Sunday, April 4, 2021

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Sunday afternoon session

So like i said in the intro to the Saturday morning session, it’s time to retire these sets of notes. (I’d planned to a bit ago, but decided to keep them going during the pandemic.) I’m not sure if i’m ever going to add anything else to this blog—time will tell.

So, as always, this post is done in reverse chronological order, with the first speaker at the bottom, the next speaker above that, and so one, “ending” with my final thoughts on this conference placed immediately below this intro, just above the concluding speaker. It’s semi-confusing, but it means that you can review the entire conference weekend by scrolling to the end of the first session and reading upwards from there.

Closing thoughts

  • Okay, not gonna lie, i was surprised by that many temples being announced—i figured the pandemic would pause things.
  • Lots—lots—of “teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves” this session, wasn’t there?
  • My favorite address of the conference? Sister Aburto in the Sunday morning session. However, Elder Gong had the best individual lines, so he gets a medal, too.
Russell M. Nelson, president of the high priesthood
  • [Starting with an overview of the path by which the temples are returning to full operation as the pandemic lessens.]
  • The church will follow local government’s covid-related restrictions in our timetables for reopening temples.
  • Twenty(!) more temples: Oslo, Norway; Brussels, Belgium; Vienna, Austria; Kumasi, Ghana; Beira, Mozambique; Cape Town, South Africa; Singapore; Belo Horizonte, Brazil; Cali, Colombia; Querétaro, Mexico; Torreón, Mexico; Helena, Montana; Casper, Wyoming; Grand Junction, Colorado; Farmington, New Mexico; Burley, Idaho; Eugene, Oregon; Elko, Nevada; Yorba Linda, California; Smithfield, Utah.
David A. Bednar, of the quorum of apostles
  • [You’re the only thing standing between us and the sitting prophet? No pressure, dude!]
  • We are supposed to be taught from and teaching the scriptures, which contain the fulness of the gospel.
  • Gospel principles comes from the doctrine of the gospel.
  • We aren’t provided with a long list of detailed rules, because our circumstances differ—but we are given principles and asked to understand them such that we can implement them properly for ourselves.
  • If you know and understand the principle of being willing to let God prevail, all sorts of other things follow naturally.
Alan R. Walker, of the quorums of seventy, pre-recorded
  • The ordinances of salvation are now available throughout the earth, and this is evidence of the power of God.
  • As we make the temple pivotal in our lives, God is building a covenant people.
D. Todd Christofferson, of the quorum of apostles
  • The covenant path extends beyond mortality.
  • Too often, our mistakes are what tennis calls “unforced errors”. If we stay on the covenant path, we naturally sidestep those.
  • [Joy as he name-checks J. Golden Kimball.]
  • Faith is a commitment, not just good intentions.
  • Salvation is an individual process, and involves attention to the individual (even if that isn’t particularly “efficient”).
  • Those who stay loyal to their covenants are made perfect through Jesus Christ.
Timothy J. Dyches, of the quorums of seventy
  • We came from the light of heaven to a darkened earth—but God didn’t leave us without light, granting the light of Christ to all who come into the world.
  • The light of Christ prepares us to receive the ministration of the Holy Ghost. [I don't like the usual contrast between the light of Christ and the gift of the Holy Ghost as temporary vs. permanent. He's drawing connections that make a lot more sense to me.]
  • If we’re in darkness, we can still “pull aside the curtain of darkness” and return to God through repentance—"you are never beyond the healing power of the atonement of Jesus Christ”.
Ronald A. Rasband, of the quorum of apostles
  • Miracles are expressions of God’s limitless power, and verify that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
  • [The 13-year-old: “So God and Jesus Christ are canonically beautiful?” Me: “Yep.” Her: “Well, i guess that’s useful if you’re trying to get people to like you.”]
  • Miracles come from faith—as Moroni pointed out, God can do no miracles if the people have no faith.
  • But remember: We are beloved of the Lord whether we have faith or not.
  • Peace amidst tumult is a miracle.
  • That we can achieve a place in the kingdom of heaven is a miracle extended to all of us.
Dallin H. Oaks, of the quorum of the first presidency
  • Speaking today on the United States Constitution—not for a political purpose, or in alliance with any political position, but because it is important for this church.
  • [The snarky side of my brain thinks: That international focus this morning? Yeah, just kidding, y’all!]
  • We don’t believe that the Constitution isn’t inspired in its details, but rather overall.
  • [My 13-year-old: “Dallin H. Oaks has been taking my social studies class.”]
  • We should vote based on righteous principles, not things such as party affiliation.
  • We should never judge other church members based on politics—as a church “we teach correct principles and leave it to our members to choose”.

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Sunday morning session

Not often that you get an explicitly stated thematic element to a session! But we got that with the international church here, i’m guessing in part because it’s the most-watched session worldwide? (That’s pure speculation about viewership patterns, by the way.)

Anyway, the opening of the session is at the bottom of the post, as always.

Russell M. Nelson, president of the High Priesthood
  • Faith is the conduit of divine power.
  • Every blessing of eternal significance begins with faith.
  • God does not ask us to have perfect faith, but does ask us to believe. Therefore, the call today is to work to increase your faith.
  • With faith, we can move any mountain we are faced with—“your mountains may vary”, but they can still be overcome, even if it takes a miracle.
  • “Stop enhancing your doubts by rehearsing them with other doubters.”
  • “The mountains in our lives will not always move how or when we like”, but “Jesus Christ and his church will never fail you.”
Michael John U. Teh, of the quorums of seventy
  • We need to put in more effort in knowing Jesus Christ, not just knowing about him.
  • As we study the words of the prophets and receive a witness, their words become ours—not because we are copying them but because they have become part of us. [But citation is still good practice! adds my professor self.]
Chi Hong (Sam) Wong, of the quorums of seventy
  • Both the wise man and the foolish man in the parable wanted to provide a good home for their family, and the surroundings were the same—but their foundation was what mattered.
  • We need to stay on the “sure foundation” of Jesus Christ—and the promise from God is that if we do that we cannot fall.
  • We can’t change all of what is coming, but we can choose how we prepare.
  • “The gospel is not part of our lives, but our lives are part of the gospel.”
  • God doesn’t just know the details of our lives, but rather the details of the details of the details of our lives.
  • [I still like Sister&Aburto gave the best address of the conference so far, but Elder Wong is winning for most quotable.]
Taniela B. Wakolo, of the quorums of seventy, pre-recorded
  • When we focus on God’s plan, we move away from selfish desires (performing a “spiritual excavation”).
  • We are surrounded by a noisy fray of voices, but our prophets and revelators rise above them.
  • Nobody likes surgery, but when done correctly it will save your life. Similarly, nobody likes the “spiritual surgery” of chastening, but it can save your spiritual life.
  • They’re not trials and tribulations, they’re learning opportunities.
José Augusto Teixeira da Silva, of the presidency of the seventy
  • Knowing that we are children of God, and that God desires us to return, is one of the first steps toward taking full advantage of the atonement.
  • We need to put our trust in “the safest place”, our redeemer Jesus Christ.
  • When we remember [his word!] to pray, we come closer to the love of God.
  • [One bonus of casting an international net this morning—local idioms and usage norms are different, and so you get kicked out of just blissing along as wording you're overly used to passes by unnoticed.]
Edward Dube, of the quorums of seventy, pre-recorded
  • When we are facing our fears of inadequacy (and, relatedly, self-centeredness), the love of others can help us overcome that and lead us to peace.
  • We need to accept God’s will, even when it is (even literally physically!) painful for us, letting our will be swallowed up in God’s.
  • “It is not so much about what we are going through in life, but what we are becoming.”
  • [Dang, he didn’t come to deliver a conference talk, he came to deliver a sermon.]
S. Mark Palmer, of the quorums of seventy, pre-recorded
  • We can be assured that we will see those we love in the next life, even if we can’t see them again in this one.
  • The knowledge that we will be resurrected gives meaning and purpose to our lives, leading us to endure hardship with hope.
  • His father’s declaration after a night reconciling his doubts: “I will be baptized today, or never.” [How much you want to bet that set the full-time missionaries in a bit of a scurry? I saw a reaction to this online that was just delightful: “Baptism speedrun!”]
Reyna I. Alberto, of the general presidency of the relief society
  • Quoting Russell M. Nelson (from back in 1992!): “The only way to take sorrow out of death is to take love out of life.”
  • Because of Jesus Christ’s resurrection, we will all be resurrected, including those who we lost to death too soon.
  • Without Jesus Christ there would be no resurrection, but there is a resurrection, and thus the string of death is defeated.
Ulisses Soares, of the quorum of apostles
  • [Ulisses Soares, rockin’ a low-key plaid suit!]
  • The atonement is evidence of the patience and longsuffering God has with our mortal weaknesses.
  • When we repent, we get to take full advantage of the atonement.
  • Even on our darkest days, the loving arms of the savior are waiting to embrace us.

Opening items

  • A choir from Mexico, and another from Korea, each singing in their own languages? I like it. (And Dallin H. Oaks, conducting the meeting, made it a point to say that the opening prayer would be offered by someone from Australia. That’s a bit of a doubling down on the international nature of the church at the beginning of (what i strongly suspect is) the most-watched session of general conference.
  • And yep, that is explicitly the theme! Speakers from the global (read: non-United States) church!

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Priesthood session

Priesthood session, though this time it was made clear that all are invited to view it, not just priesthood holders, which i found interesting.

Russell M. Nelson, president of the high priesthood
  • Some of us may have had our hope fail during this pandemic, but know that God is as optimistic about your individual future as ever.
  • If you look back, you will see the ways in which God has led you to become better.
  • During the pandemic, we have learned the centrality of the home (“yes, even your home”) to God’s purposes.
  • Why does God want us to make our homes the center of gospel learning? It isn’t just to get us through this pandemic—our need for our homes to be holy places will only increase.
  • We need each other—this is why God gives us families, organizes us into wards, has us minister to each other, and live in the world.
  • Has the pandemic [“this shared trial”, as he phrased it] drawn you closer to your neighbors across the street and around the world? [With the implication that if the answer is no, you’re doing it wrong.]
  • [He mentions that this address has included a list of things he has learned during the pandemic, but suggests that everyone could make their own, because each of us has learned different things.]
Dallin H. Oaks, of the quorum of the first presidency
  • We will all be resurrected, which doesn’t just give us a promise for the future, but gives us a way to view the difficulties of mortal life and the strength to endure them.
  • Knowing that we will be resurrected to be with our families leads us to live up to our family responsibilities in this life.
  • Jesus Christ did all that he did for us because he loves all of the children of God.
Henry B. Eyring, of the quorum of the first presidency
  • There is a better way to pray and think than to simply hope not to fail in our responsibilities—rather, we should remember that the purpose of the priesthood is to allow us to bless other people in the name of Jesus Christ.
  • Desire to offer priesthood service will grow as we perform it and grow in love.
  • It takes love to know what God wants for the person we are serving, and not to let our own or the other person’s desires get in the way of that.
S. Gifford Nielsen, of the quorums of seventy
  • We need to trust God’s purposes, and that the results will be according to the will of God.
  • Jesus Christ is the one reliable source of strength and courage, no matter what our situation may be.
  • The two great commandments imply a third one: to love yourself.
Ahmad S. Corbitt, of the general presidency of the young men
  • There was a war for the souls of God’s children before this life; that war continues today, and we can participate on the side of good.
  • We knew that God could not lie, and so we chose to follow God’s plan and feel the joy that comes from it.
  • We already have “faith muscles”, and exercising our faith will strengthen them.
Quentin L. Cook, of the quorum of apostles
  • The bishop has several roles within the ward, but is directed to focus a lot of effort on the youth.
  • [There’s a lot of good stuff in here, but not the kind of things that lend themselves to notes.]
  • Bishops should not have assigned ministering families so that they can be freer to minister to youth who are having conflicts with their families.
  • Bishops should delegate counseling that doesn’t have to do with worthiness to other ward leaders (and those to whom the counseling is delegated have the right to the same revelation the bishop is).

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Saturday afternoon session

Saturday afternoon, first address at the bottom of the post, the remainder in reverse chronological order.

M. Russell Ballard, acting president of the quorum of apostles
  • Knowing God helps us know who we actually are, and gives us a sense of belonging because we know we are part of one great family.
  • “Believing that God loves us and we are his children is comforting and reassuring.”
  • We need to help those who feel they don’t belong.
  • “Waiting on the Lord” is an action, and requires action.
  • We tend to make divisions for administrative convenience (e.g., Single Adults, Young Single Adults…), but we’re all members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and that encompasses everybody in one.
Thierry K. Mutombo, of the quorums of seventy, pre-recorded
  • [Telling the story of growing up in an inharmonious family, but then the gospel helping them have a change of heart that led “truly [becoming] a family”.]
  • If we follow Jesus Christ we will have light, and will be changed into what we should be.
  • [He may have been the happiest-looking and most expressive general authority i’ve seen speak in a long time.]
Neil L. Andersen, of the quorum of apostles
  • Our eternal perspective not only helps us know that those who have died continue to live, but also that those who are newly born are continuing an ongoing journey.
  • [This led into an extended anti-abortion address. Not a lot of individual bits to pull out of that.]
  • [I really do just worry that people are going to hear the “no abortion” message, since it matches their point of view, but are going to miss everything else in it.]
Dale G. Renlund, of the quorum of apostles
  • For many, suffering and brutal unhappiness can seem in conflict with the reality of a loving God.
  • Sometimes our perception of unfairness can disappear when we learn more—but some unfairness cannot be explained away, and that is reasonably enough infuriating.
  • Unfairness is baked into mortality—but Jesus Christ both understands unfairness, and can provide a remedy through his compassion, healing, and help.
  • When we are faced with unfairness, we want to know when and how God will fix it. The when and how have, however, not been revealed—but they will happen.
  • Even though unfairness is part of our existence, we should fight against it in whatever ways we can.
  • “How we deal with [our] advantages and disadvantages is part of life’s test.”
Jorge T. Becerra, of the quorums of seventy, pre-recorded
  • [Dang, even being thousands of miles away from the conference doesn’t get you out of speaking anymore!]
  • We need to be aware of each pobrecito ‘poor little ones’ around us, and remember to see them as God does.
  • We are all the body of Christ, and every member of the body is necessary, especially those that we may think of as weaker.
Jeffrey R. Holland, of the quorum of apostles
  • “Violence and conflict [are] a signature feature of relationships in the last days.” [That’s an interesting (and mildly disturbing) framing.]
  • There are “real deficits” of faith, hope, and charity all around us, but we need to develop an economy of goodness.
  • [I don’t know if he means this address in terms of what we normally think of as economics (e.g., money flows and such) or in terms of something more figurative, but i like to think that it’s meant both ways.]
  • We need the powers of heaven, which can be exercised via principles of righteousness (recognizing the difference between powers and principles).
  • [He called out sexual harassment directly, and in the context of broken covenants. And then he called out abuse of all kinds (including ecclesiastical abuse!)—and he got a little (righteously) angry about it. Way more direct than you usually hear.]
  • Everyone has the right to have love, peace, and safety.
Jared B. Larson, managing director of the church auditing department, presenting the church auditing report
  • [Seriously, why do we even do the audit report bit anymore? Back in the day it actually had content, but nowadays, not so much…]
Dallin H. Oaks, of the quorum of apostles presenting the general officers and authorities of the church
  • New general primary presidency! And a lot of new general authority seventies.

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Saturday morning session

I was going to stop doing these a while back, but then the pandemic hit, and i felt like it would be good to keep going through that. But it turns out to be more distracting to take notes than not to, so this really has to end now as the pandemic does.

So this is the last sorta-liveblog from me.

As with all the rest of these, each session is presented in reverse chronological order by speaker, because that’s the way blogs work, to my neverending annoyance. So now it’s time to scroll down and begin reading upward…

Henry B. Eyring, of the presidency of the high priesthood
  • Our temples have the words “holiness to the Lord” placed on them; that is true, the temple is a holy place.
  • Temples are places of revelation.
  • We need to be worthy and ready for the increased temple opportunities that are coming for us.
  • Temple service can change and lift us.
Gerrit W. Gong, of the quorum of apostles
  • We should help each other, but too often we pass over to the other side of the road.
  • We prepare for the second coming when we do unto the least of these as we would to Jesus—"and ‘the least of these’ is us”.
  • God’s church needs to be a space where all are welcome, and all are equal.
  • Jesus Christ knows everything about us we don’t want anyone else to know, and yet he still loves us.
  • Church members have become increasingly international over the past forty years, and increasingly diverse in a number of ways; all of us, no matter our situations, need to feel welcome at church.
Gary E. Stevenson, of the quorum of apostles
  • Kindness is a fundamental healing gospel principle.
  • Remember that the second great commandment is to love your neighbor.
  • A call to never bully others.
  • God expects us to teach inclusion and preach against exclusion.
Jan Eric Newman, of the general presidency of the Sunday school organization
  • When we teach like the savior, we help others become more deeply converted
  • We cannot force someone else’s conversion, even with our own children—but we can provide an environment where the seed of the gospel can take root.
  • We need to improve gospel teaching, which we will do by teaching the doctrine and inviting Spirit-filled discussions.
Joy D. Jones, general president of the primary organization
  • We must never harm children physically or emotionally in any way.
  • Children are to be taught by word and example while they are free from sin (and continuing thereafter).
  • Becoming like our savior will not happen randomly—we need to teach children intentionally.
  • We need help children recognize the presence and absence of the Spirit, and what led to those states.
  • [Not gonna lie, i’m not a fan of analogies comparing military training (positively) to childrearing. Perhaps oddly, the bit that followed that presented childrearing as needing to be very flexible and not like military training.]
Dieter F. Uchtdorf, of the quorum of apostles
  • The gospel message transcends politics, grievances, and personal agendas.
  • When we feel cast off, we can be assured that God has not forgotten us.
  • All of our sins can be blotted out, and we can stand pure before God.
  • Instead of our failings making us feel hopeless, we should learn from them and feel hopeful.
  • When Jesus appears, we will see his countenance in us.
  • “God is among us.”
Russell M. Nelson, president of the high priesthood
  • During the past while, we have all learned new things.
  • We are charged with being worthy and willing to prepare the world for the second coming.