What a difference a week makes! Last Sunday we were in the far northwest corner of Ghana and this Sunday I was in the far southeast corner of Ghana. In between we had two zone conferences and 54 interviews. Total miles traversed by land and by air, about 550. I have to say the air miles were somehow easier than the land miles. 😊
I will wait until we have completed zone conferences this week before I give a more detailed explanation as to what was done, but here are the highlights: Sister Moomey showed a short video she and Elder Moomey had made to show how to administer a malaria test. Elder Moomey then explained the service project we would be doing after the conference relating to cleaning up the building as our gift to the districts who allow us to use them. The Assistants then delivered a powerful discussion on how to be “ALL IN” as missionaries building on the mission devotional presented a couple of weeks ago over Zoom by our friend Kevin Ball. Their discussion was life changing for many of us. LaDawn talked about Miracles and I followed up with a discussion on the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the faith it takes to access the redeeming and strengthening power of that great Gift.
The highlight of the week for me was definitely the meeting with Elder Christopherson on Sunday. All of the Stake Presidents, District Presidents, Mission Presidents, Temple Presidents, and Area Authorities were invited. My guess is there were between 60 and 80 people in attendance. This used to be an annual event, but was suspended with covid. Elder Christopherson said the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve decided to reinstitute the meeting and that this year a member of the Twelve would meet with every single stake, district, and mission president across the globe. That is a significant undertaking when one considers that there are 3,498 stakes, 514 districts and over 400 missions – and only 12 apostles that are undertaking the challenge! For Elder Christopherson, this was the fourth and final meeting. Two were held in Nigeria, one in Ivory Coast and this one in Ghana.
I flew to Accra on Saturday afternoon. Our wives were not invited as these events are focused on high level priesthood leadership. So while I flew to Accra to attend the meeting, LaDawn stayed home and washed clothes and cleaned house. They brought everyone in on Saturday since we had to take a covid test early Sunday morning to be able to enter the meeting. I heard that no one tested positive and yet we still wore our masks in the meeting. That was confusing to me. But it was a small price to pay for the privilege of being with an Apostle for over 4 hours.
At the start of the meeting Elder Christopherson introduced the purpose of the meeting. He said that there is something special about key holders meeting together to counsel and discuss gospel topics. He said the goal for the meeting was to make us feel more confident and capable in our callings. He certainly succeeded in that aim! We then heard from Elder Mark Palmer from the Presidency of the Seventy, Elder Martinez, Elder Kacher and Elder Klebingat (our area presidency). Elder Christopherson then had the rest of the meeting – which was a little over 2.5 hours.
Elder Palmer spoke about President Nelson’s repeated invitations to be more engaged in temple and family history work. He pointed out that in the new handbook, a person must be at least 18 and finished with high school (secondary school) in order to receive their endowment. Elder Kacher continued the emphasis on the new handbook and talked about how we might use it more in our teaching and instruction. He then mentioned some of the major changes including detailed information about the endowment found in section 27.2. Elder Klebingat spoke on the importance of financial integrity. He made the comment that “scriptures never read will never help you” and the same is true for the Handbook (chapters 22 and 34 specifically) and the financial guidelines established by the Area Presidency.
Elder Christopherson discussed the talk by President Russell M Ballard from the April 2021 General Conference titled Hope In Christ. He pointed out that this is an important doctrinal document as it clarifies that exaltation is available to all who are worthy and obedient, regardless of our current status. He mentioned an experience where he came to know that the evil in the world is so much more than he ever imagined, and yet the Savior tells us, “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). He also spoke about the impact of missions on young men and young women in West Africa. From a study the Church conducted, they found that after 10 years, 95% of the returned missionaries were still active. This is significantly higher than those who do not serve missions.
We then took a short break and came back for the last 2 hours of the meeting. He spent about an hour talking about membership councils, their purpose and the importance of the dignity with which they are to be conducted. He emphasized that as priesthood leaders our role is to help the person engage in repentance. He said we do not administer justice or mercy, nor did we or do we create the law. We just help administer repentance. I loved this clarification of the role of priesthood leaders in the repentance process.
He then went into a powerful and beautiful discussion on justification and sanctification. He talked about how women are charged with bringing children into this world through water, blood, and spirit and how men are charged with bringing them back to Heavenly Father through water (baptism), spirit (Holy Ghost) and blood (atonement of Christ). There was so much more to this discussion that I found profound and helpful in my own understanding, but I don’t feel capable of putting it into simple words that could be easily understood. It takes the voice and experience of an Apostle to speak the message in such a way that it enters into one’s heart. It certainly entered into mine and I think everyone else who was there as well. At the conclusion, he issued an Apostolic blessing to all of us. I captured as much of it as I could. “I bless you with greater power in the priesthood. Greater power to bless others. And that power will grow. Your gifts and spiritual capacities will increase. The influence of the adversary will decrease in your lives. His temptations will have no power in your lives when the Savior returns – you can have that now. You will have greater power to resist and cast out the adversary. I bless you that as you pray you will get answers for your callings. The Lord will be merciful to you and be more quick to help. I bless you that your marriages will be strong.”
After pronouncing that blessing he said something else that I think is important and meaningful for all of us. “I am a witness of the resurrection of the Savior, and I want to spend the rest of my life bearing witness to it.” Powerful!
Just one more thing I want to mention about the meeting, Elder Christopherson said that while the temple is being worked on, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve have a room in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building that has been dedicated so they can meet in a “temple like setting”. He said at the front of the room behind where the First Presidency sits, the three pictures below are hung. I have added the words below each picture which Elder Christopherson pointed out. He said that these pictures perfectly describe their roles and responsibilities as Apostles. Called by the Lord to bear testimony of the message of Christ and Him crucified.
After the meeting, Elder Christopherson met with the 6 mission presidents in attendance in a kind and generous appreciation for the work that goes to make these missions and missionaries successful. It was a tender moment and one I will not soon forget. The six of us were: President Harper, President Price, President Morrison, President Sanders, President Young and me.
Let me now back up to earlier in the week after being in Wa for the weekend. On Monday we drove from Wa to Tamale, driving up against the boundary of the Mole National Park for some portion of the journey. The only wild animals we saw were some monkeys scampering across the road in front of us. Once in Tamale I started interviews and then later that evening, the Steinmetz’s and the Moomey’s joined us for a delicious meal at Oasis.
On Tuesday we held zone conference at the Kanvilli Branch (also doubles as a district center while a new one is being built), and afterwards had some more interviews while the elders and sisters did a thorough job of cleaning the building (our gift to the district). We had a delicious meal with the Steinmetz’s in their apartment (thank you!) and then retired to the hotel only to wake up early Wednesday to travel to Techiman, arriving about 12:15 pm (almost a 5 hours later). Upon arrival, we held interviews at the Allred’s, had a quick bite of lunch that Sister Allred had prepared and moved on to Sunyani, arriving about 5:30 pm. It was nice to be able to spend some time in the hotel room that evening working on reading and replying to weekly missionary letters.
Thursday morning we had zone conference with the combined Sunyani and Techiman zones and then spent some time interviewing the missionaries from the outlying areas. We also did a thorough cleaning of that building as well. The next morning we returned and finished interviewing the missionaries working directly in Sunyani. We finished up shortly after 12 noon and then drove the final 3 hours back to the Mission Home. It was so great to be back in Kumasi to sleep in our own beds and eat our own food.
While we always love the weeks that we are with the missionaries in zone conferences and interviews, it is hard to beat spending time with an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. I only wish that LaDawn could have been with me. It was the first time we were not together overnight since arriving. That part was not fun. We have grown closer and depend more on each other as we serve the marvelous people in this great land, Together in Ghana.