Sunday, April 6, 2014

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Sunday afternoon session

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

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

And now—onward!

Thomas S. Monson (president of the high priesthood)

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

D. Todd Christofferson (of the quorum of apostles)

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

Marcos A. Aidukaitis (of the seventy)

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

Michael John U. Teh (of the seventy)

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

Lawrence E. Corbridge (of the seventy)

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

L. Tom Perry (or the quorum of apostles)

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

William R. Walker (of the seventy)

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

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

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

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Sunday morning session

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

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

So now, scroll down to begin.

Thomas S. Monson (president of the high priesthood)

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

David A. Bednar (of the quorum of apostles)

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

Gary E. Stevenson (presiding bishop)

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

Jean A. Stevens (of the primary general presidency)

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

M. Russell Ballard (of the quorum of apostles)

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

Dieter F. Uchtdorf (of the first presidency)

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

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Priesthood session

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

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

So now, scroll down to begin.

Thomas S. Monson (president of the high priesthood)

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

Henry B. Eyring (of the first presidency)

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

Dieter F. Uchtdorf (of the first presidency)

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

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

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

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

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

Dallin H. Oaks (of the quorum of apostles)

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

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Saturday afternoon session

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

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

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

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

Quentin L. Cook (of the quorum of apostles)

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

W. Craig Zwick (of the seventy)

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

Claudio D. Zivic (of the seventy)

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

Robert D. Hales (of the quorum of apostles)

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

Richard G. Scott (of the quorum of apostles)

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

Russell M. Nelson (of the quorum of apostles)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Saturday morning session

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

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

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

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

Henry B. Eyring (of the first presidency)

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

Neil L. Anderson (of the quorum of apostles)

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

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

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

Carlos H. Amado (of the quorums of seventy)

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

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

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

Jeffrey R. Holland (of the quorum of apostles)

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

Thomas S. Monson (president of the high priesthood)

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