To learn about Mormons, to find out what they believe, and something about the kind of people they are and try to be just listen to what they are taught by their leaders. It is fairly easy to do because The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has their own cable and satellite channel (BYUTV) available on most networks, and streamed online.
There are many ways to learn about Mormons, but a good one is to be a fly on the wall at their semi-annual general conference, or watch the broadcast live or replayed on BYUTV.
Conference time is special to Mormons, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Over 100,000 of them travel from all over the world to Temple Square to be present to hear and see their Prophet and the members of the Twelve Apostles as they give counsel and advice. The remaining 14 million members of the Church participate in the conference through a satellite broadcast to thousands of church buildings in over 150 countries around the world.
The world famous Mormon Tabernacle Choiris certainly a highlight. The morning began with the weekly television and radio broadcast that has been taking place each Sunday since it began in 1929. The choir performed for 30 minutes before the conference session began, singing uplifting and inspirational Christian hymns.
Speakers at the two-hour conference session gave counsel, advice, and preached of Jesus Christ. Despite the constant attention of the media to Mitt Romney and his Mormon beliefs, there was no mention of politics during conference. The Church maintains neutrality in political affairs and does not promote one candidate over another.
The sermons and talks at the conference were far from boring, and certainly were not controversial or “strange” in any way. Some highlights include:
President Henry B. Eyring, counselor in the First Presidency, told a story of his three-year-old daughter and how members should follow her example of innocence and faith in Jesus Christ. He then spoke of his personal experience in seeking answers through prayer regarding choices in life, and how his wife encouraged him to find his own answers.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, related a story from the New Testament about Peter and the other Apostles after the death of Jesus Christ. They were fishing and caught nothing. Then a man appeared and told them where to throw their nets, they did so and this time there were so many fish they could not pull them up.
“Just three years earlier these very men had been fishing in this very sea. On that occasion, too, they had ‘toiled all the night, and had taken nothing,’ the scripture says,” explained Elder Holland. When they realized the resurrected Jesus was with them a joyful reunion took place, he said.
Elder Holland recounted what happened next, the story of Jesus asking Peter if he loved Him. And Peter’s three answers, all of which was the same as it had been three years earlier. Then he taught that the conversation between the two might have been something like:
“Then Peter, why are you here? Why are we back at this same shore, by these same nets, having this same conversation? Wasn’t it obvious then and isn’t it obvious now that if I want fish I can get fish? What I need are disciples – and I need them forever. I need someone to feed my sheep and save my lambs. I need someone to preach my gospel and defend my faith. I need someone who loves me, truly loves me, and loves what our Father in Heaven has commissioned me to do. Ours is not a feeble message, nor a fleeting task,” taught Elder Holland.
President Eyring gave real-world personal experiences, and recalled Bible stories to illustrate the counsel he gave. He taught members to pray for answers to pressing concerns and problems, but counseled them to be patient.
“Sometimes our unwillingness to wait obscures our view of His will for us,” said President Eyring.
Elder Walter F. Gonzalez, a member of the Presidency of the Seventy who comes from Uruguay, told of a faithful man, 80-year-old Thomas Coelho, a Mormon convert who found ways to help others.
“I remember him riding his motorcycle up and down the streets of our city, even in the cold and rainy winters, to bring others to Church so they could see, feel, and know of a surety as he did,” said Elder Gonzalez of Coelho.
President Boyd K. Packer, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, also used stories of personal experience to illustrate his teaching and to help listeners identify and remember his counsel. He told of a harrowing experience of being in a small boat in the ocean during a frightening storm. The boat arrived safely ashore only because of a signal light that guided them.
“Jesus Christ is the light and life of the world. As we fix our gaze firmly on Him and His teachings, we will be guided to the harbor of spiritual safety,” taught President Packer.
Sister Linda K. Burton, President of the Relief Society (the largest women’s organization in the world), taught the importance of observing those in need and then taking action in service to help them. She gave examples of how small acts of kindness bless others and those who give the service.
“May we all seek to first observe, then serve. As we do so we are keeping covenants and, our service, like President Monson’s, will be evidence of our discipleship. I know the Savior lives. His Atonement enables us to live His teachings,” stated Sister Burton.
President Thomas S. Monson, the Mormon Prophet, spoke of the importance to listen to the spiritual promptings each person can receive for guidance and direction. He spoke of the need to take action each time a prompting is received.
President Monson gave examples of promptings he has received in the past. Once example was of a prompting he received to go and visit an elderly man in the hospital. He arrived just moments before the despondent man was about to push his own wheelchair into the deep end of the hospital pool used for therapy. He did not know at that moment that his arrival saved the man’s life.
“My brothers and sisters, the Lord is in all of our lives. He loves us. He wants to bless us. He wants us to seek His help. As He guides us and directs us, and as He hears and answers our prayers, we will find the happiness here and now that He desires for us. May we be aware of His blessings in our lives, I pray, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen,” stated President Monson.
What is the conclusion by attending, or watching Mormon leaders at a General Conference session? They have a great choir, no one said anything “weird,” every speaker spoke of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, there was good counsel and advice that if followed would make anyone a better person, and all the thousands of people on Temple Square had smiles a mile wide.
What kind of people are the Mormons? What are they like? What are they taught? Do they have “secrets” or do “weird” things?
There is an easy way to find out, without relying on what other people say. This conference and others are recorded and easy to watch. Just tune to BYUTV, or go to the BYUTV web site, and watch recordings of the teachings they receive and make your own conclusions. More information can be found at Mormon.org and at LDS.org as well.