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This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This is the 152nd week of the GCO, and we’re covering the priesthood session of the October 1981 General Conference.
Two talks stuck out to me from this week, Four B’s for Boys by Gordon B. Hinckley and The Perfect Law of Liberty by Marion G. Romney.President Hinckley pointed out that “you live in a complex age,” and that has certainly only gotten more true in the decades since he made that observation. There’s a tendency to think that every generation is the most special, and I think that’s silly, but every generation does have its own particular set of opportunities and problems, and it seems to me that the 21st century certainly offers complexity in spades, for good and for ill.
In response to this challenge, President Hinckley stressed education: “The world needs men and women of ability and training. Do not short-circuit your education.” He clarified that a little bit, however:
I am not suggesting that all of you should become professional men. What I am suggesting is this: whatever you choose to do, train for it. Qualify yourselves. Take advantage of the experience and learning of those who have gone before you in whatever field you choose. Education is a shortcut to proficiency. It makes it possible to leapfrog over the mistakes of the past. Regardless of the vocation you choose, you can speed your journey in getting there through education.
These words have an awful lot of applicability beyond secular education and careers. We can all use a “shortcut to proficiency” in our spiritual lives, too, and it strikes me that paying attention to General Conference talks is just that.
In his talk, Elder Romney talked about the way that our liberty increases or decreases based on how we use our agency. On the one hand:
[T]he free agency possessed by any one person is increased or diminished by the use to which he puts it. Every wrong decision one makes restricts the area in which he can thereafter exercise his agency. The further one goes in the making of wrong decisions in the exercise of free agency, the more difficult it is for him to recover the lost ground. One can, by persisting long enough, reach the point of no return. He then becomes an abject slave. By the exercise of his free agency, he has decreased the area in which he can act, almost to the vanishing point.
And on the other hand:
Just as following wrong alternatives restricts free agency and leads to slavery, so pursuing correct alternatives widens the scope of one’s agency and leads to perfect liberty. As a matter of fact, one may, by this process, obtain freedom of the soul while at the same time being denied political, economic, and personal liberty.
It’s an important reminder of the connection but also the differences between how we use “liberty” in a political context, and its deeper meaning.
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