Thoughts from General Conference, April 2014 Edition

We were once again blessed to enjoy a General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.   I was able to watch all sessions at home with my family, while simultaneously following #ldsconf on Twitter, joining in the online conversation and participating in a back and forth with friends around the world.   I cannot wait until later this week when the text of the addresses become available on LDS.org and I can go back and read and begin annotating and taking notes based on what was said this weekend.   I feel that this weekend more than any other General Conference in recent memory, I was blessed with a clearer understanding of my duty and what I need to be doing in my life now.   I am thankful for the inspiring promises and counsel I have received, both in the actual words spoken and in the impressions given to me through the Holy Spirit.

And as always, there were some definite major themes that were repeated in several different addresses by different speakers in different sessions.   One that stood out to me was the repeated message to Be Prepared.   It was subtly hinted that we need to prepare physically for any disaster that could happen (tornadoes were mentioned twice), but more importantly we need to prepare ourselves and our families spiritually to be strong when the trials and the storms of life will buffet us and seek to halt our progress toward our Father in Heaven.   We were reminded of the importance of making righteous decisions, of choosing the right and of the necessity of courage to stand firm in our convictions and in our commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ.   We are beginning to see it in the world around us that many positions of faithful members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are becoming unpopular and ridiculed as being outdated and ignorant and backward.   We will need to stand firm and be bold in declaring gospel truths.

But we were also advised to remember whose gospel and church this is and to emulate our Savior Jesus Christ when dealing with opposition.   Elder Andersen said, “There is no place for ridicule, bullying, or bigotry”  We may be accused of all of these, but we need to do all that we can to ensure that we are not willfully giving into ridicule or bullying or hatred of others because they happen to disagree with us.   We can reach out in love and seek to understand those who oppose us, looking for commonalities upon which we can build, and then we will have honest opportunities to stand as witnesses of the gospel of Jesus Christ.   We cannot be ashamed of the gospel of Christ, but we cannot be arrogant about it either.  Elder Holland taught, “Pure Christlike love flowing from true righteousness can change the world.”  We need to develop that love in our lives and it will naturally flow to those around us, starting in our families.

I believe Elder Oaks provided a great example of exactly this when he spoke clearly and unequivocally about the Priesthood and how it is used in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and how it is and can be utilized by both men and women in the fulfilling of their responsibilities.   I will definitely be reading his talk again and again in the coming months, and I can almost guarantee it will be used in wards and branches throughout the church.   He was bold in his explanation of the truth and in his defense of the standards of the church, but he was not overbearing, nor did he mock or put down those who disagree with him.   Though he did not say it, it is obvious that his remarks came in response to the Ordain Women movement, and I wrote a few of my thoughts yesterday on the subject, but a point I want to make again is that we, as members of the church, cannot respond with ridicule or mockery or bullying to those who hold views that differ from our own.   I have seen far too many jokes on Twitter and Facebook about those who choose to associate with Ordain Women, I will not repeat any here, but it is exactly the wrong attitude and approach.   We cannot dismiss them with a joke or demean their valid concerns.   We cannot dismiss them with simple statements that they ‘just do not get it’ or ‘must not be righteous enough’ or ‘do not understand the gospel’.  They are children of God as we are, and deserve to be treated with the same respect we would ask for when they disagree with our views.   And to be honest, none of us can claim to know the mind of the Lord, we can only know what he has revealed through the scriptures and his chosen mouthpieces, the prophets and apostles.   I would like to believe that many in this group have honest questions and concerns they would like to address to the leadership of the church, but I believe that organizing and demonstrating at Temple Square during General Conference, when they had already been told they would not be allowed into Priesthood session is disruptive and detracts from their message, however honest and sincere it may be.

With all of this and everything I heard and felt this weekend, I feel like I have been shown just how far short of the mark I currently am.  At the same time, I feel so overwhelmed with the changes I must make in my life and yet so hopeful and excited for the wonderful future that lies ahead.   We must repent and come unto Christ, but we know that we will be filled with joy and love as we do so, no matter how difficult our repentance may be.   Jesus is the Christ and God is our loving Father in heaven and they will never forsake us.   They may at times “convince many of their sins, that they may come unto repentance, and that they may come unto the kingdom of the Father” (D&C 18:44).  They may at times show us exactly where we fall short, but they do so in love and with the expectation that we work harder to improve ourselves so that we can be worthy of the many great and unimaginable blessings in store for the faithful and the righteous.

And so, in my own life, these are the changes that I will strive to implement.   These are the changes that I feel my Father is asking me to make as I try to keep that one great commandment of his, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect”  That is both a commandment and a marvelous blessing — that we can be perfect and become like our Father in heaven.

1.  I need to control myself, beginning with my thoughts and my words.   I need to give up anger and resentment and be nicer to all around me, letting the love of God fill my heart and overflow to all I come into contact with, most especially my family.

2.  I need to be more diligent in my daily scripture study and prayer.   As I daily immerse myself in the word of God and daily communicate with him, I know that I will feel his spirit that much stronger in my life, helping me to accomplish goal #1.

3.  I need to seek for opportunities to share the gospel more openly and actively.   I often justify my not sharing the gospel with the fact that I am not shy about being a member of the church.   All of my coworkers know that I am a Mormon and I do regularly answer their questions about what I believe.   But, I need to be more proactive and “invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.”

What will you do because of what you have heard and felt this weekend while listening to General Conference?  What changes will you make in your life as you accept the invitation to become more like Christ and more like your loving Father in heaven?  I would love to hear your thoughts and reactions to the addresses given, please leave a comment and let us start a conversation.

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