A quick note: "General Conference" is held twice a year in the Mormon Church. It takes place at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, right across the street from Temple Square. There are 6 sessions: A Women's Meeting held the week prior to conference, then two 2-hour general sessions, and one 2-hour Priesthood session held on Saturday, and two 2-hour general sessions on Sunday. Church leaders speak to the church as a whole, and if one is unable to be in Utah at the Conference Center, it's nearly impossible to miss out as all sessions are transmitted via radio, satellite, and live stream on the internet to most places around the world.
I'm certain I will add to this after I read through transcripts of the talks, and after I've had time for more reflection, but I wanted to get started with initial thoughts on what I heard this weekend.
There were three talks that I absolutely, hands-down loved this time. There were plenty of others from which I gained something, but I felt especially connected to these three.
1. Neill F. Marriott
There were about three times throughout her talk, as well as just after, when I uttered to myself, "She gets it." Her talk was poignant and honest. Vulnerable and far reaching.
I felt especially connected to her words as I have recently been pondering the effects of the very real and difficult act of coming before God with a broken heart. Completely broken and knowing there is only one way for it to be healed.
Here are some highlights with brief interjections:
Transformation begins with a change of heart:
Have thine own way, Lord!Have thine own way!Thou art the Potter, and I am the clay.Mold me and make me after Thy will,While I am waiting, yielded and still.
As our trust in him grows, we open our hearts and seek to do his will...and wait for answers that will help us understand.I've been focusing a lot on mindfulness, meditation, being still. I need those moments where my mind is clear. There's so much information all the time. So many distractions. But when I take even a few minutes to open my mind and heart to God, I am always filled - even with just a little something.
My own change of heart happened at 12 years old.I also had my first big personal spiritual experience at 12. I was alone in the woods, praying, desiring to know who God was. What resulted felt like a conversation. A deeply powerful conversation where I knew that I was heard, known, and understood. It changed me.
Family motto: It will all work out.It doesn't mean it will all work out now, but it gives hope in an eternal outcome.In the last couple of years of my struggle with Mormonism, I can't tell you how many times I've prayed for a humble heart. I'd be sitting in church, on the verge of tears, praying with all my might, Please help me to have a humble heart. Please help me to have a humble heart. PLEASE help me to have a humble heart. I felt inspired to say that prayer. And each time I did, I had a very distinct prompting. But I didn't want it to be the answer. I wanted so desperately to feel okay within Mormonism, that it took over a year to finally listen to that prompting. Answers to our most earnest prayers can be so far from what we desire. The answer was that I needed a break. And when I finally decided to take one, a huge burden was almost instantly lifted from me.
Things, both positive and negative, can work together for good.
A meek heart accepts the trial and waits for that time of healing and wholeness to come.
Paradoxically, in order to have a healed and faithful heart, we must first allow it to break before the Lord.
Our self-willed hearts begin to crack and break in gratitude.I can't begin to tell you how heart-breaking it was that my answer was what it was. And, at times, still is. But I have been learning and growing so much, and I know that finally listening to the answer was one of the most humbling experiences of my life. That's right, I found humility in leaving, not staying. And I work hard at remaining humble, waiting to see when the answer might be to return. But it's still "Not yet." And I know that that is right.
In our broken-hearted reaching and yoking [with Christ], we receive new hope...
So trusting my all to thy tender care,and knowing thou lovest me.I'll do thy will with a heart sincere:I'll be what you want me to be.2. D. Todd Christofferson
He spoke on why church matters. (He spoke specifically about the Mormon church, but my personal experience causes me to extend his words to all faith promoting churches.)
A major reason for church is to create a community of people who will sustain one another...the members minister to one another in the realities of day-to-day life.I've missed having a faith community. Before my break from Mormonism, I'd been a regular church attender. And not just to my own Mormon congregation. While living in Oklahoma City, I went to several other local churches, spending the most time at the Unitarian church right down the street from Dot Spot (our home in OKC). Church matters to me. Faith communities matter to me. Whether they're big or small. We attended a handful of churches in Los Angeles, and I loved seeing their dynamics, how they worked. How they supported and lifted one another. We've been attending the same one for two months now. Today was actually the first day we missed since we started going because we stayed home to watch General Conference. Ironic, right?! Churches have the potential to do amazing things, both big and small.
Converted unto Christ. United in [a] church.Yes!! We're not converted to a church, but to the gospel. The gospel and the/[a] church are not the same thing. Being united in a church helps with sustaining and ministering unto one another, but being converted to God doesn't require a specific church.
3. Thomas S. Monson
This talk painted a lovely picture of discipleship.
As we emulate [Christ's] example, we will bless lives, including our own.There is no transformation more powerful than the one that occurs as we live intentionally on the path of discipleship. Sometimes there are sudden transformations, but most of them take time. Some, lifetimes. Our work is never done.
Trust in the Lord and in his word. That trust will influence all we do.Yes. And it is powerful to both experience and witness this in the lives of others.
Fears will be replaced by the courage of our convictions.I've been working at replacing fear with love. Love is my conviction.
[A note unrelated to his message: Starting around minute eleven of a thirty-and-a-half minute talk, it became very difficult to watch Thomas Monson. He sank lower and lower at the podium, and I kept hoping someone was right there to catch him if he fell. I started praying for him. By the time minute thirteen rolled around, I was crying, not because of what he was saying, but for him. His speech was slurred, his lips lost their color. I was relieved when I saw the shadow of two men come to assist him after he said "Amen." In addition to the sadness I felt seeing him decline through the course of his talk, I was also filled with gratitude for his servant heart.]