Saturday, October 2, 2010

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Saturday morning session

Welcome, welcome once again to general conference. As i’ve done for the past few conferences, i’ll be semi-liveblogging each conference session. By “semi-liveblogging” i mean that i’ll be jotting down thoughts during each session of conference and posting them after the session ends.

A warning about a scheduling snafu for today: Due to stuff my family is doing, people we’re hanging out with for conference, that sort of thing, my notes for the Saturday afternoon and priesthood sessions aren’t going to go up until i can transfer my notes from paper to an electronic format. I’ll put up placeholder posts for them until they’re up, just to keep things in order.

Also, a note about the way these are ordered: I’m going to be arranging these the same way i did last time, which may be confusing at first. This is because blogs arrange things chronologically from bottom to top, contra millennia of Western writing practice. Therefore, 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.

That said, just to make things less scrolling-intensive, each session’s post will be written 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 i think it works. Anyway, this means that this is where you scroll to the bottom of this post, and then start reading upwards.

Closing thought

  • The Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s arrangements were, for the most part, crazy slow and mellow in this session. (Not the closing song, though.) Must have annoyed the sort of people who get annoyed by sacrament meeting songs being sung slowly.

Dieter F. Uchtdorf (of the first presidency)

  • Very, very nice opening play on his own public speaking habits.
  • In all seriousness, listening to this address is forcibly reminding me of Mohandas Gandhi’s famous line that “there is more to life than increasing its speed”. Good thing to be reminded of, whether it comes from a Gandhi or an Uchtdorf, i have to say.
  • I like listening to general conference addresses by people who have clearly had some decent rhetorical training along the way.
  • It takes a confident speaker to take a glitch like your voice catching and weave it into your overall narrative.
  • Serious question: If we’re supposed to place that much emphasis on time spent with our families, does that mean, say, bishops will be expected to cut the time spent on church service each week to just five or six hours, max (and even that would be a bit much)? I mean, either that or limit the office to those who are properly retired (or maybe it’d be a good use of the male halves of senior missionary couples).
  • Note to self: Play bits of this address for a family home evening lesson or three. (Can you tell that i really, really liked this one?)

D. Todd Christofferson (of the quorum of apostles)

  • What’s up with the widespread use of first-name initials among general authorities? It seems more widespread among them than among the general population. I wonder where that practice comes from?
  • “…all honest work is the work of God.” Interesting meshing of the divine and the profane right there.
  • Can i hear cheers for his endorsement of the humanities and (especially) arts?
  • He draws a contrast between those who believe that our mortal bodies are the result of evolutionary chance and those who believe our bodies a a creation of God. Such a construction pretty much ignores, though, the fact that there are a lot of people who believe both at once—and that would be an interesting tension to explore. A general conference address probably isn’t a good forum for that sort of analysis, though.
  • So the ends don’t justify the means? But how in the world are all of Utah’s Amway sales droids going to make a living now?

David M. McConkie (of the Sunday school general presidency)

  • Wait—he’s saying it’s important for teachers to prepare? Well, at least he’s in the Sunday school general presidency, so that sort of a drastic change clearly isn’t expected in elders quorum teaching.
  • If you listen to general conferences of sixty or more years ago, the offices held by the speakers usually correlated directly with the content of their general conference addresses. (For example, the presidency of the seventy—there were no other general authority seventies at that time—generally spoke on missionary work, the presiding patriarch—that office was filled at the time—spoke on blessings and especially patriarchal blessings, members of the presiding bishopric spoke on the needs of those holding the Aaronic priesthood and the physical facilities of the church, and so on.) By thirty years ago, though, that was no longer the case. Now that members of general presidencies are no longer drawn from the general authorities of the church, we seem to be going back to the future.
  • He said that it’s “contrary to the economy of heaven” for God to let us know individually what we’ve already been told collectively (in the scriptures). To be completely honest, i don’t think i agree with this idea.

name not caught due to audio glitches (of the quorums of seventy, i’d guess)

  • He said that the “We believe…in…prophets…” in the sixth article of faith means that we believe what they say and follow their directions. Is that really what it means? I mean, there’s a lot of ellipsis marks needed to render that verse that way. (The full verse reads: “We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.”)
  • What does it actually mean that the living prophet can never lead the church astray? I think that we tend to have an overly simplistic view of that idea.
  • Joseph Smith was a teenager when he was first called as a prophet (though he was in his twenties once his ordination occurred). The original quorum of apostles was made up of fairly young guys. Why don’t we have notably young people in the highest levels of church leadership any more?
  • A lot of this was presented as, in his words, “obedience to the prophet”. I have to wonder if obedience to the prophet or obedience to God is a more basic daily guiding principle. (Certainly the latter overall, but i’m wondering about day-to-day life here.)

name not caught due to audio glitches (of the general primary presidency, it sounded like)

  • It wasn’t her point, so no criticism of her, but it bothers me when the story of Joseph Smith’s childhood operation and his refusal of brandy as an anesthetic gets held up as a great example of following the Word of Wisdom—there was no Word of Wisdom at that point to follow, to begin with!
  • “The world will teach our children if we do not.” Well, actually, it’s more that the world will teach our children no matter what we do—and you know what, i don’t think that’s a bad thing. Of course, i also tend not to think that the world is going to perdition in a handbasket.
  • In the story she told about the woman whose children prayed for safety while she was driving though a blizzard, i suspect that the greatest answer that came to the prayer was the road being closed.
  • A sports celebration as an instance of the strait and narrow path? I think it’s now officially possible to make anything into a gospel metaphor.

Jeffrey R. Holland (of the quorum of the apostles)

  • Some discussion about the sustaining of church authorities and officers that’ll be done in this afternoon’s session. Leads me to sort of idly wonder when the last time was that the body of the church in conference assembled rejected a proposed name. I mean, i realize that it’s not a vote in the electoral sense (but rather a vote for ratification, like at a business board meeting). Still, you’d think there would be more frequent negative votes than there are.
  • He mentioned funeral potatoes! I seriously hadn’t heard that term before my exile in Utah. (Potato casserole is what i’d heard it called, on those rare occasions i’d heard it called anything.) Regional lexical variation in the public sphere makes me happy.
  • I like the story he told about how his parents paid for his mission so that his money would still be there when he got home. What i really like about it is that they didn’t tell him about it—they allowed him to focus on his work then so that he wouldn’t be distracted by the need to thank them until later. There’s something in there about why we’re generally not supposed to trumpet our good works before the world, i suspect.

Thomas S. Monson (president of the high priesthood)

  • Did anyone else have issues with the audio feed on the internet here? I have no idea what he said, even though i could see the video perfectly. Hint to the techies running the church’s website: General conference video feeds are candy—it’s the audio that’s important.
  • Anyway, a few minutes into his address (read: about a minute before he was done) we got the audio-only feed going. (We had to fire up Windows to get that to work, and then later got the video to—sort of—work with the audio under WIndows. Was the audio problem a Mac-only issue, perhaps?) Anyway, we got to hear the end of a pep talk on how older couples should serve as full-time missionaries, which is always a nice subject to hear about, ’cause we don’t have to worry about feeling guilty about that one for a couple decades yet.

Opening song

  • So why is it that the men in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir wear business suits, but the women wear crazy tent dresses that no businesswoman in her right mind would ever wear?

Opening credits

  • I’m watching this on the internet, so i don’t know if everyone else saw the same opening credits video montage as i did, but it really just didn’t work for me. Sorry. Better luck to the church’s audiovisual department next time.
  • Our stake is really into the idea that people coming into meetings should be deathly silentreverent, and people shouldn’t speak to each other as they’re waiting for the meeting to start—any greetings or discussion need to occur outside the chapel in the foyer. Odd, then, that the general authorities of the church greet each other as they walk to their seats, and as they sit next to each other they pretty frequently lean over and exchange quiet words with each other. Hmmm…Might it be that reverence actually doesn’t mean silence?


Heather the Mama Duk said...

My comment is too long so I have to cut it into parts. Here is part 1.

Our parents were very pleased to think that it was 9:30 am in Alaska, 1:30 pm in Maryland, and 7:30 pm in Belgium and they knew exactly where all their children were.

I muted it during the MoTab.

I love President Uchtdorf. He's my second favorite general authority. Our bishop, father of 4 age 9 and under with one due in a couple weeks, makes certain to be home a lot more than many other bishops I have seen. He makes a huge effort for that, particularly since his job (military band) is such that he has screwy hours. His counselors do their job and he delegates a lot (what he can). In other words, I really think he does it right. I have seen other bishops spend practically every spare moment bishoping. I honestly don't think that's how it's supposed to be.

Re: first initial use... nah, don't know anyone who does that (L. Frank, B. Elaine, D. Michelle, M. Jamie....).

You know, I used to teach in Relief Society in my old ward and everyone was always telling me how great I was. Now, they could have been lying through their teeth, but I think they weren't. I would read my lesson on Monday morning, mark it up, decide what I'd say, what I'd ask, etc. And then I wouldn't touch it again until the Sunday I taught when I'd go through it again to make sure I was ready and gather anything I occasionally needed (like scriptures on paper to hand out for people to read). I've always been confused by people who say they spend the whole month preparing their lesson. I generally don't find people who say that to be any better than those who don't. I wonder if McConkie meant to be told everything explicitly on your own. I don't think he meant simple confirmation.

Heather the Mama Duk said...

And Part 2:

The third talk was by a president of the seventy I think I read on the screen when he started talking. We do believe in prophets and what they say and we follow them... not because of the sixth article of faith, though. We don't have young people because, generally, they don't have the means to support themselves at that point in their lives. Plus it would take them away from their families even more than bishops are.

The second speaker was, I believe, the Primary General President. Joseph Smith's story is an example of how one, faced with a similar situation, could follow the WoW. He was definitely not, though. The world will teach our kids *everything* (and it may not be right) if we do not teach them something. I think she was saying that we need to be involved in that teaching. There is a certain contingent in the homeschooling community that are convinced our right to homeschool will be taken away imminently and some already don't register (fly under the radar) because they don't want to be "known" when that happens. My opinion is, if homeschooling was outlawed (I am NOT of the opinion that it will be), I'd send my kids to school. Better to have my kids taught things I might not agree with but have me at home with them to teach them what I do believe than to have them taught things I might not agree with and have me in jail for breaking the law and not be able to teach them anything myself. I kind of see what she said as similar to that. Better to teach something than nothing at all. Having had two wonderful YW leaders who could turn ANYTHING into a religious metaphor, I already knew that was possible.

Heather the Mama Duk said...

And Part 3:

We don't know if anyone opposes or how really since only a small number comparatively are in the conference center. I suppose it would be like the ONE time in my life (out of tons of sustainings) I saw someone getting opposed to. The person who was conducting said "see the bishop after Sacrament Meeting" and that was that. I don't even remember if the person ultimately got the calling or not. I was a kid when that happened. I had never heard of funeral potatoes until I was in Crystal City Ward. That ward was made up of "us" (from my point of view, but opposite from the other, those of us who were from the East Coast) and "them" (those from Utah). Every activity and potluck involved lots of funeral potatoes. And then in Springfield we were on the Activities Committee and we were having a Christmas dinner and the Chair, who was from Utah, wanted funeral potatoes. I was in charge of food sign ups and people were like "What the heck are funeral potatoes" and "How do I make those?" So I googled, found a recipe that sounded halfway decent (there are many varieties), and handed it out. They were not bad. Only once have I had funeral potatoes at a funeral.

We missed pretty much all of President Monson's opening remarks for two reason. One, we had the same issue with the internet feed. We could hear the singing, but not the talking. That cleared up with Elder Holland's talk, part of the way through it. There was no problem with the feed through the iPhone, but we started with the computer. The other reason is I was trying to finish up a chapter of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. It was the cave chapter. We only had 2 pages left. We wanted to read through the end of it. The audio feed was not a Mac-only issue, by the way. We were using Daddy's PC.

I commented on the weird dresses the MoTab ladies were wearing. I think they were choir robe-ish or something. Weird anyway.

We had a reverence before SM issue in our old ward. Seriously, there were times we were SUPER loud. The bishop had every right to admonish us to tone it down. However, he made it clear that, to him, reverence in the chapel did not mean silence. We should be friends and greet each other. But we should do it in a quiet, calm manner. I have been in a ward where they wanted silence, though. Most people stayed in the foyer until after the opening hymn started playing in that one.

KRad said...

I had a friend tell me today/tonight (as we were busy being heathen and celebrating my son's 9th b-day - between that & 2 soccer games we missed all sessions today) that they have audio trouble always on the LDS site but the BYU TV site does much better with less streaming and other such issues. Maybe that will help you?

Michelle said...

We had the same audio trouble (though we could hear the choir fine...pity). We tried BYUtv's website and had the same problem, so it must have been something with the connection to the speaker's microphone in general.

I think Pres. Uchtdorf's comment about "what does this have to do with airplanes" is the funniest thing I have heard at any church meeting in a long, long time.

My signature is first initial middle name, but most people who know me don't even know that Michelle isn't my first name. I think it makes you sound like a pompous lawyer when you use a first initial for no apparent reason. I liked hearing Elder Hales once refer to himself as "Bob". It made him seem like a much more real person to me. (And I like when General Authorities actually call their wives by their first names.)

Heather the Mama Duk said...

Jamie's weird with his name. His legal signature is first name - middle initial - last name, but when he does certain things he does M. Jamie and at work (both when he was DoD and now at DHS) he is in the system as lastnamejm even though jm is reversed of his actual name. He's considered changing his name to be Jamie Michael, but even Jamie is a nickname. The end result... all of our kids go by their full first name or a nickname of their first name.

@KRad - My son's 9th birthday is today :) Our bishop's son's 9th birthday was Friday. His son and my son decided they could split the difference and both pretend to be born on the 2nd and so pretend they share a birthday.

David B said...

All the people you listed, Heather, may legally sign their names with their first initial (and, actually, doesn’t “B. Elaine” legally sign her name with her full first name?—she used to, at least), but they don't go by first initial+middle name, even at church.

Interesting comments, all. Thanks!

Heather the Mama Duk said...

Mommie signs her name kind of randomly... which is why she was called to jury duty under two different names within a month of each other!

It seems all the general authorities use an initial plus the name they go by. It might be more something about how so many GA's go by their middle name. If Jamie or Mommie or Daddy was called to be a GA they'd all go by first initial middle name. Do any of the top 15 GA's NOT use an initial? I don't think so. I wonder why.

David B said...

Good call on the first presidency and quorum of apostles all using an initial. In fact, if i’m remembering right, the last apostle not to use an initial was LeGrand Richards.

Heather the Mama Duk said...

You know, with a name like LeGrand, I can see why no initial was necessary!