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Middle East stake: 10 cities in 10 days

Elder Holland travels to conduct unique conference for unique stake

(Related story: Growth, friendship serve as Middle East 'miracles' )

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

What may arguably be one of the most unique stakes in the Church recently completed an equally unique series of stake conference meetings as Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve presided at Manama Bahrain Stake meetings conducted daily in different cities and countries over a 10-day period, including a Feb. 27 general stake conference session in Dubai and the calling of a new stake president.

Elder Holland greets a member of the Manama Bahrain Stake.
Elder Holland greets a member of the Manama Bahrain Stake. Photo: Photo by Matt Chatterly

It was the first official visit to the stake by an apostle in 26 years, the last time being in 1983 when Elder Boyd K. Packer first organized the stake.

Elder Holland and his wife, Patricia, and Elder Gerald Causse of the Seventy and his wife, Valerie, spent 10 days traversing the Manama Bahrain Stake, which covers several of the Arabian Gulf States and includes 16 units from the region such as those in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Bahrain.

Combining the 636 who attended the stake conference's final general session in Dubai with the other sessions conducted earlier in the various cities, the total attendance was 1,500 for a stake of 1,950 members.

Youth from the Manama Bahrain Stake were thrilled to hear Elder Holland and Elder Causse.
Youth from the Manama Bahrain Stake were thrilled to hear Elder Holland and Elder Causse. Photo: Photo by Matt Chatterly

In speaking at the Dubai general session, both Elder and Sister Holland acknowledged the great gathering of members occurring at this time in this part of the world. "You are making history," said Elder Holland, who oversees the Middle East Area for the Church. "We may not see until later what that will mean. But the Spirit of the Lord is blessing you. This conference is evidence to you that God knows and loves you."

At every stop in their itinerary, Elders Holland and Causse conducted interviews of priesthood leaders typical to when a new stake president is called and then conducted meetings with the local members, with each meeting including the sustaining of General Authorities. At the final general session in Dubai, the new stake presidency — led by President Waldo D. Galan, a Dubai resident and a Ford Motor Co. executive — was announced and sustained. The proceedings were transmitted by broadband to members in those cities Elders Holland and Causse had visited in the previous days.

Elder Holland reminded the stake members that one of the great testimonies of the Church is the week-by-week revelation experienced in extending calls to its lay ministry.

"In this session of conference, we have sustained President Thomas S. Monson as president of the Church," he said. "We have sustained the counselors in the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve in their callings. We have also sustained a new stake president and his counselors here in this exciting part of the world. We have sustained various other stake officers, both men and women, and we have sustained several young men who have been found worthy to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood.

"What a wonderful thrill it is to belong to a Church where a whole congregation of men, women and youth serve voluntarily, service which succeeds at least in part because we all 'sustain' each other — literally hold up our hands to strengthen each other, just as literally as Aaron and Hur held up Moses' arms in his heavy responsibilities [see Exodus 17:12]. In this Church, we neither seek for nor decline calls to serve, but certainly none could serve without the sustaining support of the rest of the congregation. Thank you for 'bearing up' those called to serve. They — we — couldn't do it without you."

Of the multi-stop meeting format, Elder Causse said, "it is quite an experience to hold stake conference for a week." During the Dubai general session, he encouraged members to have charity. "Don't live as a shadow, but as a light. No one can take the light out of your eyes."

Elder Holland counseled the members that "love shared is never love divided. In the mathematics of heaven, love shared is always love multiplied."

Bearing his witness of the restored gospel, he added: "No matter what we are given to experience in this life, we can face it and triumph over it because this work is true. This message of the restored gospel is not a cunningly devised fable. This is the very truth of God."

Elder Holland left an apostolic blessing on those attending the conference, challenging the brethren to live up to their priesthood offices and become true disciples of Christ, counseling the sisters to be proud they are women in the kingdom of God, and the young people to be safe, happy and loved. He blessed the children, the sick, the ill and the grieving, saying his greatest desire was to bear the same witness and extend the same blessings that the Savior would if He were present.

— Scott Taylor contributed to this article.

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