Friday, May 23, 2014

From May 19, 2014: "Amity"

I'm now serving in the Meridian South Amity Stake. It's quite a difference from Eagle, at least what I've seen of it so far. It will certainly differ economically and socially. I hear Elder Blackburn has some Russians for me, and this is where Galyena and Yuri live, so hopefully there will be higher densities of Slavic and other nationalities. I'm still confused as to why the Russian Bear survived for so long in Eagle, where there were no Russians nearby.

I'm covering two wards now, and we have 4 investigators: Dante, 2 unbaptized children (cut me some slack I just got here) and I think Sherrie.

Leaving Eagle was one of the emotionally hardest things I've done. I absolutely came to love the people there, and they loved me so much. We spent the last Sunday in Sunday School and Priesthood with the youth and it was so good to have had an influence on them for good. Elder Hunt my MTC companion is moving in and I'm sure he'll work hard and realize a lot of success that I laid the foundations for.

I got to say goodbye to Kevin at Church. He participated in Come Unto Christ, which the youth sang in sacrament. I'll email him when he goes off to USU to see how things are going. He'll be attending the Young Single Adult ward in Eagle for the summer. I don't know why his parents are so unsupportive, they didn't attend his talk last week, which is unfortunate. We know he has a really strong testimony, just walking by Mutual when they were singing High On a Mountain Top which he was attending the Spirit was so strong and we felt so much joy. He described it in his talk like the big hole that he felt like wasn't being filled with any of the religions he was studying was filled.

Crystal is in Kuna right now. Despite the bishop's and Brother Nielsen's efforts she didn't get a ride to Church her first week there 3 weeks ago. So she went to the same congregation that helped her learn about Jesus Christ. It's kind of scary since she's living with the mother of the woman that was instrumental in helping her convert to Christianity. However she started meeting with the bishop and got rides and has been keeping her baptismal covenants faithfully. Hopefully she can find some source of income whether it's babysitting or online. Getting a job will be hard at the moment with her daughter. Tithing was the most difficult part, since the money she was getting from disability only barely covered rent and diapers and one other expense, leaving her $40 to her name every month. We're hoping that the ward members wrap their arms around her and she improves her circumstances.

Anna S. who lives in the Kingswood ward is getting baptized on the 31st! Her brothers were baptized, but her father had enough influence over her to lose interest while we were teaching her. I'm not sure what changed, that family has come a long way in the last 10 months.

I called Vladimir and he said to call me back this Sunday. Hopefully he'll stay interested and read the Book of Mormon, since if he got a testimony of it he would readily accept it. He was a minister in Ukraine spreading evangelical Christianity under the Soviet Union. He's a work-a-holic and a family man, so the mere fact that he continues to be interested is incredible. He's seen nothing but good examples in his employer and fellow employees about the Church. He describes them as people that know God, because of their good lives. It's almost like Moroni, 

3 Wherefore, I would speak unto you that are of the church, that are the peaceable followers of Christ, and that have obtained a sufficient hope by which ye can enter into the rest of the Lord, from this time henceforth until ye shall rest with him in heaven. 
4 And now my brethren, I judge these things of you because of your peaceable walk with the children of men. (Moroni 7:3-4, italics added)

Never discount the power of example. Truth and time are on our side.

I'm so thankful for this opportunity to prepare the way for the Meridian Temple, it's a truly unique place to serve, not so dense and impersonal as Utah, but still with several members living on almost every street. Our last investigator that we found in Eagle had two faithful members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints nearby and one couple will come with Elder Swann and Hunt to teach her on Saturday.

I love being a missionary so much. It's honestly the most difficult thing I've ever done, but my trust and faith in the Lord has grown exponentially. Truly, enduring our deepest trials can become catalysts to us receiving the deepest spiritual blessings. It will be 10 times harder to lose the privilege to represent the Lord to these people, it's truly a different experience being a missionary, being yoked with the Lord to bring to pass His purposes.

The Everlasting Gospel has been restored through a modern prophet, and it's ancient fullness has brightly illuminated our lives, no matter where we are on our path of discipleship. The clarion call has come to each of us to live true to it, and participate in the small ways we can to help those friends and associates around us to learn about it. I love the Lord, He truly has incredible purposes for the Idaho Boise Mission and for the world collectively.

7 ¶How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth! 
8 Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when the Lord shall bring again Zion. 
9 ¶Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem: for the Lord hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem. 
10 The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God. (Isaiah 52:7-10)

Much love!!
Elder Szendre

From May 12, 2014: "Чудова зустріча"

Thank you so much for the prayers. I was truly healed to a great degree that morning thanks to your prayers. I was literally planning on sleeping that P-day if things didn't begin to look better. I'm finally back to 100% capacity now in every aspect. It's truly a miracle. My testimony has been strengthened so much this week. This is really His work.
"Sooner or later, I believe that all of us experience times when the very fabric of our world tears at the seams, leaving us feeling alone, frustrated, and adrift." (Grateful in Any Circumstances, President Utchdorf, GC April 2014)
This was one of the greatest trials of my faith. About half the time at least early in the week two weeks ago I wanted to go home. I struggled between my desires to serve God and the impending likelihood of going home honorably for some period of time. That may seem strange due to the great desires I've had for years and throughout my mission, but it happened.
The central question was do I trust God that he is in full control of this situation? I knew he had total and complete power to deliver me from the impending situation if I did all I could and turn it over to him. At the same time I had to learn trust Him enough that if it was His will that I went back to BYU. I had felt promptings that whatever happened would be His will.
I had been feeling that way for two days when I wrote two weeks ago, missionaries do need our prayers in times of distress or apparent success. I cannot begin to describe how much I was supported last week.
The promise in D&C 84:88 is true, "And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up." You can count on tremendous help when serving or preparing for a mission.
The principle question now is whether or not I will learn what I needed to learn. The principle of deliverance is crucial in our lives.
"But behold, I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance." (1 Nephi 1:20)
According to the repentance of the Nephites, they were delivered from very very desperate circumstances. When surrounded by their enemies, "And it came to pass that they did repent, and inasmuch as they did repent they did begin to prosper." (Helaman 4:15) See also the battle of the Nephites with the Gadianton Robbers that infested the land, 3 Nephi 4.
The danger now is whether I will keep in remembrance the tremendous goodness of God in delivering me from that awful state of suffering and great uncertainty to the tremendous return to previous levels of well being if not greater.
"Yea, and we may see at the very time when he doth prosper his people, yea, in the increase of their fields, their flocks and their herds, and in gold, and in silver, and in all manner of precious things of every kind and art; sparing their lives, and delivering them out of the hands of their enemies; softening the hearts of their enemies that they should not declare wars against them; yea, and in fine, doing all things for the welfare and happiness of his people; yea, then is the time that they do harden their hearts, and do forget the Lord their God, and do trample under their feet the Holy One—yea, and this because of their ease, and their exceedingly great prosperity." (Helaman 12:2)
It is my testimony that the Savior lives and perfectly knows how to conduct us through this veil of sorrow and tears and every suffering imaginable.
"And I will also be your light in the wilderness; and I will prepare the way before you, if it so be that ye shall keep my commandments; wherefore, inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall be led towards the promised land; and ye shall know that it is by me that ye are led." (1 Nephi 17:13, see also Joshua 1:5)
May we all consider the direction in our lives, and heed the voice of the Good Shephard, he is not far from any one of us.
"The ear that heareth the reproof of life abideth among the wise.
"He that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul: but he that heareth reproof getteth understanding." (Proverbs 15:31-32)

Let us remember Him always, giving Him thanks in all things (see Alma 37:37). I know that the Everlasting Gospel has been restored to the Earth in the same manner that it has been every time God has called a prophet. God's plan for us and our lives is perfect, and a full and certain faith may be placed in it, our Heavenly Father who created it and the Savior that fulfilled it. I love you all and pray for you daily.\

Much love!!

Elder Szendre 

From May 5, 2014: "I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee"

This has probably been one of the toughest 2 weeks of my life. I'm trying my best to push through it all without letting discouragement or self-pity abide. I'm aware of those dangers. Please pray for me at this time though. For much of my mission I've been able to wake up at 6:30, work out, shower, eat breakfast while studying, hit studies hard, go to work, end lunch early to do more work, and work hard until 9, plan for 30-40 minutes, and then go to bed and do it over again. I took no thought for myself. I've learned in the last 3 months that you just can't do that, you'll get burned out.

About three months ago I'd do that and about every three weeks, I'd turn into a sack of potatoes and just nap for about three hours in the middle of the day. It became more frequent, and I'm just feeling pretty burned out right now. This week will hopefully be better than last. We had a miracle in that Elder Swann sprained his ankle and stayed in all week long except for splits. Splits and Church went very well though despite the struggles I've been having. It doesn't help to just push through them, they only get worse. So hopefully I'm able to proselyte this week, and build myself back up to full productivity.

I remember Aunt Jan telling me to take care of myself, if only I had done that more haha. I can almost perfectly see now why I wasn't sent to Russia. The last 10 missionaries that had gotten their minors in Russian before they left had been sent out there. I was just completely go go go and oh how I would have worked to establish the Church out there. To no end I would have sacrificed for them and the work. Not only that, but it's harder when a Russian isn't interested or when a Russian investigator won't keep commitments than for Americans. I would have burned out, only with much greater consequences, due to the different culture and lack of ways to cope and resources to help.

I've learned that some trials aren't meant to be overcome, at least in the way that I'd prefer, teaching 20 lessons a week. I need to keep my physical well being, faith and commitment to serve God alive and well, not preach the gospel for 10 hours a day at this time. My mission leaders think we're slacking, and visited us last night to help set our sights higher. Time and time again I've seen the need for understanding when it comes to others' actions, that we don't know the contents of their heart or the reasons or why they're doing what they do.

The Prophet Joseph was always trying to teach his people that he was not perfect, but he was still called of God to be a Prophet. "You don’t know me; you never knew my heart. No man knows my history. I cannot tell it: I shall never undertake it. I don’t blame any one for not believing my history. If I had not experienced what I have, I would not have believed it myself."

The Prophet was burned out at one point and wanted to die, to pass the reins of the Savior's Restored Church to the Apostles. But by the end of his life, he expressed the desires of his heart were to remain and to spend the rest of his life continuing to build up the Kingdom of God. What a glorious concept, that after 14 years of experiencing earth and hell's combined influences, he would desire to finish what he started. I have struggled greatly this last week in wanting to continue to serve a mission, and it's only been through the Atonement that I've put off that part of me that just wants to give up, complain to President and LDS Family Services and go home honorably. I don't want to serve in this condition, but I do want to serve.

From General Conference, "Being grateful in times of distress does not mean that we are pleased with our circumstances. It does mean that through the eyes of faith we look beyond our present-day challenges." (President Utchdorf, April 2014)

I hate to think this way, but it has been a very good 10 months on my mission. 5 people have been solidly converted to the Restored Gospel. Many many people have been taught the Restored Gospel and invited to live according to it. Less actives have returned to Church with their families. The other night as I reflected on why 6 months in Eagle, I felt such incredible gratitude that I'd been able to help 2 people come to Christ, and felt the reality of this scripture,
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! 
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)
Much more than that actually, I felt the Spirit so strongly that much more good would come out of my mission than just that. President Monson in a new mission president seminar said,
"President Monson told the mission leaders, “You may sometimes be tempted to say, ‘Will my influence make any difference? I am just one. Will my service affect the work that dramatically?’ I testify to you that it will. You will never be able to measure your influence for good." (

Please know however, that no matter how deep the trials have been lately, I've had some of the greatest joys I've yet had on my mission through the Spirit. I have learned how to be happy amid all of these things, "Yea, and now behold, O my son, the Lord doth give me exceedingly great joy in the fruit of my labors;" (Alma 36:25) The talk on gratitude was truly a life changing talk, "Why does God command us to be grateful? All of His commandments are given to make blessings available to us. Commandments are opportunities to exercise our agency and to receive blessings. Our loving Heavenly Father knows that choosing to develop a spirit of gratitude will bring us true joy and great happiness." (

Please pray that I'll bounce back this week and get some really good advice as to how I can get out of this hole I've dug myself into from the Psychologist

Much much love,
Elder Szendre

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Elder Szendre and Elder Swann
From April 28, 2014: "Almost To the Peak"

I begin my letter that way because of the journey that it takes to realize the promised blessings. I think of climbing Mount Everest, and the days/month it takes to reach that height. The days/months of putting in faithful/diligent service amidst opposition.

I have a word to say about opposition. He has overcome it all. There is no pain, no sorrow, no sickness that the Savior did not go through first (Alma 7:11-12, 2 Nephi 9:21-22, Isaiah 54). "His kingdom cannot fail; He rules o'er earth and heav'n. The keys of death and hell To Christ the Lord are giv'n." (from the hymn "Rejoice The Lord is King".)

Not only did Christ suffer the punishment which is affixed for breaking God's commandments (Alma 42:14-16), but the guilt, shame, emptiness and pain that comes from disobeying God's commandments. Only He can reach us in the various conditions we mortals are subject to: sin, temptation, mortality.

From General Conference, "In a moment of weakness we may cry out, “No one knows what it is like. No one understands.” But the Son of God perfectly knows and understands, for He has felt and borne our individual burdens. And because of His infinite and eternal sacrifice (see Alma 34:14), He has perfect empathy and can extend to us His arm of mercy. He can reach out, touch, succor, heal, and strengthen us to be more than we could ever be and help us to do that which we could never do relying only upon our own power. Indeed, His yoke is easy and His burden is light." (Elder David A. Bednar, April 2014, "Bear up their burdens with ease.")

This is the understanding the Savior has over life and death, which he gained as he, "partook and finished [his] preparations unto the children of men." (D&C 19:19), fulfilling His purpose, "to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." (Moses 1:39) - He sits, "enthroned, with gloryhonor, power, majesty, might, dominion, truth, justice, judgment, mercy, and an infinity of fulness, from everlasting to everlasting." (D&C 109:77)

We'll be exposed to increasing degrees of opposition as we progress in our journey to the Salvation of our souls and the souls of family members, friends and those within our stewardships and responsibilities. But all the while we have the priceless and essential influence of the Holy Ghost, which can make the journey even during the hardest times a blessing. So while we may not have the power to change the various circumstances we find ourselves in, at least will find joy in the journey. I will not endeavor to expound that process, but I know that General Conference holds many of the keys to obtaining joy amidst its necessary opposite.

This area is really trying us, we've found fewer people to teach than what I've seen in Eagle (12 investigators in the first 12 weeks), but we've been happy with the success we've had. A Catholic woman this week accepted Elder Swann's invitation to read the Book of Mormon after he bore powerful testimony of the Atonement from Alma 7:11-12. We've been serving her for a while, and actually in the pioneer days her great grandmother was in a family that had some devastating illness which caused their home to be quarantined - - only the Mormon Pioneers would deliver food to the house, which was miles out of peoples' way. All of her relatives have been telling her to "let the Mormons in." hahaha

I wish I knew more stories of my ancestors enduring unfathomable trials. There was actually a study that compared the relationship between (I think it was) youth's ability to endure the problems of life with the treatment of learning about similar instances in family history, a good breakfast, and family time. The overwhelming conclusion was that they were bolstered, upheld, and supported much more through knowing about ancestors who went before. (Sorry, I really really wish I had the reference to that, look in NY).

Thanks for the packages! They've really helped us get through the stuff we've waded through recently, Elder Swann's still adjusting to Eagle, where instead of investigators it seems we mostly have service opportunities now. Maybe it's because everyone's spending time camping/cleaning and working during the weekends now that it's spring and not bumming their days inside.

Crystal, our miracle investigator, has had to move now to Kuna. It's unfortunate, because her landlord (or the person who's renting the house to rent to other people) told her she had to get out by Friday. It was a pretty difficult situation, and we hope her future arrangements will better fit the needs of her and her 2 year old daughter. We know she's ready for whatever's coming, she's earnestly converted to the Lord and His Restored and Everlasting Gospel. I had an incredible spiritual experience where I felt that she would be able to endure to the end. 

This life is worth it, the Savior has promised that He would be with us throughout this mortal experience, whether or not we can discern His sustaining influence, and that promise will always remain. I am so thankful for all of the prayers and for your support. Take care!

Much much love!
Elder Szendre