Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sunday Afternoon Session, 179th LDS Semiannual General Conference; Book Of Mormon, Stewardship, Moral Discipline

The final session of the 179th LDS Semiannual General Conference was held on Sunday October 4th, and on the menu was counsel about the value of the Book of Mormon, the meaning of stewardship, two talks on getting one's heart right, and moral discipline.

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

KSL news video embedded below:

Video Courtesy of

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve led off by discussing the Savior's prophecy that in the last days, "men's hearts [shall fail] them" (Luke 21:26). His primary concern is that this would enable deceivers to lead away even the "very elect". But Elder Holland stated that our Heavenly Father knows all of these latter-day dangers, these troubles of the heart and the soul, and has given counsel and protections regarding them, and declares that the Book of Mormon is one of the Lord's powerful keystones in the counter-offensive against latter-day ills. In conclusion, Elder Holland testified that one cannot come to full faith in this latter-day work until he or she embraces the divinity of the Book of Mormon and the Lord Jesus Christ of whom it testifies. Deseret News story HERE.

But the Salt Lake Tribune also reported that Elder Holland lashed out at critics of the Book of Mormon. "For 179 years, this book has been examined and attacked, denied and deconstructed, targeted and torn apart like perhaps no other book in modern religious history -- perhaps like no other book in any religious history. And still it stands," Holland said. "If anyone is foolish enough or misled enough to reject 531 pages of a heretofore unknown text teeming with literary and Semitic complexity without honestly attempting to account for the origin of those pages ... such persons, elect or otherwise, have been deceived and, if they leave this church, they must do so by crawling over or around or under The Book of Mormon to make their exit."

For Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve, the topic was stewardship. Elder Cook observed that LDS members live in perilous times when many believe they do not have a personal responsibility or stewardship for themselves or others. He discussed two forms of stewardship; first, stewardship for one's self and one's family; and second, for the poor and needy. He cautioned against rationalizations that might excuse one from his or her personal stewardship, and opined that we report to the Savior and He asks us to given an account of our earthly responsibilities, two important inquiries will relate to our relationship with our spouse and each of our children.

As for the second form of stewardship, Elder Cook commended LDS members for continuing to donate generously to help the poor and needy even during difficult economic times. "My heart rejoices as I observe the saints all over the Church doing everything they can to provide Christlike service wherever there is a need," he said. "Because of member contributions, the Church can quietly and quickly, without fanfare respond to needs all over the world. The Church is already responding to the natural disasters in the Philippines, the Pacific Islands and Indonesia." He proclaimed that all stewardship efforts follow the example of Jesus Christ. Deseret News story HERE.

Elder Brent H. Nielson of the Seventy issued a challenge to the rising generation of younger Latter-day Saints to lengthen their stride and enlarge their vision to further missionary work, as the late President Spencer W. Kimball first did in 1974. He reminded members that although Church has grown to include 13.5 million members, 52,000 missionaries and more than 2,800 stakes since that time, we have just begun to scratch the surface. Many extensive areas of the world remain either closed to or restricted against preaching the Gospel. He also suggests praying to soften the hearts of foreign leaders who are leery about allowing LDS missionaries into their countries. Deseret News story HERE.

Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Seventy spoke about how a new spiritual heart requires just as much attention to prevent rejection as does a new physical heart received via transplant. LDS members must use great care with spiritually changed hearts to ensure they do not become hardened. He suggested asking the questions posed by Alma the Younger in Alma 5 to figuratively biopsy one's changed spiritual heart; Alma asked if they had been sufficiently humble, free of pride and envy, and kind toward their fellowmen. Deseret News story HERE.

Elder Michael T. Ringwood of the Seventy also discussed "heart" issues, saying that obedience will bring soft hearts and an easiness to believe in the word of God. People are more inclined to approach the Lord during times of significant change, particularly if they brought trials of adversity. But Elder Ringwood suggested that it isn't just the circumstances, but moreso, an increased commitment to live the gospel during these periods of life, that softened hearts. People were found more often on their knees and immersed in the scriptures during these periods. Family home evenings and family prayer increased. Church and temple attendance escalated, as did tithes and offerings. And the surge in obedience triggered a surge in blessings. Deseret News story HERE.

Elder Joseph W. Sitati of the Seventy spoke about how the blessings of the Gospel are now becoming available to all. Elder Sitati stated that after the resurrection of the Savior, He had revealed that the gentile nations would be visited and invited one after the other. The blessings would be the same irrespective of the order of the invitation. And through the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord revealed that the determining criteria for the order in which the gentile nations are invited includes the capacity to spiritually and temporally nourish the kingdom of God as it is established on the earth for the last time. Deseret News story HERE.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve delivered what some might characterize as the most controversial speech of the conference, but perhaps it may be the most necessary counsel of all. Elder Christofferson spoke out against what is best known as "moral relativism". He led off his talk by saying that positive outcomes occur when "moral agency" is accompanied by "moral discipline". He defined moral discipline as the consistent exercise of agency to choose the right because it is right, even when it is hard. In short, virtue becomes its own reward.

Elder Christofferson observed that many societies have failed to foster moral discipline, teaching that truth is merely relative and that everyone decides for himself or herself what is right. Concepts such as sin have been condemned as "value judgements." As a consequence, self-discipline has eroded, and societies are left to try to maintain order and civility by compulsion. The lack of internal control by individuals breeds external control by governments enacting more and stronger regulation; this approach leads to diminished freedom for everyone. Moral discipline must be learned and taught at home, and Latter-day Saints should stand with those who demonstrate virtue in their own lives and inculcate virtue in the rising generation. Deseret News story HERE.

And finally, President Thomas S. Monson closed the conference by expressing his love for Church members worldwide and invoking the blessings of heaven upon them. In part, he said, "My heart is full as we come to the close of this conference. We have been richly taught and spiritually edified as we have listened to the messages which have been presented and the testimonies which have been borne. We express thanks to each one who has participated, including those brethren offering prayers". His complete speech can be read HERE.

Bloggernacle live-blogging and discussion of this session provided by Times and Seasons, By Common Consent, and photos presented in this other By Common Consent post.

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