One Glorious Sunday in the Fall

One Glorious Sunday in the Fall October 1, 2023


Atop the Church Conference Center
The roof garden and spire of the Conference Center of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City
(Wikimedia Commons public domain image)


Once again, I invite you to share in the comments favorite moments, talks, or stories from this just-concluded semi-annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — whether from today’s sessions or from yesterday’s.

I will share one or two of my own personal favorites.  I want to make it clear that that is not to say that I didn’t enjoy all of the talks.  I sustain, honor, and revere all of the leaders of the Church.  I look forward to reading their remarks in print.

I was moved by Elder J. Kimo Esplin’s recounting of the stories of Japanese Latter-day Saints and the temple.

I was struck by Sister Emily Belle Freeman’s use of what she called “the Jesus trail,” and by Elder Dale G. Renlund’s employment of the story of Howard Carter, Lord Carnarvon, and the lost tomb of King Tutankhamun.  As it happens, my wife and I will be leading tours to both of those places — to the Valley of the Kings, near Luxor, and to what we generally call the Wadi Hamam (Arabic) or the “Valley of the Doves,” or, sometimes, the Arbel (Hebrew), in the Galilee.  I’ll be able to include what they had to say to enrich my comments to our tour groups.

I loved Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s commentary on the parable of the prodigal son.  I loved his depiction of the anxious, loving sorrow of that son’s father, which, sadly, all too many of us have personally come to know.  As he spoke of the prodigality of the son, and of the son’s likely popularity as he foolishly spent all of his inheritance (imagine his Facebook boasts: “Free at last!” “Never happier!” “Living my best life!”), and then, imaginatively, of the prodigal’s shock when none of his “friends” stepped forward to help him in his time of need. I thought of the relatively little known Shakespeare play Timon of Athens.  (My wife and I recently had the opportunity to see it performed in Cedar City).  Like the prodigal son of the parable, the wealthy Timon recklessly lavishes his money on parasitic companions and false friends until he is poor and no longer of any use to them.  I’m struck, though, by the difference between Timon’s reaction at that point and the response of the prodigal son.  Timon bitterly denounces all of humanity, isolates himself in a cave in the wilderness, and ultimately dies alone.  Here is his self-written epitaph:

Here lies a wretched corpse of wretched soul bereft:
Seek not my name: a plague consume you wicked caitiffs left!
Here lie I, Timon, who alive, all living men did hate,
Pass by, and curse thy fill, but pass and stay not here thy gait.

In stark contrast, the prodigal repents, humbles himself, and returns to God and his father, and is received with joy and rejoicing.  Which is my prayer for all of the prodigals, whoever and wherever they may be — even and especially including myself.

The Choir’s stirring rendition of the great hymn “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” was perfectly appropriate:

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount, I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.

Sorrowing I shall be in spirit,
Till released from flesh and sin,
Yet from what I do inherit,
Here Thy praises I’ll begin;
Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Here by Thy great help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

The original scriptural version of the parable of the prodigal son that is given at Luke 15:11-32, as I read it, suggests that, although the returning prodigal is received with a joyous celebration, he will not, in fact, be given yet another share of his inheritance from his father.  That inheritance is gone.  Even if one reads the parable as saying that the prodigal will be restored as a full heir, half of the father’s wealth has already been spent, so that the final inheritance divided between the two sons would be reduced by that amount.

Here, Elder Uchtdorf explicitly pointed out the difference between our inheritance from the Lord and our inheritance from earthly parents:  Nobody’s inheritance will be diminished by the return or the repentance of anyone else.  The blessings offered by the Father aren’t a finite pay.  They are infinite.

Elder Uchtdorf’s remarks are linked in my mind with those of Elder Carlos A. Godoy of the Presidency of the Seventy, who spoke on Saturday to those who have fallen away from their faith or who are not being as faithful as they should.  He encouraged them to reconsider and to return to actively following Christ.  I join in that.  There are many, many parents around the world who, as the father of the prodigal son did in Elder Uchtdorf’s retelling, agonize over the departure of their children from the covenant path.  There will be great rejoicing if and when those children return.

It was good to hear from President Russell M. Nelson at the conclusion of the Sunday afternoon session.  I knew, because he said that he would, that he would make every effort to address the General Conference audience.  But there was always the chance that he would be unable, in the end, to do so.

In recent years, I have anticipated the possibility, even the likelihood, of a closing Sunday session of general conference in which no temples would be announced, if only because all of the places for which temple have been anticipated in the near term had already been given news of a pending temple.  But today was not yet that day, and I couldn’t be happier or more thrilled:

  • Savai’i, Samoa
  • Kahului, Hawaii
  • Fairbanks, Alaska
  • Vancouver, Washington
  • Colorado Springs, Colorado
  • Tulsa, Oklahoma
  • Roanoke, Virginia
  • Cancún, Mexico
  • Piura, Peru
  • Huancayo, Peru
  • Viña del Mar, Chile
  • Goiânia, Brazil
  • João Pessoa, Brazil
  • Cape Coast, Ghana
  • Calabar, Nigeria
  • Luanda, Angola
  • Mbuji-Mayi, Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Laoag, Philippines
  • Osaka, Japan
  • Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia


Posted from Bountiful, Utah



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