First, an email I sent to Elder Call. . .
24 August 2009
Good morning, Elder Call.
Yesterday in Sacrament meeting President Stewart concluded the meeting with the announcement that next Sunday we will be sustaining a new bishopric for the Beloit Ward.
Mom and I had met with President Evans a week ago, when he extended the release to me. It is a bittersweet time. I will greatly miss the opportunity to serve the Lord and to be an instrument in His hands in helping ward members and others come unto Him. It has been a glorious opportunity and I know that in all likelihood it will never come to me again. For these reasons it is so difficult and makes me so sad to be released.
On the other hand, it is time to move on and to grow through other means. What those means are, we do not yet know. But we trust the Lord will provide us the opportunity to serve in some capacity that will help me become a better person and that will bless our family.
Yesterday's Sacrament meeting was very spiritual. Following the sacrament, we had a musical number by some sisters in our ward. Erin Grush, Deb Wright, and Cammy Patton (I don't think you know the Patton family) sang "Abide with Me," accompanied by Terisha Foster. They did a superb job and truly brought the Holy Ghost into the service. We then invited Karrie Stewart, Jon Stevens, and Ken Davis to share their testimonies. The Spirit had whispered to me to invite them to share their testimonies, and they each did such a wonderful job. I then had Brother Webb, who was conducting, invite Lindsey Ealy, Valerie Smith, Paul Crave, and Adam Foster to share their testimonies. It was amazing. The Spirit was so strong, and many tears were shed, both by those sharing their testimonies and by those who were edified by their words.
We then stood and sang the Parley P. Pratt hymn "Come, O Thou King of Kings." I love that hymn. It is a pleading for the Second Coming and expresses so beautifully my own desires for the renewal of the earth through cleansing.
I then spoke. I had prepared some remarks around the theme that the Holy Ghost knows all things. But when I stood, I felt to go a different direction and share first my thoughts about another Parley P. Pratt hymn, "The Morning Breaks." Another favorite of mine. Isn't Parley wonderful? When I had left for bishopric meeting early that Sunday morning, I had the wonderful experience of again seeing the sun as it was just over the horizon. This hymn of course came to mind, and I sang it over and over again on my way in to the church. During my talk, I reminded each of us that "the dawning of a brighter day" can come to us EVERY day. . .that each day we begin with a humble prayer on our knees can be the dawning of a brighter day. . .that each day we forgive someone can the dawning of a brighter day in our lives. . .that each day we strive to serve others can be the dawning of a brighter day for our mortal experience.
Then I felt impressed to share a brief version of my experience as a missionary in Hong Kong when I knew my family back home in Philadelphia was in trouble and yet I felt so helpless to come to their aid. I shared how that evening as I cried myself to sleep, I felt arms around me, holding me and comforting me. And I shared that in the morning, I felt the dawning of a brighter day in my life, for I knew the Lord was with my family back home.
After sharing my testimony, I closed and President Stewart spoke for about 10 minutes. He was very kind and generous in his words about my service--more generous than I deserve. He reminisced a bit about some of his and his family's interaction with me and with our family, and then announced that next week a new bishopric will be sustained. He asked ward members to pray for three things: 1) express gratitude for the current bishopric and their service; 2) pray for the new bishop and the new bishopric; and 3) pray that we will be able to accept and to sustain the new bishop. It was a wonderful talk and the Spirit testified to me that President Stewart is called of God.
Following the meeting and the block of meetings, I had a few interviews, including one with our Young Women president, Sister Stewart, and our Relief Society President, Sister Burningham. What wonderfully uplifting meetings each of these interviews were. I felt the Spirit in the room with these and all the other interviews I had that day.
Then, at night, we had our final youth fireside at our house. It was wonderful. We opened with "Now Let Us Rejoice." I then shared with the youth the teachings about the Holy Ghost found in 2 Nephi 33:1. I told them that tonight we were going to put that teaching to the test.
I then invited anyone who felt impressed to share their testimony to do so. Melissa Wright spoke up first and offered a powerful and touching testimony. Jon Stevens was next--what a wonderful testimony he shared. Next, the Timmin's grandson Ben shared a very sweet testimony about how he had come to know of Heavenly Father's reality and love for him.
Megan Wright then sang "Adam-ondi-Ahman" a capella. . .it was beautiful! And it brought back a rush of memories for many of us who had been on the Missouri trip.
I then shared my memories of the past five years and some things I hope the youth will remember. I had compiled the list earlier in the day after praying for guidance. It was very special to me, and I believe it was special to most of the youth as well. I cried. So did a number of the youth and adult leaders. We all laughed, as well, as we remembered some of the funny things that have occurred. I expressed my love for the youth and then reminded them that throughout their lives, their bishop will always be someone who loves them and wants the best for them. . .someone they can trust and to whom they can go for help. I encouraged those facing challenges and difficulties in their lives to go to the new bishop immediately and open up to him.
Finally, I offered the closing prayer. It was amazing, Bob. The Spirit was so strong. It moved upon me to pronounce blessings upon our youth. I don't remember very many of the blessings, because they weren't my desires, but the Lords. But I do remember that the Spirit testified boldly and plainly that the words were of God, for as I was praying, many youth and adults were crying. It was truly a joyous experience, and I hope the memory of it will dwell with me so I may savor it for years to come.
It has been an emotional 10 days, and I'm sure this Sunday, when the new bishop is sustained, I will be emotionally drained. But the work goes on. The Lord calls us and the Lord releases us. And we build upon the foundations of those who have gone before us.
We love you and are so very proud of you. The Laurel class is delighted with the puzzle you sent them, but they have yet to all get together to see what you have written to them. You are an example to us all, and we pray for you daily.