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prophets

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I have a decent vocabulary, but I am always on the lookout for new words. This past week I stumbled across a word I had not noticed before. It might not be new to you, but it is new to me. Even better, it was the perfect time to learn about this word, and the meaning behind it. Without further ado, the word is…

Presentism.

Here is a dictionary definition:  “noun   pres·ent·ism \pre-zᵊn-ˌti-zəman attitude toward the past dominated by present-day attitudes and experiences.” (Merriam-Webster)

Why is it timely? Because tomorrow is Columbus Day.

When I was a kid, it was all about “In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue,” and coloring pictures of the Niña, Pinta and Santa Maria. What we talked about was how Columbus discovered the Americas.

Today it is a bit different. Here are some news headlines as of last night:

• Why police have to guard a statue of Christopher Columbus in New York around the clock

• Goodbye, Columbus. Hello, Indigenous Peoples’ Day

• Christopher Columbus: No Monuments for Murderers

Yes, Columbus did set in motion many horrific things, leading to the death and enslavement of many of the indigenous peoples of the Americas. That is indisputable, and tragic. Yet what is also tragic, is how people are using presentism as a way to turn Columbus into a villainous monster of historic proportion.

In Columbus case, every year people dust off their grievances against him, and express them in an effort to malign him, and further their personal agendas. whatever they may be.

Which is it? Was Columbus a villain, or a hero?

Our doctrine subscribes to the latter. In 1992, President Gordon B. Hinckley spoke about Columbus in General Conference:

“The entire world is celebrating this month the five hundredth anniversary of the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus…In my private commemoration of this event, I have read and reread one important and prophetic verse from the Book of Mormon, and also a very long biography of Christopher Columbus.

That verse from Nephi’s vision states: “And I looked and beheld a man among the Gentiles, who was separated from the seed of my brethren by the many waters; and I beheld the Spirit of God, that it came down and wrought upon the man; and he went forth upon the many waters, even unto the seed of my brethren, who were in the promised land.” (1 Ne. 13:12.)

We interpret that to refer to Columbus. It is interesting to note that the Spirit of God wrought upon him. After reading that long biography, a Pulitzer winner of forty years ago, titled Admiral of the Ocean Sea—I have no doubt that Christopher Columbus was a man of faith, as well as a man of indomitable determination.

I recognize that in this anniversary year a host of critics have spoken out against him. I do not dispute that there were others who came to this Western Hemisphere before him. But it was he who in faith lighted a lamp to look for a new way to China and who in the process discovered America. His was an awesome undertaking—to sail west across the unknown seas farther than any before him of his generation. He it was who, in spite of the terror of the unknown and the complaints and near mutiny of his crew, sailed on with frequent prayers to the Almighty for guidance. In his reports to the sovereigns of Spain, Columbus repeatedly asserted that his voyage was for the glory of God and the spread of the Christian faith. Properly do we honor him for his unyielding strength in the face of uncertainty and danger.”  (link)

The Book of Mormon prophet Nephi saw him in vision. The modern prophet President Hinkley added his witness. Could Columbus really be the villain he is portrayed to be? I, for one, am not planning on tearing down any statues.

This is the problem with presentism. We see it happening more and more. There is not an American hero who is not being subjected to a reinterpretation of their place in history based on today’s ideas, standards, politics and ideologies, rather than what was prevalent in the time period where they actually lived.

Another example: You can’t hear a discussion about the Founding Fathers anymore without it primarily being a vivisection for their history as slaveholders. Yes, they owned slaves, but that was a common, accepted practice in their time.  Here is what I wrote about it back in July:

“It makes me crazy when people apply today’s cultural standards to people who lived in other times. It is true that many of the Founding Fathers owned slaves, but in 1776 slavery was part of life -even the African tribes where the slaves came from bought and sold slaves from each other. (I have an ancestor that was an “indentured servant” and he was from Ireland.) It is entirely unfair to use this long-abandoned practice to diminish people who were living the normal standard of their time – even though now we rightly see it as detestable.” (link)

I was making a case against presentism, without even knowing there was a word for it.

Problem #1 with Presentism: It is patently unfair.

For example: This isn’t 1492. To accuse a man of genocide for willfully introducing virus and bacteria into an indigenous population is ridiculous, being that “germ theory” was not even a thing at that time. It would be equally unfair to accuse Queen Isabella of Spain for failure to send antibiotics with Columbus. To push it to reductio ad absurdum, the blame could fall on the indigenous people for having cruddy immune systems! Assigning today’s knowledge and morality to people dead 500 years is unfair.

I have seen the question asked, “What if your life were defined by your worst moment?” Often, that’s what happens when history is leveraged for an agenda. An entire life can be summarized as “slaveholder,” forgetting the part about writing the inspired documents that founded our nation. )See Thomas Jefferson)

Elder Dalin Oaks said, “The Lord’s way of final judgment will be to apply His perfect knowledge of the law a person has received and to judge on the basis of that person’s circumstances, motives, and actions throughout his or her entire life.” (link)

There is also something unfair about waging new attacks against people who are not around to defend themselves. I would love to hear George Washington respond to his modern-day detractors.

Yes, it would be wrong to try and sweep the negatives user the rug, but focusing on the positive is not a bad way to go through life. We can learn from the past without creating a false moral equivalence. We can also learn from the past to improve our morality – not to castigate those who went before.

Problem #2 with Presentism: It is not justified.

One of the tenents of our religion is to not judge unrighteously. (link) Sure, we judge every day of our lives, but it is not for us to condemn. That is God’s job, and I’ll leave it to Him.

There is a Rush song called “Available Light.” I love that expression in the context of what we can expect God to judge us for. He will judge us based on what we do with the available light that we have received.

Never has there been so much “light” available to any generation as we have right now. It is not just to expect those who were not given this same intensity of light to be accountable to it – as we are. This does not just apply to those who lived in another time, it also applies to those who live among us or in the world who have never had the opportunity to be enlightened.

Joseph Smith taught, “Men will be held accountable for the things which they have and not for the things they have not. … All the light and intelligence communicated to them from their beneficent creator, whether it is much or little, by the same they in justice will be judged.” (link)

and, “God judges men according to the use they make of the light which He gives them.”

Elder M. Russell Ballard in a landmark discourse about suicide taught, “Only the Lord knows all the details, and he it is who will judge our actions here on earth. When he does judge us, I feel he will take all things into consideration: our genetic and chemical makeup, our mental state, our intellectual capacity, the teachings we have received, the traditions of our fathers, our health, and so forth.” (link) (I took the liberty of bolding two of the items, in that they seem relevant to this discussion.)

In other words, the judgment is a very complicated, individualized thing – there are a lot of factors in play. Let’s leave it up to God. I am confident he will get it right.

Problem #3 with Presentism: It is usually leveraged to tear down, rather than to build.

This is not just a common concern related to explorers and Founding Fathers. You see this in attacks on early Church leaders. Detractors has been trying to heap dirt on Joseph Smith since he was fourteen. What helps them in their cause is that Joseph was not a perfect man. He made mistakes. He had flaws. He made poor choices. By applying presentism to his life, his human flaws can be accentuated. Life in 1830 was vastly different from today in ways I do not understand. Even the meaning of words used back then are different. Often, those differences are used to detract from the prophet’s message.

From President Monson, “Great courage will be required as we remain faithful and true amid the ever-increasing pressures and insidious influences with which we are surrounded and which distort the truth, tear down the good and the decent, and attempt to substitute the man-made philosophies of the world.” (link)

A few years ago, President Uchtdorf explained that “The world needs builders, especially bridge builders, not destroyers.” (link)

Problem #4 with Presentism: Backwards application

Michael Otterson, head Public Affairs man for the Church, mentioned it in a speech a couple years back: “Most people here will understand the word “presentism” — defined by Webster’s as “an attitude toward the past dominated by present-day attitudes and experiences.” Presentism is a common problem. It’s so easy to dig into the past and find a statement that reflects the norms of the times in which it was stated and then incorrectly apply it to our day.” (link)

I’ve seen this backward application in arguments as to how the Church is being run incorrectly, or how ordinances are being performed wrong, etc. It is bogus, but lends an air of credibility to the bogus arguments. And usually, they require some very specific cherry-picking.

One of my favorites is, “Why can’t temple workers have beards? Jesus had a beard.”  Seriously?

a) Jesus also couldn’t eat bacon or lobster.

b) Jesus probably never showered or wore deodorant.

You really want to go there? Are you all in, or just cherry-pick the parts you like?

Apostate groups have used backwards presentism to justify all sorts of wrong-mindedness about the doctrines and ordinances of the gospel, forgetting this simple: A living prophet out ranks a dead prophet.

Yes, this is getting long…

I am planning on honoring Columbus tomorrow, just as I honor the Founding Fathers on the 4th of July. I figure if it is good enough for Nephi, and for the modern prophets, it is good enough for me.

I’ll leave you with this, from Joseph Smith, “While one portion of the human race is judging and condemning the other without mercy, the Great Parent of the universe looks upon the whole of the human family with a fatherly care and paternal regard. … He is a wise Lawgiver, and will judge all men, not according to the narrow, contracted notions of men, but, ‘according to the deeds done in the body whether they be good or evil,’ or whether these deeds were done in England, America, Spain, Turkey, or India. … We need not doubt the wisdom and intelligence of the Great Jehovah; He will award judgment or mercy to all nations according to their several deserts, their means of obtaining intelligence, the laws by which they are governed, the facilities afforded them of obtaining correct information, and His inscrutable designs in relation to the human family; and when the designs of God shall be made manifest, and the curtain of futurity be withdrawn, we shall all of us eventually have to confess that the Judge of all the earth has done right.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 218)

 MMM Note:  Yes, this is a little long, and a little heavy. I just spent the afternoon at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum in Springfield, IL. As I learned about the vicious opposition he went through in his lifetime, and the personal struggles he dealt with, I grew to love the man even more – flawed as he may be.

And as I stood and heard a voice read the words of the Gettysburg address, my eyes filled with tears. Tears of sadness, and tears of gratitude that God brings noble people like Abraham Lincoln into play when they are needed most.

Good Sabbath.

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Note:  These are the instant, mildly-filtered things that ran through my brain and heart as I watched this session of General Conference. If you are looking for deep, spiritual analysis, this is not the place. Drive on. Please check back later for that, after I have had some time to process.

President Eyring opened with a lovely tribute to Elder Robert D. Hales. Lovely man, great leader. I’m gonna miss him. Pretty confident he will rest in peace. I also like that he just barely got sustained yesterday.

• I LOVE “Have I Done Any Good in the World Today.” Not so much the musicality, but the lyrics are one of the great calls to action in the church. A personal mantra of sorts.

• Had to go re-wash my hands. Don’t want to get buffalo sauce on my keyboard.

 

Elder M. Russell Ballard “The Church is stronger… than it was the day I was first baptized.”

“The early saints were not perfect, but they established a foundation upon which we are building families and a society that loves and keeps commandments…”

Talked about the importance of retaining our ties to our pioneer ancestors (I’m lucky, because I have a bunch of them.)

He is busy calling people out for seeking “secret knowledge” and warned us against listening to those who don’t have callings and authority. Watch out for get-rich or get healthy quick schemes. Don’t give money to them. (I’ll look for the actual quotes, but this was rapid-fire awesomeness.)

“Welcome and embrace anyone who is making their own Trek today, no matter where they are in their journey.”

One thing I love about Elder Ballard is that he is very current, and not afraid to bring down the hammer. He managed to take on apostasy, racism, sexism, nationalism, get-rich-quick schemes, and quack medicine – all in 45 seconds. The hammer has been dropped.

 

Tad R. Callister (Sunday School President): Testimony of the Book of Mormon. How did a farm boy write something so complex, both historically and doctrinally?

MMM personal witness: Being a writer has only increased by testimony that there is no freaking way Joseph Smith could have written the Book of Mormon in 65 days with one draft. Flat out impossible. It required divine intervention.

“God’s fingerprints are all over the Book of Mormon.”  Amen and amen. “While some may choose to believe the critics, for me it is a intellectual and spiritual dead end.”

A powerful, compelling witness of the Book of Mormon.  He’s the Sunday school President, laying down some serious Gospel Doctrine.

“While some may choose to believe the critics, for me it is a intellectual and spiritual dead end.”

“We not only have the privilege to defend the Book of Mormon but the opportunity to take the offense—to preach with power.”

I didn’t take many notes, because I was too engaged it what he said. So, so good.

 

Elder Joni L. Koch. (Brazilero, former president of the Mozambique mission.) A lovely talk about unity, and yet another shot across the bow of racism.

“The Lord expects us to be one…we should leave behind our differences, including race, social status, political preferences and concentrate on our common spiritual objectives.”

“So many ways to destroy unity.” 

“Sometimes we put permanent labels on someone.” “We have no right to portray anybody as a badly finished product.”

“Our words about our fellow beings should reflect our belief in Jesus Christ and His Atonement.”

“What really determines, solidifies or destroys our unity is how we act when we are apart from our Church members.”

Spoke a lot about sustaining our leaders, and being aware of how we speak about them. This has a been brought up quite often in this Conference.

 

• This feels like the “Mic Drop” session of Conference.

 

Elder Stanley G. Ellis. “God Trusts Us.”  “The question for this Conference is, Do we trust Him?”

“It seems clear that hard is good. It makes us stronger.”

One of the great church quotes of all time: Joseph Smith: “A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has the power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation”

“In the world of nature, hard is part of the circle of life. It is hard for a baby chick to hatch out of that tough eggshell. But when someone tries to make it easier, the chick does not develop the strength necessary to live.”

“Hard is the constant! We all have challenges. The variable is our reaction to the hard.”

Note to self: Make kids suffer.

“The Lord has taught me that discouragement and fear are tools of the adversary.”

I like the hope in this part: “Regardless of the issue, hard can be good for those who will move forward with faith & trust the Lord & His plan.”

 

• So, I mentioned that they front-loaded the first session, but it looks like they saved some of the best ammo for the last.

 

Adilson de Paula Parella talked about his family’s conversion story, and heading back to Brazil to find a wife. Funny story. It was fast, but not fast by Provo standards.  Haha!

One of the great blessing of the Gospel is having a correct idea of the true nature of God. “How blessed we are to know that God is a being with a body of flesh and bones as tangible as ours.” (That is a big deal to anyone coming from a religion based on the Nicene Creed)

“He is a loving God who provided a plan through which we can enjoy happiness in this life and in eternity.”

A lovely testimony of the Savior: “Jesus is the promised Messiah, the Lawgiver, the Holy One of Israel, our Lord, our Savior, our Redeemer, our King, our All.”

 

• Elder Ian S. Ardern might challenge President Uchtdorf for coolest agent. New Zealand.

“Our Savior Jesus Christ, is the light of the world and He beckons us to follow Him.”

He is also a veritable quote machine:

“The greater the light in our lives the fewer the shadows.”  (Third talk about light)

“Questions about our Church history and beliefs do arise. Where we turn to find the correct answers requires great care.”

“As we study from the best books we protect ourselves against the menacing jaws of those that seek to gnaw at our spiritual roots.”

“Questions are an invitation to build our faith and should not fuel a passing moment of deceiving doubt.”

 

• It was at this moment that I picked up the remote an turned off the cable box, losing the last few minutes of Elder Adern’s talk. Yeah, I got dirty looks.

 

• Elder Jose Alonso. Born in Mexico – Surgeon?pediatrics

Told a tragic story of a boy Cooper who was killed in a car crash. Makes me want to hug everyone. Anyone.

“Love without service is like faith without works; it’s dead indeed.”

“Love is a combination of actions as well as deep feelings.”

“What many of us need to do is leave our mobile devices behind & with our hands & feet, help others in great need.” (A great thought, and I just got a handle on putting my phone away when I drive.)

 

• I enjoy the international sessions with more, shorter talks.

 

And to wrap things up, Elder Neil A. Anderson teach about how General Conference talks come to pass. They are not assigned. And it sounds like it is tough.

“General conference is one of the very important times He gives direction to His Church and to us personally”

“Trusting and believing in the words of the First Presidency & Quorum of the Twelve is vital to our spiritual growth & endurance.”

“Thoughts and feelings will come into your mind that are customized especially for you.” Talking about the type of inspiration we can receive listening to conference, and studying them later. (Here’s a plug for my “Nudge List” idea.)

Interesting: He is reading quotes from some of the talks given today and yesterday – even Elder Ballard from earlier in the same session. Then “because we have an extra minute” he read some remarks that Elder Hales had written:

“When we choose to have faith we stand in the presence of God. Our faith prepares us to stand in the presence of God.”

He shared with us that President Nelson took off quickly after the morning session, skipped lunch and arrived at Elder Hales bedside before he passed.

I don’t recall a talk like this that was not completely written and rewritten long before it is delivered. I kinda like the spontaneity of it.

 

• My Apple Watch keeps telling me that it is time to stand up.  Amen.

• I have no idea who Julie Olson is, but she does these “Conference Sketches” that I stumbled upon. I think they are cool. Check them out: https://twitter.com/julieolsonbooks

• Another great session, made al the more poignant by Elder Hales passing. Another great Conference.

• Don’t forget to keep track of your “Nudge Lists” and keep them accessible.

• Thanks for putting up with me – God Bless!

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Note:  These are the instant, mildly-filtered things that ran through my brain and heart as I watched this session of General Conference. If you are looking for deep, spiritual analysis, this is not the place. Drive on. Please check back later for that, after I have had some time to process.

• I woke up about 8 minutes ago… I know, awesome! Thankfully, there are lots of choir numbers so that I can savor these orange rolls.

• I have always liked the “Alleluias” in “Press Forward Saints.”

• In case you were wondering, the Color of the Day is Cyan. Cyan.

 

President Jean Bingham, RS President. Sharp lady. (She’s pretty cute. Is that wrong to say?)

“Where can I turn for peace?” – Turning to the Savior and living the gospel.

She memorized “The Living Christ” as talked about the great blessing it has been to her. “As you study Christ’s life and teachings in a myriad of ways, your faith in Him will increase.”

Killer quote: “When the storms of life press upon us, do we frantically look for a how-to book or an internet post for help?”

“Sometimes we are afraid to trust because we don’t understand God’s absolute love and desire to help us.”

Good, solid talk about finding peace by getting to know the Savior better. That is how we will find joy and peace.

 

Elder Donald Hallstrom told the story of a youth leader who took a tumble off a cliff, and his miraculous survival.

Asks the hard question about those who are faithful, yet their miracle Never comes.

“My limited knowledge cannot explain why sometimes there is divine intervention, and sometimes there is not.”

Spent some time defining what a miracle is, “A beneficial event brought about by circumstances beyond human understanding” and the relationship to faith.

“Do we have the faith ‘not to be healed’ from our earthly afflictions so that we might be healed eternally?’ Where is our faith focused? Is it on relieving our suffering our on God’s will. (These are some tough ideas.)

“We are living a miracle, and further miracles lie ahead.”

 

Elder David A. Bednar. It is too easy to get diverted form essential spiritual things because of the business of the world. “Sometimes…we try to run so fast that we may forget where we are going and why we are running.”

…and as I try and take notes, I realize that Elder Bednar is talking about EVERYTHING. I might need to just sit back and let it wash over me.

“We are too apt to forget the great object of life.”

When you spin it down, he is making the point that sabbath day and temple will keep us free from the world.

Showing up to Church and the Temple is insufficient – we must draw spiritual strength from them. “The presence and power of the Holy Ghost.”

We should take the things we learn on the Sabbath and in the temple and bring them into our homes.

“The gospel is so much more than a routine checklist of discreet tasks to be performed, rather it is a magnificent tapestry of truth, fitly framed and woven together designed to help us become like our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, even partakers of the divine nature.”

Watch out for the “cares and casualness” of the world. (It appears that overcoming wordiness is one of the themes this year.)

 

• OK, because I am me, I Googled “Magnificent Tapestry of Truth,” and got this picture. Rubens “Triumph of Truth Over Heresy.”

• Back to conference…

 

W. Christope Waddell 2nd Counselor, OPB. Told the story about a man creating a fulfilling life, while blind.

“Due to the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we can move forward and have better days.”

Told the story of the Nephites in bondage: “Rather than blame God, they turned to God.” and the Lord eased their burdens, while not removing them.

This is a great talk to follow Elder Hallstrom’s talk about miracles/non miracles.

“The sad irony is that too often those most in need turn away from their one most erect source of help – our Savior Jesus Christ.”

Followed with the story of the fiery serpents. “Look to the Savior and live.”

“True, enduring happiness with the accompanying strength, courage, and capacity to overcome but rather where we choose to focus & the foundation upon which we choose to build.”

Big quote: “How we respond to life’s challenges is a choice.”

 

• Missing my kids who have left the nest extra this weekend.

 

Elder W. Craig Zwick. Cool voice. Talked about The Lion King, and how Rafiki told Simba that he needed to “Look beyond what you see.”

“To look beyond what we see, we must look at others through the eyes of our Savior.”

“We must look past the easy assumptions and stereotypes and widen the tiny lens of our own experience.”

I will always remember Elder Zwick as the first General Authority to reference Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball.”

I love the story of Elisha and the chariots coming to his aid, “And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us aremore than they that be with them.” (2 Kings 6:16) (But today it made me think of the Army of the Undead in Lord of the Rings.) (Between that and Miley Cyrus, apparently my head is not in the right place this morning.)

Social media takes yet another hit. This time Pinterest and Instagram were included. “Instead of seeing through the lens of social media, we need to look inward for the Godly attributes to which we each lay claim.”  “These Godly qualities and longings cannot be posted on Pinterest or Instagram.”

“Looking beyond what we can see requires constant focus on our Savior.”

This is an important idea, and I hope it doesn’t get buried in this treasure trove f information: “To accept and love others does NOT mean we must embrace their ideas!”

“When we pay attention to spiritual ‘alarms’ that signal a need for course correction or larger eternal perspective we are receiving the sacramental promise to have His Spirit be with us.” Nice!

Really loved, and needed this talk. Multiple nudges in this one.

 

• This just in: The Priesthood choir just now finished singing all the verses to Secret Prayer.

• Remember how exhausted the young Joseph Smith was after spiritual experiences?  We’ve got some of that going on in our living room right now.

 

President Henry B. Eyring began by reiterating President Monson’s April challenge and promises regarding daily reading of the Book of Mormon. President Eyring has read the Book of Mormon every day for over FIFTY YEARS!  And that, folks, is why President Eyring is President Eyring.

“Those of us who took his inspired counsel to heart have heard the Spirit more distinctly.”

“The Spirit he promised has produced a sense of optimism about what lies ahead, even as the commotion in the world seems to increase.”

Talked about the Teton flood in Rexburg (40 years ago) and ongoing cleanup of the recent hurricanes in TX and FL. “Yellow Angels.”

“A man filled with the love of God is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world anxious to bless the whole human race.” (Joseph Smith)

“That desire to bless is the fruit of people gaining a testimony of Jesus Christ, his gospel, his restored church and his prophet.”

 

“Our hearts, however, remain changed only as long as we continue to follow the prophet’s counsel. If we stop trying, after one burst of effort, the change will fade.”

“Following Him in your life and in your service to others is the only way to eternal life.”

“Faith always defeats fear.”

I love when the Brethren offer us optimism: “The best days are ahead for the kingdom of God on the earth.”

 

• I love the song “I Believe in Christ,” especially because Bruce R. McConkie wrote the words.

• Amazing that there is only one session left. It flies by.

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Note:  These are the instant, mildly-filtered things that ran through my brain and heart as I watched this session of General Conference. If you are looking for deep, spiritual analysis, this is not the place. Drive on. Please check back later for that, after I have had some time to process.

• This is kind of weird: For the first time in my life, I am watching the Priesthood Session from home – but I would rather not be. Both my boys who could attend with me are not feeling well, so going to the tradition of heading to the Stake Center and then out for Mexican food has been replaced by watching in the living room and ordering pizza.

• On the plus side, I will get this posted a lot earlier tonight. (But I would rather maintain our tradition.)

• I wonder if it would be humanly possible to sing “Secret Prayer” slower than the choir did, without members of the choir dying of old age before they reach the last verse.

 

Elder Dale G. Renlund: Rockets! With groovy animation. “The Priesthood is like a rocket, and the opportunity to benefit from the Savior’s atoning power is similar to the payload the rocket delivers.”

Ah! The priesthood is the delivery vehicle to deliver access to the atonement. (This could go LOTS of direction.)

“Priesthood is not an amorphous source of autonomous power.” (Yes! No man taketh this honor unto himself…Hebrews 5:4)

“We have the priesthood so that we can help Heavenly Father’s children be relieved of the burden of sin and become like Him.” (That’s the payload.)

Gotta keep the rocket flight-worthy: “Being casual or apathetic in a priesthood calling is like introducing material fatigue into a rocket component.”

Nice explanation of the Oath & Covenant of the Priesthood: God makes the Oath, Man makes the Covenant.

What we need to do:

  1. Keep the commandments
  2. Make and keep priesthood covenants

 

Elder David F. Evans spoke on finding answers and testimonies.

“If you do not have a firm testimony of these things, do that which is necessary to obtain one.”

It is interesting how often he uses the word “patient” in discussing how to find truth. A struggle for many of us.

“To know truth, we need to live the gospel and experiment on the word.” (An allusion to Alma 32:27)

 

• I got distracted: I got a message that Monty Hall died today. I wonder if he is trying to make a deal.

 

Elder Richard J. Maynes: Men with integrity of heart are trusted.

“With each decision we make we either merit more of God’s trust, or diminish it.” (I would suggest that it is that way with kids and parents, too.) “One thing is for certain: earning the Lord’s trust is a blessing that comes through great effort on our part.”

Told a terrific story from his youth about his father refusing to work with a slimy businessman. “Once you take a bribe or compromise your integrity, it is very difficult to get it back.”

 

• No flowers behind the podium – just shiny greenery.

 

President Dieter F. UchtdorfSpiritual Wellness: How to find healing from stagnation and walk a path of vibrant spiritual health. (Awesome!)

“Most of us have experienced times where Heavenly Father seems distant.”

“Sometimes spiritual breakdowns come so gradually that we can scarcely tell what is happening.”

“Just because spiritual trials are real, does not mean that they are incurable. We can heal spiritually.”

He talked about the importance of light in seeing what is important. I always like when the concept of light is discussed in a religious or scientific sense. (It is one of my favorite topics, and I think they are more closely related that we can imagine.)

Jesus is the Light of the World. That light will grow and eventually dispel all darkness.

Spirit=Light=Truth.  “For the word of the Lord is truth, and whatsoever is truth is light, and whatsoever is light is Spirit, even the Spirit of Jesus Christ.” (D&C 84:45)

“We will find spiritual healing as we step away from the shadows of the world and into the everlasting Light of Christ.”

“The ultimate remedy for spiritual sickness: Darkness vanishes in the presence of light.”

He warned us about getting too comfortable with darkness – we will be less likely to change.

Night is nothing more than a shadow – harkens back to Elder Stevenson – then he referenced the eclipse directly.

If it is dark, it simply means that we are in the wrong place to receive the light.

He went on a tear to list different ways we could find increased light, temple, sacrament, service, etc. Ned to go back and read it. Really good stuff.

“Our young people are seeking light, and they need to hear from you…”

 

President Henry B. Eyring.  Primer on how Christ leads His Church.

“My purpose tonight is to build your faith, that God directs you in your service to him, and even more importantly, my purpose is to build your faith that the Lord is inspiring the imperfect persons he has called as your leaders.”

He talked about how when a Bishop gets called, he gets called to serve people who know him well – warts and all – knowing there are probably other people who could do the job better. (Been there, done that.)

“The Lord sees his servants perfectly. He sees their potential and their future. He knows how their very nature can be changed. He also knows how they can be changed by their experiences with the people they serve.”

Told the best joke of the conference. You’re gonna have to look it up.

I love how President Eyring gets choked up when he speaks, which he does almost every time.

He quoted James E. Faust: “Every member of this Church may receive counsel from a bishop or a branch president, a stake or a mission president, and the President of the Church and his associates. None of these brethren asked for his calling. None is perfect. Yet they are the servants of the Lord, called by Him through those entitled to inspiration. Those called, sustained, and set apart are entitled to our sustaining support.” (link)

Told the story about Brigham Young calling out the other church leaders when they were trying to mutiny against the prophet Joseph.

 

“I bear you my solemn and yet joyful witness that the Lord Jesus Christ is at the helm. He leads His Church and His servants.”  I believe him.

 

• My Nudge List is already pretty long, and we have another day…

• Have a great night. Back tomorrow, same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel.

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Note:  These are the instant, mildly-filtered things that ran through my brain and heart as I watched this session of General Conference. If you are looking for deep, spiritual analysis, this is not the place. Drive on. Please check back later for that, after I have had some time to process.

• I love it when the kid’s choirs sing, because it reminds me of the two times I had that opportunity.

• I wonder what was going through the department store buyer’s minds when there was a sudden run on two sizes of young men’s dark suits in Midvale and Sandy.

• I LOVE the opportunity to sustain our leaders at Conference. I don’t care if I am alone in the room, or in my car, I’ll raise my hand. Raising the right hand is a sacred sign, and a personal gut check of where I stand.

• President Eyring gave it his best shot when trying to pronounce all the foreign names, but, he is no Uchtdorf.

• I was glad to NOT hear a lot of vocal opposition to the sustainings. I would be curious if that was because of the sound mix, or those who oppose are beginning to understand how things work, and/or are developing some manners and respect.

 

Elder Gary E. Stevenson. (Still so new that I really don’t now what to expect.

He presented an extended metaphor between the recent eclipse and spirituality. “In the same manner that the very small moon can block the magnificent sun…a spiritual eclipse can occur.”

1. Gospel glasses: Look at challenges through the lens of the gospel. “When you put on ‘gospel glasses,’ you find enhanced perspective, focus, and vision.”

(2nd talk about social media and tech interfering with face-to-face interaction.)

2. Dangers of social media false representation – they can present an idealized reality that isn’t so real. Comparison is dangerous. (This was also addressed multiple times in the Women’s Session.)

“Viewing Social Media through the lens of the gospel can prevent it from becoming a spiritual eclipse in our lives.”

3. Pride. “In my experience in the Church as well as through my professional career (exercise equipment company) some of the greatest most effective people I have known have been among the most meek and humble.”

During an eclipse, a relatively small thing can obscure the warmth and light of the sun, but the sun is still there: “No matter the obstruction that may block our vision of gospel light, the light is still there.”

“Don’t let life’s distractions eclipse heaven’s light.”

 

Bro. Stephen W. Owen (YM President) directed his remarks about repentance to people who feel they are losing the fight. “While there may be undefeated seasons in sports, there aren’t any in life.”

“Repentance is our escape route.”

Quoted Elder Renlund saying, “Without our Redeemer, repentance becomes simply miserable behavior modification.” (Man, that’s a great quote.) He immediately followed with, “We can try to change our behavior on our own, but only the Savior can remove our stains and lift our burdens.”

Another parable: Prodigal Son. “We are all prodigals.”

“I testify that the moment we set foot on the path of repentance, we invite the Savior’s redeeming power into our lives.”

I like how he brought in the idea that repentance is for everyone. all the time. not just for the humongo sins. (But he never used the word humongo, so this is not a direct quote.)

 

• They are moving through apostles quickly – I wonder if some will do double-duty tomorrow.

 

Elder Quentin L. Cook gets topical right off the bat: “Anyone who claims superiority under the father’s plan because of characteristics like race, sex, nationality, language…is morally wrong.”

Spoke of different ways humility needs to be exercised:  “…accepting callings when we do not feel adequate.”” “…serving faithfully when we feel capable of a more high-profile assignment.”  “…overcoming hurt feelings when we feel leaders or others have mistreated us.”   

“At every level of the Church it is important to understand the Christlike attribute of humility.”

“Civic virtues of modesty and understatement.”  Now there’s a phrase that needs to be chewed on. And if that doesn’t trigger some people, this will, “We need more modesty and humility.”

“Humility isn’t some grand identifiable achievement or even overcoming some major challenge. It is a sign of spiritual strength.” (it’s about being, not doing)

Talked about the relationship between holding grudges and the atonement. “Holding a grudge is poisonous to our souls.”

Definitely required re-reading. A great lesson humility.

 

• I am proud of my humility, but I’m sure I can get even better at it.

 

Elder Ronald Rasband landed my favorite quote of the conference so far: “Our lives are like a chess board and the Lord moves us from one place to another—if we are responsive to spiritual promptings.”

He spent a lot of time showing how coincidences are not really coincidences, rather a function of God putting us into places where we can further the work. For example: Nephi being in a position to get the plates of Laban.

“Heavenly Father can put us in situations with specific intent in mind.’

“Sometimes we consider changes in our plans as missteps on our journey. Think of them more as first steps to being on ‘The Lord’s Errand.’”

D&C 84:88: And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.

“We have a choice: To follow, or to not follow our Savior and his chosen leaders.”  (Yes, it really is a binary decision)

“By divine design, He is in the small details of your life, as well as the major milestones.”

 

Elder O. Vincent Halek told stories about saints living in the Pacific islands, with an emphasis on the “widow’s mite.” (Mark 12:41-44)

“The heart of the widow who gave her two mites is a heart that will give all by making sacrifices by enduring hardships, persecution, and rejection; and by bearing burdens of many kinds.”

Ummm.  I kinda zoned out for a few minutes and didn’t take notes, but it is nicely summarized by this quote that I DID get: “The heart of the widow is defined by a willingness to give all for the building up of the kingdom of God on the earth.”

 

• I hope they were able to get the caffeinated sodas on BYU campus BEFORE Conference.

 

President Russell M.Nelson wraps up this session. I can’t get my head around the fact that he is 93 years old.

Told a great story about a conversation with the King of Ghana, and tied it in to the Book of Mormon.

“Conversion is an individual matter.”

He asked the question “How precious is the Book of Mormon to you?” 

Reinforcing President Monson’s challenge from last April: “I promise that as you prayerfully study the Book of Mormon every day, you will make better decisions every day.” That is a huge promise, and makes sense if you look at it from a sense of the Holy Ghost guiding our decisions.

*Observation: President Nelson studies from a hard copy of the Book of Mormon, not digital.

Three related questions:

  1. What would your life be like today without the Book of Mormon?
  2. What would you not know?
  3. What would you not have?

I really love this acknowledgment of an extra benefit of the Book of Mormon: “The Book of Mormon both illuminates the teachings of the Master and exposes the tactics if the adversary.”

“We need to feel, deep in the inmost part of our hearts that the Book of Mormon is unequivocally the word of God.”

Awesome talk. Near the end, he shifted to his testimony, his tone changed, and I felt it. It was powerful. “The full power of the gospel of Jesus Christ is contained in the Book of Mormon. Period.”

Check out this promise: “I promise you that as you daily immerse yourself in the Book of Mormon you can be immunized against the evils of the day, even the gripping plague of pornography and other mind-cubing addictions.” 

One of the best cases for daily reading of the Book of Mormon that I can recall.

 

• Another great session.

• Priesthood coming up in two hours.