Thursday, October 21, 2010

General Conference Reflections, Part 5

I've fallen behind on my General Conference reactions, so it's time to finish this project and move on to something else. I'm working on some thoughts relative to our recent stake priesthood meeting, as well as some ideas I have been mulling over regarding the idea of ministering. So let's hop to this discussion.

The Sunday afternoon session of conference was the hardest to get in to. We were all kind of tired, either physically or emotionally; the kids had sat through six hours of conference addresses over two days, and two more hours was a bit much. We were listening to the online streaming, and the connection cut out a few times during the session. And the work week was looming large, and reality was going to set in soon. All of this together made paying attention a bit difficult.

But I knew were in for some good stuff. President Monson was due to give his closing remarks, and we still hadn't heard from a few members of the Quorum of the Twelve, including one of my favorite conference speakers, Elder Bednar.

I've been a big fan of Elder Bednar since we has called to the Twelve. He's smart and a bit nerdy, and I like how he was called to this position without having been a General Authority previously. And one of his first conference talks focused on what I have called the thesis statement of the Book of Mormon, and I like to think he got the idea from me somehow.

His address at this recent conference was textbook Bednar--doctrinally-solid, a bit dry in delivery, but immensely thought-provoking. And with a decent body of his talks to compare this to, it's possible to see some interesting and important themes that seem to define his teachings.

One of those themes has to be the importance of the Holy Ghost in developing a testimony and learning the things of God. I am convinced that this is among the most important doctrines for our time, as the ever-growing church requires that each member develop a deep and lasting testimony, one that is independent of the individuals who, as missionaries, teachers, or leaders, help with the process of conversion. The simple fact is that at some point these individuals will be released, will move, or will let you down, and you will then need to go it (more or less) alone.

In a hierarchy such as the church, it's easy to overlook this need for individual testimony. Since we have priesthood leaders, we sometimes think we can rely on that inspired leadership. But we can't always. In fact, our attitude ought to be the exact opposite; we should be aiming to develop our own spiritual capacities so that we can serve as that bulwark for others.

And this is where Elder Bednar's discussion of the Holy Ghost becomes so vital to us. Understanding that each of us can and must receive the spirit into our lives, first through the ordinances and covenants for which the church and its priesthood authority are so crucial, and then through ongoing, personal spiritual development gives us a clear sense of our role in personal conversion. In order to accomplish my life's purpose, I must make and then keep sacred covenants, and keeping those covenants requires me to constantly strive to listen to the spirit.

Monday, October 11, 2010

General Conference Reflections, Part 4

The Sunday morning session, like the Saturday afternoon, was a bit hard to follow along with, but I enjoyed the talks by Elder Oaks and President Monson. Elder Oaks is an iteresting fellow. When he visited our stake a few years ago, he was exceptionally jovial and funny, but he always comes across so serious in General Conference.

Similarly, his addresses are hard to pin down. They're usually intelligent and well-organized, but rarely inspiring or life-altering. Yet they age so well. A year later an idea from one of his addresses will stick to you and stick out. It's definitely a triumph of substance over style.

That's how I feel about his thoughts at this conference. The two lines of revelation--the personal and the priesthood--make for a great concept, and understanding the importance of and subtle distinction between the two is important. And, as the church grows and it becomes ever more important for every family to teach the gospel more fully in the home, this tension between the need for standardization and the importance of individual revelation will become ever more pronounced.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

General Conference Reflections, Part 3

The Priesthood session of conference was somewhat bittersweet. The messages were wonderful, and I was especially happy to see so many priesthood holders from our ward at the chapel where we watched the session (10 or so of us went out for ice cream afterwards, which was also pleasant).

But it was also a bit sad. I had been successful in getting two tickets to see this session in the Conference Center, and we had hoped to go up Salt Lake so my younger brother and I could go to the session together. The fact that we didn't go was a disappointment, and several times during the session I felt like I had failed by not being there.

The Priesthood session also makes me think about the future. In three years my oldest son will be a 12-year-old deacon, and three years after that I will have two Aaronic Priesthood-aged sons. Nine years from now our youngest will be a deacon, and each of those years should see me and my sons at the Conference Center for that session of conference.

This Priesthood session included several messages that impressed me, but none more so than that by Patrick Kearon of the Seventy, who weaved several personal experiences that highlighted his message that “complete healing and peace can be found at the feet of the Savior,” and that to achieve that we must overcome our tendency to laziness and rebelliousness.

I found in this message something that I have seen in my own life. My youthful inclination toward these two sins—which still rear their heads in my life today—limited my ability to feel the spirit. Humility and diligence, the opposites of the laziness and rebelliousness spoken of by Elder Kearon, are the things that bless my life, the attributes I wish to instill in my sons as they prepare to hold the priesthood, serve missions, and become husbands and fathers themselves. And these attributes are the things that will ultimately make me the person I ought to become.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

General Conference Reflections, Part 2

The Saturday afternoon session was a bit more difficult to follow: I was tired, the kids antsy, and the talks harder to get in to. But, as happened last April, Elder Anderson gave a great and touching address. The mighty change of heart of which he spoke resonated with what I have been thinking regarding conversion.

The idea that we can--and must--persevere, despite the tendency to be offended and to be ashamed, to shrink from the joyfulness we have felt at various times in our lives, gives me a sense of not only how I can hang on in difficult times, but also of how we can reach out to those who have lost the way.

Our ward is made of over 1000 members, and since we average about 250 in attendance every Sunday, we have over 750 less-active, inactive, and estranged members. Our missionary work must focus primarily on finding those who are lost, and our conversion must begin with those who at some time or another felt the Holy Ghost.

I think a careful and thorough rereading of Alma chapter 5 is in order...

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

General Conference Reflections, Part 1

Every six months or so I start to feel a sense of lethargy and discontent, and it's only when I remember that General Conference is a few weeks away that I realize how much I benefit from the regularity of this part of my religion, this semiannual opportunity to recharge my spirituality. So it is that as September came to a close I felt anxious and ready for something, and over the past week I have been looking forward to this conference.

My relationship with General Conference has changed a lot since I was a teenager and I would go the Priesthood session broadcast with Dad on Saturday and not much else. We didn't get any at-home broadcasts of conference, and I think we saw the first weekend each in April and October as a mini-vacation.

At BYU I came to appreciate conference, and I was able to attend few session in the Tabernacle during my freshman year. On my mission conference was a belated event (most of my time in Italy was spent far from a stake center with the broadcast, so we would watch a video tape a few weeks later). But on those occasions when I did get to go to the broadcast, it was a pilgrimage, a chance to sacrifice to hear from prophets.

My adult life has involved a range of experiences: I've gone to the Conference Center a few times, we've watched broadcasts on TV when we lived in Provo, we've gone to a stake center a few times, and we've listened to the streaming online a lot. Recently we've gravitated toward listening online, and even the kids have come to look forward to a lazy weekend together.

This is followed a few days later by the audio files, which I load onto my iPod and burn to CDs for Summer and the kids to listen to in the car and at home. I spend a lot of time for a month or so after conference listening to the messages.

This conference, however, I want to try something new. For each session of conference I intend to write some quick impressions. I'd like to expand on this over the next few weeks with some more detailed blogging on themes and topics that stand out to me.

So, to start, here's what stood out from Saturday morning's session. I was impressed with Elder Christofferson's talk on consecration, an idea that I have to admit has been on my mind recently. Ever since Summer and I have increased our temple attendance, I've felt that life has been smoother. It's not easy, but we seem more capable of facing those challenges with grace and calm.

But I realize the addictive nature of spirituality—the more you get it, the more you need it. My slip-ups now seem like pretty minor stuff compared with the mistakes I made 10 years ago, but they seem to affect me more. I find myself working harder than ever to do more than ever. But—and here's the blessing part of it all—I feel more capable of doing what I need to do.

I don't think I'm that far on the path toward consecration, but I do feel good about the direction my family and I are going, and I see some very real and very powerful blessings in our home and in our lives of late. And that fact gives me great hope as Summer and I strive to live even better, that these small acts will bring blessings to us and our children, and to those we love and serve.