Saturday, April 3, 2010

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Saturday afternoon

By way of reminder if you read my last post, i’m posting notes on the speakers in reverse order, so to get to the beginning of the session, you should scroll down to the bottom.

Jeffrey R. Holland (of the quorum of apostles)

  • He called his wife “Sister Holland”—i’m going to have fun tracking this bit of variation. But then again, i’m a sociolinguist, so my sense of fun is bound to be a bit twisted.
  • Interesting that he defines “lust” as a fleeting, temporary thing. I don’t know that i’d define it the same way. Adopting his definition for the discussion, though, his points stand.
  • Ooh! Really, really nice job of playing on the multiple meanings of “prostituting”!
  • He’s having a lot of fun with wordplay in this address, actually. Heavy topic, but lightened a bit by the manner of delivery—it makes for a nicely effective preaching style, to be honest better in terms of style than i usually expect from him.

David A. Bednar (of the quorum of apostles)

  • Is the Book of Mormon actually the only book that God has testified to be true? It seems to me that the book of Doctrine and Covenants and (less directly) the Bible both can be described that way, as well (minus the “only”, of course).
  • Hurrah! for the statement that parents should both teach and learn from their children.
  • Interesting that he talks about parents bearing testimony (and, therefore, teaching gospel principles) “spontaneously”. I wonder whether, if that was actually widespread in the church, there would be a need for family home evening.
  • More hurrah!s for his endorsement of pretty-much-unstructured family home evenings.

Bruce A. Carlson (of the second quorum of seventy)

  • Courtesy of Wikipedia: He was appointed director of the National Reconnaissance Office last year. That’s a pretty heavy government post. (He’s also from Minnesota, which makes me happy for some reason.)
  • Interesting application of the story of Jeroboam, saying that partial obedience can’t gain blessings. (I understand why he followed that up with the story of Naaman. Given the end of the scriptural account of that story, though, i don’t know that it fully supports his thesis. Understandable, though—lots of stories in the scriptures are complex enough that they don’t fit into the neat little packages we so often work on fitting them into.)

Koichi Aoyagi (of the second quorum of seventy)

  • A journey from Buddhism to Mormonism? I want to hear more about this.
  • I wonder if his future wife sent him the postcard he talked about because she was interested in him back then, or whether that came later. A cool story either way, but it changes the spin—and if the interest developed later, the vaguely knowing audience laughter is a bit less well-placed.
  • Also, he’s a native speaker of Japanese, which brings to mind something i’ve wondered for a long time: When are non-native-English-speaking speakers finally going to be allowed to speak in their native languages in general conference? I mean, i remember listening to Ángel Abrea speak back in the day, and being able to tell he had something to say, but not being able to really follow along when he spoke (and i tend to be better than most at following along with non-native speakers). I’d rather have had him speak perfectly fluently in his native language, and let me listen to a translation.

D. Todd Christofferson (of the quorum of apostles)

  • I like his idea of the scriptures being communal memory. I think it might be fun to have a conversation with him about memetics.
  • Interesting that he critiques the idea that God wants us to work for social justice, but doesn’t care how we behave. I suspect that a number of church members are going to read this as saying that God cares about our personal behavior, and doesn’t want us to work for social justice. Actually, the critique says nothing about whether God wants us to work for social justice.

L. Tom Perry (of the quorum of apostles)

  • Listening to all the learning his mother had them do at home, i’m surprised i hadn’t heard how days used to be 34 hours long when he was growing up.
  • Teaching in the church would be improved by improving teaching in the home. I agree, wholeheartedly—so does this mean i get to be with my children to teach them at home for more than 90 minutes on Sundays now? Just asking.
  • I’ve published linguistic studies on the card-cord merger—the variable pronunciation of or as are found along the Wasatch Front of Utah (among other places). L. Tom Perry’s speech is one of the clearest examples of this among the current regular general conference speakers, with reparted, carner, and such making regular appearances in his speech. Not a doctrinal note, simply something that makes me professionally happy.

Brook P. Hales (secretary to the first presidency): statistical report

  • It looks like we’ll hit 14 million nominal members sometime this year or early next year. Less than a third of a percent of the world’s population, but still.
  • So the number of full-time missionaries has remained more or less flat over the past many years, but the number of convert baptisms is down a bit from its peak around 20 years ago. I wonder what the comparative retention rate between then and now is, since the full-time missionaries are now used more intensely in retention efforts. That’s the sort of thing that’s interesting to stats and demographics geeks like myself, but it’s probably never going to get mentioned in this speaking slot, I guess.
  • What are the rules on who gets mentioned in the “prominent members who died” section of these reports?

Robert W. Cantwell (managing director of church auditing): church auditing report

  • This has to be the most boring speaking slot in general conference. It’s turned into a nearly-set bit of text—nothing like the full financial reports (the stake with the highest per capita fast offerings is…with an average donation of…) that used to be given. I understand some of the reasons for the change, but why use up the satellite time with an auditing report at all?

Dieter F. Uchtdorf (second counselor in the first presidency): presentation of general officers and general and area authorities

  • I find it interesting that area authorities are presented in general conferences, rather than in area, regional, or stake conferences. I wonder whether and when the number of area authorities will grow large enough that the current practice will end.


Heather the Mama Duk said...

I was impressed that someone finally addressed porn as a not-just-for-men issue. Seems mostly that's been ignored so far.

I think you are right that if there was a lot of spontaneous testimony bearing and gospel teaching we wouldn't need formal FHE. We actually have trouble holding weekly FHE because we spend evenings together all the time, not just a carved out Monday night and, because we homeschool and religion is a subject for us, gospel teaching - at home - is done daily. And then we read scriptures together daily as a family and talk about gospel things pretty regularly. In the end FHE ends up kind of contrived in our house. Maybe we're not doing something so wrong after all.

Elder Christofferson's talk was particularly interesting to me as I had done the first half of a study of 2 Nephi 28 over the previous two mornings. It fit well. The social justice thing, and the specific use of the term, was very interesting since Glenn Beck was recently slammed by random Mormons (mostly from BYU because we all know that if the news can put "professor at BYU" in the credentials it must mean we all know they are therefore an authority on the subject) for saying that if your church TEACHES social justice to run the other way. Critics said that OUR church teaches social justice due to teaching to be charitable. The only problem was they clearly didn't understand what Glenn Beck said, plus the soundbite specifically edited the transcript of his radio show where he said it. Social Justice as Glenn defines it is forced charity, basically making up for wrongs (reparations, redistribution of wealth because it's clearly the rich people's fault that poor people are poor, etc.). It is very, very different from charity which is expected but not required.

We noticed Elder Perry's pronunciations. We were amused. I actually am opposed to afterschooling which is the term for what he was describing. To me, it seems like kids spend enough time between school time and homework. To the make them spend time doing more supplemental work (provided it is not needed, like to fill in a gap or catch them up - like Michelle would qualify as an afterschooler, but that's to fill in the gaps Erik is not receiving since he is not in an American school) doesn't seem fair to the kid. When do they play? As a homeschooler, I have come in contact with a lot of afterschoolers. In almost every case (people like Michelle/Erik are very uncommon in the afterschooling world), it is because the parents want their kids to be doing harder work so they can be ahead of their school peers. What most afterschoolers don't realize is most homeschoolers aren't really thrilled by what they are doing OR that they are calling what they are doing homeschooling. Most of us think they are just pushing their kids too hard and really should stop.

I want to know how long President Uchtdorf practiced saying those name. I also got a little thrill over hearing him pronounce Hispanic names complete with rolled Rs and a bit of a Spanish accent, but still tinged with his German accent. Sounded really cool.

David B said...

I don’t buy your defense of Glenn Beck, at least not completely. I’ll buy that he might have meant a specific meaning for the term ‘social justice’, but he didn’t phrase it clearly as such—basically, he set himself up to be slammed, and he should have stood up and took his lumps for speaking too broadly, i think. (And yes, i made sure to listen beyond the soundbite.)

The core of the problem, of course, is that there are a half dozen (at least!) meanings for ‘social justice’, and it’s hard for many people to realize that someone else might mean something else by it. (Go figure.) Therefore, it means nothing if someone promotes social justice on their website or in their literature—what matters is what they mean by it, and that’s a lot harder to offer commentary on.

David B said...

Oh—and some people are simply good at producing other languages’ sounds, even without knowing any bit of those languages. I’m one of them, Sid Caesar was (which he used to comic effect), and i wonder if President Uchtdorf is, too.

Heather the Mama Duk said...

But, if you regularly listen to/watch Glenn Beck, you are very much aware of how HE defines social justice. The soundbite in question was on his radio show which, unlike his TV show, tends to be listened to the more die hard Glenn fans. I mean it's a whole 3 hours of him. You'd have to be pretty into him to listen to that every day. There is no one in his regular listening/viewing audience who does not understand what his definition is. It actually was kind of amusing to read the anti-Glenn statements from the BYU people because it was glaringly obvious that they do NOT know how Glenn defines it and were actually making statements based on assumptions and were saying things completely backwards. What it turned out for them is that they were making their ignorance perfectly clear to all who listen to Glenn Beck. They were reacting to a heavily edited soundbite and their own assumptions in order to get their 15 minutes of fame.