General Conference wrapup

So, the big deal this weekend was the 180th semiannual general conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The reason I say “big deal” is because, for Mormons at least, we believe that this is an opportunity for us to hear counsel from people whom we believe are influenced by, and often speaking on behalf of, God.

This may seem a bit radical to members of other churches. One of the unique defining beliefs of the Mormon church is that we believe that revelation after the ancient pattern is still with us. In fact, that belief is one of the 13 articles of faith that form the equivalent of the Catholic catechism. The Ninth Article of Faith states:

We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.

With that in mind, are a few impressions that I got during this weekend’s conference. There are a number of places on the Internet that have full summaries of the conference talks. My intent is not to repeat the summaries; instead, I want to highlight a few of the things that I found the most valuable or the most personally applicable. (One of the cool things about believing in Revelation is that it entitles you to believe that sometimes God will reveal things that directly to you that are pertinent to your individual life, job, family, or stewardship. The personal aspect is very exciting to me.)

Probably the standout talk for me was the one given in the Saturday morning session by Pres. Dieter Uchtdorf. Because of his long career as a pilot, his talks often have something to do with aviation, and that has led to a bit of a running joke. In this talk, he spoke about turbulence, pointing out that every airframe is optimum speed for penetrating turbulence. Novice pilots may speed up to try to pass through the turbulence quickly, but it is almost always better for the passengers if the pilot moderates the speed to get optimum. His point is that when we are in distress or turbulence ourselves, the natural response is sometimes to occupy ourselves with as much busyness as possible. Better, he said, to slow down instead, making sure that we take time for the fundamental observances of what’s really important. This was definitely what I needed to hear, especially because things have been unusually busy at work lately.

Running a close second was the talk given in the Saturday night priesthood session by Elder Patrick Kearon, a member of the first quorum of the 70 of whom I had never heard. In brief summary, he ascribes all occasions when we know what is right and choose not to do it to one of two things: laziness or rebelliousness. Rather strong medicine, but definitely true in my case. (And no, I’m not going to tell you what the relative mix of those two causes is for me!) He cited an example from his own life where, as a boy, he went walking in the desert in flip-flops despite many warnings from his parents that he should always wear shoes. Predictably, he was stung by a scorpion. Although not life-threatening, the experience was painful enough to remind him of exactly why his parents made that rule.

Then there was the talk given by Pres. Monson in priesthood session: he covered what he called “the 3R’s of choice”: the right of choice, the responsibility of choice, and the results of choice. It was a superb talk, but I’m not sure that I have absorbed it fully yet. That’s okay, because…

I did something unusual during this general conference: I took notes in my journal. I have always been a poor journal keeper. That might be because I blog, or it might be because I never developed a habit as a young man, or it might be because I’m either lazy or rebellious. Whatever the reason, I have definitely fallen off my journaling pace over the last six months or so–since the last conference, in fact. I’m glad to have accumulated some notes about the thoughts and impressions I had about the talks as they were being given. I expect to refer to them in the future.

Oh, and speaking of in the future: the talk of that elder Allen H Oaks gave today, on the difference between priesthood lines of authority and personal lines of authority, is one which I suspect we will see cited in many future conference talks. One of my favorite things about Elder Oaks is that his talks generally combined a very pragmatic, direct approach to the topic with a solid logical and scriptural underpinning. Perhaps it’s his background as a lawyer and judge, but his talks often appeal to me because they make, and then buttress, an argument rather than being completely based on appeal to the spirit.

The boys and I tried something new this conference. We played a game with snacks. Each snack had a label, like “prophet” or “Savior” or “Temple”. Whenever the speaker said a matching word, everyone got to eat one piece of the matching snack. We did this for about 45 min., until the boys were actually sick of the snacks. After that, because they were full, they were much more attentive than they had been in the morning session. I think we’ll probably try that again next time.

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Overall, I definitely feel as though the time I invested watching the conference broadcasts was time well spent. Perhaps it was the influence of the turbulence talk, but taking the opportunity to “listen to a prophet’s voice,” and reflect on what I heard, was just what I needed this weekend.

If you’d like to know more, the church has a comprehensive page that includes both audio and video downloads of individual talks, as well as separate downloads of only the musical performances are the various choirs. If you’re not Mormon, and you’re curious, I encourage you to drop by, download a talk or two, and give them a listen. I think it will be worth your time!

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