Friday, April 1, 2016

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Saturday afternoon session

Welcome, welcome, (Jewish) sabbath afternoon! As with all the others of these, the first speaker is at the bottom of this post with each following speaker entered progressively above the previous one, but within each speaker’s entry my comments run from the top down.

M. Russell Ballard, of the quorum of apostles
  • Family councils are always needed, and are in fact eternal.
  • Family councils are different from family home evenings; the former are meetings where family members listen to each other, while the latter is generally focused on family teaching and activities.
  • In all family councils, electronic devices need to be turned off so that everyone can focus on each other.
  • [Wondering: Are Facebook pokes actually still a thing?]
  • The default may be to have formalized family councils, but they may simply be, e.g., outgrowths of other family discussions.
  • Different families will have different-looking family councils with different members; in fact, those living alone can have “family” councils that include friends or roommates or such.
  • There may be a need for an extended family council that includes grandparents or other relatives.
  • Parents should council together separately, as well.
  • Parents should council with individual children, whether formally or informally.
  • Informal one parent+one child councils can provide needed spiritual and emotional bonding.
  • [Is anyone else feeling like he’s saying that essentially any meaningful discussion between any combination of family members can be a family council?]
  • Children desperately need for their parents to listen to them, and family councils provide an opportunity for that to happen.
  • Combining family councils with prayer brings blessings and power.

David A. Bednar, of the quorum of apostles
  • King Benjamin says that by doing what we should, we will “always retain a remission of [our] sins”.
  • All saving ordinances, plus the sacrament, must be authorized by those who hold the appropriate priesthood keys.
  • Baptism, the gift of the holy ghost, and the sacrament are all interrelated.
  • Baptism is a sign and promise that provides an initial cleansing of the soul, and so is a necessary preparation to receive the gift of the holy ghost.
  • The gift of the holy ghost is a necessary complement to baptism, and baptism by water is incomplete without it.
  • The gift of the holy ghost provides an ongoing cleansing of the soul.
  • Remember that both the bread and water of the sacrament are blessed and sanctified.
  • The sacrament is a repeated invitation to repent—it does not remit sins of itself, but by preparing ourselves properly for it we will always retain a remission of our sins.
  • The ordinances of baptism, the gift of the holy ghost, and the sacrament work together and lead us to be able to fulfill the commandment to stand spotless before God at the last day.
  • Though none of us can achieve perfection in this life, we can become increasingly spotless and worthy.

Jairo Mazzagardi, of the quorums of seventy
  • The story of how he received answers and inspiration to settle doubts he had about the restoration of the gospel. [Seriously, it was a good address, but that’s all i got from it.]

Mervyn B. Arnold, of the quorums of seventy
  • Jesus came to save all, and declared that it is not the will of God that any should be lost.
  • We are all called to the rescue, and must not delay it.
  • While we must be organized, sometimes we plan for weeks while those who need our help sink deeper.
  • When we are working toward rescuing the lost, we must not give up hope.
  • Remember how great our joy will be if we bring even one soul to Christ.
  • A mention of someone who shared the gospel with telemarketers who called! [Hmmm…This could be fun…]

Neil L. Andersen, of the quorum of apostles
  • Many children in the church are not being raised in so-called “picture-perfect families”, where there are mothers and fathers sealed together and raising their children together in truth and harmony.
  • Sometimes the rhetoric we use in church can exclude these children, and we need to not exclude those among us in such ways. [And can i get a virtual amen! from the crowd?]
  • “Let’s open our arms and our hearts a little wider” and be welcoming to all of those amongst us.
  • “Knowing someone’s name can make a difference.”
  • We need to reach out to youth and children who feel marginalized and alone and “outside the fence”.
  • Remember that Jesus said that anyone who receives one child in his name thereby receives Jesus himself.

Ronald A. Rasband, of the quorum of apostles
  • “Questions are an indication of a further desire to learn.”
  • The restoration started with a youth’s question; many of Jesus’s greatest teachings started with a question.
  • We need to have a relationship with the leaders of the church.
  • We will have our moments to respond to invitations to come to Christ—and Christ will be there to take our hand and bring us to him.

Brook P. Hales, secretary to the first presidency, statistical report
  • 3,174 stakes; 558 districts; 418 missions; 30,016 wards and branches; 15,634,199 members.
  • 114,550 children of record added during the year. I can never remember if children of record are included in the total membership numbers or not. (I think they are, but am not certain.)
  • 257,452 converts baptized. I remember a couple decades ago when this number hovered around 300,000—and then an emphasis on not just baptizing people, but working to retain them happened, which i’ve always figured may have had a cause and effect relationship (as in baptizing in people who weren’t really ready). I really wish we had access to good retention numbers over time, though, you know?
  • 74,079 full-time missionaries, plus 31,779 service missionaries. The number of full-time missionaries has dropped, as what was essentially a double cohort a bit ago works its way through the system.
  • 5 temples dedicated; 2 temples re-dedicated; 149 temples in operation at the end of the year. (Interesting, at least to me: In talking about the re-dedications, he offered up a decidedly non-American English pronunciation of MontrĂ©al.)

Kevin R. Jergensen, church auditing department managing director, audit report
  • [Seriously, why? I’m glad there’s an independent auditing department within the church. But why do we take up two or three minutes of general conference broadcast time every year for basically the same script every time?]

Dieter F. Uchtdorf, of the first presidency, sustaining of church officers
  • Opposing votes “noted”. When people made a point of casting opposing votes previously, it was kind of a political stunt to draw attention to the fact that it was possible. Now it’s just a thing that happens, and has lost its surprise value. So it goes. (Though i do say, as i have before, that shouting a “no” rather than using the same signal as those in favor is simply impolite. If you’re one of the no voters and happen to read this, please stop it—you’re not doing your cause any favors.)
  • Releases of area authority seventies are effective 1 May, not immediately. Is that so that they can continue to preside at stake conferences that they’ve already been given assignments for? No idea, really—i just find the time lag interesting.
  • New primary general presidency.
  • Interesting—sustaining of new “general authority seventies”, not specified as to which quorum.

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