April was my first General Conference as a member, and the first during which I felt compelled to seriously take notes and try to remember everything, even if I felt the need to challenge everything I heard. I’m such a newb. This October, I made a deal with myself and Heavenly Father (with the guidance and advice of Marie and Jennifer) to listen to conference, listen to the Spirit, and to try really really really hard to live my life according to the lessons I would learn. I did, however, ask for immunity on any Elder Packer related comments regarding sexuality. I was nervous, though. I was ready to try to see (let’s see how wishy washy I can get this conditional sentence) if I would be ready to put complete faith in the words of our Prophet and Apostles. I wanted to know what I would have to change and how my life would look if I were to accept in my heart and in practice the council I would soon hear.
That, my friends, is a whole lotta faith.
I started out writing this post as if it would magically turn into a cohesive essay on conference, one with a well argued thesis, supporting evidence, and the talks all listed neatly in the works cited page. However, I’ve learned that I cannot argue these things of the spirit logically. To sum up the main points of each talk would not be useful for anyone – just go read or watch the talks yourselves. Instead of taking notes on what was said and writing them down, I took notes on how I felt and remembered them. I hope, one week later, that I still remember how I felt when I heard these words.
So, friends, here we go. LadyMo does Conference:
Elder Richard G. Scott:
Great power can come from memorizing scriptures. To memorize a scripture is to forge a new friendship. It is like discovering a new individual who can help in time of need, give inspiration and comfort, and be a source of motivation for needed change.
Pondering a passage of scripture can be a key to unlock revelation and the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Ghost. Scriptures can calm an agitated soul, giving peace, hope, and a restoration of confidence in one’s ability to overcome the challenges of life. They have potent power to heal emotional challenges when there is faith in the Savior. They can accelerate physical healing.
Scriptures can communicate different meanings at different times in our life, according to our needs. A scripture that we may have read many times can take on nuances of meaning that are refreshing and insightful when we face a new challenge in life.
Listening to his talk, I considered my relationship with scriptures. As many of you know, I’ve had an ever changing and whirlwind relationship with scriptures; they were first a source of pain and tool for hurting people I cared about, and then became a source of comfort and healing. When Elder Scott spoke of committing scripture to memory, I think about the passages that have had the most meaningful impact on my growth in the gospel: Psalms 139, Zephaniah 3:14-20, John 14:2-3, 2 Nephi 4: 15-35, Mosiah 18:8-11, Alma 30:44, DC 6:22-23.
I found comfort in his words. First, a simple task to add to my spiritual growth list: read. I also felt an intimate connection with this book. We’ve been places, the Book of Mormon and I. While I have met many people on this journey and while many have endured this ride with me, it was always to the scriptures that I had to turn, whether I liked it or not. I could only reject or rely on the testimonies of others so long before I had to decide for myself – that decision required me to have a relationship with the text. I had to read, I had to pray, I had to figure it out. Thinking now, a week later, about Elder Scott’s words, I realize that his talk is about that relationship. He asks how we use the scriptures. Are they marked up with notes? Yep. My quad looks suspiciously like my “Constitutional and Criminal Procedural Law” book with scriptures highlighted in color coded pencils and tagged with see-through, color coded sticky tabs. Even though my scriptures look like I went all grad-student crazy on them, I realize that the physical act of highlighting and tagging the verses I chose required a conscious decision to commit to know and come back to that verse. Like Elder Scott said, memorizing scripture is like forging a new friendship. As the new kid on the block, I have become comfortable with at least knowing where to find those friends (hello, sticky tab address book!). Now it’s time to get to know them better.
Sister Barbara Thompson:
In the book Daughters in My Kingdom, we read about Sister Hedwig Biereichel, a woman in Germany who suffered much sorrow and deprivation during World War II. Because of her love and charitable nature, and even in her own great need, she willingly shared her food with starving prisoners of war. Later, when asked how she was able to “keep a testimony during all [those] trials,” she replied in effect, “I didn’t keep a testimony through those times—the testimony kept me.”
Because we have a strong testimony doesn’t mean it will always remain that way. We must nourish and strengthen it in order that it will have sufficient power to sustain us.
This was a powerfully bold statement I needed to hear. I think about how my testimony has kept me. I think it was a small speck of a testimony that got me thinking in the first place; it was a growing testimony that helped me walk through the doors of a church and keep me in my seat, even if I wanted to run away; it is a solid testimony of God’s love for me that gives me the courage and the words to endure through some challenging experiences. For everything my testimony has carried me through, I feel like Sister Thompson is suggesting that I owe it to my testimony to give it the strength and the power to carry me. Does that make sense? Basically, if I expect my testimony to do the hard work for me, I need to do some more work for it. Or, see the reflections on Elder Scott’s talk.
Elder L. Whitney Clayton:
Our most important message, which we are both divinely commissioned and commanded to take everywhere in the world, is that there is a Savior. He lived in the meridian of time. He atoned for our sins, was crucified, and was resurrected. That matchless message, which we proclaim with authority from God, is the real reason this Church grows as it does.
I admit, I struggled through his talk. At first, it felt like a nice church history lesson, a little bit of an “on my mission” story, and generally lacking in specific direction. I was ready to add something to my to-do list! Give me something! And then he said, “Out most important message… is that there is a Savior.” That was it. I could put it at the top of my list with a big note that says: IF NOTHING ELSE, THIS. When I get tied up in learning the academics of church history, or the politics of Christianity, I must first, and always, come back to this message. This is the only thing that matters.
President Thomas S. Monson:
I have mentioned in previous conferences the progress we are making in placing temples closer to our members. Although they are readily available to many members in the Church, there are still areas of the world where temples are so distant from our members that they cannot afford the travel required to get to them. They are thus unable to partake of the sacred and eternal blessings temples provide. To help in this regard, we have available what is called the General Temple Patron Assistance Fund. This fund provides a one-time visit to the temple for those who otherwise would not be able to go to the temple and yet who long desperately for that opportunity. Any who might wish to contribute to this fund can simply write in the information on the normal contribution slip which is given to the bishop each month.
THIS. THIS. THIS. My heart was filled with gladness at these words. First, we hear of plans for a temple in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I was filled with the overwhelming knowledge that Heavenly Father is abundantly aware of the plight of women and children in the Congo. Do plans for a temple change the fact that the Congo is the most dangerous place in the world to be a woman? No. I don’t think a building is going to change the condition of their lives, but I do believe that this sacred place can be a safe place. I hope. I pray. I strongly hope and pray. I also am glad to learn of the General Temple Patron Assistance Fund. I think about how easy it is for me to go to a temple and how very little I actually have to sacrifice to be there. I think about the families who save everything for years to be able to attend one time. I think about the people who say, “I wish there was something I could do.” This, GTPAF, is somewhere to start. For this, I am so very glad.
Elder Jose L. Alonso:
His was a life of service. When we serve our neighbor, we help those who are in need. In the process we may find solutions to our own difficulties. As we emulate the Savior, we show our love to our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, and we become more like Them.
King Benjamin spoke of the value of service, saying that when we are “in the service of [our] fellow beings [we] are only in the service of [our] God.” Everyone has opportunities to give service and show love.
Serve. Serve more. Sever everyone. Serve a lot. Serve. King Benjamin is my homeboy, and his are truly the words of God. When I wonder about how to have a better relationship with my Heavenly Parents, I can find that answer and relationship in service to my brothers and sisters. For some reason, this just popped into my head.
Elder Boyd K. Packer:
I am now 87 years old. You may wonder, at my age what I can contribute to your lives. I have been where you are and know where you are going. But you have not yet been where I am.
Oh, what a troubled relationship you and I have, Eldah Packah. I cringed a little when he started to speak, and I prayed for the ability to just listen to what he had to say. I remembered a scripture that helps me digest, distinguish, and determine truth: Mosiah 15:14 And these are they who have published peace, who have brought good tidings of good, who have published salvation; and said unto Zion: thy God reigneth! Basically, listen for the good stuff.
I half expected his talk to be much like October 2010, and I half expected my reaction to be similar as well. I did, however, ask for the guidance to find something in his talk to learn from. He opened his talk with the quote above. It was humbling, to say the least. I have difficulties with authority. I know this. I think I know everything and no amount of life or academic experience of a fellow human being can trump the knowledge I already have. This, I have conceded, needs to change. Elder Packer says, “I have been where you are and know where you are going. But you have not yet been where I am.” I didn’t love hearing those words, but I needed to hear them. I need to be reminded that I, in fact, do not have an eternal perspective, and I, in fact, have a lot of learning left to do. I need to figure out how to have faith in my leaders, my mentors, and most importantly, my Heavenly Father. While I figure this out, I do need reminding. For that, I do thank Elder Packer. (I am also grateful that God gave me something with which I can learn to trust Elder Packer).
Elder Dieter H. Uchtdorf
Look, I know we’re not supposed to have favorites, but c’mon. This man is a rockstar.
My dear brothers and sisters, it may be true that man is nothing in comparison to the greatness of the universe. At times we may even feel insignificant, invisible, alone, or forgotten. But always remember—you matter to Him! If you ever doubt that, consider [this] divine principle:
Please understand that what you see and experience now is not what forever will be. You will not feel loneliness, sorrow, pain, or discouragement forever. We have the faithful promise of God that He will neither forget nor forsake those who incline their hearts to Him. Have hope and faith in that promise. Learn to love your Heavenly Father and become His disciple in word and in deed.
This very well may be the Mormon version of the “It Get’s Better” Project. I loved Elder Uchtdorf’s message: the worth of souls is great in the eyes of God and we are never so insignificant to be forgotten. God knows us and loves us and nothing we can do can change that. His is an earnest plea for us to know this very simple, very eternal truth.
And thus concludes the Saturday morning session. I will return with more reflections. In the mean time, I’d love to know what you thought of these talks!
So much love,