Saturday, October 5, 2013

No Temples Announced, But Good Counsel Given At The Saturday Morning Session Of 183rd Semiannual LDS General Conference

The 183rd Semiannual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints opened today with a renewed call for more missionary outreach from President Thomas S. Monson, and exceptionally pertinent addresses from Sister Carole M. Stephens, Elder David A. Bednar, and President Dieter F. Uchtdorf. No new temples were announced. Mainstream media sources include the Deseret News General Conference Page and the Salt Lake Tribune, which headlined President Uchtdorf's speech. I provide short excerpts punctuated by my own impressions below.

-- Summary of Saturday Afternoon 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 Thomas S. Monson: President Monson spoke primarily about missionary work, noting that in the year since changing the minimum age requirements for missionary service, the number of full-time missionaries has increased from 58,500 to 80,333. Overall LDS membership has now shattered the 15,000,000 barrier. He said there's no proclamation more relevant, no responsibility more binding, and no instruction more direct than "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost". He added that now is the time for members and missionaries to labor together in the Lord's vineyard, and promised that the Lord has prepared the means for us to share the gospel in a multitude of ways. The latter is important since an increasing segment of the public has grown hostile to door-knocking, so we must find more creative ways to share the Gospel. President Monson also expressed gratitude for the upsurge in contributions to the General Missionary Fund during the past year.

-- Elder Robert D. Hales, Quorum of the Twelve: Elder Hales' topic was strengthening faith and testimony. Elder Hales spoke about the purposes and benefits of the twice-yearly general conferences, and testified that general conferences are always under the direction of the Lord, and guided by his spirit. He further testified that conference messages come to them through the Holy Ghost after prayerful preparation. We may not know all the reasons why the speakers address certain topics, but the Lord knows. The greatest blessings of conference are realized after we get home and begin to apply the lessons learned. If we pray with sincere desire to hear our Heavenly Father's voice in conference, we will discover that He has spoken to each of us individually in some way.

-- Carole M. Stephens, Relief Society General President: Sister Stephens referred to that section of the Proclamation on the Family that states, "All human beings, male and female, are created in the image of God". She assured the audience that the Holy Ghost is not restricted to men, nor apostles or prophets; it belongs to every faithful man and woman. Mean and women can be equally different; we have different gifts and strengths, each one of us, to fulfill our individual roles and responsibilities. We all need each other; sons of God need daughters of God, and daughters of God need sons of God. Sister Stephens issued personal challenges to both men and women; "Sons of God, do you know who you are? Are you worthy to exercise the priesthood and receive the power and blessings of the priesthood?", and "Daughters of God, do we know who we are? Are we worthy to receive the power and blessings of the priesthood?"

-- Elder Ulisses Soares, Presidency of the Seventy: Elder Soares spoke of the need to mirror Christ after we take upon ourselves His name. Elder Soares sought to rebut popular misconceptions that being meek means being a wuss, saying "Being meek does not mean weakness, but it does mean behaving with goodness and kindness, showing strength, serenity, healthy self-worth and self-control". Everyone is born with the ability to become meek; steps toward activating that ability include committing to daily improvement, removing anger from your live, and becoming humble.

-- Elder Edward Dube, First Quorum of the Seventy: Elder Dube addressed the sometimes-controversial issue of callings in the Church; many members think the Church overburdens them with callings. Elder Dube's motivation was to get people to rise above their limitations and realize that sometimes when one seems most overburdened, the Lord will open a way to lighten the load. Elder Dube noted that the Lord, through His servants, extends various callings of service to us, which we should accept with total commitment. He also explained that when a release has been extended and a new assignment has been issued, members joyfully accept it, are not overshadowed by previous experiences, and don't think they have served enough already. He concluded with this: "In the sight of the Lord it is not so much on what we have done or where we have been, but much more where we are willing to go."

-- Elder David A. Bednar, Quorum of the Twelve: This is the second conference in a row that Elder Bednar has delivered a solid extra-base hit from the pulpit; I'm beginning to seriously relate to this guy theologically. Elder Bednar spoke about the value of tithing, but at the same time rebutted the heretical Prosperity Theology that plagues much of Christianity. Elder Bednar led off by saying that the honest payment of tithing is more than a duty — it is an important step in the process of personal sanctification. But then he said that while individuals can enjoy significant but sometimes subtle blessings when they follow the Lord's commandment to pay tithing, dutiful tithe payers might not receive any sudden windfall additions to, say, their household incomes. Instead, a loving Heavenly Father typically bestows simple blessings in seemingly ordinary ways. Thank you Elder Bednar for attempting to purge the corrupt, apostate MLM spirit from our ranks -- we're the Church of Jesus Christ, NOT the Church of Amway.

Elder Bednar also said that he has gained a greater appreciation and reverence for the Lord's law of finance for individuals, families and for His Church since receiving his call as an apostle. In response to anklebiters who imperiously demand that the Church "open its books", Elder Bednar merely noted the two basic and fixed principles are observed in the financial operations of the Church: First, the Church lives within its means and does not spend more than it receives; and second, a portion of the annual income is set aside as a reserve for contingencies and unanticipated needs. This is further discussed in Sections 119 and 120 of the Doctrine & Covenants.

-- President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency: President Uchtdorf gave what could also be considered a signature address. While he celebrated the fact that the LDS Church is one of the few Christian denominations experiencing numerical growth, he reached out to those who have doubts and even those who have left the Church. President Uchtdorf openly acknowledged that in nearly 200 years of Church history -- along with an uninterrupted line of inspired, honorable, and divine events -- there have been some things said and done that could cause people to question, and sometimes questions arise because we simply don’t have all the information and we just need a bit more patience. When the entire truth is eventually known, things that didn’t make sense to us before will be resolved to our satisfaction. He also noted that there have been times when members or leaders in the Church have simply made mistakes, saying or doing things that were not in harmony with our values, principles or doctrine. But he reminded the audience that the Church is an imperfect body staffed by imperfect human beings, and that Christ is willing to work with us nonetheless. The Church is filled with people who desire with all their heart to keep the commandments, even if they haven’t mastered them yet.

President Uchtdorf did cite three primary reasons for the Church's continued growth. First, the Church was restored by Jesus Christ Himself, with all the necessary keys, offices, and ordinances. Second the Church provides opportunities for doing good through service missions and projects. And third, walking the path of discipleship can lead to tangible blessings.

From the LDS "Peanut Gallery":

-- Feminist Mormon Housewives: For the most part, these ladies kept their anklebiting and ark-steadying within reasonable bounds. They didn't much care for Sister Stephens' talk because they think she was directing her remarks towards the Ordain Women insurgency. They also don't like the idea that they might have to call a Melchizedek Priesthood holder at 2 A.M. to give a blessing to a sick child rather than do it more quickly themselves. However, many of the FMH sisters fully displayed their sophomoric crush on President Uchtdorf; they seem enamored of the fact that he admits the Church is imperfect. Gee whiz, nothing the rest of us didn't already know.

-- By Common Consent: Elder Soares' talk got strong kudos from one source. Some also agree that Sister Stephens was putting the smack down on Ordain Women. Elder Dube's presence was well received. There was also a crush on President Uchtdorf here, too, although more restrained. Many comments primarily inane chitchat.

-- The Millennial Star: This source is always worth reading. Cites President Uchtdorf's talk as particularly noteworthy without indulging in a mancrush.

-- Mormon Momma: President Uchtdorf made the most favorable impression here, too.

-- Times & Seasons: Kent Larsen provides well-organized bulletized summaries of the highlights of each talk.

-- LDS Freedom Forum: Appears to be a single discussion thread for the entire conference. President Uchtdorf's talk was also critically acclaimed here. But former BYU Professor Steven Jones also lauded Elder Bednar, noting that Elder Bendar said that as the church stays out of debt, so must we also remain debt-free. Elder Dube's talk also received some praise.

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