Elder Holland on Depression

Standard

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland gave a talk at the Saturday afternoon session of the October 2013 General Conference that resonated with many struggling with psychiatric and psychological disorders. He specifically addressed Major Depressive Disorder but his words are broadly applicable. As someone with a PhD in clinical psychology, I appreciated his message of hope and love to those who struggle. While my interests and specialties are in understanding and helping those with neurological disorders, I have experience and training in helping people who struggle with depression, anxiety, ADHD, addictions, and other emotional and mental disorders. Thus I can say as a professional that Elder Holland nailed the issue of mental and emotional disorders right on the head.

In the past, many church leaders and members had unflattering views of psychological and psychiatric treatment; frankly, much of it was deserved. Diagnosis and treatment of psychiatric disorders in the past was mediocre to harmful in the past. We have come a long way. Most of this improvement in the fields of psychiatry and psychology has come in the past 30 years, with broader improvements in public understanding over the past 15-20 years.

At any given time in the U.S., 5-15% (varies by state) of adults meet criteria for clinical depression with an overall prevalence around 6.5% (Sources: http://www.cdc.gov/features/dsdepression/http://www.nimh.nih.gov/statistics/1mdd_adult.shtml). The 6.5% rate is from 2008 and rates have increased since then. 2% of the U.S. adult population suffer from severe depression (actual rate is slightly higher due to under-reporting and under-treatment).

The good news is that psychological and psychiatric treatment for depression and anxiety is highly effective (in general, effectiveness for individuals will vary). Around 70% of individuals will respond well to a combination of medication and “talk therapy”. That is not comforting for those who do not respond but there is always room for hope. You can find out more about depression and validated treatment by reading this information from the National Institute of Mental Health: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml

If you missed Elder Holland’s talk, you can watch it below. If you didn’t miss it, it is well worth your time to watch it again. I’ll write more on this topic soon. If you have any questions about psychological, psychiatric, or neurological disorders, I’ll be happy to try to answer your questions. If you are struggling with depression or anxiety or some other similar (or more severe) challenge, seek help from a competent professional in conjunction with seeking help from the Lord.

New! Watch Priesthood Session Live Online

Standard

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced that for the first time ever, the priesthood session of General Conference will be available to watch live online. Read the press release about General Conference. Specifically of interest:

“As part of a continued effort to make general conference proceedings more accessible to members around the globe, the priesthood session will be shown live for the first time through expanded channels, including LDS.org, the Mormon Channel and BYUtv.”

This is welcome news to those who live some distance from church buildings.

Language of the Brass and Gold Plates

Standard

“And he [Benjamin] also taught them concerning the records which were engraven on the plates of brass, saying: My sons, I would that ye should remember that were it not for these plates, which contain these records and these commandments, we must have suffered in ignorance, even at this present time, not knowing the mysteries of God. For it were not possible that our father, Lehi, could have remembered all these things, to have taught them to his children, except it were for the help of these plates; for he having been taught in the language of the Egyptians therefore he could read these engravings, and teach them to his children, that thereby they could teach them to their children, and so fulfilling the commandments of God, even down to this present time. I say unto you, my sons, were it not for these things, which have been kept and preserved by the hand of God, that we might read and understand of his mysteries, and have his commandments always before our eyes, that even our fathers would have dwindled in unbelief, and we should have been like unto our brethren, the Lamanites, who know nothing concerning these things, or even do not believe them when they are taught them, because of the traditions of their fathers, which are not correct.” (Mosiah 1:3-5).

From the above verses it is clear that the the brass plates were written in “the language of the Egyptians” (the “language of the Egyptians”, however, is a broad and ambiguous statement, which I will not address here). This is why the gold plates were also in Egyptian – their model was the brass plates, which were in that language (some form of Egyptian language). Why were sacred texts of the Jews in this language? It comes down to the fact that it was more efficient than Hebrew was for writing with limited space. Making golden plates appropriate for archival writing was also a difficult process. In essence, the script that they wrote in was a type of shorthand and one patterned off the language on the plates of brass (but likely changed over time). It’s also likely that the writing was an Egyptian script transliteration of Hebrew (or some variant of Hebrew over time).

“And now, behold, we have written this record according to our knowledge, in the characters which are called among us the reformed Egyptian, being handed down and altered by us, according to our manner of speech. And if our plates had been sufficiently large we should have written in Hebrew; but the Hebrew hath been altered by us also; and if we could have written in Hebrew, behold, ye would have had no imperfection in our record. But the Lord knoweth the things which we have written, and also that none other people knoweth our language; and because that none other people knoweth our language, therefore he hath prepared means for the interpretation thereof.” (Mormon 9:32-34).

Egyptian was an international language of the time. Israel was part of a large eastern Mediterranean trading circuit at the time with a lot of trading and travel in particular between Jerusalem and Egypt. Lehi knew Egyptian and so knowledge of the language was passed down through the generations, although the script and language were modified over the 1000 year span of the main story of the Book of Mormon. This means that the writing on the small plates of Nephi that Mormon included with his abridgment of the larger plates of Nephi, while readable to Mormon, was not necessarily the same script as he used for the rest of the plates (just as Old English is readable to those knowledgeable but qualitatively different from modern English).

What’s also clear from this passage about the language of the Book of Mormon is that “none other people knoweth our language”, meaning just what that sounds like – the particular language that the Nephites developed over time was unknown to anyone else in the world (and still is – well, except for the 3 Nephites). Further, the language used to keep records of the people and prophecies was not the main language that most of the Nephites spoke, at least over time as the civilization expanded. The language of the records (and possibly just those kept on metal plates) was a special language taught to those who would have responsibility for keeping the records. For example, “I, Zeniff, having been taught in all the language of the Nephites” (Mosiah 9:1; emphasis added). We have to remember that the Nephites were a small group of people who lived in a fairly discrete area of the Americas. There were always more Lamanites than Nephites (both terms are political and do not necessarily denote ancestry, race, or ethnicity), likely in part because there were other peoples in the Americas with whom the Lamanites mixed (the original Nephites originally might not because that would mean marrying non-covenant people but the term Nephite became more inclusive over time to include many who were not church members). In general though, both groups were small relative to the overall population of the Americas. This is evident in the fact that the Mulekites were living nearby for hundreds of years but were not seen (or at least commented on by the records we have from Mormon) until the time of Mosiah. Also, the Jaredites were nearby (in the last years of their civilization) but did not have much interaction with the other Book of Mormon groups. The Nephites might have had contact with other peoples but such records were not included in the Book of Mormon because they are not relevant in a book of scripture.

After that aside, I’ll return to languages. Languages change quickly, particularly when not written down and maintained. For example, another group of people came out of Jerusalem shortly after Lehi left, arriving at a different part of the Americas: “Behold, it came to pass that Mosiah discovered that the people of Zarahemla came out from Jerusalem at the time that Zedekiah, king of Judah, was carried away captive into Babylon. And they journeyed in the wilderness, and were brought by the hand of the Lord across the great waters, into the land where Mosiah discovered them; and they had dwelt there from that time forth. And at the time that Mosiah discovered them, they had become exceedingly numerous. Nevertheless, they had had many wars and serious contentions, and had fallen by the sword from time to time; and their language had become corrupted; and they had brought no records with them; and they denied the being of their Creator; and Mosiah, nor the people of Mosiah, could understand them. But it came to pass that Mosiah caused that they should be taught in his language. And it came to pass that after they were taught in the language of Mosiah, Zarahemla gave a genealogy of his fathers, according to his memory; and they are written, but not in these plates [small plates of Nephi].” (Omni 1:15-18; emphasis added).

Much of the teaching of language by Lehi, Nephi, and on through the generations was to not only maintain the language but also to maintain culture. However, most importantly, it was to maintain the ability to read the scriptures and thus encourage faith in God.

So, in closing and to summarize, the gold plates of Mormon that Joseph Smith translated were written in their “reformed Egyptian” script because that’s what the brass plates were written in (or at least the brass plates were a previous iteration of the particular script used on the gold plates). We don’t really know why the brass plates were in that language (Egyptian – some form of it but not the “reformed Egyptian” of the Book of Mormon). We’ll have to leave that answer until the future.

Church Organization: High Council

Standard

This post is in a series about the structure and organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In each stake of the LDS Church (a stake is a collection of 8-12 congregations) there is a High Council composed of 12 men who have been ordained as high priests. In modern times the first high council was organized on February 17, 1834 in Kirtland, Ohio.

“This day a general council of twenty-four high priests assembled at the house of Joseph Smith, Jun., by revelation, and proceeded to organize the high council of the church of Christ, which was to consist of twelve high priests, and one or three presidents as the case might require. The high council was appointed by revelation for the purpose of settling important difficulties which might arise in the church, which could not be settled by the church or the bishop’s council to the satisfaction of the parties.” (D&C 102:1-2).

In part, the high council is patterned after the organization of the children of Israel by Moses as suggested by his father in law Jethro (see Exodus 18). Members of the high council are called to assist others (stake presidency) in directing the work of the Lord’s church at a local (stake, ward, and branch) level. Members of a high council have no authority except that given them by a stake president – all responsibilities are supportive and administrative. High councilors never preside (except maybe in very rare circumstances where there is not a more senior person to preside). An overview of the core responsibilities of a member of a high council are found in the LDS Church’s administrative handbook in section 15.3.

Here are selections about the high council role of supporting the stake president because the stake presidency cannot be everywhere they could or need to be: “High councilors counsel about and sustain the stake presidency’s decisions to ordain brethren to the offices of elder and high priest. The stake president may authorize high councilors to represent him when men are ordained to the offices of elder and high priest.

“High councilors also counsel about and sustain the stake presidency’s decisions to issue callings to members. For some callings, the stake presidency may authorize high councilors to represent them in issuing the callings, presenting members to be sustained, and setting members apart as indicated in chapter 19.”

Each high councilor is also assigned to oversee a unit within a stake: “To assist them in overseeing the Melchizedek Priesthood, the stake presidency assigns a high councilor to represent them in each elders quorum, high priests group, ward, and branch in the stake.”

For this responsibility, high councilors typically visit their assigned unit at least monthly, attending as many general and leadership meetings within the unit as necessary.

High councilors also are assigned to speak regularly in units throughout the stake: “The stake presidency may assign high councilors to represent them by speaking in sacrament meetings and other settings.” These talks often occur monthly but there is leniency for talks to be given less often. There is a well-worn (and outdated) running joke in the church about how boring high councilors are as speakers. In listening to hundreds of high councilor talks over the years, I’ve found the majority of them quite enjoyable. In fact, the quality of the average high councilor talk has been higher than the quality of the average ward member talk (although I’ve had the opportunity to live in wards where church members generally give excellent talks). The joke or belief about boring high councilors might have had some truth in the past but has not been generally true for the various stakes I’ve lived in over the years.

Another responsibility members of a high council have is in church disciplinary councils. I’ve written about them in the past and will not expand more  at this point other than to state that those councils are meant to be as supportive to the member under disciplinary action as possible.

Members of high councils have other responsibilities too – service, meetings, committees. In the past, high council callings tended to be cushier – not particularly busy – but recently high councilors are being used more as the church expands. In order to reduce the load on individuals (e.g., stake presidencies) more tasks are delegated to help spread the work and reduce time away from families. At its core the high council is structured to support and edify families – for families are the core unit of the Church.

Church Organization: Overview

Standard

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is organized after the same manner as the church Christ organized during His mortal ministry. The head – or leader – of the LDS Church is the Savior, Jesus Christ. The core unit of the LDS Church is the family and all structures and organizations of the church are established to support and edify families. Watch this brief introduction to the organization of the LDS Church.

2013 Edition of LDS Scriptures

Standard

As a full-time missionary I started a process of finding the typographical errors in the LDS edition of the scriptures that I owned (I am a bit of a copy editor at heart). Examples include:

  • Alma 9 footnote 4a – there was a double dash between (9–10) instead of a single [this might have been an issue with the master copy from which prints were made].
  • Leviticus 20:9 included an extra space
  • In the Topical Guide under Affliction, “D&C” needed to be inserted after Helaman 12:3.
  • In the Index to the Triple Combination under Power, Powerful the reference listed as Alma 3:15 should be Alma 31:5 [correct online – I’m not sure about the new printed version]

Then there is my favorite typo (this has been corrected for a number of years but was a typo in the scriptures I received in 1992) from Luke 7:39.


The LDS Church did many other things than just fix the sporadic typos that occur – they standardized fonts, headings, and updated context based on all the work they’ve been doing with primary sources, particularly from Joseph Smith’s life. This is where the great and potentially greatly beneficial changes are – in updating the context of modern day revelations and providing clearer chronologies of church history.

One other thing I like is that the Church documented all changes. Even though 99% of changes were to supplementary material (e.g., Topical Guide or headings or footnotes), there will be individuals who use these changes as yet another tired way to attack the LDS Church (“I thought the church was perfect!”). I say that from experience because corrections or changes over the course of various editions of the LDS scriptures came up frequently when I interacted with certain individuals as a full-time missionary for the LDS Church. I was always frustrated by people dogmatically picking at such motes – not frustrated by their arguments, just frustrated that they criticized the LDS Church for having the audacity to update its own scriptures yet they saw no problem in changing which translation of the Bible they used. Some of the translations of the Bible are substantially different from the others. These same people were also not willing to read the Book of Mormon themselves; they tended to rely on the word of their pastor or “un-fettered” [anti-Mormon] writings about Mormons instead of finding out for themselves. Many of the people I talked to who were this way were pleasant individuals, they just did not care to hear about Mormons from Mormons. We all have our biases and inconsistencies, which is why the Savior taught that we should not worry so much about judging others as we should making sure that we are free from sin.

If you have time and interest, peruse the detailed summary of changes (PDF linked to in the preceding paragraph). There are many interesting changes.

The District

Standard

BYUtv, in conjunction with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has a new documentary series about 8 missionaries serving in the San Diego, CA mission. It provides a touching, if sometimes superficial, look at the lives of these missionaries. Missions are not easy. They are happy years but also years full of discouragement and difficulty. A mission is a time to try to help others come unto Christ but it is also a time when the missionary experiences a lot of growth. Missions are maturing more than just about any other experience a young woman or young man could be doing at that time. That maturity comes through a solemn, covenant responsibility, one that is weighty but lifting at the same time. I remember clearly how I felt when I was released as a full-time missionary more than 10 years ago. As my Stake President released me through the laying on of hands, I felt a weight lift off me. It was a bittersweet moment – a time of relief over the loss of that burden but also a twinge of regret over the loss of that blessing. I almost felt like sighing with relief and crying with remorse. Missions are beautiful experiences – times to focus on little but helping others follow the Savior. They are also times to really start to learn what being a disciple of Christ entails.

As for the show The District, there’s only one episode out so far so I am looking forward to the next one. Watch the first episode below.

A Loving Kick in the Pants

Standard

When the Savior needs to help someone make a needed behavior change, I imagine He does it much in the same manner as Elder Holland did during the Sunday morning session of General Conference (October 2012). Elder Holland gave a talk I called at the time a loving kick in the pants.

I hold to that description. As always, Elder Holland gave a remarkable talk. He told of the Apostles after Christ’s resurrection returning to fish the solitary sea of Galilee.

Here I ask your indulgence as I take some nonscriptural liberty in my portrayal of this exchange. In effect, Peter said to his associates: “Brethren, it has been a glorious three years. None of us could have imagined such a few short months ago the miracles we have seen and the divinity we have enjoyed. We have talked with, prayed with, and labored with the very Son of God Himself. We have walked with Him and wept with Him, and on the night of that horrible ending, no one wept more bitterly than I. But that is over. He has finished His work, and He has risen from the tomb. He has worked out His salvation and ours. So you ask, ‘What do we do now?’ I don’t know more to tell you than to return to your former life, rejoicing. I intend to ‘go a fishing.’” And at least six of the ten other remaining Apostles said in agreement, “We also go with thee.” John, who was one of them, writes, “They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately.”

So the Apostles were out working without success when the Savior appeared on the seashore, although at first they did not recognize Him. It was not until He asked them to cast their net again into the water did they start to recognize Him. They caught many fish and came to shore to talk with the Resurrected Lord. This is where the chastisement – the loving kick in the pants – started.

Jesus asked Peter three times – “Do you love me?” Peter responded, “Yea Lord, I do.” But the Savior needed to teach Peter a lesson – Peter had not fully grasped the nature of his calling as Apostle (and chief Apostle at that!).

To which Jesus responded (and here again I acknowledge my nonscriptural elaboration), perhaps saying something like: “Then Peter, why are you here? Why are we back on this same shore, by these same nets, having this same conversation? Wasn’t it obvious then and isn’t it obvious now that if I want fish, I can get fish? What I need, Peter, are disciples—and I need them forever. I need someone to feed my sheep and save my lambs. I need someone to preach my gospel and defend my faith. I need someone who loves me, truly, truly loves me, and loves what our Father in Heaven has commissioned me to do. Ours is not a feeble message. It is not a fleeting task. It is not hapless; it is not hopeless; it is not to be consigned to the ash heap of history. It is the work of Almighty God, and it is to change the world. So, Peter, for the second and presumably the last time, I am asking you to leave all this and to go teach and testify, labor and serve loyally until the day in which they will do to you exactly what they did to me.”

The calling of Apostle is to be a representative of Christ full-time. It is to love Christ and our Father enough to take up a cross and follow the Savior. Jesus chastised Peter for not understanding that after Christ’s resurrection Peter was not to return to fishing, he was to be a full-time fisher of men. The absence of the Savior does not mean the cessation of His work.

Even though the calling of Apostle is special, the rest of us are not off the hook from Elder Holland’s and the Savior’s loving kick in the pants.

My beloved brothers and sisters, I am not certain just what our experience will be on Judgment Day, but I will be very surprised if at some point in that conversation, God does not ask us exactly what Christ asked Peter: “Did you love me?” I think He will want to know if in our very mortal, very inadequate, and sometimes childish grasp of things, did we at least understand one commandment, the first and greatest commandment of them all—“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind.” And if at such a moment we can stammer out, “Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee,” then He may remind us that the crowning characteristic of love is always loyalty.

“If ye love me, keep my commandments,” Jesus said. So we have neighbors to bless, children to protect, the poor to lift up, and the truth to defend. We have wrongs to make right, truths to share, and good to do. In short, we have a life of devoted discipleship to give in demonstrating our love of the Lord. We can’t quit and we can’t go back.

Will we be able to answer the Savior when we stand before Him to be judged that we really do love Him, that we loved Him enough that we put Him first in our lives? Did we love Him enough to really love other people? Do we really understand the weight of the responsibility we bear when we are baptized and are confirmed and make sacred covenants to follow the Savior? Do we feel like we can stand before the Savior today with clean hands and a pure heart having done all we can to follow His commandments? If not, what changes need to be made? If not, start making the changes today. I end with Elder Holland’s testimony.

I testify from the bottom of my heart, with the intensity of my soul, to all who can hear my voice that those apostolic keys have been restored to the earth, and they are found in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To those who have not yet joined with us in this great final cause of Christ, we say, “Please come.” To those who were once with us but have retreated, preferring to pick and choose a few cultural hors d’oeuvres from the smorgasbord of the Restoration and leave the rest of the feast, I say that I fear you face a lot of long nights and empty nets. The call is to come back, to stay true, to love God, and to lend a hand. I include in that call to fixed faithfulness every returned missionary who ever stood in a baptismal font and with arm to the square said, “Having been commissioned of Jesus Christ.” That commission was to have changed your convert forever, but it was surely supposed to have changed you forever as well. To the youth of the Church rising up to missions and temples and marriage, we say: “Love God and remain clean from the blood and sins of this generation. You have a monumental work to do, underscored by that marvelous announcement President Thomas S. Monson made yesterday morning. Your Father in Heaven expects your loyalty and your love at every stage of your life.”

To all within the sound of my voice, the voice of Christ comes ringing down through the halls of time, asking each one of us while there is time, “Do you love me?” And for every one of us, I answer with my honor and my soul, “Yea, Lord, we do love thee.” And having set our “hand to the plough,” we will never look back until this work is finished and love of God and neighbor rules the world. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Those are powerful words from a loving Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ! May they inspire us to be a little better than we were yesterday, to be a little kinder, a little more loving, and a little more faithful.

Lowering the Age and Raising the Bar

Standard

I wanted to share a few thoughts about the lowering of the age requirements for LDS missionaries, which was announced on Saturday morning by Pres. Thomas S. Monson. Young men can serve at 18 if they are done with high school (or its equivalent) and young women can serve at 19 if they are done with high school (or its equivalent).

First about numbers: Church leaders are expecting a significant increase in the number of missionaries serving. I think it will have a greater effect initially on the number of women serving than the number of men, although it will affect both. We currently have 58,000 missionaries serving. Back in the 90s it was usually at 60,000 but was down to around 52,000 in recent years with a higher trend recently. The trend will continue upward after this announcement.

Second, this point should not be ignored: “Elder Holland also explained that missionaries will be asked to enhance their pre-mission preparation prior to entering the Missionary Training Center (MTC) and that time spent in the MTC will be reduced by approximately one-third for all missionaries. That change will help accommodate an overall increase in missionaries.” Missionaries called to missions in their own language typically only spend 20 days in the MTC so this will be reduced to around 14 days. The best education about the process of being a missionary occurs in the field. On the job training is more effective than any in the classroom training that occurs in the MTC. What the MTC does is get missionaries used to the missionary schedule (typically 6:30 AM – 10:30 PM). Missionaries who are learning a new language spend around 9 weeks in the MTC(s) with the extra time spent learning the language (or at least thinking you are learning the language). Again, most of the language learning occurs in the field. With a reduction of about 33%, the stay is reduced from 9 weeks to 6 weeks. As Elder Holland stated, this reduction in MTC time is to accommodate more missionaries (it can be assumed that the Church is expecting up to a 33% increase in missionaries, although this increase likely will occur over the course of a decade – I’m predicting {and I could be wrong – hopefully I am} an increase of about 15,000 within 10 years).

Third point. Where are the missionaries prepared now if not as much in the MTC? Where they always were supposed to be prepared – in the home and at church: “Elder Holland said parents need to help their children prepare for missionary service.” Back in 2003 Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley raised the bar for missionaries by raising the standard for the preparation of missionaries. The Lord wanted better-prepared servants who were ready to hit the ground running. Part of this change required revamping the missionary discussions (near the end of my mission new discussions were starting to be piloted in the adjacent mission to mine in Washington). These updated discussions emphasized the role of prophets more but more significantly and substantially relied on missionaries receiving revelation concerning the needs of those whom they were teaching. This greater emphasis of reliance on the Spirit meant that missionaries needed to be better prepared.

All of this implies that preparation need to occur in the homes. Parents have a greater responsibility to make sure that their children areprepared. With the recent age change and subsequent shortening of stays in MTCs, this puts even greater responsibility on parents to prepare their children. Young men and women should be intimately familiar with Preach My Gospel (notice: PDF link of the book) before they get to the MTC. Making it a regular part of gospel study is encouraged. Going on a mission is like jumping into the deep end of a pool without knowing how to swim. Missionaries have to rely on the Spirit to buoy them up because they are in over their heads (I can’t take credit for this analogy, it comes to me second hand from one of my ward mission leaders who met regularly with some of the Apostles to discuss church technology plans – he learned it from them). Learning to recognize the Spirit and act on those promptings best happens in the home. This means that parents have to be more conscientious about teaching their children and helping their children learn to recognize the Spirit. Youth need to know the doctrine, recognize the Spirit, and live the gospel. This has always been the case but it is imperative now that the youth are prepared before they are set apart as missionaries. Having served with the youth for the past 6 years, I can say that many are that prepared.

Overall, this was an exciting announcement from the prophet. I don’t know if I would have gone at 18 if I had the choice. I thoroughly enjoyed the year I had at Brigham Young University before my mission. I learned much that year, a lot that helped me prepare further to serve as a missionary. I could have gone at 18 but I value the experiences and friends I had at BYU as a freshman. On the other hand, if I went at 18, I might have modified my career trajectory earlier (I essentially figured out what I wanted to do when I was a missionary; my freshman year was spent in classes that were for a major that I no longer wanted to do. I don’t want to say that the whole year was a waste, it was valuable in many ways and it was a year I hold dear to my heart, but most of my classes were major-specific and thus not helpful when I changed my major to psychology). If I had gone on a mission right after high school maybe I would have figured out my new major before I spent a year on classes that in the end did not matter (although they were still great learning experiences). This is a lot of ifs and hypotheticals and is in the end a moot discussion because going earlier was not an option.

My point in belaboring this point is that the decision is not an easy one. The Church is not expecting every young man to go at 18. They do not even expect every young man to go at 19. The hope is that every able young man will be able to serve a mission but there are extenuating circumstances that contraindicate missions for some individuals. What is important is to make the decision of when to go with the inspiration of God and with input from parents and church leaders. What the Lord wants are missionaries who are willing and worthy to serve and who are prepared to act as instruments in His hands as full-time missionaries and throughout their lives.

Elder Bowen’s General Conference Talk

Standard

General Conference so far has been uplifting. I have enjoyed the talks and the music. One talk that touched me particularly was Elder Shayne M. Bowen’s from Saturday morning. He spoke about parents losing children to death. The grief is severe but the guilt and anger can become toxic and destructive. Christ offers reassurance in the resurrection and assuagement through the Atonement.

As a side note: I met Elder Bowen a couple times when he visited our previous ward. I was impressed when he took the time to meet with our youth and teach our young men – offering to answer whatever questions they had (and as Young Men’s President I was more than happy to turn my lesson time over to one of the Seventy). He is a great teacher and has a deep love and knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ.