A Spiritual Feast

I got a lot more from this conference than others, I think mostly because this conference I was particularly looking for guidance. And boy, did I ever get it. What a wonderful opportunity General Conference is! I am so grateful to live in a time where we not only have prophets and apostles, but we have such access to their teachings as has never been available on this earth before. Who could have thought that a prophet’s voice could be heard by so many people (What would King Benjamin have given for satellite reception, eh?). Who would have thought that I could search, study, highlight, annotate, comment on, and read not only the scriptures, but the words of the prophets and apostles for the last 40 years? As well as manuals, magazines, references, study guides, and other resources? Oh, and that all fits in a hand-sized computer that I carry in my pocket everywhere I go.

As cool as the golden plates are; at about 50 pounds, I’d rather not have to take them to church every Sunday.

There wasn’t just one or two talks that really spoke to me, there were so many that I have a hard time keeping them in my head.
I absolutely loved Elder Holland’s talk on defending our faith. And the many talks that continued that theme. I was tempted to take a nap when a few 70’s were lined up (maybe I’m the only one who mistakenly says, “OK, he’s not an apostle, so it’s not as critical for me to listen”), but Elder Zwick’s talk was really powerful for me.

I loved Sister Reeves’ talk about pornography and it’s dangers, and things we can do to avoid it. This is particularly close to me as I attended an anti-porn conference recently.

I loved how Elder Uchtdorf loves to mention planes in his talks, with “Dieter, don’t even think about it” being one of my favorite lines–it’s not only funny in the context of the story he was telling, it also speaks to the need for us to control our appetites and desires, lest they begin to control us.

I loved his later remarks about the importance of gratitude. Of simply being grateful to the Lord for what you have, and making gratitude a defining characteristic of your personality, and allow other virtues and righteous traits to come to you more easily.

It was really, really, powerful.

I’ll finish with a drive-by-shooting-style set of one-liners from my notes:

Defend your faith with courage, courtesy, and compassion.
Disciples of Christ are also called on to worry, warn, and sometimes just to weep.
To sustain a leader is to help them bear their burden.
String winds can cause trees to grow their roots deep, and to strengthen their trunks and branches. We can similarly be prepared for adversity through the gospel of Christ.
Whatever civil law may say, God’s moral law does not and can not change.
When teaching and encouraging others, keep the short and long views in mind.
Even if everyone is doing it, wrong is never right.
Gives others questions to ponder, and time to do that pondering.
Our family history centers are now in our homes.
Once you conclude “That’s just the way I am,” you have given up the ability to change (or be changed by the atonement).
What we insistently desire becomes, over time, what we will become. Therefore we must educate our desires.
The restoration is not an event that is over. It is a process that we are in the middle of. God has yet many great things to reveal.
Don’t sleep through the restoration.
Be specific in your prayers and in your expressions of gratitude. This will take more than a few minutes and more than a little thought.
We need to have courage to do the right thing because it is right.
A grateful heart is the parent of all virtues.
God helps us. Not necessarily in the way we want, but in the way that will help us grow.
This life is our Olympic four minutes.
Happiness is not the absence of a load.
We cannot keep either the first or second great commandment without keeping the other.
There is much knowledge that can only be obtained by study and prayer.
Obedience is an emblem of our faith in the power and wisdom of God.
Opposition, criticism, and antagonism are companions to truth.
Faith requires work.
May we realize how close God is willing to come to us, and how far He is willing to go for us.
These talks are worthy of our careful review and study.

General Conference Oct 2011

Another excellent conference come and gone. I think the most exciting part of it was the announcement that the Provo Tabernacle (which suffered a severe fire) will be rebuilt into a temple!

In general the comments that stuck out to me were the ones that talked about standing up for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and also about being more diligent in our regular responsibilities: daily scripture study and prayer (individually and as a family), attending church meetings and the temple, etc. I’ve referred to these things as the Primary Answers for two reasons:

  1. They are the answers to virtually every question asked by a gospel instructor since we were in Primary. If you had fallen asleep in class and were woken up by the instructor asking you a question, your safest bet is to reply: “Go to church, listen to the prophets, read your scriptures, and pray” (OK, so this isn’t really the case, but sometimes it feels like it)
  2. They are Primary, meaning first and foremost. There is a reason why said instructors are trying to pound those things into our heads. It is critical that we stay close to the gospel, and the way that is done is not through some occasional or once-in-a-lifetime super-spiritual experience (Even the scriptures demonstrate that while such things do happen, they do not by themselves bring about either salvation or conversion). Instead, conversion to the Gospel, and developing a relationship with our Father in Heaven, is done through steady, regular, consistent effort.

I particularly liked President Monson’s talk in the Priesthood Session. He summarized a survey that indicated many young people in the country have little if any sense of morality, often stating that they do what feels right at the time. (see http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/13/opinion/if-it-feels-right.html). Here is President Monson’s response to the holders of the Priesthood:

“Brethren, none within the sound of my voice should be in any doubt concerning what is moral and what is not, nor should any be in doubt about what is expected of us as holders of the priesthood of God. We have been and continue to be taught God’s laws. Despite what you may see or hear elsewhere, these laws are unchanging.

As we go about living from day to day, it is almost inevitable that our faith will be challenged. We may at times find ourselves surrounded by others and yet standing in the minority or even standing alone concerning what is acceptable and what is not. Do we have the moral courage to stand firm for our beliefs, even if by so doing we must stand alone? As holders of the priesthood of God, it is essential that we are able to face—with courage—whatever challenges come our way. Remember the words of Tennyson: ‘My strength is as the strength of ten, because my heart is pure.'” (see http://lds.org/general-conference/2011/10/dare-to-stand-alone?lang=eng).

LDS General Conference

The 179th General Conference just ended, so I wanted to put down my thoughts on it while I still have it in my head…

For me, there were a few things that really stood out. One was attending the temple regularly. There were a number of talks on this, actually. My wife and I try to get to the temple regularly, but each month it is a struggle to accomplish, and we miss more months than we should…

Another was a talk on living within your means by Elder Hales. My wife and I agreed that we tend to buy a lot more things than we really need. Part of it is that we encourage each other to get the things that the other wants, but in his talk Elder Hales told a couple stories, one about wanting to buy something for his wife when they couldn’t really afford it, and another about when he wanted to buy something for her when they could afford it. The basic idea wasn’t to never buy anything, but to live within your means, and to not buy things to try to impress others, and to save money for rainy days.

Elder Perry talked about the need for members to be major part of the missionary effort. It just struck me that I need to do more to share my feelings about the gospel to others and see if they want to know more.

Finally, Elder Scott, President Monson, and a few others talked about facing adversity–looking forward with faith. Elder Scott especially told a few very tender stories about some severe trials he has gone through in his life.