This weekend we gathered to hear teachings from prophets and church leaders in the 188th Semi-annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And although I am participating in the 10-day social media fast as requested by President Nelson, I have still heard some voices of dissension about Conference.
Voices of Criticism
There seem to be so many critical voices to changes and proclamations given over the pulpit! Yet Christ never asked us to criticize or even critically analyze our leadership. In fact, they are the first ones to tell us they are not perfect!
When did it become fashionable to turn our critical eyes outward instead of inward? Admonitions given over the pulpit are not meant as criticisms to us, or judgments against our behavior; why do we take those same sayings and turn it outward to the speaker?
The Worth of Souls
The prophet’s and apostles’ job is to call us to repentance. Or to issue a call to repentance – an ancient word that simply means, “Change.” It does not mean, “You suck. Stop trying. Take your toys and go home because no one in this sandbox likes you.” It does mean, “Listen to the spirit. Work with God to see what changes you need to make.” They likely are the smallest of adjustments, and are intended to draw us closer to God.
Listening with the filter of those other nerdbucket voices serves only to fulfill Satan’s desire of driving a wedge between us and God.
The purpose of the gospel is the salvation of souls. What cost can you put on the value of a soul? Is it worth the millions of dollars it costs to build and maintain temples? One of the areas where a new temple will be built has only 2600 members of the church. What does the salvation of 2,600 souls mean to one of those individuals? To Christ, who atoned for them and their families? To God, who instituted the Plan?
Humanitarianism & Salvation
During one of Jesus’ sermons, the multitude got hungry. Scant provisions were supplied, and Jesus multiplied the smallest of fishes and loaves to feed hundreds, if not thousands, of people, with plenty left over. Some of those people, hungry and desperate for food, stayed to see if food would be provided again the next time. They were hungry, but they weren’t necessarily hungering and thirsting after the words of Christ. Jesus even told them to seek after food that never goes bad, and that gives spiritual sustenance.
Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.
They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work?
Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.
Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven.
For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.
Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread.
And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.
This doctrine was so difficult to understand, let alone adopt, that “from that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.” Jesus then turned to the 12 apostles and asked, “Would ye also go away?” Peter – faithful, loyal, truth-seeking Peter – responds, “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.” (See John 6:66-69.)
True Followers Seek Jesus and the Words of Eternal Life
Will we also go away? We have heard “hard doctrine” from the pulpit, or at least, what appears initially to be challenging. But is it really that difficult? Or is that our eyes and ears are not tuned to where they need to be to understand the things of the Spirit?
For example, critics look at the high cost of temple building and wonder why the church doesn’t allocate more to humanitarian services. But that’s not the purpose of the church. Yes, it’s a byproduct of church programs and a natural consequence when people see the worth of their own souls, but it is not the mission of the church nor the gospel. The gospel, the work, and the glory of The Father is to redeem souls. That doesn’t happen with handouts; it happens with repentance and ordinances and covenants, which is why we have temples.
It’s also why we attend church with our fellow Saints. It’s not a social time; it is a time to edify and lift each other up. It is a time to share testimonies (TESTIMONIES!) and help each other grow spiritually.
The Call to Build Zion
This conference weekend there was a call to gather Zion. This call looked different than what people think it will, and when our “vision” doesn’t match revelatory vision, we think it’s not prophetic or revealed from heaven. Just because the “call to Missouri” hasn’t happened (which I personally think is a ridiculous speculation), doesn’t mean we aren’t meant to start building Zion now.
Sisters, the call to build Zion by fortifying our stakes, by fortifying our own families, was issued this weekend. Did you hear the voice of God the Father and His son, Jesus Christ, speak to you?
Make no mistake – there is a prophet of God on the earth, and his name is Russell M. Nelson. What may look like a schedule adjustment to some is actually a call to build Zion in our homes, using an inspired gospel study plan. Then we return to church meetings once a week to renew our covenants, and build each other up. Church was never meant to be the answer to build US up; that’s the job of the covenants we make, combined with our own effort and the blood, sweat, and tears of Jesus that were dropped on the ground at Gethsemane.
Not a Life of Ease
The gospel of Jesus Christ was never marketed to us as something easy and comfortable to live. Those who are looking for comfort from the GC pulpit are looking in the wrong place. What is issued from that pulpit are words meant to pull us up, to introspectively examine our spiritual EQ and do a a spiritual health check, then take the proffered hand of Jesus Christ to rise to the level He knows we can (and should!) be at.
When Jesus said, “Come to me ye that are heavy laden and I will give you rest,” it wasn’t, “…and the rest of life will be easy.” There is nothing easy about living the gospel! (Except for the blessings that come from it.) It is not a life of ease; it was never meant to be so. When Adam and Even left the Garden of Eden, it was by the sweat of their brow and hard work that they were able to live as mortals.
And it’s no different for us. It’s hard work, heavy labor. But we are no longer heavily laden. We are yoked together with the Savior, our Redeemer, who knows our aches and pains and what we need. Being yoked with Him means not only someone to share our workload with, it also means that we won’t turn unless/until He does. It means we know the path to walk because He is next to us, shoulder-to-shoulder. It is work to pull the plow! But our row will be straight and true because He is our workmate. Our companion in our labor to save and redeem our own soul.
“Attacks against the Church, its doctrine, and our way of life are going to increase. Because of this, we need women who have a bedrock understanding of the doctrine of Christ and who will use that understanding to teach and help raise a sin-resistant generation. We need women who can detect deception in all of its forms. We need women who know how to access the power that God makes available to covenant keepers and who express their beliefs with confidence and charity. We need women who have the courage and vision of our Mother Eve.” (Russell M. Nelson, “A Plea to My Sisters,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2015, 97.)
The doctrine does not change. The doctrine has not changed. God’s doctrine will NOT change. What does change is our fickle hearts, often dictated by the nerdbuckets and other voices or filters we have in our minds. Words spoken from the pulpit are not meant to endorse our own personal viewpoints; we are meant to endorse those words of the prophets through our words and actions.
“I worry that we live in such an atmosphere of avoiding offense that we sometimes altogether avoid teaching correct principles. We fail to teach our young women that preparing to be a mother is of utmost importance because we don’t want to offend those who aren’t married or those who can’t have children, or to be seen as stifling future choices. On the other hand, we may also fail to emphasize the importance of education because we don’t want to send the message that it is more important than marriage. We avoid declaring that our Heavenly Father defines marriage as being between a man and woman because we don’t want to offend those who experience same-sex attraction. And we may find it uncomfortable to discuss gender issues or healthy sexuality.” (Bonnie L. Oscarson, “Rise Up in Strength, Sisters in Zion,” October 2016 General Conference.)
The Cause of Zion
In the general women’s session (October 2018), nothing was diluted from the pulpit. Yes, there were 8-year old girls in attendance who have not yet made covenants in the temple. But they were not left off the admonition to learn about the temple, or to finish reading the Book of Mormon by the end of the year. Nothing was diluted. And the value of the messages that were delivered are not lessened by the fact that there was an equal number of female and male speakers. In fact, I consider it a high privilege that all three members of the First Presidency chose to address the women of the church. Isn’t that wonderful? Never before has that happened! (at least, not in my memory).
The prophets are speaking to women; are we listening? Do we not see the importance of our missions – collective and individually? Do we hear the call to rise together? Or do we forfeit the value of the message based solely on the gender of the speaker?
My sisters, my fellow women of God – will you stand with me on the side of the living prophets? Will you join me as we build Zion by embracing the words of the prophets and church leaders given in conference?