Saturday, October 5, 2013

Former BYU Quarterback Gifford Neilsen Debuts At Saturday Afternoon Session Of 183rd Semiannual LDS General Conference

The Saturday Afternoon General Session of the 183rd Semiannual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began with the customary announcements of leadership changes and sustainings. Perhaps the most interesting development was the debut of Gifford Neilsen, who made his cherry speech as a General Authority at this session. Oh, and he's no longer just Gifford Neilsen; following the examples of L. Tom Perry, M. Russell Ballard, and D. Todd Christofferson, he's now "S. Gifford Neilsen" (the "S" stands for "Stanley"). Nothing wrong with it, although it does sound a bit pompous. Speaking of Elder Christofferson, he laid the smack down on feminists in his speech, while Elder Jeffrey Holland gave an extremely thought-provoking talk about dealing with mental and emotional illness. 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 Evening Priesthood Session
-- Summary of Sunday Morning General Session
-- Summary of Sunday Afternoon 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

-- President Boyd K. Packer, President of the Quorum of the Twelve: President Packer's overall message was that the scriptures hold the key to spiritual protection, since they contain the doctrines and laws and ordinances that will bring each child of God to a testimony of Jesus Christ and their Savior and Redeemer, and happiness depends upon living the standards established by the Savior and set forth in the scriptures. By reading the scriptures, individuals can recognize dangerous patterns to avoid and remain watchful and diligent during these perilous times foretold by past prophets. President Packer counseled members to make scripture reading a regular routine, promising that blessings will follow. President Packer also noted that there is one safe place to raise children nowadays; in a gospel-centered home.

-- Elder D. Todd Christofferson, Quorum of the Twelve: Directed his remarks towards the women, and he will probably cause Feminist Mormon Housewives to throw a collective fit. Elder Christofferson expressed gratitude for the influence of good women before offering a plea to women to cultivate the innate moral power found within them. He noted that a woman's moral influence is nowhere more powerful or important than in the home, explaining that through a mother's example, a son learns to respect womanhood and incorporate high moral standards in his life, while a daughter cultivates virtue and learns to stand up for what is right. Elder Christofferson also spoke of the value of of chastity before marriage and fidelity within marriage, and decried permissive attitudes toward human sexuality which also threaten the moral authority of women, noting that sexual immorality and revealing dress not only debase women but reinforces the lie that a woman is defined by her sexuality. Elder Christofferson also laid the smack down on feminists who, in the name of "equality", want to erase all differences between the masculine and the feminine. He's concerned that the distinct, complementary gifts of men and women that produce a greater whole are being blurred. Elder Christofferson also shared his perspective on the debate between a career and motherhood:

"We do not diminish the value of what women or men achieve in any worthy endeavor or career -- we all benefit from their achievements -- but still recognize that there is not a higher good than motherhood and fatherhood in marriage. There is no superior career, and no amount of money, authority or public acclaim can exceed the ultimate rewards of family."

-- Elder S. Gifford Neilsen, First Quorum of the Seventy: The former BYU and Houston Oilers quarterback debuted with his cherry speech as a General Authority at General Conference, and he dropped the expected football reference when he referred to "hastening the Lord's game plan". Elder Neilsen called for us to become engaged as never before, following up on President Monson's call for members and missionaries to work more closely together. Elder Nielsen shared three points to consider when putting together a personal game plan: First, specifically pray to bring someone closer to the Savior and His gospel every day; second, pray for the missionaries serving in local areas and their investigators by name every day; and third, invite a friend to an activity in or to your home. The thought-provoking question Elder Neilsen leaves us with is "If we as members really loved our family, friends, and associates, wouldn’t we want to share our testimony of the restored gospel with them?” Not bad for his first conference talk.

-- Elder Arnulfo Valenzuela, First Quorum of the Seventy: Elder Valenzuela expounded upon the value of what we sometimes blow off as "small and simple things". He cited the words of Alma, who said "Now ye may suppose that his is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise." he also cited the example of one inactive Church member who became active primarily because "someone came and gave him a hug".

-- Elder Jeffrey Holland, Quorum of the Twelve: Elder Holland uttered some very useful remarks about people who deal with mental or emotional disabilities. He said that while those dealing with a mental illness or an emotional disorder may feel like a broken vessel, they must remember the vessel is in the hands of the divine potter, adding that broken minds can be healed just the way broken bones and broken hearts are healed. Elder Holland specifically focused upon depression, characterizing it as an affliction so severe that it significantly restricts a person’s ability to function fully. He said that depression is more than discouragement, not only witnessing it in the lives of others, but experiencing it himself when financial fears collided with staggering fatigue. When mental or emotional challenges confront you or those you love, never lose faith in your Father in Heaven. Seek the counsel of those who hold keys for your spiritual well being. Ask for and cherish priesthood blessings. Take the sacrament every week and hold fast to the perfecting promises of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Believe in miracles. And don't disregard consulting reputable people with certified training, professional skills and good values, because they are just additional weapons our Father has provided for our benefit. This speech was really thought-provoking.

-- Elder Timothy J. Dyches, First Quorum of the Seventy: Elder Dyches focused upon the power of the savior to make one whole again. He said as people draw near to Jesus Christ, they realize that mortality is meant to be difficult. The idea of opposition in all things is not a flaw in the plan of salvation, but is an indispensable element of mortality and strengthens one's will and refines one's choices. It engraves our Savior's image upon people's countenance as they yield their hearts to Him. This makes sense; since the Savior suffered the agony of Gethsemane and Calvary, how can we not expect to suffer in this life? Elder Dyches noted that the ordinance of the sacrament invites the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ in members' lives, and it is through the Atonement that all that is unfair about life can be made right.

-- Elder M. Russell Ballard, Quorum of the Twelve: Elder Ballard talked about missionary opportunities and the need to place trust in the Lord. Fear and misunderstanding tend to deter a lot of member missionary work; some fear that they might be prompted to do something they can't, and some fear they'll be asked to do unrealistic things in their relationships with friends or neighbors. Elder Ballard said that fear will be replaced with faith and confidence as members and missionaries kneel in prayer and ask the Lord to bless them with missionary opportunities. Afterwards, they must act upon their faith and watch for opportunities to introduce the gospel of Jesus Christ to all of Heavenly Father’s children. Such opportunities need not be forced or contrived; they will pop up naturally. Although the LDS Church is understandably geared more towards extroverts, one does NOT have to be an outgoing person or an eloquent or persuasive teacher to bring the Gospel to people; the Lord will put the necessary words in our mouths.

From the LDS Peanut Gallery:

-- Feminist Mormon Housewives: A very well-organized bulletized summary; Dorothy Hatch Ward characterized Elder Holland's talk as "amazing", but says Elder Ballard's counsel didn't work very well when she served her mission. As expected, there was much disagreement with Elder Christofferson in the comments, with one person pointing out that being a homemaker is unpaid and does not bring income into the house. Of course, there's the possibility that the wife's salary would be swallowed up by child care and commuting costs, putting the household back to square one. One person says men need to become more like women, which shows the true agenda of the feminist movement. A few commenters attempt to defend Elder Christofferson, though.

-- By Common Consent: A lot of inane chatty-cathy drivel in the comments section, but there are some pearls of wisdom as you scroll down. While there's some criticism of Elder Christofferson's speech, some commenters point out that feminism isn't as monolithic as it first appears, and contend the "GRRRL POWER" freaks aren't representative of their cause as a whole. Jeffrey Holland's talk gets a lot of kudos.

-- The Millennial Star: Short summaries of each talk without editorial commentary.

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