Sunday, April 4, 2010

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Sunday morning

So here we are, the Sunday morning session, the big leagues, the Christmas-and-Easter-mass equivalent of general conference. I know a number of Mormons who believe that full attendance at general conference means watching one of the four main sessions of conference plus, for some, priesthood session for the priesthood holders. (If you think historically, this makes sense—back when the only way to attend conference was to go see it in person in Salt Lake City, most could only attend one session, if any.

Anyway, for most such people, this is the one session to watch—so pay attention, these are the ones people will remember. (Though i did know one family who held that position on conference attendance, and so—this was back in the day when you had to go to the stake center to see a conference session—they’d always go to one of the Saturday sessions so as to avoid the crowds.)

And speaking of Easter, that’s today. I sometimes wonder how many Mormons miss out on general conference when it falls on an Easter Sunday because non-Mormon parents or grandparents require family presence on those days.

Finally, it still seems kind of weird to me to talk about the Saturday or Sunday “morning” sessions, ’cause growing up on the east coast every conference session came after noon. I still remember being vaguely confused as a kid when they’d welcome everyone to the morning session of conference at 12:02 in the afternoon.

And remember, as in other posts in this series, the first speaker is at the bottom of the post, and you scroll upward as the session progresses. This is so that you can end up with all five posts (once the Sunday afternoon session is up), and scroll bottom to top through the whole thing to get every speaker in chronological order.

Thomas S. Monson (president of the high priesthood)

(Final speaker)

  • You don’t actually get this much of a focus on death as death in many addresses in the Mormon church.
  • The “I have read, and i believe…” formulation is nicely compelling.
  • I read a couple of scholarly articles once about views toward death in nineteenth century America, and how Mormons tended to deal with the deaths of children very differently (and, to modern sensibilities, in healthier ways) than the general population. The authors made the interesting claim that this led to nineteenth-century Mormons often putting more emotional investment into their small children, as well. Anyway, for presumably obvious reasons, this address reminded me of that.

Quentin L. Cook (of the quorum of apostles)

  • He said that taking the sacrament renews our baptismal commitment. This is a very common statement, but i don’t see the parallel between the sacramental and baptismal covenants. I figure it must be there, though, since it’s so widespread—so what is the parallel?
  • Interesting thought, that the way we interact with each other is a reflection of our commitment to God.
  • Ah! I’ve been wondering if we’d get anything like what he just offered: An indirect statement telling the more extreme elements among the Tea Partiers to chill out a bit. (It was phrased more generally, of course, as such statements always are, but most of the disagreement-spawned contention and vandalism in the news of late in the United States has come from that quarter.)
  • Do we ever get intense stories about righteous people who don’t survive disasters? I’m guessing they’d be harder to document (there might be a lack of surviving witnesses to tell the story, after all), but i wonder if sometimes we get into a groove of thinking that the righteous will always be protected while the wicked will not, founded on stories like the one he told about the tsunami in Samoa.

Cheryl C. Lant (past general president of the primary organization)

  • You know, we don’t have any photographs of Jesus. There are a lot of different—and i do mean a lot of radically different—visual representations of Jesus out there. So why do we place any weight on a child identifying as Jesus a picture that they’ve been told is a picture of Jesus? Seriously, i don’t get it.
  • Her retelling of 4 Nephi was interesting—she said that multiple generations of people were righteous because they were taught well. Does this mean the children who were taught well weren’t taught how to teach their children well, and that’s why it eventually fell apart? I’m gonna have to think about that one.
  • Nice subtly delivered (but probably effective, for the listening population) reminder at the end that children need to be included in religious observance.

Donald L. Hallstrom (of the presidency of seventy)

  • I wonder about parallel stories like the ones he gives (one family that left the church after a death, another family that stayed in the church after a death). Are they really fully parallel? I always want to ask about the details that are left out in the telling—it could be that the one family was helped and comforted, while the other was criticized and effectively driven out, we just don’t know.
  • But that said, yeah, the story of Simonds Ryder leaving the church is pretty stunning.

Richard G. Scott (of the quorum of apostles)

  • Good point that we don’t know why God the Father had to withdraw from God the Son during the agony on the cross. (Doesn’t mean that us Mormons aren’t gonna keep speculating about it, of course, but that probably goes without saying.)
  • His address got me thinking: If the home is, in the end, preeminent over even the church, does that mean that parents have the right to alter, including in major ways, church programs for the home so that they fit their individual family’s needs? I tend to think the answer is yes, but i know a number of Mormons who would say that the answer is no.

Dieter F. Uchtdorf (second counselor in the first presidency)

(First speaker)

  • The story of the statue that he tells is all over the net, if you put enough terms into Google to filter out extraneous stuff. It’s supposed to be at a cathedral in England, and the repair work was done at least in part by German volunteers. The inscription placed on the semi-repaired statue varies from account to account, which makes me wonder if it’s glurge or real. (Either way, a good message.) In any event, the most widely given reference is Paul Brand’s book Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, if anyone wants to figure out where the story happened.
  • As someone who just doesn’t like the white-shirt-tie-and-jacket uniform of present-day male Mormonism (and so doesn’t wear it), i did a little happy dance when he said that we shouldn’t judge others by how they look or what they wear. I actually haven’t had much backlash from other Mormons on the way i dress (even back when i had a ponytail), but it has definitely happened now and again. I have a thick skin about such stuff, but not everyone does—and those are the ones we risk losing.
  • What? We don’t all have the same ability to judge as God does? But—but—but that means Mormon culture might have to change in lots of big ways! That can’t be right, can it? I mean, active Mormons are all already perfect, yes?
  • I liked the twenty dollar bill simile.
  • I hadn’t heard the story of Zimri and Avraham before. I liked it a lot.
  • I’ve said it before, but the experience of being marginalized as a refugee child really does seem to have had a pretty sizable influence on his outlook on life. I also think it’s good to have such an outlook represented in the highest councils of the church.

1 comment:

Heather the Mama Duk said...

I could not pay attention to Sister Lant. Her voice is so, you know, utterly suited to primary. I found myself tuning her out. She reminded me in a weird way of Michelle Duggar.

Elder Hallstrom wins the award for most depressing talk of the conference.

President Uchtdorf is totally cool if for no other reason than his first and middle names. Cameron's login name on Webkinz is uchtdorf. Cameron just thinks that's a totally cool name (and chose it for his login himself).