Saturday, April 3, 2010

Promptings from General Conference

I've included my notes that I took from conference. With two little ones, they are very brief but I tried to get the basic gist of each talk, as well as record when I heard something that applied to recent ponderings or prompted me in some way. My thoughts after the fact with be block-quoted.

My ponderings have been on topics that relate to different aspects of my life: my role as a mother/parent, wife, citizen of the world. In preparation for Conference, I had thought of number of things I was going to listen for related to these areas of my life in an effort to obtain guidance in them. This is what I've been listening for:
  • References to social justice efforts, mainly examples of community involvement addressing social ills through organized efforts.
  • Ideas relating to gender roles, with a focus on listening for examples of where inappropriate gender stereotypes are avoided.
  • Ways to strengthen my marriage
  • Lessons on how to raise a daughter
  • Ideas for improving my teaching as a parent to my children
  • Answers to gospel questions (in my study and seeking to understand the "meat" of the gospel, I often come across these and sometimes Conference is where I find them).
Saturday morning General Conference:
Monson: temple dedications, excellent example of love for a wife
Definitely very cute. When I joined the church there were 114 temples and now there are 130 in operation. Later this month, we'll be going to Vancouver British Columbia for the open house of the temple there, which maybe I just missed it, but I didn't hear President Monson mention the Vancouver temple?
Packer: men are a special population, correlation emphasizes priesthood to help men be involved in their families. The church aims always, in everything, to support and help the home. As families are the way that HF brings to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. So shall it be. evidence for social justice efforts--especially family policy.
I've recently learned that the correllation efforts of the church came about in the early 1900's when it became evident that although women were being joining the church and remaining faithful that very few men were and those in the church often did not remain very active, hence the effort to call men to "their duties" as priesthood holders. I've learned that some people believe the entire correlation effort is to encourage and given men a more concrete reason to remain active in the church.

Elder Packer also strongly emphasized the church's efforts to support and aid the family, and its commitment to not get in the way or usurp families influence on their children. This led me to 1) want to pull the quote directly out of his talk and 2) use that quote as an example of what I believe the role of government is regarding families.

I have been involved for years now in community building/family strengthening efforts, and I feel Elder Packer's talk is giving some excellent evidence and ideas for how those efforts can be successful, and some of the ways in which those efforts can be framed. I'm looking forward to reading this talk again and further pondering it.

Beck: Eliza Snow: women fit companions of Gods, women as nurturers, can secure blessings and exercises duties in Preach my Gospel. seems to finally be treating women as people first, women second. strong evidence for women involved in social justice efforts.
The quote from Eliza R. Snow got me very excited. A friend found it in its entirety and it states: "We want to be ladies in very deed, not according to the term of the word as the world judges, but fit companions of the gods and holy ones. In an organized capacity we can assist each other in not only doing good but in refining ourselves. And whether few or many come forward and help prosecute this great work they will be those that will fill honorable positions in the kingdom of God.
Women should be women and not babies that need petting and correction all the time. I know we like to be appreciated but if we do not get all the appreciation which we think is our due What matters? We know the Lord has laid high responsibility on us and there is not a wish or desire that the lord hasn’t planted in our hearts in righteousness but will be realized. And the greatest good we can do to ourselves and each other is to refine and cultivate ourselves in everything that is good and ennobling and qualify for those responsibilities."

The remainder of the talk I felt was better than previous talks I've heard Sister Beck give (I've previously felt that she has talked down to women, and treated them as less than people). This talk by using the counsel from Preach My Gospel applied gospel teachings for all regardless of gender specifically to women and I felt that she was using more gender inclusive, neutral language that helped me feel like she recognizes that the women of the church are not just female but they are also people too.

As I've been recently involved in many social justice type efforts, I've been listening closely to quotes that would either support or disuade me from focusing my time and energy on them. I felt as I listened to this talk that there were ideas in there that support my efforts. Obviously, I find that comforting and encouraging. All along I've been using the scripture "anxiously engaged in a good cause" as my motto.
Seventy: insight into why Jesus is appointed to be prayed "in the name of Jesus Christ." we go through him as the Father has commanded. All things through Jesus. also illustrated in the temple.
One of the questions on my gospel questions list is why the LDS use the phrase "in the name of Jesus Christ" at the end of prayers. The member of the Quorum of the Seventy who spoke at this point in the session (I know I can look up his name later--hey I'm realistic in balancing my desire to take notes, listen and mother my children!) gave me an insight into why this is done. I'll have to refer back to this talk later to more fully understand, but its something along the lines that Jesus is the God the Father's spokesman when communicating to people. It was the case in the Old Testament, as well as in the Doctrine and Covenants and that pattern is demonstrated in the temple as well. This is helping me understand another question I've had which is how can I have a personal relationship to Jesus that equals the intense loving relationship I have with Father in Heaven? Because Jesus hears each prayer, and is the means for communicating through the Spirit to me.
Seventy: recognized the struggles of depression. Does anyone have a problem with the plan of salvation? Me, yes, its is a long time until we see those that we love. prompt: write about mental illness in Dialouge?
He spoke on everyday discouragement and the need to turn to the Spirit for comfort and guidance. He was sensitive to those who have experienced depression and mental illness hinting that those struggles are something else entirely when it comes to finding peace and comfort. This I greatly appreciated having the experience I've had with mental illness, for myself, for those whom I love and for others that I know.

At one point he asked the question, in telling a story about a family saying goodbye to a loved one who was about to die, "Does anyone have a problem with the plan of salvation?" In his story, all the members of the family were comforted and felt blessed by their knowledge of the plan of salvation, knowing they would see their loved one again. I do find a great deal of comfort in that, but given all of my experiences losing loved ones (brother, father, grandfather, great-grandmother, two grandmothers, aunt), my problem with the plan of salvation is; even though a span of years is the blink of an eye for God; I have to wait for the rest of my life to see them again. I have missed them so keenly and felt a desire to join them that 60-70 years seems a very long time indeed to me. My children give me much joy and our my consolation for having to wait that long.
Ballard: speaking to women request "for equal time" mothers love more than anyone else in the world daughters: be kind, patient to mothers imperfections, respect and love her "mothers are first line of defense" When are mothers going to be counseled to teach boys to be nurturers? refer to last April's Priesthood session talk from Ballard to fathers and sons-how similar is the message?
Elder Ballard prefaced his talk by stating that his granddaughters request that he speak to the women of the church calling it "equal time." This appears to be in response to a talk that he gave either last Conference (Oct 09) or last April's conference. Since he referenced it, I will go back and look at it. By the end of his talk, I was asking myself how similar was the council given to women/daughters as he gave to sons and fathers. My recent learning about feminism and those who care deeply about gender roles in the church have got me asking these questions. I'm trying to figure out for myself where the balance is between gospel principles that apply universally to whatever you may be, and principles that are gender specific.

I also found his council to daughters to be helpful, as one of my gospel questions continues to be what is my role as daughter to my mother who is not a member of the church and with whom I would like to share the gospel?

In my own role as mother of a son, I often emphasize in my teachings his role as a nurturer, and I do not recall an instance in General Conference where mothers are counseled to teach their sons to nurture, care for, be kind and loving (D&C 121:41)

Eyering: speaking to youth and children
I basically spent this whole talk trying to get Willem to listen since Pres. Eyering said he was speaking directly to the youth and children. It didn't work so well, he was getting ready for the session to be over since he'd been so reverent through the previous talks.
Sat afternoon session:
L Tom Perry: parents teach children at home, supplement school education, teach gospel, prayer, scripture study, family meals, family home evening, sing
This talk most definitely covered one of my areas that I was listening carefully for. The counsel was pretty standard: family prayer, scripture study, family home evenings. But he also mentioned family meals, which is one positive family process that had made media attention in recent years. Eating together as a family as tremendous effects on child's behavior, family cohesiveness, etc. So it was nice to hear it mentioned.

The highlight of the talk for me was hearing Elder Perry describe how his mother supplemented his education growing up through teaching her children outside of school, and expanding on the school work he was doing. This is something that my husband and I have discussed because we recognize some of the weaknesses of public education. Because we also hold strongly to some of the advantages of public education (as I attended a small private school, I know what its like to not have access to extracurricular activities, science labs, athletics, music programs, etc.) In trying to anticipate a balance between homeschooling activities and our children attending public schools. One of the things we have discussed previously and we brought up today was wanting to pull our children out of school during certain units to travel to the places that they are learning about and not really caring that they are missing school because we would know that we were supplementing their educations with more experiential, rich learning opportunities.
Tyndale translation of Bible in English, in his day people were ignorant of the scriptures because of lack of access now they are ignorant because of lack of effort. social justice efforts need to maintain connection to keeping commandments, cannot disregard moral actions. morality is needed to sustain institutions and in consequence society
This is certainly a talk I'll want to go back to again and possibly again, mainly because he specifically said the phrase "social justice." I haven't accessed the whole quote yet, but I tried to get the gist of it in my notes. I'm sure that quote will be one that I refer to over and over again as I continue with my social justice-esque efforts.

I also very much enjoyed the Reformation history and origins of the English language Bible. As a descendant of a Calvinist follower (when Calvin was alive) I have a great deal of respect and appreciation for the brave and faithful people who worked at risk to themselves during the Apostasy. Christofferson's epithet to those who neglect the scriptures is up there on the list of cleverly-worded veiled insulted.
Seventy: strengthen and assist members of the church in being faithful, help others
This is one aspect of life as a member of the LDS Church that I try to be sensitive to and I'm grateful to those who have assisted me in my life's struggles. I try to remember the need for me to provide service to those in my ward because even though we may be tremendously blessed, we also are frequently in need of help. Life is hard for all of us, to varying degrees based on our different needs and strengths.

This is also one aspect of the LDS Church that I like to criticize too. There is a tendency in the church to be so insulated from the community outside the church that members do not have friends who are not LDS, or are so busy living their faithful lives as good latter-day saints that they do not get involved in the issues facing their community and think that their token fast offerings that go to Humanitarian work is enough to be "caring for the poor and needy" outside the church. To me it is so very important to always remember that "helping others" needs to be outside the Church as often as in.
Seventy: keep commandments with exactness, do not add heathen/Satan practices into worship
In this talk the Seventy references Jeroboam in the Old Testament, a prophet who upon becoming leader in a city aided the people in turning away from the commandments and turning to what the Seventy called "Satanic" and "heathen" practices. I'm pondering on what that can mean, especially as in my "quest for truth and meaning" I am again learning about and studying pagan ideas of nature appreciation. As I continue to develop my spirituality and add traditions where I honor and recognize the earth and its cycles, I am careful to know where keeping the commandments that I've covenanted to keep and where heathen practices begins. Its another post to describe how pagan does not equal heathen or Satanic and one that is probably necessary for many people.

I also ask myself "Am I keeping the commandments with exactness?" I think so. And thus I commence on the hated "going down the Mormon checklist." My first thought was do I keep the law of chastity with exactness? Yes. What would constitute a Satanic religious practice in relation to this commandment? I'll say ritual sex. I definitely am not doing any of that! That is obviously an exaggeration of what I'm thinking, but more realistically: Do I pray only to my Father in Heaven? See my recent posts regarding Heavenly Mother. President Hinckley specifically said that it is not appropriate to pray to Mother in Heaven. I have not done that, but I do feel its appropriate to talk to loved ones (talk, not pray) who have passed away and in that sense, I have pondered the appropriateness of talking to Mother in Heaven. I have not yet made that decision, and really, so awkward to try to start a conversation with someone who knows you intimately but you are not familiar with... I did it with a member of my ward who I have admired for a while. However, when it comes to Mother in Heaven, I want to study it out some more before I decide to do that.
Bednar: heed warnings, when warning are given, watch carefully. Word of Wisdom warning of exploitative practices in the last days, infants respond to the spirit of the book of Mormon, make gospel discussions normal in everyday conversation
This talk as full of instruction regarding my role as mother and parent and in my experience, by following the counsel to make gospel discussion part of everyday conversation, my marriage is strengthened as well as I discuss and testify with my husband.

I was especially impressed by Elder Bednar saying that even infants can respond to the spirit of the Book of Mormon. I saw Willem as an infant respond to hymns in a spiritual way, but I would really like to see and know that an infant of mine has responded to the Book of Mormon in the way that it is described in the book "as if by a familiar spirit."

Elder Bednar also mentioned the phrase "evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days" from the Word of Wisdom and as I learn more about the food industry and agribusiness and their unethical, unsustainable and unhealthful business practices the more I wish that the Church would decry it from the pulpits of General Conference. Its unlikely that will ever be done, but it was hinted at today by Elder Bednar and that was exciting enough to be noteworthy for me.
Holland: lusts pervasiveness--the root of the tree of baseness in media, personal actions to solve the problem. mentions concerted organized effort to address the problem
I always love a little righteous indignation over the General Conference pulpit and Elder Holland is becoming known for it over the last few conferences. I loved the analogy he drew for the filth of the media and how we can, in our personal lives can attack the root of the tree by not letting it into our homes, paying for it, etc. His comments minimized the effects that an organized effort would have on changing the media and instead focused on what we can do as individuals and families, but he did not condemn any organized efforts to stop it. In recent conversations with other church members about issues that we could tackle as a group and organization, we have tried to find issues that have been discussed in church meetings that we could try to take on and would be obviously in line with current teachings of the church. This talk suggested to me that this might be one activism activity that we could develop.
Tomorrow I'll try to do the same thing I have done for today. I've enjoyed it. I also always enjoy when I can prevent any more paper from laying around my house. Electronic writing is my friend. :-)

No comments: