Latter-day Saints leader visits Morgan Hill

Elder Larry Echo Hawk, a General Authority of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, recently spoke at the Church's semi-annual conference held at the Morgan Hill Stake Center.

Twice a year the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints holds conferences for local members. These important meetings include items of business (like approving appointments and changes in leadership), announcing news items and presenting inspirational messages.  
Last month participants at the Morgan Hill Stake Center were especially enthusiastic. Comprised of 3,500 members in seven wards (congregations) from South San Jose through Hollister, they hosted a visit by one of the church’s highest officials, Larry Echo Hawk.
Elder Echo Hawk is a “General Authority,” a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy. In an organization known for its strong leadership by lay people, he is a rare full-time leader, responsible for helping to insure the material and spiritual welfare of 14 million Mormons around the world.
Community leaders from the South Valley, including Dion Bracco, Don Gage, Dr. Deborah Flores and Gilroy Police Chief Denise Turner, were invited to a breakfast beforehand to meet Elder Echo Hawk as well as attend the stake conference to learn about the values held by the church and how they are put into practice. A display highlighted many important activities.
• Self Reliance: Emphasis on sound family finances, education, home food storage and emergency preparedness.
• Public Affairs: www.justserve.org seeks to match volunteers with opportunities for community service, a cooperative effort with the Red Cross, Catholic Charities and local nonprofit organizations.
• Community Services: Charitable work of the church, including feeding the homeless, assisting in disaster relief and providing counseling in areas like employment and substance abuse.
• Relief Society: Projects of the women’s organization including making and distributing book bags, quilts, diaper bags, comfort pillows and other handcrafted items.
• Young Men/Young Women: Programs for strengthening youth ages 12-18.
The conference theme was how members must live the gospel of the savior by serving others, and the guest speaker’s life was testimony to that teaching. A Native American member of the Pawnee Nation, Larry Echo Hawk was living in Farmington, N.M., when a missionary converted his family to the faith. He told of being uninterested in school until a church leader took a personal interest in him and used his passion for football to increase his motivation, resulting in a football scholarship to Brigham Young University.
After graduating, he served two years in the U.S. Marine Corps and then earned a law degree from the University of Utah, followed by a distinguished career of public service, which included being State Attorney General of Utah and the U.S. Under Secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs, responsible for relations with 566 tribal nations.
There are some 58,000 Mormon missionaries serving around the world. In the past, men began their missions at 19 years old and women at 21. Recently the church lowered the age to 18 and 19 respectively and offered early preparation locally to shorten the time they need to study at the Missionary Training Centers (MTC) in Provo, Utah, and other training centers around the world.
Despite the common misconception that missionary work is “all about proselytizing” (seeking converts), there is an increasing emphasis on community service. Missionaries are expected to spend several hours each week serving in the community where they live: pulling weeds, repairing fences and other physical tasks that make a difference in peoples’ lives.
The conference was well attended, with the chapel and cultural hall completely full and others watching on closed-circuit television in smaller rooms. Great enthusiasm was apparent among participants to have this visit from one of the Church’s General Authorities.

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