Category: General Conference

Conditional Love Is Back

The recently announced LDS doctrine of conditional divine love comes from President Nelson’s 2003 Ensign article “Divine Love,” in which he stated: “While divine love can be called perfect, infinite, enduring, and universal, it cannot correctly be characterized as unconditional.” No additional commentary was added until the October 2016 General Conference, when two apostles, citing President Nelson’s article, restated the doctrine. It is rather more nuanced than it first appears and I expect some local leaders and members will misconstrue and misapply this new doctrine in unfortunate ways. So pay attention. This is important.

Conference Theme: No Trouble Here, Move Along

After a turbulent six months, many were expecting some bold declarations at this weekend’s General Conference. That did not come to pass. Just a few weeks ago, Elder Ballard directed CES teachers to stop teaching folklore, stop evading tough questions from students, and start reading publications by faithful LDS scholars. In his Saturday afternoon Conference talk, Elder Ballard talked about … family councils. Late last year, President Nelson announced that what has become known as “the Exclusion Policy” was not a policy, it was a revelation and is here to stay. In his Priesthood session talk, President Nelson talked about … the role of men in the Church. Elder Steven E. Snow, the Church Historian, talked not about one of the Gospel Topics essays that addresses a key issue in LDS history but about the LDS hymnal and humility. The theme for this Conference seems to be: Don’t rock the boat. Nothing controversial here. Perhaps it is a good time…

Go the Distance

Migrants reach out for bread distributed by volunteers, at a border crossing between Croatia and Slovenia, in Trnovec, Monday, Oct. 19, 2015. Hundreds of migrants have spent the night in rain and cold at Croatia's border after being refused entry into Slovenia.   (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)

I was struck in yesterday’s morning conference session by the quotation Elder Renlund gave, “The greater the distance between the giver and the receiver, the more the receiver develops a sense of entitlement.” What gave me pause at this, since I agree with the statement, is a simple question: What do we do about the distance? This seems like a crucial question. Elder Renlund points out that this is the reason why the Church’s welfare system is designed for those in needs to seek help from family first, and then from their local leaders–i.e., from their ward and branch. But it doesn’t seem to me like this solves enough of the distance between givers and recievers; I see lots of distance within wards and branches, and sometimes even within families. Too often givers and receivers simply have completely different viewpoints and even different cultures. I have wrestled with understanding the issues and principles surrounding welfare and giving support to those…

Entitled

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I very much enjoyed Elder Renlund’s comments on entitlement. First, because he made clear one of the reasons why we should be very conscientious about how we give help. It affects the receiver’s spiritual progression. Second, the King Benjamin-esque tie-in to all of us who, like any Church welfare recipient, are beggars before God. Lastly, because while he laid into bad attitudes, whining, and murmuring, his central story was about someone missing the sacrament. A story whose happy ending relied upon a saint telling the Branch President, one hopes charitably, that a priesthood holder, a deacon in this case, made a mistake in performing his calling. And a Branch President who took care to see that mistake corrected. Because people do make mistakes. I think there was an implicit lesson, secondary to the main one about the Sacrament and the Savior, that we can and should give leaders information to help them correct mistakes. We just need to do it…

The General Conference Mirth Index – Take 2

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I always enjoy the opportunity to laugh a little bit in general conference. In January, I introduced the General Conference Mirth Index (for the October 2014 conference), which sums up the number of laughs for each talk. As we enter into the next General Conference this weekend, let’s see how much laughing we did last April. A quick recap. To calculate this, I listen to each conference talk and record the number of instances of laughter that I hear. (Note that I’m not counting jokes or judging what is a joke; I’m only counting what induces laughter.) I listen to each talk in the language in which it was delivered, since the English voiceover often covers the laughter. I then adjust by the length of the talk. This has limitations – it weighs equally Elder Gibson’s chuckle from not eating dinner with Elder Pearson’s medium-sized laugh from #spaciousbuilding. Big picture. More than half the talks had at least one laugh…

GenConf: Sunday Afternoon Session

Choir: He Is Risen President Uchtdorf conducted this opening session. Choir: My Redeemer Lives Invocation: S. Gilford Nielsen Choir: He Sent His Son Elder Robert D. Hales: Preserving Agency, Protecting Religious Freedom The blessings we enjoy now are because we made the choice to follow the Savior before this life. To everyone hearing or reading these words, whoever you are and whatever your past may be, remember this: it is not too late to make that same choice again and follow Him. As we walk the path of spiritual liberty in these last days, we must understand that the faithful use of our agency depends upon our having religious freedom. No one should be criticized, persecuted, or attacked by individuals or governments for what he or she believes about God. Some are offended when we bring our religion into the public square yet the same people who insist that their viewpoints and actions be tolerated in society are often very slow…

Sunday Morning Session of General Conference

President Eyring is conducting this session of Conference, with music by the Tabernacle Choir. Invocation by Sister Linda S. Reeves, Relief Society Second Counselor. Benediction by Elder Kevin S. Hamilton of the Seventy. For this on-the-fly summary, text in quotation marks is a direct quote of a speaker, subject to correction when transcripts are available; other text is my summary of remarks by a speaker; and text in brackets [like this] is my own helpful commentary.

GenConf: Priesthood Session Notes

President Uchtdorf conducted this opening session. Choir: For the Strength of the Hills Invocation: David L. Beck Choir: On This Day of Joy and Gladness President M. Russell Ballard: The Greatest Generation of Young Adults I know I speak for my brethren when I tell you that we wish it was possible for us to know all of you personally, and to be able to tell you that we love you and we support you. … what we need now is the greatest generation of young adults in the history of the Church. We need your whole heart and soul. We need vibrant, thinking, passionate young adults who know how to listen and respond to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit as you make your way through the daily trials and temptations of being a young contemporary Latter-day Saint. … it’s time to raise the bar not only for missionaries, but also for returned missionaries and for your entire generation. I…

They Spoke in General Conference as Ones That Had Authority

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“And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes.” –Mark 1:22 (see also Matthew 7:29) This scripture is often read to mean that Jesus expounded doctrine directly, rather than citing repeatedly what others had taught before (see some detailed discussion here). As Ellicott puts it, “It is the prophet, or rather, perhaps, the king, who speaks, and not the scribe.” This scripture led me to wonder how leaders in the modern Church refer to different types of authority in their teaching. So I went through a single General Conference – the most recent, from October 2014 – and tallied up quotes of authority of different kinds. I separated the quotes into four categories: Scriptures: This includes only the four canonical books of LDS scripture. High LDS Authority: This includes General Conference talks (by General Authorities or auxiliaries), other recorded talks or Ensign articles by General Authorities or auxiliaries,…

Laughing through General Conference

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No one comes to General Conference for the jokes. And yet, some of the conference moments I remember most clearly involve laughter. In 1997, after Elder Nelson gave a laudatory talk about President Hinckley, President Hinckley took the stand and said, “I thought we were conducting General Conference. It’s turned out to be a funeral.” He went on to challenge Elder Nelson to a duel in the basement of the Tabernacle. Later in the session, he postponed the duel. It was a fabulous moment in conference history. What does humor in General Conference do? First, the spiritual tide of General Conference can feel overwhelming at times and humor can break it up, making it easier to be attentive to the rest of the counsel we’re receiving. Second, it can teach a subtle lesson, as with the humility implicit in President Hinckley’s embarrassment at being praised. Third, it can make a story that teaches a lesson more memorable, as when President…

Sunday Afternoon Session of General Conference

Welcome to the fourth or fifth or sixth session of General Conference, depending on how you count. Text in quotation marks are verbatim quotes but not 100% guaranteed; other text is my summary of their remarks. [My comments inside brackets.] Music by the Choir. President Eyring conducting (he thinks it’s the fifth session), President Monson presiding. Song, prayer.

Sunday Morning Session of General Conference

We spent yesterday listening to General Conference while assembling IKEA furniture in the hopes that the spirit of the meeting would help reduce the desire to curse associated with strange pictorial instructions and screw heads that really want to strip. It went as well as could be expected. This morning I read about theology, love and literature (Alan Jacobs), cleaned some, made tea for my sick husband, harvested from the garden to make omelets (squash and onions, parsley and sage, tomatoes, with mushrooms and provolone not from the garden) for a late breakfast. And now I’m ready for conference to start.   President Uchtdorf conducting.   Pres Henry B. Eyring, 1st Counselor, 1st Presidency   Many are seeking revelation. We need a constantly renewed stream…a continuing blessing of communication with God. Quote from Packer: Revelation continues in the church Process of revelation begins, ends (?), and continues as we receive personal revelation. Example: Lehi’s dream and Nephi’s confirming revelation. A…

GenCon: Priesthood Session

Welcome to T&S’ coverage of the Priesthood Session of General Conference. We welcome your comments. . Chorus: Rise Up O Men of God President Henry B Eyring is conducting this session. Chorus: Medley of Primary Songs Elder Quentin L. Cook — Choose Wisely “How do you expect me to catch the ball when I am worried about our country’s foreign policy?” We need unequivocal commitment to the commandments and strict adherence to sacred covenants. My concern is not only about the big tipping point decisions, but also the middle ground – the workaday world and seemingly ordinary decisions where we spend most of our time. In these areas, we need to emphasize moderation, balance, and especially wisdom. It is important to rise above rationalizations and make the best choices. One father wisely responds to his children with their numerous requests to participate in these distractions. He simply asks them, “Will this make you a better person?” In the Church we…

GenCon: Sunday Afternoon Session

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Welcome to T&S’ fifth and final round of coverage of General Conference. We welcome your comments. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf is conducting this session of Conference. Chorus: Sweet is the Work. Prayer: ? Chorus: I Stand All Amazed. President Boyd K. Packer — The Witness “Almost mid-sentence it happened. I could not describe to you what happened if I were determined to do so. It is beyond my power of expression, but it is as clear today as it was that night more than 65 years ago. I knew it to be a very private, very individual manifestation. At last I knew for myself. I knew for a certainty, for it had been given to me.” “Like most things of great worth, knowledge which is of eternal value comes only through personal prayer and pondering. These, joined with fasting and scripture study, will invite impressions and revelations and the whisperings of the Holy Spirit. This provides us with instruction from on…

GenCon: Sunday Morning Session

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Welcome to T&S’ fourth round of coverage of General Conference. We welcome your comments. Chorus: Come We that Love the Lord President Henry B. Eyring is conducting this session of Conference. Chorus: On This Day of Joy and Gladness Prayer: Élder L. Whitney Clayton Chorus: Let Us All Press On President Dieter F. Uchtdof — Grateful in Any Circumstance “There is one thing we can do to make life sweeter, more joyful, even glorious. We can be grateful.” “Could I suggest that we see gratitude as a disposition, a way of life that stands independent of our current situation? In other words, I’m suggesting that instead of being “thankful for things” we focus on being “thankful in our circumstances”—whatever they may be.” “When we are grateful to God in our circumstances, we can experience gentle peace in the midst of tribulation. In grief we can still lift up our hearts in praise. In pain, we can glory in Christ’s Atonement.…

Priesthood Session: A Personal View

I attended priesthood session at my local chapel. About sixty men and boys in attendance. One woman. It was snowing when I left home. I decided to reward my choosing the right with good consequences, so I stopped by my local Wendy’s and bought a small vanilla Frosty. On the way I listened to a few minutes of my current audio CD, Neptune’s Inferno, about the US Navy at Guadalcanal. Right now (in the CD) the US heavy cruiser San Francisco (which survived the fight) is trading fire with the Japanese battleship Hiei (which didn’t) in the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. There were a dozen ships on each side in a wild, confusing night melee. A lot of good young men on both sides died that night, November 12, 1942.

GenCon: Saturday Afternoon Session

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Welcome to round two of T&S sort-of live coverage of General Conference. President Eyring conducted this afternoon session with President Monson (in attendance) presiding. Opening prayer by Ian S. Ardern, a Seventy, and music by an Institute Choir from Orem, Utah. Direct quotations of a speaker are given in quotation marks; other text represents my own summary.

GenCon: Saturday Morning Session

Conference Center

Welcome to T&S sort-of live coverage of General Conference. President Uchtdorf conducted this opening session with President Monson (in attendance) presiding. Opening prayer by Carl B. Cook, a Seventy, and music by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Direct quotations of a speaker are given in quotation marks or blockquote form; other text represents my own summary of their remarks or, where noted, my own comments.

Sunday Afternoon Session

Conductinng: Elder Henry B. Eyring Elder Quentin L. Cook: Lamentations of Jeremiah: Beware Of Bondage Turning from the worship of the true and living God and worshipping false gods like wealth and fame and engaging in immoral and unrighteous conduct result in bondage in all its insidious manifestations. These include spiritual, physical, and intellectual bondage and sometimes bring destruction. Bondage, subjugation, addictions, and servitude come in many forms.  They can be literal physical enslavement, but can also be loss or impairment of moral agency that can impede our progress. Addictions that impair agency, contradict moral beliefs, and destroy good health cause bondage.  The impact of drugs and alcohol, pornography, gambling, financial subjugation and other afflictions impose on those in bondage and on society a burden of such magnitude that it is almost impossible to quantify. Addictions or predilections that while not inherently evil can use up our precious allotment of time which could otherwise be used to accomplish virtuous objectives. …

Sunday Morning Session

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf conducting. President Henry B. Eyring: To My Grandchildren I have seen those same tears of happiness in the eyes of someone who recounted the words of an apostle of God:  He had said to her, after a searching and tender interview: “I forgive you in the name of the Lord. He will forgive you in His own time and in His own way.” And He did.

Priesthood Session

President Henry B. Eyring conducting. Elder L. Tom Perry: The Doctrines and Principles Contained in the Articles of Faith This doctrine is to the Church like a battery is to a cell phone.  When you remove the battery from your cell phone it becomes useless. A church in which true doctrine is no longer taught is similarly useless. It cannot guide us back to our Heavenly Father and our eternal home. 

Saturday Afternoon Session

President Uchtdorf conducting. President Henry B. Eyring: Sustaining votes of the General Authorities and Church Officers

Saturday Morning Session

President Eyring conducted this opening session. President Thomas S. Monson: Welcome to Conference I am happy to announce that two weeks ago the membership of the Church reached fifteen million. It has scarcely been one year since I announced the lowering of the age of missionary service. Since that time, the number of full-time missionaries serving has increased from 58,500 in October 2012 to 80,333 today. What a tremendous and inspiring response we have witnessed! Now is the time for members and missionaries to come together, to work together, to labor in the Lord’s vineyard to bring souls unto Him. He has prepared the means for us to share the gospel in a multitude of ways, and He will assist us in our labors if we will act in faith to fulfill His work.

Sunday Afternoon Session

President Uchtdorf is conducting this final session of Conference, with music by the Tabernacle Choir. Invocation by another female, Sister Stephens — they seem to be everywhere this Conference! Benediction by a male Seventy. Direct quotes of a speaker are in quotation marks, otherwise the text is my summary of their remarks.

Sunday Morning Session

President Henry B. Eyring is conducting this session of General Conference. Choir — Go Forth in Faith Conducting — President Henry B. Eyring Choir — Let Zion in Her Beauty Rise Invocation — Elder Steven E. Snow President Dieter F. Uchtdorf — “The Hope of God’s Light” It is part of our condition as mortal beings to sometimes feel as though we are surrounded by darkness. …But even though we may feel lost in the midst of our current circumstances,  God promises the hope of His light–He promises to illuminate the way before us and show us the way out of darkness. We don’t have to wait to cross the finish lines to receive God’s blessings. In fact, the heavens begin to part and the blessings of heaven begin to distill upon us with the very first steps we take toward the light. …The darkness may not dissipate all at once, but as surely as night always gives way to…

Priesthood Session

President Uchtdorf conducted the priesthood session, which included a number of strong and inspiring talks. Choir — Arise, Oh God, and Shine Invocation — Elder Ronald W. Rasband Choir — Nearer My God to Me Elder Robert D. Hales — “Stand Strong in Holy Places” Brethren, if we are faithful in the priesthood, this armor will be given to us as a gift from God. We need this armor! If you judge your actions and the standards of the Church on the basis of where the world is and where it’s going, you will find that you are not where you should be. As we press forward along the path, we build progressive spiritual strength —strength in using our agency to act for ourselves. In the strength of the Lord we are able to stand against any philosophy or creed that denies the Savior and contradicts the great, eternal plan of happiness for all of God’s children. We are not…

Saturday Afternoon Session

President Eyring conducted the afternoon session. President Uchtdorf read a long list of sustainings and releases, notably releasing President Dalton of the Young Women and calling a new President (Bonnie Lee Green Oscarson) and counselors. The annual audit report and statistical report were read: there are now 3005 stakes and 347 missions. In what follows, direct quotations of a speaker are given in quotation marks; quoted scriptures cited where possible; and other text represents my own summary of the speakers remarks. I will try posting updates after each speaker this session.