It was the influence of the Spirit.
Nothing short of that could have made their service together so joyful.They were called nine short years before. Now - two children, two marriages, two grandchildren, and four full-time missionaries later - the three members of a stake presidency were being honorably released. It has often been said in this Church that one is assured of his eventual release the minute he is called. Being released is a natural and correct part of Church service. For just as surely as a call brings a release, a release will bring a new call. And the opportunity to serve continues eternally.
But during one's tenure, it is the influence of the Spirit that makes that service so sweet.
The calling could be anything. In the Lord's eyes, all are needed to build the Kingdom, and no honest service is deemed more important than any other. Who's to say if teaching 9-year-olds is any more or less important than keeping current and accurate ward records? The contributions of a visiting teacher, acting under the influence of the Spirit, are just as important as an assistant Scoutmaster's.
Now, after years of watching the generous service of others, this stake presidency was being released.
As with all who have developed a close relationship through Church service together, their tenure was replete with rich opportunities that resulted in cherished memories.
But undergirding it all was the influence of the Spirit.
There were the Saturday night sessions of stake conference, when it seemed the entire congregation was touched by the Spirit. There were presidency meetings when the agenda seemed to take a back seat to a reverent and revealing gospel discussion. There were the times when, after kneeling together, the group felt a common surety about who should be called as a new bishop. There were long Sundays with meetings, interviews, callings and teaching. There was the surprise of walking from the stake office late at night to find several inches of new-fallen snow on the cars - and a rush to see who could first help the other clean off his car.
But in everything, there was the influence of the Spirit.
As he led, the president also taught.
When calls were issued, ordinances performed, interviews conducted, assignments given, the top priority was to uplift and edify. The members should feel of the love of Heavenly Father and know of their worth in His eyes. The goal was to bring people to Christ by being Christlike in all that was done. The fact that those who came to stake meetings found the building open, well-lighted, warm and inviting was just a symbol of what this president was trying to accomplish.
His counselors soon learned, and tried to emulate, that this president taught - and led - under the influence of the Spirit.
And in so doing, the three were united in purpose, ideals, desires, hope and faith. Perhaps that's why, while waiting together in the clerk's office for the president to finish a longer-than-expected interview, the counselors found great reward in doctrinal discussions with each other. And, when a counselor overslept one Sabbath morning - completely missing a session of priesthood leadership meeting he was supposed to teach - he was told, "No problem. We took care of it." Or when seemingly overwhelmed by an unexpected waiting-room full of people needing temple recommend interviews, the three quietly turned from their intended duties to help each other, and more importantly, the members.
Even when harried, they could feel the influence of the Spirit.
When Ammon, the great Book of Mormon missionary, was teaching king Lamoni,
the king asked Ammon if he was the Great Spirit.
Ammon, of course, answered that he was not, but that he was a man called by God's Holy Spirit to teach.
"And a portion of that Spirit dwelleth in me, which giveth me knowledge, and also power according to my faith and desires which are in God." (See Alma 18: 18, 34-35.)
Those who serve today in the Lord's Church are similarly called and equally entitled to having the Holy Spirit attend that service.
Virtually any earthly association can bring happiness, friendship and fond memories. In any setting, those are the gems of life. But by serving in the Kingdom, the Spirit gives earthly associations an eternal dimension. That dimension - knowing that how and with whom we serve extends into the eternities - adds joy to joy in a way only a loving Heavenly Father can provide.
We are eternally thankful for those blessed opportunities.