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!
New Post: My Personal Themes from General Conference: We’re 10 days out from General Conference. … http://t.co/oIRzw6W7Xz #LDS #Mormon
TheMillennialStar: My Personal Themes from General Conference http://t.co/YJqHl5dLph #lds #mormon
Thank you men!
It was a good conference. I look forward to getting a chance to review the talks from this October, particularly during Jan-Jun 2015, when my ward will be focusing on them for Sacrament Meeting and during the RS/Priesthood hour.
Joyce, this was fantastic! I like how you pulled it all together and brought out one theme. I think all the talks you mentioned were the ones that really stood out to me. Sustain, support and follow the 15 prophets, seers and revelators. It is heartbreaking to see the things you mentioned, but yet the Church will move on and we will go forward with it if we choose.
I am interested in how Joyce and other respond to the following question, “Why should I follow the Prophet when it appears that the Prophet has been wrong on some (but extremely important) issues”. For example the First Presidency in 1949 stated that the Priesthood ban had something to do with lack of faithfulness in the premortal life. Of course this teaching is now disavowed by the Church. Some are bothered by President Woodruff’s statements under oath that the Manifesto covered all plural marriages in all areas of the world. Of course several post Manifesto plural marriages were authorized either directly or indirectly by the Prophet. The recent essay (which was great) on plural marriage confirms many post Manifesto marriages were honored (and I might say still honored) by the Church. I know a Prophet is only a Prophet when he speaks as a Prophet. I know they are not perfect. But my examples include a First Presidency Statement and statements under oath. I am confident there are other examples. I want to follow the Prophet :-). And yes, I have a testimony of the Book of Mormon. I confess I have voted for some democrats.
You said Aggie Saint, “I know a Prophet is only a Prophet when he speaks as a Prophet.” So, when is that exactly? Do you have some sort of crystal ball that tells you that? Because it seems like you are nit picking with your questions. None of those “issues” have anything to do, with your salvation and your personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Not a one.
In my observations around the Bloggernacle is that people are choosing to be offended at things they don’t understand, or agree with. They flip out over one word here or one word there (see Isaiah 29:21). It seems like you are doing this Aggie Saint. Was there anything in particular in October 2014 General Conference that you felt uncomfortable with? Or that you felt you could not follow? Was there, at any time, you felt like the speakers were not “speaking as prophets”? The truth is this, you and I live in 2014, what someone said in 1949 or 1849 is not as important as what is said, today, by Pres. Monson and the 12 and the other brothers and sisters who serve as General Authorities.
Also, via your baptismal and temple covenants you have covenanted to be obedient … even when you don’t understand or agree. You always have the privilege of taking your concerns to the Lord via humble prayer, as Elder Uchtdorf taught in his Saturday Conference talk, to gain a testimony of what has been taught by the Prophets and Apostles. I encourage you to do that and to not worry about things that were said in the past. In the end, even if those men were wrong, all of that is swallowed up in the Atonement, and not worth the worry and offense of members of the Church..
Wow, I did not mean to offend. You misunderstood my motive and who I am. It was not a kind response. My questions where sincere.
Elder John Widstoe, a Mormon Apostle, made the following comment under the heading “When does a Prophet speak as a Prophet”. .”This is an old question. It was asked of the Prophet Joseph Smith and answered by him. He writes in his journal, “This morning . . . I visited with a brother and sister from Michigan, who thought that ‘a prophet is always a prophet’; but I told them that a prophet is a prophet only when he was acting as such” (Joseph Smith, _History of the Church_, 5:265).
For your information I am not a member of the Church, but believe the Book of Mormon. I would like dialogue without personal attacks. I will seek my answers elsewhere.
If you were offended, I do apologize — and I am totally, deeply sorry. However, you should have disclosed that you were not a member of the Church when you asked your question.
Please understand that your question was framed in a way, that many who dissent from inside the Church come at the faithful to cause dissent and to cause contention. Many who dissent from within the church have also used that very quote to justify their dissonance with the Church — and their cherry picking of which commandments and doctrines they will follow. Sadly, many of those people like to come to M* to try and cause contention.
Had I known you were not a member of the Church, I probably would have approached the question totally differently as well. The fact that you’ve used “Saint” in your handle suggests you are a member of the Church.
But, I will say this, if you are investigating the Church, my suggestion is to focus on what the prophets and apostles are saying right now, today in 2014. Give them the benefit of the doubt, always. It is not for us to speculate when they are or are not speaking as a prophet, because I guarantee that if they are speaking, it’s because the Lord needs us to hear what they are saying. Elder Uchtdorf, just counseled us in this last General Conference that if we want a testimony of something we need to pray and ask, and live the principle we are trying to gain a testimony of. And in my experience after you have been following the prophet for a while, you will have built up a trust so that you just know what he says is right and you follow that.
Again, please accept my deep apologies. I am very sorry I was sharp with you. I hope you do come back and stay — because we really are nice. I promise … no more biting from me.
Aggie Saint, you need to understand your questions touched a deep nerve with those of us who have been trying to defend the Church on-line for a long time. Very often, ex-Mormons will post those types of questions pretending to have a “dialogue” when their intention is to destroy the faith of others. We are trying to create an environment on this one blog in the internet where we build up faith, not destroy it.
In any case, you ask: “Why should I follow the Prophet when it appears that the Prophet has been wrong on some (but extremely important) issues?”
I think there are several points to consider. First, most people on this blog are aware of these issues and have considered them and still decide to follow the prophet. I think many people say, “well, if only they knew this and that about what a prophet said in the past, they would admit the Church is not true.” Well, the writers of this blog are very aware of all of the various controversies and still think the Church is true.
You mention issues regarding the priesthood ban and polygamy. These are two of the biggest stumbling blocks for people today. Obviously the priesthood ban seems horrendous to us today because being a racist is the absolutely worst thing you can be. And of course God is not a racist in the sense that He loves everybody equally regardless of skin color. And to be clear, I don’t have any great answers for you. Hundreds of thousands of words have been written on the subject, and all I can say is: people, including prophets, are not perfect, and God allows them not to be perfect. My personal opinion is that God allows these things to happen to test our faith.
At the end of the day, there are only a few questions that really matter: is Jesus our Savior? Was Joseph Smith a prophet? How do you explain the existence of the Book of Mormon and that it was brought to the world through Joseph Smith? Have you listened to the words of modern-day prophets, and do you have a testimony that they are still prophets?
We are supposed to use our reason, but we are also supposed to consider the spirit-to-spirit connections that take place when we ponder these questions. Sometimes we cannot truly know things without getting a spiritual confirmation. This is why listening to the confirmation that comes through the Holy Ghost is so important.
This may or may not be a satisfying answer to you, but this is the best I have to offer.
Aggie Saint, your question is valid. We claim that fallible individuals can be mouthpieces of the Lord, but it is often hard to deal with the repercussions of that belief. President Uchtdorf addressed this issue in the October 2013 General Conference: https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2013/10/come-join-with-us
You believe in the Book of Mormon, so if you’ll look on the title page you’ll see the same issue brought up anciently by Moroni: “And now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment-seat of Christ.”
Elder D. Todd Christofferson brought up a related point in his most recent conference address. We have the personal responsibility to evaluate and confirm (via personal revelation) the statements that are made by our leaders: “But God intends that His children should act according to the moral agency He has given them, “that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment.” It is His plan and His will that we have the principal decision-making role in our own life’s drama. God will not live our lives for us nor control us as if we were His puppets, as Lucifer once proposed to do. Nor will His prophets accept the role of “puppet master” in God’s place. Brigham Young stated: “I do not wish any Latter Day Saint in this world, nor in heaven, to be satisfied with anything I do, unless the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ,—the spirit of revelation, makes them satisfied. I wish them to know for themselves and understand for themselves.” https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2014/10/free-forever-to-act-for-themselves
I still think Aggie Saint was a troll. First impressions are usually correct. I don’t believe a sincere truth-seeking person would use “Saint” in their handle and start off with the question he/she did.
RfM-ers sometimes play games like that.
Joyce/Geoff, if your gut tells you that you have been played, you probably have been.
I chose this blog to ask these questions because I wanted answers from those who are believers. I can find plenty of answers online from those that hate or have no faith in Mormonism. I wanted a friendly forum. MaryAnn and Geoff thank-you for your responses. My questions can be answered in a faith promoting way. No I am not a troll nor am I a member.
Aggie Saint, another point: I guess I would emphasize following the prophets today in 2014 based on the “big stuff.” If you study the history of the LDS church, the prophets have always made their position crystal clear on the big issues. This is why, for example, people followed Joseph Smith to Ohio, then Missouri, then Illinois, and why people followed BY to Utah. The big issue for the 19th century was physically following the prophets, and this was a clear test of faith (note that the people who ended up leaving the Church did not, for the most part, physically follow the prophets). Today, we follow the prophets by listening to what they say at General Conference. The big stuff at General Conference is covered on this blog pretty regularly, and to know what prophets are saying for you personally you should read or listen to what they say (go to lds.org also of course). That is, in my opinion, about 1 million times (approximately) more important than pondering this or that controversy from 100 years ago.
“Why should I follow the Prophet when it appears that the Prophet has been wrong on some (but extremely important) issues?” It can be a real test of faith to follow a Prophet when you think it inconvenient or hard. It is an individual test for each of us. But, I’ve been an adult member for over 30 years. I’ve tried to follow the Prophet and haven’t been disappointed. Following the Prophet means listening to his counsel and advice, which is all he can give us. Then, we are free to govern ourselves. We have a song our children that says “Follow the prophet — he knows the way.” Knowing the way is a way of saying the Prophet understands the “big picture” sorts of things, the trials and struggles people face generally. Hence, to follow the prophet is to obey prophetic advice on how to be more Christlike. I do not equate “following the Prophet” to include all statements made or opinions expressed about a myriad of subjects over the last 180 years. I think prophets, both old and new, have been fairly clear when their words were revelatory as opposed to reasoned opinion. Our doctrine is found in the standard works, and in official church publications, statements that have been made and stood the test of time. If you have more questions you might invite the missionaries over to visit and they will try to explain other aspects of our faith.
Recent comments indicate that Aggie Saint was a troll after all playing the usual ex-Mormon games. He/she has been moderated. Bookslinger’s instincts prove right again.