Sunday, October 2, 2016

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Sunday afternoon session

So by the time you read this, this general conference is over, and this is likely the first post you’re seeing at the top of them. Given that, here’s a quick explanation of the way they’re structured:

Blogs have the utterly bizarre feature of requiring a read from the bottom upward from post to post to get a chronological picture; that means that the post below this one 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 means that if you read top-down you’ll get everything backward, but if you scroll down to the bottom of the Saturday morning session post and read bottom-up from there through the entire conference, you’ll get everything in chronological order.

However, under each speaker my comments are ordered top-down. This adds a potential bit of confusion, but trying to make everything perfectly backward just gets too messy. Anyway—this means that you can now scroll to the bottom to get everything in chronological order, or you can just read like a normal person would read a normal text and get the conference backwards. Either way—doesn’t matter to me, really.

(Oh—and as a postscript, my favorite address of the entire conference? Unlike some previous ones there wasn’t one or two in particular that stood out head and shoulders about the rest, but even so, i’d have to give the nod to Linda S. Reeves and Henry B. Eyring in the Sunday morning session, particularly the former.)

Dale G. Renlund of the quorum of apostles
  • [What we learn from the story he opened with: Don’t light firecrackers in church. So now that we’ve got that settled…]
  • Repentance has to involve a change, both in our action and in our hearts.
  • The reach of the atonement is infinite, but it will never be imposed on any of us.
  • Blaming others (even when justified!) for our wrong actions turns us into victims rather than independent agents.
  • “Repentance is not only possible but joyful because of the Savior.”

K. Brett Nattress of the quorums of seventy
  • If the people around you had only you as their source of gospel knowledge and understanding, how much would they actually know?
  • Those (women, he particularly directed this at) who teach children gospel truths deserve to be called angels.
  • Being a parent (in its widest sense) is not easy, but brings eternal joy.

Evan A. Schmutz of the quorums of seventy
  • If we are suffering, we may still find godly purpose in it.
  • Even in moments when we plead to God but our suffering is not removed, our pleas are still being heard.
  • Learning from and feeling compassion for the sufferings of others can be a blessing.
  • Don’t compare your struggles to those of others.
  • Suffering itself does not give us anything of lasting value unless we work to make it so.

Ronald A. Rasband of the quorum of apostles
  • When we wonder whether God is really there, we need to remember the eternal love God has for us, even (perhaps especially?) when circumstances make it hard to recall that.
  • Once we have strengthened ourselves spiritually, we are to strengthen those around us—remembering that you have to continue strengthening yourselves to do so.
  • “Generations are affected by the choices we make” (both for better and for worse).
  • “Never forget, question, or ignore personal, sacred experiences.”
  • Seek out things that will help you grow spiritually.

Carl B. Cook of the quorums of seventy
  • Just as gears can have greater power when they are brought together in a “compound” system, so can each of us have greater power when we work together in our callings and assignments.
  • Fulfilling callings can be difficult and requires faith, but as we serve we grow closer to God.
  • “Accepting and fulfilling a calling is an act of faith.”
  • No calling is unimportant, and we are entitled to the assistance of God as we serve.
  • “Whatever our age or circumstance, let service be our watchry.”

Brian K. Ashton of the Sunday school general presidency
  • The “doctrine of Christ” is having faith, repenting, being baptized, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.
  • “Repentance is not a backup plan.” Rather, it is what we are to do every day as we become more like the Savior.
  • The ordinance of the sacrament is a renewal of all of our covenants.

David A. Bednar of the quorum of apostles
  • At a couple points where (in the King James Version of the Bible) Jesus tells of those to whom he will say things like “I never knew you”, the Joseph Smith Version reads something like “You never knew me”.
  • We need to know the Lord by exercising faith in him, following him, serving him, and believing in him.
  • Hearing the doctrine of Christ is a prerequisite for faith in him, which itself leads to following him.
  • Sustained, steady progress along the covenant pathway is the course of life that is pleasing to God.
  • When we acknowledge our total dependence on the Lord, our capacities are enlarged.
  • “We often testify of what we know to be true, but perhaps the more relevant question for each of us is whether we believe what we know.”
  • On the day that every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ, he will know our names.

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Sunday morning session

Back when i was growing up in the Washington DC area, the Sunday morning was the only one i ever got to see, and so i still think of it as the main session, when all the big-deal new stuff gets announced (even though that isn’t really the case anymore).

Anyway, it’s the same here as in the other ones: The speakers are chronologically bottom-up, comments within each speaker chronologically top-down. (Confusing, but it works.) So enjoy MoTab’s intensely purple look today and scroll down…

Henry B. Eyring of the first presidency
  • We are to give thanks and love to God on the sabbath.
  • If we are not grateful to God, we are in danger of God’s wrath.
  • We have much to be grateful for on the sabbath—even, for those who are in a sacrament meeting, the fact that we are there at all, when there are others who cannot join with us, whether through illness or being in a position of protecting health and safety at that time.
  • [I’ve mentioned before that i really do think that Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s early experiences as a refugee have been helpful for the church; it occurs to me that Henry B. Eyring’s formative experiences in the then-still-astonishingly-tiny church in the eastern United States are probably similarly helpful.]
  • God has promised that all blessings are available to us—and those who receive them with gratefulness will have glory given them.
  • We should find ways to be grateful; in particular, we should pray to find ways to be of service to those who need it, and we will find gratitude in that service.
  • God and Jesus Christ know your name, just as they knew Joseph Smith’s name when they appeared to him.

Lynn G. Robbins of the presidency of the seventy
  • Jesus Christ is the “righteous judge”—and he gave the counsel to be as he is in the context of judging righteously.
  • Today’s common judges should respond with compassion and understanding, not with shame and condemnation—to do otherwise may unintentionally drive the lost sheep further into the wilderness.
  • When we willfully sin, we imprison ourselves and are in need of keys of forgiveness for our release.
  • Kindness is the power we have been given to soften hard hearts.
  • There is only one way to judge righteous judgment, and that is to be as Jesus is. (And we need to be particularly aware of this when dealing with our own children.)

Dean M. Davies of the presiding bishopric
  • “Worship is essential and central to our spiritual life.”
  • Every day—especially on the sabbath day—we have the opportunity to worship.
  • “True worship transforms us into true and earnest disciples” of Jesus Christ.
  • It is impossible to love God while hating and dismissing those around us
  • True worship leads inevitably to charity.

M. Russell Ballard of the quorum of apostles
  • When many decided to “walk no more” with Jesus, he asked the apostles whether they would also leave, to which Peter responded, “Lord, to whom shall we go?”
  • If we’re tempted to leave, we should ask ourselves, “To whom shall we go?” Where else could we find what we have in this church?
  • Remember that the restoration isn’t an event, but an ongoing process.
  • If you have doubts that won’t go away, you should be wary of making rash decisions—as you experience more of life, you learn that things like that actually generally work themselves out.
  • Just as we should embrace new converts, we should embrace those who are struggling through their own doubts.
  • “In the end we must believe, trust and hope.”

Linda S. Reeves of the relief society general presidency
  • When we sin, Satan often tries to convince us that confessing will devastate others, and thus prevent us from repenting.
  • Repentance isn’t condemnation—it means that we can become better.
  • “Whatever the cost of repentance , it is swallowed up in the joy of forgiveness.”
  • Whatever you may have done, you have not traveled beyond the reach of God’s love.
  • The greatest miracles aren’t the parting of the Red Sea, or even the healing of the body—they are the healing of the soul that comes from true repentance.

Peter F. Meurs of the quorums of seventy
  • “Participation in the sacrament ordinance provides an opportunity to more fully yield our hearts and souls to God.”
  • Are we willing to actually live up to the covenants we make in the sacramental prayers?
  • [Whoever selected the pictures for the broadcast of this address was totally on point.]
  • We should prepare for the sacrament and sacrament meeting well before Sunday.

Russell M. Nelson president of the quorum of apostles
  • As we face challenges from fear and corruption around us, how can we remain steadfast?
  • Remember that Lehi faced many challenges and heartaches, but still taught that we exist such that we might have joy.
  • Saints can (and should) be joyful under every circumstance
  • Our joy has little to do with the circumstances of our lives, and more to do with the focus of our lives.
  • Why do our missionaries preach the gospel? Not simply to increase the number of church members, but rather to increase joy.
  • “Joy is powerful, and focusing on joy brings God’s power into our lives.”
  • Joy is what allowed Jesus Christ to endure the atonement.

Thomas S. Monson president of the high priesthood
  • It is not enough to just believe, but we also need to study and learn God’s laws, and follow them.
  • We have a mandate to share God’s truth—and remember that God gives us no commandments that are not for our good.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Priesthood session

And now, priesthood session. I do have to say that i do enjoy the way that (at least in places i know about) it’s still a thing that men and boys go to at meetinghouses (like the women and girls go to the women’s session) even though you can easily enough stream it online these days.

(Of course, doing that means there’s a delay between me taking my notes and you getting to see them. I’m sure we’ll all survive that, though.)

Anyway, as is my wont, the first speaker is at the bottom of this post leading to the last speaker at the top, with comments under each speaker’s name going from the first at the top going downwards.

Thomas S. Monson president of the high priesthood
  • If we obey the word of wisdom, we will be blessed.
  • [Seriously, that was it (illustrated by a story). He’s wearing out. Of course, he’s 89 years old, so i figure he’s earned it. It may be useful for our church that we regularly get to watch aging in front of us—memento mori, of course, but also a reminder that no matter how distant someone’s age and experience might be, they probably still have something to teach you.]

Henry B. Eyring of the first presidency
  • Wilford Woodruff said he was just as sustained by God in his first mission (when he was ordained as a teacher) as he was in later preaching as an apostle—as long as one does one’s duty, there is no difference.
  • We need to feel gratitude to those who have helped mentor us.
  • [Did he just take a swipe at young-earth types? Why yes, yes, i do believe he did.]
  • We need to give those less experienced than us a chance to contribute in meaningful ways. [And yes, that was nearly his entire address—he spoke on precisely that at length.]

Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the first presidency
  • After telling the stories of Alma and Amulek (in Alma chh. 8–), there are two questions: (1) What can i learn from Alma. (2) How am i like Amulek?
  • Alma, upon returning to Ammonihah, asked for help (which he received). Too often, we are too hesitant to ask for help.
  • In order for leaders to succeed, they need to find their “Amuleks”. This is the pattern Jesus gave—he didn’t just take care of everything himself (though he could have!), but built up others by allowing them to contribute.
  • If we, like Amulek, have let ourselves drift away from contributing as we should, remember that we, like Amulek, can still do great things.

LeGrand R. Curtis of the quorums of seventy
  • The Book of Mormon is an instrument of conversion (illustrated by a number of stories of that happening).
  • For some a witness of the Book of Mormon comes with their first exposure to it, for others it’s more gradual and comes after much study and prayer.
  • No matter whether our testimony of it comes quickly or slowly, the Book of Mormon will continue to bless us.
  • Parents should make the Book of Mormon a part of their daily family life.

Jeffrey R. Holland of the quorum of apostles
  • Home teachers are the church’s first line of help to its members.
  • Despite all of our efforts in instruction, we still struggle to succeed at it.
  • In the best of all worlds, a monthly visit to each member’s home is still the ideal—but the leadership of the church does recognize the need for local leaders to use available resources in the best ways for local needs.
  • Home teachers should maintain contact with their assigned families even when they can’t visit, whether via in-person conversation, letters, email, phone, text, or whatever—home visits are best, but whatever is done must come from genuine gospel concern.
  • What counts as home teaching? Everything counts! Report it all!
  • But what really counts is the love we feel for the families we are assigned to home teach.
  • Home teachers should be God’s emissaries, loving and caring for the people.

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Saturday afternoon session

Once again, the first speaker of this session is at the bottom of this post with each following speaker entered progressively above the previous one, but within each speaker’s entry my comments run from the top down.

So now, everyone take a sip of your unspecified diet soft drink and scroll to the bottom of the post…

Dallin H. Oaks of the quorum of apostles
  • We have been commanded to proclaim the gospel in all the world, and we desire to be more effective in doing so.
  • There are a number of ways that this can be done that will work in specific regions and circumstances, but since this is a worldwide church (and a worldwide conference), it is right for this address to focus on ideas that will work in all circumstances.
  • Faithful, obedient members are the most persuasive representatives of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ—and those faithful members will have the right to inspiration about how best to preach the word.
  • We should pray to be able to share the gospel—not praying for the missionaries, but praying that we will be inspired to speak to someone about the gospel—and commit to actually doing so.
  • We should not set ourselves up as judges of who is or is not ready to hear the gospel message.
  • A caution: We often desire to share doctrines of the gospel, but those around us are often more interested in the results of those doctrines than in the doctrines themselves.
  • We need to invite people to be converted to the gospel rather than being converted to the church. Further, love for the church follows from love for the gospel, not the other way around—“put first things first!”
  • Member missionary work is not a program, but rather a reflection of an attitude.

Kazuhiko Yamashita of the quorums of seventy
  • We need to (quoting William S. Clark) “Be ambitious—be ambitious for Christ!”
  • We will experience trials, but if we are ambitious for Christ, by focusing on Jesus we can overcome them with patience and faith, and find joy in the covenant path.
  • [By the way, what happened to speakers of languages other than English being able to deliver addresses in their native languages? I don’t feel like any of the ones who would have been eligible so far were necessarily deficient in English to the point of being hard to understand, but was the experiment ended, or is it still an option?]

W. Mark Bassett of the quorums of seventy
  • Our development can be slowed or even halted by searching out things that are not yet revealed while ignoring the precious truths that have already been given to us.
  • We can’t force the mysteries of God to be opened up to us—rather, they will be revealed to us as God wills it.
  • We don’t need to have a perfect knowledge of all things, but rather to hope for things that are not seen but are true.

D. Todd Christofferson of the quorum of apostles
  • We often say God’s love is unconditional, but that descriptor doesn’t appear in scripture.
  • Sometimes, calling God’s love unconditional leads to mistaken notions about sin and God’s tolerance for it.
  • God will always love us, but will not save us in our sins.
  • The greatest manifestation of God’s love is the gift of repentance, which allows mercy to satisfy justice rather than leaving us exposed to all of justice’s demands.
  • God’s aim is not simply to bring us back to our original innocent state, but rather to bring us to the same state as God has.
  • “Divine love can transform a willing soul.”
  • It can be quite possible for us to be satisfied with reaching a state we think is enough, when God has a much richer future in store for us.

Intermediate hymn
  • What’s that? A choir made up of missionaries from the Missionary Training Center singing “Called to Serve”?? Who could have ever seen that one coming?

Gary E. Stevenson of the quorum of apostles
  • “No one is too young to receive a testimony of the Book of Mormon.”
  • Reading and developing a testimony of the Book of Mormon can result in it becoming the keystone of your religion [emphasis mine].
  • It is a gift from God that the keystone of our religion can be something as tangible as the Book of Mormon.
  • Some of the time we spend in entertainment could be easily transferred to reading the Book of Mormon.
  • Learning the truths of the Book of Mormon will bring great blessings of knowledge and spiritual light into your life.

Quentin L. Cook of the quorum of apostles
  • We need to take care to avoid “stumbling blocks” to our continued growth.
  • One of these stumbling blocks can be the philosophies of men—but our faith should not (as Paul said) stand in the wisdom of man, but in the power of God.
  • “Without religious beliefs there are no feelings of accountability [here’s where i started to be like, ‘Wait a minute, i’m not so sure…’] to God [‘…oh, okay, that’s cool, i’m with you there’].
  • Looking beyond the mark is another stumbling block—this includes particularly taking one point of doctrine or religious practice and turning it into an element of religious fanaticism.
  • If we elevate anything above the Savior Jesus Christ, we are looking beyond the mark.

Henry B. Eyring of the first presidency, presentation of general officers and authorities
  • [The shouting of “opposed” by those voting opposed isn’t even shocking or surprising anymore, it’s just annoying. If i agreed with them, i’d be distressed that they were putting such a negative face on my movement, you know?]
  • [Also, i liked President Eyring pausing slightly and waiting until after the first "opposed" shout to ask for dissenting votes, making the shouting look extra silly. Whether it was done on purpose that way or not, all i can say is well played, sir, well played.]

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Saturday morning session

Welcome again to the twice-yearly revival of this blog for my notes on general conference. Even though liveblogging isn’t so much a thing anymore, i post these, as always, in “liveblog” style. If this is your first time on this site, then i should explain briefly (well, after asking how in the world you stumbled on this): The first speaker of this session is actually at the bottom of this post, the next speaker is above that, the next is above that, and so on to the last speaker (who appears at the top of the post). This means that once the whole conference weekend is past you would be able to scroll down to the bottom of this session’s 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 chronologically (i.e., the opposite direction), because—and just trust me on this—the bottom-up thing really and truly doesn’t work within an individual speaker’s entry.

So, now is when you scroll to the bottom of the post to read each speaker in order, or you start reading normally to read the speakers in reverse order. Either way—i’m easy.

Neil L. Anderson of the quorum of apostles
  • We are all a piece of the puzzle of the gathering.
  • [Wow—the little 1997-looking CGI visual interlude was…odd.]
  • The burden of the gathering that once rested primarily on the shoulders of the full-time missionaries now rests on us all.
  • Guilt can be useful—it can get us started on change. But just as a battery can start a car but is insufficient to keep it going for long, so is guilt insufficient for the long journey ahead.
  • Don’t view your missionary outreach to your friends as a pass-fail test, with your grade based on their response—if you do it, your grade is always an A+.
  • Even in countries where governments have restricted the ability of not just missionaries but even members to preach the gospel, members of the church are able to reach those around them. [Not that we’re looking straight at you or anything, Russia.]
  • Shout-out to folks sharing the gospel on social media!
  • The gospel must, as Daniel prophesied, go to all nations people—and “the dream is certain and the interpretation sure”.

J. Devn Cornish of the quorums of seventy
  • When we doubt whether we’re good enough, remember that the only opinion that ultimately counts is God’s—and as long as we continue to repent, we will make it.
  • God is not a heartless referee looking for a reason to kick us out, but rather intends for us to make it.
  • Quoting Gordon B. Hinckley: All you have to do is try, but you have to really try!
  • We often don’t realize how much God wants us to succeed.
  • If we sincerely repent, God will forgive us, no matter what the sin is or how often we’ve sinned.
  • “What we cannot do is rationalize rather than repent.”
  • We are in rebellion whenever we believe that we don’t need God, and don’t need to repent.

Juan A Uceda of the quorums of seventy
  • [The story he’s opening with, about visiting a ledgeside site near Macchu Picchu? Dang, with my fear of edges—not so much heights, but certainly edges—this is totally freaking me out.]
  • Even when we ignore divine direction, God can still reach out to us with mercy rather than justice.
  • We need to pray with sincerity, and not do it at a superficial level.
  • Ask yourself: Are you saying prayers, or are you actually praying?
  • Why do we sometimes not want to receive the love and mercy God is so willing to give?

Craig C. Christensen of the presidency of the seventy
  • We don’t need to be timid about testifying about Joseph Smith’s mission as a prophet.
  • Joseph Smith was imperfect, just as everyone is—but he was still a prophet of God.
  • Joseph Smith had questions, but he didn’t let those questions paralyze his faith—he sought answers.
  • We should consider the fruits of Joseph Smith being a prophet—all that we have in the church today, both in structure and doctrine, comes from him.

Carol F. McConkie of the relief society general presidency
  • Having the faith to pray and acting on the answers we receive will lead us to have faith.
  • As you pray, God will comfort you.
  • All three members of the godhead are referenced in our prayers, and they all have roles to play.
  • We need to not just receive, but understand the answers to our prayers.
  • “Prayer is a gift from God.”
  • Every moment of prayer can be time spent with the Father in the name of the Son by the power of the Spirit.

Robert D. Hales of the quorum of apostles
  • The spiritual pain we suffer will diminish as we love Jesus more.
  • Parents bear the responsibility to help their children become converted.
  • Rather than complaining about the direction of the world, we should work to help our friends and family grow spiritually.
  • Family home evening is an important time for this to happen.
  • Work to grow together, and we will suffer less.
  • We need more patience. When you raise your voice in anger, the Spirit leaves you.
  • We cannot pray away another’s agency, but we can wait patiently while we pray that others will be touched by the Spirit.
  • Shout-out to family caregivers! (And specifically to his wife.)
  • When you are suffering, let Jesus be your caregiver, so that we can love more and suffer less.

Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the first presidency
  • He used high-tech computerized equipment as a pilot, but never had to use a computer himself; upon being called as a general authority, though, he had to face the steep learning curve of working his own computer—and eventually he succeeded at it, and it became just another part of his life.
  • [Did he just give a veiled shout-out to Diet Coke? I think he just gave a veiled shout-out to Diet Coke. Let us all raise our glasses of Mormon coffee Diet Dr Pepper in solidarity!]
  • Just as we become used to miracles of modern technology and start taking them for granted (no matter how wonderful and amazing they seemed when we first learned about them), when we first grasp the gospel it’s amazing and wonderful, but we run the risk of simply taking it for granted.
  • “We tread a path covered with diamonds, but we can scarcely distinguish them from ordinary pebbles.”
  • When asked about our church, sometimes we talk about similarities with other faiths, or practices like the word of wisdom, but it’s the plan of salvation and the truths relating to that that set us apart.
  • We are truly divine beings, of the royal house of Elohim, the Most High God.
  • We freely chose to accept the plan of God.
  • The day of judgment will be a day of love, when broken hearts will be healed and all will be made right.
  • Doesn’t it fill us with wonder and joy to ponder on what God has prepared for us?
  • “What shall we give in return for so much?” (repurposing the motto on Belfast’s coat of arms. [Interesting: On Twitter (and other online forums i look in on), the answer of his that gets referred to has nearly always been that we should live according to the truths we’ve received. He also said to preach those truths to those who don’t have them yet. Much less quoting of the requirement to look outside ourselves, it seems…]
  • [Interesting—multiple references to “heavenly parents” in this address.]

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Sunday afternoon session

Closing session! Since, because of the completely unnatural way (when dealing with things that occur over time) blogs are structured, this is likely to be the first in this set of general conference posts you see here, so a full explanation of the way they’re structured is in order:

Since blogs have the bizarre feature of requiring a read from the bottom upward to get a chronological picture of everything from post to post, that means that the post below this one 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 means that if you read top-down you’ll get everything backward, but if you scroll down to the bottom of the Saturday morning session post and read bottom-up from there through the entire conference, you’ll get everything in chronological order.

However, under each speaker my comments are ordered top-down. This adds a potential bit of confusion, but trying to make everything perfectly backward just gets too messy. Anyway—this means that you can now scroll to the bottom to get everything in chronological order, or you can just read like a normal person would read a normal text and get the conference backwards. Either way—doesn’t matter to me, really.

Closing thoughts
  • As always, Jeffrey R. Holland was amazing, and he would have been at the very top of my list of favorite addresses (as he so often is) if it hadn’t been for Patrick Kearon (hurrah! for general authorities secure enough in their names to not use initials, by the way), with an honorable mention (maybe just barely behind Jeffrey R. Holland’s close to the conference) due to Kevin R. Duncan.
  • Also, Russell M. Nelson’s address to the men of the church was directed to a narrower audience than the rest, but it deserves a shout-out, too, i feel.
  • You know, after what i’d heard from my daughters about the women’s session, i’d expected a lot more about our duty to care for refugees, or at least generally about those in need. Ah, well—at least we got it near the end.
  • And that’s it—see y’all in six months!

Jeffrey R. Holland, of the quorum of apostles
  • [I really want to know how the opening of this address is going to appear in the written record—but the fact that someone as heavily-memed as Jeffrey R. Holland shared an internet meme…Verily, the internet hath eaten itself.]
  • Even those such as Moses and Jesus have come from peak, even celestial experiences to have to deal with the ordinarinesses and problems of daily life—so we can be assured that we are not immune to such experiences, as well.
  • When we hear that real improvement cannot happen, we should recognize that it’s simply the ranting of Lucifer, who actually cannot improve.
  • “The Lord blesses those who want to improve”—after all, if blessings were limited to the perfect, there wouldn’t be many blessings received. [Basically, God grades on a curve—something, i suppose, we should all be grateful for.]
  • We are blessed for our desire to do good as we strive to be good.
  • And just as we receive blessings for our desires to do good, we must make sure that we do not deny those blessings to others.
  • The first great commandment is to love God with all might, mind, and strength, but the first great truth is that God loves us with all might, mind, and strength.
  • Our heavenly father wants to bless us.
  • “All things work together for good to them that love God. So keep loving. Keep trying. Keep trusting. Keep believing. Keep growing. Heaven is cheering you on today, tomorrow and forever.”
  • God will bless us when we struggle—no, God will bless us especially when we struggle.

Paul V. Johnson, of the quorums of seventy
  • Even faithful and righteous people view the separation of body and spirit after death as captivity—and thus part of the importance of the resurrection.
  • Quoting his daughter, looking past her death to the resurrection: Jesus has already cured my cancer—just as he has cured your (anything).
  • Death has no victory—the resurrection gives us the victory.

Kent F. Richards, of the quorums of seventy
  • It is good to serve in the temple.
  • Being an ordained temple worker isn’t intended to be a lifetime calling.
  • Newly endowed young men and women can even serve as temple workers in the brief time between their endowment and leaving as full-time missions.
  • We should all seek opportunities to serve in the temple, and receive the strength that comes from that.

Dallin H. Oaks, of the quorums of seventy
  • Opposition between good and evil is central to the plan of salvation.
  • Satan sought to destroy God’s plan, but in doing so actually facilitated it by providing the opposition that facilitates the ability to make choices.
  • [I really feel like this, just as with many of Dallin H. Oaks’s general conference addresses, is designed more to be understood upon reading than to be followed as it’s heard.]
  • In the government of God’s kingdom, questions are honored but opposition is not.
  • Even with all the records we have, not everything can be resolved by study—we have to rely on spiritual inspiration for some things.

Patrick Kearon, of the quorums of seventy
  • And now we finally get a continuation of the bits on refugees brought up at the women’s session!
  • We Mormons don’t have to look far back in our history to see that we have been driven as refugees from place to place. We don’t even have to imagine if their story was our story—their story is our story.
  • “The savior knows how it feels to be a refugee—he was one.”
  • We are commanded to minister to the poor in their affliction, so that they might not suffer.
  • Helping to relieve the suffering of those around us is partaking in the Lord’s errand.
  • Remember that the people of Alma gave of their abundance to all who stood in need.
  • We need to not let the plight of refugees become a commonplace and fade into the background.
  • Do not let our assistance to others lead us to neglect family responsibilities—but let us join together to assist as we are able.
  • Meeting refugee families and learning their stories in person rather than from a screen or news report will change you.
  • ”We have found refuge. Let us come out from our safe places” to help those who need refuge themselves.
  • [And Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s reaction after this speech was…intense.]
Gerritt W. Gong, of the presidency of seventy
  • Remembering and forgetting are part of everyday life; remembering and forgetting are also part of our eternal journey.
  • The Lord, however, remembers every covenant and promise ever made.
  • Trust that the Lord will forget our sins when we repent.
  • God knows all the deep, dark, secret things we don’t want anyone else to know—and loves us anyway.
  • Sometimes the strength to forgive is not within us, but it can be found through the atonement of Jesus Christ.
  • Jesus was lifted up on the cross “that he might draw each of us, by name, to him”.
Robert D. Hales, of the quorum of apostles
  • Personal revelation is essential, but that is only one part of the Holy Ghost’s mission.
  • The Holy Ghost testifies of Christ, brings us peace, gives us spiritual gifts, sanctifies us )and so on for a rather long list).
  • The Holy Ghost isn’t given to us to control us—we shouldn’t trivialize [his word!] the Holy Ghost by seeking inspiration on every single issue.
  • A reminder that we aren’t entitled to revelation where we don’t have stewardship.
  • [He said that Joseph Smith received the first vision and told his parents, whereupon he was “released from his farm responsibilities”. My 14-year-old, watching with me, then asked if she can get released from her school responsibilities if she tells us she’s had a vision.]

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Sunday morning session

Sunday morning—back in the day, the only session those of us from outside the jello belt ever got to watch, and so still to my mind the main session (though nowadays rarely the one where anything of significance ever gets announced).

Anyway, y’all know the drill: The speakers are chronologically bottom-up, comments within each speaker chronologically top-down. Confusing, but it works.

Dieter F. Uchtdorf, of the first presidency
  • A description of Dresden’s destruction during World War II, and the eventual rebuilding of the Frauenkirche using, as much as possible, the original fire-blackened stones, creating beauty out of destruction—and if we as mortals can do that, how much more can God create new hope and glory out of a ruined life?
  • [I’ve long said that Pres. Uchtdorf's experiences as a refugee provide him with a different (and very useful) outlook as a general authority.]
  • Some of the authorities of Jesus’s time criticized the savior for hanging out with those who they perceived as sinners. Perhaps they felt the right way to deal with sinners was to criticize them and make them feel guilty.
  • The parable of the one lost sheep is not just to teach us that we should seek out the lost, but also that the lost sheep “is worthy of divine rescue simply because it is loved by the divine shepherd”.
  • Being rescued requires faith, but if you don’t even have faith, then hope and desire is enough to accept God’s work of rescue in your life.
  • “We call these steps of faith [needed to return to communion with God] ‘obedience’.”
  • We often misunderstand obedience, thinking it is an end in itself rather than a path.
  • As we obey, the corruption of this world falls away, and the glorious existence within ourselves shows itself.

Quentin L. Cook, of the quorum of apostles
  • Temples are central to our life in the church—and if we don’t take advantage of the blessings of temple attendance, we have not taken advantage of everything the church and God have to offer us.
  • Those who attend the temple are quite literally the prophesied saviors on Mount Zion.
  • All sorts of things get organized in our church buildings, but eternal families are only organized in temples.
  • “Do not look at the temple as some far off and unattainable goal.”
  • [You know, i totally get what people mean when they say there are no markers of wealth or social class in the temple, what with everyone dressed in plain white clothing and all, but have they ever noticed the differences in women’s dresses, or men’s shoes? I’d say that there are such markers—subtle ones, but yeah, they’re there.]
  • [Also, how had i never heard anything about the situation surrounding the Suva Fiji temple dedication that he related?]

D. Todd Christofferson, of the quorum of apostles
  • Focusing on the responsibilities and importance of fathers.
  • The ultimate ideal of fatherhood is God the Father, who is focused on the eternal life and immortality of his children.
  • Perhaps the most important work a father has is to turn the hearts of his children to their heavenly father.
  • Part of teaching children is disciplining them—but such correction isn’t so much about punishment, but rather helping guide them along the correct path.
  • “God himself untrusted his only son to a foster father.”
  • Even when you recognize your imperfections as a father, take that as a blessing—that can lead you to change and start to get it right.

W. Christopher Waddell, of the presiding bishopric
  • It can be hard to always think about Jesus—but our ability to feel peace requires us to think about Jesus.
  • We learn of Jesus Christ, particularly, through making covenants in temples.
  • [Hurrah! for speakers who are comfortable enough with the format to deviate however slightly from the script and tie their speeches to points made by those earlier in the session.]
  • A key difference between those in Lehi’s dream who came to taste of the fruit and fell away versus those who came to taste and didn’t fall away is that those who didn’t fall away continued to partake.
  • A reminder that repentance brings forgiveness and thus peace.
  • Attaining peace requires more than just desire, it requires action.

Bonnie L. Oscarson, general president of the young women organization
  • Knowledge of and belief in the gospel provides peace in moments of crisis.
  • Do we sometimes become so accustomed to our blessings that we don’t realize what an amazing thing we have?
  • An overview of the high points of things that differentiate this church from others, in a style that for all the world sounds like a missionary lesson to an interested non-Mormon.
  • What is the greatest threat facing our youth? The effect of the pointing fingers and taunting words from the great and spacious building.
  • Even those who have begun tasting from the fruit of the tree of life aren’t immune to the scoffs of those who mock them.

Thomas S. Monson, president of the high priesthood
  • Four new temples: Quito, Ecuador; Harare, Zimbabwe; Belém, Brazil; a second temple(!) in Lima, Peru. That's the first city outside of Utah to get two temples, yes?
  • There were 12 operating temples when he was called as an apostle; there are now 150 dedicated temples.
  • Relating the story of the Cheshire Cat in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, who pointed out it doesn’t matter which path you take if you don’t know which way to go—but we know which way we want to go, so it makes a difference which path we take.
  • “Choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong.”

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Priesthood session

And now, priesthood session. I do, in what i’m sure some readers will see as simply further evidence of me being a heretic, wonder how the relative importance of priesthood session (and the women’s session) is seen among the general authorities, given their smaller audiences balanced with what is presumably a greater focus.

Anyway, as with all of these, the first speaker is at the bottom of this post leading to the last speaker at the top, with comments under each speaker’s name going from the first at the top going downwards.

Thomas S. Monson, president of the high priesthood
  • For those who hold the priesthood, remember that that priesthood goes everywhere you do—so take care to go places where the priesthood should go.
  • [Very short address—it clocked in at less than four minutes—so not a lot to report, i’m afraid.]

Henry B. Eyring, of the first presidency
  • Our great work is to believe in the gospel, create and maintain an eternal family unit, and help others do likewise.
  • It is a priesthood obligation to put our family at the center of everything we do.
  • One can go through the duties listed for each priesthood office in the book of Doctrine & Covenants and find how they apply to family life. [Basically, this is what he did, as well as talked about things to do at different stages of life. Lots of content, but not a lot that lends itself to summary in this sort of presentation.]
  • Quoting N. Eldon Tanner: “The parents you should honor more than any other are the parents of your children to be.”
  • Those who are married must be completely faithful to their spouse, and children must honor their parents.
  • All church responsibilities are important, but the most important responsibilities are those done within the walls of our own homes, no matter how small or insignificant they might appear at the moment.

Dieter F. Uchtdorf, of the first presidency
  • Families don’t exist just to make things run more smoothly here on earth, but rather exist in eternity.
  • Keeping our families strong requires constant attention and effort, and those who do so deserve praise.
  • When looking for someone to marry, we shouldn’t be looking for someone “perfect”, but rather for someone we can create an eternal and lasting bond with—and creating such a bond requires charity.
  • Making a marriage strong takes work, but it is not cheerless work.
  • “Every family needs saving…The reality is that there are no perfect families.” However, despite our families’ imperfections, they are still worthy of our best efforts.
  • “What is right for one family might not be right for another.” [Can i get this tattooed on the foreheads of people who claim otherwise in church classes? Please?]
  • That said, in all cases charity is needed to help marriages and families succeed—which means that we need to avoid pride.
  • Pride is a failing that is common to all of us, but that doesn’t mean we should make it our legacy.
  • Let love conquer pride even when you are not at fault—perhaps even especially when you are not at fault.

Stephen W. Owen, general president of the young men organization
  • What does it mean to lead, and what does it mean to follow?
  • Jesus Christ is the greatest leader that ever lived—but he was also the greatest follower, and followed the father’s will perfectly.
  • The world teaches that leaders must be powerful, but the gospel teaches that they must be meek—in God’s eyes, the greatest leaders are also the greatest followers.
  • Gospel leadership is leading others to come to Christ, which is, at core, discipleship.
  • The more thoroughly you come to Christ, the more thoroughly you will desire to bring others to feel the same thing.

Russell M. Nelson, president of the quorum of apostles
  • In the last conference he spoke to the women of the church about their divine role as women of God, so now he’s speaking to the men of the church about their divine role as men of God.
  • Men in the church bear the priesthood of God—the same power that creates worlds and brings salvation.
  • There are too many in the church who have been ordained to the priesthood but have no priesthood power due to their sins. [And he included laziness in his list of sins!]
  • Demeaning your wife or children will cut off the flow of priesthood power.
  • To receive priesthood power, we must fervently pray, search the scriptures, study earnestly, worship in the temple regularly, listen for and follow spiritual promptings, and honor and cherish our wives.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Saturday afternoon session

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Saturday morning session

So, time again to post my notes on general conference. Just like i’ve done for [i’m kind of afraid to look up how many] years, i’m posting these in “liveblog” style (even though liveblogging really isn’t done anymore, at least not the same way it was—if it works better for you, think ”livetweet” style). If you’re new to this, that means that the first speaker of this session is at the bottom of this post, the next speaker is above that, the next is above that, and so on to the last speaker (who appears at the top of the post). This means that once the whole conference weekend is past you can scroll down to the bottom of the this 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 chronologically (i.e., the opposite direction), because i tried once to do the entire thing bottom-up and it really just didn’t work. So it goes.

Dale G. Renlund, of the quorum of apostles
  • “The greater the distance between the giver and the receiver, the more the receiver develops a sense of entitlement.”
  • This is the case in temporal affairs, but also spiritually—if we are distant from God, we feel that God has an obligation to fix things and fix them now, and we can grow angry at God for not fulfilling our expectations.
  • “Murmuring is the scriptural equivalent of childish whining.”
  • Consider that the most unfair life situations belong to Jesus Christ—he was perfectly innocent, and yet punished. The closer we are to him, the more we realize this.
  • God is closer to repentant sinners who are trying to become better than to the self-righteous who don’t recognize their need for repentance.
  • By preparing for and partaking worthily of the sacrament each week, we draw closer to God.
  • No one is immune from life’s challenges, but we will be protected from spiritual ill effects from them by taking the sacrament.

Steven E. Snow, of the quorums of seventy
  • [He’s holding up a copy of the first hymnal produced by Emma Smith. I’m not into the whole collecting rare books thing, and so i don’t really get people paying top dollar for, say, first editions of the Book of Mormon. Emma Smith’s first hymnal, though, i might would be willing to shell out serious cash for.]
  • A new song in the most recent English-language hymnal is “Be Thou Humble”, and teaches truths of the necessity of humility.
  • We should teach our children humility, not by breaking their spirits, but by building their self-worth and self-esteem while helping them learn to take joy in the successes of others.
  • Quoting his mother when he’d get a bit too self-centered about something: “Son, a little bit of humility right now would go a long way.”
  • It isn’t just children who need to learn humility—we all need it.
  • All of us look forward to exaltation, but to get there we must first pass through “the valley of humility”.

Kevin R. Duncan, of the quorums of seventy
  • Most of us want to forgive, but we find it hard to do.
  • We may even believe that if we are merciful, just punishments will not occur—but God will mete out needed punishment, and will also provide restitution to victims.
  • We need to see those we need to forgive as God sees them.
  • There may have been no greater enemy to the followers of Jesus than Saul of Tarsus, but he became Paul the apostle—and remember that there are Saul-like people around us with Paul-like potential.
  • We may form negative opinions of others based on superficial qualities such as differing from us in sports allegiances, political positions, religious affiliations, and so on. This runs counter to what God wants of us.
  • Receiving forgiveness for our own shortcomings is contingent on us forgiving others for their shortcomings.
  • “We do not need to be a victim twice—we can forgive.”

Gary E. Stevenson, of the quorum of apostles
  • Just like with the marvel of engineering that is an automobile, the administration of the gospel and its ordinances requires keys.
  • We need to understand what priesthood keys are to really fully understand the gospel.
  • Interesting: Ordinances that create a record in the church require keys.
  • The keys of the gathering of Israel enable the missionary work in this dispensation.
  • For youth, preparing for missionary service, performing proxy ordinances in temples, and simply remaining faithful and worthy can help with understanding what keys are and their power.

Donald L. Hallstrom, of the presidency of the seventy
  • We are all completely literally sons and daughter of heavenly parents—and this is so often taught that it can seem ordinary, but it is actually an amazing doctrine.
  • The song “I Am a Child of God” is one of the most widely sung in the church—but do we truly believe that?
  • [Donald L. Hallstrom isn’t a fan of the supernatural aspects of Halloween, it appears. Rather a pity—it’s a fun day.]
  • What happens when bad things happen to us? Does it throw us into doubt, or do we remember that we are children of God? If we do the latter, we will receive strength from that.
  • [We don’t normally sing verse 7 of “How Firm a Foundation”?? Clearly, he needs to visit more wards i’ve attended.]
  • We need to avoid one of the great distractions of our day: Being led to forget our relationship to God.

Mary R. Durham, of the general presidency of the primary
  • “If we are not careful, the things of the world can drown out the things of the spirit.”
  • Children are baptized and then receive the gift of the Holy Ghost; sometimes we overlook the importance of the gift of the Holy Ghost, perhaps because of it is a deceptively simple ordinance.
  • How do we raise our children so that they’ll be able to stand for themselves as they grow older? Help them learn to feel and recognize the Holy Spirit.
  • In the home, spiritual principles should form the foundation of daily life.
  • When the Holy Spirit speaks to a child (or anyone else, for that matter), the Spirit adapts its communication to the capacity and needs of that child.

Henry B. Eyring, of the first presidency
  • A thought to start out from me: Henry B. Eyring’s a pretty overtly emotional guy. I’ll admit that it bothered me a bit when i first saw him speak at conferences, but i’ve seen him often enough to realize that it’s clearly entirely genuine, and that makes it cool.
  • Jesus is there wherever two or three are gathered in his name; at this conference, there are far more than two or three.
  • Telling of two people with firm faith who fear that they will lose that, and therefore desperately want to be strengthened by this conference; they are not alone in that worry and desire.
  • Those who are sad at feeling their faith lessen are the blessed ones, because they can react to it, rather than being tempted into a false sense of security.
  • A reminder that even the songs of conference can lead you to greater faith in and love for God.
  • People have thanked him for saying the words they needed to hear, even when he doesn’t remember having given that testimony—but that’s the way divine inspiration often works, when a speaker is given inspiration to testify to those who need to hear that testimony.