To those who question whether leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints care about individuals, thinking that perhaps they are either out of touch, don't listen to the concerns of members, or lack compassion for the challenges of faith that some struggle to reconcile, I sincerely hope that the inspired messages and counsel delivered at the October 2013 General Conference will be received personally, and with the deep love that God has for each of His children, which I felt in each of the conference addresses I heard - because, they do care. 

As a good friend described her own experience as she listened to conference, "It was like being fed from a fire hose"! I think it's safe to say that there is a personal message for every seeker of truth, with a heart willing to receive, which will uplift the soul! 

Regardless of where we are spiritually, or may have been, to those who desire added strength to press forward along life's perilous journey, look to God, and to those whom He has called, and trust that He provides the way for us to safely navigate our way back into His Presence.

Not only did LDS prophets and other inspired leaders reach out to the downtrodden, but also collectively they clarified specific doctrines applicable to the concerns of many, which I feel can easily be related to both our individual lives, and much of what is happening throughout the world  - making this conference, in my opinion, one of the most relevant in recent memory. And in so doing, placed the burden of not choosing God, directly on the individual, as it should be. 

Of historic note, were a few exciting announcements by President Thomas S. Monson in his brief, but powerful opening address. He joyfully shared that the LDS Church hit a major milestone in reaching 15 million members! We also learned that from October 2012 the numberof full-time missionaries serving has increased from 58,500 to 80,333! (A sister missionary, serving on Temple Square, shared with me that they were told that number is expected to hit 90K by the end of 2013.

"It is my prayer that we may be filled with the Spirit of the Lord as we listen and learn." ~ Thomas S. Monson

The unprecedented increase in full-time missionaries serving is due to the inspired announcement made in conference, just a year ago, in the lowering of the age requirement for both men and women. I was in the Conference Center when the announcement was made, and literally heard gasps; my own included!

As part of the media covering the conference, I attended the press conference held immediately following the session. What a thrill that was, to sit and listen at the feet of two Apostles of the Lord, relate how that stunning decision came about, why, and to feel the Spirit bear witness of the truthfulness of the work.

The Lord is indeed continuing the hastening of His work, in spite of adversarial distractions to derail it. The "stone cut out of the mountain" will continue to roll forth until its prophesied destiny to fill the entire earth is fulfilled!

As further evidence that the Lord continues to move His work along, President Monson made this prophetic declaration:

"The holy scriptures contain no proclamation more relevant, no responsibility more binding, no instruction more direct than the injunction given by the resurrected Lord as He appeared in Galilee to the eleven disciples. Said He: "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost"(Matthew 28:19)."

Now, if that wasn't enough to get us off the couch, so-to-speak, in order to impress upon us the seriousness of what he was telling us, Pres. Monson prefaced the words that he would speak next, with the testimony of two other Prophets of God, including this bold declaration from the Prophet of the Restoration:
"After all that has been said, the greatest and most important duty is to preach the Gospel" ~ Joseph Smith Jr.
And this from David O. Mckay, 
"Every member a missionary!"
At that point I decided I'd best sit-up, take note, and listen!  As the Lord's Living Prophet upon the earth, President Thomas S. Monson, after reminding us of our critical duty, issued the following declaration to the members of the Church, with a promise to those willing to accept the call and act.
"To their words I add my own. Now is the time for members and missionaries to come together, to work together, to labor in the Lord's vineyard to bring souls unto Him. He has prepared the means for us to share the gospel in a multitude of ways, and He will assist us in our labors if we will act in faith to fulfill His work."
I'm not sure how others received Pres. Monson's opening address, but I felt directed to seek within each conference message for how I could fulfill the call of God's Prophet. 

What stood out to me, is that we are to join our efforts to bring souls unto Christ, thus fulfilling the "greatest and most important duty" of the Church that God has placed upon the members collectively.

This also caught my attention, right away, when the Prophet directly informed us, what God needs from us, in order to progress the work - He needs us to "work together"! Did you hear that, too? I mean, really hear it? I didn't either (although I thought I did when he said it), at least not what I believe the Spirit wanted me to hear, yet. 

I don't think we really give much thought about what God "needs" from us, as we are most often focused on what we need from Him. 

At that point, I had a pretty clear idea of what I needed to isolate and receive from inspired leaders who would speak under the direction of the Holy Ghost, so that I could give back to God, what He needs from me!

In solving the momentary mystery, that clarity fast became the key to unlocking each pearl contained in every talk I've heard and carefully studied so far.  In essence, what I heard from God's mouthpiece was that his, really the Lord's, injunction would be infused into the conference messages in such a way that I would need to seek the Spirit to understand, because frankly, I knew the entire conference would not be one talk after another about missionary work. 

My personal map to conference became this:
Find in every General Conference talk, how the doctrines taught and inspired counsel given, when understood and applied, will assist in the great work of salvation - our "greatest and most important" responsibility as covenant members of the Lord's Church.
Far too many among us question their life's purpose, thinking that perhaps it has to do with what they want. I don't think there is a more important clarification that could have been given by God's living prophet than the necessity that each of us, male and female, remember and direct our lives according to the "duty" (covenant)we took upon ourselves when we became a member of His Church

The commission to direct the work of the Lord upon the earth is held by the President of the Church, and is the purpose of the Church - the work of salvation among the children of men.  The other question I found myself asking then, was how does all the 'also important' direction we are given counsel enhance the "most important" work?

As covenant members then, the Lord's "work" is not meant to be a sideline hobby, adjunct to other important things we do in life. We have available to us multiple options in how we make a living, use our spare time, how to spend money earned, and also in what ways, and where, we will use our spiritual gifts and talents. When we take upon us the name of Jesus Christ, His work becomes our work; that's the way it's supposed to "work". (Pun intended)
As personally challenging the road to discipleship can sometimes feel,and is, I've come to the understanding that Pres. Monson's prophetic injunction, is not only how the Lord will hasten His work, but it is exactly the way His people will ultimately become One.

Zion will never come about until every desirous member makes the choice to live their life in harmony with the counsel and teachings of God's living Prophet. Which is not to suggest that it is necessary that a complete and unified consensus be attained in all things required of us, by God.  Rather it is when all desire to be in unity with God, and willingly choose to lay aside personal desires, ideologies, etc., and choose for ourselves to place God's will, humbly, above our own.


Indeed it is the offering of our God-given agency to choose God's will, over our own, and act accordingly in order to become a Zion people.
In keeping with these thoughts, Pres. Monson’s great sermon on obedience, given last conference, came to mind. I sensed a natural progression in that as he previously taught the law of obedience, and now in this conference he made known to us what God needs from us, and now it is up to us to put the law of obedience into action by making the choice to hearken to his admonition. More simply: "follow the prophet". 

Some might consider this a test, and if so we might ask ourselves what we need to "study" in order to pass the test? However, I'm not a fan of tests, and so I came up with something a bit more interesting.
Although I had identified the direction that members need to "work together" to share the gospel more effectively, I didn't yet have the broader vision of exactly how He needs us to go about it - until Carol M. Stephens, First Counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency, addressed the conference. 

With power, Sister Stephens taught an invaluable, eternal principle and what I believe, a critical priesthood doctrine that we have got to understand, when she made this statement, "There exist today a great need for men and women to cultivate respect for each other as sons and daughters of God and reverence for our Father in Heaven and His priesthood - His power and authority,". She went on to explain that,"God, has a plan for us, and when we exercise our faith and trust in His plan, our reverence for Him and for His priesthood power and authority will be strengthened."  

I caught that, because I instantly understood - but could not immediately explain it, but I knew this direction was more than polite counsel for the men and women in the Church to get along. 

This is what I am able to convey to you, now, in simple terms that I hope make sense, which is: in the humble submission of men and women of covenant to acknowledge equally their roles/purpose in God's plan, that union of heart and mind willingly offered to the Lord for His purposes, is not only where the power to hasten the work must come, but how this unified, or whole, power will increase both priesthood power and authority to direct the "work", in order (ordinance)to complete the "work" of salvation that made mandatory the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

And that's when I started to get it! I had found my first hidden pearl! In using my personal key for how to listen to already inspired messages, I was able to discover the first of many more pearls of wisdom to come. That sudden "stroke of light" instantly turned on - just as my friend described it - a gushing "fire hose" of powerful truth and enlightenment, which continued throughout the conference until my cup runneth over!(I'll discuss more about this connection in an upcoming post, but would love to hear your thoughts.)

One more thing, perhaps even the most, most important beyond our responsibility to assist in bringing about the great work of salvation: the why? Whenever God requires of man, anything, there is always a blessing associated; not that this is the reason we choose obedience, but it's there. We choose obedience because we love God; Righteousness. It is our destiny. In President Monson's admonition, as mention earlier, he did convey the promised blessing of obedience, and upon what it is predicated. He said, "He will assist us in our labors if we will act in faith to fulfill His work." 

That's is? No flowery mention of a reward by which to entice us to get on board? No candy placed directly in front of our noses to get us moving? Nope. That's all he said; God will assist us if we are faithful/obedient. 

I guess I am still somewhat of a child that likes a little "candy", so it was nice that I happened to recall, among many others that came to mind, these particular verses of scripture, from the Lord, recorded in Doctrine and Covenants, 18:10-19.

"Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God;  
For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him. And he hath risen again from the dead, that he might bring all men unto him, on conditions of repentance. And how great is his joy in the soul that repenteth! 
Wherefore, you are called to cry repentance unto this people. 
And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!  
And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me! 
Behold, you have my gospel before you, and my rock, and my salvation. Ask the Father in my name in faith, believing that you shall receive, and you shall have the Holy Ghost, which manifesteth all things which are expedient unto the children of men. 
And if you have not faith, hope, and charity, you can do nothing."

It's touching to hear and feel the words of Christ in our minds and hearts, revealed through holy scripture, and when we do it is difficult, I think, to not hearken to His Prophet's call, so that all may experience the JOY awaiting those willing to labor in similitude of His great Sacrifice to assist in His Father's "Work and Glory to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man". (Moses 1:39)

I think its the least we can do. Don't you?

In my not wanting to post a complete novel, I've broken my lengthy summary into 'chapters', or parts (hard to believe, I know;) this being part 1. I'm excited to share with you how these initial thoughts and impressions are helping me to better understand our covenant relationship with the Lord. We can look all round and clearly discern that the adversary is having a heyday creating stumbling blocks at every turn, and sadly some of our own have fallen prey! Stay tuned. (If you haven't added your email address to receive each of my posts in your inbox, see the box on the right side-bar, beneath my profile, and sign-up.) 

Meanwhile, I'd love to hear how you approached conference and what you heard in President Monson's admonition? And definitely any thoughts you might have, that would add more clarity to what I've written - please share!


Kathryn Skaggs

Photos/graphics: Kathryn Skaggs

WBMW (latest):Mormonism's Obsession with How Families Are Formed (Includes quotes from President Eyring's Oct. General Conference Address - although not considered a follow-up post.)

Visit the Mormon Newsroom for complete coverage of the October 2013 General Conference - including how to watch General Conference, online.

Now available: Conference addresses transcripts, including audio and video.  Watch, Listen, Print, Download all sessions October 2013 General Conference.

Hastening the Work of the Salvation: A New Vision for the Work of Salvation. New LDS Church website. Resources to assist members in sharing the gospel.

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