Set Apart: To Sing, Serve and Share Testimony of His Gospel!

Lest I am accused of playing favorites, and particularly by my nephew, Jonathan Skaggs, a proud member of the BYU Men's Chorus, I am, in fact, here to make sure you are aware of the recently released album, Set Apart: Beloved Missionary Hymns, being made available as a free download! And, to give you a little behind the scenes insight, with his help.

I say this, because I have given great attention to the flurry of excitement in the lowering of the age of women who desire to serve a Mormon mission and the influx of new sister missionaries into the field; and rightfully so, as this is unprecedented in the history of the LDS Church!

As the Lord hastens His work, this totality in missionary service is thrilling for all to observe as we witness the rolling forth of the stone cut out of the mountain as it continues to gain momentum before our very eyes!

As my very first guest blogger, in the history of WBMW, it is my sincere pleasure to have Jonathan share his experiences both in the choir and in preparation to serve the Lord, full-time, as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for two years.

Jonathan Skaggs...

In August 2013, I became a member of the Men's Chorus at Brigham Young University, the nation's largest collegiate men's choir. There have been many wonderful experiences. I especially love singing hymns! In high school I often felt the spirit of our Savior when singing the hymns and other Christian music in different venues. However, this year has been a crowning experience as we had to strive to learn all the music necessary to reach our goals. We have been able to learn several pieces of music each week in preparation. We have performed in many different concerts. 
The BYU Men’s Chorus recently sang in General Conference for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; but our biggest accomplishment is even greater. It began a few years ago when our director, Sister Rosalind Hall, felt she should reach a greater audience and wanted to accomplish more with the BYU Men’s Chorus. She decided to stretch the men beyond previous capacity. We were going to sing a full length concert at the Touchan Theater in Saint George, Utah, in November of last year. We prepared diligently for our performance and learned more songs than ever before; without sacrificing our sound. Everything was ready to go a week before when we were told the disappointing news that we would not be preforming at Touchan because of bad weather. We decided to turn this lemon into lemonade, by throwing a free concert here at Brigham Young University.
BYU Men's Chorus 2013
The semester was coming to a close and we performed a concert at the Mission Training Center. The Spirit was so strong it was almost tangible. Immediately following the concert we had our last meeting with the choir and Sister Hall announced to us her plan for the next semester. With President Monson’s missionary announcement, she wanted to do something for all missionaries. Missionaries are limited to spiritual and uplifting music while they serve a mission. She also wanted to reach a greater audience by creating a CD of beloved missionary hymns to be able to download absolutely free of charge. 
After winter break we embarked on this journey. Putting the whole thing together was more work than I thought it would be; and I knew it was going to be a lot. We are an excellent choir, but there is no way that we could have done this project without the help of the Lord. I could often feel his presence as we sang and knew that we were doing what the Savior wanted to us to do. 
I leave on a full time mission to the Argentina Rosario Mission on July 3, 2013. I know that the Lord has called me to serve in Argentina, and that as I learn to trust in Him he will bless me to bring the Gospel to the pure in heart. I am very excited to have this inspired CD that I can take on my mission, and that it will help me be more in tune with the Spirit. I have learned when we are striving for a righteous cause, Christ will help us to do his work and bless us in other ways also. I know that this is His work and He is hastening the Work!

Thank you Jonathan! You will be a tremendous Missionary in God's Army! Thank you for sharing your special experiences, and sweet testimony, with all of us here on WBMW. Now, everyone please go and download this beautiful album and share it with everyone you know!

Download Set Apart: Beloved Missionary Hymns FREE HERE.



"It’s not surprising that the BYU Men’s Chorus is often referred to as a “missionary choir.” If any choir knows the joy, excitement, dedication, difficulty, trials, and tears of missionary work, this one does. Nearly two-thirds of the 180 members have already served full-time missions for the Church, and most of the others either have their calls or are awaiting their assignment. Collectively, they’ve given over 2 million hours of missionary service, having walked, biked, driven, flown, and even canoed over 7.8 million miles to preach the gospel. These men have served in 98 different missions, speaking 31 languages, and covering 67 countries and 23 of the United States." The Set Apart Project
You can also LIKE BYU Men's Chorus Facebook Page

tDMg
Kathryn Skaggs

More from WBMW:

Boy Scouts of America Propose Brilliant Plan: Upset Pretty Much Everyone

Update: LDS Church Releases Brilliant Statement in Response BSA Proposal

Newly Called Sister Missionaries Unite and Create EPIC Video

New Missionary Age Requirement: It's NOT about you!


LDS Church Releases Brilliant Statement in Response BSA Proposal

In a very surprising move, probably to most, the Mormon Newsroom released an official statement today from leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in response to the Boy Scouts of America's highly controversial proposal to include openly gay youth in the program, that no doubt has set off, already, more than a few camp fires!

From the Mormon Newsroom:




"For 100 years, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has enjoyed a strong, rewarding relationship with Boy Scouts of America (BSA).
Recently, BSA has been reviewing a possible policy change in its standards for membership and leadership. Now that BSA has finished its review process and has proposed a resolution for consideration, the Church has issued the following statement: 
“Over the past several weeks BSA has undertaken the difficult task of reviewing its membership standards policy. In their own words, this undertaking has been 'the most comprehensive listening exercise in its history.' 
"While the Church has not launched any campaign either to effect or prevent a policy change we have followed the discussion and are satisfied that BSA has made a thoughtful, good-faith effort to address issues that, as they have said, remain 'among the most complex and challenging issues facing the BSA and society today.' 
"The current BSA proposal constructively addresses a number of important issues that have been part of the on-going dialogue including consistent standards for all BSA partners, recognition that Scouting exists to serve and benefit youth rather than Scout leaders, a single standard of moral purity for youth in the program, and a renewed emphasis for Scouts to honor their duty to God. 
"We are grateful to BSA for their careful consideration of these issues. We appreciate the positive things contained in this current proposal that will help build and strengthen the moral character and leadership skills of youth as we work together in the future.”

To those who regularly read this blog, it is doubtful that I need to say much about how I feel right now, as I went out on a limb only a few days ago, and basically said that I prayed that this would be the direction that the Church would take, and why.  Needless to say, I am so pleased with this decision, as it is consistent with not only the current outreach to our gay brothers and sisters, but it is, in my opinion, how the Savior also would have responded.

tMDg
Kathryn Skaggs

WBMW: Boy Scouts of America Propose Brilliant Plan: Upset Pretty Much Everyone

Photo Credit: LDS.org

I Can't Go to World Congress of Families So I'm Sending Angela!

Angela Fallentine (You all remember our courageous defender of the family!) needs our help to send her to next month's World Congress of Families, being held in Sydney, Australia. Angela has agreed that she'll report back, right here, and keep us informed with ongoing updates throughout this very important global conference on the FAMILY!

As soon as Angela told me about her desire to attend WCF, but her lack of means to get there, I was excited to get involved and help raise funds to get her there, as a way of vicariously going myself; and you can go, too! Angela knows that preserving the family means as much to all of us here at WBMW, as it does to her; she just needs a little help from a few good friends.


One of the highlights of this year's World Congress of Families is getting to hear our own Sheri Dew, who will be a keynote speaker (Trying to not be totally jealous.), who yes, Angela will, in our place, go and listen to, and report back, right here, on everything she has to say on the family! 

There isn't a more wonderful person to address World Congress of Families than Sheri Dew!

In a world where women are turning away from the family and losing as their first priority the nurture and care of children, Sherri Dew stands at the forefront of successful, independent single women, who, no doubt would have given it all up, in a heartbeat, for a family of her own. I have such deep respect for her, in that as she has forged ahead in both her church assignments, with faithful dedication, as well her very successful, professional career, she has never missed the opportunity to share her  humble testimony of where her inner most desires truly reside.

Now, back to the purpose of this post!

This is a great opportunity to have Angela go to WCF and bring back to us what she learns in helping to preserve the family! I know she'll do a great job. If each of us contribute whatever amount we are able, I am confident it will be money well invested! Not only that, your donation will say that YOU stand for FAMILY!



By golly, the way I see things, if I can't go to World Congress of Families then I'm going to do everything I can to help Angela go, because I know she is just as passionate about traditional marriage and family as I am, and will soak up every minute of the conference as I would, and will do an even better job than I would of reporting back here to all of us about what she learns! Not a bad return for whatever small amount we are willing to give her to attend.





So, to my faithful WBMW readers...

Let's send Angela to World Congress of Families!  


Boy Scouts of America Propose Brilliant Plan: Upset Pretty Much Everyone

The Boy Scouts of America will present an important proposal at their meeting next month, that if passed will become effective January 2014, which will allow openly gay youth to fully participate in the scouting program; but will continue to ban openly gay adults. In my initial, positive response, I quickly came to realize that I was among very few who share similar feelings; and this, surprisingly, coming from both the left and right; Mormons and gays.


The instigating of this potential change in BSA policy

Due to increased pressure from the homosexual community and many of their commercial allies, who some have either already withdrawn funding or are threatening to withdraw monetary support if gays are not allowed to fully participate, BSA have been compelled to spend a considerable amount of time, since February, on an extensive journey with the intent to mine the best possible solution; so as not to compromise their long held conservative, religious values.  This process has resulted in excellent feedback from those who are longtime supporters of the scouting program, and the general public, who have a great interest in the future of scouting in America; some who are strongly opposed to any changes and some who feel changes are a must.

But even with all of the input that BSA received, they freely admit the issue to be "among the most complex and challenging issues facing BSA and society today" and acknowledged the extreme difficulty in determining the possible impact of policy changes, of any kind, will ultimately have; but most agreed that youth should not be denied the benefits of scouting. 

In regard to the proposed resolution, BSA made this statement: "The proposed resolution also reinforces that Scouting is a youth program, and any sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual, by youth of Scouting is contrary to the virtues of Scouting."

The message I hear in that statement, is that although openly gay youth would be welcomed to participate in BSA, they will be required to adhere to the existing standards of BSA; which I can't imagine anyone would find an unreasonable requirement for those wanting to participate in a group with a known expectation.

BSA proposal being viewed as caving into social pressure

This seems to be the popular, initial opinion that I'm hearing and reading online, from most... that BSA with this proposal is conceding by allowing openly gay youth to participate, but not allow openly gay adults to be leaders; is just a way to meet the gay community half-way.

In fact, some conservative Christian groups are promoting a specific day to get behind BSA and send a message of support. It is their belief that by doing so, perhaps BSA will have the strength to stand up against being bullied by the gay agenda and not allow openly gay youth to participate. (see video below)


Video: Stand With Scouts Sunday



Let me say publicly, that I'm opposed to this response. Not because I think that my fellow Christians are necessarily wrong.  I just feel that they've not really thought this through completely, and that currently they are acting out of fear.  Because once they do think it through, I honestly believe that they will begin to see this proposal, allowing gay youth to participate in the BSA program, as an opportunity to emulate the teachings of Jesus Christ.

As we've heard from BSA, the extensive research that they've conducted to reach this proposal is what brought them to this conclusion. Reuters reported that, "A report on the matter found religious groups linked to the Scouts were concerned with homosexual adult leaders, not with youth, and concluded "a change in the membership policy specific to youth only would be consistent with the religious beliefs of the BSA's major chartered organizations."

I think this is significantly, significant!

How I think BSA proposal could work for the LDS Church (Note: These are just my personal thoughts, as I am not in any way speaking on behalf of the LDS Church)

I'll admit, perhaps, that I probably view this BSA proposal through a different lens than most; due to the fact that I frequently blog about issues relating to gay Mormons. In other words, I see this proposal as a positive for faithful gay Mormons in the LDS Church; and from that perspective, I can see this as a very, very good thing! And not only for gay youth, but for faithful gay Mormon adults, too.

I also see this as a positive for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in their outreach to the homosexual community in general. Of course the Church will wait to give any official response or decisions until after BSA have taken their vote and made a final policy decision. Meanwhile I imagine the Church will prayerfully consider every angle of what accepting this proposal would mean for the Church.

Michael Purdy, Church Spokesman made this statement, "The Church has been provided a copy of the new resolution regarding membership standards for BSA. Church leaders will take the time needed to fully review the language and study the implications of this new proposal. We note that BSA will make a final decision on this matter at their National Annual Meeting next month."

Anything we discuss at this point is simply speculation about what hasn't even been decided by BSA, nor accepted by the LDS Church. If the first does occur, it would be very surprising, at least from my perspective, to imagine the Church not supporting BSA considering the current outreach to the homosexual community and the feedback BSA received.  Again, I absolutely see this as a potential positive and even a brilliant proposal by BSA; almost tailor made for the Mormons!

Let's imagine....  

Within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, faithful gay Mormons, could potentially be called, if their bishop or branch president felt inspired to do so, to serve as leaders in the scouting program of their branch or ward; because although they are same-gender attracted, they do not practice homosexual behavior. Faithful gay Mormons, most single, have chosen a life of complete celibacy, in making the choice to be obedient to God by keeping His commandment to stay morally clean. In my opinion, these individuals would make excellent leaders to serve with our youth!

In considering gay Mormon youth, it's important to remember that all youth, 12 through 18 (Usually the time when we would be concerned about most morality issues.) homosexual or heterosexual, regularly meet with their bishop for worthiness interviews to discuss personal spiritual challenges and growth. And certainly issues of gender identity require spiritual guidance.

All youth need the youth programs of the Church. The gospel of Jesus Christ is all inclusive, and in my opinion if this push by the homosexual community has forced BSA to include gay youth, then perhaps we are seeing the Hand of the Lord in action; as I can't imagine He would want it any other way. So in this case of gay advocacy, it has worked in favor of God's children; in my opinion.

I am not a scouting expert and so this post is not addressing many of the issues that those of you who are, may be concerned about. I realize that there are many of you who are thinking of the many logistics of having openly gay youth in the program. I understand your initial fears of things you don't fully understand and/or are not comfortable with. And one thing you probably don't understand, think about, or realize, is that more than likely, your son has already shared a pup tent with a gay boy that you just didn't know was gay at the time; or will in the future, regardless of whether openly gay youth are permitted or not. Also, there are equal concerns about pornography, masturbation, and sexual promiscuity regardless of sexual preference.

If this does go forward, and I personally pray that it does, I would hope that we will trust LDS leaders making the decisions about how to make it work, and that the program will be setup in such a way to help all involved feel comfortable, so that all of the youth involved will feel the inclusion that their Heavenly Father would have them feel as they participate in BSA.

Every child of God should feel included in His Church programs

Last week, in my stake we had Stake Conference. In the adult session, my Stake President took some time at the close of the meeting to informally speak to us about some of the current issues going on in the Church. In particular, he brought up the new website: MormonsandGays.org, which I blogged about here.  He read the LDS Church position on homosexuality, posted on the website, and shared that he had recently spent some time with two gay members, recently baptized in our stake, and encouraged us as members to reach out and help them to feel of our love. He also commented on how the gay community, in general, see Mormons as the "enemy" and, although I don't recall his exact words, inferred that we needed to work to change that perception. I was deeply touched that my stake president wants to help the members of my stake learn to become more Christlike, and challenged us specifically relating to gay members.

"The experience of same-sex attraction is a complex reality for many people. The attraction itself is not a sin, but acting on it is. Even though individuals do not choose to have such attractions, they do choose how to respond to them. With love and understanding, the Church reaches out to all God’s children, including our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters." 

I realize that I have not addressed every concern, not by a long shot, that have many of you upset with this 'half-way' proposal, as many of you see it. I know that some of you wonder what will happen when these gay young men reach 18 and would 'like' to become scout leaders? There's a simple answer to that: Individually they will need to make a life choice. right? I don't think BSA is required to worry about that in lieu of making the right decision for BSA; where youth are the priority and not the desires of adults. I think the statements BSA have distributed make that point pretty clear.  I have to say, its kind of nice to see adults actually putting children first. It's truly a rarity in our day. So thanks, BSA --  much respect.

I have no clue what will ultimately end up happening in about a month from now with BSA, and less of how the LDS Church will respond. Heck, I probably shouldn't have even speculated about it. I guess I just have a tender spot for gay youth and our faithful gay Mormon members, and anywhere I see an opportunity to include them in ways that I believe Jesus Christ would do so, I would really like to see that happen; awkward as I am at it.


"As a church, nobody should be more loving and compassionate. Let us be at the forefront in terms of expressing love, compassion and outreach."   
Elder Quentin L. Cook

tDMg
Kathryn Skaggs

Note: In regard to any comments you'd like to leave, make sure they are respectful in every way, and on point to what I've written about and not other facets of BSA that are not pertinent to this  particular conversation. Thanks!

LDS.org President Monson Discusses Strengths of Scouting

New ERA: A Pillar Supporting the Priesthood

Photo Credit: LDS.org

Brazilian SCAM at General Conference?

Remember these two cute Brazilian guys with their adorable smiles and awesome signs, desperate to score a few tickets, just so they could get inside the Conference Center to see and hear living prophets at last week's LDS General Conference?

As I was just arriving at conference myself, I immediately noticed these energetic young men, and actually asked them if I could take their picture and share it; they were happy to oblige!






Being the social media enthusiast than I am, I posted the picture on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus, immediately! A lot of us were pulling for these guys, hoping that someone would come along and give them an extra ticket or two.


I mean, look at them!!!


Since then, not just one or two of you, but many of you have asked about them -- wondering if I ever heard if those cute Brazilian boys got a golden ticket? And frankly,  I'd actually wondered myself....

Strangely, these two cutie-patooties had captured our hearts! I realized this fairly quickly, because as I was listening to President Monson announce the new temple to be built in Rio de Janeiro, my mind soon thought about those boys and how much I hoped that some angel of mercy had answered their fervent prayers, and that they were able to be inside the Conference Center for that historic announcement. What a tender mercy that would be! Right?

I then thought how fun it would be to later run into them and get to hear the exciting followup story, and get to tell you all about it -- oh the tears of joy!

Ah, but no! Instead, it seems as though I may very well have been majorly set-up! That's right. And you along with me. Uh huh. I, being the naive, fairly new conference attendee from SoCal, may very well have fallen for a conference-ticket-beggar-SCAM-artist! And a very proud one, or two... at that!

Here's how the heist (alleged) went down...

Wednesday on my WBMW Facebook page I received an alert from a guy who left a comment on above picture, posted on my FB wall: claiming to be one of the cute Brazilian guys in photograph,  naming himself, the guy next to him; and a actually a third accomplice -- which if I'd used my iPhone in landscape mode I'd of captured. Rats!

I then responded to confirm that indeed it was 'he' and asked if 'they' got tickets?



He replied: that 'they' indeed did! And not only that, but that they got THREE tickets for ALL sessions!

Me: I thought WOW! There has got to be some AMAZING story that I must find out! And so I asked him if I could 'friend' him on Facebook to obtain the entire story? And he agreed. Whoopee!

Next: We took it to private FB inbox messaging and this is what I found out... (posted with permission)



  • Conversation started Wednesday
  • Douglas

    Hi Kathryn, thanks again for the posting.
    Are you related with elder Skaggs that served mission in Brazil?
  • Kathryn Skaggs

    Hey Douglas,
    I'm Kathryn, I'm the one who took the picture of you guys and the blogger on A Well-Behaved Mormon Woman Facebook Page who posted the picture!
    Where did you see the picture? I have lots of questions about how you got your ticket... who from? I'd love to know more about you guys?
    Were you excited to hear about the new temple in Brazil?
    Anyway, since I'm a blogger and all my followers were so interested in your story I'd love to tell them you got tickets and anything else you guys would like to share about yourselves. 
    Kathryn
  • Kathryn Skaggs

    Ha ha! We must have been writing at the same time! lol
    I have bunch of nephews. Maybe? First name?
  • Douglas

    Dan
  • Kathryn Skaggs

    Yup! That's my nephew! How do you know him?
  • Douglas

    We served Santa Maria mission together in 2005
  • Kathryn Skaggs

    Oh cool! I see that you are friends here on FB. 
    Small world!
    So how in the world did you score three ticket to all sessions of conference? Who found you and did that?
  • Douglas

    Well...
    lets start like this...
  • Kathryn Skaggs

    ?
  • Douglas

    Since three of us Victor, Alessandro and I leave here in the US for a few years, we were not able to get ticket with our passaport. Then we decided to ask for tickets, but we didn't want to be like everyone else [with one simple piece of paper], so we exaggerated a little. Actually, we spent a few hours preparing the signs. After a huge brainstorm, we decided on those signs. Some of those included: "Mr Booggieman ate my ticket''. "Aliens seeking tickets" "3% OFF on your tithing for a tickets" and so on...
  • Douglas

    ...
  • Kathryn Skaggs

    lol
  • Douglas

    Probably 15 min after we were standing in the crowd next to the police and anti-Mormons, this beautiful blond woman came to me and gave us three tickets [of course I gave her a hug]. Since we had time, we stood there just for fun, when out of nowhere, another blond [Brazilian] gave us 2 tickets for the afternoon session. From there and on, we got one by one. Oh I can't forget to mention that I run into this elder from my previous ward back in Oregon [I was his scout leader], and he had an extra tickets as well. We had so much fun standing there asking for tickets. We felt the spirit and were very happy because we were in the same room as the prophet. When the Rio de Janeiro temple was announced, the started to high five each other - it was kind of fun. Best of all, with some of those tickets, we got plaza. And with a little bit of Brazilian way, we sit just a few rolls in front of the prophet - we didn't even had to watch the conference through the screen. As a result of our fun and 'accomplishment', we will repeat it next conference...with a little bit more salt and pepper.
  • Douglas

    Oh Alessandro had your picture in his timeline
  • Kathryn Skaggs

    What a wonderful story.
    Now tell me... what do you mean when you say, "a little bit of Brazilian way"? and "a little more salt and pepper"?
  • Douglas

    It's confidential.
    just kidding...
    Well, since we were in the plaza and there was some sits available in the front, we sit there. Alessandro and I were joking about going dressed as the pioneers or like captain Moroni... just a thought.
  • Kathryn Skaggs

    Ha ha! You guys sound like a fun bunch of characters! I knew it when I saw you and that's why I stopped to take your picture!



Well, I don't know if we were all scammed or not (Because Doug and his buddies are just way too fun, and cute, to be scam artists -- right? Who knows, really, perhaps I'm being scammed again, right NOW, and they just want their 10 minutes of fame on my blog and indeed they never even got tickets at all!), but I'll be more skeptical when I see cute young Brazilian young men, with clever signage hanging out on the corner; trying to get tickets for General Conference next time around. NOT going to fall for it!

But Douglas, if you see me up at General Conference in six months... let's just say... you don't want to see me on that corner in six months... 

                                                                                     

tDMg
Kathryn Skaggs

Why Prophets to Proclaim TRUTH? If NOT a People Willing to Obey?


Why Prophets to Proclaim Truth Without a People Willing to Obey?

I don't recall ever feeling to cherish a General Conference more than this latest one, because this one caused an epiphany beyond former realizations as to the dire necessity of our need to have prophets upon the earth; that they should speak and we must act.

That they did their part was glorious to me and tremendously faith reaffirming; giving me such a renewal of strength which, although I knew I was in need of going into conference, as we all generally feel, but when the injection came, it overwhelmed me in such a way that the strength of its force took me off guard - in that only after the fact did I realized just how deficient I had become, yet amazed that in discovering myself in such a weakened stated, even so I had miraculously, and unbeknownst, been sustained by His strong and mighty Hands; a humbling revelation.

Breaking away from past conference reporting...

This truly is a marvelous work and a wonder, with incredible power behind it -- which is what sustains it, literally. This post is not going to be in my normal conference reporting style, as I feel to simply write what is in my heart and share my sincere thoughts with you. I made the decision a few days ago, that there are enough people this time around, who have provided detailed highlights, and so I really haven't felt the need to push that type of content out this time. And as the text is now available, earlier than in times past, I'm not going to worry about extracting an abundance of quotes either -- because I trust that each of you will now find what is personal, as you mine those sacred words in your own quiet spaces.

Rather, as the dust of last weekend's excitement has settled down a bit, I am grateful to now sit back and reflect on the importance of what was taught by living prophets during  General Conference, and how that will affect my life, in personal application -- because for me, it was a profound and extremely meaningful moment in time, as a member of the LDS Church, and specifically, as a Mormon woman.

The knock-it-out-of-the-park Sunday morning session!

I think the best way to express my feelings in regard to my overall response to conference, is to share with you my reaction, which, following the Sunday morning session (which is where I'll pick up since I did already write about Saturday), it would not be an exaggeration to say, I was on fire, every way spiritually, possible!

I was filled with the fire of testimony, the fire of faith rekindled, and the fire of enthusiasm for having heard prophets boldly stand up and proclaim truth, in the face of what has been months of relentless advocacy in opposition to their prophetic counsel and teachings, by many, and sadly even some active members, who believe them to be out and out wrong; publicly saying so; as hard as that is to believe.

But let me just say, that I sincerely feel, that everything said and done throughout the entire conference was conveyed as a manifestation of God's love for His children, with a spirit of true charity, which I believe would have been felt by all within the sound of their voices.

With that said, I also feel that there were clear doctrines and principles taught, intended to stir individual hearts' in hopes of seeing less of some of the problems that the Church has been dealing with over these last few months, in regard to perhaps those who have been advocating outside of the Church for ordination to priesthood, or even member support of gay marriage, or even perhaps some of the gender equality campaigns we have seen. And, of course this is simply my own personal opinion, or speculation, of how I see things, from my perspective.

Taken on morning walk to Conference Center...
For each of us, as it should be, General Conference is intended to be a personal, revelatory experience.  And that experience, for me, began on Friday, as I shared with you in my last conference report, which peaked during the Sunday morning session while leading up to hearing from the man we sustain as President of the Church, Thomas S. Monson - considered by members of the Mormon faith, to be a prophet, seer and revelator.

Social media report

I know that for some who have tried to use social media to share General Conference online, they feel it a distraction. My experience, however, is the complete opposite. I am intensely absorbed when needing to use my sense of hearing so acutely, in order to transcribe the words of prophets then out onto the Internet -- therefore deeply having their words impressed into my mind and heart while hearing them; while simultaneously, oftentimes typing them out at the same time.

Other times, I have previously transcribed them (only moments ahead), and then must carefully listen for when those words are physically spoken; so that I can then send them out at the exact right time. It is an interesting phenomenon, as they are not living words until they are both spiritually and physically spoken by the person/prophet who created them.

Therefore, when the words are actually then spoken, by a prophet/prophetess, the power of those words comes forth in their full power and witness to the world, and together, those listening, all experience that moment in time, regardless of where we are, or how that transmission comes to us; radio, satellite, living room, church building, tweet, Facebook, behind a computer screen, etc., -- as one.

And what happened to me, on Sunday, was overwhelming and unexpected, as the power in those words literally transmitted themselves into my ears, mind and heart simultaneously, then out through my fingertips into the ether and onto whatever social networking platform -- where eyes, minds and hearts were prepared at that particular second in time, to then receive.

That moment, where the world stops - I am SO thankful for Prophets' of God!

Meanwhile, my spirit being testified to of the living reality of what had just been spoken ... it being literally the words of God, bearing witness to the reality that these are His living Prophets',  proclaiming His truth, with Power and Authority -- asking His people to willingly obey!

I was reminded, that this is not a gospel of coercion. This is a plan built upon the principle of agency, which God honors, deeply. And yet he sends forth His prophets to proclaim His truths  to those who profess His Name and lovingly lays before us the desires of His heart that we might show Him our love, through counsel and commandments that He gives to us.

God will not force us to do what is right. Nor will He withhold; at least not now, the blessings of membership in His earthly kingdom... where He will continue to nurture us as babes, in hopes that we will ultimately come unto Him and follow Him... And so, as long as there are people willing to obey, the Lord will continue to send forth His prophets to proclaim truth.

On Sunday morning, I felt as though we had been given a double-play that knocked it out of the park, so to speak, in Elder L. Tom Perry and President Thomas S. Monson's talks placed back-to-back, that for me, coupled together, almost as if second-witnesses of each other -- almost as if the two of them had gotten together and planned it that way.

A Tale of Two Prophets

In fact, I can almost picture such a meeting in my mind's eye; kind of like the match story but not quite as mischievous. No. This would have been much more serious minded, knowing that truth needed to be proclaimed, because the children of God needed to hear a clear message from their prophets; else WHY have prophets to Proclaim TRUTH? And by golly they too were asking the question about their own purpose in proclaiming God's word and wondering what's the point IF NOT a People Willing  to OBEY? This all made sense to them, so they made a plan and prepared their bold sermons to go forth throughout the land -- and put this system to the test; because frankly, things were starting to get out of hand in Mormon-ville... with this member and that member walking in his or her own way - some disregarding completely what prophets of late had clearly counseled...

On base:

Well, I have no clue how these talks came about, but for me the order in which they came seemed inspired and from my perspective it was, and I seriously doubt any conspiring was necessary, as I believe the Lord directs the affairs of the Church and inspires each of His prophets as to what is needful that they should speak in these conferences; making it even more of a witness to me of it being a divine message in how it came forth.

Here are some of the truths, that I was so deeply grateful to hear proclaimed, and with such power. I'm going to share excepts, beginning with Elder Perry's sermon, titled: Obedience to Law is Liberty but along with that I'm going to include what issue, that for me personally, it helped to clarify, or address.





Mainstream Society and the more liberal element even among those within the Church:
"Today we find ourselves in another war. This is not a war of armaments. It is a war of thoughts, words, and deeds. It is a war with sin, and more than ever we need to be reminded of the commandments. Secularism is becoming the norm, and many of its beliefs and practices are in direct conflict with those that were instituted by the Lord Himself for the benefit of His children."

For me, this addresses the issue of same-sex marriage very clearly; that there is no room to support or advocate for it. It's not going to happen -- ever. It is clearly oppositional to what prophets of the Lord are teaching. Elder Bednar also taught powerful doctrine along these lines as well. In my opinion it is time to get off the fence on this matter. I don't know how much more direct our prophets are required to teach on this matter.

"The doctrine of the family and the home was recently reiterated with great clarity and forcefulness in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” It declared the eternal nature of families and then explained the connection to temple worship. The proclamation also declared the law upon which the eternal happiness of families is predicated, namely, “The sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.”
God reveals to His prophets that there are moral absolutes. Sin will always be sin. Disobedience to the Lord’s commandments will always deprive us of His blessings. The world changes constantly and dramatically, but God, His commandments, and promised blessings do not change. They are immutable and unchanging. Men and women receive their agency as a gift from God, but their liberty and, in turn, their eternal happiness come from obedience to His laws. As Alma counseled his errant son Corianton, “Wickedness never was happiness” (Alma 41:10)."

By this point in Elder Perry's stirring declaration, I was moved by his bold pronouncements and in his willingness to just lay it all on the line, and tell it like it is, already -- and then he continued... again, emphasizing with the use of the word, "doctrine" again! And to those who take issue, wondering what is and isn't doctrine in the Mormon faith, Elder Perry is helping you out here, on this particular matter that some seem to be having a problem with lately.

"Surely there could not be any doctrine more strongly expressed in the scriptures than the Lord’s unchanging commandments and their connection to our happiness and well-being as individuals, as families, and as a society. There are moral absolutes. Disobedience to the Lord’s commandments will always deprive us of His blessings."  
These things do not change.  
"In a world where the moral compass of society is faltering, the restored gospel of Jesus Christ never wavers, nor should its stakes and wards, its families, or its individual members. We must not pick and choose which commandments we think are important to keep but acknowledge all of God’s commandments. We must stand firm and steadfast, having perfect confidence in the Lord’s consistency and perfect trust in His promises.
May we ever be a light on the hill, an example in keeping the commandments, which have never changed and will never change."

That was enough. I was good. I could have folded up shop and been content for another six months. My cup runneth over at this point, as I could hardly see my computer screen. I was literally typing through tears in that dim media room, as I was trying my best to get those last words out into the ether... before President Monson began to speak... 

Up at bat...



And suddenly, I realized that something in President Monson's tone was different.... (Mind you, the room is dark, as the media room is in the back of the Conference Center, and my head is looking down at either the transcript or at my computer screen.) First of all, no joke to begin, but this... an acknowledgement of his prophetic responsibility and privilege to address the children of God.



"I seek an interest in your faith and prayers as I respond to the privilege to address you.
Throughout the ages, men and women have sought for knowledge and understanding concerning this mortal existence and their place and purpose in it, as well as for the way to peace and happiness. Such a search is undertaken by each of us.
This knowledge and understanding are available to all mankind. They are contained in truths which are eternal."

He then references the scriptures. As only President Monson can, as he has perfected this art of the teacher, after gently telling us that obedience is the higher law, acknowledges the lesser, in preparation of the unfortunate necessity to having to go there; which he does -- using himself, as a child, i.e.

'There is no need for you or for me, in this enlightened age when the fulness of the gospel has been restored, to sail uncharted seas or to travel unmarked roads in search of truth. A loving Heavenly Father has plotted our course and provided an unfailing guide—even obedience. A knowledge of truth and the answers to our greatest questions come to us as we are obedient to the commandments of God.
We learn obedience throughout our lives. Beginning when we are very young, those responsible for our care set forth guidelines and rules to ensure our safety. Life would be simpler for all of us if we would obey such rules completely. Many of us, however, learn through experience the wisdom of being obedient."

Once President Monson has shared the follies of his youth, he strives to raise us all to a higher level and inspires us on in the beautiful example of Abraham's obedience to God, although extremely difficult, not understanding at all the reasons why God would ask such a thing of him, nevertheless, Abraham was willing to do what God asked of him, without question, because he loved and trusted God;  above all other people, philosophies, norms, etc.

Do we have such faith as this kind of obedience requires? The scripture that comes to mind: Whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servant, it is the same... So again, I am brought back to issues such as same-sex marriage, priesthood, gender equality, etc., and any type of advocacy that take place outside of the Church, that cause division within; it simply cannot be in harmony with the Lord's way. No matter how hard I try to find a charitable place for it, it's just not there.

"A soul-stirring account of obedience is that of Abraham and Isaac. How painfully difficult it must have been for Abraham, in obedience to God’s command, to take his beloved Isaac into the land of Moriah to offer him as a sacrifice. Can we imagine the heaviness of Abraham’s heart as he journeyed to the appointed place? Surely anguish must have racked his body and tortured his mind as he bound Isaac, laid him on the altar, and took the knife to slay him. With unwavering faith and implicit trust in the Lord, he responded to the Lord’s command. How glorious was the pronouncement, and with what wondered welcome did it come: “Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.”
Abraham had been tried and tested, and for his faithfulness and obedience the Lord gave him this glorious promise: “In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice."
Although we are not asked to prove our obedience in such a dramatic and heart-wrenching way, obedience is required of us as well."

I love this assurance from our Prophet, even an "entitlement" if we will but give freely our obedience to the Lord:

"Obedience is a hallmark of prophets; it has provided strength and knowledge to them throughout the ages. It is essential for us to realize that we, as well, are entitled to this source of strength and knowledge. It is readily available to each of us today as we obey God’s commandments."    

That is beautiful. And then, our brother and Prophet of God reminds us...

"My brothers and sisters, the great test of this life is obedience. “We will prove them herewith,” said the Lord, “to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.”"
All things. Not some things.  But we must choose our obedience, willingly. That is the key. 

"The knowledge which we seek, the answers for which we yearn, and the strength which we desire today to meet the challenges of a complex and changing world can be ours when we willingly obey the Lord’s commandments. I quote once again the words of the Lord: “He that keepeth [God’s] commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things."
Thomas S. Monson: Obedience Brings Blessings

I love President Monson's tender and humble way in which he closes his prophetic sermon. Because how can you teach obedience with coercion? You can't. Not if you represent the voice of Jesus Christ, and His Father, who beckon us to come follow Him...

And so I leave the thoughts to the title of this post with you, which are the very thoughts that have remained with me since, following that Sunday morning session:

Why Prophets to Proclaim TRUTH? If NOT a People Willing to OBEY? 

How blessed we are to have prophets to declare these truths during these tumultuous times. May we rise up unto willing obedience and claim the privilege, that it is to have them in our midst! May they never find cause to wonder if we are "...willing to obey?"

"As the Savior instructed His early Apostles, so He instructs you and me, “Follow thou me.”Are we willing to obey?"

Mormon Women and Priesthood



Source: Daily Beast
Also of interest: On Sunday afternoon, directly following General Conference, I was interviewed by Newsweek/The Daily Beast reporter, Nina Strochlic, about Mormon women who are advocating outside of the Church, to be ordained to the priesthood; which I recently blogged about here. It was interesting that those outside of the Church find it almost hard to believe that most faithful women in the Church really don't have equality issues, and are not seeking to be ordained.



Another question I was asked about in the interview, but was not printed, was how I felt about the first woman who prayed in Conference? Again, I said that it was something that I had never noticed before. I did not see this as an equality issue, and that if some women in the Church were happy about it, then I was happy for them. I told her that not one single reader on my Facebook or Google Plus page mentioned it. And I only had one person on Twitter mention it; a guy who tends to like to give me trouble about most things gender related. But not one single Mormon woman out of thousands of you said a word.

Those who are advocating outside of the LDS Church and drawing the attention of the media on a national level and making gender inequality and ordination to the priesthood appear as huge issues in the Church for women, are attempting to create an issue to something much larger than it actually is, and are creating a false illusion -- and that's simply a fact.

Here is the link to the article if you'd like to read it: Mormon Women Face Off Over Right to Priesthood

It was of great comfort going into to this interview, which lasted about 30 minutes, armed with the strength that came from a wonderful, Spirit-filled weekend of General Conference. I felt the power of prophets with me, sustained by truth and righteousness, which allowed me to speak with confidence about those things that I know to be right and true.

I genuinely enjoyed speaking with Nina, and found her to be a lovely person, who seemed sincerely interested in understanding this issue from both perspectives and in order to get her story right. At the conclusion of our interview, I felt a very positive spirit -  exchanged a few email messages.

tDMg
Kathryn Skaggs

Saturday April 2013 General Conference : Highlights

Three Highest Ranking Mormon Women Speak Out On Equality and Priesthood

Text Now Up! April 2013 General Conference

Meme: Doug Knuth

General Conference Photos: Mormon Newsroom
Thomas S. Monson
L. Tom Perry

Temple Photo: Kathryn Skaggs