Santa Margarita Stake Conference - Sept. 12-13, 2015
A letter I recieved from Hermana Duncan
So many great blessings came to pass the following week as Sister Shumway and I prepared for the Santa Margarita Stake Conference. We were so excited and so blessed to be here at the right time and in the right place, for this wonderful opportunity. And that is kind of how I saw it. I had been here in the Live Oak Canyon Ward for only three weeks the first transfer I was in the area when I found out that Elder D. Todd Christofferson was coming to our stake conference. I wanted so badly to be able to be here still when he came. When we got transfer calls and I found out I was staying, I was so ecstatic. I couldn't believe it! I thought I would be go back to Spanish work, but after much praying and fasting, I was blessed to stay here in the Live Oak Canyon Ward. Really, it was the only reason WHY I wanted to stay. Just so I could get the once in a life time opportunity to say 'I met an Apostle' on my mission. The area was really slow. No one wanted to listen to us. My companionship was hanging by threads and I was ready to get a new companion. I had a desire to change. The previous transfer was hard and we were hopeless and didn't know what to do. I wanted to gain the trust of our ward again, since it was the first time sisters have ever served in the ward before, and it seemed like we were running on thin ice. Once transfers came along and my new companion was in the area, we went out to dinner with our Ward Missionary Leader, along with the elders whom are ward sharing with us. As we were eating, Brother Trantum showed us a video. The video was a segment of a leadership conference in England that Elder David A. Bednar gave. In the video David A. Bednar recounts an experience of when he was the President at Brigham Young University - Idaho, and this is what he shared:
I served as the president of Brigham Young University-Idaho for almost eight years. One Friday night, my wife and I were speaking to a group of approximately 250 students. It was a leadership retreat, and they had had workshops about leadership and so forth. And to conclude it, my wife and I met with this group of 250 students.
The population of the student body at the time was approximately 12,000 students. You need to keep that in mind: 250, 12,000. As we were concluding our time with those young people that night, I just had what I thought was kind of a crazy idea. I said, "Are you willing to participate in an experiment with me?" And they said, "Sure."
This was on Friday night. The following Tuesday, Elder Eyring of the Quorum of the Twelve, and the Church Commissioner of Education, was coming to BYU-Idaho to speak.
I said to these 250 students, "We determine what an Apostle will say. We can pull things out of him if we are prepared. Are you willing to prepare?" And they said, "Yeah." I said, "I can't tell you how to prepare, but you prepare spiritually to come and be taught by a member of the Quorum of the Twelve."
And then I said, "Now, as an outward manifestation of your inward preparation, I want you to wear your absolute Sunday best." We invited the young people to always dress appropriately and dress up for a devotional. But I said, "I don't want you just wearing a white shirt and a tie and Dockers. If you have a suit, you wear a suit. To you sisters, no flip-flops and khaki skirts. If you've got a dress, you wear a dress.
Now, it's not about what you wear; it's about a representation of your inner spiritual preparation. Are you ready for that? Will you all do that?" And they said, "Yeah."
I said, "Now, here's the experiment. Will each of you go invite--invite five other people to do the same thing? And do it in a way that those five will each go get four, so that each of those four will go get three, each of those three will go get two, and each of those two will go get one." Now, you do the math--that's a lot more than 12,000. They all said, "We will do that." I said, "Great."
Tuesday, I walked onto the campus of Brigham Young University-Idaho with 12,000 students. The devotional is at two o'clock in the afternoon on Tuesday. It looked just like this crowd right here.
Every young man was in a sport coat or a suit. Every young woman was in a dress. There were, like, six kids who came to the campus who didn't know, and they looked at this and said, "I've got to go home and change my clothes." They didn't know what was going on.
When Elder Eyring walked into the Hart Auditorium and he saw these kids, he turned to me and he said, "What is this?" And I said, "Elder Eyring, this is for you. This is our invitation to be taught. We're ready." And he began to weep.
How do you go from Friday night with 250 to Tuesday at two o'clock with 12,000 plus? And everybody got it--one by one.
We tend to want to think about, "We're going to give a talk, and it's going to--" No, it's not. Just get one, who will go get one, who will go get one, who will go get one.
I have not come to England to be in this meeting. Now I'm here, and I love this, and we're doing important things, but that's not why I'm here. While I'm in England, the Lord sent me to find a one. And along the way, I get to participate in a bunch of meetings, and maybe some good will be done.
But the keys of the kingdom were sent here to find a one. You don't talk to a congregation; you talk to assembled ones. So just go get one, who will get one, who will get one. And that's how it works, and that's how you establish the kingdom, and that's ultimately how thousands come.
(Elder Bednar in England)
After we watched the video we all were so touched by the Spirit. Brother Trantum invited us to share this with everyone we met, and to extend the same invitation as Elder Bednar did. I was so pumped! I wanted everyone to know about this once in a life time opportunity, and I wanted everyone to be able to come. As a stake, we set a goal to have all our home teaching and visiting teaching assignments done, and the ward asked us to help the members to get everyone contacted. Sister Shumway and I went right to work and tried in every way possible to contact everyone. We showed the video to all the members whom we had dinners with or any other lesson. We all invited them, to invite someone else, and to apply the same principles of Spiritual preparation as all those students did.
As the weeks came closer to Stake Conference, we were so very eager. We were working so hard, and we were trying to be exactly obedient to the rules and to any council that was given to us. We started to gain the trust of many members by doing service and by stopping by and administering to any of their needs by sharing Spiritual messages and comforting words. We were able to stay very busy, but we were not having much success with finding new people to teach, or our investigators were slipping through the cracks. The Saturday morning before Stake Conference, I got down on my knees and humbly and submissively asked the Lord what I was lacking and what I needed to do. In the quite hours of the morning, I was impressed that it was not that I was doing anything wrong, it was the fact that I was only thinking of myself, and not others. The previous week was Fast Sunday, and I had fasted to know what I needed to learn at Stake conference, not what my investigators needed to learn. From that day forward, I determined to change my attitude and not make it about me. It never was about me! Never should have been! I knew I was going to be able to go to Stake Conference and meet a living Apostle! But I didn't know if our investigators would because they didn't know the importance of it. We made a goal to contact every single less-active, investigator, potential - EVERYONE! We wanted them to know. We worked so hard and by the end of the day, I was so tired. I was so exhausted. But it felt so good. I had not worked so hard on my whole mission than I did that day, and I was so proud of myself. In some way, we were able to inform everyone that we knew about it.
We have many potential investigators that we have been working with since I got here. We wanted so badly to have them come, especially a family that we are wanting to teach. The Collins Family, is such a sweet family. The mother, Leslie, is going through her second round of cancer. She has seven children. Her and her husband know a lot of members from our ward and neighboring wards. Because she is going through her second round of cancer, she has to do chemotherapy, and it has a huge toll on her body and strength. As a ward, we fasted and prayed that she would be able to attend the Stake conference. To our amazement, her chemotherapy was cancelled for two weeks, and she was planning on coming!
A few days before Conference, she told us that she started reading the Book of Mormon. She started asking us questions and we taught her more about the power of the Book of Mormon. She asked us a lot of questions, and we answered them and testified of the divinity and power that we can have if we read the Book of Mormon, and the Spirit was very strong. She began to cry and shared her thanks with us for all that we had done for her and her family, and I felt like I was on Cloud Nine! We asked her if she wanted to learn more, and she said yes. We asked her if we could teach her family, and she said yes! We were so happy, and we were looking forward to Stake Conference, because all her questions regarding any doubts or concerns, would be smoothed over.
Sister Shumway and I sincerely wanted all of our investigators and potentials, especially Leslie and her family, to grow from this experience. We had so much faith that Elder D. Todd Christofferson would be able to discern the needs of the people by the Spirit, but we felt because we were still progressively preparing ourselves, we didn't want our unprepardness to hinder that ability. We as a companionship and a few sisters fasted for this very cause and that they would be inspired to come to conference.
During the Adult Session we had the privileged to hear from so many great members in our stake, and the greatest privileged of all to hear from Elder Bragg and Elder Christofferson. Leslie and her husband came! We continually prayed over and over again that the Spirit would be there to touch their hearts and to bare witness to what they shared with us. To our amazement, Elder D. Todd Christofferson shared a powerful testimony of Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, and of Jesus Christ. Which was amazing, to say the least. All the things he shared answered all of Leslie's questions. It was an answer to our prayers, and we were so immensely grateful to the Lord and the Spirit that was present. They even got the opportunity to shake his hand and meet him! It was great! They loved it, and they look forward to learning more.
One of our young investigators, Charlotte, also benefited much from this experience! Charlotte is 16 years old and wants to be baptized so badly, but her parents won't approve of it. She was very blessed to be able to attend the Youth session Sunday morning, as well as the General session. She LOVED it! She learned so much and she just ate it all up. We were so happy for her and for her desire to hear the words of a living Apostle, and she felt the Spirit so strongly. She said she felt something so special when she shook his hand and she was just glowing! It was wonderful! She even took notes!
One of our potentials and other investigators came as well to the General session. They both really enjoyed it and both felt the Spirit. We were able to set an appointment up with our other investigator, Lori, whom had dropped us previously before, and she wants to continue to learn. It was such a blessing! So many great miracles have come to pass!
So many great blessings have been bestowed upon us and for our hard work as we prepared for Stake Conference. I learned so much, and my testimony has been strengthened immensely. I am so grateful to know that because we have a living prophet and apostles, we can know what the Lord wants for us, and how we can be better. One of many things that Elder Christofferson said was, "The Lord will help us endure well what we must." Wow. That is so powerful. I know that the Lord can answer our prayers and He can help us to endure what we must in order to grow. I learned a lot about faith and how I can implement the sanctity of the Atonement more in my own life, and how I can help others know that too. I know that this IS the Lord's restored church, which holds the appropriate keys and priesthoods today. I know that Joseph Smith was an instrument and the Lord's advocate to helping us become what we are today. I know that the Book of Mormon is a testament of the Christ, and I know we can change and grow by the power of it's words. I know that God knows me. I know He knows all His other children, and I know that He will never leave me on my own. This is His work, and I'm so grateful He trusts me enough to fulfill only a small part of it. I love this Gospel. It has changed me for the better, and I only hope and pray, that I can continue to grow and change for the better. This is humbly share with you with gratitude and love in my heart, in the Sacred name, even Jesus Christ, Amen.
Con mucho amor,
Hermana Rachel Lynn Duncan
California Irvine Mission (2014-2016)