Monday, October 3, 2011

LDS General Conference: Condensed Notes, part 1

I can't wait to read the transcripts of the talks when they come out. Hopefully by Thursday this week!

(Here's a link to the October 2011 Conference archive page - the Relief Society meeting [for the women's organization] already has transcripts available, but the other sessions just have video and audio up today).

I've often heard the suggestion to pray before Conference about some questions you would like answered, and that as you listen to the talks, you will find your answers. I tried that a little this year, just taking baby steps to prepare myself before Conference. I didn't feel like I had any urgent questions, so my preparation over the preceding week consisted of extra-attentive scripture reading and praying to hear the messages I needed to hear. Before the first session started, I jotted down a few topics that I would like guidance on: marriage or missionary service, time management, family, charity, and praying for others. The result was that I got answers to some extent on each of those topics; in April, I'm excited to see what happens as I put more earnest (and specific) effort and desire into my spiritual preparation for General Conference.

The notes I take for each speaker aren't meant to be all-inclusive. I usually try to write ideas that stick out to me, and sometimes those inspire my own thoughts that I include.

These are my condensed notes from each session:

General Relief Society Session (from last weekend)
All of the speakers stressed the importance of quality visiting teaching as our way of supporting and uplifting each other as sisters, and they all talked about the new book "Daughters in My Kingdom" which covers the global history, growth and personal stories of women in Christ's church.
- Julie B. Beck taught "what I hope my granddaughters will understand about Relief Society", regarding its purposes, organization and capacity to do good and bless individuals and families.
- Silvia H. Allred talked about the gift of charity (the pure love of Christ), how we may obtain it by desiring and praying to God for it, and the many ways that charity is expressed. (She used a quote from Henry B. Eyring that I really liked).
- Barbara Thompson talked all about cleaving (or sticking closely) to our covenants, and how those covenants can sustain us and give us power, joy and protection in everyday life.
- Dieter F. Uchtdorf uses great analogies and stories to convey his important messages, and this time he used a small, five-petaled forget-me-not blossom to illustrate 5 things we should always remember: to be patient with ourselves, to discern the difference between good and foolish sacrifices, to be happy with right now, the reason "why" of the gospel (instead of all the "what"s), and that the Lord loves and remembers each of us individually.

Saturday Morning
- Richard G. Scott's most repeated message was that scriptures are like friends who we can turn to whenever we want, and who can help us with any problem we face.
- Barbara Thompson talked about basic requirements for receiving personal revelation and a testimony of truth.
- L. Whitney Clayton spoke about missionary work and how Nebuchadnezzar's dream is being fulfilled: the gospel (the stone cut without hands) is filling the whole earth.
- President Thomas S. Monson announced 6 new temples and a new "temple patron assistance fund" to which people can donate so that church members who live far from a temple can go to the temple once in their lifetime.
- José L. Alonso's message was the importance of "doing the right thing, at the right time, without delay."
- Boyd K. Packer spoke directly to the youth of the church, urging them to keep the commandments (reminding them that they have the power to do so), to listen to the Holy Spirit and the prophet, and to be optimistic and look forward to a full life, even though we live in perilous times. 
- Dieter F. Uchtdorf reminded us to keep a healthy perspective, that while in some ways "man is nothing", it's even more true that "man is everything" to God. We are God's children, and as such, our happiness is "His work and glory".

Saturday Afternoon
- David A. Bednar made an interesting observation that young people's tech savvy is more than just useful for texting and communication, it's also perfect preparation to do greater family history work with the new tools we have today. He emphasized the importance of the prophecy in Malachi 4:5-6, that the hearts of the fathers and the children will be turned to each other, else the earth would be wasted at the Savior's coming.
- Neil L. Anderson talked about the importance of parenting, and reminded us that the commandment given to Adam and Eve to "multiply and replenish the earth" is still in force, and that we shouldn't judge another for decisions which are between a husband, a wife and the Lord.
- Ian S. Ardern talked all about time management and getting rid of things that distract us from our most important priorities (if we don't prioritize, we become subject to procrastination).
- Carl B. Cook shared a simple story from when he was discouraged and President Monson told him to literally and symbolically look up, and then summed up the message in the words "look up, step up, cheer up."
- LeGrand R. Curtis, Jr spoke about what it means to redeem something, and what this says about Jesus Christ as our Redeemer. 
Unfortunately, I had to leave for work at this point. I'll have to watch the archived recordings later this week for the talks I missed.

Sunday Morning
- Henry B. Eyring elaborated on 3 parts of the baptismal covenant: charity, being a witness of Christ, and enduring to the end.
- Robert D. Hales gave an excellent talk that I gained a lot from on what it means to "wait upon the Lord." It includes hope, trust, faith, patience, diligence and pressing forward, especially during times when it's hard. 
- Tad R. Callister showed how the Book of Mormon's additional witness of gospel truth eliminates the ambiguity resulting form many and varied interpretations people have gleaned from the Bible, and how there is no middle ground (a theme covered 2-3 times in other talks as well) between God and Satan. 
- Elaine S. Dalton encouraged fathers to teach values to their daughters by their own virtuous conduct and by the way fathers treat their daughters' mothers. She said, "You are not ordinary men," and reminded them of the potential and responsibility inherent in their paternal roles. 
- M. Russell Ballard taught that names are significant, and that using the full name of the church - the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints - is meaningful in describing just who we are.
- President Monson taught that God is "the same yesterday, and to day, and forever" (Hebrews 13:8), and that His commandments are non-negotiable, and that we need to listen and act on what the Spirit tells us. He also asserted that the relationship we develop with our Heavenly Father by praying to Him is crucial to our survival. 

Sunday Afternoon
- Russell M. Nelson talked about what it means to be children of the covenant, and about the Abrahamic Covenant, which is applicable to all his descendants and members of the Church.
- Dallin H. Oaks centered his talk on, "What think ye of Christ?", about who Christ is and what that means for us. He's one speaker who asserted that there is no middle ground in choosing between God and Satan.
- Matthew O. Richardson gave an interesting talk on how we can change our teaching methods to better "teach by and with the Holy Spirit," by teaching people (not lessons) and teaching in a way to prompt people to act.
- Kazuhiko Yamashita shared his tender feelings for the missionaries who taught him the gospel and shared how we can become better missionaries ourselves.
- Randall K. Bennett taught that there are consequences for every choice we make, and that we can't pick-and-choose them; he also emphasized that you cannot serve both God and Satan - that you have to choose.
- J. Devn Cornish gave a sweet, simple talk about why prayer is important and what is important to include in your prayers. 
- Quentin L. Cook issued some principles to help us deal with tragedy and mourning: we have a Father in Heaven who perfectly understands, the Atonement of Christ covers pain of sin and loss, we have the Plan of Happiness and the promise of eternal life, and that we should be grateful for all the tender mercies of the Lord. It'll be ok :)
- President Monson, in conclusion, reminded us that Heavenly Father is aware of our challenges and our efforts to serve Him and be happy. He also asked us to remember the General Authorities in our prayers.

Even for a condensed version, that's a lot of notes. I'm missing notes on the men's Priesthood session and part of the Saturday afternoon session; I'll probably post those separately later this week after I have time to watch them. 

I love the chance that General Conference gives me to relax and to feast on the Spirit. I learn so much from the many men and women who address us from their life experience and feelings as guided by the Holy Ghost. I know that Thomas S. Monson is the living prophet of our living Savior, Jesus Christ. Because of his vantage point as a prophet, I know that we will be blessed by heeding his words as surely as other people have been blessed for following prophetic warnings in their time. 

This gospel is wonderful, and it is true. Living it leads us back to living with our Heavenly Father and our Savior and Brother, Jesus Christ. Why would I sell my long-term happiness for short-lived pleasures? This is a gospel of happiness :) In the name of Jesus Christ, my Redeemer and Friend, amen.

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