General Conference: Same Message Different Responses

This past week in my BYU-I Pathway religion class, I’ve been focusing on “visualization” while reading the Book of Mormon each day. The way it works is that not only do you try to imagine what you’re actually reading (bring it to life), but you also try to place a similar scenario into modern life (yours).

One of the most beautiful examples of “visualization” I have ever witnessed (probably because I am studying the skill) just happened to be during General Conference this past weekend.

Elder Claudio R. M. Costa taught that one of the ways we can make the Sabbath day more holy is by sharing scripture stories with our children. He said, “I believe that starting a tradition of telling the stories of Jesus to our children and families is a very special way to keep the Sabbath day holy in our homes.” Note that he said, “telling.”

He then explained, “I love to read scriptural passages about His sinless life, and after reading the scriptures which tell about the events experienced by Him, I close my eyes and try to visualize these sacred moments that teach me and strengthen me spiritually.”

The ability to tell a story (own it) indicates a very personal connection to not only the details of a story but its most personal teachings. Which of course, is the reason “visualization” is such a powerful technique for studying the scriptures. Not only do we put ourselves in the story but we then have the power to invite others along, verbally.

Let me share an excerpt from Elder Costa’s General Conference address of how he uses “visualization” while reading the scriptures in preparation to “tell” the stories of Jesus to his own family:

“A few weeks ago, while studying again the message President Russell M. Nelson delivered in the last general conference, and while pondering on the Sabbath day, I felt a deep gratitude for the blessing and privilege of being able to partake of the sacrament. For me that is a very solemn, sacred, and spiritual moment. I greatly enjoy sacrament meeting. 
While pondering, I carefully studied the blessings on the bread and the water. I read and deeply meditated on the prayers and the ordinance of the sacrament. I began to go over in my mind and in my heart the events that are connected to it. 
In a spirit of meditation, I reflected upon that day, the first day of the feast of the unleavened bread, when Jesus, in response to His disciples’ question about where to prepare for the Passover, answered them, saying, “Go into the city to such a man, and say unto him, The Master saith, My time is at hand; I will keep the passover at thy house with my disciples.” 
I tried to visualize in my mind the disciples buying food and carefully preparing the table to eat with Him on that special day: a table for 13 people, Him and His twelve disciples, whom He loved. 
I cried as I visualized Christ eating with them and declaring, “Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.” 
I thought about the saddened disciples asking Him, “Lord, is it I?” 
And when Judas asked Him the same question, He replied calmly, “Thou hast said.” 
I could visualize hands that had healed, comforted, edified, and blessed, breaking the bread as Jesus said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 
Then He took a cup filled with wine and gave thanks and gave the cup to them, saying, “Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” 
In my mind I looked at the disciples one by one and saw in their eyes their concern for the Master, whom they loved greatly. It was as if I were sitting there with them, watching everything. I felt an intense pain in my heart, full of grief and sorrow for what He was about to experience for me. 
My soul was filled by an overwhelming desire to be a better person. In repentance and sorrow, I fervently wished to be able to dry and avoid the spilling of at least a few drops of His blood shed in Gethsemane. 
I then pondered about the sacrament we partake of every week in remembrance of Him. While doing so, I meditated upon each word of the blessings on the bread and the water. I deeply reflected on the words “and always remember him” in the blessing on the bread and “that they do always remember him” in the blessing on the water. 
I meditated on what it means to always remember Him.”

Following this sacred sharing of his personal witness of Jesus Christ through “visualization,” he shares what it means to him personally. I hope you’ll read his entire address: That They Do Always Remember Him.

Speaking of General Conference and “likening the scriptures” to our day, I had my own (very unexpected) experience as I was applying the “visualization” technique while reading in 1 Nephi Chapter 15 only days following the conference.

You might recall that Nephi enters the tent of his father Lehi after he had just received a similar vision of what his father had seen. What he came upon was his brothers, Laman, and Lemuel, arguing the merits of what the Lord had revealed to their prophet-father

3 For he truly spake many great things unto them, which were hard to be understood, save a man should inquire of the Lord; and they being hard in their hearts, therefore they did not look unto the Lord as they ought.

 And now I, Nephi, was grieved because of the hardness of their hearts, and also, because of the things which I had seen, and knew they must unavoidably come to pass because of the great wickedness of the children of men.

As I visualized this scenario, the thought immediately came to my mind that the exact thing is happening among members of the Church (our brothers and sisters) in how we’ve received the messages and proceedings of General Conference this past weekend.

Among the many inspired teachings we received, I have been astounded (in particular) at the abundance of online conversations, blog posts and media articles focused on examining the call of the three new Apostles to the Quorum of the Twelve. What’s to discuss if we sustain President Thomas S. Monson as a prophet, seer and revelator and President of the Church?

What we learn in the scriptures is that the children of God can have the same experience (hear the same prophetic messages) but by choice choose to receive it differently. We can choose to follow the prophet or debate his words as if they are independent of the Lord's. Heaven knows those called to lead the Church are not perfect, but there’s no question that they have been given priesthood authority to direct the affairs of the kingdom of God on earth.

Lehi was not perfect, but he was called of God to lead his people and received direction from the Lord which they were under covenant to sustain. Like Nephi, we can align our heart and will to the Lord's prophet(s) through personal revelation. Or, like his rebellious brothers, we can be tossed to and fro upon the winds of the Internet.

Kathryn Skaggs


  1. Lehi was called of God as was Nephi, but they were no more called than we have been. It's one of the problems that we encounter as members. We take ourselves out of the category of being just as responsible for raising a family in righteousness as they were. It's dangerous mistake. As with Lehi (and our Father in Heaven), all children don't follow the right path...we're all in the same boat.

  2. Kathryn, I love this and I completely agree. My feeling after conference was, we are running out of time and people need to line up and be counted. I only know that the Lord, Jesus Christ is the head of this church and He speaks through His prophets and apostles. One either trusts Him or they don't. I know that I do, wholeheartedly.