Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Come Listen to A Prophet's Voice

The 179th Semiannual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will be held on Saturday and Sunday, October 3-4, 2009. Instructions on how to participate.

What is General Conference?

Every six months—usually the first weekend in April and the first weekend in October—the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints meets together in a General Conference, as outlined in the Doctrine and Covenants (see D&C 20:61-62.) The conference consists of six, two-hour sessions that are held in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. Three of the sessions are held on Saturday, two on Sunday, and one of the sessions is held the previous weekend. These sessions consist of both speakers and music; General Authorities (apostles, the prophet, members of the quorums of the seventies) and the presidents of other organizations such as Young Women, Sunday School, Primary, and Relief Society speak, and choirs from the area including the Mormon Tabernacle Choir provide inspiration and worship through song.

Being present in the conference center isn’t the only way to participate in General Conference. The conferences are broadcast to church buildings worldwide, are aired on TV in Utah and other heavily-populated Mormon communities, and are available online.

Why is General Conference Important?

Bishop H. David Burton, the presiding Bishop of the Church, said this: “Inspired men and women, blessed by the Lord, and tutored by the Spirit independently combine to produce the unique event we know as General Conference.” (“Come Listen to a Prophet’s Voice,” BYU-Idaho Devotional, 19 Oct 2004.) General Conference is important because at no other time during the year do all of the Lord’s apostles and prophets speak to the church at one time. These meetings are as if Jesus Christ Himself spoke to us for twelve hours! For that is what He is doing; He is instructing us through His chosen mouthpieces. “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7.) Brigham Young spoke of the importance of listening to the prophet’s voice as he taught that the prophet and other men bearing the Holy Priesthood “convey the word of God direct to us now . . . in our day and generation” (Conference Report, October 1897, p. 19). The Lord told Joseph Smith, “whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (D&C 1:39.)

Each conference, we receive counsel and guidance on how we should live and changes we should make in our lives. The prophets are very aware of the challenges and difficulties we face and those we will face in the future. They guide and direct us so that we may know how to, “to stand a little taller, to lift our eyes and stretch our minds to a greater comprehension and understanding of the grand millennial mission of this The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” President Gordon B. Hinckley, the fifteenth prophet and president of the Church in this dispensation, repeated that counsel in many General Conferences. He continues:

This is a season to be strong. It is a time to move forward without hesitation, knowing well the meaning, the breadth, and the importance of our mission. It is a time to do what is right regardless of the consequences that might follow. It is a time to be found keeping the commandments. It is a season to reach out with kindness and love to those in distress and to those who are wandering in darkness and pain. It is a time to be considerate and good, decent and courteous toward one another in all of our relationships. In other words, to become more Christlike.

(Gordon B. Hinckley, “This Is the Work of the Master,” Ensign, May 1995, 69)

What is the Take-home Message?

The messages we receive at General Conference from the Lord’s anointed help us know how to stand a little taller; lift our eyes and stretch our minds; keep the commandments in this world of changing and shifting values; reach out with kindness and love; and be more considerate, good, decent, courteous, and Christlike toward all. The words spoken are for us, in our day, and the counsel helps us apply the teachings of the Savior and of the ancient prophets to our present situations and challenges in life. They share stories and bear testimony of the Savior and His Atonement. We hear topics repeated about faith, repentance, conversion, service, charity, love, temporal welfare, the Atonement, God the Father, etc., each time in a different light and each time with the spirit that encourages us to stand a little taller, to lift our eyes and stretch our minds, to set resolutions to be a little better and make the necessary changes that will lhelp us be truly happy.

I love General Conference. I travel most weekends, but General Conference weekend I always leave open so that I can listen to the prophet’s voice and hear what the Lord is telling me to do. Often times I learn things that I need to improve through the promptings of the Spirit and not necessarily from direct words that the prophets say. Because we are showing the Lord that we want to know His will by listening to His servants, He teaches us those things that we need to know either through the words spoken by General Authorities at General Conference or through the words spoken by the Spirit during General Conference.

I challenge each of you to make General Conference a priority this weekend. To those of you who may not be members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, take a couple hours and listen to the Sunday morning session. Two hours, from ten to noon mountain standard time, it will fit into your schedules. And by all means, if you want please listen to more or all of conference if you so desire; it will only bless your lives. To those of you who are members, set a goal that will help improve your conference experience this weekend. Whether it be getting rid of some distraction, watching all the sessions, taking notes, or praying beforehand with specific questions in mind that the Lord can then answer in the course of the conference; set some goal that will help you stand a little taller and that will lift your eyes and stretch your minds.

The men participating in General Conference are the Lord’s anointed apostles and prophets. Thomas S. Monson is the prophet on the earth today same as Moses, Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaiah, Peter, and Joseph Smith in their respective times. What they say is truth, it is the word and will of the Lord.


Further readings:

Paul V. Johnson, “The Blessings of General Conference,” Ensign, Nov 2005, 50

Michael F. Watson, “His Servants, the Prophets,” Ensign, May 2009, 106-8

Jeffrey R. Holland, "Prophets in the Land Again," Ensign, Nov 2006, 104-7

Monday, September 28, 2009

Prophets in the Land Again

The upcoming weekend is one of my favorite weekends of the year. I love the first weekends in April and October because that is when the Prophet, all of the Apostles, and the seventies gather and hold a general conference. At General Conference, some of the seventies, each of the Apostles, and the Prophet address the world.

On Wednesday I will have an entire post about General Conference and the blessings associated with this great event. Right now, this post is to introduce you to General Conference and hopefully what I say Wednesday will add to what you read today and encourage you to participate in General Conference this weekend.

The article this week is a talk given by the apostle Elder Jeffrey R. Holland in the October 2006 General Conference. The talk is entitled, "Prophets in the Land Again," (audio/video) and lists three things that the General Conferences of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints declare to the world:

First, they declare eagerly and unequivocally that there is again a living prophet on the earth speaking in the name of the Lord.

Secondly, each of these conferences marks a call to action not only in our own lives but also on behalf of others around us, those who are of our own family and faith and those who are not.

Lastly, a general conference of the Church is a declaration to all the world that Jesus is the Christ, that He and His Father, the God and Father of us all, appeared to the boy prophet Joseph Smith in fulfillment of that ancient promise that the resurrected Jesus of Nazareth would again restore His Church on earth and again “come in like manner as [those Judean Saints had] seen him [ascend] into heaven." (Acts 1:11)

Read this talk today. Read the post on Wednesday. Come, listen to a prophet's voice on Saturday and Sunday.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Gift of the Holy Ghost

This past weekend I had the opportunity to be present at the baptism of a good friend. Through much study, prayer, church attendance, meeting with the missionaries, and living the standards of the Church, my friend felt the influence of the Holy Ghost and followed the prompting to do as Christ taught and "follow [Him], and do the things which ye have seen [Him] do," "having set the example before [us] (see 2 Ne 31:12, 9.)

Christ also taught that baptism with water is incomplete without baptism of the Spirit (see John 3:5), or receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority. (See also Acts 2:37-38.) Mine was the wonderful opportunity to speak at her baptism and since she was also going to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, I spoke on the topic of the gift of the Holy Ghost. Below is an abridged version of my talk:

You have just received your first commandment as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The person who officiated in that ordinance said to you “receive the Holy Ghost.”

Think about what that implies, to receive the Holy Ghost. You now have the right to the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. You can always have that comforter that Christ promised His Apostles, the Comforter who shall teach you all things and shall bring peace to your soul when it is troubled (see John 14:26-27.) The Holy Ghost confirms that things you read in the scriptures and learn from the missionaries and at church are true (see D&C 9:8-9; John 15:26; Moroni 10:5) and brings all things to your remembrance. It helps the scriptures have greater effect (see Joseph Smith-History 1:11-12) and strengthens the desire to avoid evil and keep the commandments (see John 16:7-8.)

This gift, however, is not unconditional. You have the right to be guided directly by the Lord, to feel the guiding influence and gentle promptings of the Holy Ghost and this right is earned through obedience to the commandments and teachings of the Lord (see Ether 2:15; D&C 1:33.) When you strive to honor the covenant you made with the Lord through baptism, the covenant to keep His commandments, to stand as a witness of Him, to serve others, and to serve Him, you become worthy of the companionship of the Holy Ghost.

I am not telling you anything that you do not already know; I just hope to emphasize that this gift is one of the greatest gifts the Lord will give you and that you must do all you can to have the Holy Ghost as a constant companion in your life.

Now, following the promptings of the Holy Ghost is not easy; it is a learning process that encompasses a lifetime. However, as you strive to live a pure and virtuous life, you will be more receptive to spiritual promptings.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland spoke of the “opposition that so often comes after enlightened decisions have been made, after moments of revelation and conviction have given us a peace and an assurance we thought we would never lose” (“Cast Not Away Therefore Thy Confidence,” BYU Devotional Address, 2 March 1999.) There are trying times ahead. Being baptized and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost does not free you from ever experiencing hardships and trials. Indeed, as President Uchtdorf taught, “complete conversion comes after much trial and tribulation” (Utah and Wasatch regional conference, 7 September 2008.) Rely on the Spirit. Rely on the Spirit when life is good and rely on the Spirit when life is hard.

Now, I’m going to take the liberty to talk to those of you who are just visiting today, to those of you to whom the ordinances performed here today are not as familiar. Welcome. We are excited you are here. Those involved appreciate your support. I hope that this has been a special experience for you as well.

Think for a moment about what you have felt today, about what you have felt in the last half hour. I know that you are feeling something. This feeling is not just the happiness you feel because the person who was baptized is quite obviously happy. What you are feeling in your heart right now is the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost is present here today because Our Heavenly Father is pleased with the decisions that have been made. Pay attention to what the Spirit is telling you. Pay attention to how you feel. Is it joy? Is it happiness? Those who receive the gift of the Holy Ghost receive the right and the ability to feel this way all the time. Think about what the Holy Ghost is telling you.

I’ll tell you what the Holy Ghost is telling me and has told me many times. It is telling me that Jesus Christ lives and that He loves us. That we have a loving Father in Heaven, and that He wants us to do as He asks so that we may return to live with Him again. That Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ appeared in a grove of trees to the boy Joseph Smith and called him to be a prophet and to restore the true church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That God called prophets and He calls prophets today. That President Thomas S. Monson is the prophet of God in our day. And that the Book of Mormon is also the word of God.

Here you will find the fulness of the gospel that enables us to receive a fullness of happiness. Here you will find the priesthood authority to perform the saving ordinances of baptism and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Don’t ever forget it. To those of you who have already entered into the covenant of baptism: continue to read the scriptures, to study, to ponder, to pray, to go to church, to live the gospel, to honor your baptismal commitment; receive the Holy Ghost, that your testimony may become stronger and that you may be eternally happy.


See also:

2 Nephi 31

Joseph B. Wirthlin, “The Unspeakable Gift,” Ensign, May 2003)

Monday, September 21, 2009

To Those Searching for Happiness

This week I wish to focus on two different groups of people with which I have had the opportunity of interacting recently. The first group is comprised of people who do not understand the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and subsequently what the restored gospel of Jesus Christ has to offer. They may not know very much about the Church and do not wish to know more because of negative things they have heard. Or they may not wish spend the time and effort of learning more simply because they don't realize the benefit such knowledge would afford them.

The second group of people understands that the Church may have something to offer and that there may be truth in the teachings found in the Church. The people in this group understand the importance and significance of ordinances such as baptism so they just want to be sure that what the Church teaches is truth and not anything else; thus they are hesitant in making any sort of long-term decision or commitment such as baptism.

Although some read my blog and some do not, the article this week is catered to both groups of people. At the General Conference held in April of 1979, President N. Eldon Tanner, an apostle of Jesus Christ and counselor to the prophet Spencer W. Kimball gave a talk entitled, "To Those Searching for Happiness." President Tanner tells a number of stories of people who have come in contact with the Church, have learned the truth, and have allowed the restored gospel to bless their lives.

To those of you in the first group, this talk contains the reasons to investigate the Church, only here in the Church will you find a fulness of truth and subsequently a fullness of happiness and joy. The blessings of living the restored gospel of Jesus Christ vastly outweigh any effort spent coming to know them.

In the words of President Tanner, "Reasons given by converts who join the Church today are . . . so varied as to lead to the conclusion that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can supply the spiritual as well as the temporal needs of any person who is seeking for the truth."

You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Check it out.

To the second group, the group who wishes to learn more and more and essentially know everything before they commit to anything, here you go. Here is even more information and reason to join the Church. Did this information help? Perhaps. You may know a little more about the Church, and others' stories may help you see a little better how the restored teachings of Jesus Christ can help you. But you are no closer to knowing that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true church on the earth and that living by the teachings found therein is the key to true and lasting happiness. Why? Because you must pray to know the truth, you must listen to what the Holy Ghost tells you, and you must act in faith (see Moroni 10:3-5). You cannot and will not know everything in this life, but you know enough. Remember, Christ commands us to come unto Him and be perfected in Him, not be perfect and then come.

From one of President Tanner's stories:

“My prayer is that others will not continue to willfully blind their eyes, refusing even to read the Book of Mormon in order to learn. No man can read this book and not have his life changed. I have not overnight become an expert on the Mormon faith, but I am an eager student and am not afraid to learn what the Holy Spirit would teach through those to whom He has given the authority."

I have a dear friend who was baptized this weekend. She hasn't been reading and studying and learning about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for very long, perhaps a few months, but she understands well enough to know that she needed to get baptized in order to continue on the path to everlasting happiness and partake of the Atonement of Our Savior Jesus Christ.

I echo the words of President Tanner, "If you are searching for happiness in this life and eternal life with God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ hereafter, then I would exhort all of you to find the way, the truth, and the life, which is in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Get On with Our Lives

Each of us has many decisions to make and we all go through many changes in the course of our lives. Some changes are big and most are small. Some come as a result of our own decisions and some come as a result of unexpected events in our lives. Either way, preparation helps shield us from the potential negative effects of these changes, challenges, and trials.

In the most recent General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elder Steven E. Snow of the Presidency of the Seventy spoke about how we can face life's challenges and changes. His talk, entitled "Get On with Our Lives," helps us understand what we can do to "best prepare for the changes we must inevitably face as we progress through life."

His words are more than mere good advice that will probably work for some people; his words are counsel directly from our Heavenly Father and therefore will absolutely work for everyone in all situations. Try it out.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Finding Hope

The Church recently put out this video on how trials affect different people. Focus on how the trial of September 11, 2001 affected Victor and his family as opposed so some others who have reacted much differently. We choose the outcomes of the experiences and trials we have.


Monday, September 7, 2009

The Power of a Personal Testimony

I love this week's article. In the October 2006 General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the apostle President Dieter F. Uchtdorf gave a talk entitled, "The Power of a Personal Testimony." The link to the audio/video is here.

I wonder how many of us understand the meaning of a testimony and what it can do for each of us individually. A lot of people say they believe in God and a lot of people try to live some of His commandments and teachings. But how many of us have that burning, undoubting knowledge that Jesus is the Christ and that living the restored gospel is the only way to find true and everlasting happiness?

Read this talk and think about how these words of an apostle of God apply to you in your life. Take a step back and evaluate where your testimony is, how it helps you in your life, and what you need to do to better strengthen and nurture your testimony that you may reach your full potential as a son or daughter of God.

If you don't think you have a testimony, get one! Read Alma 32; all you need is a desire to begin and the wonderful thing is, you can pray to the Father and ask Him for the desire! You can ask for understanding why you should even strive to build and develop a testimony and the Spirit will testify to you of the truthfulness of the restored gospel. Reasons why a testimony is eternally vital are found all throughout the scriptures. Pray, then open the scriptures and read.

Testimonies are found more in praying and listening that in purely studying and trying to obtain as much information as possible. Study of the scriptures is essential to gaining and especially maintaining a testimony, but knowledge and information are not a testimony. Also, a testimony isn't just believing something because it makes sense. A testimony is confirmation from the Spirit that Jesus is the Christ, that His gospel is the way, and that He called and continues to call prophets in our day. See Alma the younger's conversion story in Alma 5:45-48.

Try it, why not? You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. I know Jesus Christ lives, I know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Christ's church on the earth today. I know that Thomas S. Monson is the Lord's prophet on the earth and that he speaks the Lord's will for us in our day. I know this because too many things have happened in my life for it not to be true. I have felt the Spirit innumerable times confirm to me that each point of the gospel is true and that I am a child of my Heavenly Father.