What a great Conference weekend! It took me a few days to process my thoughts as it usually does. Sure, I post notes right after each session, but the main reason I even do those summaries is to force myself to listen with a ridiculous intensity. Thank heavens for the pause and rewind feature. One of my sons went as far to describe me Sunday as “passive aggressive with the remote.”
My EC brought up a point I had never considered. She asked if I had ever thought that people might read my summaries so they can talk intelligently about Conference without actually watching it – sort of a Conference “Cliffs Notes.” Of course, I would never subscribe to such a cynical view of my fellow brothers and sisters. (Except maybe for a handful of seminary students.)
Conference is very subjective. While the words which are said come to us the same, what we actually hear can be wildly different – and that is a beautiful thing. Better yet, the feelings that accompany those words should be wildly customized. In my experience I noticed something different this year, and I’ll do my best to describe it.
Have you ever heard the word “Systemic?” It is usually used in medical or organizational terms. Here are a few definitions:
- relating to a system, especially as opposed to a particular part.
- pertaining to or affecting the body as a whole.
- pertaining to, affecting, or circulating through the entire body:
I felt that “Systemic” was the word to describe this year’s conference, specifically referring to our “spiritual systems.” It is probably easier to explain by mentioning some talks I did not hear:
- Law of Consecration
- Fast Offernings
- Sabbath Day
- Word of Wisdom
- Family Home Evening
- Joesph Smith
- Easter (I don’t know that the word was ever even used.)
- Missionary Work
- Family Councils
Yes, many of this topics were briefly mentioned in the context of a larger topic, but many of the usual “go-to” subjects were conspicuously absent. Instead, often the talks were more “systemic” in nature. I think you can even spot the trend in the titles of some of the talks:
- “Overcoming the World” (Andersen)
- “Drawing to Power of Jesus Christ Into Our Lives.” (Nelson)
- “Becoming a Disciple of Our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Hales)
- “Foundations of Faith.” (Cook)
- “Let the Holy Spirit Guide.” (Rasband)
- “Trust in the Lord and Lean Not.” (Cordon)
- “Don’t Look Around, Look Up.” (Choi)
- “The Greatest Among You.” (Uchtdorf)
- “A Sin-Resistant Generation.” (Jones)
- “Brighter and Brighter Until That Perfect Day.” (Bragg)
- “Stand Up Inside and Be All In.” (Sabin)
What I heard was a tremendous effort by our leaders to get us to look at the systemic and foundational elements in our lives. The subject of “Light” was mentioned or alluded to so many times that I lost track. The importance of being worthy to have the Holy Ghost, and to listen to Him was woven throughout the entire Conference.
Rather than focus on individual commandments or topics, I thought out leaders were teaching us – begging us – to become stronger through purity. To enhance our relationship with the Savior and the Holy Ghost. To increase our faith.
Maybe that is what the Church is struggling with most right now – lack of faith and personal spiritual guidance. (Conjecture: Perhaps if we could increase our systemic faith and spiritual guidance, there would be less conflict, fewer crises of faith, fewer conflicts with others, and less reason to preach individual commandments.)
The most notable exception came from President Monson. He spoke on, and implored us to read, the Book of Mormon. But, even he tied reading the Book of Mormon to the overall, “systemic” theme when he said:
“… I implore each of us to prayerfully study and ponder the Book of Mormon each day. As we do so, we will be in a position to hear the voice of the Spirit, to resist temptation, to overcome doubt and fear, and to receive heaven’s help in our lives.”
That was the final paragraph of his talk. In the context of his current health troubles, I would ask you this question: If you knew your health was failing, and had roughly three minutes to communicate any one thing to the entire Church, what would you choose? For President Monson, it was the blessings that come from reading the Book of Mormon.
To me, this Conference was about how I need to become a better follower of the Savior to be prepared to handle whatever this world and life might throw at me. Thankfully, it was full of counsel on how to make that happen.
Your milage may vary. (Your mileage should vary.)
Note: I was driving to work and thought of this scripture: “…and the whole earth shall be in commotion, and men’s hearts shall fail them,…” (D&C 45:26) Seems appropriate for this discussion.