A couple weeks after I was sustained as the 2nd counselor in the Liberty Missouri Stake presidency, the executive secretary contacted me about the annual stake presidency retreat. It was held in early September, he said, and the plans for 2013 were for all of us–including our families–to rent a lake house at a wonderfully relaxing place in Oklahoma for a Thursday through Saturday night event. He gave me the dates and confirmed with me that we would be available. But partway through the summer, the plans changed.
By September, we had a new executive secretary and a new stake clerk, and the original dates for the retreat didn’t work out for one or two of the presidency. So we rescheduled the event to the end of October and asked the wife of the new executive secretary to look for possible new locations. She suggested we spend a weekend in Nauvoo, which is about a four-hour drive for most members of our presidency–and about a 3.5-hour drive for us. We loved the idea, but I pointed out that the recommended dates included a Friday night BYU football game. So, I suggested, perhaps we could have that be one of the activities.
As it turned out, Mary Ann was working nearly full time at McDonald’s by the time the retreat approached. So she couldn’t get off work, and it ended up being just three from our family–me and Mom and John. We were to meet at our hotel (some of you may remember the Nauvoo Vacation Condos) on Thursday night for an opening devotional. We made it in time, and for some reason our two-bedroom condo was selected as the gathering place. It actually worked out well, because President Sean Foley (1st counselor), his wife Vivian, and their daughter Sage were in an adjoining condo that had a connecting door. In all, we had President Jeremiah Morgan, his wife Rebecca, and their five children (ages 8-17); the aforementioned Foley family; our executive secretary Jeff Barnes, his wife Jen, and their three children (ages 6-12); and stake clerk Ben Bond, his wife Michelle, and their three children (ages 7-10).
Our Thursday night devotional went well. On Friday, we had breakfast together and then the men and children age 12 and older went to do baptisms in the Nauvoo Temple. We were then joined by the sisters and younger children. The endowed members then performed a number of sealings, while the older children took over tending the young children. It was a great experience to be in the temple together with the new members of our stake presidency. We had attended an endowment session together in September right before our stake conference, but at the conference itself we sustained a new stake clerk–so this was the first time all five of the presidency members were together in the temple with our wives. It was really wonderful. I was sad that our two assistant executive secretaries weren’t able to join us on our retreat, but hopefully they will be able to join us next year.
On Friday afternoon we had the PlayZone all to ourselves. Jeff and Jen Barnes know the owners of the facility, and they were so gracious to open it up for us. The younger kids had a riot playing all sorts of video games and climbing through the giant mouse mazes. The older kids and adults had fun at pool, ping pong, and other attractions. It was a lot of fun. But I ate a very large serving of humble pie when I took on President Morgan at a game of ping pong. Dang. That man has a wicked serve! And we all thought Grandpa Call had an incredible serve!
Later in the afternoon, the adults all met together and shared their fondest memories of the past year in the stake presidency. It was great to hear the recollections–some very funny ones and some spiritual ones. And we enjoyed getting to know the two newest members of our stake presidency better.
That night we had a great dinner that the Morgans brought from Kansas City–Smokehouse barbecue with all the fixin’s–and then we watched the BYU-Boise State football game. President Morgan, Mom, John, and I were the only ones who made it through the entire game. I think the others dropped out because of lack of interest, being tired, or being told to go to bed. But it was great to watch the game and see our stake president in a different light. Still very composed, but definitely very competitive.
The highlight for Saturday was a carriage ride. Elder and Sister Mayne are members of our stake serving in Nauvoo, and Elder Mayne was able to give us the tour. It was pretty cold and really windy, but we enjoyed the ride and learning even more about Nauvoo and the Prophet Joseph. For lunch, we all gathered at Elder and Sister Mayne’s restored 1840s house that has been turned into missionary housing. We squeezed in, but we had a fun time. We all then took off for home. It was a great weekend!