Sunday, October 7, 2018

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Sunday afternoon session

Sunday afternoon: The big finale, or a coast to the close?

If you’re coming to this after the conference has ended, this may be the first of these entries you see, so here’s how to read them: Blogs run—going against millennia of best practice—in reverse chronological order, so this one’s at the top of the page, followed by the entry for the previous session, followed by the previous one, and so on. Therefore, to make it easier to follow this whole thing chronologically, speakers are arranged within each session’s entry in reverse chronological order, as well—so the opening speaker for this session is at the bottom of this post, preceded by the next speaker, preceded by the next one, and so on. (My notes for each speaker, though, are in regular top-down chronological order—trying to do otherwise was painful the one time i tried it.)

And with that, let’s finish this thing off…

Final thoughts
  • Lots of stuff on the need to focus on Jesus Christ. Okay, so that’s not all that unusual, but the phrasings used seemed to be quite similar to each other.
  • I’m honestly curious what’s going to happen to the URLs and
  • All but no direct mentions of sexual abuse and other forms of assault, which mildly surprises me, given how much it’s been in the public conversation lately.
  • And my favorite address of the weekend: As cliché as it might be, the nod goes to Jeffrey R. Holland. (Neal L. Anderson comes in a pretty close second, though.) Unlike many recent conferences, i feel like even though there were a lot of good speeches by non-apostles, but none of them really stood out in an incredible way.
  • And there we are. See y’all back in this space in six months!

Russell M. Nelson
  • This conference has been useful for reminding us to center our lives on Jesus Christ.
  • There’s a need for more people to attend the temple to do proxy work there.
  • There will be upcoming renovations of Salt Lake and other pioneer-era temples.
  • 12 new temples: Mendoza Argentina; Salvador, Brazil; Yuba City, California; Phnom Penh, Cambodia; Praia, Cape Verde; Yigo, Guam; Puebla, Mexico; Auckland, New Zealand; Lagos, Nigeria; Davao, Philippines; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Washington County, Utah.
  • And that’s it, the end.

Gary E. Stevenson, of the quorum of apostles
  • A fact at the heart of ministering: Heavenly Father can take our simple daily efforts and turn them into something impressive.
  • What we learn in ministering will help us use the extra time we’ll have after the turn of the year to positive effect.
  • When we face difficulties, the Lord, our shepherd, will minister to us.
  • We have the opportunity to assist in this ministering effort.
  • Ministering to others to identify, find, and bring home the lost sheep will bring us joy.
  • We aren’t asked to redeem souls—that is what Jesus does. All we’re asked to do is to bring souls to him, so that he can redeem them.

Jack N. Gerard, of the quorums of seventy
  • [Dang, this is the health scare/tragedy general conference, innit?]
  • An invitation: Step back from the world and assess our lives.
  • Assessing our lives allows us to see what needs to change, and learn what we can do to choose the best path.
  • Understanding our divine origins is essential to our progress, and helps us avoid becoming distracted by unimportant worldly concerns.

Dale G. Renlund, of the quorum of apostles
  • God’s goal isn’t to have us do what’s right, it’s to have us choose to do what’s right.
  • Jesus Christ has paid for our sins, and no one is beyond the reach of God’s mercy.
  • Lucifer is the accuser who tells us we’re not good enough and there’s no recovery from our mistakes.
  • God wants us to be on the covenant path, but permits us the dignity of choosing.
  • Those who are forced from the path due to the misexercise of agency by others aren’t off the path.
  • We need to choose faith in Christ, repentance, baptism, partaking of the sacrament, making temple covenants, and serve the rest of God’s children.

Matthew L. Carpenter, of the quorums of seventy
  • Consider that many of the people who Jesus healed had been suffering for a long time—decades!—but were healed immediately.
  • We can’t control when we will be healed, if it will even happen in this life—but when we allow Jesus to be involved, we will always be strengthened spiritually.
  • Repentance isn’t the backup plan in case we fail, it’s the plan knowing that we will fail, and will need healing.
  • Just as receiving medical help quickly (as in the case of his son having a stroke!) can help recovery go more easily, it is never a good idea to procrastinate repentance.

Robert C. Gay, of the presidency of the seventy
  • Quoting his sister: “Can’t you see that everyone around you is a sacred being?”
  • Referencing Brigham Young: Don’t judge someone because they’re a sabbath breaker, or because they swear, or whatever, because you don’t really know them as God does.
  • He related a story of James E. Talmage that was pretty hardcore—basically, he voluntarily exposed himself to diphtheria so that he could help a family suffering from the disease, even though he ended up catching it himself as a result!
  • Jesus spoke to those considered the least of the least in part to remind us that there is no one he is unable to heal and bring to joy.

Brian K. Ashton, of the general presidency of the Sunday school
  • During mortality, we are provided with the means we need to progress within God’s plan.
  • If we remain in light and truth, we will see the face of God, in this life or the next.
  • Heavenly Father has an eternal perspective, which merits our trust.
  • Striving to become like Heavenly Father is worth every sacrifice.

Henry B. Eyring, of the quorum of the first presidency
  • Wisdom from someone else: When you meet someone, assume they’re in serious trouble, and you’ll likely be right.
  • We are in this world to be tested and proved, but we have also been given a way through those difficulties. (Spoiler: It’s Jesus Christ.)
  • The ordinance of the sacrament includes a promise to always have the Spirit with us.
  • In the sacramental prayers, we express willingness to take the name of Christ on us. So, this leads us to important questions: “What must i be doing to take his name upon me? How will i know when i am making progress?”
  • As Moroni says, we have to be meek and lowly of heart, and confess Jesus Christ—and that leads us to charity.
  • For some of us, our troubles start to overcome our faith. If you’re in that situation, you can pray with confidence to lead you to those who need your help, and following through on that will lead you to feel God’s love.

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Sunday morning session

Sunday morning, the big leagues!

(Well, or at least it used to be, before all the crazy announcements of policy started happening on Saturdays.)

As with the other posts in this series, the start of the session is at the bottom, so scrolling there and then running upward will take you through the session chronologically…

Russel M. Nelson, president of the high priesthood
  • Talking about the name of the church.
  • We have unwittingly acquiesced to non-divine influences when we omit the name of Jesus Christ from the church.
  • We are not Mormon’s disciples, we’re the Lord’s disciples.
  • Why does the church have such a long name? Because it was given by divine, not mortal inspiration.
  • If we use the actual, divinely given name of the church, we will be blessed as individuals and as a church.

Neil L. Anderson
  • Starting out with the Brussels Airport bombing, where church members were horrifically injured. So why do such things happen to faithful members?
  • God gives us blessings, but intermingled with this will be times, some lengthy, during which our souls will be wounded.
  • Along with the bright colors of happiness and joy, the darker colors of tragedy and unhappiness are also woven into God’s plan.
  • “Never give up, however deep the wounds of your soul…You are not meant to perish spiritually. You are meant to survive spiritually and blossom in your faith in trusting God.”
  • “Your dark night will pass, because the Son did rise with healing in his wings.” [I want to know how the translators handled that pun!]
  • For the righteous, the healer of our souls will heal all your wounds, no matter how deep those wounds might be.

Shayne M. Bowen, of the quorums of seventy
  • The Book of Mormon has converting power.
  • Our personal conversion deepens as we understand the Book of Mormon better.
  • Our mission is to take Moroni’s promise to heart, and then share that message in both word and deed.

Jeffrey R. Holland, of the quorum of apostles
  • Don’t be immobilized trying to figure out how to minister—just do it.
  • The negative consequences of one event can echo through the years.
  • Jesus has asked that we live together in love, with no disputations among us.
  • “Our relationship to Christ will be determined or at least affected by our relationship to each other.”
  • We may have old grievances, but they are old grievances—we need to not let them weigh down our souls any longer.
  • Forgiveness doesn’t mean doing things like staying in an abusive relationship, or placing us in emotional difficulty—but it does mean that we can rise above even the most terrible of offenses and progress in the Lord’s work.
  • If you are delaying forgiveness, go and do it instantly. [Great phrasing on who this is directed to: “You who are keeping wretched quarrels alive…”]
  • “If you know of an old injury, repair it.”

Bonnie H. Cordon, general president of the young women organization
  • We all want to be recognized—to matter, to be noticed, and to be loved.
  • Our job is to make sure everyone feels the love of God as we provide service to them that blesses their lives, and thus also ours.
  • We need to be aware of the less visible needs of those around us.
  • Get to know those around you, and reach out to them.
  • The teenagers in the church, male and female, are needed in this effort.

M. Russell Ballard, acting president of the quorum of apostles
  • Starting with a mention of his wife’s recent death, and thanks for the condolences.
  • Joseph F. Smith faced a great deal of tragedy in his life, from the assassination of his father (Hyrum Smith) to the deaths of many other relatives, including several children.
  • The comfort he had long prayed for came in a vision in 1918—a year that was particularly painful for him, both from world events (World War I, the flu pandemic) and deaths of those close to him through disease and misadventure.
  • Joseph F. Smith saw his father in the vision now canonized as section 138—74 years after he had last seen them in life.
  • This is the 100th anniversary of this revelation, and everyone should go back and read it.
  • A mention of its particular personal poignancy with the death of his wife, and the comfort it gives.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: General women’s session

The general women’s session, now with extra general conferenciness!

Yes, i’m male, but i figure that if my wife got to sit in on the priesthood sessions as i listened to them from our couch the past couple times, i might as well hang out for this one.

So once more, the speakers run bottom-up, so if you scroll down to the bottom of the post now…

Russell M. Nelson, president of the high priesthood
  • You [referring to women specifically?] have the gift to know what someone needs, and reach out to provide it.
  • Women reach out to others, and minister very admirably.
  • A suggestion to take a break from social media, to recenter yourself away from those sorts of views of yourselves and the world around you.
  • Attend the temple regularly, and if you can’t do that (e.g., due to distance), study all you can about the temple and its importance.

Dallin H. Oaks, of the quorum of the first presidency
  • Children are important, and the raising of them is important.
  • [He trotted out the claim that the highest purpose women have is to be mothers. Is that actually true? Isn’t the highest purpose of all of us, female or male, to be worthy to enter the celestial kingdom of our God, whether or not we’ve been parents?]
  • We need to be kind to others—unkindness and bullying is unacceptable.
  • “Our world needs your goodness and love. Be kind to one another.”

Henry B. Eyring, of the quorum of the first presidency
  • Men and women are equal partners who are to help each other in all things—so why are women tasked with the primary responsibility over nurturing and nourishing their children with a knowledge of the gospel?
  • Part of the reason is the feeling of love necessary to do it; consider that the motto of the relief society is charity never faileth.
  • [I wasn’t the only one—my 13-year-old daughter did too—who thought at first that when he was talking about mothers providing the most important nourishment to their children, he was talking about breast milk.]
  • Even the youngest can be inspired to nurture others.
  • Each time you obey the inspiration to nurture, your ability to do so will grow stronger.

Cristina B. Franco, of the general presidency of the primary
  • Love and pure intentions count more in the eternal scheme of things than anything the secular world might count.
  • Parents caring for children, or those caring for unwell parents are good examples of true service—not asking what’s in it for ourselves, but asking what we can do to help.
  • It isn’t really about the details of the service, but rather the love behind the act.

Michelle D. Craig, of the general presidency of the young women organization
  • It is okay to feel discontent with the way things are—but will it be discontent that leads us to progress, or discontent that leads us to wallow in despair and self-absorption?
  • Consider that Joseph Smith’s first vision followed a period of discontent and confusion that led him to seek out the will of God.
  • Quoting someone i missed the name of: “Never suppress a generous thought.”
  • Don’t see people as interruptions, but rather as the purpose of your life.

Joy D. Jones, general president of the primary
  • What is our purpose when we’re asked to do something in the church that seems pointless?
  • Answer: “The highest manifestation of love is devotion to God”, and if that’s our motivation for service, it’s no longer as much of a struggle.
  • It is only when we truly love God that we’re able to share that love with others.
  • Giving the best you have will almost certainly not be enough; give the best you have anyway.

Opening song
  • Syncopation from a choir at a Mormon meeting? Burn the heathens!!

Jean Bingham, general president of the relief society, opening remarks
  • Jean Bingham, or Jean B. Bingham? The voiceover introduced her as the latter, she introduced herself as the former, so i’ll go with that.
  • An explicit welcome to those of other faiths!

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Saturday afternoon session

We’re back!

Again, the speakers run bottom-up, so that you can read the whole weekend bottom-up after it’s all over.


Dieter F. Uchtdorf, of the quorum of apostles
  • King Solomon had it all—but in the end he became disillusioned and unhappy.
  • German has a word for this: Weltschmerz. [I always like understanding the words before the definitions are given…]
  • There is a solution to such despair, disillusionment, and Weltschmerz: The atonement of Jesus Christ, who came so that we might have life, and have it more abundantly.
  • We have life abundantly not by focusing on ourselves, but by becoming disciples of Jesus Christ.
  • Jesus ministered to the weak and powerless, spoke with them, and healed them while teaching the good news of the gospel.
  • Believe, love, do.
  • God desires to sweep darkness out of your life.
  • Accepting the love of God, like anything, takes practice—but the church is there to help us do that.
  • An exhortation to work together to help each other become the best we can be.
  • Sometimes those of us in the church slip and say the wrong thing, or are unthinkingly unkind—but ultimately, we are all trying to get it right together.

Paul B. Pieper, of the quorums of seventy
  • Our Heavenly Father wants to make it perfectly clear that the name of Jesus Christ, but that it is a name with singular power—it is the name by which salvation comes.
  • When we take the name of Jesus Christ on ourselves, it changes us.
  • Some reject taking the name of Christ because they see it as restrictive, but it’s actually expanding.
  • Taking the name of Jesus Christ on us is accompanied by joy.

Gerrit W. Gong, of the quorum of apostles
  • Quoting the late apostle Richard G. Scott: “Attempt to be creative, even if the results are modest.”
  • Our expressions of creativity and attempts to create beauty are reflections of the beauty and skill of God as creator.
  • There is joy in wholesome creativity.
  • “We cannot love ourselves enough to save ourselves.” [Okay, that's deep, and merits pondering at some point.]
  • God assures us that no matter what we’ve done, there is no point of no return, and we will not be left alone.
  • We rejoice in finding “higher and holier ways to love” God.
  • Perfection is in Christ, not in ourselves, nor in the world’s view of perfection.

Ulisses Soares, of the quorum of apostles
  • The Amazon River is formed by two very different rivers that flow together for several miles before mixing, but once they mix they become incredibly powerful; similarly, when the diversity of members of the church become united, they become a powerful force.
  • It is easy for new members of the church to feel like they don’t belong (with an example of Mormon in-group jargon); at such a time, those of us who are already established in the church must reach out a warm hand of fellowship.
  • We need everyone willing to join in, and so must reach out and be welcoming in the spirit of ministering.
  • We need to let people know that they are not alone, and that we will be their friends and God will bless them as they move forward.
  • We can and should be better at welcoming new people in and out of our church meetings (that’s ministering, after all). Oh, and start doing so right away!
  • “I invite you to seek the Lord’s help in loving others as he has loved you.”

Dean M. Davies, of the presiding bishopric
  • The calling of the president of the high priesthood is to preside over the church, and to be a prophet.
  • [Interesting: There is a church temple site committee than meets monthly. The frequency surprises me somewhat.]
  • God reveals to the president of the church the “patterns” by which the church and our lives should run.
  • We should “build our own personal temples” in our homes and our lives.
  • We gain confidence in the Lord as we hearken to the words of the prophets.

D. Todd Christofferson, of the quorum of apostles
  • A retelling of the confrontation between Elijah and the priests of Baal.
  • If something is true—if the Book of Mormon is the word of God, if Joseph Smith saw what he said he did, and so on—then follow it.
  • When someone is truly confirmed, the gospel of Jesus Christ defines their lives.
  • We are on a continuum in our progression, with all of us hopefully moving toward blessedness.
  • Temptations and tribulations will strengthen us, but only if we keep our focus where it should be.

Henry B. Eyring, of the quorum of the first presidency, presenting the church general officers and authorities
  • Sad to see C. Scott Grow get released, if only for the name.
  • Nobody shouting during or after the sustainings this time, which is interesting, given recent history.

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Saturday morning session

General conference time again!

So, as i always do for these, a formatting explanation to start out: So that these notes can be read in a single swoop in reverse chronological order, the top entry of notes in this post is the last speaker; the first speaker is at the bottom of the post. This is so that when the next session is posted, reading upwards goes smoothly from the end of this session (at the top of this post) to the beginning of the next (at the bottom of the next post), and so on through the entire weekend.

Under each speaker, though, the notes go in chronological order from the top down—i tried doing everything bottom-up one time, and it was painful to read. So it might work best, i suppose, if you consider each speaker to be a single discrete entry, a sort of mini-post of its own.

And with that, let’s begin!

Dallin H. Oaks, of the quorum of the first presidency
  • When we search for truth, we should use methods of searching out the truth that are appropriate to that truth.
  • Spiritual and religious truths cannot be learned by scientific and secular methods.
  • We’re a family-centered church, but that isn’t just families in mortality—our focus is on families being sealed together for the eternities.
  • Why do we focus so much on missionary work, but simultaneously offer humanitarian aid without connecting it to our missionary work? Both are because we view everyone as children of the same God, and worthy of our attention and care.
  • [Honestly, this wasn’t anything new. At all. But i’m calling it right now, next Sunday a half dozen of the archconservatives in my ward will quote it as if it was.]

David A. Bednar, of the quorum of apostles
  • Sunday meetings have not simply been shortened—we’ve been given opportunities to improve Sabbath observance.
  • Administrative changes in the church aren’t simply administrative changes—they’re part of a unified effort to align the church with its fundamental mission of assisting in God’s work.
  • We shouldn’t constrain ourselves by coming up with extensive checklists to measure our adherence to commandments and principles, rather than actually coming closer to God.
  • [He said, “Let me provide both a doctrinal, and a church example” of what i’m talking about. I’m not entirely certain what he meant by that.]
  • All of the basics of the gospel combine together into one great program to move the church and its mission forward—they aren’t just independent and discrete initiatives.
  • Church programs and initiatives exist to help individuals and families, not as ends in themselves.

Ronald A. Rasband, of the quorum of apostles
  • Is it actually good to bring children into a fallen world? Yes, it is.
  • Fear is not new, and we have fears. This is normal.
  • “Prayer can call down the strength and the revelation that we need to center our thoughts on Jesus Christ” and banish fear.
  • Scripture says that when things seem terribly dark, we shouldn’t be troubled because God’s promises will be fulfilled.
  • Remember we are promised the peace of God which passeth all understanding.
  • [Does anybody else who used to watch Law & Order back in the day every once in a while look at Ronald A. Rasband and think they're looking at politician-turned-actor Fred Thompson? No? Okay, i'll just wander off back to my own corner…]
  • When we stand with God, we are standing on holy ground.

An interlude…
  • And amidst all this, i get a text from one of my sisters, reminding me of the joke prediction (made by my net.friend Craig Olson decades ago) that two-hour church would be announced in general conference, with time set aside afterward for the church’s nursery workers to give the Hosanna Shout. Her statement: “Yeah. I might have been overly excited about 50-minute nursery.”

Steven R. Bangerter, of the quorums of seventy
  • Jesus Christ is the cornerstone and foundation of Zion.
  • Parents should lead in teaching their children the importance of the gospel.
  • Family traditions can be subtle, but important.
  • Simple, wholesome family traditions lead to respect and unity and security, and protection from Satan’s power.
  • It’s not so much an issue of whether children understand everything when we have gospel-inspired family activities and discussions, but rather whether we are leading in our families as we should and teaching as we should.

M. Joseph Brough, of the general presidency of the young men
  • Alaska (mis)adventure story!
  • Sometimes our challenges are caused by our own choices, and sometimes by the choices of others.
  • Neal A. Maxwell faced leukemia, and struggled—but learned that it was ultimately a blessing, because it let him teach authenticity. [Yeah, i do miss his powerful propensity for dense diction and amazing alliteration.]
  • We can, however, overcome all hard things through Jesus Christ.

Quentin L. Cook, of the quorum of apostles
  • New Sunday meeting schedule: 60-minute sacrament meeting, 10-minute transition, 50-minute adult/youth/primary class (which will follow an alternating schedule Sunday to Sunday, except Primary is every week).
  • [I’ve been hoping for 2-hour church meetings for literally (i mean, literally literally) years. As someone who grew up with a long ride to and from church, it’s a big deal, y’all.]
  • [Wow, meetinghouse usage patterns are going to change in a big way, aren’t they?]
  • Explicit statement that family home evenings don’t need to be held on Mondays, though that day will still be held free from church activities.
  • The church’s curriculum has emphasized the Sunday church experience, but now that’s shifting to focusing on the home (and personal) religious experience.
  • Each family should choose prayerfully how and when it will be implemented—including the possibility of gathering in informal groups, if they desire.
  • No opening prayers needed in the second hour meeting.
  • More wards should meet earlier in the day. [So the Mormon Cult of the Early Riser is still a thing, i see. <exhaustion />]
  • [Curious whether there’s a co-occurring reduction of stake and ward leadership meetings, or if those are going to get heavier as a result of this.]

Russell M. Nelson, president of the high priesthood
  • Praise for the youth of the church.
  • How can we take the gospel and its ordinances to all of God’s children? To do this, we need to adjust from thinking of home supporting the learning in church to church supporting the learning in the home.
  • So now there’s a home-centered churchwide curriculum [as previously announced, i’ll note].
  • Parents have the responsibility to teach their children, and it is the responsibility of the church to support that.