Sunday, October 1, 2017

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Sunday afternoon session

So we come to the end of general conference weekend—and this time, there’s breaking news: between Robert D. Hales (of the quorum of apostles) died between this session and the preceding one. I’m going to have to look up if there’s ever been a general authority death during general conference.

Anyway, by the time i’ll have posted this, this general conference will be over, and since this is likely to be the first in the sequence you see, i’ll start out with my usual quick explanation of the way they’re structured:

Blogs have the utterly bizarre feature of reversing chronological order: They prioritize recency, requiring a reader to move from the bottom upward from to get a chronological picture. This means that the post below this one is the previous session (i.e., Sunday morning), and below that one is the one before that, and so on. To better match this, in each session’s post, i have arranged things so that the first speaker in each session is at the bottom of that session’s post, the second speaker in each session is above that first 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 the entire weekend 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, and the couple times i’ve tried it i’ve gotten too confused myself, and so i can only imagine what it would be like for the reader.

Anyway, with that as intro, now is the time to scroll down to the bottom of this post (or to the bottom of four posts prior, if you want to start at the beginning of the entire conference weekend!) and start at the bottom with the beginning…

Closing thoughts:
  • Remember back when they let people deliver conference addresses in their own native languages? Yeah, it feels so long ago. I miss it—and for some speakers at this conference, i feel like it would have been helpful.
  • Relatedly, i do wish they would bring back showing the words on screen for the congregational songs. I’m old enough and have been in the church long enough that i know most of the songs they sing during those breaks, anyway, but not everybody is as old as me.
  • Neil L. Andersen gave shout-outs to lots of different conference addresses in his address—one used to hear that done more frequently than one does now.
  • The last session went to precisely two hours, but i feel like more sessions ended earlier this weekend than they usually do.
  • And now, my favorite address of this conference: This conference didn’t have any addresses that left me utterly gobsmacked, but in terms of quiet power, Jeffrey R. Holland’s Saturday morning address was most excellent.

Neil L. Andersen, of the quorum of apostles
  • [Concluding slot traditionally given to the president of the church being filled by a junior member of the quorum of apostles—no pressure, dude!]
  • General conferences are appointed as a necessary means for us to learn what God wants us to know.
  • General conference address topics are not assigned, except as they are given by personal divine inspiration.
  • Similarly, personal divine inspiration will come to each individual who hears and studies the sermons delivered in general conference.
  • [Way to read from handwritten notes!]
  • An excerpt from the address Robert D. Hales had prepared for this conference, but was unable to deliver: “Our faith prepares us to be in the presence of God.”
  • Hearing the words of the prophets, we should now follow their admonition.

José L. Alonso, of the quorums of seventy
  • “Love is a combination of actions as well as deep feelings.”
  • Story about the death of his son in a car-pedestrian accident, and the bond he and his wife formed with the young man who was driving the car—and that the forgiveness they were able to feel was a gift of God.
  • By serving and forgiving others with real love, we will be strengthened.

Ian S. Ardern, of the quorums of seventy
  • We must be spiritually vigilant against those who would gnaw away at our beliefs and draw us away from the gospel.
  • When we are faced with attacks on the church, we must be careful where we look for the answers—and the best advice was given by James: If you lack wisdom, ask God.
  • There are many useful sources for our study penned by prophets and other faithful purveyors of the truth—but even with their value, all of them pale in power against the scriptures.

Adilson de Paula Parrella, of the quorums of seventy
  • God has called prophets to receive revelation so that we can learn divine truth.
  • When the prophet speaks, we should act.
  • Prophets in our time have given us knowledge of the reality of God and Jesus Christ, and we need to live accordingly.

Stanley G. Ellis, recently released as a member of the quorums of seventy
  • The Lord trusts us in many, many ways.
  • The question for us is: Do we trust the Lord?
  • There are hard things in our lives, which should come as no surprise—one of the first covenants we make is to live the law of sacrifice.
  • Even the Godhead are no strangers to hard things.
  • “’Hard’ is part of the gospel plan.”
  • Consider that the struggle of a baby chick to escape its eggshell, and the struggle of a butterfly to escape from its cocoon, will strengthen them in ways they need for their lives.
  • Discouragement and fear are tools of Satan, but the right way is to go forward with faith.

Joni L. Koch, of the quorums of seventy
  • [Way to rep the Seleção Brasileira de Futebol!]
  • We must have unity in the church.
  • “We have no right to portray anyone, especially within our church circle, as a badly finished product.”
  • As we decide to be one with the members and leaders of the church, both when we meet together but especially when we are apart from each other, we become one with Jesus Christ.

Tad R. Callister, general president of the Sunday School organization
  • Starting off with a rundown of some challenges to the Book of Mormon’s authenticity, and problems with those challenges.
  • In support of the Book of Mormon, we have doctrinal insights and explications that are unique, and show the inspiration of God.
  • The Book of Mormon contains a number of historical and linguistic and social features, but the central and most important part of it by far is the way it teaches and testifies of Jesus Christ.
  • As members of the church, we have the privilege of testifying of the Book of Mormon.

M. Russell Ballard
  • We need to remember our pioneer heritage—if we lose that collective memory, we will have lost something important
  • We will need the same faith that the early Latter-day Saints had if we are to keep faithful in the future.
  • As we remember the nineteenth-century pioneer trek across the Great Plains, we should remember that our own trek continues, and our choices will lead us to a positive or negative end.
  • [Interesting: A straight-up, direct statement that members of the church should avoid get-rich-quick schemes. I know that such fraud is widespread, but i don’t know that i’ve heard it called out so directly in general conference, ever—and he then followed it with a direct warning against schemes where people sell miraculous healings for money.]
  • We should welcome and embrace anyone who is making their own trek forward, no matter where they are in it.
  • We should avoid and work against such philosophies as racism, sexism, and nationalism—the gospel of Jesus Christ is for all people.

Opening remarks: Henry B. Eyring, of the first presidency
  • Russell M. Nelson was present at the hospital when Robert D. Hales died. Fitting, i would say, given the degree to which, by all reports, the members of the quorum of apostles are not just coworkers, but also friends.

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Sunday morning session

Sunday morning, as i’ve said before, used to be the big-deal session, since for a lot of people outside the jello belt, that was the only one they’d see. In this era of wide availability of all sessions of conference, though, that glow has faded and spread to the other sessions, at least in my perception.

Anyway, as before, the speakers are listed in reverse chronological order in this entry, so the first thing you see here is the end of the session.

Henry B. Eyring, of the first presidency
  • [Cute little man-hug between Dieter F. Uchtdorf (conducting this session) and Henry B. Eyring as they traded spots at the podium.]
  • Thomas S, Monson has promised that we would be blessed if we focused more on the Book of Mormon; those who have taken up his challenge have indded been blessed.
  • Going to the rescue of others has been at the heart of Thomas S. Monson’s ministry; this effort goes back to Joseph Smith, who was promised courage to be able to perform that work.
  • When we put our faith in Jesus Christ as our rock, doubt and fear are diminished and the desire to do good is increased.
  • It is a miracle to see people focus on helping others rather than focusing on their own needs. [Interesting story associated with this of a non-Mormon couple who were feeling so overwhelmed by their own hurricane recovery needs that they turned to helping others while having faith that God would eventually provide the help they themselves needed.]
  • Speaking about meeting with people doing hurricane recovery work: “The only stress i sensed was that they wanted to stop being thanked so that they could get back to work.”
  • [This all reminds me of one of the things that i really do think is one of the great cultural strengths of Mormonism: Put a bunch of Mormons in a room and say “Go do good things”, they’ll very quickly figure out how to self-organize into a smoothly oiled service machine.]
  • Remember that the changes that lead us to do good must be sustained—it is important not to let it fade.
  • The way to optimism is clear: Look to the Lord in everything. The way to look to the Lord has been given by prophets: Pray, read and ponder the scriptures (especially the Book of Mormon), and be consistent and valiant in following the commandments.

W. Craig Zwick, recently released from the quorums of seventy
  • In our dealings with other people, we must “look beyond what we can see”—we must accept that we don’t know the totality of who they are beyond our own stereotypes and expectations.
  • We live in a world that feeds on comparisons, labeling, and criticism—but rather than doing that, we need to look at others as God sees them.
  • We must love others by accepting their best efforts based in experiences that we may not know, and may not even ever know.
  • As we love Jesus Christ, we can be blessed to look spiritually beyond what we can see literally.

W. Christopher Waddell, of the presiding bishopric
  • How do we respond when events not in our control change our lives in ways we have not anticipated?
  • We should remember that we have an eternal destiny that cannot be changed by trials and challenges—it can only be changed by our choices.
  • Unlike our friends and loved ones, not only can the Savior Jesus Christ empathize with us, but we can also be certain that he fully understands what we have gone through.
  • When we turn to the Lord we will be blessed, but these blessings may take different forms as most suited to our needs—we may have our trials fully removed from us, or we may be given strength to endure them.
  • Unfortunately, many react to trials by turning away from the Savior—but if we turn toward the Savior in our trials, we will be healed in the way we need.
David A. Bednar, of the quorum of apostles
  • One of our common challenges is to not allow the responsibilities and cares of our lives to overwhelm our attention to spiritual necessities.
  • We will receive eternal life is we are faithful; eternal life is the greatest of the gifts of God.
  • Spiritual rebirth is an ongoing process in which priesthood ordinances and covenants are a necessary part.
  • The sabbath day and the temple are each set up by God to help us focus on things of the spirit, and are not fully separate but should work together in our lives.
  • One purpose of the sabbath is to elevate our view from the things of this world to the things of God; similarly, the temple.
  • [Lots of detail in this one, and it’s being hard to take down really good notes on it—it really seems to have been written to be read more than heard.]
  • The sabbath day and the temple are both sacred times and sacred spaces set apart for worshipping God, and thus powerfully focus our attention on the things of God.
  • “The home should be the ultimate combination of time and space” in this way—it is necessary for us to leave our homes for sabbath and temple worship, but such worship is fully effective only if we bring their spirit back to our homes.
Donald L. Hallstrom, of the quorums of seventy
  • [Of possible interest: He was in the presidency of the seventy until released this past summer.]
  • Starting off with a story of someone’s miraculous experience recovering from an accident, where a number of things “just happened” to occur in precisely the right way to save a man’s life.
  • The greater miracle, though, is that his wife and children had such faith that they would have accepted any outcome, even if the miracle of healing hadn’t happened.
  • But what about those cases where the hoped-for miracle doesn’t occur? After all, even the righteous and faithful and innocent don’t receive miraculous intervention—so what of miracles, then?
  • If we define a miracle as a divine intervention that operates beyond human comprehension, our understanding expands.
  • Consider Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who were cast into the fiery furnace at the order of King Nebuchadnezzar: When the king taunted them about their God, they responded that God could save them, but even if he didn’t, they would not worship other gods.
  • Such things as being a child of God, receiving a body, having a Savior, having the promise of exaltation are miracles.
Jean B. Bingham, general president of the relief society
  • How do we find joy despite the difficulties of mortal life? By focusing on Jesus Christ and living the gospel.
  • [Why do we get occasional visual aids during general conference addresses, but they’re expressly forbidden in sacrament meeting addresses?]
  • As you come closer to Jesus, you will better understand that he knows and loves you as an individual.
  • No matter how horrible our experiences may have been, we can be made whole by Jesus Christ—however, he will not come into our lives without invitation.
  • Sometimes we are afraid to trust because we don’t understand the complete love God and Jesus Christ have for us.
  • Faith in Jesus Christ brings healing and peace, but also other gifts that help us progress eternally.
  • When we experience the peace that Jesus gives, we want to emulate him and bring such peace to others—and doing so leads to joy, and ultimately a fullness of joy.