Peace… and Something for Everyone

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This is the 371st  week, and we’re covering the Sunday morning session of the October 1999 General Conference.

The theme that stuck out to me from the session was peace. As Sister Pinegar taught

The world is not a safe place. It is not a place where children will feel peace, hope, and direction unless they are taught to love and follow the Savior. 

This knowledge comes from a place of personal tragedy as she made clear in her talk:

The difficult experience of my son’s death helped me identify and rejoice in the blessings of peace, hope, and direction—blessings that all who truly accept and live the gospel of Jesus Christ may enjoy. I can bear witness to the words of Elder Richard G. Scott: “Please learn that as you wrestle with a challenge and feel sadness because of it, you can simultaneously have peace and rejoicing”

President Faust spoke on peace as well, saying that “Peace in this life is based upon faith and testimony.” So did Elder Ballard, adding “Our safety, our peace, lies in working as hard as we can to live as the Father and Son would have us live, in fleeing from false prophets and false teachers, and in being anxiously engaged in good causes.”

So there are the things that I learned from these talks on peace.

  1. Peace is not the default in this world. 
  2. We can feel peace at the same time as we are wrestling our way through tribulation and tragedy
  3. Peace comes to those who exercise faith and strive as disciples of Jesus Christ

The first two principles are really important from a practical perspective. It’s vital to have the right expectations for a Christian life if you’re going to make it long-term as a disciple, and those expectations should include difficulty. Lots of folks seems to assume that living the commandments better and better will make life easier and easier. It’s not so. Living the commandments better–growing and developing as a person–is sort of like going from kindergarten to first grade to second grade. As you progress, you get more and more difficult assignments. Life gets fuller as we draw closer to Christ. It gets better. But it doesn’t get easier.

The third principle is interesting because–although I picked a theme that was common across three different talks–none of them actually discussed the details in the same way. I think you can reconcile their teachings about how to get peace. But they do need reconciliation, because they’re non-identical. 

For me, that’s what reading / listening to General Conference is all about. I think the guidance from the Lord is what we find in the intersection and even in the synthesis between the comments of our leaders, perhaps especially when that synthesis takes a little bit of work.

General Conference talks tend to be written at a fairly low level to be comprehensible to a wide audience (and, I’m speculating here, probably with translation in mind). And I think that can make them easy for intellectual-type members to dismiss. If you listen to the talks and take them one-by-one, they can be boring, redundant, etc. 

But when you take them collectively and start looking for consistent themes (across decades, not just across talks in the same session) and then start trying to explore how different talks took different perspectives on those consistent themes, that’s when I think even the most sophisticated and educated member can find more than enough to chew on.

The Gospel is for everyone. There is no VIP access. Being educated or smart doesn’t get you an iota of advantage on the strait and narrow. There’s no EasyPass. (Maybe there’s a HOV lane for those who do a lot of missionary work, though!) 

By the same token, however, having a particularly analytical or intellectual bent isn’t an impediment to living the Gospel, either. There is something here for everyone. You just have to be willing to look.

Lastly, I liked this challenge from President Hinckley enough that I want to included, even though it’s not obviously related to anything else I’ve written about so far:

Given what we have and what we know, we ought to be a better people than we are. We ought to be more Christlike, more forgiving, more helpful and considerate to all around us.

We stand on the summit of the ages, awed by a great and solemn sense of history. This is the last and final dispensation toward which all in the past has pointed. I bear testimony and witness of the reality and truth of these things.

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