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A few notes from the footnotes of Latter-day Saint leaders’ general conference talks

Adam Wight reads along in his Book of Mormon at a nightly session of scripture study at the home of Brent and Kris Olsen in Taylorsville Sunday, August 5, 2001. The family has the gathering Sunday through Thursday nights from 10pm to 11pm and has grown from a family activity to include dozens of their childrens friends. Photo by Jason Olson
Adam Wight reads along in his Book of Mormon at a nightly session of scripture study at the home of Brent and Kris Olsen in Taylorsville Sunday, August 5, 2001.
Jason Olson, Deseret News
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Here are some leftovers from my reporter’s notebook in recent days.

First, a few tidbits from footnotes that speakers appended to the talks they delivered during the 191st Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

  • In his general conference talk on the Constitution, President Dallin H. Oaks said, “Today, every nation except three have adopted written constitutions.” He revealed which three in a footnote: “The three countries with unwritten codified constitutions are the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Israel. Each of these has strong traditions of constitutionalism, though the governing provisions are not collected in a single document.”
  • As I did research for my story about what people from the worlds of law and politics had to say about President Oaks’ talk, I found a 1992 Ensign article he wrote titled “The Divinely Inspired Constitution.” In that article, he had noted that there were six countries at the time that had not adopted written constitutions. Between 1992 and now, dozens of nations have adopted, updated or replaced their constitutions.
  • Elder Neil L. Andersen mentioned in his conference talk that fewer children are being born, saying that God’s commandment to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force. In his footnotes, he wrote that, “For example, if the United States had maintained its fertility rate of 2008, just 13 years ago, there would be 5.8 million more children alive today,” citing an article published by the Institute for Family Studies.
  • From a language point of view, I enjoyed reading a footnote provided by Elder David A. Bednar because it seemed to anticipate the current American vernacular that people should “walk the talk.” He quoted a 1946 comment by President Harold B. Lee in which he urged church members to let conference talks “be the guide to their walk and talk during the next six months.”
  • President Joy D. Jones, released during the conference as the Primary general president, included a long footnote from a 1995 conference talk by President Russell M. Nelson:

“Years ago as a young medical student I saw many patients afflicted with diseases that are now preventable. Today it is possible to immunize individuals against conditions that once were disabling — even deadly. One medical method by which acquired immunity is conferred is inoculation. The term inoculate is fascinating. It comes from two latin roots: in, meaning ‘within’; and oculus, meaning ‘an eye.’ The verb to inoculate, therefore, literally means ‘to put an eye within’ — to monitor against harm. An affliction like polio can cripple or destroy the body. An affliction like sin can cripple or destroy the spirit. The ravages of polio can now be prevented by immunization, but the ravages of sin require other means of prevention. Doctors cannot immunize against iniquity. Spiritual protection comes only from the Lord — and in his own way. Jesus chooses not to inoculate, but to indoctrinate. His method employs no vaccine; it utilizes the teaching of divine doctrine — a governing ‘eye within’ — to protect the eternal spirits of his children.”

  • Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf shared his personal feelings about a specific scripture:

“The words of Doctrine & Covenants 58:42 are some of the most inspiring and encouraging in scripture: ‘He who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.’ What joy this gives me to know that, if I continue to repent, in that future day when I shall fall on my knees before my Savior and Redeemer, he will lift me up and embrace me. My sins will not only be forgiven, they will not even be remembered.”

Finally, a note from talking to Judge Thomas B. Griffith, who, as I wrote about last week, was named by President Joe Biden to the new Presidential Commission on the Supreme Court of the United States. For my article on President Oaks’ talk, Griffith pointed me to an article he wrote for the “Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy” titled “Civic Charity and the Constitution.”

In it, Griffith outlined four moments in American history when civic charity helped shape America for the better. Those examples, he noted, came from the book “Bonds of Affection — Civic Charity and the Making of America: Winthrop, Jefferson, and Lincoln,” by Elder Matthew Holland, a General Authority Seventy.

You can read Griffith’s summary of Elder Holland’s four examples of civic charity here.

My recent stories

Reflections on President Oaks’ conference talk on the Constitution from the worlds of politics and law (April 13)

Volcano’s eruptions have Latter-day Saints hunkering down in meetinghouse (April 12)

Biden names former BYU general counsel to new Supreme Court commission (April 9)

Utah Latter-day Saints ‘getting closer’ to normal church activities (April 8)

What I’m reading ...

The Church News has a 21-minute documentary of President Russell M. Nelson’s first three years as prophet.

“The Best Two Years” is one of my favorite movies. Catch up here with Kirby Heyborne.

Fifty women have begun serving as new Latter-day Saint area organizational advisers.

Here’s a look at how the pandemic transformed the work of all kinds of Christian missionaries, by my colleague Kelsey Dallas.

How a connection President Nelson made in 2012 led to an interfaith homeless project in 2021.

The man who did original artwork for the iconic CTR ring has died.

This is a thorough look at Evan McMullin, a Latter-day Saint who says he wants to be a unifying influence in American politics.

Here’s a nice story by my college Jason Swensen about the Latter-day Saint who got some serious national TV time as the interpreter last weekend for Hideki Matsuyama, the Japanese-speaking winner of the 2021 Master’s golf tournament.

I thoroughly enjoyed this ESPN story of 23 anecdotes about the Hall of Fame football coach and announcer John Madden. It includes the origin stories of the yellow first down marker now used on all American football broadcasts and the video game Madden Football, as well as stories about Dolly Parton, John Lennon, Peggy Fleming and Elton John.

Behind the scenes

Three years ago this week, President Russell M. Nelson embarked on his first global ministry, circumnavigating the world to meet and speak with Latter-day Saints in eight countries. His first stop was London, where he spoke in multiple meetings — first with missionaries, then with members in that melting pot city.

After the final meeting on April 12, 2018, as President Nelson walked out of the historic Hyde Park Chapel, he noticed a woman in the back and opened his arms to her. Lhea Phillips, a London resident originally from Cagayan de Oro, Philippines, cried as the prophet embraced her.

It all happened right by where I had been sitting, so I took these four photos:

President Russell M. Nelson opens his arms to Lhea Phillips, a London resident, after a meeting at the Hyde Park Chapel of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in London on Thursday, April 12, 2018.
Tad Walch, Deseret News
Lhea Phillips, a London resident originally from Cagayan de Oro, Philippines, cries as she hugs President Russell M. Nelson after a meeting at the Hyde Park Chapel of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in London on Thursday, April 12, 2018.
Tad Walch, Deseret News

London resident Lhea Phillips hugs President Russell M. Nelson after a meeting at the Hyde Park Chapel of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in London on Thursday, April 12, 2018.
Tad Walch, Deseret News
President Russell M. Nelson looks toward the husband of Lhea Phillips after giving her a hug after a meeting at the Hyde Park Chapel of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in London on Thursday, April 12, 2018.
Tad Walch, Deseret News