Well its that time in general conference when the men meet together and are given specific teaching and council for them. This is a session I always find particularly interesting as often the teaching can be more blunt and to the point as the Authorities are speaking into the people who ultimately are the future and present leaders of this Church. I will go through the talks one by one with some thoughts and then give some overview thoughts at the end.
Brethren, We Have Work to Do
BY ELDER D. TODD CHRISTOFFERSON
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
If there is one theme that seems to be pressed in this session more than any other at general conference it is work. As the title suggests this talk gets started with that very much in mind.
The speaker here spends the full talk laying out all of the ways that men need to step up. Looking at things such as the rise in females doing well in education, how in the media men seem to be portrayed as incompetent, immature and self absorbed, and how women are starting to see men as simply partners rather than strong men that they can look to.
We as men should provide leadership, men with the Priesthood (which is the authority by which man act for God in the LDS church) should not waste their life on pornography and cyber space.
Elder Christofferson gives a challenging example of a young boy in India who has two jobs helping to keep his household going at such a young age while still being educated. He says “young men you have no time to waste”. This is now even more true in the Mormon church with the lowering of the missionary age to 18 for guys and 19 for girls.
And he ends with saying that this all needs to be done most importantly in the home, quoting Doctrine and Covenants he says: . Begin to act, and the Lord assures that “an effectual door shall be opened for [you]” (D&C 118:3).
I would say in this talk there are some good points, Biblically men are to take a lead and on a practical level I can agree with what has been said here. There is nothing really doctrinal said for me to take issue with. I would say what concerned me is that there was very little mention of Jesus. In fact doing a word search of this talk for the word “Lord”, I found that almost every reference here about the “Lord” (which I assume does mean Jesus) it is talking about serving Him, either in us needing to serve Him or Him helping us serve Him. I got the sense that He was the vehicle by whom we do things that help better our lives, rather than Him and His glory being the end goal for the doing of these things. I will unpack this more as the talks go on.
Be Valiant in Courage, Strength, and Activity
BY BISHOP GARY E. STEVENSON
This is a talk speaking specifically to the young men in the Church. He tells a story of some young men who walked away from a party where people were taking drugs and narrowly missed being arrested when the Police raided that party after they left. Those that stayed at the party even though some of them took no drugs were kicked out of their school in Japan and sent home. Those that walked away went on to prosperous good lives.
He said this:
Young men, I promise the Lord will empower you. “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power.”7 He will reward you for your courage and righteous behavior—with happiness and joy. Such courage will be a by product of your faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, your prayers, and your obedience to commandments.
Its all about choosing the right and following the commandments, this talk again is full of some good principles but very much makes the point that life will turn out good if we behave righteously.
Beware Concerning Yourselves
BY ELDER ANTHONY D. PERKINS Of the Seventy
This talk is aimed more at the older Teenagers and beyond who hold the Melchizedek Priesthood. This talk as the title suggests is a warning against going wrong. There were two particular things that caught my attention here.
He said this:
Why would God command us to beware? He knows that Satan is an actual being who seeks to drag down our souls into the gulf of misery. God also knows that lurking within priesthood holders is a “natural man” “prone to wander.” Thus, prophets invite us to “put off the old man” and “put on Christ” through faith, repentance, saving ordinances, and daily gospel living.
I wonder when I see this, why does he have to say to people in the Church who already hold this higher priesthood that they should have to put off the old man as though this man is still there, that the natural man is still lurking within these Mormons.
Biblically we see that anyone that that is in Christ IS a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), not that they should hope to be one.
Colossians 3:9 says Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;
Here we see Paul say that we (meaning Christians) have put off the old man in the past tense, this is not something we are striving to do but rather something that is done. Colossians 3:10 goes on to say “and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him”
This renewing is not a work of us but rather a work in us by God as a resulting of us being born again (or regenerated) by Him.
Ezekiel 36:27 says: And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.
Success in the Christian life is not down to us constantly trying harder but rather down to us trusting in Christ and having Him work within us, for many of us that’s a process that can take time but its not down to our efforts to put off the old self and behave righteously in order to be what God wants. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)
Saving ordnances are not what do it but rather His work in us.
Another part of this talk that really interested me was this:
The Old Testament story of David is a tragic example of squandered priesthood power. Although he defeated Goliath while young and lived righteously for decades, this prophet-king was still spiritually vulnerable. In that crucial moment when from his rooftop he saw beautiful Bathsheba bathing, no moral lifeguard stood near to shout, “Beware, David, you fool!” His failure to beware concerning himself11 and to act on promptings of the Spirit12 led to the loss of his eternal family.13
Brethren, if even mighty David can be swept off the road to exaltation, how can we avoid a similar fate?
Firstly David held no Priesthood, and was by no means a Priest, this is simply the Mormon Church adding their perspective onto a place where it is not there, however what interested me more was that he lost His exaltation as a result of His adultery and more importantly murder. This is a teaching that goes far back in Mormonism. And ultimately the Mormon church teaches that David is in Spirit Prison today. Here are two videos that deal with this issue, I would very much recommend you give them a watch,
The Joy of the Priesthood
BY PRESIDENT DIETER F. UCHTDORF
Second Counselor in the First Presidency
Ok moving on to pretty much everyone’s favourite general Authority Dieter Uchtdorf, this guy is always a pleasure to listen to and is someone I would love to give a hug too as much as tell him I think he is wrong. He started off as he often does telling a story of his days as a pilot and talks about how basically some planes are fast, some are slow, just as some people listening are in busy wards (Mormon local Churches) and some are in quiet ones with hardly anyone there which can see less exciting. Both have equal significance. This is a good analogy and is something people could take for many situations, I see nothing to critique in this story.
Two things in this talk struck out at me,
Our all-powerful Father in Heaven has entrusted priesthood authority to us—mortal beings who, by definition, are flawed and imperfect. He grants to us the authority to act in His name for the salvation of His children. By this great power we are authorized to preach the gospel, administer the ordinances of salvation, help build the kingdom of God on the earth, and bless and serve our families and our fellowmen.
Jesus said in the great Commission all authority has been given to Me therefore go……. Now I appreciate the LDS perspective does not grant that Jesus was saying this to all believers from that point on (however that leaves the problem of Jesus claiming to be with this people till the end of the age) however Jesus still made the point that all authority has been given to ME therefore go. Why didn’t he say its been give to you priesthood holders now go out there and choose the right and stay faithful etc like Mormon leaders do?
Its through being in Christ that we have our authority and power, John came to Jesus and said this:
Luke 9:49 And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us.
You can imagine a young Mormon Priesthood holder coming to Jesus and saying “I saw someone preaching the gospel without the Priesthood, I stopped them!”
Yet Jesus says:
Luke 9:50 And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us.
Its not about being in a specific organization and following their ways its about being connected to Christ, in Him we are a new creation equipped and empowered by His spirit to tell all others about Him.
The closing words of this talk raise the same concerns as its title.
That we may always have eyes to see and a heart to feel the wonder and joy of the priesthood of our great and mighty God is my prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
What did the Apostle Paul say:
1 Corinthians 2:2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
Where is the Priesthood there Paul? And why is Jesus mentioned so little in this whole session?
Help Them Aim High
BY PRESIDENT HENRY B. EYRING
First Counselor in the First Presidency
This talk was largely devoted to some great times that President Eyring has had with his son, they were good examples but again all tailored around the significance of this Priesthood with Christ getting no where near the same emphasis. He made one point which really interested me.
As a father I was blessed to see great futures in God’s kingdom for my daughters as well as my sons. When I prayerfully sought guidance, I was shown a way to help my daughters recognize the trust God had placed in them as servants who could build His kingdom.
In a lot of ways this talk and this session strike me as kind of religious humanism. They are all about us striving, us doing, us performing, us improving, without giving us that biblical formula of just how hopeless we are without Christs work in us that comes through faith in Him. This quote shows the total reversal of roles in that God is trusting in His servants to build His kingdom, you can almost imagine God being up there thinking “I hope they can do it, what will I do if not?”
What did Jesus say?
And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18)
There is only one builder of the Christian Church and only one that could ever be trusted with such a task, and its certainly none of us.
See Others as They May Become
BY PRESIDENT THOMAS S. MONSON
Ok we reach the high point of the session, the President of the LDS Church, Gods mouthpiece to humanity speaks.
This talk is entirely devoted to how people can turn their lives around and how we should look to ourselves for that power to change, and also be able to help change others. He says this:
There is absolutely nothing in this world that will provide more comfort and happiness than a testimony of the truth. Although to varying degrees, I believe every man or young man here tonight has a testimony. If you feel that you do not yet have the depth of testimony you would wish, I admonish you to work to achieve such a testimony. If it is strong and deep, labor to keep it that way. How blessed we are to have a knowledge of the truth.
For Mormons this testimony is the inner conviction and assurance that the LDS Church and gospel is true, how do we get this, we work to receive it.
What does the Apostle Paul say:
This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? (Galatians 3:2)
How do we receive the Spirit? By works of the law or by hearing with faith?
President Monson also says this:
We need to be told that we amount to something, that we are capable and worthwhile.
This is good advice but its secular tried and tested psychological principles, if we keep getting told we can do things then we can. I struggle to see how God feels that His people will be at their most successful by simply trusting in themselves more, where is the dependence on Christ in this talk?
Ok I will get to the high point, which I feel sums up the heart of Mormonism today.
“In one particular meeting, N. Eldon Tanner, who was then an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve, had just returned from his initial experience of presiding over the missions in Great Britain and western Europe. He told of a missionary who had been the most successful missionary whom he had met in all of the interviews he had conducted. He said that as he interviewed that missionary, he said to him, “I suppose that all of the people whom you baptized came into the Church by way of referrals.”
The young man answered, “No, we found them all by tracting.”
Brother Tanner asked him what was different about his approach—why he had such phenomenal success when others didn’t. The young man said that he attempted to baptize every person whom he met. He said that if he knocked on the door and saw a man smoking a cigar and dressed in old clothes and seemingly uninterested in anything—particularly religion—the missionary would picture in his own mind what that man would look like under a different set of circumstances. In his mind he would look at him as clean-shaven and wearing a white shirt and white trousers. And the missionary could see himself leading that man into the waters of baptism. He said, “When I look at someone that way, I have the capacity to bear my testimony to him in a way that can touch his heart.”
There you have it world the picture of what humanity should be is not smoking a cigar in old clothes, this is the picture of sin, instead we should be clean shaven, wearing a white shirt, and white trousers. This is purity and it is worn on our outward appearance, what could be more foreign to Jesus and His gospel.
Right through the New Testament when do we see Jesus telling people to clean up their appearance and clothes? NEVER instead it says this:
1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
Ephesians 1:7 In whom (Jesus) we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;
Jesus said this in Luke 11:39 And the Lord said unto him, Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness.
Could this be said of Mormonism too? Why didn’t this missionary see in His mind someone cleansed and forgiven by Christ’s blood? Instead of someone looking good outwardly? More than ever this talk and this session has convinced me that Mormonism is a religion that leaves people that are by nature children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3), still as people that are children of wrath but rather than smoking cigars and looking dirty they look great on the outside but are still the old man inside.
To sum up I want to say this: that when I see anyone who does not know Christ, even if they are wearing a thousand dollar suit, never smoked in their lives and is more cleanly shaved than anyone you have ever seen, if they are without Christ then they are still dead in their sin and with no eternal hope. This is how I see members of the Mormon Church and why I will be seeking to show them Jesus for the rest of my life.
However if I see someone with dirty clothes, a cigar in their hand and have not shaved for months, but loves Jesus and trusts in Him alone for their salvation, I see someone who is righteous, clean and has every eternal blessing to come.