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.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Sunday afternoon session

By the time you read this, general conference April 2017 is over, and this may well be the first of my posts about it you see, since it’s hanging there at the top of them. Therefore, i’ll start out with my usual quick explanation of the way they’re structured:

Blogs have the utterly bizarre feature of requiring a read from the bottom upward from post to post to get a chronological picture, which means that the post below this one is the previous session, and below that one is the one before that, and so on. To better match this, the first speaker in this session is at the bottom of each session’s post, the next speaker is above that 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.

But before getting to content, can i just take a moment to say how much i enjoy watching the few minutes before conference sessions when the camera is panning across the general authorities and officers, and we get to see them smiling and chatting and even *gasp* laughing? It’s a good thing to keep in mind when, as inevitably happens every few months, someone in a leadership meeting starts saying that everyone needs to be utterly silent as they arrive during the half hour preceding sacrament meeting so that everyone can “get in tune with the Spirit” or somesuch reason. Well, i suppose you’re saying Elders Bednar and Quentin L. Cook aren’t in tune with the Spirit, then? Hmmm…

Anyway, with that thought just hanging out there, let’s 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 from me:
  • This seemed like the tale of two conferences: Saturday (including the priesthood session) was all about being kind and welcoming to others no matter their circumstances or status, while Sunday was all about being aware of inspiration from the Holy Spirit. Related topics, certainly, and there was of course crossover (particularly in Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s Sunday morning address), but the difference in overall theme between the days was still rather remarkable.
  • What’s with not showing the words on-screen for the congregational songs? I really hope it was just an experiment, and they bring them back next conference.
  • New favorite general authority name: Weatherford T. Clayton. (If he had an upper-class British accent, though, it would’ve pushed it too far.)
  • I absolutely adore the way that Dieter F. Uchtdorf is relentlessly optimistic—I feel we need that as a church, if only because it’s a necessary pushback against the often-pervasive (and, i would argue, patently untrue) idea that this existence is getting inexorably worse and worse. (And Joaquin E. Costa merits mention as being similarly sunny in a quite healthy way.)
  • The multiple direct mentions of the “The Living Christ” document were interesting, particularly given the relative absence of references to “The Family: A Proclamation to the World”—and the only direct reference to the latter that i can recall was that it can only be understood properly in the light of the former!
  • The temple announcements had a couple unstated big-deal bits within them: Manila will have two temples, and having that happen outside of North America is pretty huge; and Kenya is a big—perhaps the biggest—cultural and commercial center in East Africa.
  • And finally, i always pick a personal favorite address at the close of each conference. The usual suspects (that is, Jeffrey R. Holland and Dieter F. Unchtdorf—in his case, both his priesthood and Sunday morning session addresses) are, of course, in the running for me, but also this time Dale G. Renlund’s address and, in a rather quieter (so to speak) way, Henry B. Eyring’s from the priesthood session. That makes this an unusual conference, where I didn’t find at least one of the non-twelve/​first presidency addresses highly stirring, but so it goes. I think, ultimately, it’s a difficult call between Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s priesthood session address and Dale G. Renlund’s, but i’ll have to ultimately go with the latter on the tiebreaker of it having a wider audience.

Quentin L. Cook, of the quorum of apostles
  • He included, near the beginning of the address, a video of a baby taking hesitant steps across a room—cue the collective Awwwww from every single viewer across the world.
  • Physical growth and growth in talents and spiritual growth are similar: We begin with baby steps and progress onward through practice.
  • We tend to to emphasize moments that are spiritually sublime, and they are worth rejoicing over, but for enduring faith there is no substitute for ongoing religious experience.
  • Weekly participation in sacrament meetings has spiritual implications that we do not at present understand.
  • The woman with the issue of blood (the one who touched the hem of Jesus’s garment in an attempt to be healed) was healed because of her own faith—Jesus had not focused on her, and in fact had not even been aware of her until she exercised her own faith.
  • Adversity should not be viewed as either disfavor from the Lord, or a withdrawal of blessings.

Benjamín De Hoyos, of the quorums of seventy
  • The gospel, the Book of Mormon and this general conference are “standard[s] to the nations”.
  • By hearkening to leaders’ counsel we will gain what we need to give light to others.
  • There are many ways that we can increase our ability to give light to others, but three in particular to mention at the moment: Observing the Sabbath day, hastening the work on both sides of the veil, and teaching in the Savior’s way.

C. Scott Grow, of the quorums of seventy
  • And now a general authority directing comments to the youth and young adults (both single and married)—we’re going up the age ladder a step!☺
  • As you study the scriptures, you can not only know more about the Savior, but you can know the Savior.
  • As we strive to become like God, God will help us become more than we could ever do ourselves.
  • It is not sinful to ask for relief—even Jesus Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane asked for relief before affirming that he would submit to the will of God the Father.
  • “Knowing God is the quest of a lifetime.”

Gary E. Stevenson, of the quorum of apostles
  • An apostle stating at the outset he’s directing his message to the primary-aged children of the church? This is different, and quite cool.
  • The big question (from a child teaching a family home evening lesson): How does the Holy Ghost help you?
  • Follow promptings from the Spirit, even when it contravenes general practice and tradition.
  • How does the Holy Ghost help you? The Holy Ghost warns, comforts, and testifies.
  • “Stay close to the Spirit, and the Spirit will stay close to you.”

S. Mark Palmer, of the quorums of seventy
  • For those in leadership positions, it isn’t so much “How can these people learn to feel inspiration to do better?” but rather it should be “How can i learn to feel inspiration to do better so that others can feel the love of God through me, and thus do better?”
  • As we learn to see others as the Lord sees them, our love for them—and thus our desire to help them—will grow.
  • Love should never be withdrawn when anyone—friend, family member, anyone—fails to live up to our expectations.

Joaquin E. Costa, of the quorums of seventy
  • A discussion of his own introduction to the church, and how some of it didn’t make sense right away—but the impressions of truth and rightness were there from the beginning.
  • Repentance is not negative—when we humble ourselves and open our heart to the Spirit, we learn that it is the path to eternal happiness.
  • If you “pay the price of revelation”, pray, and repent, the heavens will be opened and you will know that Jesus is the Christ.

D. Todd Christofferson, of the quorum of apostles
  • Those who have been warned (i.e., have learned about the gospel) have the responsibility to warn our neighbor—and just like in the parable of the Good Samaritan, the neighbor we are to warn is everyone around us.
  • The motivation for this warning is love. On occasion—when directed so by the Holy Ghost—warning may take the form of reproof, but even then it must be motivated by love.
  • We are (as urged in one of the psalms) not to hide God’s righteousness in our heart, but rather to declare it to all around us.

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Sunday morning session

Due to my computer crashing, i lost all of my notes from the Sunday morning session before i could transfer them to this medium.

All of them.

I am a bit sad about this, particularly since this means i lost my notes on Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s excellent and much-needed address.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Priesthood session

Priesthood session. I still wonder why they haven’t turned this into a general men’s session open to boys as young as eight like they did with the general women’s session a few years back, but as it is, it’s still twelve and up.

Anyway, as with all the rest of these, the first speaker is at the bottom of this post and then you can read upwards to the last speaker at the top, with comments under each speaker’s name going chronologically the other way (i.e., downwards).

Henry B. Eyring, of the first presidency
  • It is natural to feel inadequate when we contemplate our responsibilities.
  • If we feel completely capable we should probably learn our duties better, but if we feel like giving up we should learn what God can do to increase our capability.
  • The power of the priesthood includes being able to do all things—literally all things—that God desires to be done.
  • Contemplating the power of the priesthood should instill in us a desire to do more in the service of God.
  • Remember that Enoch was a great prophet, but he saw himself as “but a lad” until he accepted the invitation to walk with the Lord.
  • You need never feel too small or insignificant for God to care about you.
  • Walking with the Savior in priesthood service will change the way you see people—if you walk with the Savior long enough you will see every human being as a child of God with limitless potential, and in fact you will ultimately be able to help them see that in themselves.
  • We come to know Jesus Christ best when we join in the work of salvation for all of God’s children.

Dieter F. Uchtdorf, of the first presidency
  • He started with two stories (one personal, one scriptural) underscoring the need to see the work of the gospel as the work of God, and not as a vehicle for our own success and aggrandizement
  • In God’s kingdom, leadership means seeing others as God sees them—as they really are—regardless of nationality, race, political orientation, or any other such thing, and reaching out and ministering to them.
  • James E. Faust noted that the members of the church are gracious to the general authorities—and the general authorities need to be grateful for that, and be careful not to “inhale it”.
  • J. Reuben Clark, Jr used to tell those called to leadership positions to remember “rule #6”. When asked what that was, he’d say it’s “Don’t take yourself so darn seriously”. Then, when asked what the first five rules were, he’d respond that there weren’t any.
  • We become great by accepting callings to service with grace, humility, and gratitude—and then when we are released, by accepting the change with the same grace, humility, and gratitude.
  • Every time we reach outside ourselves to serve, especially when our service is unseen by others, we come closer to our Lord, who gave his all for us.
  • One kind of service is not greater than another.
  • “What is the most important calling in the church? It is the one you now have”, because it is the one that allows you to serve now.
  • “He that is greatest among you shall be your servant” is the paramount principle of church governance.

Gérald Caussé, presiding bishop
  • Growing up in a small branch, he had many opportunities to serve and lead as a teenager.
  • The Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods have different missions and stewardships, but they are inseparable and work together toward the same goal—and for a perfect example of this, see the relationship between Jesus Christ and John the Baptist.
  • Aaronic priesthood holders should willingly labor in their sphere to prepare the way for the work of the Melchizedek priesthood; Melchizedek priesthood holders should invite Aaronic priesthood holders to provide meaningful assistance in the work.
  • “Too often we try to entertain our young men and relegate them to a spectator role.”

David A. Bednar, of the quorum of apostles
  • Letters calling new full-time missionaries issue first the calling of full-time missionary, and then an assignment to a particular mission—and the distinction is important.
  • We are called not to serve in a particular mission, but rather to the work.
  • Those who are called to do the work of God, if they serve faithfully, cannot go amiss no matter where they serve—an assignment is necessary, but it is not a central part of the call.
  • Why bring this up in general conference? Because of the occasional negative feelings, including guilt and failure, that full-time missionaries sometimes feel when they are reassigned.
  • No member of this church should carry an unnecessary burden of anguish or guilt over an assignment from the Lord.
  • Priesthood and temple blessings precede the blessing of a mission call.
  • Personal worthiness is the single most important qualification for temple blessings.
  • To the young men [and if this hadn’t been delivered in priesthood session, i would expect the young women would have been included, too]: Each of you is a missionary now!

Thomas S. Monson, president of the high priesthood
  • We don’t honor the priesthood if we’re unkind to others
  • We must be kind, loving, and charitable.

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Saturday afternoon session

As with the rest of these entries, the first speaker of this session is at the bottom of this post with each following speaker entered progressively above the previous one; within each speaker’s entry, however, my comments run from the top down.

So now you can scroll to the bottom of the post and…

M. Russell Ballard, of the quorum of apostles
  • Success generally comes from knowing where you’re going, and how you’re going to get there; this is a difference between having a goal (the former) and a plan (the latter).
  • Goal-setting is beginning with the end in mind, and planning is devising a way to get to that end.
  • God’s goal is the eternal life and salvation of humanity, and God’s plan is the plan of salvation.
  • There are two central words to encapsulate the most important goals we can set: return and receive (that is, return to God, and receive the promised blessings).
  • It is occasionally worth asking yourself, “How am I doing?” It’s sort of like having a personal, private interview with yourself.
  • An admonition to take time during the coming weeks to review your own goals and plans to determine whether they are in line with God’s goals and plans.
  • We must keep the gospel of Jesus Christ at the center of our own goals and plans.
  • Yet another recommendation to review “The Living Christ”.
  • We often speak of “The Family: A Proclamation to the World”, but it must be read in the light of the content of “The Living Christ”.
  • The goals and plans of our Heavenly Parents are completely and utterly focused on helping each of us returning to them and receiving the blessings promised to us.

Neil L. Andersen, of the quorum of apostles
  • We are to overcome the world; overcoming the world is not one defining moment, but is the process of a lifetime that comes from praying, repenting, following the Savior, and receiving grace.
  • Overcoming the world means turning ourselves outward—helping our children love God, placing our spouse’s needs above ourselves, freely sharing of our substance with those in need, and letting ourselves be led to those in need of help.
  • Overcoming the world involves being unconcerned with the glories of the world.
  • Overcoming the world means that we can be secure that we will stand before our Savior at the judgment bar and be found worthy of inheriting the kingdom that has been prepared for us.
  • As we trust more in the Savior, we will have a greater assurance in this life, and in our eternal destinty.

Valeri V. Cordón, of the quorums of seventy
  • There are cases of language loss, where families and peoples lose the language of their ancestors due to migration or such—but there is also a more troubling loss of language that can occur when people or families lose the spiritual “language” of the gospel.
  • Language loss can occur when parents don’t make an effort to preserve the language with their children in the home—similarly, preserving the gospel in our families requires consistent effort and teaching.
  • It is not enough to teach our children about living the gospel, but rather they need to see us doing so ourselves.
  • Our Heavenly Father, as a loving parent, is patient with our mistakes, and [in a wonderful image that i do wish i could have caught the wording of perfectly] hears our mumblings as if they were poetry.

Gary B. Sabin, of the quorums of seventy
  • To have all forgiven, we must turn from all of our sins and obey all of the commandments—we must be “all in”.
  • As we continually repent, we gain strength as we become as a little child but now with the strength of life experience.
  • If we’re unable to walk forward as we are, maybe we need to make a U-turn, maybe we need to run, maybe we need to recalculate our route—whatever it is, we can make the changes needed to let us progress.
  • We know that things will work out for good in the end—this doesn’t mean it will always be easy, but we can have a certainty of hope no matter what.

Jeffrey R. Holland, of the quorum of apostles
  • [Cue the “Elder Holland’s about to speak!” memes…]
  • As a text, taking a line from “There Is Sunshine in My Soul” completely out of context: “Jesus, listening, can hear the songs [you] cannot sing.”
  • It is by divine design that all the voices in the divine choir are not the same.
  • “When we disparage our uniqueness…[insert a slap at expectations fueled by consumer culture here]…we lose the richness of tone and timbre that God intended.”
  • The loss of even one voice diminishes the whole, perhaps especially when those lost voices are on the margins of society or the margins of the church.
  • We cannot honorably fully sing our joy until the poor have been fully cared for—if we can more fully care for the poor, perhaps more could join in expressing joy with us, perhaps for the first time in their lives.
  • “Guns and slurs and vitriol are not the way to deal with human conflict.”
  • There is another, happier time that we cannot sing: When we experience those moments that are so deep and spiritual as to be beyond our ability to utter.
  • There is room for everyone who loves God and honors the commandments in the eternal choir, no matter our age, family status, sexual orientation, location, or anything.
  • Come as you are, God says, but don’t plan to stay as you are—we know that God intends to make us more than we otherwise could be.

Robert D. Hales, of the quorum of apostles
  • “Disciple” doesn’t simply mean “follower”—it’s an active, not a passive role.
  • “We measure our faith by what it leads us to do.”
  • Virtue is more than just sexual purity—it’s actually general cleanliness and power.
  • Brotherly kindness is a hallmark of all true disciples—like the Good Samaritan, we cross the road to minister to those who are in need even if they are not in their circle, we do good to even those who stand against us.
  • Discipleship is not constrained by age, gender, ethnicity, calling, or anything—everyone can be a disciple.
  • “We are all called to be disciples of our savior.”

Brooke P. Hales, secretary to the first presidency (statistical report)
  • [That was an incredibly short statistical report!]

Kevin R. Jergensen, of the church auditing department (annual report)
  • [Seriously, why do we waste valuable general conference time with this thing each year?]

Dieter F. Uchtdorf, of the first presidency (presentation of general authorities, general officers, and area seventies)
  • Seriously, y’all, if you want to vote opposed in a Mormon church sustaining session, raise your hand and don’t shout “Opposed!” (It’s “by the same sign”, after all.) Shouting in a Mormon religious service isn’t going to get the positive attention you want, it’s just going to annoy the people around you when you break basic social norms.
  • Reorganization of the relief society general presidency, and new counselors in the primary general presidency, with the new relief society presidency being Jean B. Bingham (president), Sharon Eubank (first counselor), and Reyna I. Aburto (second counselor), and the new primary counselors are Bonnie H. Cordon (formerly second counselor, now first counselor) and Christina B. Franco (second counselor).
  • The outgoing relief society general presidency, by the way, was totally cute when their release was announced.
  • Fun fact: The new relief society and primary second counselors are from Latin America. Also, Reyna I. Aburto studied industrial engineering.

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Saturday morning session

So it’s general conference weekend, which means it’s time for this blog to receive what has become its twice-yearly flurry of posts. Welcome to anyone strolling by! To explain if you’re unfamiliar with these, i post my notes on general conference here in “liveblog” style. To briefly explain: 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 means that once the whole conference weekend is past you would be able to scroll down to the bottom of this 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—and just trust me on this—the bottom-up thing really and truly doesn’t work within an individual speaker’s entry.

So, now is when you scroll to the bottom of the post to read each speaker in order, or you start reading normally to read the speakers in reverse order. Doesn’t matter to me, really.

Russell M. Nelson, president of the quorum of apostles
  • He recently did a deep study of Jesus Christ in the scriptures, and when his wife asked him how it had affected him, he said it had made him “a changed man”.
  • It is doctrinally incomplete to speak of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ with shortcut phrase like “the atonement” or “the X of the atonement”—that risks misdirecting faith by focusing on the event independent of God the Father and Jesus Christ.
  • It is the Savior who saves us, not an amorphous event called “the atonement”—the atonement is what the Savior did.
  • A suggestion to study 2000 statement “The Living Christ”.
  • When we truly desperately and intensely reach out for the power of Jesus Christ with full desire, we will receive it.

Mark A. Bragg, of the quorums of seventy
  • We are children of God, and are created to continually receive light from God.
  • The church will always have its critics, but we can’t allow such criticism to deflect us from seeking after more and more light.
  • Cool story about firefighters battling a fire at a stake center in Arizona (i think it was).
  • [This is one of those weird cases where i didn’t have a lot of notes, but felt that the speech was both well-delivered and contentful—and that’s even with his continual references to “a darkening world”, which is the sort of thing that usually bothers me. He handled it incredibly well, though, and struck a most excellent rhetorical balance—certainly worth a listen/read.]
  • [Also, i just learned he actually has an IMDB entry!☺]
Ulisses Soares, of the presidency of seventy
  • [People who don’t use gratuitous initials in their names, represent!]
  • Jesus overcame the world, and in so doing holds out salvation to all—and through him, we will overcome the world.
  • As we contemplate the strength we receive from the Savior, we have reason to rejoice.
  • If we are not rooted by a steadfast faith in God, we can lose hope, and thus lose our desire to progress in the gospel.
  • Remember that God listens to us in our moments of desperation and doubt.
Dale G. Renlund, of the quorum of apostles
  • If God can’t look at sin with the least degree of allowance, then how can he look at us sinners without recoiling in horror? It’s because God sees our imperfections as illnesses to be treated, not as our permanent state.
  • Jesus surely didn’t condone the actions of the woman taken in adultery, but he didn’t condemn her either—and the scriptural record shows how that led to her spiritual healing, saying that “the woman glorified God from that hour, and believed on his name” [which comes from the Inspired Version].
  • Our job is to “replace fear and despair with hope and joy”.
  • Jesus rebuked those who believed that they were less sinful than others. [And then he quotes the parable of the Pharisee and the publican—my favorite parable!]
  • We must not be guilty of persecuting anyone, whether those people are inside or outside the church.
  • Our church’s history has many instances of our members being treated with disrespect and persecution—it would be horrible for us to be similarly disrespectful to others.
  • We, as disciples of Christ, need to treat those around us such that none feel abandoned, alone, or hopeless.
  • [Really, this was an excellent reconciliation between not tolerating sin and being unconditionally loving and merciful. And i’m not saying that Mormons need to hear this kind of message because we’re quite often bad at it, but Mormons need to hear this kind of message because we’re quite often bad at it.]
“Glory to God on High”, congregational hymn
  • What’s with no longer putting the words to the song on the screen? Is the assumption that everyone has their phones or tablets close at hand while watching general conference?
  • Also, i will state right now that this organ arrangement—which i’ve heard before—annoys me. I like extra-fancy organ arrangements, but this one seems like there’s ornamentation for the sake of ornamentation, not to add to the setting.
Weatherford T. Clayton, of the quorums of seventy
  • In order for Christ to rise from the tomb, he first had to die—and so must we.
  • “Even in our moments of deepest grief…we can find comfort in our Savior, because he suffered as well.”
  • There is more to our existence than merely what happens between birth and death.
  • We receive eternal life by choosing it.
M. Joseph Brough, of the young men general presidency
  • God’s commandments help counter the idea that wickedness might be happiness.
  • We are given daily opportunities to “lead, guide, and walk beside” those in need.
  • To “lead, guide, and walk beside” youth we have to be with them, connect them with heaven, and let them lead.
  • Letting youth lead is harder and takes more time than just doing it ourselves, but it is necessary, and we will be with them to help them succeed if they stumble.
Henry B. Eyring, of the first presidency
  • We are all literally children of a Heavenly Father, making brother and sister not just friendly greetings, but literal truths.
  • Even those who know nothing of the plan of God feel that kinship with God, and that leads them to know right from wrong.
  • Only a very small minority of God’s children have the gospel and its ordinances available in this life—and this is why the priesthood power to seal families eternally was restored.
  • The desire to seek out the histories of our families is more than just an effect of interest in shared DNA—it’s part of the plan of God.
  • Just loving our ancestors isn’t enough—we must also perform the necessary ordinances on their behalf so that they can progress.
Kim B. Clark, of the quorums of seventy (opening prayer)
  • That may be the shortest invocation i’ve ever heard at a general conference. I feel like a lot of the general conference prayers the last few years have been on the shorter side, though—maybe a trend? One can dare hope…

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Sunday afternoon session

So by the time you read this, this general conference is over, and this is likely the first post you’re seeing at the top of them. Given that, here’s a quick explanation of the way they’re structured:

Blogs have the utterly bizarre feature of requiring a read from the bottom upward from post to post to get a chronological picture; that means that the post below this one is the previous session, and below that one is the one before that, and so on. To better match this, the first speaker in this session is at the bottom of this post, the next speaker is above that 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 everything 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. Anyway—this means that you can now scroll to the bottom to get everything in chronological order, or you can just read like a normal person would read a normal text and get the conference backwards. Either way—doesn’t matter to me, really.

(Oh—and as a postscript, my favorite address of the entire conference? Unlike some previous ones there wasn’t one or two in particular that stood out head and shoulders about the rest, but even so, i’d have to give the nod to Linda S. Reeves and Henry B. Eyring in the Sunday morning session, particularly the former.)

Dale G. Renlund of the quorum of apostles
  • [What we learn from the story he opened with: Don’t light firecrackers in church. So now that we’ve got that settled…]
  • Repentance has to involve a change, both in our action and in our hearts.
  • The reach of the atonement is infinite, but it will never be imposed on any of us.
  • Blaming others (even when justified!) for our wrong actions turns us into victims rather than independent agents.
  • “Repentance is not only possible but joyful because of the Savior.”

K. Brett Nattress of the quorums of seventy
  • If the people around you had only you as their source of gospel knowledge and understanding, how much would they actually know?
  • Those (women, he particularly directed this at) who teach children gospel truths deserve to be called angels.
  • Being a parent (in its widest sense) is not easy, but brings eternal joy.

Evan A. Schmutz of the quorums of seventy
  • If we are suffering, we may still find godly purpose in it.
  • Even in moments when we plead to God but our suffering is not removed, our pleas are still being heard.
  • Learning from and feeling compassion for the sufferings of others can be a blessing.
  • Don’t compare your struggles to those of others.
  • Suffering itself does not give us anything of lasting value unless we work to make it so.

Ronald A. Rasband of the quorum of apostles
  • When we wonder whether God is really there, we need to remember the eternal love God has for us, even (perhaps especially?) when circumstances make it hard to recall that.
  • Once we have strengthened ourselves spiritually, we are to strengthen those around us—remembering that you have to continue strengthening yourselves to do so.
  • “Generations are affected by the choices we make” (both for better and for worse).
  • “Never forget, question, or ignore personal, sacred experiences.”
  • Seek out things that will help you grow spiritually.

Carl B. Cook of the quorums of seventy
  • Just as gears can have greater power when they are brought together in a “compound” system, so can each of us have greater power when we work together in our callings and assignments.
  • Fulfilling callings can be difficult and requires faith, but as we serve we grow closer to God.
  • “Accepting and fulfilling a calling is an act of faith.”
  • No calling is unimportant, and we are entitled to the assistance of God as we serve.
  • “Whatever our age or circumstance, let service be our watchry.”

Brian K. Ashton of the Sunday school general presidency
  • The “doctrine of Christ” is having faith, repenting, being baptized, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.
  • “Repentance is not a backup plan.” Rather, it is what we are to do every day as we become more like the Savior.
  • The ordinance of the sacrament is a renewal of all of our covenants.

David A. Bednar of the quorum of apostles
  • At a couple points where (in the King James Version of the Bible) Jesus tells of those to whom he will say things like “I never knew you”, the Joseph Smith Version reads something like “You never knew me”.
  • We need to know the Lord by exercising faith in him, following him, serving him, and believing in him.
  • Hearing the doctrine of Christ is a prerequisite for faith in him, which itself leads to following him.
  • Sustained, steady progress along the covenant pathway is the course of life that is pleasing to God.
  • When we acknowledge our total dependence on the Lord, our capacities are enlarged.
  • “We often testify of what we know to be true, but perhaps the more relevant question for each of us is whether we believe what we know.”
  • On the day that every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ, he will know our names.

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Sunday morning session

Back when i was growing up in the Washington DC area, the Sunday morning was the only one i ever got to see, and so i still think of it as the main session, when all the big-deal new stuff gets announced (even though that isn’t really the case anymore).

Anyway, it’s the same here as in the other ones: The speakers are chronologically bottom-up, comments within each speaker chronologically top-down. (Confusing, but it works.) So enjoy MoTab’s intensely purple look today and scroll down…

Henry B. Eyring of the first presidency
  • We are to give thanks and love to God on the sabbath.
  • If we are not grateful to God, we are in danger of God’s wrath.
  • We have much to be grateful for on the sabbath—even, for those who are in a sacrament meeting, the fact that we are there at all, when there are others who cannot join with us, whether through illness or being in a position of protecting health and safety at that time.
  • [I’ve mentioned before that i really do think that Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s early experiences as a refugee have been helpful for the church; it occurs to me that Henry B. Eyring’s formative experiences in the then-still-astonishingly-tiny church in the eastern United States are probably similarly helpful.]
  • God has promised that all blessings are available to us—and those who receive them with gratefulness will have glory given them.
  • We should find ways to be grateful; in particular, we should pray to find ways to be of service to those who need it, and we will find gratitude in that service.
  • God and Jesus Christ know your name, just as they knew Joseph Smith’s name when they appeared to him.

Lynn G. Robbins of the presidency of the seventy
  • Jesus Christ is the “righteous judge”—and he gave the counsel to be as he is in the context of judging righteously.
  • Today’s common judges should respond with compassion and understanding, not with shame and condemnation—to do otherwise may unintentionally drive the lost sheep further into the wilderness.
  • When we willfully sin, we imprison ourselves and are in need of keys of forgiveness for our release.
  • Kindness is the power we have been given to soften hard hearts.
  • There is only one way to judge righteous judgment, and that is to be as Jesus is. (And we need to be particularly aware of this when dealing with our own children.)

Dean M. Davies of the presiding bishopric
  • “Worship is essential and central to our spiritual life.”
  • Every day—especially on the sabbath day—we have the opportunity to worship.
  • “True worship transforms us into true and earnest disciples” of Jesus Christ.
  • It is impossible to love God while hating and dismissing those around us
  • True worship leads inevitably to charity.

M. Russell Ballard of the quorum of apostles
  • When many decided to “walk no more” with Jesus, he asked the apostles whether they would also leave, to which Peter responded, “Lord, to whom shall we go?”
  • If we’re tempted to leave, we should ask ourselves, “To whom shall we go?” Where else could we find what we have in this church?
  • Remember that the restoration isn’t an event, but an ongoing process.
  • If you have doubts that won’t go away, you should be wary of making rash decisions—as you experience more of life, you learn that things like that actually generally work themselves out.
  • Just as we should embrace new converts, we should embrace those who are struggling through their own doubts.
  • “In the end we must believe, trust and hope.”

Linda S. Reeves of the relief society general presidency
  • When we sin, Satan often tries to convince us that confessing will devastate others, and thus prevent us from repenting.
  • Repentance isn’t condemnation—it means that we can become better.
  • “Whatever the cost of repentance , it is swallowed up in the joy of forgiveness.”
  • Whatever you may have done, you have not traveled beyond the reach of God’s love.
  • The greatest miracles aren’t the parting of the Red Sea, or even the healing of the body—they are the healing of the soul that comes from true repentance.

Peter F. Meurs of the quorums of seventy
  • “Participation in the sacrament ordinance provides an opportunity to more fully yield our hearts and souls to God.”
  • Are we willing to actually live up to the covenants we make in the sacramental prayers?
  • [Whoever selected the pictures for the broadcast of this address was totally on point.]
  • We should prepare for the sacrament and sacrament meeting well before Sunday.

Russell M. Nelson president of the quorum of apostles
  • As we face challenges from fear and corruption around us, how can we remain steadfast?
  • Remember that Lehi faced many challenges and heartaches, but still taught that we exist such that we might have joy.
  • Saints can (and should) be joyful under every circumstance
  • Our joy has little to do with the circumstances of our lives, and more to do with the focus of our lives.
  • Why do our missionaries preach the gospel? Not simply to increase the number of church members, but rather to increase joy.
  • “Joy is powerful, and focusing on joy brings God’s power into our lives.”
  • Joy is what allowed Jesus Christ to endure the atonement.

Thomas S. Monson president of the high priesthood
  • It is not enough to just believe, but we also need to study and learn God’s laws, and follow them.
  • We have a mandate to share God’s truth—and remember that God gives us no commandments that are not for our good.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Priesthood session

And now, priesthood session. I do have to say that i do enjoy the way that (at least in places i know about) it’s still a thing that men and boys go to at meetinghouses (like the women and girls go to the women’s session) even though you can easily enough stream it online these days.

(Of course, doing that means there’s a delay between me taking my notes and you getting to see them. I’m sure we’ll all survive that, though.)

Anyway, as is my wont, the first speaker is at the bottom of this post leading to the last speaker at the top, with comments under each speaker’s name going from the first at the top going downwards.

Thomas S. Monson president of the high priesthood
  • If we obey the word of wisdom, we will be blessed.
  • [Seriously, that was it (illustrated by a story). He’s wearing out. Of course, he’s 89 years old, so i figure he’s earned it. It may be useful for our church that we regularly get to watch aging in front of us—memento mori, of course, but also a reminder that no matter how distant someone’s age and experience might be, they probably still have something to teach you.]

Henry B. Eyring of the first presidency
  • Wilford Woodruff said he was just as sustained by God in his first mission (when he was ordained as a teacher) as he was in later preaching as an apostle—as long as one does one’s duty, there is no difference.
  • We need to feel gratitude to those who have helped mentor us.
  • [Did he just take a swipe at young-earth types? Why yes, yes, i do believe he did.]
  • We need to give those less experienced than us a chance to contribute in meaningful ways. [And yes, that was nearly his entire address—he spoke on precisely that at length.]

Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the first presidency
  • After telling the stories of Alma and Amulek (in Alma chh. 8–), there are two questions: (1) What can i learn from Alma. (2) How am i like Amulek?
  • Alma, upon returning to Ammonihah, asked for help (which he received). Too often, we are too hesitant to ask for help.
  • In order for leaders to succeed, they need to find their “Amuleks”. This is the pattern Jesus gave—he didn’t just take care of everything himself (though he could have!), but built up others by allowing them to contribute.
  • If we, like Amulek, have let ourselves drift away from contributing as we should, remember that we, like Amulek, can still do great things.

LeGrand R. Curtis of the quorums of seventy
  • The Book of Mormon is an instrument of conversion (illustrated by a number of stories of that happening).
  • For some a witness of the Book of Mormon comes with their first exposure to it, for others it’s more gradual and comes after much study and prayer.
  • No matter whether our testimony of it comes quickly or slowly, the Book of Mormon will continue to bless us.
  • Parents should make the Book of Mormon a part of their daily family life.

Jeffrey R. Holland of the quorum of apostles
  • Home teachers are the church’s first line of help to its members.
  • Despite all of our efforts in instruction, we still struggle to succeed at it.
  • In the best of all worlds, a monthly visit to each member’s home is still the ideal—but the leadership of the church does recognize the need for local leaders to use available resources in the best ways for local needs.
  • Home teachers should maintain contact with their assigned families even when they can’t visit, whether via in-person conversation, letters, email, phone, text, or whatever—home visits are best, but whatever is done must come from genuine gospel concern.
  • What counts as home teaching? Everything counts! Report it all!
  • But what really counts is the love we feel for the families we are assigned to home teach.
  • Home teachers should be God’s emissaries, loving and caring for the people.

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Saturday afternoon session

Once again, the first speaker of this session is at the bottom of this post with each following speaker entered progressively above the previous one, but within each speaker’s entry my comments run from the top down.

So now, everyone take a sip of your unspecified diet soft drink and scroll to the bottom of the post…

Dallin H. Oaks of the quorum of apostles
  • We have been commanded to proclaim the gospel in all the world, and we desire to be more effective in doing so.
  • There are a number of ways that this can be done that will work in specific regions and circumstances, but since this is a worldwide church (and a worldwide conference), it is right for this address to focus on ideas that will work in all circumstances.
  • Faithful, obedient members are the most persuasive representatives of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ—and those faithful members will have the right to inspiration about how best to preach the word.
  • We should pray to be able to share the gospel—not praying for the missionaries, but praying that we will be inspired to speak to someone about the gospel—and commit to actually doing so.
  • We should not set ourselves up as judges of who is or is not ready to hear the gospel message.
  • A caution: We often desire to share doctrines of the gospel, but those around us are often more interested in the results of those doctrines than in the doctrines themselves.
  • We need to invite people to be converted to the gospel rather than being converted to the church. Further, love for the church follows from love for the gospel, not the other way around—“put first things first!”
  • Member missionary work is not a program, but rather a reflection of an attitude.

Kazuhiko Yamashita of the quorums of seventy
  • We need to (quoting William S. Clark) “Be ambitious—be ambitious for Christ!”
  • We will experience trials, but if we are ambitious for Christ, by focusing on Jesus we can overcome them with patience and faith, and find joy in the covenant path.
  • [By the way, what happened to speakers of languages other than English being able to deliver addresses in their native languages? I don’t feel like any of the ones who would have been eligible so far were necessarily deficient in English to the point of being hard to understand, but was the experiment ended, or is it still an option?]

W. Mark Bassett of the quorums of seventy
  • Our development can be slowed or even halted by searching out things that are not yet revealed while ignoring the precious truths that have already been given to us.
  • We can’t force the mysteries of God to be opened up to us—rather, they will be revealed to us as God wills it.
  • We don’t need to have a perfect knowledge of all things, but rather to hope for things that are not seen but are true.

D. Todd Christofferson of the quorum of apostles
  • We often say God’s love is unconditional, but that descriptor doesn’t appear in scripture.
  • Sometimes, calling God’s love unconditional leads to mistaken notions about sin and God’s tolerance for it.
  • God will always love us, but will not save us in our sins.
  • The greatest manifestation of God’s love is the gift of repentance, which allows mercy to satisfy justice rather than leaving us exposed to all of justice’s demands.
  • God’s aim is not simply to bring us back to our original innocent state, but rather to bring us to the same state as God has.
  • “Divine love can transform a willing soul.”
  • It can be quite possible for us to be satisfied with reaching a state we think is enough, when God has a much richer future in store for us.

Intermediate hymn
  • What’s that? A choir made up of missionaries from the Missionary Training Center singing “Called to Serve”?? Who could have ever seen that one coming?

Gary E. Stevenson of the quorum of apostles
  • “No one is too young to receive a testimony of the Book of Mormon.”
  • Reading and developing a testimony of the Book of Mormon can result in it becoming the keystone of your religion [emphasis mine].
  • It is a gift from God that the keystone of our religion can be something as tangible as the Book of Mormon.
  • Some of the time we spend in entertainment could be easily transferred to reading the Book of Mormon.
  • Learning the truths of the Book of Mormon will bring great blessings of knowledge and spiritual light into your life.

Quentin L. Cook of the quorum of apostles
  • We need to take care to avoid “stumbling blocks” to our continued growth.
  • One of these stumbling blocks can be the philosophies of men—but our faith should not (as Paul said) stand in the wisdom of man, but in the power of God.
  • “Without religious beliefs there are no feelings of accountability [here’s where i started to be like, ‘Wait a minute, i’m not so sure…’] to God [‘…oh, okay, that’s cool, i’m with you there’].
  • Looking beyond the mark is another stumbling block—this includes particularly taking one point of doctrine or religious practice and turning it into an element of religious fanaticism.
  • If we elevate anything above the Savior Jesus Christ, we are looking beyond the mark.

Henry B. Eyring of the first presidency, presentation of general officers and authorities
  • [The shouting of “opposed” by those voting opposed isn’t even shocking or surprising anymore, it’s just annoying. If i agreed with them, i’d be distressed that they were putting such a negative face on my movement, you know?]
  • [Also, i liked President Eyring pausing slightly and waiting until after the first "opposed" shout to ask for dissenting votes, making the shouting look extra silly. Whether it was done on purpose that way or not, all i can say is well played, sir, well played.]

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Saturday morning session

Welcome again to the twice-yearly revival of this blog for my notes on general conference. Even though liveblogging isn’t so much a thing anymore, i post these, as always, in “liveblog” style. If this is your first time on this site, then i should explain briefly (well, after asking how in the world you stumbled on this): 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 means that once the whole conference weekend is past you would be able to scroll down to the bottom of this 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—and just trust me on this—the bottom-up thing really and truly doesn’t work within an individual speaker’s entry.

So, now is when you scroll to the bottom of the post to read each speaker in order, or you start reading normally to read the speakers in reverse order. Either way—i’m easy.

Neil L. Anderson of the quorum of apostles
  • We are all a piece of the puzzle of the gathering.
  • [Wow—the little 1997-looking CGI visual interlude was…odd.]
  • The burden of the gathering that once rested primarily on the shoulders of the full-time missionaries now rests on us all.
  • Guilt can be useful—it can get us started on change. But just as a battery can start a car but is insufficient to keep it going for long, so is guilt insufficient for the long journey ahead.
  • Don’t view your missionary outreach to your friends as a pass-fail test, with your grade based on their response—if you do it, your grade is always an A+.
  • Even in countries where governments have restricted the ability of not just missionaries but even members to preach the gospel, members of the church are able to reach those around them. [Not that we’re looking straight at you or anything, Russia.]
  • Shout-out to folks sharing the gospel on social media!
  • The gospel must, as Daniel prophesied, go to all nations people—and “the dream is certain and the interpretation sure”.

J. Devn Cornish of the quorums of seventy
  • When we doubt whether we’re good enough, remember that the only opinion that ultimately counts is God’s—and as long as we continue to repent, we will make it.
  • God is not a heartless referee looking for a reason to kick us out, but rather intends for us to make it.
  • Quoting Gordon B. Hinckley: All you have to do is try, but you have to really try!
  • We often don’t realize how much God wants us to succeed.
  • If we sincerely repent, God will forgive us, no matter what the sin is or how often we’ve sinned.
  • “What we cannot do is rationalize rather than repent.”
  • We are in rebellion whenever we believe that we don’t need God, and don’t need to repent.

Juan A Uceda of the quorums of seventy
  • [The story he’s opening with, about visiting a ledgeside site near Macchu Picchu? Dang, with my fear of edges—not so much heights, but certainly edges—this is totally freaking me out.]
  • Even when we ignore divine direction, God can still reach out to us with mercy rather than justice.
  • We need to pray with sincerity, and not do it at a superficial level.
  • Ask yourself: Are you saying prayers, or are you actually praying?
  • Why do we sometimes not want to receive the love and mercy God is so willing to give?

Craig C. Christensen of the presidency of the seventy
  • We don’t need to be timid about testifying about Joseph Smith’s mission as a prophet.
  • Joseph Smith was imperfect, just as everyone is—but he was still a prophet of God.
  • Joseph Smith had questions, but he didn’t let those questions paralyze his faith—he sought answers.
  • We should consider the fruits of Joseph Smith being a prophet—all that we have in the church today, both in structure and doctrine, comes from him.

Carol F. McConkie of the relief society general presidency
  • Having the faith to pray and acting on the answers we receive will lead us to have faith.
  • As you pray, God will comfort you.
  • All three members of the godhead are referenced in our prayers, and they all have roles to play.
  • We need to not just receive, but understand the answers to our prayers.
  • “Prayer is a gift from God.”
  • Every moment of prayer can be time spent with the Father in the name of the Son by the power of the Spirit.

Robert D. Hales of the quorum of apostles
  • The spiritual pain we suffer will diminish as we love Jesus more.
  • Parents bear the responsibility to help their children become converted.
  • Rather than complaining about the direction of the world, we should work to help our friends and family grow spiritually.
  • Family home evening is an important time for this to happen.
  • Work to grow together, and we will suffer less.
  • We need more patience. When you raise your voice in anger, the Spirit leaves you.
  • We cannot pray away another’s agency, but we can wait patiently while we pray that others will be touched by the Spirit.
  • Shout-out to family caregivers! (And specifically to his wife.)
  • When you are suffering, let Jesus be your caregiver, so that we can love more and suffer less.

Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the first presidency
  • He used high-tech computerized equipment as a pilot, but never had to use a computer himself; upon being called as a general authority, though, he had to face the steep learning curve of working his own computer—and eventually he succeeded at it, and it became just another part of his life.
  • [Did he just give a veiled shout-out to Diet Coke? I think he just gave a veiled shout-out to Diet Coke. Let us all raise our glasses of Mormon coffee Diet Dr Pepper in solidarity!]
  • Just as we become used to miracles of modern technology and start taking them for granted (no matter how wonderful and amazing they seemed when we first learned about them), when we first grasp the gospel it’s amazing and wonderful, but we run the risk of simply taking it for granted.
  • “We tread a path covered with diamonds, but we can scarcely distinguish them from ordinary pebbles.”
  • When asked about our church, sometimes we talk about similarities with other faiths, or practices like the word of wisdom, but it’s the plan of salvation and the truths relating to that that set us apart.
  • We are truly divine beings, of the royal house of Elohim, the Most High God.
  • We freely chose to accept the plan of God.
  • The day of judgment will be a day of love, when broken hearts will be healed and all will be made right.
  • Doesn’t it fill us with wonder and joy to ponder on what God has prepared for us?
  • “What shall we give in return for so much?” (repurposing the motto on Belfast’s coat of arms. [Interesting: On Twitter (and other online forums i look in on), the answer of his that gets referred to has nearly always been that we should live according to the truths we’ve received. He also said to preach those truths to those who don’t have them yet. Much less quoting of the requirement to look outside ourselves, it seems…]
  • [Interesting—multiple references to “heavenly parents” in this address.]

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Sunday afternoon session

Closing session! Since, because of the completely unnatural way (when dealing with things that occur over time) blogs are structured, this is likely to be the first in this set of general conference posts you see here, so a full explanation of the way they’re structured is in order:

Since blogs have the bizarre feature of requiring a read from the bottom upward to get a chronological picture of everything from post to post, that means that the post below this one is the previous session, and below that one is the one before that, and so on. To better match this, the first speaker in this session is at the bottom of this post, the next speaker is above that 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 everything 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. Anyway—this means that you can now scroll to the bottom to get everything in chronological order, or you can just read like a normal person would read a normal text and get the conference backwards. Either way—doesn’t matter to me, really.

Closing thoughts
  • As always, Jeffrey R. Holland was amazing, and he would have been at the very top of my list of favorite addresses (as he so often is) if it hadn’t been for Patrick Kearon (hurrah! for general authorities secure enough in their names to not use initials, by the way), with an honorable mention (maybe just barely behind Jeffrey R. Holland’s close to the conference) due to Kevin R. Duncan.
  • Also, Russell M. Nelson’s address to the men of the church was directed to a narrower audience than the rest, but it deserves a shout-out, too, i feel.
  • You know, after what i’d heard from my daughters about the women’s session, i’d expected a lot more about our duty to care for refugees, or at least generally about those in need. Ah, well—at least we got it near the end.
  • And that’s it—see y’all in six months!

Jeffrey R. Holland, of the quorum of apostles
  • [I really want to know how the opening of this address is going to appear in the written record—but the fact that someone as heavily-memed as Jeffrey R. Holland shared an internet meme…Verily, the internet hath eaten itself.]
  • Even those such as Moses and Jesus have come from peak, even celestial experiences to have to deal with the ordinarinesses and problems of daily life—so we can be assured that we are not immune to such experiences, as well.
  • When we hear that real improvement cannot happen, we should recognize that it’s simply the ranting of Lucifer, who actually cannot improve.
  • “The Lord blesses those who want to improve”—after all, if blessings were limited to the perfect, there wouldn’t be many blessings received. [Basically, God grades on a curve—something, i suppose, we should all be grateful for.]
  • We are blessed for our desire to do good as we strive to be good.
  • And just as we receive blessings for our desires to do good, we must make sure that we do not deny those blessings to others.
  • The first great commandment is to love God with all might, mind, and strength, but the first great truth is that God loves us with all might, mind, and strength.
  • Our heavenly father wants to bless us.
  • “All things work together for good to them that love God. So keep loving. Keep trying. Keep trusting. Keep believing. Keep growing. Heaven is cheering you on today, tomorrow and forever.”
  • God will bless us when we struggle—no, God will bless us especially when we struggle.

Paul V. Johnson, of the quorums of seventy
  • Even faithful and righteous people view the separation of body and spirit after death as captivity—and thus part of the importance of the resurrection.
  • Quoting his daughter, looking past her death to the resurrection: Jesus has already cured my cancer—just as he has cured your (anything).
  • Death has no victory—the resurrection gives us the victory.

Kent F. Richards, of the quorums of seventy
  • It is good to serve in the temple.
  • Being an ordained temple worker isn’t intended to be a lifetime calling.
  • Newly endowed young men and women can even serve as temple workers in the brief time between their endowment and leaving as full-time missions.
  • We should all seek opportunities to serve in the temple, and receive the strength that comes from that.

Dallin H. Oaks, of the quorums of seventy
  • Opposition between good and evil is central to the plan of salvation.
  • Satan sought to destroy God’s plan, but in doing so actually facilitated it by providing the opposition that facilitates the ability to make choices.
  • [I really feel like this, just as with many of Dallin H. Oaks’s general conference addresses, is designed more to be understood upon reading than to be followed as it’s heard.]
  • In the government of God’s kingdom, questions are honored but opposition is not.
  • Even with all the records we have, not everything can be resolved by study—we have to rely on spiritual inspiration for some things.

Patrick Kearon, of the quorums of seventy
  • And now we finally get a continuation of the bits on refugees brought up at the women’s session!
  • We Mormons don’t have to look far back in our history to see that we have been driven as refugees from place to place. We don’t even have to imagine if their story was our story—their story is our story.
  • “The savior knows how it feels to be a refugee—he was one.”
  • We are commanded to minister to the poor in their affliction, so that they might not suffer.
  • Helping to relieve the suffering of those around us is partaking in the Lord’s errand.
  • Remember that the people of Alma gave of their abundance to all who stood in need.
  • We need to not let the plight of refugees become a commonplace and fade into the background.
  • Do not let our assistance to others lead us to neglect family responsibilities—but let us join together to assist as we are able.
  • Meeting refugee families and learning their stories in person rather than from a screen or news report will change you.
  • ”We have found refuge. Let us come out from our safe places” to help those who need refuge themselves.
  • [And Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s reaction after this speech was…intense.]
Gerritt W. Gong, of the presidency of seventy
  • Remembering and forgetting are part of everyday life; remembering and forgetting are also part of our eternal journey.
  • The Lord, however, remembers every covenant and promise ever made.
  • Trust that the Lord will forget our sins when we repent.
  • God knows all the deep, dark, secret things we don’t want anyone else to know—and loves us anyway.
  • Sometimes the strength to forgive is not within us, but it can be found through the atonement of Jesus Christ.
  • Jesus was lifted up on the cross “that he might draw each of us, by name, to him”.
Robert D. Hales, of the quorum of apostles
  • Personal revelation is essential, but that is only one part of the Holy Ghost’s mission.
  • The Holy Ghost testifies of Christ, brings us peace, gives us spiritual gifts, sanctifies us )and so on for a rather long list).
  • The Holy Ghost isn’t given to us to control us—we shouldn’t trivialize [his word!] the Holy Ghost by seeking inspiration on every single issue.
  • A reminder that we aren’t entitled to revelation where we don’t have stewardship.
  • [He said that Joseph Smith received the first vision and told his parents, whereupon he was “released from his farm responsibilities”. My 14-year-old, watching with me, then asked if she can get released from her school responsibilities if she tells us she’s had a vision.]