“Now is the Time” by Jack N. Gerard

General Conference, October 2018 – Sunday Afternoon Session – “Now is the Time” by Elder Jack N. Gerard, Of the Seventy

In his talk, Elder Gerard spoke about a frightening health episode that led him to reflecting on what is really important in his life–and it wasn’t the minutiae of daily life, or the business appointment for which he was traveling, it was his family! He asked himself two questions:

  1. How were we doing as a family and individually?
  2. Were we living our lives consistent with the covenants we had made and the Lord’s expectations, or had we perhaps unintentionally allowed the cares of the world to distract us from those things which matter most?

He then invites us to step back from the world and assess our lives.

Assessing Our Lives

Elder Gerard described assessing our lives as “an opportunity to step back from the world, reflect on where we stand on the covenant path, and, if necessary, make adjustments to ensure a firm grip and a forward gaze.” And he included a question to help us in our reflections: “How do we rise above the distractions of this world and stay fixed on the vision of eternity before us?”

He referenced two separate invitations from the prophet this year to the youth of the Church and to the sisters: to participate in a fast from social media for seven days and ten days, respectively.

It’s so interesting to me to see these very similar invitations coming so closely together! I wonder if the men or the general membership of the Church will receive a similar invitation at the next General Conference in April. It must be more important than I thought to disengage from the internet periodically, the way that we disengage from work by taking periodic vacations.

As I participated in my own social media fast in November, I felt a refreshing peace that I hadn’t felt in a while. I just don’t experience that type of peace when the internet is in my face all day! If you haven’t yet had a social media fast of your own, I really recommend it. I plan on doing another one, maybe over Spring Break in March or during the week leading up to General Conference.

Seek Truth

I use an app called Pocket to save and share articles I find online and as I was writing this blog post, I paused for a moment to open a new tab in my internet browser to look up some information about “alternative facts” (see below, yikes!) and in my new browser tab, my app extension recommended an article called “How Much of the Internet is Fake? Turns Out a Lot of It, Actually.” (The article is about how on the internet, the metrics, people, businesses, content, politics, and ultimately we ourselves are fake, and the title made me laugh.)

“The debate over truth has reached a fevered pitch, with all sides claiming truth as if it were a relative concept open to individual interpretation.” Elder Jack N. Gerard

I remember the first time I heard the phrase “alternative facts” used instead of the correct terms “lie” or “falsehood.” I was equal parts horrified and bewildered–what sort of convoluted thought processes does one have to have to arrive at the action of being deceitful about lying? (The person who originally used this term later expanded her definition of it as “additional facts and alternative information” and, later that same week, substituted the phrases “incomplete information” and “alternative information.” Yikes.)

Clickbait headlines attempt to draw our attention to matters that are exaggerated beyond their mundane nature or are attempting to scam us out of our money or personal information. Top 10 lists! Must see! Most watched! You won’t believe what she does! Try this one weird trick! (In case you can’t tell, I can’t stand this sort of thing. I prefer my headlines to briefly sum up what I’m about to read, bonus points for puns.)

It’s becoming clear to me that as we draw nearer to the Second Coming, the personal witness of the Holy Ghost is going to be more important to our survival–spiritual and possibly physical–than ever before.

Elder Gerard quoted from Jacob 4 in the Book of Mormon (emphasis added):

13 Behold, my brethren, he that prophesieth, let him prophesy to the understanding of men; for the Spirit speaketh the truth and lieth not. Wherefore, it speaketh of things as they really are, and of things as they really will be; wherefore, these things are manifested unto us plainly, for the salvation of our souls. But behold, we are not witnesses alone in these things; for God also spake them unto prophets of old. (Jacob 4:13)

We certainly can’t rely on the world for the truth. The world can’t even decide what truth is! Actually, the world says we can define truth for ourselves! Everyone’s truth is different!

No.

No, no, no.

That’s not how it works.

We must live our lives in such a way that the Holy Ghost can be our constant companion and testify to us of “the truth of all things.” (Moroni 10:5)


I was just about to push the publish button for this blog post when it occurred to me (and I’m sure many of you realized this already but I’m a little slow on the uptake sometimes and so I apologize if I’m belaboring the point) if we fill our time with mindless browsing on things we won’t even remember in a few weeks, we won’t have any time left for pondering and reflecting about important spiritual matters.

If we are constantly being bombarded by the noise of the world (I imagine the great and spacious building has a great and spacious sound system), we literally cannot hear the whispering of the Spirit!

I always pay my tithing first. It never works for me to pay tithing last, because some expense or impulse buy always crops up and eats away all the money I had set aside for tithing. But if I pay tithing first, everything always works out. Always.

I think I need to spend my time the same way I spend my money.

“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!

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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.

anchorage-temple-lds-253274-wallpaper

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…