General Conference and My Obedience

LDS Conference CenterThis weekend, Mormons around the world will receive hours and hours of counsel from their church leaders in general conference, which the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints convenes twice a year in Salt Lake City and broadcasts around the world.

I look forward to general conference. I study the instruction given there and use portions of it in my own teaching. I think it’s fair to ask myself, how much of it will I obey?

Some people think obedience is a simple thing, very black and white. I used to think that. But what if it’s not?

How much of what I hear in conference — or in other church meetings, or read in the official writings of Church leaders — am I required to obey, as a committed Latter-day Saint? Am I permitted to employ my own reason and inspiration to choose the counsel which applies to me, adapt it to my circumstances, and ignore the rest, or is that too much like selective obedience, which is a lot like disobedience? How nearly does counsel given by church leaders approach the status of scripture? Is counsel the same as commandment?

We speak here in the context of my faith, where we treat scripture as scripture and openly acknowledge not only the possibility but the actuality of divine communication with mortals, and the calling of otherwise ordinary men and women to act and speak as messengers for God.  

A Gem from General Conference: Divine Aid

Here are some favorite words from LDS general conference yesterday. The speaker is Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

“We know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23). And we do not need to achieve some minimum level of capacity or goodness before God will help. Divine aid can be ours every hour of every day, no matter where we are in the path of obedience. But I know that, beyond desiring his help, we must exert ourselves, repent, and choose God, for him to be able to act in our lives consistent with justice and moral agency. (bold added)

I also enjoyed these quotations he used . . .

What Mormons Mean: Translating General Conference (into English)

Every church or religion has its own vocabulary, which can easily make its meetings seem strange to outsiders. The Mormons are no exception.

Oh, boy, are we not an exception. We even think friendship is a verb; the ripples from this barbarous pebble are conspicuous at times. It’s a good thing the Lord is merciful. He gives us excellent, beautiful languages, and we insist on . . . But I digress.

A year or two ago, as I watched the first minutes of a Mormon general conference broadcast, I was struck by how many terms one would have to understand in the way Mormons do, in order to get just ten or fifteen minutes into a two-hour meeting. So this week I went back and watched the first 15 minutes of two previous conferences, making a list as I did so.

Here are some words and phrases you might have wanted to know, if you had been watching with me. The vocabulary will be approximately the same tomorrow, if you watch the first general session of the October 2014 General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The definitions are brief, though the temptation is to be expansive.