This weekend was our stake conference at church. Our church is very organized. I love that. You can read about how the church is organized here. But briefly, its organized geographically into branches, wards, and stakes. We go to Pekin ward, which is part of the Peoria Stake. The leadership of the church is also organized. Some of our ecclesiatical leaders are referred to as general authorities. They have administrative responsibilities and they travel around speaking to congregations. These people are a big deal.
I wanted to briefly explain this because we were vistited by Elder David Baxter this weekend in Peoria. What an edifying experience I had listening to him! He spoke at the adult session of conference on Saturday night, and then again Sunday morning. On Saturday night, we sat and listened intently to him speak about hope in the midst of our trials. He shared some personal stories and gave some great advice with some American jokes tossed in. He is Scottish and he was fun to listen to because of his accent alone! I wish I could remember all of it, but I momentarily forgot everything he said when he turned to sit down and I noticed a very familiar scar on his head. It was nearly identical to Brian's. We left that night, but I really wished I knew what his scar was from. I made up my mind to meet him Sunday morning.
After conference Sunday, I started up to the front while Brian was cleaning up and I changed my mind! I got nervous and decided I didn't want to introduce myself, but then my sweet friend Susy came up to me and asked if I noticed the scar. I said I did and I wanted to ask about it, but I didn't know if I should. She said "you should!" So with that, my courage was renewed and I went to stand in line. When I got up to the stand I shook Elder Baxter's hand and I introduced myself. I told him I very much enjoyed his talk from the night before and I just wondered if I could ask him a personal question. He said of course and I asked where he got his scar. He told me he had two cancerous brain tumors removed. I told him my husband had a very similar scar and he asked if my husband was the one who gave the opening prayer on Saturday, which he did. He said he noticed Brian's scar too, but didn't get a chance to talk to him about it.
Then we had a brief chat and I told him how afraid I was with Brian sick. He said he has always felt so much worse for his wife because as wives, we bear the burden of the stress. He said, "I just had surgery, took a lot of medicine, and slept a lot! She has done everything." Brian has said a very similar thing to me.
Then I had to ask when he got sick. My heart did sink a little when he told me it was just two and a half years ago. I so wanted him to tell me it was 25 years ago when he was Brian's age and he had surgery and did chemo and radiation and it still hasn't come back. My eyes began to well up with tears when I heard how recent it was, and I told him we just passed the one year mark. He asked how Brian was doing and I told him he is doing really well, and then he took my hand and said that we have his love and blessings.
I feel so grateful to have met and listened to this man. When he talks about overcoming sadness, trials, and depression, I believe him. He knows just what we are going through. So if he can find hope, so can I. It made such a difference for me. I felt very inspired.
Another thing I took from this conference was that oftentimes, we judge ourselves the very harshest. When we put ourselves on trial, we give much of our energy to the prosecution, but we must always be sure to listen to the defense. We have to strive to see the good in ourselves too, the victories both large and small. I struggle with this, so it was a great reminder.
I love conference weekends because I get to see church friends from all over that I don't get to see every Sunday. Its great to see how full the building is and you can really feel the spirit when everyone is together. A common theme of this conference was that God knows each of us personally and is mindful of us in our trials. I truly feel like this conference was for me and Elder Baxter was sent here just to help renew my faith that I have a Heavenly Father who is deeply concerned for me. What a great reminder for all of us.