How to Best Prepare for General Conference

By Elliaison

 

One of the most repeated messages of the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants is the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which includes the following doctrines:

  • Faith
  • Repentance
  • Baptism
  • The remission of sins
  • The baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost
  • The Spirit will teach you all things and tell you all things that you should do

We are told in 2 Nephi 31 that this list comprises the ONLY doctrine endorsed by the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

“21 And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end. Amen.” 2 Ne. 31:21

Later, in 3 Nephi 11:31-40, we learn that the church has become confused and began disputing what Christ’s doctrine is. Jesus addresses the confusion by teaching those simple principles clearly and directly. He spells out the points above and then gives the following warning,

“40 And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock; but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation, and the gates of hell stand open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them.” 3 Ne. 11:40

This statement is extremely powerful and tells us that if we teach more or less than these simple doctrines and declare them to be Christ’s doctrine, then we come of evil and have opened the gates of hell to receive us and those we lead.

There are many truths in the world, but none of those truths qualify to be considered the doctrine and Gospel of Jesus Christ except these. They are special because if we do these things, then we are able to be led and guided by God directly without middle men. These steps overcome the gaps between us and God placing us in direct contact with God through his Spirit which is God’s own voice.

"66 Behold, that which you hear is as the voice of one crying in the wilderness—in the wilderness, because you cannot see him—my voice, because my voice is Spirit; my Spirit is truth; truth abideth and hath no end; and if it be in you it shall abound."  D&C 88:66

“35 For it is my voice which speaketh them unto you; for they are given by my Spirit unto you, and by my power you can read them one to another; and save it were by my power you could not have them;” - D&C 18:35

“1 Verily I say unto you my friends, I speak unto you with my voice, even the voice of my Spirit, that I may show unto you my will concerning your brethren in the land of Zion, many of whom are truly humble and are seeking diligently to learn wisdom and to find truth.” - D&C 97:1

“1 Verily, verily, I say unto you, I who speak even by the voice of my Spirit, even Alpha and Omega, your Lord and your God—“  D&C 75:1

This is VERY important to understand because his sheep hear his voice which is the Spirit. Those who do not hear his voice do not know him, do not belong in his church and will not be saved at the last day.

"52 And whoso receiveth not my voice is not acquainted with my voice, and is not of me.
53 And by this you may know the righteous from the wicked, and that the whole world groaneth under sin and darkness even now." - D&C 84:52-53

21 And he that will hear my voice shall be my sheep; and him shall ye receive into the church, and him will I also receive.
...
28 Therefore I say unto you, that he that will not hear my voice, the same shall ye not receive into my church, for him I will not receive at the last day." Mosiah 26:21 & 28

Now, it isn’t a problem to teach things that are not the doctrine and Gospel of Christ if we do 2 things:

  1. Do not commit the unpardonable sin of blaspheming the Holy Spirit by telling men to ignore it or place someone or something else above the voice of God as the ultimate authority in our lives.
  2. Do not present more or less than the doctrine of Christ and tell people that it is his doctrine.

Christ gave his gospel which outlines the few points of his doctrine so clearly many, many times.

"5 And verily, verily, I say unto you, he that receiveth my gospel receiveth me; and he that receiveth not my gospel receiveth not me.
6 And this is my gospelrepentance and baptism by water, and then cometh the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, even the Comforter, which showeth all things, and teacheth the peaceable things of the kingdom." D&C 39:5-6

"11 Yea, repent and be baptized, every one of you, for a remission of your sins; yea, be baptized even by water, and then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost.
12 Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel; and remember that they shall have faith in me or they can in nowise be saved;
13 And upon this rock I will build my church; yea, upon this rock ye are built, and if ye continue, the gates of hell shall not prevail against you." D&C 33:11-13

If we teach more than the doctrine of Christ or less than the doctrine of Christ, and attempt to establish it as the gospel or doctrine of Christ, then we are leading people astray AND opening the gates of hell to receive them. This message is repeated over and over throughout the scriptures. (Some additional examples include: D&C 10:62-69, 3 Ne. 18:11-13)

The Aaronic Priesthood administers the “Preparatory Gospel” which, just like the Law of Moses, is intended to prepare us to receive the Holy Ghost.

26 And the lesser priesthood (Aaronic Priesthood) continued, which priesthood holdeth the key of the ministering of angels and the preparatory gospel;
27 Which gospel is the gospel of repentance and of baptism, and the remission of sins, and the law of carnal commandments, which the Lord in his wrath caused to continue with the house of Aaron among the children of Israel until John, whom God raised up, being filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother’s womb.” D&C 84:26-27

The Fulness of the Gospel is the fulfilment of the preparatory Gospel in that you have prepared to be worthy of the Holy Ghost and finally completed your preparation and received the Holy Ghost which cannot dwell in unclean temples. As long as you have the Holy Ghost, you are considered clean from sin and the preparatory Gospel remains unneeded and dormant. If the Holy Ghost is truly your constant companion, then you remain constantly clean and worthy of God’s presence within you. You are led by God directly, by His own voice.

What then of the prophets? What then of General Conference? If we have the Holy Ghost as our constant companion and are led by God directly, do we simply throw out the prophets? No, of course not. The prophets speak for the Lord, when they speak by the power of the Holy Ghost.

"21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." 2 Peter 1:21 (See also D&C 20:26)

When, and only when, someone speaks by the voice of the Spirit, they are speaking for the Lord. When they are not, they are not. If a person at any level in the church is speaking by the Spirit, then they are speaking with God’s voice with as much power as any prophet. When they are not speaking by the power of the Holy Ghost, they are not speaking for God, regardless of their position in the church.

"27 And there ran a young man, and told Moses, and said, Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp.
28 And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of Moses, one of his young men, answered and said, My lord Moses, forbid them.
29 And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? Would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his Spirit upon them!" Num. 11:27-29

18 And also gave commandments to others, that they should proclaim these things unto the world; and all this that it might be fulfilled, which was written by the prophets—
19 The weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones, that man should not counsel his fellow man, neither trust in the arm of flesh—
20 But that every man might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world;" D&C 1:18-20

Speaking of missionaries whose mission is to go forth and proclaim the gospel by the Spirit, the Lord says that they speak for him when they speak as they are moved on by the Holy Ghost.  This promise, applies to all missionaries regardless of their age.

“And this is the ensample unto them, that they shall speak as they are moved upon by the Holy Ghost. And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation. (D&C 68:2-4.)

Not only does this promise apply to all missionaries, it also applies to all who speak by the Power of the Holy Ghost. Nephi explained that everyone who has received the Holy Ghost can speak for God with the Tongue of Angels.  He also explained that it was the Holy Ghost that gave him authority to speak as the Lord directed.

2 Do ye not remember that I said unto you that after ye had received the Holy Ghost ye could speak with the tongue of angels? And now, how could ye speak with the tongue of angels save it were by the Holy Ghost?
3 Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.” 2 Nephi 32:2-3

“22 And the Holy Ghost giveth authority that I should speak these things, and deny them not.” 1 Nephi 10:22

While every member of the church should have the holy Ghost as their constant companion and thereby speak for the Lord, our leaders have a special role and position. Just as a Bishop is able to see the ward and its needs from a special vantage point having a mantel of authority, so too are the Prophets and Apostles able to see the church from a special vantage point influenced by their mantle. They can instruct us accordingly.

But we must be aware that at times, prophets and apostles will give instruction and commandments to the church that come from themselves and not of God. As an example, Joseph Smith received a revelation about 1 Corinthians 7:14, a scripture that had often been used to justify infant baptism. In that revelation, we are told,

“5 Wherefore, for this cause the apostle wrote unto the church, giving unto them a commandment, not of the Lord, but of himself…” D&C 74:5

It is important to realize that when we or our leaders are teaching and preaching, we are not supposed to teach and preach our own views and opinions. We are to speak for the Lord those things which we are inspired by the Spirit to teach. If we do not teach by the Spirit, then we are not teaching of God.

“17 Verily I say unto you, he that is ordained of me and sent forth to preach the word of truth by the Comforter, in the Spirit of truth, doth he preach it by the Spirit of truth or some other way?
18 And if it be by some other way it is not of God.” D&C 50:17-18

When we preach by the Spirit of truth, we are literally speaking with God’s voice and God’s power, and the message is carried by the Spirit into the hearts of those who hear it.

“1 And now I, Nephi, cannot write all the things which were taught among my people; neither am I mighty in writing, like unto speaking; for when a man speaketh by the power of the Holy Ghost the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth it unto the hearts of the children of men.” – 2 Ne. 33:1

That is our job as the speaker, whether we are teaching in Primary or teaching in General Conference. But the listener also has a responsibility to actively participate by listening for the voice of the Lord. We do not receive what is being spoken just because it is being spoken or because it is spoken by a person in authority. We receive what is being spoken by the Spirit of the Lord as though it came from the lord personally. If we receive any other way, then we are not receiving of God.

“19 And again, he that receiveth the word of truth, doth he receive it by the Spirit of truth or some other way?
20 If it be some other way it is not of God.” – D&C 50

It is the responsibility of the listener to hear and accept only those things which are given by the Spirit.

President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., of the First Presidency addressed the Seminary and Institute Personnel in a talk titled, “When Are the Writings and Sermons of Church Leaders Entitled to the Claim of Scripture?” In that talk, he explained the principle in this way,

----BEGIN QUOTE----

 When Are the Writings and Sermons of Church Leaders Entitled to the Claim of Being Scripture?

I assume the scripture behind this question is the declaration of the Lord in a revelation given through Joseph primarily to Orson Hyde, Luke S. Johnson, Lyman E. Johnson, and William E. M’Lellin, who were to engage in missionary work. After addressing a word first to Orson Hyde, the Lord continued: “And, behold, and lo, this is an ensample unto all those who were ordained unto this priesthood, whose mission is appointed unto them to go forth—

“And this is the ensample unto them, that they shall speak as they are moved upon by the Holy Ghost. And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation. (D&C 68:2-4.)

The very words of the revelation recognize that the Brethren may speak when they are not “moved upon by the Holy Ghost”; yet only when they do speak as “moved upon” is what they say considered scripture. No exceptions are given to this rule or principle. It is universal in its application. The question is, how shall we know when the things they have spoken were said as they were “moved upon by the Holy Ghost”? I have given some thought to this question, and the answer thereto, so far as I can determine, is: We can tell when the speakers are “moved upon by the Holy Ghost” only when we, ourselves, are “moved upon by the Holy Ghost.” In a way, this completely shifts the responsibility from them to us to determine when they so speak. We might here profitably repeat what Brother Brigham preached. He said:

“Were your faith concentrated upon the proper object, your confidence unshaken, your lives pure and holy, every one fulfilling the duties of his or her calling according to the Priesthood and capacity bestowed upon you, you would be filled with the Holy Ghost, and it would be as impossible for any man to deceive and lead you to destruction as for a feather to remain unconsumed in the midst of intense heat.” - (JD 7:277.)

On another occasion he said:

“I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by Him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken that influence they could give to their leaders, did they know for themselves, by the revelations of Jesus, that they are led in the right way. Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not.” (JD 9:150.)

 ----END QUOTE----

If we build on the rock of the gospel of Jesus Christ by listening for the voice of the Lord, we will be led by the Lord directly and in this way, the Lord will lead his church and more importantly US, by himself. This is, and always has been his most important goal. Prophets teach people to come to and follow Christ, not themselves.

Occasionally, the people put so much attention on the prophets that they forget to go to the Lord. Sometimes, Prophets like the attention and encourage people to follow them more than going to the Lord. This happened anciently and the Lord took drastic action to correct the issue.

“7 For every one of the house of Israel, or of the stranger that sojourneth in Israel, which separateth himself from me, and setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to a prophet to inquire of him concerning me; I the Lord will answer him by myself:

9 And if the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the Lord have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand upon him, and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel.
10 And they shall bear the punishment of their iniquity: the punishment of the prophet shall be even as the punishment of him that seeketh unto him;
11 That the house of Israel may go no more astray from me, neither be polluted any more with all their transgressions; but that they may be my people, and I may be their God, saith the Lord God.” Ezek. 14:4-11

The Prophet Joseph Smith understood this and saw the people of the church in his day departing from the Lord by putting too much faith in him as the prophet. Joseph Fielding Smith included the following quote in his book, The Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith,

“President Joseph Smith read the 14th chapter of Ezekiel–said the Lord had declared by the Prophet, that the people should each one stand for himself, and depend on no man or men in that state of corruption of the Jewish church–that righteous persons could only deliver their own souls–applied it to the present state of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints–said if the people departed from the Lord, they must fall–that they were depending on the Prophet, hence were darkened in their minds…” - Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith p.237

The Gospel of Jesus Christ contains the following doctrines:

  • faith,
  • repentance,
  • baptism,
  • the remission of sins,
  • the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost
  • The Holy Ghost will teach you all things and show you all things that you should do

This is the rock or foundation on which we must build. It is the only doctrine of Christ and the Father, (2 Ne. 31:21). Anyone who teaches FOR DOCTRINE more or less than this, IS leading you astray and opening the gates of hell to receive you, (3 Ne. 11:40).

This is what Christ was talking about when he told Joseph Smith, “they teach for doctrines the commandments of men”, (JSH 1:19) They taught for doctrine things that were not Christ’s doctrine.

The goal is to receive the Spirit, recognize it and follow it. The Spirit is God’s own voice. By following the Spirit, we are following God. If we are following the Spirit, then we are doing exactly what God wants us to do. We don’t need a bunch of laws, rules or commandments telling us what to do and what not to do. The Spirit replaces the laws and rules that tell you what to do and what not to do.

“16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.
18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.
19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,
20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,
21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” Gal. 5:16-23

Those who are not led by the Spirit must be told what to do and what not to do. They must be given a law or rule. Realize that many of the talks given in General Conference are given to people who do not have the Spirit to tell them what God wants them to do. They don’t hear the voice of God, so they must hear the voice of men. Many people find it easier to recognize and follow authority and position than to recognize and follow the still small voice.

When Prophets speak with God’s voice, it is God speaking, not the man. God’s voice is supreme. There is no man or set of men that can supersede the voice of God. Whether God speaks to us directly or through His servants, it is the same because it is given by the power of the Holy Ghost which bears witness that the record is true.

“38 What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.
39 For behold, and lo, the Lord is God, and the Spirit beareth record, and the record is true, and the truth abideth forever and ever. Amen.” – D&C 1:38

If we don’t have the Spirit, then we don’t have the priesthood and authority of God. Priesthood authority is directly tied to the Spirit and when it leaves, so too does our priesthood and authority from God. Without the Spirit, we cannot speak by its power and direction and we cannot speak for God.

“37 That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.” D&C 121:37

For all these reasons, the greatest preparation we can do for General Conference is to gain the Spirit. Learn to recognize God’s voice as He speaks through those in leadership positions of the church. As we listen to General Conference, do not listen to titles and positions, listen to the Spirit. It is the Spirit that matters most. His sheep hear HIS voice and follow him. And we are promised that if we do, we will come to God.

“47 And every one that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit cometh unto God, even the Father.” – D&C 84:47

In the name of our friend, Jesus Christ, Amen.