General Conference–Priesthood Session

Here’s something I don’t say all that often: I love President Packer’s talk! It’s mostly an appealing collection of reminiscences about his life, and sweet advice from an old man to young men whom he clearly cares for deeply. He began “Young men speak of the future because they have no past, and old men speak of the past because they have no future. I am an old man, but I will speak to the Aaronic Priesthood about your future.” He gives them the advice we’d all like our sons to hear: don’t use drugs, don’t get a tattoo (“stay away from that”), don’t worry if you’re not tall or handsome or athletic, study well, “do not run with friends that worry your parents,” “if you have been guilty of sin or mischief, …learn about the power of the Atonement.”

And my favorites: “You young men should not complain about schooling. Do not immerse yourself so much in the technical that you fail to learn things that are practical. Everything you can learn that is practical–in the house, in the kitchen cooking (emphasis mine!), in the yard–will be of benefit to you. …You can learn about fixing things and painting things and even sewing things and whatever else is practical. That is worth doing. If it is not of particular benefit to you, it will help you when you are serving other people.”

Bishop Edgley introduces a theme that will run all through conference–how members can help each other get through the economic crisis. “The unemployment and financial wakes of this storm are splashing over every stake and ever ward throughout the Church. I suspect they have been felt in some way by each of us.”

“Opportunities [to lift and help] abound and yours is the opportunity and responsibility of marshaling the Lord’s resources. Among our quorum members you will likely find those who know of job openings, and others who are skilled at writing resumes or assisting in interview preparation. Regardless of titles or skills, you will find a brotherhood committed to bear one another’s burdens.”

“May the Lord bless us all with the same sense of urgency to answer the call today to bring in our people from these economic challenges as He did for the handcart companies…”

Elder Costa reiterates the importance of Family Home Evening and family scripture study. “As we consider the wise use of our time and resources to meet the needs of our families, our employment, and our Church callings, it is important to remember that every priesthood holder needs to grow spiritually. …Our Savior extended this invitation to each and every one of us individually: ‘Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’ When we do His work and His will, rather than our own will, we will realize that the yoke is easy and the burden is light. He will be with us always. He will reveal to us the exact portion that we need for success with our families, our career, and every responsibility that we have in His church.”

President Uchtdorf started with the story of the crash of a Lockheed jet in the Everglades, which was determined to have been caused by the crew’s focus on a faulty sensor. It turned out that everything was working fine, but they were so distracted by trying to figure out what was going on with the little lightbulb that they didn’t notice their altitude was dropping until it was too late to avoid a crash. He contrasts this with the story of Nehemiah, who was so intent on finishing the Lord’s work that he would not come down from the city walls he was working to rebuild.

“Think for a moment what could be accomplished in our personal lives, in our professional lives, in our families, in our wards. Think of how the kingdom of God would progress throughout the earth. Imagine how the world itself could be transformed for good if every man who bears the priesthood of God were to gird up his loins and live up to his true potential, converted in the depth of his soul, a true and faithful man, committed to building the kingdom of God.”

And he used blogging as an example of a potentially unrighteous distraction. Ouch!

President Eyring also began with an extended metaphor–the way that soldiers care for their wounded fellows, particularly the example of U.S. Army rangers in Somalia in 1993, who went at great personal peril to rescue their downed compatriots. “Such a feeling of responsibility for others is at the heart of faithful priesthood service. Our comrades are being wounded in the spiritual conflict around us. So are the people we are called to serve and protect from harm. Spiritual wounds are not easily visible, except with inspired eyes. …as a priesthood holder responsible for the spiritual survival of some of Heavenly Father’s children, you will then move to help without waiting for a cry, “Man down!”

“…You are under covenant, as has been made clear to you, that when you accepted the trust from God to receive the priesthood, you accepted a responsibility for whatever you might do or fail to do for the salvation of others, however difficult and dangerous that might appear to be for you. …Your office, whatever it is in the priesthood, brings with it an obligation to lift up the hands that hang down and strengthen the feeble knees of those around you. You are the Lord’s servant covenanted to do for others, as best you can, what He would do.”

Too grossed out by President Monson’s egg salad example to say much :), but he offered “three suggestions which, when observed and followed, will lead us to safety :

Study diligently;
Pray fervently; and
Live righteously”

His concluding admonition: “Let us never despair, for the work in which we are engaged is the work of the Lord. …The strength which we earnestly seek in order to meet the challenges of a complex and changing world can be ours when with fortitude and resolute courage, we stand and declare with Joshua, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

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  1. Maryanne says:

    How did you get this already? Are you crashing priesthood meeting and using an electronic device at the same time? :)

  2. I think President Eyring just gave a great talk. It was hard to concentrate with the brother snoring directly behind me, but I think he just taught about our responsibility to help others even when it’s NOT our calling to preside over them. I guess I need to rethink my approach to home teaching!

  3. belledame2 says:

    Elder Packer encouraging young men to learn HOMEMAKING ARTS? That is awesome and so refreshing!

  4. Kristine says:

    Yea, homemaking arts, *even* sewing. ;)

  5. I just want to say to you all that I am doing a great work and cannot come down.

  6. Kevin Barney says:

    Ah, now this is the BCC I know and love. We’ve got Kristine liveblogging the Priesthood session. Pure awesomeness.

    I must say, I just this minute finished reviewing the day’s conference coverage. I was away from a computer all day and didn’t have the opportunity to watch conference live. I thought Steve and Kristine’s coverage was fantastic, and I also appreciated all of the running commentary.

    For the woman on the morning session thread who was offended by what she read, I can understand her reaction. But I personally think the commentary is completely refreshing. The fact that people aren’t cowed but are willing to call it as they see it means that, yes, there is the occasional criticism–something most members aren’t accustomed to hearing in the conference context–but for me that makes the overwhelmingly positive commentary immensely more credible. These aren’t people saying what they think others want them to say, they’re offering genuine opinions. And I think there is a tremendous value in that. Or at least I personally find it valuable and helpful.

  7. Amen Kevin. Today has been awesome, and I look forward to more tomorrow. As for “from AZ,” to me she is a burned out light-bulb and I refuse to focus on her.

  8. As for “from AZ,” to me she is a burned out light-bulb and I refuse to focus on her.

    Awesome MCQ.

    I have to say, I enjoyed the Hinckley/Monson/Faust trifecta BUT, hearing Pres. Eyring and Uchdorf twice a conference is an absolute joy. “The Burned Out Light” talk hit me deep tonight.

  9. I thought I would be used to Pres. Uchtdorf giving astounding talks, but he keeps flooring me – and I love the juxtaposition of him and Pres. Eyring. Their styles and delivery are so different, but the Spirit is so similar whenever they speak.

  10. Great post and coverage! Ray, I agree. I love Pres. Uchtdorf. He speaks as one having authority.

    I don’t know, Kristine–I came away craving an eggsalad sandwich and my teenage son promised to make us some for lunch tomorrow to celebrate the talk. :)

  11. President Eyring’s talk was great! We have a terrific First Presidency, don’t we?

  12. Why couldn’t I find this thread on my blackberry during the session? Was it on here then??

  13. I think President Uchtdorf was the highlight of the evening. And the poor women didn’t even get to check him out tonight.

  14. Without the internet, I found myself live noting instead of live blogging. Here was what I ended up with during Uchtdorf’s talk: (My thoughts are in parentheses)

    * (Here comes another story that he is going to relate to the gospel)
    * Jokes about trying to find another story to relate to the gospel.
    o “The story of the lightbulb”
    * Tendency to focus on the insignifant to the detriment of the profound.
    o Even some Church programs can be a problem if they are focused on the the extreme.
    * Nehemiah – “I am doing a great work and cannot come down.”
    * “I am doing a great work and cannot come down.”
    * “I am doing a great work and cannot come down.”
    * “I am doing a great work and cannot come down.”
    * (He’s always so tan. And has great hair. I wonder if he works out)
    * “I am doing a great work and cannot come down.”
    * “I am doing a great work and cannot come down.”
    * “I am doing a great work and cannot come down.”
    * (I’m not having gay thoughts. I’m just admiring a handsome man)
    * “I am doing a great work and cannot come down.”
    * “I am doing a great work and cannot come down.”
    * “I am doing a great work and cannot come down.”
    * (If we were in a black church, we’d all be repeating and shouting out with him right now.
    * “I am doing a great work and cannot come down.”
    * “I am doing a great work and cannot come down.”
    * (I so wish I was in black and in a black church right now)
    * “I am doing a great work and cannot come down.”
    * (Oh… So maybe that’s what Packer meant with not being jealous of another race)
    * “I am doing a great work and cannot come down.”

  15. Steve Evans says:

    Stay tuned for tomorrow, folks. More of the same, plus some photoessays on the antis out front.

  16. Steve, I personally anticipate a photoessay of your exploits in the Calgary Stampede over the years.

  17. Norbert says:

    narrator, great commentary.

  18. I know I’m not part of your community, but I read this blog and feel like maybe some of you might be able to help with these questions.

    I know people loved Pres Uchtdorf’s burned-out light story, but I have questions about it, as I do with stories told by Pres Eyring and Pres Monson. I sometimes wish there could be a moratorium, at least temporarily, on anecdotal/historical stories that get the gospel smashed into them in General Conference. I think the technique can be effective, but last night I was left with more questions from those stories than answers.

    First, the burned-out light. Pres Uchtdorf kept asserting that the plane was in perfect working shape, but the pilots kept focusing on the burned-out bulb. I understand that they focused on that and fatally ignored their altitude, but the light wasn’t just a light. To them, it was an indication of a BIG problem–their landing gear hadn’t properly deployed. I will re-read the talk and maybe I missed something, but as I listened to the story I kept thinking, “But they didn’t KNOW the landing gear was working, they didn’t know the plane was in perfect working condition.” So, believing the landing gear was not functioning, they did what they were supposed to by trying to solve this significant problem. To them, it wasn’t just a light. Their error was focusing on a significant problem to the exclusion of another significant problem (a premise which could have been effectively used to teach). Am I quibbling too much?

    Second, Pres Eyring’s Somalia story. Two soldiers petitioned their superior officer to allow them to go into a dangerous situation to save their comrades. They were denied. They petitioned again and again. On the third try, the superior officer relented (sounds familiar…). In the end, two soldiers were killed to save one. I suppose it’s an okay story about loyalty, but aren’t there better ones out there? That story could be easily flipped around to say that because the soldiers kept asking to get the answer they wanted from their superior, they were killed. I just don’t think it was a great example.

    Then Pres Monson’s story about the two new elders who gave their friend a blessing. What were we supposed to learn from this story? I have never had that experience (giving someone a blessing and having them instantly healed). What if that boy (who ate the tainted egg salad) didn’t get better? I would answer that by saying the two new elders would have received a good lesson in reality. What happens when the young men in the audience, having heard that story from their prophet, give a blessing and see that it doesn’t turn out like in the prophet’s story? I understand faith-promoting stories, but to what end? Is that what we want our young men to learn? It also seemed to contradict Pres Eyring’s story from earlier in the day, where he gave someone a blessing and the recipient died. He mentioned being surprised.

    Anyway, overall I was interested. Elder Packer’s talk was surprisingly engaging. I question the usefulness of these stories. What are they actually teaching? They seem ineffective and uncreative. Maybe I’ll feel differently when I re-read the talks.

    Thanks for listening!

  19. Hopefully this does not come across as blasphemous because I really do try to be a supporter of the leadership, but last night I felt much more inspired by Presidents Packer, Uchtdorf, and Eyring than I did by President Monson. His was a good talk, but I thought the others were outstanding. I can listen to President Uchtdorf over and over and I agree that President Packer shined like the Packer of old! It was a great meeting.

  20. ldslesson,

    I actually really liked President Monson’s talk, because I think it focused on what, for me, are core aspects of the gospel and on what, in the sociology/anthropology of religion is called “private religion” or “nonorganizational religion,” i.e., his talk centered on improving our individual relationship with God (which was not the explicit topic, but I think the implicit one). Two of the measures of private religion/spirituality are personal prayer and personal study.

    His third point, on living righteously, could fall under private/nonorganizational religion or public/organizational religion. It could also fall under the sociological/anthropology of religion concept of spirituality–i.e., that one’s relationship with others–personal ethics–are part of spirituality.

    I doubt that President Monson–or any of the the other Brethren (or probably any other commenter here)–perceives President Monson’s talk as focusing on private, rather than public-organizational religion, or on personal spirituality, but I do.

    Many of our conference talk focus on the public-organizational aspects of living our religion, e.g., behavior (no texting) during sacrament meeting, keeping prayers short, setting a goal for attending the temple, and the like. These aspects of our religion are important.

    But I like talks, like President Monson’s (and there are others) that center on core issues of private religion/spirituality.

    And interestingly, a Church study published in the mid-1980s shows that the best predictor of a person’s long-term participation in the public religion aspect of Mormonism is their individual participation in the private religion aspect.

    (To my good friends who dislike the term “spirituality” in the LDS context, again, please note I am using it in the sociological/anthropological sense)

  21. Larry,

    With respect to Pres. Uchtdorf’s talk, I agree with you that the light bulb story does not illustrate the lack of wisdom of focusing on something trivial and overlooking the important. The unlightened bulb was something very important–if the nose gear was not down, everyone might well have died during the landing. It was not paying attention to the bulb that was the problem–the problem was ignoring the altitude.

    Therefore, I think the story illustrates that focusing on one very important thing to the exclusion of other important things can often be fatal. That is why I liked his illustration that sometimes participation in very important Church activities can be taken to the extreme.

  22. SteelBlaidd says:


    Stories are used because the human mind is a narrative producing device so stories help things to stick in our mind better. As with all parables it is important to recognize that you shouldn’t stretch them to far. No example is perfect in all details nor will they hit every person the same way. The best we can do is clearly articulate what we are using the example to demonstrate.

    Regarding your other questions. In the plan crash story he may have not realized he needed to mention that there are usually redundant ways of checking critical component operation in an airplane. If nothing else they should have gotten a visual inspection from the tower.

    Blessings are very individual and no one story can illuminate all the ways they can affect our lives. I feel the point Pres. Monson was making is that a newly ordained Elder can bless as effectively as a seasoned Apostle.

    Not all talks will be as relevant to all people. Even the Prophet’s.

  23. You all are missing the biggest story of this session: Elder Eyring was implicitly encouraging us all to go out and watch an R-rated movie ;)

  24. Robert B. says:

    FWIW – President Uchtdorf who is so familiar with the story left a lot out. The important thing is despite the presence of three qualified pilots in the cockpit nobody was responsible for flying the airplane. All three were discussing the light bulb and nobody noticed that the altitude was slowly decreasing.

    As an outgrowth Air Traffic Facilities were provided a system called MSAW in terminal facilities (Minimum Safe Altitude Warning) and airlines developed CRM (Crew Resource Management).

    This is truly a heartbreaking story. From the time of the beginning of the tragedy until the point of no return happened was minutes – not seconds. Most aviation tragedies / incidents are more like the US Airways into the Hudson – just a few seconds between beginning and the point of no return.

  25. powpowgo says:

    Christians are taught confess, believe and have great faith to receive still no physical or spiritual breakthrough till the day they die why?
    Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth seek him without him you live a miserable life.
    Lean on faith by carnal teaching no way you can get breakthrough the fruit of your hand speak volume you are in such dire situation suffering in silence, putting up a front, praising the lord and cheating yourself and others who are also suffering.

  26. My favorite line of the night was from Elder Packer when he said to the young men (and older men?) in reference to our economy and situation in general:

    “the time for fun and games is over.”

    Then he spoke of practical things that we could all do to make ends meet, including the kids getting jobs to support the family. We need that kind of frank talk, frankly.