Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Sunday morning session

The big leagues! Yep, it’s Sunday morning, the the session of conference anybody who watches conference watches if they only watch one session.

Time to see who got the prime speaking slots.

As with the rest of these, this post is written bottom-up, with the 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. My thoughts on each speaker, though, are given in the order i write them. Therefore, if you want a chronological view of the session, you need to scroll to the bottom of this post now and then start reading upwards.

Thomas S. Monson (president of the high priesthood)

  • Interesting that he refers to becoming president of the church as his “appointment” to that office.
  • Hurrah! A reminder that there is much that is good in the world! It’s altogether too easy for people, perhaps especially religious people, to dwell on everything that’s non-good in this mortal realm. Good to have reminders not to do so coming from the top.
  • So does my habit of seeing the good in the world around us mean that i’m a grateful person and never realized it? That’d be nice, wouldn’t it? Always good to have something going for you, i suppose.
  • Given that we believe in the immortality of the soul, is it ever too late to express gratitude to someone?
  • Nice indirect reminder that it’s altogether too easy to get used to what we have, and therefore feel that there’s no reason to be thankful for it.

Dallin H. Oaks (of the quorum of apostles)

  • He’s dealing directly with one of the inherent tensions of Mormon doctrine—that there is a hierarchical structure directing the affairs of the church and the behaviors of church members, but that there is also revelation to direct individuals’ lives that is available to all. Interesting terminological coinage he comes up with, calling these sides of revelation respectively the “priesthood line” and “personal line” of communication with God.
  • If the personal line of inspiration is primary over the priesthood line in family governance, does that mean that such issues as how families determine who says prayers, when family scripture study is held, and so on aren’t subject to the directives of bishops and stake presidents? I know some people who may be surprised to have just learned that…
  • So, Elder Oaks, tell us what you think about nondenominational Xianity. I’m sorta getting the feeling you’re not impressed, maybe?
  • He pronounced the word shew as [ʃo] (i.e., the same as show), which is actually the pronunciation of that word. Cue the happy dance.
  • Summary: He didn’t eliminate the tension i referred to above (which might be an impossible task, actually), but he did do a nice job of outlining some of the relationships involved that make it less of a tension than one might think. Nice job, really—like i wrote about one of Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s earlier addresses, it’s nice to hear addresses by general authorities who have had decent training in rhetoric.

Mary N. Cook (of the general presidency of the young women)

  • Yet another reference to Joseph Smith’s leg infection! The meme lives…
  • I’m going to have to review what she just said about the baptismal covenant. I haven’t been able to find it written down anywhere (and yeah, i know, i know, there’s Mosiah 18:8–10, but i’m not convinced that’s the baptismal covenant so much as it’s the qualifications for baptism), so i want to see if she gave any concrete pointers.
  • Spending long periods on the internet or watching television is bad for us? You know, like spending eight or ten (depending on sex) hours listening to the internet this weekend?
  • What she’s saying about clothing styles brings to mind a real question: Are current devout Mormon standards of clothing something that we should wish the rest of the world would adopt? I ask because, for example, current devout Mormon standards of clothing require the covering of shoulders, but are uncovered shoulders an inherently evil thing? I’m not certain of that.

Jay E. Jensen (of the presidency of the quorums of seventy)
  • My linguist self must offer the following observation: He exhibited tooth-sucking a few times early in his address. This is interesting, because that feature is generally associated with African-American Vernacular English.
  • “Take away the Book of Mormon and the revelations and where is our religion? We have none.” Actually, quite seriously, that’s not true. Most other religions don’t have the Book of Mormon, and many (most, if you don’t count such things as the Bible or the Qur’an or the Bhagavad Gita) don’t claim revelations, and yet they still exist as religions. Would our church be very different without those things? Yes. Would we have as strong a claim to correctness? I believe the answer is no. But that’s not what was stated, you know?

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

  • There’s a lot of stuff in here, but at least so far (several minutes into it) there’s nothing really to remark on here—it’s essentially saying “Obey the law of chastity”. Probably pretty good, though, to use as a foundational text for a family home evening lesson for families with teens/tweens like ours, though.
  • There’s a lot of jumping from topic to topic here that’s making it semi-hard for me to follow—it’s all dealing with law of chastity stuff, but it’s hopping from, say, premarital sex to pornography to extramarital affairs to whatever else without a lot of signposting. This address, i think, is intended primarily for the written record.
  • There’s code words in this right now—he’s talking about the pointlessness of legalizing evil things by the ballot. I’m curious why he isn’t stating outright at least some of the issues that this is referring to. I mean, i figure it’s likely that that was a statement against legalization of same-sex marriage, but one can’t be certain without it being stated directly. So—and this is something i’m quite seriously curious about—why all the indirection?
  • ”Forgiveness means forgiveness.” Nice reminder.

Henry B. Eyring (of the first presidency)

  • The members of the first presidency traditionally speaks in priesthood session plus in one other session (and the president of the high priesthood traditionally gives additional brief opening and closing statements). That’s a lot of speechwriting.
  • Interesting that all three of the Biblical examples of people who didn’t trust/have faith in God (Jonah, Naaman, and Peter) ended up finally getting better at it. (Well, Jonah still had issues at the end of the book, but at least he had done what was asked of him by then.) He mentioned that about Peter, but it’s worth noting that the others figured out their errors, too.
  • His story of paying of their mortgage included a nice example of something that could be called a coincidence but worked to strengthen faith—it is, i suppose, the nature of such things that they could always be taken as either miracles or coincidences, and the crucial difference is how they’re perceived by those participating in them.
  • An acknowledgement that there are the honest in heart among those in power! Too often, i fear, Mormon culture (well, and Mormon history, really) leads us to be unhealthily distrustful of governmental authorities.

Opening prayer

  • Didn’t catch the name of who said the prayer, but he clearly was working to prove he was listening at priesthood session last night—i think he repeated all of the buzzwords from each address.


Heather the Mama Duk said...

First, a happy dance:
Elder Oaks spo-oke! Elder Oaks spo-oke!

Splitting into parts again. Part 1:

I noticed that about appointment. I thought it was an interesting way of putting it. I think it does mean that. I'm often told I am one of the most grateful people people have met and their reason is that I am generally very happy, smiling, and see the good in everything/everyone. I've never thought they were particularly right because it's just the way I *am*, but I suppose they could be. It is too late to express gratitude in THIS life and that can cause a lot of regret in a mortal person.

Ummm... are issues like how families determine who says prayers, when family scripture study is held, etc. EVER subject to directives of bishops or stake presidents? I didn't think so nor have I ever gotten that impression.

Sister Cook has the perfect Utah Mormon Happy Valley voice. I don't forbid my daughter from wearing tank tops. My youngest son is downright adorable with all his fatness in a tank top. The horrors. Only slightly related, I kind of like that Mormons are different from others. In the summer, particularly, you can be somewhere and know who is not Mormon (temple attending at least) and sometimes you can guess which might be Mormon and then wait for them to stretch or bend over and see the telltale garment signs showing. I've done that quite a few times.

Heather the Mama Duk said...

Part 2:

We call that tooth sucking thing "the Utah click." Many of them do it and do it more often when nervous. I assumed he meant that we would not have OUR religion, but would be just like most other Christian religions.

I thought President Packer was looking better than he has in the past. I think he was being indirect because it's a general session with all ages listening. Some would not be okay with their children hearing something direct. Personally, I think they should. If they can understand what it is then they need to hear the truth about it, but there are many who disagree vehemently with me.

Miracles happen all the time. Most are missed precisely because of how they are perceived/received.

David B said...

Yes, stuff like how families pick who prays and such are occasionally subject to leadership directives—see, for example, this post from a bit over a year ago.

Michelle said...

I think maybe President Packer spoke indirectly about things in the manner that he did because of the international audience listening. Now that I have lived in a place where translation was a daily issue, I am more aware of things that would not translate well (case in point: funeral potatoes). Pres. Packer always seems to make his talks a little more worldwide audience understandable.

Two things that Jim and I both commented on during these conference sessions:
1. Do all the female speakers just keep giving the same talk? Always a mention of a new-born grandchild, always the touchy-feely stories. Although the female speakers have a lot of pertinent and important things to relate, they always come across as not so serious. Maybe it's the accent. Maybe it's the constant smile.
2. President Monson's talks all seem a lot sadder since he became the prophet. Lots of stories about people struggling in life, with no happy ending. And he just seems more introspective and sad.

David B said...

President Hinckley developed some of the same sadness. Both of them, i think, it stems at least somewhat from outliving so many of their friends (and even family), given some of the content of what they’ve said.

And yeah—it’d be nice to hear something different from the women in general conference. I’ve told Jeanne that if we’re ever asked to speak in the same sacrament meeting again, it’s her turn to give the doctrinally intense address while i introduce the family and give the relief-society-or-primary-or-young-women’s-general-president-fluffiness address.