Both the Dartmouth Nova Scotia and Cardston Alberta West Stakes received counsel from general and area authorities during their stake conferences in May. Congregations were enlightened on ward and family councils and Sabbath day observance as principles that help us become true disciples of Christ. Each stake also received individual and specific instruction.
Dartmouth Nova Scotia Stake under the direction of Stake President David G. Evans hosted Elder Daniel F. Dunnigan, North America Northeast area seventy. “We focused the priesthood leadership session on the need to minister,” President Evans says. “To minister means to see a need and be moved to help meet that need. We are striving to have the saints live in such a way that they may have the Holy Ghost with them constantly. With that comes love of Heavenly Father and others. Then when we see a person's needs, we can decide what will help and then give it.”
Dartmouth Nova Scotia Stake
Echoing the theme “We Minister” in the other sessions, the principle of councils held on family, ward and branch levels reinforced the effectiveness of joint efforts throughout all units of the Church. Mission President Brian Leavitt spoke to members about using missionary ward councils to prayerfully consider who needs ministering, then using the missionaries to help implement the service. One sister spoke of the effect ministering played in her reactivation as the ward rallied around her and the bishop helped her. Using minutes from her own family councils throughout the years, another sister, Ardith Spinney, illustrated how these councils can strengthen faith in Christ by uniting the family in common goals centred on the Saviour.
Other subjects of discussion included the importance of family, how to keep away from pornography, the blessings of paying tithing and the importance of keeping the Sabbath day holy as a means to strengthen our faith in Christ. President Evans used his favourite setting, Peggy’s Cove lighthouse, as a parable of our relationship to Christ. “The granite bolder jutting from the Atlantic Ocean represents the Saviour. That lighthouse is us, anchored to the rock, our Saviour. We are the beacon charged to help others to come to Christ.”
Many people told President Evans how conference helped them. Sister Charleen Edis, Relief Society President of the Cole Harbour Ward, said, “Elder Dunnigan got my attention right away with these first remarks, 'We need to hear more from the women of the Church. They have a different view. Everything that applies in a ward council trickles down to the family council.' It was reassuring when he stated, ‘Singleness is temporary as long as we keep our covenants.' It was reassuring when he explained that single sisters are not responsible for their single state if it is someone else’s choice”. Referring to his daughters, Elder Dunnigan remarked that although his daughters are currently young single adults, it doesn't keep them from holding temple recommends. Before I met my husband at age 27, I worried that there was 'something wrong' with me. Elder Dunnigan's words would have comforted me when I was single, and I hope they are comforting now to the single sisters, young or old, who heard these words.”
Elder Dunnigan reminded members that Heavenly Father's plan is perfect. “Two things are in our control: personal worthiness and personal choice. The Atonement takes care of everything else and includes everyone. Anything that says we are too far gone is wrong.” Elder Dunnigan bore his testimony with sincerity and passion stating, “This I know, you have not travelled beyond the path of divine love.” Sister Edis concludes, “Many of the conference teachings have affected my life this week and I suspect the messages will continue to influence me into the future.”
President Evans felt the impact of the conference’s teachings a few days later while working in the yard. “My two-year-old grandson had a hard time climbing a hill in the backyard. I saw an opportunity to minister. He needed help. I realized that he would most likely not remember me working in the yard, but that he might remember that I helped him climb his hills. I put down my tools and walked up the hill with my precious grandson instead—a direct result of the conference.”
The Cardston Alberta West Stake under the leadership of Stake President D. Brian Low was favoured with the presence of general authority Elder James J. Hamula, of the First Quorum of Seventy and president of the Pacific Area, at their May conference. Once again the theme, “blessing individuals and families through ward and family councils” permeated the sessions. Elder Hamula spoke on Sabbath day observance and the importance of the ordinance of the Sacrament.
Cardston Alberta West Stake
“The most powerful part of his sermons came during the youth session as he responded to questions submitted by the youth a few weeks earlier. The most common questions were, “How do I know if this is true?” and “How do I know if the Lord has forgiven me?” In response, Elder Hamula told how, as a 17-year-old boy, he received his testimony by reading the Book of Mormon, the account of Joseph Smith in the Pearl Of Great Price and doing as young Joseph did—asking God if it was true. The experience left Elder Hamula with a feeling of love, peace and knowledge “In that moment I knew, and have known ever since, that there is a God in heaven and that He is my Father. I knew that Jesus is His Son, who atoned for me and all mankind, and that Joseph Smith saw both of them. I knew that God knew and loved me,” he testified.
The experience changed Elder Hamula's life, and though he has grown in knowledge and faith, even becoming a general authority has not surpassed the spiritual knowledge of that testimony gained at age 17. “He had related this experience in the April 2015 New Era, but the power of his testimony at the stake conference filled the room and hearts of the 200 youth in attendance as he spoke about obtaining a testimony and understanding forgiveness,” President Low says. “It’s very powerful. You should read it.”
President Low’s other counsel concerned, “Becoming a Zion People”. He commented on the impact the choir music had on the spirit of the conference. “The music really touched me, brought the spirit,” he said. “The choir sang the Lord’s Prayer and The Spirit of God. The congregation joined in; the combination of congregation and stake choir--absolutely amazing.”