I entered the chapel Saturday night about 20 minutes early to take my place up on the stand in the stake center. Anthony had come home from high council meeting a couple weeks ago and announced that he had been asked to ask me if I would mind saying the opening prayer at the adult session of Stake Conference.
But I’m always willing to do something scary if it’s truly inspired. Surely this was. Besides, I didn’t really have a choice because Anthony told me, “Don’t worry. I already told them you would do it.” And then he laughed and strutted away.
As I sat up on the stand waiting I started looking at the clock then at the congregation. Fifteen minutes until the conference started and my heart was beating a bit faster than normal. But I thought, no big deal. This chapel seems even smaller than the one in my own ward. I can do this. No sooner had this thought crossed my mind than they opened the curtain past the overflow to the gym. They had tricked me! They were only waiting for the chapel to fill before opening that part so people would sit closer. That’s when my heart started pounding.
What if I said the wrong thing? What if I pray for Heavenly Father to bless the food… when there isn’t any to bless? What if I ask for us all to ‘have a good night’s rest’? The pressure was mounting and I was watching my shirt move to the beat of my heart. It was hard and fast. Not only that but it was loud! I could hear it pounding in my ears. The clock was ticking closer to 7:00 much faster than it should have. The second counselor in the stake presidency came up to take his spot on the stand. As he was about to sit down in front of me he turned, shook my hand, and said, “Thank you for accepting this opportunity.” To which I leaned forward and said, “I don’t think I did. I think my husband did it for me!” He laughed agreeably and sat.
All too soon the first counselor, stake president, and two presiding general authorities took their places on the stand and the meeting started… TWO MINUTES EARLY! At least according to the clock on the wall. Not fair.
The opening song was sung and then it was my turn. I would have rather given a talk in my home ward than give a simple prayer in front of all these people, most of whom I don’t know from Adam. But it was too late to turn back now. My legs carried me to the pulpit without my even realizing it was happening. I tried hard not to look out. I knew if I looked all the way to the back it would be too much for my nerves and I might end up with nothing to say at all. What’s worse… praying for nothing at all or blessing imaginary food?
I don’t remember the words of the prayer that I gave and I know it was simple and very short but I also know that I didn’t end up blessing any food or asking for us all to be patient with each other and get along as I do in many family prayers. Come to think of it, maybe that wouldn’t have been so bad. We could probably all stand to be a little more patient with our fellow men.
All I knew was that it was over. I was relieved. I walked, or scurried rather, down the stairs to head to where Miss K was sitting (all youth 12 and older were invited to this particular adult session… Anthony was busy doing council stuff) I found myself practically running to the seat and tripping all over the feet of the ladies I had to get past in order to get to where Miss K was. Nerves were still unsettled. I leaned over to K and whispered, “I am SO glad that is over with.”
This was only the second time I have ever been to a stake conference in my life. I never grew up going to them. We always counted it as a Sunday off. I thought that was pretty typical so I continued the tradition into my marriage. I hadn’t learned to fully appreciate the gospel until more recently. Now I desire to go but don’t want to deal with the kids. Now that I have kids old enough to stay home with the littles it is becoming a reality.
That session Saturday night was so neat. We had two presiding general authorities there because today (Sunday) they were calling a new stake presidency. Elder Don R. Clarke was the officiating authority and boy was he funny! The spirit in the meeting was strong and many different people were called upon to bear testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel. People from all walks of life…. lifelong members, converts, and former inactive members. There was a man that was a minister. He was transferred to Utah as a Baptist minister. He was sure he would get here and convert all the Mormons. And he admitted that he actually had turned many away from the church. He was sad about this. He had asked a simple question of his Mormon dentist one day and that got the seed planted in his mind. Then there was a Mormon gal working at 7-11. He had asked her to come to his church. She agreed under one condition. He had to come with her to HER church. There were neighbors that befriended him and made him feel loved and wanted in the community even though most of his neighbors were Mormon. He once ordered a free King James version of the Bible. Guess who showed up at his door to deliver it? Mormon missionaries. He sent them away but kept the Bible. But eventually, he came around. He was baptized three years ago. His testimony was LOUD. I don’t know much about other churches or religions but he sounded like the ministers you see in the movies. Very passionate! It wasn’t the more reverent, peaceful type of testimony that we are used to within the church but WOW! It was powerful. The spirit was strong. His passion didn’t drive it away like it may have had it been someone like myself yelling into the microphone the way he was. Somehow he was able to pull it off.
There was a sweet woman from another ward that had moved from West Jordan just because. She didn’t really know why. She just felt that she needed a change. She was inactive in the church but quickly became active again after moving into our stake. It had brought her family back together again.
A man that had been in and out of jail and prison for the past 10 years was able to feel the spirit while in his prison cell. His third baby had just been born and he had missed the birth. The mother of his baby wrote and told him that she was in a relationship with his best friend. That was his breaking point. The night he received the letter is the very night he hit the floor. He prayed and received inspiration… in his cell… that he should attend the church session that Sunday, and so he did. He has now read the Book of Mormon 3 times and is reading it again. He is 30 years old and says that he now recognizes when the spirit is speaking to him.
A panel of youth was called up as well to talk about what they can do and have done to help in the Lord’s cause and build the kingdom of God. Elder Clarke mentioned that some sister missionaries had gone to the seminary at the high school and done a little presentation of sorts. From that alone they were able to collect over 400 names of friends and family members of these high school students. Two of the seminary students weren’t even members of the church and took seminary just because. They asked for the missionaries to teach them and now they are getting baptized.
Elder Clarke was adamant that we be missionaries within our own stake. He had us in stitches at times. He also had us in tears. There is so much work to be done within the boundaries of our stake and we are leaving it all up to the full time missionaries. But Elder Clarke warned us that it is absolutely essential that we get involved.
I had two very distinct impressions during that meeting. First of all, I need to be more proactive about sharing the gospel. It is my sure foundation. The one solid thing that is never changing. It is the very rock that I lean on when I feel need, doubt, fear, shame, guilt, broken. The gospel takes all of that away and makes me feel happy, sure, calm, forgiven, whole. Jesus Christ is the reason that I am able to work toward living with my Heavenly Father again. I need to make sure that the people I love know my testimony of this gospel.
Secondly, I need more friends. Elder Clarke let us know that we can’t call anyone our friend until they’ve eaten dinner at our table. That’s when they become a friend. And if they are our true friends, they will be ok with us sharing the very thing that makes us who we are. The gospel makes me whole. Without it I am nothing.
What are you doing to bring others to the gospel of Jesus Christ? Is there something holding you back from embracing the gospel yourself? Maybe someone offended you and you are determined to stay away because of it. As Elder Clarke said, “Are you going to sacrifice your salvation because of something someone else said or did?” Elder David A Bednar said:
“When we believe or say we have been offended, we usually mean we feel insulted, mistreated, snubbed, or disrespected. And certainly clumsy, embarrassing, unprincipled, and mean-spirited things do occur in our interactions with other people that would allow us to take offense. However, it ultimately is impossible for another person to offend you or to offend me. Indeed, believing that another person offended us is fundamentally false. To be offended is a choice we make; it is not a condition inflicted or imposed upon us by someone or something else.”
Please remember, we are all human. There was only one perfect being and He is aching to have you back in His presence. And remember that to be offended is a choice. You can choose to be offended or you can choose to rise above that and realize that imperfect people are all that Heavenly Father has to work with. The gospel is true even if the people aren’t.