5 highlights from LDS general conference (October 2015)
It’s been a month, but I still want to share my five top favorite highlights of this past October general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
I was blessed to assist in covering the conference for the Deseret News and it was a thrill for me to be there. Here are five things that stood out to me.
First, the news everyone was anticipating, the announcement of three new apostles came in the Saturday afternoon session, which was followed by a press conference in the lobby of the Church Office Building, or “COB,” as some call it. There was an air of excitement on this historic occasion. In the days leading up to conference, my mother had told me she had felt impressed to pray for these men, whoever and wherever they were, as their lives were about to change in a big way. I love that my mom ponders these things and is so sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
There were audible gasps from the vast Conference Center congregation when Elders Ronald A. Rasband, Gary E. Stevenson and Dale G. Renlund were announced to fill vacancies left by the deaths of Elders L. Tom Perry, Richard G. Scott and President Boyd K. Packer. The new trio became the 98th, 99th and 100th apostles called since the church was founded in 1830. It was also the first time since 1906 that three apostles had been called at one time.
In terms of Deseret News coverage, I was the backup QB to Tad Walch, our main LDS Church reporter. But Tad surprised me in the Saturday morning session with the news that I would be attending the press conference with him and writing the main article for the Sunday morning paper. I’m not sure how that happened, but I tried to roll with it.
It took a while to navigate the crowds in walking from the Conference Center to the COB, but we made it minutes before the cameras went live. I sat on the second row, right behind the wives of the new apostles. I could sense their tension. Society’s media magnifying glass can get pretty intense, I guess.
The church public affairs people allowed select members of the media from the largest outlets in our market to ask one question each. They asked some tough questions, and I was impressed with how the trio of apostles handled the questions.
One of the questions centered how many members had been hoping for more international blood in the Quorum of the Twelve, but the Lord had called three from Utah. The three looked at each other as if to say, “I was called to this position, I didn’t ask for it.” Then Elder Rasband responded this way:
“I can’t answer your question specifically other than to say that Jesus Christ loves everyone. We’re going to be apostles to everyone. We’ve had opportunity to travel through the church. We love the Latter-day Saints everywhere. We’re called to bear the name of Christ throughout the world. And Lord willing, we’ll go do that as he would have us do it, in a manner that would be pleasing to him.”
That was a great response, in my opinion. In any case, I felt blessed to be there and witness that event. My article, which I hurried to write during the priesthood session, did in fact appear on the front page of the Sunday Deseret News.
Second on my list, church leaders continued to emphasize greater focus on meaningful sacrament meetings and overall Sabbath Day observance. I looked through each speaker’s talk and found 7-8 that all referenced this topic in one way or another. I pulled the best quotes and compiled this article for the Deseret News. I think it sends a strong message about faithful discipleship in the years to come.
Third, two talks really grabbed my attention. Both came in the Sunday afternoon session. Brother Devin G. Durrant, First Counselor in the Sunday School General Presidency, gave a talk titled, “My Heart Pondereth Them Continually.” He introduced members to the idea of “ponderizing” the scriptures.
“It’s a combination of 80 percent extended pondering and 20 percent memorization. There are two simple steps: First, choose a verse of scripture each week and place it where you will see it every day. Second, read or think of the verse several times each day and ponder the meaning of its words and key phrases throughout the week,” he said.
Imagine the uplifting results of doing this weekly for six months, a year, 10 years, or more. As you make this effort, you will feel an increase in spirituality. You will also be able to teach and lift those you love in more meaningful ways.”
The idea appealed to me and I am excited to take the “ponderize” challenge. I want to do it with my family.
The second talk was Elder David A. Bednar’s talk, “Chosen to Bear Testimony of My Name.” Elder Bednar reflected on the last six high-ranking church leaders to pass away and what their final message was. It was powerful. Here is his talk. It is worth your time.
Fourth, I liked this talk by Elder Larry R. Lawrence, “What Lack I Yet?” He offers some great counsel for how we can seek to improve our lives on a daily basis. It’s an antidote I desperately need.
“The Holy Ghost makes an ideal traveling companion. If we are humble and teachable, He will take us by the hand and lead us home,” Elder Lawrence said. “However, we need to ask the Lord for directions along the way. We have to ask some difficult questions, like “What do I need to change?” “How can I improve?” “What weakness needs strengthening?”
Fifth and finally, a major highlight was having my father and 12-year-old son Trevin make it down for the Priesthood session. Trevin turned 12 in May, so this was his first opportunity to watch the Priesthood session and I wanted to help him have a memorable experience. Since I couldn’t bring him down, Dad was kind enough to do it. It was fun to be there together that night. Trevin said it was, and commented that he liked this talk by President Henry B. Eyring because he related a story about a deacon. After I wrapped up my business at the newspaper, we found a KFC in Bountiful.
I also met up with cousin Cortnee and her college roommate. We didn’t have much time, but of course we paused a moment to snap a selfie. It’s always fun to see Cortnee!
Until we meet again in six months.