Sunday, October 4, 2015

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Sunday afternoon session

Sunday afternoon, the chance for everyone to relax, ’cause we can tell the end is coming soon.

So: Since this may be the first in this string of general conference posts you see, 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 everything from post to post, 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 strange 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, and get everything in chronological order.

The complication: Under each speaker my comments are ordered top-down. This adds a potential bit of confusion, but it’s the only way i could get it to work conceptually for me. Anyway—now you can scroll to the bottom, or you can just read like a normal person would read a normal text and get the conference backwards. Either way’s fine with me, really.

Closing thoughts
  • Favorite address of the entire conference: Russell M. Nelson’s, coming in a a dark-horse candidate and passing up the expected winners, Dieter F. Uchtdorf and Jeffrey R. Holland.
  • A couple of notable mentions: D. Todd Christofferson’s address wasn’t what i’d call particularly stirring or such, but a solid set of needed reminders, and may actually be the one i end up thinking about most. Dallin H. Oaks’s will merit a close reading, as well—there was a lot going on in it, and i’m quite aware that i didn’t nearly catch all of it on a first listen.
  • What was up with every. single. congregational. hymn. being preceded by an announcement that everyone was to begin singing “on a signal from the conductor”? I mean, were people ever even confused about that before?
  • I asked earlier why none of the non-native English speakers gave addresses in their native languages—it turns out, per a news release i got pointed to online, that they’re not doing that this conference. No explanation why as far as i can tell, but i’ll say that i hope it’s just because of glitches that they’re ironing out and that the option will be back in the future.

David A. Bednar (of the quorum of apostles)
  • The leadership of the church has a great deal of collective experience that we can learn much from.
  • When you can no longer do everything you’ve always done, you focus on what matters most.
  • The leaders of the church are not spared from affliction, but rather are blessed with strength to continue to press forward despite affliction.
  • He’s seen six of his fellows in the quorum of apostles die—and there’s both sadness and joy in the separation from their friendship for a time, and the recognition that they have gone to an eternal glory even while leaving us with wisdom to learn from.
  • [I like the recognition that age can be a positive thing. I’ve long liked hanging around old people, both for the depth of experience and the frequently age-associated lack of filtering. Yes, there are things that youth has going for it—a willingness to try new things, often an intense desire for change—but rather than fetishizing youth, in my opinion we need both youth and age. (And besides, now that i’m rapidly approaching oldness myself, i get to feel like i’m not a hypocrite for hoping that i’ll still have reason for being around.)]

Koichi Aoyagi (recently released from the quorums of seventy)
  • Our purpose for being on this earth includes experiencing trials.
  • However, our purpose is not merely to endure our trials, but to overcome them through the atonement of Jesus Christ.

Kim B. Clark (of the quorums of seventy)
  • A discussion of the saints of Jesus’s time and immediately after, and what we have in common with them.
  • Whatever our level of faith, it isn’t enough for the work ahead—and so we need eyes to see more clearly, and ears to hear more completely.
  • To do this we do not need to be perfect, but we need to be good and getting better.
  • If we devote ourselves to the work, we will have what Paul called “the mind of Christ”.

Allen D. Haynie (of the quorums of seventy)
  • From my oldest: “I’m always impressed by the ability of every general authority to turn anything into an analogy.”
  • God the Father knew we would sin, and so set up a plan whereby we could become clean.
  • Avoidance of sin is the preferred path, but as far as the atonement of Jesus Christ is concerned, it doesn’t matter how deeply we have sunk into sin.
  • The Savior will never turn away from us when we turn to repentance.
  • “Repentance is not easy—things of eternal significance rarely are.” [Is that correct? Quite possibly. I’ma have to ponder on that one a bit.]
  • Repentance leaves us perfectly clean, and ready to receive all that God has to give us.

Carole M. Stephens (of the relief society presidency)
  • We can choose to see commandments as limitations that take our agency and limit our growth, but as we let Heavenly Father teach us, we will see them as what they are—an expression of love.
  • Trust God, and God’s plan for you.
  • Jesus promised that the Comforter would “abide with [us] forever”, and this right is available to every worthy confirmed member of the church.
  • As we trust God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the counsel of the prophets, we will find joy in our mortal journey.

Von G. Keetch (of the quorums of seventy)
  • The commandments God has given us are to help us avoid danger.
  • We show our faith in God every day by keeping the commandments, particularly in those situations where we don’t particularly understand the reasons for them.
  • “God wants us to have joy, He wants us to have peace. He wants us to succeed.”

Devin G. Durrant (of the Sunday school general presidency)
  • Advice: Save money each week.
  • More important advice: “Ponderize” (coined word!) one verse of scripture each week.
  • [I like that he’s pointing out that you can get the meaning of a scripture passage without particularly memorizing it. I honestly get tired of some people saying in church classes that we need to memorize verses from the scriptures, when what we really need to do is incorporate them into our lives whether we memorize them or not, as he’s pointing out.]
  • Don’t hesitate to invite people from other faiths into your study of the scriptures.

D. Todd Christofferson (of the quorum of apostles)
  • How does the Lord’s church accomplish the Lord’s purposes?
  • Moving from grace to grace requires more than just being nice or feeling spiritual—it requires ordinances and enduring.
  • Doing all that cannot be done in isolation, and so the Lord has given us a church.
  • In the body of Christ we have to go beyond simple ideals and concepts, and work with each other as a whole.
  • “Repentance is individual, but fellowship along that long, painful path is in the church.” [Got a couple words wrong, i think, but that was the content.]
  • The support of the church isn’t just spiritual, but also temporal.
  • A belief that all roads lead to salvation leads to no need to spread the word of the gospel—but we believe that a church and its ordinances are necessary, and so we need to preach to the world.

Opening choral stuff
  • The choir’s rendition of “Praise the Lord with Heart and Voice” was really, really amazingly well done—and i say that as someone who’s generally not a fan of MoTab, and who doesn’t normally like that song.
  • One of the early songs—the one right after the opening prayer—the choir not just stood in unison, the angle of the camera let you see that they opened their music in union! That’s a little bit of crazy, right there.

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Sunday morning session

Sunday morning. Anyone out there remember back when you pretty much got to watch one session and it was generally this one? (Whether because you only got one session broadcast in your area, or because you got the videotapes delivered to you and you spent one Sunday at church watching one session? Anyone? Anyone? No, i’m just old? Okay, then.) Anyway, continuing the pattern of the rest of these, the speakers are listed in reverse chronological order, which means that if you read directly after this paragraph without scrolling to the bottom of the entry first, you’ll be reading the end of it and going backward.

Henry B. Eyring (of the first presidency)
  • The sacramental prayers promise that we will always have the Spirit with us.
  • We need the Spirit to discern truth, and to make what is good and true more compelling.
  • Having the Spirit with us can spare us moments of doubt.
  • “When you demonstrate your willingness to obey, the Spirit will send you more impressions of what God would have you do.”
  • A description of some of the experiences of his father as evidence that it isn’t the callings someone has that determine one’s access to revelation, or how spiritual someone claims to be, but how close they remain to the Spirit and follow its promptings.
  • The Spirit can offer us the purification that leads to eternal life, which is the greatest of all the gifts of God.

Claudio R. M. Costa (of the presidency of seventy)
  • [Why aren’t any of the non-native English speakers speaking in their native languages at this conference? Were there issues when they did it before?]
  • By keeping the Sabbath day holy, we strengthen ourselves and protect our families.
  • An extended discussion of his meditation on the wording of the sacramental prayers. [Lots of content there, probably easier to follow in the written record.]
  • The sacrament is a time to ponder on the atonement, and to receive revelation and knowledge.

Gregory A Schwitzer (of the quorums of seventy)
  • “One man or woman who is willing to testify when the world is going in the opposite direction can make a difference.”
  • True disciples desire to inspire, not just to impress.
  • [He said that attacks on the gospel from the great and spacious building have qualitatively changed recently. I wonder, though—is this actually the case? I mean, a lot of what’s going on now sounds a lot like what was going on in, say, 1870, if you read it and the church’s responses. But maybe that's just me.]

Russell M. Nelson (president of the quorum of apostles)
  • Starting out with a tribute to the member of the quorum of apostles who died over the preceding three months.
  • Transition to a tribute to the wives of those apostles.
  • Spencer W. Kimball offered a prophecy [i’ve noticed that general authorities don’t throw that word around lightly, by the way] in 1979 that the future growth of the church would come from the women of the church being “distinct and different in happy ways” from other women.
  • We need women in this church who are devoted, who keep covenants, who are administrators, who can teach fearlessly, who know how to receive revelation and call upon the powers of heaven (among lots of other things).
  • Whatever their callings or stations, we need the input and inspiration of the women of the church on our councils and in our families.
  • [The need for women to have an equal voice in church and family councils is something Russell M. Nelson has talked about a lot the last few years, not just in general conferences but in leadership trainings and such. He really appears to have no patience with men who don’t listen to what women have to say.]
  • A promise to women that as they contribute to church and family councils, God will magnify their contributions.

Dale G. Renlund (of the quorum of apostles)
  • The calling as an apostle—or, in fact, any calling in the church—isn’t about what the person being called has done, but rather about what needs to be accomplished through that person.
  • We can receive the pure love of Jesus Christ only when we see through Heavenly Father’s eyes.

Gary E. Stevenson (of the quorum of apostles)
  • Some discussion of feelings of inadequacy upon being called as an apostle, and the need to find his “anchor” in the gospel of Jesus Christ with his wife.
  • [He’s young enough to have a child who’s currently a full-time missionary? Yeah, it’s his youngest, but still.]

Ronald A. Rasband (of the quorum of apostles)
  • The one message to leave with everyone today: “The Lord has said, ‘Love one another as i have loved you.’”
  • There is no choice or sin that can place us beyond the love of God.

Thomas S. Monson (president of the high priesthood)
  • You are to be an example of the believers; to do this you must be a believer.
  • As we follow the teachings of Jesus, our light will shine forth.
  • Speak to others with love and respect—both in terms of avoiding profanity and taking the name of God in vain, and not using language in ways designed to wound and offend.
  • We need to possess and nourish our belief and faith, so that we can remain solidly anchored and influence all around us.
  • We should be willing to be different.
  • At times our challenges may be overwhelming and our light may dim, but with help from our Heavenly Father and those around us we can regain the light we had before.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Priesthood session

So i went to priesthood session at the stake center—not an absolute necessity any more, but i’m apparently a creature of habit.

Anyway, as with the rest of these, the first speaker is at the bottom of the post, and to go from speaker to speaker you’ll need to scroll to up until you get to the last speaker at the top of the post (after this intro).

Closing thought
  • Is it just me, or is priesthood session getting progressively shorter? Not that i’m really complaining—i’m evil enough to find ten hours out of a weekend (especially living in a time zone where it all starts earlier than one should really be awake of a Saturday) to be a bit much—but it still seems a bit odd that this one session tends to be so short compared to the others.

Thomas S. Monson (president of the high priesthood)
  • The message tonight is straightforward: Keep the commandments.
  • Satan is relentless, and a danger to our ultimate goal of salvation—unless we ourselves are relentless in seeking to follow God’s ways.
  • Be strong, and don’t be led into false paths by feelings of insecurity.
  • Don’t be distracted by the loud voices around us, but pay attention to the still small voice of the Spirit.

Henry B. Eyring (of the first presidency)
  • When you do your part, the Lord adds power to your efforts.
  • The Lord calls those who can do their part.
  • If we know God has called us through authorized servants, we can take courage.
  • We can take joy in knowing that God loves us and supports us.
  • [Lots of fun stories in this one.]

Dieter F. Uchtdorf (of the first presidency)
  • After an extended exegesis of the opening parts of the story of Daniel from the Bible, he asked: Are we like Daniel? Do our daily actions reflect what we claim to believe, or are we “Sunday Christians” only?
  • We live in a time of a great outpouring of truth—and we have a responsibility to live up to that.
  • It is our work to live our belief in a world of unbelief.
  • Daniel could have gone along with everything he was pressured to do—until the day the king had his dream, and then Daniel would have found it was too late.
  • “We believe in God because of things we know with our heart and mind, not because of things we do not know.”
  • Those who say they wish they could believe the way that you do have been beguiled by Satan’s lie that faith is only available to a few.
  • Some seem to think that by placing the burden of proof on God, they can avoid responsibility for living up to the commandments of God.
  • Skepticism is easy; a life of faith deserves admiration.

Randall K. Bennett (of the quorums of seventy)
  • By being willing to try, and try again if we fail, we can eventually find success.
  • God the Father and Jesus Christ are eager to bless us.
  • Whenever we make an effort to do as we should, we will be blessed
  • Spiritual gifts aren’t limited to those who obey all the commandments, but are available to all those who sincerely desire to do so.
  • We must resist the natural tendency to procrastinate or give up.
  • “We cannot fail if we are faithfully yoked to the Savior.”

Neil L. Anderson (of the quorum of apostles)
  • How strong is your faith?
  • Faith is important not just in this life, but in the next.
  • We honor the faith of all believers in Christ.
  • Be “relentless” in protecting your faith.
  • Faith doesn’t seek the answers to all questions before moving forward.
  • “Faith is a choice.”

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Saturday afternoon session

So it’s Saturday afternoon, and time for our next session. Once again, the first speaker is at the bottom of the post, the next speaker is above that, and so on to the end of the session at the top. This means that, to follow the session chronologically, you should scroll to the bottom of the post and work your way upwards. However, under each speaker, the comments are done top-down, because it’s easier for me to write that way.

Dallin H. Oaks (of the quorum of apostles)
  • Jesus Christ experienced all possible mortal challenges and infirmities so that he could be filled with mercy.
  • Jesus knows our difficulties because he willingly experienced them all—and so he can give us strength to bear them all.
  • Afflictions are universal to all—but through the atonement, they can be resolved.
  • No matter our anguish, Jesus understand it.
  • Having descended beneath all things, Jesus is perfectly positioned to lift us up if we but ask.
  • [A solid address, but his professorial delivery hid some of the emotional impact behind it, i think—like many of his, this seemed built more for the written record than the immediate delivery.]

James B. Martino (of the quorums of seventy)
  • God answers prayers asked with sincere intent, not just to satisfy curiosity.
  • If you’ve lost your connection to the Spirit, you can get it back—ask in faith, don’t give up, and it will come.
  • Why did the trials of the sons of Mosiah strengthen their commitment, while Laman and Lemuel’s trials didn’t? Because the sons of Mosiah held to the scriptures.
  • Obedience, scripture study, prayer, and fasting strengthens us spiritually; not doing these weakens us.

Vern P. Stanfill (of the quorums of the seventy)
  • We may feel confident about our preparation for challenges to our faith, only to find that our preparations are inadequate.
  • We may be embarrassed at our lack of preparation, which may push us into despair and apostasy if we let it.
  • God will never abandon us when we are struggling—and this help may come directly or from other people.
  • When we are struggling, it is okay to rely on the faith of those who reach out to help us. [So can we tattoo this thought on the forehead of everyone who teaches in church that it simply doesn't count if someone relies on others’ testimonies?]
  • We have the capacity to choose belief over doubt.

Hugo Montoya (of the quorums of the seventy)
  • [Okay, so i’m evil and all, but every time i hear about Elder Montoya, all i can think is “My name is Inigo Montoya…”]
  • Something as simple as a smile can bring peace to the heart of another.
  • The atonement brings peace and joy.
  • We can help other children of our Heavenly Father reach their potential.

Bradley D. Foster (of the quorums of the seventy)
  • Consider: Our children are the largest group of investigators of the church.
  • Heavenly Father wants our children to succeed—remember that they were his children before they were ours.
  • “Our children learn when they’re ready to learn, not when we're ready to teach them.”
  • It’s never too early, nor too late, to teach our children. (And this includes fully-grown and self-established children.)
  • We need to not just hear, but understand—and we need to help our children (and grandchildren) not just hear, but understand.

Jeffrey R. Holland (of the quorum of apostles)
  • [What with his reputation for being hyperinspiring and all, it’s gotta have turned into a bit of pressure for him to speak in general conference.]
  • The love of God has strong parallels with the love of mothers.
  • Mothers not only bear us, they bear with us.
  • The weight of expectation and responsibility can for mothers, especially young ones, be overwhelming.
  • When tempted, we can remember our mothers as well as our Savior, and think to spare them both the pain we might inflict on them.
  • A story involving someone with same sex attraction where the goal wasn’t trying to “cure” it or somesuch, but simply what should be everyone’s goal—worthiness.
  • Mother in Heaven reference, over the pulpit!
  • [You should look this address up if only for the brief story of the mother with her disabled daughter. It was…beautiful. Simply beautiful.]

Robert D. Hales (of the quorum of apostles)
  • Young adults are faced with choices that will have long-term consequences.
  • One of the purposes of the scriptures is to tell us how the righteous have responded to evil—they run from it.
  • Temporal counsel—don’t live beyond your income.
  • Education will prepare you for life, including marriage.
  • “None of us marry perfection, we marry potential.”
  • If you want to marry an attractive, spiritual, kind person, be that person yourself.
  • Figure out where you want to be in the next year or more, and what choices you need to get there.

Henry B. Eyring (of the first presidency), presentation of general officers and authorities
  • [Drum roll…]
  • Ronald A. Rasband, Gary E. Stevenson, and Dale G. Renlund as new apostles. All are Americans, if my quick googling is correct, to my moderate surprise.
  • Some dissenting votes, as presumably will be the norm from this point. At least those who opposed seem to have simply raised their hands rather than shouting, which seems a lot more polite than last time, you know?

Before the opening
  • Fifteen chairs in the first presidency/quorum of apostles row again! Guess we’re getting the announcement of the new ones this session.
  • My oldest just pointed out how much more interesting distance shots of the rostrum area would be if the men got to wear suits as brightly colored as the women.
  • Primary children’s choir! Quite cute, really (especially the ones who are looking phenomenally bored).
  • If my high priests group were a betting cartel, the only candidate with better than even odds on being called as an apostle would be Ronald A. Rasband, currently of the presidency of the seventy. We’ll see…

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Saturday morning session

So: Like all the rest of these i’ve done for some years, my notes are in “liveblog” style (is that even still a thing?). This means that the first speaker is at the bottom of the post, the next speaker is above that, the next is above that, and so on to the last (which is at the top). The result is that by the end of the conference you, the reader, can scroll down to the bottom of the Saturday morning session post for the start of the conference, and then 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, even if that makes it more confusing to you. Sorry ‘bout that.

Closing song
  • Does it amuse anyone else when MoTab sings “Come, Come Ye Saints” in Utah, and doesn’t change the line that they’ll find a place “far away, in the west”? I guess Hawai’i really is Zion, then?

Quentin L. Cook (of the quorum of apostles)
  • Satan presents a false choice: Between happiness in this life, or happiness in the life to come (which may or may not exist). In actual fact, God’s plan holds out happiness in the life to come, and also in this life.
  • We need to be temple worthy in both good and bad times.
  • It is a cause for concern when self-aggrandizement is viewed as a positive thing.
  • Immoral conduct is never part of how to be happy.
  • Need to focus on righteous self-control and conduct.
  • Resisting something tempting once will help you resist future temptations.
  • Nearly a quarter of a million people are currently serving full-time missions or have served within the last five years, and they need to focus on resisting temptation.
  • Honoring the Sabbath strengthens us.
  • God provides us with protection when we are righteous.
  • The Holy Ghost cleanses us if we place the gospel first in our lives.

Francisco J. ViƱas (of the quorums of seventy)
  • The “pleasing word of God” reassures us that we will be able to make it through our trials.
  • If we live faithful lives but were unable to do all that was required despite our best efforts, we will have all the exaltation and glory that anyone can lay claim to.
  • We need to discern the difference between trials that occur despite our best efforts, and trials that occur as punishment affixed to sin.
  • The pleasing word of God both comforts and warns us.
  • Brigham Young taught that sanctification comes from complete submission of one’s will to that of God.

Larry R. Lawrence (of the quorums of seventy)
  • We need to ask ourselves what we need to change and improve.
  • The Holy Ghost doesn’t tell us to improve everything at once—if that was done, we would become discouraged and give up.
  • By following the counsel of the Holy Ghost, even (maybe particularly) in small things, we will grow toward perfection and sanctification.
  • A suggestion for each of us to ask God what is keeping us from progressing—in other words, “What lack i yet?” If you then listen, you will receive inspiration specifically for you.
  • Sometimes we need to ask what we’re doing right, so that we can be uplifted and encouraged.
  • Be persistent—God is interested in the direction of our growth, not its speed.

Neill F. Marriott (of the general presidency of the young women’s organization)
  • [Hooray! For Southern accents!]
  • [I wonder how many general authorities and officers of the church aside from her graduated from Southern Methodist University.]
  • Even in the face of tragedy, we can have faith that it will all work out if we remain faithful.
  • Her family’s motto is “It will all work out”. Significantly, though, it doesn’t say “It will all work out now”.
  • Resentment damages your progress and keeps you from developing healthy, happy relationships.
  • In order for our hearts to be healed, we must first offer a broken heart as a sacrifice to the Lord.
  • “Can we love Jesus Christ and his way more than we love ourselves and our agenda?” [May have gotten a couple words wrong, but that was basically it.]

Richard J. Maynes (of the presidency of the seventy)
  • Starting out with an extended allegory from an object lesson one of the seventy gave a group of youth on making pottery—in order for it to work the clay needs to be centered on the wheel, just as we need to be centered on Jesus.
  • “If our lives are centered on Jesus Christ, he can successfully mold us into who we need to be”.
  • Consider that Nephi’s statement that his people “did live after the manner of happiness” came after decades of difficulty—but they had true joy because they were centered in Christ.
  • We can all find that peace, happiness, and joy if we have Christ-centered lives.

M. Russell Ballard (of the quorum of apostles)
  • A follow-up to his “Old Ship Zion” address from last conference.
  • God leads the “Old Ship Zion”, and it has prophets who, though mortal, can let us know what God wants us to do with it to lead the work of the Lord forward.
  • “Too many people think church leaders and members should be perfect, or nearly perfect.”
  • Church leaders, because they are mortal, occasionally make mistakes, like everyone—but we err when we see only each others’ human natures without recognizing the hand of the Lord in their actions and words.
  • We need to take care to keep the Sabbath.
  • Testimony meetings are a time to share brief inspiring stories and witnesses of principles of the gospel, not for delivering a speech.
  • Exaltation is our goal, and we can’t get there without both the ordinances and the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Dieter F. Uchtdorf (of the first presidency)
  • We have to be careful about looking for “secret” or “hidden” truths, because that can distract us from the truth.
  • We as church members should ask ourselves from time to time whether our experience in the church is blessing us and bringing us closer to Jesus.
  • “Why does [the church] seem to work better for some than for others?”
  • One possibility: “Are we making our discipleship too complicated?”
  • Church leaders must strictly protect the church and the gospel in its purity and plainness, and avoid putting too many burdens on the members.
  • Living the gospel doesn’t need to be complicated—hearing the word of God leads us to believe in and trust on God, which leads us to love God and others, which leads us to desire to follow and serve God and help others, which leads us to learn more of the word of God, bringing us back to the beginning.
  • If we focus on the simple core of the gospel, it will work better for us.
  • Another suggestion: Start where you are.
  • Remember that God promises to make “weak things become strong”. Satan, on the other hand, uses our weaknesses to sow doubt and keep us weak.
  • Even Moses saw himself as so weak “he wanted to give up and die—but God did not give up on Moses”.
  • We see ourselves through mortal eyes, but God sees our potential, and who we really are and can be.
  • “Exaltation is our goal. Discipleship is our journey.”
  • We should focus on the grace that is in Christ, and let it lift us—and then we will be able to say “in pride, and in all humility, and in great joy” that our membership in the church brings us joy.