“I’ve got something really important to talk to you about,” said our missionary in Brazil last Monday on our video call.
“Okay,” we said. “What is it?”
“Well, there have been a lot of rumors going around our mission that have made me nervous. I think the Church is going to shorten missions to 18 months for young men. Since I have been out longer than 18 months, I’m afraid they will force me to go home. I’m not ready yet.”
I was stunned! This is what has been plaguing my missionary the last few weeks?
What would conference weekend bring? Nervousness and excitement mixed with anxiety at high levels were felt as we waited for the next changes that would be handed down by the leaders of the Church. However, they didn’t come. Notwithstanding being a conference that taught clear and powerful gospel truths, it was a “regular” general conference.
I think it’s exactly what we needed—here’s why.
1. Expecting changes every general conference can detract from the sacred nature of it.
Did you find yourself talking about rumors of what changes would be coming? I heard everything from drinking coffee, shortening missions, opening China to missionary work, and mission calls not specifying a place—rumors were rampant.
When we anticipate general conference only with possible rumors or changes in mind, we often miss the sacredness and significance of the messages being taught. My children mentioned they were hoping the songs and speakers would get over quickly to hear what changes the leaders might make. Instead of enjoying the music and words of our leaders, they couldn’t wait for the anticipated changes the next speaker might announce.
Do we get so caught up in the changes themselves that we miss the spiritual and eternal purposes behind them? Don’t get me wrong, the changes can be exciting. But it’s the sacred truths taught by the Spirit through our leaders that really make this twice-a-year event profound. Furthermore, if you look back at all the changes that have occurred in the last couple of years, many of them have come outside of general conference.
General conference on its own is exciting! Just the fact of hearing from prophets of God should be exciting enough. We live in a unique time where we do not lack in the word of God. This is exciting! Let us never get to a place where the revealed word of God through His servants is routine. Sometimes routine can diminish sacredness.
2. Implementing changes from past general conferences and recent announcements take time.
Were you disappointed or relieved there were no changes? I’m sure there were some who were disappointed and yet some who were grateful. There have been so many changes in recent months that it takes some getting used to. I think the Lord would like us to fully implement these changes in our lives before continuing with more.
For example, in this conference, I heard several times the theme of adjusting to a home-centered and church-supported gospel instruction with the Come Follow Me curriculum. This change, made last general conference, was certainly one of the most profound. As individuals and families, we can probably do better in ensuring our home is where we really learn the gospel, augmented by church instruction on Sunday.
We can all do better to emphasize the correct name of the Church in our daily conversations. It is hard to eliminate the questions “Are you a Mormon?” or “Are you LDS?” from our conversations. Yet President Nelson said if we could emphasize the correct name of the Church, the Lord “will pour down His power and blessings upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints, the likes of which we have never seen.” Now, that is exciting!
We have taken our 11-year-old daughter to the temple numerous times to be baptized by her 15-year-old brothers. I’m still intrigued by the dynamics of our Elder’s quorums. Scouting is going away, and the youth programs are getting revamped. I’m still figuring out what ministering means and how to do it effectively. We are still getting used to connecting with our two missionaries every Monday. I think it’s okay we take a breather!
God is hastening His work, but that’s different than rushing it. I believe He is patient with us as we get used to and implement the changes that have been made the last 18 months since President Nelson became the prophet.
3. The simple, basic truths of the gospel are exactly what we need to find answers to our prayers and happiness in our lives.
The great power of the gospel comes from the simple and basic truths. They may not seem as exciting or thrilling, but these basic truths are exactly what we need. We need to focus on the Savior, not on changes to policies or programs.
As the children of Israel were given a very simple task to look at the brazen serpent on Moses’s staff to be healed, we too are asked to “look and live.” It is truly not the major announcements, policy and program changes, or adjustments to meeting schedules that change our lives. It is the simple, sacred truths of the gospel that have a massive impact. As Alma taught, “by small and simple things are great things brought to pass.”
President Ballard’s talk emphasized this very thing. He asked us to focus on making the gospel simpler in our lives. He invited us to stick to the basics. It’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of rumors and changes, but if we are not careful, we will totally miss the foundation of the gospel.
Elder Holland taught about the Savior and particularly how we treat sacrament meeting and the sacred ordinance there. Does it get any simpler than that? That short and reverent ordinance, performed every week, has the power to exalt us. That is where our focus should be—on the Savior and His sacrifice.
Lastly, I don’t think I will ever forget President Nelson’s calling the brethren to repent in the priesthood session. It should be a daily practice and process, not an event. Can the gospel get any more basic than repentance? Yet, I found myself learning and recommitting to make repentance more a part of my daily life and yearning for my loved ones to do the same.
There’s no doubt more adjustments are coming. As the Prophet Joseph Smith taught, “We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.” Let’s live the teachings of the prophets the best we know how now. And as more changes come, preparatory to ushering in the Second Coming of Christ, we will be better prepared for Him whose Church this is.
Lead image by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.
Kelly Newman is an emotional intelligence consultant and leadership facilitator. He travels to organizations throughout the United States to train leaders in emotional intelligence. He has a Master's Degree in Religious Education from BYU as well as an MBA. He and his wife Cherish have 12 children, 8 of which are adopted from Ethiopia.