“Truth and the Plan” by Dallin H. Oaks

General Conference, October 2018 – Saturday Morning Session – “Truth and the Plan” by President Dallin H. Oaks

Once in a college anthropology class, I made a sarcastic comment comparing humans to magpies; I said something like “humans like gold because it’s shiny!” Gold became the topic of my term paper for that class and I soon learned that there’s a shocking amount of literature about gold out there, but not all of it was helpful to my research. I cited about 30 articles and 12-15 books for my paper, but I had to wade through more than 100 potential sources to narrow down my list of works cited to only those that were useful, credible, and relevant. That process took months.

I think we can all agree that NASA is a trustworthy source with a good sense of humor. But what about a website for a mail-in service that offers to buy your “unwanted gold jewelry that’s just lying around”? Are they a reputable source for a college term paper about why humans place such a high value on gold? Without even looking into the mail-in gold-buying service at all, it seems logical to conclude that a for-profit website that wants to buy your gold is not as trustworthy as a scientific organization like NASA. As President Oaks warns us, we must “be cautious about the motivation of the one who provides the information.”

Fun fact: Did you know that the face plates of astronauts’ helmets have a thin gold coating to protect the astronauts from solar radiation?

We are truly living in the information age. There is more information than we could possibly absorb or process in our lifetimes at our fingertips every second of the day, with more being added every moment! In May 2018, Forbes reported that 2.5 quintillion bytes of data (that’s 2,500,000,000,000,000,000 bytes) are created each day. And that pace is accelerating! However, as President Oaks reminds us “not all of that information is true.”

In our modern world, people who hold prominent positions or who have high social status for some other reason are frequently treated as subject matter experts on a variety of things, like politics and public policy, about which they probably know as much as the average citizen.

President Oaks’ talk is divided into 4 sections (they’re not named in his talk, but for my own benefit, I’ve given each section a descriptive name to go with the number):

  1. Religious Truth vs. Scientific Truth
  2. Truths of the Restored Gospel
  3. Applications of Eternal Truths
  4. The Work of the Lord is Going Forward

I really just want to talk about gospel truths and the work of the Lord going forward, so I’m going to skip the rest. Sorry!

One of the gospel truths President Oaks mentions is that mortality is the time for us to choose between good and evil. Eternal life is not the default destination, we don’t get to just coast through this life and then repent on our deathbeds (I’m looking at you, Emperor Constantine!). We must actively choose to follow God’s plan in this life (or in the spirit world for some of us). Heavenly Father provided a Savior who would atone for the sins of all who accept His atonement under the following conditions: (1) faith in Jesus Christ, (2) repentance, (3) baptism, (4) the gift of the Holy Ghost, and (5) other priesthood ordinances.

There is constant opposition to the work of the Lord and that opposition has been on-going since the time of Adam and Eve. President Oaks offers four suggestions for enduring through this opposition.

First, remember to repent. Change ourselves, don’t try to change the Church. This isn’t referring to programs and procedures (like the age changes for youth progression and ordination that was announced last week), those can and will change as needed to best benefit the church members the programs/procedures are intended to serve, but foundational gospel teachings–things like the age of accountability and the eternal nature of gender.

Second, President Oaks quotes Elder Holland “Hold fast to what you know… In this Church, what we know will always trump what we do not know.” Our testimonies need to be sure and steadfast to withstand the blows of the adversary. If you haven’t already, may I suggest reading the Book of Mormon and, as President Nelson invited the sisters to do at the most recent General Conference, mark each verse that refers to the Savior. I’ve recommitted to doing this and look at how quickly the highlights add up!


I’ve decided to use the same, simplified scripture marking system my daughter uses, with yellow highlighting for Christ the Savior, because he is the Light of the World!

Third, President Oaks encourages us to have faith in Christ. Faith is the first step! We can’t proceed on what President Nelson calls “the covenant path” without it; without faith, we go nowhere.

Fourth, he encourages us to seek help when we need it. Please don’t think that I’m calling you out here, because this is something I struggle with, too. In fact, just a few days ago, I shared one of my struggles, which has been on-going for quite some time, with a dear friend who reminded me that I’m not alone and that she’s there for me.


“Becoming Exemplary Latter-day Saints” by Russell M. Nelson

General Conference, October 2018 – Sunday Afternoon Session – “Becoming Exemplary Latter-day Saints” by President Russell M. Nelson

One of the first things President Nelson did in his talk was encourage us to study the talks from this general conference, beginning that very same week (October 7-13, 2018). I have been officially following this counsel since October 2018 when I started this blog to serve as a sort of journal for my own personal gospel studies. (I also hope that this blog will serve as a vehicle for me to make connections and friendships with others who are interested in studying the gospel.)

As I was reviewing this talk in preparation for writing about it, I noticed that it is chock-full of promised blessings! The second paragraph has 3 promised blessings, the third paragraph has 2, the seventh has 1, the 11th also has 1, and the 12th has 3.

1st, 2nd, and 3rd Blessings.

Referring to the new Church-supported, home-centered curriculum, President Nelson promised three blessings as Church members follow through “conscientiously and carefully to transform their home into a sanctuary of faith.”

First, he promised that our Sabbath days will truly be a delight. In a world that is increasingly distracting, noisy, and, well, “worldly,” we need the respite that comes from joyfully observing the Sabbath day, we need the physical and spiritual renewal. In his April 2015 conference talk then-elder now-president Russell M. Nelson said of the Sabbath day “The fulness of the earth is promised to those who keep the Sabbath day holy.”

Second, he promised that our children will be excited to learn and live the Savior’s teachings. I know some children, including me when I was a child, have a tendency to view living according the teachings of the Savior as restrictive rather than freeing. It wasn’t until I had the opportunity to do whatever I wanted, and I unfortunately did exactly that, that I learned that not living in harmony with the Savior’s teachings doesn’t bring happiness, safety, or anything that is good and desirable.

I hope and pray that our children, mine and yours, will be excited to learn and live the Savior’s teachings. A message that has been emphasized recently, and that I think will continue to be emphasized until the Second Coming, is that in the coming days we will not be able to survive spiritually without the guiding influence of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost dwells with us as we live the teachings of the Savior and are obedient to his commandments!

Third, President Nelson promised that the influence of the adversary in our lives and homes will decrease. Isn’t that wonderful!

As I, and my family, returned to activity in the Church, one of the things we did was to remove inappropriate media from our home. We got rid of inappropriate movies and video games and we eliminated inappropriate TV shows, music, and podcasts. I was  blessed to be able to observe the presence of the Holy Ghost growing stronger in our home afterwards.

Removing unwholesome media is only one way to decrease the influence of the adversary in our lives and homes but it seems to have such a rapid and visible impact! I could spend ages talking about the various ways to decrease the influence of the adversary and increase the influence of the Holy Ghost–daily family and personal prayers, daily family and personal scripture study, listen to conference talks, listen to uplifting music, etc.–maybe I’ll do a separate post about that someday.

4th and 5th Blessings

The fourth blessing in President Nelson’s talk is increased faith as we refer to the Savior’s church by its correct name rather than by a nickname or an acronym or something. The fifth blessing in his talk, also a result of referring to the Savior’s church by its correct name, is increased access to spiritual power for members of His Church.

President Nelson didn’t elaborate on either of these blessings in this particular talk because he spoke about it earlier that day during the Sunday Morning Session of General Conference. To sum up the original talk: “When we omit His name from His Church, we are inadvertently removing Him as the central focus of our lives.” (source)

When we bring the Savior back to being the central focus of our lives, increased faith and increased access to spiritual power seem like the obvious and logical result.

6th Blessing

Moments before announcing the construction of 12 new temples, the largest number announced on the same day (previously the largest number was 9 temples announced in April 1981), President Nelson promised us a sixth blessing of his talk.

“The Lord will bring the miracles He knows you need as you make sacrifices to serve and worship in His temples.”

Miracles! Wow!

And as President Nelson reminded us:

[T]he assaults of the adversary are increasing exponentially, in intensity and in variety. Our need to be in the temple on a regular basis has never been greater.

I know that “those who are prepared need not fear” and maybe it speaks badly to my level of preparedness, but I have to tell you that I do have some fear! However, that fear dissipates when I enter the temple! I hope it does for you, too. President Nelson encouraged us to make an appointment regularly with the Lord to be in the temple.

The promised blessing is that the Lord will bring the miracles He knows we need as we make sacrifices to attend the temple. I haven’t been to the temple since before the October 2018 General Conference and I’ve been feeling that it’s time again for me to go to the temple.

One sacrifice that I can make to attend the temple is changing my method of travel–I can fly instead of drive! I live a three hour drive from the only temple in my state (Alaska) and the only road between my house and the temple is pretty dangerous this time of year (loads of people still make the drive in the winter, but I’m generally too scared to do it). Flying would be more expensive–way more–and I’d have to take a taxi or rent a car, too, but I’ll be blessed for my sacrifice.

Here’s a picture of the Anchorage Alaska temple from LDS.org.


7th Blessing

Towards the end of his talk, one of President Nelson’s blessings went almost unnoticed by me! I didn’t catch it when I reread this talk and first started writing my blog post a couple days ago, but as I continued writing and editing, I finally noticed it!

The seventh blessing is “that [we] may feast upon the word of the Lord, and apply His teachings in [our] personal lives.”

I haven’t been prioritizing my scripture study like I should so I’m going to recommit myself to reading the Book of Mormon as the sisters were invited to do by President Nelson. I didn’t immediately accept the prophet’s invitation to read the Book of Mormon, marking each verse that speaks of or refers to Christ, so I will begin again today!

As always, you are welcome to join me! You can download my reading chart here to read the Book of Mormon in 85 days (the same number of days as the prophet’s original invitation), starting today and ending March 9, 2019.

8th, 9th, and 10th Blessings

President Nelson promised three final blessings as he finished up his talk. I’ve been thinking about how important these blessings must be for President Nelson to wrap up not only his talk, but the whole of General Conference with them!

The eighth blessing is increased faith in the Lord and His holy work. The ninth blessing is faith and patience to endure our personal challenges. The tenth blessing is to become exemplary Latter-day Saints.

There is a lot to unpack here and if I’m ever going to get this blog post published (already a day late, in addition to entirely missing last week and Monday this week), I’ll have to be brief!

Of the final three blessings, the one that especially stood out to me is the blessing of faith and patience to endure our personal challenges. I have a couple of trials going on right now and increased faith and patience will be very welcome! I don’t think I’ll make it otherwise…

“Deep and Lasting Conversion to Heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” by Quentin L. Cook

General Conference October 2018, Saturday Morning Session – “Deep and Lasting Conversion to Heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” – Elder Quentin L. Cook, Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

2 hour church!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Sunday Meeting Schedule

Wow, what a bombshell announcement! I think that was the biggest takeaway we all had from Elder Cook’s talk, wasn’t it? It was for me, anyway. At least until a few days had passed and I had time to really think about the implications of that change!

Over the years, I’ve heard older members of my ward talk about how Primary used to be held midweek. Priesthood and Relief Society meetings were also held on weekdays, I think. I’m too young to remember any of that, though. I don’t remember a time we didn’t have a 3 hour meeting on Sundays so this is all very exciting for me.

In the talk immediately preceding Elder Cook’s, President Nelson reminded us that the primary responsibility for teaching our children the doctrine of the Lord’s gospel rests with us, their parents! The third hour of church didn’t go away, it got moved into our homes!

I really enjoyed reading what Steve Reed had to say about this and I’ve been pondering what he and others have said about this change ever since it was announced. For one thing, I can’t think of another organization that would turn so much responsibility and influence over to the members just like that!

Someone, I can’t recall who and I so wish I could remember so I could link back to it (oh well it’ll come to me and I’ll fix this post later), anyway, they said something about this change further separating the wheat from the tares. I mean, yeah! If you, like me, instantly thought “2 hour church! Woot!” and then began thinking of all the things you could do with an extra hour on Sunday???? Well, I hope that doesn’t mean that I’m one of the tares after all?

In all seriousness, though, instead of an extra hour of “free time,” this schedule change has a purpose.

Home-Centered, Church Supported Gospel Learning

I know some of us, me included, have been wondering if the schedule change to focus on a home-centered program of gospel learning (plus other changes) are preparing the members of the church for a time when church attendance may be limited for some reason. I am very interested to find out.

Elder Cook goes on to say:

World conditions increasingly require deepening individual conversion to and strengthening faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and His Atonement. The Lord has prepared us, line upon line, for the perilous times that we now face. In recent years, the Lord has guided us to address related core concerns, including:

  • Honoring the Sabbath day and the sacred ordinance of the sacrament has again been emphasized for the last three years.

  • Under the bishop’s direction, strengthened elders quorums and Relief Societies are focused on the purpose and divinely appointed responsibilities of the Church and helping members make and keep sacred covenants.

  • Ministering in a higher and holier way is being joyfully adopted.

  • Beginning with the end in mind, temple covenants and family history service are becoming a purposeful part of the covenant path.

I made several attempts to paraphrase what he said here, but he said it so well it was easier to just quote the whole passage!

I have a tag in my Gospel Library app called “True Conversion” that includes highlights from this talk by Elder Cook, a portion of the introduction to the 2019 Come Follow Me, verses from the Bible, some Ensign articles, and this verse from the Book of Mormon:

7 And behold, ye do know of yourselves, for ye have witnessed it, that as many of them as are brought to the knowledge of the truth, and to know of the wicked and abominable traditions of their fathers, and are led to believe the holy scriptures, yea, the prophecies of the holy prophets, which are written, which leadeth them to faith on the Lord, and unto repentance, which faith and repentance bringeth a change of heart unto them– (Helaman 15:7)

It’s that change of heart in the individual that all of this is aiming towards!

In a talk during the April 1973 General Conference David B. Haight said that even some of the “very elect will be… deceived.” He then asked if the “very elect” could include “our sons and daughters”–in 1973, he was speaking to my parents (not that I was born yet). He could say the very same thing now and it would be just as timely!

The flow seems to be something like this:

  1. The only way for us to avoid deception by the adversary is by knowing the truth of the gospel.
  2. The truth of the gospel is the responsibility of the parents to teach the children (with support from the Church).
  3. We must know the truth of the gospel for ourselves, too.
  4. But all of this can only be accomplished with the influence of the Holy Ghost.

By bringing more of our gospel and scripture studies home, our homes should start to feel more like a chapel, maybe even a temple, “a place of joy and happiness.”

Extraordinary Blessings

This home-centered program will really give us the opportunity to set our home apart from the world. I know I keep telling my kids that we will increasingly feel (and maybe even look) different from the world and our homes should reflect that, too!

Deep and Lasting Conversion

The most important goal and ultimate blessing of deep and lasting conversion is worthily receiving the covenants and ordinances of the covenant pathway.

I’ll never forget how happy I felt when I was able to worthily go to the temple to receive own my endowments and then to be sealed to my husband and children. That blessing was a long time coming (don’t forget the years of riotous living that I engaged in!) and maybe some folks thought that day would never come. But it did! But not before I experienced that change of heart and true conversion with the influence of the Holy Ghost.

That’s something I noticed about many of the changes that are happening in the church. Ministering? Requires us to pray about the individuals we’ve been assigned to minister to and follow the promptings we receive from the Holy Ghost. Bringing more gospel/scripture study into our homes? Will invite the Holy Ghost into our homes and hearts as we “enthusiastically embrace the adjustments and seek the guidance of the Holy Ghost. We will become closer to our Heavenly Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”

“Lift Up Your Head and Rejoice” by M. Joseph Brough

I’ve fallen behind schedule in my blog posting, again. I’d intended to write about the talk that was on the schedule for today, “The Role of the Book of Mormon in Conversion,” which I’ve really been looking forward to, but I felt prompted to continue with the talk I was meant to write about last Thursday, “Lift Up Your Head and Rejoice” by M. Joseph Brough. (I’ve added a new menu selection above with an updated blog posting schedule, because I finally figured out how to do something like that!)

General Conference, October 2018 – Saturday Morning Session – “Lift Up Your Head and Rejoice” by M. Joseph Brough, Second Counselor in the Young Men General Presidency

I don’t want to say more than I should, so I’ll keep this a little vague. After promising an unexpected and what many would consider a prestigious blessing, my patriarchal blessing states that my “wisdom and counsel will be sought by many.” Me? My wisdom? Seriously? What??? How do I even acquire this “wisdom,” anyway?

Well, any wisdom I can lay claim to at this point in my life has been acquired the hard way.

A partial list of hard things I’ve experienced: homelessness, poverty, abuse, sexual assault, single parenthood, bullying, robbery, loneliness, addiction, infidelity (not the man I’m married to now!), betrayal, health problems. Some things were happening at the same time, some happened one after the other, some things happened many times,  some things lasted months or years, and some are on-going today.

And some things continued despite my best efforts to change the situation.

Frequently, our first reaction to hard things is “Why me?” Asking why, however, never takes away the hard thing. The Lord requires that we overcome challenges, and He has indicated “that all these things shall give [us] experience, and shall be for [our] good.” (D&C 122:7)

Brother Brough goes on to give two suggestions:

To help us travel and triumph over our hard times with such glimpses of eternity, may I suggest two things. We must face hard things, first, by forgiving others and, second, by giving ourselves to Heavenly Father.

First, forgiveness. Oh boy, this is a tough one. Forgiving can be very hard. The world and the natural woman will tell you all kinds of things to justify not forgiving someone. “They don’t deserve forgiveness!” or “What they did is unforgivable!” (I don’t know, these are the two things that my own natural woman goes back to most frequently, feel free to add your own.)

I’d like to change gears for a moment and tell you about the best day of my life.

It was about 12 years ago, so mid-2006 or so, I was at the grocery store with my husband; I can’t remember if the kids were with us or not. Anyway, I saw a man at the grocery store who had seriously, deeply hurt me many years before. Other times when I had seen him out in public, I was so angry that he was not in prison where he belonged, but instead was free and out interacting with the community like the rest of us. This time was different, though. All I thought to myself was “Oh, there’s [Name].” That was when I realized that, although I can’t pinpoint exactly when, I had forgiven him for what he did to me.

My heart didn’t race, I wasn’t tense and afraid, I didn’t feel anger that he was out in the world, walking freely about. When I recognized him, I just felt… a sense of calm. That feeling was peace!

That day instantly became the best day of my life!

But how did it happen? How did I get to forgiveness when previously I had felt so much anger at someone who did something so unthinkable? Something the world and the natural woman would say is totally, understandably, justifiably unforgivable?

Second, giving ourselves to Heavenly Father. All things can be made right through the Atonement of Christ, even the worst things. When we align our will with that of our Father in Heaven, all things shall be for our good. It takes time, years sometimes–in my case, more than 20 years–for the good to appear, but it will appear!

We will be blessed as we obey the commandments and those blessings can help us to overcome our hard things!

And when our burdens seem too heavy to bear, remember that the Lord will strengthen us to carry the load that has been placed upon our shoulders rather than lightening the load itself, which would also make it easier to bear, but that’s not how we build spiritual muscles!

“The Vision of the Redemption of the Dead” by M. Russell Ballard

My social media fast is going well, though I did fall behind in my blog posting schedule and I missed posting my thoughts and comments on the talk by President Dallin H. Oaks “Parents and Children” last Thursday. I’ve rescheduled my post about that talk until February 2019.

I have to fess up though, I almost broke my social media fast today just so I could post this on Facebook: “After steam mopping the kitchen and dining room floors last night, the kids didn’t let the dog out this morning and he peed on the dining room floor. The floor that I just steam mopped!” But I resisted and I’m sharing it here instead!

Fritz at the vet.

The dog in question.

General Conference, October 2018 – Sunday Morning Session – “The Vision of the Redemption of the Dead” by President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

President Joseph F. Smith, who received the vision that known as “the vision of the redemption of the dead,” lost many family members during his lifetime including both of his parents, a brother, two sisters, two wives, and 13 children. Despite years of prayers, answers to his questions regarding the deaths of his family members did not come until many years later, shortly before his own death, actually.

President Ballard spent most of his talk discussing the life and experiences of President Joseph F. Smith and ended his talk by inviting us to thoroughly and thoughtfully read this revelation, found in D&C 138, which I have done. (I have another confession: it has been simply forever since I’ve read the Doctrine and Covenants, so I felt like I was reading D&C 138 for the first time!)

D&C 138: 1-10

This first section of verses in section 138 of the Doctrine and Covenants illustrates the importance of pondering the scriptures. I think sometimes, especially when it comes to reading scriptures with my children, I’m so focused on making sure they’re paying attention (i.e. not wrestling on the couch or something) that I’m not paying attention! But it’s only after I’ve read something in the scriptures (and paid attention) and spent some time reflecting on what I’ve learned that the Holy Spirit is able to whisper to me.

D&C 138: 11-24

The second section of verses tells of the vision that President Smith had of Jesus Christ ministering to the righteous souls in the spirit world. He did not go to the rebellious and unrighteous souls, though.

D&C 138: 25-37

25 I marveled, for I understood that the Savior spent about three years in his ministry among the Jews and those of the house of Israel, endeavoring to teach them the everlasting gospel and call them unto repentance;

26 And yet, notwithstanding his mighty works, and miracles, and proclamation of the truth, in great power and authority, there were but few who hearkened to his voice, and rejoiced in his presence, and received salvation at his hands.

That has always been the case, hasn’t it? So few hearken to the voice of the Savior in every dispensation.

At this point in D&C 138, President Smith wonders how Christ is able to minister to the “spirits in prison, who were sometime disobedient” (D&C 138:28) in the short time between his death and resurrection but President Smith soon realizes that Christ doesn’t go in person to the unrighteous souls to minister to and teach them, but instructs the faithful, righteous souls to teach the unrighteous, giving them (the righteous) “power and authority” to do so. (D&C 138: 30)

D&C 138: 35-52

In the fourth section of verses, President Smith sees in his vision among the “vast congregation of the righteous” Adam, Eve, and many prophets including Noah and Isaiah.

If this vast congregation of the righteous souls can also be described accurately as the “but few who hearkened to his voice” how vast must be the numbers of the rebellious, unrighteous souls who refuse to hearken to the voice of the Lord? What a sad thought. How heartbreaking it must be for our Father in Heaven to see His children reject their Savior and his teachings.

D&C 138: 53-60

The final section of verses states one of the most important gospel truths and one which is the foundation for the necessity of temple ordinances:

58 The dead who repent will be redeemed, through obedience to the ordinances of the house of God,

59 And after they have paid the penalty of their transgressions, and are washed clean, shall receive a reward according to their works, for they are heirs of salvation.