On a typical Sunday morning off the rocky coast of Maine, David Quinn, 16, arrives at the white Congregational Church 30 minutes early. He replaces the large, ornate chairs on the stand with simple folding chairs and carries in a table for the sacrament. He removes the velvet drape and cross from the podium and places hymnbooks along the benches. If there are not enough teachers to prepare the sacrament, he stops to help. Then, depending on the week, he either takes his place behind the organ to play prelude music or on the bench behind the sacrament table. When he plays the organ, a missionary joins the other priest to bless the sacrament.
It may seem like David is carrying a full load, but to him this is nothing unusual. In the Yarmouth Branch, Augusta Maine Stake, which has only about 100 active members, David is used to holding more than one calling, and he’s used to meeting in a building not owned by the Church.
In David’s eyes, both of those have advantages.
David’s home state of Maine is a land of lobsters, lighthouses, and extreme weather conditions. Living so close to the coast, the youth take advantage of the vast Atlantic Ocean. They enjoy deep-sea fishing and whale watching, and they sometimes even have stake dances on a boat that sails around the bay.
The youth group numbers around 20 to 25 and is unusually close. “A bunch of guys from the branch will get together to play paintball or have a sleepover,” says David. “And my sister is hanging out with her church friends all the time. We’re all pretty good friends.”
For Mutual, pool parties and outdoor games are common activities. Other times, the youth bake cookies or a pie and deliver them anonymously to someone’s house. “With so few people, we can usually pick something that everybody wants to do,” David says.
An activity last May took the priests and Laurels to Fox Island in northern Maine, where they followed Wilford Woodruff’s missionary trek. They traveled by ferry to the island where they had a devotional and repaired the hiking trail at Mormon Mountain. They also installed a stone plaque as a memorial to Wilford Woodruff.
In the branch nearly all the youth have callings. David has been playing the organ in sacrament meeting for about four months, rotating with his older sister, Andrea, and another boy from the ward. David admits it’s a challenge. “I’m not big on playing in public,” he says.
Mingling with other faiths
For the past few years the Yarmouth Branch has met in the Yarmouth Congregational Church, and the members are making the most of their association with their friends of another faith. Recently they met together for a joint worship service. A combined choir consisting of members from both congregations performed.
“It was pretty cool,” David says about the experience. “You could definitely feel the Spirit. Everyone had such a good time. At the end of the meeting we all mingled and talked, and some people found out they were related.”
Members of the Yarmouth Branch will soon have a building of their own. Construction of the new Yarmouth Branch meetinghouse began last year. Members of the Congregational Church have accepted the invitation to come to the dedication.
Friends of all ages
The branch members form a tight-knit group that supports themselves through activities and spontaneous service. When projects are planned, nearly all branch members show up.
“Living in a small branch has helped my testimony grow through the testimony of others,” David says. “Everyone knows everyone else and enjoys each other’s company. I have had great friends, home teaching companions, leaders, and teachers whom I have grown to know and love, whose spirits have helped mine grow.”
David says another plus to living in a small branch is the speed with which news spreads. “If someone needs help moving, has a baby, or is just having a rough time, another member is at his door in no time with food, cards, cookies, and a smile.”
David frequently looks to the example of his best friend, Tom Bibber, 15, who is also in the branch. “Tom tries to live the gospel to the last principle. At swimming practice, when I suggested that we might skip a lap to catch up, Tom said, ‘You can do what you want. I’m finishing the workout.’”
And when it comes to close friends, even a span of several generations doesn’t seem to be a factor. “My current home teaching companion, Brother Bart Seymour, is one of the best friends I have, and the one whose opinion and advice I value the most. His example has nurtured my testimony from the beginning.”
The Church is small in Maine, with only two stakes in the entire state. David says the only disadvantage to living in a small branch is people notice when he doesn’t show up to an activity. He stays strong by attending early-morning seminary (his mom’s the teacher), going teaching with the missionaries, and working on the new Duty to God program.
“The program has helped a lot,” David says, “I’m reading the Book of Mormon by myself and then discussing it with my parents.”
During wintertime in Maine, the sun sets early, around 3:30 or 4:00 P.M. The darkness and seclusion can be hard on those not used to the conditions. But David has learned that his light, even in times of darkness, can brighten the lives of those around him.
Making the Most of a Mess
When water poured into the basement of the Congregational Church one Sunday after days of heavy rain, Yarmouth Branch members stopped their sacrament meeting and hurried to the basement to save furniture, books, and other valuables from ruin. David Quinn and his friend Marc Johnson—still in their Sunday best—jumped in, literally, to help.
They were laughing and having a wonderful time, even though their clothes were soaked through. What mattered was that a job needed to be done. They made the best of a bad situation. They helped me see the importance of a good attitude through life’s daily challenges.