Initial thoughts at the end of Conference

Initial thoughts at the end of Conference April 7, 2024

 

George Albert Smith's temple
The Idaho Falls Idaho Temple, on the Snake River
(LDS Media Library)

Like many of you, I expect, I was powerfully struck by the remarks of President Jeffrey R. Holland in the Saturday morning session of the just completed General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  And, given my own peculiar personal interests, I found this passage from it of particular note:

Another experience began 48 hours after my wife’s burial [in late July 2023]. At that time, I was rushed to the hospital in an acute medical crisis. I then spent the first four weeks of a 6-week stay in and out of intensive care and in and out of consciousness. Virtually all my experience in the hospital during that first period is lost to my memory. What is not lost is my memory of a journey outside the hospital, out of what seemed the edge of eternity. I cannot speak fully of that experience here, but I can say that part of what I received was an admonition to return to my ministry with more urgency, more consecration, more focus on the Savior, more faith in his word. I couldn’t help but feel I was receiving my own personal version of a revelation given to the Twelve nearly 200 years ago: “Thou shalt bear record of my name and send forth my word unto the ends of the Earth. Morning by morning and day after day let thy warning voice go forth. And when the night cometh, let not the inhabitants of the Earth’s slumber because of thy speech. Arise, take up your cross and follow me.”

My beloved sisters and brothers, since that experience, I have tried to take up my cross more earnestly with more resolve to find where I can raise an Apostolic voice of both warmth and warning in the morning, during the day, and into the night.

It seems clear to me that President Holland must have undergone a near-death experience of some kind.

Another moment that particularly struck me during the Saturday morning session came near its conclusion, when President Henry B. Eyring recalled the first time that he entered the Salt Lake Temple.  He had a powerful sense that he had been there before.  But then an inner voice told him “No, you have never been here before.  You are remembering something from a time before you were born.”

This resonated with me, because I had an experience much like that myself.

The very first time that I ever visited Idaho Falls, I think, was when I was about fourteen or fifteen.  This would have in the latter part of the 1960s.  My brother and my sister in law kindly took me along with them on a trip from southern California up to Alberta and then over to British Columbia and back home along the Pacific coast.  (It was on that trip, by the way, that I first fell in love with Banff National Park and Olympic National Park — and I haven’t fallen out of love with them in all the years since.)

People who live, or have lived, in Idaho Falls can correct me if I’m wrong.  But I seem to recall that, at that time, the main entrance to the Idaho Falls Idaho Temple involved a great deal of glass.  I could see into the temple, back to the recommend desk.  People were sitting there in white and others, also dressed in white, occasionally walked across my field of view.  Truthfully, they seemed almost to silently glide past.

What I saw seemed to me powerfully familiar, in a way that I can neither explain nor explain away.  I felt, for perhaps only a brief moment, not only as if were looking into heaven but that, somehow, I had seen it before.  I’ve never forgotten that impression, and I was pleased to hear President Eyring relate his own parallel experience.

Another high point for me?  It was, of course, President Russell M. Nelson’s announcement of fifteen new temples, in Uturoa, French Polynesia; Chihuahua, Mexico; Florianópolis, Brazil; Rosario, Argentina; Edinburgh, Scotland; Brisbane Australia South Area; Victoria, British Columbia; Yuma, Arizona; Houston Texas South Area; Des Moines, Iowa; Cincinnati, Ohio; Honolulu, Hawaii; West Jordan, Utah; Lehi, Utah; and Maracaibo, Venezuela.  I unashamedly confess that I love temples.

It has been an excellent conference and, to me, a very inspiring one.

Incidentally, has everybody noticed how abundantly this prophecy, which was spoken by the Savior to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland Temple on 3 April 1836, has been fulfilled?

Yea the hearts of thousands and tens of thousands shall greatly rejoice in consequence of the blessings which shall be poured out, and the endowment with which my servants have been endowed in this house.

And the fame of this house shall spread to foreign lands; and this is the beginning of the blessing which shall be poured out upon the heads of my people.  (Doctrine and Covenants 110:9-10)

I couldn’t help but think about the idea that “the fame of this house shall spread to foreign lands” again today, when photographs of the Kirtland Temple were shown during President Russell M. Nelson’s conference-closing remarks, in which he spoke directly about it.  Latter-day Saints in Latin America and Japan and Europe and Oceania and all around the world read about the Kirtland Temple in their scriptures, rejoiced when it returned to the Church, and listened to President Nelson talk about it today.  How believable would that have seemed to most people in 1836?

A Nazi rally (at Nürnberg?)
During the 1920s and 1930s, a period of economic weakness and national humiliation, the people of Italy, Germany, Spain, and other lands turned to strong leaders who would, they were assured, make their countries great again.   (Wikimedia Commons public domain image)

I’m excited by the imminent release of T. C. Christensen’s newest film, Escape from Germany.  It’s not only that the subject interests me very much,  personally.  It’s not only that I think it important that we support Latter-day Saint filmmaking.  And it’s not only that one of its starring actors is Paul Wuthrich, who portrayed Joseph Smith in the Interpreter Foundation’s theatrical film, Witnesses, who hosted our docudrama Undaunted: Witnesses of the Book of Mormon, and who again portrays Joseph Smith in our forthcoming film, Six Days in August.  Escape from Germany just looks to me as if it will be really good.  I hope that you, too, will take a look at it.

But the fact remains:  If we hope to see high-quality Latter-day Saint movies, we need to be a good audience for them.  The market for such films, the support for them, needs to be large enough that they can continue to be produced.

 

 

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