Highlights from General Conference, October 2009

I always feel spiritually rejuvenated after General Conference, and this conference was no exception. Here are some of the dominant themes and highlights I noticed, along with some of my own thoughts:

1. Fresh ways of looking at the “fundamentals”

I sometimes grow tired of the way the “fundamentals” in the Church are sometimes talked about by church members: “the Sunday School answers; you gotta read, pray, and go to church; you gotta make good habits; etc.” It’s not that I disagree with the importance of the “fundamentals,” it’s that I think they are too often talked about in shallow ways.

This conference, however, had several excellent talks that can aid members in the way they think and talk about the “fundamentals” of consistent scripture study, prayer, family home evening, and worship.

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Literal Confusion (about D&C 137)

I’m not usually a literalist about the scriptures, but I’m a little baffled by a verse I read today and the Doctrine and Covenants, Section 137. This section is the account of a vision Joseph Smith had of the celestial kingdom. He names Adam and Abraham, as well as his parents, as inhabitants, likely those who were saved “by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.

And then he mentions his brother, Alvin. Joseph “marvels” that his brother Alvin is there, “seeing that he had departed this life before the Lord had set his hand to gather Israel the second time, and had not been baptized for the remission of sins.” And then the great revelation that “All who have died without a knowledge of this gospel, who would have received it if they had been permitted to tarry, shall be heirs of the celestial kingdom of God.” Of course, this revelation plays a big part in understanding why we do work for the dead in our temples…right?

Here’s my question: What was Alvin doing there in the celestial kingdom when his work hadn’t been done yet?

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Meditations on Time, Part 2: Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future

This is the second of a series of short posts entitled “Meditations on Time.” In this series I will explore some of my thoughts and experiences concerning time and the gospel.

In my previous post, I talked about my childhood fear of living forever. As a young boy, I thought that living forever would be boring and even frightening. I concluded that I would simply live in the present and not worry too much about it.

What I’m aiming to do in this series is to discuss why this childhood view — simply live in the present — is problematic.

I know it’s a couple days after Christmas, but I would like to briefly talk about Ebenezer Scrooge’s resolution at the end of A Christmas Carol. After being shown his tombstone by the Ghost of Christmas Future, Scrooge pleas:

I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.

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The Kingdom of God Is Among Us

Whenever I hear people talk about the kingdom of God, it seems like it’s always referred to in the future tense. Lately, I’ve begun to wonder if the kingdom of God isn’t already all around us.

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Pew Forum Question Does Violence to Mormon Belief

A recent Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life study, in which over 35,000 Americans were interviewed, had an interesting result. According to this Time article, the Pew Forum study found that

70% of respondents agreed with the statement “Many religions can lead to eternal life.” Even more remarkable was the fact that 57% of Evangelical Christians were willing to accept that theirs might not be the only path to salvation.

Agreement was also made here by 83% of Protestant Christians and 79% of Catholics.

The Time article goes on to say,

In fact, of the dozens of denominations covered by the Pew survey, it was only Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses who answered in the majority that their own faith was the only way to eternal life.

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June 8, 1978: Revelation on the Priesthood: 30 Years Later

Last Sunday (June 8, 2008), a member of my ward, Whitney, gave an excellent talk in sacrament meeting in commemoration of the 30 year anniversary of the revelation on the priesthood (the formal announcement of). With Whitney’s permission, I am including a written version of his talk here. It is an excellent talk, which speaks honestly of some of the historical difficulties with this topic, and addresses how we need to move forward with better racial relations in the Church.

We generally speak of the restoration of the gospel in the past tense. We refer frequently to the spring of 1820 and to April 6, 1830. Article of Faith 9, however, encourages us to take a more expansive view. That “He will yet reveal many great and important things” signifies an ongoing restoration and one which continues today. June 8, 1978, thirty years ago today, the date when the priesthood was extended to all worthy males, and the blessings of the temple to all worthy members of the church, “without regard for race or color,” is a date that ought to hold a place next to those early dates of the 1800s when we speak of the restoration of the gospel. For without the full blessings of the restoration extended to every worthy member, the restoration of the gospel remains an incomplete one. Just as those important early dates of church history give us the chance to reflect upon the first vision and the founding of the church, so does today allow us the chance to reflect back upon our history and the current state of race relations within the church. Continue reading

The Restoration of the Laborer, the Role of Government, and Michelle Obama

As I’ve been reading the first third of the Book of Mormon, I’ve been thinking about the “laborer in Zion.”

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