We’re 10 days out from General Conference. I am still thinking about it and letting the lessons I learned from it percolate in my head. I hope you had your own personal theme develop for you as you listened to the speakers.
I was impressed by speaker after speaker with three themes.
First, FOLLOW THE PROPHET! Yes, I realize that’s in all caps, because yes, I am screaming that at the world. We just need to follow the prophet to find the answers to our questions, the solutions to our problems and for maximum happiness in this life. Sister McConkie taught in her talk “We heed prophetic word even when it may seem unreasonable, inconvenient, and uncomfortable. According to the world’s standards, following the prophet may be unpopular, politically incorrect, or socially unacceptable. But following the prophet is always right.” Did we get that? Following the prophet is always right, despite what is popular out there in the world.
Elder Lynn G. Robbins of the 70s also addressed following the prophet instead of following popular trends as well. He asked us, “Which way do you face?”, and challenged us to not invert the first and second great commandments. Again we were reminded, “The scornful often accuse prophets of not living in the 21st century or of being bigoted. They attempt to persuade or even pressure the Church into lowering God’s standards to the level of their own inappropriate behavior, which in the words of Elder Neal A. Maxwell, will ‘develop self-contentment instead of seeking self-improvement’ and repentance. Lowering the Lord’s standards to the level of a society’s inappropriate behavior is—apostasy.” That was the money quote for me, lowering the Lord’s standards to the level of society is apostasy. Makes you think about the things we’re interested in and advocating for. I hope we all asked ourselves if “our issues” match up with what the prophets are teaching us, and if they don’t, instead of rationalizing them away, we’re willing to change our thoughts to match the council of the prophets and the standards and doctrines of the Church.
My second theme of General Conference was the importance of receiving our own witness of the teachings of the prophets. Elder Eyring’s talk specifically addressed this and the principle of “confirming revelation.” He said, “Human judgment and logical thinking will not be enough to get answers to the questions that matter most in life. We need revelation from God.” Did we hear that? We cannot rely on our own judgments, the opinions of friends, junk we see on facebook, or the latest and greatest train of thought. We must receive our own “confirming revelation” like Nephi of old.
I am heart broken to see so many friends, who are also members of the Church, cherry picking the words of the prophets to fit their agendas, rejecting the doctrines of the church, specifically those regarding chastity, morality and marriage, for worldly standards and practices. The thing is, the world is always in a constant state of flux, and revels in emotionally charged rhetoric that will surely short change us on our salvation. I’ve also been told numerous times by these same friends that they had “personal revelation” and/or a “witness of the spirit” that things like The Family Proclamation and the Church’s stand and support of traditional marriage are not true. I’ll just be bold here and state that these witnesses cannot be true. It might have been a witness, but a witness that is not inline with the doctrines of the Church and the words of the modern, living prophets is not from the Lord. The Holy Spirit is not going to give any of us a confirmation or a witness of something that goes against what the Lord has taught. The Holy Ghost will always witness the truthfulness of the Gospel and the truthfulness of the words of the prophets.
Elder Uchtdorf reiterated the way in which we can receive confirming revelation in his Saturday morning talk. First, we must search the scriptures. The answers are in the scriptures, they affirm, reaffirm and witness the words of the prophets. I know I need to do better at reading them.
Second we must “fearlessly strive to believe.” Again, we have to ask ourselves, “Which way we face?” Is it toward the world? Or toward the Lord, His Church and His prophets? That also means having FAITH in Jesus Christ when the answers to our prayers are not clear or have not come yet. And believe me, that does, and will happen to all of us. We have to walk by faith a good portion of our lives. Are we brave enough to do that?
Third, Elder Uchtdorf urged us to follow Moroni’s promise, by asking the Lord, in the name of Jesus Christ and with a sincere heart if the Church is true. I will add, asking all of our questions with a sincere heart and with faith in Jesus Christ is also important. A sincere heart means we have to put aside our ideas, our agendas and be willing to receive the answer the Lord has for us – and then go and do the right thing. That can and will be hard, more and more, as the world turns farther and father away from the teachings of the prophets and apostles. But if we are sincere the Lord will manifest the truth to us by the power of the Holy Ghost. We have this gift with us via our baptismal covenants and the renewal of all of our covenants every week as we take the sacrament. This is the Lord’s grace extended to us every week, every day. This is powerful. Think about that for a while.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we must commit to live the principles of the Gospel if we are to receive a testimony of their truthfulness. If we want to have a testimony of the Law of Chastity and the Lord’s definition of marriage, then we must live and love the Law of Chastity and defend traditional marriage. I use those two examples because more and more I see those issues as a point of dissent among a growing number of Church members. But it applies equally to all the commandments and all of the things we have covenanted to do as Latter-day Saints.
Elder Klebingat’s talk expounded on my third personal theme of Conference, which was developing faith and spiritual confidence by following the prophet. I don’t know about you, but I sometimes doubt myself and where I stand with the Lord. I want very much to be counted among the faithful. There are days when I feel like I am doing a good job, and other days where I know I have failed miserably.
Satan knows us every day, but I think he comes after us more on our hard days. Elder Klebingat said,
“Whenever the adversary cannot persuade imperfect yet striving Saints such as you to abandon your belief in a personal and loving God, he employs a vicious campaign to put as much distance as possible between you and God. The adversary knows that faith in Christ—the kind of faith that produces a steady stream of tender mercies and even mighty miracles—goes hand in hand with a personal confidence that you are striving to choose the right. For that reason he will seek access to your heart to tell you lies—lies that Heavenly Father is disappointed in you, that the Atonement is beyond your reach, that there is no point in even trying, that everyone else is better than you, that you are unworthy, and a thousand variations of that same evil theme.”
I’m sure you have felt that way at times. I know I have.
However, as I have grown older and matured in the gospel I have been able to see more clearly those times when Satan is trying to deceive me and wear me down, and I have learned to run faster and harder toward the Lord. Elder Klebingat’s six tools for developing spiritual confidence are good reminders of what we need to be doing every day:
1. Take responsibility for your own spiritual well being. Stop blaming others or your circumstances, stop justifying, and stop making excuses for why you may not be fully striving to be obedient.
2. Take responsibility for your physical well being. Feeding the spirit while neglecting the body, which is a temple, usually leads to spiritual dissonance and lowered self-esteem.
3. Embrace voluntary, wholehearted obedience as part of your life. Acknowledge that you cannot love God without also loving His commandments.
4. Become really, really good at repenting thoroughly and quickly. Because the Atonement of Jesus Christ is very practical, you should apply it generously 24/7, for it never runs out.
5. Become really, really good at forgiving. Don’t hold grudges, don’t be easily offended, forgive and forget quickly, and don’t ever think that you are exempt from this commandment.
6. Accept trials, setbacks, and “surprises” as part of your mortal experience. Remember that you are here to be proved and tested.
I don’t know about you, but those six rules are going on my fridge for me to see every day, because I need to work on each one of them, in one way or another every single day.
I hope your personal themes of General Conference are still floating around in your brain and urging you to change, to do more and to be better. I have full faith in the prophets and apostles of the Church and that they are leading in the Lord’s way. I’m thankful and glad that we have General Conference every six months to remind us of the things we need to be doing, and how to get those things done. For the next six months, I know I will be facing the Lord and following His prophet!