A Conference Epiphany: My Personal Message in a Sea of 20,000 Saints

Note: This is not a funny post, or necessarily a doctrinal post. It is a personal experience that I need to document for myself. You are invited to have a peek.idea bulb

Two weeks ago, on September 29, 2013, I posted “I am Mormon, and I Have Questions” on this blog. I thought it was a very simple premise: I have a testimony of the Gospel, there are some things I don’t understand, but I will move forward in faith until I find/figure out the answers. No big deal, right? I underestimated the response. Within a few days, the article was picked up by Deseret News, LDS Living, and a few other sites. The traffic was amazing – tens of thousands of people were reading my little post every day. Most of the comments, emails and were kind and supportive. But not all.

Many of the comments on all of the different sites were very negative, antagonistic, down-right anti-Mormon, and anti-MMM. It turns out that my article was even making the rounds on ex-Mormon bulletin boards, and they were having great fun mocking me and my words. I received a lot of comments that I deleted, because they were either wrong, antagonistic, or just plain mean. Yes, I was taking it personally. Jerks.

I know that I shouldn’t read the comments, but I do.  This time it started to get to me. I wanted to “bite back” and get in the mud with them.  I resisted this desire (for the most part) and tried my best to let it go.

Then we arrived at General Conference for the Saturday afternoon session, anxious for a respite and some peace. Who was waiting there? Protesters. Shouting, holding up derogatory signs, mocking, etc. We would walk past them and those feelings of irritation that I had been fighting to suppress the whole week before would start to bubble up. Jerks.

We made our way down to our seats. We sat on the far left side, just a few rows up from the TV screens that had closed captioning and ASL translation. As a family, we happily participated with President Eyring in the sustaining of our leaders.  The first speaker was President Boyd K. Packer.

I love President Packer. I love him as much as Satan hates him.President Packer is getting old and frail enough that he gives his talks from where he is seated, while wearing a microphone.  But his voice was not very strong, and even with the mic, I had to strain to hear him. Because of this, and the availability of the closed captioning screen right in front of us, I worked to capture every word, while verifying it with the streaming text.

I was focused.

He spoke about the scriptures, and how they can protect us from what the world has become. He then spoke briefly about children who wander, and mentioned the sons of Mosiah as an example. He said:

“The sons of Mosiah fought against the Church for a time but later repented and underwent a dramatic change. In Alma we read, “These sons of Mosiah … had waxed strong in the knowledge of the truth; for they were men of a sound understanding and they had searched the scriptures diligently, that they might know the word of God.” (Link)

It was at this point in President Packer’s talk that things took a dramatic, personal detour. My mind was flooded with a series of thoughts that I know were from the Spirit, and had nothing to do with the talk being given.

As soon as he began to talk about the sons of Mosiah – Ammon, Aaron, Omner and Himni – my mind quickly added Alma the Younger, and Saul/Paul to the group. Some of the greatest missionaries the world has ever known. True heroes.

And then these thoughts came to me:

If this were another place, and another time, Ammon would be that very guy standing outside with the sign and the megaphone.

Saul would be that man writing scathing comments and mocking my testimony online.

Alma the Younger would be running that ex-Mormon website with his buddies, anxiously waiting to do damage to people’s faith.

And I love all of those men.

My heart was filled with an unexpected compassion for my “opponents.”

For my brothers.

So how can I hate those who are doing the same thing in my day? But for a single change of heart, any of them could be the next Aaron, or Omner or Himni. That possibility always exists. Who am I to deny it?

My negative feelings and my desire to “bite back” were replaced by a sense of charity and patience that overwhelmed me. I sat in the conference center as President Packer finished his talk, with tears in my eyes – not because of what was said over the pulpit, but because of what was taught to my heart.

I remembered that Alma the Younger was brought to repentance as an answer to the prayers of the people and his father. (Mosiah 27:14)

And I remembered that the Savior taught, “But behold I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you.” (3 Nephi 12:44)

Pray for the protesters?  Love those running the anti-Mormon websites? Bless the commenters that hate me.

Seriously? It is not in my nature.

Looks like it is time to change my nature.

Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:

Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing: knowing that ye are there unto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.

For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile;

Let him eschew evil, and do good: let him seek peace, and ensue it.

About the author


  1. I love to see the Law being invoked. You did your best to obey and invoked the law of God. D&C 130:20

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  3. I’m reading this 2 weeks after Conference. I have been very conflicted about a lot of the push back people like Elder Packer and Oaks have received for their direct words in their talks. I have been blogging so long and have been in the LDS Blog world for so long I have seen the rise of the anti/antagonistic faction of the church, and their friends outside the church, and as frustrated and angry as I *do* get with them a lot of the time, over all I agree. I sorrow for them more than anything. And you can’t change their minds if they don’t want to change their hearts. Be as nice as we can, then just stay out of their way.

  4. I appreciated your thoughts on what you experienced, especially as they linked up with your previous entry. It meant a lot to me because I have a brother in law who recently left the church and is actively and aggressively trying to convince us that we are all brainwashed sheep who don’t know how to question and receive answers, and that his way is the right way! Yes, he was one of the anti mormons who actually read your post in the wrong spirit and reposted it on their facebook account with “their” interpretation, being blind to the intent to which you wrote the post.
    Your thoughts reminded me that he too, could be Alma the Younger, or one of the sons of Mosiah.

  5. I thought you were going to talk about Elder Uchtorfs talk about Doubt. It made your article flash into mind a couple of times while I listened. (Doubting your doubts, not your faith felt like the essence of his talk and your article.)

    I was not expecting this. This I needed. I had some stuff online that was drawing a small amount of opposition. (6 whole negative comments and nearly 20 whole downvotes. Nothing like what yours received.) This put things into a new perspective.

    This I needed.

  6. I am so glad that I read this. I have been avoiding blogs lately, all blogs not yours in particular. This government mess has hit my family hard and my husband is quite frustrated and depressed being furloughed, its been a rough few weeks. The political fervor and vitriol that I thought we had all moved beyond has resurfaced. I can’t tell you how many PM’s I’ve gotten from people. It is what it is, the scripture that you shared really hit the mark for me, 3 Nephi 12:44, especially the line “bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you…” I really don’t “hate” anyone, if I get to that point with someone where that is the road we are on I turn the corner to indifference, Not necessarily a good thing either. I think I will just try harder to put this into practice, to pray for those who despitefully use and persecute”. Thanks for sharing this, I am glad that I read your blog tonight, can’t think of a better blog to break my blog avoidance! Your Awesome MMM!

  7. Thank you for allowing me to take a peek. I love hearing of epiphany’s of others, it shows me things I may have missed. I always try to learn from the wisdom of others. Conference was powerful to me, on many levels.

  8. Fantastic insight, MMM. Like much of what you write, my first reaction is “well duh, of course, that’s obvious,” and my second reaction is “if it’s so obvious, why hadn’t I ever thought about it that way before?”

    Thanks again for the enlightenment! You rock.

  9. This reminds me of another message that was said at general conference. I don’t know who it was, but they said that sometimes what we hear or get out of conference isn’t exactly what was said. At first I was worried this would provide another excuse for my sister to take one small blurb out of context and take it to mean exactly the opposite of what the GA was saying… But I think your experience is exactly what the speaker meant.

    And I’m sorry all the attention your blog has generated has made you a conversation amungst anti-Mormons. That sounds tuff. I noticed that some of my favorite bloggers don’t even allow comments, and I think it’s for that very reason.

  10. Marvelous once again. Honest, to the point and delightufully real. It is easy to get in the muck, but much harder to see the angels who are temporarily in there as well (For whatever reason). Thank you for the reminder that we really all all brothers and sisters and we never know who we’ll be sharing with.

  11. It stinks when those from the great and spacious building are mocking and attacking. I had it happen to me a couple of months ago and it was really sad to me. But then I saw it for what it was – That GREAT AND SPACIOUS BUILDING and I refuse to be one of those that tuck tail because of them. I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ!

  12. Wow, I was just above the infamous mmm during that conference session.

    Good thoughts. Thanks for the reminder. I was dealt a bit of venom that same week from a post I wrote for Kathryn Skaggs blog and conference sure made it all feel better.

  13. PS. I’d also like to know your ‘in-the-know’ reasons for moving to wordpress and should we just delete your button or is there a wordpress version? I am really a baby in learning this alternative blogging stuff.

  14. Thanks for sharing your personal thoughts with us. I always appreciate what you have to say. I was thinking about Alma the Younger the other day, actually I was thinking about Alma, his father. I think it adds a richness to the story to realize and take into context that Alma the Elder had suffered much persecution from Amulon (?), the Nephite put as the leader of him and the people of Limhi when they were in bondage to the Lamanites. To have such a strong faith to believe Abinadi and stand up to King Noah, to be the only one to believe and teach others the truths Abinadi shared and taught, to baptize so many, to be freed by their brethren from Zarahemla and then to finally be free and have a son who persecutes the church and its members must have broken his heart in more ways than one. Yet, the story is that he prayed in faith for his son enough that an angel visits him. And then his buddies go to preach to the very people Alma was rescued from….What an amazing man!

  15. You bring up some great points! It makes me think of the humility it must have taken for Alma’s congregation to be praying so hard for Alma the Younger & his friends when they (the congregation) were on the receiving end of all that persecution. I wonder if our current persecutors would have their hearts softened more quickly if we as a church were more united in our prayers for them.

  16. You just helped me cement the idea that I should extend an olive branch to someone who I’ve been struggling with.God bless you.

  17. True, true, true! I appreciate the article and the replies. When a thought like this is expressed for all to consider, isn’t it amazing how so many are moved to reveal the turmoil and pain from their own lives and that of their families. I, too, have children who have chosen paths with thorns and sharp rocks, rather than staying on the path paved with a surface of gold.
    When I see/hear/read protesters and naysayers doing all they can to persuade others into darkness, the image comes to mind of a person sitting down to enjoy their first taste of lemon pie, the first in their life. Problem is, the person making the pie failed to read the recipe correctly, leaving out the lemon juice, the very essence of a delicious lemon pie. Obvious result: the person tasting it for the first time rejects it as the worst-tasting concoction imaginable, and proceeds to tell everyone DO NOT EAT LEMON PIE! IT’S GROSS, WITHOUT FLAVOR OR SUBSTANCE!
    Of course, we know that with the lemon juice added, the pie is the most flavorful, delicious treat on the table. It’s all because the recipe was followed as it was designed.
    Some of my kids–and so many others–, including these protesters, simply have not tasted a properly made lemon pie. (And for those who read things too literally, the lemon pie is the completely restored Gospel, with all its ordinances and authority). The most difficult part of my life at the moment is practicing the necessary patience until my kids are willing to taste and accept the pie I and their mother have made for them.

  18. I love the Spirit too. Such an amazing thing to have the HG with you and have him offer insight like this. Thanks for the sharing the perspective that the Spirit taught you. Now we have it too.

  19. My brother has fallen away and is one of those that has “left the Church, but can’t leave it alone.” His choices have broken up his marriage, and he has pulled my father into anti beliefs and practices. He has distanced himself from his faithful family members and has specifically cut me out of his life with hateful words and bitterness.

    It is soooo hard for me to love him right now!!! Thank you for reminding me that he is a son of God. It is very difficult for me to believe that he might be an Ammon or an Alma. But I do need to pray for him, and pray that my heart will be softened toward him. Love is the only thing that might bring him back, someday. All I can do is PRAY!

    Thanks again, MMM. You are doing a great work, and I appreciate it very much.

    Mama Rachel

  20. I had a similar experience a few years ago. I have a rebellious, prideful, ego-centric son. I had read of Alma praying for his conversion and hoped for the same angel to answer my prayers. At the depths of his poor choices and selfish behaviors, consequences caught up with him. He committed a heinous crime and received appropriate punishment. He was sentenced to several years in prison. It was devastating to me to loose a boy I loved so much for so long. I couldn’t understand how he could have made such choices for himself. His choices affected the rest of the family – and we had no input on his decision making. I never would have made that choice for him – but I was affected by those choices in a very negative way.

    As time has passed, I have evolved in this experience – as he has. It turns out this was exactly what he needed to re-evaluate his life path and relationship with his Heavenly Father. I have thought about what will happen when he is released. There will be people who will only know my son by the crime he committed. They will never know his gifts, talents, personality or humor…his eternal qualities. And I had an epiphany.

    As much as I love my son, Heavenly Father loves him more. Heavenly Father loves ALL his errant children – as I love and forgive my son – to a far greater degree. I don’t have your wonderful gift of writing to express the weight of that insight. Tears were shed over Hitler. James Jones. Warren Jeffs. It changed how I saw everyone. I see everyone as the beloved child of a Heavenly Parent. Much as you described – from a different perspective. When I find myself judging, I put that person in my son’s place. If I can forgive my son and love him unconditionally, I can do no less for the rest of Heavenly Father’s children. Father does it for ALL of us everyday.

    I know I don’t commit often, and this seems shallow in contrast to your eloquence – but your post touched that level of emotion I experienced and I wanted to share. There are people will hate my son without every knowing the real man. That hurts me.

    1. Thank you Paula and MMM for sharing your feelings. I felt the Spirit when I read your comments. We must remember to love everyone, even if it is hard.
      Thank you!

    2. Don’t think for one moment that you are not an eloquent writer. Your comments have touched me more than words can say.

  21. Great post and great insight. It’s amazing how our are thoughts and feelings towards others can shift so quickly with the promptings of the spirit.
    Thanks again for sharing.

  22. Thank you, I needed to be reminded of that. And you know there are far fewer anti-Mormons than there used to be, and far more Christians who understand that we are their brothers and sisters and worship the same Jesus they do. That’s a lesson I’ve learned myself these past few years.

    I was once one of those anti-Mormons, as you know because my story was on your blog. Here is is on Mormon.org (http://mormon.org/me/1FQ7/Anna).

    I’m also running a series over on my blog at the moment called “Why I am not an Evangelical” and my most recent post addressed this very issue. http://annajonesbuttimore.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/why-i-am-not-evangelical-part-4.html

    God’s people have always been persecuted and misunderstood. It just makes me more proud to be part of His kingdom.

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