A.M. Got up earlier than normal to get the run done before the General Conference. Jeff was still in town and ran with me. I was feeling fatigued from the hard week and the reduced sleep, but still decided to run the 10 mile tempo for the first time since last fall. It was rather odd. We started out very slow, both us were asleep, in 94 for the first quarter. Then 89, 84, 81 (5:48) and I told Jeff to back off because I was not ready for that pace for the whole 10 yet. He pulled me until 7.5, then took off and ran the last 2.5 in 12:49 - 5:07 pace.
My time was 57:58 with the splits of 5:48 - 5:43 - 5:44 - 5:42 - 5:59 - 5:41 - 5:40 - 5:52 - 5:58 - 5:51. Once Jeff took off I struggled. However, I was still happy to be under 58:00 in my first 10 mile tempo in a long time.
Total distance was 20.5. We ran 3 with Benjamin, 2 with Jenny and Julia, 1 with Joseph, and 0.5 with Jacob. Then listened to the first session of the General Conference. Most memorable for me were the talks by Elder Perry on the Sabbath day, and President Eyring on doing good. The idea of "Have I done any good in the world today" is very simple but at the same time very powerful.
P.M. Listened to the afternoon session of the Conference. I always look forward to the statistical report because numbers speak to me. So this year we got 14,131,467 members, 120,528 children of record, and 272,814 convert baptisms. Children of record means the number of children for whom the Church created a record, which usually happens when they are blessed, but can happen at a later time as well, for example, if the parents join the Church or become active when the child is 4 years old. But mostly that number is indicative of the birth rate in the Church, which would be about 8.52 per thousand per year if we do the division. This number is rather low, US birth rate is 13.83. However, we need to account for the inactivity rates in the Church. 14 million is the number of members that are on record. About 50% or possibly more of them are not active, and those who are not will not register the birth of their children with the Church. So the actual birth rate is higher.
This is, however, a better number than reported in 2001 when we had 81,450 increase in the children of record vs 11,068,861 members, which gives the virtual birth rate of only 7.35 per thousand, but still a far cry from what our parents' generation did - according to the numbers from 1983 report with only 5,165,000 members we managed to have added 124,000 children of record, which gives the virtual birth rate of 24.01 per thousand! The causes of the drop can come from two sources - either those who are active members of the Church are not having as many children, or the activity rate has dropped. I believe we have both factors significantly at play. But I wonder what would happen if we could restore the same level of commitment both in terms of Church activity and having the children to the 1983 levels. That would be 339,264 new children of record. We could almost send all of our missionaries home (although of course we would not do that) and still have the same rate of growth in the Church! Those would be wonderful results, and we can achieve them. If our parents could do it, so can we.
A non-mathematical person often objects to the above argument that it is just numbers. It is more than numbers. The worth of souls is great the sight of God, and even though He works with infinity He does care how many of His children in our world return to His presence. The more the better.
I also liked the talk by Elder Oaks about desire. I thought how it applied to runners. The desire to achieve can rise above lower level desires, and what a great feeling that is when it does. But it should be kept in balance and not attempt to rise above the higher level desires, but rather to be in harmony with them and provide support.
Elder Oaks also addressed one of the root causes of our underperforming virtual birth rate. Young men not taking initiative to get married and raise a family.
Benjamin and I went to the Priesthood session in the evening. It was his first one. Our ward gave us the tickets to go to the Conference Center. We heard some talks about athletes. One from Elder Anderson on Super-Sid, an LDS New Zealand rugby player who postponed his career to go on a mission, came back, regained shape, and became a rugby legend for the next 11 seasons. He refused to play or practice on Sunday, which could have been a problem, but with faith it was resolved. He was so good that the schedules were changed to accommodate that.
Elder Snow mentioned the sub-4:00 mile and Roger Banister. This subject comes up once every three years in a General Conference. I believe it does so for a reason. The Lord does not want us to create artificial limits, but rather see with an eye of faith. It was good for Benjamin to hear that talk right in the Conference Center because not so long ago the sub-6:00 mile became a similar barrier for him, and he had to use his faith to overcome it. Shortly after that, I have observed an overall increase in faith in him.
And of course, the single young men of age got another beating, a pretty good one I thought to follow up on the one from Elder Oaks, this time from the Prophet himself. President Monson spoke about getting married again.