What do the prophets say about [insert your hot-button issue of choice here]?

Listen to the prophet[image credit: jordanandemily.com]

Anyone who has read my blog for a while knows that every once in a while I get fire in my bones about something and I have to let it out. I have to write my thoughts “out loud” and I have to bear my testimony about it and promise the things that I know to be true. Usually it’s about one issue in particular (for example, see the previous catharses about pornography, the power of women , and the sanctity of family). Today it’s about all of those issues and many more. I don’t know about you, but lately my Internet content has been flooded, and I mean overwhelmingly filled, with discussions and commentary and articles and studies and arguments and status updates and diatribes about these issues and many more like them– gay marriage, abortion, vaccination, alcohol laws, government corruption… fill in the blank. The list goes on (painfully so).

If you feel confused and overwhelmed by some of these issues, I just want to tell you that this is the very reason that God gave us prophets. We have a living prophet and apostles, called to the whole world, to speak on behalf of the Lord and make His will known to us. The words of living prophets, like the iron rod in the vision of the Tree of Life, help us have a safe and clear pathway of truth even when surrounded by dark mists and pointing, mocking fingers. Lately, I have felt sadness when I see people I love and admire post things online that are contrary to what the prophets have taught us. I know these people love the Lord, and I think they love and try to sustain the prophet, but I fear they may not be paying attention to him.

This morning my family read from 2 Nephi 32. Verse 7 jumped out at me.  I’ve never marked it or paid attention to it before, but today, Nephi’s words captured the way I feel and reaffirmed to me the importance of practicing due diligence in our study of these issues.

I am left to mourn because of the unbelief, and the wickedness, and the ignorance, and the stiffneckedness of men; for they will not search knowledge, nor understand great knowledge, when it is given unto them in plainness, even as plain as word can be.

This is what I know to be true: Many people have many different opinions on many different issues, but so does God, and He “revealeth his secret unto to his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7) Do you want to know what God thinks about marriage or abortion or pornography? Find out. Take the challenge from Nephi: search knowledge. Sure there are plenty of “experts” and websites out there who are happy to tell you more than you want to know. The answers–the true answers, the right answers–are there for the taking if we do the asking.

Type the “issue” into the search engine at gc.lds.org (collection of general conference talks) and see what the prophets and apostles–whom we’ve sustained as prophets, seers and revelators–have said. A lot of talks and resources will pop up. You may be surprised how much is available. Read all of them. Study them. Ponder them. Invite the Spirit to help you see the issue through spiritual eyes. Like Nephi said, the knowledge is given “in plainness, even as plain as word can be.” Trust that God is using his prophets to help you know the truth. Then cling to those truths. Let them be an anchor to you in a constantly shifting and angry world.

Please. Pretty please. Even the not pretty, begging kind of please. Before you speak out on a major social or political or societal issue, study what the prophets have said about it. The knowledge you find will give you confidence to speak out in truth, and the people in your circle of influence will be pointed in the right direction by your words.

I testify that peace is found and sustained by hearing and studying and following the words of the prophets. I know that living prophets are completely in touch with the issues of our day and that the Lord is not silent on these matters. I cannot articulate how much comfort it gives me to understand how the Lord feels about things that the world is constantly fighting about. I promise that the prophets and apostles are teaching the same things Jesus would teach if He were here, so until He comes again, He has promised that “whether by mine own voice, or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (D&C 1:38).

I know it and believe it so much it puts fire in my bones.

Some thoughts on General Conference and the joy I feel to be a Mormon woman

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.’

President Hugh B. Brown

President Hugh B. Brown

“‘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.

Come listen to living prophets

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.

conferenceisforyou-conference[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.)

GCBC Week 25: “The Privilege of Prayer” by Elder J. Devn Cornish

[image credit]

Next to LAST talk.  Conference is coming.

You will remember this talk if I give you two hints:  fried chicken and a quarter.  See?  It was a great story that helped us learn that Heavenly Father cares about everything that we care about– even things that might seem insignificant.  I love Elder Cornish’s testimony and stories about prayer.

The Privilege of Prayer by Elder J. Devn Cornish

” When we truly believe that God rules His kingdom and that He has all power and all glory, we are recognizing that He really is in charge, that He loves us with a perfect love, and that He wants us to be happy. I have found that one of the secrets to a joyful life is to recognize that doing things the Lord’s way will make me happier than doing things my way.”

What are some of your favorite insights from this talk?  Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.

To anyone who is checking out GCBC for the first time, the goal is to read one General Conference talk a week and discuss it together as an on-line “book club.” If you want to learn more, go here, and then join the discussion right here each week.

Preparing Yourself for General Conference

[image credit]

Here’s the thing about General Conference that’s key:  The talks can answer your prayers and give you specific, personal direction for whatever you’re dealing with in your life.  When you open your mind and heart to the possibility of finding those answers, they are there.  Totally there.  This is where my deep love of General Conference comes from– some of my most specific, immediate answers to prayers and heart-musings have come through living prophets speaking straight to me right through my TV screen.  Those answers have come in the form of reassurances, gentle chastenings, practical ideas, reminders, and simple expressions of love.  The Holy Ghost helps me feel what the message is for me.

Here are a few disjointed thoughts and suggestions that might help you get more out of your conference experience.

  1. Pray.  A lot.  Just ramp it up a little this week.  Any time you find yourself worrying or wondering or stressing about anything in your life– no matter how small– make it a matter of prayer.  Even a quick turn-your-thoughts-upward prayer will do.  Lay that concern out for Heavenly Father and ask Him to help you find some kind of answer or direction as you listen to conference.
  2. Write those questions down.  This can help you keep them in your prayers and thoughts.  It can be a list or a collection of scrap paper.  One year I wrote individual questions on post-it notes and stuck them in my scriptures.  You might even want to keep those written questions right on your lap as you listen to the conference talks.  Keep looking at them and keep listening for related content.  Continue reading