History was made at a stake conference in Beira, Mozambique this May when 145 men and young men were sustained as Elders in the Melchizedek priesthood.
The conference, held on 13 May 2023, represented the culmination of months of effort by leaders and members across the stake, with people describing the event as “phenomenal” and “a spiritual feast”.
Outgoing stake president Freeman Dickie shared that the historic occasion had its roots in a meeting with the Area Presidency several months previous. As the first objective of the Area Vision is to “help all members make and keep temple covenants”, it highlights the need for prospective elders to prepare for and receive the Melchizedek Priesthood in anticipation of temple-readiness.
The stake had a total of about 300 prospective elders, and the area presidency asked the then-President Dickie how many might be prepared for sustaining in the next stake conference.
“I told them I think we can help prepare 100 people,” says Brother Dickie. “I knew it would be difficult, but I thought we could do it.”
At the time, the stake had 10 units; this would mean that each unit would need to prepare at least 10 young men to be advanced in the priesthood. In the end, the stake surpassed their goal by almost 50%.
The months ahead would require dedicated effort from stake and ward leaders across the region.
leading up to the stake conference, the stake presidency conducted all 145 of the final priesthood advancement interviews.
To spread awareness and gain buy-in to the goal, stake high counsellors conducted training sessions in each of the stake’s units.
From there, ward and branch leaders were tasked with helping to support and prepare those who had a desire to advance in the priesthood.
‘I felt deeply involved in the programme’
Brother Tomas Gulunguan was serving as the first counsellor in the stake presidency at the time.
“We had a chance to meet with all the bishops and counselled with them. We had approximately a month and a half to identify and prepare these members. I learned quite a lot from this process,” says Brother Gulunguan.
“I came to understand that these men and young men were well-prepared. The ordination of these young men will help in the growth of the church.”
Not all of those sustained in May were ‘young’ though. For example, one man interviewed by Brother Gulunguan was 69 years old. “The brother was excited to receive the Melchizedek priesthood. I personally learned quite a lot from interviewing him. It was a lovely interview.”
Then, in the weeks leading up to the stake conference, the three members of the stake presidency conducted all 145 of the final priesthood advancement interviews. Each leader interviewed about 30-40 prospective elders. “It was a busy few weeks,” laughs Brother Dickie.
Brother Gulunguan adds, “We were all actively so engaged. I personally felt really deeply involved in the programme.”
On the long-awaited Sunday morning, more than 1,000 people attended the conference.
Brother Gulunguan describes his feelings on the day. “I was nervous at the beginning, uncertain whether things were going according to plan … [but] It was the most amazing meeting that we have had in a long time. It was phenomenal to witness the way the programme unfolded. I was edified by the entire experience.”
At the same conference, a new stake was formed and two new stake presidencies were called. Brother Dickie said that stake business took about 45 minutes – most of which time was dedicated to reading out the names of each of the 145 men who were sustained to the office of Elder in the Melchizedek priesthood.
‘I learned the importance and power of teamwork’
Mateus Gafar Tomé (20) was one of the young men sustained that day. He said he felt overjoyed at the opportunity. “It felt very special to hear my name being called and sustained during the conference,” he says.
Having the Melchizedek priesthood will also allow him to serve in many callings, such as his current responsibility as the first counsellor in the Elders quorum presidency. It also opens the way for him to serve as a missionary. “I was excited to receive the priesthood because I want to serve a full-time mission for the Church,” he says.
Chicamisse Alfredo was also sustained that day. “I felt something different from before, because I received the higher priesthood through which I can do many things,” he says. “Heavenly Father has been with me every moment and the Holy Spirit has guided me step-by-step along the way.
“I feel grateful to receive this authority from God and I will act on his behalf with the same.”
Brother Gulunguan says that the experience reminded him of the Book of Mormon account of the 2,000 stripling warriors who fought in the army of Helaman.
“I felt the same power in these men and young men. The fact that they possess the power of God to act on His behalf; to help the church, our families and the community in general. I got the understanding that these brethren knew that the power of priesthood goes hand in hand with service, love and dedication to the Lord’s work.”
For Brother Dickie, the whole experience was a lesson in working together towards a common goal. “If I had said I was going to attempt to do this myself, we wouldn’t have done half of what we did together,” he remarks.
“I just learned the importance and power of teamwork – when we work together, we do achieve more.”