Jay and Merrill Osmond, accompanied by their wives Karen and Mary, visited Sunderland Stake Centre during an emotional and sensitive time for them. Eight days prior to the scheduled fireside Merrill and Mary had learnt that their son Troy had tragically lost his life. This led to an emotional and spiritual evening.
With hundreds in attendance, many of whom were non-members, President John Deacon conducted the fireside and introduced the Osmonds.
Jay addressed the congregation with his feelings of the Saviour and his experiences with Walt Disney, Elvis Presley and his personal journey of faith.
Merrill followed, expressing his appreciation of the Plan of Salvation and his love for his son Troy. He spoke of an earlier conversation he’d had with Troy, who expressed his desire to come to England to be with his father. He now felt that Troy was present in spirit. Merrill also talked about his meeting with the Queen, and his love for those present.
A question and answer followed. One non-member declared himself to be “not religious” and never prayed. He had met Jay and Merrill at their concert the previous night and had told them how a relative of his had passed away that day. They had said they would pray for him and his family. He tearfully declared his gratitude for the prayers offered on his behalf that he had felt. They confirmed they had been praying for him.
President Deacon concluded the evening by thanking the Osmonds for their faith and devotion, and for attending the fireside. He also talked about the name of the Church and its importance. He added that his welcome at the beginning of the fireside was an open and extended one; in times of questioning, loneliness, doubt or grief the Church was available to all regardless of the faith, or lack of it, in their lives.
Many lingered after the close of the fireside to discuss further questions with full-time missionaries and express how much they enjoyed the evening and the good feelings present.
Merrill was also overwhelmed by meeting a missionary companion of his son Troy. Graeme Poulton from the Sunderland Stake had served with Troy in London and shared some loving memories.
One of those attending, Elaine, said:
'I'm not sure what I was expecting at the fireside, but it was heart-warming for Jay and Merrill to come and speak the way they did. I'm not a Church-going person but do believe if you want to, you can pray anywhere you want and feel happy to do that. In this busy world in which we live it's reassuring that some people are happy to open up their hearts and speak about the way they feel and what they believe in. I'm glad I came along with my sister; the night went well, and I was very happy to see Merrill and Jay close up and hear them speak so honestly. I took note of the friendly people we met. It takes nothing to be nice, polite and honest, things that are sadly in demise at the present time.'Elaine