The Saga of Elder Bednar
Well, I just woke up from a 3 hour nap, which was very needed after this week. Last night we were up until about 2 in the morning getting the transfer meeting ready, which was a little ridiculous, but something always happens…something always goes wrong at the last second. However, we pulled it off, it was a good meeting and it is over now. Some significant people in my mission went home today. My old companion Elder González from when I was in Castillo. Elder Harper, who I replaced here in the office, so basically my office trainer, also went home. His parents came last week, so we met them and it seems like they had a great time visiting Argentina. And last, but not least, Elder Marchello went home. He was the first American Elder I met, along with Elder Fox, in the mission. They were companions in Castillo 2 at the time and I lived with them my first two transfers. I don’t know if I ever talked about him. He taught me how to do a contact with someone in the street, so he had a pretty big influence on me. He only had 9 months at the time, but it seemed like he was so old in the mission. Funny how your perspective of time changes so much.
Anyway, I am sure you are dying to hear about Elder Bednar, but I figured I would save that last to finish off the email with a bang. There is a great story I have to tell you first to lead into it anyway. So as you know, Elder Sabey and I were together six months, and have had a great companionship. Well, we ended it with the wedding of Carmen and Luis, and then their baptism the next day. It was a really great way to finish. However, with his new responsibilities as branch president, he actually left right after the conference with Elder Bednar, and had to come back for the baptism, so it was almost like our companionship ended Wednesday night. Well, let’s just say that it was only fitting that we spent it together in the police station. So we did! We had just bought 500 bananas and 500 apples for the conference, and the police saw two Americans with a huge van full of boxes. We were driving right next to Fuerte Apache, which they say is one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in South America. All I know is that the police walk around with loaded shotguns there, so there must be a problem. Anyway, some police pull us over, and tell us to get out of the car, and basically start interrogating us. I never felt like I was in danger or anything, because we hadn’t done anything wrong, and their questions were kind of silly. They were like, “Where do you come from!?!” We said the United States, not trying to be smart alecs, but because a lot of times here that question really means, “Where are you from?” not “Where did you just come from?” So we lost points right off the bat haha. Elder Sabey was driving, so they separated us for individual interrogation, I guess to see if one would make a deal and rat the other one out. I had a fun little talk with my officer. He looked over my passport, and said, “Is this from the United States? Where did you get it?” I was very tempted to say, “No, I got it on the North Korean black market when I was there trafficking nuclear warheads…duh…where do you think I got it?” But instead I just said I got it before I came. He actually was a nice guy, just taking his job a little too seriously. So they then informed us that they would have to take us into the station, because Elder Sabey was driving without an Argentine license. Once again, my international license saved us, because they might have taken the car away if I didn’t have it. So they take our names and put it into their system. They already had Elder Sabey’s American driver’s license so they just copied his name down, then they got Elder Palacios’ name, and then he looked at me and said, “Y vos?” I couldn’t help myself, I caught Elder Sabey out of the corner of my eye smiling, because he knew what I was about to do. “Seanmichaelgilmore.” I said as fast and as slurred as I possibly could. It was sooooo funny. Elder Palacios couldn’t contain himself and started choking trying to keep his laugh down. The guy just looked at me….blinked a few times…and asked me to repeat it. “Sean Michael Gilmore”. He didn’t understand one thing that came out of my mouth. I mean, he did ask for my name didn’t he? Finally after playing a few rounds of that game they asked for my passport again to just copy down the name. It was fun while it lasted. So they hauled us into the station and we waited until their boss told them to let us go, seeing as the only thing they could get us on was that Elder Sabey didn’t have a license. Looking back it was kind of funny, but keep in mind this was the night before Elder Bednar came, and we were stressed out running around trying to get everything ready, so it wasn’t very funny at the time.
So that was the perfect prelude for one of the greatest days of my mission. I really can’t express in an email how amazing our experience with Elder Bednar was. Last year with Elder Nelson was very similar. We didn’t have any time alone with him here in the offices. In fact, nobody did, not even President. Just the church security workers were in the office to let him in and then he came straight over to the chapel where everyone was waiting. Sister Bednar was with him, along with Elder Snow of the Presidency of the Seventy, and his wife. Also, interesting to note that Elder Bednar is a little shorter than I thought he was, and that Elder Snow is a giant man. Anyway, we started the meeting off, and Sister Snow spoke first. It wasn’t very long, but really inspiring. She talked about how important unity with your companion is and having the Spirit in your companionship. She ended with a quote by Sister Hinckley that really hit home as well. “It is a wonderful thing you are doing, but it is the least you can do. You will still be in debt to the Lord when you finish your mission.” Then Sister Bednar spoke to us, and I have to say that she was just adorable. You could just see how good she was. I could really see how important wives are to and for their husbands, especially wives of General Authorities. They really were some choice women. Sister Bednar gave us three points: 1. Everyone deserves a good companion, so be that good companion. 2. Be the missionary your mother thinks you are. And 3. Be the kind of missionary the Savior expects you to be. It was really good.
So then Elder Snow spoke to us, and it was so good. We sang “Called to Serve” to start the meeting and he started out commenting on that. He told the story of how “Called to Serve” ended up in the hymnbook. In 1985 when they were making the new green hymnbook, President Packer was preparing the program for a new mission presidents’ seminar in Salt Lake, and wanted to find a special musical number about missionary work. He thought about it for a while, and his wife suggested an old Primary song she remembered from one of the old primary song books that was no longer in print. So they rummaged through all their stuff and found a copy, and a choir of 80 missionaries sang it at the seminar. President Packer then went to the music committee and told them they needed to add “Called to Serve” into the hymnbook. They told him it was too late because they were about to publish it, and they couldn’t add in a new hymn. President Packer then said, “No you don’t understand. “Called to Serve” WILL be in the new hymnbook.” Haha so thanks to President Packer it is now the missionary anthem of the Church. Elder Snow served his mission in Germany, as well as Elder Bednar, and he commented on how hard it was for him. He said that they just knocked doors all day long. He was told once when he was a little discouraged, “Don’t worry Elder, for every door you knock, someone is baptized in Mexico!” haha. But it was interesting that he said, although he didn’t baptize 100 people, he converted himself and to this day, even after being a General Authority, he looks at his life as before and after his mission.
Elder Bednar then took the next 2 ½ hours to address us…and it was mind boggling. First, he has a great sense of humor, and mentioned that it is alright to have fun learning the gospel because people in the Celestial Kingdom are happy, and they love living the gospel. He also mentioned, “Right now in Salt Lake City, on the fourth floor of the temple, the First Presidency and Twelve Apostles are meeting. Elder Cook is in Australia, and I am here with you, and I want all of you to know that if I can’t be there with them, there is no other place I would rather be than here with you.” So that made us feel loved right from the start. He talked a little bit about how to get as much as we can out of the meeting, and how everything was going to work. It was interesting what he said about note taking. He said that we have all been trained to take copious notes on what the speaker says, and then said, “Now, do you ever go back and use the notes? The word in English is ‘NO!’ Do you even know where your notes are from a year ago? The word in Spanish is ‘NO!’ So if you don’t use them, and you can’t find them…porque do you do that!?! (Everyone laughs) You just saw the gift of tongues at work.” (more laughing) What he really wanted us to do was write down the impressions we received from the Spirit, so he mentioned that if we only wrote down everything Elder Bednar said, we would have missed out on some of the greatest lessons taught during the conference. There were almost 600 missionaries there, and at the end of the conference he asked everyone to raise their hand if their questions had been answered. Every single hand went up. The Holy Ghost touched every heart, and whispered to every soul. I couldn’t believe it. I was getting chills the whole meeting, because I had questions that I didn’t even know I had until it was answered, and I realized in the moment that the Spirit was resolving a doubt I didn’t even realize I had. I assume Elder Bednar answered about 15 questions in two hours, and literally every single one of his answers I needed to hear, but I received more than 15 answers on Thursday.
He said it was going to be a question and answer session. He said that he was going to answer and ask questions. Then he said, “Some of you are beginning to sweat, and are thinking, ‘Elder Bednar is going to call on me to answer a question.’ First, I would never embarrass you, or try to make you feel like you don’t know something, so everything will be on a volunteer basis. For example, if I was to point at this sister (points at a sister in the first row) and asked her to stand up and tell all of us the three fundamental points of the baptismal covenant. Now, she knows the answer…UNTIL a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles asks her. As soon as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles points at her, she doesn’t even remember her name.” Everyone was laughing. It’s true. So then he opened it up for questions.
Now he started out saying that there are no bad questions, but some are better than others. Some people asked some pretty wacky questions. It was interesting though, that no matter how ridiculous the question, he always started it out saying, “Great question.” and then sincerely answered the question, without dropping the cane on the missionary or making them feel like they shouldn’t have asked anything. Someone wanted to know about the washing of the feet ordinance mentioned in D&C, to which Elder Bednar stated that details didn’t matter, what matters is the love shown by the Savior when he washed the feet of His Apostles. Then someone asked something about the Mount of Transfiguration, and all that jazz and Elder Bednar told the Elder, “How badly do you want to know the answer to that question? Ok, so you read that account in the New Testament twenty times. Then, read sections 20, 84, 88, 121, and 122 twenty times each. Summarize what you learn in one page, and send me a copy in Salt Lake. Then, if I have something to add, I will. Next question.” …holy cow…the point was that everyone can receive their own answer through scripture study. He told a story of how President Packer invited a group to do the same about the Atonement. Read the Book of Mormon as many times as you can in 6 months and summarize all you learned about the Atonement on one page. That is how Elder Bednar and President Packer get their answers. Someone else asked what he does, as an Apostle, when he is discouraged, and I really liked his answer. He said, “That is an excellent question. Don’t misinterpret this, but I have realized in my life that when I am discouraged it is usually because I am thinking too much about myself.” So when we are discouraged we should start looking to how we can serve others.
Someone else asked about how we can balance everything in our lives, and he gave a great analogy of Chinese acrobats who spin plates on poles. He said that you can never have all the plates spinning at the same velocity at the same time. The trick is to not spin more plates than you are able, and start spinning the one that is closest to falling. He also talked about agency, and how it is a choice between various options. Then he taught that when we make a covenant, disobeying isn’t an option. He also talked a lot about the Atonement that I really enjoyed. There are obviously way too many things to write, and I am not even touching half of all that was said.
Just two other stories and I will be done. So then he started to ask the questions. He asked what had we realized and learned in the pattern of the conference, and a bunch of people gave their answers, but one sister had a great answer. She said that she realized that if our questions that we are too afraid to ask can be answered by the spirit, then our investigators’ questions that they are afraid to ask can be answered as well, if we teach with the Spirit. Elder Bednar immediately said, “Oh sister, I am afraid what I am about to say is going to terribly embarrass you. We are all familiar with the scripture, ‘and angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost.’ Well, brothers and sisters, you just heard the voice of an angel.” That was one of the times I got chills. I was one assigned to be a microphone runner, so Elder Bednar would call on someone and I would take the microphone to the missionary. Well, I happened to be the one that gave the microphone to that sister so I was standing right next to her, and all the sisters sit in the front, so we were only two rows away from Elder Bednar. When he said that, I could see up on the stand, all the mission presidents, the Snows, and Sister Bednar, and there weren’t very many dry eyes. Very few times in my life and in very few places have I felt the Spirit like I felt in that conference. I received witness after witness that Elder David A. Bednar is an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, and that this is the Restored Church of Jesus Christ on the earth. I enjoyed every second of it. Afterwards, President Benton shared with us some of the things Elder Bednar told him while on the stand. It was an interesting exchange. Elder Bednar said, “I think they are starting to get it.” And President said, “Yeah, a lot faster than we did.” Kind of interesting to think about. It makes me wonder about my future children and how they are going to be even more prepared and valiant.
So that was a short summary of the conference with Elder Bednar, but it wasn’t the end of my experience with him. On Sunday, he did the same thing, but with one of the stakes here in the mission, where members could go and ask questions. Well, they broadcasted it to all the stake centers, so we watched it haha, another 2 hours of Elder Bednar. It was great! Don’t worry, I won’t write another novel on what he said, but one last thing happened that was soooo cool. He asked a little girl to come up onto the stand with him to ask him a question. She was 7 years old, and asked him what it felt like to be an Apostle. He talked a little about feeling inadequate but with the Lord’s help he can do anything. Then he prophesied about the little girl! He said, “One day I will come back here. I will be coming back to South America many times. One of those times, you will be a bigger girl, and we will find ourselves in a meeting similar to this one. Will you please come up to me and say “hi”? “Hey Elder Bednar do you remember me? I was the seven year old girl you met all those years ago. I remember what you told me that night, and it helped me be a good girl. I look forward to seeing you again.” Her father sitting next to her was overwhelmed with emotion, as were Elder and Sister Snow. It was so great. This week has been one of the best in my mission. Carmen and Luis got married and baptized without a problem. The marriage was about 5 minutes long. You just walk in, sign the paper, take a photo, and you are done.
Well, I think I have successfully given myself carpel tunnel. Not to mention how utterly irreverent the length of this letter is. I love you. Chaucitos.
p.s. we LOVED the harry potter beans, and kept closing our eyes and eating them trying to guess what it was...I had horrible luck...I got black pepper, then VOMIT, then sardines...it was so gross! anyway, we are going to the Benton's for Thanksgiving, and their oldest son Aaron, his wife, and three kids are all here too. they seem like a great family.
I liked the shirt too! but I wear a large so it is a little tight. also I appreciated the conference Ensign seeing as we still haven't gotten it here, and probably wont until february. Thanks again! love you bye
My Last Week Was SPECIAL....
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