More than 1,000 members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the greater Chattanooga area gathered for a local conference focused on Christ Saturday and Sunday. The conference was held at the Stake Center located at 3067 Ooltewah Ringgold Road. President John Griffey of the Chattanooga Stake (area) presided over the services. He spoke, along with his two counselors, Bryan D. Silvenis and Jim Barrott.
The choir, conducted by Kathy W. Wolfe with Florence Ashby at the organ, opened Sunday services with a powerful rendition of “Guide Us O Thou Great Jehovah” followed by “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.” The choir and congregation sang, “I Know That My Redeemer Lives.”
President Silvenis, first counselor in the Stake Presidency, spoke about following Christ. He used an example from Sept. 11, telling of how when terrorists attacked the Pentagon and a fireball erupted, some who were trapped inside became disoriented and confused. Rescuers called out, “Follow my voice.” President Silvenis said when tragedy strikes any of us – whether emotionally, physically or spiritually – we should remember that the Savior beckons – “Come, follow me.” If we understand why we are here, where we came from, and where we are going, we can be led to safety, President Silvenis said. “The great plan of our Eternal God known as the plan of happiness or the plan of salvation provides a stunning lens by which we can understand the gospel of Jesus Christ and our purpose on Earth. Christ is the center of the plan, and the aim of our being is to become more like Him.”
Heidi Fulks, second counselor in the Stake Relief Society (women’s organization), spoke of how the adversary tries to discourage us on our path to happiness. The adversary is anxious to mislead us. He gets into our thoughts and tells us we are not good enough. Don’t listen to the destroyer. Turn to Christ and live was the message of hope she shared.
Kim Blevins, second counselor in the Young Women’s presidency, spoke about how her grandmother taught her to love the scriptures, love herself and know that the Savior has love for all of us. She said her grandmother taught her to repent. She said true happiness comes through the Savior. He is the Christ.
Sister Ingram, matron of the Atlanta temple, spoke about how she came to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She referenced the Book of Mormon, holding up a copy she received in the 1970s, with a blue background and a gold angel on the front cover. The angel is Moroni. Sister Ingram said at the time she didn’t know who Moroni was but she later learned he was an ancient prophet who, in due course, brought forth in the latter days a sacred record of peoples in ancient America. Moroni delivered the record to Joseph Smith, the prophet of the Restoration. The record, known as The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ spans a thousand years and calls upon all people everywhere to “come unto Christ and be perfected in Him” (Moroni 10:32-34).
The Book of Mormon comes with a promise, as stated by Moroni. “Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things…that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if you shall ask with a sincere heart…having faith in Christ, He will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost” (Moroni 10:3-4). Sister Ingram put the promise to the test and said she knew it, and she knew that God knew it, and she could not deny it – The Book of Mormon is true.
Forty-eight years later, from their apartment, she says she looks out and sees the angel Moroni on top of the Atlanta temple, symbolically proclaiming the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Sister Ingram said that in the temple we receive heavenly power. Temples give us comfort, strength and peace. In temples, we make and keep sacred promises, and participate in the gathering of Israel. Temples are “a house of prayer…a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God (D&C 88:119). “Let us go up to the house of God,” as Isaiah taught, “and He will teach of His ways, and we will walk in His paths” (Isaiah 2:2-3). The Atlanta temple was the first temple built by The Church in the Southeastern United States.
Prior to his service as Atlanta temple president, President Ingram spent his career as a Marine Corps officer. He was assigned to NATO and he and Sister Ingram spent a year in Israel. President and Sister Ingram visited the well where it is thought that a woman of Samaria drew water for Jesus. Jesus taught, “Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14). “Christ’s teachings are the living water and temples are very symbolic places of learning,” President Ingram said. “Temples are Houses of the Lord on the Earth.”
“Wonderful things happen. Miracles occur every day. As we enter the temple, we become less worldly. We leave the natural man and woman behind and enter into a different world. The blessings pronounced in the temple reach far into eternity. The blessings are beyond our comprehension,” President Ingram taught, also referring to 1 Corinthians 2. “In temples, we are uplifted by ordinances and covenants. We can perform baptisms and other ordinances for our loved ones who have died without receiving these blessings. In temples, couples can be married for eternity, not just ‘til death do you part.’ Families can be sealed together forever. Because of Houses of the Lord on the Earth, the grave has no victory over us or our families. Temples are Holiness to the Lord,” President Ingram said.
President Jim Barrott, second counselor in the Stake Presidency, reminded us that Satan’s greatest efforts are to try and discredit the Atonement of Jesus Christ. We should strengthen our families against these attacks, he said. Jesus Christ was the only one capable of carrying out the Atonement to free us from the effects of death and sin. Only through and by Jesus may man be saved. There is no other way.
President John Griffey, Chattanooga Stake president, said we should center our focus on following the Savior. We all need to be better. We need to show that we are Christians, and the way we keep the Sabbath day holy is one example that shows that Jesus Christ is important to us, he said. President Griffey also reminded us to teach our children boldly about Jesus Christ. Teach them how to be victorious and to remember that the gospel of Jesus Christ changes hearts and lives. “Give our life to the Savior,” he urged. “Serve The Lord with all our heart, mind and strength.”
Saturday services also centered on Christ. President David J. Pickett, the mission president for the Tennessee Knoxville Mission, which includes the greater Chattanooga area, reminded us that we have a Father in Heaven who helps us to make course corrections. We need to be worthy and to be able to do whatever the Lord has for us to do at any time.
The choir concluded conference by singing, “Come Follow Me.” The next Stake conference will be held six months from now. All are welcome to attend.