For those who are unfamiliar with what General Conference is, it is a twice-yearly event when the leaders of the church address us on various topics. We get a chance to hear from our prophet, Pres. Thomas S. Monson, and other men and women who are called to church leadership positions at this time. Listening to the conference is open to anyone of any faith and belief. In fact, it is an excellent introduction to the LDS church.
As always, there were uplifting stories of faith which were shared. But the marvelous thing about General Conference is that the church leaders have a gift for bringing current things to our attention, especially ways that we can better our lives, perhaps make changes that need to be made, and how to be "in the world but not of the world." They also often talk about struggles that are endured by many in this fast-paced life we lead, the things of worldly acceptance that are in conflict with Gospel teachings, and what to do when certain events in our lives might make us consider destructive paths.
I noticed some running themes today, which are making an appearance more and more often in recent conferences:
- The importance of the family unit.
- The importance of parents being living examples to their children and establishing rules and traditions for them.
- The importance of using the internet--and the vast amount of information available to us--responsibly.
- The importance of remembering that, although the Gospel is perfect, men are not, which means that even leaders are fallible; but also remembering that we should not put our faith in man.
- The importance of service to others, and how "service is the very definition of pure religion," as Elder Ballard stated in his talk.
- The importance of remembering what do to when we have trials in our lives, that these are not the times to blame God or turn our back on Him. As Elder Andersen stated, "With faith come trials of faith, bringing increased faith."
- Elder Uchtdorf talked about how some of us wear our "busy-ness" like badges of honor, while also noting that the three things people at the end of their lives often wish is 1) that they had spent more time with the people they loved, 2) that they had become the person they were meant to be, and 3) that they had allowed themselves to be happier. He reminded us that life is not meant to be appreciated only in retrospect and that it is most important to become the person that God wants us to be.
- Elder Perry talked about building a culture in our homes, one that can insulate our children from worldly cultures, like the cultures of celebrity, entitlement, and media violence.
- Elder Ballard made some wonderful comparisons of humans to honey bees, and just like the bees whose lifetime donation of honey is only 1/12 of a teaspoon, we can look for service opportunities and help to "pollinate the world" with Christian kindness.
- Elder Whiting drew comparisons of the temples to our own bodies, both made of the finest materials, both prone to defects if we lower our standards, and the importance of making the necessary improvements so that the Lord can dwell within us.
- And Elder Oaks gave a very powerful talk, addressing the parents of the church and of the world, reminding them to think of their children and what effects all family decisions and family behavior will have on them.
There is something else I would like to address. And that is, that although I do not subscribe to the idea of "blind faith," I do think that when we sustain our Church leaders we are putting a certain amount of trust and faith in them. Speaking as someone who was inactive for 10 years and has wrestled with the idea of "cherry picking" through modern revelation, I think we have to be careful about listening to General Conference with a filter, critiquing and judging what is being said. I say this because I saw someone do this online today and it was very disheartening. I have learned and accepted through a lot of prayer and soul-searching that what is being presented is what we, as modern-day members of the Church (and the world,) need to hear. Certainly not every talk is directed at every person, but the principles of faith, humility, prayer, service, and love are certainly embedded in every talk, regardless of the subject.
If you are reading this and you are not of the Mormon faith, I challenge you to listen to at least one talk from today's conference. All are uplifting, all were prepared in the spirit of love, and all of them have universal themes from which anyone can benefit. Here is the link: http://www.lds.org/general-conference/sessions/2012/10?lang=eng. (at the time I'm publishing this post, some of the talks from the afternoon session have not been made available to listen to individually yet) I would recommend the talks from Elder Ballard or Elder Nelson to start. Tomorrow at 9am and 11am Pacific time, two more sessions of Conference will take place. They are available to watch at LDS.org, on BYUtv, or the Mormon channel. The 2 latter sources are also available for instant streaming through the Roku player or Apple TV.
I will leave with this thought, and that is my spiritual cup is very full today after hearing the words at conference. I hope yours will be too.