It was another wonderful day filled with spiritual messages from the General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I will admit that I did not listen as closely today as I did yesterday. I’m not sure why or what it was, but I did still have great spiritual impressions and thoughts that came to my mind on what I need to be doing in my life and how I need to improve myself. At one point my wife and I had a discussion during one of the talks, about a theme he had mentioned, but we were not paying attention to what he was saying, we were having a conversation among ourselves. That’s okay. Especially since the Church is so quick lately at getting the videos and then the text of these talks online, it is much easier to review the talks very soon after the Conference has ended. I used to take notes during General Conference like I was taking transcription, trying to get the exact phrasing of what was said, but now I realize that I don’t need to, since I can get the exact text within a week or so. Instead, I pay more attention to the thoughts and impressions I have as I listen to the messages, capturing these whisperings of the spirit to me personally. Those are more important to write down at the time they happen, I can find the exact quotes from Conference soon enough.
I felt again that there was a greater emphasis on the basic principles and doctrines of the Gospel, such as the nature of God and Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost. We were reminded that we need to come unto Christ and invite others to do the same. The blessings of the Gospel of Christ are meant to be shared with our families – and since we are each of us children of God, that family includes the whole human family. God wants so much more for us, and he has a perfect plan for us centered around the loving sacrifice of our Savior Jesus Christ. He wants to speak to us through His spirit so that we can know what His will for us is each and every day. There are a few times where God says “Thou shalt” and “Thou shalt not” and gives commandments and counsel that apply to all of his children, but more often He asks and invites us to come to know Him, to have the influence of His spirit in our lives, and to receive personal guidance and instructions for our lives.
It is not coincidental that the first lessons we teach in Nursery and Sunbeams, the first lesson we teach in Gospel Doctrine, and the first principle of the first lesson in Preach My Gospel are all some form of I am a Child of God or God is our loving Heavenly Father. That is the very first thing we want our youngest children and our newest investigators to know. Of all the titles that rightly belong to Him – Supreme Being, Creator, Omnipotent, Omniscient, The Almighty, etc. – He asks us to call him Father. That teaches us a great deal about His nature, but also about what it means to be a father. With that knowledge of our relationship with God we know that we do not obey God’s commandments out of fear but because we know He loves us and we trust His guidance.
We need to keep the basic, simple commandments and then our faith in God will grow and become a sure foundation in our lives, building our trust in God and our assurance in His love and in His plan. We cannot begin to build our towers from the top, each of us must start from the bottom and build line upon line. We also cannot compare our towers with anyone else’s – our Father certainly does not. We are just asked to build our towers as strong and as high as we can, and leave unto Christ to finish them. If our foundations are strong and sturdy we can build tall towers, but if we instead opt for height first we may have weak foundations which might easily topple.
We can, and certainly should, reach out and help others with their towers. And we should accept help from others with our towers. We were not sent into this world by ourselves and we are not expected to go through this life alone. We need to reach out and invite others to come unto Christ, to warn of the consequences of sin and teach of the blessings and joy that come from obedience to God’s plan of happiness. We cannot have shame culture in the Church of Christ. God does not shame, but lovingly encourages repentance and abandonment of habits and characteristics that hold us back from His presence. When we know God is our Father and loves us perfectly, we can hear the hope in a message calling us to repent and be better.
Another thought I had during conference dealt with grief and sorrow and the LDS perspective on death. There was a story told about how a family dealt positively with a tragic death and that positivity led to further family members coming into the Church and learning God’s eternal plan for His children. It was a great faith promoting story, but it seemed to downplay the very real grief that accompanies death, especially an unexpected death of a young person. As many know, my brother took his own life about a year and a half ago. There are good days and there are bad days. There are days when I find solace and comfort in the Holy Spirit and the faith I have in eternal families. There are days, though, when I do sorrow for my brother, when I miss him and I do not understand why he would take his own life. As I wrote in a poem a year after Gabe died, Our present sadness overwhelms
The hope of reunion
We have grief and pain and sorrow now
Peace will come anon
In this Church there is rightly an emphasis on eternal families and the peace that knowledge gives when a loved one dies. But, too often we do not fully realize that it is okay to grieve, it is okay to be sad. We want to always be happy, and we think that happiness comes from keeping the commandments so if we are not happy we must be doing something wrong. Nothing is farther from the truth. God sends his Comforter to help us in those moments. And as was mentioned in Conference, even Jesus wept, even Jesus needed the comfort of His father during his hardest moments. Adversity does happen, opposition does exist, it is an imperfect world but we have a Perfect Father who can heal and help.
It all comes back to that fundamental truth: God is our Father and His love is eternal. With that faith all other things fall into place. We can trust our Father and his plan, we can weather all storms firm in the hope that Christ is at the helm and will lead us safely home.
That is what I was reminded of during this General Conference. There were no grand new revelations or earth-shattering new doctrines. I did not hear anything that I have not heard in almost every General Conference of my life. But, that is just the beauty of the Gospel of Christ – it is so simple that a child of 8 years is expected to understand it fully enough to enter into its first covenant, and yet we are all asked to spend the rest of our lives studying it and learning to live it completely.
And now I wait eagerly for later this week when the text of the addresses this weekend become available at gc.lds.org so I can go back and read and discover what I missed and continue learning. I have felt such a confidant spirit this weekend and I hope that I can continue to feel this way as I consistently keep the commandments as I understand them. And I know that if I want to relive the spirit of this great General Conference I can read the text of the talks and I can revisit my Conference notes, which this time were in the form of my Twitter timeline. There were some great messages tweeted and shared. We are often counseled in scripture to remember and I know that I need to remember these great spiritual experiences by re-reading what I have written and remembering what I have felt and what I have been impressed to do. That is the joy and the purpose of Conference. That is the joy and the purpose of this life.