Watching conference

November 28, 2007 | 34 comments
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Stake conference in the mission field. Still the mission field, for although we are a stake, there is no stake center, only a chapel in some of the main cities, and rented rowhouses elsewhere. The stake covers some 10,000 square miles. Therefore we gather in this huge, sparsely lit movie theatre—theatre number 14 in a massive cinema complex close to the highway. The authorities sit in front, on two rows of hard folding chairs, under the colossal concave screen as unlit backdrop, staring at the shadowy mass of seven hundred or so members sunk in the obscurity of broad plush seats with empty soft drink holders on each side, the smell of popcorn still hanging in the corners.

The pulpit is a small mobile plastic rostrum. From the ceiling the beam of a lonely spot touches the speaker’s hair, nose tip and hands, the rest disappearing in splotchy shadows. Speaker and pulpit shrink into insignificance at the bottom of the mammoth paleness behind them.

We sing the opening hymn, our voices emerging from the cozy depth of the seats, the resonance going astray in the muffled walls. After the thanking and sustaining sequence, the three members of the stake presidency speak, lengthily.

From the balcony my disobedient eyes glance over the audience in search of familiar faces. Faces tell stories prone to screenplays.

Lisette! Thirty years ago she was a Catholic nun and school principal. From age 18 on, it had taken her a decade of studies and preparation, stage after stage, in an immense test of endurance, to the solemn point where she pronounced the Ursuline vows. As an educator she served another twelve years in total abnegation. Then in her school office entered, unannounced, two Mormon missionary sisters. A physical God? A great apostasy? Pre-existence? Eternal marriage? Disturbingly fascinating. Lisette enters months of soul-searching doubts and discoveries. How does one undo a past tied to the very core of one’s existence? She meets John Staley, Catholic monk for 25 years, Mormon convert, who sketches his former life, respectfully, gratefully, and which parallels hers. Then, he explains, came his illuminating recognition of the Restoration. Lisette soaks up his words. I was a privileged witness to that meeting. Her fears turn into hope. Next, in slow and sanctioned steps, comes the excruciating process of renouncing her convent’s life and returning to a civilian status without a job. Still in turmoil, uncertain. Attending Mormon church services in a small branch at the outskirts of the mission field. Meeting Daniel, a man her age, convert of a few years, still single, soft-spoken, who helps her. A growing, deepening friendship. Finally, in prayer, the irrevocable testimony. Daniel baptizes her. Their friendship grows into love. Marriage, eternal marriage. Could motherhood still be hers? Lisette is 42. A year later a baby girl is born. Twenty-two years later I see that girl working as a bright, multi-lingual sister missionary on Temple Square, welcoming visitors from around the world… Lisette and Daniel, both in their sixties now. Still active, dedicated, in spite of decades in that same little struggling branch, surviving dramas that rocked it. They have not been overcome by the slowly creeping jungle that could finally make the sturdiest temple crumble in the forests of Angkor.

Hernan! Our Chilean brother, around seventy now, adjusts his hearing aid, reminder of one of his impairments inflicted in the torture chambers of Pinochet. Torn tympanic membranes. He arrived here in the mid-seventies as political refugee with his wife and four small children. A Mormon supporter of Allende, detained and tortured, he had accepted exile thousands of miles across the ocean, to a city and region unknown—Antwerp, Flanders. Our small branch took them in, provided housing, language lessons, cultural integration, employment. I relive the scenes of their resettlement in a small apartment which our MIA youth painted and decorated. Years went by, preparing his children to go on missions. An agonizing divorce. The growing, painful understanding that also former missionaries to Chile served the CIA in the mess that led to Allende’s death and the horrors of the Junta. Learn to bow your head and accept the paradoxes of an international Church in conflicting maturation. In the nineties Hernan could have returned to Chile, but by then he had new roots, remarried to a local sister. Two model saints in their humility. In his broken Dutch he has served for years in unassuming callings, and as assiduous translator for scores of Spanish-speaking visitors and investigators.

Denise! I remember her return from Utah on that murky morning at the Brussels airport, more than two decades ago. She was still in her early twenties then, emerging from customs with a single bag, a two-year old and a baby. The marriage with that returned missionary had not worked out. We had been worried when he had her come to the U.S.—his mission in Flanders had been one of ups and downs, collecting ecstasies and depressions with the swing of his emotive pendulum, a fault-finder on his personal quest for perfection—but he was stubborn as to the inspiration he claimed to have received, and she was in love, or at least she thought she was in her desire to marry in the temple, persuaded by the injunctions to strive for that sealing, and besides who else would she find in the mission field—certainly back then? Three years later I drove her from the airport to the home of one of our widows willing to give her temporary shelter, thus avoiding the immediate clash with her own non-member parents’ incomprehension and blame. She apologized for the trouble she was causing. Reluctant to let me in on details, she could not hide that he had managed their marriage like his mission. She had signed what he wanted, lost in the English legal jargon, guilelessly reassured that he did not want the children, but deliberately, defiantly she eschewed alimony, from a deep maternal instinct, thus weakening any claims he could make later. Her life since then has come from day to day. She never heard from him, nor from his parents. She survived thanks to her testimony and the Belgian social system — family allocations, medical benefits, paid job training. A nurse now, specialized in palliative care, she can deal with challenges greater than hers ever were. In her church unit, always short of hands to fill callings, she teaches weekly Sunday school and serves as Relief Society president, juggling her way, with a wise smile and timely biting wit, through lessons about the ideals of family life. Her own parents, long torn between their despite for Mormonism and their yearning to see the grandchildren, still let the former prevail.

Julie! I know she worries about her mother. The news is horrific again. Additional fighting in North Kivu between government forces and renegade troops. Tens of thousands of previously uprooted Congolese, sheltered in UNHCR makeshift camps near Goma, are fleeing over muddy roads in torrential rain, also in Kalehe’s region, hers and her mother’s birthplace. Julie hasn’t had news from her old mother for long now. Women in Congo’s most-violent region are raped and killed by militias, fugitive Hutus and roving Mai Mai fighters. Doctors report that women’s reproductive organs are being assaulted with knives, bayonets, or chunks of wood. The dead are hideously mutilated. Close your eyes to those images, Julie, focus on your sons now on missions in other lands… Julie was born in the mid-fifties as the illegitimate child of a French plantation owner and one of his young black maids. In the bloody upheavals after Congo’s independence in 1960, fleeing the country himself, the man—in some desperate flash of blurred responsibility—had the girl torn from her mother, brought to Rwanda, and handed over to a Catholic congregation, before disappearing himself. After two years in an orphanage, Julie was sent to Belgium and adopted in a Flemish family. Once a young adult, scarred by her past, she stepped into a marriage which turned out to be abusive. Divorced, with two daughters ages 9 and 4 to care for, struggling to make ends meet—we’re in 1981 now—she hears a knock on the door. Mormon missionaries. Three weeks later she is baptized. In her small branch she learns to serve with joy, grows in her callings and meets this faithful brother. In her new marriage, sealed in the temple, she gives birth to four more children, all boys. Twice the search for her own mother brings her back to the depths of Africa—that account would make a documentary of rare poignancy on its own. She is able to find her mama, provides funds for her care, but then again contact is lost in the new horrors that engulf Eastern Congo. Julie continues to serve the Church in her ward here, profusely, and strengthens two of her sons on missions.

The X… A family from a central-European, former communist country with Islamic grounds. For their safety, no identification here. Parents with children, all under ten. Their last Sunday among us. Our clumsy efforts to help legalize their status failed. The expulsion order, received last Thursday, gives them eight days. I only know scant details of their plight, of their failed journey to our promised land. They are among tens of thousands of illegals seeking refuge in West-Europe. They were baptized shortly after their arrival. Who dares to judge their motives? They have been faithful in their attendance, paying tithing on the pittance they earned for doing cleaning jobs, living in a one-room apartment, innocently counting on the miracle of legalization. They still could go into hiding, like many try, sometimes with the help of Church members, against leaders’ warnings. But they decided to obey, resigned to fatality and still clinging to faith. A few more days, then deportation back to their home country. God knows what will become of them.

Jacques! His life seems void of any noteworthy event. Baptized in the mid-seventies, he typifies the Church leader able to be a stake or mission president, and more, and indeed did serve occasionally on higher levels, only to be quickly recalled, again and again, each time for years, to keep his faraway branch together as mavericks and zealots rock the boat. Amazing man, forever glowing with enthusiasm, undaunted missionary, even if after three decades his hundreds of fellowshipping visits with generations of elders have hardly yielded a result. But upon such rocks the Kingdom is built.

Nathalie, the sweet rebellious teenager, now a mother of two herself, one mentally handicapped.

Cyril, wearing his eternal tie.

Mamadou, dying of AIDS.

Others, many. Material for dozens of poignant movies.

From these quiet faces, patiently listening to the conference speakers—or to the whispering translators since some fifty nationalities are gathered here, many from Africa—emerges an innate wisdom, an infinite willingness to accept and to sustain. What a multicultural texture of devotion and modern drama they make. They blend in this texture. None of them feels special or would want to be special. Their cultural backgrounds have not conditioned them to think so.

Conference draws to an end. The visiting Seventy speaks, without a text, from the candor of his calling, translated by a local brother. The lonely beam from the ceiling touches his hair, nose tip and hands, the rest disappearing in splotchy shadows. He tells of his dear wife, sitting on the stand in the twilight. He would not be what he was without her. She gave him a full quiver of children, who all married in the temple, next came the exponential grandchildren. He speaks of blessings and pioneer ancestors, extols the stake presidency, tells the story of a sports hero who, against all odds, won gold. He promises growth, unseen growth, if the members would do better, lengthen their stride, be more dedicated, stand out, be examples to the outside world. All they need to develop is faith.

Seen from the audience he seems at an ample distance, against the backdrop of the giant, empty screen.

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34 Responses to Watching conference

  1. Wilfried on November 28, 2007 at 9:16 am

    Readers from Flanders, or missionaries who have served among us, please refrain from further identifying the persons I evoke. I limited to first names as symbols of faith in the international Church, like there are thousands of them across the world. We are all pieces of them, or strive to be, in our young communities of nascent saints.

  2. CraigH on November 28, 2007 at 11:09 am

    I don’t know any of these particular names, but I know a dozen others like them, and can practically feel the rather gray setting of the conference, as I was indeed a missionary here. It is a tremendously moving depiction. But I’m not sure what moves me more: Wilfried’s perfect description of the characters and the physical, cultural, and religious environment in which they live, or the ineptitude of the visiting authority to grasp this environment. Part of it is understandable: it takes awhile to learn local ways and challenges. But may part of it be an unwillingness to take the time to learn, or to imagine another model? I was guilty of it myself, and knew missionaries who never left their home ward, despite two years in this environment. But the longer I live, the more I feel that the ultimate act of religion, or atonement, is to develop and use an empathetic imagination that allows you to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, as a full equal with them. Wilfried has done that wonderfully here.

  3. Frank McIntyre on November 28, 2007 at 11:46 am

    So much sympathy and mercy in the vignettes stands in unpleasantly stark contrast to its lack in the closing lines. Perhaps, WIlfried, you could add a couple lines to show the same kindness to the GA that you give to all the others. Maybe, despite his failings, he too managed to touch someone :).

  4. Wilfried on November 28, 2007 at 12:00 pm

    Apologies if the closing of this text gives a too stark impression of contrast. But it’s the interpretation of the reader which weakens or reinforces this contrast. Please don’t put in those lines more than I intended. I meant to stress that our members have much faith already.

  5. Ardis Parshall on November 28, 2007 at 12:18 pm

    Your summary of the clueless visiting authority reminds me of the 19th century visits of Salt Lake’s women leaders, dressed in their sober black silks with their modest hats and the fine leather shoes without excessive buttons, visiting the Relief Societies of southern Utah and northern Arizona, and earnestly preaching to the homespun-clad, barefoot sisters the need for retrenchment. Supposedly one tired sister raised her hand to ask, “What would you have us retrench? the bread? or the water?”

    Wilfried, you usually treat us to a single gem of a story — what did we do to earn this cornucopia of riches? Thank you!

  6. Ray on November 28, 2007 at 12:43 pm

    Beautiful, Wilfried. Absolutely beautiful. It brought tears to my eyes and warmth to my soul.

    May I make a personal plea to my fellow commenters? We will never know the impact of the final speaker – if, indeed, it was inspired or a laudable message given in ignorance – or both. The stories of courage and dedication are awe-inspiring; let’s not cheapen them by focusing on the final talk.

    My family was called to serve in the smallest branch in our stake two weeks ago. Last Sunday was our first time there. Our children doubled the regular YM, YW and Primary attendance. I am SO happy for this opportunity – especially for my children to get just a tiny taste of the strength it takes to be a pioneer. They get it at school to a degree, but this is different.

  7. Kevinf on November 28, 2007 at 12:59 pm

    In all fairness, the visiting GA has probably been in 25 other stake conferences throughout the world in the last year, and as hard as they try, they sometimes probably feel like a businessman/woman waking up in another nameless Holiday Inn, ready to go pitch his company before people he/she has never before met. I think especially when we see these brethren in the states, they probably have not had a 12 hour plane ride, had to deal with customs and transportation, not understanding the language, and are earnestly hoping to make a connection with the local saints. One of the many challenges as our church truly becomes a world wide religion.

    Wilfried, thanks for your touching story of the lives of these true saints. We see their counterparts here in the states as well, such as the Romanian couple in our ward a few years ago that were facing deportation after a dishonest emigration lawyer took their money, and misrepresented their case. We had one brother die of AIDS a few years back as well, and currently are helping Chinese, African, and Cambodian saints all make the transition to living in the US, and living in the American church. I thought of these people as I read your post, and realized that there are more stories out there than we will ever have time to tell.

  8. Kevin Barney on November 28, 2007 at 1:00 pm

    Simply wonderful, as always, Wilfried. Your illumination of the humanity of this Church in its far reaches is quite touching, and makes me glad to be a Mormon.

  9. Jon W on November 28, 2007 at 2:33 pm

    Having worked in a Small Branch in Cardiff (about 40 + members on a good sunday) I can relate to some of Wilfred’s description. Certainly we had a lot of ups and downs, working within the weakness of all members.

    I was the Office, finanicial, membership clerk and Executive Secretary all rolled into one. It was a humbling experience. The Presidency was made up of one married man and two single ones. We had no High Priest group, about two young men and another four active young women. My wife was Primary President and worked harder at her calling then I ever did at mine. Our kids made up 1/3rd of the primary. It was an experience in how humility of our European Saints and how difficult they have life. The Church is non-existant in the minds of most. People in Britian had no clue generally who Mormons were let alone any other name. Our missionaries had two meals a week, one we fed them and one from another rotating member (including us generally). Our membership list was 1000 strong but about 1/2 were people who may never have lived in Cardiff. My Home Teaching list, with my companion being the Branch President was 60. We did not even try to visit them all. We took about six to visit a month.

    Yet in all that trial and what you might see as negatives I never felt as close to any ward in North America, except for the my previous one. These people cared if you showed on Sunday or not. They did not want to be merged back into a ward they wanted to succeed. Our Branch Presidency worried and fretted about our saints. They and every other member noted when someone wasn’t there. They called, they visited they encouraged. They represented the Gospel as I understood better than I did.

    It was a truly a sad day when we decided to leave Wales in 2003. That Branch, filled with people who maybe understood 10% of the unwritten rules of the church understood whole heartedly what charity means.

    Oh and to finish on a lighter note. My Bishop/ Branch President was the first to ever offer me a coke. Gotta love that.

  10. Ardis Parshall on November 28, 2007 at 2:36 pm

    For Wilfried’s story to work entirely, at least for me, he absolutely had to include his description of the final speaker, and he had to describe it exactly as he did. Although I had oo’d and aw’d my way through the histories of the stake members, it was the irony of urging them to lengthen their stride when they had already come so far, the pioneer heritage contrasted to the presence of living pioneers, the paltry worth of the sports medal compared to the price each of them had paid for the gospel, even the platitudes about the speaker’s wife contrasted to the demonstrated against-all-odds commitments or losses of the couples in the vignettes — all those contrasts made me recognize with a shock what I hadn’t really grasped in my haste to get to the next great vignette. (Sorry for spelling out the contrasts so baldly — that’s kind of like explaining a punchline, although of course this isn’t humor — but I think some commenters haven’t recognized the structure in all this. At least I’m not commenting on the irony of there being more movies in the congregation than there are screens in that complex to display them. Oops.)

    Wilfried isn’t putting down the final speaker, and neither are any of us who comment about him. I think we all realize that we are seeing only the tip of the speaker’s nose and not the fullness of his heart or his testimony. The speaker was as ignorant as I was, but neither of us are malicious.

  11. Jacob M on November 28, 2007 at 2:42 pm

    10 – Ardis, you just put what I was thinking into more communicable and beautiful analysis.

  12. Adam Greenwood on November 28, 2007 at 2:58 pm

    Disagree, Ardis P., but I don’t want to hijack the discussion or make Wilfried D. an offender for his phrasing. I’ll hold my peace.

  13. Wilfried on November 28, 2007 at 3:03 pm

    Thanks all for upbuilding comments. Thank you, Ardis, for that kind analysis to put things in perspective. Perhaps I should confess that I take a long time to write a post like this, pondering how to render what I observed. Weighing every word, adding, deleting. Trying to foresee reactions. Yes, I weave some symbolism into the text, perhaps clumsily. Yes, in this case I needed the contrast with the final speaker. Not to disparage him, for indeed, we see only part of him, but to give a stronger perspective to the contributions of the members. But, in fairness to some comments, in between those final lines are also concerns. Some sadness when members, at least apparently, do not receive the understanding they seem to deserve.

  14. Adam Greenwood on November 28, 2007 at 3:08 pm

    I really like the Lisette story, and the audacity of the missionaries who decided to go proselyting in a school office. One wonders what they thought they were about. Wonderful.

  15. Ben H on November 28, 2007 at 3:43 pm

    If the GA is calling his people to improve, I think it is fair to suggest that he has room for improvement, too. If Nathalie shows her faith in how she copes with her imperfect life, so may a GA show his faith through an imperfect message. I don’t see that Wilfried’s portrait of the GA is less sympathetic than his portrait of some others.

  16. CraigH on November 28, 2007 at 4:33 pm

    I think Wilfried understands perfectly well that we won’t always understand each other all the time, especially not in an international setting. Even domestically, how many of us truly understand a situation we’ve just come into? And so in that respect it’s a good idea to cut any speaker some slack. I think the chief concern for me is any lack of effort to understand, for even if that effort falls short it goes a long way toward building conciliation and connection within the wider church, not to mention toward building deeper understanding. I think such effort is greatly appreciated, and I mean something beyond such superficial effort as a politician’s advance team throwing some local color into a talk. I also don’t think that this is just about an off-the-mark talk, but about wider cultural assumptions, of which we also might be guilty, that make such a talk happen in the first place.

  17. Patricia Karamesines on November 28, 2007 at 4:45 pm

    As I read this narrative, I’m not interested in the GA’s awareness or lack of it nearly as much as I am in my own ability or inability to hear what ought to be the pounding hearts of certain matters and events. I don’t see the GA up there telling people to improve; I see myself, before I had my brain-injured daughter, failing to comprehend others’ sorrows, their poor health, their histories; and then again I see myself expecting what I had come to expect before I began teaching in a tougher environment than I ever had, where I’m struggling to learn how to deal with oppression, depression, suicide, various disabilities and addictions. I see myself, not passing by the man in the ditch in that important parable, but stopping to cast at him, “Get up! You’re not doing yourself any good lying there.”

    I’m seeing myself learning what language matters.

  18. Chad S. on November 28, 2007 at 5:08 pm

    Thank you, Wilfried.

  19. Kevinf on November 28, 2007 at 5:24 pm

    My HC assignment has taken me from a vibrant, thriving ward of immensely talented, beautiful, and successful young families, perhaps the most affluent ward in our stake, to one which is struggling to fill the chapel and the positions required to run a ward, where retired HP and widows outnumber active PH holders perhaps 2 to 1, and people are a little more beaten down by life. I think I understand what my role is there a little better after reading Wilfried’s post.

  20. RickFFM on November 28, 2007 at 6:12 pm

    Wilfried, my wife grew up attending the branch in Genk and I always feel like your stories give me an added perspective into the lives of some of the people she may have attended church with, or at least known and it is always very humbling. Thank you for that.

  21. DavidH on November 28, 2007 at 10:41 pm

    Re: SLC authorities visiting northern AZ Mormon settlements–

    The story is told in St. Johns, AZ that J. Golden Kimball once preached something as follows there:

    “The Brethren asked to come to this G-d forsaken place to preach to you about faith. All I can say is that anyone who can live and stay in this place has a h-ll of a lot more faith than I ever could.”

  22. Sherri on November 28, 2007 at 11:58 pm

    This is an amazing post. It reminds me of our mission to an inner city Salt Lake ward. There were many nationalities, immigration problems, heart-warming conversion stories, plenty of divorce, illness, death and drug problems. Not your usual white bread ward and smack in the heart of the valley.

  23. herb gleason on November 29, 2007 at 12:25 am

    Let us all exercise a bit more charity and then perhaps the Lord will be a might more easy with us on judgement day…

  24. Tiffany on November 29, 2007 at 6:01 am

    That was just a beautiful post. The descriptions of those faithful saints really moved me to tears. I wish we could read more posts like this. Suddenly, it makes all the petty arguments about doctrine seem insignficant.

  25. john f. on November 29, 2007 at 8:22 am

    Thanks for the wonderful post Wilfried. This provides much to ponder and calls us all to be more understanding and interest in what individual members are struggling with.

  26. Adam Greenwood on November 29, 2007 at 2:03 pm

    The burden of pioneers is that when they’ve done the nearly impossible they’re asked to do it again and do the impossible too. It gives me some sympathy for the poor broken hardscrabble people who’ve already struggled across the plains listening to Brigham Young tell them to burn their homes and evacuate, or colonize some even more remote stretch of desolate desert, or have all things in common, or build a temple.

  27. dan on November 30, 2007 at 12:37 pm

    Thank you for another incisive and beautifully descriptive post. As my European member friends have pointed out countless times, general conference talks are mostly given by Americans for Americans. One can hardly blame traveling authorities for not being able to address local culture more directly, but the irony of sharing a sports story with people who have struggled for their lives in the circumstances you describe… that\’s our church in a nutshell.

  28. Lawrence on November 30, 2007 at 2:59 pm

    I can’t add a thing to what’s already been expressed. Wilfried is a real treasure and his stories and insights have buoyed me up as few others. It interested me to read that W’s efforts require much editing, additional thought and, yes, probably some anguish. And I thought such things came naturally and easily to him, because they certainly don’t to me.

  29. Martin Willey on December 1, 2007 at 12:09 am

    It occurs to me that the “show” in a church meeting is often, maybe mostly, in the audience, and not at the front of the theater. What is appearing on the “screen,” – - the stories being told, the principles being taught – - come alive in the individual congregation member. And each “performance” is perceived and applied differently, depending on the individual member’s life experience. Thank you for such a beautiful and thought-provoking post.

  30. manaen on December 1, 2007 at 3:34 pm

    The description and ensuing discussion about the contrast between the private details revealed about the members in the audience and the superficial description of the visiting speaker — sans such detail about his life — reminded me of how Elder Eyring opened his 4/2004 GenCon talk:

    When I was a young man, I served as counselor to a wise district president in the Church. He tried to teach me. One of the things I remember wondering about was this advice he gave: “When you meet someone, treat them as if they were in serious trouble, and you will be right more than half the time.”

    I thought then that he was pessimistic. Now, more than 40 years later, I can see how well he understood the world and life.

    These words struck me hard when I heard him say them. I’ve found surprising opportunities to help people when I remember them: recently I noticed the cashier in a car wash seemed slightly distracted. As I tried to talk gently with her, she disclosed that she and her sister had learned the day before that their mother had terminal brain cancer and that they were wondering how to tell their mother, that she was a first-year college student and now wondering what changes she would have to make in her plans to take care of her mother. We talked a bit (I had a BoM on the counter) about the plan of salvation.

    There are many doors to Christian service that Elder Eyring’s words can open. I sometimes wonder whether God doesn’t limit our ability to see these opportunities according to our willingness and preparation to act upon them.

  31. queuno on December 8, 2007 at 2:15 pm

    (Just now finally read this post. For many reasons, I was most touched by Hernan. Thanks, Wilfried.)

  32. Wilfried on December 8, 2007 at 8:07 pm

    I still need to acknowledge with gratitude the previous (and ongoing) comments. All read and much appreciated! Thanks to each of you, from Adam to Willey and queuno, and all in between.

  33. Michelle Glauser on March 29, 2008 at 2:32 pm

    I loved your post. These peeps into people’s lives remind me why I love all the people in the wards I have been in.

  34. Wilfried on March 29, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    Thank you, Michelle. It is true that one of the major aspects of the Church has to do with the lives of our brothers and sisters. Their stories of faith and endurance, without having to be spectacular outwardly, all also contribute to testimony.

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