During conference, Spanish-speaking units mark legacy

More and more, the world emphasizes the differences in people. Yet the Lord knows we are all one, said Elder Ronald J. Hammond, an Area Authority Seventy in the Utah North Area.

"That's why we always start a talk with 'My beloved brothers and sisters' — we are of the same family," he added.

Elder Hammond's message highlighted a May 28 fireside for Spanish-speaking Church members living in the Salt Lake Valley. The meeting concluded a three-day conference to, in part, mark the rich legacy of the Salt Lake Mexican Branch, the area's first Spanish-language unit that was formed in 1920.

A day earlier, members celebrated with a cultural festival that included a children's choir, multi-ethnic food and traditional dances from several Latin-American nations.

Since the original Spanish-speaking unit was organized, the Latino population of the Church in Salt Lake City has flourished. Several area Spanish-speaking wards and branches participated in the recent conference. It was a gathering symbolic of the "ultimate reunion" we can one day enjoy, Elder Hammond said.

"This conference has been a special reunion between many old friends," Elder Hammond said. "But such reunions on this earth are only in anticipation for the great reunion we will have with our Heavenly Father."

Reunion stories from the scriptures are legion. Elder Hammond recounted the Old Testament reunion of Joseph and his brothers who had sold him into bondage. The Book of Mormon, he added, includes the special reunion of Alma and the sons of Mosiah after 14 years apart. That reunion was especially joyous because all had remained "brethren in the Lord."

Perhaps the most inspiring reunion in scripture was when the resurrected Christ appeared to His disciples three days after His crucifixion.

"The disciples were so happy to be reunited with Christ," Elder Hammond said.

Other memorable reunions, he said, can also be regarded as preparatory for the faithful's eventual reunion with the Lord.

Elder Hammond told the congregation of the apostasy, when the message of the apostles was rejected, the gospel was removed from the earth and the world languished in spiritual darkness. The illumination of the gospel was later restored via reunion.

"The appearance of our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ to [young] Joseph Smith is one of history's most important reunions," Elder Hammond said. "With this reunion, the time of darkness was replaced by a time of light."

Elder Hammond shared the story of Joseph Smith and his good friend, W.W. Phelps. Brother Phelps had been a devout member of the restored Church before falling into apostasy, leaving the faith and persecuting the Prophet Joseph and other Church members. In time, Brother Phelps realized the pain he had caused the Church and wrote a letter to Joseph Smith asking for forgiveness.

In the letter, Brother Phelps asked if his Church membership and friendship with Joseph Smith could be restored.

The Prophet answered Brother Phelps in a letter, acknowledging the pain that Brother Phelps had caused — but added he would raise his arm in friendship and accept Brother Phelps back into the faith.

"This was one of the great reunions of friends in this dispensation," Elder Hammond said.

Later, W.W. Phelps would speak at the funeral service of Joseph Smith. His love for his friend prompted W.W. Phelps to pen the hymn "Praise to the Man."

We too, Elder Hammond said, must prepare for the "reunion of reunions."

"Being baptized, taking the sacrament, repenting and serving others are all part of our effort to be found worthy of attending the great reunion to meet the Lord again," Elder Hammond said.

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