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49 Thoughts on October 2018 General Conference

8 October 2018 (updated 2 November 2020)

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49 Thoughts on October 2018 General Conference

It’s that time again, when members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gather for our worldwide general conference. I’ve compiled a list of some of my thoughts while listening to October 2018 General Conference.

As usual, my list includes affirmations, criticisms, elaborations, and questions. My intent is to engage and encourage engagement with the messages from the conference. And I welcome any feedback or questions you might have.

  1. “Mormon Tabernacle Choir” is now “Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square.” #ldsconf is now #generalconference. Joseph Smith used to talk about the “grand fundamental principle[s] of Mormonism.” I wonder what he’d think about the Church’s current efforts to avoid “Mormon.”
  2. Rumor has it that the Church will be introducing changes to the length of Sunday meetings. Personally, I’m indifferent. But, hey, I hear a lot about sore butts on Sundays, so I’ll hope for them.
  3. President Russell Nelson speaks first. That silence is everyone holding their breath for rumored changes. :)
  4. President Nelson says the Church should change to emphasize the home more than the Church.
  5. President Nelson offers a “home-centered and Church-supported” plan.
  6. Quentin Cook announces that Sunday meeting schedules will be adjusted to a 60-minute sacrament meeting, and a 50-minute class that alternates between purposes.
  7. Quentin Cook “strongly” recommends text messaging as a communication method for local Church announcements. I wonder if any God-doesn’t-need-technology folks are having heart burn over this one. ;)
  8. Quentin Cook says Church leaders should not try to “regiment” individuals. Amen to that, brother.
  9. Joseph Brough shared a thought-provoking story about forgiveness. A new Church leader found peace in following inspiration to select as his counselor a fellow member who was a lawyer and had previously led legal action against him.
  10. Steven Bangerter speaks about the power of religious tradition to shape individuals, families, and enduring culture. This is probably the primary function of religion, for better or worse. Make it for better.
  11. Ronald Rasband, as many persons in the Church, suggests that the world is increasingly wicked. I know many data sets that suggest the world is becoming better. What data set would support the opinion that the world is becoming worse?
  12. Ronald Rasband encourages an eternal view of mortality to decrease fear. I think that’s generally good advice. As I have cultivated hope in a long view of human potential, I’ve become more optimistic about present challenges.
  13. David Bednar observes that binding ordinary materials together can result in a tool of extraordinary strength, like a rope or cable, and compares that to the function of the Church.
  14. David Bednar asserts that we are all called to participate in God’s work to bring about the immortality and eternal life of humanity.
  15. David Bednar warns against “pharisaical focus on checklists,” and rather encourages focus on discerning and applying the inter-related principles of the Gospel of Christ.
  16. David Bednar explains that “faith” is “trust.” That’s right. The archaic word is often misunderstood with negative consequences in our understanding and application of Christianity.
  17. I like this articulation of the Gospel of Christ, using less archaic words: we should trust in, change toward, and fully immerse our bodies and minds in the role of Christ, as exemplified and invited by Jesus.
  18. While being family-focused, I missed Dallin Oaks’ talk. It sounds like he may have suggested competition between science and revelation, or that the latter doesn’t need the former. I hope that’s not the case, as that would not be true.
  19. Ulisses Soares, echoing Paul in the New Testament, says that we should take on the name of Christ, and in so doing, we become different, recognizing divine potential in each other. That transformation is the heart of Christianity.
  20. Gerrit Gong quotes earlier Mormon authorities on the complementarity of science and religion. This is a welcome clarification after Oaks’ talk.
  21. Gerrit Gong encourages finding joy in creativity, reflecting God’s creation. This is a strength of Mormon theology, with important philosophical ramifications: creators engaged in creating genuine new creators.
  22. Gerrit Gong asserts that perfection is only in the grace of Christ. This essential Christian principle is under-appreciated. Jesus is perfect, not by external standard, but by definition. Together in Christ, we too become perfect by definition.
  23. Paul Pieper emphasizes the scriptural admonition to take on the name of Christ. I think we generally don’t take this seriously enough, perhaps because, at those moments when we do take it seriously, it is all-too-sobering.
  24. Dieter Uchtdorf says that the cause of Christ is to do as Jesus did: ministering to the poor, powerless, weak, and friendless; healing; preaching good news. We are invited to this cause.
  25. Dieter Uchtdorf asserts, bluntly, that Solomon in the Bible “was wrong.” Life is not vanity. Good call. And I suppose that’s one more precedent for disagreeing with some passages of scripture. :)
  26. Dieter Uchtdorf says that “belief is not so much like a painting … it is more like a plow that we take into the fields and, by the sweat of our brow, produce fruits.”
  27. I love the way Dieter Uchtdorf speaks. Other Church leaders should take notes. There’s a traditional tone and manner that most use because of tradition. It’s boring. And there’s no doctrinal reason for boredom, even traditional boredom.
  28. Dieter Uchtdorf invites those who have left the Church to return and make the Church better, cultivating a culture of healing and kindness. Speaking to other Church members, I hope we all will try to make that as easy to desire as he does.
  29. Russell Ballard, who recently lost his wife, talks about death and D&C 138: “The dead had looked upon the long absence of their spirits from their bodies as a bondage.” I love Mormonism’s emphasis of physical resurrection.
  30. I enjoy how Bonnie Cordon speaks. Like Dieter Uchtdorf, she employs a non-traditional tone and manner. It’s more interesting. And that matters. The traditional tone and manner of general conference talks bores many people, who then tune out.
  31. Jeffrey Holland asserts that our relationship with Christ “is determined, or at least affected, by our relationship with each other.” We are all called to reconcile, become one, and thereby participate in the Eternal Atonement.
  32. Jeffrey Holland quotes Paul, who wrote that we should become “ambassadors of Christ in the ministry of reconciliation.” That is the ministry of Atonement. It is not only Jesus’ work. He calls us to participate in the work of Atonement.
  33. Shayne Bowen celebrates the Book of Mormon. I love the book too. Objectively speaking, it’s controversial and has strange origins. If you haven’t read it, you should. Whether you end up agreeing with it or not, it will probably be thought provoking.
  34. Neil Andersen observes that tragedy, sorrow, and pain are inherent in life. In Mormon theology, even God suffers, hanging on the cross or weeping in heaven. And our scriptures propose this justification: experience. There is no other way.
  35. President Russell Nelson emphasizes the full name of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He says God is offended by nicknames like “Mormon.” Was God offended by Joseph Smith’s use of “Mormons” to describe members of the Church?
  36. President Russell Nelson says that God is offended when “Jesus Christ” is left out of the name of Church. Is God also offended when the rest of us, “Latter-day Saints,” are left out of the name of the Church?
  37. President Russell Nelson says that Jesus Christ directed us to call the Church by his name because it is his Church. The scripture also directs us to call the Church by our name, “Latter-day Saints.” I’m interested in hearing his thoughts on that.
  38. It looks like the Internet advertising division of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has some work to do to expunge its use of “mormon.” Who will end up winning that keyword, and the substantial mindshare associated with it?
  39. Henry Eyring advocates an immersive discipleship of Jesus Christ; taking on the name of Christ; thinking, speaking, and acting as Christ. This is the transformative core of Christian faith.
  40. Henry Eyring has interjected “sisters” into his reading of scripture several times. It sounds like he thinks the scriptures would be better if they referenced women more often. I agree.
  41. Brian Ashton speaks about exaltation, the doctrine of theosis, or becoming as God is. He observes that this entails gaining all the attributes of God, by acting with trust in a context of grace that will make it possible. This is a powerful doctrine.
  42. Robert Gay says there’s no enduring happiness outside the Gospel of Christ. Careful. Many interpret the Gospel of Christ in ways that clearly are not conducive to enduring happiness. And many practice the Gospel without knowing or using its name.
  43. Matthew Carpenter encourages repentance. I think it’s productive to understand repentance as change, becoming as Christ following on trust in Christ. It is the process of transformation, culminating in immersion in Christ, symbolized by baptism.
  44. Dale Renlund compares God to Mary Poppins. I’m now reliving childhood trauma. ;)
  45. I love watching general conference tweets related to technology. So many rightly recognize technology as grace, empowering us to participate in the work of God.
  46. Jack Gerard says we live in “a world of information overload.” I prefer to think of it as the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times, when God is “pouring down knowledge from heaven.”
  47. Dale Renlund positions punishment as the natural consequence of sin, and sin as intentionally moving away from God. There’s a great deal of practical potential in this interpretation of sin, if we begin with a practical understanding of God.
  48. Gary Stevenson encourages Church members to minister to each other, following the example of Jesus. It’s more than being nice, he points out. It’s loving, consoling, healing, and serving.
  49. President Russell Nelson announces 12 new temples. I had heard a rumor about a floating temple. But, alas, none was announced. Maybe next time!

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