Alone in a closet-sized room in Iraq, U.S. Army Col. Guy Hollingsworth dropped to his knees and cried.
In a conversation via Skype with Elder Paul B. Pieper and Elder Bruce D. Porter of the first Quorum of the Seventy, he had been called to be the district president of what would become the Baghdad Iraq Military District.
"I just dropped to my knees and started crying for a couple of reasons," Hollingsworth said. "I felt completely inadequate. I was already working 20 hours a day, and I just didn't know how I would find the time to take care of 1,300 members of the church.
"I also cried because they said that Elder Pieper was coming into the country, and we needed to find a way to get him on the base. I just thought, 'How am I going to have any influence on this?'"
In that moment, Hollingsworth said he felt like Nephi with a broken bow and no knowledge of where to hunt.
However, through faith and many miracles, Hollingsworth was able to organize the first three branches of the church in Iraq.
"It just so happened that I was the senior ranking military person in Iraq at the time. When I got there, I didn't think about it too much," Hollingsworth said. "As this call was extended, I realized it was a blessing to be at that military standpoint to travel around, as I had more flexibility to travel around Iraq than probably any other LDS member there."
However, Hollingsworth's first mission was to achieve access for Elder Piper.
"I worked through the military system of chaplains over the Middle East and didn't find much success. It wasn't that people weren't trying to be cooperative, but the answer for so many years was to not have ecclesiastical leaders come. If they granted us permission it would set a precedent they would have to deal with," Hollingsworth said.
Through a series of events, Hollingsworth was able to obtain permission by the military for Elder Pieper to come to the base for 36 hours to set apart Hollingsworth and his two counselors. Elder Bruce A. Carlson of the Seventy, a retired four-star U.S. Air Force general, serves as the director of reconnaissance for the Obama administration and was able to help.
"Through Elder Carlson's contacts, he was able to open up some doors at the last hour, when we were close to the day Elder Pieper was supposed to come," Hollingsworth said.
During the next three months, Hollingsworth was able to extend callings, set apart three branch presidents and call a Relief Society president.
"I will tell you that there is almost a tangible presence (of the Spirit), once those districts and branches were formed. You could feel the blessings of having the priesthood in the country. It was very exciting," Hollingsworth said.
Prior to forming the branches, LDS servicemen and women gathered together in groups where they could have the sacrament and share a spiritual thought. Hollingsworth mentioned how the organization was strengthened, as the members were able to attend the branches.
"The light of Christ is alive and well in the country of Iraq. … Having the structure and the keys of the priesthood does have an impact on our Iraqi brothers," Hollingsworth said.
Hollingsworth felt the influence of the priesthood and felt that others felt it too. When he served as director of training for the Iraqi military, he spent several months with a three-star general who was a Muslim. Because the general had difficulty pronouncing the word "Hollingsworth," he referred to him as "Colonel Guy." He said, "I have really grown to love Colonel Guy… the one thing I have felt of him is that, to me, he is a man of the Hajj."
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