2017 General Conference Report
By Patriarch Ralph W. Damon
Volume 18, Number 2, April/May/June 2017 Issue 71
Each year, when the saints and members of the Remnant Church begin preparations to gather together for our annual conference, there is the associated excitement that builds with the anticipation of being with friends, worshipping together, and coming apart from the world for a few days to do the necessary work of the church. Plans are made, homes are opened for guests and longtime friends, and the joy of being with kindred souls seems to enliven the whole church once again. We look forward to the days of peaceful communion with one another.
2017’s conference theme, “Zion Shall Flourish,” seemed a most appropriate call for our week of sharing and worship. In every worship service, throughout the business sessions, and extending into each facet of our activities, reference was made to that promise, the ‘flourishing’ of Zion in our day. In fact, several times it was mentioned that, if we look closely at the progress being made by the church, we can see that “Zion IS Flourishing,” at least in part in the life of the Remnant Church.
As has become our practice, the conference week started with several educational sessions presented to give the saints a greater understanding, and view, of some of the important points of focus in the church today. Apostle Terry W. Patience led a class designed to help the member find a way to be valiant in their testimony of the Christ; how to discover ways to give voice to their relationship with Jesus. Role-playing became an important part of that session and allowed many the opportunity to give-and-take in scenarios which might be presented to them sometime in the future.
Utilizing some of the class material presented to the Quorum of High Priests, David R. Van Fleet and Philip M. Strecker led a presentation on two topics: the several editions of the Book of Mormon and the geography of the people of the Book of Mormon. It is good to see this quorum developing the practice of study and inquiry into the several areas of theology, history, and scripture to deepen their ministry to the church. Even more encouraging, are the regular meetings of all the quorums and orders of our priesthood for the purpose of furthering their knowledge and understanding of the mysteries of heaven.
President James A. Vun Cannon led a discussion on the implementation of media outreach and its importance to the church as we find new ways to evangelize the world. Through the diligent work of several devoted volunteers, the work in the new area of social media is beginning to have a great impact upon the effect of the Remnant Church in the lives of people around the world. President Vun Cannon also took time to give an update on the progress of the church video being prepared which will enable those who have an interest in our history and story to see the progress and dreams of the Remnant Church in a manner dedicated to their personal interests.
President Ralph W. Damon held a discussion centered around the “Keys of the Kingdom.” His presentation identified the many “keys” spoken of in the Scriptures, to whom they were commissioned, and for what purpose they were designed. Having this knowledge gives us a deeper ability to understand how God provides the means by which his promises can and will be fullfilled by a receptive people and world.
Presiding Patriarch Carl W. VunCannon, Jr., closed these sessions with his presentation on “The Celestial Law.” Brother VunCannon provided ample encouragement that our response to the Celestial Law is necessary if we are to ever become “one” with the Father and the Son. As the Remnant Church has been counseled that the union of the “temporal law” with the “spiritual law” forms the foundation of the “Celestial Law,” it becomes a requirement that those who desire to become part of the celestial kingdom incorporate these two laws into their lives.
Opening worship services were also a part of the conference week. Monday night, Apostle Gary L. Argotsinger was the speaker for that service. Although Brother Argotsinger provided his usual effective ministry, the evening became a somber one for the saints due to an accident earlier in the evening that eventually claimed the life of Sister Teresa Durant, wife of Bishop Tony M. Durant. Many prayers were offered for her and the family throughout the rest of the week.
Tuesday evening, the young people of the church were given the opportunity to display their musical abilities as well as lead the congregation in worship and song. High Priest Corwyn L. Mercer, the church youth director, assembled an outstanding cast of young men and women for that evening’s service. It was an outstanding evening, one of witness to the skills and dedication of many of our young members as they begin their lives of service to their Lord.
Wednesday evening’s service was devoted to the “Advent of the Remnant Church,” a brief walk back into the late 1990’s and early 2000’s when the formation of the church was developed and set in place. It has been almost twenty years since those days of inspired direction and response, and it was felt that perhaps a reflective look back was timely so that the dedication and urgency which was such a part of the coming forth of the Remnant Church could be felt by those who have grown up outside of that immediate influence. Planning for the service included asking some of those who were part of its inception to share their testimonies, as well as including hearing the dreams of those who now see the Remnant Church as an invaluable part of their lives today.
As the conference began on Thursday, our routine for worship and business began to set itself in place. Our beloved “fathers” of the church, the Order of Patriarchs, led our morning prayer and testimony services with tenderness and guidance. It is always a good thing to start each day in deep worship, and these brothers provided a wonderful opportunity for each one in attendance to begin his or her day close to God.
Quorum, order, and membership sessions were provided on Thursday and Friday for the deliberation of the business of the church. President Frederick N. Larsen presented an inspired document to the conference on Thursday morning which was then released for discussion and action within those legislative bodies with their subsequent actions to be returned to the conference at Saturday morning’s closing business session.
As would be expected, many activities were taking place throughout the formal days of conference. The Women’s Council held their annual Women’s Reception on Thursday afternoon. President Larsen shared with them for a few moments, Sister Deborah Schuelke was recognized for her service on the council for the past two years, Sister Danelle Woodruff was introduced as a new member of the council, and Chairperson Marci Damon briefly presented the council’s new educational and workshop program for 2017.
After the noon meals, time for music and singing was provided along with a youth music program. The traditional luncheon with the youth was attended by President Larsen, always a high moment for all of them. Regretfully, Sister Larsen was unable to attend this year. The Young Families also gathered together again for an evening meal and social time, further strengthening their ties to each other and looking toward 2017 for more activities.
Two instructional sessions were held giving Presiding Bishop W. Kevin Romer and President James A. Vun Cannon the opportunity to discuss with the members the follow-up work being done regarding the 1-3-5 Year Plan and the “Vision of the Kingdom,” and how these programs will now extend into the coming years.
Evening worship services were led and conducted by the three upper quorums of the church leadership. Thursday evening the Bishopric led the worship, with Bishop Romer bringing the message of the evening. Friday found the Quorum of Twelve, assisted by members of the Quorum of Seventy, bringing the ministry. Apostle S. Roger Tracy shared his personal testimony in his usual unique and compelling manner. Saturday evening the First Presidency, with President Larsen bringing his presidential address to the conference, led the worship service.
After the inspired document was adopted by the conference on Saturday afternoon, an ordination service was held and those men named in the document were set apart to their new offices of ministry.
High Priest Mark D. Deitrick was set apart to serve in the Quorum of Twelve, Bishop Andrew C. Romer was set apart to serve as a Counselor to the Presiding Bishop, and Ralph W. Damon was set apart to serve in the Order of Patriarchs. We extend our deepest wishes to each of these men, and their families, for outstanding ministry in their new offices.
Sunday morning, always a bittersweet time, found the saints gathering together for two services: the Lord’s Supper and the closing worship service for General Conference 2017. High Priest Steven C. Tims brought the communion address and Sister Linda Gussman brought a wonderful ministry of music as she sang “You Prepare a Table Before Me.” After a brief time of preparation, the closing service found Presiding Patriarch Carl W. VunCannon, Jr., challenging the church to prepare for the times to come by responding to God’s call with dedication, desire, and humility. The Conference Choir, under the direction of Sister Barbara Sherer, brought a special quality of music to this closing service with their final offering being “And the Church Shall Rise.”
The Scriptures speak of the “peaceable things of the kingdom.” Many who attended this year’s General Conference were overheard expressing that sentiment of this conference – that it was a peaceful and worshipful time. Reflecting on this year’s theme of “Zion Shall Flourish,” perhaps it is possible to also look inward and see that Zion is also ‘flourishing’ in the lives of many. Using one of President Larsen’s favorite phrases, “May it be so!”