Today was quite special. It's pretty rare to have an Apostle come to a regular Stake Conference. I suspect it's a bit more uncommon to have a Stake Conference come to an Apostle. Let me explain.
President Jensen (the Temple President) told us a week or two ago that one of the principal areas of focus in the Church this year is on encouraging more family focus on the Sabbath Day and making it a "delight" (Isaiah 58:13). As part of that, the Apostles and Area Presidencies are conducting training throughout the church. Here in Cochabamba, we were blessed to have Elder Bednar come to Bolivia with Elder Juan Uceda, who is the Area President, to conduct training for the Stake Presidents and Bishops here. It almost seemed like an afterthought to have a special Stake Conference where they could both speak to the members of the Church here in Cochabamba. The first we heard of it was only a week or two earlier than last week.
So, we decided, along with the other missionaries here at the Temple, that we would show up an hour and a half early, figuring we'd probably get a front row seat. Were we ever wrong.
When we arrived at the Stake Center, we were seated outside under some tents. We were a bit concerned, wondering if they had already filled the entire building. It was just to help them organize and keep everything ordered, it turned out. About 60 minutes before the meeting, all the seats outside were filled - we figured there were probably 600-700 people there, and we had at least 500 in front of us.
They allowed us into the chapel then, row by row, and we were 3/4 of the way back - in the cultural hall. By about 15 minutes to the hour, all the rooms were filled in the Stake Center, we think all the seats outside were filled too (they had a bunch of TV monitors set up so those folks could see everything), and there were people we could see through the windows standing. We figured there were easily 1500 people or more.
One of the most amazing things, though, was the reverence. Even with children, there was hardly any noise. I'm hard pressed to remember any Stake Conference in the States that was this reverent an hour before the meeting started.
At about 15 minutes to the hour, Elder Bednar, his wife and son, Michael (more on that later), and Elder Uceda and his wife came in. After everyone sat back down, the Stake President got up. It was still 10 minutes to the hour, and we figured he was going to give some instructions or such. But, since everyone was already there, and so reverent, he just started the meeting. Ten minutes early. I was really impressed by the organization, the reverence, and everything.
The Stake President and his wife spoke, Elder Uceda and his wife spoke, and two youth were invited spontaneously to share their testimonies. Michael Bednar spoke next. He served his mission here in Cochabamba, and his mission President was Elder Tim Parker, who is here serving in the Temple with us. It was special to hear how much Michael's experiences paralleled mine, and how sweet it was for him to return here. He's only been gone 15 years, though. Having served 40 years ago, and still being able to find such faithful members has been extra special for me.
Sister Bednar spoke, and emphasized the importance of husbands and wives working together, and helping each other.
Then Elder Bednar spoke for the final hour. He talked to the investigators who were there, and emphasized the Restoration of the Church, Joseph Smith's seeking for knowledge, and the First Vision. Then he talked to the youth, and encouraged them to keep their Temple Recommends current. He promised them that if they would do that, and go to the Temple often to do Baptisms for the Dead, that they would be protected from the evil forces in the world.
Then he talked a lot about the saving power of the ordinances, and how Christ had emphasized these ordinances of Baptism and of the Sacrament as some of the last things he taught both in Jerusalem and here on the American continent. He talked about the saving nature of the ordinances, and encouraged the members to go to the Temple.
After he finished, the reverence continued. He had to leave for a flight to La Paz for other meetings this afternoon, so he apologized for not being able to mingle and greet everyone. Everyone stood and waved, and waited until he was gone. Not a peep from people, from children, nobody. I'm not sure I've ever been in a more reverent meeting.
So, that was Sunday morning for us. Quite special.
[This is Molly. I just wanted to add a little bit here. Charlie did a great job of telling about the meeting, etc., as he always does and I agree completely. Sister Bednar talked about being in Bolivia with her son 15 years after his mission and meeting some of the people he taught. She talked about the joy that she feels in seeing those sweet relationships and hearing him speak with the people he has loved who have changed his life. Because of his love for them, the people of Bolivia have been a part of her life as well and she, too, has loved them for 15 years. I really related to her feelings. We have been married for nearly 36 years and I have loved the Bolivian people for all 36 years. But the joy I see in my sweet companion as he reconnects with people who have meant so much to him and to be able to hear him talk with them and feel the love between them is impossible to describe. As we have Skyped with our children and parents each week, many have mentioned how happy Charlie is and some have even gone as far as saying they have never seen him happier. It's true. We came to Bolivia to serve The Lord in whatever way we could, but we are the ones receiving the blessings. I'm so grateful to be here. I know this is where we are supposed to be. I have felt many times that there are people here that need Charlie especially, right now. As we pray about our children, grandchildren and parents, we are given peace and comfort in knowing they are being taken care of. I'm so grateful and so happy.]
In the afternoon, we came home and spent the rest of the day preparing our talks for next Sunday on, guess what, the Temple. A bit intimidating when an Apostle of the Lord has spoken about the Temple and Temple ordinances just the week before. Fun. We'll let you know how our talks went next week.
Here's another picture of the temple - this one at night. (Just so you don't get overly bored with all the words in this post.)
|Cochabamba Bolivia Temple at night, following a rain storm.|