Sunday, April 7, 2019

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Sunday afternoon session

If you’re coming to this after the conference has ended, this may be the first of these entries you see, so for those new to this or who’ve forgotten, here’s how to read them: Blogs run—going against millennia of best practice in reading and writing, i’ll note—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.

So now it’s time to scroll down and read upwards, or start here and go backwards in time:

Closing thoughts
  • My favorite address? It’s a toss-up between David P. Homer and Sharon L. Eubank. I think i’m going to go with the latter, but i’m still uncertain of whether that’s the right call.
  • And also, no huge policy change announcements! I have to admit, it did my bitter little heart good to see all the rumors of Big Changes Indeed to the missionary program or the word of wisdom or whatever come to precisely naught.

Russell M. Nelson, president of the high priesthood
  • God wants us all to choose to return home.
  • The pioneer-era temples will all go through renovation and restoration over the coming years.
  • New temples announced for: Pago Pago, American Samoa; Okinawa, Japan; Neiafu, Tonga; Tooele Valley, Utah; Moses Lake, Washington; San Pedro Sula, Honduras; Antofagasta, Chile; Budapest, Hungary.
  • And just like that, it’s over!

Ronald A. Rasband, of the quorum of apostles
  • [I can’t be the only one who has a good enough memory of either 1990s politics or early 2000s police procedural dramas that every time i see Ronald A. Rasband, the first thought i have is “Oh, look! It's former United States senator and dramatic actor Fred Thompson!”]
  • Our homes should be a fortress against the attacks of Satan.
  • Satan often works with subtlety in the shadows—but God works from a position of strength.
  • Obedience builds strength against Satan’s wiles.
  • We should focus on the temple, and take refuge there.
  • We should strive to develop a spirit of discernment, so that we don’t have to continually determine anew what is right and what is wrong.
  • We can go forth with confidence in the Lord, and take safety in the fortress than is the gospel and bring others to it, as well.

Kyle S. McKay, of the quorums of seventy
  • When the Lord (or the Lord’s servants) say “soon” or :not many days hence” or such, it doesn’t always mean soon in the way we usually think about it.
  • However, God gives immediate hope for eventual deliverance.
  • “Above all, God’s love is immediate.”
  • It may take a lifetime or longer for your deliverance to arrive, but you will still have access to the immediate goodness of God.

David A. Bednar, of the quorums of apostles
  • Our commitment to live and learn according to truth is increasingly important—we can’t expect to just participate in church programs and get all the spiritual strength we need.
  • We cannot rely entirely on other people for spiritual strength, even those we know and love.
  • The “ultimate missionary training center”, the most important Sunday school classes, our family history centers should actually be our homes.
  • Two basic guidelines can help us obtain an understanding of the temple ordinances: Because we love the Lord, we should always speak about the temple with reverence; and we should know that the temple is the house of the Lord, and everything in it is designed to point us toward the Lord.
  • There is a lot of information about the temple available from authorized sources, in a lot of different formats—use it.

Gerrit W. Gong, of the quorum of apostles
  • Jesus Christ as the good shepherd calls us in his voice and by his name; as we do what we are supposed to, we hearken to that call.
  • The savior reaches out to the one and to the ninety and nine, often at the same time.
  • Jesus exemplifies how shepherds are to minister and love.
  • The savior will gently lead us an carry us, as our needs require.

Juan Pablo Villar, of the quorums of seventy
  • Our muscles will only grow if we use them—and spiritual gifts work the same way.
  • [I can’t do it justice here, but he told a great story about his brother, who was a full-time missionary at the time, being really, really smart in the way he taught his little brother.]
  • Life is a marathon, not a sprint—so don’t forget those small experiences that will strengthen our faith.
  • If you want faith, do things that require faith.

Dallin H. Oaks, of the first presidency
  • The laws of man and the laws of God are different.
  • Under the laws of man, a sentence of life without parole is possible; under the laws of God, forgiveness is available to all who are willing to do what is necessary to receive it.
  • All must repent—repentance is a necessary part of God’s plan.
  • Mortal judgments determine whether someone is ready for baptism, or to receive a temple recommend, or to have repented enough to be rebaptized—that doesn’t absolve sins, because forgiveness can only come from God.
  • The final judgment comes from Jesus Christ, and we will confess that his judgment is just—so we must repent before the final judgment.
  • If the wicked turn to God, God will “have mercy and abundantly pardon”.

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Sunday morning session

Sunday morning! Historically, the “big leagues” session, because if people away from the Mormon Dominance Area only heard/saw one session, it was this one. Not so much anymore, though—but it still has sort of an aura, you know?

But yeah, as with the rest of these entries, the first speaker is at the bottom of the post, and then you can read up to follow chronologically.

Russell M. Nelson, president of the high priesthood
  • Even in the face of tragedy (specifically: the death of his daughter), there is the knowledge that the work continues, and the faithful are helping it progress.
  • When approaching the end of our mortal lives, we will be brought face to face with the question: Where is my family?
  • Salvation is an individual matter, but exaltation is a family matter.
  • The great tragedy is that many people—even good people!—reject the invitation to make covenants with God and have the opportunity to be reunited with their families and have the blessing of neverending joy and happiness as they progress forever.
  • Figure out where you are, and start there—if you don’t know if you even believe in God, start there and seek for experiences with God.

Tad R. Callister, recently released as general president of the Sunday school
  • How can the savior satisfy justice when healing us of our sins?
  • Consider skydivers, who jump from airplanes and are subject to the law of gravity—but can land safely because they have parachutes that work within the law of gravity to permit a safe landing.
  • When people refuse to forgive themselves, they are converting an infinite atonement into a finite one.
  • How does Jesus succor us in our afflictions? Sometimes by removing them—but also by comforting us in them, or giving us an eternal perspective.
  • Ultimately, even our weaknesses can become perfections.

D. Todd Christofferson, of the quorum of apostles
  • After the second coming, there will be no evil or pain—even the pain of death will be done away.
  • So let us do all we can to relieve suffering now, and let us do all we can to prepare for the day in which all suffering will end.
  • We must prepare ourselves as a people for the great day of the Lord—both to increase righteousness on the earth, and to gather together as a refuge against the day of wrath.
  • We must take part in the gathering—we must share the gospel to all around us.
  • The Lord labors with us when we share the gospel—or, more accurately, the Lord permits us to join in the work.

Quentin L. Cook, of the quorum of apostles
  • We need to make invitations to learn more of our faith lovingly.
  • The new Sunday meeting schedule provides opportunities to make invitations to gather with us.
  • Men and women have different stewardships, but they are equal in importance, and they have equal power to receive revelation for their families.

Sharon L. Eubank, of the general presidency of the relief society
  • Life can be difficult and exhausting—but Jesus promises us that if we come to him, we will be given rest.
  • Recall that Jesus reached out to those who weren’t traditionally accepted in society.
  • Assurance comes in ways that aren’t always easy to analyze, but it gives us light in our darkness.
  • Even if our sins are scarlet—even if they’re dyed in the wool scarlet, and can never by rational means be removed—Christ is wool made white.
  • No matter how hard it tries, the darkness can never put out the light that is Christ.

Dale G. Renlund
  • How do we obtain blessings from God? Are they completely earned by our own activity, or are they completely unearned?
  • For an analogy, consider a bonfire all set to go, which must be ignited by something small like a match (and that match has to be applied to the kindling), and it needs oxygen to continue burning.
  • Similarly, the receipt of blessings—usually—requires an act of faith on our part, which is small (like the match) in comparison to the blessings (the potential energy contained in the wood).
  • Our acts of faith, while small in comparison to the blessings, are not small—consider that a match can be seen in the dark for miles.
  • Some blessings are contingent only on something as small as asking, but other times they require something more.
  • To continue receiving blessings, we need to keep moving forward (which can take a number of different forms, even including being still, knowing that God is God, and being patient).

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Priesthood session

So priesthood session is men and boys aged 11 (if they’re turning 12 this year), but the general women’s session is girls and women aged 8 and up. Just kind of wondering if they’re ever going to adjust things so that the ages match, you know?

Anyway, as with the rest of these entries, the first speaker is at the bottom of the post, and then you can read up to follow chronologically.

Russell M. Nelson, president of the high priesthood
  • The scriptures often tell us to say “nothing but repentance unto this generation”.
  • Does everyone need to repent? Yes!
  • Repentance isn’t a punishment—the idea that it is is a deception of Satan’s.
  • When God invites us to repent, we are invited to change our mind, knowledge, spirit, even the way we breathe; we are invited to change the way we love, think, serve, spend our time, treat our wives, teach our children, even treat our bodies.
  • Repentance is a process in which we invite the Lord to help us change so that we become more like Jesus Christ.
  • God doesn’t expect us to be perfect at this point, but does expect us to become pure—and daily repentance is the path to purity.
  • All of us can do better and be better than we were before.
  • The way we take care of our bodies is important—and we can do better at that (and this includes [this is directed toward the men, remember!] dressing in appropriate ways).
  • Another way we can do better is the way we treat the women in our lives (for example, watching sports and playing video games should never come before them).

Dallin H. Oaks, of the first presidency
  • The restored gospel reminds us to think about the future, to guide our actions today.
  • As we see threats creeping up on those we love, we have a opportunity to warn them—or we can do nothing.
  • We need to consider opportunity costs when we’re deciding what to do. (See also his “Good, Better, Best” address from some years ago.)
  • We are children of God; everything else pales in comparison to that.

Henry B. Eyring, of the first presidency
  • Thank you for your service in the church—and move forward in using your power to bless the lives of others.
  • Each time you sustain someone the Lord calls, it is an expression of trust.
  • Do we truly sustain others? We are commanded not to judge unrighteously, but we find it difficult to do.
  • No man, however high he may be in the priesthood, can speak ill of another without incurring God’s wrath.
  • As we repent, our confidence in the Lord and each other will grow stronger, and we will move toward truly becoming one.

Kim B. Clark, of the seventy
  • Jesus did what he should have done, doing the will of God the Father in all things.
  • We are called to trust in Jesus completely, and ultimately become like him.
  • We “rivet” our focus on Jesus by living our covenants.
  • Jesus Christ goes with us when we do what we are supposed to do.

Carl B. Cook, of the presidency of the seventy
  • When a young man joins the church, what is going to keep him active? His priesthood quorum!
  • With the focus on gospel instruction in the home, will those without active family members be left behind? No—we cannot allow that to happen (and the quorum should help with that).
  • Wherever you are, your quorum can grow through activation and sharing the gospel.

Gary E. Stevenson, of the quorum of apostles
  • Just as sports players have an assignment and playbook, we have assignments and we can build our own playbook of plans based in the gospel.
  • He asked a bunch of church-member professional athletes, and found it interesting that they didn’t define themselves by what they do, but rather who they are as children of God.
  • Along the way you will stumble and fall sometimes, but that’s not a problem—that’s part of the qualifying process, and you need to simply repent and learn from it.

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Saturday afternoon session

As with the rest of these entries, the first speaker is at the bottom of the post, and then you can read up to follow chronologically.

Jeffrey R. Holland. of the quorum of apostles
  • John the Baptist could have chosen any of a number of titles to greet Jesus, but chose the image of a sacrificial lamb.
  • In advance of his sacrifice, Jesus introduced the ordinance of the sacrament as a more personal process than the killing of a lamb as a sacrifice.
  • Even with the increased emphasis on gospel learning in the home, we are commanded to worship together, where our meetings have been restructured to more fully showcase the ordinance of the sacrament.
  • A (very gentle, and even jovial) recommendation to come to sacrament meetings on time, and even early.
  • It is good to visit, but remember that our chapels are supposed to be places of peace and worship—we oughtn’t be quite as loud as we often are. (Also, he notes, do we really need all the announcements we make before and during sacrament meetings?)
  • When we attend our sacrament meetings, we need to keep in mind the suffering people around us—and there is enough that we can find it in whichever direction we look—and join the Great Physician in lifting their burdens and easing their pain.

David P. Homer, of the quorums of seventy
  • At critical moments in our lives, we will hear multiple voices competing for our attention, and it is vital that we listen to the right ones.
  • The Holy Ghost speaks to us in different ways at different times, and speaks differently to different people, and so it is a lifelong quest to learn to recognize those impressions.
  • Answers are sometimes slow to come—and this can be because it isn’t time, or because an answer isn’t needed, or because God trusts us to do what’s right.
  • If we’re living according to the commandments, we can move forward in faith, trusting that God won’t let us go too far in the wrong direction without warning us.

Takashi Wada, of the quorums of seventy
  • Feasting on the word of God should bring us real joy and improve our relationship with the savior.
  • How is this done? To begin with, the word leads us to be more likely to do good.
  • As we (or are friends) feast on the words of Christ, our eyes will be opened (just as the disciples from the road to Emmaus had their eyes opened).

Neil L. Andersen, of the quorum of apostles
  • There are, despite what some claim, absolute truths.
  • There have always been counterfeits to distract us from the truths of authority.
  • Spiritual truths can only be discerned by spiritual means.
  • The proclamation on the family merits study, and recognition of the spiritual truths it contains.
  • No matter whether any given individual understands your situation [he made this first-person, in fact—saying that he well might not understand], Jesus does.

Mathias Held, of the quorums of seventy
  • An description of how he and his wife joined the church.
  • So, what did they learn from that? That God will give us knowledge, and that we learn spiritual things through methods beyond our simple reason.

M. Russell Ballard, acting president of the quorum of apostles
  • We can find peace, joy, and happiness despite the troubles that swirl around us.
  • All that God asks of us is to do the best we can every day.
  • There have been a lot of adjustments in the church over the past year and a half, but we have to be careful not to let the spiritual purposes underlying them get lost in the excitement about the adjustments themselves.
  • Loving God and loving our neighbor is the foundation of all of the recent adjustments that have been made.
  • Joy, rejoicing, cheerfulness, and such are all used in scriptures about the sabbath—sabbath day worship should bring a smile to our face.
  • Keep your worship simple—don’t overcomplicate things.

Kevin R. Jergensen, of the church auditing department (annual financial report)
  • Entirely serious question, and asked from a faithful point of view: Why do we even do this auditing “report” each year?

Dallin H. Oaks, of the first presidency (sustaining of church officers and authorities)
  • I (and my 11-year-old daughter) will miss Tad R. Callister (who's been General Sunday School President)—the man gives a good speech.
  • This is a long list of new area authorities.

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Saturday morning session

So if you’re here, you probably already know the way these notes are laid out, because Google doesn’t give much weight in its search results to blogs that are only updated twice a year.

But in case you’re new to this, welcome! You should know that—because blogs read in reverse chronological order, these posts are also in reverse chronological order. That is, the first speaker of this session is at the bottom of the post, then the second speaker is above that, and so on to the final speaker of the session, which immediately follows this introduction. Then the next session’s summary will appear above this post, so you can continue to read upwards in chronological order, since the bottom entry in that post will be the first speaker of that session.

Henry B. Eyring, of the first presidency
  • Keeping harmony/a lack of contention in our families can be difficult—but we need to strive for it.
  • We should hope to live as the people in 4 Nephi, with their lack of contention—but remember that that book of scripture then offers a story of the decline of a good people. So how did that happen?
  • Pride crept in and they divided themselves up into classes, they declined in their faith, they began to hate, and they fell into sin—basically, they gave in to the influence of Satan trying to lead good people astray.
  • The key is that they began to decline in their faith in Jesus Christ—we need to help our families feel that faith, leading to humility and love.
  • Faith in Jesus Christ is more likely to bring repentance than any preaching on symptoms of its lack.
  • To help your family grow in faith, you must grow in faith yourself—it may not take root immediately, but it may later.
  • Praying as a family can play a crucial part of making home a sacred place—when a prayer is truly to God, faith grows among everyone present, and even beyond.
  • In the celestial kingdom, our family arrangements will be more wonderful than we can imagine.

W. Christopher Waddell, of the presiding bishopric
  • We must minister to individuals as individuals as Jesus would.
  • A minister is more than a friend.
  • Don’t give up—people change, and no one is too far gone to merit our efforts.
  • Jesus knew of people’s daily needs, and helped them with that—but also desired that they reach their divine potential, nd helped them with that.
  • Minister by giving what you are capable of giving, and trust in the Lord to magnify that.

Dieter F. Uchtdorf, of the quorum of apostles
  • We should not get too self-congratulatory about the progress of the gospel—wherever we live, there are people who don’t know the truth, giving us opportunities (and the responsibility) to share the good word.
  • We have been told “every member a missionary” for years, but not everyone does it equally well. That’s okay, though—the Lord doesn’t want perfection in our missionary efforts, but rather our whole heart, and so that is what we should offer.
  • Five simple “guilt free” (his words) things to do that will lead to better personal missionary efforts: Draw close to God, fill your heart with love for others, strive to walk the path of discipleship, share what is in your heart, and trust the Lord to work miracles.
  • As we walk the path of discipleship, talking about the gospel with others will become natural.
  • Don’t just pray that the missionaries will find the elect, but pray that you will find them. (And then when you do, keep the full-time missionaries in the loop.)
  • It is not your job to convert people—and not succeeding in that isn’t a personal failure. Your job is to love God and love your neighbors—it is the Holy Ghost who works miracles of conversion.

Brook P. Hales, of the quorums of seventy
  • Our Heavenly Father has perfect love for us, and so offers blessings to us based not only on our desires, but also on divine wisdom.
  • God knows not just what our needs are, but what our needs will be.
  • Sometimes our needs are fulfilled in ways that feel like our prayers have not been answered, but that actually result in our needs being fulfilled in a better way (cf. Joseph being sold into slavery).
  • When misfortunes happen, God is still with us and is aware of us.

Becky Craven, of the general presidency of the young women
  • Happiness doesn’t come from acquisition of cheap material things, but rather from living the gospel.
  • “There is not a right way to do the wrong thing.”
  • We should not change our standards to match the ways of the surrounding world.
  • We need inspiration to know what changes we need to make to align our behavior with our covenants.
  • Do not, though, use your personal journey in the gospel as grounds to criticize others for theirs.

Ulisses Soares, of the quorum of apostles
  • We have a mandate to both learn and teach the gospel.
  • At various times we need a teacher to strengthen us, and at others we need to strengthen others.
  • Our object should be to strengthen faith and conversion.
  • As we do this we will be strengthened ourselves.
  • Being godly requires calling on God.
  • Those we care for who are “lost” are not actually lost—God, after all, knows where they are.
  • Be the friends of and rejoice with those who choose different paths than we would like. Do not cut them off, but love them.