Before the birth of Christ, the Greek influence of Alexander the Great’s Empire permeated every part of the Hebrew society. Increasingly, there was a struggle between those who wanted to live by the word of God and those who wanted to incorporate the Greek philosophies into their lives. Even some of the priesthood leaders of Israel were swayed into mixing the philosophies of the Hellenistic (Greek) influence with the law and priesthood of God. Not all Israelites were so eager to adopt this new blend of philosophy. Among these faithful were various groups of Hebrews who wanted to be found living God’s law when the Messiah came. These faithful groups fled to the wilderness, just as the ancient Israelites fled Egypt, in search of their own promised land.
In more recent history, we see this same pattern repeated by many of the reformers and separatists who left the religion of their country to seek after a more perfect way. America was founded by the families who wanted to have the religious freedom needed to live a more perfect way and our Mormon pioneers left their various homelands to build Zion in the desert.
If you haven’t noticed, the philosophies of men have not ceased to infiltrate every aspect of our modern lives. So, how do we keep our families from falling victim to these lies? Elder Jeffery R. Holland has the answer, “In these last days, in this our dispensation, we would become mature enough to stop running. We would become mature enough to plant our feet and our families and our foundations in every nation, kindred, tongue, and people permanently. Zion would be everywhere—wherever the Church is. And with that change—one of the mighty changes of the last days—we no longer think of Zion as where we are going to live; we think of it as how we are going to live.” Continue reading →
This is a General Conference Odyssey post for the Sunday morning session of April 1976.
We talk about the work of God, but what exactly are we doing about it? Below is a list from Robert L. Simpson, who spoke on “These Four Things.” He didn’t just talk about the work of God, he asked us to remember our vow when we promised we would actually perform the work necessary to bring salvation to all of Heavenly Father’s children.
First, the obligation to prepare one’s self and one’s immediate family for the presence of the Lord;
He explains how important it is to take care of one’s own spirituality first. We have to complete our own ordinances first. We have to know and understand the doctrines of Jesus Christ’s saving gospel first. We have to commit to righteous living first if we are ever to convince anyone else.
If you’ll recall this past conference, Pres. Russell M. Nelson challenged all of us to “consecrate a portion of [our] time each week to study everything Jesus said and did as recorded in the standard works.” After completing his own challenge he said, “I am a different man!” (Apr. 2017)
This is a General Conference Odyssey post for the Priesthood session of April 1976.
I take the title of this post, “We Need Heroes Close By,” from President Spencer W. Kimball’s talk, entitled, “Boys Need Heroes Close By.” The truth is that both boys and girls need to have heroes they can depend on for righteous, kind, and beneficial guidance. The world has none to offer.
What I find interesting in President Kimball’s talk is his bold assertion that boys need to see their fathers treat women with respect. Likewise, girls need to see their fathers treat women with respect. In fact, mothers need to be seen treating men with respect as well. This whole world lacks in respect for the divine role of husband, wife, father, and mother. Unfortunately, our society has become almost abhorrent to this idea of family love, honor, and respect. Speaking as a prophet, he said,
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.
What in the world does Family History have to do with a garden?
The lightbulb of enlightenment went off in my head with this week’s general conference reading, and my understanding has just been illuminated; now I share it with you.
Do you remember all the years our prophets have talked about growing a garden and beautifying our yards and homes? For years, every General Conference, it was specifically Pres. Kimball who would spend quite a bit of time talking about gardening–of all things. Well, I think I just figured out why.
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?
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 →
This is a General Conference Odyssey post for the Sunday morning Welfare session of October 1975.
General Conference has changed much over the years. One such change has been the Welfare session, which used to be held in the early hours of Sunday morning, before the actual Sunday morning session. It was typically attended by both male and female leadership where temporal issues were addressed. This session was discontinued in the 1980s.
But because this week we are talking about welfare, I thought I would run through the fascinating history of this spiritual–though temporal–law. It was during the years of World War I, the Depression, and World War II that the church seriously focused on the welfare needs of its people. The Relief Society played an important role in its development.
In his April 2017 General Conference talk, titled, Drawing the Power of Jesus Christ into Our Lives, President Nelson teaches that if we want to know how to be healed and receive salvation we must learn about Jesus Christ and how to be like Him. To receive those promises, there are things we must do. In Doctrine and Covenants section 88, Christ counsels, “draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” (D&C 88:63)
I love the word “diligently” in this scripture. Diligently means action marked by persevering, painstaking effort.
President Nelson is earnestly trying to lead us to Christ. He gave counsel in what we can do to seek Christ diligently.
Earlier in the year, President Nelson invited the young adults of the Church to diligently search the standard works for all of the words and works of Christ. He continued that theme during General Conference:
“Today I would like to speak about how we can draw into our lives the power of our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ.
We begin by learning about Him. ‘It is impossible for [us] to be saved in ignorance. ’The more we know about the Savior’s ministry and mission—the more we understand His doctrine and what He did for us—the more we know that He can provide the power that we need for our lives.”
Elder Nelson points members of the Church to the scriptures. He said that he spent time reading the references about Jesus Christ from all of the subsections of the Topical Guide. He counsels us to do the same as well as to read the Living Christ.
Pointing us to the man, Jesus, President Nelson corrected word usage that has become common in the Church.
“It is doctrinally incomplete to speak of the Lord’s atoning sacrifice by shortcut phrases,” he said, “such as ‘the Atonement’ or ‘the enabling power of the Atonement’ or ‘applying the Atonement’ or ‘being strengthened by the Atonement.’”
He continued by explain the problem with shortcut phrases, “These expressions,” he declared, “present a real risk of misdirecting faith by treating the event as if it had living existence and capabilities independent of our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.”
Where do we go to receive a remission of sin? We go to the Savior, Himself. Christ declared:
“I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6)
As a second witness to those words, President Nelson declared, “The Savior’s atoning sacrifice—the central act of all human history—is best understood and appreciated when we expressly and clearly connect it to Him.”
Seeking out all of the scriptures about the Savior is seeking diligently to know the Savior.
In addition to searching through the words and works of Christ in the scriptures, President Nelson continued his counsel us on how to diligently seek the Savior. He asked us to, “stand out, speak up, and be different from the people of the world”, “make sacred covenants and keep those covenants with precision”, “seek for ways to keep [ourselves] unspotted from the world so there will be nothing blocking [our] access to the Savior’s power,” and to reach up to the Savior in faith.
Diligently doing these things, Elder Nelson declares, will allow “His [Jesus Christ’s] power will flow into you.”
“And then,” he says, “you will understand the deep meaning of words we sing in the hymn ‘The Spirit of God’:
The Lord is extending the Saints’ understanding. …
The knowledge and power of God are expanding;
The veil o’er the earth is beginning to burst.”
President Nelson concluded that, “the gospel of Jesus Christ is filled with His power, which is available to every earnestly seeking daughter or son of God. It is my testimony that when we draw His power into our lives, both He and we will rejoice.”