Monday, March 16, 2015

Conference, Relief Society, ROTC

By Rodger Dean Duncan

In the Hewitt Ward conference yesterday it was announced, as we expected, that the Waco Stake presidency will be reorganized at the April 11-12 stake conference. Our friend Blake Christensen has served as stake president here for the past nine and a half years, and was a counselor in the stake presidency for nine years prior to that. We know from our own experience the wonderful mixture of blessing and burden that such service brings. For most of a thirty-year span, Rean and I had church callings that kept us apart on Sundays: stake Relief Society presidency service for her, and high council, bishopric, and stake presidency assignments for me. After yesterday's ward conference we visited privately with Blake and his wife Paula. They both seem very relieved by his upcoming release. They are kind and generous people, and we're grateful to count them among our friends here.

In his sacrament meeting talk, Bishop Frank Partin (another good friend to us here) focused on the ward mission plan. A key element of that plan is the (proactive) encouragement for each family to develop its own "family mission plan." Both ward and full-time missionaries are visiting the homes of members to provide tutoring on how to do this. Bishop Partin readily acknowledged that there is no cookie-cutter way of doing this. Approaches to sharing the gospel can vary as widely as do family cultures. The point, he emphasized, is that sharing the gospel in a deliberate way "must be a priority in our lives." He used D&C 4 as the foundation for most of his remarks.

President Christensen encouraged the saints to ensure their own continuing activity in the Church. Two important keys to remaining active, he said, are (1) paying a full and honest tithe, and (2) fasting with a purpose. He said he's known active members who are not full tithe payers, but he's yet to meet a full tithe-payer who is inactive. (I've known a couple of exceptions to that rule.) From the time I was baptized 52+ years ago I've been impressed by how the Church operates so effectively and with no paid clergy. In fact, especially with no paid clergy. The tithes of the members go to the support of building programs, education, temples, and all the other things so necessary for taking the gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. I've also been impressed (as a bishop and stake president) to know so many good people who pay their tithing, not for the tax deduction or some other less lofty reason, but rather because they are obedient and they believe the promises that come with the commandment.

Rean and I met yesterday with Sheryl Gleason, the Waco Stake Relief Society president. She asked us to accept the assignment to help spearhead the stake's May 30 Women's Conference. The theme is "service." We will make a 45-minute presentation on that topic, emphasizing both the doctrinal and spiritual foundations of service as well as providing specific examples of service opportunities. We will keep you apprised of this as we develop the program. One thing's for certain: I really enjoy working with my lovely wife in preparing and making presentations. She is so bright and insightful, and she always helps me challenge my own thinking on life's topics that matter most. With this Relief Society conference I'm confident she will have many helpful things to say about quality visiting teaching and home teaching.

Last week we had lunch with Casey Randall. Casey is an Army Lieutenant Colonel and is in charge of the ROTC programs at Baylor University here in Waco, Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, and the University of North Texas in Denton. I've offered to provide some pro bono leadership training for the ROTC cadets at the three universities. The ROTC programs are all about preparing young men and women for leadership roles in both the military and civilian life, and Casey welcomes my volunteering as a training resource. It will be a pleasure to spend time with some of the best and brightest students at these three universities.

Echoes from the past: If you're troubled by much of what you see in today's news reports, click here for a transcript of a 1978 talk by Neal A. Maxwell. It was titled "The Prohibitive Costs of a Value-free Society." It's an uncanny parallel with what we're witnessing today.

Love to all. Keep those notes and emails coming in.

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