President Uchtdorf conducting. President Henry B. Eyring: Sustaining votes of the General Authorities and Church Officers
President Eyring conducted this opening session. President Thomas S. Monson: Welcome to Conference I am happy to announce that two weeks ago the membership of the Church reached fifteen million. It has scarcely been one year since I announced the lowering of the age of missionary service. Since that time, the number of full-time missionaries serving has increased from 58,500 in October 2012 to 80,333 today. What a tremendous and inspiring response we have witnessed! 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.
Lorenzo Snow lesson 19 highlights several purposes for missionary work in its collected statements from Snow’s discourses. Clearly bringing the gospel to others is the chief purpose of this effort. Snow also suggests in these statements that missionary work is a sacrifice that missionaries make when they are sent out into the world. Perhaps the sacrifices that Snow himself made taught him the value of missionary work and the sacrifices made. Snow’s sister evidently thought these sacrifices were important, since she made them the subject of the following poem.
Often when we discuss the principles of welfare today, we talk as if the whole idea of welfare developed in the 1930s, along with the current program. In reality, before the current program caring for the needy, poor and promoting self-reliance were largely the purview of the Relief Society. And so it is a Song of the Sisters of the Relief Society (familiar today since it is the poem on which the current hymn, As Sisters in Zion, is based — Julie also posted here on Times and Seasons about this poem) that I present below to help us understand the principles of welfare.
In Mormonism our definition for the term Prophet is usually more specific than that employed outside of the Church. To us, a prophet is not only someone who has been inspired to prophesy, but it is also the president of the Church, the leader called to preside over the membership, the person who is to receive revelation for the Church, the chief teacher and the chief person who testifies of our Savior. There are other prophets, but we focus on THE Prophet. We didn’t always mean this in quite the same way–at least before 1848 THE Prophet was Joseph Smith, who still occupies something of a special place among prophets. That is the position taken by the author of the following poem, but in the process of describing Joseph Smith, he also illuminates something of what it means to be THE Prophet.
The place of Utah in LDS history is occasionally a topic of lessons like Doctrine and Covenants Gospel Doctrine lesson 36. And while today not all church members live in Utah or want to live there or feel that it is a place to admire, still, it is hard to argue with the fact that Utah played an important role in the formation of what Mormonism is today. As the lesson observes, the pioneers went to a place that no one wanted, a veritable desert, and created an impressive civilization. Its hard to say what they would think of Utah today. In some ways its not what they intended, or what they achieved some 30 or more years later when the following poem was written. Like all geographical locations, Utah, and its place in Mormonism, continue to evolve.
The world today treats leaders with honor and deference, giving those who manage to become leader of government and society the benefits available to the rich, while shielding them from many of the cares of life, and, at times, from their own errors and sins. Lesson 18 in the Lorenzo Snow manual makes it clear that such benefits and deference are not what Church leadership are about (and I wonder if governmental and other leadership shouldn’t also avoid these trappings). Instead, Church leadership is about serving others, and whatever benefits from that leadership should come after this life. The following poem says as much about the Church’s second prophet and president, Brigham Young.
In recent years the attention on the tragedy of the Martin and Willie handcart companies seems to have increased. Their situation and rescue has been the subject of books and movies (and lessons) in a process that seems to mythologize the events. The current lesson (#35 in the Doctrine and Covenants Gospel Doctrine manual) explores the saving nature of the rescue, and compares that to the Savior’s atonement and our own responsibility to save those who are lost. The following poem helps to set the stage for this discussion, describing the difficulty and the courage necessary to face it.
When we discuss the Mormon trek, the focus is almost always on the physical suffering that many of the immigrants endured while traveling west. While certainly the physical struggle to cross the plains (covered in Doctrine and Covenants Lesson 34) was difficult, the pioneers suffered in other ways also. For example, many left family behind, generally compounded by their conversion to Mormonism, and often assuming that they would never see their family members again. The poem below describes just such a situation.
Many of our hymns have a martial air to them, often echoed in their messages. We are called “Christian Soldiers,” marching on to war, and we call to the “Elders of Israel” to join the campaign. And often the Priesthood is called “God’s Army” in an attempt to emphasize, I suppose, its size and power and the brotherhood we often feel in the priesthood. The following poetic excerpt not only captures some of that brotherhood, but also explains clearly that this “army” is not a military, but something far different, more like what is described in Lorenzo Snow lesson #17. The author of this excerpt finds this difference not in marching or shouting, but in the singing of a hymn of Zion.
We often make assumptions about the past based on our perspective today, and the current Gospel Doctrine lesson about Brigham Young and succession in the presidency is no exception. We know that the senior member of the Quorum of the Twelve becomes the new Prophet, and it is easy to assume that this was always understood. But following the martyrdom of Joseph Smith, that question was far from clear among many members of the Church. Even six months later, when this poem was written, those members who followed Brigham Young often assumed that he would remain president of the Quorum of the Twelve, rather than replace the prophet.
[I’m sorry for the delay in getting this posted. I’ve been traveling a lot the past week.] The martyrdom of Joseph Smith was a shock to his people and one that, as their successors, we still remember and still feel. But in the days following his assassination, the reaction of Church members was one of outrage. While we today see the martyrdom as “sealing his testimony,” then the members of the Church saw this as a failure of the state, with a feeling that the state was somewhat complicit in these murders. But despite that the brothers were immediately seen as martyrs, equal to those of antiquity. The following poem is perhaps the most immediate poetic reaction, written on July 1st and published that same day in the Times and Seasons. It was subsequently republished in all three of the other existing LDS publications that Fall and was published as a broadside as well. It was later published in other LDS publications, included in the hymnal and published in Snow’s compilation of her poetry.
When we speak of unity it is often difficult to understand exactly what we need to do to achieve it. The teachings of Lorenzo Snow in the current Priesthood/Relief Society lesson manual (lesson 16) try to address this, but I’m not quite sure that they give the specifics needed. Should we be united politically? What does such unity mean? There are many elements of society today that are by nature divisive, and politics is clearly one of them. Does the gospel offer a better way to decide political questions, a more united way? The author of the following poem seems to think so.
The doctrine of eternal marriage, discussed in D&C Gospel Doctrine lesson 31, is clearly tied to the priesthood (the authority by which such marriages are performed) and to salvation, for salvation in the eternal kingdom is dependent on sealing, both to parents, to spouse and to children. The following poems addresses the role of sealing in our understanding of priesthood and of salvation.
Our doctrine of performing ordinances on behalf of the dead is unusual among the religions of the world. Many religions pray for the dead, Mormonism actively performs the same saving ordinances that the living must have. These teachings were introduced during the Nauvoo period, and baptisms for the dead were performed in the Mississippi at that time, until the basement of the Temple was complete and ordinances could be performed there. At that point Mormonism learned that these ordinances belonged in the Temple, and this understanding was captured in the following poem by William Wines Phelps, written for the dedication of the Nauvoo Temple in 1846:
For many members of the Church the most intense period of “faithful, energetic service in the Kingdom of God” during our lives is our missionary service. So it is no surprise that many of the ideas expressed in the Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow lesson #15 are characteristics that we associate with missionaries—service as “ambassadors of Christ,” and “helping others receive salvation” are quickly listed as things that we too should adopt in our service in the Kingdom. Often we use missionary service as an example for how our own service should be conducted. But, this doesn’t mean that missionary service is the only service we perform as Church members, or even that service should be restricted to service in the Church. But it does mean that missionary service is a useful example. The following poem discusses the rigors of missionary service—as an example:
I’ve long thought that Nauvoo was a kind of Mormon Camelot, a shining, hopeful city built on consistent, righteous principles that fell apart amid internal dissension. While I wouldn’t push the analogy too far, I think it kind of works on the surface, especially given the standard portrayal of Nauvoo in lessons like Doctrine and Covenants Gospel Doctrine lesson 29 and in the following poem.
Despair is, I think, one of the most difficult parts of the human condition. While the sources of our despair today are very different from those suffered by the early saints, the feelings are just as real and difficult. Where do we turn for peace? The following poem explores the despair we all feel—the same discussed in Doctrine and Covenants Gospel Doctrine lesson #28—and provides an answer to it.
What do we mean when we talk about help from God? Our religion, and lesson 14 in the Lorenzo Snow manual, teaches us that we should rely on God for the help. Yet when we think about how this help actually works, it isn’t about God doing things for us, at least not usually, its about the guidance and strength that he gives us so that we can do what needs to be done ourselves. That is the strength that is described in the following poem.
We often assume in our perception of trials and challenges that the trials aren’t our fault, that these challenges are something that happens to us instead of something that happens as a result of our choices. While it is certainly true that some trials—natural disasters for example—are not by our choice, others are at least the consequence of our own choices. And, in some cases, we actually choose to undertake things that we know will be difficult. Does that mean that they are not still trials? Doctrine and Covenants Gospel Doctrine lesson 27 illustrates this. The Church members during the Kirtland and Missouri periods were sometimes innocent of what they were being persecuted for. But other times they brought the persecution on themselves. And, in the case of Zion’s Camp, they chose to do something difficult, even though they knew that it would be hard.