General Conference Notes

Usually I try to make my blog entries generally accessible rather than specific to my religion and context. But twice per year my church has a set of meetings called General Conference that are broadcast worldwide and during which the leaders of my church speak about matters of scripture, faith, family, doctrine, and policy. The most recent conference was held this past weekend and I had a lot of thoughts I wanted to write about. Some of it may be more specific to my faith than usual. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, commonly called Mormons.

This particular conference was filled with talks that seemed directed to me. So much so, that as one talk finished and the next talk began, I often wished for a pause. I wanted time to assimilate and think through my reactions before launching into a new topic. Fortunately the talks are still available via streaming from the church website Also I’ll have a print version in the church magazine next month. There will be ways for me to review the information and pause to think it through. Truthfully, it is not that the words spoke directly to my various situations. It is more that the words exist and all of the experiences and thoughts in my head exist, then there is this space between the words and my thoughts where inspiration flows. That space is where the words are transformed into the messages I need to have epiphanies about my life. I need conference, church, and scripture study because I have to get into proximity with good words. I need the inspirations that come into my head as a result.

One of the thoughts, which I’m still mulling over, came as a speaker was telling of the power of the atonement of Christ. He said that Christ’s healing is complete and leaves no scars. I thought of the people I know who struggle with mental illness and with ongoing problems as a result of emotional trauma. Observation and science tells me that they will struggle for most of their lives. Yet I do believe in the power of Christ to truly heal. I do not think that the people who struggle, myself included, lack faith enough to be healed. Yet God does not heal everyone. Some of this I can ascribe to eternal perspective rather than earthly perspective. Heavenly Father and Christ know that the pains of this life are temporary. They know that struggle is how we grow. Striving to understand suffering and miracles is the thought-work of a lifetime. My comprehension continues to evolve. Sometimes I am able to move forward in faith, trusting that all will be made clear. Other times I am more frustrated and angry. I don’t have any answers, but I think it is good for me to open my mind and heart to these questions. Conference reminds me what the questions are.

I was much taken with the talk by Devin G. Durrant. He described a process for picking a scripture each week to ponder and memorize. He made up a word, ponderize, to name this process. I don’t like the word. It feels cutesy and diminutive to a process with great spiritual potential. As he spoke about the process, I knew that it was one that I need. He bore a powerful witness of what this process can give to people. I loved listening to that witness, though I winced a little every time he used his word. I’ve put up my first scripture. I’ll be thinking about it this week. And I’ll be trying not to think about made up words.

My grandmother is dying and I am watching my parents navigate the decisions and grief that are inherent in that process. Over the last months I have observed her decline. A few months ago she was in rehab to learn to walk again after a surgery. Now she is in a permanent care facility and physical therapy is focused on getting her to eat. I will be surprised if she is still here at Christmas. I’ve watched this process tear my Dad apart. My Grandma is his mother and he has no siblings to share this burden. I watch, knowing that someday it will be my turn to help parents in their decline. I am learning from their example what to expect and how I might handle it. With all that in my mind, I found David A. Bednar’s talk on Sunday afternoon to be profoundly comforting. In his words I was able to see that a reduction in physical capability only changes what a person can offer the world. It does not render the person irrelevant. To quote Elder Bednar “Physical restrictions can expand vision. Limited stamina can clarify priorities. Inability to do many things can direct focus to a few things of greatest importance.” As I listened, I understood that growing old and infirm can be a gift both to the aged and to those who care for them. It was good to feel that. I’ve been quite focused on the hard parts. There is grace in my Grandmothers imminent departure, God’s grace. As her memories become confused, the anxiety which plagued her whole life is dropping away. She is becoming distilled, ready to travel elsewhere. And we are all becoming ready to let her go.

I will be continuing to interact with the words and messages of this General Conference. I have more inspirations that I need. For now, life is good and all my people in my house are aimed in good directions.