Saturday, October 3, 2009

LDS 179th Semiannual Conference, Saturday Afternoon General Session: Mercy And Justice Inseparable, Temperance, And The Power Of Prayer

The Saturday afternoon general session of the LDS 179th Semiannual Conference kicked off with an important address from one of the Quorum of the Twelve. This address was specifically designed to remind the world that although God can save you from your sins, He cannot save you IN your sins.

-- Summary of Saturday morning session available HERE.
-- Summary of Saturday evening priesthood session available HERE.
-- Summary of Sunday morning general session available HERE.
-- Summary of Sunday afternoon general session available HERE.
-- Video and audio archives and written transcripts now available via the LDS 2009 Conference Page.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve addressed the relationship between love and law. God's universal and perfect love is shown in all the blessings of His gospel plan, but His choicest blessings are reserved for those who obey His laws. Specifically, Elder Oaks stated, "The love of God does not supersede His laws and His commandments, and the effect of God's laws and commandments does not diminish the purpose and effect of His love.". He then suggested that the same should be true of parental love and rules.

Elder Oaks pointed out that some value God's love because of their hope that His love is so great and so unconditional that it will mercifully excuse them from obeying His laws. But in contrast, those who understand God's plan for His children know that God's laws are invariable, which is another great evidence of His love for His children. Mercy cannot rob justice. The Atonement merely assures a balance between mercy and justice; it does not allow mercy to trump justice. Elder Oaks also characterized God's wrath as evidence of His love rather than a contradiction. But in the final analysis, God's choicest blessings are clearly contingent upon obedience to God's laws and commandments. Deseret News story HERE.

Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve said that seeking to know God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ is the foundation for a meaningful life, since without God, life would end at the grave and our mortal experiences would have no purpose. Belief in the Father and Jesus Christ begins to build in one's heart upon hearing the teachings of prophets, and that belief becomes galvanized after receiving a spiritual witness from the Holy Ghost. According to Elder Hales, of all the testimonies born by ancient and modern prophets alike, Joseph Smith's witness is the most meaningful for Latter-day Saints. Elder Hales then concluded by saying that the light of belief is present in everybody's heart, just waiting to be stoked and fanned by the Spirit. When one's belief matures into a sure knowledge and witness, that testimony then becomes instrumental in blessing the lives of others. Deseret News story HERE.

Elder Jorge F. Zeballos of the Seventy discussed eternal life, reminding the audience that it is a divine promise that is possible to achieve. The central issue is to live up to what we know and what we are endowed with to the best of our capacities; if issued five talents, turn them into ten, but if issued only two talents, it is only necessary to turn them into four. Remembering God does not require more than the best one has to offer and nothing less. Elder Zeballos also spoke of the need for individuals to continually be in the service of God and their fellowmen. As individuals do so, they are fulfilling the requirements set by God to obtain His greatest gift, that of eternal life. Deseret News story HERE.

Elder Tad R. Callister of the Seventy decried the tendency by some to focus inordinately upon minor weaknesses of the Prophet Joseph Smith, saying that it obscures the man and his mission of restoring the gospel. Most importantly, Joseph Smith learned and taught four fundamental truths not taught by traditional Christianity during his time. First, that God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ are two separate and distinct beings; second, that the Father and the Son have glorified bodies of flesh and bones; third, that the heavens are not closed, and God still speaks to man today; and finally, that the full and complete Church of Jesus Christ was not on the earth at that time. Deseret News story HERE.

Elder Kent D. Watson of the Seventy discussed temperance. He cited the Lord's mandate in Doctrine and Covenants 12:8 that His servants be "temperate in all things", and said that temperance goes far beyond consumption of food and drink. "In a spiritual sense, temperance is a divine attribute of Jesus Christ. He desires for each of us to develop this attribute. Learning to be temperate in all things is a spiritual gift available through the Holy Ghost", said Elder Watson. He characterized a temperate soul as one who is humble and full of love, a person of increased spiritual strength. With that increased strength, one can develop self-mastery and to live with moderation. We learn to control or temper our anger, vanity, and pride. With increased spiritual strength we can protect ourselves from dangerous excesses and destructive addictions of today's world. Deseret News story HERE.

Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve spoke out on repentance, forgiveness, and mercy. "Repentance not only changes us, but blesses our families and those we love. With our righteous repentance, in the timetable of the Lord, the lengthened out arms of the Savior will not only encircle us, but will extend into the lives of our children and posterity. Repentance always means that there is greater happiness ahead," Elder Andersen said. But Elder Andersen also cautioned the audience that repentance is not a stand-alone event, but a process, further defining repentance as a turning away from things such as dishonesty, pride, anger and impure thoughts, and turning toward other things such as kindness, unselfishness, patience and spirituality. Deseret News story HERE.

And finally, the venerable spiritual warrior of the Quorum of the Twelve himself, Elder Boyd K. Packer, addressed the audience, discussing prayer and promptings. His central theme was that no one is left alone on earth without hope of guidance and redemption. Through prayer, the Lord's children can receive promptings that can bless their lives and help them find direction, the ultimate example of that being the prayer of a semi-literate 14-year-old boy in upstate New York, the answer to which ushered in the dispensation of the fullness of times and led to the establishment of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

But Elder Packer, sometimes referred to as President Packer simply because he is the president of the Quorum of the Twelve, also reminded the audience that God isn't a cosmic bellhop who hands out Big Macs on command. He cited the example of Oliver Cowdery after a failure of his ability to translate. The Lord told him: "Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me. But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right. But if it not be right you shall have no such feelings". (Doctrine and Covenants 9:7-9). Nevertheless, Elder Packer also counseled that nobody is ever unworthy to pray, that such an idea is a snare left by the adversary to prevent man from communicating with God. Deseret News story HERE.

What the media stories didn't reveal, but what was put forth in the Twitter stream, is that the 85-year-old Packer is showing the infirmities of age. He had to deliver his talk sitting down. This is yet another reminder of the precariousness of mortality.

Once again, Bloggernacle live-blogging and discussion provided by Times And Seasons and By Common Consent. Additional commentary later provided by Mormon Matters and Feminist Mormon Housewives. BCC also provides photos in a different post.

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