Sunday, October 4, 2015

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Sunday afternoon session

Sunday afternoon, the chance for everyone to relax, ’cause we can tell the end is coming soon.

So: Since this may be the first in this string of general conference posts you see, 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 everything from post to post, 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 strange 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, and get everything in chronological order.

The complication: Under each speaker my comments are ordered top-down. This adds a potential bit of confusion, but it’s the only way i could get it to work conceptually for me. Anyway—now you can scroll to the bottom, or you can just read like a normal person would read a normal text and get the conference backwards. Either way’s fine with me, really.

Closing thoughts
  • Favorite address of the entire conference: Russell M. Nelson’s, coming in a a dark-horse candidate and passing up the expected winners, Dieter F. Uchtdorf and Jeffrey R. Holland.
  • A couple of notable mentions: D. Todd Christofferson’s address wasn’t what i’d call particularly stirring or such, but a solid set of needed reminders, and may actually be the one i end up thinking about most. Dallin H. Oaks’s will merit a close reading, as well—there was a lot going on in it, and i’m quite aware that i didn’t nearly catch all of it on a first listen.
  • What was up with every. single. congregational. hymn. being preceded by an announcement that everyone was to begin singing “on a signal from the conductor”? I mean, were people ever even confused about that before?
  • I asked earlier why none of the non-native English speakers gave addresses in their native languages—it turns out, per a news release i got pointed to online, that they’re not doing that this conference. No explanation why as far as i can tell, but i’ll say that i hope it’s just because of glitches that they’re ironing out and that the option will be back in the future.

David A. Bednar (of the quorum of apostles)
  • The leadership of the church has a great deal of collective experience that we can learn much from.
  • When you can no longer do everything you’ve always done, you focus on what matters most.
  • The leaders of the church are not spared from affliction, but rather are blessed with strength to continue to press forward despite affliction.
  • He’s seen six of his fellows in the quorum of apostles die—and there’s both sadness and joy in the separation from their friendship for a time, and the recognition that they have gone to an eternal glory even while leaving us with wisdom to learn from.
  • [I like the recognition that age can be a positive thing. I’ve long liked hanging around old people, both for the depth of experience and the frequently age-associated lack of filtering. Yes, there are things that youth has going for it—a willingness to try new things, often an intense desire for change—but rather than fetishizing youth, in my opinion we need both youth and age. (And besides, now that i’m rapidly approaching oldness myself, i get to feel like i’m not a hypocrite for hoping that i’ll still have reason for being around.)]

Koichi Aoyagi (recently released from the quorums of seventy)
  • Our purpose for being on this earth includes experiencing trials.
  • However, our purpose is not merely to endure our trials, but to overcome them through the atonement of Jesus Christ.

Kim B. Clark (of the quorums of seventy)
  • A discussion of the saints of Jesus’s time and immediately after, and what we have in common with them.
  • Whatever our level of faith, it isn’t enough for the work ahead—and so we need eyes to see more clearly, and ears to hear more completely.
  • To do this we do not need to be perfect, but we need to be good and getting better.
  • If we devote ourselves to the work, we will have what Paul called “the mind of Christ”.

Allen D. Haynie (of the quorums of seventy)
  • From my oldest: “I’m always impressed by the ability of every general authority to turn anything into an analogy.”
  • God the Father knew we would sin, and so set up a plan whereby we could become clean.
  • Avoidance of sin is the preferred path, but as far as the atonement of Jesus Christ is concerned, it doesn’t matter how deeply we have sunk into sin.
  • The Savior will never turn away from us when we turn to repentance.
  • “Repentance is not easy—things of eternal significance rarely are.” [Is that correct? Quite possibly. I’ma have to ponder on that one a bit.]
  • Repentance leaves us perfectly clean, and ready to receive all that God has to give us.

Carole M. Stephens (of the relief society presidency)
  • We can choose to see commandments as limitations that take our agency and limit our growth, but as we let Heavenly Father teach us, we will see them as what they are—an expression of love.
  • Trust God, and God’s plan for you.
  • Jesus promised that the Comforter would “abide with [us] forever”, and this right is available to every worthy confirmed member of the church.
  • As we trust God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the counsel of the prophets, we will find joy in our mortal journey.

Von G. Keetch (of the quorums of seventy)
  • The commandments God has given us are to help us avoid danger.
  • We show our faith in God every day by keeping the commandments, particularly in those situations where we don’t particularly understand the reasons for them.
  • “God wants us to have joy, He wants us to have peace. He wants us to succeed.”

Devin G. Durrant (of the Sunday school general presidency)
  • Advice: Save money each week.
  • More important advice: “Ponderize” (coined word!) one verse of scripture each week.
  • [I like that he’s pointing out that you can get the meaning of a scripture passage without particularly memorizing it. I honestly get tired of some people saying in church classes that we need to memorize verses from the scriptures, when what we really need to do is incorporate them into our lives whether we memorize them or not, as he’s pointing out.]
  • Don’t hesitate to invite people from other faiths into your study of the scriptures.

D. Todd Christofferson (of the quorum of apostles)
  • How does the Lord’s church accomplish the Lord’s purposes?
  • Moving from grace to grace requires more than just being nice or feeling spiritual—it requires ordinances and enduring.
  • Doing all that cannot be done in isolation, and so the Lord has given us a church.
  • In the body of Christ we have to go beyond simple ideals and concepts, and work with each other as a whole.
  • “Repentance is individual, but fellowship along that long, painful path is in the church.” [Got a couple words wrong, i think, but that was the content.]
  • The support of the church isn’t just spiritual, but also temporal.
  • A belief that all roads lead to salvation leads to no need to spread the word of the gospel—but we believe that a church and its ordinances are necessary, and so we need to preach to the world.

Opening choral stuff
  • The choir’s rendition of “Praise the Lord with Heart and Voice” was really, really amazingly well done—and i say that as someone who’s generally not a fan of MoTab, and who doesn’t normally like that song.
  • One of the early songs—the one right after the opening prayer—the choir not just stood in unison, the angle of the camera let you see that they opened their music in union! That’s a little bit of crazy, right there.

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Sunday morning session

Sunday morning. Anyone out there remember back when you pretty much got to watch one session and it was generally this one? (Whether because you only got one session broadcast in your area, or because you got the videotapes delivered to you and you spent one Sunday at church watching one session? Anyone? Anyone? No, i’m just old? Okay, then.) Anyway, continuing the pattern of the rest of these, the speakers are listed in reverse chronological order, which means that if you read directly after this paragraph without scrolling to the bottom of the entry first, you’ll be reading the end of it and going backward.

Henry B. Eyring (of the first presidency)
  • The sacramental prayers promise that we will always have the Spirit with us.
  • We need the Spirit to discern truth, and to make what is good and true more compelling.
  • Having the Spirit with us can spare us moments of doubt.
  • “When you demonstrate your willingness to obey, the Spirit will send you more impressions of what God would have you do.”
  • A description of some of the experiences of his father as evidence that it isn’t the callings someone has that determine one’s access to revelation, or how spiritual someone claims to be, but how close they remain to the Spirit and follow its promptings.
  • The Spirit can offer us the purification that leads to eternal life, which is the greatest of all the gifts of God.

Claudio R. M. Costa (of the presidency of seventy)
  • [Why aren’t any of the non-native English speakers speaking in their native languages at this conference? Were there issues when they did it before?]
  • By keeping the Sabbath day holy, we strengthen ourselves and protect our families.
  • An extended discussion of his meditation on the wording of the sacramental prayers. [Lots of content there, probably easier to follow in the written record.]
  • The sacrament is a time to ponder on the atonement, and to receive revelation and knowledge.

Gregory A Schwitzer (of the quorums of seventy)
  • “One man or woman who is willing to testify when the world is going in the opposite direction can make a difference.”
  • True disciples desire to inspire, not just to impress.
  • [He said that attacks on the gospel from the great and spacious building have qualitatively changed recently. I wonder, though—is this actually the case? I mean, a lot of what’s going on now sounds a lot like what was going on in, say, 1870, if you read it and the church’s responses. But maybe that's just me.]

Russell M. Nelson (president of the quorum of apostles)
  • Starting out with a tribute to the member of the quorum of apostles who died over the preceding three months.
  • Transition to a tribute to the wives of those apostles.
  • Spencer W. Kimball offered a prophecy [i’ve noticed that general authorities don’t throw that word around lightly, by the way] in 1979 that the future growth of the church would come from the women of the church being “distinct and different in happy ways” from other women.
  • We need women in this church who are devoted, who keep covenants, who are administrators, who can teach fearlessly, who know how to receive revelation and call upon the powers of heaven (among lots of other things).
  • Whatever their callings or stations, we need the input and inspiration of the women of the church on our councils and in our families.
  • [The need for women to have an equal voice in church and family councils is something Russell M. Nelson has talked about a lot the last few years, not just in general conferences but in leadership trainings and such. He really appears to have no patience with men who don’t listen to what women have to say.]
  • A promise to women that as they contribute to church and family councils, God will magnify their contributions.

Dale G. Renlund (of the quorum of apostles)
  • The calling as an apostle—or, in fact, any calling in the church—isn’t about what the person being called has done, but rather about what needs to be accomplished through that person.
  • We can receive the pure love of Jesus Christ only when we see through Heavenly Father’s eyes.

Gary E. Stevenson (of the quorum of apostles)
  • Some discussion of feelings of inadequacy upon being called as an apostle, and the need to find his “anchor” in the gospel of Jesus Christ with his wife.
  • [He’s young enough to have a child who’s currently a full-time missionary? Yeah, it’s his youngest, but still.]

Ronald A. Rasband (of the quorum of apostles)
  • The one message to leave with everyone today: “The Lord has said, ‘Love one another as i have loved you.’”
  • There is no choice or sin that can place us beyond the love of God.

Thomas S. Monson (president of the high priesthood)
  • You are to be an example of the believers; to do this you must be a believer.
  • As we follow the teachings of Jesus, our light will shine forth.
  • Speak to others with love and respect—both in terms of avoiding profanity and taking the name of God in vain, and not using language in ways designed to wound and offend.
  • We need to possess and nourish our belief and faith, so that we can remain solidly anchored and influence all around us.
  • We should be willing to be different.
  • At times our challenges may be overwhelming and our light may dim, but with help from our Heavenly Father and those around us we can regain the light we had before.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Priesthood session

So i went to priesthood session at the stake center—not an absolute necessity any more, but i’m apparently a creature of habit.

Anyway, as with the rest of these, the first speaker is at the bottom of the post, and to go from speaker to speaker you’ll need to scroll to up until you get to the last speaker at the top of the post (after this intro).

Closing thought
  • Is it just me, or is priesthood session getting progressively shorter? Not that i’m really complaining—i’m evil enough to find ten hours out of a weekend (especially living in a time zone where it all starts earlier than one should really be awake of a Saturday) to be a bit much—but it still seems a bit odd that this one session tends to be so short compared to the others.

Thomas S. Monson (president of the high priesthood)
  • The message tonight is straightforward: Keep the commandments.
  • Satan is relentless, and a danger to our ultimate goal of salvation—unless we ourselves are relentless in seeking to follow God’s ways.
  • Be strong, and don’t be led into false paths by feelings of insecurity.
  • Don’t be distracted by the loud voices around us, but pay attention to the still small voice of the Spirit.

Henry B. Eyring (of the first presidency)
  • When you do your part, the Lord adds power to your efforts.
  • The Lord calls those who can do their part.
  • If we know God has called us through authorized servants, we can take courage.
  • We can take joy in knowing that God loves us and supports us.
  • [Lots of fun stories in this one.]

Dieter F. Uchtdorf (of the first presidency)
  • After an extended exegesis of the opening parts of the story of Daniel from the Bible, he asked: Are we like Daniel? Do our daily actions reflect what we claim to believe, or are we “Sunday Christians” only?
  • We live in a time of a great outpouring of truth—and we have a responsibility to live up to that.
  • It is our work to live our belief in a world of unbelief.
  • Daniel could have gone along with everything he was pressured to do—until the day the king had his dream, and then Daniel would have found it was too late.
  • “We believe in God because of things we know with our heart and mind, not because of things we do not know.”
  • Those who say they wish they could believe the way that you do have been beguiled by Satan’s lie that faith is only available to a few.
  • Some seem to think that by placing the burden of proof on God, they can avoid responsibility for living up to the commandments of God.
  • Skepticism is easy; a life of faith deserves admiration.

Randall K. Bennett (of the quorums of seventy)
  • By being willing to try, and try again if we fail, we can eventually find success.
  • God the Father and Jesus Christ are eager to bless us.
  • Whenever we make an effort to do as we should, we will be blessed
  • Spiritual gifts aren’t limited to those who obey all the commandments, but are available to all those who sincerely desire to do so.
  • We must resist the natural tendency to procrastinate or give up.
  • “We cannot fail if we are faithfully yoked to the Savior.”

Neil L. Anderson (of the quorum of apostles)
  • How strong is your faith?
  • Faith is important not just in this life, but in the next.
  • We honor the faith of all believers in Christ.
  • Be “relentless” in protecting your faith.
  • Faith doesn’t seek the answers to all questions before moving forward.
  • “Faith is a choice.”

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Saturday afternoon session

So it’s Saturday afternoon, and time for our next session. Once again, the first speaker is at the bottom of the post, the next speaker is above that, and so on to the end of the session at the top. This means that, to follow the session chronologically, you should scroll to the bottom of the post and work your way upwards. However, under each speaker, the comments are done top-down, because it’s easier for me to write that way.

Dallin H. Oaks (of the quorum of apostles)
  • Jesus Christ experienced all possible mortal challenges and infirmities so that he could be filled with mercy.
  • Jesus knows our difficulties because he willingly experienced them all—and so he can give us strength to bear them all.
  • Afflictions are universal to all—but through the atonement, they can be resolved.
  • No matter our anguish, Jesus understand it.
  • Having descended beneath all things, Jesus is perfectly positioned to lift us up if we but ask.
  • [A solid address, but his professorial delivery hid some of the emotional impact behind it, i think—like many of his, this seemed built more for the written record than the immediate delivery.]

James B. Martino (of the quorums of seventy)
  • God answers prayers asked with sincere intent, not just to satisfy curiosity.
  • If you’ve lost your connection to the Spirit, you can get it back—ask in faith, don’t give up, and it will come.
  • Why did the trials of the sons of Mosiah strengthen their commitment, while Laman and Lemuel’s trials didn’t? Because the sons of Mosiah held to the scriptures.
  • Obedience, scripture study, prayer, and fasting strengthens us spiritually; not doing these weakens us.

Vern P. Stanfill (of the quorums of the seventy)
  • We may feel confident about our preparation for challenges to our faith, only to find that our preparations are inadequate.
  • We may be embarrassed at our lack of preparation, which may push us into despair and apostasy if we let it.
  • God will never abandon us when we are struggling—and this help may come directly or from other people.
  • When we are struggling, it is okay to rely on the faith of those who reach out to help us. [So can we tattoo this thought on the forehead of everyone who teaches in church that it simply doesn't count if someone relies on others’ testimonies?]
  • We have the capacity to choose belief over doubt.

Hugo Montoya (of the quorums of the seventy)
  • [Okay, so i’m evil and all, but every time i hear about Elder Montoya, all i can think is “My name is Inigo Montoya…”]
  • Something as simple as a smile can bring peace to the heart of another.
  • The atonement brings peace and joy.
  • We can help other children of our Heavenly Father reach their potential.

Bradley D. Foster (of the quorums of the seventy)
  • Consider: Our children are the largest group of investigators of the church.
  • Heavenly Father wants our children to succeed—remember that they were his children before they were ours.
  • “Our children learn when they’re ready to learn, not when we're ready to teach them.”
  • It’s never too early, nor too late, to teach our children. (And this includes fully-grown and self-established children.)
  • We need to not just hear, but understand—and we need to help our children (and grandchildren) not just hear, but understand.

Jeffrey R. Holland (of the quorum of apostles)
  • [What with his reputation for being hyperinspiring and all, it’s gotta have turned into a bit of pressure for him to speak in general conference.]
  • The love of God has strong parallels with the love of mothers.
  • Mothers not only bear us, they bear with us.
  • The weight of expectation and responsibility can for mothers, especially young ones, be overwhelming.
  • When tempted, we can remember our mothers as well as our Savior, and think to spare them both the pain we might inflict on them.
  • A story involving someone with same sex attraction where the goal wasn’t trying to “cure” it or somesuch, but simply what should be everyone’s goal—worthiness.
  • Mother in Heaven reference, over the pulpit!
  • [You should look this address up if only for the brief story of the mother with her disabled daughter. It was…beautiful. Simply beautiful.]

Robert D. Hales (of the quorum of apostles)
  • Young adults are faced with choices that will have long-term consequences.
  • One of the purposes of the scriptures is to tell us how the righteous have responded to evil—they run from it.
  • Temporal counsel—don’t live beyond your income.
  • Education will prepare you for life, including marriage.
  • “None of us marry perfection, we marry potential.”
  • If you want to marry an attractive, spiritual, kind person, be that person yourself.
  • Figure out where you want to be in the next year or more, and what choices you need to get there.

Henry B. Eyring (of the first presidency), presentation of general officers and authorities
  • [Drum roll…]
  • Ronald A. Rasband, Gary E. Stevenson, and Dale G. Renlund as new apostles. All are Americans, if my quick googling is correct, to my moderate surprise.
  • Some dissenting votes, as presumably will be the norm from this point. At least those who opposed seem to have simply raised their hands rather than shouting, which seems a lot more polite than last time, you know?

Before the opening
  • Fifteen chairs in the first presidency/quorum of apostles row again! Guess we’re getting the announcement of the new ones this session.
  • My oldest just pointed out how much more interesting distance shots of the rostrum area would be if the men got to wear suits as brightly colored as the women.
  • Primary children’s choir! Quite cute, really (especially the ones who are looking phenomenally bored).
  • If my high priests group were a betting cartel, the only candidate with better than even odds on being called as an apostle would be Ronald A. Rasband, currently of the presidency of the seventy. We’ll see…

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Saturday morning session

So: Like all the rest of these i’ve done for some years, my notes are in “liveblog” style (is that even still a thing?). This means that the first speaker is at the bottom of the post, the next speaker is above that, the next is above that, and so on to the last (which is at the top). The result is that by the end of the conference you, the reader, can scroll down to the bottom of the Saturday morning session post for the start of the conference, and then scroll up to read through the entire conference chronologically. However, under each speaker, the comments are done top-down, because otherwise i’d just be confusing myself, even if that makes it more confusing to you. Sorry ‘bout that.

Closing song
  • Does it amuse anyone else when MoTab sings “Come, Come Ye Saints” in Utah, and doesn’t change the line that they’ll find a place “far away, in the west”? I guess Hawai’i really is Zion, then?

Quentin L. Cook (of the quorum of apostles)
  • Satan presents a false choice: Between happiness in this life, or happiness in the life to come (which may or may not exist). In actual fact, God’s plan holds out happiness in the life to come, and also in this life.
  • We need to be temple worthy in both good and bad times.
  • It is a cause for concern when self-aggrandizement is viewed as a positive thing.
  • Immoral conduct is never part of how to be happy.
  • Need to focus on righteous self-control and conduct.
  • Resisting something tempting once will help you resist future temptations.
  • Nearly a quarter of a million people are currently serving full-time missions or have served within the last five years, and they need to focus on resisting temptation.
  • Honoring the Sabbath strengthens us.
  • God provides us with protection when we are righteous.
  • The Holy Ghost cleanses us if we place the gospel first in our lives.

Francisco J. Viñas (of the quorums of seventy)
  • The “pleasing word of God” reassures us that we will be able to make it through our trials.
  • If we live faithful lives but were unable to do all that was required despite our best efforts, we will have all the exaltation and glory that anyone can lay claim to.
  • We need to discern the difference between trials that occur despite our best efforts, and trials that occur as punishment affixed to sin.
  • The pleasing word of God both comforts and warns us.
  • Brigham Young taught that sanctification comes from complete submission of one’s will to that of God.

Larry R. Lawrence (of the quorums of seventy)
  • We need to ask ourselves what we need to change and improve.
  • The Holy Ghost doesn’t tell us to improve everything at once—if that was done, we would become discouraged and give up.
  • By following the counsel of the Holy Ghost, even (maybe particularly) in small things, we will grow toward perfection and sanctification.
  • A suggestion for each of us to ask God what is keeping us from progressing—in other words, “What lack i yet?” If you then listen, you will receive inspiration specifically for you.
  • Sometimes we need to ask what we’re doing right, so that we can be uplifted and encouraged.
  • Be persistent—God is interested in the direction of our growth, not its speed.

Neill F. Marriott (of the general presidency of the young women’s organization)
  • [Hooray! For Southern accents!]
  • [I wonder how many general authorities and officers of the church aside from her graduated from Southern Methodist University.]
  • Even in the face of tragedy, we can have faith that it will all work out if we remain faithful.
  • Her family’s motto is “It will all work out”. Significantly, though, it doesn’t say “It will all work out now”.
  • Resentment damages your progress and keeps you from developing healthy, happy relationships.
  • In order for our hearts to be healed, we must first offer a broken heart as a sacrifice to the Lord.
  • “Can we love Jesus Christ and his way more than we love ourselves and our agenda?” [May have gotten a couple words wrong, but that was basically it.]

Richard J. Maynes (of the presidency of the seventy)
  • Starting out with an extended allegory from an object lesson one of the seventy gave a group of youth on making pottery—in order for it to work the clay needs to be centered on the wheel, just as we need to be centered on Jesus.
  • “If our lives are centered on Jesus Christ, he can successfully mold us into who we need to be”.
  • Consider that Nephi’s statement that his people “did live after the manner of happiness” came after decades of difficulty—but they had true joy because they were centered in Christ.
  • We can all find that peace, happiness, and joy if we have Christ-centered lives.

M. Russell Ballard (of the quorum of apostles)
  • A follow-up to his “Old Ship Zion” address from last conference.
  • God leads the “Old Ship Zion”, and it has prophets who, though mortal, can let us know what God wants us to do with it to lead the work of the Lord forward.
  • “Too many people think church leaders and members should be perfect, or nearly perfect.”
  • Church leaders, because they are mortal, occasionally make mistakes, like everyone—but we err when we see only each others’ human natures without recognizing the hand of the Lord in their actions and words.
  • We need to take care to keep the Sabbath.
  • Testimony meetings are a time to share brief inspiring stories and witnesses of principles of the gospel, not for delivering a speech.
  • Exaltation is our goal, and we can’t get there without both the ordinances and the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Dieter F. Uchtdorf (of the first presidency)
  • We have to be careful about looking for “secret” or “hidden” truths, because that can distract us from the truth.
  • We as church members should ask ourselves from time to time whether our experience in the church is blessing us and bringing us closer to Jesus.
  • “Why does [the church] seem to work better for some than for others?”
  • One possibility: “Are we making our discipleship too complicated?”
  • Church leaders must strictly protect the church and the gospel in its purity and plainness, and avoid putting too many burdens on the members.
  • Living the gospel doesn’t need to be complicated—hearing the word of God leads us to believe in and trust on God, which leads us to love God and others, which leads us to desire to follow and serve God and help others, which leads us to learn more of the word of God, bringing us back to the beginning.
  • If we focus on the simple core of the gospel, it will work better for us.
  • Another suggestion: Start where you are.
  • Remember that God promises to make “weak things become strong”. Satan, on the other hand, uses our weaknesses to sow doubt and keep us weak.
  • Even Moses saw himself as so weak “he wanted to give up and die—but God did not give up on Moses”.
  • We see ourselves through mortal eyes, but God sees our potential, and who we really are and can be.
  • “Exaltation is our goal. Discipleship is our journey.”
  • We should focus on the grace that is in Christ, and let it lift us—and then we will be able to say “in pride, and in all humility, and in great joy” that our membership in the church brings us joy.

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…