Monday, April 7, 2014

Thoughts on April 2014 General Conference

I want to share some thoughts I had on talks that stuck out to me from General Conference.

I loved that the Gilbert temple cultural celebration was mentioned twice.  It really was a noteworthy event.  It was a very special experience to watch the broadcast of it.  I live in the area, so I was involved in a small way in preparations for it.  In my ward, I helped cut out pattern pieces to make costumes for the youth.  I also helped sew the costumes in a big Relief Society sew-a-thon.   I also got to help teach my ward’s youth sign language for one of the songs, and I practiced it with them.   I also had great sympathy for the youth as they were performing in the rain because that day I had been weeding outside in the rain and I got very wet.  Rain in Arizona is cold.   When I watched the cultural celebration, I loved that they performed with joy.  I also had a deep sense of satisfaction, knowing that the little that I did to help them had paid off.  (I was startled by how satisfied I felt; I didn’t expect to feel that way.)   It might seem like a big deal was being made out of the event, but I think that it illustrates the principle that the bigger the obstacles people overcome to do what is right, the greater the honor.

Elder Neil A. Andersen told a story about the woman in the mobile home who went through a tornado and her mobile home ended up on top of her neighbor’s without her even knowing.  His point that spiritual whirlwinds may uproot our spiritual foundations without us even being aware that we have moved was very powerful.  It made me realize that I was forming some new habits in my life that were starting to uproot my spiritual foundation and I’ll need to cut them out. 

Elder Eyring made some very perceptive statements.  He said God makes it attractive to choose the right by helping us feel the effects of our choices.  Evil brings sorrow and regret eventually.  He said effects of our choices are delayed in order to build our faith and it takes faith to feel the need to seek forgiveness early rather than when we feel the effects.   This resonated with me because I’ve been dealing a persistent fault in my character that brings regret at the end of the day if I don’t continually fight it.  It has been a source of some consternation to me that the regret is delayed, so Elder Eyring’s explanation was helpful.  I have hope that Christ will help me overcome my fault as I put all my effort into the fight.  Someday I will have enough experience with the deliciousness of acting as I should that it will be a better motivation than to avoid the pain of regret.

Richard G. Scott shared some great principles about being a righteous influence on people.  He used some excellent examples of people who loved him who influenced him to become much more than he would have otherwise.  I look forward to studying his talk so I can better distill those principles of influence.  I think we as members want to be a good influence on others and it is possible that we might go about it in the wrong way and alienate people if we don’t do it with love and trust.  We have to be so careful these days that we may inadvertent suspicion and judgment of others on accident.

A lot of speakers talked about being obedient to the commandments.  I feel like I needed that.  The thing that is refreshing about the principle of obedience is that it helps you realize whether you’ve developed patterns of thought involving avoidance or rationalization.  Obedience is direct and unblinking.  It requires you to act without being daunted.  

I think Elder Hales talk had some intriguing things in it, like mentioning that Christ learned obedience by the things He suffered.   I think I’m going to have to pray about this to understand it because the only connection I can currently draw about suffering to learn obedience is suffering from consequences of disobedience, yet we know Christ did not sin.  Maybe the suffering came from being constantly stretched?

I loved Elder Zivic’s story about his son who used to hide when it was time for piano lessons but then came to love playing music.  This resonated with me because I teach a few piano students and I’ve had the pleasure of hearing from one of the mothers enthusing that her son now looks forward to playing.  I loved how Elder Zivic made the comparison that we want to come to the point that we are willing to be obedient to the commandments on our own instead of having to be reminded.

Bishop Gary E Stephenson’s comparison of mortal life to a four-minute Olympic performance was powerful because of how it emphasizes the importance of our decisions now.   I think mortal life does one better than the Olympic games though.  Olympic athletes don’t have their memory of all their years of training taken away and then have to relearn their sport in 2 weeks before they compete.

Elder Bednar’s story of the four-wheel-drive truck and how having a load helped increase traction in the snow was very good.  The insight that was conveyed with the help of this story is quite amazing, and I find myself wondering what got him thinking about it and pondering to the extent that he was able to derive those lessons from it. 

As for the message itself, it directly addressed an issue I have struggled with for a number of years.   Happiness is not an absence of load, but the right kind of load.  These questions Elder Bedar presented for us to ask ourselves are really good ones: “Is the load I am carrying producing spiritual traction for me to press forward?   Is my load creating traction to return home to Heavenly Father?”   They kind of sound rhetorical, but I notice that when I analyze the loads in my life, I can kind of see what things produce spiritual traction in my life and what things don’t help much.  I can see what things allow me to progress and what things are distractions.   Considering all the things that can distract us in life, I think this is really good to think about. 

For instance, I’ve noted before that I’m trying my hand at writing fiction these days.  In conjunction with that, I am reading a lot of books, especially fantasy fiction in order to find out where the holes are in the field and where I might be able to contribute.   If I analyze what I spend my time on, I can see that to read too much does not allow me to progress because I have less time for writing, efforts that actually produce traction towards progression.  So I have a time limit for my fiction reading during the day.  (And then I’ll let myself read to relax at night.)  For spiritual traction, I have to read the scriptures every day.  I don’t do well without it.

Elder Packer has seen Christ.  It’s pretty plain from his testimony at the end of his talk.

Elder William R. Walker talked about what a great thing it would be if everyone knew the history of how their ancestors converted to the gospel.  I know a few conversion stories from my family tree and I agree that it helps me feel more connected to them and has helped me to make righteous choices.  I have a great-great-grandfather who was converted in the southern states in the midst of much hostility toward the church and its missionaries.  I have a grandmother who knew the Bible really well and gave the missionaries a run for their money before she was finally converted.  I also have been affected by stories my mom has told me of when she had to stand up for what was right in middle of peer pressure.

I really liked that Elder Michael John U. Teh listed some particular things that are treasures in heaven.  The expression treasures in heaven is kind of vague by itself, so anyone who can give it specificity is very helpful.    And somehow when he was listing those specific things—Christlike attributes, strengthening families, serving others, strengthening our testimony of Christ--I really felt how valuable they are. 

I have been challenged and blessed by general conference.  I also hope I can do better at studying the conference addresses than I have in the past.  From the reflections I’ve shared it probably sounds like I have serious problems, but I suppose all of us heard things that reminded us of what we need to do better, so I’m trying to be honest about my experience, if not specific.   What parts of conference do you feel corrected you?


Jocelyn Christensen said...

I always know when I click on your posts, I'll get a good, honest perspective that is aligned with the Brethren. Thank you for that. And thanks for sharing your thoughts. I couldn't hear a lot of what was said, especially President Packer's talk. I was tending to kids and sadly couldn't make out his message, but my husband was saying the same thing last night. He wondered if President Packer had seen Christ and if all of the apostles had. I need to listen to that talk as soon as it becomes available. I had something else to say but I forgot. Anyway, great synopsis!

Rozy Lass said...

We must be soul sisters because the same talks resonated with me. In addition I loved the talks by the sisters because I'm a mother and trying to get two more boys on missions.
I don't know if all of the apostles have seen Christ; Elder McConkie didn't seem to have; but I know that Elder Faust said his testimony was the same as the brother of Jared in the Book of Mormon.

catania said...

There is so much to say, but I'll just say one thing for now. I had the exact same feeling about President Packer.

I find so much comfort in this. I know that I'll see Christ one day, but I'm fairly sure that it will happen after my mortal sojourn. Of course, I'd love to see Him before. However, I don't need this vision as evidence in my life. I'm so grateful that there are some who have seen Him, and that they are alive now - teaching us.

Knowing that there are apostles who bear special witness comforts my doubts, and strengthens my faith.

Corine Moore said...

This is great! :D It makes me want to get out my notes and do a summary! - A personal application/what can I PERSONALLY take home from this - summary! :) I don't think you sound like you have issues; I think you sound like you are striving to take these words deeply into your life and listen to these words as if they are for you personally; which is what we should all be doing. In fact, I just have to go back and do this now! I'm totally inspired! THANKS! :D The only trouble, is that I will want to blog it, and end up with ANOTHER scripture post. Maybe I just need to do what you are doing and have a scripture blog - ? ...sorry to ramble. Cheers! :D

Corine Moore said...

PS. About the 4 minute Olympic race being compared to life... In our life race we forget our training and don't get any time to "train again" before the event. So we go through life being asked of the brethren to do things that we don't remember preparing to do. we think we can't. We get overwhelmed. If only we would simply have faith that the Lord has already prepared us - and go and do - AND FIND OUT THAT WE CAN!

...just thoughts. :)
Corine :D

Anonymous said...

I love your thoughts & your blog!!

Michaela Stephens said...

Thanks Jocelyn! You should be able to relisten to Elder Packer’s talk now, since the videos are online.

Rozy Lass, I didn’t know Elder Faust had said that! Do you happen to remember when?

Catania, yeah, knowing at least one has given that special witness comforts me too.

Corine, by all means, do a personal summary. I think that is probably the most useful thing we can do because shows us where the rubber has to meet the road.