General Conference: Priesthood session

186th Annual General Conference:

Choir: Logan Utah Institute choir

President Uchtdorf conducts
Pres. Monson presides

Hymn: “In Hymns of Praise.”

Choir: “I stand All Amazed.”

Elder Nelson

Divine role as men of God. Talks about a family with three children with congenital heart disease. One son died. He also tried to save the other two, who were sisters. (Elder Nelson was a heart surgeon). Both girls died following operations. The parents were spiritually shattered. They had lingering resentment toward Elder Nelson and the Church. Has been haunted by the situation for almost six decades. He tried to contact them, no success. Last May he was awakened by the two little girls. Felt their presence. Their message was brief and clear: “Brother Nelson, we are not sealed to anyone, can you help us?” Their mother had passed away, father and a younger brother still alive.

Tried to contact the father, living with the son Shawn. Willing to meet. In June, I knelt in front of Jimmy, now 88 years old. I spoke of his daughters’ pleadings, and would help with the sealings. The father and son were not endowed, each accepted the offer to become ready to go to the temple. Elder Nelson was overjoyed. The Spirit of the Lord was palpable throughout that meeting. They worked diligently with local leaders. In Payson, Utah temple, had the profound privilege to seal the husband and wife and four children. Many hearts were healed that day. Father and son had become heroes to him. They had courage, strength and humility, let go of old hurts and habits, willing to submit to guidance from priesthood leaders.

Bear the priesthood. Very same power and authority through which God created the heavens and the Earth.

Some people have the priesthood but not the priesthood power. Need to access the powers of heaven. Sin and misdeeds can decrease the power of the priesthood. Too many have surrendered their agency to the adversary. Some people wanted power over others, power at work, rather than the power of God.

Why settle for Esau’s pottage when can have all of the blessings of Abraham? Live up to privileges as bearers of the priesthood. Only those who stake the priesthood seriously will be able to bring miracles to those he loves, and keep his marriage and family safe.

Qualities we should seek: faith, etc. Don’t forget humility. How would our family members, co-workers say you and I are doing in developing our gifts of the priesthood?

We need to pray for priesthood power. We need to commune with God. Pray to know how to get more priesthood power. If you want to see your wife’s heart melt, let her find you studying the doctrine of Christ. Are you willing to go to the temple regularly? Ask Him to teach you about priesthood keys and authority and power.

Pres. Monson has used the priesthood power to help others. If you truly want priesthood power, you will cherish your wife, embracing both her and her counsel.

Please consider how different our relationships would be if we had priesthood power top of mind. Lord will show us how to increase access to His power. Priesthood power can heal the fractures in the hearts of those we love. Are we willing to study and pray so we can have that priesthood power.

Think of the father and brother who were willing to get ready to go to the temple to be sealed to their family.

Stephen W. Owen, Young Men General President

12 years old, went hunting. Dad carrying a flashlight in darkness, if he followed his dad, everything would be OK. Windy Ridge, best place to go hunting. Went with dad 20 years later. The view at the top of the ride was exhilarating. Have led many other YM to mountaintops.

Leadership. Greatest leader was Christ. He has all of the leadership quality. Also the greatest follower. Greatest leader because he is the greatest follower.

World teaches leaders must be mighty, wealthy, powerful, Christ teaches gentleness, meekness. In God’s eyes, the greatest leaders have always been the greatest followers.

Young men’s deacons quorum. Showed great signs of leadership. Adults also helped the deacons. Saw the deacons not as they are, but what they can become. Emphasize the leadership qualities. The Lord sees you for your qualities, not your shortcomings. You are always a leader and are always a follower.

Leadership abilities come for your commitment to follow Christ. Become a greater follower of righteousness.

18-year-old in NZ gave a blessing to his mother. He wept like a baby. He felt the Spirit so much that he never wanted to sin again. A seemingly ordinary young man can accomplish great things because he is following Christ.

Invite all to come unto Christ. We must lead the people we love to those same blessings. We must love everyone.

Congregation and choir: “Come, O Thou King of Kings.”

President Uchtdorf

At Frankfurt, Germany temple, saw an older couple holding hands. The sweetness of the love these two people shared for one another. So many societies around the world, everything appears to be disposable. Throw it out and replace with an upgrade. We even do this with relationships.

When it comes to things of eternal importance, our marriages, our families, replacing things is a mistake. The Church values marriage. People in the Church are known throughout the world for these great marriages. They are meant to be eternal. Families are the order of heaven, an echo of celestial pattern, God’s family.

Strong relationships need constant, intentional work. Must inspire us to dedicate best efforts to save and enrich our families. I want to praise those who save.

Divorce sometimes happens. People stop thinking of the other’s happiness and start noticing the little faults. Some are enticed by the conclusion that there is something wrong with their spouse. Start looking elsewhere. If you are like this, you are on a road that leads the wrong way. Turn around and come back to the safe path to integrity and loyalty to covenants. Same principles apply to dear sisters.

Single brethren: don’t try to find the perfect woman. If there were a perfect woman, do you really think she would be that interested in you? (big laugh from the audience).

Pursuit takes time, patience and the blessings of Jesus. It requires charity to find the right person. Great marriages are built brick by brick over a lifetime. Keep adding pebbles of kindness. Happy marriages are meant to last forever.

Divorce rarely happens when the husband and wife are happy, so be happy. Brethren, astonish your wife by doing things that make her happy. Lincoln: “Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” “Seek and ye shall find.” If you look for imperfections, you will find them, but if you look for the good you will find it. Pull out the weeds and water the flowers.

Also, try to save relationships with families. Every family needs saving. There are no perfect families. Every family has moments of awkwardness, like when your parents ask you to take a selfie of them. Or when somebody discusses politics.

Counsel with spouse and family. Listen to the promptings of the Holy Ghost. There is one thing that is right in every case. The secret to happiness from the BoM: happiest people. How did they do it? Because of the love of God that dwelt in the hearts of the people.

The beginning and end is charity, the pure love of Christ. Charity never faileth, and the enemy of charity is pride. Pride is the defining characteristic of Satan. Pride is not part of our spiritual heritage and has no place among holders of the priesthood of God.

The way you treat your family may influence generations to come. Do you want harshness, fear or isolation, or one of love, humility, spiritual growth or unity? Set aside pride, be merciful. Is being right more important than healing and love? Build bridges, don’t destroy them. Let love conquer pride.

President Eyring

182 years ago, all of the priesthood were called to meet in small school house. Joseph Smith said: “you don’t comprehend the destiny of this Church. This church will fill north and south America, it will fill the world.”

Describe that future. Here is what we must do to be part of that plan of happiness.

Before born, plan. Purpose to live with HF. Life of mortality in which we would be tested. Through atonement, we would have eternal life. Be changed to become members of perfected family units.

Everything we do should have celestial marriage as its focus. Be sealed, bind to your family. Our priesthood obligation is to put our family at the center of our concern.

Deacon: the deacon can rush to take part in family prayer, scripture reading, ask his father for a blessing. The desires of his heart will bring the powers of heaven.

Teachers: In HT, can help the Lord change the lives of a family.

Priest: Preach, teach, expound, exhort, baptize, visit the house of each member, ask them to pray vocally and in secret.

The only exhortation that changes hearts is from the holy ghost. That happens when we bear testimony.

Young Elder: Pray that can find families on a mission. One of his sons on his mission to Chile found a widow and her eight children. The family was baptized and then this affected grandchildren and rest of family.

Then: marriage. Make it a priority early. When considering marriage, he will choose the parent of his children. Share ideals, conviction. As parents, be clean and pure.

Husbands and fathers: make changes to live in celestial kingdom some day. Look forward to that day. Sacrament meetings, HG, pray with wife and family. Prepare to take family to temple. Love thy wife with all thy heart, don’t commit adultery. Youth: obey your parents in all things, honor they father and mother.

HPGL: temple. Rescuing those who came before. Don’t forget family waiting in the spirit world. The most important work will be the work you do in the walls of your own home. In your home and in priesthood service, small acts are important.

“Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

Help others to qualify for an endless posterity.

President Monson

(Editor: President Monson is looking very thin, but stronger than in last conference).

Much is expected of us.

The rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven. Must guard and protect the priesthood. Remember who you are, and what God expects you to become. You are a child of promise, a man of might, a son of God.

Soldiers on Life rafts: several days, the Holy Spirit spoke to my friend: “you have the priesthood, command the rescuers to pick you up.” The man did it. The vessel then came. A faithful bearer of the priesthood had saved the man and blessed him and others.

You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood. Be worthy of these accolades.

Choir: “Redeemer of Israel.”

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

18 thoughts on “General Conference: Priesthood session

  1. Maybe the feminists are right — maybe we do treat men and women differently — women get better treatment.

    Can you even imagine Pres. Nelson reversing the genders and asking women how other church members judge their performance as church members? It is impossible even to imagine it, but he asked men the question.

    Or, can you imagine Pres. Uchtdorf telling a group of sisters that if the world were filled with perfect men, which one would choose her? Never in a million years would he ask that question of women, but he asked it of men.

    Just an observation — I don’t know what to make of it yet…

  2. Ji, this is something I have noticed. I don’t know if it is compensation for only kind of listening to women institutionally or what (over on some of the feminist blogs, they call it benevolent patriarchy), but church leadership tends to feel quite comfortable criticizing men – but not women. Women are treated as if they are fragile, on pedestals generally. This was especially noticeable a few years ago when single men were repeatedly chastised for not being married, with little mention of single women (I was happily engaged at the time, but was sympathetic to some of my single friends).

    My current bishop is especially bad at this. He’s been a great bishop, and I’ve enjoyed the ward that he has helped create – but he is very free with his criticism of the men as men.

    I’ve also theorized that it is sort of a self-deprecation by proxy – I am a man, and we’re all men, and ha ha, no perfect women would look at us (of course, perhaps, Uchtdorf saying that is an irony – they call him the Silver Fox and all).

    I actually think that the socialization of men in the church is already problematic, with the kind of unencouragement of men going out with friends that I have seen. Elder’s Quorum activities tend to be rare. The Elder’s Quorum of my last ward gave up its budget so that the youth could do more – so we did not do any activities at all. I never really got to know anyone all that well.

    This isn’t a huge burning issue, I don’t think. But I feel as though I have noticed a pattern over time. We don’t treat men and women the same, and there are benefits and detriments to both treatments. Off the top of my head, I’m not sure what all I’d want to change – but the jokes at male expense by church leaders would be on the list.

    Jonathan, I haven’t heard a definitive answer, but I’ve thought of a couple possibilities. The Women’s Session was about 1.5 hours (I think?), perhaps they want them parallel. Or perhaps it was just that President Monson would normally have talked longer but was unable to tonight. I’d be interested to know – it caught me by surprise.

  3. Feminists will naturally say that’s just a sign of sexism. Any problem that affects them is sexist against women. Any problem that affects men is a sign of the same.

    But let’s try to avoid (de)generating (into) a complaining culture even if it scores us rhetorical points.

    There’s one problem with our grievance culture. We’re shifting from being productive doing things to substitute talking about things as a means of production…

  4. Gry,

    I don’t see my post or Joe’s as complaining or trying to score rhetorical points — I see them as honest and thoughtful inquiry.

  5. Yeah, I don’t want this to be about complaining. It’s just something I’ve noticed in my time in the Church. Complaining isn’t helpful, but neither is ignoring things that are happening. And besides, stuff like this is really interesting – why people do the things they do.

    I guess the other reason the issue above concerns me is just that I’ve met quite a few men my age who sincerely believe, as they’ve been taught at various levels of the church, that women are more spiritual and better than men. My wife has told me that this is true of some women she has known as well (either feeding a kind of narcissism, or a guilt complex). This folk doctrine seems a bit dangerous to me, and I don’t think it needs any feeding.

    And I should mention, I really enjoyed this Priesthood Session. I’ll have lots of good stuff in there to go back to. I was kind of disappointed that it ended so early. Not only that, but President Uchtdorf’s talk was fantastic overall. I’ll be studying it for a while (lots of good stuff for marriage and overall life attitude). And Elder Nelson’s. I loved President Eyring’s comments about how deacons and teachers can help (a lot of men could probably use them, too) – I would have loved more discussion of that when I was that age.

  6. Ji and joe: sometimes, maybe often, we have to divorce the style in which a message is delivered from the content of the actual message.

    I think that inspiration more intimately directs the content of the message than the style. The style is often more an artifact of the person delivering the message.

    These messages from the Q12 and FP being critical of the men of the church and encouraging more diligence etc., have been a regular feature of priesthood session for years. When a particular message is delivered repeatedly over the gen conf pulpit, especially from members of the FP, and then backed up by the same message from members of the Q12, and repeated conference after conference… It then dawns on me that the subject must really be that serious. And then I remember the scripture about how the voice of the prophet (especially when united with his counselors and Q12) is the will of the Lord.

    All standard works of scripture give examples where the Lord was critical of prophets and other earthly church leaders, and rank and file members (sometimes collectively, sometimes individually on the members).

    That the Lord, through his prophets and apostles, would sometimes be critical of the rank and file men of the church, follows a pattern laid out in scripture.

    That the criticism is directed more at men than the women may just be an indicator that, collectively, the men are in more critical need of improvement (or more in need of critical improvement) at the present than the women.

    Again, when a message is _repeated_ by more than one Q12+FP speaker at a conference, or is repeated by the FP across multiple conferences, (and especially when both types of repitition are made) we should all perk up and take note. Because when the Lord repeats himself, well… think on what that means.

  7. Oh, repetition is a time-honored teaching practice. It is not the repetition. Or the continuous messages about diligence. Everyone needs reminders about stuff like that.

    And I agree about divorcing the style. In fact, I think it is probably the style I mind most. To choose an example – since you mention several kinds of content – when married men make jokes about how single men must have arrogant opinions of themselves or they would be married (or along these lines), it is more galling, and can distract from the important, eternal message. (This is not a personal thing – I’m married and have been for a while). Maybe I’m wrong and a minority, but I got married in spite of stuff like that. I do see single men get distracted by the style, though.

    I want it to be understood, too: The Lord chastens his people. I get it. I’m not complaining that a church leader told me men in the church weren’t measuring up. I’ve been chastened by the Lord plenty (personally and through priesthood leaders), and I fully expect that to continue.

    I guess I could always be wrong: perhaps you are saying that the idea that women are more spiritual are closer to God is a doctrine of the church? You are right that there is a pattern of criticism of men and not women, if that means that men need the criticism more, maybe that does mean that women are spiritually superior. I’ve heard it taught as doctrine before by stake presidents, although I don’t believe it myself.

    That said, I think it’s more likely that people learn in different ways, and that church leaders feel that criticizing women directly is less productive than criticizing men directly (and feel less comfortable doing so). And some men appreciate that less because the criticism is less productive for them, too. It’s hard to hit every single kind of personality in one Conference talk, so they hit what they figure is the majority and go from there. Something like that. (And that may have been closer to what, too, I guess).

  8. Sorry, at the end there make that “And that may have been closer to what you mean, too, I guess.”

  9. Bookslinger,

    I don’t see my post or Joe’s as complaining or trying to score rhetorical points — I see them as honest and thoughtful inquiry.

    But, to address your point that the criticism of men (and glorification of women) has continued for several years, I wonder if it is needed or productive. I wonder if better results might be obtained by a different approach. Imagine the public outcry (and maybe some even genuine personal hurt) if either of the remarks I pointed out was aimed at the women of the Church, but there is no outcry when men are belittled or embarrassed. I know that was not the goal of Pres. Nelson or Pres. Uchtdorf, and I appreciate their service and teaching. Just an observation on my part on how things are different, and we may be so accustomed than we don’t even notice.

    Elder Christofferson gave a wonderful talk on fathers and fatherhood in the Sunday morning session. And Pres. Uchtdorf gave a wonderful talk on rebuilding that which is shattered. May God bless the men of the Church, and the women, and the children.

  10. JI and Joe and Book, just FYI, in the first year of M* we had a massive post discussing why it is that so many talks from GAs seem to say women are awesome and men are not as awesome. I have been trying to find it without any luck. But if I remember correctly, a lot of people pointed out that there seems to be a bit of a double standard, i.e., that men are told to improve themselves but women are not. I do not have strong feelings about this personally, but a LOT of people out there have noticed this and discussed it.

    The key is to discuss this in a way that also builds up the Church and does not criticize the Brethren. And of course Elder Christofferson’s talk today is important to read so people don’t think the Brethren are all sitting around condemning men.

  11. Joe, I’m just not going to address the issue of whether women are better/more spiritual/more awesome than men.

    I’m reminded of the parable of the workers, those who started early, versus those who started late, but all got paid the same. Each of us should focus on what the Lord is asking us (individually or as a certain group/subset) and not worry or get frustrated because our “group” is being treated by the Lord differently than another group or subset.

    So when we see the Lord, acting through the Brethren, treat men and women differently in GC talks, well, I have to assume the Lord has good reasons for it. Any speculations or extrapolations beyond what is actually said over the pulpit are just conjecture.

    Every man is an individual. So when the GC speakers speak to men in general, every listener has to judge for himself how that talk applies to himself. When the Brethren say “do your home teaching”, the man who isn’t doing it needs to think “Yeah, I need to do that.” And the man who is a 100% home-teacher can say to himself “Got that covered.” (But could also be thinking how he can improve the quality or effectiveness of his visits.)

  12. Ji:
    “But, to address your point that the criticism of men (and glorification of women) has continued for several years, I wonder if it is needed or productive. I wonder if better results might be obtained by a different approach. ”

    (Just for the record I don’t think I said anything about the “glorification of women” part. Just that I concur that I notice men being criticized/encouraged/chastised more.)

    When you say “I wonder if it is needed…” and “I wonder if better results might be… ” that sounds like you’re counseling or second-guessing the Lord and his prophets.

    My point is that GC talks are _inspired_, and are _especially inspired_ when given by the FP+Q12, and are _extra-especially inspired_ and _important_ when the messages of the FP+Q12 are repeated.

    The Brethren don’t say “Thus saith the Lord…” anymore. But, they do give verbal cues and clues when their messages should be understood to have an implied “Thus saith the Lord” attached to them. Repetition of a message by the FP+Q12 is one of the cues/clues. (Another one was where Pres Hinckley said “I urge you in the strongest terms possible…”)

    So when the Brethren give us an effective or virtual “thus saith the Lord”, is it proper or logical to respond with “I wonder if it is needed or productive” ?

    This conference, like most, has already given me many “mea culpa” and “i need to do better, much better” moments.

  13. This has been a good discussion, and I think I have learned something. It has nothing to do with women being awesome and men being otherwise, or any unconscious bias, I think (indeed, I think the men and the women of the Church are awesome!) — rather, I am reminded that there is a long-standing God-given pattern in who speaks to whom, and who hearkens to whom — Pres. Nelson’s and Pres. Uchtdorf’s sermons on Saturday evening, followed by Elder Christofferson’s sermon this morning, work well together. Not only do I have to receive instruction, but I also have to set an example for and teach correct principles to others in my family. Wow!

  14. Geoff – Thanks. Maybe I’ll look that up. And yeah, regardless, there have been multiple great talks this session – Certainly the Brethren are not just sitting around and criticizing men.

    Bookslinger: Pity. I’d have been interested to hear what you or others thinks, since I’ve heard so much about it elsewhere, but never anything really official.

  15. Sorry to be a bit late to the party in this, but it’s a question I’ve repeatedly asked. The old joke goes that on Mother’s Day the speaker talks about how wonderful women are, and on Father’s Day the speaker talks about how wonderful women are, and wouldn’t it be nice if men were better, too.

    I finally got an answer on this, though, from a very wise woman. She said that the purpose of the Church is not to make us feel good, but rather to stir us to repentance. When men hear general criticism, they are more likely to respond with changes when they determine parts of that criticism are appropriate in their individual situations. Ok the other hand, women in general are more likely to respond with changes when they hear how wonderful women are in general and then compare themselves with that standard and find personal deficiencies.

    She put it this way (paraphrased):

    “You know that pain in your gut, that feeling of horror, you get when the speaker is talking about the way some men aren’t measuring up and you know what he is saying applies to you? We women get that same feeling when a speaker says how wonderful women are at something and we know good and well we aren’t as good as the women he is describing.”

    Footnote: In case it’s not obvious, I have no personal knowledge of how women feel, but she nailed the way I felt when I heard applicable criticism, so I wouldn’t be surprised to discover she knew what she was talking about.

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