Sunday, September 16, 2012

#76: Inspirational Story from Stake Conference.

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For those of you who may not know, Mormon congregations are called "Wards", based on geographical location. Anywhere from five to 10 wards are combined into larger groups called "Stakes" (like a stake to hold down a tent--not like a steak made up of delicious dead cow).
Stake. Not Steak.
Every six months, the members of a Stake get together for "Stake Conference" to hear sermons from the Stake President and other members of the congregation. Since I have never yet had to speak during Stake Conference (knock on wood), in the past I have been tempted to treat Stake Conference as a "Vacation Weekend" with no typical Sunday responsibilities. But as I have matured gotten older, I have changed my perspective. I now look forward to Stake Conference as a great opportunity to be edified, unified, and purified (I can't think of any other "fieds" off the top of my head). My favorite session of Stake Conference is the Saturday evening adult session. I suppose it's because you feel an extra measure of the Spirit since you are making a bit of a sacrifice to go to Church on a Saturday night.

Last night during the adult session, there was a particularly touching and powerful story. Near the end of the meeting, the Stake President asked an older couple to come up to the stand. And this is what they said (paraphrased): 

We're happy, but not because we are rich. We're happy, but not because we are famous. We're happy, yet we've become acquainted with grief. Three of our children have died, and two more are close to the veil. Having one of your children die before you is a difficult thing. It turns out that my wife and I each have an ancestor who married a first cousin. These marriages led to a rare genetic mutation passed down from generation to generation. In past generations of our families, this gene has only been recessive (rather than dominant), and therefore, we were not aware of it. This gene is very rare, and only one in 750,000 people have it. It turns out that when two people who both have the recessive gene marry and have children, then their children may inherit the dominant gene. In our case, five of our children inherited the dominant gene. The result of this gene is diabetes, seizures, kidney failure, urinary failure, occasional deafness, and early death. It is a disease that destroys the central nervous system.

People sometimes ask us, "Once you knew you both had this gene, why in the world did you keep having children?" Well, we didn't. We discovered the mutation only after all eight of our children were born. Imagine our dismay. We were simply left with a dilemma that required us to pull together, rather than pull apart. This was a time to be united. We have been very blessed, because in most families, this disease splits families apart. In our case, staying united was a family effort. Our three daughters who were not affected with the dominant gene were patient and gracious to their siblings. They have now given us seven grandchildren. We have had to learn many things, and we had to learn them the hard way. 

One of the most difficult things to change our minds about were the secret goals we had for our children. They have still done amazing things, but it didn't seem possible at first. Our children are eight extraordinary individuals. All of our sons served missions, even if those missions were served at home, and all of our children have been endowed in the temple. At the time that we discovered the mutation, I was serving as the youngest Stake President in Utah. Many people expected that I was a rising leader in the Church. Indeed I was, but not in the way they expected. I became a leader as a faithful, sustaining member, not as one who would sit on the stand. Our family became the most important aspect of our lives. Our priorities shifted. It was never easy. I went from becoming an important businessman to a humanitarian worker at the Road Home so I could spend more time with my family. Like the people of Alma, the Lord made us equal to our task. We are happy because of the joy that the gospel brings into our lives. We may have lost our children in this life, but we know that our lives our eternal. We look forward to that with all of our hearts. We find no greater joy than to by doing what the Lord would have us do. Our lives didn't necessarily turn out how we planned, but we have learned to be ready to change lanes and even change directions if the Holy Ghost directs us so. We know the gospel to be true. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

4 comments:

  1. Very nice testimony. Sounds like a great a great stake meeting.

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    1. Thanks Joseph! And thanks for all the good work you do on reddit.

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  2. I found your blog through your comment on one of the Proclamation posts... Can't remember which one offhand...

    Am not sure what to say -- I didn't want to leave without putting a comment as this post has had a deep impression on me, but "thank you" doesn't seem enough somehow. It never ceases to amaze me how people can have such a wonderful outlook in the face of what must be such tough trials. Thank you for sharing this story :-)

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    1. Chantelle,thank you for your comment. It is amazing how some people can go through such difficult trials, and come out even more faithful. This elderly couple was a powerful example to me of what really matters.

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