Opinion: Finding Meaning

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Changing Leaders

It’s my privilege to attend all of Laguna’s churches. It’s not hard; I’ve never been to a service that didn’t bless. Laguna had churches before we were a town; the first was founded in 1879. You have to wonder what our town would be without their influence over the years. Church leaders are remarkable, dedicated people, collectively a great force for good. However, with the passage of time, new leaders are needed. Each church has a process for doing this. The Beautiful Wife and I observed such a change this past Sunday.

Laguna’s Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a “lay” church, meaning the leadership is drawn from the local congregation. The work of the church is finely divided, creating an organization where all do something but not so much they can’t look after their own family and profession. It’s an “amateur” team in the sense none are paid nor trained in a seminary. Preparation is “on-the-job,” accomplished over the years through service in varying “callings.” This “ministry of everyone” seems to work; the church has grown steadily over its 85 years in Laguna.

The congregation is led by a bishopric—a bishop and two counselors—supported by a council with sub-organization presidents. Andy Hanson, an attorney who grew up in Laguna, was being released after five years as bishop with the congregation’s “vote of thanks” for him, his counselors, and their families. A new bishop was proposed for the congregation’s vote of approval: Spencer Samuelian, Laguna Beach High grad and businessman. The vote, unanimous, also approved counselors he had selected. After the meeting, the outgoing bishopric looked quite relaxed, their calling accomplished.

This changing of the guard typically happens every five years. The bishop’s calling is unique as his primary duty is for the youth. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ tend to have larger families so many young people were present. Those between the ages of 3 to 18 years were asked to stand as their new leader was presented. The adults were reminded to look to other leaders—the bishop’s focus would be the rising generation.

After the voting, the bishops, old and new, and their wives spoke. Bishop Hanson reflected on his five years of service noting the miracles he has seen in the lives of members, of how struggles became strengths. Katie Hanson, his wife, spoke of the growth she had seen in her husband, that she saw him becoming more Christ-like, more loving. Bishop Samuelian, his 37 years mostly lived in this congregation, spoke of his love for all and reminded that though we are called to become Christ-like, our life journey is one of redemption.

The new bishopric looked keen and eager, like hikers before they hoist the weight of their backpacks. Their journey of service now begins. This ministering to others is found in all of Laguna’s churches. Those who do it invariably comment that the more they give, the more they receive. There’s meaning in that.

Skip fell in love with Laguna on a ‘50s surfing trip. He’s a student of Laguna history and the author of Loving Laguna: A Local’s Guide to Laguna Beach. Email: [email protected]

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