This weekend was the Utica Stake Conference. What a treat! Easter Sunday and a great conference, too! The Saturday adult session was really great. President Gilchrist, one of the counselors, talked about mothers and their role in the salvation of their children and the great love they have for them. He is a veterinarian and told us that when he gets a call for help from an Amish farmer, his heart falls because he knows it is really going to be serious because the Amish try everything feasible before they will call a vet. He got a call one night asking for help with a cow trying to birth a calf. When he got there, he could see that the calf was just huge and he would have to do a Cesarean section. So with the farmer helping, he prepared the cow then made a two foot incision in order to remove the calf. After he got the calf breathing, he returned to the mother and began repairing all that he had done. It took him over two hours to stitch her back up and when he left both mother and baby were still laying in the cow shed, both exhausted. He said he had a very sad, gray feeling in his heart because he was sure that neither animal would be alive by morning. The next day he went back to the farm at at time that he knew the farmer would not be in the yard because he didn't want to face him if the patients had not survived. When he walked into the cow shed, he found the cow standing, eating hay and her calf by her side, nursing with gusto. He walked away with a smile on his face and a lump in his throat, praising God for the great love this mother had for her offspring that had helped both of them survive. He said he gained a greater appreciation for the love of all mothers for their offspring, regardless of the species.
President Larcher also spoke on mothers and their role in Heavenly Father's plan. He talked about Patriarch Brokaw, who has been our Stake Patriarch for decades and will continue for many years. He said that when Brother Brokaw was called to this position, he was told that he was never to be called to serve in a bishopric or stake presidency, elders quorum presidency, etc. Then he said that mothers would never serve in these positions and asked us to consider why this is so. Then he told us that mothers, like stake patriarchs, have the responsibility to be the spiritual nurturer--mothers to their children, patriarchs to their stake. The he asked his wife to sing a song he had asked her to prepare. The song was "In the Meantime," and I believe it was written by Michael McLean. She had a lovely, sweet voice and the song was beautiful. It was about a teenage girl and her dreams and potential and goals. I really liked it.
This morning President and Sister Bulloch spoke. This is the last Utica Stake Conference they will attend before their mission ends in July. President talked about the resurrection and told us that he and his wife had visited the Garden tomb in Jerusalem and bore witness that the tomb was indeed empty and that the Holy Spirit had born witness to them that Christ truly had been resurrected. Then he talked about the atonement and the fact that Christ made the atonement for every one of us and that there is no addiction, sin, transgression, mistake, omission that wasn't covered by the atonement if only we will repent. Sister Bulloch talked about their mission and the many experiences they had, the many missionaries they had loved, the many types of missionaries they had served with, the many maladies she had nursed the missionaries through, the many places they had been in the New York Utica Mission. It was full of many sweet memories.
The three members of the Stake Presidency also spoke. President Larcher's sermon was so moving. He spoke about the Atonement and how, even though we can't go back and undo the mistakes we have made, the sins we have committed, the omissions we have permitted, we can repent, learn from our mistakes and rely on the Atonement to heal us. He told us the story of his brother and himself hauling hay when they were boys, how they had loaded the truck very full and very high so they would only have to make one trip instead of two. To keep the hay from falling off the truck, his brother rode on top of the stack, hopefully stabilizing it while he drove the truck. They needed to transport the hay over a distance of about a quarter of a mile over a road that was well used, so President Larcher drove as fast as he dared. The road was full of pot holes, but because it was winter, the holes were filled with ice so it was quite smooth. When they got close to the turn off, he realized that he was going too fast. He also realized that because the snow plows had pushed the snow to the side of the road and across the turnout, there was going to be a bump. He applied the brakes gently so as not to cause the hay to come shooting over the top of the cab. He prayed that the bump wouldn't be too big, but his prayer was in vain and when the truck jolted over the bump, the hay and his brother did, indeed, shoot over the truck and into the turnout. It took another 20 feet to get the truck stopped and he couldn't see his brother. When he did get stopped, he still couldn't see his brother and, afraid that he may have run over him and perhaps stopped with a tire on top of him, he immediately put the truck into reverse in case his brother was under a tire. Fortunately, he hadn't run over him, and his brother realized that he was going to back up and and rolled out of the way. Although he hadn't been run over, he had been badly bruised and beaten and took several weeks to heal. Then President Larcher talked about how heart sick he had been and the number of times he had wished he had been able to live that trip over again, doing things differently, driving slower, not piling the hay so high, saving his brother from the injuries he had sustained. Then he, too, bore his witness that the Atonement is for all of us, that we can be forgiven and we can heal, both from heartache as well as sin. I was really impressed with his sweet spirit.
Many of the missionaries from this end of the Stake were there and we got to greet them and visit with them for a few minutes and we really enjoyed that.