My Life in Zion

The life and views of a Latter-day Saint in the 21st Century…

Archive for the tag “Mormon”

The Newly Called Alabama Birmingham Mission President: Stanford C. Sainsbury

A photo of Stanford Sainsbury from the Daily Herald upon his retirement in 2012. Photo by Jim Mcauley

A photo of Stanford Sainsbury from the Daily Herald upon his retirement in 2012. Photo by Jim Mcauley

With yesterday’s exciting announcement of 3 new missions being created in the world, the Church also publicly listed nearly all of the 168 new mission presidents who will begin service this summer with their wives.

Here in the great state of Alabama we will be welcoming Stanford C. Sainsbury and his wife Sister Melanee Sainsbury.

Living on a 50 acre farm in West Mountain, Utah (Payson/Spanish Fork Area), President and Sister Sainsbury will be leaving behind their lives and trading in the Rocky Mountains for Appalachian Hills for the next three years. Sainsbury, who turned 60 just last month, with his wife Melanee, are the parents of seven children. President Sainsbury spent his professional life as an employee for the city or Orem, Utah. After graduation from BYU and earning a law degree, Sainsbury spent 10 years as a city prosecutor for Orem city, then deputy city attorney. During that time he became a certified planner. He then spent his final 16 years of employment as the director of development services. He retired in December of 2012 after 29 years of service for the City of Orem.

A graduate of BYU, President Sainsbury served a full-time mission as a young man in Sweden under the direction of President Paul Oscarson. President Oscarson, who was only 29 years of age at the time of his call as mission president, was known for his youth and enthusiasm in the Swedish Mission. Perhaps President Sainsbury will bring some of the same vigor of his full-time mission as a young man to Alabama as the mission president. His wife, Sister Melanee Anderson, is originally from Manassa, Colorado. According to an online profile from President Sainsbury he enjoys “[spending] time visiting children, working in the yard and garden, farming, following BYU sports, spending time in the temple, ward callings, traveling, reading,etc.”

President and Sister Sainsbury have served in a variety of church callings throughout the years, including recently as a ward mission leader for President Sainsbury.

As members of the Church residing in the Alabama Birmingham Mission we will deeply miss President Richard D. Hanks and his beloved wife Elizabeth. However, we recognize that with the hastening of the work comes a hastening of the years, and we are thankful to be have been blessed with the acquaintance of such fine saints here in Dixie. President Sainsbury will have very large shoes to fill, both figuratively and literally, but we have no doubt that with the blessings of the Lord he will do so exceptionally.

President and Sister Sainsbury. (Picture from one of their personal blogs - they also blogged here for a period of time.)

President and Sister Sainsbury. (Picture from one of their personal blogs – they also blogged here for a period of time.)


Why Dogs Die Young

I’ve seen this shared numerous times online this week. It is supposedly a story from the perspective a veterinarian and his experience with a young boy who saw his dog put down. It is touching, and makes me wonder what the world would be like if we would just all listen to the wisdom of children…


Following God’s Plan

My wife and I on our wedding day at The Birmingham Alabama Temple.

My wife and I on our wedding day at The Birmingham Alabama Temple.

Last night my wife and I were about to sit down and enjoy a couple of episodes of The Big Bang Theory. I’ve always loved the show, and since getting married, she’s taken a great liking to it too. We’re only on day 23 of our marriage, but somehow we’ve rushed through the first three seasons of DVD’s and are now on season four. I’m not sure how many episodes that boils down to us watching per day of our marriage, but I’m going to assume it’s higher than we would probably like to admit. The antics of Sheldon Cooper just cannot be matched. In any case, we were sitting down on the couch last night and I felt that I needed to take a moment to point something out.

“Baby, I have to tell you something,” I said looking Anna Melissa straight in the eyes. I realized I had used a bit more of a forceful tone that I had intended to use and she looked at me like I had just said something ominous.

“Okay, go ahead,” she said somewhat reluctantly. She sat back into the corner of the couch with her legs crossed in front of her, as if she was bracing for some big storm of words. We’ve had nothing but a perfectly blissful marriage so far. Perhaps she thought this would be the moment when perfection finally ceased? She furrowed her eyebrows and looked me straight on.

I apologized for sounding so drastic, and then said something that has in a real sense overwhelmed me for the past few days.

“Y’know,” I started off casually, “if you had asked me a year ago where I would be today I would have never have dreamed it would have been here with you. I had completely different life dreams, and a vision, and a plan. This is in no way part of that,” I said as I motioned around our small apartment living room. “But,” I continued, “I cannot imagine my life being any happier than I am right now. I cannot imagine being happier in any way at all, and I love you, and I’m thankful that I married you.”

That was it.

She gave me that “Awwwe Shucks” face of her’s which is adorable, and she leaned forward for a kiss. We shared a few more brief words of how happy we are together, and then the night continued on with our recorded sitcom television. Just a few seconds worth of conversation in a lifetime full of events, but what I said was true, and as I sit here today it is still echoing in my mind.

A year ago I had big plans. They involved moving back to Utah, an eventual marriage (to some unknown beauty), being a published author by the end of the year, and a goal to learn to play the guitar. Then the first Sunday in February I met Anna Melissa. There are varying accounts to how that first interaction proceeded (I was after all asking her friend out on a date when we met), but suffice it to say I married the right gal. She is the most perfect woman in the world for me and, and as I told her last night, I could not be any happier. I would not change a single thing about the previous year. But it’s funny how life just happens amidst all of our well laid plans.

A few months ago I was listening to This American Life on NPR. The story was about the Plan B’s of life. Not people’s Plan A. But Plan B. The thing that they ended up doing after their Plan A to achieve all of their hopes and dreams and when things just didn’t work out. The engaging story included the tale of Ceurvo Man, a hired personality on a small island owned by Jose Cuervo where the liquor company does elite weekend getaways. There was also a story about a man named Barry Keenan who had gotten rich at a very young age and then lost it all, only to end up trying to kidnap Frank Sinatra Jr.

“Jeez!” I thought to myself driving down the interstate to a new job I had recently started, “I’m glad my life didn’t end up like that.” Yes, I once wanted to rich and famous, but I haven’t become a felon or tried kidnapping any D-List celebrities along the way.

It turns out Mr. Keenan’s efforts to kidnap young Frank Jr. never really worked out. However, it really got me to thinking, what was my life’s Plan A? What were my hopes and dreams? Why didn’t I achieve them? And as I got to thinking I realized that I never really planned well enough for my Plan A, or B, and somehow despite my best efforts at planning I was probably somewhere between Plan Q and Plan 22.7 subsection C.

In the Mormon culture we’re always referring to The Plan of Happiness, or God’s Plan, or The Plan of Salvation. The great and epic plan for all of our lives, planned, prepared, and perpetuated since before the beginning of time. It’s the way we’re supposed to get back to God’s presence. It applies to everyone in the world and we’re bound by covenant to try and share it with the world. There is, after all, no better way to share the gospel than to invite a friend over for some Kool Aid, smile really big, and invite them to learn about The Plan of Happiness. – No. Nothing weird about that at all. – Sometimes I think we get lost in our own life plans though, planning for education, or marriage, or kids, and sometimes lose sight of God’s plan for our lives.

On September 28th of this past year in the annual Relief Society General Meeting Sister Linda K. Burton taught that covenant keeping strengthens, empowers, and protects us. She said simply,

“Covenant keeping is essential for true happiness.”

She continued by saying that covenant keeping also demonstrates our love for the Father and the Son, and that ordinances are spiritual milestones, noting that they are the crucial test of life is to see if we will make and keep covenants.

Is my life where I planned it to be a year ago, or five years ago, or even a decade ago? No. But is yours? Have all of your plans came to fruition?

Yet I’m happy. Indeed, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my life. And even if I am on Plan 22.7 subsection C I know that my happiness comes from obedience to the Lord, His gospel, and my covenants. I married the right person in the right place at the right time, and we could not be happier.

My life is evidence that sometimes Plan A, or Plan B just don’t work out. My life is evidence that screw ups have a chance, and that the greatest happiness in life comes from just doing the most plain and simple things we’re asked to do.

Where will me and my family be in five years? It’s hard to say. But I have no doubt that as we follow God’s plan in our lives we’ll find the greatest joy there is to be found in this life.

In the meantime, I’m sure we’ll be catching up on The Big Bang Theory.

Last Night I Got Engaged

Anna Melissa snapped this double selfie of us to announce to the social media world our joy.

Anna Melissa snapped this double-selfie of us to announce our joy to the social media world.

People keep asking how I ended up popping the question to the beautiful woman who has taken my heart. So I decided that it would be easiest to just share her perspective of last night which she shared on our wedding website at The Knot. (Wedding website? Yeah. I’m a man. Who knew such things existed?!…)

This is Anna Melissa’s perspective of last night:

“In true Stan Way fashion, the proposal was nothing short of completely and utterly sacred.

Stan blind folded me at about 8:30 pm at my house, led me to his car and then drove for about thirty minutes. I had no idea where we were or where we were going. When we stopped he got me out of the car and led me, still blind folded, into a building, through some doors, and up a couple of stairs.

When we stopped Stan then proceeded to propose to me in the most beautiful way I could ever imagine.

We were facing one another holding hands. I was still blind folded. He explained to me that in the perfect world he would have proposed to me in only one place. He then explained the importance of living prophets and priesthood leaders and asked if I knew the significance of rivers and water in the scriptures. He explained that in the scriptures we are taught that proceeding from the throne of God is a river, and that in other places in the scriptures there is described a river flowing forth from the temple towards the east. He said this was symbolic of the word of God flowing unto all the earth and to all of Israel, and that Jesus Christ is that living water. That is why we often see fountains on many of our church’s temple grounds. The river and the fountains represent the Word of God flowing to all humankind. He told me that at the church’s Conference Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, there is a fountain in a garden on the roof of the Conference Center. The fountain is placed directly over the pulpit inside the Conference Center. Stan then said that in a perfect world he would have propsed there on that roof, at that place because it signifies the Word of the Lord flowing to the world. But that since he couldn’t propose to me there he would propose in the next best place.

He then he took off the blind fold and we were standing behind the pulpit of our church’s chapel. He told me that there in that chapel we hear the Word of the Lord every time we are there and that it is there that we sustain our leaders, our prophet, our apostles, and our Lord Jesus Christ.

I was hysterical as he got down on one knee, told me that he could never imagine a more perfect woman to be the mother of his children, and then asked me to be by his side throughout eternity and to follow our  Lord in everything that we do.

It was the most beautiful moment of my life, sacred and special. I felt like a princess. The daughter of a King and the fiance of an incredibly faithful man.”

I personally couldn’t be more honored or blessed to have a greater woman in my life. After a long search I’ve finally found the woman with whom I am equally yoked and shares the most important of goals in life with me.

Frankly, I’m giddy with joy, and our wedding day cannot come soon enough!

Anna Melissa's smile and eyes are the most brilliant sparkling things I know. This ring will always look dim compared to them, but it will have to do...

Anna Melissa’s smile and eyes are the most brilliant sparkling things I know. This ring will always look dim compared to them, but it will have to do…


The Conference Center in Salt Lake City, Utah is the world's largest indoor religious auditorium and seats 21,000+ visitors. The roof is cover in over three acres of gardens with a fountain located in the northeast corner of the roof.

The Conference Center in Salt Lake City, Utah is the world’s largest indoor religious auditorium and seats 21,000+ visitors. The roof is covered in over three acres of gardens with a fountain located in the northeast corner directly above the pulpit in the auditorium below.


A closeup of the fountain located on the Conference Center roof. I'll get to take Anna Melissa there someday...

A closeup of the fountain located on the Conference Center roof. I’ll get to take Anna Melissa there someday…

Mormonism in a Nutshell

Tonight I went out with our full-time missionaries, Elder Prisbey and Elder Miklich, to teach a lesson to a gentleman who has been attending church with us for the past couple of months. As we entered the place where this man lives I recognized one of his roommates as someone I had previously known and, after briefly catching up with one another, she asked in an excited fashion, “So you’re a Mormon too?!” I acknowledged that I was, but had grown up Lutheran until I was a young man. She then asked the most basic of questions anyone could ever ask a Mormon:

“Whats the difference between your church and the Lutheran church?”

It’s a question Latter-day Saints face continually in one form or fashion. “What makes you different?” “Why do you have that book?” “Who was that Joseph Smith guy?” “What makes you different than Christians?”

We’ve heard them all.

Recognizing that this woman was on her way out the door and about to leave before the elders and I sat down to share our message, I gave her what I have deemed my “Mormonism in a Nutshell” sermon. I started by saying,

“Well, that’s a great question! I grew up Lutheran and recognized when I was young that the church that I was a member of was not similar to the church found in the New Testament. Lutherans, after all, are just Catholics without the pope. But I knew that the church I saw in the New Testament was not like my church, or any church that I knew of. That all changed when a couple of guys in white shirts and ties showed up at my door, and the rest you could say, is history.”

Everyone laughed noting the abundance of white shirts and ties in the room. Then I continued with the real meat of my nutshell,

“As Mormons we know that Jesus Christ came to the earth in New Testament times to die for our sins and provide a way through His grace to return back to Heaven. We also know that He established His church when He came. As taught continually throughout the Holy Bible, He called men and gave them authority to act in His name. This authority is called the priesthood. This authority is what gives men the authority to act in the name of God and perform ordinances such as baptism. Remember that even Jesus Christ went to someone who held proper priesthood authority to be baptized.”

Everyone nodded at this point remembering the story of Jesus Christ going to John the Baptist to be baptized. I pressed on,

“When Jesus Christ gave this authority to the apostles in the New Testament He established His church, as Paul taught, on the foundation of apostles and prophets with He Himself being the chief cornerstone. In the New Testament there were not different denominations of Christianity, there was, once again as Paul teaches, one Lord, one faith, and only one manner of baptism. When the apostles and the prophets died the authority to act in God’s name was no longer on the earth. The church of Jesus Christ no longer functioned as taught in the New Testament. This was predicted and it was known that it would happen, but when the men holding the proper priesthood authority died the church died with them. Of course, this doesn’t mean that Christianity died. In fact, we know that Christianity flourished, and that there are countless good Christian people in the world. But we as Mormons make the bold claim that the church of Jesus Christ has been restored, just like it was in the New Testament, and that God has called a prophet today. Since the Lord truly is the same yesterday, today, and forever, He has once again restored that priesthood authority to the earth to act in His name, and that authority is found solely in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

Everyone in the room nodded, and then I concluded saying,

“It’s a big and bold claim: We are the one truth church. God still speaks and there are prophets today. But that is what we teach. That  is the difference between us and other denominations. And that is why we come out and share it with anyone who is willing to listen.”

My mini sermon over, my old acquaintance smiled and said, “Well, I never knew that.” She then took a seat and listened as the missionaries taught the gospel with a beautiful simplicity and humility which I often lack.

Yes, there’s much that could be said about we Latter-day Saints. But, when it comes down to what our main message is, it’s pretty cut and dry.



Earlier this week I got an email from the member of our stake high council who is over missionary work. In it I was invited, as our branch mission leader, to attend the zone conference of the missionaries serving in our stake in the Alabama Birmingham Mission of the church.

Today was that zone conference.

I wish I had words to fully convey how I truly feel in regards to the things I heard, learned, felt, and saw today. Today was a scared day. And not just because I attended some extra church meeting, but because I had a great realization of how blessed my life really is.

My greatest friends, fondest memories, deepest love, and most hopeful dreams all revolve around the reality of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. When I wake up in the mornings I pray, as Nephi directed, and consecrate my every coming action of the day to the building up of the kingdom of God on earth. I ask that my words might be the words that God would have me say, that my hands might perform the labors that would be most beneficial, that my eyes may focus only on worthy and holy things, that my feet might carry me where the Lord would have me go, and that even my thoughts might be reflective upon the things which might be of most benefit to myself, my family, my callings, and the world in general. I have consecrated myself, my times, my talents, and my everything. To use the worldly vernacular, I am “all in”. And I love it.

I am blessed to hear of, witness, and even on occasion be part of sacred miracles in the Lord’s work. Not because I am more holy, more righteous, or a better person than anyone else in the world. But I suppose because the Lord is merciful enough to show me just how awesome He really is and He is in very deed in charge of His church.

There are never enough hours in the day to do small acts of service, make visits, phone calls, write letters, or share the Savior’s love with those whom I know. But I pray to God that each and every day of my life might be literally worn out in service to Him.

Sometimes I honestly feel I am the most blessed man in the entire world.

The Church is true. Christ lives. And miracles happen each and every day. If we watch closely we can see them. And if we pray sincerely we might be a part of them. This is my testimony.


Mormon Apostle Linda Booth Recommends Gay Marriage

Approximately 2,000 people gather in the Auditorium of the Community of Christ in Independence, Missouri for meetings and worship.

Approximately 2,000 people gather in the Auditorium of the Community of Christ in Independence, Missouri for meetings and worship last week during the faith’s annual World Conference. – Photo from the Kansas City Star

Each spring the Community of Christ, formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, invites members and elected church delegates from throughout the world to their headquarters in Independence, Missouri for their annual World Conference. Held in the church’s spacious Auditorium (located next door to their iconic temple which to me looks like a giant ice cream cone), the conference held last week over a six day period attracted about 2,000 people, including about 1,500 church delegates. Considered a time of spiritual rejuvenation, the conference is translated into multiple languages, and in the past few years has been recorded and made available to view online later by followers of the faith.

World Conferences are made up of delegates elected to represent the church’s Mission Centers (roughly equivalent to a Catholic diocese or LDS Stake), meeting together to discuss and vote on the business of the church. Three years ago prior to World Conference, various Mission Centers throughout the church had passed resolutions calling on the church to embrace allowing gay members to be ordained to the priesthood (without any stipulations) and to end discrimination in marriage on the basis of sexual orientation. These resolutions then came before the sessions of the World Conference and were considered according to parliamentary procedures. Unlike General Conference, the semiannual meetings held by the Utah based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, these meetings are conducted according Robert’s Rules, with motions, seconding, discussion, questions of privilege, calling the question, and the such. Historically, in the World Conference of 2010, the first business that came before the conference was whether or not to approve a new revelation brought to the church by President Stephen M. Veazey, the church’s leader and prophet. The approval of the World Conference would mean that the revelation (initially referred to as “prophetic counsel”) would be added to the Community of Christ’s Doctrine and Covenants. Like the resolutions referred to the conference by the Mission Centers, the prophetic counsel addressed the issues facing LGBT members of the church. The result of the procedural voting three years ago ended with the church leaders accepting the revelation “as the mind and will of the Lord”, and it was canonized as scripture as Doctrine and Covenants Sections 164 (the most historic change in church history since Section 156 approved in 1984 which allowed women to be ordained to the priesthood). But the steps made three years ago did not officially sanction gay marriages. That happened just a few days ago.

The Missouri Mormons of the Community of Christ are not to be confused with their doctrinally different cousins in Utah though. While this month’s General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City expounded on traditional values and marriage between a man and a woman, last week’s World Conference of the Community of Christ solidified and expounded just how glaringly the differences in practice and doctrine have become in the past 150 years.

Apostle Linda Booth reads the recommendation of the nearly 1,500 delegates to those gathered in Independence, Missouri last week for the annual World Conference of the Community of Christ.

Apostle Linda Booth reads the recommendation of the nearly 1,500 delegates to those gathered in Independence, Missouri last week for the annual World Conference of the Community of Christ.

The specific recommendations of the conference to the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (the two highest governing bodies of the church) last week were as follows:

The 2013 USA National Conference recommends the sacrament of marriage be extended, where legal in the USA, to persons of the same sex/gender. Thus the 2013 USA National Conference recommends a change to the current policy for the USA on the sacrament of marriage; and

The 2013 USA National Conference recommends that a church-recognized way for two persons of the same sex/gender to publicly express their covenant to each other be made available in places in the USA where marriage is not legal. Thus, the 2013 USA National Conference recommends a change to the current policy for the USA regarding same-sex/gender covenant commitment services where marriage is not legal; and

The 2013 USA National Conference recommends allowing a priesthood call to be processed according to established procedures regardless of sexual orientation, including a person in a monogamous, committed, same-sex/gender relationship (e.g., legal marriage, civil partnership, covenant relationship) in the USA. Thus, the 2013 USA National Conference recommends a change to the current policy on ordination for the USA.

Read by the church’s newly elected president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Apostle Linda Booth, and sustained with a majority vote by the church delegates present, the message was loud and clear: Gay marriage is okay.

Since gay marriage is only authorized in a small number of states in the United States (currently 9 with Rhode Island preparing to be the 10th), and since marriage is a state contract, the Community of Christ appears to be preparing official commitment ceremonies for those couples that reside in states without gay marriage. Also, the Community of Christ will acknowledge monogamous committed relationships as on par with marriage, in matters of priesthood calls, no matter whether they are labeled as legal marriage, civil partnership, or a covenant relationship. In other words, the legal difference between states will not impact how the Community of Christ approaches these relationships.

The Community of Christ in recent years has struggled not just to grow but to maintain their fledgling membership. With approximately 250,000 church members wordwide, the church just last year sold land to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in a deal, that according to numerous sources, helped replenish nearly empty church coffers. Meanwhile, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints continues to be among the fastest growing faiths in the United States and has over 14 million members wordwide.

For many members of the Community of Christ last week’s motions and resolutions may be accepted as “the will of the Lord”, and to many in the world the change will likewise be seen as a good and timely action. However, there are also those who are left wondering, “Just how far will a church stray from their original doctrine just to appear popular?”

While some groups of faith may change their beliefs with those of society, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints continues to emphatically declare “that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children” (See The Family: A Proclamation to the World). The Lord’s commandment to love everyone includes those of the LGBT community, and recently the church came out with an official website,, which adopts a more conciliatory tone toward gay men and women than many Latter-day Saints have heard in the past. Official Church doctrine has not changed, but with the realization that their are many among the faithful who struggle with same sex attractions, there is an outreach to love and rescue them like never before.

Only time will tell what may become of the Community of Christ with their watershed announcement on gay marriage, but for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints nothing has changed, and few expect that it will.

The local NBC affiliate in Kansas City, Missouri lead off their newscast on 21 April 2013 with the Community of Christ's announcement to allow same sex marriage.

The local NBC affiliate in Kansas City, Missouri lead off their newscast on 21 April 2013 with the Community of Christ’s announcement to allow same sex marriages and commitment ceremonies.

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