General Conference Oct 2018
Personal Observations
Notes on the 188th Semi-Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (Unofficially known as LDS Church, Latter-day Saint Church, Mormon Church, that church in Salt Lake or just "The Church".)
Overview / 5K Race / Saturday AM / JW Visit / Saturday PM /
Women's / Elders Quorum Letter /

Overview / Full Disclosure

Disclosure: I believe in Jesus Christ as my divine Lord and Savior and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the truely restored fullness of His Gospel to help all of mankind in the world today. Secondly I fully believe in BSA Scouting as a powerful program to help supplement my faith, to guide me to better practice my Duty to God and to become an even greater Latter-day Saint and disciple of Jesus Christ in ministering to others as described in the 13th Article of Faith of the Church.

I have over 30 years of experience with the youth programs of the Church and scouting. I share that statement so that everyone will understand the perspective with which I listen and study the messages shared at the General Conference of the Church.

Recently there had been lots of dramatic changes in both the church programs and BSA scouting programs. Both organizations share the same vision which is to help all youth better understand and accomplish their Duty to God (along with other supporting goals.) So anything on the subject ministering to the youth attracts my attention.

On a technical note, we could not get the TV to play on Lds.org, but we quickly switched websites to Byutv.org and have had a perfect broadcast from them.

There was also a lot of rumors that more change is coming forward and 15 minutes into the first session, we were not dissappointed in that regard. Here is a recap of my many experiences from this weekend, with my suggested titles for each talk.

HS Cross Country 5K Race
Finish Time 28:34

This is how I start every General Conference weekend - a 5K run through Guajome Park. However, in October, the local high schools have a giant cross country invitational here and the crowd noise I can faintly here all day long while watching the sessions of conference.

The first race of the day (7:30am) is actually open to the community, but not that many attend. This sets me up with my best chance of the year to actually win a race in my age group (old geezer). But the course is hard, we have to run over the top of Panther Hill twice. (Bib #1286)

As we line up to start the race, the high school kids are the sideline cheering us on with their favorite chant of the day: "Let's go Soccer Moms, Let's go!" A bit of misnomer since not only am I the wrong gender, but I'm also too old.

My finish time was 28:34. Share that for all of the new high schoolers just getting started into the sport of cross country running but are intimidated by how fast the older kids are. Set as your first easy running goal to beat my time (that's about a 9:30 mile pace). It will get easier from there. BTW, I finished 4th out of the 8 runners in my age category, but still got smoked by a lot of little kids.

Tabernacle Choir Name Change
After the run, I sit down to breakfast with my morning paper. I'm always impressed when a major California news organization runs an actual positive piece about our Church. (The first of many giant changes of the weekend.)

Saturday AM Session

>President Nelson / Elder Cook /
The New Two-Hour Block Time
Miracle Gift to Lift Family Scouting Up

First big change announced (the way I heard it), the church is reducing the sunday meeting block from 3 hours to 2 to give more families time on sunday for gospel "home-study". Since this use to be a key element of FHE on Monday Night, that time slot is freed up to give families more flexibility to pursue additional family enrichment activities.

My first thought is wow, families now have more freedom to join family scouting since most of the community scout troops meet on Monday nights. I, myself had visited such a scout unit just this last monday night.

The most important point Elder Cook emphasized was "Not that the family supports the church, but the church supports the family in teaching the youth the gospel." (my paraphrase)

Another note: I remember when the church adopted the 3-hour block program in 1980. It ended my days of sneaking to the donut shop in the giant time gap between Aaronic Priesthood and Sunday School.

Elder Cook / Pres Nelson (Announcement #2)
Come Follow Me - Home Study Course

Just the day before on Facebook I saw the comment that the church couldn't launch the two hour block because they just released the 2019 Come Follow me study guide. I guess that poster did not see the title page that said - "Family and Individual Sabbath Home Study".

Elder Cook talked about the great duty that parents have to teach the gospel in their home.

Now I've pondered many times the best methodology for the church to train parents on how to best perform the duty of teaching the gospel to their children in the home. So (following proper church protocal) I sent an email to my quorum president immediately after conference asking him to consider the idea to have a discussion group on this subject in an upcoming sunday quorum meeting. I suggested calling it a "Family Moment".

Elder Brough
Do Hard Things

This is subject that I believe is very important to the youth of our generation. It was first taught to me by my current stake president, President Ballif. Interesting that Elder Brough started off with an exciting Alaska hi-adventure story.

Scouting hi-adventure treks: acting as a senior patrol leaders, earning an eagle rank or merit badges, completing service projects, losing your lunch out of the plane, are all great examples of how an experience in scouting teaches youth (both boys and girls) how to do hard things for a gospel purpose.

    Elder M. Joseph Brough, second counselor of the Young Men General Presidency, in noting the new announcement said, “Sometimes the Lord asks us to do a hard thing, and sometimes our challenges are created by our own or others’ use of agency.”

Elder Bangerter
Family Traditions

Yet another hi-adventure camping story of a father with six sons goes camping to the Uintah Mountains (really high elevations here) every summer. Great family traditions strengthen families. Where would a family go to learn hi-adventure camping skills, Hmmm?

    “Consistent, wholesome family traditions that include prayer, scripture reading, family home evening and attendance at church meetings, though seemingly small and simple, create a culture of love, respect, unity and security,” he said.

Elder Rasband
Fear Not

What a great talk for the youth and young adults of the church. Don't let fear keep you from doing good things. Fear limits your perspective. Open your eyes and see how the Lord will help you do good. Trust in the Lord and his promises. Follow the admonition of President Nelson to seek out personal revelation to overcome fear.

Elder Bednar
Rope Unity

Rope Lesson?! Now we are down to Tenderfoot scouting basics where almost every other lessons includes a lot of rope tricks. Except he had the best rope graphics that I've ever seen. (And i've done many knot tying lessons and games.) Every twelve year Deacon was surely paying close attention to this one.


    Elder Bednar of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles said, “God has revealed a pattern of spiritual progress for individuals and families through ordinances, teaching, programs, and activities that are home centered and church supported. Church organizations and programs exist to bless individuals and families and are not ends in themselves.”

President Oaks
Carefully Consider Your Sources of Truth

I thought this was a great "Duty to God" type theme talk for all of the youth and young adults. A huge warning about carefully discerning the source of truth for both secular and spiritual topics. Especially for how to discern the true standard surrounding many of the controversial moral topics of our generation. Is good morality a secular or spiritual theme?

    “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is properly known as a family-centered church. But what is not well understood is that our family-centeredness is focused on more than mortal relationships,” Oaks said.

    “Eternal relationships are also fundamental to our theology. The family is ordained of God. Under the great plan of our loving Creator, the mission of His restored church is to help the children of God achieve the supernal blessing of exaltation in the celestial kingdom, which can only be attained through an eternal marriage between a man and a woman.”

The Jehovah's Witnesses

I value this experience immensely because I feel both a church calling and a scouting duty to minister to all of the youth in my community.

Just minutes after the Saturday morning session ended and while our family was very much in the midst of a excited discussion about the meeting block changes and the many scouting theme stories used, somebody rang our doorbell.

I see in the peephole two gentlement with dark suits and ties. I thought I'm feeling the spirit pretty strongly now, but I really didn't have time for a major discussion. I'll just say a friendly hi, or so I thought. (It's pretty bold to talk to a Mormon who just finished watching GC.)

It was an older gentlemen and a much younger one. Originally I thought it was a father and son team, but it wasn't quite that. Here is the conversation as best as I can remember it (Curiously for not wanting to talk, I still had plenty to say).

JW1: Hi.
Me: Hi. I don't have much time to talk now. We just finished watching the General Conference of our church where we saw our prophet and apostles give their message for us on how to better live the gosple and we are in the middle of a big family discussion about what it all means.
JW1: What church is that?
Me: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormon Church. (Me giving full disclosure - and being obedient to the call to use the correct name of the church.) They just announced this morning some really significant changes that I bet you'll see printed in the newspaper tomorrow.
JW1: Were you impressed with the changes?
Me: Impressed? Yes, very much so. We love having a prophet and apostles that with revelation can make important changes to improve the church's ability to minister to all of God's children.
JW1: I see that you are busy, perhaps will come back next Saturday.
Me: Next Saturday? No, that won't work. I'll be on a Boy Scout Campout where I get to teach a whole bunch of youth of different faiths the importance of doing your Duty to God. (Then triggered another idea in my head and I ask the boy a question. He looked really neat, cheerful and smart.) How old are you?
JW2: Sixteen.
Me: I work with a lot of young people in my church, ages 12-18. I really admire the fact that you are out here going door-to-door to share the good word of the gospel. That is no easy thing. In our General Conference broadcast, our prophets and apostles were telling us the importance of teaching the youth of this generation to do hard things. I'm really proud of you for making that effert. Is this your father?
JW1: No, Cousin.
Me: Excellent. You are doing a great job. I believe it is important for our young people to learn what it means do be a disciple of Christ, do hard things. I believe that association with good model adults such as yourself is very important method to teach this principle.
JW2: I see that you busy, perhaps will come back in two weeks.
Me: That's fine. Maybe I'll see you then.

Only after closing the door did I remember that I have a Boy Scout leader training session scheduled for that date. And our stake merit badge roundup is the Saturday after that. Oh well, I tried my best.

Saturday Afternoon Session

Elder Christoferson
Follow the Prophet

While the earlier speakers have talked on the importance of getting personal revelation, Elder Christofferson gives us the very first topic for which you should get it. "Get your own witness that the church is true." Another important message for the internet generation and it's many misleading messages.

Elder Davies
Vancouver Temple Story

This was a funny story for me as I relate to it on multiple levels. My day job is working for a real estate developer. Talk about doing hard things. The big guy gives you a very hard assignment and will not tollerate any murmuring or waffleing. Just get it done.

Our family just finished reading that story about Nephi being sent back to get the brass plates. "Your brothers say that it is a hard thing that I've asked of them, but behold it is not I that asketh it, but the Lord." It also reminded me of our current late night TV show, NCIS.

Elder Soares
A unified church comes from many rivers

First of all let this former Brazilian missionary translate what he said at the beginning. "Boa tarde" = "Good Afternoon", it is a very common street greeting. (It shocked my family when I yelled it back at the TV. But sorry, I can't help you with Utchdorf's word.)

The geography of the two rivers mixing and then freshwater rushing many miles into the Atlantic Ocean is a very well known oddity to Brasileiro school children.

His talk was a very good review of the importance of integrating new members into the brotherhood of the church. I had published several articles earlier this year here on a new boy scout leader position called "New Member Coordinator" and how it is important to help new families, both youth and adult, to quickly and efficiently adopt to the culture of their new organization, whether it is church or scouting. I mentioned that all of the lingo can blow you away: SPL, FHE, DTG, CTR, YPT, three-hour block times, bear, wolf, miamaid, merit badges, etc, etc, etc.

Elder Gong
Campfire at Sunset

Yes - yet another very strong Family Scouting reference!. (I couldn't believe it when he gave the title of Elder Scott's painting). One talk, but yet two apostles bear witness to sitting around a campfire and participating any activity (or merit badge?) that encourages one's creativity. Also, the very first activity that many, many scouts do at summer camp is watercolors for the Art merit badge I'll have to go back and memorize his five important campfire points.

Elder Peiper
Take upon you the Name of Christ

It is enlightening and enlarging and repeated every time we partake of the Lord's Sacrament.

Elder Uchtdorf
Find Hope by Doing a Good Turn Daily

Forget yourself and minister to others. This title popped into my head, when he quoted the scripture from the Savior, "As you have seen me do, go and do thou likewise." I had never thought of that as a family scouting scripture before this moment.

Elder Uchtdorf
Funniest Conference Moments 2018

#1: Many LDS households have a primary game called conference bingo. Many of the newer versions of this include a box labeled: "Elder Uchtdorf makes an airplane reference." All of those kids scored another hit today. (Can you picture this moment in many LDS homes around the world where halfway thru conference all of the children simulatenous yell out "Bingo"?)

#2: Look for Utchdorf's joke about "Shepherding" about halfway into his talk and shortly after the airplane reference. And don't spoil it for others.

Women's Evening Session

Sister Jones
Service to Others

Encouraging our youth to lose themselves in ministering to others.

Sister Craig
Hike the Boy's Trail

Here were two story that really grabbed me. A young lady wants the harder challenge of taking the more rugged boy's trail.

Sister Franco
Try the Chocolate Cake

And then came her story about chocolate cake. Great story about love and duty and personal sacrifice that is necessary to have the best ministering experiences.

President Eyring
Taught by their Mothers

Eyring masterfully uses the scripture story of the Nephite Stripling Warriors to show the importance of a home centered church. He also talked quite a bit about reaching out to wayward children and how the new program should help to mitigate that challenge for future generations.

President Oaks
Two New Challenges for Young Women

#1 - Put down your cell-phones
#2 - Be kind to others.

Blunt and straight-forward, but straight to the mark. Go out camping in the wilderness will help a lot on challenge #1. And kindness is the 6th point of the Scout Law. I think now that a lot of LDS young women could benefit from Family Scouting.

President Nelson
The Challenge to Gather Israel

Another funny moment of conference comes at the very beginning of his talk about what it is like to be the mother of 10 children. Then he goes on to expand his big youth challenge "to gather Israel" from last June to all of the women present.

Elders Quorum Letter

Expanded Duties for Elders Quorums

Another mighty change that came to light during this General Conference weekend is a letter of the first presidency sent to all Elders Quorum Presidents of the church outlining some significant enhancement of their duties.

My perspective on this subject is based on my recent experiences with Community Scouting. There are many scout units are sponsored by some major community mens group, or church mens group such as Kiwanis, Knights of Columbus, Lions, Elks, Rotary, etc. These organizations take an active role in the betterment of their community.

Whereas in the past, melchezidek priesthood quorums of the church have a reputation for little more than the monthly visit checklist and helping a family load the moving truck.

I am impressed that the changes to quorums and ministering announced last conference and this conference may revitalize the men's groups in the church and bring them closer to the caliber of the other men's groups in our community.

Sunday Morning Session

President Ballard
Joseph F Smith 100th Anniversary

Wow. What timing - Oct/Nov 2018 is the 100th anniversary of D&C 138, the end of The Great War, the 1918 Flu epidemic (where my own great-grandfather and several other relatives died) and his own death.

Besides scouting, my other great hobby is genealogy and the pursuit of the many, many thousands of testimonies already borne of the restoration of gospel. This talk is a golden example of what I'm looking for in that field. Below are links to articles I've posted previously that I will update soon.

  • Joseph F. Smith (1838-1918) - Familypedia - see the relationship between Pres Smith and Pres Ballard, his great-grandson. Also has bios of several of his deceased family members as mentioned in Ballard's talk.
  • Mormon Pioneer Stories - Smith Family - faith inspiring stories from our early pioneers
  • D&C 138 - (LDS.org) scriptures - Joseph F. Smith's vision of the redemtion of the dead.

Sister Cordon
Youth Ministering to Others

She is the General Young Women's President of the Church, one of the first to begin ministering visits with the young women per the directive of last General Conference. (And evidenced by that cute selfie.)

Senior/Junior visits are an example of one of "The Seven Methods of Scouting" which calls for character growth by giving the youth multiple opportunities to interact with good role model adults.

Elder Holland
Rescue

He shared the story of Merrill Bowen (not to be confused with the next speaker). It is an interesting example of a powerful ministering visit done on a family level. Not a priesthood assignment, not a scouting assignment, but as a family.

Note: You don't need to wait for an official home teaching assignment to go minister.

Elder Bowen
The Book of Mormon

Good missionary story at the beginning. Two lessons, how to deal with an adverserial attitude and a demonstration of the power of The Book of Mormon. Important to get first a testimony of both the First Vision and the Book of Mormon.

Elder Anderson
When Tribulations Hit the Righteous

He begins with the story of Elder Norbley, who was badly hurt in the Brussels Airport attack of April 2016 carried out by radical jihadists intent on hurting people that were not of their faith. What happens when righteous people are caught up in either natural calamities or the acts of evil conspirators targeting innocent random targets. Either case can be a dramatic and sudden trial of faith similar to that of Job in the Bible.

This gave me cause to think of the several events of the past year at church, scouting and elsewhere, where significant change happened. The way I thought of many important subjects, both temporally and spiritually were challenged. Do I get angry and give up or do I turn to the Lord for further direction on the Path Forward.

President Nelson
Corrected Use of the Name of the Church

President Nelson, I repent! I have changed as best I can the headers that I had at the top of this page (from what I had written and posted as of Saturday Night). I also congratulate KSL for already having the correct name usage inplace. BYU TV, on the otherhand, seems to have a little bit more work to do.

President Nelson emphasized that it "is a correction and a commandment" and that whenever we omit the name of Christ it "is a victory for Satan".

This triggered a hot discussion in my house over the usage of "Christmas" vs. "Xmas" and any other spiritual event or subject where by omitting the name of Christ we lessen it's spiritual impact and miss an opportunity to "take upon us the name of Christ."

Sunday Afternoon Session

President Eyring
Ministering To Others

Be aware that there are many around us who are facing significant trials in life. Pray for them and look for opportunities to minister to them. Also be striving to take upon us the name of Christ.

This is why I like BSA Family Scouting. It gives me choice opportunities to minister to the youth in my stake! Immediately after this session of GC was over, I had an appointment set to meet with a young man about his Eagle Scout Project. He has only two weeks before his 18th birthday and had lots of questions about finishing. I can tell he was stressed. I reassured him that he is on the right track and his goal was doable. More importantly I let him know that I had lots of time available all during this week and next to help him out.

Elder Ashton
The Father's Plan Works

Learn about the correct character of God and his plan for us.

President Gay
Take the Name of Christ

Further emphasis on President Nelson's name correction for the church, is this admonishment to take upon us the Name of Christ in all aspects of our life. 1) See others as God sees them, 2) Do your Duty, 3) Trust Him.

Immediately after the last session of conference ended I noticed that all of the "LDS" and "Mormon" themed groups on Facebook were running polls on if they should change their name. For everyone I posted the comment that failure to do so was a victory for Satan.

Elder Carpenter
The Healing Power of the Atonement

There is no ailment that Christ cannot heal. But the when and how is up to Him, not us. But have faith, we all will be healed of every infirmity, temporally and spiritually, at the Resurrection.

Elder Renlund
Choose the Right

Begins with the Mary Poppins Story. Our family saw a live stage version of this play just this past summer, so it was easy to relate to. Teach our youth to make correct choices. That's also the mission plan of scouting.

Elder Gerard
Perspective on Life

Story about having a life threatening disease while traveling. Getting the right perspective on life is an important step for effective ministering.

Elder Stevenson of the 12
New Member Ministering Help

Didn't I mention the importance of having a New Member Coordinator up above yesterday? Every Elders Quorum of the Church should get one or more of these ASAP.

A true shepherd knows his sheep by name and loves each one. Good story about sheepherding in upper Wyoming.

President Nelson
Twelve New Temples

Also note carefully the announcement of the renovation of the Salt Lake and other "pioneer era" temples. Those will also be huge endeavors.

My Conclusions

[4PM Saturday] So far I'm seeing a lot of support from the church to encourage young families to consider Family Scouting to supplement the church youth program so that they can share in many of the great experiences described above.

[4PM Sunday] Elder Stevenson asked a marvelous questions : How do we know if we are ministering in the Lord's way? There was a lot of instruction on this subject on both days.

2020 Youth Program Initiative

I carefully listened the entire conference to for guidance on the new 2020 church youth program and the only concrete item that I saw was the following:

  • Sunday Youth Program Time will be cut in half from 50 minutes each week to 50 minutes every other week.
  • Parents must be more actively involved with teaching their children the gospel. This point cannot be stressed enough!

New Question: What will your family do with that extra hour each week that will build up in yourself and your children a desire to better perform your Duty to God?

Many parents will recognize their own weaknesses and have a natural desire to avail themselves of every positive program that will help them succeed in their primary mission of raising and nurturing their sons and daughters in full understanding of the gospel. Programs that train them to be better teachers and to help them plan fun, wholesome, recreational activities that help divert youth from the nasty distractions and false teachings of the world. The Church and Scouting both have outstanding programs to help in this great cause.

LDS Scouting - 2020 & Beyond - Lots of Change : HotLinks for families. Are you ready?
BeAScout.org - Find a New Troop Near You.
Church Scouting Path Forward - Why it still matters
2020 Church New Youth Program -What We Know So Far!
Many Benefits of Scouting -How the BSA Scouting program helps young people become better Latter-day Saints.

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