Reflections on April Conference (Part 2)
by Lisa Tensmeyer Hansen
Saturday Morning Session, Cont.
Elder Kevin R. Duncan (of the Seventy) started off his talk reminding us that we all have something in common, that every one of us will be the victim of others’ misdeeds. No one understands this better than Mama Dragons. Elder Duncan’s talk focused on finding a way to “forgive and be free.” He re-told the story of Saul of Tarsus who had been the fiercest enemy of the people of God and then became their most ardent defender. This is among my favorite stories. If God was willing to do that once. . . why not again when his children are persecuted? Elder Duncan also admonished us:
“Try to see others as God sees them. . . . It would change the world.”
Again, no one understands this better than Mama Dragons. After most of Elder Duncan’s talk discussed finding motivation and power to forgive, he gave this important caveat: “We do not allow others to mistreat us because of their own troubles. . . . “ Mama Dragons understand this well also.
Elder Duncan said it is easy to be intolerant of others who hold different values, and reminded us to spend time listening to those who are different from us. He connected the idea of persecuting others with not listening to them.
His final idea: “Forgiveness is the very reason God sent his Son.”
Although a spirit of forgiveness is essential, for ourselves and for others, it is also important to hold ourselves and others accountable for the patterned ways we behave that hurt others.
Elder Steven E. Snow (of the Seventy) focused his message on humility. He told the story of his teen-age son’s traumatic brain injury that resulted in a coma and his son having to re-learn basic skills. One of the most important things he said was about parenting: “We do not help children by breaking their spirits. . . . “
Elder Dale G. Renlund (One of the newest members of the Quorum of the Twelve) talked about entitlement. He noted “The greater the distance between the giver and receiver, the greater the likelihood that the receiver will develop a sense of entitlement to the gift.” He suggested that when we find ourselves with a sense of entitlement, we are likely distanced from God and letting “small inequities loom large, demanding that God fix things now.” And when we are close to God, we are reminded that no one has suffered as much as Jesus.
Although gratitude and closeness to God are important to me, yet I am aware of inequities in our social systems that trouble me and make me yearn for greater rights for all. I do not believe this is unrighteous entitlement. Joseph Smith went to Washington D.C. specifically to obtain redress for the violation of the Saints’ civil rights, which must have been a good kind of entitlement. Helping people see how our values are not reaching to all of God’s children is our important work, not entitlement.
He reminded us that Christ said that the whole purpose of his being lifted up on the cross was “to draw all men unto me!” All men. All of us. He emphasized that the Savior did it for each of us, that each of us can say, “He did it for me!”
Believing that we are doing Christ’s work by ministering to his children and that there are many who misunderstand our work makes some messages easier to hear, and some much harder. The message of Christ’s atonement and the sacred work of reaching out to show love is one of the sweeter messages of conference thus far.
More tomorrow. . .