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”)– Continue reading

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The Provident Living Specialist

Anybody else notice that the first address in each of the last two General Conferences were about provident living?  (Here and here)

In my ward, we’ve taken to calling our ward emergency preparedness specialist by a new designation: the provident living specialist.  The idea came up in a welfare meeting, courtesy of the brain trust that is the Relief Society Presidency, that just as the Church has shifted from a focus on a year’s supply of food storage to focus instead on preparing in smaller steps for shorter time periods, we try to move out of the mindset that we need to be stockpiling for a catastrophe and into one where we focus on a holistic view of preparedness: budgeting, reducing expenses, living within our means, rotating storage, increasing education and job skills, etc.

You know, basically the same stuff the Church has had on its fantastic and vastly under-utilized Provident Living web site for years. 

We’ve been organizing firesides and activities along these lines recently, with great success.  Our community is coming together, rallying behind this more expansive vision of preparedness; as financial guru Dave Ramsey says, “The paid off mortgage is the new BMW.” 

And it doesn’t hurt that our ward’s “provident living specialist” is an incredibly dedicated, proactive lady.  Pretty foxy, too.  My wife!

Defining Frugality Down

McSweeney’s Internet Tendency features some of the most clever, literate humor out there today.  However, one recent piece, “This Recession Is Awesome!“, where a young kid is happy that his parents’ financial problems are making them give up the expensive things that he hates in favor of the cheap things he loves, had two fatal flaws.

The first flaw is that the “cheap” things he celebrates are hardly all that cheap.  They are:

  • three meals of junk food a day
  • “as much McDonald’s as I want”
  • mini golf, go-karts, and batting cages
  • pizza at “Gilbert’s Goofy Park”
  • Cooler Ranch Doritos
  • Xbox

That’s the author’s idea of scaling down a lifestyle?  Awww, did poor little buddy have to go from middle class to upper-lower middle class?  Wow, our Depression-era grandparents are just super impressed.  One is only left to wonder just how exclusive the author’s gated community must be.  As this recession continues, some of us are going to need to do a lot more adjusting than that. 

The other fatal flaw in the piece, of course, is that it just wasn’t funny.  McSweeney’s must be getting hard up for material. 

On a related note, two days ago I saw this post about all kinds of frugality for the times.  And, don’t forget about Provident Living.