Jeff's online journal, ramblings, whatever.

Conference in a Nutshell

Conference in a…nutshell? That’s not quite right. Some sort of nut-based analogy.


This past October the LDS Church held its first general conference since I somewhat left the Church last summer, and, like always, I tried to listen to the whole thing (I missed part of Saturday morning’s session because sleepytime is good times). Long-time readers of this blog may know that I used to do a “conference in a nutshell” post every time one came along, running down a bullet-point list of things I wrote down while listening to the talks. This time I’d like to return to that general idea, but instead of just listing a whole bunch of things, I’d like to take just a few bits from conference and flesh out what I think and how I feel about them.

This past conference was a more interesting one than I think anyone was expecting. I wasn’t expecting quite the level of controversy that sprung up over the new apostles (three white guys from Utah?!? Apparently that’s terrible!), but I’m not going to talk about that, simply because I don’t really care. The brethren can call whoever they want to as apostles, and either it’s a call from the Lord, or the whole organization is uninspired anyway, so either way quit complaining.

1. The Ponderize Talk

I really hated this talk. Not because it’s necessarily a bad idea (the basic gist behind it is “memorize a scripture each week, and also, like, think about it a lot”), but because it was presented in such a way that you were forced to admit, “Wow! If I don’t do this just like this random Sunday School Presidency counselor said, I’m not as good of a person!” It’s one of the many examples from the Church leadership that espouses more the philosophies of Stephen Covey than any actual spiritual leader: do this highly effective thing that works for businessmen, and you’ll be a better saint. Instead of, “Here’s something that I’ve found works for me. Give it a shot, and if you and I are the same type of person it may work for you too, but if you don’t think like a businessman you’ll probably do better with a different way of studying,” we got, “This thing will work. I don’t care if you’re terrible at memorizing, or you’ve already found a way to study the Lord’s word that fits your life better. Everyone must do this. Also, I’ve coined a phrase so that your home teachers/bishops/annoying roommate at BYU will pound this concept into your brain until you have no willpower left! Buy the T-shirt!”

Seriously, he structured this talk in such a way that listeners had no choice but to accept this as the best thing ever. He started his talk with an admittedly good piece of advice about saving money, thereby drawing a connection in our mind that his next piece of advice was similarly sound. Then he gave examples that weren’t actually examples. “Nephi was a ponderizer,” he said, then quoted a verse that said Nephi likes scriptures (and not one that said Nephi picked one each week and memorized it). Then he addressed “objections” like this: “It’s too hard, you may say. But hard can be good!” Oh, OK, thanks, that cleared it up. And finally, he actually said, “Will you ponderize a verse of scripture each week for the rest of this month? For the rest of this year? Longer maybe?” with a pause after each question, so that everyone listening in had a chance to say, “Yes! I will do this thing I just barely heard about that has a catchy slogan!” without actually thinking about it. I imagine that hapless home/visiting teachers will be trying to do the same thing to their poor home/visiting teachees for the next six months, whether or not it’s actually something that will help them.

Please note: I’m not saying that the act itself is a bad idea. For those who want to memorize scriptures and ponder them, by all means, go for it. It’s just that the message was couched in the most blatantly manipulative way possible as a one-size-fits-all solution that drove me crazy. And that’s not even getting into the controversy that popped up immediately after the session, what with the “Ponderize” T-shirt sales and so on. Somehow, I believe that wisdom that fits on a bumper sticker may deserve some more scrutiny before I’m forced to make a commitment to do it.

Guys, the Church is not a business. At least it shouldn’t be. But attitudes and worldviews like those expressed via this talk are what worm their way into Church curriculum, then Church culture, that cause a lot of people to have a beef with the faceless, monolithic “Church” while still adoring the apostles on individual bases. Manipulating people so that they have to do this “righteous” thing or feel guilty about it, even though yesterday they didn’t even know it was a thing, is not a plan based on free agency. Just sayin’.

2. Pres. Monson finished his talk and sat down unsteadily

I don’t have a whole lot to say about this occurrence. I think it’s great that the apostles love Pres. Monson enough to catch him if he falls, yet let him retain enough dignity to finish his talk without literally holding on to him. I also find it odd that many people are taking this as a sign of supreme love and sacrifice and so on when it’s really just a demonstration of basic human decency (or at least I’d like to think that most of us would try to help an old man up if his strength failed). But what I find most interesting about this is that, though members online and off are all atwitter about this great spiritual experience and how wonderful it is that the Lord supported him with angels so that he could finish his talk, substantially fewer of them could tell you without looking it up exactly what the important message was that was so important that angels had to help him deliver it.

3. Skepticism is easy

I did not hate this talk. (In fact, I don’t think I hated any of the talks other than “ponderize” to be honest.) But it was this talk that raised some ire among the post-Mormon groups (of which I am an observer, but not really a member. Kind of like the Church itself at this point). Not because Pres. Uchtdorf was specifically targeting ex-Mormons (though he kinda was), but because he was painting their experiences with a broad brush that trivialized them more than anything else. If you want to know why people leave the Church, it’s almost never because they didn’t “choose to believe.” It was because their experiences didn’t jive with what they had been taught was true, and eventually that either breaks a person in half or causes severe cognitive dissonance. If you want actual examples, here are about 100 people or so who left the Church and why. Their individual reasons are all over the map, but you’ll rarely find one of them saying, “It was easier to disbelieve.” Many of them say “It made more sense to disbelieve,” or “I really really really wanted to keep believing.” And, while it’s true that, yes, some of them are jerks and unfairly disrespectful to the religion they left behind, the majority are just trying to follow their conscience. Pres. Uchtdorf made an analogy about unbelievers: “If we make no effort to believe, we are like the man who unplugs a spotlight and then blames the spotlight for not giving any light.” I bet a lot of those who left would reword it thusly, “We made all effort to believe, to plug in that spotlight. Imagine how we felt when we realized that the light bulb never got installed in the first place.”

What really made me take notice of this talk, however, was the attitude behind it and how prevalent it is in the Church. Or, more specifically, how even I used to espouse it. Come, dear readers, back in time to when I first started examining my own faith and Mormonism in general:

“Do you guys know what’s easy? Not being a member of the Church! Aw snap! You can do whatever you want on Sunday, you get to keep that 10% of your income instead of giving it up to build more chapels or whatever, you don’t have to worry about that whole dumb Word of Wisdom thing telling you what you can and can’t eat and/or drink, that one guy down the street who thinks Obama is a secret Muslim out to burn the country to the ground can’t tell you how to improve your relationship with God just because some other guy called him to be your bishop, and if you want to watch porn while drinking cheap scotch and swearing loudly, nobody’s gonna care! You arrive at your own morality based on your own experiences! You’re an adult, not some little five-year-old! You can figure this stuff out!

I’m (half-)kidding with those extremes, but a lot of people do leave the Church because it’s simply easier not to have to deal with a lot of crap that gets thrown at active members, whether it be requirements of active membership, outside criticism of the faith, inside judgement from nosy ward members, or personal disagreements with church leaders and/or doctrine. […]It’s a lot easier to say that the Church leaders are wrong, or misguided, or have a different belief system (and good for them), but in my life I’ll believe what I feel is right, than it is to say that maybe I’m wrong, even though I don’t understand why yet and possibly never will until I die. It’s easier, more rational, and from a purely intellectual standpoint, probably the correct thing to do.

Am I saying that everyone who leaves the Church because it’s hard is somehow a lazy bum or a hedonist? Of course not! Being a Latter-Day Saint is hard work, and I don’t just mean the physical things like going to Church, or tithing, or obeying commandments, praying, scripture study, service projects, home/visiting teaching, fulfilling callings, etc. etc. but a lot of the mental, social, and emotional wringers that people are put through in a lot of Church environments. I mean, where would you rather be: a place where people either look down upon you or (even worse) make you into a project to save the “one lost sheep” just because you happened to wear a slightly shorter skirt, or admit that you like video games, or once said that Ewan McGregor is damn smoking hot (and you’re also a guy)? Or a place where you’ve got a bunch of friends who couldn’t care less what your lifestyle is and accept you for whatever you are? I can tell you this: one of those scenarios is certainly much easier than the other one. But does picking the easier scenario mean that you’re somehow weak, or does it just mean that you’ve got a measure of sanity? Am I a lazy good-for-nothing because I didn’t join the Marines? I don’t think so.”

I made those arguments when I was still an active member (even though I hated going to Church for mostly social reasons). And, as I often do when trying to justify someone else’s opinion as if it were my own, I made quite a mess of it. I hadn’t really done any research into ex-Mormons or had an open discussion with any of them; I just said to myself, “What would make me leave the Church right now?” and extrapolated, based on what I had been taught within the Church, how those without the Church obviously feel. I thought I was being unbiased about it, hence the “Marines” line near the end: I was trying to sympathize with those who felt that way without realizing that most who have left don’t feel that way. It’s hard to be unbiased about something that you have no actual experience with. I actually got called on the carpet on this by someone who had left, and to her I responded, “This is what I see. Please correct me if I’m wrong.” It was an earnest request, even if perhaps I wasn’t quite ready for the answer.

Some within the Church who, perhaps, have some issues with it, can point to an example of someone who has left, who also is perhaps disrespectful, or hot-headed, or otherwise imperfect, and say, “See? If this is the kind of person that leaves the Church, then that gives me more reason to stay!” It’s easy to point at those people for justification. (There’s that phrase again: “it’s easy.”) But for every jackass who rails against the faith they once shared, there are more who simply up and left. Their upbringing and sense of morals is still part of their lives, and it probably always will be. They still believe in the spirit of what the Church professes, even if they can’t accept the letter of what the Church does. Staying true to a moral system when you no longer believe in the source of said system is not easy. But most people are decent. Most people are good. And most people who leave the Church do so because they can’t reconcile what they learn with what they’ve been taught in the Church. And when the best defense the Church gives is “Give Joseph a break! God knows more than a search engine!” it’s not much consolation.

Please note: I’m also not trying to trivialize those who join the Church despite opposition. Often they have an equally difficult time leaving behind their old life in pursuit of something they believe in more. That was the crux of a lot of Pres. Uchtdorf’s talk, actually: remaining faithful despite difficult circumstances. But don’t condemn anyone for taking a stance in accordance with their own conscience despite opposition, simply because that step is away from what you believe instead of toward it.

Neither is easy.

4. Spiritualism and The Spirit (not actually related to any specific talk)

I am not an atheist, in the sense that I don’t only believe in empiricism. I have had spiritual experiences that I cannot write off as pure emotion. I have felt what the Church terms “the Spirit” many times. But what I’ve realized more and more, especially since leaving, is that often the things I’ve felt spiritual about have had little to do with the Church specifically. That’s not to say that I’ve never had a spiritual experience in relation to the Church. But when I really examined my spiritualityy, I found that my truly powerful experiences have been, let’s say, perpendicular to the Church. In other words, when I feel the most peace, joy, and love, has had nothing to do with my standing in the Church, my amount of tithing paid, my scripture study time, or any of that. In fact, the times in my life that I have thrown myself headlong into trying to keep the commandments has usually turned me into a judgmental jerk who can’t stand the fact that anyone around me holds a different opinion. I hate being that guy. And it’s certainly not a healthy mindset.

My spiritual experiences have had to do with my amount of service and selflessness. They have had to do with what I can do for others. One of my most spiritual experiences on my mission occurred when I was serving in Cartagena, though it had almost nothing to do with the Church or traditional missionary work. One of our investigators was a poor Nigerian immigrant (I really wish I could remember his name) who was having some health problems one night, so my companion and I accompanied him to the hospital, along with our ward mission leader. I had to translate for him with the doctor (this was in Spain, and he only spoke English), and afterward my companion, the ward mission leader, and I were waiting out in the waiting room to hear if he would be OK. During that time my zone leader showed up and demanded that I go back out and do some street contacting. It was the end of the week, you see, and my companion and I hadn’t quite fulfilled our goal yet. I refused, because I really wanted to see if our investigator was OK and help him back home if he was discharged. This wasn’t what missionaries are supposed to do, though. Surely the ward mission leader could handle it (despite not speaking English). We argued back and forth and finally came to a compromise: we’d swap companions for the evening. My zone leader and my companion would go out street contacting (so he could count it toward our numbers), leaving his companion behind at the hospital.

I was left with his companion and the ward mission leader. Alfonso Sanchez, a man who I had worked with for quite a while, both him and his family. Of all the families on my mission, I felt probably the closest to them, having eaten at their house many times (it also helped that his wife reminded me a lot of my sister Annelise). And as we sat in that waiting room in a small medical facility in the town of Cartagena, he turned to me and said something I’ll never forget (though I’m paraphrasing it here): “Elder, I’ve been in this ward for a long time, and I’ve seen missionaries come and go. Many have been great, faithful missionaries, dutiful and true to their creed. But, perhaps only once every ten years, a missionary comes along that actually loves the people he serves. Elder, you have that love in you.”

I didn’t know what to say. For most of my mission, I thought I was a terrible missionary. It was all that my zone and district leaders could do to keep me out on the street every day. I didn’t study as much as I should have, I had a hard time keeping the rules with exactness, and I really really really hated telling strangers how to live their lives. But, for that brief moment, I felt like, maybe, I had done something important out there. Despite what the Church said I should’ve been doing, despite what my zone leader wanted me to do, despite the fact that that particular investigator never joined the Church (at least when I was there, though we did convince him to move out of a living situation where his roommates were pretty abusive) — despite all that, I followed my conscience and sense of human decency. For one moment, Elder Parkes the terrible missionary became something better. And that made the difference.

That’s a spiritual experience.

Now, understandably, that particular experience is certainly emotion-based. But it was still stronger and happier than anything else I had felt on my mission up to that point. For me, actually, most of my spiritual experiences both in and out of the Church have had a musical component to them. A certain piece of music can pierce my soul much more deeply and effectively than any talk by Boyd K. Packer (especially since he did his best to squash any kind of music in the Church that he didn’t like; look it up). An evening spent with someone you love doing something you love is time much better spent than an evening at a fireside with a stake president who tells you to get off your lazy butt and get married or start ponderizing or whatever. Not to say that such firesides are worthless or impossible to feel spiritually fed by (I think that mostly depends on both how invested you are in the topic and what the topic is), but diff’rent strokes for diff’rent folks. I cannot trivialize the great spiritual feelings others get in the Church any more than they can trivialize the great spiritual feelings I get when I drive to a rest stop near Delle, Utah, and contemplate the Northern Lights.

The Church preaches a lot of great things. Principles that, if followed, will make you a better person and help the lives of those around you. But it doesn’t mean that everything the Church preaches is the same. The same is true of most religions, philosophies, and lifestyles. It’s that discernment that I seek.

Spiritual experiences can still be otherworldly even if they’re not specifically related to Mormonism. I still remember the intense spiritual feeling I got the exact moment that my niece Ivy was born, even though I didn’t know that that was happening until much later. That wasn’t just an emotional response to something I was doing at the time (I was on my mission, and at that exact time we were trying to reactivate a sister who hadn’t been to church in a long time and still didn’t return after our visit). There is more to existence than just this life. I can’t prove that, and it is based on faith. So take it for what it is.

I feel like I’m turning out to be a terrible ex-Mormon. Oh, well.

5. Conclusion

It was interesting listening to conference as more of an outside observer than a participant. I felt that I could finally look at the talks, not in the light of “How can I start applying all of this inspired message from the Lord in my life?” but in the light of, “Wait, does this make sense? What message is actually being offered here? Is it a good one? What part of it do I believe will make my life and the lives of those around me better? What part of it is good advice? Is any of it non-applicable? Bad advice? Just some guy’s opinion?” I was finally able to hear things like how unbelievers “…are like the man who unplugs a spotlight and then blames the spotlight for not giving any light” and think, “Yeah, that doesn’t actually make any sense,” without feeling bad for “speaking against the Lord’s anointed.” And, even for an unbeliever, there were plenty of good messages to take away about how to become better people. In fact, some of them had more power with an eye of skepticism: examining the messages being taught instead of merely accepting them all meant that you really did figure out what would be helpful and good in your own life. For the record, Pres. Monson’s important message was to be an example and a light of goodness to those around you, a message I believe is equally applicable and good for everyone, regardless of your belief.

But I’ll be damned if I ever use the word “ponderize” in a serious setting.


Conference in a nutshell – quickly abbreviated version

From three separate talks:

  • I need to get married. Also, to stay married a couple needs to go to the temple a lot.

That’s…mostly it. That’s what I got out of it. Interesting.

More better conference nutshells. More…more better…

Conference in a nutshell – version 5


Once again, here are my notes and impressions of the LDS General Conference, this time from Apr. 2009:

  • New apostle — Neil Lyndon Andersen
  • The prophet may sing “El Rancho Grande” if you put him in a sombrero and sarape.
  • The four most caring words: “We can’t afford it.”
  • Be reverent!
  • Virtue is not just for young women, but men too.
  • Be acquainted with the voice of the Spirit, so you can recognize and understand it in the heat of the moment.
  • Trials are invitations to grow, and those who accept trials as such can find peace in the turmoil.
  • Learn from others, smart guy! Prophets and apostles are in touch, despite being old.
  • Learn from the past too, lest you be doomed to repeat it.
  • A loving God only makes sense if there is continuing revelation, and hell is not endless.
  • Faith is like spiritual photosynthesis.
  • Go to the temple and participate in all ordinances!
  • Forgive to be forgiven.
  • Add audible “amen” as a listener to a prayer.
  • Learn how to pray from Christ’s prayers.
  • Prayer doesn’t need to be long-winded. Six words can be as effective, or more so, than one thousand.
  • Young people speak of the future because they have no past. Old people speak of the past because they have no future.
  • Take care of your body.
  • Do not immerse yourself so much in the technical that you fail to learn the practical.
  • Help others through this time of economic hardship, especially with unemployment issues.
  • Involve the whole family in home evening. The four-year-old can still share a Primary lesson.
  • Don’t do Church work on your employer’s time.
  • Elder Uchtdorf pokes fun at his own propensity to tell aviation stories.
  • A malfunctioning light bulb led to the crash of a plane.
  • The tendency to focus on the insignificant instead of the profound ends in tragedy.
  • Don’t text while driving!
  • Our weakness is failing to align our actions with our conscience.
  • We’re at spiritual war! Let us be not just spiritual soldiers, but spiritual medics as well.
  • Prophetic counsel: take notes!
  • Be always ready to give a reason for the hope within you.
  • Three not-new suggestions for safety:
  1. Study diligently
  2. Pray fervently
  3. Live righteously
  • Prayer is the passport to peace.
  • Don’t eat egg salad sandwiches after leaving them out in the sun.
  • Answer the call to serve, even if it’s just giving a blessing to a drummer with food poisoning.
  • Live worthy every minute.
  • Get on with life! Adapt to change!
  • Next time you want to groan, laugh instead! Ha ha ha!
  • The Spirit had to withdraw from Christ on the cross so He could understand the hopeless despair of those who have committed grievous sins.
  • Don’t be an unresponsive onlooker on the road to Golgotha.
  • Perseverance with faith in hard times will lead to peace.
  • If you ever find a mother with four children journeying in bare feet and tattered clothes across a war-torn country, for pete’s sake help her out, lest she be forced to bury all four of her children with a spoon, and later her bare hands in the snow!
  • The future is as bright as your faith.
  • Church members’ willingness to sacrifice comes from faith, church leader instruction, and commitment to covenants.
  • Selfishness and entitlement (the feeling of getting something for nothing because one “deserves” it) are behind the global economic meltdown.
  • Going to church is better if you’re active, not passive, while there.
  • Regular temple-going is the way to truly take Christ’s name upon us.
  • You’re never lost when you can see the temple.
  • Make your home as holy as the temple.
  • Our Father will respect our freedom to shoes, er, choose.
  • GPS systems are awesome, except when they lose the satellite signal in underground parking garages.
  • Our personal GPS (conscience) will lose its connection with the divine if buried under the concrete parking garage of sin.
  • When you lose sight of the camp, let the old experienced horse lead the way.
  • Analogy: full-time missionaries = search and rescue team. Members = shepherds. Who has a better chance of bringing in the sheep?
  • Share your musical talents with others! That means go to choir, kid!
  • Word of caution: careful on the Internet! There’s a whole lotta crap on there! Avoid it at all costs, especially the porn!
  • Remember President Monson and all general authorities in your prayers!

And perhaps most importantly:

  • If you’re staying at your parents’ house from Saturday night to Sunday morning, make sure you’ve set your clock for Daylight Savings Time back in your childhood bedroom, lest you believe it’s 9:30 when you go upstairs, only to find out that conference has been going for a full half hour. I heard Pres. Uchtdorf’s talk had to do with Palm Sunday, but that’s about all I got.

This was the first April conference since I moved down to Provo where I haven’t been in the choir at one session. While that means I got to hear the whole thing instead of being stuck on a bus for most of a session, it was still kind of sad. I guess I can’t be there all the time, though, not unless I join the Tab choir. Maybe I’ll do that someday. I’ll be right up there with Mark Pearce and Brad Omer! On a related choir note, the Saturday Afternoon choir was a combined Institute choir from Salt Lake County, and it was conducted by a guy in my home stake, who was in charge of the tenors when we put on From Cumorah’s Hill when I was in seventh grade (and was a tenor). Kind of random.

In any case, enjoy the conference proceedings, and remember to consider the lilies in the field. How they grow? How they grow.

Conference in a nutshell – version 4

Note: I spent most of this conference being sick, and as such only took notes during the first Saturday Morning Session. When the Ensign comes out I will read through the talks and make some more notes, probably posting them here too, but for now, enjoy the few notes I did take!

  • My old mission president gave the opening prayer!
  • New temples: Calgary, Alberta; Cordoba, Argentina; Kansas City. MO; Philadelphia, PA; Rome, Italy
  • Simplify your life!
  • Casual dress invites casual attitudes. Fashion-conscious mockers are at least partly responsible for driving people away from the Tree of Life.
  • Do missionary work! It’s the way to bring people to Christ, which means blessings for all!
  • Fear and faith cannot coexist. The gospel gives us no reason to be afraid, but to believe.
  • We repeat the same spiritual steps over and over again to receive more light and quell our doubts. In this way our faith becomes simple, and pure.
  • Jesus makes everything right again. That may sound naive, but it’s still true.
  • The Book of Mormon is a spiritual banquet. To ignore it would be like receiving a letter from a far-away parent, but not opening the envelope.
  • Sacrament meeting a time for worship, and to focus on the Savior. Not texting!
  • Hope sustains us during trials. Don’t lose it, lest you be lost!
  • If you ever head for Cedar City and end up in Nevada, laugh! Bwah ha ha!
  • Even when life is hard, it’s still funny! Look for the hilarity!
  • Come what may, and love it!
  • Angels will be sent forth to warn and comfort, as long as men have faith.
  • The gospel is simple and easy to understand. Look not beyond the mark.
  • Zion = pure in heart, united together

And the mantra I will most remember:

  • Find joy in the journey.

See y’all soon, and hopefully I will have some thoughts on the rest of conference!

Conference in a nutshell – version 3

Me at the LDS Conference Center

(Note: this doesn’t include notes from most of the Saturday Morning Session, since at the time I was in a bus with a radio that didn’t work.)

Yet again, lessons from the LDS General Conference, this one from Apr. 2008, which was the first conference presided over by President Thomas S. Monson:

  • New first presidency: Thomas S. Monson, Henry B. Eyring, and Dieter F. Uchtdorf
  • New apostle: D. Todd Christofferson
  • Be grateful for being a member
  • Keep the commandments. . .better!
  • Sustain leaders and Church through service
  • Retention, retention, retention!
  • Every member a missionary! Still applies!
  • Don’t give up on wayward children. God doesn’t.
  • Testimony not a sermon, travelogue, or “thankamony,” but expression of gospel truths personally known
  • Three different kinds of knowledge: scientific (It’s cold outside), personal & subjective (I love my wife), and spiritual (God is my Father)
  • Natural man can’t know anything obtained by method three above
  • Testimony not scientific, but can be as sure as any scientific fact
  • Get a testimony by:
  1. Wanting to know
  2. Earnest prayer (and possibly fasting)
  3. Bearing the testimony you have
  4. Taking the sacrament
  • Clarify the restored gospel and Mormonism wherever it is misrepresented, but in mildness and meekness
  • Sustaining is not a vote, but a personal commitment
  • God the Father commands us to hear His Beloved Son
  • Open your hearts to the Holy Spirit
  • Christ can’t help us if we don’t trust and serve Him.
  • The First Presidency is a quorum of three presidents, not a president and two vice-presidents
  • Seek help, both from temporal and divine sources, in abuse cases (on both sides, abuser and abused)
  • Eternal life is like a nice cake. To make a great cake, you’ve got to get all the right ingredients and mix ’em just right.
  • You can’t embrace the gospel or the Church without embracing Christ
  • Follow the prophet, especially in small things.
  • Love all the prophets equally
  • President Monson was prepared to be the prophet
  • There was a lot of Church response to natural disasters in 2007
  • Also a lot of humanitarian aid. . .and donuts!
  • Do you know who you are?
  1. A son of God
  2. A subject of the plan of happiness
  3. A member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
  • Act like it!
  • Deacons have divine potential, even if it’s not readily apparent
  • President Dieter F. Uchtdorf was almost as surprised as his wife when he was called to be the Second Counselor in the First Presidency
  • The difference between happiness and misery is often an error of only a few degrees
  • Don’t fly into mountains!
  • Do not delay a course correction. The longer you wait, the more you have to correct.
  • Be anxiously engaged! Be proactive!
  • Your best friend is the Creator of the universe!
  • Get confident!
  • Rise to acquire the blessings of the Oath & Covenant of the priesthood
  • This brings eternal life! To not claim it would be tragic!
  • The fact that God has offered the Oath & Covenant to you shows that He has some trust in you
  • Faith in the Oath & Covenant gave the impetus for priesthood holders to serve in humanitarian efforts after a certain recent hurricane
  • Study the word of God for yourself, but also to be an emissary
  • Priesthood holders can Make a Difference, if their hands are clean and hearts are pure
  • We are surrounded by diversions and temptations. Always be qualified to exercise your priesthood.
  • The face of sin today often wears a Halloween mask of tolerance. Behind that mask is sorrow.
  • Make a stand for right, even if you stand alone.
  • Be kind and loving to your family.
  • Always be honest!!
  • Be an example and influence for good, whate’er your calling or lot in life
  • Wiggle your ears to the kid on the front row!
  • Never do anything you don’t want your children to emulate.
  • Cast off your old life! Begin a life of faith, joy, and hope!
  • President Monson climbs stairs even after foot surgery to visit a sick member of the Church.
  • He knows how to focus on the one.
  • What is the faith of our fathers? Is it simply the religious beliefs of our parents? Or could it be the faith of the Fathers (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob)?
  • Or is it the plan and faith of our Heavenly Father?
  • True religion shouldn’t come from what pleases men or ancestors, but what pleases God.
  • The Seventy are integral in the establishment of the Kingdom of God
  • Hearts are changed through faith on Christ’s name
  • Man must be born again, and endure to the end
  • Being born again is usually a process. But that doesn’t mean you should be casual about it.
  • Obedience brings happiness.
  • Paying tithing brings happiness.
  • Paying tithing makes prayer easier
  • Delight in the things of the Lord! Yay!
  • Delight in the Savior! The Restored Gospel! The strength of youth (not just the pamphlet)! The fact that you are a child of God! Families!
  • Women’s desire to nurture is their nature! A divine responsibility!
  • Men need to nurture too.
  • Apostles essential to church. Pres. Packer outlines their purpose, influence, and responsibility.
  • Apostles are ordinary people with priesthood keys
  • Most important criterion for apostleship is a witness of the truth.
  • The canon of scripture is not closed!
  • Effective prayer requires action!
  • Don’t lower your standards to fit in. It’s not worth it!
  • You will die. Don’t procrastinate the day of your repentance!
  • Mother do way more than you could ever imagine!
  • Don’t let Daddy touch the microwave!

As you can see by the picture, I had the opportunity to sing at the Saturday Afternoon Session in the BYU Combined Choirs choir. I don’t have much else to say now, except that dating bites. Au revoir!

Now playing: No One is Alone – Stephen Sondheim
via FoxyTunes

Conference in a nutshell – version 2

LDS Conference Center

Here are some things learned from the Oct. 2007 LDS general conference:

  • New 2nd counselor in the 1st Presidency – Henry B. Eyring
  • New apostle – Quentin L. Cook
  • Church has a lay clergy to confound the learned and manifest the power of God.
  • A strong, simple testimony and a willingness to serve is all that’s needed in any calling, whether it be a Sunday School instructor or a member of the First Presidency.
  • General authorities not “holier than thou” either in their own eyes or especially in the eyes of the Lord.
  • Ward members have the responsibility and the privilege to serve those in the ward in need, especially in emergencies. What happens to one happens to all.
  • Young men and women also have a responsibility and privilege to increase the spiritual strength of their families, whether they be an ideal family or the most troubled one.
  • If our parents were not good examples of spirituality, it is up to us to break the cycle. Our family, both present and future, depends on it!
  • This is the only church with the power of the priesthood to bless families.
  • The Lord fulfills his promises only according to the faith of the recipients. Have patience, too!
  • The gospel will lift you up in the direst of circumstances, even in a war-torn WWII Germany.
  • Enduring to the End is an active principle! It brings joy, in fact!
  • Death is not a tragedy, but simply a “see you later,” thanks to Christ.
  • Talk to those interested in the Church about facts, faith, families, and fruits of the restored gospel.
  • Without charity, the gospel, the priesthood, and faith availeth us nothing.
  • A broken heart and a contrite spirit allow the Lord to shape us
  • Preach My Gospel ain’t just for missionaries!
  • Serve everyone, even the scruffiest of them all. (Matt. 25:40)
  • The Nicene Creed is not what we believe, but that doesn’t make us not Christians.
  • The Bible and Book of Mormon are witnesses of each other, establishing the gospel.
  • Raising the bar involves a degree of risk, but it’s the only way to improve
  • On your mission, as in the high-jump, there is a minimum bar height to qualify. But don’t just qualify, but do well!
  • Learn social skills for a mission. The worlds’s so filled with electronic communication, but that won’t help a missionary.
  • Premies, get a job that involves contact with other people.
  • Don’t procrastinate, especially in spiritual matters!
  • You’re either growing or shrinking spiritually. If you’re not growing, you’re shrinking.
  • Being compelled = receiving no reward
  • Procrastination leads to loss of exaltation
  • Easy Street is a dead end. (At least in Hawaii!)
  • Pornography is like a fish-trap: easy to enter, tough to get out of. Don’t take the bait!
  • Pornography ebbs away self-respect.
  • If something in a movie isn’t “too bad,” it probably isn’t “too good” either.
  • The Church and priesthood organizations were swift to respond to an earthquake in Peru.
  • Priesthood leaders = leaders in service
  • We must be prepared for life’s earthquakes before they shake us up
  • Depart from all bad influences, even if the influence is your brother.
    • Note: My brother is not a bad influence! It was an example used in the talk!
  • Others may seem more able or prepared to serve the Lord. But remember these things:
  1. Remember that the Lord has previously helped you through tough times
  2. Forget yourself and your inadequacies. Pray about those whom you serve.
  3. Go to work! You have the powere to bless others, so go out and use it, galdernit!
  • Your calling is not easy! It sure wasn’t for the Savior, and it’s not for his disciples either.
  • Always seek the Spirit.
  • Watch your eyes! No lingering!
  • Watch what you say! Vulgarity is just as offensive to the Spirit as immodesty, and just as common too, if not more.
  • If you can’t control other people’s bad influence in your life, pray about what to do. If He doesn’t take care of it, He will at least make it bearable.
  • The marks of a true priesthood holder are:
  1. The Mark of Vision
    • We are the product of our choices. Pay heed to past, present, and future.
  2. The Mark of Effort
    • Don’t say you’ll make the effort, just make the effort.
    • Work! Work! It’s the way to do it!
  3. The Mark of Faith and Virtue
    • Have faith in the Lord, and have faith in His faith in you. Or, in other words, have faith in the Lord’s faith in your faith in Him.
    • Sin is preceded by thought.
  4. The Mark of Prayer
    • Pray always!
  • Redheads are awesome!
  • School your feelings. Don’t act on instinct.
  • Laughter can defuse anger
  • Divorce almost always has roots in anger. Pres. & Sis. Hinckley never had a quarrel.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff. No grudges! They suck!
  • If you have a fight in your marriage, take a walk. (Tell your wife this’ll be your policy before you’re in the heat of the moment.)
  • If you control yourself, wonderful peace is the result.
  • Keep a journal and record the works of the Lord in your own life.
  • Don’t forget God!
  • Tell your family you love them.
  • Mother are pretty cool.
  • The goal of the gospel is not just redemption from sin, but to effect a change of heart to not desire to sin.
  • The restoration happened! It’s real!
  • Revelation is essential for the gospel to work
  • Testimony is gained through personal revelation, which comes through prayer and study
  • Revelation comes on the Lord’s timetable
  • Don’t seek signs, but do seek the best gifts.
  • How can truth be found in today’s media barrage?
  1. Scientific method
    • Very valuable, but can’t be absolute. Also, not infallible.
  2. Ask the source of all truth
    • Have faith, and keep the commandments to get an answer.
  • Remember the properties of ten video
  • Don’t give in to donuts!
  • Exercise of faith builds character, which increases your capacity for greater faith
  • Horses don’t like eating dirt!
  • Elders don’t like hearing crap lessons!
  • It is possible to feed without nourishing. Teach essential doctrines! Don’t teach about the physical whereabouts of Zarahemla!
  • Preach by the Spirit.
  • Use cute kids to get less-actives to church
  • Remember Felipe & Isabel. The Plan of Salvation brings peace to those who’ve lost loved ones.
  • Put off the natural man!
  • Keep on keepin’ on. Pres. Hinckley’s still going strong at 96 or so; certainly you, as a twentysomething, can do pretty well.
  • The only important witness in the gospel. . .is you.
  • Truth is not dependent on the number of people who believe it.
  • Know it’s true! Know you know it’s true!
    • This comes through prayer and fasting, and study.
    • Also comes through testimony building, especially to your kids.
    • Pray to not lose your faith and/or witness!
  • Moms ‘r still cool.
  • SERRRVE! When needed, not convenient!
  • Don’t say, “Call me if you need anything,” but do things! Take out the trash, make gazpacho, whatever!
  • Service is the rent we pay for mortality.
  • Prioritize your good acts (Mary & Martha)
  • Don’t choose good if you can choose better or best.
  • Good books, entertainment, recreation, occupations, etc. can still take up too much time.
  • Spend one-on-one time with your kids! Teach values in these times.
  • Don’t over-schedule yourself or your kids. Eat dinner together.
  • Simplify! KISS!
  • Magnify your calling != complicate it
  • Measure of success = individuals improving under your leadership. Not # of meetings or activities.
  • Some young people are amusing themselves to (spiritual) death.
  • Always aim to improve lives.
  • Drive safely, everyone!
  • When you have a family, help them take notes during Conference so they actually get something out of it.

I love you all!

Now playing: Joy to the World – Kurt Bestor – An Airu Christmas II
via FoxyTunes

Conference in a nutshell

Pres. Hinckley

Here’s a quick rundown of things that I learned, old and new, during the LDS General Conference this past weekend:

  1. Pray! Always!
  2. Sing hymns, and listen to prelude music.
  3. Make a commitment now not to sin later.
  4. Speak kind words to each other (and to yourself). And don’t call kids fat, even jokingly.
  5. Immerse yourself in the gospel to become born again, just like a cucumber turns into a pickle.
  6. Christ is divine, and death merely a doorway.
  7. The tabernacle is great!
  8. Brigham Young and Gordon B.Hinckley are great!
  9. Historic things happened at the tabernacle.
  10. Have an attitude of gratitude.
  11. Remembrance in the scriptures implies action.
  12. Don’t drop footballs. Keep your eye on the goal!
  13. Do what is right, no matter the consequences.
  14. The wise man obeys God.
  15. Twenties = decade of decision
  16. Making no decision is as bad as making the wrong decision!
  17. Selective obedience will crash you into the ocean.
  18. Be there!!!
  19. Get used to study! Prepare now, foo!
  20. Unencumber your life, so you can put God first.
  21. Store food, dude.
  22. The devil can’t make you do jack.
  23. Wife, family, and home are most important!
  24. Get tech ed! Choose an honorable vocation!
  25. Greatness is not only reserved for the old.
  26. Priesthood: a responsibility, and a gateway to blessings.
  27. President Monson goes off the prompter sometimes!
  28. In the face of temptation, remember that you carry the priesthood everywhere you go.
  29. Always be prepared to give a blessing!
  30. Keep the well filled!
  31. We are in the prologue to a great future, so let’s work!
  32. Be clean! That’s how you be a man!
  33. Be clean in language, though, body, dress, and even on the computer.
  34. The Amish are a strong, God-fearing, forgiving people. Don’t hurt kids! Forgive!
  35. Divorce aggravates conflicts, and is most often a sign of selfishness. Think of the children! Get counseling instead!
  36. Divorce was only permissible under the higher law in cases of adultery.
  37. To marry well, date well! Have a careful courtship!
  38. Marry someone committed to strive for perfection, and be that person as well.
  39. The gospel’s true, isn’t it? Then what else matters?
  40. Excuses impede our progress.
  41. The strength of the children begins with the parents.
  42. Read the scriptures!
  43. Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.
  44. You can never forget spiritual witnesses.
  45. The Bible is awesome! It has inspired countless people over the centuries, and is the base of our scripture. Read it!
  46. God is our Father. Christ lives. His atonement is the keystone of our existence. The priesthood has been restored.
  47. Families are forever, thanks to the temple.
  48. The fulness of the gospel has been restored!
  49. Priesthood = service.
  50. Don’t procrastinate. Someday almost always means never.
  51. Mormon doctrine is a true understanding of Christianity.
  52. Who’s on the Lord’s side, who? Should be you! Make it so!
  53. When faced with temptation, hum a hymn!
  54. Tithing provides solutions to temporal problems.
  55. Fasting and prayer unleashes greater blessings.
  56. Contrary to what Satan tries to make us believe, there is no point of no return when it comes to sin.
  57. The noblest soul is the forgiving soul. That also includes forgiving yourself.
  58. Become converted!
  59. Let this conference inspire us all to be a little better.
  60. Drive safely!

But perhaps the most important lesson I learned at conference:

61. Don’t wear a lighter-colored suit when you sing in the choir during priesthood session, because everybody you know will be able to pick you out.

It’s funny. During the last song of priesthood session, all I could think of was that this was the only contact I’ve had with those people from my mission that I hold most dear, and I said a silent prayer that they’d recognize and remember me. So, to the Sanchez and Nadal families, I still love you both. God bless you. Que Dios os bendiga.


Los Sanchez (& various missionaries)


Los Nadal