Sunday, April 5, 2015

Summary Of 185th Annual LDS General Conference, Sunday Morning General Session: Three New Temples Planned, Including One In Haiti

The 185th Annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints continued on Sunday morning with the announcement that, after a two-year hiatus on new temples, the Church is planning to build three new temples. One of the proposed locations is unsurprising and seemingly past due; Bangkok, Thailand. But the other two are a surprise and illustrate that sometimes the Lord sees things differently than us mere mortals: Abidjan, Ivory Coast and Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Looks like the Lord has finally bestowed some long-delayed mercy upon those two troubled lands. But this session of Conference was also marked by specific outreach towards Latter-day Saints considered "less active", as two speakers, Sister Rosemary Wixom and Elder Brent Nielson, pointed to prospective paths back to full activity.

Other Sessions:

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

-- President Thomas S. Monson: It was during this talk that President Monson made the surprising announcement of new temples planned for Thailand, Ivory Coast, and Haiti. According to him, there are currently 144 temples in operation worldwide, with five being renovated and 13 more under construction. In addition, 13 temples, which were previously announced, are in various stages of preparation before construction begins. In 2015, the Church anticipates rededicating two temples and dedicating five new temples that are scheduled for completion. But President Monson also made a pitch for the blessings of the temple, citing two stories to drive the message home. Temples not only provide rest for our souls and a respite from the cares of our lives, but also offer a dimension of spirituality and a feeling of peace which will transcend any other feeling which could come into the human heart.

NOTE: The five new temples are scheduled for dedication this year are in Córdoba Argentina (May 17), Payson Utah (June 7), Trujillo Peru (June 21), Indianapolis Indiana (dedication, Aug. 23), and Tijuana Mexico (Dec. 13). The two temples being rededicated this year after renovations are completed are Mexico City Mexico (Sept. 13), and Montreal Quebec Canada (no date yet set). The other temples under renovation are in Idaho Falls, Fiji, and Freiberg, Germany.

-- Sister Rosemary M. Wixom, Primary General President: Sister Wixom was tailoring her talk towards less-active members. She cited the classical example of a woman who was active, but developed questions that had increasingly difficult answers. These prompted even more questions that shook the foundations of her faith. Despite a support system from her bishop and ward members, she became less active. After reading a book of Mother Teresa's writings, she began the slow journey back to activity, but she had to start with basic gospel truths. She purchased a Primary Children’s Songbook and read the words of the songs. She also continued to study the scriptures. Soon, this woman accepted a calling as the Primary pianist, which allowed her to strengthen her testimony of the truths she did know in a place she felt safe.

-- Elder Jose A. Teixeira, First Quorum of the Seventy: Elder Teixeira spoke of the need to deepen understanding of the teachings of Jesus Christ. The more individuals understand the role of Christ, the more conscious they become of their purpose in mortality, which is to have joy. Elder Teixeira encouraged members to have interactions with the teachings of Christ every day, and touted the small and simple gestures and acts as being particularly instrumental. To prevent today's networked lifestyle from removing us from what is essential, Elder Teixeira gave three habits to establish healthy online activity: First, visit the Church’s official website for resources; second, subscribe to the Church’s official social networks; and third, make time to set aside mobile devices.

-- Bishop Gerald Causse, First Counselor Presiding Bishopric: With the Gospel flooding over the entire earth and temples seemingly everywhere, Bishop Causee cautioned members against taking our Heavenly Father's marvels for granted. He suggested three things to help members see, hear, feel and marvel at the gospel available to them: First, never tire of discovering or rediscovering the truths of the gospel; second, anchor faith in the plain and simple truths of the gospel; and third, seek and cherish the companionship of the Holy Ghost.

-- Elder Brent H. Nielson, First Quorum of the Seventy: Elder Nielson also reached out towards less-active members, using the Prodigal Son analogy. Since his sister left the Church, he has been affected personally. But he never stopped loving his sister, and his mother kept placing his sister on the prayer roll of the local temple. Finally, his sister felt impressed to watch the sessions of Conference in 2009 and began her slow journey back. The idea is that just because someone chooses to walk out of the Church doesn't mean we have to lock the door behind them; we continue to love that person, we watch, we pray and we wait for the Lord’s hand in their lives to be revealed.

-- Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, Quorum of the Twelve: Elder Holland spoke on the significance of the Atonement. He noted that understanding the fall of Adam and Eve is required to adequately comprehend the significance of the Atonement. Because we were subsequently born into that same fallen world and would also transgress the laws of God, we also were sentenced to the same penalties that Adam and Eve faced. This fallen state would leave all men without hope of immortality or eternal life. But a Savior was prepared to overcome the Fall through the sacrifice of God’s only begotten Son. That Atonement would achieve complete victory over physical death, unconditionally granting resurrection to every person who has been born or ever will be born into this world. Mercifully it would also provide forgiveness for the personal sins of all, from Adam to the end of the world, conditioned upon repentance and obedience to divine commandments. A logical confluence of justice and mercy; the Atonement represents the mercy without which we cannot return to the Father.

-- President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor First Presidency: In teaching of the divine gift of God's grace, President Uchtdorf said it does not merely restore one to a state of innocence. The Father’s aim is much higher: He wants His sons and daughters to become like Him. This will lead to heights we can scarcely comprehend; namely, exaltation in the celestial kingdom, where we, surrounded by our loved ones, receive of the fulness and glory of the Father. We become heirs of the Father and joint heirs with Jesus Christ.

President Uchtdorf gave an interesting explanation of the relationship between grace and obedience (another way of describing faith and works). He acknowledged that salvation cannot be bought with the currency of obedience, but is purchased by the blood of the Son of God. So why is obedience stressed? President Uchtdorf explained that we obey the commandments of God out of love for Him, adding that trying to understand God’s gifts of grace with all our heart and mind gives us all the more reasons to love and obey our Heavenly Father with meekness and gratitude. As we walk the path of discipleship it refines us, it improves us, it helps us to become more like Him, and it leads us back to His presence. Thus faith justifies, and works sanctify.

From the Bloggernacle: Reaction from rank-and-file LDS around the Web.

-- Feminist Mormon Housewives: Surprisingly detailed and upbeat summaries of the talks, free of the male-bashing which normally characterizes this source. Talks by Sister Wixom and Elder Nielson received some acclaim.

-- Millennial Star: Faith-promoting summaries of talks. President Uchtdorf's talk drew some acclaim.

-- Times & Seasons: Good bulletized summaries of each talk.

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