Category Archives: General Conference

Welfare: At The Bishop’s Door

This is a General Conference Odyssey post.

 

This week we read the Welfare session of October 1976. I’m not sure why they stopped having these sessions because it seems to me we need to discuss welfare issues more than ever, before they arrive at the bishop’s door.

 

When we lived in downtown SLC, we were surrounded by welfare problems. Right after Sacrament meeting, lot’s of people would rush to get in line at the bishop’s door. It was so overwhelming, other programs of the church kind of fell by the wayside because if you need help taking care of yourself, you certainly can’t be thinking about much else.

 

Bishop Victor L. Brown listed the six basic elements of personal and family preparedness in order of importance, in his talk:

 

  1. Literacy and education
  2. Career development
  3. Financial and resource management
  4. Home production and storage
  5. Physical health
  6. Social-emotional strength

 

I guess that old adage–If you teach a man to fish–really holds true. An educated person is more likely to find a job. And once income is coming in, anyone can learn how to take care of necessities and save for later needs. When all of that is in place, you simply feel better about yourself and life.

 

Sis. Smith’s talk touches on a subject that happens to be one of my pet peeves. She suggests topics for Relief Society homemaking mini-classes that would benefit families in their welfare needs. Back in the day, women got together and learned skills that could be used in the home to protect, bless, and secure the family. Now, it seems all we do is have parties and promote/sell the latest fads while our families are falling apart.

 

She also mentions the importance of Relief Society sisters working with the priesthood brethren as they seek to bless their ward members. Often, the bishop won’t have a specific goal he would like the ward to focus on, or offer any direction to the Relief Society president. And often, the Relief Society president doesn’t listen to him anyway, because she wants to do what the sisters all want. In either case, homes, marriages, and families are being neglected until a crisis happens–at the bishop’s door.

 

Pres. Marion G. Romney was as direct as I’ve ever heard him. He said,

“As our modern societies follow the course which led to the fall of Rome and other civilizations which succumbed to the deceptive lure of the welfare state and socialism, I think it not inappropriate for me to emphasize again the Lord’s plan for the temporal salvation of His mortal children.”

All the wars our country has fought was to gain and keep our freedoms and liberties. But sadly, all of that is being ignored as we sit back and allow “the welfare state and socialism” to encroach. The Lord’s plan can take care of us, but there is something expected of us first.

 

Pres. Spencer W. Kimball’s talk was entitled “Loving One Another,” but you know what that talk was really about? Teaching others how to work. This is the message I get from reading it:

Welfare Square
Salt Lake City

Teaching others how to work is how we love one another best. There is nothing wild or crazy about that statement. For me, it really is about love.

 

He started his talk with these words:

“I know that we did not come here to be entertained, we came here to be instructed.”

He shared how he grew up on a ten-acre farm. When they first moved there, the entire ward came to help them prepare it for cultivation. While his father was the stake president, it was known that the former stake president had an orchard he could no longer take care of. Pres. Kimball (the father) gathered his children up and took care of the harvest. Welfare service is just that, service to others.

 

Caring for elderly parents was mentioned next. Because the parents have spent years working and saving, they often have something left. A story was shared that the children of one family came along and took that money leaving their mother, destitute and on federal aid, in a rest home without a visit from any one of them.

 

Another story told was of a father complaining about all the work he had to do on the farm growing up. “Then he concluded with this statement: ‘My boys are never going to have to do that.’ And we saw his boys grow up and you couldn’t get them to do anything.”

 

The lesson:

“Idleness is of the devil, and we are not kind to our children when we become affluent and take from them their labors, their opportunities to serve and to be trained and to do things for themselves and for other.”

What would he think of our obsession with electronics today? Or our Relief Society meeting activities? Or not magnifying our callings? Or our debt? Or anything that takes us away from the work of the Lord and the building of His kingdom and His people?

 

I found this session to be extremely direct, yet loving (in spite of perhaps some guilty feelings), in its pure desire to help us fit our own desires with the Lord’s, which ultimately always comes back to blessing us ten-fold.

 

Latter-Day Saints Pay Attention to General Conference Warnings

This is a General Conference Odyssey post for the Sunday morning session of October 1976 conference.

 

I debated whether to put a colon after Latter-day Saints, or not. I opted for no colon.

 

Our family looks forward to General Conference twice a year. When the kids were small we played Bingo, prepared and delivered reports on General Authorities, and ate special meals that were reserved for General Conference weekend only.

 

With small children, it was hard to hear all of conference, but we made a point of reading them in the Ensign the following month. As the kids grew older, the following Monday we would talk about what was said and let our children lead the discussions (they were short).

 

Conference was exciting because we were going to hear from our favorite speakers. Everyone, including the very littlest, was taught to recognize the prophet. As the years go by, discussions focus more and more on what the prophet is telling us, because we know that what he says must be taken seriously. Not that his words have changed, but our hearts have.

 

As we all know, we have fifteen prophets. The senior member is our president and leader, and the one we revere as THE prophet, but his counselors and the twelve apostles speak with equal authority and our ears must be open to all they say.

 

Did our prophets know what we would face 40, 100, 170 years down the road? Yes, I believe they saw as Seers. And tried to warn us. But our listening skills have needed improvement.

 

Today, we understand that one of Satan’s greatest targets is getting us to break the law of chastity. He’s tried everything and succeeded in many different ways. I have read so many talks (so far while doing this General Conference Odyssey) warning us about morality. They knew! What we were in for! In the future of today!

 

President N. Eldon Tanner talked about the purpose of conference: that it is to give warning to the Saints. We all understand that committed Latter-day Saints pay attention to General Conference warnings.

 

I read a funny little post earlier this week that kind of made me laugh at its painful irony. It can be read here. The same idea was spoken forty-one years ago by our then prophet, Spencer W. Kimball, as quoted by Pres. Tanner.

 

“That the Church’s stand on morality may be understood, we declare firmly and unalterably it is not an outworn garment, faded, old-fashioned, and threadbare. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and his covenants and doctrines are unchanging: Old values are upheld by the Church, not because they are old, but rather because through the ages they have proved right.”

 

Some people actually think the church will change their stance on LGBT rights. They don’t understand that the central doctrine of our church is birthing the children of God and teaching them eternal, unchanging principles of the gospel. It isn’t for God to conform, it is for us to give up our will to His perfect way.

As Latter-day Saints, we can listen to conference and follow through with these four guidelines Pres. Tanner quoted from a talk Thomas S. Monson had given before: Listen, Learn, Labor, and Love. The future prophet, Thomas S. Monson said,

 

“Soon this historic series of conference sessions will come to a close. The throngs will leave, the lights will dim, the strains from the organ will fade and disappear; but you and I, we will never again be the same. We have heard a prophet’s voice, even that of President Spencer W. Kimball. We have worshipped together in love. We have felt our Heavenly Father’s divine approval. Hopefully, each has decided: I will listen; I will learn; I will labor; I will love. To assist us in our determined course the ever-present help of the Lord is assured.”

 

Then, Pres. Tanner mentioned a talk Boyd K. Packer gave. The original talk isn’t found online, unfortunately. Elder Packer recalled the story of the Teton Dam (near Rexburg, Idaho) and its subsequent destruction. Where over 5000 lives were affected and could have been killed, instead, they had listened to the warnings given, helped their neighbors, and escaped with their lives. The meaning of his words was not lost. “There are chapter after chapter of miracles. The whole episode stands as a mighty miracle. And the whole disaster looms itself as a warning.”

 

Pres. Tanner’s conclusion is a warning to us:

 

“And so, my brothers and sisters and friends, the main purpose of … general conferences, the main purpose of this conference, is to sound the voice of warning. You who hear and are warned must warn your neighbors. If we fail to heed the warnings given, or fail to warn our neighbors, we all may be lost.”

 

I don’t know about you, but it seems to me the tone has changed in our General Conferences. Our leaders are speaking with more directness. We are seeing more tears over their concern for us. Their pleadings are no longer suggestions. Possibly, the clock now reads 11:59 and the hour is but a moment away for us to greet our Savior.

 

Will we be God’s miracles, having listened and acted upon all the General Conference warnings, and be left standing on that great day?

Four Steps to Overcoming the World

Part of living in the last days is that evil and wickedness are abundant, cunning, and overwhelming. We must choose righteousness over wickedness; but many find themselves in the middle because they haven’t chosen yet, they are confused, or they have been tricked into thinking that the middle is righteousness. When we choose righteousness we are taking our first steps to overcoming the wickedness that surrounds us, in other words we are overcoming the world.

 

In the John 16:33 Christ said:

 

“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

 

What does Christ mean when he said that he had overcome the world? Christ’s entire mission was to overcome the world – the natural man, temptations, sin, etc. – so that we could have the possibility of returning to our Heavenly Father. Jesus was baptised, so we must as well. Jesus introduced the sacrament, and so we partake weekly. Jesus performed the Atonement, so that we may be forgiven of our sins when we repent. Jesus was resurrected three days after his death, and so we will be able to be resurrected as well. Jesus overcame the world, and so we must, in our own way as well:

 

“For verily I say unto you, I will that ye should overcome the world; wherefore I will have compassion upon you.” (D&C 64:2)

 

Jesus Christ overcame the world, but he was perfect. How are we, fallible natural men and women supposed to overcome the world? In the April 2017 general conference, Elder Neil L. Andersen taught us four ways to do so.

 

  1. Love for the Savior

 

In 1 John 4:16-19 we read:

 

“And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.

 

Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.

 

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.

 

We love him, because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:16-19)

 

Jesus loves us, and as we learn about and feel that love, we grow to love him. “Perfect love casteth out fear.” When we love Jesus, we will have the courage to follow Him, and make righteous decisions, even when the world is taunting and screaming at us to do the opposite. Elder Andersen said that this love is not a one event thing, but a lifelong process. It starts with learning how to pray, singing songs about Jesus, hearing and reading the stories about Jesus, developing a relationship with Him, and putting all that we have learned to action.

 

  1. Accountability to God

 

Elder Andersen described the difference between those who do not want to be accountable to God, and those who know that we are:

 

“Those overcoming the world know that they will be accountable to their Heavenly Father. Sincerely changing and repenting of sins is no longer restraining but liberating, as ‘sins [of] scarlet…[become] white as snow.’

 

Those of the world have difficulty with accountability to God – like a child who parties in his parents’ home while they are out of town, enjoying the ruckus, refusing to think about the consequences when the parents return 24 hours later.”

 

When I was younger, I attended an activity wearing an inappropriate outfit, my mom found out and disciplined me the next day. In frustration I said, “Why can’t you just let me do what I want, and God can punish me later?!” Her response still touches my heart, “Because I am your mother, and God entrusted me to teach you what is right and to lead you back to Him.” The natural man argues that earthly consequences shouldn’t exist, that they infringe on our agency; but our accountability to God must begin here on earth. We cannot wait until later.

 

How do we show accountability to God here on earth?

  • Keeping the commandments
  • Keeping our baptismal and temple covenants
  • Staying faithful to our eternal companions
  • Taking the sacrament each week.
  • Repenting of our sins

 

The list goes on…

 

  1. Unselfishness

 

In chapter 23 of the book of Matthew Jesus describes the Pharisees as being worldly. He explains that their motivation for their works is to be seen and praised by others. Jesus says that this is not the way to live and in verses 10 and 11 says:

 

“Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.

 

But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.” (Matthew 23:10-11)

 

We are to serve others, not expect others to serve us. We are to serve others for love of them and Christ, not for the praise of the world. Elder Andersen gave some examples of selflessness that we should all embody:

 

“The happiness of our spouse is more important than our own pleasure. Helping our children to love God and keep His commandments is a primary priority. We willingly share our material blessings through tithing, fast offerings, and giving to those in need.”

 

  1. Safety in the Prophets

 

In choosing to follow the Savior, we will be ridiculed by the world, we will be hated by the world, and we will be ignored. But if we focus on our connection with God, and following the guidance from His chosen prophets, we will find safety in this world. The teachings of our prophets – both ancient and modern – are inspired by God, and are literally a road map back to our Heavenly Father. Of course there is safety and blessings in following their counsel! When I follow the teachings of the prophets, I feel the Holy Ghost tell me that I made the right choice. He will do the same for you.

 

So what does overcoming the world accomplish? According to Elder Andersen, “greater peace in this life and a greater assurance of your eternal destiny.” What a blessing to have greater peace in this life! The scriptures expand on what that eternal destiny is. When we overcome the world we will be clothed in white in the eternities, our names will remain in the book of life, and Jesus will acknowledge us before our Father. (Revelation 3:5) When we overcome the world we will have a part in the first resurrection. (D&C 76:64) When we overcome the world we will gain eternal life. (Revelation 2) When we overcome the world we will live with God. (Revelation 3:12)

 

Trying to overcome the world may seem daunting at first, but I testify that if we follow the advice that Elder Andersen has given us, we will succeed. When we love Jesus Christ, accept our accountability to God, become selfless, and look to our prophets, we will have the strength and ability to overcome the world.

 

Fun Family Road Trip or Self-Induced Torture?

“Stop talking! Just be quiet for a minute!” I yelled from the front seat of the car. “The next one to talk gets to walk the rest of the way.” This empty threat came from pure desperation. I just couldn’t handle another moment of bickering, whining and fault-finding from my children. Our family trip was suppose to bring us together, not tear us apart. Yet there we were, living in our own version of self-induced torture because my children couldn’t stop arguing!

Weeks before, as our family prepared for our trip, my husband and I painted our children a picture of all the wonderful things they would see, learn and experience. We took special care to pack treats, games, books and movies to keep them entertained and peaceful while traveling. We wanted them to have a unique experience that bonded our family and created treasured memories for the years ahead. But in spite of the many plans and preparations, we found ourselves battling over issues such as… “Her knees keep touching mine!” “She won’t stop humming.” And… my favorite… “I can’t stand listening to her breathe.” They had obviously forgotten the bigger picture.

Why do my kids do this? Why are they so quick to find fault with each other at one moment and then be best friends at another? Why can’t they perceive the bigger picture that I can see? Why is it so hard to use their family journey to strengthen and serve each other?

Will they ever grow out of it?

The answer is, yes! They will grow out of it as they mature enough to put those little things like knees touching, humming and breathing in perspective.

Perspective. Isn’t that what love and understanding are all about? When we see our world as our Savior sees it, we can take hold of a deeper truth that allows us to better assess, or judge what we are experiencing in ourselves and others. The old idiom, “the devil is in the details” is quite true. When we focus on the small details instead of perceiving the big picture, we become like siblings on a road trip… finding faults and taking offense… just for the fun of it.

How do we learn to perceive the Savior’s perspective in order to judge ourselves and others in a righteous manner? Elder Ronald A. Rasband taught:

Remember the Lord’s promise: “I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy.” I love that assurance. Joy that fills our souls brings with it an eternal perspective in contrast to day-to-day living. That joy comes as peace amidst hardship or heartache. It provides comfort and courage, unfolds the truths of the gospel, and expands our love for the Lord and all God’s children. Although the need for such blessings is so great, in many ways the world has forgotten and forsaken them.

Continue reading

We Can Be Completely Healed From Spiritual Crocodiles

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey.

In this session of conference, we get to catch up with probably one of the most well-known talks ever given: Spiritual Crocodiles. Likely, you or your children saw this video many times in Seminary. It is well-known, and always worth spending some time talking about why its message is so important.

Incidentally, in this talk, Boyd K. Packer wasn’t kidding when he said he knew about the many birds of our world. He was an exceptional artist and he specialized in bird carvings.

Detail from President Boyd K. Packer’s 1991 woodcarving “Broad-Tailed Hummingbird with Indian Paintbrush.” Photo by Jason Swensen.

 

And with this extra knowledge, he admitted to still being skeptical, at the time, of those who knew additional knowledge concerning life and death.

Likening this knowledge to the prophet, who is most concerned about our spiritual safety and salvation is easy, and easily ignored. Sometimes, the best teacher is Hindsight. Unfortunately, we are in a spiritual life and death battle and Hindsight can be a whirlpool we may never escape from.

Continue reading

Robert D. Hales: Disciples Who Sacrifice

Robert D. Hales has been in poor health for many years, yet he keeps bouncing back and giving us sweet, sustaining, powerful talks. I bet he wishes he could move on, but this is his willing sacrifice, as a true disciple of the Lord, to endure to the very end.

We don’t talk about sacrifice much these days. There are simply too many ways to avoid it now. But God requires sacrifice from each one of us in order to enter His kingdom. I think Elder Hales was gently reminding us of this when he made these statements:

 

“There were many who claimed to be righteous in one or another aspect of their lives. They practiced what I have called selective obedience.”

“Faith is a catalyst. Without works, without virtuous living, our faith is without power to activate discipleship.”

“Now is the time to recommit ourselves to being His disciples with all diligence.”

 

I have often thought of the contrast between Jesus Christ’s purpose in life to my own. How did He stay focused on His mission without getting sidetracked repeatedly? How did He not want to have, or do, anything that was His very own? How did He always think “my Father’s will” before “my will” in everything He did?

Continue reading

Elder Holland: Songs Sung and Unsung

I was pretty excited as Elder Holland started out his 2017 April General Conference talk with “There is sunshine in my soul today” because as a generally happy person, I can relate to that; it’s easy to write about. However, as he immediately went on, he took me more and more out of my comfort zone when he talked about times it is hard to “smile and [feel the] ‘peaceful happy moments.’” There are so many things I could write about in relation to his talk: depression, suicide, unrealistic beauty expectations, stereotypes, war, being single in the Church, being childless in the Church, even times when we should keep sacred things to ourselves, but I’m not going to write about those today. The part that struck me were Elder Holland’s words about caring for the poor, which particularly made me think more about the homeless. I agree that with the staggering “economic inequality in the world, I feel guilty singing” of the blessings which I have.

A goal of the Church is to help people become self-reliant so that they can care for themselves and those around them. However, if people are unable to become self-reliant, we still need to do something to help. The First Presidency recently said it doesn’t matter how people became homeless, but our willingness to help them says something about us:  “The causes [of homelessness] are varied, and solutions are often difficult, but whether homelessness stems from conflict, poverty, mental illness, addiction or other sources, our response to those in need defines us as individuals and communities.” Continue reading

Hope Comes From Having a Desire For Personal Improvement

This is a General Conference Odyssey post for the Sunday afternoon session of October 1975.

In closing the 1975 General Conference, Pres. Spencer W. Kimball stated some personal goals that he would go home to pursue:

“While sitting here, I have made up my mind that when I go home from this conference this night there are many, many areas in my life that I can perfect. I have made a mental list of them, and I expect to go to work as soon as we get through with conference.”

We too have recently concluded another wonderful conference where so many thoughts and ideas have run through our heads. Maybe you think, as I do, that hope comes from having a desire for personal improvement? First of all, I am humbled to hear a prophet say he has his own work to improve, and second, I am eager to learn so that I also might overcome my weaknesses in order to be a stronger servant of the Lord’s. That is where my hope is, that I can work toward being useful to the Lord as I work through my weaknesses.

In fact, that’s why I enjoy this General Conference Odyssey so much. What our prophets said 40, 150, 2000, 3500 years ago is always going to be self-improving and worth pondering. The Plan, set by our Heavenly Father, was set in motion to make us better people in order to fulfill the purposes of our creation. We work toward obedience and Jesus Christ carries us home; it’s that simple.

Some of the highlights of the 2017 conference reminded me that I need to practice certain behavior better. Sis. Bonnie H. Cordon quoted Amy Wright, who discovered a strange paradox. Continue reading

Sustaining prophets and apostles publicly and privately (and why both matter)

Image result for sustaining lds.orgAs we head into General Conference weekend, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will publicly sustain prophets and apostles. We’ll hear the names of each member of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve apostles read. We’ll then have the sacred opportunity to both publicly raise our hand to show a sign of support and privately sustain them in our hearts. It’s one of my favorite moments of General Conference.

Continue reading

Not Sure if You Need to Repent? Ask These Four Questions…

Having grown up in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I have believed in agency my whole life. While our Heavenly Father has given us commandments to follow, He has also given us the ability to choose to follow those commandments or not. For some reason, it never occurred to me that choosing to repent has always been a part of our agency. In the October 2016 General Conference, Elder Dale G. Renlund said, “The reach of the Savior’s Atonement is infinite in breadth and depth, for you and for me. But it will never be imposed on us.” He then shared some verses from the Book of Mormon that explain how we have the ability to choose repentance.

“And men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil. And the law is given unto men. And by the law no flesh is justified; or, by the law men are cut off. Yea, by the temporal law they were cut off; and also, by the spiritual law they perish from that which is good, and become miserable forever.

Wherefore, redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth.”

Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.” ( 2 Nephi 2:5-6, 27)

Continue reading