Dear Elders and Sisters #9 The General Conference Missionary Choir
Dear Elders and Sisters,
Sorry that we missed writing to you last week, it has been quite the week for us. Our first grandbaby was born on Sept 22nd–the anniversary of Joseph Smith receiving the golden plates. You know that kid is going to be powerful! His name is Levi Ryan, another sign that he will be awesome. We also were intensely rehearsing for General Conference. We hope all of you saw the missionaries that represented you to the world. We thought you might like to hear some of the details of how that all came about.
We first got word that there “might” be a missionary choir three months ago. Most visiting choirs that sing in General Conference would already have selected the singers and started rehearsing at that point. The MTC Presidency decided that they would like all missionaries to have the opportunity to sing. To have English speaking missionaries, who are only in the MTC a very short time, we would need to wait until the week before conference to select the choir and then begin rehearsing as soon as we could notify them. We finished our selection process on Wednesday, Sept 21st, and our first rehearsal with the entire group was Friday, Sept 23rd, just one week before conference!
To avoid hurt feelings, and a “run-on-the-choir”, we decided to pass out a “musical experience” survey to all missionaries in the weekly MTC Choir (somewhere around 1,500) without telling them why. We tried to stress the importance of filling out the survey and gave them several opportunities to do so. From that group, 365 Elders and Sisters were chosen. It was evident at our first rehearsal that we had a wide range of talent and experience, but they were all anxious and willing to give the Lord the very best they had.
Several of the missionaries selected did not speak English. Can you imagine that?! What a challenge: 8 days to learn 4 complicated songs, with parts, in a foreign language. The faith and diligence they displayed was amazing. Many blessings were given and much prayer and fasting was done on the part of those Elders and Sisters that they would be equal to the task.
After our first rehearsal it was also clear that some of the music was going to be difficult, particularly Joseph Smith’s First Prayer. However, every time they rehearsed that particular song the Spirit would fill the room in an unusual manner. We never rehearsed it without many missionaries (and maybe a director or two) ending up in tears.
We realized that the Lord was very interested in having His full-time missionaries teach the Joseph Smith Story to all the world. The four songs together, Joseph’s Prayer, Baptism, I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go, and Hope of Israel became a very powerful teaching sequence for us. As one Sister said, “This is like the sound-track to Preach My Gospel!” Because of the limited time, we knew that it was going to take more than “ability” for us to be successful. One morning I shared the following story about Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball and a miraculous multiplying of money that occurred during one of their missions…
“As soon as Brigham and Heber were able to go, they went to a small town, Pleasanton, near Terre Haute, and there the Saints gave them $13.50. With that $13.50 they started out and got on a stage (a bus today), went as far as the $13.50 would take them, went into a tavern, and hired a room for the night. The next morning Brigham looked in his purse. There was enough money there to pay for the tavern rent and enough money to take them another day’s journey. They did that all the way across Indiana, across Ohio, to Kirtland. About the second time it happened, Brigham said to Heber, “Are you putting money in my purse?” Heber said, “No, you know I haven’t any money. How could I put money in your purse?” “Well, it’s there.” They spent a total of $89.50 out of the $13.50 which was given to them.” (S. Dilworth Young; BYU Devotional, 11 October 1973)
That story became a theme for us. Every rehearsal we would trust that the Lord would “place money in our purse” by multiplying our abilities and increasing our capacities and memories. It was not unusual for observers to comment that it felt as if “Angels were joining the choir.” I believe that they were right. The missionaries were still required to attend all of their classes and other activities, but used every spare minute to practice on their own. If you will remember back to your MTC days, that meant they had little or no time to relax for 8 days straight.
Saturday finally came, we were getting close to our songs being ready, but still had quite a few issues in each song. We loaded the buses at 9:30am and headed to the Conference Center. We practiced for another hour prior to the session, and tried to fix as much as we could. They took us into the choir loft around 1pm and let us practice in the seats. Once we began the first song, such a sweet Spirit was present and our confidence grew. Many families of missionaries had made the journey to the conference center to see their missionary sing. I’ve never seen so many tears, even before the session started. Little brothers and sisters (and plenty of Moms) were waving all through-out the audience.
It was finally time to sing and Sister Linda Margetts gave the Elders their first note. From that point on it was magic! They were no longer a choir, but 365 missionaries all teaching and testifying of the Savior and His Restored gospel. These were God’s authorized and appointed servants, called by a Living Prophet, assigned to their field of labor by one of the Savior’s Special Witnesses, and set apart by the Holy Priesthood. As promised in the scriptures, the Lord made that fact clear to everyone who listened and was willing to receive them.
Dear Elders and Sisters, you may not be singing in a choir for conference—it may just be the two of you in a very remote location, but those promises that we saw fulfilled to the choir this week are meant for you in the field. We know that the Lord will “fill your purse” as you continue to have the faith to open it. He will place within it whatever is necessary in the very “hour of your need.” He knows you, He watches you, He called you, and He will sustain you.
Have a wonderful week. Remember to love the people, follow the Spirit, and to work hard!
Brother and Sister Eggett
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