Saturday, April 4, 2015

Summary Of 185th Annual LDS General Conference, Saturday Morning General Session: Promoting Traditional Marriage And Family, Resisting The Devaluation Of Men

On April 4th, 2015, the 185th Annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which officially began with the General Women's Session on March 28th, resumed on Saturday morning. It was marked by several vigorous defenses of traditional marriage and family values, and a call by the Relief Society General President to resist the devaluation of men promoted by the dominant secular culture. The Salt Lake Tribune took note of the fact that President Thomas S. Monson did not give a talk at this session, although he was present and plans to give a talk later. The British media have already picked up on the Conference with an article in the left-wing Guardian provocatively entitled "Mormon leaders decry same-sex marriage and counterfeit lifestyles".

-- Salt Lake Tribune photo gallery of Conference.
-- KSL Channel 5 photo gallery of Conference.

Other Sessions:

-- Summary of General Women's Session
-- Summary of Saturday Afternoon General Session
-- Saturday Evening Priesthood Session
-- Sunday Morning General Session
-- Sunday Afternoon General Session

For the first time, the LDS Church provides immediate real-time summaries of the talks on their Conference At A Glance Page; nice innovation, but I also choose to provide my traditional summaries. Video and audio archives will be available on the designated General Conference page shortly after the Conference; written transcripts will be posted later in the week. For the time being, I have posted short summaries of the highlights of each talk along with some pertinent personal impressions. Links posted below take you directly to the Deseret News account of the talk.

-- President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency: President Eyring focused upon the commandment and the blessings of the law of the fast. This is pertinent because observant LDS members fast on the first Sunday of each month and donate what they would have spent on the two missed meals as a fast offering. We give a generous fast offering through our bishop or branch president for the benefit of the poor and the needy, and the funds will then be used to help people in need, some of whom will be people close to an individual, possibly even a family member. Ward and stake leaders pray and fast for the revelation to know whom to help and what help to give; that which is not needed locally will become available to bless other Church members across the world. Fasting can confer additional spiritual benefits on top of prayer; it can heal and change hearts. This reminds me of the Biblical verse (Matthew 17:21) on how to deal with particularly stubborn spiritual adversaries; namely, "this kind goeth not out but by prayer AND fasting".

-- President Boyd K. Packer, President of the Quorum of the Twelve: Launched the opening session with a vigorous defense of traditional marriage and family values. Marriage is more than romance; it's a full-blown life partnership. Mature love has a bliss not even imagined by newlyweds. But true love requires reserving until after marriage the sharing of procreative powers. When entered into worthily, this process combines the most exquisite and exalted physical, emotional, and spiritual feelings associated with the word love. But President Packer also assured worthy people who are unable to bear children or who do not marry that God remains our Father. President Packer truly is a champion for Christ.

-- Sister Linda K. Burton, Relief Society General President: Gently took issue with the anti-male rhetoric permeating society, which implies that men are dispensable. She noted that Satan is the author of the false ideas that men are inherently self-centered or that fathers are unnecessary in today’s society. Sister Burton asserted that being a father is a sacred calling, and that a father’s role as a priesthood holder serves to strengthen and protect the family. Sister Burton is convinced that a husband is never more attractive to his wife than when he is serving in his God-given roles as a worthy priesthood holder, most importantly in the home. This effectively supports LDS doctrine that men and women can only be exalted in the celestial kingdom together, not singly.

-- Elder Dallin H. Oaks, Quorum of the Twelve: Elder Oaks brought the Parable of the Sower (Mark 4) into his talk, noting that if we are not rooted in the teachings of the Gospel and regular in its practices, any one of us can develop a stony heart, which is stony ground for spiritual seeds. He also identified the keyhole view of the Gospel, which focuses inordinately upon a particular point of doctrine or deficiency in a leader and ignores the fullness of the gospel plan and the personal and communal fruits of its harvest, as problematic. In addition, Elder Oaks cautioned against becoming seduced by prosperity theology, saying that whoever has an abundance of material things is in jeopardy of being sedated by riches and other things of the world. In the final analysis, Elder Oaks suggested that genuine conversion can only be achieved by prayer, by scripture-reading, by serving, and by regularly partaking of the sacrament to always have the Holy Spirit to be with us, counseling people to seek that mighty change of heart (Alma 5:21-14) that replaces evil desires and selfish concerns with the love of God and the desire to serve Him and His children.

-- Elder L. Whitney Clayton, Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy: Elder Clayton spoke about the value of choosing to believe in the Gospel. Elder Clayton noted that individuals must choose to believe before faith can grow. Second, belief must be put into action through means such as prayer, reading the scriptures, and making and keeping covenants. And finally, one must never give up, even in difficult spiritual times when progress seems to have slowed, in order to further grow faith. This is what makes mortality such an essential step in eternal progression; it is the only environment where our faith can immediately be tested by adversity, which serves as an isometric exercise for our character.

-- Elder L. Tom Perry, Quorum of the Twelve: Elder Perry spoke of his participation in a Colloquium on Marriage and Family at the Vatican in Rome, Italy. He noted that there was a powerful sense of commonality and unity felt by the various religious representatives in attendance, who numbered from among 14 different faiths and six of the seven continents. He found it remarkable to see how marriage and family-centered priorities cut across and superseded any political, economic or religious differences. But Elder Perry noted that what differentiated the LDS Church from the others represented at the Colloqium was we make it a subject of eternity; we take the commitment and the sanctity of marriage to a greater level because of our belief and understanding that families go back to before this earth was, and they can go forward into eternity. Because the media and entertainment industries wrongly depict immorality and amorality as the social norm; the Church will continue to participate in various ecumenical efforts, in sharing family-focused values in the media and social media and in sharing genealogical and extended family records to effectively counter the degeneracy of the mass media and the entertainment industry.

LDS Peanut Gallery: Reaction from rank-and-file Mormons on the Web.

-- Feminist Mormon Housewives: As usual, many commenters question the relevance of the family remarks to those who don't have traditional families.

-- Times and Seasons: Good faith-promoting summaries of the talks.

-- LDS Freedom Forum: Designated thread. President Eyring's talk attracted considerable praise. One person questions whether or not the Church is catering too much to the gay lobby with their support of Utah's nondiscrimination law. But former BYU Professor Stephen Jones takes issue with this assessment, praising Elder Perry's talk.

-- Millennial Star: Another batch of good faith-promoting summaries of the talks.

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