Monday, April 2, 2012

Highlights of April 2012 conference

First I have to share that I experienced a moment of complete bliss during conference that will be imbedded in my memory for (I hope) a good long time. It was the during Saturday morning session. My husband and I were seated on the low granite wall on Temple Square in the standby line. The weather was warm and windy, blowing petals from pale pink cherry blossoms to whirl down and around us. The dark grey trees towering above us had a faint green mist of new leaves on them. We listened to conference through the outdoor speakers, and as the choir began singing “Love is Spoken Here,” I was overwhelmed with a glowing feeling of warmth, joy, and love, thankfulness that I could be there in such a beautiful place at that time, that I could hear such excellent singing about family love, that I could be with so many saints who resonated with faith in the gospel of Christ, that I could be with my husband, who I loved. It was a foretaste of heaven. (happy sigh)

I didn’t get into the conference center to see conference, but I did get to be in the Tabernacle for one session. (Yaaaaay for being in historic buildings!!) I got to spend another session with my sister Tennille and my brother Nelson. (Yaaaaay for being with family!) Two sessions I watched on video and two sessions I just had audio, and I think there are different advantages to each. Audio required more concentration, but note-taking was more difficult with video. Not sure why.

I want to share some of the highlights that stuck out to me, at least one highlight from each talk.

Elder Boyd K. Packer said family time is sacred time and should be protected and respected. That is a clear statement of priority. It seems to me that if family time is put at such a priority in the church, then we should make sure that we have good things that we can do together and talk about during family time that make it something that the whole family appreciates and will want to guard.

Cheryl A Esplin said that children must experience gospel principles in action early while it is easy to believe them. I’ve found this is true for any age that it is necessary to apply gospel principles as soon as we learn them. Procrastinating the implementation of counsel tends to weaken belief that the counsel is necessary to follow or will be effective.

Elder Donald L. Hallstrom pointed out the church and the gospel are not the same and mentioned that things of the gospel are less visible, and therefore less easy to measure. This reminded me that we can measure certain things about our activity like our attendance and visiting teaching and tithing, but we can’t measure our love and devotion to the Lord, our repentance and faith, or other inner qualities that indicate our commitment to the gospel. The inner unmeasurable things will be harder for us to improve if we are hungry for praise from others and not commendation from the Lord.

Elder Paul E Koelliker talked about seeking ways to awaken and nurture desire to know Heavenly Father and feel His Spirit. It really got me thinking about how we communicate the core benefits of the gospel to others. One of the ways that my desire to know Heavenly Father has been nurtured has been hearing stories from people I looked up to spiritually about how they sought and found the Lord’s help. These stories came at times in my life when I was casting about for something more I could do to bring greater blessings into my life.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks talked about sacrifice and how we make devoted sacrifices of time and talents, even in opposition to personal desires. When I look back through my notes of his talk, I saw he named a number of things we do as part of our duty that are sacrifices. I think I forget the many ways I sacrifice as a matter of course and yearn for bigger, more exciting acts. Elder Oaks said that our testimony of the Atonement inspires us to a desire to sacrifice out of gratitude. That is powerful.

President Henry B. Eyring talked about laying an unshakeable foundation of faith by preparing with personal integrity, serving God and others, and demonstrating faith in Jesus Christ. This was a precious talk to me because at times I’ve felt myself shake with doubts and feelings of inadequacy. I’ve wondered how to achieve greater firmness in my faith, and this was an answer for me. One single phrase that stood out to me was when he quoted D&C 121: “if the very jaws of hell should gape after thee..” This meant a lot because I’ve felt the jaws of hell gaping after me, and I am determined to resist.

I loved Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s explanation of the parable of the laborers in the vineyard. The question “Why should we be jealous when God chooses to be kind to others?” really caused me to ponder my attitudes that I’ve seen myself trapped by over the last month or so.

Elder Robert D. Hales challenged us to look in the mirror and ask ourselves where we stand. It reminded me that when we come to ourselves, we look with unflinching honesty at our choices and the consequences and then let the desire to change for the better swell in our breasts, even if it is just wanting a desire to change.

Elder Baxter asked us if there is more that we can do to support single-parent families. I’d thought about this before, but it is hard to know how far to go or what is best to do.

Elder Ulisses Soares talked about staying on the Lord’s side of the line and suggested we ask ourselves, “Do my actions place myself on the Lord’s or Satan’s side” and “Are my attitudes good or bad?” Lately I’ve felt afflicted by negative passions and attitudes that pull in different directions, yet which have seemed justified. I feel these questions will help me evaluate them and resist them better.

Two things that stood out from Elder Quentin L. Cook’s talk was the importance of example of praying with children. In a secular world, children need that example. (I think adults need it too.) He also pointed out that temporary setbacks are overshadowed by consistent faithful practices, so if we are consistent, that will compensate for the occasional problems. I find that very comforting. I think it is also true in our lives that our temporary setbacks in living our faith can be overshadowed by our consistent faithful practices when we cling to the Atonement of Christ.

Elder Richard G. Scott gave a raft of insights about receiving inspiration. One that meant a lot to me was the caution to not yield to negative emotions. It suggested to me that while negative emotions come, I need not act upon them; I can still have self-control. I very much look forward to studying this talk when the full text comes out because I feel I need it badly.

The bumper sticker that President Dieter F. Uchtdorf shared seemed very significant to me. “Don’t judge me because I sin differently from you.” This is something that I frequently have to remind myself that what is easy for me may not be for other people, and for the things I struggle with, there are probably people who can do it easily. I hope they are patient with me, so I have to patient with others too. Also it was a neat thought that heaven is full of those who have been forgiven and who also forgive.

Elder Russell M. Nelson reminded me of how important it is for me to include heartfelt expressions of gratitude in my prayers. His talk was a great example as he shared a number of instances of temporal and spiritual gifts from God and ended each with “Thanks be to God!”

Elder Ronald R. Rasband said that while some of us are born with physical limitations, a perfect body is not required for eternal progression. (Thank heaven!) I’m beginning to think that physical limitations are an opportunity to develop in other ways, an opportunity to get really creative and ingenious, an opportunity to test our determination to achieve, and a way to provide others with chances to serve. I loved that he pointed out how Christ healed those who were “afflicted in any manner.”

Julie B. Beck’s talk reminded me of the book “Daughers of My Kingdom.” She quoted a number of things from it, and I realized that I need to read that book again and try to glean more things from it. Said that the Relief Society is not a program, but is an integral part of the kingdom and should be a way of life. This made me wonder if it was a “way of life” for me. She said we should eliminate fads and incorporate purposes. (I bet we are meant to absorb those purposes from “Daughters of My Kingdom.”) I’m going to miss her as RS general president. When I think of a strong woman, I think of Julie B. Beck.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson reiterated the special calling of the president of the church as a prophet to announce and interpret doctrines based on revelation from God, which takes precedence over scholarship that enhances understanding. I really appreciated this. As a blogger who focuses on the scriptures, sometimes the demarcation seems fuzzy to me and I start to fret that I might be taking authority to myself that I don’t have. I don’t want to silence myself unnecessarily, but neither do I want to speak where I shouldn’t.

President Thomas S. Monson spoke about the moments of clarity that cause us to reflect on questions of where we came from, why we are here, and where we are going. I was touched by his story of the women who had her moment of sudden clarity about her priorities when diagnosed with a life-threatening disease. It suggests to me that if we choose, we need not wait for such a situation to come for us to achieve the same clarity. We can choose to see clearly what matters in our lives and how we should be living. I think seeing clearly can revolutionize our life priorities at any time if we follow that vision.

Elder L. Tom Perry talked about the Book of Mormon themes of the Lord’s power of deliverance and how reading about them can make us mighty under the power of deliverance. The lesson that the Lord is quick to deliver us in miraculous ways when we are humble and righteous was very compelling. I think we sometimes assume we know about the Lord’s deliverance, when we don’t know all the different ways He can deliver His people.

Elder L. Russell Ballard said we need to prioritize and put everything we do outside the home in subjection to and in support of what happens in the home. This is a fabulous guideline for helping us deal with the huge number of distractions that beckon. He challenged us to organizing our personal lives. I think that can help us be prepared for our challenges, opportunities, and duties.

Elder O. Vincent Haleck talked about how we need to acquire a vision of ourselves as the Savior sees us. I also loved his story about his parents fasting weekly for him and his siblings. I feel I may need to implement more fasting in my life. I want that same power and faith.

Elder Larry Y. Wilson talked about how we need to prepare our children to make wise decisions. While I don’t have children, I think that goes for just about anyone we have stewardship over—preparing by teaching with the Spirit. I thought it was good that he gave an illustration of unrighteous dominion; often we hear the term, but we may not know how to recognize an example in real life. I also liked that he gave an example of helping children make their own decisions and learn from the consequences.

Elder David F. Evans said that when conversion happens, it is never one person; it is always a family that is saved. It made me think of my family and how much I hope my siblings will make good choices. It made me think of ways that I could try to use my influence for good in my family.

Elder Paul B. Pieper had a very powerful statement. “The sacred cannot be selectively surrendered. Those who choose to abandon even one sacred thing will have their minds darkened and, unless they repent, the light they have shall be taken from them. Unanchored by the sacred, they will find themselves morally adrift on the secular sea. In contrast, those who hold sacred things sacred receive promises.” That’s a great warning. I think the variety of secular voices we subject ourselves to every day can cause us to surrender the sacred gradually and imperceptibly. Also, our unhealthy doubts can cause us to surrender the sacred. Pieper also said we should rely on sacred personal witnesses we have already received. That requires us to remember the experiences we had that first rooted our testimonies.

Elder Neil L. Andersen invited us to ask what Christ would think of each of us, based on assessments Christ made of others during His ministry. It is a searching question designed to help us achieve that clarity we need to make proper decisions. I like that he said that discipleship in these days will be a badge of honor in the eternities.

President Thomas S. Monson in his closing address had two bits of counsel that I really liked: first to pray always, and settle disagreements and contentions in our families. Praying has been a lifeline for me the past few weeks and it feels like I’ve gotten into contentions and disagreements, so I have some improving to do.

So, overall, have I noticed any patterns? It seems like there is lots of emphasis on
  • Getting our priorities in order, with families very near the top
  • Sacrifice and discipleship
  • Cultivating righteous desires and the sacred
  • Choosing the right
  • Resistance to secular atheism