My Life in Zion

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Archive for the tag “Richard Holzapfel”

Today I Will Be Taught the Word of God

President David A Bednar of BYU Idaho holding up his scriptures during a 2004 campus devotional.

President David A Bednar of BYU Idaho holding up his scriptures during a 2004 campus devotional.

Have you ever been invited to attend a church meeting by the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles?

Wouldn’t that be neat?! Imagine receiving an invitation from President Boyd K. Packer to attend some super awesome meeting where you’ll learn super awesome things. I know I wouldn’t want to miss a meeting like that.

And yet, so many of us often do.

In the Church’s Handbook 2: Administering the Church we find these words regarding stake conferences,

Each stake holds two stake conferences during the year as scheduled by the President of the Quorum of the Twelve. In most parts of the world, the stake president presides at one stake conference and an assigned Area Seventy or General Authority presides at the other.

In some stake conferences, a satellite broadcast may be incorporated into the Sunday general session. This broadcast will include instruction by General Authorities. When a satellite broadcast is used, that conference takes the place of the stake conference at which an Area Seventy or General Authority would have presided.

When a new stake president must be called before a regularly scheduled stake conference, a special stake conference may be held.

The primary purpose of stake conference is to strengthen faith and testimony. All talks and music should be planned with this purpose in mind.

Did you catch that first sentence? Let me quote it again.

Each stake holds two stake conferences during the year as scheduled by the President of the Quorum of the Twelve.


Well that’s pretty nifty then. And it is definitely something to think about the next time you consider skipping church because it’s not your usual block of Sunday meetings.

This week my stake will be holding its third, or seventh, or fifteenth (I lost count after the first two) stake conference since November. It seems like we’ve had a lot going on with a new unit being created here in the Bessemer Alabama Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Then we had a new stake president called, two members of the former stake presidency being called as mission presidents, and other stake business occurring. Just last month we were honored to have Elder Shayne M. Bowen of the First Quorum of the Seventy come with Elder Fred A. Parker, an Area Seventy, to reorganize our stake and provide us with some tremendous training. As President Richard Holzapfel of the Alabama Birmingham Mission summed up on the mission blog, it was “Another Historic Day“.

This weekend will likewise be historic.

The Birmingham Alabama Stake, the Bessemer Alabama Stake, and the Montgomery Alabama Stake are all holding stake conferences this weekend. Sent from Salt Lake City, under the direction of President Boyd K. Packer, to preside at our meetings will be Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve, Elder Ulisses Soares of the Presidency of the Seventy, and Bishop Gérald Caussé of the Presiding Bishopric.

I’ve written before about how it would be improper for me to share the amazing things these brethren will be sharing over the course of this weekend on this blog. I’ve heard both Elder Dallin H. Oaks and Elder David A. Bednar discuss how it is difficult to teach local stakes and units the things which they need to hear because they are afraid their specific teachings would be shared with the world via Twitter, Facebook, or a personal blog. So I will not be sharing sacred teachings which are meant specifically for my stake this weekend. But I will say this: The Lord is hastening His work.

This July there will be 405 missions of the Church throughout the world. There are 168 temples operating, in construction, or announced throughout the world. Recently we have seen an influx in the number of missionaries serving full-time. The new youth curriculum Come Follow Me has been released to entirely revolutionize the way we teach and learn throughout the Church. And so much, much more.

The Lord is hastening His work.

I’m a fan of Joel Osteen. There is much good that we can learn from other Christians outside of our faith. And I am specifically a fan of how he begins each and every one of his church services. He will pick up his Bible, hold it in the air, and invite his congregation to do the same. Then he invites them to repeat after him, saying:

This is my Bible. I am what is says I am. I have what is says I have. I can do what it says I can do. Today I will be taught the word of God. I boldly confess my mind is alert, my heart is receptive, I will never be the same. Amen.

I love that.

As the new President of Ricks College in Rexburg, Idaho in the fall of 1997 David A. Bednar invited all of the students to begin bringing their scriptures to Tuesday devotionals. In his first address to the student assembly President Bednar said, “[Y]ou should have received the word to bring your scriptures. I would like you to hold them up if you have them. Now, please put them on your lap. You may want to get a small piece of paper and a pencil or a pen to jot down some of the thoughts that will come to your mind and the feelings that may come to your heart.” And then he began to teach clearly from the revealed words of the Lord through His prophets. This began a tradition at Ricks College, which would soon become BYU Idaho under President Bednar’s direction, of beginning each devotional with everyone holding their scriptures high in the air. Later President Bednar would say of this new tradition, “[It is] a new tradition we started at our first devotional…and it is a tradition through which we will continue to encourage all students and faculty to consistently study and use the scriptures. As I am sure most of you recognize, the real significance of this tradition is not merely bringing and holding up your scriptures every Tuesday in devotional. Rather, this simple act is but a reminder and symbol of our collective appreciation for, desire to learn from, and commitment to consistently and conscientiously study the holy scriptures.” (See Ricks College addresses from 9 Sept. 1997 and 6 Jan. 1998)

As President of that college and university the future Elder Bednar taught his students how to prepare to receive the word of God.

This weekend my stake, and two of our neighboring stakes, will hear the word of the Lord through three of His holy mouthpieces. These General Authorities are inspired men who have consecrated themselves fully to building the Lord’s Church and Kingdom. Their words will without a doubt be uplifting, inspiring, and direct. However, their words will have meant nothing if I haven’t prepared myself to receive what the Lord has in store for me.

Today and tomorrow many of us Latter-day Saints here in Dixie will be taught the word of God. But even more awesome than that, we will continue to be taught the word of God as we continue in our daily scripture study, service to others, and serving in the Church.

The Lord needs us to assist in the hastening of His work.

Stake conferences are an awesome time and sacred experience. As the Handbook says, “The primary purpose of stake conference is to strengthen faith and testimony.”

I have no doubt we’ll experience that this weekend.


Popular Christian Pastor Joel Osteen holds up his Bible before a service.

Popular Christian Pastor Joel Osteen holds up his Bible before a service.

A Local News Story About Mormons

The following was published earlier today by The Birmingham News on their website and will also appear in the Sunday print edition.

Featured are my awesome stake president, President Lanny Smartt, and the amazing president of the Alabama Birmingham Mission, President Richard Holzapfel.


19 October 2012 – Birmingham News Article Today

Mitt Romney’s run for president sparks questions for Mormons in Alabama

By Greg Garrison – – on October 19, 2012 at 8:13 AM

A group of Mormon missionaries kneel in prayer at a building used for Hispanic ministry on Lorna Road in Hoover. (Photo by Tamika Moore/

HOOVER — A team of Mormon missionaries who ride their bikes around Alabama cities to knock on doors and share the Book of Mormon have been getting asked a lot of questions lately about presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
“They always ask if we’re voting for him,” said Jessica Coleman, a missionary from Bountiful, Utah, who speaks Spanish and ministers to the Hispanic community.
“They always ask about his position on immigration,” she said. “I don’t know.”
In response to the frequent questions, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has scheduled an open house on Oct. 28 at 6:30 p.m. at the LDS chapel in Indian Springs, 2720 Cahaba Valley Road, on Highway 119.
“The church is completely politically neutral in this race,” said Lanny Smartt, an attorney who serves as president of the Bessemer Stake. All leadership positions in the Latter-day Saints Church are held by volunteers. There are no paid clergy for the Salt Lake City-based denomination.
“We have to be careful never to give the impression we are supporting a candidate,” Smartt said.
“We simply don’t talk about politics,” said Richard Holzapfel, a history professor at Brigham Young University who took a three-year leave to serve as president of the Birmingham Mission, overseeing 140 young missionaries in Alabama.
That officially neutral stance hasn’t stopped others from trying to talk politics with the Mormons, who are more than willing to talk about their faith outside the context of Romney’s bid to defeat President Barack Obama on Nov. 6.
Holzapfel has been frequently invited to speak and recently took some of his missionaries with him for a presentation at Canterbury United Methodist Church.
“I’ve spoken at more churches since March than ever before,” Holzapfel said. “There’s a greater friendliness, an increased understanding.”
For nearly two centuries, Mormons have struggled against persecution in America. “Clearly, there are misperceptions of our faith,” Smartt said.
Voters are contemplating the possibility of the first Mormon president, and that has changed the attitude about their faith, LDS members say.
“Because of this spotlight that’s on our faith, many of the prejudices have gone away,” Smartt said. “That’s a positive development that would have taken decades in my opinion.”
There are about 4,000 to 5,000 Mormons in the greater Birmingham area, including Birmingham, Bessemer, Gardendale and Tuscaloosa, and more than 28,000 in Alabama.
In 2000, the Latter-day Saints opened a temple in Gardendale, just north of Birmingham. It was the first in Alabama and the 98th Mormon temple in the world. It is used for temple weddings and other rituals such as ceremonial anointings and baptism by proxy for ancestors.
Activities inside the temple are open only to Mormons who have achieved ”temple recommends” to become endowed members, based on tithing 10 percent to the church and upholding high morals including abstention from coffee, tea and alcohol.
“A lot of people have the impression we go there to worship,” Smartt said. “It’s closed on Sundays and Mondays.”
Sunday services are held in churches that are open to the public.
In the most recent presidential debate, Republican candidate Romney mentioned his service as a leader of congregations in Massachusetts. He served as both a bishop and a stake president. He described himself as a pastor, which is a term Protestants would be more familiar with that has some of the same duties.
“What he was alluding to was his five years as bishop and 10 years as stake president in Boston,” said Smartt, who has held the same positions. “In that time period he dealt with people’s personal problems. There’s a lot of one-on-one counseling with families. It takes about 40 to 50 hours a week of administration. We donate about 40 hours a week. It’s a good insight into Romney the man and especially his wife. It takes a lot of dedication.”
All bishops and stake presidents are personally approved by the top church leadership in Salt Lake City, which sends envoys worldwide to interview and vet candidates for those local offices.
Most of those church leaders have served as missionaries after they turn 18, often overseas, sharing the faith door-to-door. Romney served a two-year mission in France.
Smartt, who served a two-year mission in Venezuela as a teen, said the experiences of a missionary are eye-opening. “We think we become better citizens,” he said. “We learn about the culture of that country.”
Mormon missionaries attend a mission school for eight to 12 weeks, usually taking a crash course in a foreign language before they set off on an 18-month to two-year mission.
It’s hard for them to be too informed on politics, since they are not allowed to watch TV, even the presidential debates.
“They abstain from media,” Smartt said.
“There’s no dating, movies or video games,” Holzapfel said.
They are encouraged to vote. Most vote by absentee ballot before they leave on their mission trip.
But don’t assume all Mormons vote Republican, Holzapfel said.
“There’s a Democratic club at BYU. One of my former students is a member of Mormons for Obama. Harry Reid is also a Mormon. He’s definitely not for Romney.”
Reid, a U.S. Senator from Nevada, is the Senate Majority Leader, a Democrat, and an Obama supporter.
Members of the church are expected to vote their conscience, but not talk openly about who they support in a church setting, Holzapfel said.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was founded in the 1820s by Joseph Smith, who was considered a prophet. He said an angel brought him golden plates inscribed with the Book of Mormon, a new scripture that described Jesus appearing to Native Americans in North America.
The Latter-day Saints still suffer a stigma from the early church’s history of permitting polygamy in the 1800s, though the church now bans the practice. Romney’s grandparents were polygamous Mormons who moved to Mexico, where Romney’s father George was born. George Romney was governor of Michigan from 1963-69 and failed in a run for president in 1968.
While they were once shunned by many evangelical Protestants who considered them a cult, Mitt Romney has now been endorsed and embraced by high-profile Protestant leaders including Billy Graham.
Many former critics of Mormon theology, which differs from Catholics and Protestants in rejecting the doctrine of the Trinity, have softened their stance.
“There’s no doubt we’ve noticed a significant difference in climate,” Holzapfel said. “The biggest change is people are more friendly.”

Lanny Smartt, left, president of the Bessemer Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Richard Holzapfel, a Brigham Young University history professor serving as president of the Birmingham Mission, say Mitt Romney’s run for president has changed the image of their church. (Photo by Tamika Moore/

Update 21 October 2012:

This is the article as it appeared in the print edition. Very nice.

The Gospel on the Go

Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney checking his Twitter account on his iPad during a recent Sunday School lesson in church.

A little over a week ago one of my Twitter follower and friend Tweeted me asking for some help on an article she was writing. I told her to email me and I would be glad to offer what little insight I might have. She said she was on a deadline on an article about LDS apps, and then asked, “What do you use? What features do you like? How do you think using apps like the scriptures, etc. are changing church meetings? Is this good or bad?”

Knowing I didn’t have a lot of time to put my thoughts coherently together, I told her I would just ramble and type my answers as best as I could. This is what I said:

“Personally I use the Gospel Library app daily, as well as the General Conference app (which isn’t made by the Church). I also LOVE the LDS Tools app on Sundays at Church. They are entirely integrated into my daily life and functions as a Latter Day Saint. I read my scrips every morning, can cross reference lightning fast, and love that the search feature allows me to learn faster/easier/more than ever before. The General Conference app is what I fall asleep to almost every single night b/c it’s a great way to keep the talks and topics fresh, but also ease into a peaceful sleep with my mind on the right things. And the LDS Tools app makes Sunday meetings a breeze. While everyone is is flipping through outdated rosters and trying to figure out where people live, I have everything up-to-date right on my phone or tablet, and can Google Map right where they are at and plan visits quicker that way.

“I remember when the first iPhone came out our stake president began using his iPhone to read scriptures, LDS quotes, and even stake callings and releases from his phone. It honestly upset a lot of people. They didn’t like it. It was too “distant” for them. I remember various conversations in meetings about it and even with friends. As a Verizon manager of course I was on the smartphone bandwagon and follow suit. People were continually poking jabs about “playing Angry Birds” or “Facebooking” during the block services at Church, when I was really just reading along w/lessons or the scriptures. In the past year though I have seen a total conversion, even in my stake and small branch. It’s not uncommon for Letters from the First Presidency to now be read via an iPad, or entire lessons to be taught using smarthphones. And I love it.

“I think it was telling that Tagg Romney, Mitt’s son, Tweeted a picture of his dad on checking his Twitter during a Sunday School lesson in Massachusetts last month. It was a very personal glimpse into the cross section of not just us as Latter-day Saints, but society, and even potential leaders of the free world at large. Society uses technology. Therefore, the Lord is using it to the spreading of the Gospel.

“This past Sunday the Alabama Birmingham Mission president, President Richard N. Holzapfel (on a vacay as Prof. of Ancient Scrip. at BYU) taught in our branch about, and how the Church sees that as a way to spread the Gospel everywhere. The scriptures say that the Gospel would be taught in every land and nation before the Lord’s coming. The Brethren think is part of that fulfillment. We cannot have full-time missionaries in Iraq or Iran, but those people have the internet. Even personally, from my own blog I can see where my visitors come from, and it is amazing to see that daily I receive as many visitors from Chinia, India, or the Middle East as I do from the good ol’ United States.

“As far as some quotes about technology, etc, and the Church, I wrote this blog post a few months ago. Maybe something there can help.”

Two days ago my friend’s article was published on The Universe’s website, and just this morning she had another article posted on the landing page of the Mormon Times website.

What amazes me is the way that the Lord is using technology to spread His work.

A few years ago while sitting patiently in the Birmingham Temple and waiting for a session to start, an older gentleman sat down next to me and we started talking. We talked for a few minutes and he quizzed me about post-mission life, my callings, and my home teaching. I then asked what where he was from and what he did. He formally introduced himself, and to my surprise he held a prominent calling and served with a variety of General Authorities. We had a long and very pleasant conversation quitely sitting in the confines of the temple, and he told me of a meeting he had recently been to in which President Hinckley had pounded his hand on the table and told church employees to create the software they needed for their specific duties. When they responded they didn’t know how to do that, President Hinckley looked them firmly in the eyes and said something such as, “Yes, I understand that, but the Lord does. He will give you the technology.” Of all the neat things this wonderful brother told me that day in the temple, that one story most impressed me.

The Lord and His Church are doing amazing things to spread the Gospel and strengthen the stakes of Zion. Just last week we enjoyed a wonderful stake conference here in my home stake. The Sunday morning session of our conference was brought to my small branch building via webcast from a building elsewhere in our stake. That is truly amazing to me.

If you haven’t enjoyed the blessings of technology and the Gospel, you soon will.

I invite you to create a profile, download the MP3’s from General Conference, and share your faith via social media. The Lord’s work is on the go, and so are we. Now, more than ever before we are blessed with opportunities to enjoy the Lord’s words in more formats than ever thought imaginable. And more is on the way.

It’s up to us to utilize all the Lord has given us.

Your pal,

Stan Way

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