A couple of years ago, Elder Richard Maynes (of the Presidency of the Seventy) quoted Matthew 13:44 in his conference talk: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” But wait a second! The King James Version of that verse reads differently: “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.” Elder Maynes has quoted, instead, the Revised Standard Version. This surprised me because the official version of the Bible used by the Church in English is the King James Version. From the days of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, the KVJ has been preferred (despite Joseph Smith’s corrections). When the Revised Standard Version was released in 1952, an editorial in the Church News stated, “For the Latter-day Saints there can be but one version of the Bible” — the King James Version. J. Reuben Clark published a book in 1956 entitled Why the King James Version. (This is all laid out in Philip Barlow’s Dialogue article.) In 1992, the First Presidency released a statement saying the following, “While other Bible versions may be easier to read than the King James Version, in doctrinal matters latter-day revelation supports…
Category: General Conference
Conditional Love Is Back
The recently announced LDS doctrine of conditional divine love comes from President Nelson’s 2003 Ensign article “Divine Love,” in which he stated: “While divine love can be called perfect, infinite, enduring, and universal, it cannot correctly be characterized as unconditional.” No additional commentary was added until the October 2016 General Conference, when two apostles, citing President Nelson’s article, restated the doctrine. It is rather more nuanced than it first appears and I expect some local leaders and members will misconstrue and misapply this new doctrine in unfortunate ways. So pay attention. This is important.
Conference Theme: No Trouble Here, Move Along
After a turbulent six months, many were expecting some bold declarations at this weekend’s General Conference. That did not come to pass. Just a few weeks ago, Elder Ballard directed CES teachers to stop teaching folklore, stop evading tough questions from students, and start reading publications by faithful LDS scholars. In his Saturday afternoon Conference talk, Elder Ballard talked about … family councils. Late last year, President Nelson announced that what has become known as “the Exclusion Policy” was not a policy, it was a revelation and is here to stay. In his Priesthood session talk, President Nelson talked about … the role of men in the Church. Elder Steven E. Snow, the Church Historian, talked not about one of the Gospel Topics essays that addresses a key issue in LDS history but about the LDS hymnal and humility. The theme for this Conference seems to be: Don’t rock the boat. Nothing controversial here. Perhaps it is a good time for a quiet, reflective Conference.
Go the Distance
I was struck in yesterday’s morning conference session by the quotation Elder Renlund gave, “The greater the distance between the giver and the receiver, the more the receiver develops a sense of entitlement.” What gave me pause at this, since I agree with the statement, is a simple question: What do we do about the distance? This seems like a crucial question. Elder Renlund points out that this is the reason why the Church’s welfare system is designed for those in needs to seek help from family first, and then from their local leaders–i.e., from their ward and branch. But it doesn’t seem to me like this solves enough of the distance between givers and recievers; I see lots of distance within wards and branches, and sometimes even within families. Too often givers and receivers simply have completely different viewpoints and even different cultures. I have wrestled with understanding the issues and principles surrounding welfare and giving support to those in need recently. As a result I started reading a book on the subject recommended to me, Bridges out of Poverty, a manual for those working with the needy, including community and religions leaders like bishops and stake presidents. This book suggests, among other things, a very simple idea: those in different economic classes live in different cultures. Simply put, the way that those in poverty think and act, even when they think and act logically, is different than the…
I very much enjoyed Elder Renlund’s comments on entitlement. First, because he made clear one of the reasons why we should be very conscientious about how we give help. It affects the receiver’s spiritual progression. Second, the King Benjamin-esque tie-in to all of us who, like any Church welfare recipient, are beggars before God. Lastly, because while he laid into bad attitudes, whining, and murmuring, his central story was about someone missing the sacrament. A story whose happy ending relied upon a saint telling the Branch President, one hopes charitably, that a priesthood holder, a deacon in this case, made a mistake in performing his calling. And a Branch President who took care to see that mistake corrected. Because people do make mistakes. I think there was an implicit lesson, secondary to the main one about the Sacrament and the Savior, that we can and should give leaders information to help them correct mistakes. We just need to do it with the right attitude. “Don’t be whiners” does not mean “never speak up”. It means speak up with humility and charity and for the right reasons. Keeping all this in mind would probably help ease a lot of the friction for people who feel that leaders don’t listen to them. Or for those leaders who (incorrectly) think they should not be ever told about their potential mistakes. And nobody should feel entitled. Because that makes you act like a jerk.
The General Conference Mirth Index – Take 2
I always enjoy the opportunity to laugh a little bit in general conference. In January, I introduced the General Conference Mirth Index (for the October 2014 conference), which sums up the number of laughs for each talk. As we enter into the next General Conference this weekend, let’s see how much laughing we did last April. A quick recap. To calculate this, I listen to each conference talk and record the number of instances of laughter that I hear. (Note that I’m not counting jokes or judging what is a joke; I’m only counting what induces laughter.) I listen to each talk in the language in which it was delivered, since the English voiceover often covers the laughter. I then adjust by the length of the talk. This has limitations – it weighs equally Elder Gibson’s chuckle from not eating dinner with Elder Pearson’s medium-sized laugh from #spaciousbuilding. Big picture. More than half the talks had at least one laugh (57%, to be precise). There was one joke that landed brilliantly during the conducting, when President Uchtdorf started speaking in German on Sunday afternoon: “Sorry, President Monson. … I went into my German native language.” Last October, Sunday morning had the fewest laughs. In April, the Women’s Session had the fewest. This confirms my previously expressed hypothesis: “Which is the least mirthful session of General Conference?” is “The session in which President Uchtdorf isn’t speaking.” Last fall, President Uchtdorf spoke…
GenConf: Sunday Afternoon Session
Choir: He Is Risen President Uchtdorf conducted this opening session. Choir: My Redeemer Lives Invocation: S. Gilford Nielsen Choir: He Sent His Son Elder Robert D. Hales: Preserving Agency, Protecting Religious Freedom The blessings we enjoy now are because we made the choice to follow the Savior before this life. To everyone hearing or reading these words, whoever you are and whatever your past may be, remember this: it is not too late to make that same choice again and follow Him. As we walk the path of spiritual liberty in these last days, we must understand that the faithful use of our agency depends upon our having religious freedom. No one should be criticized, persecuted, or attacked by individuals or governments for what he or she believes about God. Some are offended when we bring our religion into the public square yet the same people who insist that their viewpoints and actions be tolerated in society are often very slow to give that same tolerance to religious believers who also wish their viewpoints and actions to be tolerated. The general lack of respect for religious viewpoints is quickly devolving into social and political intolerance for religious people and institutions. As disciples of Christ we have a responsibility to work together with like-minded believers, to raise our voices for what is right. Brothers and sisters, we are responsible to safeguard these sacred freedoms and rights for ourselves and our posterity. Elder…
Sunday Morning Session of General Conference
President Eyring is conducting this session of Conference, with music by the Tabernacle Choir. Invocation by Sister Linda S. Reeves, Relief Society Second Counselor. Benediction by Elder Kevin S. Hamilton of the Seventy. For this on-the-fly summary, text in quotation marks is a direct quote of a speaker, subject to correction when transcripts are available; other text is my summary of remarks by a speaker; and text in brackets [like this] is my own helpful commentary.
GenConf: Priesthood Session Notes
President Uchtdorf conducted this opening session. Choir: For the Strength of the Hills Invocation: David L. Beck Choir: On This Day of Joy and Gladness President M. Russell Ballard: The Greatest Generation of Young Adults I know I speak for my brethren when I tell you that we wish it was possible for us to know all of you personally, and to be able to tell you that we love you and we support you. … what we need now is the greatest generation of young adults in the history of the Church. We need your whole heart and soul. We need vibrant, thinking, passionate young adults who know how to listen and respond to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit as you make your way through the daily trials and temptations of being a young contemporary Latter-day Saint. … it’s time to raise the bar not only for missionaries, but also for returned missionaries and for your entire generation. I remind you returned missionaries that your preparation for life and for a family should be continuous. “RM” doesn’t mean “Retired Mormon!” As a returned missionary, you “should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of [your] own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness.” Please use the skills learned on your mission to bless the lives of people around you every day. Do not shift your focus from serving others to focusing exclusively on school,…
They Spoke in General Conference as Ones That Had Authority
“And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes.” –Mark 1:22 (see also Matthew 7:29) This scripture is often read to mean that Jesus expounded doctrine directly, rather than citing repeatedly what others had taught before (see some detailed discussion here). As Ellicott puts it, “It is the prophet, or rather, perhaps, the king, who speaks, and not the scribe.” This scripture led me to wonder how leaders in the modern Church refer to different types of authority in their teaching. So I went through a single General Conference – the most recent, from October 2014 – and tallied up quotes of authority of different kinds. I separated the quotes into four categories: Scriptures: This includes only the four canonical books of LDS scripture. High LDS Authority: This includes General Conference talks (by General Authorities or auxiliaries), other recorded talks or Ensign articles by General Authorities or auxiliaries, books by General Authorities, unrecorded quotes from General Authorities (e.g., “President Boyd K. Packer surprised me with this puzzling question”), and non-canonical resources that are often regarded as authoritative, like the Church Handbook, the Bible Dictionary, or the Proclamation on the Family. Medium LDS Authority: This includes books by LDS people who are not General Authorities (e.g., Harriet Uchtdorf’s book The Light We Share) and unrecorded quotes from members of the Church (e.g., “a sister missionary said this”, or “my…
Laughing through General Conference
No one comes to General Conference for the jokes. And yet, some of the conference moments I remember most clearly involve laughter. In 1997, after Elder Nelson gave a laudatory talk about President Hinckley, President Hinckley took the stand and said, “I thought we were conducting General Conference. It’s turned out to be a funeral.” He went on to challenge Elder Nelson to a duel in the basement of the Tabernacle. Later in the session, he postponed the duel. It was a fabulous moment in conference history. What does humor in General Conference do? First, the spiritual tide of General Conference can feel overwhelming at times and humor can break it up, making it easier to be attentive to the rest of the counsel we’re receiving. Second, it can teach a subtle lesson, as with the humility implicit in President Hinckley’s embarrassment at being praised. Third, it can make a story that teaches a lesson more memorable, as when President Tad Callister, at the most recent conference, recounted [and all the links in this post go straight to the laugh-inducing moment, so click with caution] the time his aged mother told him she was delivering food to the elderly, to which Brother Callister thought, “Mother, you are the elderly.” The joke makes the story – fundamentally about lifelong service – stand out more. With that (limited) justification, I propose the General Conference Mirth Index (yes, it’s the GCMI). To construct…
Sunday Afternoon Session of General Conference
Welcome to the fourth or fifth or sixth session of General Conference, depending on how you count. Text in quotation marks are verbatim quotes but not 100% guaranteed; other text is my summary of their remarks. [My comments inside brackets.] Music by the Choir. President Eyring conducting (he thinks it’s the fifth session), President Monson presiding. Song, prayer.
Sunday Morning Session of General Conference
We spent yesterday listening to General Conference while assembling IKEA furniture in the hopes that the spirit of the meeting would help reduce the desire to curse associated with strange pictorial instructions and screw heads that really want to strip. It went as well as could be expected. This morning I read about theology, love and literature (Alan Jacobs), cleaned some, made tea for my sick husband, harvested from the garden to make omelets (squash and onions, parsley and sage, tomatoes, with mushrooms and provolone not from the garden) for a late breakfast. And now I’m ready for conference to start. President Uchtdorf conducting. Pres Henry B. Eyring, 1st Counselor, 1st Presidency Many are seeking revelation. We need a constantly renewed stream…a continuing blessing of communication with God. Quote from Packer: Revelation continues in the church Process of revelation begins, ends (?), and continues as we receive personal revelation. Example: Lehi’s dream and Nephi’s confirming revelation. A principle of revelation that the parents’ revelation continues in the child. Chokes up during story about his mother. “I have tried to go and do as she hoped I would.” (The clear love and respect for his mother 40 years departed is touchingly evident.) The value of revelation depends on those being led receiving confirming revelation. Example of Grand Teton Dam breaking in Idaho. Leader of federal disaster response team deferred to the stake president who was organizing the local…
GenCon: Priesthood Session
Welcome to T&S’ coverage of the Priesthood Session of General Conference. We welcome your comments. . Chorus: Rise Up O Men of God President Henry B Eyring is conducting this session. Chorus: Medley of Primary Songs Elder Quentin L. Cook — Choose Wisely “How do you expect me to catch the ball when I am worried about our country’s foreign policy?” We need unequivocal commitment to the commandments and strict adherence to sacred covenants. My concern is not only about the big tipping point decisions, but also the middle ground – the workaday world and seemingly ordinary decisions where we spend most of our time. In these areas, we need to emphasize moderation, balance, and especially wisdom. It is important to rise above rationalizations and make the best choices. One father wisely responds to his children with their numerous requests to participate in these distractions. He simply asks them, “Will this make you a better person?” In the Church we encourage and celebrate truth and knowledge of every kind. But when culture, knowledge, and social mores are separated from God’s plan of happiness and the essential role of Jesus Christ, there is an inevitable disintegration of society. Many choices are not inherently evil, but if they absorb all of our time and keep us from the best choices, then they become insidious. Our daily conduct and choices should be consistent with our goals. We need to rise above rationalizations and…
Saturday Afternoon Session of General Conference
My conference notes. (Snark in parentheses.)
President Eyring conducted the Saturday morning session. Direct quotations are in quotation marks (from my notes). Other text is my summary of what was said.
General Women’s Meeting
It is my nature to be cynical and critical and to focus on flaws, so when I tell you that the General Women’s Meeting was nearly perfect, that’s really saying something.
GenCon: Sunday Afternoon Session
Welcome to T&S’ fifth and final round of coverage of General Conference. We welcome your comments. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf is conducting this session of Conference. Chorus: Sweet is the Work. Prayer: ? Chorus: I Stand All Amazed. President Boyd K. Packer — The Witness “Almost mid-sentence it happened. I could not describe to you what happened if I were determined to do so. It is beyond my power of expression, but it is as clear today as it was that night more than 65 years ago. I knew it to be a very private, very individual manifestation. At last I knew for myself. I knew for a certainty, for it had been given to me.” “Like most things of great worth, knowledge which is of eternal value comes only through personal prayer and pondering. These, joined with fasting and scripture study, will invite impressions and revelations and the whisperings of the Holy Spirit. This provides us with instruction from on high as we learn precept upon precept.” “Parenthood is a sacred privilege and, depending upon faithfulness, it can be an eternal blessing. The ultimate end of all activity in the Church is that a man and his wife and their children can be happy at home.” “After all the years that I have lived and taught and served, after the millions of miles I have traveled around the world, with all that I have experienced, there is one great truth…
GenCon: Sunday Morning Session
Welcome to T&S’ fourth round of coverage of General Conference. We welcome your comments. Chorus: Come We that Love the Lord President Henry B. Eyring is conducting this session of Conference. Chorus: On This Day of Joy and Gladness Prayer: Élder L. Whitney Clayton Chorus: Let Us All Press On President Dieter F. Uchtdof — Grateful in Any Circumstance “There is one thing we can do to make life sweeter, more joyful, even glorious. We can be grateful.” “Could I suggest that we see gratitude as a disposition, a way of life that stands independent of our current situation? In other words, I’m suggesting that instead of being “thankful for things” we focus on being “thankful in our circumstances”—whatever they may be.” “When we are grateful to God in our circumstances, we can experience gentle peace in the midst of tribulation. In grief we can still lift up our hearts in praise. In pain, we can glory in Christ’s Atonement. In the cold of bitter sorrow we can experience the closeness and warmth of heaven’s embrace.” “We sometimes think that being grateful is what we do after our problems are solved, but how terribly shortsighted that is. How much of life do we miss by waiting to see the rainbow before thanking God that there is rain?” “In light of what we know about our eternal destiny, is it any wonder that whenever we face the bitter endings of life,…
Priesthood Session: A Personal View
I attended priesthood session at my local chapel. About sixty men and boys in attendance. One woman. It was snowing when I left home. I decided to reward my choosing the right with good consequences, so I stopped by my local Wendy’s and bought a small vanilla Frosty. On the way I listened to a few minutes of my current audio CD, Neptune’s Inferno, about the US Navy at Guadalcanal. Right now (in the CD) the US heavy cruiser San Francisco (which survived the fight) is trading fire with the Japanese battleship Hiei (which didn’t) in the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. There were a dozen ships on each side in a wild, confusing night melee. A lot of good young men on both sides died that night, November 12, 1942.