“Firm and Steadfast in the Faith of Christ” by D. Todd Christofferson

General Conference, October 2018 – Saturday Afternoon Session – “Firm and Steadfast in the Faith of Christ” by Elder D. Todd Christofferson, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Elder Christofferson related a story from the Old Testament (1 Kings 18) at the beginning of his talk about the prophet Elijah and the priests of Baal and I wanted to provide some context for this particular story–it’s been a while since I studied the Old Testament and I was a little fuzzy on some of the details:

1 Kings 16

Ahab became the king of Israel after the death of his father Omri. Ahab married Jezebel, a Phoenician princess, and built an alter to Baal, the nature god that Jezebel worshiped, and he began to worship Baal, too. (From the text, it actually sounds like he built an alter to Baal in the temple he built for Baal, but I’m not entirely clear on that.) “And Ahab made a grove; and Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him.” (1 Kings 16:33) I’m not sure of the significance of the grove but it’s a pretty strong statement to say that Ahab did more to anger the Lord than ALL the kings of Israel before him!

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, Baal was the primary god of the Phoenicians, a god of fertility, also called “the Lord of Rain and Dew.” (This is significant, keep reading!)

1 Kings 17

Enter Elijah, the prophet.

Elijah warns king Ahab that there will be a drought–he specifically states that “there shall not be dew nor rain these [3.5] years” (1 Kings 17:1, see Luke 4:25 for the length of the drought/famine)–unless the king and the people repent. Spoiler alert: they don’t repent!

1 Kings 18

In the third year of the famine, God sends Elijah to Ahab. Elijah asks Ahab to gather everyone, including the priests of Baal, to Mount Carmel where the people will choose, once and for all, whether they will worship God or Baal. Elijah asks for two bulls to be brought for sacrifice. The priests of Baal will lay their bull on some wood and ask their god to set fire to the wood to burn their sacrifice and Elijah will do the same for his God, the God of Israel, and whichever god is able to light the fire, that is the god the people will worship.

The priests of Baal call on their god for hours, but nothing happens. They jump on top of the altar and shout, but nothing happens.

Then it’s Elijah’s turn.

He builds an altar in the name of the Lord, with 12 stones (it’s specifically stated in the scriptures that this is in reference to the 12 tribes of Israel, see 1 Kings 18:31) and makes a trench around it. He lays the wood and then the bull on top. To really hammer the point home that idols have no power, only the God of Isreal, Elijah has the people pour four barrels of water on his wood and his sacrifice. And then he has them pour water on the wood and sacrifice two more times, a total of 12 barrels of water! He also fills the trench with water.

Elijah prays to the Lord and asks Him to show the people that He is the Lord God.

Then the fire of the Lord fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. (1 Kings 18:38)

Take that, priests of Baal.


Elder Cristofferson paraphrases what Elijah might say today and I really, really like this, so I’m going to quote it:

Either God, our Heavenly Father, exists, or He does not, but if He exists, worship Him.

Either Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the resurrected Redeemer of mankind, or He is not, but if He is, follow Him.

Either the Book of Mormon is the word of God, or it is not, but if it is, then “get nearer to God by [studying and] abiding by its precepts.” (Introduction to the Book of Mormon)

Either Joseph Smith saw and conversed with the Father and the Son that spring day of 1820, or he did not, but if he did, then follow the prophetic mantle, including the keys of sealing that I, Elijah, bestowed upon him.

Moroni promises us at the end of the Book of Mormon that, if we ask God in the name of Christ “with a sincere heart, with real intent” God will reveal to us, through the Holy Ghost, that the Book of Mormon is true. (Moroni 10:4)

But the journey isn’t over once we’ve determined the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon! No! Now we do something about it! To quote Elder Cristofferson, “the gospel becomes… the defining of [a person’s] life and character.”

Our full conversion and healing “happens if, and only if, we do not harden our hearts or stiffen our necks against Him.”

And now for something completely different!

I was reading an article on LDS Living about things that Derek Westra (the author) has learned from participating in a challenge to read (or listen to) all of President Nelson’s conference talks from 1984-2018 in 3 months.

I didn’t even know that was a thing! And now I want to do it, too!

I’ve been having lots of fun reading and writing about the talks from the last General Conference but I think assigning myself 2 talks per week to write about has been a little too ambitious (I keep falling behind!) and it might not mesh well with my new calling (I’ll fill you in next week after I’m sustained, promise!).

I’ll continue to read and write about General Conference talks, but I’m officially giving myself permission to dispense with the schedule I had created and permission to write about other stuff, too, like reading the Book of Mormon and the 2019 Come, Follow Me curriculum.

 

“Sisters’ Participation in the Gathering of Israel” by Russell M. Nelson

General Conference, October 2018 – General Women’s Session – “Sisters’ Participation in the Gathering of Israel” by President Russell M. Nelson

This, of course, was The Talk for the sisters of the Church for this General Conference. In this talk, the prophet issued four invitations to the sisters, which, at least in my little corner of the internet, have been much talked about. I also really want to dig in to the rest of President Nelson’s talk; I’m sure there’s a lot of great stuff to go over!

Before he issued his four invitations, President Nelson reminded the sisters of the church that we are endowed with supernal abilities (supernal: divine, celestial, heavenly) and that no one can make a difference in the world the way a mother can.

President Nelson encouraged us to understand our spiritual gifts, to “cultivate, use, and expand them, even more than you ever have.” The gifts he’s referring to are (1) communicating the love of Heavenly Father and the Savior to others, (2) sensing what someone needs–and when they need it, and (3) thinking of others first.

10-day social media fast. I participated in a 10-day fast from social media from November 13-22, 2018. My first day back on social media was the day after Thanksgiving. Many of the sisters of the church began their social media fasts the day after General Conference on October 8, 2018.

I wish I had started my social media fast the day after General Conference, too. I think I need to respond sooner to invitations from the prophet, don’t you? But I’m also not sorry that I waited! It was very peaceful to have 10 days free from social media in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. I felt gratitude more deeply for my many blessings and I felt the spirit of the holiday more fully. I’d like to make this an annual tradition!

Read the Book of Mormon before the end of the year. I had begun reading the Book of Mormon shortly before conference started and planned to count that as my “start” for reading the Book of Mormon by the end of the year. That didn’t happen exactly as planned so I restarted the Book of Mormon again and am (mostly) on track to finish by March 9, 2019.

Regular temple attendance. I haven’t been to the temple since before General Conference (actually, it was in June, I had to look that up!), and I have tentative plans to attend the temple with my husband on Saturday this week.

One thing I hadn’t noticed until today, when I was reviewing this talk in preparation for writing about it, is that President Nelson issued a separate invitation to those who don’t live near a temple (which I guess sort of includes me) and that is “to study prayerfully about temples in the scriptures and in the words of living prophets. Seek to know more, to understand more, to feel more about temples than you ever have before.”

Participate fully in Relief Society. I kind of forgot about this fourth invitation! So I’ll be discussing that a little more in depth than the other invitations today. This invitation includes three components:

  1. Participate fully in Relief Society. I have a new calling (which I can’t tell you about! I haven’t been set apart/sustained yet.) that will make it very, very easy for me to participate fully in Relief Society. I’ll fill you in as soon as I can!
  2. Study the Relief Society purpose statement, which says “Relief Society helps prepare women for the blessings of eternal life as they increase faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and His Atonement; strengthen individuals, families, and homes through ordinances and covenants; and work in unity to help those in need.” Something about the way this is worded really reminds me of the introduction to the new 2019 Come, Follow Me manual.
  3. Savor the truths in the Relief Society declaration. Confession time! I’d never heard of the Relief Society declaration. It’s sort of like the Young Women theme or the Boy Scout promise. And I’m actually going to have to save this for a separate blog post because I want to share the whole thing with you! It’s so uplifting and wonderful. Here’s just the introductory paragraph:

THE RELIEF SOCIETY DECLARATION

We are beloved spirit daughters of God, and our lives have meaning, purpose, and direction. As a worldwide sisterhood, we are united in our devotion to Jesus Christ, our Savior and Exemplar. We are women of faith, virtue, vision, and charity[…]

The declaration goes on to list 9 things that women of faith, virtue, vision, and charity do. This declaration is so beautifully written that I honestly don’t think I could do it justice at the end of a blog post that’s actually about something else entirely, I fear the majesty of the phrasing of the statements would get lost. So stay tuned!

President Nelson wrapped up his talk by expressing his love for the sisters of the Church and blessing us “with the ability to leave the world behind as [we] assist in this crucial and urgent work [of gathering scattered Israel and preparing the world for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ].”

“Laying the Foundation of a Great Work” by Stephen R. Bangerter

General Conference, October 2018 – Saturday Morning Session – “Laying the Foundation of a Great Work” by Elder Stephen R. Bangerter, Of the Seventy

Lessons taught through the traditions we establish in our homes, though small and simple, are increasingly important in today’s world. What are the small and simple things that, when established, will perform a great work in the lives of our children? (Elder Bangerter)

President Nelson reminded parents during his recent visit to Toronto, Canada of our responsibility to teach our children

  • to understand why we partake of the sacrament,
  • the significance of being born in the covenant,
  • and the importance of preparing for and receiving a patriarchal blessing.

President Nelson also encouraged parents to lead family scripture study.

Elder Bangerter said “Consistent, wholesome family traditions that include prayer, scripture reading, family home evening, and attendance at Church meetings, though seemingly small and simple, create a culture of love, respect, unity, and security.”

Today was my family’s first day using the 2019 Come Follow Me. We didn’t do anything special, though. I honestly love the ideas I’ve seen on Pinterest and other websites! The printables, the videos, the activities–everything is all so well-designed and organized and beautiful to look at! But that just won’t work for my family right now; for us, simpler is better.

Tonight, we grabbed our scriptures and sat around the living room while we briefly reviewed the purpose of Come, Follow Me – For Individuals and Families and the first two subsections under Ideas for Personal Scripture Study (“To truly learn from the Savior, I must accept His invitation , ‘Come, follow me.'” and “I am responsible for my own learning.”) We read about half of the verses suggested in the second subsection. We plan to read the rest of the verses tomorrow evening and to continue our brief review of the lesson throughout the rest of the week in preparation for our classes on Sunday. (Tomorrow, we’ll also add some instrumental hymns in the 30 to 60 minutes leading up to our Come, Follow Me study time to really invite the Spirit.)

About half an hour after we finished reading and had moved on to other activities, I remarked to my husband that everyone was very cheerful, including family members who hadn’t exactly participated cheerfully in our study of Come, Follow Me.

I’m holding out a lot of hope that embracing the new home-centered, Church-supported curriculum will bless my family, especially in the area of children being excited to learn and live the Savior’s teachings.