Before I get started on this weeks report, I should clear up last week--Bill and I have been married nine years, not eight. I'm not sure where my brain was...
We had two conferences this weekend. Elder Paul B. Pieper of the 1st Quorum of the Seventy came to hold a Mission Conference with the New York Utica Mission. Because our mission is so large geographically, he held meetings in Albany on Thursday, Potsdam on Friday, and Syracuse Saturday. We attended the Syracuse conference. We had a great time. We met some missionaries we hadn't yet met and got to visit with some we did know. Elder Pieper spoke for three hours (with a few rest breaks, thank goodness). He taught the missionaries about the importance of teaching doctrine in order to help investigators and new converts face and overcome problems. He quoted David B. Haight, "Nothing touches the soul but what it leaves its impress on our soul. Everything you do either invites the spirit or chases it away. Distraction does not have to be evil to be effective." He taught us to fill our minds with goodness. No good thought is ever lost. We should focus on what is clean and right and good. Instead of trying to drive out darkness we should fill our minds with light. He said that planning is creating faith to go forward and revelation comes when we are moving. He was really great. After having lunch, we headed back to Utica.
At 6:00 I headed to the Stake Center for choir practice and found that the Priesthood Leadership meeting was still in session. It had started at 4:00 p.m.! Choir practice finally started about 6:20 and I realized that most of the people in the foyer were just waiting to get into the chapel for the 7:00 session of Stake Conference! I called Bill and explained that the chapel was already 3/4 full and if he wanted a seat, he should come soon. Practice was dismissed at 6:50 and when we got to the chapel, it was nearly full and the cultural hall was mostly full, too. Bill had managed to get a seat in the chapel and save one for me. We enjoyed hearing from President and Sister Bulloch and Elder Matthew Eyring who is an area Seventy living in Boston. After a rest song, Elder David R. Bednar spoke for an hour. Wow! what a great man. He taught us the gospel, focusing on the Atonement, the Savior, and the blessings of the Gospel in our lives. He challenged us to get new copies of the Book of Mormon and read it through, marking every passage that is a variation of the phrase, "In the strength of the Lord." He said it would change our lives.
Sunday morning we drove to Rome where we met in the Rome Free Academy auditorium for the morning session. The Stake Presidency was reorganized and we heard from the outgoing and incoming leaders. President Malcheck had served for 9 1/2 years. He told us that when he was made Stake President, he told his boss what was going to be expected of him, that he might have to miss work for funerals, meetings, etc. His boss was very understanding and accommodating. (I should remind you at this point that there has been a flurry of news coverage this week about the Reverend Jeffress's comment that Mormonism is a cult). When President Malcheck got to work Tuesday morning, his boss passed him a note that read, "Are you going to attend your cult meeting tomorrow?" And he wrote back, "No that's Thursday." We loved that.
After the rest song we heard from Elder Eyring and Elder Bednar. The stake leaders were quite short winded and Elder Bednar had a full hour to teach us again. He told us some stories that he told us he didn't want to have recorded in blogs that would show up everywhere. But one story I can retell. He reminded us what "Hot Wheels" were and told us that his sons loved to ride them around the cul-de-sac where they lived, going as fast as they could, then turning sharply, which would cause the rear wheels to skid. One day two of them were out riding and the younger of the two was going too fast and skidded into a parked car. Brother (this was before he was an apostle) and Sister Bednar were watching from the living room window, and when they could see that the boy was not seriously hurt, and that the older boy was going to help his brother, they watched to see what would happen. The boys came into the house and made their way to the kitchen. Then there was much screaming and howling as the older boy poured dish detergent on the scrape that covered most of the younger boy's arm. Then louder screaming as the scrape was scrubbed until it was deemed clean, then rinsed off. Then a brand new tube of Neosporin and a full box of bandaids were located and 3/4 of the neosporin was wiped over the scrape, up and down the arm. Then the bandaids were applied, one after another till most of the bandaids were used. Tears were dried and the little one grabbed what was left of the Neosporin and bandaids and headed outside to find his friends. He showed them his "Owie" then proceeded to apply the salve and bandaids to his friends arms. And the moral of the story? The boy, after having been cleansed, after having received the healing balm, wanted to share this great stuff with his friends! And that what all good people do when they have received the healing balm of the Savior--they want to share the good news with their friends! And that's what missionary work is all about!