My wife and I were thrilled to attend all sessions of the 181st Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Television is tremendous, but limited in its ability to capture the joy and privilege of being there.
There were humorous moments, like President Thomas S. Monson having been delayed in arriving to open conference, then greeting us with a warm smile and a large "hello." There were tender moments, such as when after Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve spoke and President Monson noted his improving health and affectionately referred to Elder Hales as "Bob."
There were thrilling moments invisible to home television, such as the shadow of each speaker reflected on the panel opposite the pulpit. When Elder Neil A. Anderson of the Quorum of the Twelve raised his arms to emphasize a point about faith in Jesus Christ, his shadow-arms enlarged his motion as if to bear a mighty second witness.
I don’t understand the science behind the optics, but just as a shadow mirrors the features it reflects, so the Holy Ghost mirrors and magnifies the Savior’s message and messengers.
Here are my reflections on a few of those powerful messages:
1. Jesus Christ
Without question, this conference was an affirmation of our belief in and desire to follow Jesus Christ as our Savior and Redeemer, in good times and bad.
President Monson twice reminded us to "stand in holy places" by having "the moral courage to stand firm for our beliefs, even if by so doing we must stand alone." He said that while storms will occasionally beat at our door, we can deal with them and overcome them "if we have the gospel at our core and the love of the Savior in our hearts."
Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of Twelve asked, "What think ye of Jesus?" and what are we doing about it? He said Jesus is our great exemplar who "invited us again and again to follow Him." We should not use a "visa to visit Babylon or act like one of its citizens."
2. The Scriptures
Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve bore powerful witness of the scriptures, comparing them to "packets of light that illuminate our minds." He suggested that pondering these pure truths gives great direction to life.
Elder Tad R. Callister of the Seventy reminded us of the many witnesses of Jesus Christ contained in the Book of Mormon. He said that "this book" is the "revealed word of God," for Satan would not author a witness against himself.
When the Pharisees accused Jesus of casting out devils by the power of the prince of devils, Jesus replied: "And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand?" (Matthew 24:26)
President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency, said, "The Book of Mormon can draw an individual closer to God than any other book."
Elder Hales bore tender witness that through the Savior’s atoning sacrifice we can bear our tribulation and suffering: "Waiting upon the Lord" means "to hope, to anticipate, to trust" as the Savior trusted God, saying, "Thy will be done."
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency, spoke of the Savior’s love and how to cope with our trials when he said, "Individuals will not feel sorrow, loneliness, pain or discouragement forever" as God will not forsake "those who incline their hearts to Him."
Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve recounted three Latter-day Saints who were saved from the Titanic, and one who was not. He reminded us that the Savior’s atonement compensates for the unfairness in life.
Elder J. Devn Cornish of the Seventy was an impoverished, hungry student with only a nickel to his name when he prayed for and found a quarter to buy a piece of fried chicken on sale for 29 cents.
President Monson shared a story from his youth: His hard-earned five-dollar-bill was accidentally laundered during the difficult times of the Great Depression. Through fervent prayer, the five-dollar-bill was preserved. President Monson expressed gratitude for knowing that God hears prayers, even for small matters, and is mindful of His children.
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We were witnesses to many other spirit-touching talks ranging from fathers who can do more for their daughters by loving their wives, to the audible whoosh of wonder as new temples were announced from Provo to Wyoming to Paris, France.
For me and my wife and all within the sound of conference, the question now is this: What will we do about the doctrine we heard and the spirit we felt?
Ultimately, the words of the prophets were not about laundered bills or found quarters, but about learning, doing and becoming more like Jesus, our exemplar, our Savior and our Redeemer.
William Monahan is a 1980 graduate of BYU Law School. He practices law and teaches law and ethics. A former Phoenix stake president and current high councilor for the QC Chandler Heights Stake, he is active in Interfaith, and a U.S. Air Force veteran