President Monson's opening greeting, "How good it is, my beloved brothers and sisters, to meet together once again," sounds awfully like the Hebrew phrase "Hine(y) ma tov u’ma-nayim / Shevet ach-im gam ya-chad" ("Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!" Psalms 133:1). In fact, I would venture to say that with the music and the welcome from the Prophet of the Lord, participating in General Conference is not unlike entering the temple. If we read the rest of Psalms 133, we can understand that President Monson's introduction is in the pattern of the prophets inviting us to the Holy Temple, not unlike King Benjamin or any of the prophets of old.
President Monson mentions that it has been just over 183 years since the Church was organized by Joseph Smith under the direction of the Lord. If we hearken back to the temple, we can understand that even this statement reveals something about the Church and about us. Without going into too much detail (for the temple ritual is sacred), we can understand that as God created the earth and all things by His Son Jesus Christ, the Lord created His Church and restored it through the Prophet Joseph Smith. Just as the Lord followed and did the will of His Father, Joseph Smith followed and did the will of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are invited to follow and do the will of the Lord as did Joseph Smith.
In other words, this introduction seems to reach out to all the lost tribes, including Judah (the Jews) and Joseph (Ephraim and Menasseh). From a small beginning, on April 6, 1830 (the day of the real Christmas), the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has grown just as the Prophet Daniel prophesied long ago. Watching President Monson's face as he looks over the congregation gives one the sense that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is truly a miracle worth pondering, with a growing membership of more than 15 million.
Foremost in President Monson's mind and heart is the work of the Lord, namely missionary work, which has increased to 80,333 missionaries. "Go ye therefore and teach all nations…" "After all that's been said, the greatest and most important duty is to preach the Gospel." "Every member a missionary."
President Monson added his own injunction: "To their words I add my own. Now is the time for members and missionaries to come together, to work together, to labor in the Lord’s vineyard to bring souls unto Him. He has prepared the means for us to share the gospel in a multitude of ways, and He will assist us in our labors if we will act in faith to fulfill His work." Then, he reiterated his invitation to contribute to the missionary fund and to labor as missionaries. President Monson's eye is single to the glory of God.
Focus on the temple, the family (The Family: A Proclamation to the World), and the Savior Jesus Christ (The Living Christ). Search, ponder, pray, ask, seek, knock. Listen to another promise: "In addition to inviting us to hold personal and family scripture study, Heavenly Father wants us to regularly study and apply what we have learned in conference. I testify that those who put their trust in the Lord and heed this counsel in faith will gain great strength to bless themselves and their families for generations to come. This counsel is for parents to help children as well. The Lord has provided the ways and means for his messages to be transmitted throughout the entire world, to reach all of His children. The Lord's way is the way of keeping temple ordinances and covenants. In addition to preaching the Gospel, we can find our ancestors, thus engaging in the three-fold (now four-fold) mission of the Church: Perfect the Saints, Proclaim the Gospel, Redeem the Dead, and Care for the Poor and the Needy.
Little Jason created his own suit of armor, to represent the full armor of God. Listen to this promise: "I promise you in His name that if you pray with a sincere desire to hear your Heavenly Father’s voice in the messages of this conference, you will discover that He has spoken to you to help you, to strengthen you, and to lead you home into His presence. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen." These are all promises and blessings that are made known and made available in the Holy temples of God.
It is time to put on the whole armor of God, to be a true knight in shining armor for the Lord and for the girl I will marry. It is time to be fully converted to the Lord, and to obtain the spiritual strength and protection necessary for the latter-day battles ahead. Constant and consistent study and application of the conference messages will help one to obtain the full armor of God, and to be a true warrior for the Lord. It is also the way to teach children, and rear them in light and truth. These are all things that are taught in the temple, and one can refresh that memory and commitment by attending the temple frequently.
Make your full armor of God, with the family insignia or crest. Ponder and apply the teachings of the Apostle Paul: "10 Finally, my brethren, be astrong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 11 Put on the whole aarmour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we awrestle not bagainst cflesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the drulers of the edarknessof this world, against spiritual fwickedness in high places. 13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
14 Stand therefore, having your loins agirt about with btruth, and having on the cbreastplate of drighteousness;15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel ofapeace;16 Above all, taking the shield of afaith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery bdarts of the wicked.17 And take the helmet of asalvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:18 aPraying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all bperseverance and supplication for all saints;" (Ephesians 6:10-18)
The prophets and apostles have so diligently lived and applied these principles and commandments of the Lord, that through their faith in Jesus Christ and His grace assisting them, where ever they go it is a temple. This is because they are true disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. Heed them and be blessed.
Elder Ulisses Soares, Be Meek and Lowly of Heart
"None is acceptable before God, save the meek and lowly of heart." (Moroni 7:44) What does it mean to be meek? To be lowly in heart? "Meekness is the quality of those who are 'Godfearing, righteous, humble, teachable, and patient under suffering.' Those who possess this attribute are willing to follow Jesus Christ, and their temperament is calm, docile, tolerant, and submissive." In order to develop the attribute of Christ-like meekness, we need the Spirit in our lives, and in order to live in the Spirit, we need to be righteous. In order to be righteous, we need to repent. In order to repent, we need the help of the Lord Jesus Christ. Part of what it means to take upon us the name of Christ is to strive to become more like Jesus Christ every day, and meekness is essential to become more like Jesus Christ. "Being meek does not mean weakness, but it does mean behaving with goodness and kindness, showing strength, serenity, healthy self-worth, and self-control." Jesus was and is the ultimate example of being meek and lowly in heart. It takes time to develop the attribute of meekness. The first step to becoming meek is to improve day by day. The Lord bestows this gift in reward for effort and perseverance, diligence and obedience. It is not something that we can attain unto by ourselves, but comes through His grace. Meekness also means controlling our temper. It is especially important to be gentle and meek at home with our eternal companions. To be meek we must also be humble. "I believe, brothers and sisters, that only those who are humble are able to acknowledge and understand the Lord’s answers to their prayers. The humble are teachable, recognizing how dependent they are on God and desiring to be subject to His will. The humble are meek and have the ability to influence others to be the same. God’s promise to the humble is that He will lead them by the hand. I truly believe that we will avoid detours and sadness in our lives as long as we walk hand in hand with the Lord." Brother Moses Mahlangu of South Africa was a great example of meekness. Jesus Christ is the Supreme Example of meekness. "Even after the most intense physical suffering, the Lord turned to His Father and spoke from the bottom of His meek and humble heart: 'Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.' Christ faced extreme physical and spiritual suffering, giving us the opportunity to change our spiritual character and become meek like Him." Repentance and change are possible. Every day is a new opportunity to turn to the Lord in humility and meekness, to recognize and acknowledge His hand in all things, and to become better than what were were, stronger, more Christ-like. Jesus Christ forgave all, and he forgave those who crucified Him. Because of Jesus Christ, we can also turn to God, whether in hours of suffering or of gladness. We can forgive all, and we must forgive all. The impression that I had while studying this talk was to turn to the Lord for strength, for healing, for the power to forgive, and continue to turn to the Lord every day. I am thankful for the Holy Ghost that testifies to me of these truths. I was impressed by this talk, in part because it came near the beginning of the General Conference, and it is an invitation to consider our own weaknesses, especially those that the Lord shows us through the course of His General Conference, so that we will have the determination to change and become better. As Elder Hales reminded us in his previous talk, even great souls like President Spencer W. Kimball and President Thomas S. Monson, came to conference with a humble heart and a contrite spirit, with a desire to repent and improve: "'I have made up my mind that when I go home from this [general] conference … there are many, many areas in my life that I can perfect. I have made a mental list of them, and I expect to go to work as soon as we get through.' (Kimball) President Monson recently said: 'I encourage you to read the talks … and to ponder the messages contained therein. I have found in my own life that I gain even more from these inspired sermons when I study them in greater depth.'" If prophets are repenting, so should we.
Sister Carole M. Stephens, Do We Know What We Have?
We need priesthood ordinances and covenants. We need repentance, faith in Christ and baptism. We need the Gift of the Holy Ghost. With the sacrament, we renew all previous covenants with the Lord. These ordinances and covenants, including the sealing ordinance, give us access to the fulness of the blessings of the Gospel, through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. She shares stories of faithful women in Honduras.
"There exists today a great need for men and women to cultivate respect for each other as sons and daughters of God and reverence for our Father in Heaven and His priesthood—His power and authority. / He has a plan for us, and when we exercise our faith and trust in His plan, our reverence for Him and for His priesthood power and authority will be strengthened."
Elder David A. Bednar, The Windows of Heaven
The phrase "windows of heaven" reminds me of the John Adams Center logo, with light coming through the windows. There are also references that remind me of things that I have written in my blog, The Good Report. Remember the widow's mite. She gave all. She consecrated all that she had.
The law of tithing blesses individuals, families and the Church. As I study this talk I am reminded of Elder Bednar's other talks, from the parable of the pickle, to the parable of the ten virgins. I am also reminded of his books Increase in Learning and Act in Doctrine. In this particular talk he emphasizes tithing as part of provident living and prudent home management, as well as the blessings that come to us from obedience to this law, including subtle blessings. The reduced costs of doctor visits was a subtle blessing they received. It takes greater attentiveness and discernment to recognize the more subtle blessings that come from obedience. "Windows allow natural light to enter into a building. In like manner, spiritual illumination and perspective are poured out through the windows of heaven and into our lives as we honor the law of tithing." "For example, a subtle but significant blessing we receive is the spiritual gift of gratitude that enables our appreciation for what we have to constrain desires for what we want. A grateful person is rich in contentment. An ungrateful person suffers in the poverty of endless discontentment " Gratitude is a spiritual gift. It is essential. It allows us to recognize God's hand in our lives and how he answers our prayers in the best way and time. God's ways and thoughts are higher than our own. Another promise: "I testify that as we are spiritually attentive and observant, we will be blessed with eyes that see more clearly, ears that hear more consistently, and hearts that understand more fully the significance and subtlety of His ways, His thoughts, and His blessings in our lives." Of course this brings us all back to the temple and reminds us of how the Lord transforms our lives, converts us, changes us, and prepare us to receive Him and His blessings. We will be more attuned to the gift of revelation. Pay attention to this: "I marvel at the clarity and brevity of these two revelations (D&C 119-120) in comparison to the complicated financial guidelines and administrative procedures used in so many organizations and governments around the world. " The fixed principles that apply to the Church also apply to each of us individually: "In the financial operations of the Church, two basic and fixed principles are observed. First, the Church lives within its means and does not spend more than it receives. Second, a portion of the annual income is set aside as a reserve for contingencies and unanticipated needs. For decades the Church has taught its membership the principle of setting aside additional food, fuel, and money to take care of emergencies that might arise. The Church as an institution simply follows the same principles that are taught repeatedly to the members." Recognize and remember the parable of the widow's mite. Tithing is more than a duty, it is a step in the process of sanctification. Elder Bednar commends those who pay tithing, and calls all others to repent. It occurs to me that this talk may be very significant, even in years to come, considering the current and future state of government and financial structures. Of course it ties back to the Old Testament prophecies of Malachi, in Malachi 3:8-12. The whole nation had robbed God, and the Lord called upon the people to repent and to be generous in their tithes and offerings. Be prepared.
Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Come Join With Us
The Lord requires the consecration of all things. This reminds me of Joseph Smith's famous statement:
"a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has the power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation." President Uchtdorf notes that many religions are decreasing in numbers, but the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has 15 million members and continues to grow. Why is this? It is the Lord's true Church. People love the Lord and gain blessings as members of the Church. There are many reasons to join. There are opportunities for doing good. It provides vision and purpose. But some do leave the Church. Why? "Sometimes we assume it is because they have been offended or lazy or sinful. Actually, it is not that simple. In fact, there is not just one reason that applies to the variety of situations." The Lord and the Church respect the gift of agency. Some have unanswered questions. Human beings make mistakes, but God will keep the Church on course to fulfill its mission. President Uchtdorf invites friends to come back. There is a place for you here. "Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters—my dear friends—please, first doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith. We must never allow doubt to hold us prisoner and keep us from the divine love, peace, and gifts that come through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ." "Brothers and sisters, dear friends, we need your unique talents and perspectives. The diversity of persons and peoples all around the globe is a strength of this Church." President Uchtdorf answers a variety of questions that people who struggle with Church activity might ask. Regardless of the imperfections in the people of the Church, the history or any facet of the membership, this Church attracts some of the finest souls. "If you seek truth, meaning, and a way to transform faith into action; if you are looking for a place of belonging: Come, join with us!" Like Jesus Christ, President Uchtdorf invites all to come and see. He invites all to come unto Christ, regardless of doubts, fears, imperfections, etc. It starts with a desire to seek the truth.
President Boyd K. Packer, The Key to Spiritual Protection
President Henry B. Eyring, Bind Up Their Wounds
Responsibility for others… priesthood holders are responsible for the eternal lives of His children. A story of an EQP, a young father moving, and a truck. The story of the good samaritan is the parable of an overloaded, overtaxed priesthood servant. You are the Samaritan who acted on the compassion that he felt… binding up wounds. "The story is a perfect fit for the overtaxed priesthood servant. Just remember that you are the Samaritan and not the priest or the Levite who passed by the wounded man." The Samaritan was hard at work, with his beast of burden and carrying oil with him, and wine. Ponder this parable… a beast of burden… burdens… take upon you the yoke of Christ, for His yoke is easy, His burden light. Oil, symbolic in many ways (5 wise virgins, testimony, conversion, healing). Wine, symbolic in the sacrament. Develop compassion like the good Samaritan: "And [he] went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. / And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee." Always remember the specifics of this account. Inspiration and revelation is needed to know whom to ask and whom not to ask. Elder Eyring's bishop asked him to help visit a widow when he was a young man. " "Only the Lord can bind up their spiritual wounds as they accept the ordinances that lead to eternal life." For spiritual power you must do more than simply read the scriptures and pray. More preparation is needed. The word of the Lord must be treasured, and treasured up. We need to feel the truth and the Spirit of God in our hearts as we study. "Even the best of Heavenly Father’s mortal priesthood holders do not rise to that standard of compassion easily. Our human tendency is to be impatient with the person who cannot see the truth that is so plain to us. We must be careful that our impatience is not interpreted as condemnation or rejection." We also need the gift of Charity (Moroni 7). Charity will enable us to become purified, which in turn, will enable us to not only see our Savior, but to see Him "as he is". Being like Him, being filled with charity, is what improves our spiritual vision.
President Thomas S. Monson, True Shepherds
As I study these talks, and as now I study President Monson's priesthood talk, it becomes clearer that the temple ceremony, the ordinances and covenants are like a backdrop to all of general conference. Not only this, but the Gospel, the Church, the temple, and everything about the General Conference is meant to transform us into better, more Christ-like individuals and families. The temple does the same thing, transforming us into truly converted members of Christ's church and sealing us into eternal families. It also transforms us into true shepherds who, like Peter, when they are converted, strengthen their brethren. / "Royal priesthood. Chosen generation." President Monson recounts a story, and a parable of sheep. In his youth, the Monson family would travel up Provo Canyon during the summertime to stay in a cabin, and on the way up the road, they were often halted by a herd of sheep. These sheep seem to lack a shepherd, and were rounded up by yapping dogs. The sheepherder was way in the back, on a horse, without a bridle, only a halter, and the sheepherder was dozing off. In contrast, in Munich Germany, President Monson noticed a shepherd with a staff in his hand, leading the sheep. Jesus is the good shepherd. Home teaching is a privilege and a duty to lead and watch over a flock as shepherds. "Home teaching is more than a mechanical visit once per month. Ours is the responsibility to teach, to inspire, to motivate, and where we visit those who are not active, to bring to activity and to eventual exaltation the sons and daughters of God." "If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend." - Abraham Lincoln "Above all, be a genuine friend to the individuals and families you teach. … A friend makes more than a dutiful visit each month. A friend is more concerned about helping people than getting credit. A friend cares. A friend [shows love]. A friend listens, and a friend reaches out." - President Benson "Home teaching answers many prayers and permits us to see the transformations which can take place in people’s lives." President Monson provides examples of sheep herding vs. shepherding. Dick Hammer was a good example, a man who was baptized at the age of 90 because of the persistent efforts of his home teacher.
"If any of you has slipped into complacency concerning your home teaching visits, may I say that there is no time like the present to rededicate yourself to fulfilling your home teaching duties. Decide now to make whatever effort is necessary to reach those for whom you have been given responsibility. There are times when a little extra prodding may be needed, as well, to help your home teaching companion find the time to go with you, but if you are persistent, you will succeed." Jesus Christ is the good shepherd, and the example for all home teachers: "In closing I turn to one particular example to describe the type of home teachers we should be. There is one Teacher whose life overshadows all others. He taught of life and death, of duty and destiny. He lived not to be served but to serve, not to receive but to give, not to save His life but to sacrifice it for others. He described a love more beautiful than lust, a poverty richer than treasure. It was said of this Teacher that He taught with authority and not as did the scribes.11 His laws were not inscribed upon stone but upon human hearts." "With Him as our unfailing guide and exemplar, we shall qualify for His divine help in our home teaching. Lives will be blessed. Hearts will be comforted. Souls will be saved. We will become true shepherds."
President Henry B. Eyring, To My Grandchildren
Family creation and happiness are part of living all of the commandments and fulfilling the plan of God.
"Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. / This is the first and great commandment. / And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. / On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." These are the overarching commandments that will bring joy and happiness. "What choices have led me toward loving the Lord with all my heart and soul and with all my mind?” For me it has been to choose to put myself where I felt the joy of forgiveness through the Lord’s Atonement." Now, where can you feel the joy of forgiveness through the Lord's Atonement? It is probably more a state of mind and heart than a place… a state of forgiving others, all men. Forgiving yourself and forgiving others is a good place to start, in my mind: "I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men. / And ye ought to say in your hearts—let God judge between me and thee, and reward thee according to thy deeds." (D&C 64:10-11) The places may be on your knees in prayer, in preparation for partaking of the sacrament in sacrament meeting, in preparation for attending the temple, doing service for others, or attending the temple. Where else do you feel the joy of forgiveness through the Lord's Atonement? Elder Eyring mentions a baptism of a young man in Albuquerque, New Mexico. "Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more. / By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them." (D&C 58:42-43) Also, by accepting and magnifying callings we obtain a key to family happiness. "While serving others, we are most likely to plead for the companionship of the Holy Ghost. Success in the Lord’s service always produces miracles beyond our own powers." "It is only with the companionship of the Holy Ghost that we can hope to be equally yoked in a marriage free from discord. I have seen how that companionship is crucial for felicity in a marriage. The miracle of becoming one requires the help of heaven, and it takes time. Our goal is to live together forever in the presence of Heavenly Father and our Savior." "We know that Heavenly Father has spirit children in this world who sometimes choose sin and great unhappiness. That is why He sent His Firstborn to be our Redeemer, the greatest act of love in all creation. That is why we must expect that it will take the help of God and time to polish us for eternal life, to live with our Father." "Life in families will test us. That is one of God’s purposes in giving us the gift of mortality—to strengthen us by passing through tests. That will be especially true in family life, where we will find great joy and great sorrow and challenges which may at times seem beyond our power to endure them." Pray for others to receive Divine and human help. "God has devised means to save each of His children. For many, that involves being placed with a brother or a sister or a grandparent who loves them no matter what they do." Be the kind of person who loves others no matter what they do.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks, No Other Gods
This was a great talk. I always love how Elder Oaks gets to the principles, to the roots, and teaches so clearly and plainly that which will lead to happiness and joy in life. He gave a talk on desire not long ago, and a talk on God's timing… and his books Life's Lessons Learned and Pure in Heart are among my favorites as well. He teaches by asking great questions. Elder Oaks begins with a very penetrating question: "Are we serving priorities or gods ahead of the God we profess to worship?" If we are honest with ourselves, probably everyone of us could identify something to work on in this area. Moses gave the ten commandments, which are fundamental to both the Christian and Jewish faiths. Like President Monson's introduction (and the fact that prophets address the entire world, not just the Church), Elder Oak's talk reaches out to the Jewish community as well… which reminds me of President Benson's talk many years ago A message to Judah from Joseph. The Old Testament, which we have the opportunity to study this year, provides the background for all subsequent scripture. The first of the ten commandments "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" is later reiterated by Jesus when he was asked "which is the great commandment in the law. Jesus answered "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (Matthew 22:36–37). The second of the ten commandments "elaborates the direction to have no other gods and identifies what should be the ultimate priority in our lives as His children." God is a jealous God, meaning sensitive and having deep feelings, and we offend Him when we serve other gods or have other first priorities. Elder Oaks provides a list of other priorities that are often being served above God: "Cultural and family traditions, Political correctness, Career aspirations, Material possessions, Recreational pursuits, Power, prominence, and prestige" "The principle is more important than individual examples. The principle is not whether we have other priorities. The question posed by the second commandment is “What is our ultimate priority?” Are we serving priorities or gods ahead of the God we profess to worship? Have we forgotten to follow the Savior who taught that if we love Him, we will keep His commandments? (see John 14:15). If so, our priorities have been turned upside down by the spiritual apathy and undisciplined appetites so common in our day." Then Elder Oaks places these commandments within the framework of God's Plan of Salvation. Then he gives this warning: "If we Latter-day Saints, who have been given this knowledge, do not establish our priorities in accord with this plan, we are in danger of serving other gods." Which leads back to the doctrine of the family: "We know that the marriage of a man and a woman is necessary for the accomplishment of God’s plan. Only this marriage will provide the approved setting for mortal birth and to prepare family members for eternal life." Children are our greatest treasures. We grieve at the sharply declining birth rates in western cultures. Statistics indicate the decline of the traditional family, but we emphasize the doctrine that God loves all of His children, and all are welcome to participate in His plan. We are respectful to those of differing beliefs, and even to those who profess no belief. We hope that respect will be reciprocated. "God has established an eternal standard that sexual relations should occur only between a man and a woman who are married." The procreative power is the most exalted power. It was given to Adam and Eve, which use was mandated by God's first commandment to them, but other commandments were given to prevent its misuse. "Outside the bonds of marriage between a man and a woman, all uses of our procreative powers are to one degree or another sinful and contrary to God’s plan for the exaltation of His children." "The importance we attach to the law of chastity explains our commitment to the pattern of marriage that originated with Adam and Eve and has continued through the ages as God’s pattern for the procreative relationship between His sons and daughters and for the nurturing of His children. Fortunately, many persons affiliated with other denominations or organizations agree with us on the nature and importance of marriage, some on the basis of religious doctrine and others on the basis of what they deem best for society." Births out of wedlock and cohabitation are increasing at an alarming rate. "There are many political and social pressures for legal and policy changes to establish behaviors contrary to God’s decrees about sexual morality and contrary to the eternal nature and purposes of marriage and childbearing. These pressures have already authorized same-gender marriages in various states and nations. Other pressures would confuse gender or homogenize those differences between men and women that are essential to accomplish God’s great plan of happiness." "Our understanding of God’s plan and His doctrine gives us an eternal perspective that does not allow us to condone such behaviors or to find justification in the laws that permit them. And, unlike other organizations that can change their policies and even their doctrines, our policies are determined by the truths God has identified as unchangeable." "Our twelfth article of faith states our belief in being subject to civil authority and “in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.” But man’s laws cannot make moral what God has declared immoral. Commitment to our highest priority—to love and serve God—requires that we look to His law for our standard of behavior. For example, we remain under divine command not to commit adultery or fornication even when those acts are no longer crimes under the laws of the states or countries where we reside. Similarly, laws legalizing so-called “same-sex marriage” do not change God’s law of marriage or His commandments and our standards concerning it. We remain under covenant to love God and keep His commandments and to refrain from serving other gods and priorities—even those becoming popular in our particular time and place." "In this determination we may be misunderstood, and we may incur accusations of bigotry, suffer discrimination, or have to withstand invasions of our free exercise of religion. If so, I think we should remember our first priority—to serve God—and, like our pioneer predecessors, push our personal handcarts forward with the same fortitude they exhibited." "Let us have the courage to defy the consensus, the courage to stand for principle. Courage, not compromise, brings the smile of God’s approval. Courage becomes a living and an attractive virtue when it is regarded not only as a willingness to die manfully, but as the determination to live decently. A moral coward is one who is afraid to do what he thinks is right because others will disapprove or laugh. Remember that all men have their fears, but those who face their fears with dignity have courage as well." - President Monson Loving God is our first priority. We must not set our heart so much upon the things of the world or aspire to the honors of men. We must never deviate from our paramount desire, namely, to achieve our eternal destiny. "We must never dilute our first priority—to have no other gods and to serve no other priorities ahead of God the Father and His Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ."
Bonnie L. Oscarson, Be Ye Converted
Joshua was a prophet-warrior of the Old Testament, a hero, and one who taught "Choose ye this day whom ye will serve… but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." A prophet-warrior… consider that description for a moment. There have been a lot of references to Old Testament prophets in this conference, including Jeremiah and Moses. What great preparation for the new curriculum for 2014 to study the Old Testament more thoroughly. Sister Oscarson shares the conversion story of another one of her heroes, from her own ancestry, Agnes Hoggan, and her daughter Isabelle, whom Agnes prevented from trading gospel living for the riches of the world. "If you do not yet have a firmly rooted testimony and conviction that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the kingdom of God on the earth, now is the time to do what it takes to gain that conviction. To delay making the effort required to earn that kind of conviction can be dangerous to your soul." True conversion is more that knowledge of gospel principles. The process of conversion requires acting upon and living those principles consistently. Conversion is a process, not an event, and it takes time, effort and work. "I was a young woman in the ’60s and the only LDS girl in my high school. It was a revolutionary period characterized by the rejection of traditional morals, drug use, and an “anything goes” mentality. Many of my peers were good people but found it easy to get caught up in the excitement of this new morality, which actually was just the old immorality." "In our world where instant gratification is the expectation, we are often guilty of expecting the reward without having to work for it." Ether 12:6. "True conversion occurs as you continue to act upon the doctrines you know are true and keep the commandments, day after day, month after month." Each person has the responsibility for their own conversion… no one can be converted for you (remember Elder Bednar's recent talk on the lamps of testimony and the oil of conversion) "Conversion takes place as we are diligent about saying our prayers, studying our scriptures, attending church, and being worthy to participate in temple ordinances. Conversion comes as we act upon the righteous principles we learn in our homes and in the classroom. Conversion comes as we live pure and virtuous lives and enjoy the companionship of the Holy Ghost. Conversion comes as we understand the Atonement of Jesus Christ, acknowledge Him as our Savior and Redeemer, and allow the Atonement to take effect in our lives." "A person who has experienced true conversion draws upon the power of the Atonement and receives salvation for his or her own soul, then reaches out to exert a powerful influence upon all those who know him or her."
Elder Richard J. Maynes, Strength to Endure
There are a variety of challenges that each of us face every day. Some can be overcome, others will have to wait until the next phase of life. Spiritual strength helps us to endure valiantly, and challenges are part of the curriculum to teach us that which we must learn to become more like Heavenly Father and to qualify for eternal life in His presence. What was the Lord's response to Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail? How does that response apply to each one of us? Heavenly Father has organized the journey through life to be a test of our moral character. Because God knew that we wouldn't always succeed in making correct choices, He sent a Savior, Jesus Christ, who can help us to repent, become clean, change our natures, and successfully endure ("endure it well") our challenges. The ability to endure in righteousness is an important part of our future happiness and success. Enduring to the end is part of the doctrine of Christ. "Our ability to endure to the end in righteousness will be in direct proportion to the strength of our testimony and the depth of our conversion. When our testimonies are strong and we are truly converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ, our choices will be inspired by the Holy Ghost, they will be Christ-centered, and they will support our desire to endure in righteousness." Elder Maynes recounts a story about playing basketball in college, when a coach required the team members to run a difficult course before beginning the season. Being in good physical shape comes at a price, as does being in good spiritual shape. Dedication, perseverance, self-discipline. By living according to our testimonies and the principles of the gospel we can develop spiritual strength and stamina. We can become spiritually prepared. "Because we face challenges every day, it is important that we work on our spiritual stamina every day. When we develop spiritual stamina, the false traditions of the world, as well as our personal daily challenges, will have little negative impact on our ability to endure in righteousness." Elder Maynes recounts a story from his own family history that shows spiritual endurance. "Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us." - The Apostle Paul "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:" - Ibid. How do we develop this spiritual strength… that may be the topic of the next talk…
Elder Richard G. Scott - Personal Strength Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ
One aspect of the Atonement is that through it we can receive personal strength. The people of Ammon received a complete conversion and personal strength through the Atonement of Christ. Helaman prevented them from breaking their covenant. Instead of taking up arms to defend themselves against the attacks of the Lamanites, their pure and virtuous sons could resist the Lamanite armies. These sons were fortified by the faith of their mothers. The fathers must have been very sorrowful not to be able to defend their families. The Atonement can cleanse and heal us, but sometimes poor choices have long and short-term consequences. "Satan will try to use our memory of any previous guilt to lure us back into his influence. We must be ever vigilant to avoid his enticements. Such was the case of the faithful Ammonite fathers. Even after their years of faithful living, it was imperative for them to protect themselves spiritually from any attraction to the memory of past sins." Captain Moroni fortified weak cities. The Ammonites sons were stronger because they were not as vulnerable to the same temptations. "The joyful news for anyone who desires to be rid of the consequences of past poor choices is that the Lord sees weaknesses differently than He does rebellion. Whereas the Lord warns that unrepented rebellion will bring punishment, when the Lord speaks of weaknesses, it is always with mercy." "The Savior’s Atonement not only cleansed them from sin, but because of their obedience to the counsel of their priesthood leader, the Savior was able to protect them from their weaknesses and strengthen them. Their humble, lifelong commitment to forsaking their sins did more to protect their families than anything they could have done on the battlefield. Their submission did not deprive them of blessings. It strengthened them and blessed them and blessed future generations."
"Each of us has had times in our lives when we have made poor choices. We are all in desperate need of the redemptive power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Each of us must repent of any rebellion. “For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance.” He cannot because He knows what it takes to become like Him." "Remember, repentance is not punishment. It is the hope-filled path to a more glorious future." Elder Scott provides a list of ways to be fortified and strengthened through the Atonement of Christ: 1. Temple covenants and ordinances 2. Sharing the Gospel 3. Serving faithfully in Church callings (especially home teaching) 4. serve members of your own family, give of self and time freely. Theme = service. "As you lose your life in the service of Father in Heaven’s children, Satan’s temptations lose power in your life."
President Thomas S. Monson, I Will Not Fail Thee nor Forsake Thee
This is a great talk. President Monson is a faithful journal writer, and his comment about what he would write in his journal that night "This has been one of the most inspiring sessions of any general conference I’ve attended. Everything has been of the greatest and most spiritual nature" brings us back to the temple, and the principle of spiritual creation. Like the council in heaven, General Conference is a time to spiritually recreate our lives after the pattern of Jesus Christ. The following six months are the time to implement that new spiritual creation, like the six days of creation. Sister Monson passed away not long before her 65th wedding anniversary. President Monson's tribute to her is memorable: "She was the love of my life, my trusted confidant, and my closest friend. To say that I miss her does not begin to convey the depth of my feelings...She was an angel, indeed." President Monson has been in the quorum of the 12 for more than 50 years now. President Monson gives thanks for all of the kind and heartfelt expressions of love to him after the passing of his wife. His testimony sustains him, and he knows that he will be reunited again with his wife, because they have been sealed in the temple. Trials and troubles befall all of us. We can ask "Why me?" or "Is there no balm in Gilead?" "Shall I falter or shall I finish?" Even Job was tested to the utmost, but he kept the faith. "Whenever we are inclined to feel burdened down with the blows of life, let us remember that others have passed the same way, have endured, and then have overcome." The history of the Church provides examples of those who endured because they made the Gospel of Jesus Christ the center of their lives. President Monson recounts the story of Brother Brems, one of his boyhood Sunday School teachers. His attitude of gratitude was inspiring: "“Thank you,” he said. “My Heavenly Father has been so good to me.” This reminds me of the story that President Monson recounted of Borghild Dahl not long ago. "Our Heavenly Father, who gives us so much to delight in, also knows that we learn and grow and become stronger as we face and survive the trials through which we must pass. We know that there are times when we will experience heartbreaking sorrow, when we will grieve, and when we may be tested to our limits. However, such difficulties allow us to change for the better, to rebuild our lives in the way our Heavenly Father teaches us, and to become something different from what we were—better than we were, more understanding than we were, more empathetic than we were, with stronger testimonies than we had before." Trials can refine us and help us to grow and improve, just like the trees in the poem "Good Timber." Matt. 11:28-30. "My brothers and sisters, may we have a commitment to our Heavenly Father that does not ebb and flow with the years or the crises of our lives. We should not need to experience difficulties for us to remember Him, and we should not be driven to humility before giving Him our faith and trust." We can strive to be close to our Heavenly Father, and to be grateful, in sunshine or rain. He will not fail us nor forsake us.
Elder Quentin L. Cook, Lamentations of Jeremiah: Beware of Bondage
Giuseppe Verdi wrote Nabucco, with the Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves. He was intrigued by the prophet Jeremiah. Elder Cook is reviewing the forms of bondage and subjugation that may be compared to those of the days of Jeremiah and Lehi. The Lord called Jeremiah and Lehi in different ways and to different missions. Jeremiah prophesied before the destruction of Jerusalem, and he prophesied of calamities to come. "God intended that men and women would be free to make choices between good and evil. When evil choices become the dominant characteristic of a culture or nation, there are serious consequences both in this life and the life to come. People can become enslaved or put themselves in bondage not only to harmful, addictive substances but also to harmful, addictive philosophies that detract from righteous living." Turning away from the worship of the True God, people sometimes turn to the worship of wealth and fame, which brings other temptations, then bondage, physical, spiritual, intellectual, which brings destruction. Jewish captivity, scattering and the gathering are prominent doctrinal features of the restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The gathering is more a matter of conversion and commitment to Christ than physical location. "We learn valuable lessons from this tragic period. We should do everything within our power to avoid the sin and rebellion that lead to bondage. We also recognize that righteous living is a prerequisite for assisting the Lord in gathering His elect and in the literal gathering of Israel." Unrighteousness and rebellion led to the destruction of Jerusalem. Elder Cook warns of four abuses to moral agency that can lead to bondage: 1. addictions such as drugs, alcohol, pornography, gambling, other financial subjugations 2. excessive use of social media, video and digital games, sports, recreation, and other things that use up our precious allotment of time, time which is meant for family: "We determined that the primary reason we were working was to support our families. We agreed that making more money wasn’t nearly as important as our families, but we recognized that serving our clients to the best of our abilities was essential. The discussion then moved to what we did at work that was not necessary and was inconsistent with leaving time for family. Was there pressure to spend time in the workplace that was not essential? We decided that our goal would be a family-friendly environment for both women and men. Let us be at the forefront in protecting time for family." 3. most consistent and universal subjugation has been to political beliefs or ideologies that are inconsistent with the Gospel of Jesus Christ: "For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing." "This is emblematic of our own day, where gospel truths are often rejected or distorted to make them intellectually more appealing or compatible with current cultural trends and intellectual philosophies. If we are not careful, we can be captured by these trends and place ourselves in intellectual bondage. There are many voices now telling women how to live. They often contradict each other. Of particular concern are philosophies that criticize or diminish respect for women who choose to make the sacrifices necessary to be mothers, teachers, nurturers, or friends to children." 4. forces that violate sincerely held religious principles. "The Church is a relatively small minority even when linked with people who are like-minded. It will be hard to change society at large, but we must work to improve the moral culture that surrounds us. Latter-day Saints in every country should be good citizens, participate in civic affairs, educate themselves on the issues, and vote." Our primary emphasis needs to be to make the necessary sacrifices to protect our own families and bless the rising generation. "We must help inoculate them from a world that sounds a lot like the Jerusalem that Lehi and Jeremiah experienced. In addition, we need to prepare them to make and keep sacred covenants and to be the principal emissaries to help the Lord establish His Church and gather scattered Israel and the Lord’s elect everywhere." We do not liberate ourselves. Jesus Christ is the Great Deliverer. "If we are true to His light, follow His commandments, and rely on His merits, we will avoid spiritual, physical, and intellectual bondage as well as the lamentation of wandering in our own wilderness, for He is mighty to save." This is a sobering warning from an apostle of God. We need to learn from the warnings of Jeremiah and Lehi during the time just before the destruction of Jerusalem and Babylonian captivity of the Jews. We can avoid bondage of any kind, and enjoy the liberty of living the Gospel, if only we will repent, keep the commandments, and train up the rising generation to keep sacred covenants as well. These are things to consider while reading the beginning of the Book of Mormon and the book of Jeremiah in the Old Testament as well.
Elder Neil L. Anderson, Power in the Priesthood
Men are not the priesthood. "A man may open the drapes so the warm sunlight comes into the room, but the man does not own the sun or the light or the warmth it brings. The blessings of the priesthood are infinitely greater than the one who is asked to administer the gift." The sacrament and the temple are key to spiritual strength. "Why are the priesthood ordinances administered by men?" There are some things we know and some things we don't. All are alike unto God. Sacred responsibilities are given to each gender. The priesthood was given to Adam, and it can only operate by faith, worthiness and humility. Pornography is a plague. The First Presidency holds the keys of the priesthood. Women need to be asked for counsel and listened to. Elder Anderson met some faithful brothers in Brazil. "I testify that as you worthily participate in the ordinances of the priesthood, the Lord will give you greater strength, peace, and eternal perspective. Whatever your situation, your home will be “blessed by the strength of priesthood power” and those close to you will more fully desire these blessings for themselves." Together as men and women our privilege and our responsibility is to prepare the earth for the return of the Savior.
David M. McConkie, Teaching with the Power and Authority of God
Teachers are called of God and are on the Lord's errand. "What would the Savior say if He were teaching my class today, and how would He say it?" Teachers are called to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not their own ideas or philosophies. Teachers are commanded to teach from the Standard Works and the words of the Living Prophets, by the Holy Ghost. Live the Gospel. "President Marion G. Romney said, “I always know when I am speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost because I always learn something from what I’ve said."
Elder Kevin S. Hamilton, Continually Holding Fast
The family of Elder Hamilton's father left the Church because of a small decision to take a ride in the country instead of going to sacrament meeting. Remember Lehi's dream. Don't just cling. Continually hold fast, just like Elder Bednar has taught. Attend all meetings. Obtain spiritual strength and power. The meetings are unique, but connected. What does it mean to continually hold fast to the rod of iron? It is part of the doctrine of Christ. It means keeping all of the covenants of the Lord. It means obtaining the fruit of the tree of life, that which is most desirable, the love of God. There are blessings and protections that come from obeying these simple truths.
Elder Adrián Ochoa, Look Up
Elder Terence M. Vinson, Drawing Closer to God
Elder Vinson tells a story of his grandson who understood his grandfather's love for him. In Africa and the Islands of the Pacific the people are happy because they know that God loves them and takes care of them as a close personal friend. "God should be the center of our universe—our literal focal point. Is He? Or is He sometimes far from the thoughts and intents of our hearts? (seeMosiah 5:13). Notice that it’s not just the thoughts of our hearts that are important but the “intents.” How do our behavior and actions reflect the integrity of our intents?" We can draw closer to God by keeping the covenants that we have made with Him, and remembering Him always. One of the ways that God gives us to help us remember him is adversity, such as was the case with the Brother of Jared. "But here is the point—rather than solve the problem Himself, the Lord wants us to develop the faith that will help us rely upon Him in solving our problems and trust Him. Then we can feel His love more constantly, more powerfully, more clearly, and more personally. We become united with Him, and we can become like Him. For us to be like Him is His goal. In fact, it is His glory as well as His work (seeMoses 1:39)." Like the boy who pushed the rock with all his might, but couldn't make it budge, whose father then came and added his strength, we need the strength of God in our lives. We can rely upon God at all times, especially in times of need. One man's father called upon God to stop a fire that was spreading, and a big black cloud came and rained hard, precisely on the spot of the fire but no where else. God answered a simple prayer. "Our Savior wants us to really love Him to the point that we want to align our will with His. We can then feel His love and know His glory. Then He can bless us as He wants to. This happened to Nephi the son of Helaman, who reached the stage where the Lord trusted him implicitly and, because of that, was able to bless him with all that he asked (see Helaman 10:4–5)." Yann Martel expressed his feelings for Christ in the movie The Life of Pi. Elder Holland exemplified the love of Christ with his simple gesture of putting his arm around Elder Vinson. Jesus Christ's invitation to "come and see" is inviting and personal. We can be like Enos. (Enos 1:27) I really love this talk. It is one of my favorites, and it is true that the sweetest feeling of all is to draw close to the Savior and to be near Him.
Elder Russel M. Nelson, Decisions for Eternity
This is a hopeful thought: "The wise use of your freedom to make your own decisions is crucial to your spiritual growth, now and for eternity. You are never too young to learn, never too old to change." The first step is remembering that we are children of God. We should love our Father in Heaven even more than our earthly parents. Thank God for the priceless gift of a physical and spiritual body. Perhaps unlike many doctors, Elder Nelson learned a respect for the human body: "My professional years as a medical doctor gave me a profound respect for the human body." "Your body repairs itself." Bodily weakness, special needs, aging, and death are also gifts. The body is a temple: "With your body being such a vital part of God’s eternal plan, it is little wonder that the Apostle Paul described it as a 'temple of God.' Each time you look in the mirror, see your body as your temple. That truth—refreshed gratefully each day—can positively influence your decisions about how you will care for your body and how you will use it. And those decisions will determine your destiny. How could this be? Because your body is the temple for your spirit. And how you use your body affects your spirit. Some of the decisions that will determine your eternal destiny include: - How will you choose to care for and use your body? - What spiritual attributes will you choose to develop?" Jeremiah and Abraham were chosen before they were born. "Your Heavenly Father has known you for a very long time. You, as His son or daughter, were chosen by Him to come to earth at this precise time, to be a leader in His great work on earth. You were chosen not for your bodily characteristics but for your spiritual attributes, such as bravery, courage, integrity of heart, a thirst for truth, a hunger for wisdom, and a desire to serve others." You developed some of these attributes premortally. Others you can develop here on earth as you persistently seek them." Self-master is essential. "Mistakes happen. Errors are made. Sins are committed. What can we do then? We can learn from them. And we can truly repent." "True change—permanent change—can come only through the healing, cleansing, and enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ." Jesus loves you and gives access to His power through obedience. The path toward eternal life includes celestial marriage. "In our day civil governments have a vested interest in protecting marriage because strong families constitute the best way of providing for the health, education, welfare, and prosperity of rising generations. But civil governments are heavily influenced by social trends and secular philosophies as they write, rewrite, and enforce laws. Regardless of what civil legislation may be enacted, the doctrine of the Lord regarding marriage and morality cannot be changed. Remember: sin, even if legalized by man, is still sin in the eyes of God!" Be prepared for your personal interview with Jesus Christ.
President Thomas S. Monson, Till We Meet Again
Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude. Blessings, blessings, blessings. "May heaven’s blessings be with you. May your homes be filled with love and courtesy and with the Spirit of the Lord. May you constantly nourish your testimonies of the gospel that they will be a protection to you against the buffetings of the adversary." "May the Spirit we have felt here be and abide with us as we go about those things which occupy us each day. May we show increased kindness toward one another, and may we ever be found doing the work of the Lord." Amen.