Notes on the Saturday Afternoon Session

Notes and reactions to the Saturday Afternoon Session of Conference:

Elder Hales:

Spoke of sending LDS materials to an old friend and getting a letter back from the friend complaining of terms that he didn’t understand, such as “agency.” Elder Hales said he confirmed that our definition wasn’t in the online dictionary he consulted. He then gave a long description of our beliefs about agency, including the plan of salvation. Told story of being told to varnish a floor and literally “painting himself into a corner.”

  • I’m fascinated by the way that we, Mormons, use terms differently from others. So I started the Mormon Terms website in an attempt to get better definitions written.
  • What we now call “agency” was called “free agency” in the past, but this has seen less use in the Church in recent decades because it is thought redundant.

Elder Cook:

Said he received a CD of music sung by World War II era British singer Vera Lynn, including song about the cliffs of dover. He recalled British statement at the beginning of the war about the lights going out all over Europe. He also mentioned the blackouts in London during the Blitz, using these images of lights to discuss the assault on light and “moral principles and religious freedom.” He discussed the nature of the dangers to light and freedom and what we need to do about it. That includes political efforts and the need to work with those of other religions and to work with others in politics, respecting their positions.

  • Elder Cook’s talk is one I’ll need to read again carefully. The political portion of the talk seems to have been very carefully constructed to point out the need to support moral positions in politics while respecting others.

Bishop Edgley:

An interesting discourse on faith, with some points made that I’d never heard before (or can’t remember hearing them before). In particular, Edgley suggests that we must be responsible for our faith:

  • Faith is not a free gift, given like the dew falls from heaven.
  • Faith is a choice, and it must be sought after and developed. Thus, we are responsible for our own faith. We are also responsible for our lack of faith. The choice is yours.
  • I particularly like his statement that he didn’t understand always beliefs that seemed to conflict with science, but believes in the Church anyway.

Elder Duncan:

Told the story about the pioneers in Utah after the winter of 1848. The newly arrived pioneers didn’t want to unload their wagons and even wanted to go on to California where gold had been discovered. Brigham Young promised them that the valley would flourish, and it did. Dunan then tells of the blessings of following the prophet, mentioning again, as Elder Costa did, Benson’s 14 Fundamentals in Following the Prophet.

  • I’m surprised at the second mention of the 14 Fundamentals — which comes from a talk given at BYU when Benson was President of the Quorum of the Twelve. The list of 14 items has never seemed very well constructed, IMO.

Elder Gong:

Told about his wife making bread for his son in the MTC, and being told by one of the missionaries, “If this thing with Brother Gong doesn’t work out, remember me.” He talked about the influence of generations on our lives, looking back 34 generations to his distant ancestor and the importance of eternal perspective in understanding our roles in the eternity.

  • Fascinating. From what little I understand of Asian cultures, it really seemed like an interesting perspective from those cultures on the gospel. The importance and influence of a family heritage writ large.

Elder Anderson:

Spoke on taking offense, and on having a child’s believing heart. He told the story of some of Christ’s followers becoming offended and going away. Instead of taking offense or going away, Elder Anderson suggested that we must take faith in Christ.

  • If we are not watchful, our injured, childlike spirit will retreat back into the cold, dark crust of our former ego, leaving behind the warm, healing light of the Savior.
  • Perfection does not come in this life, but we exercise faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ, and keep our covenants. …We push our spiritual roots deep, feasting daily on the words of Christ in the scriptures. We trust in the words of living prophets, placed before us to show us the way. We pray and pray, and listen to the quiet voice of the Holy Ghost that leads us along and speaks peace to our soul. Whatever challenges arise, we never, never leave Him.

Elder Scott:

I missed hearing this talk because I had to pause the feed and couldn’t pick it up again after the end of the session because the Church’s system is so limited. Why it doesn’t let you spool the feed to disk is beyond my understanding. Perhaps its too much fear that someone will be able to save the feed before they can edit and approve it.

From what I can tell from other sites, Elder Scott discussed testimony and character.

I will still try to put together notes from the Priesthood session in a bit. But I’m not doing the sessions tomorrow. Another T&S blogger said they would cover the Sunday sessions.

4 comments for “Notes on the Saturday Afternoon Session

  1. I strongly disagree with your opinion stated for Elder Anderson’s talk. The whole point of the Gospel is that perfection is attainable in this life. Most don’t attain it, but it is possible for all. Not perfect eyesight, digestion, or memory, or even a full and complete knowledge of everything; but a perfection defined as able to keep ourselves absolutely sinless and pure; the ability to overcome all of our weaknesses and through the atonement have them made into strengths.

    Because I believe entirely in 1 Nephi 3:7 I know that God will provide a way to fulfill ALL of his commands, even and especially the oft repeated command to be perfect. In my opinion, to claim that I can’t be made perfect is to say that the atonement is unable to cleanse me fully or to strengthen all of my weaknesses. It will happen line upon line, little by little, BUT IT WILL HAPPEN IF I CHOOSE TO MAKE IT SO!!!

  2. Zealot, I think Kent’s characterization regarding perfection in Elder Anderson’s talk is nearly a quotation, so perhaps your quibble is with Elder Anderson, not Kent.

    Kent, I found Elder Gong’s talk to be one of the best in the conference. There were many great talks, but Elder Gong’s was something else. His discussion of temple mirrors, while not wholly original, was delightful.

  3. Paul, you are right. That’s my attempt to quote Elder Anderson. I may have got him slightly wrong, but I was trying to get him right!!

    FWIW, Zealot, I think that your objection is kind of quibbling — I don’t think he meant to imply that perfection was impossible, merely so difficult that no one but Christ manages it.

  4. “Agency”, in the sense we mean it in, has a considerable history of theological usage in circles beyond Mormonism. It is one of the key features of a debate between Arminianism and Calvinism that has been going on for at least four hundred years, and that is almost certainly where we imported the term from.

    There appear to be a number of objections to the term “free agency”, perhaps the most persuasive is that “free agency” appears nowhere in the scriptures. Usually it is just “agency”, and in one place it is “moral agency”, but nowhere “free agency”.

    The theological objection seems to be the assertion that agency isn’t free, and further involves a great deal more accountability and less license than the term “free agency” tends to imply.

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