Julie's Conversion Story

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Julie Monroe, from the Aliso Creek Ward, decided to join the church in June of 2002. She was 22 years old. She had said that growing up, she knew several friends who were LDS, but that she learned the most about the church from her then high school boyfriend Chad, whom she later married. Julie had grown up a Lutheran but said that “it just didn’t feel right”. She stopped attending in high school. Before she had the chance to learn more about Mormons, Julie said she mostly thought “they were really nice people with big families and the fact that they didn’t go out on Sundays was really weird” to her. Regardless, she was interested in learning more. She started attending Institute and then soon after, began taking the discussions. It didn’t take long from there before Julie decided she was ready to be baptized!

“Within the first lesson with the Missionaries I knew I wanted to be baptized,” Julie says. And one month later...she was! What an exciting time for Julie and her life. The Gospel and its principles seemed to come so easy for her and was easy to accept. But most good things in life do come with trials. Julie said that the biggest challenges following her baptism involved her family accepting the decision she had made in joining the church.

“My family was not happy with my decision at first, mostly because they didn’t understand the religion and heard all sorts of crazy stuff about it being a ‘cult’. It took a few years after my husband and I got married in the temple for them to finally realize that this church wasn’t a bad one.”

And life would throw more trials Julie’s way. She was later diagnosed with cancer. But because she had the gospel and Jesus Christ, Julie said that it brought her closer to God in “every single way”. That even though she had a plan for her life, “God had an even better plan.” Julie said that she knew God loved her and “even though having cancer was very scary, I saw that He was there for me in every little detail of my life. People from the ward and friends were working through God and He was letting me know that He was watching over me and taking care of me.” Her testimony of the Spirit and the companionship it brings shows the great strength of Julie’s faith. Facing a scary trial and yet remaining true to the Gospel and trusting in the Lord’s plan for is a sign of Julie’s strong foundation.

Julie leaves us with a bit of advice for any who are interested in learning more about the church: “In the days that are hard or that you feel the world is against you progressing in your journey, just stick with it. Stay close to God. Read your scriptures, say your prayers and it will all work out okay in the end.”

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Farewell to President Brennan

In March of 2008, Sterling Brennan accepted the call to serve as the president of the Santa Margarita Stake. Nine years later, he has accepted a call to serve as the president of Lansing, Michigan mission. President Brennan himself would emphasize that the important part of both of those callings is “to serve.” This is what he does.

Perhaps the people best qualified to speak to this are the very ones he served as he shepherded our stake through growth, change, and challenges. As stake Relief Society president Cindy Suman notes, “President Brennan has a remarkable way of connecting with everyone - men, women, youth, children, single, married, the elderly, the devout, those with problems, those who feel unnoticed, those who have made mistakes, investigators, long time members, the less active, the capable, those with questions, and the faithful.  His love for Jesus Christ is obvious through his years of tireless service to the members and nonmembers living in our stake boundaries.  I especially appreciate his concern for women – he regularly asks for our opinions and then acts on our suggestions.  He is a man of testimony, a man of vision, and a man of God.”

Stake Young Women president Melanie Christensen agrees with this assessment. “President Brennan loves and cares for the women of this stake. He wants us to be happy, to be fulfilled, and to understand how important women's contributions are to the church. He and the stake presidency regularly counsel with me, Cindy Suman, the stake Relief Society president, and Cindy Duffy, the stake Primary president. They take our temperature on current issues and programs, they seek our input on decisions. They want to know how the stake can help meet our needs.”

Kirk Hess, stake Young Men president, also notes President Brennan’s extraordinary capacity for work and service. “I am absolutely convinced nobody in our stake travels as much as President Brennan. He spends more days on the road than anyone I know. Yet never once did I ever question where his commitments lie. No one can say to him, ‘I have no time to pray, read the scriptures, attend the temple, or share the gospel.’ He is the busiest man on the planet, yet with his priorities in place all the ‘noise’ falls to the wayside. I’m grateful for how President Brennan quietly exemplifies strict obedience to the prophetic priorities of the brethren.” 


Bishop Tony Smith (Lake Forest) agrees. “My favorite thing about serving with President Brennan is the care and importance he applies to each individual he works with.  I remember one night he had an appointment with me and he was a bit late because he just flew in from Cleveland, drove straight to meet with me, and had a perfect excuse to cancel the meeting or at least keep it short.  Instead he met with me in the same calm manner as always, took a bit of extra time to speak about my personal life, and even remembered details about me from past conversations even though he meets with so many people.  He makes everyone he meets with one on one feel like they are close friends.”

Bishop Mitch Owens (Live Oak) shares this sentiment. “My favorite times with President Brennan have been the personal interview times. He has the ability to show his concern and interest in what is pressing for who he is with. His concerns were my concerns; his interest was in the well-being of those who have been called to serve, his focus was on how I was doing, how my family was doing, how our ward family was doing, and what he could do to help me do better. I always left those visits feeling uplifted and energized.”

“President Brennan is unrelenting in reminding me of my duty, but always with love,” says Bishop Jeff Robinson (Aliso Creek). “I always come away from meetings with him both knowing that he loves and appreciates me and wanting to do better.  Missionaries need to be loved, lifted, and motivated to forget about themselves and work hard.  I think he will do that masterfully.”

Bishop Reed Feist (Foothill Ranch) shares this optimism for the kind of mission president Sterling Brennan will become. “He has a great love for missionary work. I have heard him bear solemn testimony on many occasions of The First Vision and the events of the Restoration through the prophet Joseph Smith. These truths are near and dear to his heart. What a blessing it has been to have been led by a servant of the Lord who was called by prophecy and revelation to lead and preside over the Santa Margarita Stake these past many years.”

This is all true, but they also ALL agree on President Brennan’s secret weapon as a mission president. “One very special element he will bring to his new calling as a mission president is his dear wife, Annette,” says Bishop John Bennett (Altisima) with a smile. Bishop Owens is in absolute agreement on this point. “Sister Brennan has always been a great example of how to be supportive; watching her you can see she has great leadership skills and great compassion for those she is called to serve. She will be a delight for the sister missionaries, the elders, and the senior missionaries they will serve side by side with in the mission field.” 

Bishop Owens adds, “I think his legacy will be that those of us within this stake will remember this as a time of well-being as we spent our time in the service of others. We will recognize looking back that we improved ourselves, that we had struggles but we pulled together as a stake family and accomplished much.” This is a sentiment Bishop Bennett echoes. “One of the most important things I have learned from working with President Brennan is just how much his unwavering love of the gospel of Jesus Christ is illustrated in everything he does.  I have not met anyone as busy as he is, yet in every interaction his love of our Heavenly Father, our Savior, his family, and of the gospel shine through as if they are the only thing that matters.”  

Many of us can remember the profound spirit of peace that filled our chapels as we listened to President Brennan speak over the years, but perhaps the best tribute to him is in all the ways he watched over us without us ever knowing, through our bishops and other leaders, through prayer and loving care. President Christensen relates an experience when she witnessed this firsthand. “In 2014 our stake girls camp on Catalina was cancelled due to a big storm.  President Brennan was working in Utah when I called to give him the news.  The decision was made to hold a local girls camp instead, but that meant we only had a few hours to get a program together.  The stake Young Women board met until midnight trying to arrange lodging, food, and activities for over 200 hundred young women and leaders. After the meeting I stepped into the hallway to turn out the light, and there was President Brennan.  Unbeknownst to us, he had been patiently waiting in his office while we met, watching over us even though we had no idea he was there.  I'm not sure when he flew home, but there he was serving us.” 

Perhaps Bishop Robinson says it best. “President Brennan's tender relationship with our Father in Heaven shines through in every conversation.  The Gospel is absolute truth to him.  Both his life and his leadership style are driven by the eternal realities of our premortal existence as children of heavenly parents, our need to be saved by God's Beloved son, and the wonderful opportunity that is ours to build His kingdom in these latter days.”

History of Follow the Star

Eighteen years ago, Brian Andre stood out back of the pretty new chapel on Altisima overlooking Oso Reservoir thinking, “What a waste.” This seems like a strange reaction to the blessing of a beautiful new church building in the growing city of Rancho Santa Margarita, but he was thinking only of the grounds behind the church, and at first, he was thinking only with the practical part of his brain.

The only word needed to turn it all around for Ken

When I was in the 7th grade I had a history teacher that I really liked. I didn’t care much for history but I loved my teacher. His name was Mr. Jarvis. He had so much faith in his students that every Friday when we took our weekly history quiz he let each student grade their own quiz. After we graded the quiz he would then call out our last name and ask for our grade. One by one we would respond in marine-type language. For example, if you got an “A” you said Alpha. “B” was Beta, “C” was Charlie, “D” was Delta and an “F” was Fox. 

No one thought 24 little children would have enough power ... ...but then it was their turn to sing

The Santa Margarita Stake ( A Christian Church with chapels in Santa Margarita, Lake Forest and Mission Viejo. ) treated a packed audience in it's annual Christmas concert "Sing Noel" on Saturday and Sunday nights l\this past weekend. Please enjoy this stirring rendition of O Holy Night sung by an emsemble choir of over 200 children, teens and adults. Forgive the quality - it's was shot on an iPhone :)