It is impossible to give true justice to a General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with a mere summary. However, for the sake of my many readers who may not have had the opportunity to watch or hear the conference yet, or for those who would like my perspective – here are a few of my personal observations and highlights from the recent October 2011 Conference weekend:
1. TEMPLES: As I formerly blogged, the announcement of 6 new temples included a dream-come-true moment for our family.
2. SCRIPTURES: One of the major themes of the Conference revolved around reading, pondering, memorizing and cherishing our scriptures. Apostle Elder Richard G. Scott stated that “scriptures are like packets of light” and can become our “stalwart friends” in times of trouble. It is important to study from all of our standard works, however “those who consistently read the Book of Mormon will be given a greater measure of strength“, and Elder Tad Callister cautioned that “one has not truly researched our church without reading The Book of Mormon“, which is a book of scripture possessing only “one interpretation” of truth, and is a “crucial second witness of Jesus Christ, and of the truth of the Bible“.
2. PRAYER: Countless speakers emphasized the critical importance of building a personal relationship with our Heavenly Father through prayer: “one of the most precious gifts from God to man“. Elder J. Devon Cornish taught that,
“Like medicine, prayer only works when used as directed. . . The object of prayer is not to change the will of God, but to ask for things that cannot be given to us without asking.”
President Thomas S. Monson shared a story from his youth during the Great Depression when he prayed to recover a precious lost $5, and encouraged us to “build a relationship with God through prayer“. Elder J. Devon Cornish shared a story of being able to buy a piece of chicken in answer to a heartfelt prayer. We were reminded by Elder Robert E. Hales that “sometimes our prayer is left unanswered because we aren’t ready for the answer yet.”, and that “Too often we pray to have patience, but we want it right now!” Sister Barbara Thompson reminded us to inquire of the Lord by “asking in faith“, and then acting upon the promptings we receive in order to have the spirit of the Lord with us at all times. Prayer, and cultivating the Spirit within us, allows us to develop a firm testimony so that when hard trials come, it will “keep us” safe.
3. TRIALS: Going through Hard times, and offering suggestions for getting through them, were a major theme of this conference. This is because none of us are immune to trials. We are either experiencing one right now, or will go through one in the near future. It’s guaranteed, because it is part of God’s plan for us during this mortal life. Studying Scriptures, offering Prayers, and cultivating our faith to “trust God” were repeated many times. President Uchtdorf’s masterful talk about our place in the vast Universe reminded us that “the worth of souls is great in the sight of God” and although “Compared to God, we are nothing. Yet, we are everything to God“. Apostle Quentin L. Cook posed the age-old question “Why do bad things happen to good people?”, citing such tragedies as the horrific losses during 9-11, recent natural disasters, and the fateful sinking of the ocean liner Titanic 100 years ago. Although we may not have control over the bad things that happen to us, we should keep proper perspective that ”we are in the middle of a 3-Act Play” here on earth. The First Act was our pre-earth existence, and the Third Act will be our life with God after death. Some day, everything will make sense, and everything will be alright. For now, we are asked to walk by faith that God knows what He is doing.
4. JESUS IS OUR SAVIOR AND HE LOVES US:
As in the past, the great and overreaching theme of General Conference is that Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer. We may be nicknamed “Mormons”, but we are members of The Church of Jesus Christ. We bear witness of his divinity, and we are striving in these “latter days” to be true followers of Jesus (“saints“) before he returns to earth again. Every single speaker in this Conference bore powerful personal witness of Jesus Christ. Each message revolved around the teachings of Jesus and how we can be better disciples. As Elder Cook stated “The Savior’s atonement provides lifeboats for everyone!”, and perhaps our prophet summarized the message of this Conference best:
“We’re all here because we love the Lord and want to serve Him. I express gratitude to the Lord for His hand in all things.” - Thomas S. Monson
At the conclusion of the 181st semi-annual General Conference, the message was clearly etched on my heart that God is my loving Heavenly Father, and yours. He knows each of His children. He hears our pleas for help, He sent us His son to save and redeem us, and no matter how dark and frightening things feel, or how desperate our circumstances may become, we can be assured that He has never, and will never, forsake us!
Last night at the dinner table, Mr. MoSop wisely observed that “perhaps the most important message at Conference isn’t the one we actually hear, but the one that we feel“. Oh, how true! How grateful I am for such a good man in our home who is a righteous husband and father and “defender of virtue“, as Elaine S. Dalton beautifully instructed.
Over the next 6 months, each of us have a chance to read, study and ponder the messages that were given (see lds.org or go to MormonMessages YouTube). We will be doing so to rekindle the Spirit of God and love of our Savior which Conference always brings into our lives.