BUENA VISTA, Va. — Elder Spencer J. Condie, an emeritus general authority of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, gave a keynote address at Southern Virginia University’s 18th annual Education Conference, a two-day spiritual retreat, recently.
Elder Condie, who served in both the first and second quorums of the Seventy during a time span of more than 20 years, gave an address titled, “True Knowledge: The Sweet Fruit of the Gospel.”
He detailed the lives of prominent individuals, including Charles Darwin and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, discussing the fruits of their works and comparing their perspectives with “the restored gospel.”
"In our search for truth let us be guided by the definition provided by the Lord himself 'And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come,’ ” Elder Condie said. “Isn’t that an interesting definition of truth? It isn’t just a static slide at one point in time."
Elder Condie discussed several scientists’ views of evolution and religion.
“Perhaps the most eloquent of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s perspectives on evolution is his prophetic declaration: ‘The day will come when after harnessing space, the winds, the tides of gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And, on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire,’ ” said Elder Condie.
Elder Condie’s wife, Dorothea, also spoke at the conference. She shared stories about early Latter-day Saint pioneers who lived in Nauvoo, Illinois — where she and her husband recently served for three years as matron and president of the Nauvoo Illinois Temple.
“I loved living in Nauvoo, not only because of what I learned while I was there, but because of what I felt while I was there,” she said.
The conference began on Friday, June 20, with a presentation by Lee Donaldson, manager of proselytizing services in the LDS Church’s Missionary Department. He spoke about ways in which modern prophets have led the church in preparing for its current missionary efforts, which include a growing missionary force of more than 83,000 missionaries.
“Anciently the word prophet was a present tense someone that foretold what we should be doing now (and) calls to repentance” said Donaldson. “A seer was one that understood the past and applied it to the present and the future. And a revelator was one that uncovered the future. Hence, a prophet, seer and revelator is one who holds keys over the present, over the past and over the future. If you go to (Doctrine and Covenants) section 93 verse 24, it’s really clear that when we talk about a definition of truth, it’s really coming from prophets, seers and revelators.”
Following President Thomas S. Monson’s announcement lowering the eligibility age for missionary service to 19 for women and 18 for men in 2012, Donaldson said that he has seen numerous evidences of “God’s foreknowledge” in the church’s missionary program.
“The Lord just is blessing these missionaries in remarkable, remarkable ways,” Donaldson said. “We (have) youth who can figure this out: one of the fundamentals (of missionary work) is to teach people and not lessons.”
After Donaldson’s address, Bruce Olsen, former managing director of public affairs for the church, and his wife, Christine, spoke about how they have seen the “fruits of the gospel” in the lives of church leaders.
Next, Linda Schneider, who had created a textile display for the conference, presented on the benefits of crafting, which include helping people “deal with depression.”
“According to psychologist Robert Reiner, crafting can decrease your heart rate and blood pressure and even improve sleep,” Schneider said. “Your breathing takes on a regular pattern which shuts down the body’s anxiety-producing fight or flight response. (Another) psychologist compares crafting with meditation. When the midbrain is engaged by the repetitive movement involved in many crafts, the temporal lobe is unable to focus on worry or stress. The cortex, which controls conscious thought, becomes quiet and peaceful.”
Rod Meldrum, an author and lecturer on the historicity of the Book of Mormon, also presented at the conference. He spoke about how he has researched Book of Mormon geography through studying “scriptural prophecies and promises,” “Joseph Smith’s prophetic and revelatory statements,” “physical evidence” and “geographic passages (in the scriptures).”
Opening the second day of the conference, Barbara van Kuiken, professor of chemistry at Southern Virginia, gave an address on living to produce “the fruits you would like to be known by."
“Discover your overarching long-range goals for life,” she said. “I think that on earth, God gives us a limited amount of time and money and energy so that we have to prioritize and make choices because that is the way we determine and demonstrate what is most important to us. There are only so many fruits we can produce. Find out what is really important to you and use it as a framework to measure your life.”
She then discussed the character traits that she finds most important and told stories about Southern Virginia students and others who have demonstrated those qualities. Van Kuiken has participated in a number of remote area medical clinics with Southern Virginia students, providing free health care to individuals in the U.S. and in countries throughout the world.
On Saturday afternoon, Tyson Anderson and his wife, Brittany, — a dentist and stay-at-home mother, respectively — spoke about creating a home filled with the “fruit of the Spirit.”
“In our homes, all the daily pieces, the imperfections, the challenges and the joys can come together and make sense when the Atonement is applied,” said Brittany Anderson. “One of my favorite primary songs is ‘I Feel My Savior’s Love’; it is simple yet so profound. In each verse, there are lessons for us about the Spirit and the Lord’s love and how we can strengthen both in our homes.”
“The Spirit should be in the very air we breathe within the walls of our homes,” said Tyson Anderson.
The conference also featured a performance by Southern Virginia’s theater program of the musical “Dear World.”
Southern Virginia is a private liberal arts university with a Latter-day Saint environment, serving a 93 percent LDS student body on its campus in the Shenandoah Valley.
Hannah King is the lead writer and editor at Southern Virginia University. She received a bachelor's degree from Southern Virginia and currently resides in Buena Vista, Virginia, with her husband, Andrew, and their pet rabbit, Mochi.