Reflecting On The October 2020 General Conference - Truth in Love Ministry

Blog

Reflecting On The October 2020 General Conference

Summary, Highlights, and Suggestions for Witnessing Opportunities

On October 3 and 4, 2020, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saintsheld its 190th Semiannual General Conference. This post will:

  1. Review what General Conference is,
  2. Summarize this year’s major conference themes,
  3. Highlight and analyze quotes from a few of the more notable talks, and finally,
  4. Suggest some ways in which to use the General Conference talks as an opportunity to witness to Mormons.

What is General Conference?

General Conference is a worldwide gathering of the LDS church, held every April and October in Salt Lake City, Utah. General Conference consists of four general sessions and one gender-specific session made up of talks and music. Each session lasts about two hours.

Although the conference takes place in Salt Lake City, it is a truly international event for the LDS church. The entire two-day event is broadcast worldwide in over 90 languages through local and international media outlets and now primarily over the Internet. Within days of the General Conference, the LDS website contains the full written text of each talk.

Other things to know about General Conference:

  • It is a big deal for Mormons. Attendance in person in Salt Lake is considered a lifetime goal for many Mormons.
  • Some wards gather in person to view the sessions; however, most watch from home. Many individuals and families will get dressed up for viewing in their homes, and some even make a big event of it with food and extended family gatherings.
  • General Conference viewing takes the place of the regular Sunday sacrament meetings. It takes precedence of other events, even when it falls on Easter Sunday.
  • The talks given at General Conference are considered scripture, and members are encouraged and expected to read and study the conference talks for the next six months. Lectures given through the year will often reference conference addresses.
  • In each October conference, there is a two-hour session of talks specifically for women. In each April conference, there is an extra session specifically for men.
  • Most talks last between 10-15 minutes. Multiple speakers take the stand in a row with music intermittently breaking things up.
  • One session includes the sustaining of General Authorities, Area Seventies, and General Officers. The sustaining is a very route process, with hand raising for confirmation.
  • Because of COVID19 concerns, the October 2020 Conference did not include an in-person audience, and only those speaking or involved in the production were present.

October 2020 General Conference Focus and Themes

The October 2020 General Conference talks addressed many issues presently on people’s hearts and minds. LDS leaders focused on timely topics such as unity, respect for all people, civility, and dealing with tribulation. As they touched on those themes, many speakers also encouraged physical and spiritual preparedness with fear and the need for faithfulness serving as common motivating factors.

The following talk titles provide a suitable summary of the conference focuses as a whole:

  • “Overcoming Prejudice”
  • “Hope for the Future”
  • “Being Prepared”
  • “Becoming Like Him”
  • “Love Your Enemies”
  • “Finding Joy in Christ”
  • “All Nations, Kindreds, and Tongues”
  • “Recommended to the Lord”

Over the past few decades, LDS leadership has worked hard to make Mormonism compatible with biblical Christianity. One way they do this is by watering down or avoiding emphasis on the more challenging parts of LDS doctrine. However, statements made in this year’s talks emphasize the deep divide between LDS teaching and those of true Christianity. The conference addresses, directed towards an LDS audience, clearly stated and even expanded upon many Mormon false doctrines that stand in direct opposition to biblical Christianity.

Over and over again, in ways subtle and not so subtle, the speakers promoted a message of grace plus works. In addition to the themes mentioned above, the conference’s overarching message was:

“Progress, work harder, try harder, prove yourself, be better than yesterday; you can do it.”

Sometimes, when individual average Mormons talk about their faith and salvation, they come off sounding Christian. In contrast, this past weekend’s conference talks highlighted some of the significant and dangerous differences between Mormonism’s plan of salvation and God’s gift of salvation.

As you read through each of the quotes below, take a moment before reading the commentary to identify significant issues and red flags. After reading and studying each selection and analysis, talk a minute to think through the provided question and try to answer it in your own words.

Seven related topics will be covered. Each one is valuable to study independently, but there is a cumulative nature to the post, and working through them in sequence will be most beneficial.

Progress

In his opening talk, “Moving Forward,” President Russel M. Nelson focused on individual “testing” and “progress.”

I pray that we as a people are using this unique time to grow spiritually. We are here on earth to be tested, to see if we will choose to follow Jesus Christ, to repent regularly, to learn, and to progress. Our spirits long to progress. And we do that best by staying firmly on the covenant path.

Nelson, Saturday morning, October 3, 2020

Reflect

What words or phrases raise big red flags?

Commentary

Progress is an essential word in Mormonism. The Bible emphasizes that God gives us salvation freely, in its entirety. Mormonism emphasizes that God gave us a plan of salvation and spotlights human effort because people need to “work through the salvation plan” to progress. Mormonism emphasizes that man must keep covenants with God to progress on the covenant path.

Because Mormonism teaches that people are God’s literal children and thus have divine potential, its whole goal is to have people progress so that they can stand on their own two feet. In Mormonism, salvation is not the ultimate goal. It just helps people progress. That is why Mormonism has defined salvation as resurrection. By conquering physical death (i.e. salvation), Jesus has removed death as an obstacle to their progression. But where they end up depends on how well they progress.

In contrast, the Bible emphasizes how God made an unconditional covenant of grace with us through Christ. We don’t help or add anything to what Christ has done for us. Salvation is an accomplished and final fact, not one for us to complete through our progress. Biblical salvation provides not only a bodily resurrection but also an entirely restored relationship with God.

In Your Own Words

Why is the idea of “progress” such an appealing one?

Proving Ourselves

In his talk, “We Will Prove Them Herewith,” David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles echoed President Russel’s emphasis on progress and added “testing” and “proving.”

Tests in “the school of mortality” are a vital element in eternal progression. Scriptural words such as “prove,” “examine” and “try” are used to describe knowledge about, understanding of and devotion to the plan of happiness and the Savior’s Atonement… Now is the time to prepare and prove ourselves willing and able to do all things whatsoever the Lord our God shall command us.

Bednar, Saturday morning session, October 3, 2020

Reflect

What words or phrases raise big red flags?

Commentary

The Mormon plan of salvation is sometimes referred to as the “plan of happiness.” According to LDS teachings, Heavenly Father, prepared the plan in the pre-mortal existence so that we, his spirit children, could progress and become like him. The whole plan revolves around a person making wise use of their agency by “choosing the right” and proving themselves to God. It is a man-centered plan. According to the Mormon plan, the testing and examination help one progress in this life and the ones to come.

In Your Own Words

In what proper ways does the Bible address the topics of proving and examining?

Step By Step

In his talk, “Becoming Like Him,” Scott D. Whiting of the Seventy continued the emphasis on progression as he told a story about climbing Mt. Fuji “step by step.”

Our entire mortal experience is about progression, trying, failing, and succeeding… The commandment to be like him is not intended to make you feel guilty, unworthy or unloved. You are good enough, you are loved, but that does not mean that you are yet complete. There is work to be done in this life and the next. Only with his divine help can we all progress toward becoming like him. I know that becoming like him through his divine help and strength is achievable step by step.

Whiting, Saturday morning, October 3, 2020

Reflect

What words or phrases raise big red flags?

Commentary

According to LDS teaching, our earthly lives are times of testing to see how well we obey as we progress step by step. In one sense, earthly life is like an obstacle course, where we must prove our worthiness to progress obstacle after obstacle. The key is being obedient to the laws and ordinances of Mormonism. In the Mormon plan of salvation, Jesus yells, “You can do this, you have the power. Just take it slowly, step by step; eventually, you can do it.”

In the LDS plan of salvation, the “divine help” that Jesus provides is an enabling power that allows a Mormon to meet God’s standard of perfection. Once a Mormon has done all they can do to follow His commandments, grace fills in the gap of worthy efforts. This “divine help” will enable a faithful Mormon to qualify to live eternally with Heavenly Father in the celestial kingdom. Receiving grace is entirely dependent upon a Mormon’s obedience and worthiness.

In contrast, biblical Christianity teaches a God-centered plan of salvation. God is the one who works the plan and gives us the results. God the Father sent his Son to save us. The Son became human and became our substitute. He kept the law perfectly for us and then paid for all sin with his death. The Holy Spirit creates faith in us and is a constant source of strength and comfort for the believer. Thankfully for we have and continue to stumble and fall, God works out salvation step by step for us from the beginning to the end.

In Your Own Words

In what ways will we become like Christ? In what ways won’t we? How does this happen? When does this happen?

READ MORE Did Heavenly Father give us salvation or a plan of salvation?

NOTE: Two additional talks by Dallin H. Oaks and Cristina B. Franco referred to this “divine help” when they referenced the “succoring power” that Jesus provides.

Recommended to the Lord

In his talk, “Recommended to the Lord,” Roland A. Rasband, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, focused on the importance of carrying a current “temple recommend.”

The phrase ‘recommended to the Lord’ puts additional perspective on being interviewed regularly by Church leaders. Rather than a hall pass or special ticket, holding a temple recommend means one lives in harmony with the teachings of the Church and is committed to living the Lord’s laws. Your temple recommend opens the gates of heaven for you and others with rights and ordinances of eternal significance. Though temples throughout the world are closed or in limited use due to the COVID-19 pandemic, being worthy to attend the temple has not been suspended. Whether you have access to a temple or not, you need a current temple recommend to stay firmly on the covenant path.

Rasband, Saturday Morning, October 3, 2020

Reflect

What words or phrases raise big red flags?

Commentary

According to Rasband, holding a temple recommend, even if you can’t visit the temple, is essential for anyone wishing to stay on the covenant path. A temple recommend is a small card that gives temple-worthy Mormons access to the temple. It is issued by their bishop and a member of their stake presidency. It is good for two years, after which it needs to be renewed.

Why is this temple recommend so important to Mormons?

Critical to Mormonism’s eternal progression is receiving temple ordinances. But admission to the temple, like all things in Mormonism, has to be earned. Only Mormons who strictly adhere to the laws of Mormonism are temple-worthy. In the temple, they first go through the endowment ceremony, which teaches the signs necessary for godhood. Marriages for time and eternity are also performed in the temple – another element critical to their progression. There they also “redeem the dead” by being baptized for them.

According to the Bible, worthiness is not about holding a card or looking to our imperfect deeds; instead, we look to the perfect deeds and works of Christ. Those who believe in Christ as their all-sufficient Savior have all the worthiness they need to be made righteous with God. They, therefore, have the right and privilege to dwell with God for all eternity.

In Your Own Words

What rightly makes us recommended to the Lord?

Qualifying For His Power

In his talk, “Enduring Power,” Kelly R. Johnson of General Authority of the Seventy also focused on the importance of the temple and the covenants connected with it.

During this time of temples being closed, “Have we each relied upon the covenants we made in the temple to set a clear, unchanging course of direction in our lives? These covenants, if kept, give us vision and expectations regarding the future and a clear determination to qualify to receive all that the Lord has promised through our faithfulness. There is no expiration date associated with the power God bestows upon those who make and keep temple covenants or a restriction from accessing that power during a pandemic; His power diminishes in our lives only if we fail to keep our covenants and do not live in a way that allows us to continually qualify to receive His power.

Johnson, Sunday afternoon, October 4, 2020

Reflect

What words or phrases raise big red flags?

Commentary

The obedience of a Mormon will dictate how far our soul can eternally progress and qualify for heavenly rewards. Ultimately, every Mormon desires to have their entire family be worthy and obedient so they may be together for eternity. Mormons believe that it is Jesus’ enabling power that allows them to meet God’s standard of perfection. Once a Mormon has done all they can do to follow His commandments, grace fills in the gap of worthy efforts. This will enable a faithful Mormon to qualify to live eternally with Heavenly Father in the celestial kingdom. Receiving grace is entirely dependent upon a Mormon’s obedience and worthiness.

What a different gospel that is than the one presented in the Bible! Because Jesus declared, “It is finished,” and then rose triumphant on Easter morning, we have full comfort, peace, and assurance. We know that our inheritance in heaven is secure. It is not by our works, but by Christ’s completed work on our behalf. Our sins have been fully paid for by the perfect sacrifice of Christ.

In Your Own Words

How do we qualify for Christ’s power in our lives? Is “qualify” the right word for Christians to use in connection with the gifts we receive from God and the relationship we have with him?

Favor With God

In his talk, “Let God Prevail,” President Russell M. Nelson tackled race issues head-on as he discussed the concept of favor with God and what brings it about.

Each of us has a divine potential because each is a child of God. Each is equal in His eyes… Brothers and sisters, please listen carefully to what I am about to say. God does not love one race more than another. His doctrine on this matter is clear. He invites all to come unto Him, ‘black and white, bond and free, male and female’ (2 Nephi 26:33). I assure you that your standing before God is not determined by the color of your skin. Favor or disfavor with God is dependent upon your devotion to God and His commandments, and not the color of your skin. I grieve that our Black brothers and sisters the world over are enduring the pains of racism and prejudice. Today, I call upon our members everywhere to lead out in abandoning attitudes and actions of prejudice. I plead with you to promote respect for all of God’s children.

Nelson, Sunday morning session, October 4, 2020

Reflect

What words or phrases raise big red flags?

Commentary

President Nelson’s talk is being heralded by many as groundbreaking because it emphasized that God’s favor is not dependent on race or skin color—opening up the LDS church and membership in it to everyone. However, notice what Nelson says God’s favor is based upon “devotion to God and his commandments.” Favor with God, according to Mormonism, is based on human effort. This emphasis on “human effort” is seen in two important concepts that undergird the LDS plan of salvation.

The first is the teaching that people progress only through their own worthiness. For example, even though Mormonism states that Christ’s atonement is central to the plan, a person receives its benefits only through obedience to God’s law. This emphasis on a person’s work is underscored in the Book of Mormon. “For we know that it is by grace we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23).

The other important concept is “agency,” which is the ability to make wise decisions. The LDS manual, True to the Faith, explains: “Your Heavenly Father has given you agency, the ability to choose and to act for yourself. Agency is essential in the plan of salvation…Your use of this gift determines your happiness or misery in this life and the life to come” (p. 12). To progress, Mormons must wisely use their agency every step along the way as Scott Whiting’s “step by step” talk and others emphasized above.

In Your Own Words

According to the Bible, to whom does God show favor? What prompts it?

Example Vs. Substitute

In his talk, “Tested, Proved, and Polished,” President Henry B. Eyring, Second Counselor of the first presidency, covered many of the topics already addressed. Additionally, he also stressed the importance of Christ as our example in contrast to the Christian teaching of Christ, primarily as our substitute.

Heavenly Father gave us a Savior and the power to choose for ourselves by faith to keep His commandments and to repent and so come unto Him. At the center of Heavenly Father’s plan is the opportunity for “our becoming ever more like his Beloved Son, Jesus Christ. In all things, the Savior’s example is our best guide.” He, too, had need to prove Himself and thus “endured for all of Heavenly Father’s children, paying the price for all our sins.” By suffering for all mortality, the Savior “knows how to succor you in whatever tests you face.” The Father’s plan of happiness has at its center our becoming ever more like His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ. In all things, the Savior’s example is our best guide. He, too, had need to prove Himself and thus endured for all of Heavenly Father’s children, paying the price for all our sins. By suffering for all mortality, the Savior knows how to succor you in whatever tests you face.

Eyring, Sunday morning session, October 4, 2020

Reflect

What words or phrases raise big red flags?

Commentary

Mormons look to the Bible primarily as a rule book, and so when they look to Jesus, they see a great “example” to follow. Just think of that. If you think of Jesus first and most as your example, it will bring pressure, obligation, and guilt. The focus is then on what you do, trying harder, becoming better. The burden is on you. And deep down, we all know that our imperfect efforts are a cheap imitation that can’t hold a candle up to the genuine article.

Jesus, as your substitute, is a message that demonstrates he’s done it all for you. It brings sweet relief, and a heart overflowing with joy. It puts the focus all on Jesus.

Example or Substitute? Do or Done? You or Jesus? When you interact with your Mormon friends, remember with compassion that their focus is on Jesus as their example. As you witness, contrast the cheap imitation of our efforts with his perfect record credited to us through faith. He’s so much more than our example; he’s our substitute.

In Your Own Words

What’s the big deal anyway? Why is it so important to emphasize Christ as our substitute in contrast to Christ as our example?

Applying What You Have Learned

Suggestions for Using General Conference to Witness

Reflecting upon and studying the quotes and commentary above has hopefully given you a better understanding of the ever-widening gap between biblical Christianity and LDS teachings. Having an awareness of General Conference topics can also serve you well as you witness to Mormons. Before the next time, you have the opportunity to have a conversation, think about ways to make use of some of the following questions, or come up with your own.

Remember that as you conduct your conversations, the goal is not to debate Mormonism, but to proclaim Christ.

Some questions that you could ask to get a conversation started include:

  • What happens at General Conference?
  • How did you and your family participate in General Conference?
  • Were there any talks that you thought were particularly interesting or insightful?
  • What was your favorite talk about and why?
  • Was there anything that surprised you about the talks?

As you think about the talks above and the commentary and questions connected to them, how could you use one of the topics addressed above to start a conversation?

  • Progress
  • Proving Ourselves
  • Step by Step
  • Recommended to the Lord
  • Qualifying for His Power
  • Favor with God
  • Example vs. Substitute

Over the next few months, we will be taking a closer look at some of these topics in other blog posts and in conversations in our Facebook Community Groups. We look forward to further partnering with you in proclaiming Christ to Mormon and empowering Christians to witness.

white-book-on-table

Article Summary

On October 3 and 4, 2020, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints held its 190th Semiannual General Conference.

Featured Content

Categories

Free Booklet

Dictionary of "Mormonese"

Stop talking past each other; gain a better understanding of the words that are unique to Mormonism and the differences of shared terms between Mormonism and Christianity.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

About Truth in Love Ministry

We are a Christian ministry devoted to proclaiming Christ to Mormons and empowering Christians to witness. In addition to offering time-tested training, we provide ongoing support. This includes person-to-person mentoring as well as websites with pages of practical tips, strategies, and witness stories.

Our Mailing Address: 1002 W. Sanetta St. • Nampa, ID 83651
Truth in Love Ministry is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Federal Tax ID #33-1100373.

© 2021 Truth in Love Ministry  |  Privacy Policy  |  Site Design + Development by Twelve Two Creative

Stay Current on How to Reach Mormons

JOIN OUR NEWSLETTER!

Learn more about our ministry, the impact of your support and more.

Scroll to Top