Tuesday, September 2, 2014

We Have a Stake!

The missionaries in the Ipatinga ward
and a part of the new stake presidency
The Ipatinga, Brazil stake is officially the newest stake in Zion. The joy is overwhelming. Seeing the saints here receive what they have worked towards for so long brought tears to my eyes more than once during the conference. I wanted to spend this e-mail talking about the events of this weekend. 

The first session was Saturday night for the general membership of the Ipatinga District. The chapel was packed, and the subject of the night was "Hastening the Work." All about missionary work. The visiting authorites were Elder Audikatis from the First Quorom of the Seventy, and Elder Leal, an Area Seventy. The spirit was strong as they talked about the various aspects of the Lord's work of salvation. Classic line from the night: "Some people want to read D&C 18:10, the worth of whales is great in the sight of God. But God's most precious cause is to save souls, not whales." I guess we need to get our priorities straight. We all left the evening session excited for the next day.

Victor, a good friend of ours from the ward
who helps us a lot making visits.
And if I thought the chapel was packed on Saturday, I was proved wrong on Sunday morning. Hundreds of members packed into this tiny church, filling the chapel, and overflowing into all of the classrooms to watch via broadcast. Members watched in their individual cities, João Monlevade, Governador Valadares, and Caratinga, where the chapels were also filled. I had a seat in the back row of the chapel itself--half of which was filled with just the choir (there was no room on the stand.) The meeting began with the creation of the stake. I don't know of many other times that my arm was raised so quickly and firmly as after the words: "It is proposed that Ipatinga, Brazil be organized a stake in Zion. All those in favor?" The branches that would become wards were then announced, followed by the stake presidency and bishops. A number of men were sustained to receive the Melchezidek preiesthood, including my own recent convert Jaime and a number of men who I had the privilege to interview prior to baptism or interact with during my time here. Tears ran down the faces of many members, especially the leaders as each bore their testimony in turn, including the stake president's wife (who is the most loyal sister in giving us lunch).

The visiting authorities then addressed us, speaking powerfully about the importance of having a personal relationship with God, the organization of the church, and prosperity due to keeping the commandments. The Spirit was so powerful--my testimony was strengthened and I truly felt that angels were present during the meeting.

Elders and Sisters from Ipatinga
I know that this is Christ's church. He is at its head. He is our Savior and Redeemer. Our king. My dearest friend. How I long to feel nearer to Him. Experiences like these help. I love the Lord.
Never give in to despair. Pray always, and you will come off conqueror. Know that there is a missionary in Brazil who knows that all of this is true, and who loves you all.

Much Love,

Elder Burt

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