Monthly Archives: October 2013

October 2013 General Conference, Sunday Morning

In this post I’ll try to do some real-time blogging about this session of Conference. I’ll update this post throughout the session. I may not have notes here from all speakers, and not all comments may be from inside the Conference Center.

Feel free to leave comments if you desire. I’ll try to answer them as (and if) I can.

President Uchtdorf is conducting. Opening prayer given by a sister, praying that God would be with those who came seeking comfort and peace.

 President Henry B. Eyring: To My Grandchildren

Many charge that the LDS have a simplistic view of families and what should be done in those families. I think that, perhaps, President Eyring expresses the more realistic view that puts such charges to rest:

Heavenly Father has made each of us unique. No two of us have exactly the same experiences. No two families are alike. So, it is not surprising that advice about how to choose happiness in family life is hard to give.

I also find the following comment directly on-target, as I have learned it over and over in my life:

It is only with the companionship of the Holy Ghost that we can hope to be equally yoked in a marriage free from discord. I have seen how that companionship is crucial for felicity in a marriage. The miracle of becoming one requires the help of Heaven and it takes time. Our goal is to live together forever in th epresence of Heavenly Father and our Savior

And, further:

Life in families will test us. That is one of God’s purposes in giving us the gift of mortality–to strengthen us by passing through tests. That will be especially true in family life where we will find great joy and great sorrow and challenges which may at times seem beyond our power to endure them.

This is particularly resonant with me, as my greatest joys and my greatest sorrows have been related to family, both immediate and extended. I have always echoed President Eyring’s words when talking to people about their families.

Tears came to my eyes as he recounted the story of the grandmother going to visit her grandson in prison. I have received the same answer she received concerning my childen, an answer consistent with the firm belief that God allows no trials in our life that are impossible for us to overcome.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks: No Other Gods

An important topic, addressing the things that we put before God. “We offend God when we ‘bow down’ to or ‘serve’ other gods–when we have other first priorities.” Elder Oaks lists just a few of those things that “even religious persons” may put before God in our day:

  • Cultural and family traditions
  • Political correctness
  • Career aspirations
  • Material possessions
  • Recreational pursuits
  • Power, prominence and prestige

There are, no doubt, others that could be included in Elder Oaks’ list. We need to make God “our ultimate priority,” a sentiment I agree with entirely.

I have no doubt that Elder Oaks’ comments related to the non-traditional-family choices made by many today will raise hackles and criticism. Regardless, it is hard to deny the reporting of trends and to recognize that those trends run counter to the fundamental LDS beliefs concerning the place and purpose of family.

This will also surely bring criticism:

The importance we attach to the law of chastity explains our commitment to the pattern of marriage that originated with Adam and Eve and has continued thorugh the ages as God’s pattern for th eprocreative relationship between His sons and daughters and for the nurturing of His children.

Further, he stated:

Our twelfth Article of Faith states our belief in being subject to civil authority and “obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.” But man’s laws cannot make moral what God has declared immoral. Commitment to our highest priority–to love and serve God–requires that we look to His law for our standard of behavior. For example, we remain under divine command not to commit adultery or fornication even when those acts are no longer crimes under the laws of the states or countries where we reside. Similarly, laws legalizing so-called “same-gender marriage” do not change God’s law of marriage or His commandments and our standards concerning it. We remain under covenant to love God and keep His commandments and to refrain from serving other gods and priorities–even those becoming popular in our particular time and place.

Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson: Be Ye Converted

 I love the way that Sister Oscarson stated this truth about personal conversion:

True conversion is more than merely having a knowledge of gospel principles, and implies even more than just having a testimony of those principles. It is possible to have a testimony of the gospel without living it. Being truly converted means we are acting upon what we believe and allowing it to create “a mighty change in us, or in our hearts.”

 President Thomas S. Monson: I Will Not Fail Thee Nor Forsake Thee

A very poigniant recounting given by President Monson about the passing of his wife 5 months ago and the solace he has found in the gospel of Jesus Christ. I found the following very instructive:

The difficulties which come to us present is with the real test of our ability to endure. A fundamental question remains to be answered by each of us: Shall I falter, or shall I finish? Some do falter as they find themselves unable to rise above their challenges. To finish involves enduring to the every end of life itself.

The story of Brother Brems was also instructive for me, and very emotional. I have known people like Brother Brems, and I hope that I endure in the covenant and diligently serve and praise God until my time finally comes.

 

October 2013 General Conference, Saturday Afternoon

In this post I’ll try to do some real-time blogging about this session of Conference. See, also, my notes from the Saturday morning session. I’ll update this post throughout the session. I may not have notes here from all speakers, and not all comments may be from inside the Conference Center.

Feel free to leave comments if you desire. I’ll try to answer them as (and if) I can.

President Uchtdorf is conducting.

President Henry B. Eyring: Sustaining of Officers

Three members of the First Quorum of Seventy were released and granted emeritus status: Elder John B. Dickson, Elder Paul E. Koelliker, and Elder F. Michael Watson. Elder Kent D. Watson of the Second Quorum of Sevent was also released. Cesar H. Hooker and Craig T. Wright were released as Area Seventies.

Julio A. Angulo (Bogota, Columbia), Peter F. Evans (SLC), and Gennady N. Podvodov (Donetsk, Ukraine) were sustained as Area Seventies.

 President Boyd K. Packer: The Key to Spiritual Protection

President Packer did not speak from the pulpit. Instead, he spoke from his seat on the stand.

I like this:

The descriptions Paul and Moroni give of our day are so accurate that they cannot be dismissed. For many it may be quite disturbing, even discouraging. Nevertheless, when I think of the future, I am overwhelmed with feelings of positive optimism.

Paul’s descriptions are found in 2 Timothy 3:1-5, 13. Moroni’s description is found in Ether 8:24, 26.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson: The Moral Force of Women

In praising the effect that women can have in the world, Elder Christofferson stated this:

What I mean to say is that whether you are single or married, whether you have borne children or not, whether you are old, young, or in between, your moral authority is vital, and that perhaps we have begun to take it and you for granted. Certainly there are trends and forces at work that would weaken and even eliminate your influence to the great detriment of individuals, families, and society at large.

Elder Christofferson listed three threats to the moral authority of women:

  1. The devaluation of marriage and of motherhood and homemaking as a career.
  2. Attitudes toward human sexuality in the areas of abortion (for “personal or social convenience”) and social approval of promiscuity without consequence.
  3. Attempts to, in the name of equality, erase all differences between the masculine and feminine.

Elder Timothy J. Dyches: Wilt Thou Be Made Whole?

I was struck by these words of Elder Dyches:

Do you remember when you were made whole or complete, when our faith and joy were full to the brim? Remember the moment you found your testimony or when God confirmed to you that you were His son or daughter and that He loved you very much?

Remember when the distance closed dramatically between Heaven and earth as you received your patriarchal blessing or as you sat within the walls of the Holy Temple while making sacred covenants wtih God? If that times seems lost, it can be found again.

The reason these words touched me is because of the many times we are told, in the scriptures, to “remember.” Remembrance is, I believe, a key to putting our minds and hearts in the proper “place” in order to hear the Spirit and be edified.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: Like a Broken Vessel

The topic of Elder Holland’s talk was the battles that so many face with mental illness. He mentioned many, but focused on MDD (major depressive disorder). I found it touching that he revealed he had personally battled depression at one point in his life, and it left him empathetic and sympathetic with those who continue to battle.

When I was a bishop I spent many days, weeks, months, and years working with those who suffer from mental illness. I have great love and compassion for these special children of our Father, so Elder Holland’s remarks resonated with me.

How do you best respond when mental or emotional challenges confront you or those you love? Above all never lose faith in your Father in Heaven who loves you more than you can comprehend. As President Monson said to the Relief Society sisters so movingly last Saturday evening, “That love never changes. … It is there for you when you are sad or happy, discoraged, or hopeful. God’s love is there for you whether or not you deserve [it]. It is simply always there.”

For those facing the “darkest abyss,” it can be very difficult to remember the love of God when it (and the love of many around us) seems so very far away. But it doesn’t change the fact that the love is there.

I learned while bishop that I cannot fix everything. (Elder Holland addressed this.) “Don’t run faster than you have strength. Whatever else you may or may not be able to provide, you can offer your prayers and give ‘love unfeigned.'” I have always tried to do this, even though others may not always recognize the reality of such statements.

Though we may feel we are “like a broken vessel” as the psalmist said, we must remember that vessel is in the hands of the divine potter. Broken minds can be healed just the way broken bones and broken hearts are healed. While God is at work making thoe repairs, the rest of us can help by being merciful, non-judgmental, and kind.

Powerful advice, indeed.

 

October 2013 General Conference, between Saturday Sessions

It is always interesting to walk about outside the Conference Center and take pictures between sessions. Today, as in previous years, there were a number of the same perennial protesters. I’m typically not as interested in the people, though, as I am the signs they bring. The are fascinating. I’ll try to post a few that picqued my interest today.

20131003

Some of the signs used by street preachers are interesting because they seem to have little bearing on their audience–those attending LDS General Conference. The above sign is a case in point. Perhaps they feel that such signs are a good way to rile some people up, but this one did little riling and caused more head shaking instead.

20131004

This sign was new, but it addresses a topic that any LDS, cognizant of their Church’s history, needs to come to grips with. The Savior’s admonition to not judge unrighteous judgment comes to mind, and it is always good to remember that a real testimony of the divine call of Joseph as a prophet only comes through revelation, not history books.

I think, as well, that a quote from President Uchtdorf’s talk this morning is also germane here:

Sometimes there is a difference of opinionas to what the “facts” really mean. A question that creates doubt in some can, after careful investigation, build faith in others.

So it is with me. I have discovered nothing in our history that instills doubt, only things that build faith.

 

October 2013 General Conference, Saturday Morning

In this post I’ll try to do some real-time blogging about this session of Conference. (Go easy on me; this is my first attempt at this.) I’ll update this post throughout the session. I may not have notes here from all speakers, and not all comments may be from inside the Conference Center.

Feel free to leave comments if you desire. I’ll try to answer them as (and if) I can.

President Eyring is conducting.

President Thomas S. Monson: Welcome to Conference

The Church just passed 15,000,000 members and now has in excess of 80,000 missionaries.

There is “no proclamation more relevant, no responsibility more binding, no instruction more direct” than the command to do missionary work.

 Elder Robert D. Hales: General Conference: Strenthening Faith and Testimony

General Conference speakers are not assigned specific topics; they seek to speak as the Lord would have them speak. The same should occur in ward and stake conferences.

We make a serious mistake if we assume that conference is above the intellect and spiritual sensitivity of young people.

When taking notes in conference, Elder Hales doesn’t always write exactly what the speaker said. (Sounds like blogging. 😉 ) Instead, he notes the personalized direction the Spirit is giving to him. “What is said is not as important as what we hear and what we feel.”

The greatest blessings of conference come after the conference is over.

A portion of the translation equipment distributed freely to members attending General Conference.

A portion of the translation equipment distributed freely to members attending General Conference.

97% of Church members can hear conference messages in their own language. General Conference reaches 197 countries in 95 languages.

 Elder Ulisses Soares: Be Meek and Lowly of Heart

“As we take Christ’s name upon us, it is expected that we strive to emulate His attributes and change our character to become more like Him each day.” The attributes of God come to us as we use our agency righteously.

Great thought: “Meekness does not mean weakness.” I (Allen) believe that the world generally sees meekness as weakness and as synonymous with submissiveness. Tis not so!

Meekness also requires learning how to control our temper–a hard task for many people, to be sure.

The story of Brother Moses Mahlangu would make a great addition to the BlackLDS website. Faithfully sitting “outside the window” for about a decade. Wow!

Elder Edward Dube: Look Ahead and Believe

“When a stake president or bishop is released, he joyfully accepts his release” and in future callings “he is not overshadowed by his pervious experience.” This sentiment parallels my personal experience exactly.

There is something gratifying in having a general authority from Zimbabwe recount stories of the early American pioneers leaving Nauvoo.

Elder David A. Bednar: The Windows of Heaven

Good talk on the importance of tithing, but of particular interest to me was what Elder Bednar noted as “Lesson 2.” Gave some great insights into how finances work within the Church at a general level. In his words, “I marvel at the clarity and brevity of these two revelations [D&C 119 and 120] in comparison to the complicated financial guidelines and administrative procedures used in so many organizations and governments around the world.”

Further, “the Church as an institution simply follows the same principles that are taught repeatedly to the members.”

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf: Come, Join with Us

With the many demands on the time and means of active Church members, why would anyone want to join? President Uchtdorf’s reasoning for why ours is “one of the fastest growing churches in the world” includes the following:

  1. It is the Savior’s Church
  2. It is an active faith
  3. They receive treasured blessings

I found it personally gratifying that President Uchtdorf said that people leave the Church for various, complex reasons.

Sometimes we assume it is because they have been offended or leazy or sinful. Actually, it is not that simple. In fact there is not just one reason that applies to the variety of situations.

President Uchtdorf also openly acknowledged that “in nearly two hundred years of Church history … there hae been some things said and done that could cause people to question.”

Very powerful talk from an apologetic perspective. Very gratifying:

As an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ and as one who has seen firsthand the councils and workings of this Church, I bear solemn wtness, that no decision of significance affecting this Church or its members is ever made without earnestly seeking the inspriation, guidance, and approbation of our Eternal Father. This is the Church of Jesus Christ. God will not allow His Church to drift from its appointed course nor fail to fulfill its divine destiny.

Always good advice: “doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith.” (See my ruminations on my faith.)

Outside the Conference Center

It is always interesting to visit General Conference, not only for the messages and counsel offered, but for the activities that occur on the sidewalks to the south of the Conference Center. There are generally a handful of “protesters” present, trying to dissuade the LDS attendees from living their religion.

The term “protesters” is my own; I have no doubt that those who make up this group would characterize themselves as such. Instead, they view themselves as preachers, spreading their version of the gospel to those whom they believe are deceived or decievers. In their preaching efforts they condemn their listeners to hell if they don’t listen to the message they shout.

I chose the term “protester” because of the preaching methods utilized by these individuals. They are generally “in your face” with their message, and their approach to the gospel contrasts remarkably with the message preached by those speaking in General Conference.

 

A frequent attender of General Conference, sharing his regard for our sacred temple clothing.

A frequent attender of General Conference, sharing his regard for our sacred temple clothing.