Just in case you are not aware, the best part about reading talks from General Conference is the footnotes. There are unexpected treasures to find when you click on the little, blue numbers that are scattered throughout each talk. If you don’t believe me, check out Elder Neil L. Andersen’s recent conference talk, “Fruit”, for an example.
The Tree of Life
Elder Andersen’s talk focused on the fruit of the Tree of Life. He shared these two descriptions of what the fruit symbolizes.
“This precious fruit symbolizes the wondrous blessings of the Savior’s incomparable Atonement. Not only will we live again following our mortality, but through our faith in Jesus Christ, our repentance, and our keeping the commandments, we can be forgiven of our sins and one day stand clean and pure before our Father and His Son.
“Partaking of the fruit of the tree also symbolizes that we embrace the ordinances and covenants of the restored gospel—being baptized, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and entering the house of the Lord to be endowed with power from on high. Through the grace of Jesus Christ and by honoring our covenants, we receive the immeasurable promise of living with our righteous family throughout eternity.”
Elder Anderson then went on to explain how the adversary is attacking those who partake of the fruit. He also shared how repentance can bring us back to the tree.
“I promise you that as you look to the Savior “in every thought,” the fruit of the tree will be yours once again, delicious to your taste, joyous to your soul, “the greatest of all the gifts of God.”
Finding Fruit in Footnotes
Elder Anderson’s talk gives excellent insights into the symbolism of the tree and the fruit of Lehi’s dream. But if you look at the fourth footnote, you will discover a personal learning experience that taught Elder Anderson a valuable lesson.
“In early January 2007, while preparing for a Brigham Young University devotional address as a member of the Presidency of the Seventy to be given on March 4, 2007, I asked Elder David A. Bednar what he was preparing for his February 4, 2007, address before the same audience. I was taken aback when he responded that his talk was about holding fast to the iron rod. This was the exact title I had chosen for my talk. After sharing our text with one another, we realized that our approaches were different. His talk, entitled “A Reservoir of Living Water,” emphasized the rod of iron, or the word of God, as encompassing the scriptures. In his talk he asked, “Are you and I daily reading, studying, and searching the scriptures in a way that enables us to hold fast to the rod of iron?”
“Then, just a week after my conversation with Elder Bednar, President Boyd K. Packer gave a BYU devotional address entitled “Lehi’s Dream and You.” President Packer emphasized the rod of iron as the personal revelation and inspiration that come to us through the Holy Ghost. He said: “If you hold to the rod, you can feel your way forward with the gift of the Holy Ghost. … Grasp the iron rod, and do not let go. Through the power of the Holy Ghost, you can feel your way through life”
“My subject, “Hold Fast to the Words of the Prophets,” in March 2007 was the iron rod as representing the words of the living prophets.
“The connection of these three talks was no coincidence. The hand of the Lord was at work as three talks, prepared for the same audience, identified three aspects of the iron rod, or the word of God: (1) the scriptures, or the words of ancient prophets; (2) the words of living prophets; and (3) the power of the Holy Ghost. It was an important learning experience for me.”
-Elder Neil L. Andersen
Coordinating the Word of God
In this, one footnote, we receive added insight into how the Lord teaches His Apostles in a coordinated way. The coordination of the following aspects of the iron rod are all, equally needed as the Lord directs all of His children:
(1) the scriptures, or the words of ancient prophets;
(2) the words of living prophets; and
(3) the power of the Holy Ghost
It is not enough to just have the scriptures, or to only have the power of the Holy Ghost. We must also have living prophets and apostles as well. All three forms of the word of God are essential to guide us along the path that leads to eternal life.
Don’t Forget the Footnotes
If Elder Anderson’s example has you desiring to learn more about how the Lord coordinates His word through scripture, the Holy Ghost (personal revelation), and living prophets; may I suggest that you read through the footnotes of the other conference talks? You may be surprised by how many hidden treasures you will find!