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.