This is a picture of me, by request of Jo, waiting in line with my ticket for General Conference this morning! It is kind of blurry, and the wind had blown my hair wild, but it’s the only one I got of me.
They manage the crowds by your ticket saying which door to go in. I went in door 12.
By a miraculous chain of events that I never could have imagined, and a story I will only tell you in person, I ended up with a seat on the FOURTH ROW! I could not believe it! It was amazing, a once-in-a-lifetime experience that gifted me with the ability to truly see – literally see – the faces of the Prophet, the Apostles, the authorities, and the auxilliary leaders. This was a gift, and I did cry and cry.
I especially liked getting to see all the women leaders, and the powerful presence of the wives.
The morning session was PACKED. AMAZING.
First, we had “Music and the Spoken Word“, which is the Sunday morning broadcast of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do it every week, and this was my first time to get to be there for it. It was amazing! Most significantly to me were some select pieces of music that are special to my family, so the timing of them performing them while I was there really was a tender mercy. The “spoken word” part was about the story of Jane Eyre, which is one of my favorite stories – so another tender mercy. They focused on the part of the story where Jane learns about forgiveness, even going back to care for her dying aunt who had been so cruel to her. He read this quote (by Charlotte Bronte) from the story, when Jane’s little friend is teaching her about forgiveness:
Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs.
Then conference opened with President Eyring’s talk about how every member has the same sacred charge to fulfill what we promised God we would do and who we promised to become. He reminded us of our baptismal covenants, and stressed how these connect with how we should love and serve others in real ways. He talked about the effect our keeping (or not keeping) our covenants has on those around us and on the church.
Elder Hales testified of the Savior in a powerful way. He spoke about how in Gethsemane, the Savior trusted His Father even in those hardest, darkest hours. Through public humiliation, he still waited on (trusted and served) His Father. He also spoke about forgiveness and its importance in our lives. He said that tests and trials and challenges give us opportunity to use our agency to choose to follow the Savior. He reminded us we are not alone, and that we all at times feel that question of, “Oh, Father, where art thou?” He said that whatever we are called on to endure, physically or mentally or emotionally or material-ish-ly, like Job, no matter what, we can wait on the Lord. Our understanding will come line upon line, and He will not give more or relieve more (or sooner) than I am ready or until I am ready. We should not give up, and especially hope for our families. So we should be kinder to others, and even kind to ourselves. We are not alone, and He who watches over us neither slumbers nor sleeps.
Elder Callister of the 70 testified of the Book of Mormon. He gave a great illustration. He said that the Bible is like a dot that cannot be understood, or connected by itself. Lots of lines can come out of it, like lots of different kinds of churches, because there is no connection to anything else. He said it is the second witness of Jesus Christ, the Book of Mormon (that’s why it’s called “Another Testament of Jesus Christ”), that is needed to be able to draw a stable, straight line. He talked about how God speaks to us in modern times the same way He spoke in ancient times.
Sister Dalton taught us how to raise “happy, well-adjusted daughters”. She said the most important thing a father can do is to love her mother. She said this is how the daughter will learn the traits she needs, will see what to look for in a husband, and will learn not to settle for less. She cautioned us not to have anything in our home that would compromise marriage or covenant-making or covenant-keeping. Let nothing “distract, delay, or disqualify” (I remembered that from her other talk!), and to protect against all intrusions of evil. We should eliminate anything not consistent with the priesthood, and remember that if we live like the Savior lived, then the devil will have no power over us.
Elder Ballard spoke of the importance of a name, and the importance of us using the full name of the church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He said it is the name He will call us by in the last day. He spoke of many cultural issues happening, and confusion about church names and who “mormons” are, and which group are the real “mormons”, and all of this meaning that it will become increasingly more important to use the full name when talking about our church.
President Monson spoke about how many inappropriate behaviors are not only tolerated, but accepted. He said we need not participate in the moral revolution that is a rebellion against self-restraint. He said commandments are commandments, which are non-negotiable. We should reject that which doesn’t meet our standards, and eliminate what distracts and detracts. He also talked about prayer, and how much Heavenly Father wants us to commune with Him. He said that it is through prayer that we build a relationship with Heavenly Father.
When President Monson was leaving after the morning session, he stopped for pictures. He did a little wave and made funny faces, and then he pretended to fix his hair. Oh, it was funny, and we did laugh! You could feel how much we love him, and feel how much he loves us.
The moment my camera snapped showed him mid-air, so you can’t tell he was laughing and smiling. But he was, and I got to see him. I felt like Zacchaeus, climbing in the tree!
Between the morning and afternoon sessions, I found a little place across from the Temple to eat my lunch. Because it is Sunday, the whole hundred-thousand of us could not go into the local shops (if any were even open) to get lunch. So Temple square quickly filled with quilts spread out and covered in family picnics. The whole site of it made me cry, and was so lovely. I called my mother and told her about it, and how sweet it was, and how amazing it felt.
Also, I love the Temple.
I also got to tour the tabernacle, which is different than the Temple or the conference center. I had not been inside before, and I loved the old smell inside! It was beautiful!
I had lunch in the garden again, and that seriously has been as physically healing as the good night’s sleep (for the first time in three months), and the spiritual nourishment of conference:
Then I toured the Visitor’s Center, which I had never seen, and it was full of ARTWORK! Oh, I did love it, and want to go back and spend hours and hours. But I did see my favorite painting!
Then it was time to stand in line for the afternoon session, excepting that I had a Deaf ticket and there are not so many of this, so no line! I just got to go right in and pick my seat! This was great, but not nearly as close as the fourth row like this morning! That really was a once in a lifetime experience, and I was in awe and so very grateful.
Elder Nelson opened the afternoon session with a talk about making and keeping sacred covenants. He reminded us that Heavenly Father fixes the terms: for example, He sent a Savior to atone for us, but asks our obedience in return. Elder Nelson talked about Abraham’s blessings, and that those blessings are received through obedience. He talked about how after 4,000 years, now is the time for Israel to be gathered, and this is already beginning to be fulfilled.
Elder Oaks challenged everyone, LDS and non-LDS, to consider what we really believe about Jesus Christ, and notice how this changes who we are and what we do. He reprimanded us, saying that contention is never of God. He reminded us to nourish our eternal lives, and not sacrifice them to the things of the world.
Elder Richardson (Sunday School Presidency) told us to keep it real! He said that we need teachers with the ability to teach in a way that does not restrict learning. He reminded us that it is the Holy Spirit who does the teaching, and so we need to align our ways with His. He said the Holy Spirit teaches us by keeping it personal, teaching us what we must know and what we must do so that we can become who we must be. We should teach people, not teach lesson plans. We can do this by facilitating opportunities for people to feel, learn, and act; however, we cannot do these things for others, only invite them.
Elder Yamashita of the 70 opened with a lovely example of gratitude, as he shared his story of the missionaries who found him. He reminded us of the verse in Isaiah about “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news”, and it made me cry to think of my own missionaries and the Hamilton family and Brookhollow ward that all worked so hard to bring me that good news. I am so glad of it. He reminded us that love and attitude are significant, even most important, because people can feel love before they can understand doctrine.
Elder Bennett of the 70 told a story about swimming and getting caught int he currant. He said, of the lifeguard on duty, “Without his help, I never would have made it back to my family”. This made me cry and cry, because I felt how true this was of me and my family, and that without the help of the Savior, I never would have made it back to my family. He reminded us that decisions determine destiny, and that all choices have eternal consequences. He said we all face adversity, and we all make mistakes. But reminded us of President Uchtdorf’s counsel that small errors and small drifts have big consequences, and that we need enough self-discipline to repent quickly and early.
Elder Cornish of the 70 encouraged us to remember that God hears our prayers even on the very minor things. He said that God so wants to bless us, but the gift of our agency means we must ask for His help. He used “The Lord’s Prayer” as an example of teaching us to pray, defining each phrase with profound meaning and a spur to action and change. He reminded us that anytime we feel His thoughts, His feelings, His promptings, His tender mercies, or even the miraculous response – these are all God answering our prayers.
Elder Cook opened and closed with a marvelous line about how “we lament the things not accomplished and the songs not sung”, but to trust the Savior as our Redeemer. He reminded us that Heavenly Father loves us and knows us. He said the atonement brought us salvation and exaltation, but also compensates for all unfairness and injustice, righting wrongs and bringing understanding beyond pain. He reminded us to “Be still, and know that I am God.”
President Monson closed the conference by reminding us that we are all here (at Conference) because we love our Heavenly Father. He is mindful of us, and we acknowledge His hand in all things. He loves us, and is mindful of our challenges. He blesses us as we obey commandments and seek Him in prayer. He gives us meaning, purpose, and hope. He closed with an apostolic blessing that made me weep, and I knew He is the Prophet of God, and I felt my Father-in-Heaven’s love for me. And so I cried.
It was an amazing conference, and I was sad to say goodbye.
I was also sad because I lost my missionary name tag! I retraced my steps, went to lost and found, and retraced my steps again! They said if they find it, they will mail it to me. Sadness. But it is just a tag, they said, and they will send me another one.
And other than that, which was its own learning experience (that my mission is greater than my tag, even though my tag is special, and most other missionaries get several tags, so it’s okay for mine to be replaced), conference was amazing, and I am so grateful for it and so glad to have its words to study and ponder and build upon, so grateful for a Savior that does transform me, so grateful for a Father-in-Heaven who loves me that much and knows me that well.