The Holy Spirit Moves, Heals

25 07 2013

by Greg Clark, Integrated Communications

The healing, with the gentle caress of the Holy Spirit, started almost as soon as delegates took their seats in the Auditorium for the USA National Conference.

Long before the outcome was known, the Holy Spirit was there, providing inspiration, compassion, and—most of all—healing.

Throughout the April 19–21 event, which dealt with two pressing matters involving sexuality, the Holy Spirit wafted over, through, and among more than 1,500 delegates. They felt it in testimonies. Heard it in songs. Touched it in prayers.

In the end, healing came for some people, who had felt slighted for years, when the conference, by more than a two-thirds majority agreed to recommend policy changes to the First Presidency and the Council of Twelve Apostles.

One recommendation was that the sacrament of marriage may be extended, where legal, to persons of the same sex/gender. In places where this is not legal, a church-recognized way for two persons of the same sex/gender to publicly express their covenant to each other will be made available.

The other was to allow a priesthood call to be processed according to established procedures regardless of sexual orientation, including a person in a monogamous, committed, same-sex/gender relationship (e.g., legal marriage, civil partnership, covenant relationship).

But some delegates found unease or distress in the outcomes. Their journey of healing started with the conference upholding their worth as persons with differing opinions who still are welcome at the church’s table.

Healing was there in recognition that change is difficult. And it was there through the blessing of the Holy Spirit, which presided over the three-day meeting in Independence, Missouri.

It was visible in hugs, handshakes, smiles…and tears. And it was evident in the US apostles, who clasped hands during a first-day recess to offer thanks to the Holy Spirit’s presence.

That presence was nearly as tangible as the grove of aspen “trees” that sprouted on the stage and in the balcony behind the rostrum. Soft, blue, translucent banners, decorated with leaves, descended from the ceiling, providing foliage for those trees.

And just as those banners murmured with movement in the Auditorium’s air currents, the Holy Spirit gently made itself known.

The selection of aspens as a worship setting was no coincidence. As the assembly heard early in the conference, aspens don’t grow individually; rather, they grow as community, interlinked by a foundational root system.

The church, built on Christ, is much the same with its Enduring Principles of Unity in Diversity and Worth of All Persons. Those principles were very much on the minds of apostles.

“We have experienced today the depth of the Holy Spirit,” Apostle Linda Booth said. “It’s moved in our midst in a very tender and loving way. Breathe in God’s breath and listen to the people around us as well as the Holy Spirit.

“Without your presence, we would not be complete.”

The yearning throughout the chamber was for people to remain a community even when they disagreed on the topics. That desire was reflected in comments, moments of blessing, music, sermons, and prayer throughout the conference.

“Our love for God and one another must be stronger than any disagreement we have,” Apostle Booth stressed.

Added Mike Hoffman, from the Arizona USA Mission Center: “I feel a very good sense of the Holy Spirit, especially the way people are demonstrating love and patience when hearing opposing views.”

Gloria Crockett of the Eastern Great Lakes USA Mission Center expressed the Holy Spirit’s presence and desire for healing this way:

“This whole experience has been like a worship service. I feel very blessed to be here. It’s wonderful, knowing that evangelists are here, all praying for us. I don’t want people to leave the church.”

She was touched, she said by President Steve Veazey’s first-night message. It began with a quote from Colossians 3:12–13 NRSV:

As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

Apostle Art Smith raised the value of faithful disagreement and added: “We strive always to remain open to the Holy Spirit. Through our vulnerability to the Holy Spirit, we trust God will continue to guide us.”

Karen Ferris, a delegate from the Kentucky-Indiana USA Mission Center, also put her trust in God.

“I feel a settling of the Holy Spirit. It’s been a very unifying, peaceful kind of thing. I hope it will help gather us in and keep us together with the love of God.”

And Ellen LaBrue of the Sierra Pacific USA Mission Center noted that songs throughout the conference focused on peace and reconciliation.

“I definitely felt the Holy Spirit in the music and testimonies, the way people opened their hearts. Sometimes you feel it like the wind, a breeze gently coming over you.”
Scripture reflected that sentiment:

Do not be discouraged. You have not been promised an easy path, but you have been assured that the Spirit that calls you will also accompany you.…It is for divine purpose that you have been given the struggles as well as the joys of diversity.…Do not be defined by the things that separate you but by the things that unite you in Jesus Christ.—Doctrine and Covenants 162:3a, 4b, 5a

On Saturday, Apostle Booth noted that “what we have been doing is not about polling devices; it’s about listening to one another and looking to God. That’s what we’re called to do when we go home.”

A day later she summed up the weekend—and the three-year journey of discernment that preceded it—this way:

“So in faithfulness you have come. Now we pick up the burdens of those who are weeping and…stand together in harmony and the peace of Jesus Christ.

“There are no winners or losers in this body, only disciples trying to be faithful…The Spirit was here.”




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