My summary and reaction to the Priesthood Session of General Conference:
A very nice complement to President Monson’s remarks of the morning session. Elder Nelson focused on missionaries and missionary work, reviewing why we have missionaries and what members should do to forward missionary efforts.
- He said that the Church has more than 52,000 missionaries serving in 300+ missions. FWIW, the number of missionaries has fallen for most of the past decade (probably due to the decline in the birthrate among members in the U.S.), and the Church has even had to reduce the number of missions as a result.
- Elder Nelson also said that among his descendants and their spouses (children, grandchildren, etc.) 49 have served missions. Personally, I have only one so far, so I’ve got a way to go on this metric.
- I found his promotion of the new mormon.org as a missionary tool very interesting.
Told story about growing up on the Arabian peninsula and once failing to follow parents instruction to wear shoes. While wearing flip-flops instead, he was stung by a scorpion. The wound was very painful, and the drive to the hospital took two hours, but fortunately the type of scorpion that stung him was only leathal to infants and the aged. He compared this experience to our spiritual actions, when we disregard what we know is right because of laziness or rebellion, and suffer as a result.
- The Arabian peninsula part of the story and clear British accent made me curious to know more about Elder Kearon (more about Elder Kearon here).
- He made a fascinating observation about the Anti-Nephi-Lehi’s in the Book of Mormon, who laid down their weapons, and then also “laid down the weapons of their rebellion.” Elder Kearon implied that these latter were different from the weapons of war, and instead were weapons of rebellion against righteousness, laid down in order to become more Christ like. I hadn’t picked up on this distinction before.
(More about Elder Uceda here). Told a story of family relationships, about a daughter who didn’t want to participate in family scripture study and a father who over-reacted to the daughter. In the end both realize their errors and apologize to restore harmony. Elder Uceda uses this story to teach the importance of being submissive to the Lord.
In the best discourse I’ve heard so far this conference, Elder Uchtdorf remembered President Benson’s 1989 talk “Beware of Pride” and presented another witness to the destructive nature of this sin. While acknowledging that there is a difference between being proud and being prideful, he suggested that pride is a universal sin, “no one can avoid it, few can overcome it.” This talk was full of insightful comments and observations, and clearly struck at problems in today’s culture, such as Elder Uchtdorf’s comments on pride in sports, politics and religion.
- Great self-depricating joke: “When I told my wife that this would be the topic of my talk, she smiled and said, ‘It is good that you talk about things you know so much about.'”
- He observed that following President Benson’s talk in 1989, members almost found it “taboo to say they were proud of family or country or their work.” I have to admit, given today’s political attitudes, I wish Americans had a little less pride in their country, especially when that seems to come at the expense of other countries.
- He said “pride is a sin of comparison,” suggesting that the problem with pride arises when we take our feelings of pride from focusing on accomplishments to comparing whether those accomplishments are better than those of others.
- “When our hearts are filled with pride, we commit a grave sin, for we violate the two great commandments. Instead of worshipping God and loving our neighbor, we reveal the real object of our worship and love–the image we see in the mirror.”
- “Perhaps there is no better laboratory to observe the sin of pride than the world of sports.” Wow. So true. While I’m a very big sports fan, I have to admit that the behavior of fans is often inexcusable. He also observed that this same inexcusable behavior has spilled over into politics and into religion. And, Elder Uchtdorf added, “all of God’s children wear the same jersey. Our team is the brotherhood of man.“
- He told a fascinating story about being taught (while in the car driving several hours to a stake conference) by President Faust. Noting how kind Church members are to General Authorities, Faust then taught him, “They will treat you very kindly. They will say nice things about you… Dieter, be thankful for this. But don’t you ever inhale it.”
- “Pride is a switch that turns off priesthood power. Humility is a switch that turns it on.”
- “We don’t discover humility by thinking less of ourselves; we discover humility by thinking less about ourselves.”
- “There are so many people we can be thinking about other than ourselves.”
- I can’t say enough about this talk. Truly wonderful, timely and very influential. One I’ll want to read over and over again.
Discussed the need to qualify for the spirit in order to make our service as God would have it be. Told how the priesthood had influenced the lives of two of his ancestors, who each recognized the spirit in the missionaries they met. Stories like his are repeated around the world, with the common theme of the power of the priesthood made manifest. His point: “Let us do whatever is required to qualify for the Holy Ghost as our companion and then let us go forward fearlessly that we will be given the powers to do whatever the Lord calls us to do.” Told two additional stories. One about a deacon assigned to visit an inactive fellow deacon and invite him to come back to Church. 20 years later, though still inactive, the young man invited to return still remembered the visit (and his grandfather asked Elder Eyring to find the deacon who did the inviting to thank him for his influence). The last story was about a visit that President Kimball made to Elder Eyring’s father, who was in the hospital and seemed to be dying. Elder Eyring, thinking to learn what it meant to comfort the ill from this visit, was disappointed when President Kimball said and did little during the visit. When his father later said the visit was the most comforting he recieved, Elder Eyring realized that it was the power of the priesthood that President Kimball brought that made the difference.
- While I enjoyed Elder Eyring’s story about his ancestors, I wish he had named names — I prefer stories that are a bit more concrete.
- The story of President Kimball’s visit to his father was great. Very illuminating and instructive (especially given the people mentioned). And it was concrete!
Gives what he calls the 3 R’s of Choice: The right of choice, the responsibility of choice and the results of choice. Covers some of the same ground that Elder Hales covered in his discourse in the Saturday Afternoon session, but in President Monson’s inimitable style. After covering each of these three areas, he told the story of Elder Clayton Christensen’s choice to go to church instead of playing in a championship basketball game for Oxford in the U.K.’s equivalent of the final of the NCAA championship.
- President Monson seemed to make his delivery a bit more dramatic than usual, adding voice inflections that sounded a bit like a parent reading an adventure story to a child. I’ll have to get used to this style.
- President Monson continues as one of the most likely general authorities to use outside, non-Mormon references in his talks. This time he cited “Alice in Wonderland,” looking at Alice’s attempt to figure out where to go when she asked the Cheshire Cat for advice.
- He also quoted Brigham Young, “Salvation is an individual operation.”
- In talking about Elder Christensen’s story, and how the decision to play on Sunday could have been seen as an exceptional circumstance, he said that in retrospect Elder Christensen see that “his entire life has been an unending stream of extenuating circumstances” and “its easier to keep commandments 100% of the time than it is to keep them 98% of the time.” Elder Christensen’s talk on this story can be found here.
On the whole a very enjoyable session. Especially, dare I say it again, Elder Uchtdorf’s talk.
I look forward to tomorrow’s sessions.