President Eyring conducted the last session of this April 2011 General Conference. Speakers included Elder Scott, Elder Christofferson, Carl B. Pratt, Lynn G. Robbins, Benjamin De Hoyos, C. Scott Grow, and Elder Holland. Readers are invited to leave a comment with their overall reaction to Conference and their sense of the general themes stressed by the speakers.
Elder Richard G. Scott of the Twelve spoke on marriage and the family. Single young men were once again encouraged to get around to getting married. “Righteous love is the foundation of a successful marriage.” Mothers are given divine instincts to sense the needs of their children. Elder Scott showed deep emotion as he spoke about his long and happy marriage to his deceased wife.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Twelve counseled listeners to accept correction and “divine chastening” as part of the lifelong process of becoming the sort of people God wants us to become. He used the “be ye therefore perfect” scripture (Matt. 5:48) but the whole talk was largely a lesson in not misconstruing what that phrase means. God will comfort, strengthen, or chasten us if we truly seek to grow in faith and righteousness. Your spouse is also a great source of gentle chastening. All of us can meet God’s high expectations and receive the happiness and peace that naturally follow.
Carl B. Pratt of the Seventy (who was an attorney with Kirton & McConkie prior to his call as a GA) talked about his righteous ancestors who lived in the Mormon colonies in Mexico. Pay your tithing and you will be blessed — not necessarily with money, as wealth is not the Lord’s promise and He has more to offer than mere money. We will not, however, lack for what we need. He recommends providence and self-reliance.
Lynn G. Robbins of the Seventy started with the classic question: To be or not to be? He extended that inquiry to a different scriptural question: What manner of men ought we to be? He referred to “to do lists” (Elder Robbins was an executive with Franklin Quest before serving as a GA) and suggested we also think in terms of “to be lists.” Be patient; be diligent; be forgiving; be loving; be a peacemaker. Most parents take Parenting 101; if you’ve got a hellion or two (my term) around the house, you’re in Parenting 505 (his term) and will learn and grow at a steeper parenting gradient (my term) than the average parent. The scriptures are a parenting manual.
Benjamin De Hoyos of the Seventy, who rose through the ranks to become a CES executive in Mexico, spoke with a thick accent about converts in the Church. The Lord directs his Church.
C. Scott Grow of the Seventy (a CPA before being a GA and presently assigned as the Executive Director of the Audiovisual Department) gave the second deeply personal talk of this session, speaking about his brother, who lived a troubled life and passed away unexpectedly last month at age 51. In later years the brother returned to the Church and lived a good Mormon life. Elder Grow testified to the power of repentence and the forgiveness of sins and mistakes by virtue of the Atonement.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Twelve spoke with characteristic emotion about the visit of Brigham Young and his fellow apostles to Ensign Peak (just north of Temple Square) shortly after their arrival in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. Brigham saw the place, with an angel above it, in vision; Elder Holland then paints an image of General Conference with angels poised above, and Conference as waving the ensign of the gospel. In Conference, speakers (who are not assigned topics) speak about faith, hope, charity, and Christ crucified, but also address the moral issues of the day.
Elder Holland talked about the long hard road of discipleship, depicting a broad and welcoming way in the lowlands that gets increasingly steep and narrow as one ascends the heights of true discipleship. He gave the reassuring disclosure that, despite the degree to which GAs focus on the bad things some people do, they don’t think all of us are sinful, philandering, greedy, unrighteous moral reprobates. But prophets are directed to call people to repentence and urge the faithful on to righteousness, so that’s what they do.
President Monson closed the Conference with short remarks about Easter and the voluntary sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
My Comments. There were two unusually personal talks in this session, one by Elder Scott about his deceased wife and the other by Elder Grow about his deceased brother. I thought the talks by Elder Christofferson and Elder Holland sounded a strange note of works righteousness, an odd emphasis given how much has been said the last few years about grace and how we really do believe that, in the end, grace is given rather than earned. Finally, I was struck by how much Elder Holland’s style reminds me of Elder Maxwell’s: polished, insightful, deep. Elder Maxwell generally struck a gentler tone, whereas Elder Holland is more impassioned, at times even strident, but then perhaps these are tougher times.