The 179th Semiannual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints wrapped up on Sunday October 4th with a call to church members by President Thomas S. Monson to serve others and better exemplify Christian faith. More than 100,000 Church members descended upon Salt Lake City for the two-day conference; the Conference Center was filled to capacity with 21,000 for each event while others watched at various overflow facilities near Temple Square. Million more watched the proceedings by satellite and other electronic media. The Deseret News has published a brief history of LDS Conferences; other media stories from the Deseret News, the Salt Lake Tribune, and KSL Channel 5; KSL news video embedded below.
Video and audio archives and written transcripts now available via the LDS 2009 Conference Page. You can also review abridged summaries of the talks presented in inverse chronological order at Mormonism-Unveiled, replete with numerous media links.
A wide variety of General Authorities talked of civility, virtuous lives and renewed faith. Many spoke of a renewed need to express more love to family members and reach out to those in need, as the Savior Himself taught. But several General Authorities spoke out boldly against growing permissiveness, moral relativism, and value neutrality in today's society, most notably Dallin Oaks and D. Todd Christofferson.
Elder Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve stated that although God's universal and perfect love is shown in all the blessings of His gospel plan, His choicest blessings are only reserved for those who obey His laws. Specifically, Elder Oaks stated, "The love of God does not supersede His laws and His commandments, and the effect of God's laws and commandments does not diminish the purpose and effect of His love." So although God's love is unconditional, His willingness to dispense blessings is conditional upon obedience. As Jesus said, "If ye love me, keep my commandments".
Elder Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve delivered what might be the most controversial speech of the conference. He spoke out against what is best known as "moral relativism", leading off by saying that positive outcomes occur when moral agency is accompanied by "moral discipline". He defined moral discipline as the consistent exercise of agency to choose the right because it is right, even when it is hard. In short, virtue becomes its own reward. Elder Christofferson also explained that many societies have failed to foster moral discipline, teaching that truth is merely relative and that everyone decides for himself or herself what is right. Concepts such as sin have been condemned as "value judgements." As a consequence, self-discipline has eroded, and societies are left to try to maintain order and civility by compulsion. The lack of internal control by individuals breeds external control by governments enacting more and stronger regulation; this approach leads to diminished freedom for everyone.
In addition, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve lashed out at critics of the Book of Mormon. "For 179 years, this book has been examined and attacked, denied and deconstructed, targeted and torn apart like perhaps no other book in modern religious history -- perhaps like no other book in any religious history. And still it stands," Holland said. "If anyone is foolish enough or misled enough to reject 531 pages of a heretofore unknown text teeming with literary and Semitic complexity without honestly attempting to account for the origin of those pages ... such persons, elect or otherwise, have been deceived and, if they leave this church, they must do so by crawling over or around or under The Book of Mormon to make their exit."
Those who were anticipating the announcement of new temples were not disappointed. At the Saturday morning session, President Monson announced five new temples, described in greater detail in my previous post. One of them will be in Utah, located in Brigham City. While the Logan Temple is just 20 miles northeast, and the Ogden Temple around 20 miles south, both temples are reaching their saturation points with regard to usage, so another temple in the area is necessary. Most LDS members in Brigham City reacted joyously at the news, with reaction documented on KSL, the Ogden Standard-Examiner, and the Salt Lake Tribune.