Yes. I know. Unfortunately, conference weekend has come and gone.
Isn’t it always so inspiring, so uplifting, and so edifying? I tell you what, you needn’t look farther than addresses given in general conference to understand that there are living prophets in the world today.
Every time I sit down to listen to conference, one of two things happens. First, I suddenly become hungrier than I ever have in my life. Without fail. Second, I always wonder what the Apostles and the members of the First Presidency (as well as other speakers) go through to prepare their talks. Are they working on it for the entire six months?
Well, at least we all know that this next time will probably include more preparation than ever before. Thanks for that legendary cliffhanger, President Nelson.
In preparation, I’m sure the speakers note specific messages and themes that they want to incorporate into their talks that the world desperately needs to hear.
Here are five of those lessons or themes that you may have missed over conference weekend.
1. “Sisters and brothers”
I would have loved to see the First Presidency’s notes (or whoever it is that decides the order of the speakers). Do you also think that at the top of the list, instead of Elder Holland’s name, they put “Big Guns” down on the sheet of paper?
Elder Holland is almost everyone’s favorite speaker. The mastery of language, the imagery, the tone and the demeanor with which he speaks create masterpieces of oral dictation. Yes, I did try my best to imitate him in that last sentence. How’d I do?
In his talk, did anyone else catch the three words that are usually given in a different order? I’m sure you did because it’s in the heading you have already read.
“Sisters and brothers…”
This may not seem like much, and I certainly don’t want to put words into Elder Holland’s mouth… but this simple phrase is given with so much passion and so much purpose.
In the world today, our language is dominated by male-centered words. The way we administer medicine and medical procedures is based on research which mostly revolves around how the male body reacts. Even our own family histories and records only contain male names and information when you get back far enough.
Before you accuse me of rallying for feminism or gender equality, I hope you understand my point. I am not trying to equate men with women. They are different for divine purposes. And I understand that.
What I am trying to do is to point out that Elder Holland knows that the value of a man and the value of a woman is equal in God’s eyes.
When Christ was on the earth, He constantly broke social traditions to help women and outcasts. He healed their issues of blood. He taught Samaritans by the well. He accused none of them after they committed adultery. He knew their worth in God’s eyes.
In just three simple words, Elder Holland broke our social tradition.
Sisters, know that you are loved. Know that you are valued just as much as men are. Know that the blessings of the gospel and the outstretched hand of the Savior are just as easily accessible to you as it is to any men that are in your life.
2. The doctrine is clear
When I first heard President Oaks speak, my brain was saying “Wow!” and “What?” at the same time. It’s one of those talks you can go through again and again and find new things every time.
One point he made was regarding the official doctrine of the Church. We desperately needed that reminder.
In quoting Elder Christofferson and Elder Andersen, President Oaks made sure that we understood exactly what is meant by official doctrine. It is not some obscure reference or personal belief of any of the leaders of the Church. It is things that are taught by all 15 members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
I know. It’s not that hidden. In fact, he explicitly said exactly what I wrote above. You’re right. But what is hidden is the way we actually live this concept.
President Oaks starts with two stories about people that get caught up in the speculation side of Church teachings. While they are valid concerns, when we follow suit, we are minimizing our ability to trust in the Lord!
It is not our duty to understand and know everything while we are on earth. Our learning should be fueled by principles and applications of the gospel, not just intrigue about the “what-ifs.”
Both members and critics so easily get caught up in the details that have almost no application to our lives. It’s exactly what Christ was warning about when He said to not take or add to the precious truths of the Gospel.
Need an example of what I’m talking about? Well, you don’t have to look far.
The rights given to deacons to pass the sacrament. The archeological evidence for and against the Book of Abraham. The reasons for polygamy and the ban on giving Blacks the priesthood. Geological evidence of the Book of Mormon. Reasons for any and all of the current changes we are witnessing in the Church.
Do I have to keep going?
While it is okay to wonder and learn about these things, our focus should always be applying and sharing the gospel. The young women aren’t hindered in serving God by not being allowed to pass the sacrament. The truths of the Book of Abraham help us relate to God on a very personal level, regardless of what Egyptologists say.
With faith in Christ at the center, everything will work out exactly as it needs to. Perfectly, no more or no less.
3. “Do you strive…?”
Oh, President Nelson, how we love you. And how we love that you are going to keep us on the edge of our seats in eager anticipation for the next six months.
I’m sure you’ve already read and reread the revised temple recommend questions. That probably trended on Twitter faster than anything else from the conference… Except for maybe “less Wifi and more Nephi,” because that was awesome!
The three words in the revised temple recommend interview questions that had the greatest impact on me would have to be “Do you strive…?”
Don’t these words add such a personal element to worthiness into entering the temple. That interview is all about the person being interviewed, not what others think about that person. The words are “Do you strive” not “Do others see you strive.”
Essentially, you have to ask yourself, are you doing the best that you can?
God knows your heart. He knows the struggles you have. He knows the situation you are in. No one else will better understand your situation than your Heavenly Father and yourself.
So, do you strive?
Do you strive to follow the Savior the best that you can? Do you strive to keep God’s commandments and listen for His voice? Do you strive to heed the words that His servants share with us? Do you strive to love those around you, and serve them to the best of your ability?
The standard of the temple is not perfection, it’s persistence.
Taking the messages to heart
By far, these are not the only lessons or even hidden lessons that we can learn by watching and rewatching the conference addresses. I’m not that smart.
The true power of the messages comes in the way we live them.
But you know that already. It’s over and over again at Church, and in the scriptures, and in our minds, and in our hearts… Everywhere. Those words that were shared are meant to inspire and uplift, not condemn and discourage.
All of us have things we need to do better. That’s both the curse and the blessing of being mortal.
Regardless of where we are, be sure to open your hearts. Let the words sink in. Find hidden treasures as you study the talks over and over. Learn personal lessons that are tailored just for you. Find power in their testimonies and stories.
But most importantly, take these messages to heart, and LIVE THEM!
So that when the Good Shephard calls us, we will know His voice and follow Him.