By Kathryn Skaggs
I don’t recall ever feeling to cherish a General Conference more than this latest one, because this one caused an epiphany beyond former realizations as to the dire necessity of our need to have prophets upon the earth; that they should speak and we must act.
That they did their part was glorious to me and tremendously faith reaffirming; giving me such a renewal of strength which, although I knew I was in need of going into conference, as we all generally feel, but when the injection came, it overwhelmed me in such a way that the strength of its force took me off guard; in that only after the fact did I realized just how deficient I had become; yet amazed that in discovering myself in such a weakened stated, even so I had miraculously, and unbeknownst, been sustained by His strong and mighty Hands; a humbling revelation.
Breaking away from past conference reporting…
Rather, as the dust of last weekend’s excitement has settled down a bit, I am grateful to now sit back and reflect on the importance of what was taught by living prophets during the April 2013 General Conference, and how that will affect my life, in personal application — because for me, it was a profound and extremely meaningful moment in time, as a member of the LDS Church — and specifically, as a Mormon woman.
The knock-it-out-of-the-park Sunday morning session!
I think the best way to express my feelings in regard to my overall response to conference, is to share with you my reaction, which, following the Sunday morning session (which is where I’ll pick up since I did already write about Saturday), it would not be an exaggeration to say, I was on fire; and in every way, spiritually, possible!
I was filled with the fire of testimony, the fire of faith rekindled, and the fire of enthusiasm for having heard prophets boldly stand up and proclaim truth, in the face of what has been months of enduring relentless advocacy in opposition to their prophetic counsel and teachings, by many, and sadly even some active members, who believe them to be out and out wrong; publicly saying so; as hard as that is to believe.
But let me just say, that I sincerely feel, that everything said and done throughout the entire conference was conveyed as a manifestation of God’s love for His children, with a spirit of true charity, which I believe would have been felt by all within the sound of their voices.
With that said, I also feel that there were clear doctrines and principles taught, intended to stir individual hearts’ in hopes of seeing less of some of the problems that the Church has been dealing with over these last few months, in regard to perhaps those who have been advocating outside of the Church for ordination to priesthood, or even member support of gay marriage, or even perhaps some of the gender equality campaigns we have seen. And, of course this is simply my own personal opinion, or speculation, of how I see things, from my perspective.
|Taken on morning walk to Conference Center…|
For each of us, as it should be, General Conference is intended to be a personal, revelatory experience. And that experience, for me, began on Friday, as I shared with you in my last conference report, and peaked during the Sunday morning session while leading up to hearing from the man we sustain as President of the Church, Thomas S. Monson; who is also considered to members of the Mormon faith, to be a prophet, seer and revelator.
Social media report
I know that for some who have tried to use social media to share General Conference online, they feel it a distraction. My experience, however, is the complete opposite. I am intensely absorbed when needing to use my sense of hearing so acutely, in order to transcribe the words of prophets then out onto the Internet — therefore deeply having their words impressed into my mind and heart while hearing them; while simultaneously, oftentimes typing them out at the same time.
Other times, I have previously transcribed them (only moments ahead), and then must carefully listen for when those words are physically spoken; so that I can then send them out at the exact right time. It is an interesting phenomenon, as they are not living words until they are both spiritually and physically spoken by the person/prophet who created them.
Therefore, when the words are actually then spoken, by a prophet/prophetess, the power of those words comes forth in their full power and witness to the world, and together, those listening, all experience that moment in time, regardless of where we are, or how that transmission comes to us; radio, satellite, living room, church building, tweet, Facebook, behind a computer screen, etc., — as one.
And what happened to me, on Sunday, was overwhelming and unexpected, as the power in those words literally transmitted themselves into my ears, mind and heart simultaneously, then out through my fingertips into the ether and onto whatever social networking platform — where eyes, minds and hearts were prepared at that particular second in time, to then receive.
That moment, where the world stops: I am SO thankful for Prophets’ of God!
Meanwhile, my spirit being testified to of the living reality of what had just been spoken … it being literally the words of God, bearing witness to the reality that these are His living Prophets’, proclaiming His truth, with Power and Authority — asking His people to willingly obey!
I was reminded, that this is not a gospel of coercion. This is a plan built upon the principle of agency, which God honors, deeply. And yet he sends forth His prophets to proclaim His truths to those who profess His Name and lovingly lays before us the desires of His heart that we might show Him our love, through counsel and commandments that He gives to us.
But He will not force us, or withhold; at least not now, the blessings of membership in His earthly kingdom… where He will continue to nurture us as babes, in hopes that we will ultimately come unto Him and follow Him… And so, as long as there are people willing to obey, the Lord will continue to send forth His prophets to proclaim truth.
On Sunday morning, I felt as thought we had been given a double-play that knocked it out of he park, so to speak, in Elder L. Tom Perry and President Thomas S. Monson’s talks placed back-to-back, that for me, coupled together, almost as if second-witnesses of each other — almost as if the two of them had gotten together and planned it that way.
A Tale of Two Prophets
In fact, I can almost picture such a meeting in my mind’s eye; kind of like the match story; but not quite as mischievous. No. This would have been much more serious minded, knowing that truth needed to be proclaimed, because the children of God needed to hear a clear message from their prophets; else WHY have prophets to Proclaim TRUTH? And by golly they too were asking the question about their own purpose in proclaiming God’s word and wondering what’s the point? IF NOT a People Willing to OBEY? This all made sense to them, so they made a plan and prepared their bold sermons to go forth throughout the land — and put this system to the test; because frankly, things were starting to get out of hand in Mormon-ville… with this member and that member walking in his or her own way; some disregarding completely what prophets of late had clearly counseled…
Well, I have no clue how these talks came about, but for me the order in which they came seemed inspired and from my perspective it was, and I seriously doubt any conspiring was necessary, as I believe the Lord directs the affairs of the Church and inspires each of His prophets as to what is needful that they should speak in these conferences; making it even more of a witness to me of it being a divine message in how it came forth.
Here are some of the truths, that I was so deeply grateful to hear proclaimed, and with such power. I’m going to share excepts, beginning with Elder Perry’s sermon, titled: Obedience to Law is Liberty but along with that I’m going to include what issue, that for me personally, it helped to clarify, or address.
Mainstream Society and the more liberal element even among those within the Church:
“Today we find ourselves in another war. This is not a war of armaments. It is a war of thoughts, words, and deeds. It is a war with sin, and more than ever we need to be reminded of the commandments. Secularism is becoming the norm, and many of its beliefs and practices are in direct conflict with those that were instituted by the Lord Himself for the benefit of His children.”
For me, this addresses the issue of same-sex marriage very clearly; that there is no room to support or advocate for it. It’s not going to happen — ever. It is clearly oppositional to what prophets of the Lord are teaching. Elder Bednar also taught powerful doctrine along these lines as well. In my opinion it is time to get off the fence on this matter. I don’t know how much more direct our prophets are required to teach on this matter.
“The doctrine of the family and the home was recently reiterated with great clarity and forcefulness in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” It declared the eternal nature of families and then explained the connection to temple worship. The proclamation also declared the law upon which the eternal happiness of families is predicated, namely, “The sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.”
God reveals to His prophets that there are moral absolutes. Sin will always be sin. Disobedience to the Lord’s commandments will always deprive us of His blessings. The world changes constantly and dramatically, but God, His commandments, and promised blessings do not change. They are immutable and unchanging. Men and women receive their agency as a gift from God, but their liberty and, in turn, their eternal happiness come from obedience to His laws. As Alma counseled his errant son Corianton, “Wickedness never was happiness” (Alma 41:10).”
By this point in Elder Perry’s stirring declaration, I was moved by his bold pronouncements and in his willingness to just lay it all on the line, and tell it like it is, already — and then he continued… again, emphasizing with the use of the word, “doctrine” again! And to those who take issue, wondering what is and isn’t doctrine in the Mormon faith, Elder Perry is helping you out here; on this particular matter that some seem to be having a problem with lately.
“Surely there could not be any doctrine more strongly expressed in the scriptures than the Lord’s unchanging commandments and their connection to our happiness and well-being as individuals, as families, and as a society. There are moral absolutes. Disobedience to the Lord’s commandments will always deprive us of His blessings.”
These things do not change.
“In a world where the moral compass of society is faltering, the restored gospel of Jesus Christ never wavers, nor should its stakes and wards, its families, or its individual members. We must not pick and choose which commandments we think are important to keep but acknowledge all of God’s commandments. We must stand firm and steadfast, having perfect confidence in the Lord’s consistency and perfect trust in His promises.
May we ever be a light on the hill, an example in keeping the commandments, which have never changed and will never change.”
That was enough. I was good. I could have folded up shop and been content for another six months. My cup runneth over at this point, as I could hardly see my computer screen. I was literally typing through tears in that dim media room, as I was trying my best to get those last words out into the ether… before President Monson began to speak…
Up at bat…
And suddenly, I realized that something in President Monson’s tone was different…. (Mind you, the room is dark, as the media room is in the back of the Conference Center, and my head is looking down at either the transcript or at my computer screen.) First of all, no joke to begin, but this… an acknowledgement of his prophetic responsibility and privilege to address the children of God.
“I seek an interest in your faith and prayers as I respond to the privilege to address you.
Throughout the ages, men and women have sought for knowledge and understanding concerning this mortal existence and their place and purpose in it, as well as for the way to peace and happiness. Such a search is undertaken by each of us.
This knowledge and understanding are available to all mankind. They are contained in truths which are eternal.”
He then references the scriptures. As only President Monson can, as he has perfected this art of the teacher, after gently telling us that obedience is the higher law, acknowledges the lesser, in preparation of the unfortunate necessity to having to go there; which he does — using himself, as a child, i.e.
There is no need for you or for me, in this enlightened age when the fulness of the gospel has been restored, to sail uncharted seas or to travel unmarked roads in search of truth. A loving Heavenly Father has plotted our course and provided an unfailing guide—even obedience. A knowledge of truth and the answers to our greatest questions come to us as we are obedient to the commandments of God.
We learn obedience throughout our lives. Beginning when we are very young, those responsible for our care set forth guidelines and rules to ensure our safety. Life would be simpler for all of us if we would obey such rules completely. Many of us, however, learn through experience the wisdom of being obedient.
Once President Monson has shared the follies of his youth, he strives to raise us all to a higher level and inspires us on in the beautiful example of Abraham’s obedience to God, although extremely difficult, not understanding at all the reasons why God would ask such a thing of him, nevertheless, Abraham was willing to do what God asked of him, without question, because he loved and trusted God; above all other people, philosophies, norms, etc.
Do we have such faith as this kind of obedience “requires”? The scripture that comes to mind: Whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servant, it is the same… So again, I am brought back to issues such as same-sex marriage, priesthood, gender equality, etc., and any type of advocacy that take place outside of the Church, that cause division within; it simply cannot be in harmony with the Lord’s way. No matter how hard I try to find a charitable place for it, it’s just not there.
“A soul-stirring account of obedience is that of Abraham and Isaac. How painfully difficult it must have been for Abraham, in obedience to God’s command, to take his beloved Isaac into the land of Moriah to offer him as a sacrifice. Can we imagine the heaviness of Abraham’s heart as he journeyed to the appointed place? Surely anguish must have racked his body and tortured his mind as he bound Isaac, laid him on the altar, and took the knife to slay him. With unwavering faith and implicit trust in the Lord, he responded to the Lord’s command. How glorious was the pronouncement, and with what wondered welcome did it come: “Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.”
Abraham had been tried and tested, and for his faithfulness and obedience the Lord gave him this glorious promise: “In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.”
Although we are not asked to prove our obedience in such a dramatic and heart-wrenching way, obedience is required of us as well.”
I love this assurance from our Prophet, even an “entitlement” if we will but give freely our obedience to the Lord:
“Obedience is a hallmark of prophets; it has provided strength and knowledge to them throughout the ages. It is essential for us to realize that we, as well, are entitled to this source of strength and knowledge. It is readily available to each of us today as we obey God’s commandments.”
That is beautiful. And then, our brother and Prophet of God reminds us…
“My brothers and sisters, the great test of this life is obedience. “We will prove them herewith,” said the Lord, “to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.””
All things. Not some things. But we must choose our obedience, willingly. That is the key.
“The knowledge which we seek, the answers for which we yearn, and the strength which we desire today to meet the challenges of a complex and changing world can be ours when we willingly obey the Lord’s commandments. I quote once again the words of the Lord: “He that keepeth [God’s] commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things.”
Thomas S. Monson: Obedience Brings Blessings
I love President Monson’s tender and humble way in which he closes his prophetic sermon. Because how can you teach obedience with coercion? You can’t. Not if you represent the voice of Jesus Christ, and His Father, who beckon us to come follow Him…
And so I leave the thoughts to the title of this post with you, which are the very thoughts that have remained with me since, following that Sunday morning session:
How blessed we are to have prophets to declare these truths during these tumultuous times. May we rise up unto willing obedience and claim the privilege, that it is to have them in our midst! May they never find cause to wonder if we are “…willing to obey?“
“As the Savior instructed His early Apostles, so He instructs you and me, “Follow thou me.”Are we willing to obey?”
Mormon Women and Priesthood
|Source: Daily Beast|
Also of interest: On Sunday afternoon, directly following General Conference, I was interviewed by Newsweek/The Daily Beast reporter, Nini Strochlic, about Mormon women who are advocating outside of the Church, to be ordained to the priesthood; which I recently blogged about here. It was interesting that those outside of the Church find it almost hard to believe that most faithful women in the Church really don’t have equality issues, and are not seeking to be ordained.
Another question I was asked about in the interview, but was not printed, was how I felt about the first woman who prayed in Conference? Again, I said that it was something that I had never noticed before. I did not see this as an equality issue, and that if some women in the Church were happy about it, then I was happy for them. I told her that not one single reader on my Facebook or Google Plus page mentioned it. And I only had on person on Twitter mention it; a guy who tends to like to give me trouble about most things gender related. But not one single Mormon woman out of thousands of you said a word.
Those who are advocating outside of the LDS Church and drawing the attention of the media on a national level and making gender inequality and ordination to the priesthood appear as huge issues in the Church for women, are attempting to create an issue to something much larger than it actually is are creating a false illusion — and that’s simply a fact.
Here is the link to the article if you’d like to read it: Mormon Women Face Off Over Right to Priesthood
It was of great comfort going into to this interview, which lasted about 30 minutes, armed with the strength that came from a wonderful, Spirit-filled weekend of General Conference. I felt the power of prophets with me, sustained by truth and righteousness, which allowed me to speak with confidence about those things that I know to be right and true.
I genuinely enjoyed speaking with Nina, and found her to be a lovely person, who seemed sincerely interested in understanding this issue from both perspectives and getting her story right. At the conclusion of our interview, I felt a very positive spirit; and we exchanged a few email messages.
Meme: Doug Knuth
General Conference Photos: Mormon Newsroom
Thomas S. Monson
L. Tom Perry
Temple Photo: Kathryn Skaggs