This past weekend was General Conference! For those who haven't experienced General Conference, it is where the leaders of my church, the Prophet, 12 Apostles, and various other men and women who hold leadership positions get together and broadcast live to the entire world a series of talks, and this happens every 6 months. Some people lately have been comparing this a bit to TED Talks, but I suppose that analogy only really helps if you're American. These talks are about whatever the speaker felt most needed to be addressed. They can include explaining our church beliefs, counsel, comfort, etc. This past weekend (including the prior Saturday) we saw 29 speakers over 6 2-hour sessions. A friend of mine who isn't a member of my church once made the comment that it sounds like torture, listening to a series of boring lectures. But in reality, General Conference is my favorite!!! I love every second of it, and when it is over I get sad that I have to wait another 6 months before another General Conference will happen again. And I'm not the only one, most people I know really enjoy listening to the leaders of our church, hearing their instruction and feeling the peace of listening to the word of God.
Even though all 29 talks were enjoyable, there were a particular few that really stuck out to me. These either spoke on topics that I have really been pondering lately, or issues that I have been struggling with. Normally I enjoy talking with others right after Conference and comparing which talks were our favorites, what new things we learned, etc., etc., but since this week I've put myself in forced solitary confinement so I can study for my final exams coming up, I decided to blog about my favorites instead. So in no particular order, here are my favorite talks from the April 2014 General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints:
President Thomas S. Monson (Prophet)--President Monson's talk was all about love. He talked about how in the Bible, the Savior states that the two greatest commandments were to love God and to love our neighbors. Elder Monson emphasized that love is the essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This was definitely a message I needed to hear. Too often I focus only on myself and my own needs, and don't spend enough time looking to help those around me.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland--My favorite quote from this one was something akin to this: "The path to a land flowing in milk and honey goes past Mount Sinai". This means two things to me. This quote is referring to Moses and the children of Israel, and it reminded me that they had to go through the wilderness before they could arrive at the promised land. So often we expect immediate blessings, or immediate happiness, not remembering that sometimes we have to travel a not so pretty path first to actually get to the land flowing in milk and honey. Another good point that Elder Holland was trying to make was of course the reference to Mount Sinai, where the 10 commandments were given. He was reminding us that we have to make the commandments a part of our life in order to reach that promised land.
President Henry B. Eyring--In this talk, President Eyring shares the story of his grandfather (or maybe great-grandfather). This man was born in Germany to fairly wealthy parents, and was the oldest of 3 children. While he was still a young man, his mother passed away. A few years later, his father lost all of their fortune in some unwise investing, and then passed away himself. So while still in his youth, this young man became an orphan, one who was raised in wealth but now had nothing to his name, and had 2 younger siblings to care for. President Eyring continued the story, telling how this man felt hope in immigrating to America, and after a few years, while living in Missouri, was introduced to members of the church and found joy in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and lived the rest of his life happily serving in the church. I feel like we hear stories like that all of the time, some great tragedy which puts the person in the right place at the right time and finds the gospel, and they live happily ever after. I've never been much affected by those stories, I think because we hear the good ending too soon after hearing about the tragedy. The happiness seems immediate, and the suffering doesn't seem very hard, and that just hasn't seemed like how life actually works. But for whatever reason, this time as I was listening to the story, it really seemed to hit me. I almost felt the pain and agony of becoming an orphan, the anger at having no money, the worry of responsibility of taking care of the younger siblings. The hard adjustment to moving to a new country, where he probably didn't know the language at first. He probably spent a good few years still being poor, not having his dream job. But then the answer did come, the reason for all the pain and suffering, and for some reason this time I was able to understand that it really was years later, years of struggle and pain and probably even a "Why me?" sort of feeling. This is definitely a story I can relate to. I don't know the reasons yet for my pains and struggles, but it is a comfort that God does have a plan, and is leading me to a place that I need to be.
Elder Richard G. Scott--In this talk, Elder Scott talks about how two people really had a huge impact for good in his life, his grandmother when he was a child, and his wife when he was older. He talked about how they were able to influence him because he felt their deep and abiding love. He knew they loved him first and foremost, and so he knew he could trust them. My favorite part of the talk was when he talked about how God loves each of us. God's love is perfect and is always there, He always loves us. But it can often be hard for people to understand this love, or realize that it is there. Elder Scott counseled us to love people as God loves them, because it will help them better understand God's love and teach them to develop confidence and trust in God.
Elder Michael John U. Teh--Elder Teh talked about priorities, asking us to consider what we spend our time, money and focus on. I particularly liked a part when he quoted an older talk by President Uchtdorf, talking about how Heavenly Father knows us, and sees our real potential. He knows things about us that we don't even know ourselves. So we need to listen to Him and trust Him, and not spend our time on things that are temporal, trivial or transient.
Elder W. Craig Zwick--Elder Zwick tells a funny (and very luckily not tragic) story of an experience he had with his wife while they were driving a truck with their infant son many many years ago. The truck began smoking very suddenly and they could hardly see anything. Elder Zwick knew what the problem was, and though it appeared scary, he knew they would be fine as they slowed to the side of the road. His wife on the other hand had no idea what was happening, and fearing the truck was about to explode, she grabbed the infant son and jumped out of the truck in order to save his life. This completely shocked and terrified Elder Zwick, who had no idea why she would do this. Elder Zwick then explained in his talk how we need to have good communication. Good communication during this accident would have prevented some terror on both of their parts, but even more so after the incident, because they were able to control their anger at the situation and see what had happened from the other's point of view, they were able to understand each other and grow in a good way from the experience. Elder Zwick warned that words can be destructive, and that listening and understanding each other is the most important thing we can do.