of last week). (Alma 7:15)
This work is true, I know it with all my heart. I was contemplating the end of a successfully completed mission the other night and I was just so completely filled with joy and gratitude for this opportunity.
And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father! 16 And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me! (D&C 18:15-16)
I am so grateful for our Savior Jesus Christ, He truly visits us in our trials and afflictions. I'm grateful for the Restoration of the Gospel, what God did through a modern prophet. Thanks for the mail and the prayers.

Take care!
Elder Szendre
Well-fed = Happy Elders - From Sister Marilyn S. 2/17/14

Thursday, February 13, 2014

From Feb 10:

Michael K. is having a pretty rough time right now with his family, we saw him with his girlfriend and his deaf son the other day and for whatever reason we just haven't been able to meet with him. 

Kevin, however, has been reading the Book of Mormon now and coming to Church for the last two weeks and has admitted to his friend that he's felt the Spirit while he's been at the lessons. He accepted the invitation to be baptized with some hesitancy on the 21st, but we're confident that with his friends at Church will help out as well.

We had an incredible time with Galyena and Yuri, it was one of the most incredible Russian cultural experiences I've ever had. I promised them that I'd sing again and so I sang "The Spirit of God", we then sang some of the most beautiful Russian Christmas hymns I'd ever heard, "Я духом обнавления" was one of them. However that took up most of our time and then we went 20 minutes over - - it was so hard to really get to the bottom of why they weren't reading and praying about the Book of Mormon, but the prayer that he offered at the end was the most incredible and passionate prayer I'd ever heard. These people are so good, truly the fields "are white already to harvest." (John 4:35) They seem to be waiting for a vision of God to confirm to them the truth of the Book of Mormon, and they've had some truly thunderous spiritual experiences in their lives. I saw during that lesson partly why the Book of Mormon defines, "his glory, or the welfare of the ancient and long dispersed covenant people of the Lord" (Mormon 8:15) - - these being the Jews, Lamanites, and the Lost Tribes of the House of Israel.

The Lord will gather Israel, 
10 And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious. 
11 And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea. 
12 And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth." Isaiah 11:10-12

Further, Jehovah gave to Joseph Smith this promise:
9 Yea the hearts of thousands and tens of thousands shall greatly rejoice in consequence of the blessings which shall be poured out, and the endowment with which my servants have been endowed in this house. 
10 And the fame of this house shall spread to foreign lands; and this is the beginning of the blessing which shall be poured out upon the heads of my people. Even so. Amen. 
11 After this vision closed, the heavens were again opened unto us; and Moses appeared before us, and committed unto us the keys of the gathering of Israel from the four parts of the earth, and the leading of the ten tribes from the land of the north. 
12 After this, Elias appeared, and committed the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham, saying that in us and our seed all generations after us should be blessed.

We've gone about serving the people this last week and we had several miracles while doing it. We've known about the Grandparents of a family in the ward for a while that haven't been interested in the Church, but while we were shoveling their driveway they opened their garage to behold us. We then offered additional service and they said that in mid-March they would have a lot to do in the yard. We're not here to convince people of the truth our message or change their interest level ourselves, but service can open doors that otherwise would remain tightly shut. We also saw a man that we met on the golf course, we had the same tee time (just kidding), but it was super cold and we went and said hello the first time. We then saw him shoveling his driveway last month, and then when we shoveled his driveway on Thursday he drove into his driveway, let us in, showed us all of his artwork (he is a clay sculptor/teacher by trade) and gave us Lasagna for dinner. He was one of the first people we tried to contact and all we got from a small crack in the door was, "I'm not a member." His wife is suffering a lot due to her joints, and our service helps.

There's a huge push right now for Family History in the area. We're having a ward challenge for everyone to bring a name to the temple, add two photos or stories of ancestors to and index three batches of records. It's all one work, and all three missions of the Church will deeply intermingle, I hear now that missionaries at the MTC are learning to teach about Family History. The veil is thin as we embrace the work of Salvation, I've had several experiences as a missionary of feeling the presence of angelic messengers with us as we've ministered to God's children, and experiences with those of whom I've done temple ordinances for. It truly is a sacred opportunity that is ours.

In a recent survey, if it is representative of the American population, 9,000,000 people would consider joining the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I don't have the source though.

I love the Lord, I'm so incredibly weak, but he fills me with His love and covers all of my many weaknesses when I do what he has commanded:
10 repent of your sins and forsake them, and humble yourselves before God; and ask in sincerity of heart that he would forgive you; and now, if you believe all these things see that ye do them.
11 And again I say unto you as I have said before, that as ye have come to the knowledge of the glory of God, or if ye have known of his goodness and have tasted of his love, and have received a remission of your sins, which causeth such exceedingly great joy in your souls, even so I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come, which was spoken by the mouth of the angel. 
12 And behold, I say unto you that if ye do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of your sins; and ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you, or in the knowledge of that which is just and true. (Mosiah 4:10-12)

I add my name to the thousands, even millions that I know by the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost that this work is true and that the Church of Jesus Christ is God's Kingdom again established on the Earth, with all the restored doctrines, principles and ordinances necessary for us to return God's presence and receive eternal life.

Much love!
Elder Szendre
From Feb 4: 

Elder Nelson is doing much better right now. He's teaching and bearing his strong testimony. It's really cool to see him grow into the missionary that he was meant to be.

Michael K. is having a difficult time right now with smoking. He knows the Church is true and is back on track for baptism, it's just going to be a little delayed due to complications. It's pretty hard to become a member of the Church these days. We're excited because in a blessing that his neighbor gave him when we taught him the Word of Wisdom, he was blessed to someday use the same priesthood to bless the members of his own family.

Kevin K. is a Senior at Eagle High and is good friends with a girl in the ward. She gave him a Book of Mormon a few weeks ago, and when we scheduled a time to teach the Steele's two weeks ago (the Message of the Restoration), she invited him to come and he came. Last Monday he felt very good about was taught and feels very peaceful as he reads the Book of Mormon (he's read over 200 pages). And this Monday we invited him to be baptized on the 21st and he said he would try. It probably won't be then, but with time, the Spirit and support from the Steele's he has a high chance of being baptized later and staying true to it for the rest of his life.
We got to go again and teach Galyena and Yuri last week. It was such an incredible experience preparing for that lesson. I sang "High on a Mountain Top", and there was such an incredible spirit that permeated during the room when I sang that and as we were driving there. There was such incredible joy that I felt driving to Meridian, there is a glorious work going on the other side of the veil for the Slavic nations and for a few minutes the veil was very thin.

We didn't get to teach Valentina this week, she wasn't available yesterday, but she's been reading the Book of Mormon with her husband every night and has found it to be super interesting reading. We will hopefully be able to meet with them next Monday.

On Sunday Elder Nelson taught a lesson about Adam and Eve, and it hit me that we really don't need to worry when things change for the worse. Adam, when in the Garden of Eden, thought he had it pretty good. He had a companion, much to enjoy and do, and then Satan threw a wrench in his perfect life and he was thrust out of the garden, to fall into a fallen state that included much suffering and sorrow. He learned, though, that a Savior would be provided and that his future included a much more glorious one than he could imagine. So while we never have an "ideal" life, our Heavenly Father's plan involves our families receiving all the priceless blessings of the Priesthood.

Today we had the opportunity to go to the temple. It was such an incredible experience, the Spirit was there so strongly. I can honestly say that God is really there. Making temple covenants and then striving to keep them brings so many blessings. When God restored the fullness of the Priesthood authority that was given to the Apostles in ancient times, he said: 
4 I am the first and the last; I am he who liveth, I am he who was slain; I am your advocate with the Father. 5 Behold, your sins are forgiven you; you are clean before me; therefore, lift up your heads and rejoice. 
6 Let the hearts of your brethren rejoice, and let the hearts of all my people rejoice, who have, with their might, built this house to my name. 
7 For behold, I have accepted this house, and my name shall be here; and I will manifest myself to my people in mercy in this house. 
8 Yea, I will appear unto my servants, and speak unto them with mine own voice, if my people will keep my commandments, and do not pollute this holy house. 
9 Yea the hearts of thousands and tens of thousands shall greatly rejoice in consequence of the blessings which shall be poured out, and the endowment with which my servants have been endowed in this house. 
10 And the fame of this house shall spread to foreign lands; and this is the beginning of the blessing which shall be poured out upon the heads of my people. Even so. Amen. (D&C 110:4-10)

I can't comprehend feeling more joy than what I've already experienced living the Gospel. It's worth it even while in this life, regardless of how hard it may become.

I love the Lord, his work and the people of Eagle, ID. I'm forever grateful for this opportunity to serve here, there truly is no difference in the joy or importance of inviting Americans or Russians to come unto Christ, God's love is equal for all of His children and teaching by the Spirit is the same in every land.

I know the Savior lives, I have to continually adjust my life to be within His bounds and every time I do I feel his love and peace wash over me. Set your eyes on the temple! It truly is a priceless privilege to go there and partake of those sacred ordinances, and no sacrifice is too great to make to receive them.

I know it's tough in PA right now. Rely on the Lord, He will strengthen us to bear and overcome the trials that we have been given.

Much love,
Elder Szendre

Monday, February 3, 2014

With the Jamisons. Thank you, Sister Colleen!
From Jan 27:

We're reading through the Book of Mormon as a mission right now, and I just finished 1 Nephi. I love how the Lord wastes no time in giving us the knowledge of the covenants that He has made with us, for example, the baptismal covenant in 1 Nephi 19 - compare Isaiah 48.

1: Hearken and hear this, O house of Jacob, who are called by the name of Israel, and are come forth out of the waters of Judah, or out of the waters of baptism, who swear by the name of the Lord, and make mention of the God of Israel, yet they swear not in truth nor in righteousness.
10: For, behold, I have refined thee, I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.
18: O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments—then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea.
19: Thy seed also had been as the sand; the offspring of thy bowels like the gravel thereof; his name should not have been cut off nor destroyed from before me.
20: Go ye forth of Babylon, flee ye from the Chaldeans, with a voice of singing declare ye, tell this, utter to the end of the earth; say ye: The Lord hath redeemed his servant Jacob.
21: And they thirsted not; he led them through the deserts; he caused the waters to flow out of the brook for them; he clave the rock also and the waters gushed out.
22: And notwithstanding he hath done all this, and greater also, there is no peace, saith the Lord, unto the wicked.
These Israelites had fallen into Apostasy and had harvested destruction rather than salvation, had they kept, "the commandments of God he doth nourish them, and strengthen them, and provide means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them; wherefore, he did provide means for us while we did sojourn in the wilderness." How great is our reward if we will but endure, and that relying on the Lord!

The Lord is under covenant to bring forth this ministry of baptism to all of the inhabitants of the earth through the seed of Abraham, and as a Church we have come under covenant to assist the Lord in His great and marvelous latter-day work. There are currently over 80000 missionaries engaged in this ministry and over 15000000 members to help them.

The Spirit has been poured out upon us in great measure as of late. So great is the covenants of the Lord with His people. In visiting with Valentina her family is under tremendous stress with an accident her daughter received in Ukraine and for some reason she and her husband can't work, the visa process is too difficult in Russia for them to become employable. To help out, Valentina cleans the home of the K. family every week.

In short in our conversation I learned the sad truth that it's next to impossible for so many honest people to live in the former Soviet block. She related how corruption and economy is so focused around illegal activities that the elderly are perishing from hunger. Just like the widows perishing from hunger in Moroni 9, to condemn the wicked, so great is the condemnation of many in that area!

I've prayed for them mightily and I know that the Lord is soon going to, "restore the preserved of Israel." (1 Nephi 21: 6. see Isaiah 49)
14 But, behold, Zion hath said: The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me—but he will show that he hath not. 
15 For can a a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee, O house of Israel. 
16 Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me. 17 Thy children shall make haste against thy destroyers; and they that made thee waste shall go forth of thee. 
18 Lift up thine eyes round about and behold; all these gather themselves together, and they shall come to thee. And as I live, saith the Lord, thou shalt surely clothe thee with them all, as with an ornament, and bind them on even as a bride.
Now is the time that the Lord will bring forth his great and marvelous work among these nations, I can feel it and there will be a way provided for the 1000+ missionaries to bring to pass much restoration in those lands. 

The full-time missionaries and the members are the Lord's Restored Church are the agents in bringing to pass this restoration,
1 Nephi 21:22 Thus saith the Lord God: Behold, I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people; and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders.
 23 And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers; they shall bow down to thee with their face towards the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet; and thou shalt know that I am the Lord; for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me.
24 For shall the prey be taken from the mighty, or the lawful captives delivered? 
25 But thus saith the Lord, even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered; for I will contend with him that contendeth with thee, and I will save thy children. 
26 And I will feed them that oppress thee with their own flesh; they shall be drunken with their own blood as with sweet wine; and all flesh shall know that I, the Lord, am thy Savior and thy Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.

This is pivotal, the work of Salvation in bringing forth the plan of salvation and the covenants of the Lord.

This time is now, if the Lord didn't perform a great and marvelous work, even making His Holy Arm bare in the eyes of all the nations, the covenants would not be remembered and His covenant people would be left forgotten,
10 And I would, my brethren, that ye should know that all the kindreds of the earth cannot be blessed unless he shall make bare his arm in the eyes of the nations.
11 Wherefore, the Lord God will proceed to make bare his arm in the eyes of all the nations, in bringing about his covenants and his gospel unto those who are of the house of Israel.

I am constantly running into my terrible limitations and weaknesses, constantly I proclaim with Nephi, 2 Nephi 4:17-20: 
17 Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities. 
18 I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me. 
19 And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted. 
20 My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness; and he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep.

Elder Steven Snow, the Church Historian came to our Stake Conference yesterday and talked of the rising generation. They are a great and sacred responsibility, they say in Africa that it takes a tribe to raise a child, and he thinks it's the same with a ward. What are the four things that we have to diligently strive to do, however imperfectly, in our families? Family prayer, home evening, scripture study, wholesome family activities.

This is our generation, we, who are associated with the Gentiles are under covenant-obligation to do everything in our power to bring about His Great and Marvelous Work. This is true and I've seen hardened men shed tears this week as we would read the Book of Mormon with them, the Spirit that the Book brings truly is the Fount of water that Jesus promised (John 4:24). I marvel at the future of the missionaries in our families, we need to prepare ourselves for the great tasks that lay ahead, spiritually, physically and emotionally. It's not easy, but the fullness of joy that is promised missionaries and member missionaries is real and truly exhausts our physical strength to bear. I love the Lord and his long suffering and loving kindness towards us. Alas, I have forgotten to write about our investigator, Michael K. He came to Stake Conference yesterday and is back to full commitment to baptism, it just took a few weeks of thinking. Take care!

Much Love,
Elder Szendre