Saturday, April 3, 2010

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Saturday morning

So it’s that time of year again—general conference time! And so, as i did last time, i’ll be semi-liveblogging each conference session—that is, there will be separate posts for each session, with a few thoughts from each address.

A note about the way these are ordered: Blogs arrange things chronologically from bottom to top, which is kind of annoying, since it goes against a few millennia of Western writing practice. However, there’s nothing i can really do about that, which means that if you visit this page after conference is over, the final session will show up first, followed by the Sunday morning session, then the priesthood session, and so on. (Grrr—sometimes the little things about blogging annoy me.)

That said, just to make things sane (in the sense of less scrolling-intensive), i’ll be writing each session’s post bottom-up (i.e., first speaker at the end of the post, preceded by the second speaker, and so on, with the final speaker at the top of the post). However, each speaker’s entries will be given in the order i write them. This may be confusing, but so it goes. Anyway, this is where you scroll to the bottom of this post, and start reading upwards.

Henry B. Eyring (first counselor in the first presidency)

(Remember, this is the last speaker in the session, since i’m doing this in reverse order.)

  • There’s an interesting tension in Mormonism (and we’re not alone in this)—on the one hand, we hold that it’s important to teach children and youth well so that they won’t go astray when they grow up, and on the other that we have freedom such that people who have been raised well can go astray and those who have been raised badly can be faithful. This address doesn’t speak directly to the tension, but it clearly focuses on the first part of that paradox.
  • That said, i think it’s cool how much he’s focusing on the ability of children to learn and act, no matter what we adults might think.
  • New curriculum announcement! (I think—or is it a restatement of an already-existing part of the young men’s program?) If it actually is a change, i didn’t catch enough of the details to be sure of what’s going on, but it sounds like it’s a minor shift in the young men’s program to make it a bit more similar to the young women’s program. Maybe this is another step toward finally separating the young men’s program from boy scouting? We can only hope.

M. Russell Ballard (of the quorum of apostles)

  • Another first-name reference to a general authority’s wife! Maybe we’re going to see a trend away from the creepy (to me, at least) reference to guy’s own wives as “Sister LastName”.
  • Interesting take on pop-culture depictions of women—that women are portrayed as valuable only in terms of their ability to be seductive. I don’t know that that’s the only way women are portrayed in popular culture, though it certainly is widespread. It leads me to wonder how he feels about portrayals of women as strong leaders (often stronger than men) in popular culture.
  • A (slightly circumlocutive) statement that children shouldn’t be “protected” from ever hearing about sex and sexuality, but that parents should take the lead in teaching their children about such things.
  • I think his statement that highly revealing clothing on women and girls is wrong because it perpetuates problematic stereotypes may be the first time i’ve heard that done in a way that doesn’t, in the end, place blame for any lustful thoughts that result from such clothing on the person wearing the clothes. Now if we can remember that men and boys can wear revealing clothing, too…

Wilford W. Andersen (of the first quorum of seventy)

  • Interesting that the name caption on the video feed doesn’t tell you which quorum of seventy speakers are in. (How do i know which one this one’s in? Thanks, Wikipedia!)
  • He gives a discussion of the issues faced by church members in Haiti after the recent earthquake, and the example of their firmness of faith and optimism in the face of tragedy and struggle. You know, it occurs to me that once the immediate needs (sanitation, food, shelter, probably in that order) of the people there are dealt with, one of the best long-term things that could happen to Haiti would be to help the people there work on reforestation of that side of the island. Attention will fade before anything gets to that point, though, i fear.
  • He draws a distinction between depression and sadness. This is a Good Thing, i’d say, and not always considered.

Keith B. McMullin (second counselor in the presiding bishopric)

  • Similar theme (forgiveness, even under the shadow of tragedy) in the opening to a general conference address of James E. Faust’s from a few years ago.
  • There’s been an interesting shift in the content of general conference addresses by various speakers over the last 40 years or so. Back in the 60s and earlier, it was pretty reliable that the first presidency and quorum of the twelve gave addresses on spiritual life and the priesthood, the seventies gave addresses on missionary work, and presiding bishopric spoke on church physical facilities and the youth (especially the young men), and the presiding patriarch spoke on patriarchal blessings and the priesthood more generally. (And stake presidents gave prayers.) Listening to this address, given by a member of the presiding bishopric on the spiritual life (particularly forgiveness and prayer), i am reminded that these differences in themes by office don’t really reliably exist any more.
  • It’s nothing groundbreakingly new, but the address includes a very nicely succinct solution to the inherent paradox of prayer (that is, coming up with a reason to pray when you know that God already knows what you’re going to be praying about).

Julie B. Beck (relief society general president)

  • Back when i was in grad school, i took a seminar on Mormonism from the anthropology department. (No, this wasn’t in the jello belt—i went to grad school in Pennsylvania, at the school that prides itself as being the nation’s first college founded without any religious affiliation whatsoever.) One of the things i learned in that class was that, for the first time since records had been kept, the attrition rate from female Mormons going inactive between the ages of 12 and 19 had recently gone higher than the attrition rate among male Mormons at the same ages. Every time i hear an address that starts out talking about the glory of womanhood and such like this one, i am forcibly reminded of that.
  • Women didn’t speak in general conferences in the 50s, but i wonder how an address by the relief society general president would have been different back then—membership in the relief society was voluntary, not automatic from a combination of adulthood, church membership, and biological gender.
  • The last few minutes of this address were the closest thing to “Suffrage NOW!” i think i’ve ever heard in a general conference address. Of course, it was still pretty mild, but it surprised me a little anyway.

Boyd K. Packer (president of the quorum of apostles)

  • The opening bits about “correlation” are interesting—people without either a deep memory or a good grasp of sorta-recent church history might be completely at sea here.
  • He actually used the full scriptural name of the Melchizedek priesthood. You don’t hear that very often.
  • Every once in a while you can tell that the speaker missed a line from the teleprompter. It makes me wonder whether anyone still gives addresses in general conference from paper notes.
  • I’m certain i have the specific phrasing wrong, but this was interesting: “We have done a good job distributing the priesthood, but we have not done as good of a job distributing the power of the priesthood.”
  • A bunch of discussion of the need for the father (when present, of course) to preside in the administration of priesthood ordinances in the home, no matter what priesthood authorities might be present. This leads me to wonder whether he’d also say that the mother (when present) should preside in childrearing decisions, per the discussion of parental stewardships in the document generally called the Proclamation on the Family.

Thomas S. Monson (president of the high priesthood)

(He was the first speaker at the session.)

  • He’s talking about all the places that the church has helped out with humanitarian aid. You know, i sometimes think that church humanitarian aid is a no-win public relations situation. If we don’t publicize it, some uninformed people get after us for not doing anything; if we do say what we do, some aggressive people get annoyed about us blowing our own horn too much.
  • Cue the happy dance for two very different reasons: His wife is doing better healthwise, and he called his wife by her first name, not “Sister Monson”. Cool mini-story about the historical connection between his family and hers, too, with good laugh lines built in.

1 comment:

Heather the Mama Duk said...

I absolutely love Sister Beck. She doesn't mince words. I especially liked her comment about women not being babies. I think our ward RS President (Sister Armentrout) might say women should not be (act like) babies.

President Monson was in great form Saturday. He was funny. When he speaks off the cuff I get the idea that he is just an incredible man non-church/spiritually related. Just a likable guy. I was somewhat surprised he spoke so much about his wife. He generally does not as she is a very private person. It was nice to hear him speak of her, though. After President Hinckley spoke SO MUCH about his wife it has been a little odd to have a prophet who does not. I know it is because she prefers him not to tell stories about her, even though he is such a natural storyteller. So I enjoyed his remarks and being able to hear in his voice how incredibly much he loves his wife. I'd heard that story before. I think it is really cool.