My Life in Zion

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

Archive for the tag “Church Calling”

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.

The Idols In Our Lives

Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Fall Saturdays in Alabama have always been a sacred day for me and millions of others. Saturdays were the days on which I could watch the Alabama Crimson Tide come onto the field and literally roll over their opponents with skill and force.

I used to never miss a game. If I was working, that meant the game was on somewhere at work via a laptop or radio. If I was off, I was usually gathered with a group of friends around a television screaming and hollering like coach Nick Saban could actually hear the directions we were giving him. As half-chewed pretzels came spewing out of our mouths we would pump throw our hands into the air and yell, “Time out already!”. As the opposing team gained yards it wouldn’t be uncommon to hear us screaming things such as, “Get him, get him, GET HIM AND BREAK HIS LEGS!!!” And after each victory, which have always been many, me and my compatriots during the game would proudly put our arms over one another’s shoulders, sway, and proudly sing Rammer Jammer.

Normal, calm, Alabama Football fans.

Even today if you were to call my cellphone you would hear a ringback tone of a hillbilly shouting in a cheering stadium, “You’ve just called the world’s greatest Alabama Football fan. Hold on a minute and he’ll answer the phone.” As the ringback tone continues you hear the cheering crowd get louder and the Alabama fight song, “Hey Alabama”, playing triumphantly in the background.

Alabamians are devout followers of the faith of the Crimson Tide. During games the streets across the state become empty. Smaller businesses close. And yes, even Walmarts empty out. That’s how serious we take our team. We gather in groups large and small, donning our dark shades of crimson, and watch on television with rapt attention.

True followers will go to the Mecca of the faith though, Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. With 157 skyboxes, four large video scoreboards, and a general seating capacity of 101,821, it is the temple of worship of the Alabama faithful. It is the house that Paul “Bear” Bryant built, and to walk there is to walk on hallowed ground.

Over the years I’ve learned just how serious this faith can be to some.

I’ve heard testimonies shared in Fast and Testimony Meetings about how God blessed certain players. I’ve likewise heard testimonies about how Heavenly Father “must really feel” towards Auburn University and their wicked ways. I’ve been to numerous priesthood leadership and stake priesthood meetings where one or more of the brethren in the congregation would have earbuds running up the sides of their head so they could hear the play-by-play action of a game, while at the same time receiving directions from leaders holding priesthood keys. I’ve even seen those sad occasions when General Conference Priesthood Sessions would fall at the same time as Alabama Football games. The parking lot at my chapel perhaps has never looked more deserted than during those games.

Even among God’s covenant people, the faith of Alabama Football at times ranks supreme.

A few weeks ago I was discussing with one of our full-time missionaries the fact that he would soon be returning home from his mission. We talked about work, schooling, and a variety of things. Eventually the conversation focused on living a consecrated life and how we as holders of the priesthood can live in such a manner. We discussed how we, even as Latter-day Saints, often let the things of the world get in the way of our spiritual progression. And yes, we ended up talking about Alabama Football.

This season I haven’t watched a single game.

To many Alabama Fans that means I wasn’t a real fan in the beginning. I wasn’t fully converted they would say. And perhaps they would be right.

But I’ve got a lot going on in my life. I have a full-time job. I am in the process of becoming a published author. My family takes up a great deal of my time (as they should). I serve as the branch mission leader in my tiny church unit. And this week I made some silly decision to try to get married. So I’m never out of things to do! In fact, each day I wish I had six more hours to accomplish the things I wanted to do.

In the future I plan on raising my children in the faith of Alabama Football, and spending good time fellowshipping them into the Order of the National Championships. My sons and I will spend Saturdays watching plays, passes, and punts with millions of other fans. However, right now my attention is needed elsewhere in life. And when the time comes to raise my family watching Big Al jump around the stadium, I hope I can teach them that although football is great, it should never take precedence over the more important things in life.

As the elder (who has since returned home) and I spoke a few weeks ago we spoke of the cars, the televisions, the unnecessarily large homes, and even the gadgets that many Latter-day Saints own. We spoke of debt, living within one’s own means, and how many worship daily on the screens of their iPads before they ever lay their hands upon scriptures.

There are idols in the world today. They are not graven like the idols of old. I’m sure I wouldn’t find any golden calves set up for worship and with burning incense in any Latter-day Saint household. But there are many things which we have set up to replace God in our lives. There are the brand new cars with the five year loans just so we can afford them. There is furniture that just had to be bought when a more modest couch would have done. There are cell phone plans which milk the monthly budget for all it’s worth, and there are a litany of other toys that demand our attention each day. These idols are casual, and barely noticeable, because it’s hard to look at an iPod and consider it as a God in and of itself. Satan knows we would never turn our hearts to outwardly worship another deity from the heavens; so he uses many of the good things that are already in the world to turn our attention away from the heavens.

Do you work late nights and extra hours to pay for things you couldn’t afford in the first place? Do you spend more time watching DVR’d television shows than you do home or visiting teaching, or spending quality time with your family? They’re deep and personal questions, but much like those asked by Alma to the Saints in Zarahemla, they are easy enough to answer and true measurements of our faith.

Today as the Crimson Tide played I was blowing leaves in my parent’s yard. For a little over six hours I got to enjoy the hum of the leafblower, the strain of walking up and down a slanted Alabama hillside, and raking until I thought I would have blisters on my hands. The hours passed quickly though, and I completely forgot about football as I got to listen again to each of last Saturday’s General Conference Sessions. I am sure I missed some great plays, some great commentary, and even some great pretzels. But today I got to give service to those that I love and I got to listen to prophets, apostles, and other bear testimony of the one true and living God. – There’s nothing better than that.

We all have idols in our lives. But thanks to an insightful conversation with a soon to be released missionary a few weeks ago, I’ve been blessed to cut one of the larger ones out of my own personal life.

I know that by the power of the Spirit the idols in your life will be made manifest to you, and I pray that you might readily release them so as to enjoy even greater blessings in your life.

It’s worth it.

Now I guess I just need to change my ringback tone…

Your pal,

Stan

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