President Eyring conducted the Saturday evening Priesthood session, which offered talks by Elder Andersen, Steven E. Snow, Larry M. Gibson, President Uchtdorf, President Eyring, and President Monson. My notes below are basically summaries of the talks, but include rather loose paraphrases and a bit of commentary, so I have titled the post “Reflections on the Priesthood Session.” It was definitely one of the best priesthood sessions of recent years, and is notable for the rare absence of a major league anti-porn lecture. I would speculate that this reflects a desire to not push any more men away from church activity (I’m sure GAs know the gender gap statistics better than you do) rather than any belief that the problem has gone away.
Elder Neal L. Andersen of the Twelve focused his talk on the 12 to 25 demographic, who are tasked with preparing the world for the Second Coming by taking the gospel to the world. Missionary service requires sacrifice, like Sid Going, rugby superstar from New Zealand, who as a 19-year-old passed up a spot on the All Blacks (the celebrated national rugby team) to go on an LDS mission to Western Canada in 1961. Happy ending: After his mission he went on to play for the team for 11 years.
Elder Steven E. Snow of the Presidency of the Seventy spoke about hope. Hopes and dreams can anchor the dedication and perseverance required to accomplish great things, like Roger Bannister’s legendary pursuit of the four-minute mile. But many worthy goals are not achieved — hope alone is not enough, but do not despair. Gospel hope (of the faith, hope, and charity variety) is centered in the Atonement and directed towards salvation and returning to live with God in the next life. Nephi speaks of having a perfect brightness of hope.
Larry M. Gibson, First Counselor in the Young Men General Presidency, started out with a story about wascally wabbits. Keys. Duties. Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall dream dreams.
President Uchtdorf started out with the story of a man who sailed the Mediterranean on a cruise ship but, being on a tight budget, missed all the meals and activities, only learning at the end of the cruise that they were included as part of the package. Moral of the story: don’t live below your privileges. Application: don’t miss out; live up to your priesthood potential. Set your “do it switch” to now rather than later. Toward the end of the talk he waxed poetic about the joy of flying — it made me want to go home and re-read Wind, Sand and Stars. In a way I did not quite follow, he likened the joy of flying to the joy of priesthood service. Ours is a joyful religion.
President Eyring addressed the duties of the priesthood and our powers to perform them. A quorum president should counsel with his counselors and quorum by listening, listening, listening, then deciding. Shared convictions bring quorum unity. Blessed are the quorum peacemakers, who find common ground and helpful contributions where others find discord and disagreement. He told a nice story about a poor Welsh convert who came to America and got his education in his priesthood quorums (this was obviously before correlated manuals) then returned to England as a capable missionary and, in a memorable visit, preached the gospel to a former prime minister of England.
President Monson spoke at length, addressing several issues that have troubled him of late regarding personal worthiness. Quoting D&C 121: the power of the priesthood is dependent on the principles of righteousness. Movies and TV shows filled with innuendo and filth, lyrics in today’s music, profanity, porn, alcohol — all bad stuff. Read the Book of Mormon and get your own testimony; the testimony of others will take you only so far. Attend seminary and institute. You can repent of any problem; see your bishop. Be in the world but not of the world by rejecting false concepts of the world.
You young single guys who aren’t married yet — time to stop having fun hanging with the guys and get serious about finding your eternal companion. In a jarring transition, he then decried the rising incidence of temple divorce (technically, a cancellation of sealing), the granting of which (I am almost certain) requires the approval of the First Presidency. He related a story of how, as a bishop, he got a phone call at 2 a.m. to go mediate the latest in a series of very heated arguments between a man and his wife. (God bless the patient bishops of the Church.) He took them to the temple the next week to witness a temple sealing, which softened their feelings and healed their relationship. Many marriages can and should be saved. Priesthood holders: discipline yourself. Be honest and upright men. The gift of the priesthood is priceless.