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Journalist Writes About Her Experience Attending a Mormon Worship Service

New Zealand journalist Geraldine Johns recently wrote about her experience attending a worship service of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Her article was published in The New Zealand Herald on Sunday 16 December 2012.

Excerpts from her article follow:

A few kilometres away, another service is about to get under way. At the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Takapuna, Mormons pull out wooden chairs to accommodate the expected overflow from the main hall, which seats 150.

They don't employ much in the way of electronic devices; the lighting is all natural and the only musical instrument is an organ. The most significant feature of these simple surrounds is the padded tissue box on the lectern.

Those tissues will be needed when Sister Stowers - formerly model and Shortland St actress Elizabeth Skeen - delivers her personal witness (see sidebar).

All Black great Jonah Lomu also helped boost the Latter-day Saints' profile after he and his wife, Nadene, were baptised into the church earlier this year.

Jared Viljoen, 31, is the church director of public affairs. Like others here with church roles, the work is done voluntarily by the father of three children under 5. On weekdays he's a case manager for Work and Income in West Auckland.

"I'm a true-blue Mormon," says Viljoen before the three-hour service starts. "I like the security and constancy the church provides - the teaching of Christ in a world so insecure and uncertain."

Rachael Bennallack, a 19-year-old nursing student, is one of the worshippers today. Her father is a member of the bishopric and she is preparing to serve a mission in Brisbane, where she will teach the gospel. "There's such a strong spirit. It's uplifting and I know the church is true," she says.

The congregation have clearly donned their Sunday best for church. The men (and some boys) wear suits and ties. The first hour is taken up by a sacrament meeting, conducted with a modest solemnity and reverence.

Today, Sister Stowers is sharing her experience of how she found her saviour with the congregation at the Church of Latter-Day Saints.

In another life, she was a model and actress, playing the part of TP in Shortland St in the early 90s. She also appeared in Whale Rider and Street Legal.

Stowers, 39, delivers an emotional and unrehearsed address to the congregation, telling them about her 10-year break from the church. "I was convinced it would bring me a better life. Boy, was I wrong," she says.

Stowers returned to the church two years ago.

And it is in the telling that she reaches for the tissues that sit ready on the lectern.

Stowers, nee Elizabeth Skeen, has two sons from her first marriage. She has since divorced and remarried (her second husband Shannon Stowers was baptised into the church the same day they married).

Talking of the joys of living as a blended family - her husband has a daughter - Stowers says "none of this would have been possible if Jesus Christ hadn't suffered my sins and said 'come unto me'."

"The Saviour knew what I wanted for me. He knew my heart, even when it was hard."

She ends her delivery with a rallying cry to her audience. "What does the Saviour want for Christmas? He wants us."

Style Guide Note:When reporting about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please use the complete name of the Church in the first reference. For more information on the use of the name of the Church, go to our online Style Guide.