Stake Conference

I was able to attend the Saturday evening session, and soak in all that nourishment, only because Nathan was so kind to stay home and put the kids to bed.  I had them bathed and supper made before I left, but he cleaned them up from supper and got them down.  I am so grateful, and it was a powerful respite that I very much needed.  I tried to take good notes to share with him for our little date once I got home.

President Stratton spoke about the energy, wonder, and power that the youth bring.  I know this is true!  Such gifts come with responsibility, though, and a great work is expected of them.  That is some serious stewardship!  These times are “taylor made” for their skills and talents, he said, and I could think in my mind of many examples of the amazing youth we have and the incredible things they are accomplishing just by being themselves and trying to do good.  He also asked us directly about how we are doing personally in our efforts to influence others, and reminded us that Heavenly Father uses us to influence changes in others.  He asked us, directly again, how pure we are?  He said that our power depends on purity, and that as our power increases so will our testimony.  We must “look up and become converted, and look forward and convert others”.  Our work today is preparatory for what we will need to accomplish in mortality.

President Barker picked right up on the power talk, asking us to remember the way to gain power against the adversary is by using the four tools mentioned in General Conference this spring: prayer, scripture study, FHE, and temple attendance.  He told of how he goes swimming for exercise, and often wants to stop after the 7th or 8th lap, but if he does then he needs another break in 5 or 6 laps.  However, if he just pushes through, he can go on and on for some time much longer than he expected.  I loved this story, and have often felt that way when trying to just live – whether that is my work as a mother, or doing all for Nathan I want to do, or trying to keep up with work when I am really sick, or my efforts at making the changes that are my chance at saving my life.  It is sometimes so hard and exhausting, even though those are all good things, and I don’t always know how to just push through those moments and keep going.  This is a critical difference for us, I think, to be able to just keep going when life is really hard.  He also talked about being “anxiously engaged” with the temple, and how this means being sincere and eager, which he compared to looking for a lost cell phone or waiting on your team to win at the last minute of the game.  He acknowledged the challenges of missing work or losing work hours to go to the temple, the long drive it is to get there, and the question of child care while there, but that we must go because only there do we get the power we need.  He said, “it does little good only to put on part of the armor of God, and leave the rest of yourself vulnerable”.

President Shumway, the area mission President, told an adoption story!  I really cried!  He told his story of receiving an impression to adopt a girl, and even knowing it would be a girl, and how strange this was because their children were all nearly grown.  They called a family fast to find her, since they didn’t know where she was or how to search for her.  His son had a dream about them traveling to China, and so had a family fast to receive confirmation of this starting place.  Within a year, they were headed to China to get their little girl. His wife studied hard to learn Chinese, but he could only learn “I am your father” and “I love you”, which is the simple message Heavenly Father has for all of us.  He spoke of what a challenging time this was, and of some attachment issues, and how heart breaking and exhausting it was.  He said they waited to go to the temple to have her sealed to them because they wanted to wait until she could understand, but things kept getting worse.  He finally received an impression to just go, take her to the temple, and get sealed to her, and that changed everything.  There is such hope in this for us!  I really did cry.  He also spoke about the sister missionary that was killed in a car accident 2 1/2 months ago, and how she had written her testimony down so that now he has thousands of copies he is able to share with all he can.  He said this “accident” was no accident, and that the Lord said “I need you”, and that many miracles have happened through the experiences of her dying, while all the other people in the van that day walked away almost without a scratch.  This, of course, made me think of my mom, and while her death was so horrific, there were many confirmations we received of it being exactly right and even good, though painful to us who missed her.

Sister Shumway jumped in with saying, “I am glad to bear my testimony because I have one!”  It made me smile, and she shared her gratitude for blessings we have becomes of the gospel, quoting D&C 128:19:

Now, what do we hear in the gospel which we have received? A voice of gladness! A voice of mercy from heaven; and a voice of truth out of the earth; glad tidings for the dead; a voice of gladness for the living and the dead; glad tidings of great joy. How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those that bring glad tidings of good things, and that say unto Zion: Behold, thy God reigneth! As the dews of Carmel, so shall the knowledge of God descend upon them!

She spoke about Elder Holland’s teaching about past dispensations, and that so many leaders during the apostasy looked forward to our dispensation because we would be successful in accomplishing what we were given to do as we prepare the world for the second coming of Christ.  We are builders of the kingdom, she said, and so we do what we are asked and fulfill our assignments with happiness and gladness because we know those assignments come from Heavenly Father.

President Hansen, from the temple, spoke about his testimony, that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God.  He said he knows by revelation that Jesus Christ is the son of God.  He challenged us to read the Book of Mormon with real intent, and to pray and ask Heavenly Father if it is real and true, and to feel the Spirit descend on us in confirmation of this truth.  He reminded us that a testimony is “to know”, but conversion is “to know and do”.  He encouraged us that grace is an enabling power, and we receive it as we help others and testify to others – including home teaching, visiting teaching, fasting, and caring for those in need.  By the atonement, we are adopted to become as He is, and to inherit a fullness of truth, power, joy, and even a glorified celestial body (D&C 93).

His wife spoke next, reminding us that even with many changes in our life, we can be absolutely sure that the Book of Mormon is true.  She spoke of this same hastening, and again encouraged the youth for this amazing time in world history, even saying that it compares to the first vision, the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, and the crossing of the Red Sea.  Each dispensation has had a prophet, she taught, and after this life we will pass by them.

A youth just back from his mission spoke next, though I could not see him or hear what his name was.  He encouraged us to read the Book of Mormon and ask Heavenly Father to tell us of its truths.  He also reminded us that miracles come through us, our worthiness (by the atonement of Christ), and our preparation (by the Spirit).  It is worth it to do all there is to do, and he promised that it changes us.  He quoted Ether 12:27:

27 And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

His mom spoke next, sharing her love for the church and how it has changed her life and the lives of her children.  I so needed to remember what she said next: that Joseph Smith did not have an easy life, and even in the normal parts of his life he still struggled.  Life is not always easy, she said, especially when trying to make your kids go and do the things they should, but that it really does make a difference and make life better.

Sister Southward spoke next, with the softest punch-in-the-gut ever.  She spoke of her testimony of the gospel, and how she knows it is true because the Holy Ghost tells her.  She has not heard a voice, she said, but gets the soft and peaceful feelings that only come from the Holy Ghost.  But then, just when you felt all cozy and sweet, she reminded us that to have the Holy Ghost in our lives, we must be worthy.  And I quote:

A large part of that worthiness depends on how we treat those in our own home.
How difficult it is to have yelling and screaming and angriness,
and not be able to have the Spirit’s help.

What can we do within the walls of our own home?
Even when we are scared or worried,
may we be very careful how we speak to our children.

They need instruction and guidance and even correction,
but we can give that as the Savior would,
with great patience and great kindness.

BAM.

She promised that “as we try and follow the example of the Savior, and strive to have the Spirit in our home, and make the needed adjustments, we will feel His help.”

And for that, I am grateful.

Elder Southward, whom we love from the temple and now as an area authority, informed us his assignment (of creating a new stake and changing the stake presidencies) had been accomplished.  He told the story of the Moore tornadoes, which happened two weeks after he was called as an area authority.  He said that the teacher we had all read about, the one who covered the children at the school with her body to save their lives, that she was a member of the Church.  He talked about Elder Rasband coming to help, and wanting to visit her, and how a tornado hit the airport 15 minutes after he landed, and then the hotel where they had been staying, and then crossed over them twice on the highway.  The Savior brings us comfort and relief, even in the hardest and scariest times, he promised.  The hastening began when Adam and Eve left the Garden, and now we must know Him through studying our scriptures and learning all we can, studying His life, and looking at what He has done.  If we know Him, He said, we will be compassionate and seek out those who have gone astray and bring them home.  He talked about jumping off the dock to save his grandson who had fallen in the water, and how he was fully clothed and didn’t even take time to take his cell phone out of his pocket.  In the same way, we should be ready and willing and able to do all we can to bring back those who need rescuing, and to do it quickly.

Sister Packer spoke next, telling a story about one of her daughters who was unable to have children for many years.  I cried again!  Finally, she said, they were able to adopt a little boy and a little girl, and she spoke of being in the temple with them to seal them as their own, as if born in the covenant.  She said, “What a thrill of an experience, to know they are ours and no one can take them away.”  We do long for that day!  She spoke of genealogy work, and the stories of finding ancestors, and how all she knew about those ancestors was that they loved their children. Heavenly Father loves us the same way, and wants all of us sealed to Him so that we can return home to Him.  He loves me, she said, even though He knows my faults and weaknesses, and He feels the same for every other person down the street.  He wants them back home because they are His children.  We need to love our families and those around us in such a way as to bring them home, eternally, forever.  She said her daughter and their family are about to adopt another baby, and soon they will go to the temple to have them sealed together.  “That is one step,” she said, “but we must live worthy, and help them live worthy, and help their kids live worth” so that they can all get home to Heavenly Father together.  She challenged us with a final question, about asking us whether we have talked to our friends and told them there is a prophet alive today, that the gospel is true, and that it is the only way to return home to Heavenly Father.

Elder Packer spoke next, about the creation of a new stake.  He told the story of a plane landing one wheel at a time, and how he pointed out what a bad pilot the guy must be.  Later he heard the story about damage caused to the plane during takeoff, and that it must have been great skill the pilot had to land such a plane so safely.  Because of this, he had to repent of his thoughts and feelings about the pilot, because he had assumed something but was wrong about what was really happening.  Through this, he encouraged us to trust the process with the new leadership.  He reminded us that the work of salvation involves all those things we need to do to get back to Heavenly Father – not just ordinances, he said, but also helping each other fulfill requirements like home and visiting teaching, keeping the commandments, missionary work, temple work, caring for the poor and needy, fast offerings, genealogy work, and building new temples.

He spoke about technology, and how it makes temple work easier.  He said it used to take 17 steps to take a name to the temple, but now only 5 (four of which we can do at home, and the 5th is simply actually taking the name itself to the temple).  He reminded us that in October 2012, the First Presidency commanded us to take our own names to the temple, and stated that since then the number of members doing so has doubled.  We must respond to the First Presidents’ invitation and vision, he said, because now we have the tools and opportunities to do so.

He also showed us some new tricks on FamilySearch!

family tree new viewThe Fan Chart is now available on the site as a display option!  See that red arrow, on the top left, where it is pointing to “traditional”?  Click on that to select “Fan Chart”:

family tree new view fan chartCool, right?

But now, it does something new!  Click on any of those names, and it will reset set that person as the bottom of the fan chart, so you can explore even further back but still using the fan chart view!

It’s one more way to more easily see where you still have missing pieces in your genealogy!

family tree new view fan chart workBut that’s not all!  It now has a “descendancy” view, too, just like where you clicked to see the fan chart, so you can find the names of siblings and cousins that would ordinarily be missed!

family tree new descendancyIt’s crazy cool, with the attaching and detaching right or wrong records getting easier.

I hope you have also signed up for the free ancestry.com and other genealogy sites that we can have free accounts with now if you are an LDS member.  It’s very exciting!

Sunday morning was an entirely different challenge.  Our family, and the mess that we are, had to sit right down front with the interpreters for me and Six, in front of the whole world.  We joked about how long it would take the baby or toddler to start throwing a fit, and whether she could even make it through the first song.  Turns out, she didn’t even make it TO the first song.  That poor baby did not want to be held or put down, and just kept throwing herself back and off of us no matter what we did.  Nathan finally had to walk her out, but she screamed again from the back of the room, so he found a quiet place in the hall to lay her down and just let her cry.

Poor Nathan. People who do not know us or our story walked past him with pity glances for the ignored baby on the ground, probably wondering why he didn’t pick her up or be more gentle, not knowing she had just hit me or kicked him, and most likely having no idea about attachment issues so not understanding why picking her up and holding her wouldn’t just make things better.

One mother, out of everyone, gave us a sympathetic look just because she knows tantrums, even if hers aren’t fosters and don’t have attachment issues.

I did not get as many notes, even though Nathan’s parents joined us and we made sure to sit an adult every other seat, with all the kids divided up, so everyone could have plenty of help and attention.  Still, the kids got up to run over and ask me questions, or looking for new books, or what happened to my crayons?  Is it time for a snack yet?  It’s not my fault that I already ate my apple!  Grandma won’t look at me.  My sister did look at me.  Can I trade you books?  Why is that guy still talking?  Where are the other Deaf people.  Can I use my hands this song or just a book?  I’m hot.  I’m cold.  I’m hungry.  I’m tired.

Oh, yeah, and then at the end, just as we were ready to leave, the toddler slapped me right in the face because I told her we were going to have a picnic in the car.  Forgive me for not having brought the entire picnic inside to the church meeting, and for thinking eating would be a good way to spend the long car ride home.  So I had to walk her to time out, which made her really mad, and so she got up, which meant Nathan played backup to put her back down (getting his Super Nanny pants on), and she slapped him!  So he sat down with her, to help her finish her time out, and she was in full-on-bloody-murder screaming tantrum by then.  I got the other kids up and away so she wouldn’t know they were watching, since we are supposed to isolate that, and then went back to Nathan to trade him out after he had been bitten and kicked and hit for five minutes.

The baby started throwing her tantrum just as we got to the stairs, knocking herself backwards onto the floor out of my arms, and all because someone walked by with a water bottle.  Sigh.  So I let her down on the floor to lay while she screamed, and told her to tell me when she was finished.  When she was done, she got up and came over quietly and held my hand.  These babies!  It’s exhausting sometimes!  I let the baby follow me back to the toddler, just so she could walk around for a minute, and she made it all the way to us!  I was watching her and so proud!  She is doing better!

When I sat down with the toddler, I encouraged her to take deep breaths, and told her she hurt daddy when she hit him and was mean to him, and again clarified with her that we did have lunch and would eat it in the car.  But that we had to get to the car to eat the lunch, because I do not have the lunch with me.  So I invited her to calm down and take some deep breaths and serve her two minutes, so that we could all go as a family to the car to eat our lunch.

“Okay,” she whimpered, taking some very big deep breaths.

She did calm down, and did serve her two minutes, and stood up and gave me a hug and told me she was sorry.  I rocked her for a few minutes, and then let her walk me to the stairs and up and out of the center.

It was intense.

They were so overstimulated by the conference center that I had to get them all the way out to the hall, where the lights were different and scenery changed enough for them to think they were in a new place.  We stopped there for restroom breaks and let everyone have some separate one on one time while Nathan and his parents also made their way out.

Once it was all said and done, it took us a half hour to get from the van into our seats at the conference center, plus a twenty-five minute apple and cheese break halfway.  It took us an hour to get back out of the conference center, plus a twenty minute restroom stop halfway.

Kids are hard work!

But really, for all that was going on, and for enduring a two hour meeting, they were amazing.  There was a lot of wiggles, which is natural and fine, but no running around during the meeting.  No one screamed or barked or yelled during the meeting.  There were not meltdowns except the two who are actually babies.  And the only time Five ran on stage was when he spotted James Johnson afterward, and ran to give his “Papa J” a hug.

Whew.

But still, we learned what we could catch, with many thanks to the great interpreters who made conference far more accessible to me, for which I am grateful.

President Roberts spoke about his gratitude, and also expressed apology for any offense, and this was such good modeling, and such a humble thing, and greatly impressed Five, who is working on learning to apologize when necessary.  I was so grateful for the good example!  He also counseled us to do our assignment because we know the gospel has been restored, and that will put us where He needs us to be.  I know this is true!

Sister Roberts reminded us to follow the living prophet, and expressed her gratitude for temple blessings.  She said that our testimonies will grow as we have family prayer, scripture study, and FHE.  I know this is true, too, even when it is really hard work to teach such little ones with such long days.  It is worth it, and I do not know how we would do what we do without the gospel in our lives.  She also encouraged us to go to the temple consistently, and that felt like the same message as the ones last night, about us receiving our nourishment there, and power enough to have the capacity to do what is asked of us.

The new patriarch (I think?) spoke about us all being a part of the family of Abraham.  He also said that we need and can receive personal revelation related to whatever our calling might be.  He added that “He is more than willing to share with us his feelings and thoughts and guidance”, which felt very powerful to me.  I understand Him as having correction for me, and even instructing me and guiding me, but I had not considered “His will” in context as “His thoughts and feelings”.  That kind of blew me away, not to mention Him being “more than willing” to share them with us!  He also counseled us to seek forgiveness and ask for His Spirit to attend to us anytime we don’t feel worthy.

President Stratton, I think, spoke about 2 Nephi, and what a “marveling and wondering” it is to experience the power demonstrated here, or to think new stakes can be created and ward boundaries changed based on the needs of the people and what the Lord is prepared to do with all of us and those around us.  He encouraged us to face all challenges with faith and love and hope.

A lady, who I missed entirely who she was, talked to us about learning from her son’s example as he cared for a hungry man he had seen eating out of a trash can.

Another man encouraged us to be brave as we become agents of change.

Another spoke of this process of change, but reminded us to know that these new leaders are the ones chosen by Heavenly Father Himself, and that they will lead us and serve us.

It’s amazing, really, when you think about it.

We talked about Ether 12:27 again, about our weakness being made strong.  That verse is one of Nathan’s favorites, and he always points out that it does NOT say “weaknesses” (as in, specific weaknesses) are made strong (our mistakes or problems made easier or better), but that weakness (as in us, being incomplete and a mess) is made strong (as in us being made more whole and complete and like Him).

Then, someone that maybe is the new stake president for our new Bartlesville stake?  Or a different one?  told the story about washing the laundry with a black pen, and no matter how they tried to get the ink out you could still tell something had been there.  This is like us, trying to fix our messes, which I totally understand, but that only the Atonement can get our stains out completely.

A lady (his wife?) said that He will not leave us without comfort, and is there when we need it.

For this, I am grateful.

President Barker spoke about ordinances, and another new guy was grateful for knowledge and opportunity.

(Can you tell this is the part where Three came to sit on me, under me, next to me, and over me?)

President Southward spoke of the new stake and boundary changes and leadership changes, saying that this is the will of the Lord.  He encouraged us to ask Heavenly Father for a witness of the new leaders, and to pray for this.  He said there would be no contention because of the love of God, and reminded us that we are one in children of Christ.  We are not -ites, no Tulsa-ites and Bartlesville-ites and Tulsa-East-ites, but just one people.  I loved when he said families are eternal, but ward boundaries are temporal, so not to get too upset about them because other things are more important.  That was good counsel we needed, as so many changes tangle us even while trying to put us more in Order.  He said the changes are hard and difficult, but he promised that if we will accept the will of the Lord, He will bless us with keeping our old friends and making new ones.  He also reminded us that our kids will respond the way we do, and if we are encouraging and trying, then they will encourage and try also.

Elder Packer closed the session by reminding us the Apostles approved these recommended changes.  He said there was prayer and fasting in the process of interviewees, and we could feel while he talked of this how it was really the Lord’s work.  He told again the airplane story, and talked about how we need a good map and a good navigational system to get us home to Heavenly Father.  The gospel gives us both, but we must be turned in to the right frequency (by the Spirit) to get there.  We must start where we are, and travel home, even when we must get there by wanting to know and trial and error and practice at following the Spirit as we live according to the gospel law.  We must make adjustments as needed to stay on track.

He finished with an excellent training on listening to the Spirit.  He instructed us to listen to the thoughts that come to mind, and make note of them.  Pay attention as we wait for something to happen that confirms our feelings that we had with those thoughts.  Over time, the more we practice, the easier we will be able to recognize the Spirit talking to us and teaching us and prompting us.

The whole conference was really good, even if we started and ended with tantrums in front of everyone.

Because really, that’s what we were all there to learn: who are the leaders, what are the boundaries, and what do we need to improve upon… and are we still loved anyway?

I got that.  I hope my kids got that.  Really.

We tried to end the day with an “increase in love”, as I had prepared a picnic for on the way home.  We got all the kids in the van finally by about fifteen after one (the meeting finished before noon), and I passed out egg salad sandwiches, yogurt, goldfish, almond milk, and gummies for dessert.

That kept everyone busy until we got home, at which point no one complained about naptime.

For because it was an amazing experience, but also exhausting for all of us.

But good stuff, and a good day!

We are so excited for the new Bartlesville stake!  And so glad to be home here!

UPDATED:

New Bartlesville Stake Presidency:

President Bell
Barker (Counselor 1)
Mawby (Counselor 2)
Guy Lewis remains as clerk
Kevin Tucket remains as executive secretary

About Emily

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2009. I serve as a Chaplain, and work as a counselor. I got bilateral cochlear implants in 2010, but will always love sign language. I choose books over television, and organics over processed. Nothing is as close to flying as ballroom dancing - except maybe running, when in the solo mood. I would rather be outside than anywhere else, especially at the river riding my bike or kayaking. PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy, and currently doing a post-doc in Jewish Studies and an MDiv in Pastoral Counseling. The best thing about Emily World is that it's always an adventure, even if (not so) grammatically precise. The only thing better than writing is being married to a writer. Nathan Christensen and I were married in the Oklahoma City temple on 13 October 2012, and have since fostered more than eighty-five children. We have adopted the six who stayed, and are totally and completely and helplessly in love with our family. Nathan writes musical theater, including "Broadcast" (a musical history of the radio) and an adaption of Lois Lowry's "The Giver". He served his mission in South Korea, has taught song-writing in New York City public schools, and worked as a theater critic for a Tucson newspaper. This is not an official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Comments

Stake Conference — 2 Comments

  1. Conference was a blast! I had a hard time ‘coming down’ today. It was SO hard to go back to the real world. I am in a difference stake, my old one having been broken up into three pieces, but we are all a part of the whole. It was like a beautiful artistic and spiritual dance taking place.
    You and your kids….I can’t keep up. :)