So my mother comes into my room while I am reading a Ranger’s Apprentice novel, and says, “Hey bud! Want to write a blog post about Saturday Morning Conference session?” First thought: Zombie Apocalypse. No! There is absolutely No. Flipping. Way. I am going to write a blog that thousands of people could read, comment on, and maybe even be enlightened about. (Yeah, people sometimes do that. I can enlighten people. Occasionally.) Why am I typing this out now? Don’t ask me. Sometimes I am tempted to ask my therapist if he can crack open my head and see what really goes on inside of it. To give a little context in how I think, most likely because you need it, I like to write down a concept or principle, or a phrase down, and then explain what I think about it. I think that this information might be pertinent. So I have decided to write a few things down that really stuck out to me in each talk, and that way I don’t go on and on and on for pages and keep you reading up into the night!
Elder Utchdorf’s talk really resonated with me for some reason. I think because I feel like I am such a sinner, such a bad person, that hearing someone saying that, “God loves YOU (Not just “You”, as in a general application to the entire world watching, but this “YOU”! ME!), and he wants with all his heart for you to come back to the light”–well, that is pretty home-hitting
- Disregarding truth to rely on because it seems “too simple” – I wonder how often this concept is true in our lives. I think that we are so used to having things be complicated, be “out of our intelligence” that we can’t accept that it really is that simple. In school, I started to learn about “Nihilism.” It’s a concept of rejecting that there is purpose in life. I simply could not understand this concept, so I started looking it up, watching college student tutorials, Wikipedia, Google, etc. until I had it all da-hown!!!! (Oh another thing that might prove useful: If you don’t know what a word is, just say it out loud. I like to slow words down, so I can get some serious emphasis out of it. It’s actually quite fun. Until I sit down at a computer. And I have to type it out.) Looking on that experience, I realize that the perception society gives us is that you have to work to gain knowledge, and while God’s plan is complicated, we don’t have to work in the same ways to attain that knowledge. We have to trust God, and listen to what he has to tell us – or read the scriptures.
- Beings of light with divine potential – Oh. My. Heck. Pra-yahs have been a answered!!!!!!!! As a teenager, and physically developing along with emotionally developing and intellectually developing–all that creates a lot of stress. Stress is normally taken out onto simple little things like societal acceptance. Normally? That means I am really concerned about my place in the world and how people view me. So more often than not I feel incompetent, inadequate, and that I definitely do not live up to my potential. But “Being of Light”? Me? Dang. Awesome. It makes me think that there is this all powerful, all intelligent, immortal being out there who calls me “Son.” And I call him “Heavenly Father” or “Dad.” There is this guy who created the universe, and He is my dad. A dad that would take me out to rugby games. A dad who would train me for the Iron Man triathlon I wanted to compete in for over 3 years now. A dad who answers spiritual questions when I am confused. A dad who wraps me in his arms when I want to cry and break down because the world is like a hurricane. It just blows and spits water in your face until you are blown over. Now, don’t just hit the “find and replace” key, but instead add the terminology of “All powerful,” “All knowing,” “Immortal,” with the term “dad.” It’s very uplifting to think of that, and to realize that if my dad is the creator of everything I know, and I mean quite literally everything (Ex: The air I am currently breathing, the chair I am sitting on, the keyboard I am typing on, the TV I used to watch conference, the Sun in which I can see things by, the cars I drive, the mountains that I love hiking, et cetera for practically ever), then it no wonder that I have potential. Can’t exactly argue with my parents that I am “just a person” anymore once this blog goes up.
In Elder Ballard’s talk, I want to focus on one of the first things he said, and to fully understand the importance of what he said in relevance to me, I need to give a little context before and after what he said. My mom’s dad passed away from cancer a few years ago. Everyone loved him. But to me, as a younger child, and not fully understanding where his time and energy went, I thought I was just going to “Grandma’s House.” My Grandpa was a side character. In a book, he was like a character version 2.5. He was not super influential to the plot, so he couldn’t be a secondary character, but he wasn’t just the random store vendor selling apricots who appears once in the story (Third level character). So he was a character 2.5. I never really understood his importance in my life. So losing him was still hurtful, but I don’t stay up late at nights, silently weeping because of the hole in my spirit. My Grandfather was laid to rest in the family cemetery. There was one day the next summer, when I went to that plot, I knelt down on my knees, and just began to talk. “Grandpa? ….. Hey. It’s been a really long time since I said hi. I just wanted to tell you what is going on.” Then I told him of what had happened to me my freshman year. I had gotten my first kiss, my hilarious English Honors 9 teacher who thought magpies were out to get her, my crazy athletic coach for P.E. who made me run a mile every day I had his class (Oh, did I mention I was a triathlete yet?), and the problems I had. And I asked for some advice. But being the ignorant teenager I was, I just got up after asking for advice, not bothering to pay attention because I never expected to receive an answer, it was just some arcane ritual that I saw everyone do but not many understood. As I turned around, I felt a hand on my shoulder. And I felt a whisper in my ear, in my Grandpa’s voice, saying, “Use both hands.” I was startled. I asked my mom about it, and she said he could have said that to me.
What was Elder Ballard’s point? “Hold on with both hands.” Both. Hands. Not just one hand, or half way into this crazy-religion-I-barely-understand, not a pinky finger as if you just-figured-out-what-LDS-really-stands-for, but both hands. A firm commitment. Being a weightlifter, doing one arm/one leg exercises are incredibly hard to do. It takes so much strength to do a one-armed pull up. (My record is 3. With my left arm, oddly enough). The point that I am trying to get across to both you and me, is that this isn’t a game. This isn’t something that we can put off today because we will have time for it tomorrow. This is serious business. This is our happiness we are talking about. This is eternal. Torment is at stake for having only “one hand” into this thing. We cannot give into that guy who wants us all to suffer as he does in lakes of fire and brimstone (I got burned once on my knee while toasting a starburst over a fire. That killed. I still get throbs every now and then. Eternal fire and brimstone? No thanks. I’ll pass)
In Elder Mayne’s talk, his story of the clay wheel totally fascinated me. I understand that living a Christ-centered life is important, and am constantly learning more of how to do that, and why to do that every day, but what was interesting to me was actually in the history in making clay pots. A potter, at least how they used to, was push down on a lever, that would make the table spin, so that the potter could shape the clay quickly, so that the clay would A) be more symmetrical, and B) have less odd parts to it. The clay was spun at a fast speed, so that the clay shaper would have a less likely chance, when they twitch or something, of making one side or face of the clay look bad. The entire pot would be the same diameter all around. What I am focused on is in the removing of clay. A potter would get basically a lump of clay. And they would spin the table, and remove all of the parts unnecessary, so that the clay shaper could make a beautiful pot.
The clay potter would remove all the unnecessary clay to reveal the inner beauty and divine purpose.
The clay potter would put us through life to remove all of our carnal qualities to reveal the inner beauty and divine purpose he sent us here for.
God would put us through life to remove all of our carnal qualities to reveal the inner beauty and divine purpose he sent us here for.
I am still realizing the implications of that. Maybe that is why prophets and bishops tell us God’s hand is in our lives. He just is trying to smooth out our rough edges, so that our divine potential and beauty can be seen, so that we can bring others back to his sculpting table, so that they can be striving for happiness, just as we are.
Sister Marriot’s talk kind of threw me a mind boggling twist.
- No matter what grief or pain we go through, God’s grace is mightier. Again I’m thinking about weightlifting analogies. The point of weightlifting, to me at least, is to get stronger. Through pain, sore mornings, days when I hate getting out of my nice, warm, comforting, soothing bed, to days when I leap out of bed and play the I’ll-shut-you-off-alarm-clock-before-you-start-beeping game. The point is to get stronger. And I liken that to my grief or pain. It is on its own track, twisting and turning, unpredictable. And yet God’s strength is mightier. No matter how strong I want to be, no matter how strong I am, God is mightier. Not stronger, not fiercer, but mightier. In the Book of Mormon, the Sons of Helaman were “mighty.” Nephi was “mighty.” In the dictionary it describes “mighty” as “possessing great and impressive power or strength, especially on account of size.” And God is mightier than I am. And I don’t say that he is just beefier than I am (as hard as that is to admit as a teenager), he is so much stronger in will, in intellect, in glory, in honor. He is so much mightier in I am in sacrifice. He is so much mightier than I am, because he blesses me with a gift I am barely now starting to comprehend even the smallest of proportions: The Atonement. His Grace. God’s grace is mightier than any pain, suffering, affliction, trial, temptation, heart-ache, head-ache, that I can get or receive. Puts into perspective God’s power. And I can’t even comprehend the Atonement, less alone his power and might.
Elder Lawrence’s talk hit me like Elder Ballard’s talk. One of his first points left me staring up at the ceiling trying to fully comprehend what he said.
- We come to gradually learn and improve. I have always felt that growing up, my parents tried to force their ideals of a perfect son onto me. I think they want me to be a strong, tough worker who loves God. Society only added to that pressure. I feel pressure as the first son to be the shinning star, and lead the way for my brothers and sisters to have a happy growing up life. I think I am supposed to be the one who is best friends with his dad. I feel like I have to look good, act cool, and be able to give my little brothers all the tips about how to get the girls. I dubbed this the “Perfect Son Model.” I think I am supposed to speak when spoken to, uphold my family honor, protect my hearth, to be smart, strong, and capable of all that came to me. I feel these things very keenly, and want more than anything to achieve them. But I don’t. I make mistakes All. The Flipping. Time. What Elder Lawrence said–that stuff about gradually improving? that really helps me accept the fact that I am not perfect, and that I come here learning how to make less and less and less mistakes, so in essence, learning how to become perfect over time.
Elder Viñas was the same as Elder Lawrence’s talk, and Elder Ballard, but instead of highlighting a phrase from the beginning of the talk, I want to highlight an end one.
- The Holy Ghost can change us – it can teach us to love. Emotionally-based decisions are kind of hard for me. People have been talking to me a lot if I am going to serve a mission right when I get out of high school, and that makes me think, what is going to happen after my mission? It’s only two years. Then I have college. A career. Marriage. Marriage. And no, that wasn’t a typo, it was actually me making an emphasis. I am going to get married (Well, at least to be able to enter into the Celestial Kingdom). And to get married, I want to love my spouse before I marry her. I need to love. A concept unfathomable to me. Unconditional, un-ending, emotional, sacrificing, love. That’s so hard for me to fathom, but over the past couple weeks I have been thinking about it so much, and I have gotten a glimpse of it. My hope, now, is that the Holy Ghost will change my heart, so that I can love. So that I can love myself, love my wife, love the family I hope to have, love God.
Elder Cook’s talk was a powerful ending to the morning session for me.
- The purpose of this noble life is to have eternal joy with an eternal family. Not just any life, but a noble life. Noble – belonging to a hereditary class of higher social status. Well, I am the son of an all powerful, immortal, unfathomable being. So, yeah, I got a bit of class. (I’m sure my mom is reading over this and rolling her eyes at her son basically telling the world that he has “swag”). The purpose for my existence is to eternally happy. Pretty cool. It gives me hope for myself. I’m not a real emotional guy, and I think I just felt peace. That’s cool. I know what my purpose is now.
General Conference is meaningful. It’s supposed to be, right? But this session has been even more meaningful because I have to write online. On a public blog. Maybe hundreds of you or even thousands will read it. So I have to make sure I use a lot of “I’s” so that you know that it’s just my perception (Because really? Who can say that perception is wrong? It’s how someone sees and views the world. Can’t say that that is wrong, the only thing you can say is that your perception doesn’t match what society says). And I have to make sure not to come across as arrogant. Snotty. Overconfident. I don’t want to come across as the stereotypical teenager. But I just want to share, with YOU, that I know that my savior lives. I don’t know that he loves me yet, but every single day is a new day. :) I know that there is an Atonement. I know that God has restored his church in this day and age, and I believe God has chosen servants who can steer his people away from danger. God lives. God knows me. God is my sculptor. God is my Creator. I testify of these things with the intellectual power of a teenager, and with all the emotional power that I can muster.
Hmm. What do I say now? Well, I guess . . . Amen.
As a seminary teacher of 17 year old students, I loved this perspective. Not only does it help me reflect on my own personal experience with conference but I can see what’s going on in the mind of a 17 year with spiritual matters. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Great job 17 year old.
As a mother of teenagers, this was delightful to read on so many levels – thank you!! My favorite part: “God is my sculptor.”