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.]