General conference is upon us in two days. Two days, people. Around here this is as exciting as Christmas. The other day, Grant (10) said, “Mom, I wish we could blip ahead 3 days so it would be general conference already.” Me too, son, me too.
I have two things I want to say about general conference because they are the ideas that are burning the brightest in my heart right now every time I think about this biannual event.
1. We have a living prophet! A. LIVING. PROPHET. I just can’t wrap my heart around how blessed I feel to know that our Father in Heaven still communicates with us today. He knows our day, our times, and the circumstances of our lives. He loves us and wants to help us navigate this scary world with the tools that will help us to succeed and to avoid sorrow and sin. And when I say “We” have a living prophet, I don’t just mean the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I mean THE WORLD. Just as in ancient days, God sends prophets and apostles to declare his gospel to the whole world. Just yesterday I read this quote and a “Wow!” went off in my brain:
“In the [several] two-hour sessions … , truths were taught, doctrines expounded, exhortations given, enough to save the whole world from all its ills—and I mean from ALL its ills. A rather complete education in eternal verities was given to millions with a great hope that there were ‘ears a’hearing and eyes a’seeing and hearts a’throbing,’ convinced of truth.” –President Spencer W. Kimball
In the class I teach, we recently read this story about Hugh B. Brown. My students loved the way he logically drew attention to the need for continuing revelation:
President Hugh B. Brown (1883–1975) of the First Presidency described a conversation he had with a member of the British House of Commons and former justice of the Supreme Court of England, who was not a member of the Church, about the need for living prophets and the revelation they receive:
“[I said,] ‘I am submitting to you in all seriousness that it was standard procedure in Bible times for God to talk to men.’
“[He responded,] ‘I think I will admit that, but it stopped shortly after the first century of the Christian era.’
“‘Why do you think it stopped?’
“‘I can’t say.’
“‘You think that God hasn’t spoken since then?’
“‘Not to my knowledge.’
“‘May I suggest some possible reasons why he has not spoken. Perhaps it is because he cannot. He has lost the power.’
“He said, ‘Of course that would be blasphemous.’
“‘Well, then, if you don’t accept that, perhaps he doesn’t speak to men because he doesn’t love us anymore. He is no longer interested in the affairs of men.’
“‘No,’ he said, ‘God loves all men, and he is no respecter of persons.’
“‘Well, … then the only other possible answer as I see it is that we don’t need him. We have made such rapid strides in education and science that we don’t need God anymore.’
“And then he said, and his voice trembled as he thought of impending war [World War II], ‘Mr. Brown, there never was a time in the history of the world when the voice of God was needed as it is needed now. Perhaps you can tell me why he doesn’t speak.’
“My answer was, ‘He does speak, he has spoken; but men need faith to hear him.’
“Then we proceeded to examine what I may call a ‘profile of a prophet.’ …
“The judge sat and listened intently. He asked some very pointed and searching questions, and at the end of the interview he said, ‘Mr. Brown, I wonder if your people appreciate the import of your message. Do you?’ He said, ‘If what you have told me is true, it is the greatest message that has come to this earth since the angels announced the birth of Christ’” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1967, 118, 120; emphasis added; see also The Profile of a Prophet, Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year [Oct. 4, 1955], 4–5, 8; or “The Profile of a Prophet,” Ensign, June 2006, 36–37, 39).
I invite you to tune in to what God is saying in our day by listening to prophets and apostles. General Conference is this weekend, Oct. 5 and 6, and will be broadcast live on KSL, BYUTV (available via Dish and DirectTV), and streamed on mormonchannel.org and lds.org. The four general sessions will be both days at 10 am and 2 pm, Mountain Daylight Time. (1 hour earlier in California, 2 hours later for east coast.) If you just want to tune in to one session, the Sunday morning one is your best bet because the prophet and president of the Church will give his address during that session.
2. We can get answers to our prayers and the concerns of our hearts as we listen to general conference. One of the reasons I love conference so much is that it recharges my spiritual batteries and prepares me to face the challenges of my life with more courage and determination. In the days leading up to conference, I spend time thinking about and praying about things I want to learn and questions I want to have answered. I can testify that, without exception, I have found what I need in the words of the conference speakers– sometimes the answers come in direct counsel, other times in quiet whisperings in my mind and heart as I listen, but the answers always come. I love this promise by Elder Holland and I believe it with all my heart.
[See a two minute video about conference that includes this quote here.]
Finally, I love being a woman and a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You may have caught wind of some noise in the news lately of a small faction of LDS women who feel some discontent because the men of the Church are ordained to the priesthood and they are not. I do not wish to disparage them or assume anything evil of them, but I want to state for the record that they represent a small minority among LDS women. The great majority of the millions and millions of women in the Church feel that their contributions, with or without any formal ordination, are equal and significant. We know of our value to God, His kingdom, and His church. We feel the great responsibility of our influence and power both within the Church, in our families, and in our communities. God’s daughters are no weaklings; He knows how to use us and puts great faith in us to further His work. And even though this small faction of dissent is a minority within the Church, they have every right to find answers to their questions, just as I do to my own personal questions. I can only assume that at general conference this weekend, whether directly or indirectly, the mind and will of God on this issue will be revealed as it has been many times in the past*. His doctrines will be reiterated and made clear. I hope that we can all listen with “ears to hear” and look for ways to apply these principles in our lives and personal testimonies. I recently came upon this quote from President Gordon B. Hinckley, and in light of some of these recent conversations, I was struck by how we are each given an equal opportunity to choose to sustain our leaders or not:
When President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) was sustained as the President of the Church, he explained the commitment we make when we sustain our Church leaders: “This morning we all participated in a solemn assembly. That is just what the name indicates. It is a gathering of the membership where every individual stands equal with every other in exercising with soberness and in solemnity his or her right to sustain or not to sustain those who, under the procedures that arise out of the revelations, have been chosen to lead.
“The procedure of sustaining is much more than a ritualistic raising of the hand. It is a commitment to uphold, to support, to assist those who have been selected. …
“Your uplifted hands in the solemn assembly this morning became an expression of your willingness and desire to uphold us, your brethren and your servants, with your confidence, faith, and prayer” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1995, 70–71; or Ensign, May 1995, 51; emphasis added).
This past weekend, we had the opportunity to hear from our general Relief Society presidency (the women’s organization of the Church) and they reiterated the great power and eternal blessings that come into women’s lives as we make and keep our covenants and participate in temple service. Our prophet, Thomas S. Monson, emphasized the love of our Heavenly Father and testified that it never changes. I personally have felt in my own life the power, the blessings, and the love that He offers to His daughters, and I am proud to be a woman in His Church.
*There are several talks that have addressed the matter of women and the priesthood directly, but this most recent one is my favorite as it concisely summarizes the doctrines and policies, as well as states clearly the importance and value of women in God’s work. It is called “Let Us Think Straight,” by Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, given in August of this year. (You can read or watch the talk in its entirety here.)