Christian Church

“You have to go to Texas.”

Jessica Brown of Mission Lake ward remembers the exact moment she felt inspired to go to Texas. After days of watching the heart-wrenching news of Hurricane Harvey’s devastation, she was loading a box of groceries into her car when a very strong thought came to her. “You have to go to Texas.”

About an hour later, her husband called her and said, “I can't stop thinking about the idea that we need to go help in Texas.” But how could they make it happen? A few weeks went by punctuated with the urgent feeling that Jessica needed to follow this prompting. Finally she decided to start researching how to do it, and everything fell into place. She found affordable plane tickets and a place to stay with the Barr family, formerly of Mission Lake ward, who had relocated to the Houston area last year.

Jessica and her fifteen-year-old daughter Gracie  flew to Houston and reported to the Helping Hands home base with the missionaries to get an assignment. One of the women in charge grew very emotional as she expressed how grateful they all are for the countless visitors from other states willing to help. But Jessica was even more impressed by the other volunteers. She says, “Another couple we worked with was from Utah and had a scheduled ten day vacation that they canceled. Instead they flew to Texas, spending each day working hard in mucky conditions to serve people they didn't know.”


Despite the hours of news reports she had consumed, nothing prepared Jessica for the reality. “It’s hard to comprehend what it’s like actually driving through a neighborhood and seeing the piles of debris lining the streets and smell the stink of furniture, carpets and household belongings soaked in flood waters and full of mold. My heart ached for these people as I witnessed the destruction of their personal belongings. It was especially sad to see piles of ruined photographs, personal papers and books.”

The Browns worked in four houses while they were there. In one, they mucked out a garage, pulling out moldy drywall and sorting through the homeowner’s belongings. Most went into the trash heap in the yard. She didn't have flood insurance and was trying to save as many things as possible by laying them out on tarps in the backyard. Her house already had been stripped of everything on the ground floor including drywall five feet high and all the flooring. It was hot and humid, and rained off and on, making her attempts to salvage items in her backyard almost impossible.


Gracie says, “The very last people we helped were the most grateful. It was an older couple and they were so sweet. It must be so hard to witness your house and almost everything you own be destroyed. Once we were done with their house they hugged me so tightly and wouldn’t let me go. The whole experience was so humbling and I’m so happy I had the chance to help these people. I can't imagine anything better I could have done with my time.”

For Jessica, the most touching part of this experience was the reaction of the homeowners. “They were thankful for their lives and for those serving them. I saw people from all different backgrounds coming together to help one another, neighbors hugging and talking in the streets, churches working together despite different beliefs. The local Lutheran church served a free lunch to all the LDS helping hands workers. While wearing our yellow Helping hands shirts, we were stopped several times with thanks and comments like, ‘Hey, yellow shirts! We’ve had yellow shirts working in our neighborhood all week, thank you!’"


The whole experience has profoundly changed Jessica’s priorities. “I think it is easy for us to get distracted spending a good majority of our life dedicated to acquiring the very things that we saw in those piles of moldy, wet mountains of trash in front of each house. There is nothing inherently wrong about having these things and some are necessary to our daily lives, but I realized that it all can be gone in the blink of an eye. As I ponder on our experience last week the following scripture keeps coming to mind:

“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through and steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” --Matthew 6:19-21

“I feel like I gained so much more than anything I was able to actually to do help. I now understand more fully the concept of service being its own reward. Many times I heard the missionaries respond when thanked for their service with, “It’s my pleasure!” I realized the truth of this statement. Doing service for others is a pleasure and can bring great us great joy, while giving comfort to those we serve.

“I can’t help thinking of how we can apply the lessons of these types of disasters to our spiritual lives. I have had to ask myself: What is my foundation? When the storms of life come as I know they will, whether literal or figuratively, how will I fare? Have I set my heart on the right treasures?

“I am so grateful for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I am grateful for the scriptures that can be a lifeline to guide us through the storm. I am grateful for this opportunity to remember what is most important, and for the extraordinary opportunity to have this experience in Texas.”




LDS General Conference Traditions

According to Angel Lefler, a mom of 4, this is how they try to bring the spirit from General Conference into their home.  

"With having kids that are so little and not able to understand all the benefits of conference I had to decide what my goals for conference weekend were. I decided I wanted my children to be excited for conference and to want to be apart of it. I wanted them to see that mom and dad wanted to participate I conference and that it brought us peace and strength. I wanted traditions of conference weekend to be familiar, fun, and something that brings the family together and not just the parents saying "shhh" every 3 minutes. 

Sooo, with that in mind. Saturday and Sunday morning we have big breakfasts. We eat them while listening to the first part of the the first sessions. The kids love it and full mouths are quiet mouths.  When breakfast is over we come to the couch and start the activity sticks. The activity sticks have written on them quiet activities the kids can do while listening to conference. Busy hands are happy hands.  They are things like painting nails, draw a picture of the speakers tie, conference bingo, lacing cards, tracing pictures, drawing pictures of/for family, making bead necklaces, etc. I also print activities from The kids get to take turns picking the sticks out of a can at random and the activity is done when they are finished. We don't wait till the next talk happens or anything. 

As the kids grow older and more mature we have them sit with us while the prophet speaks, and start taking notes while certain speakers speak. 

Saturday between sessions we eat lunch  and usually go for a bike ride or walk and Sunday between sessions we usually eat lunch and play board games."

How awesome are her ideas and thoughts on how to entertain little children during General Conference?!

Here is the April 2017 LDS General Conference Schedule

Saturday, April 1, 2016
Saturday Morning Session (9:00 a.m.) for everyone
Saturday Afternoon Session (1:00 p.m.) for everyone
General Priesthood Session (5:00 p.m.) for men and young men 12 years of age and older

Sunday, April 2, 2016
Sunday Morning Session (9:00 a.m.) for everyone
Sunday Afternoon Session (1:00 p.m.) for everyone

What is LDS General Conference?

Meet your Presidency! Introducing Brad Cooper

This is part of a three part series introducing our stake to the new stake presidency. We contine with our new first counselor. 

What is your favorite thing about living in this stake?

The people! The Santa Margarita Stake is amazing in so many ways because of the individuals! Elder Kim B. Clark at stake conference captured our stake wonderfully when he said we are "this close to Zion as a a people.” I am so blessed and grateful to raise my children in this stake of Zion. 


How did you feel when you were called into the presidency?

Shocked, humbled and completely surprised!

What are you most looking forward to in this new calling?

Getting to know more members of the stake. I am also so excited to learn form President Hess and President Warnick. They are men whom I love and deeply admire and I know the Lord has called them to lead our stake at this time. I sustain them fully.  

What is your favorite scripture?

D&C 84:88. "And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up."

I know that when I am on the Lord's errand, I am never alone.


What do you like to do for fun?

Skiing - water and snow.  I love to ski with my kids!

Did you serve a mission? Where?

I served in the Italy Milan mission - a long time ago! The first stake in Italy was organized about a year after I returned from the mission field, to give you an idea of just how long ago. I loved my mission. It was a defining period in my life that taught and shaped me significantly.   

What is the one thing you'd like the members of this stake to know about you?

I love the Lord and my greatest desire is to serve Him by serving the members of this stake for whom I have great love, admiration and respect.


What is your favorite food?

UH - ITALIAN - could there be any other answer from someone who lived in Italy?  


Meet your new Stake Presidency! Introducing Bob Warnick

This is part of a three part series introducing our stake to the new stake presidency. We contine with our new first counselor. 

What is your favorite thing about living in this stake? 

The most faithful, valiant people I’ve ever been associated with.  We have raised our children here and can’t think of anyplace we would rather be.

How did you feel when you were called into the presidency? 

Humbled, and very surprised.  I certainly never expected to have this opportunity again.  However, I am excited to serve in any way that I can.

What are you most looking forward to in this new calling? 

Getting to know all of the members that I don’t already know.  Serving with President Hess and President Cooper and the rest of the stake leadership; they are fantastic.

What is your favorite scripture? 

I have many favorites, but one of the best is 2 Nephi 31:20. Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.

What do you like to do for fun? 

Be with my family; travel with my sweetheart; spend time at our cabin near Yellowstone; golf.

Did you serve a mission? Where? 

I served in the New Zealand North Mission, the best mission in the church!

What is the one thing you'd like the members of this stake to know about you? 

Besides the fact that I know that the church is true, I have way too much fun in my callings!

What is your favorite food? 

Never met a meal I didn’t like!  But it’s hard to beat slightly overdone Tollhouse chocolate chip cookies.

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.”

A Christmas Message from our very own President Schoessow

To hold my granddaughter and get to know her.  My daughter and son-in-law had the help of doctors, nurses, extended family and a blurry-eyed grandfather to help usher this baby into the world. I am humbled at the stark contrast of another young couple and the birth of a child more than 2000 years ago.

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.

13 congregations: "I knew every girl by name" - Jean Simpson

If Jean could choose one group of people to give advice to, it would be the young women of the church. She would tell them to “Make goals for yourself at this stage in your life that will bring you true joy, eternal joy. Then pray for the wisdom and strength to make the big and little decisions every day that will keep you on that path. Just know that the Lord knows you and He’s going to help you.”

Local teen goes from Slovenia to Dubai. —But why?

Michael Brown, age 18, has already traveled the world, all because of a board game. What started as an after school hobby once a week in first grade has led him from Slovenia to Dubai. And now, he’s headed to BYU on the highest possible scholarship, the Thomas S.  Monson Presidential Scholarship.

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. 

A Christmas Message from The Stake Presidency

As we commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ two millennia ago, we offer our testimony of the reality of His matchless life and the infinite virtue of His great atoning sacrifice. None other has had so profound an influence upon all who have lived and will yet live upon the earth.