This weekend we once again had the wonderful opportunity to hear from the Prophet and Apostles in the 182nd Annual General conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This year I was not able to follow on Twitter like I have been doing the last couple of years, because we needed my laptop hooked up to our TV to stream it. So I was back to taking notes by hand. That was interesting, it was great to watch conference without the distraction of following Twitter as well, but I also missed the fun of sharing my thoughts and seeing others share theirs in real time.
So, what did we hear this weekend? What new revelations or admonitions from our Priesthood leadership?
As I was listening I was jotting down notes about what was said, trying to develop a list of “Trending Topics“, if General Conference were Twitter, those commonalities between the different talks. This is what I came up with:
1. Stand up and speak out. Be bold in sharing your testimony.
2. Reach out to others. Those not of our faith and those who used to be a part of our wards. Do what you can to welcome them to Christ.
3. Be different, but look past the differences that separate us from others.
4. Teach your children well. The home is the place where children are prepared to return to their Father in Heaven.
What else would you add to that list? What else stood out to you as you listened?
As usual, I was particularly impressed by Elder Holland’s talk and his admonition to avoid being envious. He reminded us that we are not in a race against each other, the real race is against sin. He told us that cutting other down does not increase our own standing. We are all in this together and surely the more people we help get to the celestial kingdom the happier we will be with them. The scripture from Doctrine and Covenants section 18 was repeated several times throughout the Conference, “Remember the worth of souls is great in the eyes of God. And if it so be that you … bring save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in he Kingdom of my Father.”
I was reminded of something I saw in a Bishop’s office in a ward house in Germany. It was a wooden plank that had been carved by a member of that ward who was very skilled in woodworking. It was a simple phrase from the last chapter of the gospel of John, “Was geht das dich an?” After Christ was resurrected and appeared to his apostles, there was at least a moment when Peter was somewhat envious of another apostle. Jesus turned to him and said, “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? Follow thou me.” (John 21:22) That plaque in that Bishop’s office (what better place for it?) reminded the members of the Savior’s words, “What is that to thee?” allowing them to fill in the rest of the phrase, “Follow thou me”. It is not our place to compare ourselves to other saints or to anyone else around us, it is our place to follow Jesus Christ and build our personal relationship with him. That is the essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the fact that we are all expected to come unto the Father independent of everyone else, but we are also expected to do whatever we can to assist others in their journeys.
Priesthood session was also extremely instructive and informative as we learned about our duty as holders of God’s priesthood. Elder Bednar spoke wonderfully and reminded us of the divine origin of the priesthood power and authority which we have and of our duty toward our fellow men. That was the overwhelming message I took away from Priesthood session: You are men of the Priesthood, you should act like it. As Elder Bednar stated, “Men who bear God’s priesthood should be different from other men.” I began to think about my daily interactions with people, with my family and with my coworkers and I began to ponder how I could, even in my workplace, be a better example of a priesthood holder. How can I fulfill my duty to invite others to come unto Christ? What should I be doing if I have truly been fully converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ?
I think the answer came Sunday afternoon in the words of Elder Evans when he said we should naturally and normally share the gospel. If the gospel is a part of our lives it will naturally and normally come out in our behavior and in our conversations. Today at work, when I am asked what I did this weekend, I will boldly (and by boldly I mean that I will not be shy or roundabout, I will not mince my words, but speak clearly and openly) state that I watched General Conference and listened to the words of the Prophet of God. I will share a few of the things that I learned, a few of the messages that the servants of the Lord had for the world. I will reach out in love and in the spirit of the Lord to be an example of what a man who holds the priesthood of God is, and I will invite those who desire to come and see and partake of the goodness and mercy of the Lord.
It was a wonderful conference, as they all are. We have been richly blessed and filled with the spirit of the Lord. We have been given the words that we need now in our lives and for the next six months and beyond. I love the openness and the honesty in the messages that we heard. As the news media keeps reminding us, this is a Mormon Moment, and yet there was no mention of that at General Conference, no pandering or reference to the political or social eye that is on us as a Church. The messages we heard this year were no different than the messages that we hear every year, and yet they were exactly the messages that we needed to hear. If anyone was or is curious about what Mormons believe, why we do the things we do, they only need to come and see. We do not hide anything from anyone, all are welcome to come, read the Book of Mormon, attend our worship services, speak with the missionaries or any member of the Church. Come and See. That is the message we give to the world. We have the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, we have the priesthood authority of God, we have continuing revelation, both through the official lines of Church leadership as well as through the personal lines of prayer and inspiration. Everyone can know the truth if they sincerely and honestly ask God in faith. It is as simple as that.