Monday, October 13, 2014

#LDSConf October 2014: Parting Thoughts

Now that I've had a few days to review and absorb this General Conference, here are some of my thoughts:

The members of the First Presidency give two talks (not counting Monson's brief remarks at the beginning and end) and the Twelve give their talks, so that's 18 talks. A member of the FP usually speaks at the Womens Session, so that's 19. The other General Authorities and officers gave a total of 17 talks (12 men and 5 women). 36 total talks.

There were some dominant themes that emerged.

1. Remember the Life of Jesus. This was best exemplified by Pres. Packer's talk on the Atonement - "The Reason for Our Hope." But Pres. Monson's "Ponder the Path of Thy Feet" was a poignant recital of different ways Jesus set the example for us. Eduardo Gavarret's talks then went into how after we've learned of Jesus, we should desire to follow Him. I also liked how there were two different talks on the sacrament, and how they tie back to remembering Jesus and appreciating the Atonement.

2. President Monson is our living prophet. The amount of outpouring of love for him from the other speakers suggested to me how aware they are of his age and possible health concerns. One of his talks was a repeat from April 1982. Nothing wrong with that; how often do people review Conference talks of decades past? There are talks from the past I'd rather see canonized over some of the current sections of the Doctrine & Covenants.

I heard second-hand that as his short-term memory gets worse, it's easier for him to go back to old talks over writing new ones. Maybe there's some truths to the rumors that he's showing signs of dementia, but there was a sense of "we should really appreciate Monson while he's still with us."

Pres. Hinckley was sharp and coherent to the very end, the oldest prophet of this dispensation. Not all of the prophets have had that blessing. In the final years of Presidents Heber J. Grant, David O. McKay, Spencer W. Kimball and Ezra Taft Benson, they couldn't speak at General Conference. I'm not saying this was Pres. Monson's last Conference, but I think this one served as preparation that we might not have him for as long as we may have thought.

3. Remember the poor and needy. Holland gave a moving talk on doing all we can do. Dean Davies tied it into Fast Sunday and he pointed out how the money from the fast is used for good all over the world. "As followers of the Savior, we have a personal responsibility to care for the poor and needy." Hugo Martinez expounded on his first-hand experience when a hurricane hit his home-town in Puerto Rico, which was followed by the service of locals and the reinforcements from the church.

4. Don't be too hard on yourself, but don't be too easy on yourself either. There were many talks that focussed on the joyful parts of the gospel. Uchtdorf's talk in the Womens Session directly addressed this, but you also had Elder Scott's positive talk on increasing faith and Elder's Wong talk on unity. But there was also Uchtdorf's talk on "Lord, Is It I?", and the boldest perhaps belonging to fellow German Jorg Klebingat, who called on everyone to rate their spirituality honestly and stop making excuses.

Some other thoughts:

- For the first time, some of the speakers spoke in their native language. I think it's great. The talks came dubbed, and I'd like the option of listening to the words of their own voice and read the subtitles.

- Whenever the talks focus on how important parents are to their children, I get nervous about how many kids I have. You two-child people, you've only got to worry about the eternal salvation of two, in that respect. I've got nine at home right now. The pressure...

- I really appreciated Elder Oaks' talk on love. He tends to address issues of the here and now, and while he's addressed same-sex marriage the past couple times, this time he emphasized loving everyone, and he tied to loving those - especially those - you disagree with. His talk also came out right before the US Supreme Court decided not to hear any same-sex marriage appeals, and so now it's legal in more states, and the Church recognizes it'll eventually be legal in all of them, as well as in many countries around the world.

- I have a few loved ones who've left the church or have one foot out the door, and it makes me hyper-sensitive to how they might perceive some of the talks, particularly about the ones that deal with questions about hard gospel topics. I knew as he was giving his talk on Joseph Smith that Neil L. Andersen's words would bother some people, and they did, especially when he quoted Neal A. Maxwell, who said that asking the detractors of the church about us is like asking Judas about Jesus. The church has its enemies, and some of them might be willing to be less than honest about it, but more importantly, it also has many people who left for honest reasons, and there's no need to alienate them with such a comparison. I also hate that I am hyper-sensitive about it. Maybe it's a good thing. Time will tell.

- Someone somewhere decided to mute the word "fourth" from the opening prayer that referred to Priesthood as the fourth session. Why? They've already established that the Womens session is the opening session, so the Priesthood session would be the fourth. Just seemed like a boneheaded move that generated bad publicity, and I keep hoping someone will go back and unmute it. (Just checked. Still muted.) It only highlights the problems some of the Higher-Ups still have with addressing LDS women's issues.

First Presidency
1963-(DOM)-Thomas S. Monson - 8/21/1927 - 87
-1995-(GBH)-Henry B. Eyring - 5/31/1933 - 81
-2004-(GBH)-Dieter F. Uchtdorf - 11/6/1940 - 73

Quorum of the Twelve
1970-(JFS)-Boyd K. Packer - 9/10/1924 - 90
1974-(SWK)-L. Tom Perry - 8/5/1922 - 92
1984-(SWK)-Russell M. Nelson - 9/9/1924 - 90
1984-(SWK)-Dallin H. Oaks - 8/12/1932 - 82
1985-(SWK)-M. Russell Ballard - 10/8/1928 - 86
1988-(ETB)-Richard G. Scott - 11/7/1928 - 85
1994-(ETB)-Robert D. Hales - 8/24/1932 - 82
1994-(HWH)-Jeffrey R. Holland - 12/3/1940 - 73
--1995-(GBH) - HBE- 5/31/1933 - 81
--2004-(GBH) - DFU- 11/6/1940 - 73
2004-(GBH)-David A. Bednar - 6/15/1952 - 62
2007-(GBH)-Quentin L. Cook - 9/8/1940 - 74
2008-(TSM)-D. Todd Christofferson - 1/24/1945 - 69
2009-(TSM)-Neil L. Andersen - 8/9/1951 - 63

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