Sunday, October 7, 2018

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Sunday afternoon session

Sunday afternoon: The big finale, or a coast to the close?

If you’re coming to this after the conference has ended, this may be the first of these entries you see, so here’s how to read them: Blogs run—going against millennia of best practice—in reverse chronological order, so this one’s at the top of the page, followed by the entry for the previous session, followed by the previous one, and so on. Therefore, to make it easier to follow this whole thing chronologically, speakers are arranged within each session’s entry in reverse chronological order, as well—so the opening speaker for this session is at the bottom of this post, preceded by the next speaker, preceded by the next one, and so on. (My notes for each speaker, though, are in regular top-down chronological order—trying to do otherwise was painful the one time i tried it.)

And with that, let’s finish this thing off…

Final thoughts
  • Lots of stuff on the need to focus on Jesus Christ. Okay, so that’s not all that unusual, but the phrasings used seemed to be quite similar to each other.
  • I’m honestly curious what’s going to happen to the URLs lds.org and mormon.org.
  • All but no direct mentions of sexual abuse and other forms of assault, which mildly surprises me, given how much it’s been in the public conversation lately.
  • And my favorite address of the weekend: As cliché as it might be, the nod goes to Jeffrey R. Holland. (Neal L. Anderson comes in a pretty close second, though.) Unlike many recent conferences, i feel like even though there were a lot of good speeches by non-apostles, but none of them really stood out in an incredible way.
  • And there we are. See y’all back in this space in six months!

Russell M. Nelson
  • This conference has been useful for reminding us to center our lives on Jesus Christ.
  • There’s a need for more people to attend the temple to do proxy work there.
  • There will be upcoming renovations of Salt Lake and other pioneer-era temples.
  • 12 new temples: Mendoza Argentina; Salvador, Brazil; Yuba City, California; Phnom Penh, Cambodia; Praia, Cape Verde; Yigo, Guam; Puebla, Mexico; Auckland, New Zealand; Lagos, Nigeria; Davao, Philippines; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Washington County, Utah.
  • And that’s it, the end.

Gary E. Stevenson, of the quorum of apostles
  • A fact at the heart of ministering: Heavenly Father can take our simple daily efforts and turn them into something impressive.
  • What we learn in ministering will help us use the extra time we’ll have after the turn of the year to positive effect.
  • When we face difficulties, the Lord, our shepherd, will minister to us.
  • We have the opportunity to assist in this ministering effort.
  • Ministering to others to identify, find, and bring home the lost sheep will bring us joy.
  • We aren’t asked to redeem souls—that is what Jesus does. All we’re asked to do is to bring souls to him, so that he can redeem them.

Jack N. Gerard, of the quorums of seventy
  • [Dang, this is the health scare/tragedy general conference, innit?]
  • An invitation: Step back from the world and assess our lives.
  • Assessing our lives allows us to see what needs to change, and learn what we can do to choose the best path.
  • Understanding our divine origins is essential to our progress, and helps us avoid becoming distracted by unimportant worldly concerns.

Dale G. Renlund, of the quorum of apostles
  • God’s goal isn’t to have us do what’s right, it’s to have us choose to do what’s right.
  • Jesus Christ has paid for our sins, and no one is beyond the reach of God’s mercy.
  • Lucifer is the accuser who tells us we’re not good enough and there’s no recovery from our mistakes.
  • God wants us to be on the covenant path, but permits us the dignity of choosing.
  • Those who are forced from the path due to the misexercise of agency by others aren’t off the path.
  • We need to choose faith in Christ, repentance, baptism, partaking of the sacrament, making temple covenants, and serve the rest of God’s children.

Matthew L. Carpenter, of the quorums of seventy
  • Consider that many of the people who Jesus healed had been suffering for a long time—decades!—but were healed immediately.
  • We can’t control when we will be healed, if it will even happen in this life—but when we allow Jesus to be involved, we will always be strengthened spiritually.
  • Repentance isn’t the backup plan in case we fail, it’s the plan knowing that we will fail, and will need healing.
  • Just as receiving medical help quickly (as in the case of his son having a stroke!) can help recovery go more easily, it is never a good idea to procrastinate repentance.

Robert C. Gay, of the presidency of the seventy
  • Quoting his sister: “Can’t you see that everyone around you is a sacred being?”
  • Referencing Brigham Young: Don’t judge someone because they’re a sabbath breaker, or because they swear, or whatever, because you don’t really know them as God does.
  • He related a story of James E. Talmage that was pretty hardcore—basically, he voluntarily exposed himself to diphtheria so that he could help a family suffering from the disease, even though he ended up catching it himself as a result!
  • Jesus spoke to those considered the least of the least in part to remind us that there is no one he is unable to heal and bring to joy.

Brian K. Ashton, of the general presidency of the Sunday school
  • During mortality, we are provided with the means we need to progress within God’s plan.
  • If we remain in light and truth, we will see the face of God, in this life or the next.
  • Heavenly Father has an eternal perspective, which merits our trust.
  • Striving to become like Heavenly Father is worth every sacrifice.

Henry B. Eyring, of the quorum of the first presidency
  • Wisdom from someone else: When you meet someone, assume they’re in serious trouble, and you’ll likely be right.
  • We are in this world to be tested and proved, but we have also been given a way through those difficulties. (Spoiler: It’s Jesus Christ.)
  • The ordinance of the sacrament includes a promise to always have the Spirit with us.
  • In the sacramental prayers, we express willingness to take the name of Christ on us. So, this leads us to important questions: “What must i be doing to take his name upon me? How will i know when i am making progress?”
  • As Moroni says, we have to be meek and lowly of heart, and confess Jesus Christ—and that leads us to charity.
  • For some of us, our troubles start to overcome our faith. If you’re in that situation, you can pray with confidence to lead you to those who need your help, and following through on that will lead you to feel God’s love.

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Sunday morning session

Sunday morning, the big leagues!

(Well, or at least it used to be, before all the crazy announcements of policy started happening on Saturdays.)

As with the other posts in this series, the start of the session is at the bottom, so scrolling there and then running upward will take you through the session chronologically…

Russel M. Nelson, president of the high priesthood
  • Talking about the name of the church.
  • We have unwittingly acquiesced to non-divine influences when we omit the name of Jesus Christ from the church.
  • We are not Mormon’s disciples, we’re the Lord’s disciples.
  • Why does the church have such a long name? Because it was given by divine, not mortal inspiration.
  • If we use the actual, divinely given name of the church, we will be blessed as individuals and as a church.

Neil L. Anderson
  • Starting out with the Brussels Airport bombing, where church members were horrifically injured. So why do such things happen to faithful members?
  • God gives us blessings, but intermingled with this will be times, some lengthy, during which our souls will be wounded.
  • Along with the bright colors of happiness and joy, the darker colors of tragedy and unhappiness are also woven into God’s plan.
  • “Never give up, however deep the wounds of your soul…You are not meant to perish spiritually. You are meant to survive spiritually and blossom in your faith in trusting God.”
  • “Your dark night will pass, because the Son did rise with healing in his wings.” [I want to know how the translators handled that pun!]
  • For the righteous, the healer of our souls will heal all your wounds, no matter how deep those wounds might be.


Shayne M. Bowen, of the quorums of seventy
  • The Book of Mormon has converting power.
  • Our personal conversion deepens as we understand the Book of Mormon better.
  • Our mission is to take Moroni’s promise to heart, and then share that message in both word and deed.


Jeffrey R. Holland, of the quorum of apostles
  • Don’t be immobilized trying to figure out how to minister—just do it.
  • The negative consequences of one event can echo through the years.
  • Jesus has asked that we live together in love, with no disputations among us.
  • “Our relationship to Christ will be determined or at least affected by our relationship to each other.”
  • We may have old grievances, but they are old grievances—we need to not let them weigh down our souls any longer.
  • Forgiveness doesn’t mean doing things like staying in an abusive relationship, or placing us in emotional difficulty—but it does mean that we can rise above even the most terrible of offenses and progress in the Lord’s work.
  • If you are delaying forgiveness, go and do it instantly. [Great phrasing on who this is directed to: “You who are keeping wretched quarrels alive…”]
  • “If you know of an old injury, repair it.”


Bonnie H. Cordon, general president of the young women organization
  • We all want to be recognized—to matter, to be noticed, and to be loved.
  • Our job is to make sure everyone feels the love of God as we provide service to them that blesses their lives, and thus also ours.
  • We need to be aware of the less visible needs of those around us.
  • Get to know those around you, and reach out to them.
  • The teenagers in the church, male and female, are needed in this effort.

M. Russell Ballard, acting president of the quorum of apostles
  • Starting with a mention of his wife’s recent death, and thanks for the condolences.
  • Joseph F. Smith faced a great deal of tragedy in his life, from the assassination of his father (Hyrum Smith) to the deaths of many other relatives, including several children.
  • The comfort he had long prayed for came in a vision in 1918—a year that was particularly painful for him, both from world events (World War I, the flu pandemic) and deaths of those close to him through disease and misadventure.
  • Joseph F. Smith saw his father in the vision now canonized as section 138—74 years after he had last seen them in life.
  • This is the 100th anniversary of this revelation, and everyone should go back and read it.
  • A mention of its particular personal poignancy with the death of his wife, and the comfort it gives.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: General women’s session

The general women’s session, now with extra general conferenciness!

Yes, i’m male, but i figure that if my wife got to sit in on the priesthood sessions as i listened to them from our couch the past couple times, i might as well hang out for this one.

So once more, the speakers run bottom-up, so if you scroll down to the bottom of the post now…

Russell M. Nelson, president of the high priesthood
  • You [referring to women specifically?] have the gift to know what someone needs, and reach out to provide it.
  • Women reach out to others, and minister very admirably.
  • A suggestion to take a break from social media, to recenter yourself away from those sorts of views of yourselves and the world around you.
  • Attend the temple regularly, and if you can’t do that (e.g., due to distance), study all you can about the temple and its importance.

Dallin H. Oaks, of the quorum of the first presidency
  • Children are important, and the raising of them is important.
  • [He trotted out the claim that the highest purpose women have is to be mothers. Is that actually true? Isn’t the highest purpose of all of us, female or male, to be worthy to enter the celestial kingdom of our God, whether or not we’ve been parents?]
  • We need to be kind to others—unkindness and bullying is unacceptable.
  • “Our world needs your goodness and love. Be kind to one another.”

Henry B. Eyring, of the quorum of the first presidency
  • Men and women are equal partners who are to help each other in all things—so why are women tasked with the primary responsibility over nurturing and nourishing their children with a knowledge of the gospel?
  • Part of the reason is the feeling of love necessary to do it; consider that the motto of the relief society is charity never faileth.
  • [I wasn’t the only one—my 13-year-old daughter did too—who thought at first that when he was talking about mothers providing the most important nourishment to their children, he was talking about breast milk.]
  • Even the youngest can be inspired to nurture others.
  • Each time you obey the inspiration to nurture, your ability to do so will grow stronger.

Cristina B. Franco, of the general presidency of the primary
  • Love and pure intentions count more in the eternal scheme of things than anything the secular world might count.
  • Parents caring for children, or those caring for unwell parents are good examples of true service—not asking what’s in it for ourselves, but asking what we can do to help.
  • It isn’t really about the details of the service, but rather the love behind the act.

Michelle D. Craig, of the general presidency of the young women organization
  • It is okay to feel discontent with the way things are—but will it be discontent that leads us to progress, or discontent that leads us to wallow in despair and self-absorption?
  • Consider that Joseph Smith’s first vision followed a period of discontent and confusion that led him to seek out the will of God.
  • Quoting someone i missed the name of: “Never suppress a generous thought.”
  • Don’t see people as interruptions, but rather as the purpose of your life.

Joy D. Jones, general president of the primary
  • What is our purpose when we’re asked to do something in the church that seems pointless?
  • Answer: “The highest manifestation of love is devotion to God”, and if that’s our motivation for service, it’s no longer as much of a struggle.
  • It is only when we truly love God that we’re able to share that love with others.
  • Giving the best you have will almost certainly not be enough; give the best you have anyway.

Opening song
  • Syncopation from a choir at a Mormon meeting? Burn the heathens!!

Jean Bingham, general president of the relief society, opening remarks
  • Jean Bingham, or Jean B. Bingham? The voiceover introduced her as the latter, she introduced herself as the former, so i’ll go with that.
  • An explicit welcome to those of other faiths!

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Saturday afternoon session

We’re back!

Again, the speakers run bottom-up, so that you can read the whole weekend bottom-up after it’s all over.

So…

Dieter F. Uchtdorf, of the quorum of apostles
  • King Solomon had it all—but in the end he became disillusioned and unhappy.
  • German has a word for this: Weltschmerz. [I always like understanding the words before the definitions are given…]
  • There is a solution to such despair, disillusionment, and Weltschmerz: The atonement of Jesus Christ, who came so that we might have life, and have it more abundantly.
  • We have life abundantly not by focusing on ourselves, but by becoming disciples of Jesus Christ.
  • Jesus ministered to the weak and powerless, spoke with them, and healed them while teaching the good news of the gospel.
  • Believe, love, do.
  • God desires to sweep darkness out of your life.
  • Accepting the love of God, like anything, takes practice—but the church is there to help us do that.
  • An exhortation to work together to help each other become the best we can be.
  • Sometimes those of us in the church slip and say the wrong thing, or are unthinkingly unkind—but ultimately, we are all trying to get it right together.

Paul B. Pieper, of the quorums of seventy
  • Our Heavenly Father wants to make it perfectly clear that the name of Jesus Christ, but that it is a name with singular power—it is the name by which salvation comes.
  • When we take the name of Jesus Christ on ourselves, it changes us.
  • Some reject taking the name of Christ because they see it as restrictive, but it’s actually expanding.
  • Taking the name of Jesus Christ on us is accompanied by joy.

Gerrit W. Gong, of the quorum of apostles
  • Quoting the late apostle Richard G. Scott: “Attempt to be creative, even if the results are modest.”
  • Our expressions of creativity and attempts to create beauty are reflections of the beauty and skill of God as creator.
  • There is joy in wholesome creativity.
  • “We cannot love ourselves enough to save ourselves.” [Okay, that's deep, and merits pondering at some point.]
  • God assures us that no matter what we’ve done, there is no point of no return, and we will not be left alone.
  • We rejoice in finding “higher and holier ways to love” God.
  • Perfection is in Christ, not in ourselves, nor in the world’s view of perfection.

Ulisses Soares, of the quorum of apostles
  • The Amazon River is formed by two very different rivers that flow together for several miles before mixing, but once they mix they become incredibly powerful; similarly, when the diversity of members of the church become united, they become a powerful force.
  • It is easy for new members of the church to feel like they don’t belong (with an example of Mormon in-group jargon); at such a time, those of us who are already established in the church must reach out a warm hand of fellowship.
  • We need everyone willing to join in, and so must reach out and be welcoming in the spirit of ministering.
  • We need to let people know that they are not alone, and that we will be their friends and God will bless them as they move forward.
  • We can and should be better at welcoming new people in and out of our church meetings (that’s ministering, after all). Oh, and start doing so right away!
  • “I invite you to seek the Lord’s help in loving others as he has loved you.”

Dean M. Davies, of the presiding bishopric
  • The calling of the president of the high priesthood is to preside over the church, and to be a prophet.
  • [Interesting: There is a church temple site committee than meets monthly. The frequency surprises me somewhat.]
  • God reveals to the president of the church the “patterns” by which the church and our lives should run.
  • We should “build our own personal temples” in our homes and our lives.
  • We gain confidence in the Lord as we hearken to the words of the prophets.

D. Todd Christofferson, of the quorum of apostles
  • A retelling of the confrontation between Elijah and the priests of Baal.
  • If something is true—if the Book of Mormon is the word of God, if Joseph Smith saw what he said he did, and so on—then follow it.
  • When someone is truly confirmed, the gospel of Jesus Christ defines their lives.
  • We are on a continuum in our progression, with all of us hopefully moving toward blessedness.
  • Temptations and tribulations will strengthen us, but only if we keep our focus where it should be.

Henry B. Eyring, of the quorum of the first presidency, presenting the church general officers and authorities
  • Sad to see C. Scott Grow get released, if only for the name.
  • Nobody shouting during or after the sustainings this time, which is interesting, given recent history.

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Saturday morning session

General conference time again!

So, as i always do for these, a formatting explanation to start out: So that these notes can be read in a single swoop in reverse chronological order, the top entry of notes in this post is the last speaker; the first speaker is at the bottom of the post. This is so that when the next session is posted, reading upwards goes smoothly from the end of this session (at the top of this post) to the beginning of the next (at the bottom of the next post), and so on through the entire weekend.

Under each speaker, though, the notes go in chronological order from the top down—i tried doing everything bottom-up one time, and it was painful to read. So it might work best, i suppose, if you consider each speaker to be a single discrete entry, a sort of mini-post of its own.

And with that, let’s begin!

Dallin H. Oaks, of the quorum of the first presidency
  • When we search for truth, we should use methods of searching out the truth that are appropriate to that truth.
  • Spiritual and religious truths cannot be learned by scientific and secular methods.
  • We’re a family-centered church, but that isn’t just families in mortality—our focus is on families being sealed together for the eternities.
  • Why do we focus so much on missionary work, but simultaneously offer humanitarian aid without connecting it to our missionary work? Both are because we view everyone as children of the same God, and worthy of our attention and care.
  • [Honestly, this wasn’t anything new. At all. But i’m calling it right now, next Sunday a half dozen of the archconservatives in my ward will quote it as if it was.]

David A. Bednar, of the quorum of apostles
  • Sunday meetings have not simply been shortened—we’ve been given opportunities to improve Sabbath observance.
  • Administrative changes in the church aren’t simply administrative changes—they’re part of a unified effort to align the church with its fundamental mission of assisting in God’s work.
  • We shouldn’t constrain ourselves by coming up with extensive checklists to measure our adherence to commandments and principles, rather than actually coming closer to God.
  • [He said, “Let me provide both a doctrinal, and a church example” of what i’m talking about. I’m not entirely certain what he meant by that.]
  • All of the basics of the gospel combine together into one great program to move the church and its mission forward—they aren’t just independent and discrete initiatives.
  • Church programs and initiatives exist to help individuals and families, not as ends in themselves.

Ronald A. Rasband, of the quorum of apostles
  • Is it actually good to bring children into a fallen world? Yes, it is.
  • Fear is not new, and we have fears. This is normal.
  • “Prayer can call down the strength and the revelation that we need to center our thoughts on Jesus Christ” and banish fear.
  • Scripture says that when things seem terribly dark, we shouldn’t be troubled because God’s promises will be fulfilled.
  • Remember we are promised the peace of God which passeth all understanding.
  • [Does anybody else who used to watch Law & Order back in the day every once in a while look at Ronald A. Rasband and think they're looking at politician-turned-actor Fred Thompson? No? Okay, i'll just wander off back to my own corner…]
  • When we stand with God, we are standing on holy ground.

An interlude…
  • And amidst all this, i get a text from one of my sisters, reminding me of the joke prediction (made by my net.friend Craig Olson decades ago) that two-hour church would be announced in general conference, with time set aside afterward for the church’s nursery workers to give the Hosanna Shout. Her statement: “Yeah. I might have been overly excited about 50-minute nursery.”

Steven R. Bangerter, of the quorums of seventy
  • Jesus Christ is the cornerstone and foundation of Zion.
  • Parents should lead in teaching their children the importance of the gospel.
  • Family traditions can be subtle, but important.
  • Simple, wholesome family traditions lead to respect and unity and security, and protection from Satan’s power.
  • It’s not so much an issue of whether children understand everything when we have gospel-inspired family activities and discussions, but rather whether we are leading in our families as we should and teaching as we should.


M. Joseph Brough, of the general presidency of the young men
  • Alaska (mis)adventure story!
  • Sometimes our challenges are caused by our own choices, and sometimes by the choices of others.
  • Neal A. Maxwell faced leukemia, and struggled—but learned that it was ultimately a blessing, because it let him teach authenticity. [Yeah, i do miss his powerful propensity for dense diction and amazing alliteration.]
  • We can, however, overcome all hard things through Jesus Christ.

Quentin L. Cook, of the quorum of apostles
  • New Sunday meeting schedule: 60-minute sacrament meeting, 10-minute transition, 50-minute adult/youth/primary class (which will follow an alternating schedule Sunday to Sunday, except Primary is every week).
  • [I’ve been hoping for 2-hour church meetings for literally (i mean, literally literally) years. As someone who grew up with a long ride to and from church, it’s a big deal, y’all.]
  • [Wow, meetinghouse usage patterns are going to change in a big way, aren’t they?]
  • Explicit statement that family home evenings don’t need to be held on Mondays, though that day will still be held free from church activities.
  • The church’s curriculum has emphasized the Sunday church experience, but now that’s shifting to focusing on the home (and personal) religious experience.
  • Each family should choose prayerfully how and when it will be implemented—including the possibility of gathering in informal groups, if they desire.
  • No opening prayers needed in the second hour meeting.
  • More wards should meet earlier in the day. [So the Mormon Cult of the Early Riser is still a thing, i see. <exhaustion />]
  • [Curious whether there’s a co-occurring reduction of stake and ward leadership meetings, or if those are going to get heavier as a result of this.]

Russell M. Nelson, president of the high priesthood
  • Praise for the youth of the church.
  • How can we take the gospel and its ordinances to all of God’s children? To do this, we need to adjust from thinking of home supporting the learning in church to church supporting the learning in the home.
  • So now there’s a home-centered churchwide curriculum [as previously announced, i’ll note].
  • Parents have the responsibility to teach their children, and it is the responsibility of the church to support that.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Family first!

You know, if the church is really as strongly into family love and harmony as they say, then maybe they could exempt teens and/or their parents from fasting?

Friday, June 15, 2018

Another thought on perceived prestige

Joseph Fielding Smith, in the October 1955 general conference, reporting on his recent trip to dedicate a number of areas in Southeast Asia and the western North Pacific (e.g., Korea, the Philippines) for preaching:

Now I want to say to you mothers, particularly, fathers, too…If your sons are called to go to the Far East to labor among the Japanese people, the Korean people, the people on these islands of the Far Pacific, do not feel disappointed. Do not feel sorry and wish that they had been appointed to some European country or somewhere within the borders of the United States or the South Pacific.

It’s just…interesting. That’s all.

Friday, June 1, 2018

What’s in a name?

Admit it: Back in the day, you got the names of Richard G. Scott and George C. Scott mixed up in your head once in a while too, didn’t you?

Saturday, May 26, 2018

On the nature of prestige

So i think most members of the church would, if asked, initially say that all of the missions of the church are of equal prestige, but if pressed (“No, really?”), they’d cave and admit that there’s a hierarchy, at least for those missionaries being assigned from the United States and Canada. F’rex, Europe is more prestigious than North America, with maybe carve-outs for Québec (foreign language!) or the United Kingdom (maybe especially England). And within the United States, even, there’s probably a difference between, say, New England (higher prestige) and California (lower prestige, even if only because there are just so many missions in California), assigned language, and so on—and the the jello belt is particularly, um, let us just say looked askance at.

TL;DR: It’s a little complicated, but actually mostly straightforward.

Except.

So my oldest child recently received a mission call, which included an assignment to a Utah mission. The reaction from most of the Mormons who have heard this assignment have been what Mormons might well expect—just that barest little decisecond catch before offering congratulations.

However: I’m in a private social media group made up of parents of kids who graduated high school the same year as my oldest. Among them—non-Mormons all, it’s important to note for the story—as well as among all the other non-Mormons who’ve heard about her assignment, it’s been rather different: No hesitation at all, just straight-up congratulations, often with a ”It’s a beautiful area, she’ll love it!” or “That’s on my bucket list!” or, in one interesting case, someone saying that her (non-Mormon) in-laws live nearby, and that she’s always been jealous of them for living there.

Footnote: The Utah missions are often the highest-baptizing in the world, so we get into a prestige vs. success argument. Note to self: There’s probably some fruitful thinking about othering and exoticism related to this…

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

No more scouting!

So the big news within Mormonism this week is the announcement made yesterday that, effective with the beginning of 2020, the church’s longstanding relationship with the Boy Scouts is over.* I suspect that the long lead time is to allow those boys who were focused on getting their eagle scout award a chance to finish everything up within their current troops, though that’s simply speculation—no idea what the real reason or reasons might be.

And speaking of speculation on the real reason or reasons for things, i find it interesting that some of the analysis of this change (including on National Public Radio’s top-of-the-hour headlines!) draws a connection between the Boy Scouts of America’s announcement just a few days ago that they’re opening their program to girls at all levels and the Mormon Church’s more recent announcement—basically, saying that the Mormon Church wanted to keep their program boys-only, and thus the separation. I have to wonder if the causal chain might have been in the other direction, though—that is, perhaps the Boy Scouts of America either saw the writing on the wall or heard from various sources that the Mormon Church (which is, after all, the source of a lot of their troops and thus income) would be finally fully extricating themselves from scouting, and so it was time to go after market share by expanding their program.

But that is, like i said, all speculation anyway. The one thing i feel pretty certain of, though, is that this wouldn’t have happened under the administration of Thomas S. Monson—he was pretty clearly a fan of the Boy Scouts. Russell M. Nelson, however, well, he may have gone to Mormon Sunday School as a teen but he wasn’t baptized until he reached age 16, and so wasn’t really raised embedded in the traditional youth programs of the church, which means, apparently, that we have the chance to get a fresh perspective on such things from a 93-year-old.

* My wife’s reaction, paraphrased: So does this mean it’s our turn to be happy about something that might push other people to think they might want to leave the church? (I mean, given the number of testimonies of the divine nature of the boy scouting program i’ve heard in my life, it’s not out of the realm of possibility, you know?)

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Callings and releases

So my stake has, in the aftermath of the last general conference, been releasing elders quorum presidencies and high priests group leaderships and calling new elders quorum presidencies. One side effect of the way this all shook out is that releases were extended before the callings of people to replace them were made. That’s not the norm for these callings, though it certainly happens—for an obvious case, consider when the person who holds a particular position dies. (I think we can safely agree that death includes a release from the specific calling one had at the time.) It makes me wonder, though, whether there are any particular callings in the church where (cases of death aside) a release being issued before someone is called to fill that position is actually the norm. I haven’t thought of one yet, but i’m still turning it over in the back of my mind.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Avoiding (or not) the name of deity

So here’s a bit of a puzzlement: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a publicly stated position that they don’t want terms like Mormon Church or Church of the Latter-day Saints to be used in publications as short forms of the name of the church, preferring instead that, if a shortened name is needed, The Church of Jesus Christ be used.

Fair enough, i suppose. However, in the scriptural canon (Doctrine & Covenants 107:2–4, if you want to look it up), we’re told that the actual name of what we call the Melchizedek priesthood was actually the holy priesthood, after the order of the son of God—but it was referred to as the Melchizedek priesthood “out of respect or reverence to the name of the Supreme Being, to avoid the too frequent repetition of his name”.

So why isn’t it a problem using names for the church that so frequently repeat the name of a god? And, secondarily, if there’s precedent for replacing references to the name of deity with references to a great individual (e.g., Melchizedek), then whatever in the world is wrong with calling it the Mormon church?

Thursday, April 12, 2018

An abbrev to avoid

Can i, as someone with pretty decent fluency in German, please ask the entire abbreviation-obsessed English-speaking church to stop abbreviating Sunday school as SS in writing?

I mean, really, it doesn’t look good.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

One term, different readings

So that you know my biases going into this: I rather liked quentin L. Cook’s address at the most recent general conference—so i agree with second of the people below. But despite that, i’m not discarding the opinions of the first as completely out there.

And for background if you didn’t hear it or don’t remember it, Quentin L. Cook’s address included a bit where he condemned nonconsensual immorality. Well, i have two friends, both of whom would self-describe (and i think accurately!) as feminists, and who each had a radically different reaction to that part of his address.

One of them saw it as a way to avoid actually discussing issues of sexual abuse by individuals in church leadership positions, and providing a general suggestion that rape can be the fault of the victim. The other saw it as a much-needed shout-out to the #MeToo movement, and a statement that rape and other forms of sexual abuse are not to be tolerated within the church.

Anyway, just throwing that out there. It’s an interesting split, and one that makes me think that maybe i’m wrong, and that the deconstructionists might have something to actually take into consideration about the way meanings and language work, after all.

(I’ll certainly agree with both of them, though, that it could have been less obliquely phrased.)

Friday, April 6, 2018

What actually counts?

Time to resurrect this blog. I’ll probably only post once or at most twice a week, but i still…

So, to begin: This past general conference saw two new individuals brought into the quorum of apostles: Gerrit W. Gong and Ulisses Soares.

Interestingly, there was a lot of immediate reaction online decrying “two more white dudes”. I find this interesting, since Gerrit W. Gong is, by any definition, Asian-American—he’s of Asian descent on both parents’ sides.

So it leads to wondering what exactly people meant by that statement. Apparently, Asian-Americans now count as white for some people, at least with regard to Mormon church leadership. This is something to file away in the back of our minds—social categorization is nearly always fascinating.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Sunday afternoon session

Sunday afternoon, the final session of this general conference.

Since this may be the first of these you see, a primer on how to read them: Blogs run in reverse chronological order, so this one’s at the top of the page, followed by the entry for the previous session, followed by the previous one, and so on. Therefore, to make it easier to follow this whole thing chronologically, speakers are arranged within each session’s entry in reverse chronological order, as well—so the opening speaker for this session is at the bottom of this post, preceded by the next speaker, preceded by the next one, and so on.

So anyway—Dieter F. Uchtdorf and Jeffrey R. Holland are both left to speak in this session, as well as Quentin L. Cook and the two new apostles, so it’s gonna be a packed two hours. Let’s get on with it!

Closing thoughts
  • Well, nothing like a new church president coming in with a bang, eh?
  • I mean, not just the policy stuff, but the structure of general conference itself. Consider, f’rex, the lineup for the last session: five apostles, the presiding bishop, the general president of the relief society, and the president of the high priesthood (twice!), all within two hours. Dang.
  • And i think it’s fair to say that Russell M. Nelson has a flair for the dramatic.
  • It’s interesting—i don’t think the magnitude of the structural changes announced at this conference would be entirely clear to people outside of the church, but they’re pretty huge.
  • I mean, if nothing else, teenage Mormon girls get to be called “ministers”. Think about how likely that would have been, say, oh, two days ago.
  • So anyway, lots to work through from this one, both in terms of practical and spiritual stuff.
  • But in the meantime, i’ll do as i always do, and say what my favorite address was: Quentin l> Cook’s near the end of the final session. With everything else going on it’ll fly under the radar a bit, i think, but it’s a message that the church needs to hear, i think, and it was delivered in a way that will outlive the sturm und drang of people digesting the flashiness of the “big news” items.

Russell M. Nelson, president of the high priesthood
  • [A bit of a surprise move there—it sounded like we had a closing song, but nope—that was just a song, and now we get another speaker!]
  • An exhortation to review the messages of this conference.
  • An invitation to all of God’s children “on both sides of the veil” to embrace the ordinances of the temple and receive salvation.
  • Waiting til the end to announce seven new temples! Salta, Argentina; Bengaluru (more widely known as Bangalore), India; Managua, Nicaragua; Cagayan de Oro, Phillipines; Layton, Utah; Richmond, Virginia; and (after a dramatic pause) a city yet to be determined in Russia.

Quentin L. Cook, of the quorum of apostles
  • The primary purpose of the church can be accomplished because of the keys that were restored in the Kirtland temple: the keys of the gathering of Israel, the gospel of Abraham, and sealing.
  • There are three executive councils at church headquarters based on these sets of keys.
  • We are all required to do missionary work, temple and family history work, and prepare ourselves to meet God.
  • It is good that nonconsensual immorality has been denounced—it is a sin; remember, though, that consensual immorality is also a sin.
  • In our day the scriptural imperative for unity is widely ignored; in the church, we cannot divide ourselves by class, race, nationality, tribalism, or anything else.
  • Developing Christlike attributes is at the core of the only cultural distinction that should make a difference in the church.
  • We need to fulfill our responsibilities based on righteousness, unity, and equality before God.

Gérald Caussé, presiding bishop
  • The church is all about people—those who love and follow Jesus, and who have taken his name upon them by covenant.
  • “Nothing is more important: Our work is all about people and covenants.”
  • “Are we active in the gospel, or are we merely busy in the church?”
  • What classes would Jesus visit? Wouldn’t be surprising if he visited the primary children first, teaching simply and without affectation. Can we do the same?
  • We talk about “going to church”, but the church is more than just a building to go to.
  • A mention of a friend asking why we need so many more than just one priesthood holder at church on Sunday. Bishop Caussé’s answer? We probably don’t—but we need priesthood holders for every home.

Dieter F. Uchtdorf, of the quorum of apostles
  • He “asked the internet” what the most important day in history was and got lots of answers; but really, the most important day was when Jesus offered himself as a ransom for our sins in the Garden of Gethsemane.
  • Jesus gave all that we might receive all.
  • We will all die, and there will be nothing we or those around us can do about it—but Jesus opened the gates of death, and provided a way not just for us to be resurrected, but to receive eternal light and glory.
  • “This is what we celebrate on Easter Sunday—we celebrate life.”
  • There are, though, many who are unaware of or don’t believe in the precious gift Jesus has given us, and opinions vary about him; it is important that we each come to know for ourselves and truly “behold the man”.
  • When we truly behold, we learn of him and repent to become more like him.
  • The most important day in any of our lives is the day we learn to truly “behold the man”—when we see Jesus for who he is and commit to follow him—and may that day occur over and over and over again throughout our lives.

Jean B. Bingham, general president of the relief society
  • We have the privilege to represent the Savior in our ministering efforts.
  • How do we minister? Pray and counsel together to determine how to help people. Get together with them. Send a text or card. Hold ministering interviews. Perform service together. Care about people.
  • Young women will be ministering companions with relief society sisters, just as young men have done with home teaching.
  • Young women have, after all, undertaken ministering efforts on their own—this just brings it into wider, more formalized efforts.
  • There will need to be coordination between elders quorums and relief societies to make sure ministering efforts are powerful.

Jeffrey R. Holland, of the quorum of apostles
  • [He’s on fire with the opening jokes.]
  • Everything about this new ministering effort will be distributed to church leaders and posted online at the close of this conference session.
  • Don’t call it home teaching or visiting teaching—a lot of this will take place outside of the home, and it won’t be centered around teaching a prepared lesson.
  • We will continue to visit homes “as possible”—contacts can take place in any way that’s appropriate (which, of course, can include a home visit).
  • Ministering requires serious care and concern, though, not the minimal effort that sometimes passes for what’s reportable.
  • The only number that will be reported is the number of interviews by leaders with ministering companionships, not the number of visits made.
  • A really intense story, culminating in a cool bit of praise from one of the characters to their home teacher: “He's visited us more as a friend than by any assignment.”

Russell M. Nelson, president of the high priesthood
  • No more “home teaching” or “visiting teaching”—we’re moving toward ministering.
  • [The moment he said “we will hear briefly from Russell M. Nelson”, echoing the way he was announced at priesthood session, i was like, “Whoa, something’s coming!]
  • Young women will be part of this ministering effort!

Ulisses Soares, of the quorum of apostles
  • Having prophets is a sign of God’s love for us.
  • By exercising faith and following the teachings of the prophets we develop protection from all that surrounds us.

Gerritt W. Gong, of the quorum of apostles
  • A pledge to devote himself to the service of us and our God.
  • Everything worthy and eternal is centered in the majesty of God the Father, the atonement of Jesus, and the witness of the Holy Spirit.

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Sunday morning session

So now we’ve gotten to the Sunday morning session of general conference, a.k.a. sacrament meeting replacement timeslot.

Priesthood session last night was a pretty big deal for the men of the church, what with announcement of a restructuring of Melchizedek priesthood quorums, though i suspect a lot of women were all like, “So you’re doing it like we do now? [yawn]”. (With the exception, of course, of wives of elders quorum presidents and high priests group leaders, who realized they have a 50/50 chance of seeing their husband a bit more often.) So the big question: What are they going to do to top that?

So then. As with the rest of these, the first speaker is at the bottom with the entry running chronologically upward from there. Onward!



Russell M. Nelson, president of the high priesthood
  • Talking about growing up in a home with great parents—but where the parents weren’t fully active in the gospel. (They weren’t sealed as a family until his parents were in their 80s.)
  • Further talking about all sorts of family-related blessings he’s received, all of which have come from following the Spirit.
  • God is incredibly willing to provide us revelation.
  • Whatever our church calling, we can receive direction for matters large and small.
  • Do you need revelation? Follow the example of Joseph Smith: Pray to God in the name of Jesus, and listen. As you repeat this process, you will “grow into the principle of revelation”.
  • “Lay hold upon every good gift, beginning with the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

Dallin H. Oaks, of the first presidency
  • Death isn’t the conclusion of our identity, but a necessary step in our progression—and as part of that, the resurrection gives us a lively hope.
  • A tree root’s growth is too small to be measured at a rate of days or even months, but it is powerful enough to crack a thick concrete sidewalk—just like the “small and simple” regular practices of our faith leads to incredible spiritual growth.
  • The scriptures point out that “small means” result in the salvation of many souls.
  • It is the commonplace tasks that often have the greatest effect on other people (quoting Howard W. Hunter).
  • However, these small and simple things will not lift us to great things unless they are done consistently.
  • Just as small and simple acts of goodness can result in greatness, small and simple things that lead away from righteousness can lead to bad ends.
  • If we consistently do small things of righteousness, we will stay on the covenant path and be blessed accordingly.

Henry B. Eyring, of the first presidency
  • It is your choice to let the Spirit into your life.
  • “I have prayed to be allowed to feel something” of what Mary and the disciples on the road to Emmaus felt upon recognizing the resurrected Lord.
  • We are sent the Holy Ghost as a companion, and are directed to receive it over our lifetimes.
  • Joseph Smith knew his own wisdom wasn’t sufficient to let him know what to do, and so he humbled himself and asked for direction by praying in faith, and then obeyed when given direction and correction.
  • “Inspiration will help us to minister to others for the Lord.”
  • God the Father is aware of you and your needs, and the needs of everyone around you.

Claudio D. Zivic, of the quorums of seventy
  • We need to be on guard against drifting into inactivity.
  • Attending church allows us to take the sacrament, which is the most important thing we do on the sabbath.
  • The trial of our faith requires us to obey, often without knowing the result in advance.
  • What we need to do to be successful in the Lord’s way: Pray, take the sacrament each week, pay tithing, keep a current temple recommend, and serve in the work of the Lord.
  • The Lord knows how to inspire and encourage us.

Massimo De Feo, of the quorums of seventy
  • We are commanded to love God; God loves us.
  • Love is the sign of every true disciple of Jesus.
  • True disciples love to serve and forgive.
  • True disciples make holy the places they stand.

Reyna I. Aburto, of the general presidency of the relief society
  • Monarch butterflied do amazing things in their migrations, and they do it by working together.
  • There are multiple examples in the scriptures of the Lord’s followers acting “in one accord”.
  • We now have the opportunity to counsel together each month in our priesthood quorums and relief societies to determine how we can each individually contribute to unity.
  • By working together we move the work forward one step at a time.

Larry Y. Wilson, of the quorums of seventy
  • I really like this story of someone being repeatedly inspired to gain information.
  • To receive the Spirit’s guidance more frequently, we must be obedient, which will lead us to have spiritual confidence.
  • We shouldn’t just list our problems in prayer and ask the Lord to solve them, but rather ask what we can do.
  • The time to gain early experience receiving inspiration is before a crisis occurs, so that when crises occur we can recognize inspiration when it comes.
  • Seeking revelation is not seeking to be “command[ed] in all things”, but rather not doing so is sloth—“we must live a guided life”.
  • [Wow, that was a sudden ending for a general conference address. I kinda like it.]

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Priesthood session

Priesthood session, and for the first time ever i’m watching it from home rather than going to my stake center. That’s right, i’ve officially joined Mormon slackerdom!

Anyway. Again, the first speaker is at the bottom, and then the entry runs chronologically upward. Off we go!

Russell M. Nelson (again!), president of the high priesthood
  • It doesn’t matter where or in what capacity you serve, but rather how you perform your service.
  • It is a blessing to be able to serve in the church.
  • A concern: Too many don’t understand the concept of priesthood power and authority.
  • Too many don’t understand the difference between a blessing and a prayer, or between a blessing and words of support—but priesthood holders have the authority to bless!
  • This is fun! He’s having all the priesthood holders stand by office (the apostles don’t get a pass!), and then telling us our duties by having everyone sing “Rise Up, O Men of God”.
  • [So yeah, I’d say Russell M. Nelson isn’t afraid to shake up the rituals people are comfortable with.]

Dallin H. Oaks, of the first presidency
  • The Melchizedek priesthood is not a status or a label, it’s a divine commission.
  • It is inappropriate to refer to “the priesthood and the women”—the holders of the priesthood are not the priesthood.
  • Offices in the priesthood are not expressions of mastery or rank.
  • We need to learn our priesthood responsibilities, and magnify them.
  • If fathers would magnify their priesthood within their own families, it would move the church forward more than anything else they could do.

Henry B. Eyring, of the first presidency
  • Giving some history of how the early members of the church were organized into groups to care for each other.
  • The story he told of how Henry B. Eyring’s great-grandfather Henry Eyring and his wife (didn’t catch her name) met is pretty fabulous.
  • Doing home teaching well leads naturally to greeting people at church. [Interesting line of causality, that.]
  • It isn’t important if people see us serving, what’s important is that the Lord knows we’re serving.
  • Saints working together to serve with charity in their hearts can do amazing things.

Ronald A. Rasband, of the quorum of apostles
  • The changes being announced will help simplify coordination of the work of the Melchizedek priesthood, and also coordination between the relief society and the priesthood.
  • Reassurance to the high priests that they’re not being shunted aside.
  • No priesthood executive committee meeting! One less morning meeting? Yes, please?
  • If multiple elders quorums are organized, they need a good balance of age, experience, and so on. (Or, in other words, no creating de facto high priests groups.)

D. Todd Christofferson, of the quorum of apostles
  • Restating what Russell M. Nelson just said…
  • One elders quorum with one quorum presidency containing all of the elders, high priests, and prospective elders except for members of bishoprics, stake presidencies, members of high councils, and active patriarchs—those will make up the stake high priests quorum for (only) as long as they hold those offices.
  • All high priests group leaderships and elders quorum presidencies to be released, then new ones to be called; the new presidencies may be elders or high priests (with no distinction between the two as far as who can serve in which calling).
  • People shouldn’t feel like they’re “more” or “less” because they’re an elder or a high priest.
  • [Hmmm…You know, every ward now gets three additional active men to fill callings.]

Russell M. Nelson, president of the high priesthood
  • [Interesting—the president of the church usually closes out the priesthood session, rather than speaking earlier in the session.]
  • Restructuring Melchizedek priesthood quorums! High priests and elders in a single elders quorum. [I’m currently a high priests group leader—so this means i’m released?]
  • The stake president will preside over a high priests quorum, to be based on callings (not ordained office?), as will be described in the next two addresses.

Douglas D. Holmes, of the general presidency of the young men organization
  • Sometimes we treat the young men of the church as small children, rather than bearers of the priesthood with responsibilities befitting such.
  • The Aaronic priesthood gives access to God.
  • The Aaronic priesthood gives authority to preach—that doesn’t belong only to prophets, or even to the full-time missionaries, but rather even the youngest priesthood holders are authorized messengers.
  • The Aaronic priesthood carries the keys of the gospel of repentance—not as often that we call others to repentance, but that we repent ourselves.

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Saturday afternoon session

Saturday afternoon—not much else to say.

As with the others of these, the first speaker is at the bottom, and then the entry runs chronologically upward.

Dale G. Renlund, of the quorum of apostles
  • Orson Pratt and Parley P. Pratt were very, very close, but developed a strained relationship in the 1840s—until a need to work on their shared family history provided the power to heal the rift.
  • When God gives us a commandment, it results in blessings beyond what is covered by the commandment itself.
  • We are commanded to collect our family histories, which will result in increased appreciation for both our deceased and living relatives, and help us feel less alone in the world.
  • The sealing ordinances result in meaningful growth occurring both backward and forward through the generations.
  • [It can’t be just me who’s having trouble following his story because two of the main characters are named Rob and Todd.]
  • God, in his infinite capacity, seals and heals families no matter the trials and suffering we might pass through.
  • Through the blessings of temple and family history work we will learn that we have never lived—metaphorically speaking—anywhere but heaven.

Devin G. Durrant, of the general presidency of the Sunday school
  • Once you’re a parent, you are always a parent, no matter how old your children are.
  • Jesus was announced as God’s beloved son; do we let our children know (including in prayer) how beloved they are of us?
  • Always be ready to teach—you don’t know when the opportunity will present itself.
  • If you feel you have room for improvement, pay attention to the inspiration of the Spirit and “bind yourself to act” in response.

Taniela B. Wakolo, of the quorums of seventy
  • The best way to show love for our spouse is to go with them to the temple.
  • We need not only good conduct, but also the ordinances of the temple to receive exaltation—and we need not only those ordinances, but also Jesus’s atonement.
  • We need to each be a “faithful shepherd”, and not be casual about helping those around us to progress, because such “casualness leads to casualties”.

Bonnie L. Oscarson, recently released as general president of the young women organization
  • Young men have priesthood responsibilities from the point of their ordination; young women have “covenant responsibilities” from the time they’re baptized.
  • Young women have much to offer in moving the work of God forward.
  • Everyone needs to take an active role in participating in the work of the church.
  • A (pointed?) reminder to bishops that they need to focus on the young women as much as they focus on the young men. (I’ve lived in wards where that reminder could have been useful.)
  • Young women need, like everyone does, to feel like they are an important part of the kingdom of God.

Dallin H. Oaks, with an Oops!
  • He forgot to present two of the area seventies—so we get an extra-special bonus sustaining!

Taylor G. Godoy, of the quorums of seventy
  • What would we do if we knew we had only one more day to live?
  • Personal sacrifice is a powerful force that gives our lives meaning.
  • Through sacrifice we can help others.
  • Each day, we have one more day to live and make our lives sacred.
  • Remember that our salvation is made possible through Jesus’s sacrifice.

David A. Bednar, of the quorum of apostles
  • We all need to develop a particular Christlike attribute, he says—but he’s not telling us which one right away, he’s telling us stories about it.
  • And now, the big reveal: It’s meekness.
  • Meekness is not weak, it’s strong—and it subsumes many, many other virtues.
  • Meekness is a spiritual gift we should seek, remembering that such gifts are given with the intent that they be used to serve others.
  • We can become meek though the power of the atonement.
Kevin R. Jergensen, church auditing report
  • [Boilerplate. Has this bit of conference ever contained any interesting information?]
Dallin H. Oaks, sustaining of church authorities and officers
  • No statistical report—that’s been offloaded to the church website and conference report
  • Serious reshuffling of the presidency of the seventy.
  • Mass—seriously mass—‚ quantities of new area seventies being called.
  • New general presidency of the young women organization: Bonnie H. Cordon (formerly a counselor in the general presidency of the primary) as president, with Michelle Lynn Craig and Rebecca Lynn Craven as counselors.
  • Someone repeatedly shouted something (hard to understand, but maybe about sexual predators?) as those newly called were taking their seats. Protestor protip: If you’re going to make a scene, make sure people can understand exactly what you’re denouncing.

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Saturday morning session

So it’s time for general conference again, which means that it’s time for me to post my notes for general conference. As with every time i do this, the notes run in reverse chronological order, so the first speaker in this session (well, a thought from just before the session started, actually) is at the bottom of this post, and then the next speaker is above that, and then so on. I do this because blogs, contra centuries of writing practice, run chronologically bottom-up, so the next session will be above this one, so that’s the only way i can create a chronological record, so that after conference is over it’ll be possible to go through everything in one read from the bottom of this post up to the top of the last session, which will be the end of the last session.

Within each speaker, though, notes run top-down, because doing otherwise just confused me.

So now, let’s begin by scrolling down to the bottom of the post, and…

Neil L. Andersen, of the quorum of apostles
  • We sustain the prophet as the Lord’s anointed, but we must be clear that we worship only God the Father.
  • A mention that Russell M. Nelson has 10 children, 57(?) grandchildren, and 118 great-grandchildren. My kids’ response: He must be amazing at remembering names!
  • Prophets are called to watch and warn and (thus) protect us.
  • Following Jesus requires listening to those he sends.
  • We live in a world of reason and debate and discovering sensible rationales and evidences for things, but the word and command of the Lord often comes without explanation. [Though i have to admit, my reaction is: Why not have both?]
  • Prophets don’t stand between you and God, but rather stand beside you and points the way.
  • As we follow the counsel of the prophet, our faith in Jesus will increase.

Lynn G. Robbins, of the presidency of the seventy
  • Success is not the absence of failure, but is going from failure to failure with continual improvement.
  • Nephi and Moses both had failures before they succeeded in their assigned tasks—but if they were on the Lord’s errand, why weren’t they blessed with immediate success? (Spoiler: There are many reasons.)
  • God allows us repentance not accidentally, but as part of the plan—failings are built into it, and we get limitless attempts to better ourselves.
  • We should go from failure to failure with enthusiasm—this is the gospel of repentance, and it is a lifetime process.
  • This isn’t a free license to sin, of course—we need to seek forgiveness with “real intent”, which implies real effort.
  • “Our success isn’t going from failure to failure, but growing from failure to failure, without any loss of enthusiasm.”

Gary E. Stevenson, of the quorum of apostles
  • An overview on the process of that occurs upon the death of a president of the church—lots of detail.
  • Describing (quoting someone else, didn’t catch who) a solemn assembly as when the church assembles in solemnity under the direction of the first presidency.
  • Interesting story of someone who knew Russell M. Nelson as a doctor rather than as a religious leader, and praised his skill as a teacher of medicine who (unlike many doctors) treated his students with respect.

Larry Echo Hawk, of the quorums of seventy
  • Told the story of his younger brother and sister-in-law being killed by a drunk driver, and the ultimate necessity of forgiveness for his family to heal.
  • Yes, punishment is necessary for those who do wrong—but we are commanded to forgive all (just as Jesus forgives us), which allows us to receive forgiveness and peace.
  • We as sinners must be willing to forgive if we wish to receive forgiveness.
  • Remember also that an essential element of forgiveness is forgiving ourselves.

Brian K. Taylor, of the quorums of seventy
  • [Dang, this guy looks really young for a general conference speaker!]
  • His refrain: You are a child of God.
  • We may feel like we’re not worthy of the love of God, but we are—and we are loved perfectly and completely.
  • Earnestly seeking God will lead us to recognize that God sanctifies even our most difficult days (with a particular mention of this being available to mothers of young children who may feel overwhelmed).
  • God “weeps with us in our sorrows”.

M. Russell Ballard, acting president of the quorum of apostles
  • Starting with a discussion on sustaining a prophet and what it means to do so. (Sensibly enough, given the immediate context.)
  • Interesting terminology: You don’t hear “prophet-president” all that much anymore; also, he called him the “presiding apostle”, which is clearly true, but not a part of the office one hears very often.
  • Hurrah! for a mention that prophets aren’t perfect—and then a very nice pivot into the need to sustain each other in our own imperfections.
  • Interesting discussion amongst my teen and tween children right now about his comment about the need to occasionally disconnect from things like social media and focus on more “eternal” for lack of a better word) things.
  • We need to serve—not just in callings, but in the wider sphere, including service in the community and running for public office.
  • Faith is incredibly powerful, and leads to salvation.

Henry B. Eyring, sustaining of the first presidency and apostles
  • Solemn assembly time! It’s been what, a decade or something like that?
  • Interesting—they’re sustaining the president and acting president of the quorum of apostles separately from the rest of the twelve.
  • New apostles: Gerrit W. Gong and Ulisses Soares. We’ve got a Brazilian! (Let’s be honest, if we were a betting people, Gerrit W. Gong would have been leading the odds line. I don’t know that Ulisses Soares was at the top of most people’s radar, but that may simply be because he doesn’t use an initial for one of his names.)
  • The general authority seventies and presiding bishopric are standing together. Interesting that they’re being grouped into a single quorum-like group for this.
  • So adult women are their own group. Interesting—it’s not just a group of everyone not in a priesthood quorum. (Also, they were placed in order before the Aaronic priesthood quorums, which is also intriguing.)
  • The young women get their own opportunity to stand, in parallel to the young men/Aaronic priesthood quorums.
  • Interesting—this wasn’t a sustaining of all church officers and authorities (that will come later).

As everyone comes in…
  • I’d just like to point out that the church officers and authorities chat (and even laugh!) with each other before the meeting. Why, then, do we have so many bishops and stake presidents who bear down so hard on the idea that we need to be absolutely silent and solemn upon entry into the chapel?

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Sunday afternoon session

So we come to the end of general conference weekend—and this time, there’s breaking news: between Robert D. Hales (of the quorum of apostles) died between this session and the preceding one. I’m going to have to look up if there’s ever been a general authority death during general conference.

Anyway, by the time i’ll have posted this, this general conference will be over, and since this is likely to be the first in the sequence you see, i’ll start out with my usual quick explanation of the way they’re structured:

Blogs have the utterly bizarre feature of reversing chronological order: They prioritize recency, requiring a reader to move from the bottom upward from to get a chronological picture. This means that the post below this one is the previous session (i.e., Sunday morning), and below that one is the one before that, and so on. To better match this, in each session’s post, i have arranged things so that the first speaker in each session is at the bottom of that session’s post, the second speaker in each session is above that first one, and so on. This means that if you read top-down you’ll get everything backward, but if you scroll down to the bottom of the Saturday morning session post and read bottom-up from there through the entire conference, you’ll get the entire weekend in chronological order.

However, under each speaker my comments are ordered top-down. This adds a potential bit of confusion, but trying to make everything perfectly backward just gets too messy, and the couple times i’ve tried it i’ve gotten too confused myself, and so i can only imagine what it would be like for the reader.

Anyway, with that as intro, now is the time to scroll down to the bottom of this post (or to the bottom of four posts prior, if you want to start at the beginning of the entire conference weekend!) and start at the bottom with the beginning…

Closing thoughts:
  • Remember back when they let people deliver conference addresses in their own native languages? Yeah, it feels so long ago. I miss it—and for some speakers at this conference, i feel like it would have been helpful.
  • Relatedly, i do wish they would bring back showing the words on screen for the congregational songs. I’m old enough and have been in the church long enough that i know most of the songs they sing during those breaks, anyway, but not everybody is as old as me.
  • Neil L. Andersen gave shout-outs to lots of different conference addresses in his address—one used to hear that done more frequently than one does now.
  • The last session went to precisely two hours, but i feel like more sessions ended earlier this weekend than they usually do.
  • And now, my favorite address of this conference: This conference didn’t have any addresses that left me utterly gobsmacked, but in terms of quiet power, Jeffrey R. Holland’s Saturday morning address was most excellent.

Neil L. Andersen, of the quorum of apostles
  • [Concluding slot traditionally given to the president of the church being filled by a junior member of the quorum of apostles—no pressure, dude!]
  • General conferences are appointed as a necessary means for us to learn what God wants us to know.
  • General conference address topics are not assigned, except as they are given by personal divine inspiration.
  • Similarly, personal divine inspiration will come to each individual who hears and studies the sermons delivered in general conference.
  • [Way to read from handwritten notes!]
  • An excerpt from the address Robert D. Hales had prepared for this conference, but was unable to deliver: “Our faith prepares us to be in the presence of God.”
  • Hearing the words of the prophets, we should now follow their admonition.

José L. Alonso, of the quorums of seventy
  • “Love is a combination of actions as well as deep feelings.”
  • Story about the death of his son in a car-pedestrian accident, and the bond he and his wife formed with the young man who was driving the car—and that the forgiveness they were able to feel was a gift of God.
  • By serving and forgiving others with real love, we will be strengthened.

Ian S. Ardern, of the quorums of seventy
  • We must be spiritually vigilant against those who would gnaw away at our beliefs and draw us away from the gospel.
  • When we are faced with attacks on the church, we must be careful where we look for the answers—and the best advice was given by James: If you lack wisdom, ask God.
  • There are many useful sources for our study penned by prophets and other faithful purveyors of the truth—but even with their value, all of them pale in power against the scriptures.

Adilson de Paula Parrella, of the quorums of seventy
  • God has called prophets to receive revelation so that we can learn divine truth.
  • When the prophet speaks, we should act.
  • Prophets in our time have given us knowledge of the reality of God and Jesus Christ, and we need to live accordingly.

Stanley G. Ellis, recently released as a member of the quorums of seventy
  • The Lord trusts us in many, many ways.
  • The question for us is: Do we trust the Lord?
  • There are hard things in our lives, which should come as no surprise—one of the first covenants we make is to live the law of sacrifice.
  • Even the Godhead are no strangers to hard things.
  • “’Hard’ is part of the gospel plan.”
  • Consider that the struggle of a baby chick to escape its eggshell, and the struggle of a butterfly to escape from its cocoon, will strengthen them in ways they need for their lives.
  • Discouragement and fear are tools of Satan, but the right way is to go forward with faith.

Joni L. Koch, of the quorums of seventy
  • [Way to rep the Seleção Brasileira de Futebol!]
  • We must have unity in the church.
  • “We have no right to portray anyone, especially within our church circle, as a badly finished product.”
  • As we decide to be one with the members and leaders of the church, both when we meet together but especially when we are apart from each other, we become one with Jesus Christ.

Tad R. Callister, general president of the Sunday School organization
  • Starting off with a rundown of some challenges to the Book of Mormon’s authenticity, and problems with those challenges.
  • In support of the Book of Mormon, we have doctrinal insights and explications that are unique, and show the inspiration of God.
  • The Book of Mormon contains a number of historical and linguistic and social features, but the central and most important part of it by far is the way it teaches and testifies of Jesus Christ.
  • As members of the church, we have the privilege of testifying of the Book of Mormon.

M. Russell Ballard
  • We need to remember our pioneer heritage—if we lose that collective memory, we will have lost something important
  • We will need the same faith that the early Latter-day Saints had if we are to keep faithful in the future.
  • As we remember the nineteenth-century pioneer trek across the Great Plains, we should remember that our own trek continues, and our choices will lead us to a positive or negative end.
  • [Interesting: A straight-up, direct statement that members of the church should avoid get-rich-quick schemes. I know that such fraud is widespread, but i don’t know that i’ve heard it called out so directly in general conference, ever—and he then followed it with a direct warning against schemes where people sell miraculous healings for money.]
  • We should welcome and embrace anyone who is making their own trek forward, no matter where they are in it.
  • We should avoid and work against such philosophies as racism, sexism, and nationalism—the gospel of Jesus Christ is for all people.

Opening remarks: Henry B. Eyring, of the first presidency
  • Russell M. Nelson was present at the hospital when Robert D. Hales died. Fitting, i would say, given the degree to which, by all reports, the members of the quorum of apostles are not just coworkers, but also friends.

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Sunday morning session

Sunday morning, as i’ve said before, used to be the big-deal session, since for a lot of people outside the jello belt, that was the only one they’d see. In this era of wide availability of all sessions of conference, though, that glow has faded and spread to the other sessions, at least in my perception.

Anyway, as before, the speakers are listed in reverse chronological order in this entry, so the first thing you see here is the end of the session.

Henry B. Eyring, of the first presidency
  • [Cute little man-hug between Dieter F. Uchtdorf (conducting this session) and Henry B. Eyring as they traded spots at the podium.]
  • Thomas S, Monson has promised that we would be blessed if we focused more on the Book of Mormon; those who have taken up his challenge have indded been blessed.
  • Going to the rescue of others has been at the heart of Thomas S. Monson’s ministry; this effort goes back to Joseph Smith, who was promised courage to be able to perform that work.
  • When we put our faith in Jesus Christ as our rock, doubt and fear are diminished and the desire to do good is increased.
  • It is a miracle to see people focus on helping others rather than focusing on their own needs. [Interesting story associated with this of a non-Mormon couple who were feeling so overwhelmed by their own hurricane recovery needs that they turned to helping others while having faith that God would eventually provide the help they themselves needed.]
  • Speaking about meeting with people doing hurricane recovery work: “The only stress i sensed was that they wanted to stop being thanked so that they could get back to work.”
  • [This all reminds me of one of the things that i really do think is one of the great cultural strengths of Mormonism: Put a bunch of Mormons in a room and say “Go do good things”, they’ll very quickly figure out how to self-organize into a smoothly oiled service machine.]
  • Remember that the changes that lead us to do good must be sustained—it is important not to let it fade.
  • The way to optimism is clear: Look to the Lord in everything. The way to look to the Lord has been given by prophets: Pray, read and ponder the scriptures (especially the Book of Mormon), and be consistent and valiant in following the commandments.

W. Craig Zwick, recently released from the quorums of seventy
  • In our dealings with other people, we must “look beyond what we can see”—we must accept that we don’t know the totality of who they are beyond our own stereotypes and expectations.
  • We live in a world that feeds on comparisons, labeling, and criticism—but rather than doing that, we need to look at others as God sees them.
  • We must love others by accepting their best efforts based in experiences that we may not know, and may not even ever know.
  • As we love Jesus Christ, we can be blessed to look spiritually beyond what we can see literally.

W. Christopher Waddell, of the presiding bishopric
  • How do we respond when events not in our control change our lives in ways we have not anticipated?
  • We should remember that we have an eternal destiny that cannot be changed by trials and challenges—it can only be changed by our choices.
  • Unlike our friends and loved ones, not only can the Savior Jesus Christ empathize with us, but we can also be certain that he fully understands what we have gone through.
  • When we turn to the Lord we will be blessed, but these blessings may take different forms as most suited to our needs—we may have our trials fully removed from us, or we may be given strength to endure them.
  • Unfortunately, many react to trials by turning away from the Savior—but if we turn toward the Savior in our trials, we will be healed in the way we need.
David A. Bednar, of the quorum of apostles
  • One of our common challenges is to not allow the responsibilities and cares of our lives to overwhelm our attention to spiritual necessities.
  • We will receive eternal life is we are faithful; eternal life is the greatest of the gifts of God.
  • Spiritual rebirth is an ongoing process in which priesthood ordinances and covenants are a necessary part.
  • The sabbath day and the temple are each set up by God to help us focus on things of the spirit, and are not fully separate but should work together in our lives.
  • One purpose of the sabbath is to elevate our view from the things of this world to the things of God; similarly, the temple.
  • [Lots of detail in this one, and it’s being hard to take down really good notes on it—it really seems to have been written to be read more than heard.]
  • The sabbath day and the temple are both sacred times and sacred spaces set apart for worshipping God, and thus powerfully focus our attention on the things of God.
  • “The home should be the ultimate combination of time and space” in this way—it is necessary for us to leave our homes for sabbath and temple worship, but such worship is fully effective only if we bring their spirit back to our homes.
Donald L. Hallstrom, of the quorums of seventy
  • [Of possible interest: He was in the presidency of the seventy until released this past summer.]
  • Starting off with a story of someone’s miraculous experience recovering from an accident, where a number of things “just happened” to occur in precisely the right way to save a man’s life.
  • The greater miracle, though, is that his wife and children had such faith that they would have accepted any outcome, even if the miracle of healing hadn’t happened.
  • But what about those cases where the hoped-for miracle doesn’t occur? After all, even the righteous and faithful and innocent don’t receive miraculous intervention—so what of miracles, then?
  • If we define a miracle as a divine intervention that operates beyond human comprehension, our understanding expands.
  • Consider Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who were cast into the fiery furnace at the order of King Nebuchadnezzar: When the king taunted them about their God, they responded that God could save them, but even if he didn’t, they would not worship other gods.
  • Such things as being a child of God, receiving a body, having a Savior, having the promise of exaltation are miracles.
Jean B. Bingham, general president of the relief society
  • How do we find joy despite the difficulties of mortal life? By focusing on Jesus Christ and living the gospel.
  • [Why do we get occasional visual aids during general conference addresses, but they’re expressly forbidden in sacrament meeting addresses?]
  • As you come closer to Jesus, you will better understand that he knows and loves you as an individual.
  • No matter how horrible our experiences may have been, we can be made whole by Jesus Christ—however, he will not come into our lives without invitation.
  • Sometimes we are afraid to trust because we don’t understand the complete love God and Jesus Christ have for us.
  • Faith in Jesus Christ brings healing and peace, but also other gifts that help us progress eternally.
  • When we experience the peace that Jesus gives, we want to emulate him and bring such peace to others—and doing so leads to joy, and ultimately a fullness of joy.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Priesthood session

I’ve said it before, i’ll say it again: Why? That is, i get the purpose of a general session just for the men of the church (just as i get the purpose of a general session just for the women of the church), but why do we continue to fold it into an already-packed weekend, rather than separating it out like is done with the women’s session?

That’s what we have, though, and so here are my notes and thoughts on this year’s entry. As with all of them, speakers are listed in reverse chronological order, so the first speaker is at the bottom of the post, and then you work upward from there.

Closing thoughts
  • We got out of this one noticeably earlier than usual, apparently because Thomas S. Monson wasn’t there to speak. The usual pattern for priesthood sessions, if i recall correctly, is one apostle, followed by two other non-apostle general authorities, and then each member of the first presidency. This time, though, we had an apostle, followed by two members of the quorums of seventy, followed by two members of the first presidency.

Henry B. Eyring, of the first presidency
  • A few fundamentals: Jesus Christ is the head of the church; he speaks by revelation to prophets; this has been the pattern throughout history; and revelation to confirm prophetic counsel is available to all of us.
  • We all have the capacity to receive revelation and act on it fearlessly—and that requires faith.
  • As we serve in the church, we need faith that we have been called by revelation, and that those around us have also been called by revelation.
  • A bishop, to receive the revelation needed to act effectively in that calling, needs the faith of the members of the ward.
  • [That last point was illustrated by a personal story. Anytime a speaker, in response to laughter from the crowd, feels the need to say (while also laughing) “This actually happened!!”, you know it’s a good story.]

Dieter F. Uchtdorf, of the first presidency
  • When we suffer from physical ailments, we seek the help of medical professionals; when we suffer from emotional ailments we seek the help of experts in that realm. But what do we do when we suffer spiritual ailments?
  • Spiritual pain can feel incurable, but it is never beyond the healing power of the Savior.
  • No matter the spiritual ailment, there is one common feature: The absence of divine light.
  • Jesus promised that his followers would receive of his light, and that that light will grow until it fills all things and dispels all darkness.
  • The light of Christ fills the universe, it fills the earth, and it can fill every human soul.
  • Those with an eye single to the glory of God will be filled with light—and this is the ultimate remedy for our spiritual ailments.
  • What is night? It is nothing more than a shadow. But even in the darkest of nights, the sun continues to shine as bright as ever.

Richard J. Maynes, of the quorums of seventy
  • The Lord trusts us to hold priesthood power, and the more we live up to that trust the more the Lord will trust us.
  • We must live with integrity.
  • When exercising priesthood responsibilities to preside over our families, men must recognize their wife as an equal partner, which means not moving forward unless there is unity between husband and wife in their decisions.
  • Peace in the home is necessary, and to achieve that we need to be a husband our wife can trust.

David F. Evans, of the quorums of seventy
  • We should choose to act, and not be acted upon by the doubts of others.
  • To obtain and keep and strengthen our testimony we must keep our covenants and be patient in all that the Lord asks of us.
  • Receiving a firm testimony may take patience lasting longer than we are necessarily comfortable with.

Dale G. Renlund, of the quorum of apostles
  • A rocket’s payload, no matter how expensive, isn’t really worth anything unless it has been delivered by a rocket and started working as it should; in that vein, the atoning power of Christ is like the payload that is delivered through the priesthood.
  • The priesthood is intended to be more than just a class on Sunday and an occasional service project.
  • A priesthood commission is individually given, and does not exist separate from the priesthood holder.
  • When one enters into the priesthood covenant, God—not the priesthood holder!—swears to affirm the covenant with an oath.

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Saturday afternoon session

Saturday afternoon, still with no attendance by Thomas S. Monson, or by Robert D. Hales, at least as far as i can see.

Anyway, as with the others entries in this series, the speakers are listed in reverse chronological order, so to get to the chronological beginning of this entry, you’ll need to now scroll down to the typographical end of it.

Closing thought
  • Wow, we got out early this session!

Russell M. Nelson, of the quorum of apostles
  • He began with a story of a tribal king he interacted with saying that the additional knowledge that the Book of Mormon brought to him was worth more than diamonds or rubies. Do we feel as strongly about the Book of Mormon?
  • Three related questions: What would your life be like without the Book of Mormon? What would you not know? What would you not have?
  • The Book of Mormon can help us in unanticipated ways.
  • The Book of Mormon teaches us what it really means to be “born again”.
  • Just saying “the Book of Mormon is true” isn’t enough—we need to know unequivocally that it is the word of God.

O. Vincent Haleck, of the quorums of seventy
  • Following the gospel may require us to, like the widow Jesus observed donating her two mites, cast in our all and give away all that we have.
  • This is not limited to what we physically have—it may be tradition, community, and such that we have to leave behind.
  • If we are truly converted we will be willing to give all that we have—and the promise is that if we do so, we will not be left wanting.

Ronald A. Rasband, of the quorum of apostles
  • [My daughters are having way too much fun with all the weird ways the name Rasband gets autocorrected.]
  • The things that we call fortunate coincidences are actually the results of God’s plan unfolding in our lives.
  • “No trial or calamity can derail God’s plan of happiness.”
  • Jesus said he came to do the will of the Father; so, though, have we.
  • Sometimes we take changes in our lives as missteps, but they should rather be thought of as first steps along a new path.
  • When God puts old friends in the gospel in our paths, it may be that it’s a reminder for us that we are all brothers and sisters in the work of the Lord.
  • Consider Saul: He was going the wrong way in his life, but God knew what he was capable of doing and becoming, and that that had nothing to do with what plans Saul had for doing as Saul.

Quentin L. Cook, of the quorum of apostles
  • “It may be said that from an eternal perspective, our time on earth is as fleeting as a British summer.”
  • Moses’s response to seeing the greatness of God’s creations was a declaration that humans are nothing; God’s rebuttal was that the purpose of God is to bring about the eternal life of us mortals.
  • Anyone who would say that someone is better or worse because of something like race or ethnicity does not understand the gospel.
  • God doesn’t want us to be discouraged during our stay in mortality.
  • Sometimes humility is accepting calls to serve when we feel inadequate; sometimes humility is serving faithfully when we feel we are capable of something we perceive as more important.
  • Remember that our sins are forgiven through the atonement; however, when we refuse to forgive others (or hold a grudge), we effectively reject the atonement.
  • Humility isn’t a specific, identifiable achievement, but rather a continual process of growing.

Stephen W. Owen, general president of the young men organization
  • All have sinned, but repentance allows us to overcome those sins.
  • “All repentance is positive.”
  • Repentance is not mere self-improvement.
  • We often associate repentance with grievous sins, but repentance is for everyone, because everyone has sinned.
  • Repentance is for everyone, no matter their depth of knowledge and experience or lack thereof.
  • Continuing repentance is necessary to keep moving forward in the gospel.

Gary E. Stevenson, of the quorum of apostles
  • “Have you ever seen a total solar eclipse?” he asks. “No!” shout my children, “Because we live in Alaska!”
  • The moon is orders of magnitude smaller than the sun, but the moon can still block out the sun in an eclipse; similarly, small things can block out our view of heavenly things when we focus on them instead.
  • We need to view our challenges and distractions through the lens of the gospel.
  • Remember that even admirable pursuits can be drawn so close (i.e., taken to an extreme) that they distract us from our focus on gospel truth.
  • [In his discussion of the good and ill of social media, he’s doing right the same message that Bonnie L. Oscarson fumbled slightly earlier in the day.]
  • Comparing ourselves unfavorably to overly idealized images of others (as sometimes happens when we overfocus on social media, for example) isn’t limited to our day—Paul the Apostle wrote about people who compare themselves to others, and in so doing are not wise.
  • Avoid pride; embrace meekness and humility.
  • No matter how obscured the light of the gospel may be to us, it is still there.

Presentation of general officers and authorities: Henry B. Eyring, of the first presidency
  • I feel like sometimes this is omitted in the semiannual (fall) conferences. Am i wrong in that?
  • He tried to pronounce Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s name right, really he did!
  • No loud objections? Maybe those voting no have finally realized that overt impoliteness really isn’t a way to gain traction for your cause.
  • Just occurred to me: Interesting that area seventies are sustained in general conference, even though they don’t have general churchwide authority.

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Saturday morning session

Welcome, welcome, sabbath morning! Oh, wait.

Anyway, yes, we’ve arrived at the Saturday before the Sunday of general conference, or as i’ve started to call it, the weekend without a weekend. (Seriously, you’re Mormon and you have plans to get anything done around the house or such this weekend? I admire your dogged self-confidence.)

Anyway, as with all of these, i write these in “liveblog” style, which means the first speaker of this session is actually at the bottom of this post, the next speaker is above that, the next is above that, and so on to the last speaker (who appears at the top of the post). This is done so that once the whole conference weekend is past you can to scroll down to the bottom of this first session’s post for the start of the conference, and then scroll up to read through the entire conference chronologically. However, under each speaker, the comments are done top-down chronologically (i.e., the opposite direction), because otherwise i get overly confused.

Which is itself all confusing, but it ends up working okay, really, i promise it does.

And so…

Jeffrey R. Holland, of the quorum of apostles
  • [Dieter F. Uchtdorf and Jeffrey R. Holland both in the opening session? What are we going to have to look forward to for the rest of the weekend?]
  • The scriptures are there to comfort us, but also to remind us that sometimes we fall a little short.
  • Consider the beatitudes: They start with some niceties, but then ask us to do things like not ever be angry, give our substance to the poor, and so on, culminating in a command to be perfect!
  • It’s perhaps no surprise that we may feel like we can never live up to what is expected of us, but as children of God, with the promise that we can fulfill all of God’s commands and the possibility of perfection ourselves, we cannot allow ourselves to fall into self-vilification.
  • Remember that we live in a telestial—that’s starting with a t, not a c!—world, and “perfection is pending”.
  • God is merciful and a peacemaker, which is wonderful, because we all need mercy, and we all need peace.
  • Focusing on the perfection of God rather than our own failures does not give us a reason to excuse our own failures, but it should inspire in us a recognition of the perfection of the Lord, and lead us to aspire to the heavenly gift of perfection.
  • The grace of Christ offers us not only salvation from sin, sorrow, and death, but also salvation from self-criticism.
  • The parable of the two debtors (Luke 7:36–50) is not a story about squabbling servants, it’s a story about our debt and (hopefully) gratitude to God.
  • We need to focus on being as perfect and Godlike as we can, avoiding what has been called “toxic perfectionism”—and also be willing to recognize that others, even those who serve in the church (which is, for its members, all of us!), will also not be perfect even as they try to do so.
  • Don’t gloat at those who fail, but give your help to anyone who is trying to follow the right way. [I think that was from the end of a quote from Tolstoy, but i’m not certain.]
  • “If we persevere, then sometime in eternity our refinement will be perfect and complete, which is the New Testament definition of ‘perfection’.”
  • Remember that even Jesus moved from grace to grace, ultimately achieving glory in immortality.

D. Todd Christofferson, of the quorum of apostles
  • Jesus said that his followers must “eat his flesh” and “drink his blood”, which is a striking way to describe how thoroughly we must incorporate him into our lives.
  • We must follow the Savior’s precepts to receive grace, which leads to a remission of our sins.
  • We often think of eating the flesh and drinking the blood of Christ as referring to partaking of the emblems of the sacrament, but it also includes internalizing the qualities of Jesus Christ and becoming more like him.
  • We can come to a knowledge of our sins, and that can humble and even shock us, but it needn’t discourage us—it can also give us hope in the atonement.
  • The sacrifices we make to keep our covenants and the service we give to others lead us to holiness.
  • The early Utah Mormons inscribed “holiness to the Lord” on even seemingly non-religious, mundane items (hammers! doorknobs! drums!), but it was done to reflect the truth that holiness should encompass all of our existence.

John C. Pingree Jr, of the quorums of seventy
  • We may ask ourselves whether God has a work for each of us. The answer: Yes.
  • Every one of us has a meaningful role to play in the work of God, no matter our background or social status.
  • How do we find what God’s work for us is? Focus on others, discover and develop your spiritual gifts, make use of adversity to grow, and ask God what work you are to accomplish.
  • All have spiritual gifts; if you don’t know what gifts you have been given, ask God—God knows what blessings you have been given, and how you can use them.
  • Take care to not be so preoccupied with things of the world that you’re distracted from the greater work you are to accomplish.
  • Do not feel inadequate to accomplish what you’re supposed to, or that your work is unimportant.
  • We may be tempted to take credit for the work we accomplish, but we should rather give the glory to God.

Dallin H. Oaks, of the quorum of apostles
  • “The world” is often used in the scriptures as a metaphor for opposition to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
  • What does it mean to not be “of the world”, or to “forsake the world”?
  • We must live with the laws and mores that surround us, but to achieve salvations and exaltation we must make personal choices that match with the requirements that God has set.
  • There is always conflict between those who follow the laws of God and those who don’t.
  • Mention of “The Family: A Proclamation to the World”, and differences between its precepts as opposed to those in surrounding cultures.
  • Interestingly, the things he’s hitting hard on are same-sex marriage [kind of expected, really, particularly given the speaker], cohabitation without marriage [which was mentioned more frequently—though usually indirectly—in general conference in previous decades], and the births of children out of wedlock [again, not really referenced all that frequently recently].
  • Some interesting history of the way the Proclamation on the Family was developed.

Bonnie L Oscarson, general president of the young women organization
  • We have recently been faced with many natural disasters across the world, and have seen the service that so many have provided in response.
  • We need to be willing to lose ourselves in service to others.
  • We need to recognize that some of the most significant service we can give aren’t in response to the huge, incredibly visible needs around us, but may be the seemingly “small” needs of those closest to us.
  • “Changing the world begins with strengthening your own family.”
  • We should keep in mind that church meetings aren’t just about what we get out of them individually—the most important thing we attend on any given day may be the ways we serve and strengthen others there.
  • [My teen daughter is being very frustrated at the repeated undertone of this speech that socialization through technology stands in the way of really offering service to those around us. I’m not so much frustrated by it, but i do think it’s kind of a weird note in an otherwise encouraging and useful address.]

Dieter F. Uchtdorf, of the first presidency
  • [Starting off with the big dogs!]
  • There are animals that have a remarkable ability to travel long distances to find their way to where they’re supposed to go; human beings have a similar innate yearning to go where they’re supposed to go spiritually.
  • God knows you in all of your joys and sorrows and weaknesses, and calls to you no matter your history.
  • If you hear God’s call, God will speak to you.
  • Why should you turn to God? Two reasons: Your life will be better, and God will use you to make the lives of others better.
  • Following the Savior will not remove all of our problems, but it will remove the barriers that stand between us and God.
  • We may think we have to be more [intelligent, charismatic, anything really] to serve God. This is false; all we need to do is heed the call and serve.
  • Some of us may look at faults of some early members of the church and say we’d never have made such mistakes; we can’t say that, because we don’t know what it was like for them and how we would have reacted. What we do know is that God was able to use them, fallible as they were, just as we can be used in our fallibilities.
  • Life is not a self-driving car, or an airplane on autopilot—we must each individually commit to follow the Savior, and be willing to swim upstream.

Conducting: Henry B. Eyring, of the first presidency
  • They changed the font they use to display the names and offices of speakers onscreen, i think.
  • Thomas S. Monson isn’t attending this session.