Saturday, March 31, 2018

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Priesthood session

Priesthood session, and for the first time ever i’m watching it from home rather than going to my stake center. That’s right, i’ve officially joined Mormon slackerdom!

Anyway. Again, the first speaker is at the bottom, and then the entry runs chronologically upward. Off we go!

Russell M. Nelson (again!), president of the high priesthood
  • It doesn’t matter where or in what capacity you serve, but rather how you perform your service.
  • It is a blessing to be able to serve in the church.
  • A concern: Too many don’t understand the concept of priesthood power and authority.
  • Too many don’t understand the difference between a blessing and a prayer, or between a blessing and words of support—but priesthood holders have the authority to bless!
  • This is fun! He’s having all the priesthood holders stand by office (the apostles don’t get a pass!), and then telling us our duties by having everyone sing “Rise Up, O Men of God”.
  • [So yeah, I’d say Russell M. Nelson isn’t afraid to shake up the rituals people are comfortable with.]

Dallin H. Oaks, of the first presidency
  • The Melchizedek priesthood is not a status or a label, it’s a divine commission.
  • It is inappropriate to refer to “the priesthood and the women”—the holders of the priesthood are not the priesthood.
  • Offices in the priesthood are not expressions of mastery or rank.
  • We need to learn our priesthood responsibilities, and magnify them.
  • If fathers would magnify their priesthood within their own families, it would move the church forward more than anything else they could do.

Henry B. Eyring, of the first presidency
  • Giving some history of how the early members of the church were organized into groups to care for each other.
  • The story he told of how Henry B. Eyring’s great-grandfather Henry Eyring and his wife (didn’t catch her name) met is pretty fabulous.
  • Doing home teaching well leads naturally to greeting people at church. [Interesting line of causality, that.]
  • It isn’t important if people see us serving, what’s important is that the Lord knows we’re serving.
  • Saints working together to serve with charity in their hearts can do amazing things.

Ronald A. Rasband, of the quorum of apostles
  • The changes being announced will help simplify coordination of the work of the Melchizedek priesthood, and also coordination between the relief society and the priesthood.
  • Reassurance to the high priests that they’re not being shunted aside.
  • No priesthood executive committee meeting! One less morning meeting? Yes, please?
  • If multiple elders quorums are organized, they need a good balance of age, experience, and so on. (Or, in other words, no creating de facto high priests groups.)

D. Todd Christofferson, of the quorum of apostles
  • Restating what Russell M. Nelson just said…
  • One elders quorum with one quorum presidency containing all of the elders, high priests, and prospective elders except for members of bishoprics, stake presidencies, members of high councils, and active patriarchs—those will make up the stake high priests quorum for (only) as long as they hold those offices.
  • All high priests group leaderships and elders quorum presidencies to be released, then new ones to be called; the new presidencies may be elders or high priests (with no distinction between the two as far as who can serve in which calling).
  • People shouldn’t feel like they’re “more” or “less” because they’re an elder or a high priest.
  • [Hmmm…You know, every ward now gets three additional active men to fill callings.]

Russell M. Nelson, president of the high priesthood
  • [Interesting—the president of the church usually closes out the priesthood session, rather than speaking earlier in the session.]
  • Restructuring Melchizedek priesthood quorums! High priests and elders in a single elders quorum. [I’m currently a high priests group leader—so this means i’m released?]
  • The stake president will preside over a high priests quorum, to be based on callings (not ordained office?), as will be described in the next two addresses.

Douglas D. Holmes, of the general presidency of the young men organization
  • Sometimes we treat the young men of the church as small children, rather than bearers of the priesthood with responsibilities befitting such.
  • The Aaronic priesthood gives access to God.
  • The Aaronic priesthood gives authority to preach—that doesn’t belong only to prophets, or even to the full-time missionaries, but rather even the youngest priesthood holders are authorized messengers.
  • The Aaronic priesthood carries the keys of the gospel of repentance—not as often that we call others to repentance, but that we repent ourselves.

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Saturday afternoon session

Saturday afternoon—not much else to say.

As with the others of these, the first speaker is at the bottom, and then the entry runs chronologically upward.

Dale G. Renlund, of the quorum of apostles
  • Orson Pratt and Parley P. Pratt were very, very close, but developed a strained relationship in the 1840s—until a need to work on their shared family history provided the power to heal the rift.
  • When God gives us a commandment, it results in blessings beyond what is covered by the commandment itself.
  • We are commanded to collect our family histories, which will result in increased appreciation for both our deceased and living relatives, and help us feel less alone in the world.
  • The sealing ordinances result in meaningful growth occurring both backward and forward through the generations.
  • [It can’t be just me who’s having trouble following his story because two of the main characters are named Rob and Todd.]
  • God, in his infinite capacity, seals and heals families no matter the trials and suffering we might pass through.
  • Through the blessings of temple and family history work we will learn that we have never lived—metaphorically speaking—anywhere but heaven.

Devin G. Durrant, of the general presidency of the Sunday school
  • Once you’re a parent, you are always a parent, no matter how old your children are.
  • Jesus was announced as God’s beloved son; do we let our children know (including in prayer) how beloved they are of us?
  • Always be ready to teach—you don’t know when the opportunity will present itself.
  • If you feel you have room for improvement, pay attention to the inspiration of the Spirit and “bind yourself to act” in response.

Taniela B. Wakolo, of the quorums of seventy
  • The best way to show love for our spouse is to go with them to the temple.
  • We need not only good conduct, but also the ordinances of the temple to receive exaltation—and we need not only those ordinances, but also Jesus’s atonement.
  • We need to each be a “faithful shepherd”, and not be casual about helping those around us to progress, because such “casualness leads to casualties”.

Bonnie L. Oscarson, recently released as general president of the young women organization
  • Young men have priesthood responsibilities from the point of their ordination; young women have “covenant responsibilities” from the time they’re baptized.
  • Young women have much to offer in moving the work of God forward.
  • Everyone needs to take an active role in participating in the work of the church.
  • A (pointed?) reminder to bishops that they need to focus on the young women as much as they focus on the young men. (I’ve lived in wards where that reminder could have been useful.)
  • Young women need, like everyone does, to feel like they are an important part of the kingdom of God.

Dallin H. Oaks, with an Oops!
  • He forgot to present two of the area seventies—so we get an extra-special bonus sustaining!

Taylor G. Godoy, of the quorums of seventy
  • What would we do if we knew we had only one more day to live?
  • Personal sacrifice is a powerful force that gives our lives meaning.
  • Through sacrifice we can help others.
  • Each day, we have one more day to live and make our lives sacred.
  • Remember that our salvation is made possible through Jesus’s sacrifice.

David A. Bednar, of the quorum of apostles
  • We all need to develop a particular Christlike attribute, he says—but he’s not telling us which one right away, he’s telling us stories about it.
  • And now, the big reveal: It’s meekness.
  • Meekness is not weak, it’s strong—and it subsumes many, many other virtues.
  • Meekness is a spiritual gift we should seek, remembering that such gifts are given with the intent that they be used to serve others.
  • We can become meek though the power of the atonement.
Kevin R. Jergensen, church auditing report
  • [Boilerplate. Has this bit of conference ever contained any interesting information?]
Dallin H. Oaks, sustaining of church authorities and officers
  • No statistical report—that’s been offloaded to the church website and conference report
  • Serious reshuffling of the presidency of the seventy.
  • Mass—seriously mass—‚ quantities of new area seventies being called.
  • New general presidency of the young women organization: Bonnie H. Cordon (formerly a counselor in the general presidency of the primary) as president, with Michelle Lynn Craig and Rebecca Lynn Craven as counselors.
  • Someone repeatedly shouted something (hard to understand, but maybe about sexual predators?) as those newly called were taking their seats. Protestor protip: If you’re going to make a scene, make sure people can understand exactly what you’re denouncing.

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Saturday morning session

So it’s time for general conference again, which means that it’s time for me to post my notes for general conference. As with every time i do this, the notes run in reverse chronological order, so the first speaker in this session (well, a thought from just before the session started, actually) is at the bottom of this post, and then the next speaker is above that, and then so on. I do this because blogs, contra centuries of writing practice, run chronologically bottom-up, so the next session will be above this one, so that’s the only way i can create a chronological record, so that after conference is over it’ll be possible to go through everything in one read from the bottom of this post up to the top of the last session, which will be the end of the last session.

Within each speaker, though, notes run top-down, because doing otherwise just confused me.

So now, let’s begin by scrolling down to the bottom of the post, and…

Neil L. Andersen, of the quorum of apostles
  • We sustain the prophet as the Lord’s anointed, but we must be clear that we worship only God the Father.
  • A mention that Russell M. Nelson has 10 children, 57(?) grandchildren, and 118 great-grandchildren. My kids’ response: He must be amazing at remembering names!
  • Prophets are called to watch and warn and (thus) protect us.
  • Following Jesus requires listening to those he sends.
  • We live in a world of reason and debate and discovering sensible rationales and evidences for things, but the word and command of the Lord often comes without explanation. [Though i have to admit, my reaction is: Why not have both?]
  • Prophets don’t stand between you and God, but rather stand beside you and points the way.
  • As we follow the counsel of the prophet, our faith in Jesus will increase.

Lynn G. Robbins, of the presidency of the seventy
  • Success is not the absence of failure, but is going from failure to failure with continual improvement.
  • Nephi and Moses both had failures before they succeeded in their assigned tasks—but if they were on the Lord’s errand, why weren’t they blessed with immediate success? (Spoiler: There are many reasons.)
  • God allows us repentance not accidentally, but as part of the plan—failings are built into it, and we get limitless attempts to better ourselves.
  • We should go from failure to failure with enthusiasm—this is the gospel of repentance, and it is a lifetime process.
  • This isn’t a free license to sin, of course—we need to seek forgiveness with “real intent”, which implies real effort.
  • “Our success isn’t going from failure to failure, but growing from failure to failure, without any loss of enthusiasm.”

Gary E. Stevenson, of the quorum of apostles
  • An overview on the process of that occurs upon the death of a president of the church—lots of detail.
  • Describing (quoting someone else, didn’t catch who) a solemn assembly as when the church assembles in solemnity under the direction of the first presidency.
  • Interesting story of someone who knew Russell M. Nelson as a doctor rather than as a religious leader, and praised his skill as a teacher of medicine who (unlike many doctors) treated his students with respect.

Larry Echo Hawk, of the quorums of seventy
  • Told the story of his younger brother and sister-in-law being killed by a drunk driver, and the ultimate necessity of forgiveness for his family to heal.
  • Yes, punishment is necessary for those who do wrong—but we are commanded to forgive all (just as Jesus forgives us), which allows us to receive forgiveness and peace.
  • We as sinners must be willing to forgive if we wish to receive forgiveness.
  • Remember also that an essential element of forgiveness is forgiving ourselves.

Brian K. Taylor, of the quorums of seventy
  • [Dang, this guy looks really young for a general conference speaker!]
  • His refrain: You are a child of God.
  • We may feel like we’re not worthy of the love of God, but we are—and we are loved perfectly and completely.
  • Earnestly seeking God will lead us to recognize that God sanctifies even our most difficult days (with a particular mention of this being available to mothers of young children who may feel overwhelmed).
  • God “weeps with us in our sorrows”.

M. Russell Ballard, acting president of the quorum of apostles
  • Starting with a discussion on sustaining a prophet and what it means to do so. (Sensibly enough, given the immediate context.)
  • Interesting terminology: You don’t hear “prophet-president” all that much anymore; also, he called him the “presiding apostle”, which is clearly true, but not a part of the office one hears very often.
  • Hurrah! for a mention that prophets aren’t perfect—and then a very nice pivot into the need to sustain each other in our own imperfections.
  • Interesting discussion amongst my teen and tween children right now about his comment about the need to occasionally disconnect from things like social media and focus on more “eternal” for lack of a better word) things.
  • We need to serve—not just in callings, but in the wider sphere, including service in the community and running for public office.
  • Faith is incredibly powerful, and leads to salvation.

Henry B. Eyring, sustaining of the first presidency and apostles
  • Solemn assembly time! It’s been what, a decade or something like that?
  • Interesting—they’re sustaining the president and acting president of the quorum of apostles separately from the rest of the twelve.
  • New apostles: Gerrit W. Gong and Ulisses Soares. We’ve got a Brazilian! (Let’s be honest, if we were a betting people, Gerrit W. Gong would have been leading the odds line. I don’t know that Ulisses Soares was at the top of most people’s radar, but that may simply be because he doesn’t use an initial for one of his names.)
  • The general authority seventies and presiding bishopric are standing together. Interesting that they’re being grouped into a single quorum-like group for this.
  • So adult women are their own group. Interesting—it’s not just a group of everyone not in a priesthood quorum. (Also, they were placed in order before the Aaronic priesthood quorums, which is also intriguing.)
  • The young women get their own opportunity to stand, in parallel to the young men/Aaronic priesthood quorums.
  • Interesting—this wasn’t a sustaining of all church officers and authorities (that will come later).

As everyone comes in…
  • I’d just like to point out that the church officers and authorities chat (and even laugh!) with each other before the meeting. Why, then, do we have so many bishops and stake presidents who bear down so hard on the idea that we need to be absolutely silent and solemn upon entry into the chapel?