Pages

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

LDS Church's First Presidency Issues Pastoral Letter On SCOTUS Same-Sex Marriage Decision, Affirms And Explains Present Doctrine On Marriage

On June 26th, 2015, after the U.S. Supreme Court, by a 5-4 vote, invalidated all restrictions against secular same-sex marriages nationwide, the Church of Jesus Christ promptly issued the following statement to inform the world that the church will not change its doctrinal position on marriage:

"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints acknowledges that following today's ruling by the Supreme Court, same-sex marriages are now legal in the United States. The Court's decision does not alter the Lord's doctrine that marriage is a union between a man and a woman ordained by God. While showing respect for those who think differently, the Church will continue to teach and promote marriage between a man and a woman as a central part of our doctrine and practice."

However, the LDS Church has followed up on June 29th by issuing a pastoral letter under the signature of the First Presidency that will be communicated to LDS congregations throughout the United States beginning on Sunday July 5th. Because the subject is considered unsuitable for children younger than 12 years old, the letter will not be read at Sacrament Meeting as is usually done with other pastoral letters, but will be read to adults, Young Men and Young Women in their various quorum meetings. The three parts of the letter are reproduced below:

Part 1: Introduction:

THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS
OFFICE OF THE FIRST PRESIDENCY
47 EAST SOUTH TEMPLE STREET, SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH 84150-1200

June 29, 2015

TO: General Authorities; General Auxiliary Presidencies; and the following leaders in the United States and Canada: Area Seventies; Temple, Stake Mission and District Presidencies; Bishops and Branch Presidents

Dear Brethren and Sisters:

Enclosed is a statement by the Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve in response to the recent Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage in the United States. The statement also pertains to the situation in Canada. Local leaders are asked to meet with all adults, young men, and young women on either July 5 or July 12 in a setting other than sacrament meeting and read to them the entire statement.

Also included is background material which may be helpful in answering questions that arise.

Stake presidents are asked to see that bishops receive copies of this letter and the enclosures.

Sincerely yours,

Thomas S. Monson

Henry B. Eyring

Dieter F. Uchtdorf

What normally happens in my ward is that the High Priests Group and the Elders Quorum will meet together, during which time the pastoral letter will be read by a member of the Bishopric/Branch Presidency. Because Young Men are mentioned separately, the Aaronic Priesthood Quorums may assemble separately to hear it.

Part 2: Response:

RESPONSE TO THE SUPREME COURT DECISION LEGALIZING SAME‐SEX MARRIAGE IN THE UNITED STATES

June 29, 2015

Because of the recent decision of the United States Supreme Court and similar legal proceedings and legislative actions in a number of countries that have given civil recognition to same‐sex marriage relationships, the Council of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter‐day Saints restates and reaffirms the doctrinal foundation of Church teachings on morality, marriage, and the family. As we do, we encourage all to consider these teachings in the context of the Plan of Salvation and our Heavenly Father’s purposes in creating the earth and providing for our mortal birth and experience here as His children.

Marriage between a man and a woman was instituted by God and is central to His plan for His children and for the well‐being of society. “God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth” (Genesis 1:27‐28). “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Strong families, guided by a loving mother and father, serve as the fundamental institution for nurturing children, instilling faith, and transmitting to future generations the moral strengths and values that are important to civilization and vital to eternal salvation.

A family built on marriage of a man and a woman is the best setting for God’s plan of happiness to thrive. That is why communities and nations generally have encouraged and protected marriage between a man and a woman, and the family that results from their union, as privileged institutions. Sexual relations outside of such a marriage are contrary to the laws of God pertaining to morality.

Changes in the civil law do not, indeed cannot, change the moral law that God has established. God expects us to uphold and keep His commandments regardless of divergent opinions or trends in society. His law of chastity is clear: sexual relations are proper only between a man and a woman who are legally and lawfully wedded as husband and wife. We invite all to review and understand the doctrine contained in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.”

Consistent with our fundamental beliefs, Church officers will not employ their ecclesiastical authority to perform marriages between two people of the same sex, and the Church does not permit its meetinghouses or other properties to be used for ceremonies, receptions, or other activities associated with same‐sex marriages. Nevertheless, all visitors are welcome to our chapels and premises so long as they respect our standards of conduct while there.

The gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us to love and treat all people with kindness and civility -- even when we disagree. We affirm that those who avail themselves of laws or court rulings authorizing same‐sex marriage should not be treated disrespectfully. Indeed, the Church has advocated for rights of same-sex couples in matters of hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment, and probate, so long as these do not infringe on the integrity of the traditional family or the constitutional rights of churches.

The Church insists on its leaders’ and members’ right to express and advocate religious convictions on marriage, family, and morality free from retaliation or retribution. The Church is also entitled to maintain its standards of moral conduct and good standing for members.


As members of the Church, we are responsible to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to illuminate the great blessings that flow from heeding God’s commandments as well as the inevitable consequences of ignoring them. We invite all to pray that people everywhere will have their hearts softened to the truths God established in the beginning, and that wisdom will be granted to those who are called upon to decide issues critical to society’s future.


THE COUNCIL OF
THE FIRST PRESIDENCY AND
QUORUM OF THE TWELVE APOSTLES
OF THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER‐DAY SAINTS

The three italicized paragraphs are the most important takeaways. First, the Church states that its officers will not perform same-sex marriages, and its facilities will not be used for any ceremonies or gatherings related to a same-sex wedding. Second, the Church reminds us that the gospel of Jesus Christ requires us to treat ALL people with kindness and civility, and that guaranteeing constitutional protection for gays in other areas is appropriate. Finally, the Church insists on its right to set membership standards and on the right of members to express religious convictions on marriage.

Part 3: Background Q & A:

Background Material for Bishops and Branch Presidents
On the U.S. Supreme Court Decision on Same‐sex Marriage

The Church has provided a statement dated June 29, 2015, prepared by the Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles regarding the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision legalizing same‐sex marriage in the United States. The response reaffirms the divinely‐revealed reasons and proper doctrinal context for the Church’s unequivocal position regarding matters of morality, chastity, marriage, and the family. As the response notes, the Church’s teachings on these subjects are grounded in the scriptural declarations of God’s eternal plan for the salvation and exaltation of His children and are framed in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” While the statement stands on its own, below is additional information that may be helpful to you in responding to questions that may arise.

For much of human history, civil laws have generally been compatible with God’s laws. Unfortunately, there have been notable exceptions to that pattern. For example, it is legal in the United States to perform an abortion on an unborn fetus. However, this practice is not morally acceptable before God. (See Handbook 1, 17.3). The consumption of alcohol, while contrary to God’s law, is legal in most nations of the world, but the physical and social toll for doing so is a painful matter of record. So, too, with issues of unchaste sexual behavior, whether it be heterosexual or homosexual in its orientation. As the First Presidency has previously said and as this current response affirms, “Changes in the civil law do not, indeed cannot, change the moral law that God has established. God expects us to uphold and keep His commandments regardless of divergent opinions or trends in society” (First Presidency letter on “Same‐ Sex Marriage,” January 9, 2014).

Q: What is the Church’s Policy on Homosexual Relations?

A: “Homosexual behavior violates the commandments of God, is contrary to the purposes of human sexuality, and deprives people of the blessings that can be found in family life and in the saving ordinances of the gospel. Those who persist in such behavior or who influence others to do so are subject to Church discipline. Homosexual behavior can be forgiven through sincere repentance. “If members engage in homosexual behavior, Church leaders should help them have a clear understanding of faith in Jesus Christ, the process of repentance, and the purpose of life on earth.

“While opposing homosexual behavior, the Church reaches out with understanding and respect to individuals who are attracted to those of the same gender. “If members feel same‐gender attraction but do not engage in any homosexual behavior, leaders should support and encourage them in their resolve to live the law of chastity and to control unrighteous thoughts. These members may receive Church callings. If they are worthy and qualified in every other way, they may also hold temple recommends and receive temple ordinances” (Handbook 2, 21.4.6).

Q: Does the authorization of same‐sex marriage affect my right to religious freedom?

A: Our individual right to religious freedom is protected by the First Amendment to the United States’ Constitution and by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As we exercise that right, we must also exercise tolerance and respect toward others’ rights but do so without condoning behavior that goes contrary to the laws of God. “While we strive for the virtue of tolerance, other commendable qualities need not be lost. Tolerance does not require the surrender of noble purpose or of individual identity. The Lord gave instruction to leaders of His restored Church to establish and maintain institutional integrity—‘that the Church may stand independent’ (D&C 78:14)” (Elder Russell M. Nelson, “Teach Us Tolerance and Love,” April 1994 general conference). How do I respond respectfully to those who consider the Church’s position on this matter unchristian? Our objection to same‐sex marriage is not based on animosity toward anyone, but on our understanding of God’s purposes for His children. For us, the issues are not simply “tolerance” and “equality.” The issues are the nature of marriage and the consequences of redefining a divinely established institution. In addition, redefining marriage in the law can have profound consequences for society, particularly for children. Mothers and fathers matter, and they are not interchangeable. “On the subject of public discourse, we should all follow the gospel teachings to love our neighbor and avoid contention. Followers of Christ should be examples of civility. We should . . . be good listeners and show concern for the sincere belief [of others.] Though we may disagree, we should not be disagreeable. We should be wise in explaining our position and, in doing so, ask that others not be offended by our sincere religious beliefs and the free exercise of our religion” (Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “Loving Others and Living with Differences,” October 2014 general conference).

Q: What if I have reservations of my own regarding the Church’s position on this subject?

“Members who...have doctrinal questions should make a diligent effort, including earnest prayer and scripture study, to find solutions and answers themselves. Church members are encouraged to seek guidance from the Holy Ghost to help them in their personal lives and in family and Church responsibilities.

“If members still need help, they should counsel first with their bishop. If necessary, he may refer them to the stake president. “...Stake presidents who need clarification about doctrinal or other Church matters may write in behalf of their members to the First Presidency” (Handbook 2, 21.1.24).

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

What Did Boyd K. Packer Really Mean When He Said "Some Things That Are True Aren't Very Useful"?

One of the statements by an LDS General Authority which has been frequently used as grist for the propaganda mills of anti-Mormons is the following statement attributed to President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve, namely "Some things that are true aren't very useful". Anti-Mormons impugn the motives of Elder Packer and claim his intent was to cover up controversial LDS history.

President Packer first uttered the statement back on August 22nd, 1981 during a talk entitled "The Mantle Is Far, Far Greater Than The Intellect", delivered to Church Educational System (CES) educators at Brigham Young University-Provo. The specific occasion was a CES symposium on the Doctrine and Covenants and Church History. President Packer's interest in this issue was prompted by his early work with CES, when he found that a number of teachers had become wholly secularized, leading to confusion by and substantial problems for teachers and students. The full 11-page address is available for free at THIS LINK. Here is the statement, embedded in context:

"There is a temptation for the writer or the teacher of Church history to want to tell everything, whether it is worthy or faith promoting or not. Some things that are true are not very useful."

According to the Mormon Mission blog, President Packer discussed four cautions:

1. There is no such thing as an accurate, objective history of the Church without consideration of the spiritual powers that attend this work.

2. There is a temptation for the writer or the teacher of Church history to want to tell everything, whether it is worthy or faith promoting or not.

3. In an effort to be objective, impartial, and scholarly, a writer or a teacher may unwittingly be giving equal time to the adversary.

4. The final caution concerns the idea that so long as something is already in print, so long as it is available from another source, there is nothing out of order in using it in writing or speaking or teaching.

According to FairMormon, President Packer was not speaking to Mormon historians, but to CES employees. CES employees are not hired to provide a so-called "fair and balanced perspective" on Church history and doctrine, but to provide faith-promoting education by teaching LDS doctrine and promoting faith in its young people. Why would the LDS Church be obligated to give equal time to the opposition on their own flagship campus? One would expect the LDS Church to teach religious history in its seminaries and institutes, which is distinct from secular history. President Packer also pointed out that the historian or scholar who delights in highlighting the weaknesses and imperfections of present or past leaders in the name of so-called "transparency" destroys faith, and that a destroyer of faith -- particularly one within the Church, and more particularly one who is employed specifically to build faith -- places himself in great spiritual jeopardy. Furthermore, the problem with these "true" statements is not that they're not true, but that they're used in such a way or context as to give a misleading or even false impression. Church history can be as misleading as gossip and much more difficult, often impossible to verify. President Packer's concern was strictly with what happens in Church institutions, not with what happens in non-Church venues in which historians may participate.

The passage of time has not changed President Packer's mind. In July 2007, the LDS Church published the transcript of an interview he gave to PBS for their documentary The Mormons in which he reiterated this principle (HW is Helen Whitney, the interviewer):

HW: Is there a conflict between a faith-promoting work of scholarship and factual scholarship? Is there a conflict at all?

BKP: There can be. Some things that are true aren’t very useful. And there are those in the past who have looked at the leaders of the Church, for instance, and found out that they’re human and want to tell everything. There are steps and missteps that don’t help anything. Some think that to be totally honest they have to tell everything. They don’t. If they’ve got the mindset for that, then they’re always grumbling — they have an appetite for it. They’re free to do that, but it isn’t really productive, it doesn’t really make anybody happy.

Someone you knew, say when you were in college, made a terrible mistake. You knew about it, and it was forgiven and lived beyond. There’s little purpose in going back and digging that out and speaking of it when their children might be present — a lot of things that are true historically aren’t very useful and don’t generate happiness.

The second part of this excerpt is important, because it addresses the tendency of the elite to crucify public figures in the media for past indiscretions. What value is derived from dredging up a past indiscretion from which an individual has long since repented? The only purpose such "transparency" can serve is to divide and polarize. Our national obsession with race is an example of this problem; why do some LDS members continue to obsess with the Priesthood ban against blacks when it was resolved in 1978 and we know through revelation that all those who were denied the Priesthood through no fault of their own will be offered it in the spirit world? Either one believes it, or one doesn't. And if one doesn't, is it really wise and productive for one to hold an entire 15 million member church hostage to one's lack of faith?

President Packer was not trying to suppress truth. He merely wants the Church Educational System to fulfill its primary mission -- to help grow faith and develop testimonies. Controversial Church history can be discussed in other venues, in other ways, and at other times. The LDS Church has sought to allay the historical doubts of members by publishing a series of essays about historical events which are more forthcoming than in the past, so the Church clearly has no desire to "cover anything up".

Monday, April 6, 2015

#ISustain Campaign: Faithful Mormons Fire Back Against Seven Dissidents Who Voted Not To Sustain First Presidency And The Twelve At LDS General Conference

From the #ISustain campaign

After at least seven LDS members at last count raised their hands in opposition to sustaining the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve on April 4th, 2015 during the Saturday Afternoon General Session of the 185th Annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, faithful LDS members are launching a counter-offensive online to show that the dissidents do not speak for rank-and-file Church members. They have launched the #ISustain campaign.

But first, let's have a roundup of all the information published by the Utah media about the dissidents as of April 6th. The primary media sources are KSTU Channel 13 and the Salt Lake Tribune, and the dissidents reportedly were motivated by and announced their intentions in advance on the AnyOpposed.org website. At last count, there were at least seven dissidents. Six of them attended the session at the Conference Center and also shouted "Opposed", while one of them was in attendance at the Tabernacle, which was designated one of the overflow venues for those unable to get tickets into the Conference Center. Four of the dissidents have been identified by name. At the Conference Center were Don Braegger, M'lisa D. Martinez Glyndwr, Micah Nickolaisen, while Laura Pennock was at the Tabernacle; all identified as LDS members, and Braegger's "pedigree" includes service in a bishopric and a member of a stake presidency. After the No votes were manifested, President Dieter Uchtdorf made a brief statement regarding those who opposed the proposals, saying “We invite those who oppose any of the proposals to contact their Stake Presidents. My dear brothers and sisters, we thank you for your faith and prayers in behalf of the leaders of the church.” Unlike in previous similar situations, the dissidents were not asked to leave by security. LDS Living published an explanation of the voting procedure.

After the session, Don Braegger said he filled a Mormon mission and served in an LDS bishopric and stake presidency, and his concerns are the perception that LDS history is rife with disturbing episodes, that the faith does not treat lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons fairly or offer wide enough roles for women. Separately, Laura Pennock said she is also is unhappy with the excommunications of Ordain Women founder Kate Kelly and podcaster John Dehlin, and M'lisa D. Martinez Glyndwr opined that her efforts to speak with local leaders about their concerns have been fruitless, characterizing the stake presidency as a "glass ceiling".

Meanwhile, faithful LDS members are already firing back and proclaiming their renewed loyalty to Jesus Christ, his top servants, and the Church. LDS.net reports the emergence of the #ISustain campaign, where LDS members are pledging their continued loyalty towards the Brethren. Loyalty does NOT mean infallibility; it simply means AUTHORITY. We recognize that the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve has been chosen by the Lord, set apart under proper authority, and, to the best of our knowledge, have engaged in no ethically or morally disqualifying behavior while in office. A good example of this was posted by April McMurtney, who also published a blog post to SomethingToShoutAbout.org

“So, to sustain my prophet, whom I love dearly, I will do something to show my support. I will defend him. I will share his words. I will do what I have been counseled to do during this conference and all the others. Then, slowly, I will begin to become something better. I will not just say I will do something, or intend to be better, or raise my hand without thought. I will commit to KEEP TRYING, until I become more like my Savior. I think that’s what he would want, and what the Lord would want.”

One LDS member may have gotten a bit carried away and reproved the seven with a bit too much "sharpness". BYU running backs coach Mark Atuaia tweeted Saturday that those opposed should go see their stake presidents, as President Dieter Uchtdorf suggested to opponents, "Then find me and oppose those beloved men in front of me and witness how I sin," Atuaia tweeted. Many respondents accused Atuaia of bullying; later, he backed down a bit, acknowledging he could have phrased his reaction to the conference opposers better. But he will not apologize for standing up for Thomas S. Monson, his counselors and the Quorum of the Twelve to those that oppose them. He maintains the dissidents did not follow protocol, which is to raise one's hand but not speak when voting to sustain or not sustain leaders. But "sharpness" should never mean "abuse"; it means clarity, and must always be accompanied by an increase of love thereafter (D&C 121:43).

No weapon formed against us will prosper.

As for the fate of the "seven", it is too early to speculate about disciplinary councils. The real problem is not so much that they raised their hands to vote No, but that they appeared to have orchestrated it in advance. Undoubtedly, the four who identified themselves by name will be called in by their bishops and asked to explain themselves, but they'll be offered an opportunity to repent and recant before facing disfellowshipment or excommunication. If they have temple recommends, they will likely be pulled. Because Don Braegger is the most outspoken, holds the Melchizedek Priesthood, and has a portfolio of past leadership positions, he is the one most likely to be subject to a disciplinary council, but just as Denver Snuffer, Kate Kelly, and John Dehlin were offered numerous opportunities to repent in advance, the same consideration will be given to Braegger. Sadly, this post by Braegger on Reddit, along with his subsequent responses, indicate he may already be on his way out of the LDS Church in his heart.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Summary Of 185th Annual LDS General Conference, Sunday Afternoon General Session: Elder Robert D. Hales Gives A Powerful Defense Of Religious Liberty

The 185th Annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints continued on Sunday afternoon, and what a great way to commemorate Easter Sunday! My personal highlight was the powerful defense of religious liberty articulated by Elder Robert Hales, who explained that liberty originated with our Heavenly Father, has been opposed and distorted by Satan, and why it is important for us as Latter-day Saints to respect the religious liberty of others. Elder Joseph Sitati also became another of the many speakers to offer an explanation and defense of traditional marriage.

-- Salt Lake Tribune photo gallery of Conference.
-- KSL Channel 5 photo gallery of Conference.

Other Sessions:

-- Summary of General Women's Session
-- Summary of Saturday Morning General Session
-- Summary of Saturday Afternoon General Session
-- Summary of Saturday Evening Priesthood Session
-- Summary of Sunday Morning General Session

For the first time, the LDS Church provides immediate real-time summaries of the talks on their Conference At A Glance Page; nice innovation, but I also choose to provide my traditional summaries. Video and audio archives will be available on the designated General Conference page shortly after the Conference; written transcripts will be posted later in the week. LDSConf Twitter also used as a source. For the time being, I have posted short summaries of the highlights of each talk along with any pertinent personal impressions. Links posted below take you directly to the Deseret News account of the talk.

-- Elder Robert D. Hales, Quorum of the Twelve: For some reason, Elder Hales does not get as much public attention as the other apostles. Maybe today's talk will garner the public attention he richly deserves, because Elder Hales spoke of agency. He's grateful for our freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of assembly, and acknowledges that agency was always part of the plan of salvation and exaltation. Agency is so important to the Father that the desire to take it away caused Lucifer and his followers to be cast out forever. But even from his fallen position, Satan continues to oppose and undermine agency and religious freedom; he deliberately promotes a confused definition of religious freedom. In contrast, where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. Elder Hales outlines four cornerstones of religious liberty: freedom to believe, freedom to share beliefs with others, freedom to form a church, and freedom to live one's faith not only at home and church, but also in public places. But he adds that all of the cornerstones apply to all religions, so he charges us to be tolerant of all religions. No one should criticize, persecute, or attack an individual for what he or she believes about God. As disciples of Jesus Christ we have the responsibility to work together. In the final analysis, Elder Hales finds that how we live our religion is far more important than what we may say about our religion.

-- Elder Kevin W. Pearson, First Quorum of the Seventy: Elder Pearson wants us to stay by the "tree" (the Tree of Life as outlined in Lehi's vision) and endure to the end, which is not only a hallmark of true discipleship, but is also essential to eternal life. He cautioned us to resist two of Satan’s most powerful tools, distraction and deception. Casual obedience and lukewarm commitment can weaken faith; enduring to the end requires total commitment to the Savior and to our covenants. Elder Pearson suggested six important principles to help individuals endure to the end. First, don’t forget to pray; second, come unto Christ and be perfected in Him; third, press forward with faith; fourth, use the Book of Mormon as the key to spiritual survival; fifth, avoid distraction and deception; and finally, stay by the tree.

-- Elder Rafael E. Pino, First Quorum of the Seventy: Elder Pino became the second speaker to deliver a talk in a language other than English (Spanish is his native language); some people on Twitter criticized the use of voiceovers rather than subtitles for translation. In any event, Elder Pino spoke about the eternal perspective, noting that the eternal perspective of the gospel leads us to understand the place that we occupy in God’s plan, to accept difficulties and progress through them, to make decisions, and to center our lives on our divine potential. Understanding the plan of happiness devised for us by our Heavenly Father provides us with that eternal perspective. Elder Pino added that it is extremely important that we do not make decisions of eternal value from the perspective of mortality; decisions affecting eternity require a gospel perspective. He concluded that not having an eternal perspective can lead us to have an earthly perspective as our personal standard and to make decisions that are not in harmony with the will of God.

-- Elder Neil L. Andersen, Quorum of the Twelve: Elder Andersen talked about the worldwide growth of the Church, and attributes it in part to the Lord's miracles. We marvel as we watch Him open doors we cannot open and perform miracles we can scarcely imagine. Elder Andersen explained why the Church selected Thailand, Ivory Coast, and Haiti for new temples. He spoke of continued growth of the Church in Haiti after a devastating earthquake in 2010; the faithful example of Sathit Kaivalvatana, a faithful member in Thailand who overcame an accident in which he was paralyzed and serves as president of the Bangkok Thailand North Stake; and the growth of the Church in the Ivory Coast, where two couples started a Sunday School 30 years ago and there are now eight stakes and 27,000 members. He asked the congregation if they could see the hand of God moving His work forward in Haiti, Thailand and the Ivory Coast.

-- Elder Jorge F. Zeballos, First Quorum of the Seventy: Elder Zeballos identified two primary responsibilities for Latter-day Saints: First, to seek their own salvation; and second, to help others realize their salvation. These responsibilities, freely accepted and entrusted to us, must define our priorities, our desires, our decisions and our daily conduct. Four principles he suggests will enable us to accomplish this mission include learning our duty, making the decision, acting accordingly, and willingly accepting the Father's will.

-- Elder Joseph W. Sitati, First Quorum of the Seventy: Elder Sitati was yet another speaker who spoke in defense of traditional marriage, but within the context of the three fundamental charges given by God to His children found in Moses 2:28: Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it, and have dominion over over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. Elder Sitati noted that physical bodies are a blessing from God that provide God’s children the opportunity to experience life on earth, and that marriage between a man and a woman is the institution that God ordained for the fulfillment of the charge to multiply. Furthermore, it is a marriage performed in the temple where covenants are honored that creates the best experience of love and preparation for a fruitful life, as the promise given to those sealed in the covenant of eternal marriage is that the adversary will never have power to undermine the foundation of their eternal companionship.

-- Elder Russell M. Nelson, Quorum of the Twelve: Elder Nelson made a pitch for Sabbath observance, saying that the fullness of the earth is promised to those who keep the Sabbath Day holy. But although the Sabbath was given as a perpetual covenant -- a constant reminder that the Lord may sanctify His people -- Elder Nelson also pointed out that it was the Savior who taught that the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Christ wanted us to understand that the Sabbath was His gift to us, granting real respite from the rigors of daily life, and opportunity for spiritual and physical renewal, and not for amusement or daily labor. Elder Nelson rejects the notion of publishing long Pharasaical laundry lists of "don'ts" on the Sabbath, instead deciding that his conduct and attitude on the Sabbath constituted a sign between him and his Heavenly Father. With that understanding, he no longer needed lists of dos and don’ts. Some of the more common worthy Sabbath activities include attending Sunday services, partaking of the sacrament, tending to Church callings, performing family history work, and reaching out to those who are lonely or in need.

Unlike in the past, President Uchtdorf closed the Conference rather than President Monson.

From the Bloggernacle: Reaction from rank-and-file LDS around the Web.

-- Feminist Mormon Housewives: One commenter opined that the Brethren are "really beating the drum on gay marriage this year".

-- Times & Seasons: The usual bulletized summaries of the talks.

Summary Of 185th Annual LDS General Conference, Sunday Morning General Session: Three New Temples Planned, Including One In Haiti

The 185th Annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints continued on Sunday morning with the announcement that, after a two-year hiatus on new temples, the Church is planning to build three new temples. One of the proposed locations is unsurprising and seemingly past due; Bangkok, Thailand. But the other two are a surprise and illustrate that sometimes the Lord sees things differently than us mere mortals: Abidjan, Ivory Coast and Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Looks like the Lord has finally bestowed some long-delayed mercy upon those two troubled lands. But this session of Conference was also marked by specific outreach towards Latter-day Saints considered "less active", as two speakers, Sister Rosemary Wixom and Elder Brent Nielson, pointed to prospective paths back to full activity.

Other Sessions:

-- Summary of General Women's Session
-- Summary of Saturday Morning General Session
-- Summary of Saturday Afternoon General Session
-- Summary of Saturday Evening Priesthood Session
-- Sunday Afternoon General Session

For the first time, the LDS Church provides immediate real-time summaries of the talks on their Conference At A Glance Page; nice innovation, but I also choose to provide my traditional summaries. Video and audio archives will be available on the designated General Conference page shortly after the Conference; written transcripts will be posted later in the week. LDSConf Twitter also used as a source. For the time being, I have posted short summaries of the highlights of each talk along with any pertinent personal impressions. Links posted below take you directly to the Deseret News account of the talk.

-- President Thomas S. Monson: It was during this talk that President Monson made the surprising announcement of new temples planned for Thailand, Ivory Coast, and Haiti. According to him, there are currently 144 temples in operation worldwide, with five being renovated and 13 more under construction. In addition, 13 temples, which were previously announced, are in various stages of preparation before construction begins. In 2015, the Church anticipates rededicating two temples and dedicating five new temples that are scheduled for completion. But President Monson also made a pitch for the blessings of the temple, citing two stories to drive the message home. Temples not only provide rest for our souls and a respite from the cares of our lives, but also offer a dimension of spirituality and a feeling of peace which will transcend any other feeling which could come into the human heart.

NOTE: The five new temples are scheduled for dedication this year are in Córdoba Argentina (May 17), Payson Utah (June 7), Trujillo Peru (June 21), Indianapolis Indiana (dedication, Aug. 23), and Tijuana Mexico (Dec. 13). The two temples being rededicated this year after renovations are completed are Mexico City Mexico (Sept. 13), and Montreal Quebec Canada (no date yet set). The other temples under renovation are in Idaho Falls, Fiji, and Freiberg, Germany.

-- Sister Rosemary M. Wixom, Primary General President: Sister Wixom was tailoring her talk towards less-active members. She cited the classical example of a woman who was active, but developed questions that had increasingly difficult answers. These prompted even more questions that shook the foundations of her faith. Despite a support system from her bishop and ward members, she became less active. After reading a book of Mother Teresa's writings, she began the slow journey back to activity, but she had to start with basic gospel truths. She purchased a Primary Children’s Songbook and read the words of the songs. She also continued to study the scriptures. Soon, this woman accepted a calling as the Primary pianist, which allowed her to strengthen her testimony of the truths she did know in a place she felt safe.

-- Elder Jose A. Teixeira, First Quorum of the Seventy: Elder Teixeira spoke of the need to deepen understanding of the teachings of Jesus Christ. The more individuals understand the role of Christ, the more conscious they become of their purpose in mortality, which is to have joy. Elder Teixeira encouraged members to have interactions with the teachings of Christ every day, and touted the small and simple gestures and acts as being particularly instrumental. To prevent today's networked lifestyle from removing us from what is essential, Elder Teixeira gave three habits to establish healthy online activity: First, visit the Church’s official website for resources; second, subscribe to the Church’s official social networks; and third, make time to set aside mobile devices.

-- Bishop Gerald Causse, First Counselor Presiding Bishopric: With the Gospel flooding over the entire earth and temples seemingly everywhere, Bishop Causee cautioned members against taking our Heavenly Father's marvels for granted. He suggested three things to help members see, hear, feel and marvel at the gospel available to them: First, never tire of discovering or rediscovering the truths of the gospel; second, anchor faith in the plain and simple truths of the gospel; and third, seek and cherish the companionship of the Holy Ghost.

-- Elder Brent H. Nielson, First Quorum of the Seventy: Elder Nielson also reached out towards less-active members, using the Prodigal Son analogy. Since his sister left the Church, he has been affected personally. But he never stopped loving his sister, and his mother kept placing his sister on the prayer roll of the local temple. Finally, his sister felt impressed to watch the sessions of Conference in 2009 and began her slow journey back. The idea is that just because someone chooses to walk out of the Church doesn't mean we have to lock the door behind them; we continue to love that person, we watch, we pray and we wait for the Lord’s hand in their lives to be revealed.

-- Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, Quorum of the Twelve: Elder Holland spoke on the significance of the Atonement. He noted that understanding the fall of Adam and Eve is required to adequately comprehend the significance of the Atonement. Because we were subsequently born into that same fallen world and would also transgress the laws of God, we also were sentenced to the same penalties that Adam and Eve faced. This fallen state would leave all men without hope of immortality or eternal life. But a Savior was prepared to overcome the Fall through the sacrifice of God’s only begotten Son. That Atonement would achieve complete victory over physical death, unconditionally granting resurrection to every person who has been born or ever will be born into this world. Mercifully it would also provide forgiveness for the personal sins of all, from Adam to the end of the world, conditioned upon repentance and obedience to divine commandments. A logical confluence of justice and mercy; the Atonement represents the mercy without which we cannot return to the Father.

-- President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor First Presidency: In teaching of the divine gift of God's grace, President Uchtdorf said it does not merely restore one to a state of innocence. The Father’s aim is much higher: He wants His sons and daughters to become like Him. This will lead to heights we can scarcely comprehend; namely, exaltation in the celestial kingdom, where we, surrounded by our loved ones, receive of the fulness and glory of the Father. We become heirs of the Father and joint heirs with Jesus Christ.

President Uchtdorf gave an interesting explanation of the relationship between grace and obedience (another way of describing faith and works). He acknowledged that salvation cannot be bought with the currency of obedience, but is purchased by the blood of the Son of God. So why is obedience stressed? President Uchtdorf explained that we obey the commandments of God out of love for Him, adding that trying to understand God’s gifts of grace with all our heart and mind gives us all the more reasons to love and obey our Heavenly Father with meekness and gratitude. As we walk the path of discipleship it refines us, it improves us, it helps us to become more like Him, and it leads us back to His presence. Thus faith justifies, and works sanctify.

From the Bloggernacle: Reaction from rank-and-file LDS around the Web.

-- Feminist Mormon Housewives: Surprisingly detailed and upbeat summaries of the talks, free of the male-bashing which normally characterizes this source. Talks by Sister Wixom and Elder Nielson received some acclaim.

-- Millennial Star: Faith-promoting summaries of talks. President Uchtdorf's talk drew some acclaim.

-- Times & Seasons: Good bulletized summaries of each talk.