Monthly Archives: April 2013

My interview with Elder Echo Hawk and our new Stake Presidency

As mentioned before, this past weekend was our Stake Conference. Our previous Stake President, David P Homer, was called to be an Area Seventy (he told us on Sunday that he had been called in November and had to keep it a secret all this time) so we needed a new Stake President. We were originally supposed to have Elder Eduardo Gavarret attend, but apparently he had visa problems, so Elder Larry Echo Hawk was asked Thursday afternoon to fill in. He attended with the already assigned Area Seventy, Elder Jeffery E Olson.
NOTE: I’ll have a posting about Elder Echo Hawk later this week.

My interview was scheduled for 9 am at the Stake Centre. I live about 45 minutes away, and was scheduled to work on Saturday, so I got up early and went to work for 6:45 am and then left just after 8 am to go to the interview. I got there just before 9 and waited/chatted with Elder Homer and the Stake Clerk.

Just as it was with Elder Russell M Nelson and Elder Gary Crittenden 5 years ago, the interview was very short. I was with them for 5 minutes max. They first asked me about men who I thought would be good candidates for the stake presidency and then they asked me some questions. They asked about my wife and my previous callings. I keep typing “they”, but it was actually just Elder Olson doing the talking. Elder Echo Hawk sat there watching and listening.

I then headed back to work and the waiting began. It is a strange process. You want your leaders to know that you are worthy, but we are certainly not looking to get the “job”. I knew the interviews were ending at around noon, so I thought if was getting called to something I’d hear within an hour or two. By the time it was pushing 2 pm I figured that they had chosen other men, and I felt fine with that. Then at about 2:15 I received a call from Elder Homer asking if it were possible for my wife and me to come back to the Stake Centre to meet with Elder Echo Hawk and Elder Olson.

We made arrangements for someone to look after our children and off we went. We got to the Stake Centre at about 3:40. I met with Elder Echo Hawk and my wife met with Elder Olson. I was asked about my worthiness and if there was anything that would lead to members of the stake not sustaining me (I still didn’t know what the position was). My wife was asked the same question, along with questions about how I treat her and our children. After that we were brought back together again and the call was extended. I was called to be the 1st Counselor in the new Stake Presidency. Without hesitation we accepted. I was surprisingly calm about it. I know it will be a lot of work, but I also know how much the Lord blessed me as a bishop, and I know He will do that again.

It was kind of funny during the rest of the afternoon/evening and Sunday morning before the business was done. Several people made a few comments to me wondering what was going to happen. I just had to kind of shrug my shoulders and brush it off. They would find out soon enough.

And so the time for the sustaining arrived, and as I’m sure it usually is, it was unanimous. We were invited to the stand to participate in the rest of the meeting. The outgoing Stake Presidency and their wives were invited to bear their testimonies, and then the incoming Stake Presidency was invited to do the same (unfortunately there wasn’t time for our wives).

After the meeting we were set apart. Elder Echo Hawk set apart the President, I was set apart by Elder Olson, and then Elder Echo Hawk set apart the 2nd Counselor.

Lastly there was a short (about 1 hour) introductory training meeting with our wives to go over the basic responsibilities and how to main balance.

It was a whirlwind of a couple of days! I feel good about things, and think we’ll be able to continue the great work that the previous presidency was able to do.

One thing that really stuck out in my mind over the two days was how many times Elder Echo Hawk and Elder Olson testified that they were there under the direction of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve and that the Spirit had definitely witnessed to them what they were supposed to do. A sceptic might say that they have to say that, but it was very sincere, and the Spirit was with them as they said it. As one of the people who was chose, this was definitely very comforting.

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“_____ is proof that God loves me”

My family has had a water cooler for years. We’ve gotten our water from a variety of places, and are currently getting it from a do-it-yourself brewery in town. I guess in order to make your own beer, you need reverse osmosis water. A 5 gallon jug of water is only $1. Not a bad price!

The other day we noticed a t-shirt hanging on the wall:

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Beer is proof that God loves me and wants me to be happy!!

We giggled at it, but it got me thinking. First of all, I know the shirt is supposed to be a joke, but I sure hope that the person who would wear that can feel that God loves them because of other “proof”. That then led me to wonder what “proof” I have that God loves me (kind of like a “count your blessings” thing). The list could go on and on, but here is the best “proof” that I have:

  • My wife’s love
  • My daughter’s laugh
  • My son’s innocence
  • My other son’s goodness
  • The promptings of the Holy Ghost
  • The flowers growing in our garden (I don’t spend a lot of time outside, but I love nature)
  • How I feel when I do what is right
  • The friends I have

As I mentioned, the list could be huge, but those are probably the most important things in my life right now.

I get that some people don’t know which Church is right. There are a lot of competing ideas out there. However, I don’t understand how someone can just not believe. I see God’s hand all around me. As Alma taught Korihor, “all things denote there is a God”!

Youth 2013 Word Search

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The 2013 youth theme is based on D&C 87:8:

Wherefore, stand ye in holy places, and be not moved, until the day of the Lord come; for behold, it cometh quickly, saith the Lord. Amen.

If you are looking for a word search about the 2013 youth theme, here is one that I created. You can download it in DOCX or PDF formats. In case you are wondering, I made this using a tool at http://www.puzzle-maker.com/ and then made it a little spiffier.

stand in holy places word search

A report on the boundary changes

As I mentioned last week, there was a special meeting planned for this past Sunday where 4 wards would learn about some boundary changes. Our Stake President had decided that since we had General Conference and Stake Conference in the month, he wanted the Sacrament administered to (or is it for?) the members. We had 19 YM (Priests, Teachers and Deacons and a couple of adults) help do this. They passed the Sacrament to close to 400 people. It worked out well and a lot of people were appreciative that they had that opportunity.

Before getting to the changes, let me share one other thing with you… My father emailed a childhood friend who now lives in Utah (he has for decades). My dad said that they were making some changes, and this friend emailed back to say that in the last 10 years he’s been in 10 different stakes even though he hasn’t moved, and that he is now back in the original ward/stake that he was in before all of this started. The bottom line is this was a big deal for many members around here as it is the first time changes have been made in 20 years, but in some parts of the world this happens almost regularly.

So, the meeting ran like a regular sacrament meeting. The boundary changes were taken care of during the business portion near the beginning of the meeting. A counselor in the Stake Presidency announced the boundaries and then the members of the newly realigned ward were asked to sustain the changes. Opportunity was given to oppose, but no one did.

The changes were less drastic than I thought they might be. Our ward only lost a few members and didn’t gain any from any other wards. We’ll miss the members we lost greatly, but they will be well cared for in the new ward.

There were then a couple of youth speakers and all of the Bishops also had a chance to share their testimony. The Stake President was then the concluding speaker. The whole meeting lasted about  1 1/2 hours.

The greatest force for good in the world

As mentioned in my General Conference summaries, our Stake President, David P Homer, was called to be an Area Seventy. Our Stake Conference was already scheduled for the end of this month, so we will be getting a new Stake President. Elder Eduardo Gavarret of the First Quorum of the Seventy will be presiding at the Stake Conference and he will be accompanied by Elder Jeffery E Olson. I figured that since I am no longer in a bishopric that I was “off the radar”, but I received an email earlier this week requesting that I meet with them for a few minutes on the Saturday of Stake Conference. I’m not sure how I can make it work out, as I am scheduled to work that day and the person who I work with is on vacation. Oh well, somehow things will work out.

Anyway, this got me thinking about my short meeting with Elder Nelson when the Stake Presidency was reorganized the last time. I met with him for 5 minutes in the morning of the Saturday of Stake Conference. There was a form I had been given ahead of time that I was to fill out that had questions like the following:

  • Do you believe in God the Eternal Father, in His Son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost and do you have a firm testimony of the restored gospel?
  • Do you sustain the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints as the Prophet, Seer, and Revelator; and do you recognize him as the only person on the earth authorized to exercise all priesthood keys?
  • Do you sustain the other General Authorities and local authorities of the Church?
  • Is there anything in your conduct relating to members of your family that is not in harmony with the teachings of the Church?
  • Do you affiliate with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or do you sympathize with the precepts of any such group or individual?
  • Do you earnestly strive to do your duty in the Church; to attend your sacrament, priesthood and other meetings; and to obey the rules, laws and commandments of the gospel?
  • Do you live the law of chastity?
  • Are you honest in your dealings with your fellowmen?
  • Are you a full-tithe payer?
  • Do you have prayer regularly in your home?
  • Do you keep the Word of Wisdom?
  • Do you hold weekly family home evening?
  • Have you ever been divorced?
    If the answer is yes, has it been cleared by appropriate priesthood authorities where required?
    If you have ever been divorced or separated, are you presently fulfilling your obligations for the support and maintenance of your family?
  • Have you ever been subject to Church discipline?
  • If you have received your temple endowment:
    Do you keep all the covenants that you made in the temple?
    Do you wear the authorized garments both day and night?
  • Has there been any sin or misdeed in your life that should have been resolved with priesthood authorities but has not?

There were some places to record biographical information (age, wife and children, education, occupation, etc).There was also a chance to leave some comments. I wrote the following:

I love this church, its organization, and its teachings. It has brought such joy into my life and family. I cherish the eternal relationship that I have with my family and am grateful for the priesthood keys that have allowed that to happen.

At the end of my brief interview, Elder Nelson said it was a very nice thought and that “the Church is a great force for good in the world.” He then paused, and corrected himself, “No. It is the greatest force for good in the world.” It was interesting to watch him during this brief exchange. He made an initial comment that was perfectly valid, but then almost looked troubled and corrected what he said. That second line was said with surety, and I believed him. I’m sure there are those who would disagree with the statement, but I too believe that the Church is the greatest force for good in the world!

LDS youth excited, ‘anxiously engaged’ in new church curriculum

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First off, let me say that I really don’t mean for this post to be negative. I think the new youth curriculum is a step in the right direction. However, we are still teaching youth, so there are always going to be challenges…

As I’m sure everyone knows by now,  in January of this year the youth (Sunday School classes, Aaronic Priesthood quorum meetings, and YW classes) started using a new curriculum called Come, Follow Me. The old manuals were dated and had stories and analogies that the youth just couldn’t relate to. If you stuck to the material (like some teachers feel you have to do), then the youth weren’t interested. If you chose to go off on your own, that would work, but it was a lot more work. The new material is based on recent talks by General Authorities and a lot of the Mormon Messages for Youth videos. The material is current, and the youth are to be more involved in the lessons.

Recently KSL TV in Salt Lake City had an article and video about how youth are excited about the new curriculum. As I watched the video, I thought to myself, “Yeah, right!” (said with a sarcastic tone). The experience we’ve had around here is not quite like the video is describing. Don’t get me wrong. I love the YM that I work with and my wife loves the YW she works with (she is the YW President), but the youth are far from excited about much Church-related things these days. That to me is the big challenge. Our youth have at most 10 members attending their high school of 1,000 people. They are surrounded by people who swear, look at pornography, drink, are sexually active, and more, and it is hard. I think they ultimately want to do what is right, but they sometimes seem beaten down by the realities of life.

This isn’t to say that I’m giving up. Far from it. But I just wanted to post something in case there are other leaders out there frustrated. Sometimes we hear these glowing stories about how a new program is working miracles, but when we look at our own experiences we haven’t seen the success. I’m confident that as I continue to prepare lessons, treat the YM with respect, and love them, that they will be able to feel the love of God through me. That can only be a good thing!

On the wrong (or right) side of the tracks

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For the first time in my time in the Church I will be experiencing the unique Mormon ritual of changing ward boundaries. I know that other churches have different methods of distributing their members, but no one seems to be as “strict” about it as we are.

I live in an area where there are three cities fairly close together with a fourth about half an hour away. The various boundaries were set 20 years ago and haven’t changed since. As demographics have shifted some wards have grown and some have shrunk, and so the existing boundaries lead to an imbalance of membership.

About halfway through my time as bishop we were looking at some boundary changes but nothing ever came of it. At the time it seemed that the wards were doing ok. The boundary work we were doing was just to clean things up. There were going to be very few members affected by the changes. However these days it seems that a couple of the wards are having a very hard time getting people out. Another ward is definitely smaller than they used to be. I’m pretty sure that the ward I am in is the biggest ward in the area  (not that I have much to do with that fact). I have absolutely no inside information, but I suspect that my current ward will be hardest hit by this.

So this coming Sunday all of the area wards will be meeting together and sustaining whatever changes are announced. They are expecting around 500 people and we’ll be having the Sacrament. The YM from two of the wards will be taking care of that. I’ve never been to such a large Sacrament Meeting, so it will be interesting. I don’t think this is a normal part of these meetings, but with General Conference earlier this month and Stake Conference at the end of the month, the Stake President was concerned that we’d only be taking the Sacrament once this month.

On the one hand, who cares where we go to Church? What does that have to do with my testimony and desires of my heart? We talk about ward families, but we wouldn’t just ship off our brother or sister in our real family to be part of another family (at least not by choice). On the other hand it shouldn’t matter where we attend. The Church is the same. We’ll make new friends and stay in touch with the friends that are changing wards. We should be willing to go where we are needed, and build up the kingdom where we are.

The only tough part for me will be not seeing some of my good friends as often as we did. We can obviously still be friends, but when most of our time together was spent at Church and Church activities, it just won’t be the same. We’ll just have to try harder to stay close.

I assume that where we live I will still be in my current ward, but depending on what the needs are in other wards they could shift a border and we’d end up going somewhere else. I guess we’ll find out soon enough…

Note: I’ve never been to one of these big meetings where changes like this are made, so I’ll report back on it next week.

Mormons: Unlikely hi-tech PR wizards

I live just outside of Niagara Falls, Ontario. I was previously the bishop of a ward that had attendance of just under 150. We have an Apostle come to Stake Conference about once every 8-10 years. It’s not to say that we are forgotten, but we certainly aren’t a focus of attention by the Church or its Public Relations Department.

Maybe that is why I found this article from The Independent in England so cool. Just as the Book of Mormon musical is coming to Toronto, it is also now in London. To try to counter any negative message, apparently the Church mailed 50 video cards to media outlets with people talking about the Book of Mormon (the actual book of scripture) and how it has affected their lives. It looks like it is part of the I’m a Mormon campaign.

Neat!

General Conference Tie Tracker

I like how there are a lot of people who have a lot of fun during General Conference. As I followed blogs and Twitter online, people have a secret word to look for during a session, they have traditions with meals/snacks and more. One of my favourites is the analysis of ties.

I first came across this last conference. The 183rd Annual General Conference Tie Tracker page lists colours and patterns, and has a bit of a play-by-play of each session’s ties. Fun stuff!

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Our first “social media” General Young Women President?

I’m sure many of you have heard by now that there is a new General Young Women President as of this past weekend’s General Conference. My wife is the Young Women President in our ward, so she took particular interest in this. As I was searching for information about here, I found others who had posted that Bonnie Lee Green Oscarson has a Pinterest page. She shows up as Bonnie Oscarson (only the Church would use her long full name) and her username is mormor20.

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If you visit her Pinterest boards, you’ll see that she has a lot of fun. Just today she posted a picture that shows the new Young Women General Presidency and compares them to the look of the fairy godmothers in Sleeping Beauty. Very cute!

There are several Young Women in the ward who love Pinterest, so if Sister Oscarson keeps pinning, I’m sure the girls will be quite interested in what she has to say.

As a side note, apparently Karen J Ashton was a member of the General Young Women Board. She is the wife of Alan C Ashton, the WordPerfect creator. He was the Mission President here in the Toronto area from 2004-2007, so I’ve met/seen her and heard her speak in person. She is excellent. I wonder if she’ll still be on the board when it is called again.

UPDATE: The paragraph above about Karen J Ashton originally said that she is a member. The page I linked to may get updated at some point, but at the time of this writing it is showing the former board members.