Sunday, January 29, 2017

Common Sticks

This has been an incredible week here in the Australia Melbourne Mission as we have had a General Authority in our midst. Elder S. Gifford Nielsen, along with Sister Nielsen, have been with us the entire week, speaking and teaching in three zone conferences, and spending time with us senior missionaries for dinner on Thursday evening. What a treat!

Singing 'Called to Serve' with Elder & Sister Nielsen at Zone Conference

Elder Nielsen's visit to our mission reminded me of a story Elder Boyd K. Packer related about Karl G. Maeser, who was an early German convert to the church. Over 150 years ago Brother Maeser was leading a party of young missionaries across the Alps. As they reached the summit, he looked back and saw a row of sticks thrust into the snow to mark the one safe path across the otherwise treacherous glacier. Halting the company of missionaries, he gestured toward the sticks and said, “Brethren, there stands the priesthood of God. They are just common sticks like the rest of us, … but the position they hold makes them what they are to us. If we step aside from the path they mark, we are lost.”

That's how I feel about the General Authorities of this Church and it's how I felt in Elder Nielsen's presence this week. He may be just a "common stick", but the position he holds tells me he is a man whose words I can trust ... and follow. He taught for hour after hour without a single note. Sister Gray and I only attended one of the three Zone Conferences, but from what we heard, each Conference was significantly different from the others. Elder Nielsen truly taught by the spirit, which was evident from the experience we had with him.

On Thursday evening, the senior missionaries gathered at the mission home for a much more intimate gathering and dinner. It's difficult to explain how that feels, to be in the presence of a General Authority, who is so committed to serving the Lord. President Vidmar and Elder Nielsen both talked about the missionary work happening in our mission right now. In particular, we discussed the Book of Mormon campaign that the Church has launched in Melbourne, to coincide with the Book of Mormon play. It is truly amazing! (More on that in our next blog post.)

At the end of the Zone Conference we got to see our first handstand competition between President Vidmar and any missionary who is willing to challenge him. (From what we hear, it's a Zone Conference tradition!) On this day, as a General Authority happily looks on, Elder Wiser, who just happens to be a graduate of Trish's and my alma mater, Weber High School, was victorious with a one and a half minute handstand. (Although Elder Wiser claims President Vidmar let him win, I'm not so sure about that. Elder Wiser was rock solid!) It was a good time for all.

Life in the mission field is incredible. I can't really explain it. But being in the service of the Savior's work is truly one of the most satisfying and rewarding things we have ever done.

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