I wasn’t able to live blog this one, but I am prepared to file a report anyway. The Saturday evening session is the Priesthood session. It’s open only to men who are Priesthood age. (12+) Unlike the other sessions, this is not broadcast on the internet as it happens. It will be eventually, but to see it live, you have to be at the Church building. We report to the building at 7 pm, an hour before the session goes on the air. It’s one of those evenings where there’s a chill outside, but the inside is warm and inviting. We set up a few tables, and eat pizza and ice cream while spending some rare unstructured time together as a group.
This alone is really valuable to me. The Priesthood of the Church is in three main groups. You have the Young Men, aged 12-17. Then when you graduate that, you are in Elders Quorum, which is where I am. And once you are given certain leadership roles, you join the High Priests group. I’m an Elder, but because of my Church calling, I don’t actually get to go to my meetings. There are a few people in that same boat. So it’s nice to be able to spend that time together. During our brief dinner hour, there’s no where to hurry off to, there’s not a whole lot to do besides just enjoy dinner and each others company. I really enjoy it.
Just before 8 pm, we make our way into the Chapel. Conference is set up on the overhead projector, and we take our seats and settle in. The Chapel lights are dimmed. Once the countdown reaches 30 seconds, the screen goes dark. Since that was our main light in the room, the room goes dark too until the show goes on the air. I couldn’t help but think of the darkness that occurs before Christ’s visit in 3 Nephi. But it’s only 30 seconds, and we are on the air again.
President Uchtdorf is conducting the meeting, and a mens choir is doing the singing. Last year, one of the highlights of this was seeing a member of our Bishoprics son singing in the choir. It’s not the first time we’ve recognized someone we knew either. They sing “Praise to the Lord the Almighty” and “Love one Another”
The Apostle D Todd Christofferson is first. He talks about the changing role of man. Traditional traits of men are becoming more obsolete, even embarrassing in some circles. Manhood is under a constant assault by movies, tv shows and even commercials that show men in a less that favorable light, or try to define what manhood is for us. Women are becoming more independent, so the mans roles are changing. Sometimes quickly. Many men are simply not sure what they are supposed to do. As a result, boys are suffering. Girls are far outperforming boys in school, earning 60% of college degrees. Boys SAT scores are at their lowest in 40 years. But men do have a purpose, too many think they are just hear to be entertained. Women, children and God, need us to be men who are trustworthy. We must have self discipline. That means no computer pornography, and less time on the computer in general. We need to do better in school, and go to college, a trade school, or the military with a goal and purpose, ready to support a family. We must teach social skills to our youth, and be a role model. Correct mistakes, go to your Church meetings. Rescue those who lose their way. He tells the story of one Quorum member who loses a job as an auto mechanic, but his fellow members help get him on his feet working for himself.
Gary E Stevenson, the Presiding Bishop is the next speaker. The Presiding Bishopric is the leadership of the Aaronic Priesthood (The Young Men) as well as some of the more temporal affairs of the Church. His talk is on having valiant courage, and standing as a witness to God. He tells a story of some American college students, who are studying in Japan. One night, they go to a rooftop party. Three Church members are there, and grow more uncomfortable as the party gets wilder. When someone produces some pot, one of the members decides its time to go. But his two friends aren’t so sure. They don’t want to look bad by leaving mid party. One decides he will stay, but not participate, the other decides to leave as well. As the two who left are leaving the building, the police are entering it. Just about everyone who was caught got kicked out of their college, and the country, including the member who didn’t participate, but didn’t leave either. The two who left finished their education, and went on to have some fantastic opportunities and success. We are again warned to be careful on the internet. Not just pornography either. Any image that causes impure thoughts is a tool of Satan. Younger people who see images of smoking and drinking are much more likely to be tempted to partake. One man can be a significant force for good, even if they stand alone.
Anthony Perkins of the Seventy goes next. He talks about driving on a dangerous mountain road with his family. To the left is a small guard rail, and then a steep cliff. To the right is the mountain, with rocks periodically falling off of it. There are road signs warning of the dangers. Good men can and do fall. David fell in a moment of weakness. We all know valiant members who have made big mistakes. We have two guard rails to protect us. Deep, personal conversion to the gospel. And strong family relationships. He gives us 6 things to do.
1) Pray always
2) Study the scriptures
3) Worthily participate in ordinances
4) Show genuine love
5) Obey the law of Tithing
6) Fully live the law of chastity. (including lustful thoughts and porn)
To do this requires constant attention. He tells of how his father was driving down the mountain road, when he noticed just a few pebbles falling up ahead. He immediately stopped the car, and waiting, as a large boulder came crashing down where they would have been. Constant attention, immediate action. If you are unworthy, repent and see your Bishop.
Following an intermediate hymn, President Uchtdorf begins the second hour. President Uchtdorf is a former fighter and commercial pilot. He was also an executive for an airline, so he has a lot of experience in aviation, and his stories frequently involve flying. And sure enough, he starts right off with a story of him restoring an antique airplane. He loved to fly it, even though it was very slow sometimes. He was also recently given an opportunity to get back in a fighter jet, and fly with the Blue Angels. He was amazed at how far the technology has come, but commented that flying in fighter jets is a younger mans game. The speed and maneuvers are a little bit less enjoyable as you get older. He can’t really say he enjoys one experience more than the other though. Even though they are both less than perfect, and had their own challenges, they were still both moments he cherished. The analogy comes with Church service. Some of us feel like we are in the old, antique plane. Barely moving, working hard, but going no where. Or we might feel we are in the fighter jet, with the bumpy ride, and all the forces that come with going at high speeds in different directions. The Priesthood is the authority of God, it cannot be bought. It is a spiritual power that comes from following Christ. Repent if you need to, take joy in the service of others. Be wise, and then act upon your gained knowledge. Take on the name of Christ.
President Henry B. Eyring is next. Every individual has specific skills. Leaders and teachers should help their charges find them. When you are with Christ, you don’t need to be timid. He had a shy son, who still went on to be an excellent missionary. He shared stories of how he raised his own boys and girls, paying close attention to the milestones in their life. With todays technology, there are more ways to spread the Gospel than ever. Temporal activities can help change someones heart. Attend a sporting event with them, go to a movie. There are ways of letting people know you care by spending time with them. Pray to know your own gifts, and pray for ways to help others.
President Monson is the concluding speaker. A visitor was touring Church buildings in Salt Lake City. At the end of her visit, she wished that she did have a testimony of our Church. There’s nothing quite like having a testimony. Sharing ours enables other people to build theirs. Always tell the women you love that they are beautiful, that they are valued. Men also need to feel like they have a purpose, and that their talents are appreciated. They need a chance to serve. People can change. People who have made mistakes before can change and grow. We need to see the potential in people. We need to share what we know with our friends. Everyone must have an opportunity to learn the truth. The most important job we have is to preach the Gospel.
Following the Prophet, the Priesthood choir sings “Hope of Israel” There’s a closing prayer, and the session is ended. It’s now 10pm, we’ve just had 6 hours of messages, but I’m still excited from all we’ve done today. I make my way home to spend some time with my wife before bed. Sunday is the last two sessions of Conference, then it’s a 6 month wait until the April meetings.