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):
- Religious Truth vs. Scientific Truth
- Truths of the Restored Gospel
- Applications of Eternal Truths
- 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!
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.