We have a stake! The Ulaanbaatar District has been divided and now forms the Ulaanbaatar Mongolia West Stake and the Ulaanbaatar East District.
It’s been an event filled weekend, as you might suppose. The forming of the first stake in Mongolia is finally a reality. There are now two districts, fourteen branches, 6 wards and one stake within the boundaries of the Ulaanbaatar mission. The members here are very excited about this new milestone in their history.
Elder Hallstrom (area President who will become a member of the Seventy’s Presidency in July) and Elder Chong (an area authority seventy) came to oversee the work. Both have been wonderful to have with us. We had two meetings on Saturday (a Priesthood Leadership Meeting at 4:00 pm and an adult meeting at 7:00 pm – just like back home!). Most of their remarks centered around the keys of presidency, of sustaining and releasing individual when changes in callings happen and of the differences between a stake and a district.
The Saturday meetings were held in the Bayanzurkh building. The chapel was filled for the leadership meeting and both the Chapel and the basement meeting area (where they had closed circuit tv) were packed for the adult meeting.
In the mission field, all Church members are under the jurisdiction of the Mission President. It is the Mission President who must interview all temple candidates and sign all temple recommends, along with the appropriate Branch President. But when a stake is formed, those members living within the Stake boundaries then are under the jurisdiction of the Stake President. He will now assume the responsibility for signing recommends, etc. It actually takes some of the burden from a Mission President.
We met at a community cultural center for Sunday’s session. The Church does not have a facility here large enough to hold even a quarter of the membership. With the organization of the new stake, there is also now a stake center in the planning stages and that will be a much needed addition, as well.
The center was full to capacity, as Elder Hallstrom rose to the pulpit and announced the organization of the stake. People had come from literally around the world to be part of this. We have about 20 past missionaries who have come from the United States who could not resist coming to see the fruits of their labors as this day unfolded. As we said in our last post, we leave our mark on this area and it leaves its mark on us.
Two members of the now past District Presidency became the new Stake Presidency. The second counselor does not live within the boundaries of the new stake and had to be released. President Odgerel (the past District President and the new Stake President), then, will become the first High Priest ever to be ordained in Mongolia. Bishops and High Council members will also then be ordained High Priests. As Elder Hallstrom added parenthetically, ‘this is the end of chapter one in Mongolia and the beginning of chapter two’.
The presidency of the new district is very young. The second counselor is not even married, yet, but they are wonderful brethren and will do a great job. As they bore their testimonies, the new District President became quite emotional – something not often seen in Mongolian men.
It is not unusual, apparently, for a second stake to follow not very long after the organization of the first. Therefore, part of the council given throughout the meetings was to strengthen the branches in the Ulaanbaatar East District in preparation for that second stake. We have little doubt that these people will soon have that second stake. Who knows, we might even still be around here when it happens!
During Sunday’s session, Elder Hallstrom referred us to the 1st section of the Doctrine and Covenants verse 30, telling us that we were seeing the fulfilling of that verse in this part of the world, in what was happening today. “And also those to whom these commandments were given, might have power to lay the foundation of this church, and to bring it forth out of obscurity and out of darkness . . .”
A Patriarch was not called today. Elder Hallstrom explained that it now became incumbent upon the new Stake Presidency to deliberate, pray and recommend an appropriate name to the First Presidency. But he also counseled that once one was called and set apart, the members here needed to be patient. It would be some time before one Patriarch would be able to give all in Mongolia who desired, a Patriarchal Blessing. We will anxiously await that milestone, as well.
The stone that rolls forth without hands is getting larger.