President Nelson’s 8-Step Guide to Revelation

This quote was, for me, the most important part of the most important talk in the most important General Conference in decades. It seemed to me that the prophet’s words naturally broke down into an eight step process, in order. The attachment below has his words verbatim from his talk–I added the numbering.

Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives

Revelation

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April 2018 General Conference Notes

Saturday Morning

Elder Ballard: Record in journal what you feel about today’s solemn assembly. Testimony of President Nelson’s calling. Urges us to sustain and follow. Faith is how we move forward. Also, gifts of sabbath day, sacrament, service, and our Savior. Vote for “honorable” people. Do not hesitate to run for public office if you desire. Some activities must always be at the heart of our membership. Lift and strengthen others. Visit and assist them. Answer questions and concerns in clear and kind ways. CHRISTLIKE SERVICE

Brian K. Taylor (70): [he tears up right away talking about how we’re all children of God.] The pedigree of your spirit can be written on a single line: you are a child of God. Teach children identity and purpose. Story of a girl’s tragedy, told to write and say “I am a child of God” ten times a day. She drew nearer to Christ and felt better. [Reaches out to young mothers especially.] Seek God and His beloved Son! [Beautiful testimony—review this talk!] IDENTITY AS A CHILD OF GOD

Larry Echo Hawk (70): Focuses on forgiveness. [2nd speaker in a row to tell story of a fatal car crash!] Learned to have a forgiving heart from the Prince of Peace. Are there people in our lives who have hurt us? Do we harbor “fully justified” feelings of anger? Forgive completely and let healing come from within. Follow the example of Jesus on the cross—“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” FORGIVENESS

Elder Stevenson: [Tells of his love for the prophets during his life.] 1. The passing of our prophet. 2. The time awaiting the reorganization of the new presidency. 3. The calling of a new prophet. 4. The sustaining and work of the new presidency. Details about President Nelson’s character. [Review the material about President Nelson’s teaching methods.] THE CALLING OF A PROPHET

Lynn G. Robbins (70): Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm. Why doesn’t the Lord give us success right away? 1. to give us experience. 2. to learn to know bitter from sweet. 3. the battle is the Lord’s  4. to learn Christlike attributes “I wanted to be on the same side as the students.” Repentance is the Lord’s plan for us to progress along the covenant path. The sacrament is not a license to sin. Not “going” from failure to failure but “growing.” BKP: “When we are through changing, we’re through.” Spiritual growth is as invisible as physical growth from day to day.  REPENTANCE

Elder Anderson: This assembly is everywhere in the world. The job of a prophet is to teach about Christ and lead us to Him. More details about President Nelson’s life. He is our watchman on the tower. [look up Ezekiel reference.] Elder Anderson’s wife went back and read all of Pres. Nelson’s conference talks from the past 34 years. [Some mighty fine cultural criticism in here!] Encourages us to follow the prophet, even if personal views are contrary to teachings. President Nelson: don’t put question marks after prophet’s teachings, put exclamations! FOLLOW THE PROPHET

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On Combining Priesthood Quorums

Maybe the most important thing said about the big reorganization change at today’s General Conference wasn’t in President Nelson’s ultimate priesthood session talk, but in the brief introduction he gave before making the initial announcement:

I’m very grateful for each man who bears the holy priesthood. You are the hope of our Redeemer, who desires that every man might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world. He wants all of His ordained sons to represent Him, to speak for Him, and bless the lives of God’s children throughout the world. (italicized words emphasized in the original)

I think that’s the key. Besides the other reasons given tonight for this change–unity, harmony, communication, flexibility, diversity, etc.–consider this in light of other changes in recent years: starting the Preach My Gospel method of missionary work, lowering the missionary age, creating “Come Follow Me” curriculum for various ward groups, instituting monthly councils for various groups, eliminating First Presidency messages in the Ensign, and now this…what do they all have in common?

The recurring theme is putting more responsibility on individuals. Or maybe, to put it better, helping individuals see their existing potential. The point of all these changes is to empower people to live up to their abilities to serve the Lord.

So many critics want to paint our church as some repressive conspiracy run by a cabal of octogenarian oligarchs, but all of these changes show just the opposite. These are choices made by men who want to help put everybody behind the wheel of their own life. As Elder Neil L. Andersen said in the morning session, “A prophet does not stand between you and the Savior. He stands beside you and points the way to the Savior.”

Or, as it says in Number 11:29: “Would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!”

Church leadership seems to be trying very hard to make that beautiful dream come true.

General Conference and Choosing the Bigger Life

Late last year, I was preparing for 2017’s New Year’s resolutions. As I surveyed where I was and where I wanted to be, I knew that I wanted to simply get more out of life. I was already happy and satisfied, but I just wanted even more: more happiness, more goals reached, more great experiences, more memories, more health, more spiritual feeling, more deep and rich living with all the wonderful people around me. I decided to approach the new year with a private new motto: “Choose the bigger life.”

This means that whenever I had any choice or opportunity–even in mundane daily activities–I would do whatever would lead to those things, no matter if it took time or energy I didn’t have or want to give. That would lead to the bigger life. And I’ve tried to center my life in the Church more than ever because, more than anything else, that vehicle leads to all of the things I want–it’s our Heavenly Father’s gift to us for realizing the abundant life.

This isn’t the kind of resolution that one keeps “starting right NOW.” It’s a process, and like all such processes, your vision of it grows as you practice. I’ve done a lot more with life this year, but I also realize just how much farther I can and will go.

Nearly twenty years ago, I was sitting in the celestial room of the temple. I didn’t have any particular question or issue on my mind; I was just thinking about my life. In one of the clearest spiritual manifestations I’ve ever had, a concrete idea came into my mind, in a character different from my usual internal monologue. It wasn’t a voice, distinctly, just an outside feeling coming in, and it used a phrase that was pretty common at the time. “It’s time to kick it up a notch,” the thought said. I knew what it meant and have tried to live up to it.

As with this year’s new motto, it’s been a gradual process of fits and starts. Still, it’s made a difference. I really have had a bigger life this year.

What does any of this have to do with General Conference? After all of these talks, I really want to recommit and do even better and even more. I’ve been feeling very tired, stressed, and run down lately. But not now. Now I’m excited, and I want to crystalize that motivation and direct it to the most important things. I want to choose the even bigger life.

Going forward into the final third of 2017, I still have the motto from that resolution in mind. The teachings and stories of General Conference have added fuel to that fire. Looking back on the finished life of Elder Hales, the winding down life of President Monson, and the examples from the life of President Nelson shared by himself and by Elder Andersen have all shown me anew the way to live exactly the kind of passionate, productive life that leads to the biggest life of all, eternal life.

Let’s do this thing.

 

October 2017 General Conference Notes

This post will be updated throughout the weekend.

 

SATURDAY MORNING

President Uchtdorf: The Light is Calling to You

  • We have an innate feeling pulling us towards God, like animals’ instincts to get home
  • God calls out to us, no matter what
  • Our life will be better if we answer the call
  • God will use us to make others’ lives better
  • A good description of the disciple’s life as the good life!
  • “Begin your own wonderful journey home.”
  • “Blessings don’t come from abilities as much as from choices.”
  • Even pioneer heroes were just human
  • The light of Christ…the talk comes full circle!
  • “No one else is responsible for your journey.”
  • “Reach out, encourage, heal…”
  • Life as a pilgrimage

Bonnie L. Oscarson (YW Pres): Service

  • Lose ourselves in service to find ourselves
  • Service is better in person than online
  • Some of our most significant service will be close to home: family and ward family
  • “What makes you think you go to mutual because of what YOU get out of it?”
  • “We are not just receivers and takers of what is offered at church…we are givers.”
  • [When we pull our heads into our shells, our world gets smaller]
  • “Who needs me today?”

Elder Oaks: Avoiding Worldliness on the Family

  • TSM: reject anything that does not conform to our standards
  • Family proc. is essential guidance for exaltation
  • “marriage standards of a declining world”(!)
  • TOO MUCH truth in this talk–amazing job laying down the law on the family!

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April 2017 General Conference–Annotated

This post will be updated frequently throughout the weekend with my notes on General Conference.

SATURDAY MORNING

President Eyring–The Gathering of God’s Family

  • “~The love that comes closest to the love we felt in the pre-existence: parental love~”
  • Testifies of the reality of Elijah’s visit
  • Encouraged to learn the lives and personalities of ancestors
  • Prioritize time for family history work–“wear tennis shoes” and run faster to get more done! :)
  • Technology like computers exists to facilitate this work
  • But technology is no substitute for revelation!

M. Joseph Brough (YM 2nd)–Heavenly Father’s “Care Package” For Us

  • I like the idea of our whole way of life as a “care package” full of blessings.
  • commandments,”I found peace in seeking Heavenly Father’s will,” priesthood leaders, ultimate gift is in John 3:16
  • Repentance is a gift!
  • Be with the youth, connect youth with Heaven, “The time must come when each must stand alone,” let the youth lead

Elder Clayton (70)–The Plan of Salvation, Happiness, and Love

  • Pillars of eternity reference–thanks BRM!
  • Summary of Savior’s ministry–“went about doing good”
  • D&C 19 as an example of love–yes!!!
  • “We all must graduate from this mortal body to achieve our eternal rewards”
  • Quotes from the Living Christ
  • Invitation: each day, come unto Christ…Moroni 10:32

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What President Monson Is Reading

512ktnfwjelIn President Monson’s brief remarks at this month’s General Conference, perhaps the thing that struck me most was in the priesthood session when he said, “Recently I read the true account of a dramatic manifestation concerning these promises.” Most of the talk, in fact, is a summary of a story from the book. That right there is already pretty high praise for a book, to have a prophet mention it and cite from it as the core of an address to the world.

It’s great to know what the prophet has been reading. He’s still working full time as CEO of a global organization, he’s several years a widower now, and his strength is starting to decline, but he still reads, and this is what he reads: a book about the inspiring experiences of Latter-day Saints during World War II. As far as I know, there isn’t a team of research interns doing any behind-the-scenes lifting in preparing anybody’s conference talks; when the prophet says he’s been reading this book lately, it’s really something he chose to pick up and spend time with.

Maybe we would do well to follow the prophet in his priorities, his habits, and even in his specific choices in reading. The book he mentions, Saints at War: Experiences of Latter-Day Saints in World War II, isn’t on Google Books, but it’s on sale at Amazon for as low as 14 cents a copy.

14 cents, to do what the prophet does.

You know what would be great? A “Prophets Book Club,” where people read books mentioned by prophets and apostles in General Conference.

At the end of the citation for this book in the published version of President Monson’s talk, a note says, “used by permission.” That’s wonderful: the prophet (or maybe his secretary) reached out to the author to ask if it was OK to refer to the book in General Conference. What a sweet conversation I bet that was.

 

Annotations to Saturday PM session, April 2016 General Conference

#LDSConf

Ronald A. Rasband (12)

Is this going to be an indirect address to the “opposed” crowd? Interesting.

Good job pre-empting the seduction of young people into trendy doubt and denial. Yeah, this is totally an indirect response to the “opposed.”

“His servants: you and me.”

Is Edwin Markham the first poet quoted in this conference? I could teach a whole semester of American Lit based on the citations in any given general conference.

Elder Rasband phrases his counsel in terms of questions and answers, just as President Uchtdorf did in his response to the “opposed.”

I’ve been reading a great collection called Early Christian Fathers, an anthology of writings from the second generation of church leaders after the original Apostles died. Just like the New Testament itself, the biggest theme is using basic doctrines to combat apostasy. Just yesterday I read the epistle of Ignatius to the Philadelphians, where 7:2 says this:

But I swear by Him for whose cause I am a prisoner, that from no human channels did I learn this. It was the Spirit that kept on preaching in these words: “Do nothing apart from the bishop; keep your bodies as if they were God’s temple; value unity; flee schism; imitate Jesus Christ as he imitated his Father.” [emphasis added]

This message is always important, and isn’t going away anytime soon.

 

Neil L. Andersen (12)

The gospel preserves truth about family and stands against the world’s degradation of it. Awesome.

A message to the children of such families is a great idea, but how will they get it? They’re not watching General Conference. Should we all make a concerted effort to deliver this talk to them?

This talk is full of great role models, and not just for the young.

Elder Scott once gave a powerful talk to us all about striving to come as close to an ideal family as possible for each of us; that talk dovetails nicely with this one: “Do the best you can while on earth to have an ideal family. To help you do that, ponder and apply the principles in the proclamation on the family.”

Actually, this talk seems more like it’s for us than for the youth themselves. We have to make these kids a priority.

I was one of these youth 25 years ago, and my ward and seminary class heroically tried to fellowship me–I rarely responded well then, but I’m very grateful now. They planted a seed.

Another personal story about ministering and meetings in Africa! Nothing in conference is a coincidence, guys.

“The children not only came, but came running.”

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Annotations to Saturday AM session, April 2016 General Conference

These aren’t just traditional notes, in the sense of summaries and highlights. Rather, these are mostly connections, commentary, footnotes, and such. #LDSConf

 

President Henry B. Eyring

Elder Oaks also based a talk on the parable of the sower in last April’s General Conference.

“Choose to have our hearts softened and seeds nourished” by this weekend’s conference.

This is handy how-to of getting the most out of conference.

He choked up a bit as he started, and then periodically throughout. When President Eyring speaks, he means it. You just have to love this guy!

 

 

Mary R. Durham (Primary 2nd)

“Kick off the weight of this world that we carry, so we can keep our children afloat.”

Quotes Elder Bednar on Holy Ghost. I wonder how leaders in the meeting feel when other speakers suddenly quote them.

“Increase the spiritual capacity of our little ones.”

learning the spirit by a life of immersion, like learning a language the same way–clever analogy, rings true.

Quotes Elder Scott, and I’m reminded again of how we recently lost him.

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Mormon Upanishads: General Conference

A few years ago I read a collection of great Hindu scripture called upanishads, a word which means “an instruction, the sitting at the feet of a master.” I love the idea of canonizing and revering such wisdom–that’s a whole way of life in itself. The cartoons here illustrate a cliché, but we do actually get to live this cliché in real life; we get to hear our own upanishads today: General Conference is this weekend.

'Yes, I can tell you the meaning of life, but then I would have to kill you.'

'You know, it's a lot easier to just follow me on twitter.'

Oct. 2015 General Conference PM Sunday Notes

Elder Christofferson: This talk advocates an idea unpopular in the world today: organized religion isn’t bad; in fact, it’s necessary. A similar talk by Eugene England called “Why the Church Is As True As the Gospel” makes a similar point, and is well worth your time.

Elder Christofferon often focuses on the need for the Church–and individual saints–to help the poor and needy. Always a good element to focus on, and I’m glad to see he doesn’t do it in isolation of other factors like missionary work and saving ordinances. The Church is a great big, busy place, as our lives are supposed to be. Thus comes Zion.

I remember how to spell his last name because “Christ” was “offer”ed as God’s “son.”

Devin G. Durrant (SS 1st couns.): “ponderize” is a perfectly cromulent word. The late Elder Scott encouraged us to do something similar here: ponder and memorize. I’d love to be part of a social media group to do this!

So, will the part about finances get completely forgotten? Remember.

Elder Keetch (70): It’s good to be reminded that barriers exist for a good reason. I wrote about the same topic here.

Better, more spiritual references include what I call the parable of the kite, one of my all-time favorite General Conference parables, here.

And, of course, spiritual crocodiles.

Carole M. Stephens (RS 1st couns.):  Her talk has the same theme as Elder Keetch’s before her. I don’t see such things as a coincidence. These two talks make a great pair.

Trusting God was also a theme of Elder Andersen’s excellent talk at priesthood last night.

I like the focus on trusting each member of the Godhead–creative way to organize her thoughts, and practical.

Elder Haynie (70): Another lovely reminder about gospel basics. Can’t say it enough: I love a good seventy talk.

I think this makes a great pair with Elder Oaks’s talk about the Atonement yesterday.

Elder Clark (70): This hits hone. Even active members need greater faith and obedience. Reminds me of one time in the celestial room at the temple, I was thinking about nothing particular, but then a distinct impression came: “Time to kick it up a notch.” Seriously, those were the words. Might be time to kick it up another notch.

The Holy Ghost has been mentioned a lot this weekend. Another signal for upcoming study and development?

Koichi Aoyagi: Very humane story of dealing with adversity with perspective. Lest we every think leaders have easy lives, his story is a wake-up call. Lends ethos to his call to endure well. Another area where we can all do well to grow.

Elder Bednar: Yes! What a great talk to go out on! Kind of sad that we need such counsel, but we do. Elder Neal A. Maxwell used to say that arguments for the gospel don’t create faith, but the lack of them could hurt it. Ditto here, I think: defending having elderly leaders may not build faith, but without a talk like this, cynicism and criticism would fester. Glad to have an apostle set us straight.

I love how personal his words are here. Truly, an insider’s testimony! “The totality of their teachings is priceless.” How long would it take to fully understand and be grateful for what we’re blessed with in our leaders? This makes me want to spend more time studying the lives of our latter-day prophets.

These remarks will be needed as a defense of President Monson soon for some out there, I fear.

Oct. 2015 General Conference, Sunday AM Notes

President Monson: I like how his talk was based on combining two different works of scripture. That’s a skill that we all need to develop better, and it only comes from a quantity of repeated study. Seeing similar themes and seeing how various passages and even very different books can overlap produces the kind of personal insights the prophet shares here.

Comparing this to his talk in the priesthood session last night, I see President Monson here as a prophet of the basics. I’ve been teaching Primary for the last couple of years now, and I’m learning how important it is to be constantly reminded of simple, foundational things. President Monson is like that, and I’ve no doubt that’s what we need today–a Primary prophet.

Three new apostles: Interesting what they chose to share with us as their first introductions as apostles. Humility is obviously a big trend here, but I was especially touched by Elder Renlund’s story of losing a patient.

President Nelson: Wow! What to make of this talk? I approach it like this: to whom was he speaking and why? This was clearly not just another “cheer up girls, you’re awesome!” talk.

First, though couched in such inspirational language, the substance here is a call to greater spiritual leadership by women, in the sense that the men get from such talks as President Uchtdorf’s a few years ago. It also, then, seems like a successor to President Julie B. Beck’s “Mothers Who Know.”

Second, it’s also clearly a clarion call to priesthood leaders to be more inclusive in regards to welcoming female leaders’ contributions; this is not the first time in recent years we’ve heard this message. Perhaps it’s time to pay attention.

In short, this talk says that we all, of both genders, have things to work on. This is will be an important one to study and work on.

Also, two apostles in this session now are heart doctors who have told stories of losing patients.

President Nelson’s emphasis on the value of women in our lives reminds me of Elder Holland’s similar focus yesterday.

Elder Schwitzer: His remarks are largely inspired by a quote from an epistle of Paul, as were President Monson’s. We need to read the Bible.

His bold words about the danger of criticism very much echo Elder Andersen’s talk in the priesthood session last night. (Among many other things, Elder Andersen encouraged people to, quote, “Give Brother Joseph a break.”)

Elder Costa: Will there be any more conference talks given in speakers’ native languages? Or was that just a one-time thing to make a point about the growth and compassion of the Church?

I’ve said this before, but the most simple and basic, yet moving and spiritual, talks tend to be given by seventies. And President Monson.

President Eyring: As a debate coach, I like how many speakers at this conference are explicitly starting off talks by saying, “Here’s my agenda for you today…” (President Monson also did this in priesthood last night.)

In my years as an active church member, I have noticed an increased effort to make our sacrament meetings centered on worship and the Savior (scaling back the pomp of missionary farewells, for example). It makes a difference.

Imagine if everyone approached their assignments to speak in sacrament meeting by trying to copy the examples set in President Eyring’s talks: doctrine with applications; then inspiring, engaging stories of models to follow. Doesn’t he just fill your heart and make you want to be closer to Christ?

Bonus note: This arrangement of “The Spirit of God” has been sung before, but not often. It’s ambitious, epic, and rousing. I’d love to hear it sometime with every verse, but that would run 10 minutes, I’m sure.

Notes on President Monson’s Teachings, April 2014 General Conference

My notes on president Monson’s addresses at the April General Conference, 2014.  Obviously subjective, and subject to ongoing revision and improvement, but this helps me to pragmatically know how to “follow the prophet.”

 

IMPERATIVES

Priesthood Session: “Be Strong and of a Good Courage

  1. “…put ourselves in places and participate in activities where our thoughts are influenced for good and where the Spirit of the Lord will be comfortable.”
  2. (Quoting) “If you ever find yourself where you shouldn’t ought to be, get out!”
  3. “…do… the right thing even though we may be afraid, defend… our beliefs at the risk of being ridiculed, and maintain… those beliefs even when threatened with a loss of friends or of social status.”
  4. (Quoting) “Just be the same person you are in the dark that you are in the light.”

Sunday Morning: “Love—the Essence of the Gospel

  1. “…love our fellow travelers on this mortal journey.”
  2. “…love God, the Father of us all.”
  3. “…keep this truth [We are all spirit children of our Heavenly Father and, as such, are brothers and sisters] in mind, loving all of God’s children will become easier.”
  4. “…recognize someone’s need and then…respond.”
  5. (Quoting Pres. Kimball) “…remember that those mortals we meet in parking lots, offices, elevators, and elsewhere are that portion of mankind God has given us to love and to serve.”
  6. “…we must treat each other with kindness and respect.”
  7. “…strive always to be considerate and to be sensitive to the thoughts and feelings and circumstances of those around us. Let us not demean or belittle. Rather, let us be compassionate and encouraging. We must be careful that we do not destroy another person’s confidence through careless words or actions.”

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How the Bloggernacle Apparently Watches General Conference

Imagine a general conference that hypothetically includes a discussion between the general authorities delivering the addresses, and “the bloggernacle”  as an entity hearing them.

GA: Church members should be loyal to the church.
B: Absolutely. Church members should definitely focus on minor doubts that are only tangential to the major tenets of faith and discipleship, and use them to publicly undermine the church.

GA: What? No, that’s not at all what we said. Church members should be visibly loyal to the church, striving to be part of the mainstream body of belief and service.
B: Yes! Finally, someone came out and said it. Church members need to be encouraged in striking out on their own and forging their own path to salvation, whatever that means for them.

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Lehi, King Benjamin, and President Monson On Why We Follow the Prophet

It happened again last night, and not for the first time: I re-read a familiar section in the Book of Mormon and noticed something that had never arrested my attention before.

In King Benjamin’s classic speech, a major landmark in the Book of Mormon, he tells the people this about the the coming change of leadership from himself to his son:

…if ye shall keep the commandments of my son, or the commandments of God which shall be delivered unto you by him, ye shall prosper in the land…  (Mosiah 2:31, emphasis added)

Benjamin wasn’t the only Book of Mormon leader to teach about the reason for faithfully following the prophet; Lehi explained it twice:

And now, behold thy brothers murmur, saying it is a hard thing which I have required of them; but behold I have not required it of them, but it is a commandment of the Lord. (1 Nephi 3:5, emphasis added)

And it must needs be that the power of God must be with him, even unto his commanding you that ye must obey. But behold, it was not he, but it was the Spirit of the Lord which was in him, which opened his mouth to utterance that he could not shut it. (2 Nephi 1:27, emphasis added)

Nephi’s brothers, you may remember, resented being ordered around, against their natural inclinations, by a bunch of old white men in Salt Lake City…oops, I mean, by their younger brother.  (/sarcasm)

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