Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Reflections on Oct 2014 General Conference

This is the post when I share a little something from each talk in conference that affected me.  I will also give some brief thoughts about those things.

Saturday morning session

I loved that Elder Packer talked about the Plan of Salvation so close to the beginning of the Saturday morning session.  Instant perspective fixer right there.  Suddenly I could see the eternal perspective and my little mortal worries didn’t seem so serious any more.  I think it also helped me open my heart further for the rest of the conference messages.

Lynn R. Robbins had an awesome talk about which way you are facing and whether you are trying to please men or God.  This talk had so many gems that I had a hard time typing fast enough, but here are my favorites:
--Courage is the form of every virtue at the testing point. 
--The guilty take the truth to be hard.  The hit bird flutters.  Guilt tries to reassures itself.
--The scornful accuse prophets of being bigoted.  Dumbing down God’s standards is apostasy.
--Avoid flattery from without and conceit from within.

Cheryl Esplin had an excellent talk about the sacrament.   I was happy to discover that I could personally echo a testimony of everything she talked about. 
Remember Christ always.  (I’ve been trying to put this into practice myself and I find that stopping to remember Christ brings the Spirit back into my life when I’m down.)

I loved how Elder Wong talked about the story of Christ healing the man with the palsy and the effort his friends took to get the man there and used it as a metaphor to teach about how wards and leaders can rescue individuals and bring them to Christ.  I had never thought about it in that way before, as a pattern for rescue.

Elder Christofferson talked about some big concepts—agency and justice and law and mercy. 
A God who makes no demands is the functional equivalent of a God that doesn’t exist.
He also touched on personal responsibility.  It is too easy to get into a mode of just going with the flow.   I also liked that he said we have to defend accountability against people or programs that would make us dependent, even against ourselves.  (Yes, it’s true; the natural man would like to give up accountability.)

Elder Uchtdorf had a very nice thought experiment about what it would be like to tell people in the distant past about technology of the future and see their varied reactions based upon their limited knowledge.  He related this to our search for truth and how we can gain more spiritual knowledge.
As a humorous aside, I noticed that he mentioned airplanes, yet we didn’t really bat an eye.  The way he talked about telescopes and how they were the instrument to gain more knowledge of the cosmos and how experimenting on the word can help us gain more truth made me think to myself, “And some people think prayer and scripture study is too hard or bothersome.  Where would we be if Galileo had decided it was too hard to build a telescope?”

Saturday afternoon session

Dallin H. Oaks talked about Christ’s new commandment “love one another as I have loved you” and how it is on a higher level than “love your neighbor as yourself.”  He also talked about different challenges we have in living this out in communities where others don’t share our beliefs.    I like that he emphasized speaking the truth in love and speaking with meekness and humility.   I have found that the way we speak can make a big difference in others’ willingness to listen.  Being accusing rarely works.  But when I’ve spoken gently, assuming that others may have not known there was a problem and explained things carefully, I’ve had more success. 

Neil L. Andersen talked about the problem of evil being spoken of Joseph Smith.  I like that he pointed to witnesses written down of people who personally knew Joseph Smith.  I also like that he called attention to how the media can take things that are innocent and by putting a spin on them, can make them appear bad.  I think this is especially important to remember in the news because while people may not directly say something damaging, they may insinuate in damaging ways.   Writers are always looking for an angle to approach things, and political correctness dictates a limited number of angles from which stories can be told in the news outlets, unless the outlet has a very different agenda.

Tad R. Callister had some very good things to say about how parents can teach children to pray.  He told about how his mother instructed him to pray that the Lord would help him find a good wife. 
Often children learn what to value from what their parents talk about praying for.  I think explanations for why we pray for what we do can help children appreciate prayers.  When I pray before going to bed, I never fail to ask that I can wake up happy in the morning because I find it has helped me start my days out with an optimistic viewpoint.  I remember my little brother Nelson, who was somewhat afflicted with nightmares, would pray to have good dreams.  I also think it helps us to hear others pray because we can learn new things to pray about.  Sometimes others' prayers have jolted me because I didn't know it was possible to pray for what they asked for. 

Jorg Klebingat had talked about how to increase our confidence before God.  This felt like something I needed, so I look forward to studying this talk further.    One of the things he said that struck me was about doing the right things for the right reasons.   Yes, God knows why I am doing what I am doing.  It occurred to me that when my worship is casual, I am cheating myself out of a more powerful and meaningful spiritual experience.   I can sit in sacrament meeting and daydream about something different, but then I don’t get the full benefit of being at church.  Likewise, if I sit through temple ordinances and daydream about something completely different, I'm not getting the full benefit of being in the temple.  However, I've found that participating in temple ordinances with an eye toward how they apply to my problems helps me learn new things and feel the Spirit powerfully.

Eduardo Gavarret talked about a missionary activity he participated in a zone conference when he had to try to follow a voice while blindfolded and he discovered later that he had followed the wrong voice.   This really illustrated to me how hard Satan may try to deceive the Saints, making his voice sound as close to the Spirit so he can lead us astray.   We’ve recently seen some people following the wrong voice while insisting strenuously it was the right one. 

Jeffrey R. Holland.  I thought the best part of his talk was drawing meaning out of “She hath done what she could” in the context of relieving the poor.   This reminds me that I can make a difference, even if my reach is limited.   It also makes me grateful that I’m part of the Relief Society because that increases my opportunities for doing good.  I’ve chances to help in ways I never would have had otherwise.

L. Tom Perry talked about the parable of the wheat and the tares in the context of parenthood, and although I am not a parent, I really appreciated what he said about how we must nourish wheat so carefully the tares will have no appeal.   I am trying so hard to do that in my own life, and sometimes I get really tired, but I can’t give up.  I have to rely on Christ for strength.

Sunday morning session

Henry B. Eyring talked about revelation and confirming revelation.  I really liked the guide that he gave for receiving revelation, straight from D&C 121--Let thy bowels be filled with charity and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly.   I think I need to work a little harder to let virtue garnish my thoughts.   And humility too.

Russell M. Nelson talked about sustaining the prophet and apostles.  I love what he shared about how decisions among the apostles and first presidency have to be unanimous.  For so many varied backgrounds to come to complete agreement on things, all the concerns have to come out, all the ideas have to be shared, but not only that, ego can’t have any place in the discussion.  These men have to keep their focus firmly on what is best for the church and doing what the Lord would do.   I appreciate the glimpses we get about how the twelve and the first presidency do things.   You can get more of it from biographies of the presidents of the church.  I’ve loved reading biographies of Presidents Kimball, Benson, and Monson.

I liked how Carol F. McConkie shared how following the words of the prophet gave her the faith to find a husband, establish a family, to bear and raise a family.   She’s lived her life by prophecy.  Just think, we’re trying to do the same!

Robert D. Hales talked about scriptures that witnessed of Christ.  I love that he mentioned that he wanted to learn more about baptism before he got baptized.  (That’s spiritual maturity at a young age for you.)   As he was going through the different scriptures about Christ’s relationship with Heavenly Father, I couldn’t help but notice how often Jesus prayed.  I really have to work harder to improve my prayers.

James J. Hamela talked about the sacrament symbolism.  I really liked how he pointed to the sacrament as not only symbols of Christ’s sufferings, but also as instructive tokens.  He said the bread is a promise of our resurrection and the water as representative of Christ’s blood reminds us of our responsibility to repent.   This also reminds me of the warning that if we don’t repent, we will suffer for our own sins as Christ suffered.

President Monson talked about the paths Jesus walked—paths of disappointment, temptation, and pain, but also those of prayer and obedience.  Monson said that physically walking where Jesus walked is less important than walking as he walked spiritually.   I don’t think this is meant to say that there is nothing to be gained from going to Israel to see the holy land; I’ve heard people talk about how their testimony has grown from seeing those things and it has helped them grasp the reality of Christ and His ministry.   But in terms of priority, following Christ’s example is to be preferred.   I also liked President Monson’s story of the German refugees living in Canada who were poor in goods, but rich in faith, such that the faithful beat a path to their door.   I want to be the kind of person who beats a path to the door of the exemplary faithful.  I also want to be the kind of person who is sought out like that couple.

Sunday afternoon session

M. Russell Ballard related life to a trip through rapids on the Colorado river.  I appreciated his guidelines of 1) stay in the boat, 2) always wear a life jacket, and 3) always hold on with both hands.  Concerning his likening daily scripture study to always wearing a life jacket, I know that my daily scripture study has kept me in the good ship Zion.  It has showed me my errors so I could repent more quickly so that I didn’t get into deeper trouble.    I also liked that he pointed out that prayer and fasting, though not easily measured, is of great importance.   This makes me think that even if they can’t be measured, their effects can be recorded.   When I read through my journal and come across times that I recorded my prayers and the way the Lord answered me, the reminder strengthens my faith. 

Richard G. Scott talked about four life habits that can help us 1) Prayer 2) Daily scripture study 3) Family Home Evening and 4) going to the temple.  He gave a great promise: The more we develop these habits, the less ability Satan will have to harm us.   I’m sure you, like me, are familiar with these habits, but it seems to me I could do with some improvement in two of them.   I think it is not enough to sometimes do them in order to get the protection; we need to be more consistent.  And we can’t just do some of them, we need to do all of them.

Carlos A. Godoy shared his experience of  deciding to further his education, even though it required difficult decisions and sacrifices.  He asked some penetrating questions:
--If you continue to live as you have been, will the blessings of your patriarchal blessing be fulfilled? 
--What does the Lord expect from us?  
--Are we willing to pay the price for our decisions? 
--Can we leave our comfort zones to come to a better place?
This teaches me that to fulfill my patriarchal blessings I have to meet the Lord halfway on it.   And I don’t know about you, but I want to know ahead of time what I’m getting into so that the price and opposition doesn’t scare me away.   But maybe I just need more faith and determination.  Maybe I need more faith that there is a better place than my comfort zone.

Allan F. Packer talked a lot about family history work and how the church has tried to remove the obstacles that stand in the way of doing family history research.  He said it is different now.   I’ve found this to be true, and I blogged about it earlier this year how it is so much easier to find records now.  This doesn’t mean that there won’t be research problems to overcome, but the church is making it easier to get to the records quickly and easily.    Elder Packer said one obstacle remains—the individual’s hesitation to be involved.   I’ve noticed this hesitation arises out of having tried and failed multiple times in the past to make progress.  It can also arise out of misunderstanding the research process.  I think a good way to get involved is to think of it as exploratory play, and wander around your family tree to find people who need more records and practice trying to find them.  This isn't wasted time; this can help build skills needed for the work of extending branches further. 

Hugo E. Martinez talked about service and how his family was blessed after an earthquake by people who brought more badly needed water.  He said knowing people are interested and are watching out for us is precious.   I think this is all the more precious as our society becomes more and more isolating with technology.    He said that our service is not limited to those who live now.  We can also serve the dead.   It is so cool to me that we can serve not just the living, but also the dead, whom the rest of the world think of as beyond help.

Larry S. Kacher talked about the powerful forces in our lives, of deadly currents and divine currents and how our choices may contribute to creating either of those currents for other people.   I never want to be someone creating a deadly current.  I only want to be part of a divine current.

David A. Bednar talked to nonmembers about why members try so hard and are so eager to share the gospel.  He is totally right about it being so important to us and our anxiousness to share with others the beneficial experiences that helped us.   The thing is, unlike a sales person who can demonstrate a special slicer, the full spiritual benefits of being part of the restored church of Christ –the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—are not fully visible to those who examine it from the outside.  There are special feelings that come with the holy ghost, but you don’t know what it is like to have that all the time until you get baptized into the church and confirmed.  There is so much more than what can be told.
I also loved Elder Bednar’s story of how his older son cared for his younger brother.  (I have a memory as a child of doing something similar for one of my younger brothers.)  I loved how it showed not just the lessons of love they had been trying to teach in their family, but also the children’s whole-hearted efforts to do as they had been taught.  I suppose that Heavenly Father must sometimes see our efforts to share as clumsy, but He sends the Spirit to witness of truths anyway.

So how about you?  Will you share with me a few things from conference that moved you? 

Final Note:  The day after conference I could feel that Satan was trying to ruin things for me because I was attacked by rebellious attitudes.   One thing that really helped me was singing hymns to myself as I worked on preparing a new hymnbook for my use as organist.  (I have a lot of extra things written in that I had to transfer to my new hymnbook.)   Go away, Satan!!