April 2009 General Conference: 3 Month Review

We have a tendency to take a General Conference of the Church and discuss it, analyze it, work on applying it, and cherish it in every way we know how…for about three weeks.  Then we forget it until the next Conference six months later and by then, that last Conference might as well have never happened.  So instead of posting my notes on April’s meetings along with everyone else, I want to put mine up now, three months afterwards, halfway between that Conference and the next one. 

I hope that we might all be reminded of things we missed before, or have renewed motivation to live up to the teachings given.  Just this week at a home teaching meeting, a man in my ward mentioned that President Monson had taught in the priesthood meeting that every Melchizedek priesthood holder should be studying the scriptures every day.  I didn’t remember that; it wasn’t in my notes.   I looked up the talk and there it was.  The prophet did say that.  I was grateful to my friend.

When I take notes, immediately after each talk I write a title for that talk in the right margin of the page.  This is my way of summing up the most major point or topic.  My titles for each talk are given in parentheses after each speaker’s name.  It’s always fun to compare my titles to those later published online and in the Ensign.  Here are some highlights from my notes:

Saturday Morning

Elder Hales (“Overcome Debt & Addictions w/ Provident Living”)–The most impressive thing here was just the subject.  Along with Elder Perry’s “Let Him Do It With Simplicity,” this is the second consecutive Conference to begin with a talk about providing for ourselves better by scaling back our materialism.  That fact alone speaks volumes.  Perhaps the best things here were his admonition to “joyfully” live within our means, and the subtle chastisement that debt is money that we could have used to serve others.  Application: Have I reduced my longing for physical possessions through Elder Hales’s prescribed cure of service, obedience to the commandments, tithes, fast offerings, and a family budget?

Elder Christofferson(“Covenants”)–We’re getting a lot of good talks lately about dealing with adversity and gaining the strength needed to do so, but I loved how this talk focused on our responsibility to earn the spiritual power necessary to make it through hard times.  “We are part of a covenant people, a community of Saints who encourage, sustain, and minister to one another.”  Great quote of Moses 6:61 on gifts available to those who honor covenants.  “Divine covenants make strong Christians”  (!)  Application: Have I made all the covenants I should or could have?  Have I magnified them and sought their blessings? 

Saturday Afternoon

Elder Cook(“Overcoming Doctrinal Stumbling Blocks”)–Some commentators online have expressed odd opinions concerning President Eyring’s familiarity with the story of Black Hawk Down, but I’m always most impressed by the books that Apostles have read.  My notes admonish me to find the book Elder Cook referenced about black and white swans, which is listed in the published footnotes, and which I’ve just put on hold at the library. 

Elder Pearson (“Faith”)–Has anyone else noticed just how often Conference speakers admit that they are still striving for greater faith and righteousness?  I appreciate that.  We’re all still travellers on the road together.  This is a great talk about parenting and about developing spiritual strength.  It makes excellent use of a general principle, applied here to spiritual things: “We get what we focus on consistently.” 

Elder Scott (“Temple Blessings”)–One of the most interesting statements in all this Conference was Elder Scott’s counsel for us to remove our watches when we go to the temple.  In the last three months, I’ve seen this counsel roundly ignored.  “I believe that is a good way to face the unpleasant things in our lives, not complaining but thanking the Lord for the trust He places in us when He gives us the opportunity to overcome difficulties….What I am trying to teach is that when we keep the temple covenants we have made and when we live righteously in order to maintain the blessings promised by those ordinances, then come what may, we have no reason to worry or to feel despondent.”

Sunday Morning

President Uchtdorf (“Happiness In Discipleship”)–Stop looking for trendy “new and improved” plans.  “We don’t acquire eternal life in a sprint.”  “Patiently walk the path of discipleship.” 

Elder Holland(“The Loneliness of the Atonement”)–This already legendary talk has nourished me and made for a powerful message to a single sister I home teach.  “The supporting circle around Jesus grew smaller and smaller.”  “His lonely journey back to the Father continued.”  Jesus was surprised by the despair of divine withdrawal.  This is why His declaration to us that He has overcome the world and that He’ll come to us and comfort us is meaningful–because He suffered, we don’t have to.  The lesson: “may we declare ourselves to be more fully disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, not in word only and not only in the flush of comfortable times but in deed and in courage and in faith, including when the path is lonely and when our cross is difficult to bear.”

President Monson(“Joy Despite Suffering”)–In a long, emotional, story-packed talk, the prophet only gives us one direct matter of instruction: “Be of good cheer.  The future is as bright as your faith.”  Appropriately, this was also the breakout quote when this was printed in the Ensign.  So, have we followed the Lord’s commandment to be positive? 

Sunday Afternoon

Elder Oaks(“Service and Sacrifice”)–The best parts of this talk were at the beginning and the end; first where Elder Oaks commended LDS parents: “We rejoice that so many Latter-day Saint couples are among that unselfish group who are willing to surrender their personal priorities and serve the Lord by bearing and rearing the children our Heavenly Father sends to their care. We also rejoice in those who care for disabled family members and aged parents,” and then at the end when he told of a “wise friend” who goes to church specifically to help others. 

Elder Stevenson (“Temples!”)–The exclamation is because this was the second consecutive talk about temples in this Conference, and the third overall.  I especially loved his questions:

Imagine that you are opening your front door and walking inside your home.

  1. What do you see, and how do you feel?
  2. Is it a place of love, peace, and refuge from the world, as is the temple?
  3. Is it clean and orderly?
  4. As you walk through the rooms of your home, do you see uplifting images which include appropriate pictures of the temple and the Savior?
  5. Is your bedroom or sleeping area a place for personal prayer?
  6. Is your gathering area or kitchen a place where food is prepared and enjoyed together, allowing uplifting conversation and family time?
  7. Are scriptures found in a room where the family can study, pray, and learn together?
  8. Can you find your personal gospel study space?
  9. Does the music you hear or the entertainment you see, online or otherwise, offend the Spirit?
  10. Is the conversation uplifting and without contention?

Elder Watson(“Follow the Prophet”)–Elder Ballard and Elder Snow both also dedicated their messages to encouraging us to be more diligent in following the prophet, in looking to President Monson and patterning our lives accordingly.  Is there an increased need among us lately, above and beyond the normal need for us all to be cognizant of this obligation, to work on loyalty to our leaders?  I intend to work on this by seeking out more of President Monson’s life and teachings and adopting more of them: not just living the teachings, but being more like him.  I suppose I’ll start reading the Church News

Elder Perry(“Member Missionary Work”)–This talk was substantially similar to a mission training that was given by Elder Perry to missionaries, presidents, and local priesthood leaders here in the Las Vegas valley earlier this year.  Can we be honest about something?  American Mormons don’t care about member missionary work.  Not at all.  We make excuses and weak resolutions to do better, but–bottom line–we don’t do it because we don’t care.  Why is this?  When we do have missionary experiences, we love it–we feel the Spirit strongly and have powerful testimonies of this work.  So why don’t we make this more of a priority?  Is it because there’s no feeling of a pressing need?  Nobody’s looking over our shoulder?  My own member missionary experiences have been few and far between, and ineffective.  Elder Perry’s–and the Church’s–clear emphasis on moving the burden to members may seem counter intuitive, then, but it is necessary and wise.  The future of conversions in America relies on the passion of members for reaching out.  Let’s pray for the work of preaching the gospel.  Let’s start by praying that we’ll begin to care again. 

President Monson (none–his addresses are always difficult to categorize, aren’t they?)–This conclusing tlak is usually reserved for the prophet to express gratitude and to ask everyone tyo drive home safely.  That’s about it.  But not this time.  President Monson was more in “prophet mode” here than at any point in his ministry so far.  My family and I reviewed this talk in home evening and found at least twelve things he wants us to commit to and work on.  We printed the list and put it by our dining table.  Here it is:

  1. May we long remember that which we have heard during this conference….I urge you to study the messages and to ponder their teachings and then to apply them in your life.
  2. May we strive to live closer to the Lord.
  3. May we remember to “pray always lest [we] enter into temptation.”
  4. To you parents, express your love to your children. Pray for them that they may be able to withstand the evils of the world. Pray that they may grow in faith and testimony. Pray that they may pursue lives of goodness and of service to others.
  5. Children, let your parents know you love them. Let them know how much you appreciate all they have done and continue to do for you.
  6. Be strong. Be clean. Avoid such degrading and destructive types of content at all costs—wherever they may be! I sound this warning to everyone, everywhere. I add—particularly to the young people—that this includes pornographic images transmitted via cell phones…under no circumstances allow yourselves to become trapped in the viewing of pornography, one of the most effective of Satan’s enticements.
  7. If you have allowed yourself to become involved in this behavior, cease now. Seek the help you need to overcome and to change the direction of your life. Take the steps necessary to get back on the strait and narrow, and then stay there.
  8. May we say, with Joshua of old, “Choose you this day whom ye will serve; . . . but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
  9. To you who are worthy and able to attend the temple, I would admonish you to go often.
  10. I am deeply grateful that as a church we continue to extend humanitarian aid where there is great need….We intend to continue to help wherever such is needed. We express gratitude to you for your contributions in this regard. [If President Monson is grateful for this work and wants it to continue, shouldn’t we all be actively participating?]
  11. May you constantly nourish your testimonies that they might be a protection to you against the adversary.
  12. I would ask that you would remember me and all the General Authorities in your prayers.

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