Monday, January 21, 2013
This new "job" isn't really a job at all. Although the work involved is immense. Stunning. And transforming.
On January 5th I was asked - or called, as we like to put it - to be the new stake president of the Pleasant Grove Utah Manila stake. It was an experience Ginger and I will never forget.
I've thought a lot about whether or not I should share the experience we had - not that there was anything "secret" about it. Rather, I don't want to convey any kind of "special-ness" about myself in relating the events of that weekend. I certainly don't feel particularly special. But I do want to express the certainty I have that I was called, if that makes any sense.
On the Sunday before Christmas - December 23rd - I received an email while at my parent's home in Oregon asking me to attend a five-minute interview with two Church authorities, on Saturday, January 5th, at 10:15 that morning. I accepted. This would be my second time going through this experience. The first was almost eight years ago while I was serving as a bishop in Eugene, Oregon.
Ginger and I tried hard not to think too much about the possibilities. When a new stake is organized, two General and/or Area Authorities from our church interview somewhere between 2-3 dozen local members as they attempt to find the person the Lord has chosen to preside over a stake. So I would be just one among a large number of men considered. The more the better, we both thought.
On Saturday morning I drove to our stake center and waited for my turn to be interviewed. The two Church leaders were Elder Craig A. Cardon and Elder Kevin B. Worthen. My moment came, and I sat with them in the stake president's office and answered a few questions about my church experience, my occupation, my family, and my health. They then asked me to recommend three men who might serve as the new stake president. It was very hard to limit myself to three (I actually gave them four...always the rebel.) They thanked me for my time and I was then headed back home.
Ginger and I spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon cleaning the house (I cleaned three toilets...such a nice husband!) and helped Ging to put away Christmas. Inside my head and heart a battle commenced.
Head: "I hope they don't call."
Heart: "I wonder if they'll call?"
Head: "PLEASE don't let the phone ring."
Heart: "So many are so much more qualified than I am."
Head: "I'm so glad the phone isn't ringing."
Heart: "It would be a wonderful opportunity to serve. Why isn't the phone ringing?"
I remember distinctly at around 1:30 that afternoon thinking that they surely had decided by then and that the new president had no doubt been called. I was both relieved and confused. Relieved for all the obvious reasons. And confused because, well, because of many persistent whispers I'd had over many months previous. Whispers I'd tried very hard to ignore. And had mostly succeeded.
And then the phone rang. It was 1:55pm. The name on the caller ID was that of our current stake president, Ryan Richards.
I was in our front room putting away Christmas tree ornaments. Ginger answered the phone and came into the room, holding it out in front of her like it was radioactive. I'll never forget the look on her face. It likely matched my own.
"Brother Livingston - Elder Cardon and Elder Worthen would like to meet with you and your wife. How soon can you be here?"
A million thoughts raced through my suddenly terrified mind.
We quickly dressed in Sunday attire and then knelt in prayer, our trembling hands knotted together. We debated where to park at the building - worrying about being seen about anyone in our stake. Silly, huh?
We hastily walked into the building...and no one was there. All of the office doors were closed. That gave us a false sense of security. They must be meeting with the new presidency members already - perhaps I'll be asked to serve as the executive secretary...
Then the office doors opened and...no one we knew was inside. Ginger and I were each interviewed individually, and then we sat down together with the two General Authorities and President Richards.
The question I'd never imagined I'd be asked in a million years was then asked - "Will you accept the Lord's call to serve as the president of the Pleasant Grove Utah Manila Stake?"
I quietly responded. Ginger was asked if she would support me in the call. She tearfully nodded in affirmation.
An atomic bomb had just gone off in our lives.
The rest of the weekend was a wonderful and overwhelming blur.
Ginger and I were asked to counsel together about who my counselors should be - a very tender moment for us. We talked and prayed and cried together, and the Lord told us who He had prepared: President Jim Brinton and President Brent McAllister. They were invited with their wives to come to the stake center, and I was humbled to be in the room with them as they were called to serve at my side - instant brothers.
The Spirit was amazing.
The next morning at 10am, our names were read in as the new stake presidency. We were each given the chance to share our testimonies, as was Ginger. From everything I've heard (and I've heard it a lot) her testimony was the highlight of our conference for many stake members.
At the end of the conference we were each set apart. A spirit of love filled the room. I feel that spirit still. It is why I know I was called. I feel that we - my counselors and myself, along with our spouses, have been called to a mission of love. Of rescue. To let every member of our stake know that we love them and that the Savior loves and knows them. Each and every one.
Posted by Scott Livingston at 6:12 PM