So, I’m currently binge-reading the November 2018 Ensignwhich, of course, contains the October 2018 general conference talks. I decided a few years ago that between the sessions of general conference I would read and annotate every talk from the last conference, looking for general application as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as well as counsel that I feel specifically applies to me. For some reason — perhaps because my conference report ended up at the bottom of the magazine pile, or another project has required lots of New Testament and Book of Mormon reading, or whatever — I suddenly realized that April 2019 conference is upon us and I’m woefully behind in meeting my goal.
I got out my Ensign, dusted it off, grabbed my yellow marker and my glasses. I calculated that in order to accomplish my task I would have to read at least three talks a day. It wasn’t an unconquerable task — it was quite manageable — but it has taken some time. The interesting part in all this, however, is what it has meant to me.
So, I freely admit, I love reading the scriptures. For me they are wonderfully relevant and applicable to our day and from them we can learn critical, eternal truths and gain insights on how to live good lives. I love reading commentaries on the scriptures. I love studying the history and cultural background related to the scriptures that help us better understand the people and events therein. Yes, I am a historian, and I eat this stuff up.
Therefore, when the new schedule and the new curriculum for the church came out, there was clearly less time in gospel doctrine class. As well, some of the other lesson material shifted to studying recent conference talks and, because I love studying the scriptures, I groused a bit in my mind over less time in church discussing the scriptures. Or so I thought.
My experience these last few days has taught me a powerful lesson and left me a bit contrite. I can honestly say I’ve encountered material that is pertinent to living in today’s world, and also insightful and essential to keeping me focused on that which matters most. The general conference talks are not only expressly relevant, they are flat-out brilliant! This I already knew.
But, duh! I also became acutely aware that the men and women who speak in conference don’t just spend an enormous amount of time coming to know what the Lord would have them say, but they spend an enormous amount of time in the scriptures. Their counsel emanates from a scriptural foundation — from the words of God’s prophets in the past and today. With a scriptural foundation they are able to more accurately assess trends and practices in today’s world. As insights and deeper understanding of the scriptures come to them, they are able to share messages that will help us better navigate today’s very complicated, very tricky, often very deceptive, world.
Here are only three of the myriad things I’ve learned from my reading thus far:
• President Russell M. Nelson, church president, sang the praises of women, how much God loves us, the critical role women play in shaping societies, and of our need to be valiant in bearing testimony of the Savior Jesus Christ. (See "Sisters’ Participation in the Gathering of Israel" in the general women's session.)
• Sister Bonnie H. Cordon, the Young Women general president, reminded me I need to stop wondering if the Savior loves me — of course he does! — and spend more time focused on showing my love for him, by ministering to and helping others. I gained insights on different ways to minister and I was reminded of the joy ministering brings me. (See "Becoming a Shepherd" during the Sunday morning session.)
• I knew a lot, but I got the much deeper back story of the life of President Joseph F. Smith and Doctrine and Covenants 138 in the talk by President Russell M. Ballard, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. I was reminded of the connectedness between earth life and post-mortal life, and our part in the Lord’s great and glorious work of salvation for all mankind. I was especially reminded to do as did Joseph F. Smith — not just read and study but deeply ponder the scriptures, and as we should do, apply them to our lives. (See "The Vision of the Redemption of the Dead" during the Sunday morning session.)2 comments on this story
Honestly, this experience has evoked a sea change in my thinking, in what I’m focused on, and in the goals I’m setting for myself. Most importantly, I’m flat-out happier, I’m more enthusiastic about life, and I’m filled with gratitude — because I’ve been reminded of the Savior’s incalculable love for me and all his children.
Conference is just around the corner. I can’t wait. Where on earth could anyone go to get better counsel and direction for the next six months? Where could anyone go to be better taught to be kind, to serve, and love others? And after conference ends, I highly recommend getting copies of the talks, and studying, and pondering, and applying them to our lives — even bingeing on them — for the betterment of ourselves and others.