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Soldier ordained elder amid war in arid Iraq

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In a perfect world, Allan Baros would have received the Melchizedek Priesthood just a few feet away from his wife, Michelle, and their two children. Perhaps the ordination would have been performed by his bishop or even the fellow LDS soldier whose priesthood stewardship blessed their lives a year or so earlier. Maybe he would have celebrated the advancement with folks from his Kentucky ward.

For now, perfect worlds are fairy tale fodder. Brother Baros is a half-world away from Michelle and their children, Bryanna and Teagon, serving as a U.S. Army sergeant in the arid and dangerous environs of Iraq. But he insists he's a blessed man after being ordained an elder Sept. 7 by priesthood holders in his Quyyaarah LDS service group.

"I am humbled by this opportunity to serve Heavenly Father," said Brother Baros, 23, via e-mail to the Church News. "When I actually received this priesthood it was the most wonderful feeling one could have."

A New Hampshire native, he first learned of the Church in 1998 when he met Michelle, a lifelong member. The two were soon dating and later married while he was stationed at Fort Eustis, Va. The newlyweds began attending a local ward with the family of an LDS lieutenant from his military company, Ken Thompson.

Brother Baros began recognizing the rumblings of a testimony in the winter of 2000 when the couple was expecting Bryanna. The young soldier was in the field when Michelle was involved in a car accident, sending her into premature labor. He rushed to the hospital and called Brother Thompson.

"He came as quickly as he could and gave my wife a blessing," he said. Sister Baros' premature labor stopped. Later, Brother Baros was stationed in Korea where his feelings for the gospel grew. He returned to Kentucky, listened to the missionary discussions and was baptized Aug. 30, 2002. His deployment to the conflict in Iraq soon followed.

"I had no intention of being here long enough to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood," he said. "I had the hopes that I would be home in the Church receiving the priesthood in front of my wife. Of course, our Heavenly Father had other plans for me."

Despite being far from his family, he said he's grateful for the camaraderie he has enjoyed with fellow soldiers in his LDS service group. Several weeks ago his service group leader, Randall Haws, contacted Church leaders in Kentucky and received permission to ordain Allan Baros an elder.

Brother Haws believes Brother Baros may be the first person — or certainly among the first — in centuries to be advanced to the Melchizedek Priesthood in Iraq, a land rich in biblical history. Hopkinsville Kentucky Stake President Donald Moore is grateful for the influence LDS service groups can have on young members such as Brother Baros.

"Being in that type of [combat] environment can give a person a greater appreciation for things that really matter most," said President Moore.

E-mail: jswensen@desnews.com