Sunday, October 5, 2008
Day Two Highlights Of 178th Semiannual LDS General Conference: Strive For Greater Unity, Become More Christ-Like
On Day Two of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' 178th Semiannual General Conference in 2008, Church leaders counseled members to strive for greater unity and become even more Christ-like. Specifically, members were encouraged to defend their faith with love, serve others, be virtuous and, though life changes should be expected, they shouldn't lose sight of what's important. That's what Jesus would do, despite any contentions against and criticisms of the LDS Church which may arise. Full stories from the Deseret News, the Salt Lake Tribune, the Ogden Standard-Examiner, the St. George Spectrum, the Mormon Times, and KSL Channel 5. Review my previous post for an account of Day One, replete with media links.
St. George Spectrum reporter Brian Passey also attended and blogged about it, Part I and Part II.
Church President Thomas S. Monson was first up. He reminded members that stresses will come no matter what. "We must deal with them the best we can," he said. "But we should not let them get in the way of what is most important — and what is always most important almost always involves the people around us. Often, we assume that they must know how much we love them. But we should never assume; we should let them know. Despite the changes which come into our lives, and with gratitude in our hearts, may we fill our days — as much as we can — with those things which matter most," President Monson said.
Next up, Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve, who explained that, because the church has experienced a unprecedented prominence in the worldwide community of faith during the past several years, the church has also experienced unprecedented ideological attacks on our people, our history and our doctrine through the media. Elder Ballard does not believe it is all a coincidence. [Ed. Note: The two biggest factors at work here are the recent Presidential candidacy of Mitt Romney and the church's support of California Proposition 8, which would constitutionally define marriage as only between one man and one woman.]
But Elder Ballard also defined the problem in 21st century terms, saying ,"Instead of angry mobs, we face those who constantly try to defame. Instead of extreme exposure and hardship, we face alcohol and drug abuse, pornography, all kinds of filth and sleaze, greed, dishonesty and spiritual apathy. The Lord isn't asking us to load up a handcart; he's asking us to fortify our faith. He isn't asking us to walk across a continent; he's asking us to walk across the street to visit our neighbors."
In response to occasional questions from members as to why the church does not more vigorously defend itself, Apostle Robert D. Hales picked up the baton. Elder Hales urged members to defend the church, but to respond to criticisms and accusations through prayer and by following the example of Jesus Christ. "When we respond to our accusers as the Savior did, we not only become more Christ-like, we invite others to feel his love and follow him as well," Elder Hales said. [Ed. Note: Doctrine & Covenants 121:43 shows us how to do this effectively. It states, "Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy". In this case "sharpness" means "with utmost sobriety and clarity"; it does NOT grant license to become abusive, chimp out and go ballistic against your interlocutor, as Sidney Rigdon was so widely perceived to have done during his now-infamous July 4th, 1838 speech in Far West, Missouri (full text HERE). One passage of this speech was used as an excuse by anti-Mormon Gentiles to launch a renewed wave of aggression against Mormons in Missouri, leading to Governor Boggs' infamous Extermination Order and the eviction of the Mormons from the state.]
Elder Hales reminded congregants that each circumstance will be different, which is why instead of using a one-size-fits-all approach, true disciples of Jesus Christ will seek tailored guidance from the Spirit, respond in ways that invite the Spirit of the Lord, will be concerned with others' welfare, avoid being unduly judgmental of others' views, speak with quiet confidence and, perhaps most importantly, sometimes show courage by saying nothing at all. But even negative publicity about the church can present opportunities to present the truth. "We can take advantage of such opportunities in many ways: a kind letter to the editor, a conversation with a friend, a comment on a blog, or a reassuring word to one who has made a disparaging comment", Elder Hales said.
President Henry B. Eyring, of the church's First Presidency, said church members can help avoid the conflicts that beset the world by unifying, even though the worldwide church incorporates different cultures, backgrounds and languages. "There is always more that the children of God have in common than differences. And even the differences can be seen as an opportunity. God will help you see their differences not as a source of irritation but as a contribution. In a moment, the Lord can help you see and value what the other person contributes which you lack", said President Eyring.
Elder Russell M. Nelson, of the Quorum of the Twelve, urged members to qualify for and stay faithful in temple marriage, whose principles are under attack by the adversary. He declared that "marriage between a man and a woman is sacred — it is ordained of God," and warned that "some marital options are cheap; some are costly; and some are cunningly crafted by the adversary. Beware of his options; they always breed misery". Elder Nelson avoided any public mention of California Proposition 8. [Ed. Note: The California Proposition 8 campaign is a perfect example of Satanic influence at its most subtle and seductive. The Church took a public position in favor of the measure, which would constitutionally define marriage as only between one man and one woman. They issued a pastoral letter asking California members to work on behalf of Prop 8 as their time and conscience permitted, but did NOT make it a test of faith. However, a number of Mormons, many who are devout Mormons with temple recommends, have decided to work politically against the measure. The Church has no issue with those who merely oppose the measure. However, some extremists, like Andrew Callahan of Nebraska, have crossed the line, opposing not only the measure, but also opposing the church. Opposing the church publicly can lead to "evil speaking of the Lord's anointed" and ultimate apostasy. Then the Church is forced to react to protect itself and the membership against the corrosive spread of apostasy, which is why Andrew Callahan is facing a possible disciplinary council in November. While the majority of Latter-day Saints who oppose Prop 8 are NOT evil, Satan still uses the seductive "equality" argument to lead people carefully down the path to hell. Opposing Prop 8 is O.K. Publicly opposing the Church is not O.K.]
Elder Nelson als explained that just because a marriage starts with two imperfect people, happiness is not unattainable. "Just as harmony comes from an orchestra only when its members make a concerted effort, so harmony in marriage requires a concerted effort," Elder Nelson said. Focus on gospel principles that will strengthen marriage and faith often comes from teachers in the church.
Elder Quentin L. Cook reminded congregants that hard times have happened and are likely to continue, with difficulties presenting themselves in various forms. Some deal with economic problems. Others suffer through physical or mental health challenges. Others might deal with marital problems or wayward children. Death, addictions and harmful activities can cause heartache. "We know from the scriptures, that some trials are for our good and are suited for our own personal development. We also know that the rain falls on the just and the unjust," Elder Cook said.
Visit the Conference Page of the official LDS website for more information and to access archives. At this point, only audio archives will be available; but written transcripts will be posted within a couple of weeks.