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.”


Heather the Mama Duk said...

Elder Hales
I think, yes, we need to be more tolerant of ALL, religious and non-religious. The world would be a nicer place if everyone put that into practice and, you know, loved one another no matter what.

Elder Pearson
The fact that someone actually used the word "hashtag" in a talk in General Conference is a seriously beautiful thing.

Elder Pino
I find myself trying to listen to the native language more than the English overdub...

President Uchtdorf
He looked just so pleased with himself. A lot of people I know made comments about him accidentally slipping into his native language and they could see how he would do that since others were speaking in theirs. Ummm... but it wasn't German and he was totally making a joke. On purpose.

Elder Andersen
In the late 90s, after Houston had been announced, but well before San Antonio was, the members here were told if they made an effort to be more righteous and to attend the temple in Dallas (over 4 hours away) and then Houston after it was built (3 1/2 hours away), they would get a temple in SA very soon. The members made a very concentrated effort to do so and in the early 2000's SA was announced and our temple was dedicated in 2005. Many people we know lived here when that promise was made. It's a big deal and that story has been told several times since we moved here. The temple up the hill was definitely a direct result of the righteousness of the San Antonian members.

Elder Zeballos
He reminded me of what Daddy has always said - council with the Lord, don't counsel the Lord.

Elder Sitati
His accent was lovely.

Elder Nelson
I think that was one of the best talks on keeping the Sabbath Day holy that I have ever heard.

Closing Thoughts
When I was a kid I hated having my birthday on Conference weekend (or at least Sunday) because Conference was seriously boring to me. Today was one of my best birthdays ever since I got to sit at the (virtual) feet of some amazing men and women and learn from them. I pretty much missed Conference a year ago. Saturday we had something else we had to do (that was my birthday) and then Sunday I spent all day in the ER and had surgery to remove my gallbladder that night.

I noticed all the lists. I wondered the same thing. Lists are usually Elder Oaks's domain. And Elder Bednar's sometimes, too.

Was Elder Scott at Conference at all?

It was kind of sad that President Monson didn't do the closing, though President Uchtdorf did just fine. I think we might have some major changes in the Quorum of the Twelve and possibly the First Presidency in the next several months. Many of the men are quite up there in age and they have been the same, just getting older, for several years.

Do General Authorities (the Twelve and First Presidency) live longer than the typical Mormon man?

The dissenters were not, however, saying they had information that those being presented were unworthy or unfit to serve. They were making a (somewhat political) statement and meaning to cause disruption. I did see, once, in a ward someone who was opposed to someone presented for a calling. They indeed had information (I don't know what) that the bishop did not that showed the person was unworthy to serve. The person did not receive the calling. That was very appropriate use of the "contrary" sign.

David B said...

Well, it was totally German, but it was also totally a joke—i don’t see, really, how anyone could have thought it was an “accident”.

(I wonder if it was even more of an in-joke—maybe Pres. Monson had ribbed him for delivering his addresses in English rather than German or somesuch, i don’t know.)

I agree on the motives of the dissenters—but it was cool that it resulted in someone learning about our responsibilities as members that evening, so it ended up for good, you know?

And on your question about general authority lifespans: I know a couple people who have looked into it (there is nothing so bizarre or obscure but that an academic hasn’t researched it or something like it at some point), though, and it seems that general authorities live about the same amount of time as the average practicing Mormon man. That practicing is a big important caveat, since that gives you the effects of not smoking, &c.

Heather the Mama Duk said...

I can see how what I wrote could mean two things. I meant the guy who spoke in his native language immediately before President Uchtdorf jokingly used German wasn't speaking in German. I could see accidentally slipping into German if the person speaking just before you was, but not accidentally slipping into German if the person speaking just before you was speaking in Spanish

As soon as they announced speakers could speak in their native language people started asking when President Uchtdorf was going to give a talk in German. I'm sure there was some sort of inside joke, plus that. There have even been social media campaigns asking him to do it even.