We do not have a paid preacher for our sermons, the members do the teaching, testifying, and talking and every week three people are asked to share thoughts on a variety of gospel topics.
Typically the meeting starts with the Youth Speaker, who is usually someone between the ages of 12 and 18, then they are followed by an adult speaker, then a song from the congregation, ward choir, or a soloist is shared and then a final adult speaker will close the meeting.
Once a month on the first Sunday of the month we have fast and testimony meetings where anyone from the congregation, including children, can stand and testify to the rest of the group about various aspects of the gospel. All of the Latter Day Saints fast two meals and give the money they would have spent on food to the Bishop as a Fast Offering to be used to help the poor and needy.
And every few weeks a team of men from the high council show up to speak on topics chosen by the Stake President to address specific areas of need and concern in the locale where we live. Every six months we have Stake Conference as well as General Conference, which is a worldwide broadcast from Salt Lake City. All of the talking, teaching, and testifying at General Conference is done by the Apostles, Elders, and several of the sisters who serve in the presidencies of the main auxiliaries of the church.
Here is the text of the talk I plan to share on Sunday in church: (Note – I always prepare more than I plan to say so that if I have to cut it short for one reason or another, I can easily edit it down)
In 1766 Stephen Mack, the eldest brother of Lucy Mack Smith was born. At the age of 14 he was called up as part of the Militia and went to fight during the Revolutionary War. In his later years he settled in Detroit Michigan. At his own expense he built the Pontiac Trail, the turnpike road that went from Detroit to Pontiac Michigan. At his death in 1826 he was revered as the principle founder of several of the communities in the suburbs of Detroit and left his family no debts and a fifty thousand dollar inheritance. (Source: History of Joseph Smith written by his mother Lucy Mack Smith.)
In 1952 Stake President George Romney purchased 8 acres of land for the church to build a Stake Center on. I grew up on this little patch of land. So many hours of my childhood were spent ripping around the land, climbing the trees, and hiking with friends down to the little stream at Cranbrook School behind the property, that it almost felt as though this piece of land was my home, even more than the various homes I grew up in around the Detroit Area. I was blessed, baptized, and bore my first lisping testimony in that building. It was while giving a talk in the singles ward in the chapel of the Bloomfield Hills stake center when I was 19 that I looked over the congregation of mostly napping young adults and noticed the smiling face of one Paul Dean Hatch who was bathed in light from a nearby window. He was such a nice looking young man, with a countenance that glowed with the Light of the Gospel, that I did a double take and our eyes locked during the meeting. We first talked and danced at a Stake Dance in October and he asked me out for our first date on his 28th birthday November 7th. We dated quite a bit for a few weeks and we were engaged to be married on December 19th, a few short weeks after I gave that talk in Sacrament Meeting.
Our married life has always revolved around our membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
During my childhood our stake produced many plays, musicals, road shows, concerts, dance festivals, and had countless bazaars, ward suppers, and Balls (Harvest Ball, Sweetheart Ball, New Years Eve Dance etc..) Because my parents were always involved in these artistic endeavors requiring many hours of rehearsal, I spent hours exploring the various nooks and crannies of that huge stake center. I remember climbing up the tall ladder encased in the steeple with my brothers one Saturday morning while Mom was busy with play practice. We knew every hiding place for hide and seek, and every patch of ground outside for tag. All of the important ordinances of Baby Blessings, Baptism, and Priesthood Ordinations were conducted in that sacred space. Our oldest daughter Michelle was blessed by Paul in the chapel of that building when she was a few weeks old.,
My parents both converted to the Gospel of Jesus Christ when they were teens, and eventually both sets of grandparents joined the church and so I consider myself a third generation Latter Day Saint. My Uncle John was the first family member on my Fathers side to join the church and he told my Dad, who was 17 at the time, that many of the young ladies at church were very pretty. So having his spiritual priorities lined up properly, my Dad attended church to “check out the girls”. He was baptized in the fifties and attended the old Detroit Branch of the church. My mothers family started out in Michigan, where Mom was born, but moved all over the country because of my grandfathers work, and it was my Grandmothers habit that she would send her seven children to whatever church was within walking distance of their home. When my Mother was ten they moved to Riverside California and the LDS church was the closest to the family home and that began our families journey to baptism on my Mothers side.
Paul and I started our life together in the Troy Ward of the Bloomfield Hills Stake and attended church at the big Stake Center referenced earlier. We sang in the Detroit Mormon Concert Choir in 1988 the year our oldest daughter Michelle joined our family. We then moved to Ohio with Pauls job and lived in Yellow Springs, Ohio for two years. We lived in a temporary situation in Omaha Nebraska for six months while I was expecting our second daughter Allison. We arrived in Boulder Colorado in the fall of 1991 and raised our family with the help of the wonderful group of saints who live in that section of Colorado for twenty years. Ally, Jeffrey, Andrew, and Benjamin all joined our family during our years in Colorado and we feel so blessed to have raised our family with the Faithful members of the church who made up our ward and stake family teaching and testifying to our children during every lesson, testimony meeting, and gathering. Our children were blessed to attend an excellent Charter School in Boulder County and we Home Schooled off and on during various years when it was a good fit for me and for our children. Boulder is an extremely liberal community and some of the public school curriculum was objectionable to us as parents. Our children enjoyed participating in Scouts, Sports, Speech and Debate, Choir, and a variety of part time job situations and Community Service. Paul and I sang with the Colorado Mormon Chorale and also the Colorado Repertory Singers and Broomfield Chorale Singers. Cultural Offerings in Boulder were often held on the sabbath, and so it was impossible for us to participate in Plays, Musicals, and other portions of the arts world. We are thrilled to be here in Cedar City where Paul has joined Master Singers and I am currently singing with four different musical groups.
Last spring my Father in Law, Conrad Hatch, passed away. This past summer we sold our home in Colorado and relocated to Cedar City to live in the home my husband grew up in with his sister Elaine Hatch.
In 1998 a temple was announced to be built in Michigan on the very land where the Stake Center is located in Bloomfield Hills. I informed Paul that we HAD to find a way to fly home for the dedication. Fortunately we had a year to save and plan and on October 24th 1999 we were able to be in the temple with President Hinckley and hundreds of friends who had been my extended church family for the first 20 years of my life.
“President Hinckley also noted that Stephen Mack, a brother of Joseph Smith’s mother, Lucy, “surveyed the first road through what became Detroit.” Many members pointed out the road in front of the temple as the one Stephen Mack built. The Prophet Joseph Smith, his brother Hyrum and his father, Joseph Smith Sr., visited the Detroit area in 1834, and because of the location of the road and its relationship to the Prophet’s uncle, “it would seem likely to me that they went by the temple site,” President Bithell said.”
I was asked to choose a talk from the recent conference to share during this talk. The reason why I spent so much time outlining the church history that I was raised in during my youth in Michigan is because I was part of a Culture of Faithful Saints who as a stake made important decisions about what sorts of legacies were going to be a part of our day to day life and heritage.
During his talk he reflected on the culture of his family, ward, stake, and the community in which he was raised.
“Culture is defined as the way of life of a people. There is a unique gospel culture, a set of values and expectations and practices common to all members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This gospel culture, or way of life, comes from the plan of salvation, the commandments of God, and the teachings of living prophets. It is given expression in the way we raise our families and live our individual lives.”
During the talk Elder Perry outlined five things to create a stronger family culture:
“In our remarkable parental stewardship, there are many ways that goodly parents can access the help and support they need to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ to their children. Let me suggest five things parents can do to create stronger family cultures:
First, parents can pray in earnest, asking our Eternal Father to help them love, understand, and guide the children He has sent to them.
Second, they can hold family prayer, scripture study, and family home evenings and eat together as often as possible, making dinner a time of communication and the teaching of values.
Third, parents can fully avail themselves of the Church’s support network, communicating with their children’s Primary teachers, youth leaders, and class and quorum presidencies. By communicating with those who are called and set apart to work with their children, parents can provide essential understanding of a child’s special and specific needs.
Fourth, parents can share their testimonies often with their children, commit them to keep the commandments of God, and promise the blessings that our Heavenly Father promises His faithful children.
Fifth, we can organize our families based on clear, simple family rules and expectations, wholesome family traditions and rituals, and “family economics,” where children have household responsibilities and can earn allowances so that they can learn to budget, save, and pay tithing on the money they earn.
These suggestions for creating stronger family cultures work in tandem with the culture of the Church. Our strengthened family cultures will be a protection for our children from “the fiery darts of the adversary” (1 Nephi 15:24) embedded in their peer culture, the entertainment and celebrity cultures, the credit and entitlement cultures, and the Internet and media cultures to which they are constantly exposed. Strong family cultures will help our children live in the world and not become “of the world” (John 15:19).”
I am so grateful for the Family Culture and Stake Culture that I was raised in. Many hardworking and faithful saints gave of their time and talents to help me on my walk back to my Heavenly Father.
When I was thinking of the many goodly parents I have known over the years, one family stands out in particular and I would like to close my talk by sharing a little of their story.
I met Laura in a children’s consignment store in Boulder where I was shopping one day and she worked part time. She was in the Louisville Ward and I was in the Boulder ward, but I did not know that she was a member of the church when we met. As we chatted one day I was impressed by her work ethic and helpfulness and enjoyed visiting with her while I shopped for my children’s clothes.
When we bought our first house in Louisville Laura and her husband were in the ward with us and a friend told me that they had just adopted twins girls. These babies were preemies and so she was missing from church for several months while she tenderly cared for her daughters.
She and her husband had already adopted one child, but they lost the baby soon after because the grandparents wanted the baby back. She had struggled with infertility for years. Soon after the twins showed up in her life, the ladies of the ward threw her a huge baby shower and we all reveled in the joy of her children. A few weeks later we were saddened to learn that once again a grandmother desired to raise the babies, and after three months Laura and her husband had to give them up. I had three little ones myself and felt so sad for my friend. Her mother heart ached for a baby to raise and love.
A few months before I gave birth to my son Andrew in 1996, we heard the wonderful news that a little boy was available for adoption. Laura jumped at the chance to raise him. She and her husband welcomed David into their home even though he had been born premature and had so many health challenges the doctors assured them he was not going to live long. During the two short years of his life I watched in amazement as Laura lovingly nurtured this young child. I remember being in the mothers nursing room with my own baby while she gave him breathing treatments to help him breathe. He was so sick and had so many surgeries that it was just one long labor of love to care for him.
When he was a few months old he was not doing well at all and the pediatrician told her he would benefit greatly from some mothers milk. My friend Lily offered to nurse the baby and I was at the church when she first talked to Laura about organizing a group of Mothers in the ward to provide him with milk. He was allergic to everything, especially the many different baby formulas they had tried.
I never heard who all of the Moms were who donated breastmilk to David, but shortly before his death Laura stood in testimony meeting and talked about the eight breastfeeding Moms in our ward who had helped to nourish David. I was shocked that so many stepped up to help. Anyone who has nursed a child knows that it is a full time job and each ounce of milk a labor of love to create. Laura testified how powerful the milk was in easing his various symptoms and helping in his quality of life. I only nursed him a few times, but felt a deep connection to him and to all of the mothers in our ward who also contributed.
I guess the question must be asked, “why would we do this if everyone knew he was going to die?” Why bother?
Was it important to David? To Laura? To her Husband? To our ward family? For each of us to contribute a little bit to the health and happiness of one of our Heavenly Fathers children?
I would like to suggest that in building family cultures and church cultures it is vitally important to our goal of becoming true disciples of Jesus Christ for each member of the culture to contribute to those who cannot care for themselves. Whether they be infants or the aged, how we treat and care for the “least of these” in our midst is our testimony of how we live the gospel. When David died our whole ward mourned his passing as if we had lost our own baby. Laura, the pillar of strength that she is, just took it all in stride knowing that she had done her best to give him a quality of life and that would not have existed in an orphanage or foster care.
Everyone in the ward was shocked when we discovered that after years of infertility and the adoption of four children, three of whom Laura had to give back, and one lost in death, Laura was able to conceive a child naturally and was able to give birth to a beautiful daughter. Once again our ward family was able to revel in the joy of a much desired child being added to our congregation.
It is my testimony that in seeking to become Goodly Parents and attempting to set an example to our children and grandchildren of appropriate and gospel centered ways to build a strong family culture, it is our treatment and care of the young and the old in our midst that is our best indicator of how well we are doing as we seek to emulate the Savior Jesus Christ in all we say and do.
I testify in the name of Jesus Christ that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is Heavenly Fathers Kingdom on the earth.