Friday, April 27, 2012

Churches built to get gain

2.  Now an interesting phrase from the second verse quoted above (Mormon 8:33).  "O ye wicked and perverse and stiffnecked people, why have ye built up churches unto yourselves to get gain? Why have ye transfigured the holy word of God..."

33: O ye wicked and perverse and stiffnecked people, why have ye built up churches unto yourselves to get gain? Why have ye transfigured the holy word of God, that ye might bring damnation upon your souls? Behold, look ye unto the revelations of God; for behold, the time cometh at that day when all these things must be fulfilled.

Built up Churches to get gain?  That seems simple enough.  A church built up with the purpose of making money.   We never do this do we?  We never build multi billion dollar shopping malls specifically to get gain do we?  Isn't that just good business?  But when a church is doing it as Mormon says here, it should raise a red flag.  What if that desire for gain or money supersedes that of saving souls?  How easily could this happen?  And it's "built up" or grown/expanded to get gain.  "Unto yourselves". This suggests the church's built up to get gain are not built up unto The Lord.  But are built up to build up some other person or cause. The other part of the verse though was what I wanted to focus on: "Why have ye transfigured the holy word of God..."

Transfigure is "to give a new, typically exalted or spiritual appearance" (Websters dictionary).  Mormon says why have "ye"...  so it seems he's addressing the reader of his words, (not the non member who isn't reading in, and doesn't believe in the book in the first place).  If someone is being accused of transfiguring the word of God the definition would seem to mean that someone is altering or redefining the word of God to make something or someone more exalted or spiritual in appearance.

So say we take the words of scripture, and take the parts that are not flattering, and that accuse or call to repentance and redefine them to NOT apply to ourselves, or our surroundings, it would result in transfiguring the word of God.  This would of course defeat the purpose of the scriptures and cause even more pride.  If for example I want to worship a graven image, but know the ten commandments says not to do that, I could alter the word "graven image" or just redefine it until it no longer points to the behavior I am wanting to continue.  It's a way to self justify.  That is just a hypothetical example.

What interesting phrases Mormon has used.  The need for repentance, reconciliation, mercy, and grace becomes so much more apparent once the reality of a situation is appreciated.  Mormon prophesies to us so we appreciate just such a reality.  He offers a repentant alternative to the above warnings.

I like the repentant alternatives Mormon writes and tries to preserve.  If we, our culture, or traditions transfigure the word of God, we should thank Mormon for being so blunt.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Envying of them who belong to their churches?

I came across two scripture phrases that I wanted to write about.  The specific parts are in bold.  

Mormon 8:28 

28: Yea, it shall come in a day when the power of God shall be denied, and churches become defiled and be lifted up in the pride of their hearts; yea, even in a day when leaders of churches and teachers shall rise in the pride of their hearts, even to the envying of them who belong to their churches.

This is a pretty direct prophecies and accusations laid upon a latter day audience.

If The Book of Mormon is not instructing or referring to Mormons, than it must be about someone else.  And if God gave us a book with which to judge others, than.....well that doesn't make any sense.  My view is that the warnings should be taken seriously as if they were about and apply to us, as we are the primary readers.    

1.  The first phrase is this: "in a day when leaders of churches and teachers shall rise in the pride of their hearts, even to the envying of them who belong to their churches."

So are these unspecified church members envying the leaders of the churches?  Or do the church leaders envy those who belong to their churches?  The way it's written is that older form of English and the grammar isn't 100% clear.  Therefore, I wonder about both possible ways to view the the phrase.  Both church members envying their leaders, and leaders envying the members.  Basically leaders and members are full of envy.

Envy is usually defined as a resentful emotion that occurs when a person lacks another's perceived superior quality, achievement or possession and wishes that the other lacked it.  Given that the leadres are full of pride, I would guess the members are the ones envying the leaders.  And remember this is in a religious context, and comes from a religious text.  This chapter already addressed the love of money, so I don't think this part is directly referring to an economic envy, it's more envy of something religious, a position, a perceived achievement or status thing.

But for sake of a good discussion lets take the view that the leaders envy the members.  Why would leaders of churches and teachers who have risen in the pride of their hearts envy those who belong to their churches?  That seems funny to to even think about.  What perceived quality or achievement or superiority would church members have that the leaders would envy?

As a leader or renown teacher you are expected to have had various experiences and expertise.  But often leaders are called who may or may not have these things.  All are invited to receive the things of God but obviously not everyone does receive them (many called but few chosen: D&C 121).  A calling or position within an organization doesn't automatically grant you spiritual achievement, deep conversion, or things of that nature. The things of God are not granted on a man made criteria, it's based on teachings found in scripture and personal righteousness.  Otherwise tyrants could rise in power, claim God's power, and rule and reign with dominion and control over others.  Although this has happened within mankind all the time, God's power and influence are however taught to be based, and only maintained, on different criteria (D&C121:40-43).  

So in that context, lets suppose a common member of these unspecified churches had or was having spiritual experiences or outpourings of the Spirit of God and a leader was not.  If common members were advancing in the Spirit, knowledge and understanding, this could indeed lead to a situation where Church leaders and teachers of churches in their pride envy those who belong to their churches. This is just one possibility. 

Now back to that first option for how to read the scripture.  In this option members of churches envy their leaders.  This one seems by far the most common and easy to see happening.  When respect and admiration of leaders go to such degrees that it borders on celebrity worship and total reliance.....envy may begin to develop. It's idolatry.  It's a cult of personality, and most members of the Church would frown on it, all the while they may be neck deep in it.  Members may begin to envy the leaders, their achievements, the respect and awe they get, the attention they get, the obedience and power they get, and the "special spiritual endowments" that some leaders are taught to possess.  The prophet writer Mormon puts this prophecy in the context of a warning.  It's describing a degraded day full of falsehoods.  Therefore should we not apply this to ourselves?  

I'm sure there are other ways to view these verses.  Especially if you're of the view that the Book of Mormon is not addressing the predominant religious people (Mormons) who are reading and believe in that very book.  If it in fact addresses another people, who are not reading the book, then the situation would be entirely different.  But.... it's not.  It's about us.

Monday, April 16, 2012

As Precious as the Other

I heard this phrase in church and liked it a lot.  My new Bishop gave a talk on the subject that was really good.  I wanted to include some excerpts from his talk.  The original phrase comes from Jacob 2:21.  Jacob has been addressing the peoples pride and says the following.  "Do ye not suppose that such things are abominable unto him who created all flesh? And the one being is as precious in his sight as the other."

"And the one being is as precious as another."  Apparently the people Jacob were teaching had a different perspective.  They didn't view each other as equals.  Things such as money, chances for learning, position, and costliness of their clothing were what they used to evaluate each other.  This Jacob said was due to pride in the heart.  It made them unequal and perhaps feel more personally precious or important than another if they had more.  As C.S. Lewis said "Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man."  The alternative is what Jacob says, which leads to a more Zion like society where the people have "all things in common among them".  

I can only guess at the frequency of this in our own world.  The division into classes and the upside down criteria for how we view each other is probably so common that it's second nature to us.   We don't even notice it.  I too am party to the mentality.  We all are.  The scriptures always claim to have a better way.  Seating charts on airlines is one visible example.  On the bigger planes you've got the first class, then business class, then the coach seating.  Often there is a curtain separating the higher and lower classes.  Southwest Airlines however seems to be headed a little more towards what Jacob is teaching.  All their seating is the same. 

The cure for the people of Jacob was to view and accept one another based on the truth that one soul is as precious as another.  Or, seeing each other as equals, equally indebted to God for what has been done on our behalf.  Not what the "management of the creature" has done to elevate our pride in comparison to our fellow man (Alma 30:17).  This would mean accepting and valuing people not on their age, net worth, church calling, house size, level of education, life mistakes, or any of those other standards.  But instead understanding one soul is as precious as another.      

4 Nephi 1:25-26 has this related verse
"And from that time forth they did have their goods and their substance no more common among them.  And they began to be divided into classes; and they began to build up churches unto themselves to get gain, and began to deny the true church of Christ."

The scripture links this division into social classes with the building up of churches "unto themselves to get gain" which leads to denying the true church.  I would not have made the connection between those two thoughts had this scripture not put them together.  But now that I read it, it makes a lot of sense.

That method didn't work though is the thing.  That civilization failed.  I don't to want to fail, nor do I want our current civilization to find itself in a position that displeases God.  Christ personally had visited their ancestors and within a few generations they stopped going towards Zion, began heading the other direction, and we know the result of what happened to them.  They began in unity, then got divided based on social class, then
start practicing a proud and false religion, then deny the true church of Christ, and then it leads to destruction.

What struck me as a great antidote was His prophetic remedy.  The remedy is to not view people as superior and inferior based on things like wealth, church calling, social class, clothing, education, etc.  Although to us these things matter, Jacob is telling us it should not influence how precious we think a person is, or what value we ascribe to them.  I'm going to try this.  If it's true, than my home teacher has a soul just as precious to God as the Stake President, Area Authority Seventy, or anyone else walking down the street.  A bigger stewardship wouldn't mean superior worth of soul.  Or am I mistaken?  Is a person with extensive responsibility and larger stewardship more precious to God than the person without it?  Food for thought.  As Jacob put it "The one, is as precious as the other."  But so often there is a tendency to act as if the opposite were true.  

I think it's important to remember these kinds of things.  The Atonement provides a chance to accept derivative worth based on something we did not do.  This puts us all on common footing if we cooperate.   

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Being Represented

One of my favorite places is San Diego California.  We had a little vacation there last week for spring break and had an amazing time. By the way the Wave House there is very very fun. (It's the man made indoor wave that curls over, a must try!). 

Day before Easter, Kels and I, her brother and a friend decided to attend the temple.  There were not many patrons that day (unlike many temple in Utah) so Kels and I were asked to be the witness couple for the endowment session.  This was a first for both of us.  I share just a tad bit of the impression.  I've been mindful so as to not to go beyond what is appropriate to say. 

It's obvious to look at, but the experience itself is not that obvious unless your the one involved.  Right away the ceremony becomes extremely personal.  YOU are the one at the altar.  It wasn't someone else representing me.  Normally during the session the couple at the altar REPRESENTS each of the participants in the company.  However being represented at an altar is an entirely different experience from you actually being there yourself.  Something about kneeling is important.  Sitting and having someone else represent you kneeling doesn't have the same effect.   

Now that I think about it, if your able, and the situation is one that is appropriate to do so (like making an individual covenant), the temple is would be where ideally you would be directly involved, and not have a representative at the altar in place of yourself.  Even in symbol.  For full effect it would help if it were you.  This would follow the pattern of when Christ came to the Temple at bountiful and had each person, one by one, come and feel the nail prints in his hands and feet. 3 Nephi 11:15  Time and efficiency were not big on the agenda that day, like they seem to be constantly in our day.  The individuality was what mattered.

And yes of course all the participants in our modern temples do participate in the symbolic ceremony individually.  However, for all of the participants except for 2,  the part of the ceremony where you kneel at an altar is represented by someone else.  I'm so glad for things like being the witness couple, because then the symbol means more, and points more directly to the reality.

When you are the one kneeling there, it's suddenly a whole new story.  I imagine similar things would occur as a temple worker.  The practice of having a couple represent everyone else during a session is time saving for sure, but it may also miss out on something important.   

It reminds me of church history and the temple ceremony during it's early stages with Joseph Smith.  It was much much much longer then.  Part of which was due to the fact that each participant would go through the various rituals and symbolic actions for themselves, not just be represented by someone in the company.

From what I see at the Temple in Bountiful (from 3rd Nephi) Christ wants things to be personal.  I like the idea that certain divine interactions are meant to be personal, not just be represented.  Christ says he "is the keeper of the gate and employs no servant there".  It's not just a symbol, it's Christ himself.  A reality.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

What fruits?

In Sunday school this year we're studying the book of Mormon and have recently covered Jacob 5.  It's all about the allegory of the olive tree.  The vineyard, fruit, spots of ground, grafting, pruning, digging, gathering, laboring etc...    During the allegory some of the trees have both good and evil fruit on them.  It says in one part that the evil fruit takes over the good (vs 37) and the tree becomes corrupt.  The "loftiness" of the vineyard in another part (vs 48) is said to be the culprit for fruit failures. 

For this post post I'm going to use the vocabulary of Zenos' allegory, but apply it in a unique way to present day.  

The goal of the Gospel is to produce fruit after all.  That is it's purpose.  Fruit is what is "stored up".  It refers to people.  People and souls are what matter.  The Church has a role in this "produce department" so to speak.  I saw this as a missionary.  The Church often facilitates and provides tools and an environment that is God inspired.  When the Church is aligned with the Gospel, it helps facilitate the nurturing and growth of fruit.  Such as converts, Joy and happiness, fellowship, ordinances, truth, opportunity to learn, grow and serve, and lift others.  It's a great thing.

But like the allegory sometimes there are different kinds of fruit growing in the vineyard.  One of the fruits, or things coming out of the church I noticed recently is the Citi Creek Shopping mall. The church has humanitarian fruits, political fruits, missionary fruits, and all sorts of fruit. And lots of it is good. So what about this Citi Creek project? We need to assess the fruit we produce don't we? In verbiage of the Jacob 5 allegory, would this fruit (the mall) be considered evil, wild, or good? Keeping in mind that fruit is a saved soul. For the church to justify the expense of literally billions of dollars, you'd think there would be some direct correlation to the work of salvation.  Otherwise how am I to call the fruit good? If the fruit is not something savable, or can with the maximum stretch be able to be classified under Christs's teachings, then is it possible such fruit is wild?

As I understand it, and taught as a missionary, none of the missions of the church are to get gain.  ALL the missions of the church relate to souls and fruit.  So if there is a major fruit produced by the institution that doesn't support any of the Church's missions, I'm left to call the fruit "wild".  If God is attempting to lay up fruit, or  saved souls.....I don't know that a shopping mall ever produced one of those.  It can't.  It lacks the inherent ability to do so.  That is not it's purpose.

A Church needs things like temples, church meeting houses, scriptures, manuals, books, etc.....  all of them are in some way designed to help facilitate something related to the Gospel and salvation.  They support the missions of the Church. A shopping mall on the other hand may attract large groups of people, and appeal to the temporal aspects of their lives, (at least to those who can afford to buy things there) but it has a different purpose than a Church.  Therefore I'm again left wondering if this massive project represents a form of fruit that is a bit wild.  Or in other words not linked to the root and is disconnected from the saving and living vine.     
I also say "wild" because I'm not sure which mission of the Church the shopping mall falls under.  Does it perfect the saints? Does it redeem the dead?  Does it preach the Gospel?  At best any involvement in those missions would be indirect, while the primary purpose is to get gain.  Saving souls is foreign to our shopping centers, and commerce.  Jesus drove money changers out of the temple.  This mall brings the money changers right across the street from the temple.  Perhaps the mall's saving grace are the homeless who ask for help at the entrances.  We should thank them perhaps.

Some nonmembers may visit Temple square as a result of being attracted to downtown by the mall.  We have to also consider there may be another category of folks who will actually NOT visit Temple square, or leave quickly, due to instead being engrossed/distracted by the mall.  Now I don't know, but it seems fair to at least consider that possibility.  The mall itself doesn't directly support the Church's missions any more than any other mall does.  The only hope in this effort would be it's physical proximity to Temple square.  But Citi Creek has much more attractive water features, and has fountains which play to music and even have fire in the water.  During the most recent General Conference, the headlines of the day were "Conference Goers visit Citi Creek in droves"  All the buzz caused lots to actually leave temple square and go instead to the mall.

One important issue, in my view, is that our own scriptures warn about things like a great and spacious building where occupants wear "fine apparel" and who end up mocking things that they shouldn't.  Yet we simply fail to see that we may be the subjects of the prophecy.  We think it's some metaphor about some other people who ironically aren't reading the Book of Mormon.  Strangely no one else fits the mold better than us.  Are scriptures talking about the fine apparel at the Grammy Awards?  Or perhaps a 5 billion dollar complex (where you can literally adorn yourself with the finest apparel available) across from a Temple?  Food for thought.

The fruit we produce is one way to measure the type of future we are headed towards.  Lets suppose the intended investment potential of this mall, and the economic returns surpass everyone's expectations.  We would gain the whole world but how many souls were saved?  Using the vocabulary of the allegory by one point of view that could be called "wild fruit which overcometh the roots".  Church's built up to "get gain" are something covered in quite painful detail by Nephi (1 Nephi 22:23).  

I think this allegory by Zenos quoted by Jacob calls some fruit "evil" because it can't save a soul, it's a thing not worth preserving into eternity.  Therefore "evil" because it deters or corrupts God's work and glory.  There are many ways to beautify downtown Salt Lake City.  What kinds of fruits are our actions growing?  Good, evil, wild?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Fullness (of)

FULNESS (of) . . .

my glory (D&C 84, 93, 132)
their glory (D&C 88, 121)

John’s record (D&C 93)
truth (D&C 93)
joy (D&C 93, 138, 3 Nephi 27, 28, Psalm 16)
these things taught by Christ (3 Nephi 16:7)
my/the gospel of Jesus Christ (3 Nephi 16, 20, D&C 1, 14, 20, 35, 39, 42, 45, 66, 76, 90, 1 Nephi 10, 13)
the blessing of the gospel of Christ (Romans 15)
Holy Ghost (D&C 109)
the priesthood (D&C 124)
my scriptures (D&C 42, 104)
my/the everlasting gospel (D&C 27, 109, JS-H 1)
Christ (Ephesians 1, 4, John 1)
God (Ephesians 3)
the Godhead (Colossians 2)
dwells in the Father (Colossians 2)
Father's glory (D&C 76) - defines a "priest and king"
the earth (D&C 59, 1 Corinthians 10, Deut. 33, Psalm 24, 50, 89, 96, 98, 1 Chronicles 16)
winepress (Numbers 18)
His sufficiency (Job 20)
mine (Nephi's) intent - to bring people to the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob (1 Nephi 6)
of the new and everlasting covenant (D&C 132)

times (D&C 27, 76, 112, 121, 124, 128, 138, Ephesians 1)
time (2 Nephi 2, Galatians 4:4)

His own time (2 Nephi 11)
wrath (Ether 2, 9, 14, 1 Nephi 17, 22, 2 Nephi 1)
desolation (Ezekiel 19)
iniquity (Ether 2, Romans 11)
The Gentiles (3 Nephi 16, 1 Nephi 15, JS-H 1, Romans 11)bread (Ezekiel 16)

Latter Day Trends

We all know there is a difference between the Gospel, and church culture.  They are not always in line with each other.  Certain trends can be blinding and contrary to the Gospel.  Other trends are more social and cultural.

So what's trending in Mormonism?  I would say the "I am a Mormon" add campaign is trending.  Everyday people taking upon themselves the name of Mormon and posting about it to the world.  

During this last General Conference I noticed I noticed a few trends.  They are these:

There was more mention of the President of The Church and his keys than Jesus Christ.  There was more mention of this during Priesthood session and some day sessions as well. This is almost a weekly occurrence in my home ward, but it's now more common in General conference too.  There is an increasing emphasis on keys, which seems to give a sense of pride and what some would call arrogance.  A cult of personality has formed around the President of the Church.

Also trending now is the emphasis on priesthood keys.  Speakers quote scriptures about Christ being the one we look to for a remission of sins, and his teachings are used and quoted.  On many occasions as much or more time is spent on how important it is that there is a man over the church to whom the keys of priesthood belong.  I'm not sure that is even a correct statement as I don't recall Christ ever relinquishing over total ownership of them, nor given up his own right to use them Himself.  But we don't teach that.  Which again, is a complete shame.

The keys after all ultimately belong to Christ, even if servants are allowed to use them.  So technically The President of The Church is not the only man alive with all the keys.  That is an incorrect statement as Christ is a living being who has stewardship over the earth.  But if you leave that out, in many ways it leaves Christ out of his own work, and we end up pointing to men, instead of to the Savior.  Which for some could be an odd thought, because we are so frequently taught about the importance of the current President.  Some folks don't picture Christ as being personally involved much with anyone except the President of the Church or quorum of the 12.   Which of course is going to mislead, and pervert the Gospel.

Other trends are President Monson's increasing attention and status. I agree it would be odd to have the President of the Church be someone others could point to for a good example.  He does set a great example of service, and I agree his example of service is a good.  My point here is the trend that goes way further than pointing out his Christlike attributes. He was prayed for and honored in almost every prayer, he was taught as having more authority, and more special spiritual endowments than anyone else, and his position is gaining increasing focus by other General Authorities.  A world icon almost.  I sustain him when we are invited to do so.  I listen to him.  These are just trends I notice while paying attention. I wondered today if the focus continues to grow, if over time the primary song "I'm trying to be like Jesus" develops an alternate meaning of "I'm trying to be like the Prophet".

Another trend it is that all of the General Authorities refer to President of the Church as a Prophet.  Yet I have never heard the President, current or past in my life refer to himself as a Prophet.  Ever.  Which itself is an interesting thing.  I'm not suggesting anything about anyone.  Only pointing out observations that are interesting.

One last one.  Often speakers will say "Angels and angelic messengers have returned in our day"  This is most often referring to the restoration of Priesthood power by angels from heaven to Joseph Smith.  I hear the "again in our day" phrase again and again.  The phrase hardly ever actually means "our" day.  It always references Joseph Smith's day.  Which is not really our day anymore.  No leader that I've ever heard or known of has made any mention to anything like an angelic visit in 50 years.  But it appears that if  enough speakers say "our day" we can piggyback on the spiritual experiences of early church days and appear equal to them, when we may in fact not be having the same types of experiences.  So instead we chant "follow the prophet" and assure ourselves that we won't be lead astray.  Are angles conversing with our leaders?  Why do they not tell us so?  In Joseph Smith's time it was crystal clear, candid open acknowledgment of such things.  He was never shy about it.  The whole world knows the claim, both non believer, and believer alike.

I wonder if some or all of the leaders "in our day" would actually be afraid to say such things if they happened.   Maybe they do happen but everyone has taken a covert and vague approach to saying so due to fear of either the world, or fear of the correlation committee.  Although such declarations are common in scripture, sometimes even to "heathen" or non believers, our day seems much more reserved and public relations and public opinion wary.     

Interesting trends.   Again just pointing out observations.   You may disagree, and that's fine.  My testimony is not affected by these kinds of trends.  I sustain the leaders and do not envy the task they have. I remain a member who is happy to do what I'm called to do.  I love the Gospel.  The families I home teach have become my friends and I find joy in visiting them.  The Church does so many things so incredibly well.  In all this I do however find my own testimony based on my own experiences with God is more and more critical.  It's what I rely on, and what provides light.

On a good note: I enjoyed these things in particular about the recent Conference.  Elder Hallstrom's talk where he pointed out that the Church does not equal the Gospel.  Elder Christofferson's talk where he quoted Joseph Smith that a prophet is only a prophet when acting as such, which should hopefully disabuse the notion that a prophet is one 24x7x365.  Elder Larry Y. Wilson made some great points about Section 121 and how those are the only tools by which Priesthood power can or should be maintained.

If Christ still holds all Priesthood keys, which obviously he does, than why not look to Him and point to Him?  We're supposed to come to Christ, not come unto Christ's servants aren't we?  Or have we inadvertently fallen to the prediction of Nephi found here (2 Nephi 28:5).  The Lord's authorized servants of course are important, without any doubt, otherwise God wouldn't have called them.  But at some point, you must admit we need to actual apply the scripture and actually come to Christ.  Not just point each other to his servants.  Christ is the keeper of the gate.

I've concluded that pointing is enough, the gesture is so simple anyone can get the message.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Elder Maxwell on tests

I got something great from old Conference, it was from April conference of 2000.  Its a talk by Elder Maxwell.  It's called "Content with the Things allotted unto us".  This talk doesn't have any blue screens.  But it didn't matter.  It was as if it was scripture when I heard it.  It was a message I wasn't expecting and one I don't think I'll ever forget.

In one part he says "Life’s necessary defining moments come within our allotments.  Our responses are what matter. Sufficient unto each life are the tests thereof!"

"When spiritually aligned, a poise can come, even when we do not know “the meaning of all things” (1 Ne. 11:17). Such contented assurance produces not arrogance but quiet acceptance, which is its own form of being “anxiously engaged” but without all the bells and whistles (D&C 58:27; see also D&C 58:28)."

"What we could and have done within our allotted acreage, therefore, is known perfectly by the Master of the vineyard.

Their meekness and larger capacity for spiritual contentment may be one reason why God uses the weak of the world to accomplish His work (see D&C 1:19, 23; D&C 35:13; D&C 133:58–59; 1 Cor. 1:27). The worldly are usually not very interested in doing what they regard as the Lord’s lowly work anyway.

Significantly, too, the Lord refuses to intimidate by sending legions of angels in order to ensure that individuals do His will (see Matt. 26:47–53). His will is to be done “because of the word,” not because we are compelled (Alma 36:26). The rule has been, is, and will remain “Nevertheless, thou mayest choose for thyself” (Moses 3:17). The Lord wants conversion without intimidation."

His words stuck me like few others have.  

Sufficient unto each life are the tests thereof!   

What a message.  Thank you Elder Maxwell.  If you feel like reading the talk, watch it, not just read it.

Where'd the scripture screen go?

Since I was little I remember during General Conference when one of the speakers would quote a scripture or an early leader like Joseph Smith, they would often use a blue screen graphic with white letters.  It would have the scripture written out and sometimes a little picture to go with it.  I used to think this was so we could read the words while not needing to bring our actual scriptures.  But in reality I don't remember ever being asked to use or open them at conference.  Perhaps it is viewed is too distracting to be participating that much.      

As I watched conference yesterday the blue scripture screen has passed on.  I've also noticed fewer scriptures quoted or cited in conference than I remember in the past.  Some scriptures are referenced, don't get me wrong, but fewer are quoted in full, and in context.  In fact it's almost rare to have more than 3 verses quoted fully and in context.  The scriptures are talked about, but not taught from very much.  Instead it seems that "good principles" are focused on, and then an occasional scripture is used as support for the chosen principle.  One recent First presidency messages didn't include any scriptures at all.

If we don't open our scriptures in sacrament meeting per a First Presidency letter.  And we are not invited to use them or open them, or even read them on the screen in conference.  Then that leaves it all up to personal time.