My little hiatus from going to to church was short-lived. I missed it, truth be told. I still don't know that I will go every week, but I really felt like going the last two weeks. I missed two weeks ago because Jonah and I had some things to do, but I went on Sunday. I used to attend the ward that meets at 11:00 AM, which I quite liked. But at the beginning of the year they switched places with another ward and now meet at 9:00 AM, which is a bit early for this night owl.
I tried attending the other ward at 11:00, but really didn't care for it, so I got up early on Sunday and went to my original ward. I was glad I went.
Sunday School wasn't much to shout about, but I quite enjoyed Sacrament Meeting. The bishop's two counselors were released, but the bishop is staying on. Those three men have been the bishopric since I started attending this ward three and a half years ago.
Since it was testimony meeting, the stake president had the old counselors, the new counselors, and the bishop bear their testimonies. The first counselor talked about how a couple of years ago he was called into the stake president's office and almost cried because he thought he was being released, and even though the job was challenging, he didn't feel it was time for him to be done. He was relieved when he discovered that the stake president had wanted to meet him about another matter. But he said when he was called this time, he felt it was time to be released.
As he spoke, I was reminded of the mantle I felt I possessed when I was a full-time missionary. I can't deny that mantle and the spiritual experiences I had as a missionary. I did things as a missionary that I don't think I would be so apt to do now, and I feel that a lot of that was due to the Lord's power and that mantle I felt. I didn't realize how much it was present until I was released. There truly is a power in the Priesthood which I do not claim to fully understand, but I do believe in it.
The second counselor was quite emotional. It was clear he had enjoyed and learned much from his calling and that he would miss it.
The new first counselor is a man that I like very much. He has served as Gospel Doctrine teacher since I have been attending the ward, and I think he's a good teacher. I will miss his lessons, and it sounded like he will miss teaching them. He jokingly said that his first duty before he is released as first counselor someday is to call himself as Gospel Doctrine teacher again.
He told about how much this ward has meant to him and talked about how many years ago he was called as Young Men's leader, but was specifically told when he was set apart that he was not only to be the leader for the young men in the ward, but all those young men, Mormon or not, who were within the ward boundaries. Through one of his member young men, he met a young boy who was in foster care whose mother had abandoned him. He eventually took this kid in and basically raised him, and that kid, who is now an adult, had eventually joined the church and was sitting in the congregation with his wife and child. I just thought it was a neat story and showed the influence one person can have on another person's life.
The new first counselor also said how grateful he was that his sister had come from Utah to see him set apart in his new calling. He said many years ago he had received a phone call when she was pregnant that she had gone into very early labor and might not live because of complications. As he flew to Salt Lake City, he wondered if he would make it in time to see his sister living. He said when he got there, she was still alive, but in very critical condition. She had delivered a one-and-a-half-pound baby by Cesarean. He gave both his sister and the baby a Priesthood blessing, and she eventually recovered, and here she was in the congregation today. (He did not mention the baby, but towards the end of the meeting his niece got up and declared that she was that miracle one-and-a-half-pound baby and that she felt that God working through her uncle's Priesthood blessing had been responsible for her survival.)
The first counselor said he also owed a debt to his mother, who had raised a bishop, a first counselor, a policeman, and a doctor without even knowing what the effect of her parenting would be. It made me think of how as parents we should raise our kids to be grand things, whatever those grand things may be. I this this brother will do a great job in his new calling.
The new second counselor talked about how the Lord can speak and walk with us; that callings are opportunities and gifts. He said we may sometimes question how or why Heavenly Father does things the way He does, but that He is always with us and loves us.
The bishop got up and spoke about how he had felt impressed to release his old counselors and sustain new ones, but also didn't feel like it was his own time to be released nor did the stake president. He talked about what wonderful men his counselors were. He reiterated that "who the Lord calls, He qualifies." He said that serving others increases your perspective.
Other people spoke. One woman said all of her boys were now officiating in the Sacrament in some capacity (either as deacon, teacher, or priest) and that that was a new experience for her and made her a feel both proud and a little old. Another woman had high praise for the new first counselor, saying that when he was her home teacher, he was terrific and largely responsible for helping her and her husband become temple-worthy. I don't doubt it. Another man who just moved here from Germany said he has really felt welcome in this ward (I actually think that is one of the strongest traits of this particular ward: they are very good at making you feel welcome and included and doing it in a very heartfelt and genuine way. I think that's vital.)
Another man talked about serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom and how when he and another man were told they would be flying out soon, the other man cried because he was serving as a bishop at the time and felt so good about serving his ward members that he didn't want to be released. Another woman talked about how she had lived in Japan for a while and had been called to serve in the Primary in spite of the fact that she knew no Japanese and the kids knew no English. Yet, she said she accepted it and what she learned in that calling had great impact in her life and she has been grateful for it ever since. She said something I really liked, which I feel I can apply to my own situation: "The Lord knows us well, what we need, what we're capable of, and how to help us." Amen, sister!
I really felt a lot of impressions about the callings God gives us in life and the spirit of what testimony is all about. I was really glad I went. I missed it.