“Life Sketches Boost Quorum Brotherhood,” Ensign, Feb. 1983, 53
Brother Peterson was a successful man by most people’s standards. But now our whole quorum’s attention was riveted on him as he told the story of his impoverished childhood, of eight brothers and a sick father, the frustration of having to do without the things other kids had during the time of his father’s illness, and how the subsequent feelings of inferiority had led to rebellion against some gospel principles. He told of the girl who would one day become his wife and how she persuaded him to forsake bad habits and go on a mission. And then a story about his missionary farewell. …
“I didn’t know what to talk on. I worried about it all week long. Finally I went in to see Brother Bloomfield. I said, ‘Brother Bloomfield, I’ve got to give a talk in less than two hours and I have no idea what to say!’ Well, he had me write down a few things and then he said, ‘Now, you could conclude by saying that you know Peter, James, and John restored the Melchizedek Priesthood to Joseph Smith.’ I said, ‘Who are Peter, James, and John?’ Through all my life, I hadn’t learned who Peter, James, and John were—and I was going on a mission in a week!”
The idea of taking time for each member to tell the quorum his “life story” came from the bishop. He suggested to the leaders of each of the ward’s Melchizedek Priesthood groups that the life-sketch approach might help in the effort to get ward members to work on their personal histories, as well as promote brotherhood between quorum members.
Seventies president, Brother Cowart, decided to follow the bishop’s advice and make the life sketch part of a special monthly quorum meeting. His goal was to give the regular instructor a refreshing break from the rigors of lesson preparation and teaching, and to provide a time to discuss matters of quorum business in detail. But he also wanted to be able to preserve the spirituality of the priesthood meeting.
The approach has evolved to dividing the meeting in half. The first part is devoted to quorum business—home teaching, genealogy, admonitions about the six areas of family preparedness, and, of course, in a seventies quorum, the prime responsibility of missionary work. But the second part of that meeting, the last twenty minutes or so, is the part members have grown to anticipate. That entire period is turned over to one of the quorum members to tell the group about his life and to share his testimony.
President Cowart firmly believes that the success of the procedure hinges on the extensive time period given for each quorum member to tell his life story. “It’s been good,” he says, “because nobody has just stood up and said where he’s from and how many there are in his family. When they have twenty minutes to talk, they can’t help but share meaningful experiences with us.”
Most of the members who have given their life sketches so far did feel a bit uneasy about it at first. There is a natural tendency to feel a conflict between the desire to disclose something meaningful and useful to the brethren and at the same time not appear to brag. The resolution of the conflict has always produced a beautifully humble report, with a near-perfect mixture of light background anecdotes, testimony-building experiences, and observations on lessons learned over the years.
One brother, just recovering from some serious financial difficulties, spent most of his time explaining some of the miracles that had taken place in his life recently, as he acted in obedience to the law of tithing.
Another brother shared a fascinating conversion story, followed by a host of spiritual experiences that stretched from Germany to Utah, as he grew in the gospel.
Another had faced the trial of growing up after losing his father at a young age. He told an inspiring story of the wonderful example his older brothers had set for him in those difficult circumstances.
In the case of every quorum member who has participated in the program, the group has felt strongly the presence of the Spirit in the meeting. And each month as another brother stands before the quorum and relates some of the experiences and background that have made him what he is, the members are drawn closer together in an atmosphere of appreciation and love.
Brother Peterson was finishing the story of an extraordinary mission experience. He and his companion had baptized ten people in one month.
“That experience changed the way I thought the other elders in my mission looked at me. It changed the way I looked at myself. That new confidence carried me through the rest of my mission and for twelve years after I got home. …”
He mentioned some of the challenges facing him now and closed with his testimony. There were extra firm handshakes and pats on the back after the meeting, both with Brother Peterson and between other quorum members.
You can feel it in the quorum. Each one loves the other members. There is respect and appreciation—and abiding brotherhood.