Sunday, October 6, 2013

Elder Quentin L. Cook Establishes Himself As A Culture Warrior At The Sunday Afternoon General Session Of The 183rd Semiannual LDS General Conference

At the Sunday Afternoon General Session of the 183rd Semiannual Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints, Elder Quentin L. Cook seems to have emerged as a secondary culture warrior among the Twelve, effectively complementing Elder Dallin H. Oaks. Elder Cook decried the forms of cultural bondage and subjugation that victimize people and turn society evil. Brother David M. McConkie, who is the nephew of the famous Bruce R. McConkie, gave a powerful talk about teaching in which he urged a balance between correlation and responding to the promptings of the Spirit. And Elder Adrian Q. Ochoa warned members against taking stock of anti-Mormon literature online, noting that it can mix truth and lies into an indistinguishable combination to snare the unaware.

Mainstream media sources include the Deseret News General Conference Page. I provide short excerpts punctuated by my own impressions below.

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

-- Video and audio archives as well as written transcripts of all Conference talks, including the General Relief Society Meeting, are now available at the October 2013 Conference Page on

-- Elder Quentin L. Cook, Quorum of the Twelve: Elder Cook spoke about the many forms of bondage and subjugation that people struggle with in life. He noted that when evil choices become the dominant characteristic of a culture or nation, there can be serious consequences both in this life and the life to come. Elder Cook also explained that bondage is not only literal physical enslavement, but can also be the loss or impairment of moral agency that can impede progress, and identified four ways in today's culture that people fall into bondage:

(1). Destructive addictions that can impair agency, contradict moral beliefs and destroy good health. Examples include drugs and alcohol, immorality, pornography, gambling, and financial subjugation.

(2). Non-destructive addictions like excessive use of social media, video and digital games, sports, recreation. The key word is "excessive"

(3). Ideology or political beliefs that are inconsistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ. This includes philosophies that criticize or diminish respect for mothers.

(4). Forces that cause righteous people to violate sincerely held religious principles. Examples include health providers being asked to perform procedures or dispense services in violation of conscience.

Elder Cook concluded by saying that if we remain true to our Savior's light, follow His commandments, and rely on His merits, we will avoid spiritual, physical and intellectual bondage as well as the lamentation for wandering in our own wilderness for He is mighty to save.

-- Elder Neil L. Andersen, Quorum of the Twelve: Elder Andersen not only discussed power in the Priesthood, but also sought to downplay the excessive association of Priesthood power with men in the Church. He stressed that the Priesthood is the power and authority of God given for the salvation and blessing of ALL -- men, women and children. Elder Andersen confessed he did not know why Priesthood ordination is currently reserved for men, but said he knew God loves all of His children, even though he does not know the meaning of all things. But he said that although God loves all of His children the same, He did not create men and woman exactly the same; sacred responsibility is given to each gender and, from the beginning, the Lord established how His priesthood would be administered. Elder Andersen noted that before the decision was made to lower the minimum missionary age, the Brethren repeatedly sought input from the General Relief Society, Young Women and Primary presidencies. He concluded by saying that whatever your situation, your home will be blessed by the strength of priesthood power and those close to you will more fully desire these blessings for themselves.

-- Brother David M. McConkie, First Counselor in the Sunday School General Presidency: Who would be more qualified to discuss teaching with the power and authority of God than a member of the Sunday School General Presidency? Brother McConkie said teachers are among the great miracles of the restored gospel. Because teachers in the Church are called by the spirit of prophecy and revelation and have been set apart by priesthood authority, they are different from other teachers. Teachers are called to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ -- not their own ideas of philosophy, even when mingled with scriptures -- as found in the principles taught in the standard works of the Church, modern-day apostles and prophets and from direction from the Holy Ghost. This is one of the reasons the Church places such strong emphasis on correlation -- and why they explicitly ask teachers not to depart from the "script". But Brother McConkie doesn't want teachers to become enslaved to the "script"; he counseled teachers that they must also learn to listen as they teach and be willing to let go when the quiet promptings of the Holy Ghost come as they stand as an independent witnesses of the things taught. He charged teachers with the responsibility to have the courage to set aside outlines and notes and go where those promptings lead, in order to transform the lesson from their lesson to the Savior's lesson.

But this counsel must be initialized against Elder Adrian Q. Ochoa's counsel to avoid "giving attention to the false accusers of Christ and the Prophet Joseph Smith". This means that while Sunday School may be a good place to discuss controversial Church history and doctrine from time to time, it cannot become a place for the regurgitation of anti-Mormon propaganda. All instruction in a formal Church setting must always be faith-promoting -- WITHOUT EXCEPTION. By the way, in case you were curious, David McConkie is the nephew of the famous Bruce R. McConkie, who continues to be honored by many believing Mormons for his iconic "Mormon Doctrine", in which the elder McConkie attempted to organize and combine all significant parts of LDS doctrine into one source. Too bad the Church has "distanced" itself from this book.

-- Elder Kevin S. Hamilton, First Quorum of the Seventy: Elder Hamilton spoke of the value of continually holding fast, and provided a prototypical example through his grandfather who deviated one iota from prescribed procedure by taking a Sunday drive instead of attending Sacrament meeting and ended up leading his family away from the Church. While such apocalyptic tales may be exceptional, they can happen. But the reason Elder Hamilton attaches such importance to attending Sunday meetings is because Sacrament meeting provides the opportunity to participate in the ordinance of the sacrament, which enables us to renew our baptismal covenants and recharge ourselves with the Spirit. Nevertheless, continually holding fast to the rod also means that we attend ALL of our Sunday meetings: Sacrament meeting, Sunday school and Priesthood or Relief Society meetings, and Elder Hamilton counsels us to avoid picking or choosing which meetings we attend. The bottom line: A seemingly small decision such as whether or not to attend a sacrament meeting can have far-reaching, even eternal consequences. This is worthwhile counsel.

-- Elder Adrian Q. Ochoa, First Quorum of the Seventy: Elder Ochoa focused upon the value of looking up to the Source of all wisdom and truth; namely, our Heavenly Father. Specifically, Elder Ochoa warned against the pitfalls of modern communications technology, explaining that while technology has augmented our freedom of speech, but it also gives an unqualified blogger false credibility based on the number of viewers. He counseled members not to view filthy images or give attention to the false accusers of Christ and the Prophet Joseph Smith. Most insidious are those who mix lies and truths. In the final analysis, today is the time to look up to the Source of truth and ensure that our testimonies become and remain strong.

-- Elder Terence M. Vinson, First Quorum of the Seventy: Elder Vinson spoke of the value of drawing closer to God. He noted that as he has become acquainted with miraculous things that have occurred in the lives of faithful Saints, he finds that it’s because those faithful people feel the same way about Heavenly Father and the Savior as his grandson feels about him -- they love God as a close friend, and He takes care of them. Great analogy; unlike many Christian denomination, we do NOT teach people to fear God but to love God. Big difference!

Elder Vinson also explained that one of the ways the Lord helps individuals remember Him is through adversity. Successfully handling trial and tribulation has not only increased Elder Vinson's personal growth, understanding and empathy, but have drawn him closer to our Heavenly Father and His Son. Instead of solving the problem Himself, the Lord wants individuals to develop the faith to rely on Him in solving problems. Only through this process can we more perfectly align our will with that of our Savior.

-- Elder Russell M. Nelson, Quorum of the Twelve: The Deseret News does not yet link properly to this talk, so my references are Times & Seasons and The Millennial Star. Elder Nelson spoke about decision-making and the impact upon eternal progression. Elder Nelson said that the wise use of freedom to make our own decisions is critical to our spiritual growth both now and for eternity. Elder Nelason also said that an important spiritual attribute is that of self-mastery; namely, the strength to place reason over emotion. Self-mastery builds a strong conscience, and our conscience governs our moral responses in difficult, tempting, and trying situations. Necessitating self-mastery is the fact that God implanted strong appetites within us for nourishment and love, vital for the human family to be perpetuated. When we master our appetites within the bounds of God’s laws, we can enjoy longer life, greater love, and consummate joy. But while we are to emulate our Savior’s kindness and compassion as well as the rights and feelings of all of God’s children, we cannot change His doctrine, since it is not ours to change. For example, we can accept homosexuals, but we cannot accept homosexuality. Marriage is between one man and one woman until the Lord says otherwise. We can lighten the darkness, but we cannot call darkness "light".

-- President Thomas S. Monson: As is the custom, President Monson closed the conference by sharing his thoughts, as he characterized this as a wonderful conference. I would tend to agree with him; despite being an LDS member since 1962, I learned a few things that I either didn't know, or was taught differently in the past. President Monson thanked all those honorably released for their service and expressed appreciation for all the prayers offered on behalf of the leadership. The fact that this was his fourth speech of the conference should eliminate all doubt as to President Monson's health and vigour.

From the LDS Bloggernacle:

-- Feminist Mormon Housewives: Some are displeased that feminism is referred to in a negative context. Perhaps if there wasn't so much negativity in feminism, it would not be typecast. Feminists need to understand that you cannot constantly nag people and expect them to like you; that's contrary to human nature. Most people don't like nannies.

-- The Millennial Star:

-- Times & Seasons: Excellent bulletized summaries of the talks.

-- By Common Consent: Mostly inane chat.

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