Conferences aid priesthood leaders
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The Gospel of Mark teaches that the Savior chose and ordained twelve apostles "that he might send them forth to preach" (Mark 3:14).
That apostolic charge to "go forth" into the world to instruct and support those who serve continues today as the Quorum of the Twelve travels the globe to conduct Priesthood Leadership Conferences with stake presidents, bishops and other priesthood leaders. This new series of meetings has been happening throughout the Church for about a year.
One or two members of the Twelve preside at each Priesthood Leadership Conference. They are typically accompanied by one or two members of the Seventy, along with an Area Seventy serving in the area where the four-hour leadership conference is being held.
"In the first two hours, the assigned authorities give instruction on subjects assigned by the First Presidency," said Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve, who returned June 22 from two Priesthood Leadership Conferences in Chile. "The second two hours follow a question-and-answer format that has the assigned authorities speaking on subjects chosen by the local leaders as helpful to them in fulfilling their callings in their local circumstances."
Indeed, the leadership conferences serve a dual purpose. The Brethren are able to assist local priesthood leaders in their respective callings — and the bishops and stake presidents help the Brethren become better informed on the challenges and blessings experienced by members worldwide.
Common themes are found in each conference. The members of the Twelve and the other General Authorities deliver global messages about shepherding those who are lost, strengthening families, welfare issues and protecting the Church's rising generation of youth.
The question-and-answer session of each conference offers participants an opportunity to discuss local matters. For example, a bishop serving in Chile likely deals with some challenges that are different than his counterpart in Canada.
Still, the issues facing local leaders in opposite corners of the world often overlap, said Elder Oaks.
"Everyone is concerned about, say, getting young men on missions, strengthening the family, or how a bishop performs his calling while he's busy earning a living," he said.
The Church leaders relish the opportunity to sit with the bishops, stake presidents and mission presidents and discuss inspired methods to bless lives.
"We love the questions and answers and being able to be with the people," said Elder John B. Dickson of the Seventy, who accompanied Elder Oaks in Chile for the Priesthood Leadership Conferences in Santiago and Concepcion.
There they were joined by Chile Area President Carlos H. Amado of the Seventy and Elder Mario E. Guerra and Elder Dinar M. Reyes, both Area Seventies.
The local priesthood leaders who participated in the Chile conferences said lives will be forever improved by the instruction and fellowship offered by Elder Oaks and the other Brethren.
"It was a great experience to be able to listen to a servant of the Lord and enjoy his spirit," said conference participant Guillermo Espinoza.
"This training was good because it united us in our desire to do things better and to be more efficient in our duties."
Bishop Osvaldo Martinez said the Priesthood Leadership Conference in Concepcion offered him a testimony boost that will serve him well in his vital calling.
"This type of meeting offers a unique experience where we have the privilege to receive direct instruction from a servant of the Lord."
Fernando Sandoval serves as the first counselor in the Temuco Chile Nielol Stake. He called the training a marvelous forum of instruction and rededication. "I feel renewed and motivated to continue in my duties, especially with the youth that are my responsibility."
The four hours of training passed quickly for Santiago Chile Republica Stake President Claudio Bustos.
"We believe that this type of training definitely helps support the personal growth of the priesthood leadership," he said. "Generally, we have the opportunity to train the members. In this case, it's wonderful to be fed directly by those who preside over us."
The two Priesthood Leadership Conferences in Chile were defined by brotherhood and love. In an effort to limit the spread of the H1N1 virus (swine flu), the Chilean government had suggested that people throughout the country avoid shaking hands. So Elder Oaks and the other leaders exchanged "elbow knocks" with the many conference participants. The local leaders seemed to enjoy the friendly gesture that was practiced primarily to protect the Chilean members who attended the conference.
It was "codo a codo" (elbow to elbow)," said Elder Dickson with a smile.
"Elder Oaks wore his suit out."
The local leaders in Chile returned to their stakes, wards and branches invigorated by the spirit of service that enriched the conferences.
"It was exciting listening, seeing and being together with these Brethren in this distant section of the vineyard," said Valentin Nunez, president of the Santiago Chile San Miguel Stake.