Saturday, April 4, 2015

Summary Of 185th Annual LDS General Conference, Saturday Evening Priesthood Session:

The 185th Annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints continued with the Priesthood Session this evening. Counsel given to Melchizedek and Aaronic Priesthood holders was of the more traditional variety. Elder M. Russell Ballard delivered one of the more important talks, urging young men to raise the bar and better prepare themselves for missionary service, while discussing the missionary selection process in greater detail. President Monson delivered his first talk of the Conference, and, while looking more and more his age, was no less eloquent than he has been in the past.

Other Sessions:

-- Summary of General Women's Session
-- Summary of Saturday Morning General Session
-- Summary of Saturday Afternoon General 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. LDSConf Twitter also used as a source. For the time being, I have posted short summaries of the highlights of each talk along with any pertinent personal impressions. Links posted below take you directly to the Deseret News account of the talk.

-- Elder M. Russell Ballard, Quorum of the Twelve: Elder Ballard is considered the designated "technology wonk" of the Quorum, and he lived up to that billing. However, this was embedded within a challenge he issued to bishops, parents and prospective missionaries to raise the bar for full time missionary service. Elder Ballard said that what we need now is the greatest generation of young adults in the history of the Church, to respond with whole heart and soul. We need vibrant, thinking, passionate young adults who know how to listen and respond to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit. Elder Ballard also discussed the missionary selection process at length, characterizing it as a marriage of technology and revelation. He explained that a member of the Quorum of the Twelve assigns every missionary to his or her mission. The prospective missionary’s photograph comes up on a computer screen together with key information provided by the bishop and stake president. When the picture appears, the Apostle looks into the eyes and reviews the answers to the missionary recommendation questions. For that brief moment, it seems as if the missionary is personally present responding directly. Then, by the power of the Spirit and under the direction of President Monson, the Church assigns the missionary to one of the Church’s 406 worldwide missions.

Sounds quite similar to the process used by Joseph Smith to translate the unsealed portion of the Golden Plates into the modern Book of Mormon. View the character, study it out in his mind, ask the Lord if it is right, then get the answer.

Elder Ballard then posed nine questions the prospective missionary should be able to answer affirmatively:

– Do you read the scriptures?
– Do you kneel in prayer daily?
– Do you fast and donate a fast offering each month?
– Do you think deeply about the Savior during the Sacrament?
– Do you try to keep the Sabbath day holy?
– Are you honest at home, church and work?
– Do you avoid looking at pornography and photos that might embarrass you?
– Are you careful with your time? (Avoid Tinder and Snapchat).
– Is there anything in your life you need to change and fix beginning tonight?

-- Elder Ulisses Soares, First Quorum of the Seventy: Elder Soares continued a new tradition begun at the October 2014 Conference by delivering his talk in Portuguese; simultaneous translation into English was available. He spoke about the war against sin that we wage daily, and cited Captain Moroni during the middle portion of the Book of Mromon as an ideal example of a total spiritual warrior, saying that all of us need to become modern Captain Moronis in order to win the wars against evil. He cited the example of a deacon who reproved some of his friends for accessing porn on their cell phones, and the ridicule he received in response, except for one individual who followed his counsel. Elder Soares warned us against allowing ourselves to be confused by popular messages that are easily accepted by the world and that contradict the doctrine and true principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ, saying that many of these worldly messages represent nothing more than an attempt of our society to justify sin.

-- Brother Larry M. Gibson, former First Counselor in the Young Men General Presidency: Since he was just released from the position today, this could be considered his "farewell address". He cited an example from his own childhood which drove home the importance of thinking about the eternal destiny his Heavenly Father has for him. His father showed him a silver dollar, explaining that if it was melted down and mixed with the right ingredients, it would become silver nitrate, which forms the reflective surface of a mirror. His father warned him that if he focused only on the silver, all he would see is himself and, like a veil, it would keep him from seeing clearly the eternal destiny Heavenly Father has prepared just for him. His father then gave him the silver dollar to keep as a reminder of that principle. And fatherhood is the eternal destiny of a man.

-- President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency: Authenticity was the watchword of President Uchtdorf's address, as he sought to convince people of the need to be genuine. He cited the historical example of the Potemkin villages in Russia which misled Catherine the Great as to the true condition of the peasants in her empire; such misinformation can potentially be destructive. Likewise, Priesthood holders should avoid trying to cover their sins, or to gratify their pride or vain ambition through hypocrisy. Mistaking the form of godliness for the power thereof can result in us directing our outward expressions of discipleship to impress others for personal gain or influence rather than to serve.

President Uchtdorf added that the Church is not an automobile showroom, where we put ourselves on display so that others can admire our spirituality, capacity or prosperity. It is more like a service center, where vehicles in need of repair come for maintenance and rehabilitation. And all of us at one time or another need repair, maintenance and rehabilitation? We come to church not to hide our problems but to heal them.

-- President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency: President Eyring discussed the importance of enjoying the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. Often there is little to no time for prior preparation, particularly when faced with a situation warranting the administration of a Priesthood blessing. The power to speak and act in God’s name requires revelation, which requires the companionship of the Holy Ghost. And receiving guidance from the Holy Ghost as one studies the words of prophets will take more than casual listening and reading; we will need to pray and work in faith to put the words of truth down into our hearts. We must pray that God will bless us with His Spirit, that He will lead us into all truth and show us the right way.

-- President Thomas S. Monson: President Monson characterized the Priesthood as one of the most precious gifts ever bestowed upon mankind. He noted that he formed his conscientious habits back when he was the secretary of his deacon's quorum and took great pride in maintaining the records meticulously. From there, doing all he can to the very best of his ability has been his goal in any position he has ever held. Preident Monson noted that he has witnessed the power and strength of the Priesthood time and time again, and marvels at the miracles it has wrought, citing one noteworthy healing incident while he was in the Navy. President Monson concluded: “As bearers of the priesthood of God, we are engaged in the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. We have answered His call; we are on His errand. Let us follow in His footsteps. Let us live by His precepts. By so doing, we will be prepared for any service he calls us to perform. This is His work. This is His Church. Indeed, He is our captain, the King of Glory, even the Son of God.”

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

-- Feminist Mormon Housewives: President Uchtdorf's talk received positive feedback as it usually does from this source, otherwise not much of consequence.

-- Millennial Star: Good faith-promoting summaries of the talks. Geoff noted that it appeared President Monson was laboring a bit with health problems by his speech.

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


James Lloyd said...

Very suprised at Quentin L. Cook's statement that “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has never been stronger. The number of members removing their names from the records of the Church has always been very small and is significantly less in recent years than in the past. The increase in demonstrably measurable areas, such as endowed members with a current temple recommend, adult full-tithe payers and those serving missions, has been dramatic." While the Church doesn't release its date to the public, it is hard to believe, especially when Marlin Jensen said 2 years ago that people were leaving in droves and was the worst apostasy since Kirtland. I think the Church is moving into a denial stage.

Jack Mormon said...

Perhaps the situation has improved somewhat during the past two years. The truth is probably somewhere in between the two extremes. The Church has acknowledged, through its Hastening The Work emphasis, that retention can and should be improved. In my ward, we are currently engaging in verifying the ward roster, which consists of contacting each name on the roster to verify they are still at the published address.