Sunday, April 6, 2014

Summary Of 184th Annual LDS General Conference, Sunday Afternoon General Session: Elder William Walker Pays Tribute To Mormon Pioneers

The closing session of the 184th Annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints featured a ringing testimony of the divinity of Jesus Christ and a tribute to the Prophet Joseph Smith on the anniversary of the LDS Church's founding. Joseph Smith was cited as a powerful example of how truth is always accompanied by opposition, and the stronger the truth, the greater the opposition. But one of the talks I found most inspirational was delivered by Elder William R. Walker, who sought to renew understanding and appreciation of the sacrifices of Mormon pioneers who trekked across the Great Plains and carved out Zion in the Intermountain West and make them more relevant to a modern globe-girdling church; as a matter of fact, Elder Walker hit the biggest home run of the Conference with his talk, as far as I'm concerned.

Video, audio, and written archives are now available HERE. Mormon Newsroom provides photo galleries of speakers and surroundings.

Summaries of Other Conference Sessions:

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

Summaries of the talks are available through the Deseret News Conference Page, although some of the information is also gleaned from LDSConf Twitter. Clicking on the speaker's name will take you directly to the Deseret News story about the speech (after the jump):

-- President Boyd K. Packer, President of the Quorum of the Twelve: President Packer spoke about his witness of the Savior Jesus Christ, noting that he received his witness in mid-prayer while stationed near Okinawa during World War II. President Packer also testified of the Father and of the Holy Ghost. President Packer also discussed parenthood, calling it "a sacred privilege" that, depending upon one's faithfulness, can be an eternal blessing, adding that the ultimate end of all activity in the Church is that a man and his wife and their children can be happy at home. But he also offered hope to those who, through no fault of their own, fail to create families while on earth by saying that the promise of eternal increase will not be denied any faithful individual who makes and keeps sacred covenants. Furthermore, he said that arms now empty will be filled and hearts now hurting from broken dreams and yearning will be healed.

-- Elder William R. Walker, First Quorum of the Seventy: The theme of Elder Walker's address was living true to the faith. But Elder Walker did something I've not seen done in a while -- he sought to make the Mormon pioneer legacy more relevant to a 21st-century global church by suggesting that whether or not we are a descendant of pioneers, the Mormon pioneer heritage of faith and sacrifice is our heritage. Some may not be aware of the miraculous conversion of 541 people in England through the teaching of the gospel by Wilford Woodruff and other early-day apostles. Some Mormons have questioned whether African Saints, for example, should care about dressing up as Mormon pioneers on Pioneer Day (July 24th). Of course, Elder Walker is not advocating that Saints everywhere should don granny dresses and re-enact handcart treks on July 24th, but he wants us to remember this day because each of us will be greatly blessed if we know the stories of faith and sacrifice that led our forefathers to join the Lord’s church, and the more connected we feel to our righteous forefathers, the more likely we are to make wise and righteous choices. Elder Walker also reminded us that the Church has been led by an UNBROKEN chain of Prophets of God starting with Joseph Smith; this means ALL of Joseph Smith's successors are equally prophetic.

-- Elder L. Tom Perry, Quorum of the Twelve: Elder Perry spoke of the value of obedience. Not blind, irrational, slavish obedience, but a strong, proactive obedience which is anything but passive. First, he illustrated how the Holy Ghost can unite our spirits and bodies in purpose and guide us back to our eternal home. Then he noted that to succeed in life, we must teach our spirit and body to work together in obedience to God’s commandments. Obedience is a choice between our own limited knowledge and power and God’s unlimited wisdom and omnipotence; at its best, obedience is an emblem of our faith in the wisdom and power of the highest authority, even God. Elder Perry closed by promising that the blessings of eternal life are available to everyone who is faithful and obedient.

-- Elder Lawrence E. Corbridge, First Quorum of the Seventy: Considering that April 6th, 1830 was the day the LDS Church was first organized, it was only appropriate that Elder Corbridge speak of the Prophet Joseph Smith, citing his life and ministry as an example of how opposition, criticism and antagonism are companions to the truth. Whenever the truth is revealed with regard to the purpose and destiny of man, there will always be a force to oppose it. Elder Corbridge proclaimed there was no middle ground about Joseph Smith. He was either pretender or prophet. Either he did what he did alone or he had the help of heaven. He urde people to look at ALL the evidence, not any single piece, but the entire mosaic of his life.

-- Elder Michael John U. Teh, First Quorum of the Seventy: To no one's surprise, this Filipino General Authority brought the killer typhoon that struck his homeland into his talk, citing it as an example of how during times of calamity or tragedy, the Lord has a way of refocusing us and our priorities. He counseled people to feast upon that which perisheth not, because where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. He noted that our priorities, tendencies, inclinations, desires, appetites and passions will have a direct bearing on our next estate. He cited four treasures in heaven we can lay up for ourselves: first, Christlike attributes of faith, hope, humility and charity; second, strengthening family relationships; third, service to others; and fourth, understanding the doctrine of Christ and strengthening our testimonies.

-- Elder Marcos A. Aidukaitis, First Quorum of the Seventy: Elder Aidukaitis spoke of the need to better separate wheat from chaff when it comes to analyzing and digesting information. He noted that Satan can keep us busy, distracted and infected by sifting through information, much of which can be pure garbage; indeed, Satan uses the Internet to promote doubt and fear and destroy faith and hope. So in my personal observation, when the Church advises members to avoid anti-Mormon literature, it is not to suppress the truth, because in the kingdom of God the search for truth is appreciated, encouraged and is in no way repressed or feared. It is simply to avoid taking in garbage that can undermine or destroy faith in those with embryonic or damaged testimonies. Even some things which may be true may not be very useful, as President Boyd K. Packer once said. Back to the talk; Elder Aidukaitis specified three ways to find truth; through the fruits, through experimenting on the word, and through personal revelation. Revelation can be obtained by asking in faith with an honest heart and believing we will receive.

-- Elder D. Todd Christofferson, Quorum of the Twelve: Elder Christofferson spoke of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, saying that the Savior makes all things right. But although all can be made right through the Savior’s Atonement, individuals are still accountable to Him for their lives, choices, actions and even thoughts. This shows the interplay between faith and works; the two are inseparable. Elder Christofferson reminded people that faith truly is more than imagination or psychological invention, he said, adding that there is ultimate and universal truth, and there are objective and unchanging moral standards as taught by the Savior.

-- President Thomas S. Monson: President Monson closed the conference by expressing the hope that we would ponder the messages delivered and resolve to do better than we have in the past. Because the Savior brought to this earth a message of love and goodwill to all men and women, we can best follow His example by being kind and loving to those who do not share our beliefs and our standards. Many of these people do have honest hearts. President Monson assured everyone that our Heavenly Father is mindful of us, and will guide and bless us as we put our faith and trust in Him.

To those who complain they've never heard President Monson bear his testimony at Conference, here's the rebuttal:

"I bear testimony that this work is true, that our Savior lives, and that He guides and directs His Church here upon the earth. I leave with you my witness and my testimony that God our Eternal Father lives and loves us. He is indeed our Father, and He is personal and real. May we realize how close to us He is willing to come, how far He is willing to go to help us and how much He loves us."

Other LDS sources discussing this session of Conference:

-- Feminist Mormon Housewives: Live blog.
-- By Common Consent: Live blog.
-- LDS Freedom Forum: Discussion of the entire conference.

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