"But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." - Matthew 5:44
How about General Conference, huh? I don't know about you, but I think that there were a few central themes.
1) The end is coming, so
2) Get ready, by
3) Strengthening your families, through
4) Teaching them the doctrines, because they'll have to
5) Endure persecution, and do so by
6) Loving others.
What greatly caught my attention was President Monson's extremely unusual statement that no new temples were going to be announced for the time being. It seemed quite unprecedented. The message I got was: "We'll get you more temples when you start using them!"
As a missionary I generally keep my ears open for any references to missionary work, but in this conference, besides Elder Ballard, no one else really talked about it. The theme of this conference all seemed about preparation, as there was so much advice on topics like protecting the family, setting priorities, making wise choices, and abandoning sin. But how to do this? I have never seen a Conference where explanations and testimonies of such basic things like the Savior's life, Atonement, and resurrection were shared. It is clear that the key to making all these preparations for the end rely on understanding and emulating Him. More than I can ever recall it was emphasized that we are Christian, and only two talks really mentioned Joseph Smith.
When people ask you what your favorite talk was and you respond, "Jeffrey R. Holland," they tend to assume that you hadn't really listened to anyone else. Truth be told, I loved a lot of them. But Elder Holland's talk about persecution really stood out to me.
On my mission I have been yelled at, cussed at, mocked, ignored, threatened, flipped off, and waved away. I've had beer cans and other things thrown at me. I've been called a devil worshiper and frequently told that I'm going to hell. I've had my most cherished beliefs reviled -- some of the comments people have made deal with sensitive and sacred things that cannot be talked about here. I can honestly say that I have done nothing of myself to provoke these things. I once heard that North Carolina is the most anti-Mormon state, and I know that there are churches that deliberately teach their members, especially their youth, anti-Mormon material that is blatantly a bunch of hateful lies.
And how do we deal with it, as missionaries and as members of the Church? The answer is found in the words of the Savior: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." The correct response is to love them anyway. And I do. It makes me sad to see how so many people respond to us, but we love them.
Just last night we met a man on his porch. He told us that his wife was going in for brain surgery the next morning -- today. I asked if we could say a prayer for her and ask that everything would go well. She refused because we were Mormon. So when we went home, we prayed for her anyway.
I could give much more commentary on Conference talks but I'll tell you some stories instead.
Elder Dedrick's bike has been given him much trouble this past week. We were out working between conference sessions when all of a sudden his tire exploded, leaving us many miles from anywhere we needed to be. We started to call a member for help, when all of a sudden a blue Land-Rover came down the street and hit a telephone pole. The impact knocked its front right wheel off entirely, but the driver kept going, the car lurching down the street on only three wheels and its tireless axle throwing out sparks, Lightning McQueen from Cars-style. If he was trying to not get caught, I think he was completely unaware that his axle was leaving a nasty scratch mark in the pavement behind him that told the entire world where he was going.
So we did what any sensible people would do and took pictures next to the whistling tire. (Photo attached.) After that we walked over to the nearby police station and informed them of what had happened.
On Friday we had sawed some logs for an older single sister in the ward. After the final session of conference she asked us if we could give her a blessing of comfort and counsel. I ended up doing it. After the blessing she wiped away some tears trickling down her face and told me that some of the things I had said in the blessing were also lines that were in her patriarchal blessing. It was one of those powerful, warming moments when the Spirit reassures that the priesthood is real.
I love all of you and I am grateful that I've gotten to listen to modern-day prophets. The Church is most definitely true. Hurrah for Israel!