Sunday, October 6, 2013

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Sunday afternoon session

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Sunday morning session

Big leagues! Sunday morning, when the server load peaks, and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir women wear their most attractive robes (well, at least usually—remember the not-found-in-nature pink from last time?), and everybody’s on their best behavior.

So: As with all these, the first speaker appears at the bottom of this post, the second speaker above that, and so on until you get to the end of the session, which is what looks like the first entry below the intro.

And so we begin…

Thomas S. Monson (president of the high priesthood)
  • Opening with a eulogy for his wife. [Very intense, and very sweet.]
  • As we face challenges, we need to respond with faith, as Job did.
  • Remember that others have faced similar challenges, and overcome them and remained steadfast and of good cheer.
  • This is possible to do when the gospel of Jesus Christ is at the center of our lives.
  • Sadness and suffering are universal, but we can still recognize the goodness of God in the midst of our sufferings.
  • “This should be out purpose: To persevere and endure—yes, but also to become more spiritually refined…”

Richard G. Scott (of the quorum of apostles)
  • Sins, even those repented of, may have long-term effects—Satan can use our memories of what we have done before to tempt us back into them.
  • We must fortify our weak points to be able to avoid temptation.
  • The Lord sees weaknesses differently than rebellion—he views weaknesses with mercy.
  • [He’s not saying this directly, but i think there’s applications here to Mormons who build fences around the law. That is, it’s fine for people to go beyond the word of wisdom by avoiding all caffeine, or who go beyond the laws of sabbath observance by never changing out of their church clothing, because that may be helpful for them, shoring them up against some sort of weakness that they perceive in themselves. However, such rules shouldn’t be preached to others, since those aren’t everyone’s weak points, and those others may need to focus on different weaknesses.]
  • As you serve others, Satan’s temptations lose power in your life.

Richard J. Maynes (of the presidency of the seventy)
  • Spiritual endurance, like physical endurance, comes at a price: dedication, perseverance, and self-discipline.
  • When tragedy strikes, we should remember that tragedy isn’t forever—and having the spiritual strength that lets us endure will let us know that tragedy isn’t forever.
  • If we develop such spiritual strength, we’ll be able to face any challenge we’re faced with.

Bonnie L. Oscarson (young women general president)
  • Living the principles of the gospel and sacrificing for them leads to conversion to those principles.
  • True conversion is a continuing process that takes place by following gospel principles over time.

Dallin H. Oaks (of the quorum of apostles)
  • Another early-speech reference to Jesus’s statement of the greatest commandment!
  • A listing of things that we may prioritize higher than God, and then something like “if these don’t apply to some of us, we can come up with others that do”.
  • [He’s decrying falling birth rates. I have to admit that i don’t get why this is a problem. If infant mortality rates have dropped, it seems like lower birth rates is the reasonable reaction.]
  • We need to be tolerant of others’ beliefs (including lack of belief), and ask that we receive the same tolerance for ours.
  • Concern about large number of out-of-wedlock births and cohabitation preceding marriage.
  • Our standard of behavior needs to be based in God’s law, not civil law.
  • [I have to admit that i'm not sure what his overall message is—is he saying we need to change civil law to match our religious beliefs, or is he saying we simply need to follow religious beliefs when civil law would allow us to not follow those religious beliefs? There’s a big difference.]

Henry B. Eyring (of the first presidency)
  • “The wonderful world of family creation”. [Let’s just say that isn’t a phrase i’ve heard before, and that i don’t expect to ever hear again.]
  • To have an excellent family life, follow the two great commandments.
  • It is only by having the companionship of the Holy Ghost that we can have a marriage free of discord.
  • Amazing quote from George Q. Cannon (i think it was) on the love that God has for each of us.
  • “God has devised means of saving each of this children”, and those means are often our family members.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Priesthood session

Priesthood session, now on pay-per-viewthe internet! (Though i watched it at the church building, ’cause that way i was able to chat with a few people, which, when added to a post-priesthood session dinner out with the family—a nice perk of living in this time zone—explains the delay in posting these notes.)

So anyway, as with the rest of these, the first speaker appears at the bottom of this post, the second speaker above that, and so on until you get to the end of the session, which is what looks like the first entry below the intro (but each speaker’s entry is arranged top to bottom).


Thomas S. Monson (president of the high priesthood)
  • Priesthood holders have a shepherding responsibility; one significant way this is done is through home teaching.
  • He went over some very specific, basic things about home teaching here: make an appointment rather than just dropping by; make a real visit rather than just pass by so that you can report good numbers; when youth are part of the companionship, make sure that they have a significant teaching role; and so on. [Are we really doing that badly at such basic stuff?]
  • If we are conscientious in visiting and teaching the members in their homes, we will be the means of blessing many lives.

Henry B. Eyring (of the first presidency)
  • ”All of us are blessed with the responsibility for others.”
  • The parable of the good Samaritan can be read as a parable of an overworked priesthood holder—just make sure you’re not the priest or the Levite!
  • The Samaritan stopped because he had compassion—and he didn’t just feel compassion, he acted with compassion.
  • Priesthood holders can be assured that (1) we will be given, if we ask for it, the compassion that God feels; (2) the Lord will provide others who will help us; and (3) the recompense for what we do will be more than enough.
  • As a priesthood leader, you will be inspired about not just who to ask to help provide service, but also who not to ask—after all, while many would benefit from an opportunity to serve, some may need to, say, spend time with their children that day. You must pray to receive such inspiration.
  • If you are faithful and see that someone’s faith is being attacked by Satan, you will feel compassion and minister to them.
  • To minister to someone and strengthen their faith, you must first continually build your faith beforehand.
  • In the end, we must have charity.

Dieter F. Uchtdorf (of the first presidency)
  • What may seem impossible can suddenly become possible when someone looks you in the eye, takes you by the hand, and says “You can do it”.
  • No one likes to fail, especially when others see us fail; however, we mortals don’t become champions without making mistakes along the way.
  • Prophets have given the message over and over again that people can repent. This doesn’t mean that we should be comfortable in our sins, but it does mean that we shouldn’t despair in them.
  • When guilt leads to self-loathing it impedes rather than promotes repentance.
  • If we see doing good as something we are and something we desire, we are more likely to do good than if we see those things as just expected of us by others.
  • Those who are focused on divine goals may still stumble and fall, bit they will rise up and continue to move forward, becoming better and happier as a result.

Randy D. Funk (of the quorums of seventy)
  • How could someone who was underprepared to be a full-time missionary end up fulfilling that calling with power? Answer: An apostle has given your assignment, a prophet of God has called you, and you have been set apart by the correct authority, and so you are guaranteed power.
  • To have this power, missionaries must be humble, be obedient, and hear and follow the Spirit.
  • Cool wordplay: Soil is broken to plant crops; wheat is broken to make bread; bread is broken to provide the emblems of the sacrament; one who partakes of the sacramental emblems with a broken heart and a contrite spirit is made whole.
  • To gain enough knowledge to be a good full-time missionary, first be obedient to the commandments of God.

Gérald Caussé (of the presiding bishopric)
  • [He doesn’t use an initial or a middle name, but he’s still a general authority!? Is that even allowed?]
  • While the church is growing in diversity, we all share a common heritage—we are all a part of the family of Abraham. [Hurrah! An address about our heritage that doesn’t devolve into a “We are all pioneers” bit.]
  • The people of Israel were commanded to treat outsiders who lived among them as if they were native-born.
  • Jesus Christ was an example of accepting those who were outsiders, in national, regional, and cultural senses.
  • In our church, we have no such barriers—we are all brothers and sisters.
  • [I’m thinking that when he heard Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s address earlier today, he did a little internal fist-pump for having apostolic backing for his ideas.]
  • It is very likely that the next person who enters the church in your ward will come from a different background than you do; you are to welcome this person, no matter their background, with love and a spirit of unity.
  • Unity is not achieved by marginalizing those who are different; rather, it comes about by serving all.
  • There is no one who is a stranger to God.
  • He referenced the parable of the sheep and the goats, referencing the fact that one of the things the sheep did was to see strangers and take them in.

L. Tom Perry (of the quorum of apostles)
  • Memorizing the Articles of Faith means nothing if you don’t learn the doctrine underlying them.
  • The Articles of Faith provide doctrinal instruction helpful for following God’s plan. He then went into this in quite a bit of detail.
  • We have personal revelation; an additional source of such revelation is our church leaders.
  • Investing the time to learn about the Articles of Faith will result in knowledge that will allow us to testify with power before the world, and help us throughout out lives.

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Saturday afternoon session

And now the Saturday afternoon session. As with the other sorta-liveblogging posts i do, this is done in reverse order—the first speaker appears at the bottom of this post, the second speaker above that, and so on until you get to the end of the session immediately below this introduction. Each speaker’s entry, though, is arranged top to bottom.


Closing thought
  • Can we have kids in the choir all the time from now on? Watching the yawns and the faces being made and all, it just all seemed so…well, real.

M. Russell Ballard (of the quorum of apostles)
  • Using the word “command” deliberately to refer to the directive to perform missionary work.
  • The Lord is hastening his work, but this requires all members of the church (not just the full-time missionaries) to participate in it.
  • Two basic reasons for not sharing the gospel: Fear (even fear of praying to receive opportunities to share the gospel) and a misunderstanding of what missionary work actually is.
  • When members and full-time missionaries pray for help, fear of doing missionary work will be replaced by faith.
  • Even if the time isn’t right for someone to hear the gospel message, they’ll still feel and remember your love.
  • Receiving the gospel is a matter of someone else’s agency; sharing the gospel, however, is required of us.
  • To the full-time missionaries: If you want to teach more, you must speak to more people. [True for everyone, actually, i suppose.]
  • We’re not asking everyone to do everything, we’re just asking everyone to pray—and then if everyone, young and old, reached out with the gospel message to just one person by Christmas, imagine how many people would come to the gospel.

Jeffrey R. Holland (of the quorum of apostles)
  • Speaking directly about mental illness. [Not a frequent topic in general conferences, you know?]
  • There should be no shame in saying you’re facing mental illness, any more than there would be in saying you’re facing a physical illness.
  • Real depression isn’t just what’s colloquially (and in the scriptures) called depression, but something much, much more significant.
  • He says he’s a strong advocate of moving forward past trials with strong shoulders, but this is something that can’t be solved through such means.
  • He himself faced serious depression early in his married life. [An apostle saying out loud and publicly that he faced depression! And i was just about to immediately follow that last sentence with “Does that mean we get to talk about George Albert Smith’s depression now?” only to have him beat me to it.]
  • “If you had appendicitis, God would expect you to get a priesthood blessing and go to the doctor for it. The same is true with emotional disorders.” (I think i got a couple words wrong, but the meaning’s there.)
  • Those caring for those with any type of illness need to make sure they maintain their own balance through the ordeal, too.
  • Whatever struggles you face, do not deal with it by ending your life. Wait for the power of God to repair your life, as it will.
  • One day everyone will resurrected in a perfect frame; imagine the joy that will result from seeing those we know freed from what bound them!
  • [President Uchtdorf’s and Elder Holland’s addresses were both amazingly important to different (though in a few cases overlapping) groups. Elder Dube’s address was amazingly stirring. And we're only in the second session!]

Timothy J. Dyches (of the seventy)
  • Difficulties happen in this life, but the grace of God can help us become whole.

Arnulfo Valenzuela (of the seventy)
  • Great things comes from small things, even stuff like a simple conversation or singing a hymn together.
  • There are less-active members whose hearts have already been softened by the Lord, and are simply waiting for us to reach out to them.

S. Gifford Nielsen (of the seventy)
  • Quoting from the morning session? Way to move fast, dude!
  • Former football player, and totally using football metaphors.
  • [A guy who speaks like this notices exclamation marks? I'm shocked. Shocked!]
  • We need to do missionary work, and be excited about it. [Oh, sorry. That should be: We need to do missionary work, and be excited about it!]

D. Todd Christofferson (of the quorum of apostles)
  • Women have provided much of the moral force for good throughout history, and this has traditionally been underappreciated.
  • [He totally just got the meaning of “mommy track” wrong, along with using that wrong definition as a means of building a strawman attack on feminism. I wonder if that will be corrected in the conference report?]
  • Three philosophies that diminish the moral authority of women are the demeaning of homemaking as a career, the promotion of sexual immorality, and pushing women to adopt masculine roles (in relation to things like toughness, coarseness, and violence).

  • Praising the moral authority of women should not be taken as excusing men from exercising their moral authority.

Boyd K. Packer (president of the quorum of apostles)
  • [Boyd K. Packer’s looking better than the last few conferences.]
  • A listing of the evils all around us, based on Paul’s and Moroni’s lists of evils in the last days.
  • The evils around us shouldn’t make us despair—looking to the future can be an optimistic act.
  • ”Righteousness is more powerful than wickedness.”
  • The effects of transgression can be erased through the atonement of Jesus Christ—a promise that exists in every era.
  • Troubles will come, but peace is promised to all who turn to the scriptures and to Jesus Christ.
Henry B. Eyring (of the first presidency) , presentation of church general officers and authorities
  • No real surprises, except that there was a call to the young men general presidency without a concurrent release—what happened there to create the opening?

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Saturday morning session

Well, i’ve been away from blogging for the past several months—but seeing as how we’ve arrived at another general conference, it’s time to get this party restarted.

That’s right, time for my twice-yearly semi-liveblog of General Conference. As i’ve done before, i’ll be making commentary on the addresses throughout this session, and i’ll be posting (once you’re reading this: i will have posted) the whole thing shortly after the session.

Since social media has trained us to read bottom-up rather than top-down (a development i’m still kind of cranky about, but who am i to withstand the latest fashion?), and so i’ll be posting this in that sort of order—the first speaker appears at the bottom of this post, the second speaker above that, and so on until you get to the end of the session, which appears immediately below this introduction. Each speaker’s entry, though, will have bullet points running from the top (which is a heading with the speaker’s name) downward. Confusing? Yes—but you’ll manage.

Anyway, now’s when you scroll down to the bottom of the post and start working up.

Dieter F. Uchtdorf (of the first presidency)
  • Lots of laughter in response to a story in which he details how much of a timesink the church really is.
  • So why would anyone ever want to join this church? Because we can feel the power of God in our lives through priesthood ordinances and covenants, along with other aspects of Mormon religious life.
  • ”We see Baptism as the starting point in our journey of discipleship.”
  • A direct rebuttal to the common Mormon meme that those who leave the church leave due to laziness or wickedness or such!
  • We should honor the right of those who leave the church to worship God as they wish, just as we ask the same right. [Wow. I don't think i've ever heard that in a general conference, and i've listened to archived conferences going back to the 1930s.]
  • A direct recognition that Mormon leaders have made mistakes.
  • Even if members or leaders of the church make mistakes, that doesn’t mean that the church itself is anything other than the church of God.
  • A call to those who have left to come back and lend their talents and efforts to the church, even if they still have doubts.
  • ”Doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith.”
  • We need a diversity of people and backgrounds in the church.
  • [You know, this wasn’t just a call for people who may have doubts or otherwise may be disaffected with the church to come back or not leave, it was also a fairly firm rebuke to those who would hold that those without firm testimonies of the church, or those who aren’t willing to conform to their cultural expectations should just go away.]
David A. Bednar (of the quorum of apostles)
  • [Poor Elder Bednar—he gets called to the quorum of apostles at the same time as Dieter F. Uchtdorf, and now he gets overshadowed by following the coolest accent at a general conference ever—just can’t win.]
  • If we pay tithing, we will receive spiritual and temporal blessings for it.
  • God gives us blessings for following the commandments, but they’re not always the blessings we expect or even that we think we need.
  • If we are spiritually observant, we’ll be able to recognize the ways, thoughts, and blessings of God more completely.
  • A discussion of the Council on the Disposition of the Tithes—not something you hear all that often in general conference.
  • The Council on the Disposition of the Tithes runs on two basic principles: 1. The church lives within its means and doesn’t spend more than it takes in; 2. the church sets aside a portion of its income so that it can deal with unforeseen shocks and difficulties.
  • [Cuteness at home: The internet feed started stuttering, and so the 6-year-old figured that the speaker must be nervous.]
  • And a closing call for those who aren’t full tithe-payers to start paying a full tithe.
Edward Dube (of the seventy)
  • [ Can i just say right here how much i have loved Zimbabwean- (and Botswanan-)accented English for pretty much my entire life?]
  • We have to look ahead to the future in our efforts to build the kingdom of God—we can learn from the past, but should not dwell on it.
  • [Here’s a bit of craziness: He was one year old when Thomas S. Monson was called to the quorum of apostles!]
  • In order to move forward and hasten the work of salvation, we need teamwork (with a reference to Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s “lift where you stand” line).
Carol N. Stevens (of the general presidency of the relief society)
  • The temple endowment is a gift of power, and specifically priesthood power, given to both men and women.
  • Interesting thought: The core reason to want, e.g., the non-member husband of a female member to be baptized so that priesthood power will be in the home isn’t so much that someone who holds the priesthood will live at the home, but rather so that they can be sealed and together receive that priesthood power. [Heavy stuff, both doctrinally and culturally.]
Ulisses Soares (of the presidency of the seventy)
  • ”Christlike attributes are gifts from God.”
  • The main theme, it appears, is that we need to control our tempers—even when we’re right.
  • Controlling your temper is part of what qualifies us for the gift of meekness. [Interesting thought—i think i’d pretty much conflated them in my own mind.]
Robert D. Hales (of the quorum of apostles)
  • A general conference address about how one chooses what to speak about at general conference. I’m feeling very meta right now…
  • ”What is said [at general conference] is not as important as…what i feel.” [So if i come away from conference feeling like we have way too many administrative meetings in the church from week to week, do i get some sort of award?]
  • [He said that things the proclamation on the family came from church leaders in advance of when we needed them most, specifically saying that the proclamation on the family came in advance of spiritual attacks on families. Does this mean that all those general authorities who talked about attacks on the family before 1995 were just joking? Or, from the other direction, that, say, teen pregnancy rates weren’t declining before that proclamation was issued? (Sorry—that just hit a sore spot about Mormon rhetoric with me. I’ll be quiet about it now.)]
  • Archived general conference addresses, and other online and mobile resources from the church, should be used by families to study the gospel and strengthen their relationships.
  • [I remember when a general conference shout-out to was an unusual event. Does that make me old?]
Thomas S. Monson (president of the high priesthood)
  • We’ve just recently passed 15 million members. [No matter what the activity rate must be, that’s a pretty insane number, you know?]
  • We now have 80,333 full-time missionaries, up from under 60,000 a year ago.
  • He’s hitting missionary work pretty hard for an opening pep-talk-type address (including a call for continued donations to the church’s general missionary fund to help those who come from poverty to be able to serve).
Kent F. Richards (of the Seventy), opening prayer
  • Unusual to hear mission presidents mentioned along with the full-time missionaries in a prayer.
  • Hurrah! For short prayers!