Saturday, September 30, 2017

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Priesthood session

I’ve said it before, i’ll say it again: Why? That is, i get the purpose of a general session just for the men of the church (just as i get the purpose of a general session just for the women of the church), but why do we continue to fold it into an already-packed weekend, rather than separating it out like is done with the women’s session?

That’s what we have, though, and so here are my notes and thoughts on this year’s entry. As with all of them, speakers are listed in reverse chronological order, so the first speaker is at the bottom of the post, and then you work upward from there.

Closing thoughts
  • We got out of this one noticeably earlier than usual, apparently because Thomas S. Monson wasn’t there to speak. The usual pattern for priesthood sessions, if i recall correctly, is one apostle, followed by two other non-apostle general authorities, and then each member of the first presidency. This time, though, we had an apostle, followed by two members of the quorums of seventy, followed by two members of the first presidency.

Henry B. Eyring, of the first presidency
  • A few fundamentals: Jesus Christ is the head of the church; he speaks by revelation to prophets; this has been the pattern throughout history; and revelation to confirm prophetic counsel is available to all of us.
  • We all have the capacity to receive revelation and act on it fearlessly—and that requires faith.
  • As we serve in the church, we need faith that we have been called by revelation, and that those around us have also been called by revelation.
  • A bishop, to receive the revelation needed to act effectively in that calling, needs the faith of the members of the ward.
  • [That last point was illustrated by a personal story. Anytime a speaker, in response to laughter from the crowd, feels the need to say (while also laughing) “This actually happened!!”, you know it’s a good story.]

Dieter F. Uchtdorf, of the first presidency
  • When we suffer from physical ailments, we seek the help of medical professionals; when we suffer from emotional ailments we seek the help of experts in that realm. But what do we do when we suffer spiritual ailments?
  • Spiritual pain can feel incurable, but it is never beyond the healing power of the Savior.
  • No matter the spiritual ailment, there is one common feature: The absence of divine light.
  • Jesus promised that his followers would receive of his light, and that that light will grow until it fills all things and dispels all darkness.
  • The light of Christ fills the universe, it fills the earth, and it can fill every human soul.
  • Those with an eye single to the glory of God will be filled with light—and this is the ultimate remedy for our spiritual ailments.
  • What is night? It is nothing more than a shadow. But even in the darkest of nights, the sun continues to shine as bright as ever.

Richard J. Maynes, of the quorums of seventy
  • The Lord trusts us to hold priesthood power, and the more we live up to that trust the more the Lord will trust us.
  • We must live with integrity.
  • When exercising priesthood responsibilities to preside over our families, men must recognize their wife as an equal partner, which means not moving forward unless there is unity between husband and wife in their decisions.
  • Peace in the home is necessary, and to achieve that we need to be a husband our wife can trust.

David F. Evans, of the quorums of seventy
  • We should choose to act, and not be acted upon by the doubts of others.
  • To obtain and keep and strengthen our testimony we must keep our covenants and be patient in all that the Lord asks of us.
  • Receiving a firm testimony may take patience lasting longer than we are necessarily comfortable with.

Dale G. Renlund, of the quorum of apostles
  • A rocket’s payload, no matter how expensive, isn’t really worth anything unless it has been delivered by a rocket and started working as it should; in that vein, the atoning power of Christ is like the payload that is delivered through the priesthood.
  • The priesthood is intended to be more than just a class on Sunday and an occasional service project.
  • A priesthood commission is individually given, and does not exist separate from the priesthood holder.
  • When one enters into the priesthood covenant, God—not the priesthood holder!—swears to affirm the covenant with an oath.

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Saturday afternoon session

Saturday afternoon, still with no attendance by Thomas S. Monson, or by Robert D. Hales, at least as far as i can see.

Anyway, as with the others entries in this series, the speakers are listed in reverse chronological order, so to get to the chronological beginning of this entry, you’ll need to now scroll down to the typographical end of it.

Closing thought
  • Wow, we got out early this session!

Russell M. Nelson, of the quorum of apostles
  • He began with a story of a tribal king he interacted with saying that the additional knowledge that the Book of Mormon brought to him was worth more than diamonds or rubies. Do we feel as strongly about the Book of Mormon?
  • Three related questions: What would your life be like without the Book of Mormon? What would you not know? What would you not have?
  • The Book of Mormon can help us in unanticipated ways.
  • The Book of Mormon teaches us what it really means to be “born again”.
  • Just saying “the Book of Mormon is true” isn’t enough—we need to know unequivocally that it is the word of God.

O. Vincent Haleck, of the quorums of seventy
  • Following the gospel may require us to, like the widow Jesus observed donating her two mites, cast in our all and give away all that we have.
  • This is not limited to what we physically have—it may be tradition, community, and such that we have to leave behind.
  • If we are truly converted we will be willing to give all that we have—and the promise is that if we do so, we will not be left wanting.

Ronald A. Rasband, of the quorum of apostles
  • [My daughters are having way too much fun with all the weird ways the name Rasband gets autocorrected.]
  • The things that we call fortunate coincidences are actually the results of God’s plan unfolding in our lives.
  • “No trial or calamity can derail God’s plan of happiness.”
  • Jesus said he came to do the will of the Father; so, though, have we.
  • Sometimes we take changes in our lives as missteps, but they should rather be thought of as first steps along a new path.
  • When God puts old friends in the gospel in our paths, it may be that it’s a reminder for us that we are all brothers and sisters in the work of the Lord.
  • Consider Saul: He was going the wrong way in his life, but God knew what he was capable of doing and becoming, and that that had nothing to do with what plans Saul had for doing as Saul.

Quentin L. Cook, of the quorum of apostles
  • “It may be said that from an eternal perspective, our time on earth is as fleeting as a British summer.”
  • Moses’s response to seeing the greatness of God’s creations was a declaration that humans are nothing; God’s rebuttal was that the purpose of God is to bring about the eternal life of us mortals.
  • Anyone who would say that someone is better or worse because of something like race or ethnicity does not understand the gospel.
  • God doesn’t want us to be discouraged during our stay in mortality.
  • Sometimes humility is accepting calls to serve when we feel inadequate; sometimes humility is serving faithfully when we feel we are capable of something we perceive as more important.
  • Remember that our sins are forgiven through the atonement; however, when we refuse to forgive others (or hold a grudge), we effectively reject the atonement.
  • Humility isn’t a specific, identifiable achievement, but rather a continual process of growing.

Stephen W. Owen, general president of the young men organization
  • All have sinned, but repentance allows us to overcome those sins.
  • “All repentance is positive.”
  • Repentance is not mere self-improvement.
  • We often associate repentance with grievous sins, but repentance is for everyone, because everyone has sinned.
  • Repentance is for everyone, no matter their depth of knowledge and experience or lack thereof.
  • Continuing repentance is necessary to keep moving forward in the gospel.

Gary E. Stevenson, of the quorum of apostles
  • “Have you ever seen a total solar eclipse?” he asks. “No!” shout my children, “Because we live in Alaska!”
  • The moon is orders of magnitude smaller than the sun, but the moon can still block out the sun in an eclipse; similarly, small things can block out our view of heavenly things when we focus on them instead.
  • We need to view our challenges and distractions through the lens of the gospel.
  • Remember that even admirable pursuits can be drawn so close (i.e., taken to an extreme) that they distract us from our focus on gospel truth.
  • [In his discussion of the good and ill of social media, he’s doing right the same message that Bonnie L. Oscarson fumbled slightly earlier in the day.]
  • Comparing ourselves unfavorably to overly idealized images of others (as sometimes happens when we overfocus on social media, for example) isn’t limited to our day—Paul the Apostle wrote about people who compare themselves to others, and in so doing are not wise.
  • Avoid pride; embrace meekness and humility.
  • No matter how obscured the light of the gospel may be to us, it is still there.

Presentation of general officers and authorities: Henry B. Eyring, of the first presidency
  • I feel like sometimes this is omitted in the semiannual (fall) conferences. Am i wrong in that?
  • He tried to pronounce Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s name right, really he did!
  • No loud objections? Maybe those voting no have finally realized that overt impoliteness really isn’t a way to gain traction for your cause.
  • Just occurred to me: Interesting that area seventies are sustained in general conference, even though they don’t have general churchwide authority.

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Saturday morning session

Welcome, welcome, sabbath morning! Oh, wait.

Anyway, yes, we’ve arrived at the Saturday before the Sunday of general conference, or as i’ve started to call it, the weekend without a weekend. (Seriously, you’re Mormon and you have plans to get anything done around the house or such this weekend? I admire your dogged self-confidence.)

Anyway, as with all of these, i write these in “liveblog” style, which means 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 is done so that once the whole conference weekend is past you can to scroll down to the bottom of this first 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 otherwise i get overly confused.

Which is itself all confusing, but it ends up working okay, really, i promise it does.

And so…

Jeffrey R. Holland, of the quorum of apostles
  • [Dieter F. Uchtdorf and Jeffrey R. Holland both in the opening session? What are we going to have to look forward to for the rest of the weekend?]
  • The scriptures are there to comfort us, but also to remind us that sometimes we fall a little short.
  • Consider the beatitudes: They start with some niceties, but then ask us to do things like not ever be angry, give our substance to the poor, and so on, culminating in a command to be perfect!
  • It’s perhaps no surprise that we may feel like we can never live up to what is expected of us, but as children of God, with the promise that we can fulfill all of God’s commands and the possibility of perfection ourselves, we cannot allow ourselves to fall into self-vilification.
  • Remember that we live in a telestial—that’s starting with a t, not a c!—world, and “perfection is pending”.
  • God is merciful and a peacemaker, which is wonderful, because we all need mercy, and we all need peace.
  • Focusing on the perfection of God rather than our own failures does not give us a reason to excuse our own failures, but it should inspire in us a recognition of the perfection of the Lord, and lead us to aspire to the heavenly gift of perfection.
  • The grace of Christ offers us not only salvation from sin, sorrow, and death, but also salvation from self-criticism.
  • The parable of the two debtors (Luke 7:36–50) is not a story about squabbling servants, it’s a story about our debt and (hopefully) gratitude to God.
  • We need to focus on being as perfect and Godlike as we can, avoiding what has been called “toxic perfectionism”—and also be willing to recognize that others, even those who serve in the church (which is, for its members, all of us!), will also not be perfect even as they try to do so.
  • Don’t gloat at those who fail, but give your help to anyone who is trying to follow the right way. [I think that was from the end of a quote from Tolstoy, but i’m not certain.]
  • “If we persevere, then sometime in eternity our refinement will be perfect and complete, which is the New Testament definition of ‘perfection’.”
  • Remember that even Jesus moved from grace to grace, ultimately achieving glory in immortality.

D. Todd Christofferson, of the quorum of apostles
  • Jesus said that his followers must “eat his flesh” and “drink his blood”, which is a striking way to describe how thoroughly we must incorporate him into our lives.
  • We must follow the Savior’s precepts to receive grace, which leads to a remission of our sins.
  • We often think of eating the flesh and drinking the blood of Christ as referring to partaking of the emblems of the sacrament, but it also includes internalizing the qualities of Jesus Christ and becoming more like him.
  • We can come to a knowledge of our sins, and that can humble and even shock us, but it needn’t discourage us—it can also give us hope in the atonement.
  • The sacrifices we make to keep our covenants and the service we give to others lead us to holiness.
  • The early Utah Mormons inscribed “holiness to the Lord” on even seemingly non-religious, mundane items (hammers! doorknobs! drums!), but it was done to reflect the truth that holiness should encompass all of our existence.

John C. Pingree Jr, of the quorums of seventy
  • We may ask ourselves whether God has a work for each of us. The answer: Yes.
  • Every one of us has a meaningful role to play in the work of God, no matter our background or social status.
  • How do we find what God’s work for us is? Focus on others, discover and develop your spiritual gifts, make use of adversity to grow, and ask God what work you are to accomplish.
  • All have spiritual gifts; if you don’t know what gifts you have been given, ask God—God knows what blessings you have been given, and how you can use them.
  • Take care to not be so preoccupied with things of the world that you’re distracted from the greater work you are to accomplish.
  • Do not feel inadequate to accomplish what you’re supposed to, or that your work is unimportant.
  • We may be tempted to take credit for the work we accomplish, but we should rather give the glory to God.

Dallin H. Oaks, of the quorum of apostles
  • “The world” is often used in the scriptures as a metaphor for opposition to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
  • What does it mean to not be “of the world”, or to “forsake the world”?
  • We must live with the laws and mores that surround us, but to achieve salvations and exaltation we must make personal choices that match with the requirements that God has set.
  • There is always conflict between those who follow the laws of God and those who don’t.
  • Mention of “The Family: A Proclamation to the World”, and differences between its precepts as opposed to those in surrounding cultures.
  • Interestingly, the things he’s hitting hard on are same-sex marriage [kind of expected, really, particularly given the speaker], cohabitation without marriage [which was mentioned more frequently—though usually indirectly—in general conference in previous decades], and the births of children out of wedlock [again, not really referenced all that frequently recently].
  • Some interesting history of the way the Proclamation on the Family was developed.

Bonnie L Oscarson, general president of the young women organization
  • We have recently been faced with many natural disasters across the world, and have seen the service that so many have provided in response.
  • We need to be willing to lose ourselves in service to others.
  • We need to recognize that some of the most significant service we can give aren’t in response to the huge, incredibly visible needs around us, but may be the seemingly “small” needs of those closest to us.
  • “Changing the world begins with strengthening your own family.”
  • We should keep in mind that church meetings aren’t just about what we get out of them individually—the most important thing we attend on any given day may be the ways we serve and strengthen others there.
  • [My teen daughter is being very frustrated at the repeated undertone of this speech that socialization through technology stands in the way of really offering service to those around us. I’m not so much frustrated by it, but i do think it’s kind of a weird note in an otherwise encouraging and useful address.]

Dieter F. Uchtdorf, of the first presidency
  • [Starting off with the big dogs!]
  • There are animals that have a remarkable ability to travel long distances to find their way to where they’re supposed to go; human beings have a similar innate yearning to go where they’re supposed to go spiritually.
  • God knows you in all of your joys and sorrows and weaknesses, and calls to you no matter your history.
  • If you hear God’s call, God will speak to you.
  • Why should you turn to God? Two reasons: Your life will be better, and God will use you to make the lives of others better.
  • Following the Savior will not remove all of our problems, but it will remove the barriers that stand between us and God.
  • We may think we have to be more [intelligent, charismatic, anything really] to serve God. This is false; all we need to do is heed the call and serve.
  • Some of us may look at faults of some early members of the church and say we’d never have made such mistakes; we can’t say that, because we don’t know what it was like for them and how we would have reacted. What we do know is that God was able to use them, fallible as they were, just as we can be used in our fallibilities.
  • Life is not a self-driving car, or an airplane on autopilot—we must each individually commit to follow the Savior, and be willing to swim upstream.

Conducting: Henry B. Eyring, of the first presidency
  • They changed the font they use to display the names and offices of speakers onscreen, i think.
  • Thomas S. Monson isn’t attending this session.