April 2019 General Conference Notes

SATURDAY MORNING

 

Elder Soares–Teach and Learn the Gospel at Home

 

We hear the voice of Jesus Christ through those who speak at this conference. We have a divine mandate to seek to learn and teach the gospel, like the Ethiopian and Philip. Gospel study helps transform us and make us more happy and productive. Old Testament reference to promises about gospel learning and teaching in the family–LDS prophets also so testify. Our lives need to be rooted in faith in Jesus Christ. Story of the two disciples on the road to Eumaus. Learn to bring the gospel to the CENTER of our lives. We need to show our beliefs by the way we live. Actions speak louder than words. Sincerely rejoice with inactive people in their success! Never reject or misjudge–just love them! Like the father of the prodigal son. Make your home a center of gospel learning. We must guide our children like Philip led the Ethiopian. Seek to learn and to teach!

 

Becky Craven (YM 2nd)–Careful vs. Casual Gospel Living

 

Happiness is found in CAREFULLY living the gospel, and striving to become more like Jesus Christ. CASUALNESS can lead us away from the gospel/covenant path–references tree of life vision to illustrate this. World is laden with distractions, getting “near the tree, but not to it.” Casual efforts may lead us into forbidden paths, or into the great and spacious building. Never say however, except, or but when it comes to following our leaders or living the gospel. There is never a right way to do the wrong thing. Be a little more careful in living the gospel.

  • Are we careful in Sabbath worship?
  • Prayer and scripture study? Come Follow Me?
  • Temple worship and temple covenants?
  • Careful and modest in appearance and dress?
  • Careful in wearing of temple garment?
  • Ministering to others and fulfilling callings?
  • What do we read and watch on TV and mobile devices?
  • Careful in language, or do we embrace the crude and vulgar?

We are each in the process of growth and change. How do we mark ourselves? Can others see Christ in our countenance? We are not meant to blend in! We may not be perfect, but we can be WORTHY.

 

Elder Brook Hales (70)–Trust in God / Thrive Despite Setbacks

 

Story of missionary’s coat. Entitled to a “constant stream” of revelation when we live the gospel faithfully. Short term disappointements may turn into better blessings later (like the 116 pages story earlier?). Story of a blind woman who serves and blesses the world despite challenges. “You’re always pleasant and happy!” “Well, you haven’t been at home with me.”

Elder Uchtdorf–Member missionary work

 

Growth of the church. Ponder this question in our hearts and minds–how to be member missionary? 5 guilt free things anyone can do to participate in the Savior’s great commission to help gather Israel:

  1. Draw close to God.
  2. Fill your heart with love for others. Minister to children of God, regardless of lists–laugh, rejoice, weep with them. Have compassion for the unkind.
  3. Strive to walk the path of discipleship.
  4. Share what is in your heart. Always look for opportunities to bring up your faith in natural and normal ways. Use social media and simple conversations with people we meet. Share the Gospel Library app. Invite people to come and see! “How was your weekend?” Church! :) Pray daily with all my heart to find those who will come and see, come and help, and come and stay.
  5. Trust the Lord to work His miracles–ref. Hales talk.

“You can do this. We can all do this together.”

 

Christopher Waddell (Bishopric 2nd couns)–Ministering

 

Story of his brother who came back to church after treatment for cancer. Discussion of ministering. A minister is more than a friend. No one is too far gone and it is never too late. Examples from the Savior’s ministry–met basic needs but also planned for people’s long-term success. “Strive to become instruments in the Lord’s hand to bless” others. A kind word.

 

President Eyring–Building faith at home

 

Faith of members on day of church organization–same feeling we want in our homes. Book of Mormon references about family happiness and decline. Decline starts with pride. “They began to diminish in their faith in Jesus Christ.” Help children grow in faith, then they’ll *desire* to repent, be humble. Building faith in Jesus Christ is the beginning of reversing spiritual decline–much better than preaching. Family must see US growing. Faith will wither unless we find continued resolved to ponder and pray to increase it. Even when family members don’t live at home, prayer can build bonds of love. Feel the joy of forgiveness in the sacrament service! Have photos of temples in homes; visit temple grounds. Home permeated with love, the pure love of Christ.

 

The first and last talks in the Saturday morning session were both about building a culture of gospel-centered faith in our homes, and the biggest theme was reaching out to others in love at all times…but my favorite was Becky Craven’s fantastic talk about living *carefully* vs. living *casually* (or, as I’m already thinking of it, “Good, Better, Best Part 2”)

An early contender for best talk of this whole General Conference! 😃

 

 

[Missed Saturday afternoon session for child’s soccer game]

 

PRIESTHOOD SESSION

 

Elder Stevenson–”The Playbook”

 

Examples of LDS pro athletes. We also have a team (a quorum) and a playbook (scriptures and modern prophets). Ideas: Pray everyday for greater light. Listen to parents and leaders. Avoid pornography and bad social media. Remember promises. Study great prophets in scriptures. Bless HF children through service. Seek great friends. Become an expert in familySearch. Plan places of retreat to escape evil influences. Back to examples of pro athletes. Consider both offensive and defensive strategies. Off: For the strength of youth. Def: don’t feel like praying today? Execute the play already prepared :) Listen to coaches–bishop, parents, YM leaders. Athletes spend hundreds of hours perfecting their game–we must do the same.

 

Elder Cook (70)–Quorums: A Band of Brothers

 

Story of a strong quorum, “a place of belonging for each and every young man.” Will anyone be left behind? No! We are the Lord’s hands. Story of those who helped his divorced mom raise him. Priesthood quorums change the odds. Seek strength and provide strength. Miracles happen in quorums. Story of African convert bringing in friends, supporting each other in priesthood goals.

 

Elder Clark (70)–Blessings of discipleship

 

Jesus healed a woman who touched his garment, then He healed her heart. Leadership has been placed squarely on the shoulders of the elders. Look to and serve Jesus Christ as He looked to and served His father. Look to Jesus Christ and He will bless us. “Rivet” our focus on Jesus Christ and His gospel by living our covenants. Commandments aren’t rules we follow, they’re guidelines that inspire us. “I am not alone because the Father is with me.” Jesus Christ will lift us up and cleanse us from sin. 1. We can see through revelation beyond the surface. 2. We have priesthood power to act in the name of Jesus Christ. 3. Jesus Christ goes with us where we go.

 

President Eyring–Sustaining leaders

 

Thanks us for sustaining God’s servants. Accepting assignments and callings means we sustain leaders. 1. Have I looked for human weakness in leaders? 2. Have I looked for Lord’s hand in their work? 3. Have I followed them? 4. Have I looked for evidence of their call? 5. Do I have feelings of love for leaders? God has not given it to us individually to condemn or sanction our leaders. The Holy Spirit will withdraw from a man who does, and he’ll go into darkness (quote–source?). Rise higher in our power to sustain each other: 1. Identify specific actions the speakers recommend–start today to carry them out. 2. Pray for them. 3. Pray that specific speakers will be blessed and magnified as they speak. 4. Listen for messages from the speakers–answers.

 

President Oaks–Choices

 

Ask: “Where will this lead me?” Story of dog and squirrel as a parable about signs of imminent disaster–speak or remain silent? We can’t afford to do nothing! Opportunity cost–if we spend time doing one thing, we lost the opportunity do another. What’s the effect on the future of the decisions we make in the present? Labels are temporary or irrelevant compared to spiritual things. This counsel is because leaders (and God) love us! Be willing to make present sacrifices to reach a future goal. Consider alternative choices and ponder where they will lead–begin with the end in mind!

 

President Nelson–Repentance: do better and be better

 

“Say nothing but repentance unto this generation.” Word roots for repentance mean to change our mind. Regular, daily focus on repentance. Experience the path of daily repentance! Choose to grow spiritually and receive joy. Do better and be better because we are in a battle. Satan is constantly fighting us. He does expect us to become increasingly pure. Purity brings power. Prayerfully seek to understand what stands in the way of our repentance. Then, change! All of us can do better and be better than ever before. One way is in how we treat our bodies. Do we care for our bodies to appeal to the world or to God? Another way: how we honor the women in our lives. Your first and foremost duty as a bearer of the priesthood is to love your wife. Become one with her! Take an inventory of how you spend your time–that’ll tell you where your heart is. Pray to have your heart attuned to your wife’s heart. Her input will improve your output. It is your responsibility to help women receive blessings. Never be the reason a woman cannot receive her temple blessings. We cannot be asleep while the battle rages. Make your focus on daily repentance so integral that you’ll exercise the priesthood like never before! Intentionally work to hear the voice of the Spirit with clarity.

 

Funny that this morning I referred to Becky Craven’s excellent talk as “Good Better Best, Part 2,” and tonight President Oaks gave a talk about the same thing and *literally* name-checked his classic “Good Better Best” address! I’m telling you, time management and prioritizing are basic discipleship skills.

*****

Looking back on today’s talks, it seems like the big controversial one is going to be Elder Andersen’s remarks that touched on some hot-button social issues. His talk reminded me of these thoughts from the late Richard G. Scott’s 2001 talk, “First Things First,” where he said:

“Through the restored gospel we learn there is an ideal family. It is a family composed of a righteous Melchizedek Priesthood bearer with a righteous wife sealed to him and children born in the covenant or sealed to them….Throughout your life on earth, seek diligently to fulfill the fundamental purposes of this life through the ideal family. While you may not have yet reached that ideal, do all you can through obedience and faith in the Lord to consistently draw as close to it as you are able. Let nothing dissuade you from that objective. If it requires fundamental changes in your personal life, make them….If for the present, that does not include sealing in the temple to a righteous companion, live for it. Pray for it….Do the best you can….Do not be discouraged. Living a pattern of life as close as possible to the ideal will provide much happiness, great satisfaction, and impressive growth while here on earth regardless of your current life circumstances.”

I like that he teaches the reality of an ideal model, while also admitting that many people cannot match that ideal. The solution is to live as closely to that ideal as you can, whatever that may look like for each person or family. My own family doesn’t match that ideal model, but we try to get as close to it as we can.

When I found out in the summer of 1996 that I was becoming a father, I started going back to church, and I spent weeks looking around the chapel to see what I might learn to create a great family. I actually studied the families in my ward and tried to see what made some of them very stable and successful. The things that might seem correlated to success–high income, lots of children, generations of church heritage–weren’t really very reliable indicators that children would stay happy, healthy, and faithful.

The one big thing that really mattered was that some families made living the gospel, every day of the week, the most important thing in their lives. Everything else was made to fit around that priority.

The families I looked to as role models are no secret–their names are Gubler and Hansen and Hicks and Wheeler

I’ve tried to maintain that pattern of life they taught me, while seeking (as President Nelson taught the priesthood tonight) to do better and be better myself. It’s always two steps forward and one step back, of course, but the simple truth is that this traditional pattern of family life WORKS. I have a testimony of the principles in the Family Proclamation. I have a spiritual witness of the truth of the divine sacrifice of the Savior Jesus Christ, the restoration of His church today, and the authorized calling of the prophets who lead that church.

Nothing besides God is perfect, but this is a fantastic life.

 

SUNDAY MORNING

 

Elder Renlund–Faithful actions lead to blessings

 

Blessings are never earned, but faith inspired actions are essential. Like striking a match and lighting kindling in a woodpile. The action is tiny compared to the blessings we receive. Ref. Moses / poisonous snakes. Blessings only come from the merits and grace of Jesus Christ. Our puny actions approach zero in comparison. To receive a blessing, act in faith, striking the metaphorical match. Alma’s blessings after a simple request from faith. Story of Jones, “pressing on” to explore Arizona. Story of a couple who started praying together. “The first clunky prayer was small but faith filled action that triggered the blessings of heaven.” The wood must get a constant supply of oxygen–our blessings need a regular supply of faithful actions. “Cheerfully do all things that lie in our power.” “We need to discuss them with our family and friends.”

 

Sharon Eubank (RS 1st couns)–The light of Christ

 

Stay connected to the light–Jesus Christ. Quotes Elder Holland on being tired. Part of life experience is knowing what not to do. Jesus is always reaching out to those who weren’t traditionally accepted in society. Jesus invites us like He did Zaccheus. When Jesus touched Jaredite stones, they glowed with light–same with us. How can we increase faith to have our stones turned into light? Scarlet dye was a permanent stain, yet Christ promised to clean us and make the wool white–Isaiah. Turn to Jesus Christ! —incredibly encouraging talk!!!!!

 

Elder Cook–Love animates our work

 

Chapter on Christlike love in PMG is most popular among missionaries. Halleck story. President Hinckley put his hand on Halleck’s shoulder and said, “That’s not good enough, you need to be a member of this church.” It was a kind act of love. The home is now a family history center! Another mention of Family Proc. Discusses a loving atmosphere in the home, and restrict electronic devices.

 

Elder Christofferson–Preparing Zion for the Savior’s return

 

Discusses the second coming. Quotes N.T. Wright! What can we do to prepare for that day? Prepare ourselves! Summarizes a home life that builds up Zion.

 

Tad R. Callister!–The Atonement!

 

Another great talk summarizing the Atonement! GREAT story about a man who jumps out of a plane, gets a parachute. The jump is like sin. Gravity is justice. The Savior overcame death and sin–quotes Isaiah, 2nd use of that verse this morning. Another leader reassures us that nobody is beyond the help of the Atonement. Example of Alma–he remembered his part but felt no more pain after forgiveness.  3rd thing Jesus saves us from–afflictions and infirmities–Alma 7:11-13. And a SECOND quote of “cheerfully do all in our power!” Focus on ordinances, but not just a checklist; also, gifts of the Spirit. Great testimony!!!

 

President Nelson–”The Covenant Path Back Home”

 

Story of his recently deceased daughter–he’s “very, very” proud of her. Story of Saints in California fire last November. “Where is my family?” Beatles joke! Explains difference between salvation and exaltation: “a family matter.” Emphasizes covenants. FULLY embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ–don’t settle for second best! “Make time to study his words…REALLY study.” SERIOUS study, FERVENT prayer. Get to know God. Story of a man who was too busy, but wanted to have his temple work done!

 

I wasn’t planning to post “annotations” to this General Conference, but this morning’s session kind of demanded it, so…

* Elder Renlund and Brother Callister both used this Joseph Smith quote: “Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed.” (D&C 123:17)

* President Eubank and Brother Callister both quoted Isaiah 1:18–“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”

* Establishing Zion as preparation for the 2nd coming is a big theme in Elder Christofferson’s ministry; that was also the topic of his first major conference address in 2008: https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2008/10/come-to-zion…

* Elder Christofferson quoted Anglican scholar N.T. Wright. I don’t know the reference, but he’s a pretty cool guy. I read this book of his about the Sermon on the Mount and it was excellent: https://lvccld.bibliocommons.com/item/show/1559479134. Here’s an interview with him out of BYU about a book he wrote on the Apostle Paul: https://mi.byu.edu/mipodcast-38-wright/

* When Tad Callister was released yesterday as Sunday School president, I was a little disappointed that I wouldn’t get to hear as much from him any more, but today we got another masterpiece from him about the Atonement of Jesus Christ, anyway! Seriously, everyone everywhere should read his treatise on The Infinite Atonement: https://lvccld.bibliocommons.com/item/show/1964918134. (And remember, Theresa Huston, his *new* book would make a terrific surprise from the Easter bunny! https://deseretbook.com/p/a-case-for-the-book-of-mormon…)

* Sometimes I try to write thank you notes to my favorite speakers from General Conference, especially if I think they won’t get appreciated enough (surprise, I’ve written to Tad Callister before–he replied with a short, old fashioned note). I’m pretty sure this year my letters will go to Sharon Eubank and Becky Craven. Sister Eubank’s talk this morning was a profoundly inspiring testimony of the loving power of Jesus–very motivational! I love it when women give prophetic talks. One of the best talks I’ve ever heard in my ward was given by our Relief Society president about a decade ago–I’ll never forget it, Karen Pacheco Hatch. Do you know which talk I mean?

* Speaking of prophetic…President Nelson. I’m amazed at how well he balanced teaching cautionary doctrine with extending invitations of love this morning. A great man is willing to open himself up like that. The notes attached here are from https://www.instagram.com/sketchnotes_by_jv/. Highly recommended.

 

SUNDAY AFTERNOON

 

President Oaks–Repentance

 

His experience as a state Supreme Court judge and now the 1st presidency has strengthened his testimony of the Atonement. “Christ redeems, and His Atonement is real.” “We are ALL sinners who can be cleansed by repentance.” References Alma’s sermons. We have to partake of the sacrament every week. Forgiveness is between us and God. This life is the time to repent. We must not procrastinate repentance!

 

Elder Villar (70)–Faith

 

Faith as a muscle. Story of his own youth encounter with missionary brother. Small but constant spiritual activities that will strengthen spiritual muscles. Marathon metaphor. If we want faith, do things that require faith.

 

Elder Gong–Shepherds

 

  1. Jesus calls us in His voice and by His name. 2. Our good shepherd seeks to gather us into His one fold. 3. As Shepherd of Israel, Jesus Christ exemplifies how shepherds minister and love: “Feed my sheep.” Heal and bind up that which was broken, find that which was driven away. Jesus Christ is the perfect Lamb of God.

 

Elder Bednar–Our responsibility to learn for ourselves

 

We should ask in our church meetings, “What did you learn about the Savior this week at home?” We shouldn’t expect the church to teach us everything we need to do. Our homes are the ultimate setting for learning living, and becoming. Our HF provides us opportunities to grow and learn. We cannot expect to attend meetings and participate in programs, and get enough to withstand the evil day. Recall how Nephi desired to see, hear, and know for himself! Becoming MORE home-centered, church-supported. The *ultimate* missionary training centers are in our homes. Our *most* instructive Sunday school class are our individual places of residence. Family history, temple prep classes… Two guidelines: 1. Because we love the Lord, we always should speak about His holy house with reverence. 2. The temple is the house of the Lord–everything in the temple points us to Jesus Christ. Become familiar with the materials at temples.churchofjesuschrist.org. Read the entries in Bible dictionary about the temple, and OT scriptures. Home centered preparation for the temple.

 

Elder McKay (70)–The immediate goodness of God

 

Patience and timing. People whose lives are examples of the immediate goodness of God: 1. Emily, an addict who was delivered by Jesus in the hospital when He reached out and lifted her up–she knew everything would be alright. 2. “Alicia, we love you, you need to take this call.” Bishop blessed a woman whose son just died, and she heard her name and an invocation of God’s power, and she was filled with peace, love, and joy. He says this message is to sustain and strengthen us.

 

Elder Rasband–Our Spiritual War

 

Compares GC to the Savior’s ministry in 3 Nephi. “Go ye to your homes and ponder.” Christ-centered homes are fortresses. Our homes are to be fortresses. Become “new creatures,” as Paul said. Our homes are only as powerful as the strength of the people in them. President Nelson is a watchman who sees the enemy–we are at war! Discussion of the adversary. Fortresses outside, faith on the inside. How? We are obedient. Act like Nephi. Stand for the truth. Participate in taking the sacrament. “Diligently strengthen our fortifications.” Like a fortress, we are safely encircled in the arms of the Savior’s love.

 

President Nelson

 

God’s objective should be our objective. We should choose to return to Him. Temples in: Pago Pago, Okinawa, Tonga, Utah, Washington, Honduras, Chile, Hungary.

 

And some final thoughts on this General Conference:

* At the end of the conference, President Nelson noted that topics aren’t assigned, but chosen by speakers through personal prayer, and that themes are to be looked for and studied. So:

President Oaks spoke on the same topic that President Nelson spoke on last night at the priesthood session: repentance.

There were at least 2 talks that were mostly about the Atonement of Jesus Christ: Holland and Callister. There were also at least 2 talks mostly about ministering (Waddell and Gong) and at least 2 mostly about missionary work (Uchtdorf and Cook).

There were at least 3 talks mostly about seeking the Spirit and/or revelation: Held, Homer, Eubank.

But there were at least FOUR talks mostly about building faith at home: Soares, Eyring, Bednar, and Rasband. Lists with even broader topics like “faith,” “family,” or “discipleship” could be even longer!

What did I miss? What other themes developed?

* Between Elder Stevenson’s “priesthood playbook” talk, with its quotes from athletes, Elder Villar’s “developing spiritual muscles” talk, Elder Rasband’s “spiritual war” talk, not to mention the generally frank, straight talk we got from Elder Bednar and President Nelson, this was a conference with some decidedly macho moments. Odd, considering that two of my favorite talks were by the two female speakers 😃

* If anyone else was pumped up by Elder Rasband’s “spiritual war” talk, consider checking out the Christian movie War Room. We just watched it again a few weeks ago with the whole family. It matches Elder Rasband’s metaphors pretty well, and though most Christian movies aren’t very good, this one is worthwhile. I really enjoyed it. There are $2 used copies on Amazon, or if you’re nearby, I have the DVD and you’re welcome to borrow it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2DbRwcrhiLA

* I missed the Saturday afternoon session due to a child’s soccer game, so I kept up on it with Twitter and https://www.deseretnews.com/…/189th-annual-general-conferen…. A lot of the posts on Twitter reminded me why I don’t use it anymore: a lot of people–both in and out of the church–were fussing over topics they like *not* being addressed, issues they prefer *not* being addressed, and policies they want *not* being enacted.

In a secular 21st century, shouldn’t a church be a countercultural check on the mainstream? Or is only a single universal conformity allowed now? If you’re waiting for a church–this one or any other–just to congratulate you on what you already want, then what’s the point? Doesn’t this just verify the observation in Helaman 13:26-27? https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/hel/13.26-27?lang=eng#25

* President Nelson’s admonition before announcing where the new temples would be reminded me of this quote from the original Lincoln-Douglas debates: “I desire to address myself to your judgment, your understanding, and your consciences, and not to your passions or your enthusiasm.”

Which just makes me think of the motives and goals of prophets. Is Russell M. Nelson trying to gaslight people, brainwashing us into being good little zombie stooges to build an empire for him? Well, are his actions (and the actions of church leaders in general) consistent with that? Is there a lot of flattery, or a lot of threatening, or the kind of empty-headed rah-rah cheerleading one expects to find at recruitment meetings for the latest pyramid scheme?

Or, rather…

Is there a consistent effort to get people to independently strengthen and sustain themselves? Is there a calm, considered commitment to a long-term plan that focuses on elevating and ennobling the daily lives of others? Is there evidence of our leaders caring for and sacrificing for us while striving to bless millions of people they’ll never meet?

Doesn’t the Spirit witness to us as they speak that these exhortations to faith are for real?

Prophets, like teachers and parents, are doing their job right when they’re trying to make themselves obsolete. And that’s what those charged with leading this church do. We’re all just fingers pointing at the moon.

Consider just how significant the existence of General Conference is. Like so many of our blessings, it can get to be mundane, but it’s impressively special: a worldwide church of more than 16 million stops twice a year to spend a weekend building each other up in faith, encouraging us to move forward in joy. The newest technologies are used to communicate simple, traditional, quiet messages that are meant to speak to the hearts of millions of individual strangers. What purpose could this giant endeavor have other than to bless anyone and everyone who takes it seriously?

So maybe we should.

There are 181 days until the next General Conference. With 31 total talks at this conference, that means we could review 1 each 5.8 days, or one each week, doubling up on 6 of those weeks. Who’s in? 😃

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