Sunday, April 5, 2015

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Sunday afternoon session

Not only are we now in the Saturday afternoon session, but Jeffrey R. Holland and Dieter F. Uchtdorf have already spoken—i’m guessing the viewership numbers are pretty steeply down. But, of course, that’s just me being cynical, so whatever.

Anyway, since this may be the first post someone sees in this string of general conference posts, a full explanation of the way they’re structured: Since blogs have the bizarre feature of requiring one to read bottom-up in order to get a chronological picture of things, that means that below this post 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 makes for a rather odd ordering, but the positive of it is that it means you can scroll down to the bottom of the Saturday morning session post and read bottom-up from there through the entire conference.

One caveat: Under each speaker my comments are ordered top-down. This adds a layer of confusion, but it’s the only way i could get it to work for me, and since i’m the one writing this…

Closing thoughts
  • Jeffrey R. Holland and, close behind him, Dieter F. Uchtdorf were amazing and gave the best addresses of the weekend, but the seventies who spoke were surprisingly good. I mean, admit it, most of the time a string of addresses by seventies is an excuse for a nap—but they were batting better than .500 this time around, and that made for an enjoyable conference.
  • What was with all the lists? I mean, i get that they can be a useful way of organizing thoughts, but was there a memo suggesting everyone use them all of a sudden.
  • What’s up with the whole “everybody get married” thing that came up over and again? Mormon marriage rates are still high—so why the apparent freak-out?
  • Robert D. Hales’s address is going to make all the movement social conservatives happy.
  • Quentin L. Cook responded directly to claims that have been made by voices on the internet, which is fairly unusual.
  • Richard G. Scott didn’t speak—i knew he was ill, but it takes a lot to keep someone from speaking at conference, really.
  • Similarly, Thomas S. Monson didn’t close the conference, which is a break with tradition—even when Ezra Taft Benson couldn’t speak, his counselors read a statement from him, or an address built from addresses he’d given in the past.
  • The dissenting votes during the sustaining of church officers and authorities made for an interesting moment.
  • Speaking of that, the dissenting votes in conference weren’t as unusual as a number of people thought, given the internet chatter at the moment. I’d hope, though, that we all take the opportunity to learn that the sustaining of officers is an active, not passive process. That evening i heard one young full-time missionary assert that any dissent is a sign of apostasy, since callings come from God; fortunately, a number of us were there to (gently) inform him that it’s the duty of members to dissent if they know the person being presented is unworthy or otherwise unfit for the office.
  • Finally, kind of a meta-observation: General conferences used to include addresses from all of the general authorities (back when it was the first presidency, the quorum of apostles, the presidency of the seventy, the presiding bishopric, and the presiding patriarch, full stop). Then the number of general authorities started expanding, and some speaking slots went to general officers, and they started rotating through the speakers—but you’d still hear everyone every couple or three years at least. Now there are general authorities who never get a chance to speak in general conference, i think (though i’d have to double-check that statement to make sure). We’ve gone through a sizable rework of the nature of the job of a general authority during the past half century, and most of us haven’t even noticed it, i think.
  • And now it’s time to finish up Easter dinner. See y’all in October!

Russell M. Nelson (of the quorum of apostles)
  • “Is the sabbath really a delight for you and for me?”
  • The sabbath is God’s gift to us, to give us a chance to rest from duty and receive spiritual and physical relief.
  • When he was younger he compiled list of acceptable and unacceptable sabbath behaviors, but later learned that the real deciding item was not whether it appeared on a list, but rather “What sign do i want to give to God?”
  • What can we do to make the sabbath a delight to us?
  • The sabbath is a wonderful time to strengthen family ties by teaching our children.
  • No other work in the gospel takes the place of righteous, intentional parenting.
  • Isaiah tell us the sabbath should be a delight, but also tells us how to make it a delight, including delighting in the things of the Lord and not your own pleasures.
  • “Faith in God engenders a love for the sabbath. Faith in the sabbath engenders a love for God.”

Joseph W. Sitati (of the quorums of seventy)
  • [East African-accented English for the win!]
  • God commands us to be fruitful, which includes bringing forth the kingdom of God on earth.
  • When we take the name of Christ on ourselves we become witness of him in all times and places and circumstances.
  • The promise to every couple who is sealed and faithful is that Satan will not have power to undermine their relationship.
  • The commandment to subdue the earth includes gaining mastery over our own bodies so that we can receive the power that comes from becoming obedient to the will of God.

Jorge F. Zeballos (of the quorums of seventy), delivered in Spanish
  • [Watching this one in Spanish with English subtitles so my oldest can listen in the language she’s learning—and dang, this guy talks fast!]
  • Quoting Joseph Fielding Smith (i think) that we have two great responsibilities: to seek our own salvation, and to help seek the salvation of all others.
  • Just as the opposite of success is failure, the opposite of salvation is damnation.
  • We must learn our duty—desiring to do what we should is not helpful if we don’t find a way to know what we should do.
  • Once we have learned our duty, we must choose to do what we have learned we should do.
  • We must accept God’s will—it is not our place to demand.

Neil L. Andersen (of the quorum of apostles)
  • Keeping an eternal perspective isn’t always easy in the midst of trying times.
  • Being aware of miracles surrounding us can help us see the miracles in our own lives.
  • The locations of temple come by revelation, and are an acknowledgment of the righteousness of the people there.
  • Told stories about members from the countries the just-announced temples will be built (Haiti, Thailand, and Côte d’Ivoire).
  • Sometimes we can see the hand of the Lord in others’ lives, but have trouble seeing it in our own—but we are to fear not, and remember that God notes even the fall of the sparrow.
  • As you keep the commandments and are aware of the hand of God in your life, God will open your eyes so that you will see that you’re not alone.

Dieter F. Uchtdorf (of the first presidency), announcements
  • Starts off in German as a joke. As a German speaker, i don’t see why he felt the need to switch to English…

Rafael E. Pino (of the quorums of seventy), delivered in Spanish
  • Our Heavenly Father first taught Adam and Eve the plan of redemption, and then he gave them commandments.
  • People are more obedient when they understand the gospel plan.
  • [I do wish we had subtitles rather than overdubbing for non-English-language addresses—but it would make writing these notes while listening much, much more difficult.]
  • Depending on how we’re looking at something, even that which is extremely appealing can appear hideous.
  • “The Lord knows where each piece belongs so that it fits into the plan…It is extremely important that we do not make decisions of eternal value from a mortal perspective.”
  • Differing perspectives lead to different attitudes even when the experiences are identical.
  • Murmuring comes from not having an eternal perspective.
  • The Lord knows what each of us is to become, and we do not have the right to counsel otherwise.

Kevin W. Pearson (of the quorums of seventy)
  • Two of Satan’s greatest tools are distraction and deception.
  • To just “hang in there” is not a principle of the gospel—our job is to endure to the end, which requires total commitment.
  • “God’s commandments are strict but not restrictive.”
  • Trials can spiritually blind us unless we hold to the word of God.
  • “Searching #spaciousbuilding will not lead you to truth.” [Okay, admit it, who else went straight to Twitter and tried it? I know i did—and i was clearly not alone.]
  • “Giving in, giving up, and giving out are not options…Average is the enemy of excellence.”
  • [This one started out kinda slow, but built nicely. Not the kind of content and delivery that speaks directly to me, really, but there’s a lot of people who needed precisely this, i suspect.]

Robert D. Hales (of the quorum of apostles)
  • Moral agency is essential to the plan of God—and Satan and his followers exercised their agency to rebel, just as Jesus exercised his agency to sustain God the Father.
  • Our exercise of agency has allowed us to be in a position to know who we are and receive what God has in store for us.
  • M
  • To keep the commandments we must know the doctrines of the church.
  • No matter your past, it isn’t too late to exercise your agency to be obedient to the commandments of God.
  • To fully exercise our agency as God wills, we must have religious liberty.
  • Religious liberty includes the freedom to believe without criticism[!] from others, the freedom to share faith and beliefs with others, the freedom to form a religious organization, and the freedom to freely live one’s faith in private and in public.
  • Those who insist that their viewpoints and actions be tolerated by society shouldn’t be intolerant of religious beliefs and viewpoints. [Does this mean that we need to be more tolerant of the beliefs and viewpoints of the non-religious, too? Just askin’.]
  • Joseph Smith publicly declared his willingness to earnestly defend the rights of those in all denominations, not just ours.
  • “How we live our religion is much more important than what we may say about our religion.”

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Sunday morning session

You know, i always think of the Sunday morning session as the obvious biggest-deal session, and it might used to have been,* particularly back in the day when it was the only session people in lots of places could actually ever see, but nowadays? I really think the focus has blurred a bit.

* Gratuitous Southernism thrown in at no additional charge.

So: Like all the rest of these, my notes are in “liveblog” style (y’all** remember liveblogs? anyone?), where the first speaker is at the bottom of the post, the next speaker is above that, the next is above that, and so on. This means that by the end of the conference you’ll be able to scroll down to the bottom of the Saturday morning session post and scroll up to read through the entire conference chronologically. However, under each speaker, the comments are done top-down, because otherwise i’d just be confusing myself to no end.

** Second bonus gratuitous Southernism thrown in at no additional charge.

Anyway, off to the races.

Dieter F. Uchtdorf (of the first presidency)
  • [Jeffrey R. Holland and Dieter F. Uchtdorf speaking back to back? People’s brains gon’ ’splode!]
  • The Easter resurrection of Jesus changed everything—it changed my life, it changed your life, it changed the destine of all of God’s children.
  • And because of it, Satan has no lasting power.
  • It is marvelous that the Son of God would condescend to save us, as imperfect as we are—so why? All that it can be is that God loves us deeply.
  • The scriptures often call this love “the grace of God”. [I’ve not heard that connection often before—i like it.]
  • “We should know about God’s grace if we intend to inherit what has been prepared for us”.
  • “Grace unlocks the gates of heaven”—all of us are unworthy no matter what we do, and so we are powerless to overcome the barrier of justice except that the atonement allows mercy to appease those demands.
  • The grace of God doesn’t merely erase our sins and restore us to an innocent state—God has a higher aim, desiring us to become exalted, receiving of the fullness of God.
  • To receive that glory we must enter the gate of heaven changed in such a dramatic way that it is described as being “born again”.
  • “Grace opens the windows of heaven”—it is by God’s amazing grace that we can be blessed to allow us to overcome the Deceiver, rise above sin, and become perfected in Christ.
  • God’s grace offers us both temporal blessings and spiritual gifts that help refine us to become our best selves.
  • Are we confident and comfortable in our good deeds, impatient with those who don’t live up to our standards, checking off all the good-doings boxes—or do we love much, understanding our indebtedness to God?
  • When we pray, do we recite a list of our obedience and accomplishments or do we plead for forgiveness?
  • If grace is so amazing, then, why do we even care about obedience? Because we obey out of love for and gratitude to God.
  • This love and gratitude will miraculously merge our actions with the will of God.
  • Sometimes we misinterpret “we are saved by grace, after all we can do”—after does not mean because. [And now i would like to take a moment to thank him for pointing this out—it’s a big problem in our discussions of obedience, i feel.]
  • “Today and forevermore, God’s grace is available to all whose hearts are broken and whose spirits are contrite.”
  • [Intense end to an intense session. Glad that the last two addresses finally gave us a focus on Easter and its meaning. Off to make an Alaska-time-zone brunch and try to reset my mind so it can pay attention for the afternoon.]

Jeffrey R. Holland (of the quorum of apostles)
  • “Although we should always remember—we promise in our weekly sacramental prayer we will—nevertheless, this [Easter] is the most sacred day of the year” to remember that Jesus reached into “the very abyss of death” to save us.
  • We cannot fully comprehend the atonement of Christ (and thus not fully celebrate Easter or Christmas) without understanding the reality of Adam and Eve and the Fall.
  • All of us were, because of the Fall, doomed to eternal death—so is that our only purpose? To leap as high as we can, survive for our threescore years and ten, and then fall forever into nothingness? The answer is an emphatic and eternal no!
  • The entire sequence was part of the divine plan of God, to provide for our eternal happiness and given us a Savior to atone for the Fall.
  • “Jesus of Nazareth was and is that Savior of the world, the ‘last Adam’, the author and finisher of our faith, the alpha and omega of eternal life.”
  • “So today we celebrate the gift of victory” over all of our sorrows and fears and death and sins.
  • Jesus atoned for our sins and rose from death so that he could grasp us as we fell and raise us to eternal life.
  • [Dang. That was intense. There’s times that i bemoan the fact that we don’t really have a tradition of old-time-religion revival-style preaching in our church—and then Jeffrey R. Holland comes in and reminds me that no, it’s not always foregrounded but we totally do have it.]

Brent H. Nielson (of the quorums of seventy)
  • [If you’re speaking in the slot immediately before Jefrrey R. Holland, you ought to be allowed to speak without his speaking slot already having been announced—it just seems like it would be fairer.]
  • How should we respond when a family member falls away from the church?
  • We should continue to love and hope, and be patient with those who struggle—and, most emphatically, don’t push them away from being part of the family.
  • Telling (with permission) the story of his sister’s falling away from and return to the church: “Although we could not embrace all of her choices, we most certainly could embrace her.”
  • Sometimes the way to leave the ninety and nine and seek out the one that is lost is to watch and wait and pray and love.
  • Even those who continue faithful fall short and are lost and need to be found—all of us are, like the prodigal son, on the long path back home.
  • [Really, really amazing sermon. The seventies are kicking it hard this conference.]

Gérald Caussé (of the presiding bishopric)
  • [Another person not a native speaker of English—he’s from France—speaking in English.]
  • Sometimes when even wonderful things are around us all the time we don’t really notice they’re there.
  • Such wonders include our conversions and answers to our prayers.
  • “Is the gospel still wonderful to you?”
  • Never tire of (re)discovering the truths of the gospel.
  • French guy quoting Marcel Proust!
  • Our amazement should be rooted in simple truths.
  • Most wonders of the gospel cannot be perceived through our natural senses, but must be perceived through our spiritual senses with the help of the Holy Ghost.

José A. Teixeira (of the quorums of the seventy)
  • [He’s Portuguese. Not Brazilian, actually from Portugal. Speaking in English, though.]
  • Tribulations can hit us hard enough we can think that happiness is impossible—which makes it vital to focus on Jesus Christ, who is the only source of a fullness of joy anyway.
  • As we focus on Jesus Christ, we will have a greater desire and ability to live joyfully.
  • Be careful not to prioritize relationships with those we haven’t ever really met (i.e., people we know only online) over those in our own families.
  • Pivot to a discussion of how to use the internet healthily.
  • “Make time to set aside your mobile device…Life is not confined to a four-inch screen.” [That’s why i got an HTC—the screen’s five inches.☺]

Rosemary M. Wixom (general president of the primary organization)
  • The Lord can only teach an inquiring mind.
  • We need to support and love those who are struggling with doubts, but give them enough space to work through what they’re facing.
  • A story of a member who went through a bout of inactivity caused not by sin or apathy or falsely feeling slighted (or any of the other easy excuses for active members to explain inactivity), but rather simply as a part of the journey toward true conversion.
  • To rebuild faith, start with the basic doctrines (e.g., those in the Children’s Songbook).
  • It’s okay to work to believe even if you don’t know and understand everything in the gospel you might have struggles with.
  • Hold to what you know as you struggle to learn and understand what you don’t know—and be patient with and support those who don’t know what you know rather than castigating them for their lack of knowledge.
  • [This was an interesting address—it couched everything within the “safe”-for-female-speakers topics of the primary organization and women’s lives and struggles, but the overall message went beyond where you normally hear addresses with those foci go. Very nicely done.]

Thomas S. Monson (president of the high priesthood)
  • The church has concentrated efforts on completing announced temples for past two years, but today he’s announcing three new ones: Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire; Port-au-Prince, Haiti; and Bangkok, Thailand. [I’m really, really, really hoping that the Bangkok temple isn’t a cookie-cutter one, but one that reflects local architecture—instant prettiest temple in the world!]
  • The temple is a place of peace and fulfillment of our needs.
  • The sealings that occur in the temple are a particular source of peace and hope.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Priesthood session

Priesthood session—the one lots of us still go to the church building to see even though it really isn’t necessary to do so anymore.

As with the others of these, the speakers are in reverse chronological order (i.e., bottom-up), but the comments for each speaker are in top-down chronological order, top-down. This session, then, begins at the end of the post, and you scroll up from there.

Thomas S. Monson (president of the high priesthood)
  • Even the youngest Aaronic priesthood holder should be given a chance to magnify his calling.
  • [Yeah, he’s not looking well, but he can totally deliver a story with perfect comic timing—the man’s still got it!]
  • Each opportunity he has had to give a priesthood blessing has resulted in gratitude that God has shown such trust as to allow him that power.
  • “As bearers of the priesthood of God, we are engaged in the work of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
  • [Wow—that was a rousing finish. It sounded like something you might hear in a general conference from the 1940s or 1950s from one of the general authorities who’d been a full-time missionary back around the turn of the 20th century—old school represent!]

Henry B. Eyring (of the first presidency)
  • There are times when you will need inspiration without time to prepare, and to get that you will need to have prayed for the companionship of the Holy Ghost.
  • We don’t need long or eloquent prayers, but we do need to pray often that God will recognize us and hear our prayers.
  • You need to learn to shut out the distractions around you to receive inspiration when you need it.
  • If we sin we reduce our power to receive inspiration, and thus to perform our priesthood responsibilities.
  • Pray for the companionship of the Holy Ghost, and work to keep it—and if you do that, God will “warn and guide you into the right path”.
  • Remember the parable of the workers in the vineyard, where they were paid not for how long they worked, but how well they worked.
  • [This wasn’t necessarily my favorite address of the conference in terms of its delivery or even its content, but it’s probably the most powerful one so far in terms of how immediately useful the message is.]

Dieter F. Uchtdorf (of the first presidency)
  • There is nothing wrong with wanting to look our best, but when taken to extremes it becomes deceitful.
  • Remember that if a priesthood holder tries to hide shortcomings, “amen to the priesthood or authority of that man”.
  • It is dangerous to confuse the form of godliness with the power of God.
  • The temptation to appear better than we are can occur in our personal lives, but it can also affect the way we fulfill our church callings.
  • When we set goals for a church unit or organization, we should ask how our goals will make a difference in the lives of our struggling and afflicted members.
  • Worthy goals can’t always be measured in ways that are visible to mortals, and what we mortals can measure isn’t always worthwhile in the eyes of God. [The next time someone in a ward council says we need specific, quantifiable, measurable goals, i am so whipping this out on them.]
  • What the Savior would want to know from us is not statistics or how we administer programs, but rather the condition of our hearts.
  • We should honestly ask ourselves: Why do i serve in the church?
  • Whether you are spiritually thriving or not, the good news is that you can build on whatever foundation you have now—and remember that most bonfires start with just a small spark.
  • “We come to church not to hide our problems, but to heal them.”
  • Remember that Jesus often told people he served not to tell others what he had done, and that when he was called “good” he deflected the praise to God.

Larry M. Gibson (recently released from the young men general presidency)
  • Let your eternal destiny drive all your decisions.
  • One of our most sacred priesthood duties is to be a father.
  • Remember that your sons will learn how to be husbands and fathers from your example. [Does this mean that i, as a father of girls but not boys, don’t have to be a good example of a husband and father?☺]
  • Fulfilling Aaronic priesthood duties prepares one to become a worthy father.
  • [Sometimes i feel like the non-general authority conference speakers put a little bit extra into their speeches, you know?]

Ulisses Soares (of the quorums of seventy), delivered in Portuguese
  • Remember that Satan and his angels also know the plan of salvation, because they were with us in the council where it was laid out for us.
  • If we have the moral courage to obey God’s will, we will be strengthened and can win the fight against Satan.
  • We must remember that Satan only has power against us if we allow it.
  • To conquer, we must place our trust in and have faith in God.

M. Russell Ballard (of the quorum of apostles)
  • Started with a reminder that he issued the challenge to “raise the bar” for full-time missionary service in 2002.
  • Prospective full-time missionaries used to be interviewed by a general authority; he wishes it was still the case, but the realities of a growing church make it impossible.
  • A description of the process of issuing a full-time mission call: A photo of the candidate comes on the screen along with comments from the bishop and stake president plus the answers the candidate gave in the paperwork.
  • 13 years ago he issued a call for the greatest generation of missionaries in the history of the church; tonight, he is issuing a call for the greatest generation of young adults in the church—we need to “raise the bar” on being a young adult.
  • Post-mission, remember that preparing for life and family is a continuous process.
  • “‘RM’ doesn’t mean ‘retired Mormon’.”
  • Studying the gospel (including seminary, institute, or church college religion classes) provides balance to life.
  • Don’t fear marriage. [What is it with all the stuff about getting married? I mean, it’s not like i’m seeing some massive number of single thirtysomethings at church, so what’s going on here?]

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Saturday afternoon session

Saturday afternoon—the session when we get the traditional pair of really cool (statistical report) and pointless (church finance boilerplate) addresses.

Once again, the speakers are in reverse chronological order, as if they were each a separate blog post—but with the comments i make for each speaker given in chronological order, top-down (again, as if each speaker, not each comment, is a separate post). So to start, scroll to the end of the post and read upward from there.

Quentin L. Cook (of the quorum of apostles)
  • [Today i learned: If the pictures that went with his address were selected by him, Quentin L. Cook’s referent for the word sunflower is different from mine.]
  • No matter the commotion of the world around us, we can remain rooted in the gospel.
  • If we teach our children well and make sure they’re loved and safe at home, they will remain rooted in the gospel, which will bring them joy and keep them safe throughout their lives.
  • Our church units are based on geography, meaning that individuals of all sorts of backgrounds and races and social classes are mixed together [except for some cases of language differences, which he mentioned, and marital status, which he didn’t], and we should rejoice in that mixture.
  • [He mentioned that we, by canon, hold that everyone should get to hear the gospel and pray to God in their own language—which made me realize that all of the addresses in today’s conference have been delivered in English.]
  • While we treasure cultural diversity, we need to be united in the culture of the gospel.
  • Some have concerns about the gospel—we should not be critical of those with such concerns, and those with such concerns should work through them diligently.
  • A straight-up denial and rebuttal of the claims some have made that an increasing number of people are leaving the church, including a mention that the number of people having their names removed from the rolls of the church is down, and the number of temple recommend holders is up.

Michael T. Ringwood (of the quorums of seventy)
  • Shout out to Shiblon, the (often-forgotten) middle son!
  • Offering praise to those who are truly good and without guile, those who are motivated by doing good for their fellow humans rather than praise and titles.
  • Such people can be found in all lands and in all faith traditions.
  • If you look closely in your ward or branch, you will find people like those, those who know how to find how needs help, and then provide it.
  • Telling the story of finding out that a missionary companion with a reputation as a weak missionary was actually really amazingly great, and telling his mission president that he wanted to tell everyone else how great his companion was—but the mission president said something like “God knows that, and i know that, and now you do, too—who else is necessary?”
  • Real disciples of Christ are motivated by the desire do good continually, even though their service is often noticed by God alone.
  • [Not as spectacular an address, but still, another really good one—way to put pressure on the concluding speaker!]

Dale G. Renlund (of the quorums of seventy)
  • Quoting Nelson Mandela: “I’m no saint—that is, unless you think a saint is a sinner who keeps on trying.”
  • God promises forgiveness if we repent, to the degree that our sins will not even be mentioned to us.
  • “We need to remember that it isn’t the Holy Ghost who tells us we’re so far gone that we need to give up.”
  • Jesus can particularly help those who suffer because of things that aren’t their own fault—remember, he knows perfectly what it means to suffer innocently.
  • We must not only be tolerant of others’ struggles with their sins, we must be kind and patient with them.
  • We need to evaluate our lives, repent, and keep on trying—and allow others to try.
  • We are only Latter-day Saints if we try, persevere, and help others to try.
  • [That one was pretty intensely good, too. Yep, the seventies are showing everybody else up today…]

Wilford W. Andersen (of the quorums of seventy)
  • We can do a good job teaching the “dance steps” (that is, the doctrines and practices of our religion), but not always the “music” (that is, the spiritual fulfillment of the gospel).
  • Didn’t get the wording precisely right, but: If we teach our children to dance without helping them hear the music, we run the risk of them no longer dancing, or just as bad, continuing to dance without the music.
  • Equating receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost with the “spiritual music” he’s talking about. [Can i just say that this metaphor works a lot better for me than the lightning bolt/flashlight one that’s often used to describe the Gift of the Holy Ghost?]
  • Dissonance in the home cannot be scolded away.
  • “If you’re not feeling the music of the gospel in your home, remember these two words: Keep practicing.”
  • [Extended metaphors don’t often work very well, but this one did—easily my favorite address of the conference so far.]

D. Todd Christofferson (of the quorum of apostles)
  • A physical nature is necessary for the completeness that God has, and that we may attain.
  • We are being tested on whether we can bridle our bodies’ passions so that the body becomes the servant of the spirit rather than the master.
  • For God’s plan to work, at least four things are needed: an earth, mortality, redemption, and a setting for our birth (meaning families).
  • Nothing in this life is more important than physical birth and spiritual rebirth.
  • Marriage has been encouraged by society for societal good, not simply for the happiness and fulfillment of the individuals involved.
  • [Use of the term “human sexuality”! We really are stopping being afraid of words, it appears.]
  • “Many things are good, many are important, but only a few are essential.”
  • In his list of reasons people may not have been able to be married in this life, he included “fear of failure”, interestingly enough.
  • Everyone has talents to offer, no matter their marital or family opportunities or status.
  • “No one is predestined to receive less than all that the Father has to offer his children.” [I think i got the wording at least nearly right.]

David A. Bednar (of the quorum of apostles)
  • One of the first effects of the Fall was for Adam and Eve to feel fear.
  • “Correct knowledge of and faith in the Lord empower us to hush our fears”.
  • We live in an era where there is much to fear, but if we look to and build on a foundation of Christ and then press forward in faith, our fears can be overcome.
  • [Lots of content in the middle of this—nothing groundbreaking, but lots of important things, but not really much of the sort of stuff that lends itself to notes in this format.]
  • Contrasting worldly fear, which creates alarm and anxiety, with godly fear, which leads to peace and self-assurance.
  • Godly fear involves worshipfulness and awe, and grows out of a correct understanding of God and God’s judgment.
  • We will be judged with a perfect knowledge of our “rationalizations, pretensions, and self-deceptions”.
  • We cannot be good enough to be saved—we are made whole only through the atonement of Jesus Christ.

Brook P. Hales (secretary to the first presidency), church statistical report
  • And cue all the folks on anti-Mormon (as opposed to con-Mormon) blogs spinning this into “evidence” that the church is shrinking in 3…2…
  • Six digits of full-time missionaries?!!
  • Really short statistical report this time around, it felt like.

Kevin R. Jergensen (of the church auditing department), church auditing report
  • This seems a bit expanded from previous years—a sentence with some actual content on how to live one’s life for the members.

Dieter F. Uchtdorf (of the first presidency), sustaining of church general authorities and officers
  • Dissenting votes on the first presidency, and elsewise! (Noisy votes, too, which seems a bit obnoxious for the context, but i suppose the individual or individuals may have felt they wouldn’t be seen otherwise.) Response, consistently: “The vote has been noted”, which seems to me the proper way of reacting.
  • This quorum of apostles has been together and unchanged for 6 years—that’s a long time for a group like that, really.
  • Releases to the young men general presidency and general board, and to the counselors (but not president) of the relief society general presidency. (Complete revamp of the young men one; i think the relief society second counselor moved to first counselor.)
  • So i’ve learned something about church policies today—if you vote in the negative at general conference, you’re directed to your stake president. I’ve actually wondered for a long time who someone who voted that way was supposed to speak to.

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Saturday morning session

So it’s time for me to return for my biennial flurry of posts (and approving comments/deleting spam held in the moderation queue, if anything’s come in over the previous six months) summarizing and reacting to general conference addresses.

As always, these posts are done in semi-liveblogging style—the speakers are in chronological order, but backwards, as if they were each a separate blog post. Under each speaker, though, the comments i make are in chronological order, top-down (again, as if each speaker, not each comment, is a separate post). This means that to start reading, you’ll now scroll to the end and read upward from there (and by the time all of conference is over, you can read the whole ten hours of it, bottom up).

L. Tom Perry (of the quorum of apostles)
  • Describing his experiences at a Vatican-hosted conference on marriage, including observing an Islamic scholar quoting on our own proclamation on the family.
  • A focus on marriage and family cuts across political and religious differences: “When it comes to love of spouse, hopes and dreams for children, we are all the same.”
  • So if we’re all the same, how does our church distinguish itself? Answer: Only we have the eternal perspective on the family that comes from the restored gospel.
  • It isn’t just the religious who value strong marriages and families.
  • [He actually denounced portrayals of—and he used this term—casual sex. Hurrah! for being willing to use actual terms, and not dance around things with phrasings like “that most intimate relationship between man and woman” or whatever.]
  • A listing of challenges to strong marriages and families, including not just the usual suspects like mass media and such, but also the time pressures of the modern world. [So does this mean we’re going to have fewer activities and meetings and such for active church members? Just wondering, that’s all.]

L. Whitney Clayton (of the presidency of the seventy)
  • (An extended object lesson from the experience of the survivor of a plane crash.)
  • No matter how dark or hopeless the moment, there will always be a spiritual light for us to find and follow.
  • To do this, God requires that we first at least desire to believe.
  • “Belief and faith require our personal choice and action.”
  • [Every time he’s saying knocketh—as in to him that knocketh it shall be opened—i’m hearing mocketh, which totally changes the meaning and is causing repeated mental double-takes on my part.]
  • We have to choose to believe, and embrace belief rather than choosing doubt.
  • If progress seems slow, do not give up and you will find you’ve made the best choice possible.

Dallin H. Oaks (of the quorum of apostles)
  • Just as Jesus didn’t talk much about how to deal with things like political oppression in his day but focused on changing oneself, his modern servants generally do the same.
  • Focusing today on the parable of the sower—one of the few parables to appear in all of the synoptic gospels, and one of the few that Jesus explained.
  • The parable focuses on things that can prevent us from bringing forth a suitable heart.
  • Those with “no root in themselves” aren’t just those who join the church and then leave, but even those who are long-term members but let themselves develop a stony heart.
  • [Massive alliteration! The rhetorical spirit of Neal A. Maxwell lives on.]
  • If the emblems of the sacrament are being passed and you’re doing stuff with your electronics, you’re not letting yourself be spiritually fed, and destroying the “root” within you.
  • A warning about “the keyhole view” of the gospel—focusing on a perceived shortcoming in a single doctrine or event or individual and ignoring the larger picture.
  • The thorns that can choke our growth include materialism and “the deceitfulness of riches”—and he actually explicitly said that a prosperity-gospel approach is an example of that.
  • “Whoever has an abundance of material things is in danger of being spiritually sedated.”
  • I haven’t heard Hugh Nibley quoted in general conference in a good long while.
  • A somewhat extended reminder to not compromise on central tenets of the gospel.
  • The parable of the sower could actually well be thought of as “the parable of the soils”, since it contrasts the effects of the soils (that is, the hearts) the seeds fell on.

Linda K. Burton (general president of the relief society)
  • [Aaaaaugh! Utah relief society/primary teacher voice!☺]
  • Speaking today about men who fulfill their roles as husbands and fathers properly.
  • Do not listen to Satan’s lie that husbands and fathers are not needed—Satan has given up that possibility, and so wants to make all like him.
  • [Can i just offer an exultant Thank you! for her correct definition of help meet—not helpmeet!—from the Genesis creation story? Why yes, yes i can.]
  • As husbands and wives, we are to complete each other, not compete with each other.
  • So now she’s offering a list of questions to ask yourself about your relationship with your spouse—and going way too fast to get them down, let alone internalize them.

Boyd K. Packer (president of the quorum of apostles)
  • [Boyd K. Packer’s continuing to look good in terms of color in his face, but his voice and delivery! I don’t often think to offer a prayer for general conference speakers—i figure they’ve prayed enough for their own inspiration and don’t really need my voice thrown into the mix, but sometimes…]
  • Sex and the ability to have children (in his words, “the power of procreation” and “the desire to mate”) are not incidental to God’s plan, but are central to it.
  • Married couples are tempted and tried by all sorts of things, but through all that love can still grow stronger.
  • “But romantic love is incomplete—it is a prelude” to the conception and raising of children.
  • Any sexual contact aside from that between a man and a woman (yes, he specified that) who are legally and lawfully married is a sin.
  • A nod to those who are born unable to bear/beget children, those who are never able to marry, or have other such issues—and a reminder that God is perfectly merciful, including that if we have faith in God in this life alone, we are doomed to misery.
  • “The atonement bears[?] no scars”—if we have truly repented, the atonement provides a way to escape even guilt and heartache and turn it to eternal beauty and love.
Henry B. Eyring (of the first presidency)
  • In the parable of the sheep and goats, those who receive eternal life are those who helped the needy and afflicted. How can we merit this?
  • Obeying the Law of the Fast is how we do it, with the church giving the opportunity to fulfill this via fast offerings.
  • Spencer W. Kimball said not obeying the Law of the Fast (including fasting on Fast Sundays and offering fast offerings) is a sin.
  • Offering fast offerings lets us be a part of wider efforts to help those in need (with specific examples, including Tropical Cyclone Pam and a family helped during the Sierra Leone Civil War).
  • Interesting bit from the story of the woman (not sure how to spell her name, so i won’t try) from Sierra Leone who was helped from fast offering donations: She attributed the help to God, because “no normal human beings” (if i recall the wording right) would do such things.
  • A reminder to not force children to fast beyond their endurance, but to focus on teaching the principle. [Question from my wife: So what is the precise principle that’s supposed to be taught?]
  • If we fast, we have the right to have God hear our prayers.
  • Giving fast offerings allows us to help God.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Sunday afternoon session

Sunday afternoon, the chance to relax a little bit—the conference is mostly done, and for those of us on the left coast and beyond there’s still a nice chunk of afternoon for hanging out.

I realized that if someone comes on this blog, this is the first post about this conference they’ll see, so I should give a full description of the way these are set up rather than the abbreviated intro i’m generally giving at this point in the process. So: My general conference posts are done in a manner that imitates liveblogging, more or less—the speakers are in given in a reverse chronological order, as if each one headed a separate blog post. Under each speaker, though, the comments i make are in chronological order, top-down (because the idea is that each speaker, not each comment, is a separate post). Therefore, if you want to read through this in chronological order, you scroll to the end and read upward from there—and if you want to read chronologically through the entire conference, you can go to the end of the Saturday morning session’s entry and read the whole ten hours of it, bottom up.

Thomas S. Monson (president of the high priesthood)

  • General conference was good.
  • Remember to reach out to those in need.
  • Thanks offered for prayers from the membership.
  • So he ends by invoking the blessings of the Lord on all of us…and it’s a wrap!

David A. Bednar (of the quorum of apostles)

  • Answering the question: “Why are Latter-day Saints so eager to tell me about what they believe?”
  • “We are not trying to sell you a product.”
  • We are not trying to diminish others’ religious truths, but are inviting all to come and see what we have to offer.
  • Oh. My. His story about his sons is hilarious. Seriously. Go look it up. (And what’s the over-under on how long it takes for it to be turned into a Mormon Message video?)
  • When we are helped by something, it becomes our desire to use that to help others.
  • Absolute truth exists, despite the world disdaining absolute truths.

Larry S. Kacher (of the quorums of seventy)

  • (I have to admit: When they flashed his name up on screen, i had not expected that spelling.)
  • He tells the story of his conversion to the church, and some of the challenges he faced.
  • “I asked myself, why would i turn away from that which had brought me such great comfort?”
  • Those who deny the gospel may receive mortal honors for a time, but they lose so much more.

Hugo E. Martinez (of the quorums of seventy), delivered in Spanish

  • When we see a need (or when the Spirit directs) we should go and serve right away.
  • He tells a story of having no power or water for two weeks after a hurricane, and the blessings they received from other people’s actions during that time. Having experienced similar aftereffects from a hurricane—yeah, it’s an amazing thing to recognize the work of God in the charitable actions of others.
  • Those who help others in need are doing the work of God.
  • “The Good Shepherd will gather all of his sheep, one by one, as they make good moral choices.”
  • Doing temple work for the dead is another way to serve God’s children.
  • A reminder that in the parable of the sheep and goats, those who are received of the Lord are those who had done good to other people.

Allan F. Packer (of the quorums of seventy)

  • “Frequent small corrections are less painful and disruptive than large course corrections.”
  • The church helps us qualify for exaltation, but cannot do it for us.
  • Quoting his father (Boyd K. Packer)! (He looks like him, too.)
  • Family history work should be a family activity more than a church activity.
  • Sharing stories about family with your children is doing family history work.

Carlos A. Godoy (of the quorums of seventy), delivered in Portuguese

  • Expressing gratitude for the ability to speak in general conference in his native language.
  • A good question to ask yourselves: If we continue to live as we are living, will the promised blessings be fulfilled?
  • We do not need to see an angel to obtain understanding, because we have such things as the scriptures, temples, inspired leaders—and above all, personal revelation.
  • Moses and Lehi did not have easy journeys even though they made correct decisions.
  • Each of us is a child of God, and God wants us to reach our potential.

Richard G. Scott (of the quorum of apostles)

  • Sometimes we may feel more aware of the negatives in mortality than the positives—but despite all of the challenges we have, we must exercise our faith to invite the positive power of the atonement.
  • “Choose to converse with your Father in Heaven often.”
  • God is interested in even the most mundane parts of your life.
  • If you want your children to recognize the influence of the Spirit, you must study the scriptures with them.
  • (Lots of stuff about how we need to rearrange our priorities such that we spend more time with our families.)
  • If you don’t have a temple recommend, get one. If you have a temple recommend, use it often.

M. Russell Ballard (of the quorum of apostles)

  • We need to experience a continuing conversation throughout our lives.
  • Nice add of “and sisters” to the Book of Mormon text!
  • Those who go astray are usually those who forget that the combined voice of the quorums of the apostles and the first presidency is the voice of the Lord for our time. (Interesting bit, that last prepositional phrase.)
  • Church leaders are not out of touch, and do not live in a bubble.
  • Sometimes we are tempted to be distracted by the appendages to our faith rather than the core.
  • Experiencing doubts is not inconsistent with discipleship, and members are always free to ask questions to gain greater understanding.

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Sunday morning session

Sunday morning—if for no other reason than tradition (it’s Sunday! And in the morning!), this is the one that people think of as the important one. To be honest, though, when was the last time something big was announced in this session rather than one of the Saturday sessions? he asked, wondering if karma would ensure he’d be proven wrong this time.

Anyway, as with the other entries in this series, the speakers are in reverse chronological order, with my notes on each speaker’s address in forward chronological order under each speaker. So now to the end of the entry and…

Closing moments

  • As Thomas S. Monson left the stand, he offered a thumbs-up to a fellow fringe-bald guy. Serious LOL moment there.
  • Also, how do the wives of the apostles get over to their husbands so quickly at the end of the sessions? Whoever’s moving people around is doing some impressive logistics there.

Mormon Tabernacle Choir, closing song

  • Singing “How Firm a Foundation”—and i’m not a fan of MoTab, but they definitely do this one well. Would it have killed them to sing the whole thing, though? They certainly had time.

Thomas S. Monson (president of the high priesthood)

  • The purpose of this life is to gain a body, and see if we will obey the commandments.
  • Knowing where Jesus walked is less important than emulating how he walked.
  • Jesus was tempted and suffered, just as we must be tempted and suffer—but we, with Jesus, can walk the path of obedience and find great happiness.
  • “As we strive to put Christ at the center of our lives…he has promised to share with us eternal life, that he died to gain.”

James J. Hamula (of the quorums of seventy)

  • Jesus instituted a new ordinance with the last supper, replacing animal sacrifice with emblems of the body and blood of Christ.
  • Just as the Passover feast memorialized that death passed over the Israelites in Egypt, death will pass over those who follow Jesus.
  • The sacrament needs to be holy to us.
  • The fundamental question facing each of us is not whether we will live after this life, but with whom we will live.
  • The fact that we take the bread first and then the water in the sacrament is not inconsequential.
  • We witness that we will remember, and then we witness that we do remember—and we make a solemn promise that we will repent, and take upon us the name of the Son.
  • (So can we stop simply calling the covenants of the sacramental ordinance a renewal of baptismal covenants? He's outlining a case for it being a completely separate thing.)

Robert D. Hales (of the quorum of apostles)

  • Has spent time reviewing the final testimonies of the prophets.
  • Received a witness by the Spirit of their truth, which is one of the gifts of the Spirit—to believe on the testimonies of others.
  • (This is a hard address to summarize in notes. Lots of stuff on the members of the Godhead and their roles and the importance of knowing about them—very cool and deep stuff, but very non-soundbite-oriented.)

Dieter F. Uchtdorf (of the first presidency), conducting

  • He said “After their remarks, the choir will sing ‘Softly and Tenderly’”, at which my wife, with a smile, said “But what will the title of the song be?” [Insert rimshot here.]

Carol F. McConkie (of the young women general presidency)

  • The president of the church is the one empowered to receive revelation for the entire church.
  • We need to choose to heed prophetic counsel, and we will be protected if we do so.
  • (Possibly heretical thought: Russell M. Nelson was basically talking about the distribution of revelation, while Carol F. McConkie is talking about the concentration of revelation. They're contradicting each other in some non-obvious but significant ways.)

Russell M. Nelson (of the quorum of apostles)

  • How do we really sustain a prophet?
  • No prophets have ever chosen themselves, or been elected to that office.
  • Our sustaining is an oath-life affirmation that we recognize a prophet’s calling as a prophet.
  • The calling of fifteen men to the apostleship provides safety, because their decisions must be unanimous.
  • “These fifteen [apostles]…have very different opinions on many things. Trust me.”
  • If the president of the church is incapacitated, remember that the counselors in the first presidency are part of the quorum of the first presidency, and can carry on the work.

Henry B. Eyring (of the first presidency)

  • We need a constant stream of revelation.
  • Notice that Nephi didn’t say “I will go and do as my father commands”, but “I will go and do as the Lord commands”.
  • Revelation received by leaders requires confirming revelation on the part of those being led.
  • A description of the work done in the aftermath of the Teton Dam collapse, and the place of revelation in it. (Seriously, you want to get stuff done in a crisis situation, well, Mormons are good at that. There's a lot about Mormon culture that annoys me, but that part, yeah, i'm glad to be a part of it.)
  • Love for the prophet is much more than hero worship—it is a gift from God, and will give us the confirming revelation we will need.
  • I didn't get the wording precisely right, i think, but the way sealing powers are conferred is interesting: “Under delegation of power and authority of [name of prophet], who holds the keys to the sealing authority, i confer upon [name of recipient]…”

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Priesthood session

Priesthood session. I wonder if they’ll eventually call it the “men’s session” and invite the 8–11-year-old boys, like they did with the former relief society and young women sessions. Anyway, here’s my notes, as taken on my tablet, but with typos (hopefully!) corrected.

So: The speakers are in reverse chronological order, as if they were each a separate blog post, but the comments are in forward chronological order (since each “post” is by speaker). So now to the end, and…

Thomas S. Monson (president of the high priesthood)

  • The “unsinkable” battleship Bismarck met its doom because a torpedo damaged its rudder—just a very small part of the ship.
  • “A man without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder—unlikely to reach home port.
  • We have the responsibility to be worthy of all the blessings God has for us, no matter the confusion in the world around us.
  • Remember that the greatest power in the world today is the power of God
  • If we do not turn to God, we lose out ability to chart a wise and proper course through life.

Henry B. Eyring (of the first presidency)

  • The Aaronic priesthood is also called the lesser priesthood, and the preparatory priesthood. Tonight’s topic: That preparation.
  • The time of mortality is a time to prepare to meet God; similarly, time spent holding the Aaronic priesthood is a time to prepare.
  • Those with experience in the priesthood have a responsibility to mentor those with less experience.
  • “In priesthood preparation, ‘show me’ counts more than ‘tell me’.”
  • Show trust in less experienced priesthood holders—it will help them later.
  • Remember that correcting someone requires an increase of love afterward—this implies that there was already love there before.

Dieter F. Uchtdorf (of the first presidency)

  • When Jesus said that one of the apostles would betray him, they looked inward as asked “Is it i?” Would we do the same, or would we assume he was talking about someone else?
  • A reminder of the analogy of the beam and the mote.
  • We aren’t good at recognizing our own incompetencies—even successful people tend to overestimate their own contributions and underestimate the contributions of others.
  • Doing that, particularly in our homes and at church, robs ourselves of blessings and opportunities.
  • He gave a description of a ward with every outward statistical measure showing success, but then a sudden spate of marriages disintegrating, at least in part due to individuals there believing that they were special cases who didn’t have to devote effort to doing what they were supposed to do.
  • Are we focused on the treasures of this world, or on Jesus Christ?
  • If you desire to develop Christlike attributes, God will use you to save many souls.
  • “None of us likes to admit when we are drifting off the right course…but being able to see ourselves clearly is essential to our spiritual growth and well-being.”
  • Those who do not wish to improve probably will not; those who seek to improve themselves “will experience the miracles of the Savior’s atonement”.
  • We need to put aside our pride and ask “Is it i?” And then if the Lord says it is, there are things we can do to improve.

Dean M. Davies (of the presiding bishopric)

  • Caring for the poor and needy is an essential part of the gospel
  • Caring for the poor and needy includes both acts by the church as an organization and acts by individual members.
  • Fast offerings are a central mechanism for doing this.
  • Paraphrasing: I can think of no commandment that is easier to keep and brings greater blessings than the law of the fast and the associated giving of fast offerings.
  • The giving of fast offerings completes our adherence to the law of the fast.
  • There are some areas where it is inadvisable for holders of the Aaronic priesthood to go door to door to collect fast offerings, but bishops in those locations should still work to determine how to involve them in the process.

Craig C. Christensen (of the presidency of the seventy)

  • We may need to start out by relying on the testimonies of others, and that is a good place to begin, but we need to get to the point where we know for ourselves.
  • Great revelations have come from simply a sincere desire to know.
  • A testimony is less like a light switch (simply off and on) and more like a tree (passing through several stages of growth and development).

Quentin L. Cook (of the quorum of apostles)

  • Rise up above the rationalizations that stand in the way of following Jesus Christ.
  • We need unequivocal adherence to commandments.
  • Expressing belief in a principle but not acting in accordance with it is not a positive course of action.
  • He’s calling out people who pretend to be happier than they are on social media, and then spend their time comparing themselves to others (who may also be pretending to be happier than they are), which creates a rather destructive cycle.
  • Even worthwhile pursuits require continuous evaluation to make sure they’re not distracting from more worthwhile things.
  • Our daily conduct should be consistent with our goals.
  • There is a need to have fun and enjoy unstructured time with friends and family, but when doing such things diminishes faith in Jesus Christ, it is a tragic course.

Missionary Training Center men’s choir

  • A medley of missionary songs from the Children’s Songbook—not a bad idea, particularly given the members of the choir.

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Saturday afternoon session

Next session! I used to think the Sunday morning session was the most watched, but nowadays i’m thinking it might be this one. No idea really, though.

As always with these, the speakers are in chronological order, but backwards, as if they were each a separate blog post. Under each speaker, though, the comments i make are in chronological order, top-down. So to start reading about this session, scroll to the end and read upward from there.

L. Tom Perry, of the quorum of apostles

  • The New Testament writers didn’t worry about Jesus’s social standing or clothing—their focus was on his status as the son of God.
  • We are blessed to have the gospel of Jesus Christ in our lives, and available to us as a guide.
  • Mothers and fathers are both to strengthen their families and homes.
  • The gospel of Jesus Christ provides a foundation for lasting peace for our eternal family units.

Jeffrey R. Holland, of the quorum of apostles

  • Jesus’s first messianic duty was to bless the poor (including the poor in spirit).
  • Remember that the son of God was homeless.
  • The church hadn’t even been organized for a year when we were commanded that the poor must be helped, and not suffer.
  • (So much for a “prosperity gospel” approach to blessings, eh?)
  • We need to help others, because we can help individuals even when we can’t help everyone.
  • We are required to help those who stand in need, and impart of our substance if we have it—and if we don’t, our prayers are in vain.
  • We are expected to help ourselves before we seek help for others—but we have an obligation to help those who can’t help themselves, and God will help us know how to fulfill that commandment.
  • A shout-out for fasting and fast offerings (and other humanitarian offerings).
  • More than three-quarters of a million members of the church were helped last year from fast offering donations. (Out of 15 million, that's a lot.)
  • Paraphrasing: I have never been poor, and don’t even know how the poor feel, but I do know that there but for the grace of God go I—and I also know that I may not be my brother’s keeper, but I am my brother’s brother, and I must share.
  • Revelation says that the poor will one day see the kingdom of God coming to deliver them in power and glory—and we can be a part of that.
  • (Hurrah! for a bit of CatholicMormon social justice!)

Eduardo Gavarret (of the quorums of seventy), delivered in Spanish

  • We need to take care to know the Savior’s voice, and follow him.
  • Speaking directly to those investigating the church, but not in the “here’s the first discussion” manner you usually hear—very cool.
  • Enoch had doubts about his ability to preach the gospel, but God calmed his doubts with a “Walk with me.”
  • Feed our desire to be a better follower of Christ—pray for it.
  • Simply knowing the truth will not change your world unless you turn desire into action.

Jörg Klebingat (of the quorums of seventy)

  • So it looks like the German general authorities are showing off their English today…
  • Take responsibility for your own spiritual well-being.
  • Take responsibility for your own physical well-being.
  • Embrace voluntary, whole-hearted obedience as part of your life.
  • Choosing something bad over something worse is still wrong.
  • “Casualness in spiritual matters never was happiness.”
  • Become really, really good at repenting thoroughly and quickly.
  • Become really, really good at forgiving.
  • Accept trials and setbacks as part of your mortal experience.
  • The Savior is anxious for your confidence to wax strong in the presence of God.
  • (Dang, he spoke really, really fast.)

Tad R. Callister (Sunday School general president)

  • He starts out with Benjamin Carson’s early life (and in so doing holds up a nonmember as an example of someone fulfilling their God-given role as a good parent).
  • Parents are to teach their children the truths of the gospel.
  • We need to teach our children to get into the habit of personal prayer.
  • We may need to tell our children to get away from their electronic devices occasionally, and that’s okay, because it’s part of our jobs as parents.

Neil L. Anderson (of the quorum of apostles)

  • Spiritual issues require spiritual evidences.
  • Joseph Smith was honorable, despite the claims of his detractors; in fact, trying to rely on the claims of Joseph Smith’s detractors to try to get a clear idea of his character is an inherently flawed approach.
  • Remember that truth may be true but presented in a context that gives the entirely wrong impression.
  • Documentary evidence is useful, but ultimately “spiritual questions deserve spiritual answers from God”.
  • You aren’t fully able to help others if your own faith isn’t secure.

Dallin H. Oaks (of the quorum of apostles)

  • Why is it so difficult to love everyone around us? Because not everyone shares our beliefs and obligations
  • We cannot be the leaven of the world if we associate only with those who share our beliefs and practices.
  • Contention is forbidden not just to followers of Jesus Christ, but avoiding contention is a commandment to all.
  • A straight-up statement against same-sex marriage, rather than dancing around the issue! [My thought: Whether you agree with him or not, it's refreshing to hear direct engagement with a hot-button issue in general conference rather than code words.]
  • “Followers of Christ should be examples of civility…Though we disagree, we should not be disagreeable.”
  • If the end result on an issue ends up as something we don’t agree with, we should accept the result with civility.
  • And now a straight-up statement that forbidding your kids to play with non-Mormon kids is a Bad Thing.
  • “Kindness is powerful, especially in a family setting.”
  • This is all totally calling both Mormons and non-Mormons to repentance, but especially the Mormons.
  • “We must live with differences, but as followers of Christ, we should live peaceably with those who don't follow our beliefs.”

Henry B. Eyring (of the first presidency), presentation of general officers and area seventies

  • How long has this quorum of apostles been unchanged? [David B goes and checks.] 5½ years. That’s a long time (though not the longest, of course).
  • Not a lot of changes this time.

Dieter F. Uchtdorf (of the first presidency), opening remarks

  • He totally said Chor before correcting himself to choir! Maybe he should have spoken in German, after all…

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Saturday morning session

So this blog has become a home for these general conference summaries and nothing else. Oddly, i see that people still come by specifically for them, which i wouldn’t necessarily have expected. It’s a good excuse to take notes on what stands out to me in the meetings, though, so here i am again.

As always, these posts are done in semi-liveblogging style—the speakers are in chronological order, but backwards, as if they were each a separate blog post. Under each speaker, though, the comments i make are in chronological order, top-down (again, as if each speaker, not each comment, is a separate post). This means that to start reading, you’ll now scroll to the end and read upward from there (and by the time all of conference is over, you can read the whole ten hours of it, bottom up).

Dieter F. Uchtdorf (of the first presidency)

  • Delivered in English (but with a joke about how it might sound like German anyway).
  • And airplanes immediately after the opening joke. That may be a speed record for him.
  • We used to not believe that there was anything beyond the Milky Way galaxy. Then we discovered there was much, much more out there—not that the truth changed, but that our ability to see changed.
  • It is “a trait of humanity to assume we are right, even when we are wrong.”
  • “God wants you to find your way back to him—and the Savior is the way”
  • Search the scriptures, ponder and be grateful, and pray—and do God’s will. Then you will know of the truth.
  • If you want to recognize spiritual truth, you cannot use non-spiritual methods to do so.
  • If we remove ourselves from the light of the gospel, our light begins to dim—not immediately, but over time—until we cannot even recognize why we knew what we once knew.
  • Everyone in the church is at a different point in our testimony—and that’s okay.
  • We are not to condemn others for the amount of light they may or may not have.
  • If you seek God’s truth, that which now may appear dim will gradually be revealed by the light of God—and “it will come, and it will be glorious”.

D. Todd Christofferson (of the quorum of apostles)

  • God will not live our lives for us—he is not a puppetmaster.
  • God will not save us as we are, and will not compel us to become what we should be—but God will also not abandon us in the quest.
  • We can choose what sort of person we will become—and with the help of God, the result will be to become like God.
  • God is not arbitrary in saving some and not others.
  • Repentance allows mercy to take effect without “trampling” justice.
  • Repentance is allowed because of the atonement, but repentance is a self-willed change.
  • “A God who makes no demands is the functional equivalent of a God who does not exist.”
  • The opportunity to make our own choices is a God-given gift.

Chi Hong (Sam) Wong (of the quorums of seventy), delivered in Cantonese

  • So we get our first-ever non-English-language general conference sermon. All’s i can say is, it’s about time!
  • A discourse on the man with palsy whose bed was lowered down in front of Jesus, and how it reflects the necessity of service by members of the church.
  • I like the way he’s overlaying modern roles onto the Biblical story, It’s a high-risk rhetorical move, but it works here.
  • “To assist the Savior, we have to work together in unity and with harmony.” Every calling is important in doing this.
  • Jesus healed the man taken with the palsy because of their faith—and this could be the man, those who lowered him down, those who had prayed for him, those who were there, a spouse, parent, son, daughter…The list goes on.

Cheryl Esplin (of the primary general presidency)

  • How can the sacrament become a spiritual experience each week?
  • ”Obedience to the commandments brings the power of the gospel into our lives”.
  • The sacrament is an opportunity to bend our heart and will to that of God.
  • Jesus has his arms open to receive us, if we will.
  • If we prepare, we will receive a “renewal of our soul” from participating in the sacrament.

Lynn G. Robbins (presidency of the seventy)

  • The seventy don’t represent the people to the prophet, they represent the prophet to the people.
  • We need to have courage to do what is right, and not fear the social pressures around us.
  • Those who mock the prophets do so because they feel their own guilt.
  • Changing the standards of the church to match the standards of society is apostasy.
  • While he was on the earth, Jesus made it very clear that he was representing the Father.

Boyd K. Packer (president of the quorum of apostles)

  • Is it just me, or does he look a bit healthier than last conference?
  • The scriptures—with particular emphasis on those unique to our faith—testify of Christ.
  • Big important part of the atonement: It allows sin and guilt to be erased, leading to everlasting peace.
  • The atonement offers healing even to “the wounded innocent”.
  • He rhetorically equated the term testimony with the word hope. That’s ponder-worthy.
  • We need every member of the church, “for the body is one”.
  • So i haven’t always been terribly into Boyd K. Packer’s general conference addresses (no, not because of there frequent conservatism, just because i’m not totally into his rhetorical style), but this one was pretty amazing.

Thomas S. Monson (president of the high priesthood)

  • 90 years since general conference was first broadcast on radio! (Interesting—I’d thought it was 1921. Either way, pretty cool.)
  • Mention of the celebration of culture held at the rededication of the Ogden, Utah temple. Cue the jokes in 3…2…
  • No new temples to announce, due to a focus on completing the temples already announced.

Mormon Tabernacle Choir (opening song, “High on the Mountain Top”)

  • Hurrah! for gratuitous amens added by large choirs!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Sunday afternoon session

I’ve said before that Sunday afternoon is when everybody gets to relax a bit, ’cause they known the world isn’t watching quite as closely, or at least a lot fewer folks in the Mormon world are watching—but i don’t know if that’s really the case anymore. Anyway, at the very least you can settle in for the start of it and get yourself through it with the mantra of “Less time left than regular Sunday meetings”. (Repeat as needed.)

Anyway, as i always do with these entries, the addresses are presented in reverse chronological order, with the last speaker first and the first speaker last. This means that to read the session in chronological order, you need to scroll to the end of the post and work upwards (and to get this entire general conference in chronological order, you scroll to the end of the Saturday morning session and scroll upwards). However, the notes for each speaker run top-down, because otherwise i’d end up confusing myself really badly.

And now—onward!

Thomas S. Monson (president of the high priesthood)

  • We need to follow the Lord’s example by bearing a message of peace and goodwill, even toward those we disagree with.

D. Todd Christofferson (of the quorum of apostles)

  • A recitation of the witnesses of the resurrected Jesus Christ, and the stories of their encounters with him.
  • Jesus was able to be resurrected of his own power, affirming that he wasn’t just a carpenter or a teacher or even a prophet.
  • Jesus’s miracles were real, as were his promises to his apostles that they would perform miracles.

Marcos A. Aidukaitis (of the seventy)

  • If you examine the fruits of the church, you will find that they are delicious, and testify of the truth of the message.
  • Make sure that when you’re seeking after truth, you don’t cast out the truth.
  • It isn’t enough to ask of God in faith with an honest heart—we also have to believe we will receive.
  • It is good to receive truth from any source, but especially from revelation through the Holy Spirit.

Michael John U. Teh (of the seventy)

  • We need to be very careful about becoming focused on our material acquisitions to the point that we get distracted from things of eternal worth.
  • We need to put more time and effort into strengthening our families.
  • Where our treasure is, our hearts will be—so we need to take care that our hearts are in the right place.

Lawrence E. Corbridge (of the seventy)

  • Why was Joseph Smith persecuted? Because he taught the truth.
  • The atonement takes full effect in our lives because of what was restored through Joseph Smith.

L. Tom Perry (or the quorum of apostles)

  • An extended metaphor about driving horses, with us as the horse, and Jesus as the driver using the harness and bit as the Holy Ghost.
  • “Too often we think of obedience as passive”.

William R. Walker (of the seventy)

  • This is mostly a retelling of his own Mormon pioneer family history.
  • Did he actually just say that we are more likely to choose well if we had faithful ancestors? I’m thinking i must have misheard, but i’m afraid i didn’t.

Boyd K. Packer (president of the quorum of apostles)

  • An actual apostolic promise, phrased as such, that no blessings associated with marriage will be withheld from those who can’t marry in this life!
  • Christ is the center of everything we do in the church.

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Sunday morning session

Sunday morning! I don’t know if it’s still the case, but back in the day when you had to go to the local church building to see these, this was the big one, that one that pretty much everybody in the church went to see even if they ducked all the rest.

As with the rest of these, the addresses are presented in reverse chronological order, with the last speaker first and the first speaker at the end. If you want this session in chronological order, you need to scroll to the end of the post and work upwards. However, the notes for each speaker run top-down.

So now, scroll down to begin.

Thomas S. Monson (president of the high priesthood)

  • We need to be kind.
  • All of those we meet are those God has given us to love and serve.
  • Forgiveness goes with love
  • When we are given an opportunity to be kind, we should take it.

David A. Bednar (of the quorum of apostles)

  • We all carry loads, and they can help us—but we need to ask: (1) Is the load i am carrying allowing me to press forward with faith, and (2) is the load i am carrying helping me return to God?
  • We are not, and need not be, alone in carrying our heavy loads.
  • Making covenants and receiving ordinances allows the atonement to take effect in our lives.
  • Believing that we must carry our own loads alone through sheer grit and willpower stems from a misunderstanding of the atonement.
  • (Editorial comment: By the end of this address, my brain was totally looping “Nobody knows the trouble i’ve seen/Nobody knows my sorrow/Nobody knows the trouble i’ve seen/Nobody knows but Jesus”.)
  • (Another editorial comment: The church has explicitly taken no position on the date of Jesus’s birth. Certain speakers do not appear to have gotten the memo.)

Gary E. Stevenson (presiding bishop)

  • Our brief moment in mortality is parallel to the brief period of time Olympic athletes have to perform, in that much preparation is judged based on a single event.
  • (Editorial comment: The preceding address said life in the gospel isn’t about checklists, and this one explicitly outlines checklists for life in the gospel. Hmmm…)

Jean A. Stevens (of the primary general presidency)

  • Our Heavenly Father knows us, and knows the desires of our hearts.
  • In the scriptures we read about the God answering prayers, and that continues today.
  • Even when the answers we get to prayers aren’t what we want, what we get is for the best.
  • “The gospel is not a checklist of things to do.”
  • (Editorial comment: It’s not infrequent for a woman speaking in general conference to give an address that doesn’t focus on women or child-rearing, but one that’s as completely general as this is noteworthy. Particularly noteworthy is that this is a member primary general presidency who’s not focusing on children.)

M. Russell Ballard (of the quorum of apostles)

  • Delivering a followup to his October 2011 address on the name of the church, and his October 2013 address on praying to be led to someone they could share the gospel with.
  • (Thought: I’ve heard general conference addresses arguing against using the term “Mormon church”, but i don’t recall ever hearing preaching against using “LDS church”.)
  • It isn’t enough to just invite by authority, but also to take people by the hand and walk with them on their spiritual journey.
  • A plug for Preach My Gospel as a resource for helping us know how to teach the gospel.
  • As we share the gospel with faith, God will bless us with success in our efforts.

Dieter F. Uchtdorf (of the first presidency)

  • God commands us to be grateful, whatever our situations.
  • The Lord doesn’t expect us to be less grateful in times of trial than in times of ease.
  • We should see gratitude as a way of life that stands independent of our current circumstances, whatever they might be.
  • Being grateful is not what we do after problems are solved—but think of how limiting that would be, for while we waited to be grateful for the rainbow we’d miss the blessing of the rain.
  • “Gratitude is an expression of hope and testimony.”
  • God has promised that those who receive all things with thankfulness will be made glorious.
  • (Editorial comment: Really, an excellent address. W. Craig Zwick’s address may still be edging it out for my favorite of the session, but this one’s easily up there.)
  • (Another thought: He hasn't mentioned it today, but recall that he was a war refugee, so he knows whereof he speaks, no?)

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Priesthood session

Priesthood session, the general session that isn’t really a general session.

As before, the addresses are presented in reverse chronological order, with the last speaker first going down to the first speaker at the end. If you want this session in chronological order, you need to scroll to the end of the post and work upwards. However, the notes for each speaker run top-down.

So now, scroll down to begin.

Thomas S. Monson (president of the high priesthood)

  • To make correct decisions, courage is required.
  • “If you ever find yourself where you shouldn’t ought to be, get out.” (Editorial comment: I didn’t get why so much laughter when he gave this line—some, sure, but it seemed a bit much. It was only later i realized that shouldn’t ought is ungrammatical for much of North America, so maybe that was it?)
  • Are you the same person wherever you are, and whatever you’re doing?
  • Acts of courage don’t always result in immediate obvious results, but they do always bring peace of mind and a knowledge that good has been done.

Henry B. Eyring (of the first presidency)

  • When we choose heroes, we—consciously or unconsciously—copy what we find admirable about them.
  • Whatever you do, as a priesthood holder you will be a model of priesthood service; what you do will determine whether you are a good or bad model.
  • Good models of priesthood service do so through prayer, service, and honesty.
  • As you pray, you will learn completely that you are a child of your Heavenly Father.
  • Great models of priesthood service do not always recognize how great their service is—they don’t seek praise for what they do, and they remain modest about their accomplishments.
  • As you give your heart to the work of the priesthood, God will magnify you.

Dieter F. Uchtdorf (of the first presidency)

  • (I think this is the first time i’ve ever heard Martin Luther King, Jr. invoked in a general conference address.)
  • The restoration is a continuing process, and we’re living through it right now—it includes all that God has revealed, does reveal, and will reveal.
  • It is easy to “sleep through” the restoration, particularly when there are selfishness, addiction, and the many competing priorities we face.
  • Selfishness is seeking your own desires, asking what’s in it for you, and seeking the glory of the world.
  • If you need to change, it may take several attempts, but never give up—and God will set you free.

Randall L. Ridd (of the young men general presidency)

  • The internet is one of the greatest tools for good anywhere, but it requires us to make choices.
  • The key is what your heart desires—“where will your desires lead?” Remember that God gives according to your desires.
  • A smartphone gives you access to a lot of good things, but a smartphone won’t make you smart—and remember that splitting your attention between your smartphone and other tasks results in poor performance in everything you’re doing.

Donald L. Hallstrom (of the presidency of the seventy)

  • Priesthood session is set up to teach us what sort of men we should be.
  • Saying “that’s just the way i am” in response to bad habits is a form of surrender that denies what we can be.
  • We need to show spiritual maturity because we have made covenants.
  • Being perfected in Christ requires change, and we have been promised that if we come to Christ, we will be shown what we need to change.

Dallin H. Oaks (of the quorum of apostles)

  • There is no up or down (in the context of callings) in the service of the Lord, only forward or backward.
  • His topic: Understanding the priesthood. He then said it’s good that this broadcast is available to everyone, since this is important for both men and women to learn about.
  • It is not the case that all priesthood keys were given to Joseph Smith in the Kirtland Temple—he was only given the “keys of this dispensation”.
  • Directly stated: It is the “divinely decreed plan” that only men hold priesthood offices. (Editorial comment: Gee, i wonder if this is a response to the “Ordain Women” group…?)
  • Holding a priesthood office should not be equated with holding priesthood authority—priesthood authority can be given to women without them holding a priesthood office, even authority that is binding on earth and in heaven.
  • “Women and men are equal, with different responsibilities.”

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Saturday afternoon session

Saturday afternoon, which means we get sustainings of officers and stuff—so feel free to nap a few extra minutes.

Anyway, as with all of these, the addresses are presented bottom-up, with the last speaker, then the previous speaker, and so on. If you want this session in chronological order, you need to scroll to the end of the post and work upwards. However, mainly ’cause i can’t keep track of it if i do otherwise, the notes for each speaker run top-down.

Confusing? Yep—but it’s where the whole blog-and-Facebook reverse-timestream posting order has led us.

So now scroll down to begin—unless you want to move backwards through time, of course.

Quentin L. Cook (of the quorum of apostles)

  • (Note: Our internet kept glitching badly during this address, so i don’t know that i got everything i’d’ve wanted to record here from it.)
  • Vicarious ordinances allow eternal families to happen.
  • Note that the scriptures talk about vicarious baptisms for “your dead” (emphasis apparent from his spoken delivery).
  • (Listening to this, i can’t help but wonder what it would have been like to have been around when baptism for the dead was a completely new thing.)

W. Craig Zwick (of the seventy)

  • (Memo to the kids watching this address: Don’t ever jump out of a moving vehicle, even if it’s to try to save your kid.)
  • Anger and angry words are sinful.
  • We need to be civil, even when we disagree.
  • It is impossible to know everyone’s contexts and thoughts—so we need to have empathy for all, even (especially?) those we disagree with.
  • It might not matter who’s right, but whether we understand and care for each other.
  • We need to learn to ask “What were you thinking?” (Though presumably not in an exasperated way, as it’s often heard, i’m thinking.)
  • (Yeah, we’ve got an early contender for my favorite address of this conference.)

Claudio D. Zivic (of the seventy)

  • If you make a mistake about what the right way is and let yourself be led astray, you will not reach your goal.
  • We need to correctly comprehend and interpret the commandments of God.

Robert D. Hales (of the quorum of apostles)

  • Don’t claim to love and obey God and then be selectively obedient.
  • Because Jesus obeyed, we have the opportunity to return to God.

Richard G. Scott (of the quorum of apostles)

  • We should share our conviction that the ordinances of the gospel will help others, and do so in love.
  • He told the story of how his (future) wife saying she wanted to marry a returned full-time missionary led to him deciding to serve. However, he also mentioned they both served missions, and i think that’s an important bit of the story, and wish it had been foregrounded more—she wasn't just trying to get him to go, she was modeling something that was part of her own life, too.
  • The mention of his parents as temple workers was a nice little rhetorical circle back to the beginning of the address.

Russell M. Nelson (of the quorum of apostles)

  • All truth is part of the gospel, and so we should be willing to let our faith show rather than compartmentalizing our spiritual lives from, e.g., our professional lives.
  • Wrong is never right, even if everyone does it.

Brooke P. Hales (secretary to the first presidency), statistical report

  • We’re closing back in on the number of annual convert baptisms back in the 80s (which was directly followed by a desperate focus on reactivation, but whatevs).

Kevin Jergensen (managing director of the church auditing department), auditing report

  • Really, can someone explain to me why we take up valuable general conference minutes with this?

Dieter F. Uchtdorf (of the first presidency), presentation of church officers and authorities

  • A couple of mission presidents being called as church officers while they’re still serving (with the calls to take effect at the close of their terms as mission presidents)—been a while since they’ve done that.
  • (Editorial comment: I sorta wonder if they’ve had President Uchtdorf present the church officers and authorities the last couple times so that he his name gets pronounced right.)

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Saturday morning session

Well, we’re back at general conference time, and even though this blog has been in full radio silence mode since the last one, i figured that it was worth dusting it off and posting my thoughts here again. (And who knows—now that the work pressures of the last couple years are lightening a bit, maybe i’ll get back to posting here regularly. We’ll see.)

So anyway, as has been the case since i started doing these, i’ll be doing these bottom-up—that is, if you continue read top-to-bottom, you’ll see that last speaker, then the previous speaker, and so on. If you want this session in chronological order, you need to scroll to the end of the post and work upwards. However, mainly ’cause i can’t keep track of it if i do otherwise, the notes for each speaker run top-down.

Confusing? Yep—but it’s where the whole blog-and-Facebook reverse-timestream posting order has led us.

So now scroll down to begin—unless you want to move backwards through time, of course.

Henry B. Eyring (of the first presidency)

  • Henry B. Eyring is descended from Prussian nobility? Who knew?
  • The examples of our righteous ancestors can be an inspiration to us.
  • The power of God can help bring the wayward back to the gospel—and the prayers of family can be a part of bringing that to bear.
  • Another shout-out to the importance of family scripture study!

Neil L. Anderson (of the quorum of apostles)

  • Facing trials makes us stronger, as long as we focus on Jesus Christ.
  • Ah! So we have arrived at our first address defending “traditional marriage”.
  • (Serious question, and not snarky, i promise: If changes in civil law don’t change divine law, then why do so many of us care so deeply whether civil and divine law match?)

Linda S. Reeves (of the relief society general presidency)

  • Listening to this, it occurs to me that it’s actually unusual for a woman to speak about pornography in church addresses.
  • Children need to be taught about the dangers of pornography, including its danger to relationships.
  • An endorsement of internet filtering of pornography, but then saying that the only filtering that will really work is developing an “internal filter”.
  • Keeping your house clean is less important than family prayer, scripture study, and home evening.
  • (Editorial comment: One of the things she said was something like “the intimate relationship that brings children into the world”. Can’t we just get over it and say “sex”?)

Carlos H. Amado (of the quorums of seventy)

  • Jesus showed his power over death by raising people from the dead, and then by performing the atonement.
  • (Editorial comment: Can somebody explain to me why the church doesn’t let speakers of non-English languages speak in their native languages, with subtitles or simultaneous overdubbing or somesuch? They could even use subtitles on the video screens in the Conference Center, so that’s not a problem—and my daughters are having a lot of trouble understanding this speaker and remaining engaged in the broadcast. I mean, at least do it with the Spanish speakers—there are more Spanish speakers than English speakers in the church now, after all!)

Ronald A. Rasband (of the presidency of the seventy)

  • One of the presidents of the seventy talking about the quorums of seventy and their responsibilities. This is meta enough to make me very happy.
  • A sustaining vote for our leaders is also an agreement to share their burdens.
  • “Reaching out to rescue one another, under any condition, is an eternal measure of love.”

Jeffrey R. Holland (of the quorum of apostles)

  • Being faithful can lead to persecution—but it’s worth it.
  • “What would Jesus do?” isn’t always honestly answered the way people want to hear.
  • There is a difference between the commandment to forgive sin, and the push to condone sin.
  • (Editorial comment: Elder Holland is clearly the true general conference speaker heir of Elder Maxwell, if alliteration is any gauge.)

Thomas S. Monson (president of the high priesthood)

  • The Gilbert Arizona temple is the 142nd temple of the church. Showing my age, but i remember back when you could reasonably plan to travel and visit all of the temples.
  • Plans are in place for bringing the number of temples to 170. The church will be focusing on completing those before announcing any more.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Sunday afternoon session

And now for Saturday afternoon, when everybody seems to relax just a bit.

So, if you’ve missed the preceding explanations, these posts are each made in reverse chronological order by speaker, so that you can scroll down on the page and cover the entire conference from the bottom up; however, the bullet points for each speaker are top down (i.e., from the speaker’s name, working downward). It’s moderately confusing, but i’ve been doing it that way for some years now and people seem to be able to figure it out well enough. And so, with that as background, here’s where you scroll down to the bottom, unless you wish to relive this session backwards.

Closing thoughts
  • On the whole, i liked the Saturday sessions (even the priesthood session, which usually leaves me a bit flat) better than the Sunday sessions.
  • I usually have a favorite address from the conference. It’s a hard call this time. I think my favorite was Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s Saturday morning address, but Jeffrey R. Holland’s Saturday afternoon address was the most important. In addition, Edward Dube’s address (Saturday morning) was incredibly meaningful and stirring, and i hope we hear a lot more of him in the future.
  • Multiple sessions ended a few minutes early. If this is a subtle message to the rest of us (if you’re done, then you’re done), i have to say that i heartily approve.
  • The members of the first presidency and quorum of apostles mostly seem to have left the stand with their wives. (Some, of course, couldn’t; Thomas S. Monson left with his daughter, and not all of them did all of the time.) How did their wives get there? Were they sitting on the stand the whole time? Now i’m curious.

Thomas S. Monson (president of the high priesthood)
  • As is usual for him, his closing remarks are mostly a mild pep talk.

Russell M. Nelson (of the quorum of apostles)
  • Each day brings decisions that have eternal ramifications.
  • There are sicknesses and deformities, as well as things like aging and death. Even with all these, the body is an amazing gift.
  • We were chosen to come to earth at this time not so much for our physical attributes as for our spiritual attributes.
  • God’s doctrines do not change, even when civil laws do.

Terence M. Vinson (of the quorums of seventy)
  • Rather than solve problems for us, we are to develop the faith in the Lord that will allow us to gain the inspiration about how we should gain the help of the Lord to solve those problems.
  • If we align our will with that of the Lord, then the Lord will bless us.

Adrián Ochoa (of the quorums of seventy)
  • We need to pay attention to the signs of the times
  • Both the viewing of pornography and of anti-Mormon resources have the same effect on our spirits.
  • [I’m not sure i’m following this address. It’s not his accent or such—his fluency in English is pretty high—but i wonder if he’s basing the structure of his address in a rhetorical tradition i’m unfamiliar with.]

Kevin S. Hamilton (of the quorums of seventy)
  • [I’ll be totally honest: The sort of story he opened with—the family left the church because one day they decided to take a ride in the country instead of going to sacrament meeting, and then they didn’t come to church again—bothers me. I mean, there’s something else going on in there, there has to be.]
  • We have three Sunday meetings, with separate purposes: Sacrament meeting lets us participate in worship and be edified, Sunday school lets us teach each other, and priesthood and relief society meetings let us learn our duties.
  • [This is sounding basically like a plea to not skip the non-sacrament Sunday meetings. Do that many people really skip out on them?]

Henry B. Eyring (of the first presidency), announcements
  • [He announced "Called to Serve" as the choir+congregation song, and there was quite a bit of susurussing from the crowd. I'm thinking people liked that choice.]

David M. McConkie (of the general presidency of the Sunday school)
  • Church teachers need to teach as the Savior would teach.
  • Church teachers do not have the right to mingle their own philosophies with the truths they are to teach.. [Does this mean that i get to stop hearing little code-worded asides criticizing the policies of the current president of the United States in church classes? No? Oh well, a boy can hope, you know?]
  • When teaching, you have to have the courage to follow the Spirit’s promptings, even if that takes you away from your prepared content.
  • If you pay attention, when you teach by the Spirit you will learn something from what you teach. [I like the conditional clause at the beginning of that.]

Neil L. Andersen (of the quorum of apostles)
  • All of us can have a home blessed by priesthood power even if, on the surface, it seems that we can’t (e.g., single mothers).
  • Raising the issue of why only men are ordained to the priesthood. [He didn’t really answer why, though he did, it seems to me, do a bit of rhetorical dissociation of priesthood—or at least priesthood power—with ordination.]
  • Both requesting and performing priesthood ordinances requires humility.
  • The decision on the age change for full-time missionaries included many discussions with relief society, young women, and primary leadership; local leaders should follow that example.

Quentin L. Cook (of the quorum of apostles)
  • A comparison of the messages (similar) and missions (different) of Jeremiah and Lehi.
  • A description of the falls of Israel and Judah, with some relatively indirect connections made to the present day.
  • Righteousness is a prerequisite for assisting in the gathering of the elect, as well as the literal restoration of the people of Israel.
  • [Did he just say that businesses need to make it possible for all parents (both female and male) to appropriately balance their family and work responsibilities, with a lean toward family? ’Cause that's what it sounded like.]