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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Becoming better by serving Tiffany

Dear Tiffany –

I believe my assignment as your service giver for this year was not a random selection. Considering the state of our relationship in January 2012, I am fairly certain that Charise and Carrie arranged for me to spend twelve months constantly thinking of the Sunshine you bring to my life. I’m sure they conspired to drop me into a swirling pool of emotions, thinking I would find the strength to survive through service and navigate my soul to the safe harbor of love. Whether it was them, or the hand of the Lord, they probably knew I would kick the pricks at first (see Acts 9:5 and Acts 26:14), but that by serving with you in mind, I would ultimately rebuild the bridge between us.

When Our Heavenly Father tragically called our cousin David James Kenney home to heaven on December 9, 2011, we all went through a roller coaster of emotions. One night that week, we both unloaded our pent up frustrations and said things we regretted deeply. I allowed myself to be deeply hurt by that argument and it immediately impacted the way I interacted with our entire family.

My life has changed drastically since that time twelve months ago as a result of a few specific events. Two of them happened on the same day and came to define my service on your behalf. On Tuesday, March 27, I left for work feeling the spirit especially strong having spent a few days preparing myself for an appointment Ashley and I had to meet with the Stake President at his home that evening. I was nervous, but excitedly optimistic of the invitation to serve that I knew he was going to extend.

My emotions turned on a dime when Dad called me shortly after I arrived at the office. He wanted to make me aware of a close friend of ours that had made some extreme decisions to abandon his righteous way of living. My heart immediately went out to you, since you have always been closest to our friend Walter (name changed). As you know, Walter has always been a virtuous and honorable friend to us all and son of Our Heavenly Father, but at that time in his life, he had yielded to temptation to choose another path.

That day, I couldn’t help but think of how I might learn from the differences between David’s last days of his time on earth and the few days before Walter’s uncharacteristic decision. Both men were raised as faithful sons of God who had distinguished themselves with an "eye single to the glory of God." Yet at some point, Walter had made minor changes to his life that are best described by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, who said “I have learned that the difference between happiness and misery in individuals, in marriages, and families often comes down to an error of only a few degrees.”

When David last left for work on a seemingly normal day, he did so with his soul in a prepared state. On the other hand, Walter had allowed himself to slowly drift from the straight and narrow way (see Joseph B. Wirthlin; The Straight and Narrow Way) such that the slow change was indiscernible to those around him. None of those closest to him saw it coming; not his wife, family, or priesthood leaders.

Service on your behalf

That night, when the Stake President asked me to serve as Elders Quorum President, I realized that I would do so with David and Walter constantly on my mind. And that’s where serving you came in.

In my mind, you became the representative of the women – wives, sisters, daughters, cousins – behind the men I was serving. So, whenever things got tough as President, I would think of you, and remember that there are families and loved ones hoping that I am doing all that I can to make sure that these men have the opportunity to choose the right or to come back to the fold no matter where they have wandered. In effect, I decided never to presume that the men in our quorum are "righteous enough." Instead, we recognize that we "all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)" must constantly seek to build righteous improvement and change within ourselves.

Together with my counselors and secretary, we started by trying to conduct the weekly business of an Elders Quorum differently than we have ever seen. We outlined how we could ensure that we had spiritual weekly instruction in our quorum meetings. Then, we established a quorum motto – "Become Better." The next month, we began Setting and Achieving Goals (lesson and handout) and, together, we identified quorum goals.

I can’t provide too many details on specific successes, but I have thought of you very often as I have pushed myself further than I thought I could in the past nine months. Here are a few examples I can provide:
  • When a missionary from our ward came home earlier than expected, I pushed myself to go further to make sure we embraced him and loved him. When he returned to the mission field a few months later, I knew the brothers in our quorum played a small role.
  • When my counselors urged me to start doing personal priesthood interviews, I thought, "I’ve survived without ever having PPIs from my quorum president." Then, I thought of you and began my goal of doing one a week. 
  • When we were asked to help a family move out of a place of squalor, I shuddered. Then, I stepped beyond my comfort zone, asked the Bishop to join me in a visit, and we had a frank discussion with the family where we talked about expectations of cleanliness and how we could help. Then, we recruited a small army, outfitted them with painting masks, and helped them move to a beautiful apartment. Finally, we worked with the Relief Society to make sure the family understood how to keep it clean. 
  • When I was talking with a brother during a PPI and the spirit told me to talk plainly about the destructive temptations of pornography, I hesitated out of discomfort. Then, I thought of you, and talked about the need to surround ourselves with good friends and good influences and I testified about the power of good media to overcome the bad. 
  • When the Ward Council was asked for our opinions on plans for a ward activity primarily focused on fun, I deferred for a few days, then I yielded to the promptings of the spirit and encouraged us to plan a fun ward activity focused on the spirit.

Direct Service

In addition to my service as Elders Quorum President, I went out of my way to change the way I interact with you.

I came to the family reunion a day earlier just to be with you. I came with a different mindset, and I thought you and I made great improvement in our personal relationship. (Bonus, you and I weren’t the only ones who played the bad guys this year! What? Too early to joke?)

I went out of my way to call more and to comment on your Facebook more often. I also tried to do so in a more positive way (except for Santa visits before Thanksgiving, which was more temptation than I could handle). I even tried to tone down my East Coast propaganda when dealing with Mom and Dad!

It has been a great year getting to serve on your behalf. I have enjoyed it so much because it has made me change. This year has made me a more loving brother, a better son, a stronger instrument of the Lord, and a more understanding friend to those in need. It’s been a pleasure serving as a part of your life this year.

I love you so much!


  1. Beautiful service Chuck. I wish every Elder's Quorum would do that. Bill has been disappointed so many times with Jokes and Sports discussions that were discussed during quorum meetings.

    Totally not too soon to joke. We were all a little crazy that day.
    I love you!

  2. I have been so impressed with my husband this year and how much he has grown as EQ Pres. Tiffany, your brother loves you so much. Way to inspire him.

    BTW - true to any Chuck Gates online post there are lots of links in there. Go to some of them, there is some good stuff to read.

  3. Chuck, what a great post. I too felt like my service this year helped me be a better person and better magnify my calling with thoughts of another while doing it. I'm proud of you and can see how you have changed in this short year.