Saturday, 7 March 2015

Impressions of Stake Conference - Part 1

Prior to the recent Devonport Stake Conference we invited a number of people to put pen to paper (or finger to tablet) and record some of the thoughts and feelings they had about the meetings, which we could share on this blog. Over the coming days we will be sharing some of the responses we received. We hope you are inspired by the words which these fantastic individuals have to share. 

Paige Triffitt - Burnie Branch

The annual Devonport Stake Conference is just one of the opportunities we have to gather together as saints and to hear the words of our leaders. It is a great opportunity "to spiritually recharge and find help to face life's challenges and opportunities” (Stake Presidency). One thing that always amazes me is how we can all sit and listen to the same talks by the same people and yet we all gain something completely different from each talk. So it is my goal to try and share with you what I gained from the talks in both the General session and the Youth and YSA devotional of the 2015 Devonport Stake Conference.

A musical item by the Devonport Ward Primary started the general session of conference singing ‘I Know That My Savior Loves Me’. It was such a beautiful song to be sung by the amazing rising generation, who were excitedly waving to their parents. I have always loved children’s enthusiasm in all that they do! Sitting and listening to the words of the song really brought the Spirit to the meeting.

Next was President Walters who, for me, emphasised the importance of rescuing members who might have gone astray as well as protecting active members, which will strengthen our stake. He talked about how we don’t have to have a complete testimony to bring others to Christ. He used the analogy of one of his daughters teaching him how to dive only to find out that he had taught her by looking at others examples and explaining to her how to complete the dive without ever actually being able to do it himself. President Walters also talked about how no one is perfect, not even the Prophets. How they are not perfect so that we don’t learn to trust the hand of man but rather to be able to see the Lord work miracles through the weak which strengthens our testimonies of our Savior Jesus Christ. He also taught that the Lord’s plan is perfect, which is something that I am really learning. We may not be perfect, but the Lord is. He has thought out every aspect of our mortal life and if we will trust in Him, and allow him to, He can help us to know His plan for us.

Sister Challis, the Stake Relief Society President, talked about the importance of women and their decisions. She said that “the decisions of women today have eternal consequences.” Which is not strictly limited to women but relates to everyone. As President Monson has said, “Decisions Determine Destiny.” It is important to have that eternal perspective to realise our full potential and to realise just how our decisions today are going to affect generations to come. It’s something that I need to work on keeping an eternal perspective and asking myself, “what consequences will come to others from this decision?” Sister Challis also stated that we do not have the luxury to say ‘tomorrow I’ll do it’. Something I am learning in the last years of my schooling is that there is no point in saying you will do it tomorrow because chances are you are just going to get more to do tomorrow. As my mother always says ‘work before play’. Sister Challis also quoted Sister Julie B. Beck who said, “We are not in the entertainment business; we are in the salvation business.” We all have unique roles to play in this life, these roles are there to help bring salvation to man not to help bring entertainment to man.

Sister Tripptree, who is currently preparing to serve a full time mission, gave a wonderful talk that really spoke to me. She talked about how we have a responsibility to share the Gospel with others. How it is not up to us to judge or decide who can come unto Christ or who is ready to hear His gospel. We cannot waste the opportunities we have to share the gospel with others. We must gain confidence to share what we know to be true and to prepare now the serve a mission. No matter what stage of life we are in and even if we do not plan to serve a full time mission, we are always member missionaries and so preparing to be the best missionary we can be is important. She said that as we prepare to serve a mission we will grow and have the desire to teach the gospel. Sister Tripptree really emphasised growing in confidence. It is sometimes difficult to share the gospel because the natural man fears the judgement of the world, but as we grow in confidence and remember to 'fear not man' we can share the gospel with those around us. I know that as we share the gospel we ourselves will come further unto Christ.

There were many testimonies shared and I would like to just share with you a few points that were made. A recent convert of the church said how she knew she needed to be baptised no matter what was going on around her, as the longer she waited the more trials would come. This relates to Sister Challis’s comment on how ‘we do not have the luxury today tomorrow I’’l do it.’ The longer we wait the harder it gets to complete what the Lord wants us to. We are subjected to more and more temptations and eventually it would have been easier if we had of completed it in the first place rather than waiting. Sister Stuart was also a convert to the church. She said that if it had not of been for that one girl who shared the gospel with her, she would not  be a member. As Sister Tripptree said we have a responsibility to teach the Gospel, it is not our right to judge who to share the gospel with but it is our duty to share the gospel no matter what. We cannot see the future, we cannot see the importance of people to the work of the Lord. Chances are you could be teaching the next Stake President, or Stake Relief Society President the Gospel.

We were lucky enough to have Elder Peter F. Meurs of the Seventy preside at Stake Conference this year. He was our last speaker and spoke about how organisations of the world will change, but the organisation of the Gospel will always be the same. He also spoke about how amazing the enthusiasm and unity of the Quorum of the Twelve was. How even though they meet several times a week, each time, they greet each other as though it has been years since their last encounter. How amazing would that be to see, I know that I for one would love to be a fly on the wall simply to watch them interact with each other. It is not something that I have ever truly thought about. Elder Meurs talked about how it can take them months to come to a conclusion on some issues, as they all bring different ideas to the table and they calmly, without contention, come to a unanimous decision. He also spoke about how we must become unified and be committed to that unity. He said that contention is not of God, that the Lord taught this throughout His earthly ministry. Of all the things He could have taught He chose to teach us about unity. This shows just how important it is to not let contention enter into our lives. He also briefly touched on how important families are to the Lord’s plan. If they were not there would not be so much opposition surrounding them.

Besides being one of the hottest days I’ve felt in a long time, the general session of the Devonport stake Conference was truly amazing and the Youth and YSA devotional that proceeded was just as wonderful.

President Walters was the first speaker and there where three things that stuck out to me the most. The first was twelve ways to be self-reliant. They being:
Exercising faith in Jesus Christ
Using time wisely
Being Obedient
Taking personal responsibility for work
Solving problems
Become one (working together)
Communicate (listening to and asking for the Lord’s help)
Show integrity
Seek learning and education
Stay on task and receive ordinances
President Walters pointed out the fact that the first thing we need to do to be self-reliant is to exercise our faith in Jesus Christ, and the last being to stay on task and receive ordinances. Self-reliance is crucial in our lives. We need it in every stage. He then spoke about how the work we do here prepares us for eternity. How we are here to learn and to grow to become the person the Lord wants us to be. That we need to trust in Him, and trust His promises.

We were then privileged to hear from Elder Meurs who spoke of how President Kimball said that possibly the most important word in the dictionary is remember. He then spoke about five things that we need to remember and opened up questions for us to answer. Five things we need to remember are:

We are God’s offspring — we are not merely His creation we are His offspring. Elder Meurs taught that if we were only His creations then we could not become like Him. He related this to a car being built by an engineer, the car was the engineers creation, but the car cannot become an engineer by simply being his creation. Neither can a painting become a painter, or a building become an architect. I really liked that analogy and understood in greater depth why it is so important to know and understand that we are not only God’s creations but His offspring.

We have a body and a spirit — just like our bodies need to eat and drink our spirits need food as well. Some ways we can feed our spirit are by the word of God, the influence of the Holy Ghost, going to seminary, partaking of the sacrament each week and going to the temple.

We don’t know who we really are — we know that we are sons and daughters of a loving Heavenly Father, but we do not know who we were before this life, and we are not meant to. Elder Meurs talked about not asking ‘why me?’ when a responsibility or trial comes our way, because we do not know what we were preordained to do and be. The Lord knows who we really are. He knows what each of us are capable of doing. Elder Meurs retold the life of Enoch and how he told the Lord that he was not good enough, that the people hated him and so he could not teach them the gospel and the Lord told him to just go do it. Enoch did go teach the people and they became so righteous that they were lifted up into Heaven. Just think what would have happened if Enoch did not do what the Lord wanted of Him. Or more to the point what would not have happened. We do not know who we really are, but the Lord does, and that is why it is so important to listen and act upon what He wants of us which He makes known unto us through the promptings of the Holy Ghost.

Our future is not determined by our past mistakes — satan tries to tell us that our future is determined by our past mistakes, that we cannot change. But we always have the ability to repent. It is one of the greatest blessing of the gospel. We are here to become the best person we can be, and we cannot do that without making a few mistakes. So long as we are trying our very best to, “Try a little harder to be a little better” (President Gordon B. Hinckley).

The world is waiting for you — Elder Meurs taught that we are different from the people of the world. We all have an incredible influence on the people around us because of who we are. He said that the world needs us desperately. To be an example to them to teach them the gospel. We need to lead by example. If we want change then we do it first. Elder Meurs counselled us to, “never ever feel embarrassed or concerned about being a latter-day saint. It is your greatest asset.”

When I was little my desire to come to conference was fuelled by my desire to receive the lolly bag that my mother made for each one of her children. Although I still have my lolly bag sitting next to me each year, as I have grown older and have come to realize the true importance of meetings such as stake conference. My desire to come is so that I can learn from the words of our leaders who have been called not by a general authority not even by the prophet, but by the Lord. As our closing hymn implied (219 ‘Because I Have Been Given Much,’ one of my favourites) because we have been given much this weekend we too must give of the gospel.