Notes on the Saturday Morning Session

The following is my own summary and reactions to the Saturday Morning Session of General Conference.

President Monson:

Spoke rather briefly. He welcomed everyone to conference and mentioned that 4 Temples were dedicated since the last conference. He then announced plans to construct 5 additional Temples. He also urged members to serve missions, saying that it is an obligation and duty for young men, welcome from young women, and needed from senior couples.

  • When Pres. Monson mentioned that each Temple dedication is preceded by a “cultural celebration” (and I witnessed such a celebration when the Temple here on Manhattan when the Temple here was dedicated), I wondered how long this custom has been done, and what is the purpose behind it. I don’t remember such a celebration before the dedication of the Washington D.C. Temple (the other Temple I lived close to at dedication). Is it meant to be a celebration of Mormon culture? or local culture? or both?
  • Yea! I cheered out loud at the announcement! My second country, the second that I love, gets a Temple! Lisbon, Portugal was one of 5 new Temples announced. Others were in Indianapolis, Indiana; Urdaneta, Phillipines; Hartford, Connecticut and Tijuana, Mexico.
  • The emphasis on missionary work is welcome, I think. With the number of missionaries trending down over the past decade or so (mainly due to relative birth rates, I believe), more missionaries are really needed. Pres. Monson seemed to emphasize senior missionary service, saying “We need many, many, many more senior couples.”

Elder Holland:

Sought to express gratitude and support to members of the Church for their service. He went through a long list of Church members who served, expressing gratitude for the different kinds of service they gave. He told the story of how he saved for his own mission, but then his parents, without telling him, worked and saved to pay for the mission so that his savings could be used for college.

  • A unique approach, as far as I remember. By expressing gratitude for a variety of behaviors, Elder Holland suggests what we should be doing, and establishes a standard of LDS behavior.
  • When Green Jello and Funeral Potatoes are mentioned in General Conference like this, do those in other cultures become curious about what they taste like? Certainly this promotes sometimes odd Utah cultural elements a little.
  • Elder Holland’s evocative language even reminds me of some of the ‘Mormon Image’ photographs here on T&S. The best of those images evoke the same kind of feeling that Elder Holland expressed.
  • Elder Holland’s story of his parent’s sacrifice for his own mission was really wonderful. The fact that his parents said nothing about their efforts to pay for his mission and leave the money he saved for his own later use reminds me of the savior’s teaching that when we give we shouldn’t let the left hand know what the right is doing. A stark contrast to today’s world, in which many ‘gifts’ are really purchases of naming rights or a disguised effort to gain notoriety or some other benefit.

Sister Wixom:

The General President of the Primary, Sister Wixom talked about loving, teaching and raising children in the gospel. She told the well-known story of Joseph Smith’s childhood surgery and how he declined using alcohol as an anesthetic. She also told a story of a family who read the scriptures consistently for 3 1/2 years in order to finish the Book of Mormon, noting that it isn’t about speed, but consistency. Another story she related told how a young mother and her children used the power of faith and prayer to get through icy roads while attempting to get home.

  • Probably the most memorable statement in her talk (in my view) is: “What we want them to know five years from now needs to be part of our conversation with them today. Teach them in every circumstance; let every dilemma, every consequence, every trial that they may face provide an opportunity to teach them how to hold on to gospel truths.”

Elder Costa:

Reviewed Ezra Taft Benson’s 1981 BYU address on 14 Fundamentals in Following the Prophet.

  • For me, the most notable new piece of information was the prophecy, made during Brazil’s period of hyperinflation, that Brazil would someday stabilize and become important economically. As a long-time Brazil observer, I have to agree that this clearly has happened. Betting against the stability of Brazil’s currency didn’t work at all for me!!

Brother McConkie:

A fine address on “how to learn.” But also covered what makes a good teacher. McConkie said that teacher attitude is what matters most, because “a teacher’s attitude is not taught, it’s caught.” He told how, as a Stake President, he learned the importance of studying the guidance already provided — for Stake President’s the Church Handbook of Instructions, and for all members, the Scriptures. He also told an oft-repeated story from the life of long-time LDS manual writer Barrett, who had a Danish sunday school teacher who reached him as a youth despite language, age and cultural barriers.

  • His point that we should first look to the Scriptures when we have questions is a very good one. Too often we ask leaders what we can find out by a little research. [Of course, some people have a learning style based on interaction with others instead of research.]

Elder Christopherson:

Spoke about the “Consecrated Life,” the dedication of one’s life to God, others and to the Gospel. He started by mentioning the 1964 New York World’s Fair, and the LDS film that premiered there, “Man’s Search for Happiness.” Richard L. Evans, in the soundtrack of the film, taught that God has given man two great gifts, Time and Choice. Those gifts, Christopherson said, are the basis for stewardship and consecration. He discussed five elements of a consecrated life: purity, work, respect for one’s physical body, service, and integrity.

Elder Uchtdorf:

Suggested that we need to slow down at times in life and focus on the things that matter most. He drew an analogy to flying airplanes, where, he said, pilots are better off slowing down and concentrating on fundamentals when they face turbulence. He suggested that there are four fundamentals or things that matter most in life: our relationships to our God, our families, our fellow men and to ourselves.

  • Gave perhaps the best joke of the session when, after telling about tree rings and how tree growth slows down in times of stress, he said: “But some of you may be saying, ‘that’s all very nice, but what does that have to do with flying an airplane.’ “
  • I love his proverb given in this talk: “In family relationships, love is really spelled t-i-m-e.” Something I need to work on.
  • I couldn’t help but think during his talk how much time relationships require and how much more effort I need to put into maintaining and improving these four relationships.

Unless someone else here at T&S is planning on summarizing the afternoon session, I’ll be back to comment on it.

12 comments for “Notes on the Saturday Morning Session

  1. October 2, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    Excellent notes. Thank you for putting these up. I was particularly interested in the notes on President Monson’s talk since the pulpit audio was dead during that time.

    Forgive me – couldn’t help but notice these spelling issues:

    Philippines (not “Phillipines”).

    Elder D. Todd Christofferson (not “Christopherson”).

    For what it is worth, I had to look these up as I wasn’t sure how to spell them myself.

  2. October 2, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    Argh. The two “l”s and two “p”s in Philipines will haunt me to the end of my days. Its like the “u” I tend to put in “Colombia” (the nation, not D.C.) — although I think I’ve got myself trained on that one.

  3. gina colvin
    October 3, 2010 at 4:06 am

    As a New Zealander I can honestly say that I don’t know what funeral potatoes taste like and I’m not sure what green jello is or what Utah mormons do with it. I hear it spoken of fondly and with great enthusiasm by the metropole mormons and I do wonder if I am somehow not truly LDS for it..how sad to be at the periphery! Once again GC has me sighing about my lack of authentic belonging!!! Thanks for your cool notes – we don’t get live broadcasts of the PH session out here in the mission field.

  4. Thomas the Tank Engine
    October 3, 2010 at 10:56 am

    Nit picky, I know, but generally we would refer to all members of the First Presidency with the title, President.

  5. Thomas the Tank Engine
    October 3, 2010 at 10:58 am

    @gina colvin

    To truly experience Mormon green Jell-o you have put shredded carrots in it.

  6. October 4, 2010 at 11:53 am

    Gina, I attended a regional conference with President Packer years ago in which he suggested there are some parts of our culture that aren’t worth sharing — surely green jello with shredded carrots is one of those!

  7. gina colvin
    October 4, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    Who eats it? Is it just a table display or are there genuinely enthusiastic consumers of this comestible? Would its absence from the pot luck meal be noted with a sense of foreboding that something within mainstream mormonism has changed? Could funeral potatoes be renamed to give it more general appeal or does the name signal its exclusivity as typically mormon fare which no other community would eat because it is associated with coffins and corpses?

  8. October 4, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    Well, I grew up far from the Salt Lake Valley, but here’s what I know: Jello-brand geletin was all the rage in my growing up years during the 1960’s and 70’s, though in our home, the most exciting our jello got was to have sliced bananas in it. But Mormon homes, always looking for a cheap addition to the meal to feed the teeming hoardes of kids seemed to glom onto Jello as a staple food. (My wife’s family was far more Jello-entrenched than mine during our formative years.)

    As for funeral potatoes — so named because they are a staple of the funeral meals provided by Relief Societies. In fairness, at the funeral of both my parents (eight years apart), I don’t think we had funeeral potatoes either time.

  9. October 4, 2010 at 1:42 pm

    Another bit of irony — in our family now, the only jello recipe that makes it to the table is for holildays. It is my grandmother’s recipe (she was not a member of the church) and combines lemon jello, cinnamon red hots and applesauce into what becomes a red tangy salad that looks a little like cranberry sauce (but thankfully does not taste like cranberries). So I am, I suppose, a Jello apostate, having followed the tradition of my fathers (er, grandmother) instead of the true and faithful jello salads of the pioneers… ;-)

  10. Cameron
    October 4, 2010 at 3:37 pm

    Something that I didn’t notice before until this conference was that Elder Kent F. Richards of the 70 who was sustained in April’09 conference hasn’t spoken yet. So I am wondering if he somehow got lost in everything!

  11. October 4, 2010 at 3:48 pm

    Those interested in these foods should probably search for the recipes (I’m certain you can find them online) and try them. There isn’t anything scary about them, they are relatively easy to make and funeral potatoes, at least, is a fairly good comfort food.

    These and other traditional Utah Mormon foods (they are really, IMO, more a Utah thing than a Mormon thing per se) have been discussed multiple times on the bloggernacle, including Rosalynde’s Mastering the art of Mormon cooking last March. That post has links to recipes.

    Mostly, I think these foods are simply stereotypes that almost everyone loves to poke fun at just because they are common.

  12. gina colvin
    October 6, 2010 at 3:40 am

    Well thanks so much Kent and Paul! My religion just gets curiouser and curiouser – who’d have thought??? I might track down these dishes (perhaps crash a funeral or a ward pot luck) next time I’m in Utah!

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