Good evening, everyone! I’m grateful for the opportunity Elder Bevan has given me tonight to “guest-blog” for him. I have to admit, I’m a little overwhelmed putting my thoughts out for the entire world to read; I’m not really much of a blogger. Not that I never would, but just that I have almost no experience with it whatsoever. But nevertheless, I do have a few thoughts that I would like to share.
Reading back, I saw that Elder Bevan had talked a little bit about the recent General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in his posts “Men of God” and “Push a Handcart or Share the Gospel”. I wish to add a little bit more on this subject and I hope that you will bear with me.
First of all, I’m kind of a stats guy. I didn’t ever study statistics, nor do I plan to, but trends and the idea of totals and things like that really fascinate me. So, this section of the post starts with a little history lesson. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was formally organized April 6, 1830 with only six members. Two months later, on June 9, 1830, the first General Conference was held in Fayette, NY. From 1830 until Church members moved to Illinois in the early 1840s, conference was held by request of the First Presidency at various times during the year. It was not until the Saints reached Illinois that the traditional cycle of April and October conferences was established. Through the years, Conference has evolved into the series of sessions that we recognize it as today; a Saturday morning and afternoon session, a Sunday morning and afternoon session, with a special priesthood session (for men) held Saturday evening. A little investigation on the Church’s official website, www.lds.org, helped me learn that forty years ago, there was even two full sessions held on Friday. So, just like anything, Conference has had its own personal growth. Its importance to members of the Church is immeasurable. Now, in the 21st century, 21,000 members flock to the Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City, tune in on their radios, televisions, and internet browsers, all with the purpose of receiving instruction from their leaders, one of whom they sustain as a prophet, seer, revelator, and president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And when a prophet speaks under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, his word is considered scripture. So for 181 years, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and in fact, the entire world (whether they choose to participate or not) has been receiving new scripture. So if we just assume for a moment that General Conference has followed the same pattern it does today for the last 181 years of its history, that would add up to 1810 sessions of two hours each (3620 hours) which translates into a little over 150 days worth of addresses from inspired leaders called of God. That’s five months, folks. How long would it take you to read all of that material? If the technology were available, how long would it take you to watch it all on DVD? (You could try and read at least part of it; text from conference addresses is available on the Church’s website as far back as 1974.) But the point is that there has been so much new scripture literally revealed from God since at least 1830 and, evidently, according to the statistical report of the Church given last Saturday afternoon, only 14,131,467 people of the world’s what, 6 billion plus (?) have realized this and consider it significant in their lives. So what are we waiting for?
That question leads me to my next idea, taken from a talk given by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency of the Church. He spoke on Sunday morning about a man named Saul who lived during the 1st century. Saul was kind of a nasty character as we read about his beginnings in the book of Acts, but an event that takes place on the road to Damascus changes his life forever. We read in Acts 9:3-6 “And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.”
Are we looking for some kind of experience like this to get us to wake up and realize that God really speaks to men today? And when I say today, I mean TODAY, the day you are reading this! Our message as missionaries and messengers sent from Jesus Christ is that we have a Heavenly Father who loves us dearly and wants so much for us to return and live with Him in His kingdom to obtain all glory and all blessings! That is what would await us if we would just repent and follow the example of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and follow Him down into the waters of baptism. Let us not “wait on the road to Damascus”, as President Uchtdorf said, for some kind of earth-shaking experience. Many people today don’t believe in God for various reasons. Maybe many of them want to believe and are expecting the heavens to open unto them and for the big, booming voice of God to declare to them in majesty, pomp, and circumstance His existence! Does this even ever happen? The answer is yes, on occasion, but 99.9% of the time the answer is no. God gives unto us our testimonies and our knowledge gradually; line upon line, precept upon precept; here a little and there a little. Then, one day down the road, when we look back, we’ll realize how far we’ve come, how much our faith has grown, how much we trust in our Savior, and how much we can’t wait to be with Him once more.
I testify that the heavens are open. God does speak to man. He has a prophet here on the earth that receives divine revelation for every one of God’s children. If we heed his counsels, it will be well with us at the last day. We have five months worth of reading material to prove it. I invite you to consider your relationship with your Heavenly Father. Pray to Him in whatever way you know how. He will always listen and He will always respond. He loves you. He wants you back. Listen to His voice “whether by [His] own voice or by the voice of [His] servants, it is the same” (Doctrine and Covenants 1:38). May each of us, Mormon or not, learn more of Heavenly Father and of His prophet, His apostles, and other servants in the world today is my prayer for all of you.
-Elder Caleb Condie