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.