Saturday, April 6, 2013

Summary Of 183rd Annual LDS General Conference, Saturday Afternoon General Session: Worldwide LDS Membership Now 14,782,483

The Saturday Afternoon General Session of the 183rd Annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began with the traditional litany of housekeeping announcements, to include changes in the leadership structure (releases and accessions). Specifically, the entire Young Women's General Presidency has been honorably released from their posts, and their replacements are Bonnie L. Oscarson (President), Carol McConkie (First Counselor), and Evelyn Marriott (Second Counselor). Many Mormons are expressing their dismay on Twitter over Sister Dalton's release; she touched the hearts and earned the admiration of many. Former BYU quarterback Gifford Nielsen has been called to the First Quorum of the Seventy. The annual membership report now shows 3005 Stakes, 347 Missions, 591 Districts, 29,014 Wards, and 14,782,483 Members worldwide. The latter figure represents an increase of 341,137 over the total of 14,441,346 reported in April 2012, and since the same definition of membership was used both years, it is a genuine increase.

The session also featured a fervent defense of the Church's position on sexual morality, as well as exhortations for everyone to catch the wave on missionary work. A report about the Church in Africa was quite encouraging; it appears a steady stream of Africans are joining the Church.

Video and audio archives and written transcripts of the talks are now available HERE. Mormon Newsroom provides a gallery of photos.

Summaries of Other Conference Sessions:

-- Saturday Morning General Session
-- Saturday Evening Priesthood Session
-- Sunday Morning General Session
-- Sunday Afternoon General Session

Summaries of the talks are available through both the LDS Church News Portal Page and the Deseret News. Clicking on the speaker's name will take you directly to the Deseret News story about the speech (after the jump):

-- Elder Richard G. Scott, Quorum of the Twelve: Elder Scott spoke of the need for the home to be a place of refuge where peace and serenity prevail. He was also inclusive of non-traditional families, saying that although many homes are not configured with a righteous mother and father at the head, all can center their homes and lives on Christ, regardless of their circumstances, for Jesus is the source of true peace in this life. Elder Scott recommends that not just parents, but children should be made responsible for peace in the home, noting that regular practice of prayer, scripture study and family home evening are essential. Elder Scott also noted that greater peace will come if individuals are not only obedient but serve also those around them.

-- Elder Quentin L. Cook, Quorum of the Twelve: First, some people may not be aware that Elder Cook spoke at Emilie Parker's funeral; Parker was one of the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre. Elder Cook highlighted the difference between “universal or world peace” and “personal peace.” He noted that agency is essential to the plan of happiness and our eternal progression; it allows for all the pain and suffering we endure in mortality, even when caused by the very evil choices of others. Elder Cook also said that universal peace did not exist on the earth during Christ’s ministry and does not exist now, and if we want universal peace, we have to work on personal peace. He added that peace through Christ is not just temporary tranquility but a deep, abiding happiness. Sin drives away the light of Christ and diminishes peace.

-- Elder Stanley G. Ellis of the First Quorum of the Seventy: The core of Elder Ellis' talk was workfare rather than welfare. Elder Ellis said that while Lord concurs in our goal of helping the needy, it must be done in the Lord’s way by promoting self-reliance. Everywhere that the "dole" becomes enshrined, the world learns of its evils. Other examples of the Lord's way include how to live, love, help pray, interact with each other, lead, marry, raise children, learn, know the truth and share the Gospel. Elder Ellis also urged members to consider blooming where they are planted rather than shopping around for "the perfect ward".

-- Elder John B. Dickson of the First Quorum of the Seventy: Elder Dickson spoke about the mandate to take the Gospel unto all the world, focusing on progress in Africa. He disclosed he personal witness he received confirming the validity of lifting the Priesthood ban against black men in 1978. Elder Dickson disclosed that there are a steady stream of Africans joining the Church, saying that they are joining by the hundreds, and every week a couple of wards or branches are created somewhere in the Africa West Area with, in nearly every case, all African priesthood and auxiliary leadership. He described the African saints as being a happy people, unencumbered by the material trappings that affect the lives of many in the West.

-- Elder David A. Bednar, Quorum of the Twelve: Elder Bednar spoke out about chastity and virtue. He noted that physical bodies make possible a breadth, a depth and an intensity of experience that could not be obtained in the premortal existence. He explained that our relationships with other people, our capacity to recognize and act in accordance with truth, and our ability to obey the principles and ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ are amplified through our physical bodies. But here was the money shot from Elder Bednar -- a no-nonsense uncompromising defense of the Church's position on sexual morality:

"Intimate relations are proper only between a man and a woman in the marriage relationship prescribed in God's plan. Such relations are not merely a curiosity to be explored, an appetite to be satisfied, or a type of recreation or entertainment to be pursued selfishly. They are not a conquest to be achieved or simply an act to be performed. Rather, they are in mortality one of the ultimate expressions of our divine nature and potential and a way of strengthening emotional and spiritual bonds between husband and wife. We are agents are blessed with moral agency and are defined by our divine heritage as children of God — and not by sexual behaviors, contemporary attitudes or secular philosophies."

-- Elder Russell M. Nelson, Quorum of the Twelve: Elder Nelson made a pitch for more missionary work, urging people to catch the wave of truth and righteousness. He reached out to every possible constituency, to include young men and women, parents, bishops and stake presidents, ward mission leaders, and even non-member friends and neighbors who can be either attracted or driven away be the example we set, to get involved in catching the wave of enthusiasm.

Reaction: Unofficial LDS opinion is reflected in the Bloggernacle, with reaction published in By Common Consent and Millennial Star and Times And Seasons. There was also a rather disrespectful thread posted on Feminist Mormon Housewives (disrespectful not because of disagreement but because of the abominably snarky tone).

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