Another 6 months has come and gone, and General Conference is upon us once again. It seems that each year, I feel an even greater need and desire to hear the words of the living prophets and apostles and leaders of this Church.
Some of the most viewed articles I’ve written on this site have been the conference rumor articles, but we haven’t published one of these articles in a few years. It’s seems like President Nelson has made so many amazing policy changes that real life was better than any predicted changes we could foresee on our end.
As for April 2022’s General Conference, here are some of the themes we can see being addressed – many of which tie in with the much needed and expected focus on Christ, covenants, and conversion to the principles and doctrines of the gospel.
If you search General Conference talks on the topic of tithing, there really hasn’t been a focused talk that I can find on the law of tithing for quite a few years. More than ever, I feel that the law of tithing, with its associated blessings, needs to be addressed with the membership of the Church. Why do I feel that way?
More and more I hear of people who withhold their donations to the Church and instead donate to a charity of their choosing – thinking this fulfills the law of tithing. They justify this because of the reported billions of dollars that the Church has in investments. They reason that since the Church has so much money, they don’t need any more tithing from us.
As Daniel L. Johnson stated in a 2006 General Conference talk on the law of tithing, “…the tithe is not just any freewill offering…Faithful members of the Church pay their tithing to a member of their branch presidency or ward bishopric. Under the direction of the Lord’s prophet, these funds are then gathered and used to fund the growth and development of the Church throughout the world.”
A reminder of what tithing is, what it is for, and who it is paid to would be helpful. You might enjoy this compilation on the purpose and power of tithing that we published on our YouTube channel.
The principle of absolute and divine truth seems to be addressed more and more, but the need never goes away. President Nelson actually started off the October 2021 General Conference with this quote:
Contrary to the doubts of some, there really is such a thing as right and wrong. There really is absolute truth—eternal truth. One of the plagues of our day is that too few people know where to turn for truth. I can assure you that what you will hear today and tomorrow constitutes pure truth.
I’ve heard quite a few interesting manipulations of our doctrine lately that show a lack of understanding regarding truth. Below are a few examples of statements members of the Church have said to me on social media as justification for them living according to their own “truth.”
- One person said to me, “We all have our own iron rod.” This is false. Read 1 Nephi chapter 8 and count the number of iron rods referenced. There is only one.
- Another person, who told me that prayer doesn’t need to be to directed to Heavenly Father, said, “You should read Article of Faith 11 where it says let them worship how, where, or what they may.” In other words, she was saying that we can do whatever we want in our worship. The reason for this article of faith is to support religious freedom, as Heavenly Father wants all people to respect other people’s churches and religions. This is not justification for disregarding the scriptures and doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. All people can worship as they may, but to claim membership in this Church, and to be worthy to enter the Lord’s house, we should keep the commandments and worship God in the way that has been taught by the Savior and according to the doctrines revealed.
- A friend recently posted online that she was leaving the Church and many of my friends who were fellow members of the Church showed their support by stating how happy they were that she was “living her truth.” While I am 100% for supporting people wherever they are at, Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. There is not a different truth for every person.
- A popular phrase that has been thrown around is that people choose not to follow gospel principles or doctrines they disagree with because they are claiming their own “personal authority.” They state that what they feel trumps what prophets and scripture say. Again, this is alarming. Rereading President Dallin H. Oaks’ talk “Two Lines of Communication” would be helpful for all of us. In that talk he said: “Unfortunately, it is common for persons who are violating God’s commandments or disobedient to the counsel of their priesthood leaders to declare that God has revealed to them that they are excused from obeying some commandment or from following some counsel. Such persons may be receiving revelation or inspiration, but it is not from the source they suppose. The devil is the father of lies, and he is ever anxious to frustrate the work of God by his clever imitations.”
Needless to say, additional talks teaching the importance of existing absolute truth and where to find it is something that is sorely needed.
How incredible is it to have living prophets and apostles. Just thinking of the prophetic mantle of President Nelson and all of the incredibly inspired changes he has made under the Lord’s direction in the past few years fills me with gratitude. While many feel similarly, there are others who have doubts and concerns about the role of prophets – and that’s okay. For this purpose doctrine is taught, because doctrine invites the Spirit, which can then testify of truth.
I heard a Bishop recently share that a member came to him with the following question. “Bishop, we learn from scriptures that in the last days, even the elect will be deceived. What if the prophet is one of those who are deceived?”
Now, I have never even thought of that, but to be honest, it’s a great question! I am so glad this member was willing to bring that to a bishop for counsel. I love the talk “14 Fundamentals in Following the Prophet,” given by Ezra Taft Benson. One portion of that address states that, “The prophet will never lead the church astray.” President Benson then quotes two other prophets:
President Wilford Woodruff stated: “I say to Israel, The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as president of the Church to lead you astray. It is not in the program. It is not in the mind of God.” (The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, selected by G. Homer Durham [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1946], pp. 212-213.)
President Marion G. Romney tells of this incident which happened to him:
I remember years ago when I was a Bishop I had President [Heber J.] Grant talk to our ward. After the meeting I drove him home. . . .Standing by me, he put his arm over my shoulder and said: “My boy, you always keep your eye on the President of the Church, and if he ever tells you to do anything, and it is wrong, and you do it, the Lord will bless you for it.” Then with a twinkle in his eye, he said, “But you don’t need to worry. The Lord will never let his mouthpiece lead the people astray.” [In Conference Report, October 1960, p. 78]
Not only is it important to know that the Lord will never allow the prophet to lead His people astray, but it is also imperative that we understand how vital the role of the living prophets are. In President Benson’s talk, his second fundamental is that the living prophet is more vital to us than the standard works, and he illustrated this principle with a story from early church history that was shared by Wilford Woodruff:
President Wilford Woodruff tells of an interesting incident that occurred in the days of the Prophet Joseph Smith:
I will refer to a certain meeting I attended in the town of Kirtland in my early days. At that meeting some remarks were made that have been made here today, with regard to the living oracles and with regard to the written word of God. The same principle was presented, although not as extensively as it has been here, when a leading man in the Church got up and talked upon the subject, and said: “You have got the word of God before you here in the Bible, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants; you have the written word of God, and you who give revelations should give revelations according to those books, as what is written in those books is the word of God. We should confine ourselves to them.”
When he concluded, Brother Joseph turned to Brother Brigham Young and said, “Brother Brigham, I want you to take the stand and tell us your views with regard to the living oracles and the written word of God.” Brother Brigham took the stand, and he took the Bible, and laid it down; and he took the Book of Mormon, and laid it down; and he took the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and laid it down before him, and he said: “There is the written word of God to us, concerning the work of God from the beginning of the world, almost, to our day. And now,” said he, “when compared with the living oracles those books are nothing to me; those books do not convey the word of God direct to us now, as do the words of a Prophet or a man bearing the Holy Priesthood in our day and generation. I would rather have the living oracles than all the writing in the books.” That was the course he pursued. When he was through, Brother Joseph said to the congregation: “Brother Brigham has told you the word of the Lord, and he has told you the truth.” [In Conference Report, October 1897, pp. 18–19]
I’m excited to hear from the prophets, and also excited for the membership of the Church to be blessed by the power of their counsel. I hope we are all reminded of their importance in our lives.
Who We Worship
There has been a lot of doctrinal drift recently when it comes to who we worship, how we worship, and what the Savior and the scriptures have to say. Elder D. Todd Christofferson addressed this in a recent BYU Devotional speech when he said: Love God so thoroughly that you will pursue constant communication with Him by the means He has ordained.
God has ordained a way to communicate to Him and to worship. When Christ ministered among the Nephites, He taught them the manner of prayer:
19 Therefore ye must always pray unto the Father in my name;
20 And whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you.
21 Pray in your families unto the Father, always in my name, that your wives and your children may be blessed.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie said the following, in a 1982 address called, “Our Relationship with the Lord”:
There is no salvation in believing any false doctrine, particularly a false or unwise view about the Godhead or any of its members. Eternal life is reserved for those who know God and the One whom he sent to work out the infinite and eternal atonement.
True and saving worship is found only among those who know the truth about God and the Godhead and who understand the true relationship men should have with each member of that Eternal Presidency.
It follows that the devil would rather spread false doctrine about God and the Godhead, and induce false feelings with reference to any one of them, than almost any other thing he could do.
May we have ears to hear, and eyes to see, the pure doctrine of how we appropriately worship God.
Looking to God
What is more of a priority for you, what the world thinks, or what God thinks? One way to measure this in your own life could be how much time you spend on social media vs. in the scriptures studying the words of prophets, as you seek the Spirit.
There is a real concern, as there should be, of who are role models are. In Christ our ultimate example? Are His words used to guide our lives? Or is a trendy social media influencer having more of an impact on our thoughts and behavior than God is?
I wouldn’t be surprised if this general idea was brought up again, as it was in Elder Christofferson’s previously mentioned BYU speech. He stated it this way:
In Christ then we find our pattern: loyalty to God above all else and above everyone else; a consciousness of our accountability to Him, at all times and in all things; and a yearning desire to know and to do His will. Here is our guide in making decisions. When we love God first, we see the world and our lives through His eyes rather than through the eyes of any other person (even a social media influencer).
President Nelson also spoke about this theme in his landmark address, “Hear Him“, in the April 2020 session of conference.
As we seek to be disciples of Jesus Christ, our efforts to hear Him need to be ever more intentional. It takes conscious and consistent effort to fill our daily lives with His words, His teachings, His truths.
We simply cannot rely upon information we bump into on social media. With billions of words online and in a marketing-saturated world constantly infiltrated by noisy, nefarious efforts of the adversary, where can we go to hear Him?
President Nelson then went on to explain that we can hear the words of Christ in the scriptures, in the temple, and through the whisperings of the Holy Ghost.
Stephen W. Owen also shared similar counsel in 2019 when he said, “Where do we find true spiritual nourishment? Most often, it is not trending on social media. We find it when we “press [our] way forward” on the covenant path, “continually holding fast to the rod of iron,” and partake of the fruit of the tree of life. This means that we must deliberately take time each day to disconnect from the world and connect with heaven.”
Again, as President Nelson has stated, one of the plagues of our day is that too few people know where to turn for truth.
As Amanda Freebairn shared in a recent article called, “Discerning the Impact of Influencers“, “not all faith-related content creators are successfully building faith. I have seen how, when members give some of these voices too much authority, their worldviews are slowly warped in ways that are not consistent with the gospel.” Another author, Dan Ellsworth, shared a powerful message summed up by this quote, “A good measure of the value of anyone’s influence is the degree to which they point people to God.”
Our friends over at “This Week in Mormons” do a great job every six months of publishing their predictions for where temples will be announced. They dig into some serious metrics to release their predictions and it’s a pretty fun read. I’d encourage you to go read their April 2022 Tempe Predictions post.
Based on their analysis, they see temples potentially being announced in the following locations:
- Iquitos, Peru
- Santa Ana, El Salvador
- Charlotte, North Carolina, USA
- Kampala, Uganda
- Des Moines, Iowa, USA
- Spanish Fork, Utah, USA
Those are just a few of their predictions, with a few more very intriguing ones in their temple prediction post. Again, make sure and go check that out.
Make General Conference Your Top Priority
I know we all grew up in different circumstances, but in my case, I grew up in a home where General Conference was the top priority. We lived back east and didn’t have cable television, so my mother would have us drive 15 minutes to the chapel where we could get the satellite feed. After each session, we would drive back home to get some food, and then turn right back around.
I never missed one session of conference. As I grew older, our group of friends would use the time in between conference to go out to the church lawn and play football and walk to the convenient store in between the Saturday sessions. Interestingly enough, the first time I ever missed watching a session of General Conference was during my mission in Panama in 1998. We didn’t have any way to view it.
I would encourage you to make watching every session of General Conference your top priority. Elder Neil L. Anderson shared the following on social media, just a few days ago:
“With general conference approaching, I would like to share three suggestions to enhance your experience: 1. Be prayerful. 2. Don’t be casual about your attendance. 3. Record your impressions.”
With general conference approaching, I would like to share three suggestions to enhance your experience:
1. Be prayerful.
2. Don’t be casual about your attendance.
3. Record your impressions.
— Neil L. Andersen (@AndersenNeilL) March 27, 2022
May we make General Conference our top priority. May we have ears to hear, eyes to see, and a humble heart learn and accept true doctrine that is taught, whether they be the messages just explained or others.
Let’s leave behind the commotion and confusion, the crowds and contention, and point our tents toward the prophets and feast upon their words during General Conference.