In 2016, Elder Joaquin Costa of the Seventy came to my stake’s
conference and I wrote about the experience.
This past weekend (Nov 2017), Elder Claudio Costa of the Seventy came to stake conference. Two Elder Costas!
While very different experiences, there’s some aspects that were similar:
Each met with the stake presidency and talked about marriage.
I got a shout out from each of them during stake conference.
I got a big hug and the stake clerk did not. 😂😂😂
The stake president invited his two counselors and stake clerk, plus their spouses, for dinner on Friday with Elder Costa. And me, too, the oh-so-single stake executive secretary. Elder Costa struck me as nice in a grandfatherly sort of way.
After the meal, we moved to a seating area and the conversation was all about marriage. Both Elder Costa and my stake president shared their conversion stories and went into detail about how they met their wives.
The next hour of conversation is when things turned awkward. Elder Costa said stuff like getting married is the most important thing in this life, it is our primary goal, and only married people will be exalted in heaven. He emphasized the need for these couples to continuously work on and improve their marriages. He had us go around the room and each of us say one thing that makes a successful marriage. Yikes! 😮 When he got to me, I asked to be skipped, he insisted but so did I. He even came back to me after everyone else had a turn.
Elder Costa went on to say single sisters who stay true to the gospel will not be denied any blessings in the next life (he didn’t say a word about the single brothers), the millennium will be a time when we’ll work on becoming perfected and they’ll work out all the things in their marriages. Marriage is all he talked about. 😓 I kept wanting the night to end.
I sensed others in the room felt uncomfortable for me. It’s good they got a taste of what church can be like for people who don’t fit a certain mold, like me since I’m not just single, I’m also gay.
That night I got a text from the stake clerk asking if I’m okay, that he imagined the night’s conversation was difficult for me, that there were a lot of generalizations made and he wanted to be sure I realize how important I am and the significance of my contributions. (Bless him for writing me)
Saturday when Elder Costa walked into the stake offices he paid me a lot of attention, spent time complimenting my tie and being super friendly (I bet General Authorities think a lot about ties, it’s the one splash of color in their otherwise uniform wardrobe of dark suits and white shirts). I wondered if my stake president had clued him in about me.
He asked us to each tell a little about ourselves, including our families. I said that I have 15 nieces & nephews. He compared me with Sheri Dew, a single woman who has had a tremendous influence in the Church, and how she’s always talking about her nieces and nephews. He also spoke about the other Davids he knows and they all share certain similar traits and so do I. He decided he was gonna keep calling me by my first name. It was charming, actually, that the whole weekend he referred to everyone else as Brother So-and-so or President So-and-so, but I was David.
After the introductions, Elder Costa asked the stake president what were some areas of the stake he’s concerned about or which need improvement. The stake president asked his counselors to weigh in and the four of them (stake pres, 2 counselors & Elder Costa) had a lively discussion, with Elder Costa occasionally saying “David, make a note of that.” Towards the end, the stake president asked the stake clerk and me to also share our opinions. The stake clerk went first and there was a good discussion around his points. Elder Costa began wrapping up the meeting and I raised my hand, “I didn’t get a chance to speak.”
My comment was that everyone needs to feel seen, heard and loved. We need to be friends, not just in church, but beyond these walls, invite others to dinner or to our homes. We should look for others who aren’t being included and reach over and invite them to join us. When we come to church and there’s someone we’re happy to see, or they’re excited to see us, it makes that day at church a good one regardless of what the speakers said from the pulpit. These are people who will serve each other and look out for each other in their struggles. This is how to bind hearts. It’s the great commandment to love one another.
With that said, we were out of time. We had a closing prayer and all headed over to a meeting for men in stake or ward leadership positions. Elder Costa came out from behind the pulpit and had an interactive discussion. At the meeting’s conclusion, he spoke about the stake president and his counselors and how he’s impressed with them. Then walked over to where the Stake Clerk and I were sitting, and said these two men are good help to the stake presidency. “We had a meeting just prior to this one, and David got the final word. He spoke for only about a minute, but he touched my heart.” ❤️
During the rest of stake conference he continued to call me David, a point which other members kept commenting on.
After it was all over, we were in the stake offices and Elder Costa comes over, “David! It was so good to meet you!” and wrapped his arms around me in a hug. “The next time you’re in Utah, call me. I’ll take you to lunch…I’m serious!” 😍
The Stake Clerk was beside me. Elder Costa patted him on his suit lapel while saying, “nice to meet you” 😎 and out the door he went.
Things got off to a rough start that Friday night. He recognized it and spent time trying to make it right. He embodied the very point I tried to make, that we need to be seen and heard, to be loved, to have someone who’s happy to see us, who recognizes our struggles and stands with us.
you can go bigger, Mark. more than president.