Sister Beck, Elder Jensen address attendees of Southern Virginia's 17th annual Education Conference

By Hannah Benson Rodriguez

For the Deseret News

Published: Thursday, June 13 2013 5:00 a.m. MDT

BUENA VISTA, Va. — Sister Julie B. Beck, former general president of the Relief Society of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Elder Marlin K. Jensen, an emeritus member of the Seventy of the LDS Church, gave keynote presentations on the second day of Southern Virginia University’s 17th annual Education Conference.

Other presenters included Leslie Graff, an artist and child-life specialist; Ron Bartholomew, a full-time institute of religion instructor; Todd Brotherson, a Southern Virginia professor; and James Oneil Miner, a pianist who performed a number of pieces and also shared personal experiences about how “prophets have blessed (his) life.”

Being fruitful

Sister Beck focused her remarks on the Lord’s first commandments to Adam and Eve. She emphasized the commandment to be fruitful and six other central words: multiply, replenish, subdue, dominion, dress and keep.

"I thought as I was drawn to the idea of being fruitful and pondering on Adam and Eve, what would Heavenly Father … give them to help them remember?” Sister Beck said. “They didn’t have scriptures, they didn’t have a Sunday School manual … what would be overriding precepts that they could remember that would be so clear, so memorable, so true that they could carry them around in their heads and use the Spirit of the Lord to interpret what that meant in their mortal experience?”

Sister Beck said that from reading the 1828 edition of Webster’s Dictionary, she learned that being fruitful encompasses “the idea of being very productive,” of “having an abundant harvest,” and “producing fruit in abundance.” She mentioned several of the times in scripture when fruit is used in a symbolic way.

“It’s just all through (the) scriptures, this idea of something beginning and a desire for abundance and a fruitful harvest,” Beck said. “What does that mean to the Lord? When we go to the book of Moses and we hear … ‘this is my work and my glory — to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man,’ can you think of a more clear description of fruitfulness? That’s the Lord’s work. And he gave his first instructions in this clear way: be fruitful.”

After discussing the personal application of the first commandments, Sister Beck closed by saying, “through our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and his Atonement, that perfect water and light, we will be blessed and can have this abundant harvest, this fruitfulness in our own lives and in the Lord’s kingdom.”

Graff introduced several artists, including herself, who contributed artwork for a special display at the conference, and spoke about the “dimension that visual art adds to the Spirit.”

“The Spirit is a very qualitative way of learning because it’s in thoughts and impressions,” Graff said. “Its richness is in that individuality. It’s not something that can simply be reduced to the sum of its parts. Any of you who have had a personal experience with a truly great piece of art know how that works; it’s this combination of how it speaks to you and how it moves you.”

Graff said that the goal of art is to “connect,” “inspire” and to express appreciation of “the beauty in the experience of mortality.” She said that she feels art is “part of the way we are designed to learn.”

“Life is incomplete without art and a religious life is not a religious life without it,” she said. “(Heavenly Father) has these infinite spiritual gifts that he wants to give to us and share with us.”

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