Sunday, October 4, 2020

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Sunday afternoon session

The final session, finally! Since anyone coming to this after it goes up will see this first, a note about the way these are set up:

The speakers are listed in reverse chronological order, so to get the full conference in chronological order you can scroll down to the end of the entry for the first session, and then read upwards. (Under each speaker, though, my notes are listed downward.)

So if you want to get to the beginning of the entire conference weekend, you can scroll down five posts read upwards from there.

Closing thoughts
  • Okay, folks, we get it, there’s a lot of tribulation going on right now. I mean, yeah, there is, but it honestly got repetitive. Sorry.
  • We’re planning on building temples in two countries (Kiribati and Vanuatu) that are at extreme risk from environmental disasters (respectively, sea level rise and intensifying climate events). Like, we’re building temples to serve populations that may no longer be there in a century (in the case of Kiribati, because the land might not even be there). It’s an interesting lesson: You need to take the opportunity to serve people in the near term, no matter what’s going to happen long term.
  • And my favorite address of it all? That’s a tough one, because both Dale G. Renlund and Jeffrey’R. Holland were totally on today. I can’t decide between them, honestly, because the answer depends on whether i’m leaning more toward appreciating a more personal focus (Holland) or a more global one (Renlund). So as i type this right now i’d go with the latter, but five minutes from now it might well be the former, so it’s a tie.
  • And that’s it for this time. Not likely to post notes like this again in April, but who actually knows? That’s what i thought six months ago, after all.
Russell M. Nelson, president of the high priesthood
  • God has told us to look forward to the glories to come.
  • Our challenge is to find a way for each of us to attain our divine potential.
  • We often here these days of a “new normal”. So create a “new normal” for yourself! Follow the commandments, repent, prepare for eternal life.
  • New temples: Tarawa, Kiribati; Port Vila, Vanuatu; Lindon, Utah; greater Guatemala City, Guatemala; eastern São Paulo, Brazil, Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia.
Jeffrey R. Holland, of the quorum of apostles
  • We are not the first, nor will we be the last, to ask “How long, O Lord?”
  • Many of us face suffering to lead us to such an anguished question, both personal and public.
  • As we wait for the answers to our prayers, know that they are heard and they are answered—they may not be answered in the time and way we would like, they are answered in the time and way a loving parent would perfectly answer them.
  • The calendar is God’s, and for every man healed instantly at the Pool of Bethesda, another man waits forty years to enter the promised land.
  • Trusting in God means good times and bad, even if that means that we will have to undergo suffering..
  • Alma likens faith to a seed, which if we care for it, it will at some time in the future grow and bear its most excellent fruit—and that takes diligence and patience on our part.
  • [Picking up the Neal A. Maxwell alliteration mantle!]
  • Know, though, that the blessings will come. That was settled in the Garden of Gethsemane long ago.
Kelly R. Johnson, of the quorums of seventy
  • We have access to the power of God.
  • Having the word of God deep in our souls allows us to conquer the adversary and resist temptation.
  • God’s power diminishes in our lives only if we neglect our covenants.
  • We may not have been able to attend the temple due to the pandemic, but we can still remain faithful to our covenants.
Dale G. Renlund, of the quorum of apostles
  • Without the blessings that come from Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ we cannot return to our God; however, through the atonement of Jesus Christ we can.
  • What is necessary for us, then? As Micah says, to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.
  • “God delights in mercy and does not begrudge its use.”
  • Loving mercy means that we don’t just appreciate the mercy we receive from God, but that we also delight in the mercy that God extends to others.
  • A just person recognizes that genuine differences in opinion and outlook don’t preclude love and understanding.
  • Differences in race, religion, social class, sexual orientation, [and there were others] are superseded by the love of God.
Milton da Rocha Camargo, of the general presidency of the Sunday school
  • An important part of the divine plan is to always be able to seek and hear the word of God.
  • God has said that everyone that asketh, receiveth. Asking is simple, but it is powerful.
  • We seek because we trust the Lord’s promises.
Gary E. Stevenson, of the quorum of apostles
  • The pandemic has resulted in a lot of disappointment and discouragement—so how do we heal and move forward?
  • Consider all of those in the scriptures who were blessed of the Lord to accomplish great things in adversity. Paul and Silas were in prison and were still able to preach the gospel, even baptizing the jailer!
  • Even as things normalize and we return to worship in our chapels, we will need to retain the habits and skills relating to gospel study in the home that we have developed.
  • Ultimately, when we look back at the disappointments and discouragements of the past months, we will see that all has worked for good, and that we have been highly favored of the Lord.
Jeremy R. Jaggi, of the quorums of seventy
  • We can make a conscious effort to react to our tribulations with joy.
  • Central to such an approach is the gift of patience.
  • With all of the political, social, and so on movements that we may be a part of, let the most central be disciple of Jesus Christ.
  • “’Be of good cheer’ is the commandment of the Lord, not ‘Be of good fear.’”
Henry B. Eyring, of the first presidency
  • Part of the purpose of this life is for us to be tested—and in fact we chose this ourselves—to find out if we would obey the commandments even when out of God’s presence.
  • As we go through our own tests of faith, remember that we have been given both a Savior and the ability to choose our own path for ourselves.
  • We have access to the comfort of a Savior who understand all of the pains we will ever experience.
  • The greatest blessing that will come when we have overcome out trials will be a change in our natures.
  • We need not seek tribulations; our mortal lives will naturally provide us ample opportunities to prove ourselves.
  • We must always stand ready to help others through their tribulations, even while we are going through our own.

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Sunday morning session

Sunday morning! The conceptual big leagues.

Russell M. Nelson, president of the high priesthood
  • One of the meanings of Israel is ‘let God prevail’—so the gathering of Israel is, in one sense, a gathering of those who are willing to let God prevail with us.
  • This church has been tasked with facilitating the gathering of Israel (on both sides of the veil)—and anytime we do something to help someone progress spiritually, we are assisting with this work.
  • We pray that the missionaries will be led to those who are ready to hear the gospel—but to whom will we be led when we pray to be led to those who are willing to let God prevail in their lives?
  • Please listen carefully [yes, that was what he prefaced this with]: God does not love or favor one race or people from one race any more than another.
  • Our members need to lead out and reject racism and prejudice.
  • The question for all of us is always the same: Are you willing to let your will be swallowed up in what God wants for you? [There were a lot of other questions, but that seemed the crux of the list to me.]
  • When your greatest desire is to let God prevail, decisions and desires become much easier.
Neil L. Andersen, of the quorum of apostles
  • We believe in Jesus Christ and his greatness and glory, but there are places where very little is known about Christ, and other places where faith in Christ is receding. So in such a context, what are we to do?
  • We must keep our minds and hearts focused on Jesus.
  • We, along with other devoted Christians, need to speak of Jesus.
  • Everything in our worship, and also in our daily lives, should point to Jesus Christ.
  • Remember Jesus’s promise: Whoever confesses Jesus before others, Jesus will confess them before the Father.
Carlos A. Godoy, of the presidency of the seventy
  • A discussion of how support is needed for those who join the church, with his own history as a case study.
  • [He had really amazing long hair when he joined the church in his mid-teens!]
  • He was in a tenuous place when he first joined the church, and so it required support from other people (“angels” in the form of other people) as he developed his own testimony.
  • The Lord is aware of the challenges those who are new to or struggling in the church, and will send “angels” to help you.
  • In parallel, the Lord is looking for volunteers to be “angels” sent from God to help those who need you—be willing to be a part of this work.
Ulisses Soares, of the quorum of apostles
  • We need to remain focused on the word of God, but yielding to temptation keeps us from being able to do so.
  • We have to stay on guard against entertaining inappropriate thoughts, because if we give place to them they can eventually lead to sin.
  • Fighting against temptation takes a lifetime of diligence, but Christ is always there to help us in our efforts.
  • When we resist the (often unexpected) little temptations, we increase our resistance to larger temptations.
Lisa L. Harkness, of the general presidency of the primary organization
  • There is a mortal tendency to cry out “Save me!” when faced with difficulty.
  • Jesus’s teachings provide us with a path to peace even in the midst of such difficulties.
  • Faith provides us with patience and the strength to accept God’s will.
  • As we truly hearken to the words of Jesus, fear will decrease and faith will follow.
M. Russell Ballard, acting president of the quorum of apostles
  • It was prophesied that there would be upheaval, and we certainly do live in a time of upheaval right now.
  • All people in every country in the world should pray, no matter how they pray or to whom they pray, for their nation and the leaders of their nation.
  • The Lord’s Prayer makes it clear that it is appropriate to petition God directly.
  • Jesus taught that we should not limit who we pray for—and sincerely praying for those we believe to be our enemies demonstrates our faith that God can change our hearts and the hearts of others.
  • After we pray we need to get up off our knees and take action to improve our lives and the lives of others.
  • The circumstances around us may be chaotic, but through prayer we can know how to improve ourselves, our families, our neighborhoods, our nations, our…

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Saturday evening session

Yeah, i’m a man taking notes on the women’s session. So sue me. It’s not like my daughters stay in seclusion over on the other side of the house during the April priesthood sessions, you know?

Russell M. Nelson, president of the high priesthood
  • The women of the church have both the numbers and the spiritual power to change the world for the better.
  • Prophecies of our day speak in somber tones—but also of its glories.
  • How do we reconcile these views? Simply: “If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear.”
  • There are several ways that we have been told to prepare, both temporally but even more important spiritually and emotionally.
  • We should make sure our homes are places where we can feel safety; our stakes and temples are also places of security, as is anyplace where you can feel the influence of the Holy Ghost.
  • We need to prepare ourselves to be faithful to God by study and action.
  • Important, though: Never stop preparing.
  • The future may not be easy, but it will be glorious for those who prepare.
Dallin H. Oaks, of the first presidency
  • The promises of the Lord that we will be able to pass through tribulations and come out conqueror are made to each of us, and allow us to experience even our trials with joy.
  • Remember, all tribulations are temporary.
  • “In the midst of hardships, the divine assurance is always ‘Be of good cheer, for i will lead you along…’”
  • Tribulations are there not so that we will fail, but rather so that we will “succeed by overcoming”.
Henry B. Eyring, of the first presidency
  • We are called to create a Zion society, and women will be at the forefront of that effort.
  • The women of the church do not hold a “second place” in the plan of God—without the women of the church, the entire plan would fail.
  • To be a Zion people we must have unity, and the women of the church will ultimately earn more than half of the credit for that.
And now we get a movie!
  • Sad piano music, lots of shots of women clearly grieving.
  • The twist! They’re now focusing outward, and rather happier.
  • Interesting trick: They were all wearing pandemic masks in the outdoor shots, but we’re apparently in a post-pandemic world by the end of it.
Cristina B. Franco, of the general presidency of the primary organization
  • We are all in some way broken.
  • Unlike many physical objects, however, we can be completely healed when we come to Jesus.
  • Jesus Christ has the power to turn our mourning into happiness.
Rebecca Craven of the general presidency of the young women organization
  • The savior gives us more than we can ever repay, so what can we do in response? We can change.
  • [There’s an ongoing play on the word change, but it’s very much an English-only—and perhaps even American English-only—bit of wordplay. I do wonder how the various translators have been dealing with this.]
  • The change of repentance doesn’t mean we need to start over, it’s a way that we continue to move forward.
  • We may need to help others as they change, and we should always stand willing to do so.
Sharon Eubank, of the general presidency of the relief society organization
  • We obtain power with God by “union of feeling”.
  • We should be free with our mercy toward others.
  • Unity takes work, and can be uncomfortable, but we will never be alone when we are working toward it.
  • In our diversity, we have power to remove prejudice and build unity.

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Saturday afternoon session

Round 2! As with the rest of these, the first speaker is at the bottom of the post, and it reads upward from there.

Dieter F. Uchtdorf, of the quorum of apostles
  • The current pandemic is not what we wanted to experience, but it still fits into God’s plan.
  • Even when we feel buried in darkness, the love of God will bring us, like seeds, into something greater and wonderful.
  • The righteous are not given a pass to let them avoid adversity, because it is in our adversity that we learn what we need to know.
  • God is fully aware of and concerned by our struggles.
  • [Indirect airplane references! Followed by much more direct ones.]
  • In times of crisis, we need calm and clearheaded trust.
  • With Christ at the helm, things won’t be just all right, they will be unimaginable.
William K. Jackson, of the quorums of seventy
  • An overfixation on one’s cultural identity and assumptions can blind us to good or even godly changes that would help us grow.
  • The greatest of all cultures, the culture of Christ, comes from the great plan of happiness.
  • Charity—feeling real concern for the temporal and spiritual welfare of others and acting on it—is the bedrock of this culture.
  • [Sorry, y’all, but this guy looks like a cross between Leslie Nielsen and Steve Martin to me, and that’s making it a little hard to pay full attention.]
  • When we join with the culture of Christ, we are to bring everything in our cultures that is good and let the church add to it.
  • [Once again, can we get an explicit mention that “the culture of Christ” doesn’t equate to whatever church members in Utah think is the default? Please?]
Matthew S. Holland, of the quorums of seventy
  • The purpose of repentance is to take exquisite misery and turn it into pure bliss.
  • We do not know how unfathomable our pain will be if we do not repent—but we are offered a complete erasure of that.
  • Not all pain comes from our own sin—it can also come from honest mistakes, or the sins of others.
  • In those cases, counseling and medical intervention and the like can bring relief—but the ultimate relief from this kind of pain also comes from the atonement of Jesus Christ.
  • It is a lie of Satan’s that we would not suffer if only we were better—we will all suffer, it is just a matter of whether we make use of the atonement so that they are a part of what leads us to perfection.
W. Christopher Waddell, of the Presiding Bishopric
  • We are led by prophets who understand the need we have to prepare against the calamities to come, and who also recognize the limits we face as we strive to follow their counsel.
  • The church has provided tools to bishops and branch presidents to help people rebuild their temporal lives.
  • If you are struggling temporally, it would be cruel to ask you to prepare by (for example) building up a year’s supply of food. However, once we are again able, we should make sure we are prepared for future problems we may face, and to do so in wisdom, without overextending ourselves.
  • It was not enough for Joseph to have let the people of Egypt know that times of dearth were coming, they then had to act to prepare.
  • Of all of the steps needed to prepare ourselves temporally, the most important is to begin.
Gerrit W. Gong, of the quorum of apostles
  • [A prerecorded address, because he is quarantining due to a potential exposure to the novel coronavirus.]
  • In the kingdom of God, there are no strangers or “others”.
  • Joseph Smith was told that Heavenly Father desires everyone to experience God’s love.
  • As we live the gospel, we can become a part of the fulfillment of that prophecy.
  • As we live the gospel, we change ourselves in ways that make the world better.
  • Our religious faith leads us to do good in ways that improve not just ourselves, but also our communities.
Steven J. Lund, general president of the young men organization
  • [Shouldn’t make light of it, i know, but i’m starting to think that dying/dead child stories need to be added to our various general conference bingo cards.]
  • Young men and women, by serving, learn to do what Jesus does. And what does Jesus do? Brings to pass our immortality and eternal life.
  • We need to support our youth in the children and youth program so that they can use it to bless others and come closer to God.
D. Todd Christofferson, of the quorum of apostles
  • The United Nations issues goals for sustainable development a few years back. That is important, but more important is building a sustainable society. What would that take?
  • We have scriptural examples of flourishing societies: The City of Enoch, and the first- and second-century Nephites and Lamanites.
  • Those societies were sustained by heaven as they adhered closely to the two great commandments—they were obedient to God, and looked out for others.
  • Even for these societies, sustainability was not guaranteed—when the Nephites and Lamanites turned from a sense of accountability to God, disaster followed.
  • We can all agree that even those who have no belief in God are often good, moral people—but that is itself a manifestation of the influence of God, because it is the Light of Christ that lets us all know the difference between good and evil.
  • When Alma stepped down as chief judge to devote himself to address the sin that was growing (particularly in the church), his strategy was not to make new rules, but to remind the people of the truth of God.
Henry B. Eyring of the first presidency, the presentation of church authorities and officers
  • A handful were released from the general authority-level quorums of seventy, but one was not granted emeritus status—which was a hint that they weren’t done with him. (He was called into the presiding bishopric.)

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Saturday morning session

Welcome to another pandemic edition of So You Want to Hear a GA!

Anyway, last time i said that would probably be the last of these i did, but I figure it’s still worth doing in a time when things are decidedly Not Yet Normal again.

So: As with the others of these, I’ve arranged everything “bottom up”, with the first speaker at the bottom, and going later in the session upwards from there. (The comments under each speaker’s name, though, read from the name downward.)

Before getting into it, though, a quick note: I like the socially-distanced setup they’ve got for the First Presidency and Quorum of Apostles. And they’re wearing masks when not speaking! Yay them for modeling good public health behaviors! (You know how you hear sometimes the faith-promoting rumor that God plans who’s going to be president of the church for any given moment? Yeah, a medical doctor just happening to be president of the church through this year makes that seem all the more plausible.)

Dallin H. Oaks, of the first presidency
  • We are in a time of stark political divisions, and these have unfortunately sometimes even spilled over into our church meetings.
  • Jesus taught us to love our enemies and do good to those who do wrong to us—that was a revolutionary teaching, but still applies to us.
  • This requires great self-discipline, but it is central to the two great commandments, and it is doable.
  • Anger is the way toward division and enmity, and so we must work to avoid it.
  • One way to learn to love our adversaries is to simply get to know them at a personal level.
  • We are required to obey the laws—not that we always agree with them, but we still obey them, and if needed work to peacefully change them.
  • [He’s doing an interesting tightrope walk of calling out everybody all at once. Not sure he’s entirely successful—people are more likely to hear the denunciations of those they disagree with than those they agree with—but interesting nonetheless.]
  • There is no appropriate place for racism in our society—and the United States in particular should be better than that.
  • [Did he just offer a passing swipe at judicial originalism? Why yes, yes he did.]
  • Knowing that we are children of God gives us the knowledge that helps us to recognize others as children of God and love them, even those who are our adversaries.
  • [Wow, it’s been a while since i’ve heard a conference address that had as much purely US-centric political content as that one. A long while.]
Ronald A. Rasband, of the quorum of apostles
  • A temple recommend interview gives you the opportunity to search your soul to gauge your faith and practice in the context of a life devoted to Jesus Christ.
  • We need to be worthy to attend the temple, and so should all hold a current temple recommend (including limited use recommends for youth).
  • While temple worship was temporarily suspended during the pandemic, being worthy to attend the temple has not.
  • Bring recommended to the Lord requires us to develop Christlike characteristics.
Quentin L. Cook, of the quorum of apostles
  • Unity is advanced when people are treated with dignity and respect even when they are outwardly different.
  • Remember that our faith teaches that we are all children of the same God.
  • We live in a moment of particularly strong divisions, but those of us who have chosen to join with the church of Jesus Christ are required to move toward unity.
  • Unity and diversity are not opposites—we should have unity that acknowledges and celebrates our diversity.
  • Church units are defined by geography and language, not culture or race—race is not identified on church records.
  • The culture of the gospel of Jesus Christ requires us to leave behind those aspects of our own backgrounds that conflict with it.
  • [Editorial: I don’t mind these sorts of speeches, i just wish that at least once one of them would make explicit the fact—and yes, i said fact—that Wasatch Front Utah culture includes some of those bits of baggage that don’t match with the culture of the gospel, and so need to be discarded.]
Michelle D. Craig, of the general presidency of the young women organization
  • We need to clearly see who God is, and who we really are—because we are sons and daughters of God, with an eternal destiny.
  • Seeing how God sees us prepares us to see others as God sees them.
  • We need to be seen deeply; we should strive to find opportunities to see others deeply.
  • As we recognize others’ true identities and purposes we will discover our own.
Scott D. Whiting, of the quorums of seventy
  • Jesus told us to become even as he is, which may seem unattainable and thus not worth effort—but what if it is actually what we are supposed to do?
  • To best heal ourselves and society, we need to become more like Jesus.
  • The first step in becoming like Christ is not just knowing of the command, but rather to have the desire to fulfill it.
  • Once you make the decision to start along this path, you will need to repent.<.li>
  • As you work to become more like Christ in one attribute, you will necessarily increase in other attributes.
David A. Bednar, of the quorum of apostles
  • Before becoming a general authority, he was a teacher, and so worked to help students learn how to learn.
  • Part of that was giving tests. Students didn’t like tests, but they were necessary.
  • The word test doesn’t appear in the standard works in English, but related words do, such as prove, examine, and try.
  • This year has been marked in part by many tests.
  • The scriptures tell us, though, that if we prepare for the tests of mortality, we will come out okay.
  • Remember that just because the general authorities haven’t talked about specifics like food storage and such lately doesn’t mean we have no need to be prepared, either spiritually or temporally.
  • We should make use of what we’ve learned through the testing of this past year to take stock of what preparation we need.
  • We need to make choices—not making a choice means that your choices will be made for you.
Russell M. Nelson, president of the high priesthood
  • The world is in turmoil, but the work of the Lord moves forward.
  • We’ve had to learn to do some things differently, and in some cases that means more effectively.
  • The church has provided pandemic aid in 150 countries.
  • We should be using “this unique time” to spiritually grow.