Stake President, Fredericksburg stake of Church of Jesus Christ of Latter–Day Saints
What brought you to Culpeper?
I actually live in Woodville, up in Rappahannock County, and I moved here to manage a farm there called Eldon Farms, a 7,000 acre property between Woodville and Sperryville. That’s what brought us to area.
How were you selected to be Stake President?
The way it works is you are called, you can’t sort of run. It’s a lot of work and no pay but you’re called. We have a visiting general authority of the church, Elder Kopischke was here two years ago and we knew the previous stake president, his time was up. So he did a bunch of interviews and one day selects the person he believes is the right person. I was serving at the time as the Bishop in the Culpeper ward. So I was on the short list of people interviewed but technically he could have picked anybody from among the 3,000 members to serve.
What all do you do as president, what’s your role?
There are a lot of things we do, the most important thing we do ultimately is ministering to people. It’s just that simple, trying to help people out, usually trying to lift them spiritually. Of course it’s overseeing buildings and all of the finances that’s more of the administrative type of tasks.
Is it a daunting task knowing you have 3,000 members in your stake?
It does weigh on me, but the way the church is organized is that everyone has a calling. Everyone has some responsibility. The church just kind of functions with all of this volunteer help from the congregation. If you didn’t have that, it would be a full time job for multiple people. Because of this lay clergy you have someone serving in some capacity.
How many members are here in Culpeper?
Here in Culpeper we have between 800 to 1,000 members. We call it Culpeper but that goes from Sperryville and extends into Madison and Lake of the Woods. Our typical attendance we’ll have about 300 people every Sunday.
How do you promote the church and let people know you’ve been here 25 years?
“When Christ was on the Earth he went about doing good and he did it on an individual basis. There were very few times he spoke to big congregations or did miracles among big groups. We have a lot more accounts of him talking to individuals, and that’s how we do it. We have missionaries that serve here in Culpeper, they’re knocking on people’s doors and meeting people on the street.
Do people embrace the door to door missionary work? What’s the response?
“Some people embrace it, some people aren’t as happy with it. If someone is not happy with it we don’t want to bother them. It’s creating opportunities to talk about the church but we’re not trying to force anything on people. The LDS church typically isn’t on a busy corner and we don’t take out an ad in the paper. We’re inviting individuals.
Genealogy is a big part of the church, how does that impact our community and what resources does the church have that people may not be aware of?
“We have a family history center and it’s open during the week and has regular hours. We have family history consultants and anybody can come, whether they are a member of the church or not. It’s just a service we feel we should offer people. If an individual wants to come in, they can come to the family history center and we can help them research whatever records we have. We’re open about sharing them with people. A lot of towns don’t have one (a family history center) so it’s nice to have it. We’re very interested in doing things with other congregations. This year we participated in the way of the cross. We don’t always agree with everything with other congregations, but that’s OK. We’re not trying to prove them wrong or us right or argue about things. We all know service is something we all should be interested in. The center of our faith is Jesus Christ, we have a lot in common with other religions that have Jesus Christ as the center of their faith. There’s always some commonality among faiths. We should all be working together to lift people up.
When people find out you are the president of the stake, what’s the reaction?
At times people are surprised because I am just a guy that has a regular job, but that’s kind of the way it’s set up. Ultimately I’m glad that Elder Kopischke thought I was somebody that could serve in this capacity. I think there are any number of people who could do the job as well as I could, maybe better. For whatever reason, this was my time to serve in this capacity. I’ll serve 9-10 years, and I’m almost through with year two, not that I’m counting.
What has been the most eye-opening experience?
The most eye-opening experience for me was working with the youth and the amount of mental and emotional struggles they are going through right now. I thought there would be issues with drugs, immorality, alcohol abuse and all of the things you think teenagers are dealing with. It’s actually not what they are dealing with, they are dealing with emotional and mental health issues. Just feeling like they have value and they can stand up to life. That’s the struggles they are going through, which was a complete shock to me.