My Life in Zion

The life and views of a Latter-day Saint in the 21st Century…

Archive for the category “Conferences”

What I’m Expecting from General Conference

God the Father by Cima da  Conegliano.

God the Father by Cima da Conegliano, c 1515.

When people ask me what my favorite holiday is I always say Christmas, because y’know, it’s Christmas and it’s awesome, but then I always tell them it is followed by April General Conference and October General Conference. No lie. Members of the Church and nonmember alike get the same answer. This often leads to coworkers and friends asking if we actually celebrate these conferences in a liturgical calendar, which of course we don’t, “But,” I say, “we get to hear from living prophets of God, and that’s pretty awesome to me.”

Needless to say I’m “the religious guy” at work because of such answers, with many of my coworkers calling me a minister.

This evokes a lot of laughter from me.

But as the sun creeped over the horizon this morning and woke me up in our small apartment here in Mountain Brook, Alabama, I knew today would be a historic and memorable day. And it really does feel like Christmas morning. Not because there is a huge set of ornaments set up here in our home (unless you count the church paintings and the temple statues), but because it really is festive in the air for me! Today I will get to hear the word of the Lord from His mouthpieces. Imperfect men delivering a perfect message. There will be no physical gifts today, but instead there will be eternal gifts that will bless me and my family now and throughout the eternities. How could I not be excited for that?

I used to look forward to General Conference excited to hear the “next big thing”, the latest “revelation”, and monumental announcements. When President Hinckley announced the Perpetual Education Fund I remember sitting in my small chapel with my brethren in Jasper, Alabama and thinking, “Yep folks. That’s revelation right there. Awesome sauce.” When President Hinckley announced in the first Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting (not conference, but close enough) that missionaries would now be “teaching by the Spirit” I remember sitting back in that pew in the Bessemer Alabama Stake Center and thinking, “Yep folks. That’s revelation right there. Cool beans.” And every time there are temples announced, from Rome, Italy to Cedar City, Utah I’ve sat back and thought to myself, “Yep folks. That’s some mighty fine revelation there. Jesus rocks.” However, in recent years as I’ve matured and grown spiritually I’ve come to realize that the “big” announcements at General Conference aren’t where most of the revelations from the Lord come. The true revelation comes in pondering and applying the simplest of words spoken over that pulpit in each talk.

When Julie B. Beck gave her “Mothers that Know” talk, I knew exactly the kind of wife I wanted. And I have been so blessed to find her.

When Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin gave his talk “Come What May and Love It” I knew he was speaking directly to me.

When President Uchtdorf gave the talk “Your Potential, Your Privilege” I knew it was just for me.

When Elder Holland has given pretty much any talk I’ve known it was given directly to me. And so it has been with every talk each and every conference, from Elder Whiting’s “Temple Standard” to Elder Soares’ “Be Meek and Lowly of Heart”, they have all been just for me. As I’ve listened to them, watched them again, played them on my Gospel Library App while driving, and pondered them in the hours of the night I’ve come to find that every single General Conference talk has been applicable to me and amplified my spiritual life.

Of course I have my favorite speakers. But even the most random of Seventy who speaks on Sunday afternoon has prepared the words the Lord has inspired him to give.

Since I was a teenager I have always imagined the Lord attending General Conference casually, unseen of course, but close by as the Brethren and Sisters speak. It is His conference after all (as Elder Hales reminded us so beautifully just six months ago). He is there, and He will be with us today.

This General Conference I am expecting a lot. I’ve put in a tall order for the guidance I’ll be needing for the next six months. This will be my first General Conference as a husband to my dear and sweet wife. It is my first General Conference as an expecting father. And recently I was called to a calling which will require far more time, commitment, and resources from me than I currently feel I have. This General Conference I will be listening with a new ear and a new heart, and looking for things not just for myself, but for my family and for those I am called to minister to. In short, I’m expecting a lot this weekend. And I know I will not be let down.

I imagine God sits and looks down on us rather lovingly during these weekends. A few million of His children gathering to try and listen to His voice. There, from celestial glory, I imagine His perspective is eternal and the love He wishes to convey is unending. Perhaps His arms are even outstretched to show His affection for us. If only we could hear Him more closely perhaps we could always see Him like this, as our Father trying to help us get back home.

This weekend we will hear His voice and the voice of His Son.

It’s better than Christmastime here in the Way Household!

 

If you would like to join in and enjoy General Conference live this weekend or re-watch it at a future date you can do so by clicking here.

Missing General Conference

President Thomas S. Monson sits in the audience at the Tabernacle on Temple Square on October 4, 1963, moments before he was sustained as a General Authority and invited to the stand.

President Thomas S. Monson sits in the audience at the Tabernacle on Temple Square on 4 October 1963, moments before he was sustained as a General Authority and invited to the stand.

Fifty years ago today President Thomas S. Monson was called as the newest member of the Quorum of the Twelve. What a historic fifty years of church growth it has been!

As I’ve been looking at the above picture of young Elder Monson this morning my heart has been filled with mixture of great joy and also deep sadness over this upcoming weekend’s Semiannual General Conference.

This will be the first General Conference I will have not watched live since April of 2001 when I was in high school. Each spring and autumn since my teenage years has been like a holiday to as I’ve prepared mentally, spiritually, and even temporally for the upcoming General Conference and the opportunity to listen to and sustain prophets, seers, and revelators. When people ask me what my favorite holiday is, I usually answer “General Conference” and then proceed to tell them about what an awesome event that it is.

Starting a year and a half ago I started live- tweeting during General Conference using the #LDSconf hashtag on Twitter. To some this might have seemed like a distraction. But the opportunities it has given me to listen with new ears to the talks, and to instantly feel connected to my Latter-day Saint brothers and sisters throughout the world has helped me to gain greater insight into the gospel and even create new and meaningful friendships with people throughout the world.

But this year is different.

I have recently started a brand new job, and am preparing to be married in just two short months. In the days leading up to Conference I have prayed, and begged the Lord for ways to help me get my shift covered. I have offered my coworkers cold hard cash of $100 to take my shift (a double shift actually and 12 hour day) to pick it up for me, but to no avail. Working in a 100% commission job on a college football Saturday in Alabama isn’t exactly profitable. So I understand the lack of interest in assisting me.

Every year since 2001 I’ve taken a three or four day weekend to prepare for, enjoy, and then reflect on General Conference. But this year it just won’t be so. This year, instead of hearing about the new temples to be built (my guesses are on a new temple in Utah and one in Brazil, plus probably a couple of more) I’ll be selling cell phones in Alabaster, Alabama. This Conference instead of enjoying a lunch at the chapel with full-time missionaries during the World Report I’ll be sharing phone operating system suggestions with strangers on a showroom floor. No sustainings. No airplane stories from President Uchtdorf and no ear wiggling from President Monson. Just work.

If it sounds like I’m being melodramatic it’s because I probably am.

Yeah, yeah. I get it. General Conference can be DVR’d. “Most people don’t watch it live anyways,” you might be saying to yourself. “You can just read the Ensign,” might be a logical thing to say.

But to me it’s like I’m having to work on my Christmas Day. I’m missing Christmas Eve, and the opening of my presents. I’m missing my family and my friends.

General Conference just won’t be the same.

Last night as I knelt down to pray and I felt downright depressed. If Eeyore (Winnie the Pooh’s forlorn friend) had materialized into a real life human being he was the guy kneeling beside my bed. I began my prayer in such a sad sounding humdrum manner as to make Eeyore sound cheerful even.

“I’m going to missing Conference Heavenly Father,” I stated flatly. “Maybe it won’t be this way come April,” I lamented with the inflection of a jilted 13 year old girl.

God is rather patient with me I’ve come to realize.

I complained about my work shift. My new job. Feeling depressed. And everything else I could muster a murmur about.

And as I was about to say in the most reverent way possible, “Thanks for not helping me get that shift covered,” I paused as the Spirit spoke directly to me in my mind:

“You’re going to watch it Stan. I’m providing for you and your marriage.”

And instantly all of the other prayers I’ve offered recently about helping me in my job, helping me to prepare for marriage, and so much more came flooding into my mind.

Kneeling before my bed I stopped in silence, realizing that yes, I would watch the Conference Sessions. Probably even rewatch them each two times in the coming week. God was answering my other prayers and I was just too juvenile to realize it.

I felt guilty for complaining and being so forlorn, and I instantly began begging again to God, only this time for forgiveness of my sins.

This weekend I’ll miss watching live as our church leaders speak. I’ll miss the Tweets from my friends in Africa, India, England, and Utah. I’ll miss having lunch with the full-time missionaries (and this time my fiance), and walking around the park nearby my local chapel and observing the first traces of fall in the leaves.

I’ll miss those things.

But I know that I’ll get to enjoy, listen to, relisten to, and apply the teachings of modern day prophets and apostles in the very near future, even if I hear them via DVR and the internet.

Fifty years ago today Thomas S. Monson was called as an apostle. As I’ve looked at the picture above this morning I’ve thought of what must have been racing through his mind at that very moment right before he was called forth from the congregation. Did he have any idea where life would lead him? Did he have the beginning of a glimpse into what his life’s ministry would be?

Time flies when you’re having fun. And perhaps the funnest parts of life are serving the Lord.

I’ll miss hearing the words of President Monson in the morning. But I am thankful that God has answered my prayers. Perhaps I won’t make a single red cent tomorrow in Alabaster, Alabama selling cell phones. But who knows why God arranged for me to work there tomorrow? Perhaps I’m supposed to just be there to brighten someone’s day?

In any case, I have no problem missing General Conference as long as I know it’s what has been prepared for me by the Lord. Fifty years from now I’ll be able to look back on this weekend and tell my grandchildren how extremely heartbroken I was to miss listening to men and women of God, and I hope and pray it will instill in them a desire to always listen to a prophet’s voice. Or, perhaps I’ll get to tell them about the time I met a family that got baptized because I ended up working on a General Conference weekend…

One can always hope.

In any case I hope that you have a happy Conference Weekend my friends! I look forward to hearing how all of you enjoyed it.

Stan

If you’re not Mormon and somehow stumbled upon this post about how I’m a big ol’ complainer and LDS General Conference, I’m glad you did! I hope you’ll take the time to learn more about my faith. To learn more please just click here. You’ll be glad you did.

The Caravan Moves On

Elder Bruce R. McConkie speaking in General Conference in October of 1984.

This weekend was a spiritual feast.

It was the 30th Semi-Annual Stake Conference of the Bessemer Alabama Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I wish I could share every line of every talk that was given over the past two days with all of you. The counsel given in our stake priesthood leadership training was phenomenal. The guidance provided in the adult session was enriching. And this morning’s final testimonies and talks were tremendous. However, the counsel the Lord gave via the Holy Ghost to my stake is just that: Counsel to my stake. So it would be improper for me to share those things with the world at large.

However, I will share this one gem.

In last night’s adult session one of the counselors in our stake presidency took as a guideline for his text Elder Bruce R. McConkie’s talk “The Caravan Moves On”. – If you’ve never read this talk, you should do so RIGHT NOW by clicking here. – I am a big fan of prophets and apostles. Frankly, I think they’re really neat folks. The keys they hold inspire me, and what will enable us all one day to return to our Heavenly Father. What amazes me about prophets is the manner in which they teach as their time in this mortal life draws near to an end. Some of my favorite words in all of holy writ are right before a prophet ends writing or edges closer to death’s door. From Genesis to Revelation, 1 Nephi to Moroni, and from the Prophet Joseph Smith through President Gordon B. Hinckley, the final teachings of prophets just rock! It’s as if they know their mortal ministry is drawing to a close and they’re attempting to give the purest, strongest, most stirring teachings they’ve ever given to those under their stewardship. And that’s how it is with this talk by Elder McConkie.

Yes, I’m a big fan of “The Purifying Power of Gethsemane” which was Elder McConkie’s final talk ever in General Conference, given shortly before his death, but I think we often overlook his prophetic teachings from just six months earlier. “The Caravan Moves On” is a simple talk which asks stirring questions, much like the Prophet Alma does in Alma 5.

I will not ruin it for you. You should experience it for yourself.

As I heard it narrated and delivered in its own unique way to the members of my stake this weekend though, it reminded me of how timeless true principles really are. How thankful I am to live in this dispensation and at this time.

So go ahead and click the link above and read it, or click on the video below and watch it, and enjoy this General Conference classic.

You’ll be glad you did.

Overwhelmed By Love

Latter-day Saints gather before a session of General Conference in the Conference Center.

Today was a terrific day.

General Conference weekends are the only times during the year when I usually take my vacations. Disneyland? Never been. The beach? It’s just a sandy swim. But General Conference? Now that’s something worth taking time off from work! Why? Because it’s the time when we literally get to hear the voice of the Lord through His chosen servants. And to me, nothing deserves greater preparation and respect. So when folks ask me what my favorite holiday usually is I skip right over the traditional Christmas and 4th of July answers; I always say General Conference.

Do you remember when you were a little kid and you would count down the days until Christmas? Once Halloween was over there was just that pesky month of November and the infamous Turkey Day that stood between you, Santa, and a boatload of new toys. In school we would sing songs such as “Up On the Rooftop”, and we would gather with our families to watch the traditional Christmas movies like Miracle on 34th Street and It’s a Wonderful Life. Christmas was a magical time each year when the world seemed a little kinder. Our focus was on the the things that mattered, like family and the Savior, and everything just had that “holiday feeling”.

Well now that I’m adult that’s how General Conferences are to me. I count down the days. I mark them on my calendar. I plan vacation time months in advance. I prepare myself physically and spiritually in every way I know how, and I get ready to hear what the Lord Jesus would have me to hear. I get downright giddy. General Conference is my favorite holiday.

And then it comes! And better than on Christmas when it all just rushed by in a single day, I get to enjoy two full days of flurried spiritual messages spoken by prophets, seers, and revelators. I absolutely love General Conference. From the opening hymn to the final “amen” I feel filled with joy, with the Spirit, with attentiveness, and a great love for these brethren and sisters who have consecrated their lives in such a high degree to the Master.

Like Christmas though, it is only temporary. There are no trees or ornaments to take down when it is over. There is no gluttonous feeling from having eaten to much good. But there is the feeling that a special day, a sacred day even, has passed, and I feel overwhelmed and overfilled with the good food of the gospel. As the organ plays its final strains and the screen fades to black I feel saddened and empty…I know General Conference is over…

This weekend has proven no different than previous conferences. There was history made with the announcement in the changes for missionary age requirements. Two new temples were announced. Beloved brethren were released from their diligent service as Seventies. And the messages were absolutely amazing.

Perhaps I’ve always missed General Conference as it ended because I’ve never had someone to go home to and talk to about it. As a young convert my parents never cared what “the prophet” had said, and as a young single adult there’s no one to come home to and share my spiritual impressions and thoughts with. But for two days twice a year I’ve always felt connected by love, by covenant, and by the Spirit of God with millions of other Saints word-wide. During those moments of Conference I’ve always felt like more of a part the House of Israel than at any other moments in my life. I feel connected with the household of faith, and the household of God. I feel like a part of a family of Saints, and it feels sacred and holy.

Then when the speakers had spoke and the prayers had passed I was once again alone in the world, just another Latter-day Saint plodding through life trying my best to keep my covenants and bring others to Christ.

This weekend I was overwhelmed with love. Love for General Conference. Love for the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Love for the Prophet Joseph Smith. Love for the Priesthood, priesthood keys, and priesthood leaders who serve so selflessly. I felt love for our prophet, his counselors, the members of the Quorum of the Twelve, the Seventy, and the auxiliary presidencies. I felt love for those who sang in the choir, and love for those who were behind the scenes running cameras and translating the proceedings into 93 different languages. I felt love and appreciation for my blessings, my life, my testimony, and the creature comforts of life. I felt love for my fellow Saints. I felt love for the missionaries throughout the world. But most importantly, I felt an overwhelming love for my Savior and for Heavenly Father.

I entered this General Conference with a list of five specific questions I wanted answered. In His mercy, He answered each one uniquely and specifically through different speakers and impressions from the Holy Ghost. I have felt a great love for the Gift of the Holy Ghost and for his constant companionship.

And tonight, for the first time in my life since my full-time missionary service, I left a General Conference and ended up among fellow Saints with whom I could enjoy conversation and impressions from conference. I felt a great and overwhelming love for those with whom I visited, and it was impressed upon me more indelibly than ever before the importance of seeking out a wife and building a family in Zion.

Much could be said about this General Conference, but suffice it to say for me, I’ve felt my Savior’s love, and now desire to just share His love with others.

These verses from the masterful teacher John come to mind:

7 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.

8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.

9 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.

10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Truly, God is love, and as His son I desire to grow to be like Him and share His eternal love with others. I know the messages of this General Conference will help me do just that. This weekend I’ve been overwhelmed by His love. Now, as I return back to the bustle of the world and the burdens of Babylon, I pray that I might just carry that love, even His love, with me and share it with others.

I hope you’ll do the same.

Stan Way

Apply the Atoning Blood of Christ

Elder Neal A. Maxwell was a spiritual giant, the likes of which was so unique we may never see in mortality again. But his words of truth and eloquent teaching style are eternal.

This is one of my favorite of his General Conference talks…I hope you enjoy.

“Mortality presents us with numerous opportunities to become more Christlike: first, by coping successfully with those of life’s challenges which are “common to man[kind]” (1 Cor. 10:13). In addition, there are also our customized trials such as experiencing illness, aloneness, persecution, betrayal, irony, poverty, false witness, unreciprocated love, et cetera. If endured well now, “all these things” can be for our good and can “greatly enlarge the soul,” including an enlarged capacity for joy (D&C 122:7D&C 121:42). Meek suffering often does the excavating necessary for that enlarging! My admiration goes to my many spiritual superiors who so exemplify for us all. In the world to come, to these, the most faithful, our generous Father will give “all that [He] hath” (D&C 84:38). Brothers and sisters, there isn’t any more!”

Some Mormon Infographics

Two posts in one day is unheard of from me, but I got on an infographic frenzy and decided to share these three also since I love them so much.

This first infographic comes from the Church Newsroom Website, which is a tremendous source for information regarding the Church.

If the picture is fuzzy for some reason on your viewing device (phone, tablet, PC, or other) simply click on the picture for a full-sized view.

This second infographic is from The Pew Forum which recently did an unbiased and outside survey of members of the Church. Their findings were very insightful (and some were already cited in the infographic above).

If the picture is fuzzy for some reason on your viewing device (phone, tablet, PC, or other) simply click on the picture for a full-sized view.

And this final infographic, once again from the Church itself, is an insightful look at how we as Latter-day Saints view our semiannual church conferences where we believe we are addressed by prophets of God. It was released in preparation for the General Conference which we enjoyed just a couple of weeks ago.

If the picture is fuzzy for some reason on your viewing device (phone, tablet, PC, or other) simply click on the picture for a full-sized view.

Of course there’s more to us than facts and figures on fun little pictures, but the infographics above are worth well more than a thousand words each.

The Church is growing at a phenomenal rate, and as the Prophet Joseph Smith declared,

“Our missionaries are going forth to different nations . . . the Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.”

History of the Church 4:540

I am just thankful that I’m blessed to live in these days and help prepare for that great day when the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.

There’s lots left to do…

– Stan Way

If you’re not a Mormon and would like to learn more about how we’re not just a bunch of whackos in Utah, please just click here.

A General Conference Word Cloud

I have been meaning to do this since the texts of last week’s conference talks were posted online the other day, but just hadn’t gotten around to it. I kind of enjoy word clouds. I had never seen one until a year ago a blog I follow posted one following General Conference and I thought, “Wow! That is super interesting.” Now I’ll randomly throw things I’m reading into a word cloud generator and be impressed with the themes they pick up on. A word cloud works by picking up on the most oft repeated words in a source text and then throwing them into a random order, the largest words being the words most used in the text and the smaller words being the less repeated words in the source text. This General Conference Word Cloud picked up on the same themes I felt impressed upon me over a week ago.

I love that the word that was most often used, along with “God”, “Christ”, and “Church” was “all”.

I love seeing that “all” so big in the word cloud because what impressed me most about General Conference last week was the overall theme of inviting all to come unto Christ.

Maybe you see something different, and maybe you were taught entirely different lessons, but that’s the magic of General Conference right? That we can all be taught what the Lord would have us learn at this time in our lives. That is so very awesome!

For me though, the theme was to go out and find “the one”, or really the many “ones” in the Church, who for whatever reason we do not see at church on Sundays.

To close I just want to share Bishop Richard C. Edgley’s words as he ended his talk in the Priesthood Session last week.

[O]ur commitment as members of Christ’s true Church stems from the fact that the Lord suffered for every single one of us—the nonmember, the less-active member, even the sinner, and every member in our own family. I believe we can bring thousands to the joy, peace, and sweetness of the gospel, and hundreds of thousands, even millions, in their following generations. I believe we can succeed because this is the Lord’s Church, and by virtue of our priesthood and our membership, we are called to succeed. I bear that witness to you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

And I share my amen with his, because we are indeed called to succeed.

– Stan Way

P.S. You can create your own word clouds any time at Word It Out. They’re fun and a good object lesson if you’re ever teaching any group of people.

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