Monday, October 4, 2010

Reflections on General Conference (Oct 2010)

Before I review the conference we have just finished, I want to point out some things I’ve seen happen that are related to some previous conferences we’ve had.

Last April conference 2010, President Monson spoke about the resurrection and the comfort this doctrine gives. I wondered how this would be pertinent for the next six months. In late June my grandmother died and I went to her funeral. I also heard of others who lost loved ones. We were all shocked to hear of a bishop in California who was shot and killed. I suspect that death has touched many of our lives in some way. President Monson’s words on the resurrection were a reminder of greatest relevance and applicability.

In October conference 2009, President Monson spoke about giving helping those in need. A few months later, devastating earthquakes occurred in Haiti and Chile, which clearly called for our help.

Now President Monson has talked to us about the importance of gratitude. This should be a strong indicator to us that in the coming months, there will be some things that happen that will be much easier for us to bear if we have already cultivated determined gratitude. The prospect of these coming events should not give us cause for alarm. The Lord does not give us a spirit of fear, but of love and a sound mind. The Lord does not tell us what is coming. He only tells us to prepare and what we should do to prepare. If we put our energy into obeying that counsel, our minds will not have time to fear because they are occupied in preparing. Then when the event comes for which we have prepared, we will be ready and we will immediately understand how ready we are. This will strengthen our faith, give us peace, and our trust in the Lord and the prophets will grow. The way the Lord works maximizes faith and eliminates fear if we follow the counsel we are given.

Both Elder Holland and President Monson spoke about gratitude. Elder Holland thanked all the members for their faith and good works, reviewing many different types of people in their different stations.

Claudio R. M. Costa and Kevin R. Duncan reviewed President Benson’s talk “Fourteen Fundamentals of Following the Prophet.” This indicates that a number of us have been straying a little from these principles and we need the reminder of just how marvelous a miracle it is to have a living prophet. Dallin H. Oaks described the correct roles and interplay between the two different lines of communication—priesthood and personal—that we receive from the Lord. This reminder is very important because it shows me that the principle of revelatory priesthood leadership and the principle of personal revelation, if taught apart, sometimes cause us to view them as opposing and contradictory principles, when really they are complementary principles and neither can function appropriately without the other.

So why do we need these strong repetitions of counsel and principles of following the prophets? Because we need them to expand our minds to a correct understanding of the role and power of prophets, seers, and revelators.. and especially the prophet and president of the church. In our world, which is governed very much by rationality, it is all too easy to begin to look at the office of prophet and begin to reason with a worldly perspective rather than a spiritual perspective and try to define where the limits of his authority are. We are likely to set up stakes in our minds about where we think the prophet can’t go and we are liable to get offended if he steps beyond them. Not only that, we have a sad tendency to begin to circumscribe our mental idea of the role of the prophet and shrink it smaller and smaller in a gradual way. The spiritual stretching we felt as we listened to those 14 fundamentals of following the prophet is a reminder to us how limited own vision can become and why we NEED prophets to administer that stretching.

Those 14 fundamentals also seems to underline for me how everything about the prophetic office is miraculous. It takes countless miracles for a man to speak for God in everything. It takes miracles for a man’s words to be more important than the standard works. It takes miracles for that prophet’s words to be more important than a dead prophet’s words! It takes miracles for a man to never lead the church astray! It takes miracles for a man to need no earthly training to speak for God on any matter at any time! It takes miracles for a man to tell us what we need to know rather than what we want to know! It takes miracles for a man to transcend the reasoning of the world!

We are so used to these near-constant miracles that we forget they are miracles! We forget they are miracles because they are based firmly on righteous principles that we have known for so long that we forget that we are seeing the powers of heaven controlled and maintained on the principles of righteousness! Or if we are not used to these miracles, we tend to deny them!

I suppose I will have people telling me that I’m not giving enough credit to the personal line of communication that Elder Oaks talked about. Perhaps I’m not. After all, there were just as many mentions about the roles of the Holy Ghost as there were about prophets.

Elder Bednar gave a great talk about receiving the Holy Ghost. Here’s his great perspective: all the commandments are intended to bless us with the Holy Ghost. I can see that this happens because obedience always invites the Holy Ghost. I love that he points out that receiving the Holy Ghost is not passive, it is active and requires seeking, searching, working, and living for it. How true that is!

Elder Perl M. Galm used a very interesting image at the beginning of his talk. It was a tree that was completely hollow inside, filled with all kinds of waste, and only held upright with steel bands, and wires attached to nearby buildings. This seems like a great metaphor for the condition of a life frittered away on useless pursuits.

Another theme that was touched on a lot was agency. This indicates that there are many people that feel like they are being inexorably pulled toward some course of action by circumstances or expectations or pressure and they have to be reminded that they have agency and they need to rouse themselves and take control of their own destiny, even if it means rocking the boat a bit. I am one of these people myself. I think one of the reasons this has become more of an issue is because our society is becoming so media focused that we are becoming more and more lulled into passivity.

There’s one final bit of counsel that I want to touch on. This was from Elder Larry R. Lawrence of the seventy, who raised what he called a personal warning about the dangers of sleepovers. He said that too many temptations—drugs, pornography, and other forms--occur when children spend the night at friends’ houses. I suppose that his words raised some hackles, but I want to say it is a wise warning. I was a teen when my parents made the decision that none of us children would be allowed to go to sleepovers anymore. While I was somewhat disappointed, I was also relieved because I had been to some sleepovers that were very uncomfortable because of media choices or the conversation. Having been forbidden, I was relieved that I didn’t have to worry about it again. Elder Lawrence mentioned that children’s defenses are down at night. This is very true. We often talk about late nights dropping defenses with reference to teenagers and dating and morality, but somehow we haven’t made the connection that it is also true of children. I suppose that this warning is an opportunity for us to reflect upon the institution of the sleepover. What purpose does it serve? Is there any way to serve the same purpose in other ways that involve less danger?

4 comments:

Wonder Woman said...

I saw many of the same themes -- agency, following the prophets, sin/addiction.

I love that you reviewed things Pres. Monson has previously spoken on, then something that occurred and made his counsel even more relevant. I will definitely continue to cultivate an attitude of gratitude.

thanks for your comments on my blog!

Sister Nicole Evelyn Bartley said...

thank you sister stephens for reading my blog. it is kind of an exciting thing to be able to blog out the the world about our beliefs. the internet can be an amazing tool, someone in conference actually said that, i just can not remember who.
conference really was great. so many answers to prayers and so much comfort given by the Holy Ghost.
thank you for letting people know how you feel.
would you mind if i linked your blog to mine?

thank you sister bartley

Roger and LeAnn said...

As usual, you always have very uplifting posts. I enjoyed your summaries of a few of the Conference Address. I really liked your thoughts on Gratitude. I related very much to Elder Bednar's message on the Holy Ghost and the importance of living in obedience so we can be blessed with the spirit. On my post I told of a life saving moment with the spirit when my child was saved.
Blessings to you for your insight today. LeAnn

Chad Banks said...

I enjoyed reading your review of conference.

You can find quotes categorized by topic of the October 2010 conference at http://conference.zzl.org

There is also a list of speakers, word occurrences, photos, scriptures referenced and games.

It's a great site for talks, lessons and personal study.