Our greatest desire should be to labor diligently so we can prepare the way for the glorious return of our savior.
—Reyna I. Aburto
This lady was so close. So close! She delivered a beautiful call to action for us to exercise love for our neighbors through selfless service. She provided several examples of regional and local LDS organizations pitching in when a specific need was identified, including a Chilean ward offering Spanish classes to Haitian immigrants in their country and members with boats ferrying families around the Houston area in the wake of last year's hurricane. And then she says this....
No. Our greatest desire should be to alleviate the suffering of our fellow human beings. Our desire should be to make our world a better place to live because we care about people. We shouldn't help just because we think it's going to usher in an age of religious euphoria.
That being said, what these people in her examples did is terrific and I sincerely applaud them. I would imagine that most of them participated because of a genuine desire to help and serve. But the whole point of this kind of service is that we sacrifice our own time and our own concerns to put others' more urgent or more severe needs first. Religion shouldn't be a part of that decision. A hurricane flattened a city. Ulterior motives are kind of inappropriate in that sort of emergency.
But other than that one comment out of a ten-minute speech, Aburto may have given the most agreeable sermon of the conference so far.
I exhort [inactives and/or apostates] to reflect and to return because I believe that no one will be able to make excuses before our Lord Jesus Christ.
—Claudio D. Zivic
"I urge you to put your life on an almost opposite course because the God I believe in is petty enough to dismiss an honorable existence simply because you found his official church untenable or unfulfilling." As far as inactives and apostates go, this exhortation will probably fall upon deaf ears. It's like the Pope telling Jews how they should live their lives.
However, there is a possibility this may be effective on members whose faith is beginning to slip. A little doubt here, a skipped Sacrament Meeting there, maybe an attempt to weasel out of a calling...anyone who's recently begun any of these kinds of little negative behaviors may consider this a warning to get back in line. Because if you still mostly believe in the church and you're just struggling with a couple of things, the implication that you're going to have to stand at the bar of God one day and make some lame excuse about how you just didn't think you'd have time every week to prepare a lesson if you were called as the Gospel Doctrine teacher is probably pretty scary.
The cultural currents are so strong that if we ever stop paddling we will be carried downstream toward a destination we do not seek but which becomes inevitable if we do not constantly try to move forward.
—Dallin H. Oaks
Inevitable? Come on, man, stop trying to terrify people.
In your metaphor, it's not inevitable. You can still get to the destination even if you stop paddling temporarily, it'll just take a little longer. You're trying to make the point that if we stop trying, even for a little while, we'll be dragged downstream to whatever horrible metaphorical fate awaits at the mouth of the river.
But not only is that ridiculous, it's completely unfair. Life is hard—especially as a Mormon balancing so many different responsibilities. There should be absolutely no shame whatsoever if you can't fire on all cylinders all the time. There's nothing wrong with needing a break. I suppose my argument may not really apply that well to sins of commission, but as far as omission goes, we need to cut ourselves some slack. Oaks is pretending like skipping a Family Home Evening during a hectic week or not showing up to a quorum service project because of competing obligations is akin to the first step down the slippery slope.
Listen, if your arms get too tired, stop paddling. Pausing isn't giving up, and considering there's a lot of effort required, sometimes a break can be reinvigorating. Don't turn the kayak around and paddle downstream or anything (I guess that would be your sins of commission in this metaphor), but take a moment to catch your breath, stretch your arms, and then keep going. Don't let Oaks tell you you're risking your eternal fate by taking five. Any god worth believing in will understand how much is being asked of you, how hard you're working, and how dedicated you truly are.
Similarly, even small acts of disobedience or minor failures to follow righteous practices can draw us down toward an outcome we have been warned to avoid.
—Dallin H. Oaks
Okay, so I guess now the metaphor is situated along the Y-axis instead of the X-axis? This is fear-mongering, plain and simple. Should we celebrate our minor failures? Of course not. But neither should we treat them like gateway drugs to murder, rape, devil worship, and spiritual death.
One thing is certain: the terrible consequences of partaking of anything that can become addictive, like drugs that attack our bodies or pornographic material that degrades our thoughts, is totally avoidable if we never partake for the first time, even once.
—Dallin H. Oaks
I'm impressed with you guys. You're going easy on pornography this conference.
I don't entirely disagree with this statement. I use similar reasoning for why I still have never had any alcohol. But the difference is that I've made that choice myself based on my own goals and my own knowledge of my own habits. But I'm a little leery of this advice coming in such absolute terms from someone in such an influential position. And, let's be honest, any addictive qualities of porn are not the reasons you want people to abstain. You'd be against it almost as vociferously even if viewing it once didn't generally make people want to view it a second time.
But if you're so against addictive things, why are you so careful to advise us not to partake of tea or coffee but so silent about caffeine? Why have energy drinks not been added to the Word of Wisdom?
Oh, also...since he's irritated me so much, I wanted to cavil a little. Oaks is saying "the terrible consequences...is totally avoidable." Plural subject. Singular verb. Rookie mistake from someone of Oaks's intellect and experience with formal oratory. Just sayin'. Although I'm sure he was speaking as a man, at least in a grammatical sense.
Because I know that good inspiration is based upon good information, I prayerfully met one-on-one with each apostle.
—Russell M. Nelson
Good inspiration is based on good information?? What?? So when Nephi constructed a boat and sailed to America it was because he'd first walked back to Jerusalem to ask a master shipbuilder what kind of wood he should use? So when God came to Joseph in a dream and warned him to flee with Mary and Jesus, it was because Joseph had been keeping a keen eye on the political climate and had anticipated that there may be an order issued to murder children under two? So when Joseph Smith produced the Book of Mormon it was only possible because he had gone to his local library first to read up on Reformed Egyptian so he could translate a made-up language more effectively?
Way to take the magic out of the the process of divine inspiration, chief.
And, actually, even more troubling is stuff like Saul of Tarsus and Alma the Younger. Those men received inspiration in the form of angelic visitation that turned them from dedicated opponents of the church into even more dedicated servants of God. What kind of good information would they have gathered before any of that happened?
I testify that the Lord instructed me to select President Dallin H. Oaks and President Henry B. Eyring to serve with me as counselors in the First Presidency.
—Russell M. Nelson
"Instructed." Nice. It makes it sound like you converse with God, but it's vague enough on the procedure to avoid sounding crazy. Was it face-to-face? Was it a voice you heard? Glowing characters on a rock in your hat? A message written in the steam on your bathroom mirror?
It's gotta be tough to walk that line in the modern era. The church was founded on visions and heavenly visitations, but nowadays too much of that talk is gonna make you sound like you forgot to put on your tinfoil hat this morning. So you have to imply strongly that there is some kind of holy line of communication between the leadership and the heavens because that's what gives you your legitimacy, but you have to do it without sharing any details whatsoever to avoid turning off any investigating non-believers entirely.
To his credit, Nelson is walking that line with a balance, an agility, and a grace that you wouldn't expect from a 93-year-old acrobat.
Does God really want to speak to you? Yes! "As well might man stretch forth his puny arm to stop the Missouri river in its decreed course...as to hinder the Almighty from pouring down knowledge from heaven upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints."
—Russell M. Nelson
If God really wants to speak to us, then why does he make it so goddamn difficult to get access to his voice? Why do we, as Nelson termed it earlier, have to "grow into" the principle of revelation? Maybe man's arm isn't so puny as it says in the Doctrine and Covenants if we can foil the Almighty God's attempts to communicate with us with nothing but sheer force of incompetence.
I know I've probably beaten this point to death many times here, but considering God is compared almost constantly with a loving parent, correspondence shouldn't be so complicated. If my dad wants to speak to me, he sends an email or a text message or he picks up the phone. If my heavenly dad wants to speak to me, I have to reach out first, be worthy of his spirit of inspiration, study things out in my mind, and grow into receiving revelation. By that logic, I should be able to dam the Missouri by dipping my thumb in the shallows.
You do not have to wonder what is true. You do not have to wonder who you can safely trust. Through personal revelation, you can receive your own witness that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, that Joseph Smith is a prophet of this dispensation, and that this is the Lord's church. Regardless of what others may say or do, no one can ever take away a witness borne to your heart and mind about what is true.
—Russell M. Nelson
Actually, we do have to wonder what is true. Doctrine and Covenants 28:11 reads:
And again, thou shalt take thy brother, Hiram Page, between him and thee alone, and tell him that those things which he hath written from that stone are not of me and that Satan deceiveth him;
The section header summarizes: "Satan deceived Hiram Page and gave him false revelations."
So, it's scripturally established that we can receive fake revelations from Satan. So, through personal revelation we can receive a personal witness of all that stuff Nelson mentions. But, theoretically, we could also receive a false personal witness that Kanye West is actually Jesus Christ and that he'll be ushering in the New Millennium any day now. Or, for a less drastic example, we could receive a false witness that the LDS Church has deviated from the gospel restored by Joseph Smith and that we should join Denver Snuffer's Mormon sect.
So there's always room for doubt. The scriptures teach that. Kind of weird that the prophet teaches something different than what's in the scriptures, isn't it?