Sunday, April 5, 2015

Summary Of 185th Annual LDS General Conference, Sunday Afternoon General Session: Elder Robert D. Hales Gives A Powerful Defense Of Religious Liberty

The 185th Annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints continued on Sunday afternoon, and what a great way to commemorate Easter Sunday! My personal highlight was the powerful defense of religious liberty articulated by Elder Robert Hales, who explained that liberty originated with our Heavenly Father, has been opposed and distorted by Satan, and why it is important for us as Latter-day Saints to respect the religious liberty of others. Elder Joseph Sitati also became another of the many speakers to offer an explanation and defense of traditional marriage.

-- 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 Morning General Session
-- Summary of Saturday Afternoon General Session
-- Summary of Saturday Evening Priesthood Session
-- Summary of Sunday Morning 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 Robert D. Hales, Quorum of the Twelve: For some reason, Elder Hales does not get as much public attention as the other apostles. Maybe today's talk will garner the public attention he richly deserves, because Elder Hales spoke of agency. He's grateful for our freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of assembly, and acknowledges that agency was always part of the plan of salvation and exaltation. Agency is so important to the Father that the desire to take it away caused Lucifer and his followers to be cast out forever. But even from his fallen position, Satan continues to oppose and undermine agency and religious freedom; he deliberately promotes a confused definition of religious freedom. In contrast, where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. Elder Hales outlines four cornerstones of religious liberty: freedom to believe, freedom to share beliefs with others, freedom to form a church, and freedom to live one's faith not only at home and church, but also in public places. But he adds that all of the cornerstones apply to all religions, so he charges us to be tolerant of all religions. No one should criticize, persecute, or attack an individual for what he or she believes about God. As disciples of Jesus Christ we have the responsibility to work together. In the final analysis, Elder Hales finds that how we live our religion is far more important than what we may say about our religion.

-- Elder Kevin W. Pearson, First Quorum of the Seventy: Elder Pearson wants us to stay by the "tree" (the Tree of Life as outlined in Lehi's vision) and endure to the end, which is not only a hallmark of true discipleship, but is also essential to eternal life. He cautioned us to resist two of Satan’s most powerful tools, distraction and deception. Casual obedience and lukewarm commitment can weaken faith; enduring to the end requires total commitment to the Savior and to our covenants. Elder Pearson suggested six important principles to help individuals endure to the end. First, don’t forget to pray; second, come unto Christ and be perfected in Him; third, press forward with faith; fourth, use the Book of Mormon as the key to spiritual survival; fifth, avoid distraction and deception; and finally, stay by the tree.

-- Elder Rafael E. Pino, First Quorum of the Seventy: Elder Pino became the second speaker to deliver a talk in a language other than English (Spanish is his native language); some people on Twitter criticized the use of voiceovers rather than subtitles for translation. In any event, Elder Pino spoke about the eternal perspective, noting that the eternal perspective of the gospel leads us to understand the place that we occupy in God’s plan, to accept difficulties and progress through them, to make decisions, and to center our lives on our divine potential. Understanding the plan of happiness devised for us by our Heavenly Father provides us with that eternal perspective. Elder Pino added that it is extremely important that we do not make decisions of eternal value from the perspective of mortality; decisions affecting eternity require a gospel perspective. He concluded that not having an eternal perspective can lead us to have an earthly perspective as our personal standard and to make decisions that are not in harmony with the will of God.

-- Elder Neil L. Andersen, Quorum of the Twelve: Elder Andersen talked about the worldwide growth of the Church, and attributes it in part to the Lord's miracles. We marvel as we watch Him open doors we cannot open and perform miracles we can scarcely imagine. Elder Andersen explained why the Church selected Thailand, Ivory Coast, and Haiti for new temples. He spoke of continued growth of the Church in Haiti after a devastating earthquake in 2010; the faithful example of Sathit Kaivalvatana, a faithful member in Thailand who overcame an accident in which he was paralyzed and serves as president of the Bangkok Thailand North Stake; and the growth of the Church in the Ivory Coast, where two couples started a Sunday School 30 years ago and there are now eight stakes and 27,000 members. He asked the congregation if they could see the hand of God moving His work forward in Haiti, Thailand and the Ivory Coast.

-- Elder Jorge F. Zeballos, First Quorum of the Seventy: Elder Zeballos identified two primary responsibilities for Latter-day Saints: First, to seek their own salvation; and second, to help others realize their salvation. These responsibilities, freely accepted and entrusted to us, must define our priorities, our desires, our decisions and our daily conduct. Four principles he suggests will enable us to accomplish this mission include learning our duty, making the decision, acting accordingly, and willingly accepting the Father's will.

-- Elder Joseph W. Sitati, First Quorum of the Seventy: Elder Sitati was yet another speaker who spoke in defense of traditional marriage, but within the context of the three fundamental charges given by God to His children found in Moses 2:28: Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it, and have dominion over over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. Elder Sitati noted that physical bodies are a blessing from God that provide God’s children the opportunity to experience life on earth, and that marriage between a man and a woman is the institution that God ordained for the fulfillment of the charge to multiply. Furthermore, it is a marriage performed in the temple where covenants are honored that creates the best experience of love and preparation for a fruitful life, as the promise given to those sealed in the covenant of eternal marriage is that the adversary will never have power to undermine the foundation of their eternal companionship.

-- Elder Russell M. Nelson, Quorum of the Twelve: Elder Nelson made a pitch for Sabbath observance, saying that the fullness of the earth is promised to those who keep the Sabbath Day holy. But although the Sabbath was given as a perpetual covenant -- a constant reminder that the Lord may sanctify His people -- Elder Nelson also pointed out that it was the Savior who taught that the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Christ wanted us to understand that the Sabbath was His gift to us, granting real respite from the rigors of daily life, and opportunity for spiritual and physical renewal, and not for amusement or daily labor. Elder Nelson rejects the notion of publishing long Pharasaical laundry lists of "don'ts" on the Sabbath, instead deciding that his conduct and attitude on the Sabbath constituted a sign between him and his Heavenly Father. With that understanding, he no longer needed lists of dos and don’ts. Some of the more common worthy Sabbath activities include attending Sunday services, partaking of the sacrament, tending to Church callings, performing family history work, and reaching out to those who are lonely or in need.

Unlike in the past, President Uchtdorf closed the Conference rather than President Monson.

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

-- Feminist Mormon Housewives: One commenter opined that the Brethren are "really beating the drum on gay marriage this year".

-- Times & Seasons: The usual bulletized summaries of the talks.


Anonymous said...

Was Joseph Smith pretty much never mentioned this entire conference? I think only one passing reference was made in Elder Hales talk - but no testimony given of Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, or the First Vision.

Jack Mormon said...

There were a few remarks about the Book of Mormon sprinkled throughout the talks, but you're correct -- since this Conference coincided with Easter Sunday, most of the focus was on Jesus Christ.