GCBC Week 2: “An Ensign to the Nations” by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

Well, here we go folks.  Let’s get this book club rolling!  I thought it would be timely to start off with Elder Holland’s testimony about general conference itself and the Lord’s hand in its messages.

“An Ensign to the Nations” by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

As our conference comes to a close, I ask you to reflect in the days ahead not only on the messages you have heard but also on the unique phenomenon that general conference itself is—what we as Latter-day Saints believe such conferences to be and what we invite the world to hear and observe about them. We testify to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people that God not only lives but also that He speaks, that for our time and in our day the counsel you have heard is, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, “the will of the Lord, … the word of the Lord, … the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation.”

All of the talks from general conference are now available to watch, listen to, or read at this link. The Church also puts out a fantastic highlights video that is a montage of main points from the talks of the First Presidency and Twelve Apostles. So, until the Ensign conference edition arrives in the mail, we can still get a jump on studying these great talks.

To any of you who are new to the General Conference book club, we welcome you and love your insights, comments, and participation.  Here’s a link to help newcomers understand how it all “works.”  We look forward to a fine discussion in the comment thread below.

Thanks to those of you who participated in the General Conference Trivia Contest, and congratulations to the winner, “An Ordinary Mom.” Here are all the questions, reposted with the correct answers.  I tried to link the answers to the talks that they came from.

  1. Name two of the three new temples that were announced. Fort Collins, CO; Winnipeg, Canada; Meridian Idaho
  2. Elder Cook told a story about a young woman who misplaced her purse at an activity.  Name one of the items that her leaders found in her purse. For the strength of Youth pamphlet, notebook of scriptures, recipe, breath mints, soap, lotion, and a brush.
  3. Who was Elder Holland referring to when he said “Bedlamites”? children
  4. Whose grandson blew kisses at the TV when he watched general conference?  Russell M. Nelson
  5. What did the prospector teach the young gold-digger that he was missing while he was looking for gold nuggets?  the small flecks of gold
  6. This conference marked the 75th anniversary of what? Welfare program
  7. What did the church donate in Japan to help people search for loved ones despite the difficult-to-travel roadways? Scooters
  8. Finish this phrase from a quoted poem (in general words is fine/main idea).  “When sheep go wrong, it won’t take long  . . . __________.” It won’t take long till the lambs are as wrong as they.
  9. Name Elder Richard G. Scott’s belated wife. Jeanene
  10. President Eyring announced an upcoming, church-wide day of what? Humanitarian service
  11. Fill in the blank:  Desires –> Priorities –> __________ –> Actions Choices
  12. What was Pres. Uctdorf afraid people might be texting during his talk? that he hasn’t made a reference to aviation yet
  13. What specific item did Elder Pratt’s Mexican ancestor receive from a wealthy traveler just one week after paying his own tithing? a bag of 100 pesos in silver
  14. Finish this quote by St. Francis de Asissi:  “Preach the gospel at all times, and if necessary, use ____.” Words
  15. What hymn did Elder Bednar take as a “hint” about his own talk? Have I done any good in the world today
  16. Only one of the twelve apostles did not speak during general conference.  Who was it?  (And does anyone know why?)  Robert D. Hales, I saw him there on Saturday with a leg brace or something, but I’m still not sure why he didn’t speak.
  17. What powerful hymn did the tabernacle choir sing right after President Monson’s talk about temples? The Spirit of God
  18. Elder Grow spoke about a family member who had just passed away after turning around his/her life.  Who was it? His younger brother
  19. Elder Maynes quoted his grandson’s primary talk where he said, “My family is like a ____ (what?).” Rope
  20. Elder Bednar compared revelation to which two sources of light? Light switch and the sunrise

Matching.  Topic —> Speaker
21.  Accept and Seek Correction   B.  Elder D. Todd Christofferson
22. The Church has an obligation to help poor and needy   D. Bishop H. David Burton
23.  Keep Sabbath Day Holy    E. Elder L. Tom Perry
24.  Forgive and Let Offenses Go    C.  President Boyd K. Packer
25.  Combat Fears by Strengthening Faith   A.  Elder Russell M. Nelson

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24 thoughts on “GCBC Week 2: “An Ensign to the Nations” by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

  1. Just a side note before I start: I went to your October 2010 GCBC to see how this worked and noticed that the first talk you choose that time was a talk from Elder Holland too!

    First off, I love how Elder Holland connected Brigham Young’s vision in 1846 to Isaiah’s prophesy 2500 years earlier!

    Second, I love how he reminded us that when the Prophets and Apostles speak to us by the Spirit that it is scripture (see D&C 68:4).

    I love how he reminded us that the Gospel is not a fast-food restaurant…we can’t have it “our way” it must be the Savior’s way.

    I also noted 2 challenges here: 1. to reflect on the messages of conference as well as the purpose of conference (which this book club is helping me do) and 2. to give ourselves credit for that which we are trying our best to do and listen for that which we need to work on!

    For me it is actually harder to give myself credit for what I am trying to do than to listen for those things I need to work on!

    Finally, I love the term bedlamites!

  2. I too liked that he asked us to reflect not only on the messages of Conference but the “phenomenon that general conference itself is” for us as members and for the rest of the world. I loved his mention that listeners are both members and those who are not members…YET! 🙂

    Once again like Michelle I loved how he said, “If you are trying to do the best you can…then give yourself high marks” and when that area that you are “good” at comes up, listen for another topic in which you may be lacking. I loved all of the “personal prophetic epistles” as he called him that were really just for me this Conference.

    I am also grateful that Conference is filled with testimonies of “love AND warning” and that the messages are there “to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the [comfortable]”(President Lee). I need both. I need those messages that bouy me up and those messages that call me to action and to change. I felt both so perfectly this conference.

    Lastly, I loved his final words about President Monson and how his life is not easy. And the words that Elder Holland spoke in our behalf really struck me, “We will lighten your load any way we can.” Thinking about how much he does and how selfless he is I hope that the little that I contribute can help a little. His words definitely have urged me to try to do more.

    Thanks again for creating this “club”. I am glad I am finally fully joining in.

  3. I have promised myself that I would play along since I discovered that you do this club (inspired idea, by the way!). And yet, something always got in the way. So this is me committing. I am going to play along this time around.

    I can’t really add much to what has already been said. It did strike me when he spoke of the life of an apostle being so difficult. I was very surprised, because I always figured it was easier for them. Foolish assumption I realize, now that I actually give it some thought. But it is comforting to know that even they have trials and need help too. Also, talking to all of us who try and fail every day, I am so happy to learn that we get “high marks” for just trying. Even if we don’t succeed, we still get points for trying. Gosh I love Conference! What a well of help we have been given! And thank you, Stephanie, for helping us delve and learn and grow.

  4. Great first choice 🙂 I love Elder Holland too. I liked what he had to say about the importance of conference, but I think what stood out to me personally was his section about the speakers themselves. My weekly primary lesson is certainly not a conference talk, but I feel inspired to “…earnestly [seek] the Lord’s direction to guide [my] thoughts and expression.” I love this bit too: “…men and women who have all the physical and financial and family difficulties you and I have but who with faith have consecrated their lives to the callings that have come to them and the duty to preach God’s word, not their own.” I want to re-dedicate myself to give my best to my calling!

  5. I liked that he humanized the speakers in Conference. It can be easy for us to criticize their topics or their delivery, but when we think of them the way he talks about them–searching & praying for the right topic and words–how can you not feel compassion for them?

    • I agree Jan, I like that he reminded us that they are human too! I think we forget that all too often. Makes me think I should remind my children of that too! Thanks!

  6. I always love Elder Holland’s talks. There definitely were lots of “prophetic epistles” that would have been addressed to me. I sat with my Conference Journal and put asterisks when I had a feeling about something I needed to do. (For example, during Elder Ballard’s talk I knew I had to go to my local Senior Center and volunteer.)

    As we sat at the dinner table with the missionaries the other night, one of them commented on how he wished we had General Conference more often. I told him it would be wonderful, but the important thing is that we take the messages we heard and study them and truly ponder and apply them into our lives. I’m grateful for you for doing this book club again.

    I felt it was almost Elder Maxwell like when Elder Holland said, “Obviously as the path of discipleship ascends, that trail gets ever more narrow until we come to that knee-buckling pinnacle of the sermon of which Elder Christofferson just spoke: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” What was gentle in the lowlands of initial loyalty becomes deeply strenuous and very demanding at the summit of true discipleship.”

    It was a fantastic message that I will ponder again and again.

  7. I love the direct and motivated way Elder Holland speaks. He is always one of my favorite Apostles to listen to. It is obvious he feels the responsibility of his calling and takes it seriously. I love that in the world today of moral and theological ambiguity, there is a clear and defining message from our Father in Heaven, delivered by his Prophet and Apostles. One of my favorite quotes helps me to realize anew that in terms of covenant keeping, there is no grey area. It is as it was taught over 2,000 years ago.

    “Clearly anyone who thinks Jesus taught no-fault theology did not read the fine print in the contract! No, in matters of discipleship the Church is not a fast-food outlet; we can’t always have it “our way.” Some day every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ and that salvation can only come His way.”

  8. First, when I reread Elder Holland’s discussion of President and Sister Monson’s sacrifice, I realized that I need to be more humbly diligent in the callings I have been given. They have both set a lifelong example of consecration.

    Second, in addition to so many of the good points already made, I loved the line:

    “Now, these mortal angels who come to this pulpit have, each in his or her own way, sounded ‘the trump of God.’ Every sermon given is always, by definition, both a testimony of love and a warning.”

    I think of the promptings I have received – if my heart is in the right place, I feel it as an encouraging nudge rather than a disappointed poke.

  9. I didn’t write down a lot of “things to do” as I was watching conference this time around (probably a good thing, since one of the themes was to be and not to do), but one of them came from Elder Holland’s talk. That was to look for my “personal prophetic epistle” as I read and study the messages over the coming months. That’s one reason why I’m excited about participating here; it will help motivate me.

    Elder Holland is always so kind and loving and encouraging. He makes living and sharing the gospel really feel possible. I also realized as I reviewed this talk that I need to look for those times when someone needs me to be a mortal messenger of God’s message, particularly my family members. Am I living so the Spirit can direct my words? And am I following through on those promptings?

  10. This is the very 1st time I do this, I actually just came across your website about 2 weeks ago & I am so glad that we all get to share on the conference topics. So here I go…

    I always enjoy Elder Holland’s talks; he always make me
    feel of his sweet yet powerful spirit. I have met him & I can truly testify that he is a man of God. There is power in his eyes & in being in the misdt of him, I love him so. Anyhow, back to his talk: I really liked how he explained how the speakers prepare their talks & all the personal revelation & sacrifice they go thru. He said they “are mortal messengers with angelic messages.” I enjoyed how he talked about the need to talk about difficult subjects but then explains that it is all done with love. He mentioned that “someday ALL will bow & say that Jesus is the Christ.” Wow, what a wonderful day that will be & something to truly look forward to & be prepared for. I like “if you teach by the Spirit & you listen by the Spirit, one of us will touch on our circumstance”–that is so very true. Truly, the Holy Spirit working in all of us. “Every sermon given is always both a testimony of love & warning, just like nature does in these last days.” With all the quakes & tsunamis we have seen/heard of lately..truly, we are in the last days.

    I loved how he expressed himself about Pres. Monson. He truly let us all know of his love & appreciation for him. I am grateful that he reminded us all of the great sacrifices that leaders families go thru (I know that of personal experience.) It’s not easy at times but it’s really quite worth the blessings.

    I love this man & I am so very grateful for his personal spirituality that conveys love & hope to all of us.

  11. I enjoyed this talk too. I think the part that stood out to me the most at the time is this part:
    “Obviously as the path of discipleship ascends, that trail gets ever more narrow until we come to that knee-buckling pinnacle of the sermon of which Elder Christofferson just spoke: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” 13 What was gentle in the lowlands of initial loyalty becomes deeply strenuous and very demanding at the summit of true discipleship. Clearly anyone who thinks Jesus taught no-fault theology did not read the fine print in the contract! No, in matters of discipleship the Church is not a fast-food outlet; we can’t always have it “our way.” Some day every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ and that salvation can only come His way.”

    First, that if things are feeling easy then I probably am getting too complacent in my own personal journey to discipleship, and second that we can’t have the gospel “our way”.

    It’s been neat to read everyone’s comments!

  12. I love Elder Holland.

    I love how the theme of the reality of angels was reinforced in his talk…this is a topic he has touched on more than once. Angels were mentioned in several talks this time around.

    I am always so grateful for his prophetic declaration of the role of prophets in God’s plan. They are human, yes, but they are guided by God and he testifies of that.

    I also appreciate how he helps us see both the need for prophetic guidance and the need for personal revelation (reminds me of Elder Oaks’ talk from Oct conference). It also reminds me of this from a past WW leadership broadcast:

    “We who are General Authorities and general officers are called to teach His general rules. You and we then lead specific lives and must seek the Lord’s guidance regarding specific circumstances. But there would be mass confusion and loss of gospel promises if no general ideal and no doctrinal standard were established and, in our case today, repeated. We take great strength in knowing the Lord has spoken on these matters, and we accept His counsel even when it might not be popular. ”

    http://lds.org/library/display/0,4945,8027-1-4404-2,00.html

  13. I, too, found the following quote thought provoking-

    “Obviously as the path of discipleship ascends, that trail gets ever more narrow until we come to that knee-buckling pinnacle of the sermon of which Elder Christofferson just spoke: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” 13 What was gentle in the lowlands of initial loyalty becomes deeply strenuous and very demanding at the summit of true discipleship. Clearly anyone who thinks Jesus taught no-fault theology did not read the fine print in the contract! No, in matters of discipleship the Church is not a fast-food outlet; we can’t always have it “our way.” Some day every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ and that salvation can only come His way.”

    It reminded me that our difficulties, sorrows and struggles are part of the plan – helping us to become more like Him.

    Love the book club – thank you!

  14. I love Elder Holland. I always feel like he is speaking to me. I always learn something new when listening to him. All the thoughts previously shared I agree with so I will not duplicate those. I always feel the love of the Savior when Elder Holland speaks which I am so grateful for.

  15. I did it. I felt the spirit testify to me that Thomas S Monson is a prophet as Elder Holland spoke of him. My favourite quote I think would have to be “the gospel is to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.” And I really love the way he described the conference talks as personal prophetic epistles because it is so apt, it really feels that way.

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