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prophets

18

In case anyone noticed, I was gone last week. I rarely miss my regular Sunday post, but I did last week. My apologies. My EC and I were traveling and I was prevented from posting because of a severe bout of laziness. I am back. I missed you all terribly.

Bubbles in bubbles

My son picked us up at the airport after we returned from Seattle. I was telling him about some of the good and bad that we saw, when he made a simple observation:

“You live in a bubble.”

It is true. I can’t deny it. I do live in a bubble.  More on that later.

Seattle is a gorgeous, modern city, regarded by many as one of the great cities of the country and even the world.  I understand why. It does have a lot of things going for it. We saw the sights and enjoyed ourselves immensely. So, Seattle-lovers, pat yourselves on the back.

Of course, the “bubble” comment was not due to my pointing out the Femont Troll or the Gum Wall, it was due to three other things I noticed, and explained to my son.:

  1. This was the first time I had seen (and smelled) people openly smoking pot – at the bus stops, walking down the sidewalk, etc. I felt like I was at a rock concert in the ’70s.
  2. Huge “tent-cities” of homeless people set up in parks and beneath freeway on-ramps.It had very much a modern “Grapes of Wrath” feel to it, surrounded by wealth.
  3. A guide at the top of the Space Needle explained that the roof-top gardens, (What looked like parks on top of high-rise buildings) were not for kids, but for dogs. She seemed happy to tell us that in Seattle, the dog population recently surpassed the child population, and that apartment owners are catering to renters with dogs, and discouraging children.

That is when my son pointed out that I live in bubble. It is true, I do live in a bubble. However, I venture outside of that bubble quite often. I have seen the best and worst in the world. I have been to Thailand and Mozambique, and seen poverty that makes the tent-cities look like the Upper-West side. I have been to huge cities like London, New York and Paris and seen the good and bad. I have the devastation brought on societies by corrupt government, base instincts and dangerous addictions. I have seen much.

But I come home to my bubble.

Over the past week I have been thinking a lot about my bubble. (I live in Gilbert, Arizona, which is a pretty darn nice place to live. The crime rate is low, the economic stats are good, and there are Circle Ks on most every corner. The Church has a large, devout following. I like it, and felt good about raising our kids here.)

When someone tells me that I live in a bubble, my first response isn’t “thanks!” Instead, I almost feel a little sheepish about it. Why is that? Here are a few thoughts about living in a bubble.

In religious geography, we call living in a bubble “Zion.” It has been a hallmark of the Lord’s people all the way back to the City of Enoch. (Moses 7:19) Enoch and his people effectively became a Zion community and were taken up.  It was a much happier story than the Children of Israel, when the Lord commanded them to exterminate the entire population of Canaan when they took over. (Deuteronomy 2:34)

The Nephites were able to pull it off for a while after Christ visited them. (4 Nephi 1:2-3) But they were never taken up, and it eventually fell apart, resulting in their utter destruction.

The idea that Zion will be a geographical entity is described in one of the basic tenets of out faith, the tenth Article of Faith: We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory. (link)

It was a priority in the early days of the church. Joseph Smith said, “We ought to have the building up of Zion as our greatest object. … The time is soon coming, when no man will have any peace but in Zion and her stakes” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith,  160–61).

We saw attempts in the early days of the restored Church to establish a geographic Zion: Most notably Jackson County , Missouri, and later, Salt Lake City. If there was ever a man who would have liked to build a dome over his city, it would be Brigham Young.

The way it worked was to try and establish a safe place where the saints could dwell, unmolested from outside forces, then, send missionaries out into the world to find new believers and bring them back to Zion, saving souls and helping Zion to grow.

As time passed, and the Church spread throughout the world, the focus on Zion as a place began to recede, and the Zion became more about people. “Please note: Zion is people; Zion is the saints of God; Zion is those who have been baptized; Zion is those who have received the Holy Ghost; Zion is those who keep the commandments; Zion is the righteous; or in other words, as our revelation recites: “This is Zion—the pure in heart.” (D&C 97:21.)(Bruce R. McConkie)

This harkens back to the original definition of Zion as described by Moses: “And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.” (Moses 7:18) (Bruce R. McConkie taught that it wasn’t the actual City of Enoch that was lifted up, but the residents.) (link)

The “Zion” that Brigham Young worked for is no longer. There is no city or land that is portioned off for the members of the Church. There is no domed “Bubble City.”

So what is the quest now? I see it as a series of layers, much like the layers of bubbles at the top of the page.

  1. We need to be Zion people – A Zion Person. Pure in heart, and of one heart and mind. How do we do this? Be clean, and follow the Savior and His prophets: “We will become of one heart and one mind as we individually place the Savior at the center of our lives and follow those He has commissioned to lead us.” (Elder D. Todd Christofferson)
  2. Once we have an individual Zion-like purity, the next layer would be a Zion family. While this seems like a no-brainer, it is tougher than ever to achieve this. Zion requires us to be of one heart and one mind. Even within a loving family it is tough to be united and share common beliefs. Some of the most tragic divisions come inside a home.
  3. Our Zion families contribute to Zion communities. While this is not likely to happen city to city, it is more likely to happen ward-to-ward and stake-to-stake. “For Zion must increase in beauty, and in holiness; her borders must be enlarged; her stakes must be strengthened; yea, verily I say unto you, Zion must arise and put on her beautiful garments.” (D&C 82:14.) How do you make strong stakes? Strong families.
  4. Then, to the Big Zion – the worldwide Church.  Elder D. Todd Christofferson made some excellent observations on how that can happen:

    “Zion is Zion because of the character, attributes, and faithfulness of her citizens. Remember, “the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them” (Moses 7:18). If we would establish Zion in our homes, branches, wards, and stakes, we must rise to this standard. It will be necessary (1) to become unified in one heart and one mind; (2) to become, individually and collectively, a holy people; and (3) to care for the poor and needy with such effectiveness that we eliminate poverty among us. We cannot wait until Zion comes for these things to happen—Zion will come only as they happen.”

In my observations, I don’t personally recall a time in the Church (since I have been paying attention) that has been less Zion-like than right now. The are so many voices in open disagreement with the Lord’s servants, even within the Church. The idea of “one heart and one mind,” seems less plausible as time goes on. There are more dissenting and differing voices than I can ever recall – and they have louder megaphones due to technology.

I am not advocating that we all need to be of “one mind” in all things. We don’t all need to think exactly alike about everything – that would be boring. As my grampa used to say, “If everyone liked the same things, they’d all be chasing your gramma.” But when it comes to the BIG things – the doctrines, the sustaining of leaders, the humility to be led – there are many loud and dissenting voices. That is not Zion.

If we pursued unity with the passion that we extolled our differences, we might just find Zion.

Elder Christoferson:  If we would establish Zion in our homes, branches, wards, and stakes, we must rise to this standard. It will be necessary (1) to become unified in one heart and one mind; (2) to become, individually and collectively, a holy people; and (3) to care for the poor and needy with such effectiveness that we eliminate poverty among us. We cannot wait until Zion comes for these things to happen—Zion will come only as they happen. (link)

As he mentions the care for the poor and needy, I can hear some of you putting on your boxing gloves. I will not address this part here, now. There are differences of opinion, some opinions are of more worth than others. Having spent a decade working to help alleviate poverty in the worst places on earth, I have an understanding of what principles work, and which don’t. This is not that post. Please pocket your opinions on sociology and politics while we focus on theology today, and I will, too. Thanks)

Zion happens from the inside out. It springs from the deepest part of every individual member and his or her relationship with the Savior. From there, we expand to our families, then to friends and fellow members, then to those who don’t know what they are missing.

“As important as it is to have this vision in mind, defining and describing Zion will not bring it about. That can only be done through consistent and concerted daily effort by every single member of the Church. No matter what the cost in toil or sacrifice, we must “do it.” That is one of my favorite phrases: “Do It.”  (President Spencer W. Kimball)

Oh, and my apologies to Seattle.

_______

A terrific talk about Zion: “Come to Zion.” Elder D. Todd Christofferson.

Some great thoughts on Zion from Joseph Smith. (link)

Becoming the Pure in Heart,” President Spencer W. Kimball.

19

Abravenel

A long time ago, when I was just a high school boy, a special assembly was held at my school. The legendary conductor of the Utah Symphony was there. Maurice Abravenel held a workshop with our High School orchestra and they were going to perform for us.

They went about the normal tuning and prep before the performance. Then the conductor came onto the stage to respectful applause.  He moved his score around, picked up his baton, tapped on his music stand and began. Within the first 10 seconds he waved off the musicians, telling them to stop playing. Everyone got quiet. Almost everyone.

Mr. Abravenel turned around and stared down some kids in the auditorium. It was one of the greatest “stink-eyes” I had ever seen. The room fell silent. After a moment of glaring he turned around and lifted the baton and resumed.

A few minutes into the piece it happened again. This time Abravenel turned around and gave a glare that was even beyond the previous stink-eye. It was a Death Glare. (One I have since tried to master.) Apparently, even while the music was being played, he could still hear people in the audience talking. He then launched into a serious lecture on concert etiquette, and plain old manners. You don’t talk until the conductor puts down the baton. You don’t whistle or cheer. The only acceptable response to an orchestra concert is applause – no shouting, no whistling, etc. After he was finished, he lifted the baton again.

You could have heard a pin drop.  The rest of the performance went off well, with a quiet, respectful audience.

That memory, along with few experiences got me thinking:

1) Last Tuesday I went to the High School choir concert where my son was performing. After each song, or when a different group took the stage to perform, there were a few people yelling kids names to get their attention, giving them shout outs, etc. Other people didn’t wait until a break between songs – they just talked right through.

After a few numbers, one of the conductors took a microphone and kindly reviewed the same concert etiquette – which brought back the Abravenel story to my mind. He asked us to stop talking and only applaud. He was gentle, but serious, and if you have ever heard the quality of the Highland High choirs, you would know that this is serious business.

Now some will be saying, “Kids will be kids.”  But here is where it gets different from my experience in High School. When the choir conductor turned around, the cat calls resumed almost immediately. At the end of the very next song people were shouting names and whistling – completely ignoring the request form the conductor.

And here’s the kicker: It wasn’t just kids. It was kids and friends and parents and family members. (And if you want to see people ignore repeated requests for decorum, just attend a high school graduation ceremony.) Yes, we have generation bad manners in play.

2) Later that night, I fired up the DVR and watched the Vice Presidential debate. I watched as one man, vying to be the Vice President of the United States interrupt another candidate 72 times. 72!  What kind of person does that? The two candidates ended up interrupting and talking over each other so many times that it just became noise.

3) My EC and I went to a movie the other day. Great seats, smack dab in the middle. But, right in front there was a teenage girl who felt compelled to be on her smartphone during much of the movie. A couple of people asked her to turn it off, which – to her credit – she eventually did.

4) An older one: My EC and I saw Marry Poppins on Broadway. It is expensive +$100 a seat. During the show the people all around us talked to each other non-stop. I shushed a couple of times. They were even unresponsive to the usher. That is my main memory of that show? A row full of Russian tourists talking though the whole show.

5) I watch the presidential election. It pains me to see the two front-runners and their flunkies blatantly lie, smirk, point fingers, and bring a coarseness to the process that we haven’t seen before. That behavior is also embraced by their supporters. Instead of discussing issues, they lie, spin, and shout down anyone with an opposing view. No one in this game is innocent.

As I was thinking about this, a scripture came to mind. It was written by Paul to Timothy.

This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. Men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; (2 Timothy 3:1-4)

Wow. If that does not describe our current situation, I don’t know what does. Paul saw our day.

Thinking about people in theaters and politics, I would like to focus on two of the many traits Paul prophesied would be in play in the last days:

• lovers of their own selves

• incontinent (No, I don’t mean someone in need of Depends, I mean the definition that says “lacking self-restraint or uncontrollable.)

Why does a person feel the need to talk or look at a phone during a movie, even though it impacts the other people surrounding them? Because they are lovers of their own selves. It is a function of pride. It is essentially saying, “Hey, I know you came to enjoy the show, but I want to chat with my friend, and what I want is far more important that what the other 500 of your want. And I am just too important to go out to the lobby to do it.”

Why does a person interrupt another? (Even 72 times?) “Because what I have to say is more important, correct, helpful, than anything you have to say. What you have to say doesn’t matter as much as what I have to say, so shut up so these lucky people can bask in my greatness.”

Paul got this right. Much of what we suffer with now days is a result of people being so in love that nobody else matters. They are in love themselves and the sound of their own voices. And if you don’t agree with their rants, well then you must be stupid, wrong, or irredeemable.

The other word, incontinent, carries a little different meaning – it implies an inability to just plain control ourselves. And man, have we seen a lot of that lately. A cellphone in a movie might be narcissistic, or it might be an addiction. People shouting in a concert after being warned is narcissistic, unless you have a blurting or Turrets syndrome – then it is an issue of involuntary incontinence, not choice.

Personally, I don’t think it is possible for anyone to stand up and claim that they are qualified to be President of the USA without having deep narcissistic tendencies, because nobody is honestly up to that task.

Paul prophesied the coarseness in our times, but he is well supported by modern-day and other ancient prophets.

Today, our young people see such vulgarity in word and deed from boys and girls in their grade schools, from actors on stage and in the movies, from popular novels, and even from public officials and sports heroes. Television and videos bring profanity and vulgarity into our homes. Parents? Where are we on this issue? Do we support and enable it? Do we set a bad example? Are you one of those incontinent people who just can’t refrain from shouting in a choir concert?

“For many in our day, the profane has become commonplace and the vulgar has become acceptable. Surely this is one fulfillment of the Book of Mormon prophecy that in the last days “there shall be great pollutions upon the face of the earth.” (Morm. 8:31.) (Elder Dallin H. Oaks.)

“Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:29–30).

“Vulgarity is an expression of arrested development in matters of good taste or good character. Vulgarity weakens the mind, and thus brings all other weakness in its train. It is vulgar to like poor music, to read weak books, to feed on sensational newspapers, or debasing TV, to find amusement in trashy novels, to enjoy vulgar theatres, to find pleasure in cheap jokes, to tolerate coarseness and looseness in any of its myriad form.” (L. Tom Perry)

I know everyone would jump to vulgarity as spoken thing, however it is wise to realize that many vulgar things are carried our by people claiming to be above vulgarity. (i.e. abortion, violent protests, etc.) So, tonight, we have a second opportunity to watch two “lovers of their own selves” stand before us and tell us why they are capable of saving our Nation – all while asking us to overlook their corruption, vulgarity, immorality, dishonesty and decency.

Sadly, I truly believe that we, as a collective nation, are reaping what we have sewn. The two candidates are a reflection of what our society has become. Our country is a vulgar place. “When Game of Thrones” is hugely successful and the most heavily awarded show on television, and a book like “50 Shades of Gray” can sell 100 million copies, we have lost any moral high ground to demand better in our leaders. They are a reflection of what our society permits and even rewards. A society that is gradually pulling away from all things theological – even church attendance – should not expect to find servants who would embrace a higher path than the road the majority of the public is on.

Mosiah “did he say that if the time should come that the voice of this people should choose iniquity, that is, if the time should come that this people should fall into transgression, they would be ripe for destruction.” (Alma 10:19) That should give all of us some goosebumps.

I don’t want to sound all gloom and doom, because I am not a gloom and doomer. I am a happy person. It is impossible to watch General Conference last week and not find joy and hope.  It is available to all of us. At the end of the day, we are responsible for our own happiness. You want joy? Go get it – it is there waiting for you – it is attainable! On the other hand, if we find ourselves unhappy, offended, or in contention one with another over something like an election, remember that it is by choice, and the only real winer is Satan.

“For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.” (3 Nephi 11:29)

If you choose to watch the election (which I will do), we get to watch two corrupt, vulgar people stand up and explain why they are so wonderful in their own incontinent manner. If it is driving you crazy, find some solace in knowing that it is exactly how the Apostle Paul said it would be, and find comfort in knowing that things are on track. (Yes, folks, Jesus IS coming, but probably no until after the election.)

On a more personal note, this whole discussion causes me to pull up short and question what traits and behaviors I have that could be spawned by my own narcissism. Famous people aren’t the only ones who struggle with ego.

“There is no place for arrogance or egotism on the part of any of us. The Lord in revelation has said, “Be thou humble; and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers” (D&C 112:10). I believe that. I hope you do also.” (Spencer W. Kimball)

If you sen’t sure what arrogance and unbridled egotism looks like, just listen to anyone who thinks he/she is capable of running this country.

And please, if you are attending a movie or a concert, please keep it down, and put the phone away.

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Recommended reading: “Joy and Spiritual Survival,” President Russell M. Nelson. (Just last week) (link)

PS:  No political comments on this one – I won’t post them. My blog, my rules.

And a final treat, lyrics from the song “Loud” from the Matilda the Musical:

Somewhere along the way, my dear
You’ve made an awful error.
You oughtn’t blame yourself now
Come along.

You seem to think that people
like people that are clever.
It’s very quaint, it’s very sweet
But wrong!

People don’t like smarty-pants
What go round claiming
that they know stuff
we don’t know.

Now, here’s a tip:
What you know matters less
Than the volume with which
What you don’t know’s expressed!

Content, has never been less important.
So you have got to be…

LOUD!!!

16

Sunday PM session

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.

• Elder David A. Bednar spoke about how to come to know the Savior.

  1. Exercising faith in HIm: “A necessary preparation for following Him.” “True faith is focused in and on the Lord and always leads to righteous action.”
  2. Following Him: “The Savior has admonished us to become as He is. Thus, following the Lord includes emulating Him.”
  3. Serving HIm – He enlarges our capacity to serve. Our desires eventually align with his. Puts off self-centeredness. We grow to love those who we serve. A manifestation of charity.
  4. Believing Him – some serve dutifully without having been transformed by the Atonement. “We give away all our sins to know Him.” “Sacred ordinances performed by proper priesthood authority are essential to believing the Savior.”  (See? You gotta participate in organized religion.)

 

• Brian K. Ashton (SS) (Sunday School, not Nazi)  Focused on “The Doctrine of Christ.” (First 4 principles + endure to the end)

This is essentially the sequel to Elder Bednar’s talk, so the sequence is perfect.

“Faith also causes us to stop worrying so much about what others think of us & begin to care far more about what God thinks of us.”

“Repentance causes us to become ‘true followers’ of Christ, which fills us with love and casts out our fears.”

“Increased faith leads to additional repentance.”

Also reaffirmed what Elder Bednar just said about ordinances being essential. He also went into preparing for the sacrament, which was previously discussed as well. Yep.

 

• Elder Carl B. Cook. Service.

Serving in the Church can be challenging… (yeah, buddy.)

“Service is not something we endure in this life”

“All Church callings come from God – through His appointed servants ” (This can be hard to swallow sometimes, but it we take it on faith, it will change our perspective on our service.)  “When we recognize God’s hand in our calling & serve with all of our hearts, additional power comes into our service”

He went on the shred all the excuses in not accepting a calling. Doesn’t matter if you are old, busy, tired, or unqualified, because the Lord qualifies those He calls.

“If you want to make your Bishop or Branch President’s day, ask him ‘How can I help, where can I serve?'”

 

• During the hymn I took a look at Twitter. I counted through 100 tweets and saw that only 4 had any likes or retweets. 4.  I don’t know if that means anything or not.

 

• Elder Ronald A. Rasband spoke of a friend who was experiencing a crisis of faith, and how he responded to him. (This is good because most all of us know someone who is on the cusp on losing their faith, or already has.) “Each of us must first strengthen ourselves spiritually and then strengthen those around us.”

“I begin by reminding you that you are a son or daughter of a loving Father in Heaven and that His love remains constant.” “No mistake, sin, or choice will change God’s love for us. That does not mean sinful conduct is condoned.”

He focused on the importance of remembering back to when you felt strong, which included a push to write those things down in journals. “Record your thoughts in journals and personal histories.”

Also, the basics: Study, attend church, partake of the sacrament and renew covenants. (LOTS of sacrament references this Conference.)

(I could make a case for the value of blogging here – it does help me document, preserve, and share things I have learned and experienced that strengthen my testimony and faith.)

Elder Rasband is so sincere and real, and his talks are always great. I’m sure glad he will probably be serving in this calling for a long, long time.

 

• Elder Evan A. Schmutz has gentle vibe to him – surprised to see he is a lawyer.

Without quoting anything, what I am talking away from this talk is that life can get rough, but if we have the eternal perspective that it will be worth it, we can endure, and serve those around us.

“The great plan of our Father in Heaven really is the eternal plan of happiness.”

Living a good life does not make us immune from tragedy.

Important: “Suffering, in and of itself, does not teach us anything unless we deliberately become involved in learning from our experiences.” When we can link our suffering to an assurance of immortality, our faith in Christ increases and comforts our souls.

“As we acquire this eternal perspective in our lives, our capacity to endure grows, we learn how to succor those in need of succor”

 

• I wish I had thought to buy more candy yesterday.

 

• Elder K. Brett Nattress. Started by talking about being a hyper kid. I can relate.  Told a sweet story of how he was not listening to the morning reading from the book of Mormon, but his mother pressed forward undaunted because a promise she had received from President Marion G. Romney-  that if she would read every day with her kids, she would not lose any off them. “I WILL NOT LOSE YOU.”  Powerful stuff.

Shout out to the sisters and mothers.

Reading the Book of Mormon helps protect us from deceptions of the adversary. (Makes you wonder how many of those who have left the Church and are throwing stones were faithfully reading the Book of Mormon daily.)

“The Savior provided the perfect example of how to live in an imperfect and unfair world.” “He forgave the seemingly unforgivable. He loved the unlovable.”

 

• Elder Dale G. Renlund to wrap things up. I have that same tie.

Finding joy in and through repentance. Repentance means to “turn around.”  “Changing our behavior and returning to the right road is only part of repentance.” “We need a change of heart, abandonment of sin, and faith in Jesus Christ who makes repentance possible.” “Real repentance must involve faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.”

(That was close. We ALMOST went an entire Conference without a C.S. Lewis quote.)

I like the teaching that repentance is more than just “behavior modification.”

Problems in repenting:

Blaming others shifts responsibility which makes us victims rather than agents – this minimizes repentance. “Minimizing our mistakes removes the motivation to change.”

“Minimizing our sins, even if there are no apparent consequences, will decrease our motivation to repent of them.” Thinking that our sins do not matter because God loves us no matter what we do. (Harkening back to the “unconditional love idea.)

Belief in Universal Exaltation is a false Nehor concept. (Love it when a prophet uses the anti-christs to teach.)

“Instead of making excuses, let us choose repentance.”   <—- YES.

Interesting thought: “We can feel godly sorrow for our actions and at the same time feel the joy of having the Savior’s help.”

 

• I am not sure if I remember a Conference that has been so totally about the fundamentals.  At a time where the world is in chaos, and so many are struggling with doubt and social conflict, we are being pointed back to the most basic, simple truths of the Gospel. THAT is the answer to the doubt and anguish that so many experience. We need to stop ‘looking beyond the mark, ” and return to the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine of Christ, and repentance through the Atonement of Christ. Just like it has ALWAYS been.

Thanks for checking in. I love you all! Even Henneke. Especially Henneke.

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11

Sunday AM session

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.

• Summary: Nelson, Ballard, Robbins: KA-BOOM!

• President Monson shared a brief, sweet message on the purpose of life.  It was good to see him, even briefly.

• Elder Russell M. Nelson spoke about joy, and that saints can find happiness in every circumstance.  We can find joy even if our circumstances are bad if we focus on the Plan of Salvation.  Christ is the source of all joy. Claim the joy by looking unto Jesus, giving thanks and keeping covenants.

I love it when people talk about Korihor. So many lessons in is story. Philosophies of men – online and in the blogosphere – are the same thing as Korihor.

This is one of those talks that every sentence could go in my notes, so I quit typing.

• Choir bursts into a song about “Joy and Gladness.”  Perfect!

• It is raining outside my window.. Beautiful.

• Elder Peter Meurs.  Gotta love the Australian accent!  How to get the most out of the Sacrament. (One of my favorite topics!)

1) Prep for Sacrament on Saturday.

2) Show up to Sacrament meeting early and use it for quiet meditation

3) Sing and learn from the sacrament hymn.

4) Participate in the sacrament prayers.

5) Ponder and remember Christ when the sacrament emblems are passed.

(I’m gonna add one that comes before any of these: Every night, before going to bed, we should say our prayers and repent for that day. Then we are ready to roll come Sunday.)

• Sister Linda Reeves (RS)  Repentance. (Two in a row…)  Audio problems, had to reset, so I missed some. I miss my house.

A great reassurance that we can always come back, no matter how far away, or how long we have been gone. A hopeful message.

• Elder M. Russell Ballard opened by talking about his visit to the Holy Land.  Being One. This is a BIG talk to those desiring to leave the church. (A great follow-up to his ‘Stay in the Boat’ talk.) I appreciate that he also included those who are “weary in well-doing.”

“Will ye also go away?”  Talked about those who struggle and “vacillate in their faith” and “walk no more with Jesus.” He asked, “Where will you go?”

“”If you live as long as I have, you will come to know that things have a way of resolving themselves. An inspired insight or revelation may shed new light on an issue. Remember, the Restoration is not an event, but it continues to unfold.”  “Stop and think carefully before giving up whatever it was that brought you to your testimony of the restored Church of Jesus Christ in the first place.”

He then went through a list and asked “Where will you go?” to find all the things that the Church and gospel provide.

“It is natural to stop and catch our breath on the path when our circumstances require.” “The danger comes when someone chooses to wander away from the path that leads to eternal life.”

We’ve gotta love those who are struggling with the faith  -““We are all at different places on the path and we need to minister to one another accordingly.”

A sweet and true thought: “I don’t pretend to know why faith to believe comes easier for some than for others.”

Powerful testimony of the restored church and prophets and apostles.

• Dean Davies (OPB)  Talked about what it means to worship. “Sometimes we go about our work (callings) routinely, but lack the holy element of worship.”

True worship transforms us into disciples of Christ. “When we worship in spirit, we invite light and truth into our souls, which strengthens our faith.”

(Gotta admit, I wasn’t paying as much attention to Bishop Davies as I should have because I was thinking about Elder Ballard’s talk.)

• Elder Lynn G. Robbins. Judging righteously.  (What? That sounds so judgmental!!!!)

Bishops should leave people feeling loved, not call down lighting bolts for punishment. (Paraphrasing) “The proceedings of a righteous judge are merciful, loving and redemptive, not condemning.” To discipline the Lord’s way is to lovingly teach.  Chasten means to purify.

“An unwillingness to sacrifice as part of our penitence, mocks or belittles His greater sacrifice for the same sin.”

And as expected…D&C 121:41-43

No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;

By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—

Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy.

“The Holy Ghost and anger are incompatible.”

To judge righteously, we need to be like the Savior.

A long time ago, Elder Robbins gave a remarkable talk along these lines called “Agency and Anger.” It was an eye and heart opening experience for me.

• No doubt that this is a “meaty” session.

• Choir singing, “My Heavenly Father Loves Me.” I sure could go for an energetic, dynamic, raise-the-roof, classic church anthem about now. But that was pretty, in a nap time sort of way.

• I appreciate that the Brethren do not feel compelled to pass out cookies after they teach.

• President Henry B. Eyring. Gratitude, particularly on the Sabbath day.

“And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments.” (D&C 59:21)

—- This is a perfect moment to plug Sunday Night Check-in.  Every Sunday evening, you are invited to come to my Facebook page and share what you are grateful for. — Back to President Eyring:

“One blessing for which we can be grateful is that we are there in that sacrament meeting at all.”

“Of all the blessings we can count, the greatest is the feeling of forgiveness as we partake of the sacrament”

I like the emphasis on linking gratitude and the Sabbath. A great day to show it, and a way to find joy in the Sabbath.

• That went crazy fast. And I didn’t even notice anyone’s ties. I must be super in tune.

Enjoy the break – come on back for the big finish. (Warning to the sisters: Elder Holland spoke last night at Priesthood, so don’t get your hopes up.)

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11

Sat PM Session

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 afternoon’s theme – to me: As the world gets more complex, we push back to simplicity.

 

I’m thinking Elder Holland was in a deep meditative state during the sustainings. It must be exhausting being that smart.

 

• Elder Quentin L. Cook.  Stumbling blocks that can hold us back. “A stumbling block can be anything that distracts us from achieving spiritual goals.”

Philosophies of Men – Addressed those who overcomplicate the gospel seeking more sophisticated stuff. (He didn’t say “stuff.”) But he did point out that “there is a test coming.”  He talked about the sifting that will occur.

Refusing to See Sin in it’s True Light – “One of the unique & troubling aspects of our day is that many people engage in sinful conduct, but refuse to consider it sinful.”

Looking Beyond the Mark – As significant example is ‘Gospel Extremism,”  When one lobbies for changes in doctrines, such as Word of Wisdom or over-emphasizes preparation for end-of-days. you are entering the world of “Religious fanaticism.”  If we take a position that is contrary or exceeds the Church’s stance, that is looking beyond the mark. “If we elevate anything above our devotion to the Savior…we are looking beyond the mark. Jesus Christ is the mark.”

Okay, so there was so much packed into that talk that I’ve got to read it. It hit on a whole slew of hot-topic issues with opponents both inside and outside of the church without really tackling those topics individually.  This talk was more important than it might appear on the surface.

 

• Elder Gary Stevenson. A slam dunk testimony of the Book of Mormon, and a call to find your own. It is the keystone to our religion and testimonies.

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President Benson taught the Book of Mormon is a keystone in three ways: Witness of Christ, Keystone of Doctrine, Keystone of our testimonies.

Challenge: Some youth spend an average of 7 hours a day looking at screens:  Replace some of that time with reading the Book of Mormon.  (Seven hours a day in front of a screen? That’s all? Pffft. Lightweights.)

I am not sure, but I think somewhere in that talk, Elder Stevenson gave us permission to skip lots of 2 Nephi.

 

• Hope a song is next. My feet are falling asleep. Nothing better than a missionary choir singing Called to Serve.

 

Elder D. Todd Christofferson takes on the myths surrounding “unconditional love.” Awesome!  Infinite, enduring, divine, everlasting? YES.  Unconditional? Not so much. (Elder Russell M. Nelson tackled this back in 2003, but I don’t recall it getting much attention. Divine Love.) “God will always love us, but He cannot save us in our sins.”

“God’s greater blessings are conditioned on obedience.”  Not entitlements.

“We may be quite content with what we have done in our lives…our Savior comprehends a glorious potential.”  Illustrated by telling the story of Helen Keller. Then spent  time discussing the cost of the Savior’s divine love. Humbling.

 

• Elder W. Mark Bassett: Don’t be chasing mysteries and ignore beautiful truths that are meant for us.

“Behold, great and marvelous are the works of the Lord. How unsearchable are the depths of the mysteries of him; and it is impossible that man should find out all his ways. And no man knoweth of his ways save it be revealed unto him; wherefore, brethren, despise not the revelations of God.” (Jacob 4:8)

Cautioned against “prying at the plates” or trying to force new information, rather than focusing on the plain and precious truths. In our day, information is so ready available that some would rather trust info from an unknown source, rather than what God has provided.

Super topical for many who struggle today.

-Some things can only be learned by faith. (Oaks)  2nd witness to Elder Cook’s comments about looking beyond the mark.

 

• I can’t help but feel that this session is going to upset a lot of people…

 

Elder Kazuhiko Yamashita:  (And they left it on the screen for like 3 seconds) Being “ambitious for Christ.” “Being ambitious for Christ will seldom mean that we are singled out for public honor.”

—streaming problems.  I feel like a Third World member. Right when we were finding out about Elder Cowan and the bike. (And when I say “streaming problems,” I do not mean that I fell asleep.)

…aaand we’e back.

“In our lives we experience trials, but if we are ambitious for Christ we can focus on Him, and feel joy even in the midst of them”

 

• Watching a missionary chorus is extra-beautiful. I’ve also notices that if there is a non-caucasion person in any conference choir, it is 100% guaranteed that the cameraman will find them for a long close-up.

 

• Elder Dallin Oaks: Sharing the gospel is a “vital part of what it means to be a Latter-day Saint.”

Speaking to ideas that will work to share the gospel everywhere – including countries that are hostile to religion.

1) We should pray for what we can do, personally.

2) Keep the commandments.

3) Pray for inspiration on what we can do in our individual circumstances in sharing the gospel

“With faith in the Lord’s help we will be guided, inspired & find great joy in this eternally important work of love.”

Success is in the invitation – no matter what their response.

“People learn when they are ready to learn – not when we are ready to teach them.”

Invite people to learn about the gospel of Jesus Christ – not the church. Gospel testimony precedes Church testimony.

Keep it real.

 

• I noticed a lot of red ties today. I think it is a gentle way to reach out to those Utah fans who will be watching the game instead of attending Priesthood conference this evening. #lostsheep

Quick break and then priesthood with my boys.

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