Stake Conference ReportJan 25, 2024 10:10AM ● By Allison Eliason
The Malad Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints held its annual two day Stake Conference on January 19 and 20th. The multiple sessions of the conference were largely influenced by an area training held for the members of the ward council and was later broadcast to all members that focused on the theme of “Building Up Zion.”
The conference began Saturday afternoon as priesthood members gathered to learn more of “Becoming Christlike Ministering Leaders” taught from the address of Elder Hugo. Martinez.
Later in the evening, the adult session of the conference centered on the bold teachings of Elder Christophe G. Giraud-Carrier as he spoke of “Creating Communities of Unity and Belonging, Void of Contention, Discrimination or Division. President Brandon Ward, second counselor of the Stake Presidency and opening speaker of the evening session, discussed the importance of rooting out prejudice, or pre-judgement, as he defined it. Elder Giraud-Carrier pointed out that prejudice includes things such as comparing, thinking less of, neglecting and overlooking others, things that are often done without even an intention or thought.
With those definitions in mind, President Ward shared several experiences in his life where he unintentionally judged another person or received such judgment as well as citing several incidences of prejudice in the scriptures. It is human nature to develop prejudices as everyone has within them the natural man. But as we are sent here to this Earth to “put off the natural man,” President Ward taught that we must work, through the atonement of Christ, to become a saint.
Speaking to racial prejudice specifically, was Sister Mingon Probst, the mother of several adopted children of various races. Throughout their time as an inter-racial family, the Probsts have encountered both experiences of loving, belonging, and inclusion but also experiences of racism and shunning. Serving as missionaries to refugees fleeing Africa, Brother and Sister Probst encountered different, yet enlightening experiences as they grew to love their new friends of different faith, skin color, languages, and cultures. Quoting Elder Giraud-Carrier, Sis Probst said, “Christ’s plea is for us to become one. To become one requires deliberate action.
Sister Elizabeth Godfrey continued the discussion of living in communities of diversity as she shared of her experiences of raising her family in various regions around the world. She taught of the blessings that come as we bravely reach across the chasms of difference to find brothers and sisters that are hoping for the same love and acceptance we are.
High Counselor Brother Larry Thomas taught of the need to remove contention from ourselves, our homes and our communities to become united in Christ. Discussing with those in attendance, where does contention come from and why is it important to recognize when you are tempted to act out in anger? To which he received the reply that contention and anger come as a result of pride and selfishness, especially in a time when we have unmet expectations of our own. Following the Savior’s example, only light can remove darkness.
President David Jensen, President of the Malad Stake, closed the meeting with a few remarks, teaching that it is through service and ministering that we build communities of unity. Paraphrasing, President Jensen posed the question, “Who do our ministering brothers and sisters represent? And if we treated them more like the person they are on the errand for, would we be more willing to accept and invite them in? As ministering brothers and sisters, do we allow our lives to be governed more by convenience and casualness instead of our covenants?
With these questions in mind, President Jensen encouraged the saints of the Malad Stake to make home visits to their ministering families a priority so they can better instill in their hearts the “Fire of Covenant” much like the pioneer ancestors of old, to lift and love those struggling in this community.
The conference continued with the final general session on Sunday, January 22. As those attending began to gather, they were treated to prelude music performed by the children's choir under the direction of Lamona Bennet assisted by Sis Briscoe accompanied by Lorna Hess. The children’s choir also sang a special musical number, a medley comprised of “Jesus Once was a Little Child,” “I’m Trying to be Like Jesus,” and “I Know That my Savior Loves Me.”
President Jason Sperry, Second Counselor in the Malad Stake, was the opening speaker, introducing the sessions theme of Sabbath day observance and reverence, especially in the sacrament services. Quoting Elder David Bednar, President Sperry said, “Reverence invites revelation.” Continuing on, President Sperry taught that reverence is more than a behavior, it is an attitude.
Referencing the story of Moses as he was taught from God in the burning bush and how he was invited to remove his shoes before stepping on Holy ground, we too should recognize that coming to church, especially with the intention of partaking of the sacrament, is a Holy and sacred place that should be treated as such. “Our churches are first and foremost a sacred, dedicated space to worship the Lord and partake of the sacrament. It is His house. Please take special care in how you clean, maintain, and lock up this building. It is a sign of our attitude.”
President Sperry continued that an attitude of reverence requires preparation long before coming to worship on the Sabbath Day. As he concluded he directed the gathered saints, “Go home and ponder in your sacred holy places- your homes- how you can contribute to the reverence in His holy sanctuary.”
Speaking to the part music plays to reverent Sabbath services, Sister Helen Ward bore testimony of what she called some of her “Celestial moments” from music. She recalled a personal story of an injury that she was afraid would leave her unable to play the piano or organ. Sister Ward promised if she could be healed, she would make every effort to add her talents to worship. She remembered as a young girl, learning “The Golden Plates,” and how she developed a testimony through it of the restoration. She remembered the power as she sang “I Know that My Redeemer Lives” as a college student and even recently, the spirit she felt as the congregation joined their voices together in singing Christmas hymns.
Sister Amy Angell taught of how, “The Sabbath was made for man, a gift for us,” and then later posed the question, “Is the sabbath day really a delight for you and me, like Isaiah claims in the Old Testament? Do we see our callings and opportunities of services as a joy and a pleasure like is sung in the hymns?” In preparation for her address, Sister Angell asked her family what helps them to make the Sabbath a delight. Sharing their answers, she admitted that in many regards they were ordinary, but what made them extraordinary was their intention to worship the Lord.
President Ward again addressed the conference, affirming the importance of Sabbath reverence. He shared, “Being too casual comes at too high of a cost for something so sacred.”
Accepting the invitation to bear testimony during the sacrament services is its own sacred time and space. President Ward advised that as we search for the right things to share, that members ensure that their experiences and personal stories teach how they have come unto Christ.
To conclude the conference, President Jensen gave his final remarks commenting that proper Sabbath Day observance doesn’t have a checklist. It is a personal striving to honor God that individuals alone will know when and how they can improve. Oftentimes, it is the actions and attitude throughout the week that lends to the spirit felt on Sunday morning.
With a full heart, he left the members attending with his final thoughts, saying, “Many of you have been to the temple and felt the spirit there. How can we make our Sunday chapel feel more like the chapel within the temple? It is my hope and prayer that we will do the things to honor the Sabbath Day, to prepare to come and partake of the sacrament. Do we cherish the Sabbath as a delight or do we see it as a drudgery? Are we spending all Saturday putting the ox in the mire?”