Saturday, April 2, 2011

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Saturday morning session

Welcome, welcome, SabbathSaturday morning. As i’ve done for the past few general conferences, i’ll be semi-liveblogging each conference session, by which i mean that i’ll be jotting down thoughts during each session of conference and posting them after the session ends.

An explanation of the way these are ordered: The entries are arranged the same way as the last couple times i did these, which may be confusing at first. This is because blogs arrange things chronologically from bottom to top, despite millennia of Western writing practice, so 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.

I’m going with the same ordering within each post so that readers don’t have to do quite so much scrolling. Therefore, each session’s post is 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 are given in the order i write them. This is probably confusing, but so are any of the other alternative i’ve come up with (and certainly less confusing than a true live-blogging format, i think). Anyway, this means that this is where you scroll to the bottom of this post, and then start reading upwards.

Henry B. Eyring (of the first presidency)
  • Interesting that all three members of the first presidency (including even Dieter F. Unchtdorf in his brief opening remarks) made direct reference to the need to work toward the temporal salvation of others, while everyone else in this session, if they dealt with the topic, did so only indirectly or as part of a larger focus.
  • He quoted a good chunk of the song ”Have I Done Any Good in the World Today“—i started to wonder if he was going to quote the old lyrics (that is, the stark line “only he who does something is worthy to live”). No such luck, though.
  • Interesting arguments for the importance of involving children in temporal service (if not an outright plea for people to do so).
  • The story of the family that returned from holiday after the Teton dam burst was interesting—this is where i start wishing i had primary sources to find out more about the people involved.
  • Nice twist on the term “self-reliance”, with the implication (if not outright direct statement) that what follows true self-reliance is actually giving one’s surplus to others. (Insert spooky music and mutterings about “sharing the wealth” here…)
  • He pointed out that we’re commanded not just to help the poor, but also to seek them out to help them. That’s actually a tough command at times.
  • A churchwide day of service later this year? Interesting.

Quentin L. Cook (or the quorum of apostles)
  • I find lists of qualities that women have to be interesting, given that one finds the same qualities as men. (Of course, the sociological training i have leads me to hold that the minor differences in the way those qualities manifest themselves are at least primarily the result of differences in socialization. I guess that means that i’m irredeemably evil, then. Oh, well.)
  • The story of the purse had really nicely amusing moments. (Of course, part of my mind kept thinking, “Wow, that girl knows how to accessorize for church functions in case someone looks in her purse. Talk about being prepared!”)
  • Another thought from the sociological side of my brain: I wonder to what extent the satisfaction that Mormon women (and men, though he didn’t focus on that) have with their religion is the result of church policies and procedures, and to what extent it’s the result of self-selection among women.
  • Bishops are supposed to delegate more. Does this mean that one day they’ll be able to skip out on leadership meetings, too?
  • What’s that? Men who skip out on serving full-time missions still have all of the saving ordinances available to them? Heresy!
  • Actually, from the statistics i’ve seen, it’s not so much that fewer people are getting married so much as that people are opting to get married at later ages—you know, closer to the average age of first marriages, say, 500 years ago.
  • Wow! A blunt, direct statement telling people not to judge families where the mother works outside the home—that’s something i don’t think i’ve ever heard in a general conference (or even a stake conference) before. Telling people bluntly not to judge couples who don’t have children, yes, that i’ve heard before (and there’s wider social recognition of the impoliteness involved there, too)—but this is a potential first.

Kent F. Richards (of the quorums of the seventy)
  • Kent F. Richards was a surgeon. I wonder if him talking about medical stuff is the equivalent of Dieter F. Uchtdorf talking about airplanes.
  • Interesting that he implicitly assumes that we earn forgiveness.
  • Is direct revelation actually different from personal experience?
  • Interesting approach, so closely equating physical pain and spiritual sin.

The choir sang “I Know That My Redeemer Lives” here. It’s not a bad song to sing, really, but listening to it—wow, it’s really repetitive, isn’t it?

Walter F. González (of the presidency of the seventy)
  • There’s a lot of interesting stuff in the first half to two-thirds of this address, but it’s being hard to pull out single specific items to comment on (either snarkily or seriously).
  • His statement that loving Christ results in receiving the strength to follow Christ is an interesting one, since one could also say that following Christ results in loving Christ. The issue then becomes how one can jump into the cycle, you know?
  • Interesting idea that our covenants are inherently stronger than our challenges. That’s one to mull over.

Jean A. Stevens (of the general primary presidency)
  • She gives the story of “a general authority” who went on assignment to Hong Kong, and what came of his counsel. Why didn’t she name the general authority? The construction reminds me of the awkward way so many stories in the lesson manuals opened when i was a kid. (That sort of construction didn’t bother me when she said stuff like “a ten-year-old boy”. Maybe it’s the difference between referring to minors and adults? Or maybe between celebrities of whatever sort and non-celebrities? I’ll have to think about this.)
  • One interesting thing is that this is an address by a member of the general primary presidency that’s unambiguously directed toward the adults in the audience. Yes, it’s about children, but members of primary presidencies very often aim for dual audiences (adults and children).
  • “Behold” is a semi-archaic word meaning, quite simply, “look at”. Due to its archaic nature it sounds more impressive, but it really only means that. Yeah, it doesn’t mean to just glance at or whatever, but we really shouldn’t try to make individual words mean more than they really do.

L. Tom Perry (of the quorum of apostles)
  • I always like addresses that talk about the importance of the Bible—yes, we have unique scripture with stuff like the Book of Mormon (well, nearly unique—there are other religions that accept that as scripture, after all), but it’s important not to forget the stuff we share widely with others, too.
  • This whole discussion of the sacrament raises a question that i wonder about occasionally: Why is priesthood authority necessary for the blessing and passing of the sacrament? (I suppose that’s a question particularly for the “and passing” part of the question.)
  • He quoted the scriptural passage that says we’re to go to church and take the sacrament, and do “none other thing” (and he gave special emphasis to that phrase). I’ve always found it interesting that that’s immediately followed by an exception: We’re explicitly allowed to prepare food.
  • Ah! The claim that outward appearance necessarily reflects inward attitudes! Maybe sometimes, even often, but as a blanket statement?
  • He said that we should avoid amusements (to use an old-fashioned term) on Sundays, and followed that by quoting the line from the New Testament that the Sabbath was made for people, not people for the Sabbath. I got a bit of mental whiplash trying to follow that argument, to be quite honest.
  • Can y’all of my generation imagine using glass cups for the sacrament? The handwashing requirements would have been annoying, to put it mildly.

Thomas S. Monson (president of the high priesthood)
  • It always surprises me when general authorities said they didn’t think they’d fill the Conference Center. (I remember the original public announcement saying that they didn’t expect to fill it at first.) I’m actually surprised they underestimated the demand so strongly, given that, e.g.,  Brigham Young University’s Marriott Center fills for visiting general authorities, and sometimes large stadiums (stadia?) get filled by church members for visiting authorities.
  • Three new temples: Fort Collins, Colorado; Meridian, Idaho; and Winnipeg, Manitoba. Of those, Winnipeg fills in the most obvious and glaring hole in the map. Actually, given Winnipeg’s traditional role as the transportation hub of the Canadian plains, i was surprised when Regina got one before Winnipeg did.
  • Some people say that the church shouldn'’t announce like this when we’re providing humanitarian service (you know, the whole don’t trumpet your good deeds before the world thing). I disagree, actually—letting members of the church know that good works are being done is a way of getting them to feel like it’s simply a normal thing to do, and therefore to make it more likely that they’ll do such stuff in the future.

Allan F. Packer (of the quorums of the seventy)
  • He prayed that we’ll live so that we can merit blessings (i didn’t get the exact words). The tension over the primacy of grace vs. primacy of works tension really is alive and well within Mormonism, you know?

Dieter F. Uchtdorf (of the first presidency), opening remarks
  • This conference is the 75th anniversary of the church’s welfare program. Given his personal history, he may well feel the importance of that more intensely than many others of the general authorities.

1 comment:

Jeanne said...

On whether or not we should trumpet the humanitarian service...I agree with you, David. I used to wonder if the church ever did any humanitarian service and feel sad thinking that we really didn't. We don't have to trumpet it to the world, but we should make sure the general membership knows.