Monday, December 31, 2012
I know it’s just me, but this just seems odd—not that there’s a carve-out for holidays and family home evening observance, but that if you’re going to pick exactly one holiday to allow that, it’d be this one. I mean, why not other holidays that already have a tradition of evening gatherings, like (in the United States) Memorial Day and Labor Day (and Independence Day, on years when it falls on a Monday), or explicitly religious holidays like Xmas Eve (when it falls on a Monday) or Easter Monday (in those jurisdictions where it’s celebrated)?
Saturday, December 15, 2012
The shirt i planned for this Sunday is a purple one.** I look good in purple, after all, and so i have a handful of purple dress shirts anyway, so the odds were in that color’s favor to begin with.
Well, unbeknownst to me a group of women on the internet had decided to tweak the noses of Mormon social conservatives† by wearing trousers to church instead of skirts or dresses. Well, this started to be a thing, until it then devolved into really, really intense vitriol to the point of death threats(!) against those putting the whole thing together. It got bad enough that Facebook, never really known as a hotbed of civility, took down the Facebook page about it ’cause the
Also unbeknownst to me, some men decided to get into the act by saying that they were going to wear purple ties or even purple shirts (gasp and horror!) in support of the trousers-wearing women.
So, once i learned about all this late last week, i was locked into wearing a purple shirt today, since i was short on shirts to begin with and i’d already worn the other good-looking dress shirts i had available.
This leads to an interesting question: Am i wearing a purple shirt in solidarity with women wearing trousers (no, it’s just that i look good in purple—see footnote †), and will people view my action as such (i do, after all, not infrequently wear purple shirts to church anyway)?
More to the point, though, i guess the big question is whether i really care what other people think about this.††
A postscript: A Facebook friend of mine says she’s going to wear a purple dress to church tomorrow, just to play with the ambiguity. Cheers for her!
* Hey, cut me a break here—we have four kids, and two of them go to a school with a moderately tight dress code, so laundry is always an issue, ’kay?
** Me, wear a white shirt to church? Oh, please don't make me giggle so hard.
† A goal i stand thoroughly in favor of, by the way. I explicitly take no position on this specific tweaking, but the idea of tweaking Mormon social conservatives generally? More often, and more power to you, that’s what i say.
‡ Though i will admit to a bit of curiosity in the sense of the sociological experiment of it all.
Sunday, December 9, 2012
For me, i think that the most important thing i learned from being a full-time missionary was how to laugh. I come to this conclusion by recalling how many people commented on how after my mission i was able to give in fully to laughter when i thought something was funny, whereas beforehand i’d always been a bit reserved about laughter.
And i think that just that result alone would have been reason enough to have gone.
Tuesday, December 4, 2012
The main thing i learned from this review: Some of the requirements involve some pretty insipid stuff. I mean, don’t get me wrong, some of the things she’ll be doing for this are actually really cool, but nearly all of them are basically to read a bunch of scriptures and reflect on how it’ll relate to your life as a wife and mother. Oh—and then write about it in your journal. If the number of repetitions is indicative of importance, then the most important thing she’ll ever do in her life is write about what she’s thinking in her journal. Gee, excitement. Or something.
Seriously: As long as the program for (most of) the boys of the church involves things like first aid and emergency preparedness and woodcarving and survival skills plus—maybe—some spiritual stuff that gets snuck in here and there, while the program for (all of) the girls of the church involves what it involves, well, some of us are going to continue to be bothered by the disparity.
Thursday, November 22, 2012
(If you have a favorite song about giving thanks, whether from the hymnal or not, please feel free to mention it in the comments.)
* Today’s Thanksgiving Day in the United States.
Saturday, November 17, 2012
This suddenly became quite a bit more real (and not just annoying) to me since my oldest was asked to speak in sacrament meeting tomorrow. She practiced her speech in front of Jeanne and me this evening, and it was good and we told her so, except that we asked her to eliminate the sentence she opened with where she said she was nervous and downplayed expectations for the whole thing.
She objected to our request, saying—seriously!—that one has to start a sacrament meeting address that way.
I mean, kudos to her for such astute cultural observation skills, but is it really a good thing to tell people at the outset that you’re no good at what you’re doing? After all, such a claim is either wasted time since we’re all about to become painfully aware of it whether you say it or not, or it’s false modesty. Either way, not good.
(And it’s not just girls, or even just girls and women—men and boys do it too. Do similar things happen in other faith traditions where congregants regularly speak in services?)
p.s. She finally conceded our point after a couple minutes of back and forth on the issue. Score one for basic rhetorical competence.
Monday, November 12, 2012
Maybe affinity voting isn’t quite as much of a thing as i’d feared, after all.
Thursday, November 8, 2012
I plan to find excuses to work that fact into conversations i have with other Mormons over the next week or two, just to see what sort of facial muscle twitches i can induce.
Tuesday, November 6, 2012
I would like to state, very bluntly and directly, that i find voting for or against someone based on their religious choices silly. It’s what we do, though, so whatever.
With that as background, though, the rest of this is written with the Mormons who are voting for Romney because he’s a Mormon in mind.
Many of the people i know who are voting for Romney are planning on voting for him at least in large part because he’s a Mormon. This makes sense, because a lot of the people in my social circles are Mormon, and affinity voting is a real thing.
Have they really thought this through, though? I still remember someone telling me during the presidential primary season back in 2008 that he was planning on voting for Romney, even though he (my friend) differed with him (Romney) on a lot of issues, “because Romney has the priesthood, and you’ve got to trust the priesthood.” Really?!? I mean, when did someone receiving the priesthood immediately make him trustworthy enough to be offered one of the two or three most powerful jobs on the planet based on that qualification alone?
Seriously, i don’t get it. I mean, i’ve known some priesthood holders who were jerks, and i’ve known some folks who don’t hold the priesthood who are role models at a level i merely hope to one day get somewhere close to.
So what’s with the Mormon affinity thing? Just because he’s one of ours, we suddenly get less critical? Not healthy, folks, not healthy at all.
* I tend to believe that statistically valid samples work, and so i have expectations, but that’s a whole different discussion right there.
Sunday, November 4, 2012
* I’m deliberately ignoring the folks who pray for God to “bless the hands that prepared it”, ’cause it always leaves me wondering what’s wrong with my hands that they need such a targeted blessing.
** This is especially fun when it’s something that one might not ought even call food, like the pound cake and red Kool-Aid that was once served after a baptism i attended.
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Is this one of those weird cases where there isn’t a de jure rule on what’s allowable in the church, but there is (at least in most cases) a de facto rule? What is everyone else’s experience?
* Possibly leaving aside my current ward—we opted out of our ward’s Halloween activity this year in favor of family stuff, so i didn’t pay attention to the rules here.
Saturday, October 20, 2012
Also, this doesn’t have anything to do with Mormonism as such, but it would never have been an issue if i hadn’t grown up Mormon and thus been in contact with a lot of Utah Mormons during my growing up, so i’m putting it here anyway.
See, i grew up on the United States east coast—small rolling hills, with the Appalachian Mountains a quick drive to the west, and we went out that direction fairly frequently to spend time in the mountains. All was good.
But like i said above, i grew up Mormon, and at the time there were a lot of transplants from Utah who’d come to the area for work.* This wouldn’t have been a problem—and i’m all for cultural exchange—except that many of these Utahn transplants were so intensely dismissive of our moutains back east.
“Hah!” they’d scoff. “The Appalachians aren’t real mountains like we have back in Utah!” And this wasn’t an occasional thing—i got to hear this over and over and over.
Now, i’d never been to Utah,** but i’d seen pictures of the Rocky Mountains in Utah, and i knew that they were, well, rocky. So after a while i got tired enough of the mountain smugness from the Utahns around me that i started pointing out that their mountains were bigger, but at least mine had trees. The Utahns would consistently completely miss the point, generally answering that the Rockies have trees, too.***
Basically, there was no way to avoid being faced with expressions of superiority about how the mountains in Utah were better than the mountains in the east. (I have to say, i don’t actually know why those Utahns expressed such smugness about their hometown mountains, and my continued inability to figure out the answer to that question, even after living for a few years in Utah—where, by the way, i’d get smugness about how the Appalachians are so terribly tiny, as well, so it’s not something that came from people feeling the stress of living away from their hometowns—kind of bothers me.)
I've lived a few places now in my life, both mountainous and flat. My adopted hometown, though, is in Alaska, where we have mountains.
The nearest mountains are the Chugach Range, which don’t go up to as high an elevation as Utah’s Wasatch Front, but they’re nearly exactly the same size—it’s just that the base of the Chugach is at sea level, while the Wasatch cheats by having its base start higher.
No problem, though. What i’d really like to draw attention to is the following picture, taken from my adopted hometown. It’s not the greatest picture ’cause there was a bit of haze the day i took it, but you can still make out…
|Left to right: Foraker, Hunter, Denali|
…that it’s Denali, the highest peak in North America, which stands more than a mile taller than King’s Peak, the highest point in Utah. And Denali doesn’t cheat, either—its base is low enough that it’s actually the largest base-to-peak mountain on land anywhere in the entire world.
Or, in other words, and i mean this most sincerely and in as much politeness as i can muster:
☞ Suck it, Utah.
That is all.
* The church where i grew up produces its own Mormons much more than was the case back then. Careful, Utahns—eventually the rest of us are going to take over!
** First time in Utah: the Missionary Training Center (which i’m not sure counts anyway).
*** Um, have any of you actually seen Utah’s Rocky Mountains? No. Yes, there are trees, but compare it to the Appalachians. The Utah Rockies have trees at the level of a technicality. Sorry, but thanks for playing.
Thursday, October 11, 2012
I mean, here we were all comfortable thinking he was our edition of Al Smith, a sacrificial lamb to pave the way for later Mormons who might want to seek the presidency, but no, here he has to go and start creeping up in the polls—so let the stressing out begin.
Sunday, October 7, 2012
Thomas S. Monson (president of the high priesthood)
- “Let us not be critical and judgmental—let us be tolerant.” So does this put a fork in sacrament meeting speakers using the “we first endure, then pity, then embrace” line ever again, then?
- “None of us is immune” to an unexpected calling. Uh-oh…
- And we’re done—ponder on what’s been taught, be good, and be better than you were before.
David A. Bednar (of the quorum of apostles)
- There is a relationship between receiving a testimony of Jesus Christ and being converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
- Any honest seeker of truth can gain an testimony and become converted.
- Speaking of which, given the way he just pulled out textual parallelism in his use of the phrase “honest seeker”, i suspect that he is, as is so often the case, delivering an address that's intended to be read more than heard.
- Testimony is the beginning of full conversion.
- Testimony is important, but insufficient to give us enough spiritual strength—we need to be converted.
- From my oldest: “Didn’t he give this exact same talk last year?”
- I know this makes me evil and all, but strained interpretations of the parable of the ten virgins really do nothing for me.
Don R. Clarke (of the quorums of seventy)
- What do we think about during the sacrament? Well, when i’m taking the sacrament, i’m generally thinking about whether my youngest is taking the opportunity to crawl under the seats.
- We should care about the sacrament—it’s not just a chance for a (really, really tiny) snack in the middle of church.
- By cleansing yourself through the sacrament each week, you ensure that after you die, your spirit will be clean.
Daniel L. Johnson (of the quorums of seventy)
- We need to become like Jesus, which is not easy (though necessary).
- Trials aren’t limited to things like death of a loved one or the loss of a crop, but can include worldly popularity, artistic or athletic talent, or such.
Marcus B. Nash (of the quorums of seventy)
- What is it about Mormons and faith/mountain analogies?
- How long has it been since we’ve had a Martin and Willie handcart company story in conference?
- Wait a minute! “The Lord’s antidote for doubt is” [drum roll] belief? I mean, isn’t that kinda tautological?
Russell T. Osguthorpe (general president of the Sunday school)
- And here’s the official rollout of the church’s new youth curriculum. (And it’s about time, i say.)
- Teaching as an active work, not a semi-passive pursuit.
- The one who learns has to decide to learn, but they have to be taught by those who can teach.
- “We want our youth to understand.” (May have gotten a word or two wrong, but the content is correct.)
- Someone online just pointed out that a new curriculum is absolutely needed, what with Missionary Training Center stays being shortened.
Richard G. Scott (of the quorum of apostles
- Wow—Sunday afternoon, and this is the first extended mention of temple work?
- Interesting idea, that doing both family history work and proxy temple work for those you find brings you “both halves of the blessing”.
- Don’t selfishly hold on to names for proxy work, let others help out.
- I love it when he talks about his wife. You can hear the love and pain and joy in his voice. It’s always a good reminder that these aren’t just guys in suits, they’re real people.
Robert D. Hales (of the quorum of apostles)
- Is it just me, or is he looking a lot healthier than he did last conference?
- The grace of God is important, don’t ignore it!
- This is sounding like it’s going to be the obligatory general conference “no, we are Xian, so there!” address.
- Good question: Given that we are Xians, “what kind of Xians are we?”
- He’s framing this as a call to repentance for all Xians, not just Mormons. Interesting.
- I’m quite liking this address. That makes four favorites by now.
- Lots of explicit calls to (temporal and spiritual) service this conference, aren’t there?
Opening couple of choir songs
- Okay, what’s with the amazingly slow arrangements? MoTab was all upbeat and cheery yesterday, and today they’re trying to put me to sleep.
[didn’t catch the name], opening prayer
- Okay everybody, admit it, you all said “amen” after the first time he said “in the name of Jesus Christ”, didn’t you?
The Sunday morning session of general conference is, i strongly suspect, the most widely watched session (i have no idea where i’d look for good evidence of that, though). It seems like there’s been a concerted effort to make sure that any big announcements get made in other sessions (cf. Monson, Thomas S., Saturday Morning Session, October 2012), but i feel like this session still has the cachet of being the “big” one.
But whether this really is the big leagues or not, it’s here. To get my comments, scroll down to the bottom of the post and move upward to get things in order. (or you can just be a rebel and start here. Doesn’t matter to me either way, really.)
[didn’t catch the name], closing prayer
- I think he may have touched on every address this session—way to prove you were listening, dude!
- Sorry, can’t help it, but i keep hearing “She’ll Be Comin’ ’Round the Mountain When She Comes” every time the organ refrain kicks in.
Thomas S. Monson (president of the high priesthood)
- We are blessed with much, but it is hard to look around us and not be discouraged—so we need to step back and look at the blessings in our lives.
- Hurrah! For encouraging optimism and happiness with regard to “the world”.
- The more we pay attention to promptings from the Lord, the more the Lord will entrust us with divine errands.
- I feel like President Monson had moved away lately from the story-based style he historically used. Not this time, though!
- “He attributed the solution to luck. But all of the youth knew better.” That’s actually a good reminder of the way people can observe the same phenomenon and come to very different conclusions of its provenance.
Jeffrey R. Holland (of the quorum of apostles)
- “I think we sometimes forget just how inexperienced [the eleven apostles right after Jesus’s death] were.”
- Fun job pulling the story of the eleven after Jesus’s death into modern language.
- You know, i feel kind of sheepish in having to admit that i never caught the parallel between the initial meeting of the fishers-to-be-apostles and Jesus, and their meeting in the same way after Jesus’s resurrection. I’m always happy when i learn simultaneously obvious and new stuff about the scriptures.
- I love exegesis. I don’t know, if this is what we usually got every week from our speakers maybe i wouldn’t find it as cool. But coming from the Mormon tradition, this approach rocks.
- And now he makes the turn and applies it to our lives today. Really amazing work.
- A baptism isn’t supposed to just change the life of the convert, but also the person performing the ordinance.
- Wow. This one, President Eyring’s from last night, Sister Burton’s from earlier this session…Anytime you get three addresses that are that impressive, it's been an amazing conference, you know? I’m not even going to try to pick a favorite. (And we’re not done yet.)
Walter F González (of the presidency of the seventy)
- The gift of the Holy Ghost as a gateway to knowledge.
- We can learn knowledge that cannot be gained through modern technology or secular study. Interesting claim about the separation of spiritual and secular knowledge buried in there, really.
- When are we going to let conference speakers speak in their native languages? It’d create some difficulties for those in the Conference Center itself, but i’d love for people like Elder González to be able to express themselves in a more natural way.
Linda K. Burton (relief society general president)
- I’m a sociolinguist. As a result, her Wasatch Front vowel system is going to be astonishingly distracting for me throughout this entire address.
- Stopping bullying by being nice to the bully? Wouldn’t work every time, of course, but a good reminder that it should be in our toolkits.
- Grrrr…Yeah, i know how it was intended, and i know I’m taking this wrong, but as a father of daughters, I’m tired of being told that the personal progress program is intended to help my children become good mothers. It’s teaching them to become good human beings, thankyouverymuch.
- Interesting—she often adds “and women” to scriptures that speak about things like “all men”. I like it.
- Sweet! A pay it forward story! (And, as my wife points out, someone is now sitting somewhere saying, “That was me!”)
- Wow. Really, really great address.
- And we get a vocal solo!
Boyd K. Packer (president of the quorum of apostles)
- He’s really not looking well. I’ve listened to addresses of his from past decades, and he was an incredibly vibrant speaker. A good reminder, i suppose, that one person really can life multiple lifetimes.
- “If you have made no mistakes, you do not need the atonement.” This is, of course, as he points out, moot, since we all have made mistakes, and so are all in need of the atonement.
- “We do not know how, exactly, the Lord accomplished the atonement.” Bet it won’t stop folks in gospel doctrine classes from insisting they do, though!
Henry B. Eyring (of the first presidency)
- He’s into the family stories this weekend, isn’t he
- You know, speaking as an academic, going from tenured prof at an R1 like Stanford to president of a junior college like Ricks College isn't a usual career path, but i don't know that it would be seen as a (worldly) downgrade in the way he presents it.
- We can create barriers between ourselves and God. I wonder, is that phenomenon always quite so one-way?
- I like the idea that it can sometimes take a change of focus on our part (like in the story of his daughter-in-law, where she had to move from a hyperfocus on motherhood to one on service generally).
- “The Lord’s delays can seem long. Some can last a lifetime…[but] we can be sure that he always keeps his promises.” Deep and heavy words there.
- I love this Jesus’s statement on the separation of the wicked and the righteous at the final judgment, ’cause the righteous have no idea that they've done good, it was just part of them. “A change in your very nature”, in President Eyring’s words, anyone?
- Moral of the story: Service is the grand key to communion with God.
Marlin K. Jensen (formerly of the quorums of seventy), opening prayer
- Yes, he’s giving a prayer in conference. Can we stop the whisper campaign now?
- The trend is for general conference prayers to be shorter lately, which made this one seem longer than it was.
Saturday, October 6, 2012
Anyway, as with the others, scroll to the bottom of the post and read up to get the entries in chronological order.
Thomas S. Monson (president of the high priesthood)
- Everyone here has at least some level of a testimony.
- There are many without a testimony who would gladly have one if we would just share ours.
- People say that women need to be told that they’re beautiful and valued and worthwhile—but men also need such encouragement.
- Leaders shouldn’t be shy about giving priesthood responsibilities to those who aren’t fully active.
- I do think that i heard an endorsement there of running prisons as rehabilitative rather than punitive institutions.
- We need to develop the capacity to see people not as they are, but as they may become.
- Interesting story of John Groberg bearing his testimony to the King of Tonga.
- Lots of quotes about the importance of preaching the gospel.
- We need the tenacity to extend the hand of fellowship again and again and again, and the humility to accept God’s mandate to preach.
Henry B. Eyring (of the first presidency)
- Something like: Everything i’ve experienced in the priesthood has come because individuals saw something in me that i didn’t see in myself.
- You should help your children recognize their unique gifts and contributions that they can make.
- No one is detined to fail.
- Make sure your children (and others you mentor and lead) have a view of what they can accomplish.
- You can be blessed to recognize the gifts that your children have, and how to help them see them.
- He gave a really excellent story of hiking with his son, and his son couldn’t make it to the top—and then, when his son asked if he (the son) would be sorry he didn’t make it, Henry B. Eyring’s response was that he wouldn’t be sorry, and he’d always know that they’d hiked to where they’d gotten together.
- Family prayer and scripture study will bear more fruit than you think.
- Even things like going to a sporting event or attending a movie with your child will lead to good results (especially if the child suggests it).
- You know, i’m sure that some people will read this sermon as a child-brag, but i think it’s sweet, and it’s my favorite address of the conference so far.
Dieter F. Uchtdorf (of the first presidency)
- Ah! So here’s the airplane story we didn’t get earlier!
- Our individual experiences of service may be as different as flying a Piper Cub or flying an F-18, but they are all still valid.
- There is always imperfection, always something to complain about, but we have been given authority and are called to bless, serve, and act—could anything be greater than that?
- Something like: As a pilot i have touched the skies, but as a church member i have touched the face of heaven.
- We can easily recite the definition of the priesthood (the eternal power and authority of God), but do we understand what we’re saying when we say it?
- People who don’t grasp the significance of the priesthood are like people grumbling about the size of their packet of peanuts while they’re soaring through the sky. (Cue thoughts of Louis CK’s “everything’s amazing and nobody’s happy” bit.)
- Quote: “As we honor the holy priesthood, God will honor us.”
Intermediate song (“Guard Us, O Thou Great Jehovah”)
- Wow—this song has some truly vicious lyrics, if you pay attention to them.
Anthony D. Perkins (of the quorums of seventy)
- Anyone can fall from grace at any time
- God has given us the “twin guardrails” of deep personal conversion and strong family relationships
- The danger to conversion is pride; the danger to family is sins like anger and lust.
- To safeguard our sense of conversion we need to pray often (to counter temptation), study ancient and modern scriptures (to connect us to God; he includes church magazines and websites in this), and worthily participate in ordinances (which lets the Spirit guide us).
- To safeguard our family relationships, we need to show true love (which is the characteristic at the heart of both conversion and family relationships), obey the law of tithing (to counter greed and covetousness), and fully live the law of chastity (which lets us be confident before God).
- Dude—this guy is talking fast.
- He says to beware of hypocrisy, and his example is participating in priesthood ordinances when one is unworthy to do so.
Gary E. Stevens (presiding bishopric)
- Lots of stuff, but one major theme: One individual taking a stand can do much good.
D. Todd Christofferson (of the quorum of apostles)
- Some have promoted the interests of women (“which we applaud”, which seemed an interesting aside), but have simultaneously denigrated the interests of men—but that’s not the right way of doing things, since it’s not a competition.
- We need to be men that women, children, and God can trust.
- Wasting your life in cyberspace is “ironically, being in the world but not of it”.
- Whatever your path—college, trade school, the arts, or whatever—become proficient at it.
- Here’s something you don’t get very often: notice that a first presidency letter is coming soon (on the importance of family history and temple work).
- Quorums need to help their members.
- We need to help our children experience “a mighty change of heart”.
Jay E. Jensen (recently of the quorums of the seventy), opening prayer
- A reference to Thomas S. Monson as “the senior apostle”, which is something you don’t hear mentioned all that much.
Second general session! (Which reminds me—how many non-general sessions are there?
So, like with all of these entries, this post runs chronologically from the bottom and runs up the page by speaker, with notes for each speaker running top-down. It’s confusing, but i can’t figure out a better way to let people read all five general sessions in chronological order once they’re all up. So, then, scroll down to the bottom, and let’s begin…
Dallin H. Oaks (of the quorum of apostles)
- Doesn’t “i can’t talk about politics” usually actually mean “i’m about to talk about politics”?
- Abortion is bad, and then a pivot to endemic malnutrition and AIDS. I’m not entirely sure where he’s heading with this.
- And now psychological abuse and bullying. This is a rather sprawling address.
- Kids with various issues, explicitly including same-sex attraction, need to be protected from bullying.
- Ah! And now we get the Proclamation on the Family. I was wondering how long it would be ’til we got a quote from it.
- Interesting rhetorical strategy: He keeps quoting from people like “a Harvard law professor” and “a New York Times writer” without actually giving names. It bothers me, but i suspect i’m in the minority here.
- Okay, as a social scientist myself, i have to say that it bothered me when he said that we “should assume” that growing up in a same-sex-couple-headed household is damaging to children, although the research literature on the subject is “controversial” due to its politically charged nature—and then he backed up a claim about the research literature with a reference to “a New York Times writer”?!? Really, i’d suggest reading about social science research in social science research journals, not the New York Times.
Neil L. Andersen (of the quorum of apostles)
- Tragedy happens, but God can comfort us.
- Really, really good point: What is a simple test for one person might well be a fiery trial of faith for another.
- Interesting how he turned a general focus on tests and trials of faith into an address on the need to avoid nonmarital sex. It almost feels like he wrote one full address but also had the core of a second one, so he just dropped the one inside the other.
- You know, i have to point out that some of the information critical of the church on the internet is true. Implying that it is all false won’t help those who run across the true stuff to understand why they should still stay with the church.
- Wow—how long has it been since we got a salamander letter reference in general conference?
Scott D. Whiting (of the quorums of seventy)
- I recognize the importance of quality control, but some of this seems excessive. I mean, a ⅛-inch deviation out of two inches, and that could only be recognized with a measuring tool, on a window that was to be hidden? Requiring a lack of grittiness under wallpaper? Maybe we could have just let it be, and sent the quality control guy to make sure that folks were getting the right nutritional balance in the church’s humanitarian efforts.
- So the parallel turns out to have been that we need to rectify any issues of sinfulness in our lives, just like the contractors were required to rectify any issues of poor quality in the temple. Not really compelling to me, but i get it.
Robert C. Gay (of the quorums of seventy)
- “Would you sell your soul for a nickel?”
- Serious question: If any one little sin, or even a lack of doing good things, is just as bad as big sins, then what’s to keep someone from logically concluding that since they’ve done a little bit wrong, they might as well go full-bore down that road?
Larry Echo Hawk (of the quorums of seventy)
- Okay, let’s all admit it: This guy’s on all your all-name GA teams, isn’t he?
- Really, really fun story to open.
- His grandfather was born “in what is now Nebraska”. Nice little reminder that there was a there beforehand.
- Cool personal take on the Book of Mormon by an indigenous American, and then extending that to others.
M. Russell Ballard (of the quorum of apostles)
- And cue the bee pollen and honey folks in 3…2…
- Individual contributions, though seemingly insignificant, are a necessary part of the results of the whole.
- The takeaway: Service is good, and must be undertaken for selfless reasons.
- Specific instruction: Pray each morning that you’ll get a chance to serve someone, and then look for opportunities to serve.
L. Tom Perry (of the quorum of apostles)
- Dude’s ninety years old? He’s holding up pretty good for reaching that point.
- The big message: Families are good.
- I don’t think he’s saying this, but i worry that a good number of Mormons are going to read this as saying that Mormon culture (and, in particular, Utah Mormon culture) is utterly and completely right, and doesn’t have any problems at all.
- Interesting—he said allowances are a good thing, ’cause they allow children to learn to do things like save and pay tithing.
- Was the jab at “entitlement culture” a case of political code words, or something more benign? The sad thing is that in this day and age one can’t tell—though, unfortunately, i’m sure folks on either side will interpret them that way.
- Shout out to guys who are actually involved in their kids’ learning!
- Change in the presidency of the seventy, and in the office of church historian and recorder, plus the usual turnover in the quorums of the seventy. Overall, really, nothing headline-making.
- He called this the “Sabbath day”. Does this mean we’re merging with the Seventh-Day Adventists now?
So it goes.
Anyway, this is also my twice-yearly weekend of sorta-liveblogging General Conference. As i s my complaint each year, blogging and social media have opted to go against centuries of English textual tradition, with the chronological order of stuff people write going from bottom to top, rather than top to bottom. Therefore, this post (after this intro) will begin chronologically at the bottom, with entries ordered by speaker or event from the bottom up. (Therefore, once conference is done you’ll be able to go to the bottom of the entries for the five general sessions and read through everything in one long bottom-up sweep.) However, any entries under a speaker will be ordered as one would normally expect them, from the top down. Confused yet? Good. That means it’s time to scroll to the bottom of this post and start reading backwards.
And one final note
- Lots of upbeat arrangements of songs offered by MoTab this morning, and nice key changes in the closing song.
Dieter F. Uchtdorf (of the first presidency
- How in the world does he make “we’re all gonna die” sound so happy?
- Busy-ness is not a sign of a good life, said directly by a member of the first presidency! Cue happy dance.
- Slam at social media, then explaining to say that trivial interactions aren’t fulfilling in the way that deep personal interactions are.
- This is actually a pretty intense call to repentance address, but he’s coating it in a presentation style that sweetens it a bit.
- Doing is better than desiring.
- We need to let ourselves be happy. (Does this extend to people talking about the evils of the world around us?)
- He called his wife Harriett rather than Sister Uchtdorf! (And he reports her calling him Dieter!) Cue another happy dance.
- “We will not be truly ready to die until we have learned how to live.” (Not sure if i got the precise wording right, but the basic meaning is correct.)
Russell M. Nelson (of the quorum of apostles)
- Directing comments to the non-members watching. How many non-members actually watch general conference?
- Interesting approach in talking to non-members, though—talking about the service of full-time missionaries, rather than basic gospel principles.
- Way to thread the needle on calling the church The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or the Mormon church.
- Fun story about a non-member receiving direct and specific revelation.
- Interesting suggestion, to ask the missionaries for help in things beyond just preaching the gospel. (Gotta put all those new younger missionaries likely to put in their papers this week to good use, eh?)
- If you want to help us in humanitarian work, even if you’re not of our faith, that’s cool, and the missionaries can help you figure out how to help out.
Shayne M. Bowen (of the seventy)
- Talking about the deaths of children? Heavy.
- Good (as far as i can judge) description of survivor guilt, and the problems related to it.
- “When did you get over it?” His answer is not yet, and never in this life—but one has to look forward to the fullness of joy in being reunited in the resurrection.
- “Wouldn’t it be tragic if we didn’t feel sorrow when we lose a child?” Heavy.
- I wasn't liking this at the beginning. He drew me in. Beautiful address.
- Please promise me that we will never have to hear this arrangement for the organ of this song (“We Thank Thee, Oh God, for a Prophet”) ever again. Low-end dissonance is okay, but only in limited circumstances.
Craig C. Christensen (of the presidency of the seventy)
- The phrase “sacred feelings” to refer to the influence of the Holy Ghost has always felt a little weird to me.
- “The Holy Ghost loves us and wants us to be happy.” Interesting to hear that in phrasing usually used to refer to God or Jesus Christ.
- You don’t often get an entire address specifically on the Holy Ghost.
- I’ve never actually grokked the “influence of the Holy Ghost” vs. the “gift of the Holy Ghost” thing. He’s explaining it as extra benefits from the gift; is that what it is?
Ann M. Dibb (of the general presidency of the young women’s organization)
- Sidebar: Sister Dibb is President Monson’s daughter.
- The idea of a faith statement on a T-shirt would be silly from anybody other than a member of the young women general presidency. From that group, it’s both fitting and (in a good way) cute.
- An increase in gospel knowledge lets us apply the gospel in our lives. (There’s a lot packed into that, really.)
- Snark: She’s giving Quentin L. Cook’s address way better than he did.
- So does anybody else think that the odds are pretty high that there’s already been a bunch of orders placed for “I’m a Mormon. I know it. I live it. I love it.” T-shirts for sale online? Welcome to the newest Mormon pop-culture phenomenon!
Quentin L. Cook (of the quorum of apostles)
- Good point, that a reduction in full-time missionary age has happened before.
- I’m always happy when general conference addresses include bits from non-Mormon theologians (here, a Baptist)—it’s good for the church to be reminded that we don’t hold a monopoly on religious insights.
- He includes a lack of respect and civility in with abuse—a heavy concept, if you think it through.
- He said there’s no real pushback in the world at large against pornography (as there is against, say, smoking)? Part of me thinks that he needs to start reading more anti-porn feminism.
- Yes, i’ll say it: I’m tired of the Eric Liddel story. Find another Sabbath-keeping story for us, please.
Thomas S. Monson (president of the high priesthood)
- Foreshadowing of topics in a later address—you don’t actually get that very often.
- Two new temples: Tucson, Arizona and Arequipa, Peru.
- A reduction in the minimum age of full-time missionary service for men to age eighteen…and women can serve full-time missions at age nineteen now! High-fives from my daughters!
- Seriously, though, how often is there an address from the prophet where the throwaway line is that there will be two new temples?
Opening prayer (didn’t catch the name)
- Wow, that was a short prayer!
Before everything starts
- Why does everybody stand when the current President of the High Priesthood walks in? I mean, i know it’s a sign of respect and such, but when and where did the tradition start?
- I’m not a fan of MoTab, but i have to admit that they do the switch into a capella better than anybody else. (And really, “How Firm a Foundation” is one that they pretty much nail every time.)
Thursday, October 4, 2012
Monday, October 1, 2012
Can i just say how utterly wrong that is? Or even if it’s not wrong, it’s at least icky. And it’s icky and wrong—or at least it should be—no matter what side of the recent political debates you’re on. (That is, if you even care—and with that, a big Hello! to what the Blogger dashboard tells me is the occasional reader from Germany.)
I mean, c’mon, folks. Get real. Especially when the email contains lines like God loves the United States of America and he wants us to be successful as a nation, followed immediately by If we do all that we can through our hard work and prayers in behalf of Mitt Romney miracles will happen. (I have to admit that when i read that, my first thought was “What, we’ll suddenly be presented with a candidate who’s better than either of our choices? That’d be cool.” But then again, i’m pretty much an unreformed cynic, so you might not have thought the same thing.)
I mean, sure God loves the United States of America. I’m pretty certain about that—just as i’m certain that God loves Canada, and Mexico, and Germany, and Russia, and Kenya, and Djibouti, and Fiji, and India, and Pakistan, and Iran, and Israel, and Syria, and Uzbekistan, and [continue the list for nearly 200 more names of countries]. So why is our presidential election suddenly such a big deal to God? I’m pretty sure it isn’t, at least no more than elections in, say, Rwanda are. God loves all of us equally, after all.
And besides, we’ve already got Mormons in positions of power in the United States, anyway—isn’t Harry Reid, senator from Nevada, the Senate Majority Leader?
Oh, wait—that’s right, i think we can guess from the tenor of this email that since Harry Reid’s politics are (very slightly) left of center, he quite simply doesn’t count. Nope, we apparently need Mitt Romney.
Well, maybe we do—it’d be fun to see a pair of Mormons at utter and complete loggerheads, using every parliamentary trick in the book to stymie each other’s political plans. Maybe then we’d finally get people (and by “people” i’m including a lot of Mormons, too) to realize that we’re not as socially and politically monolithic a group as they think we are.
But back to the email, and another bit of ickiness: We are so excited to be a part of this time in history, to have this special opportunity to stand for liberty. Liberty? Huh? It seems to me that folks on both sides (most all sides, for that matter—let’s not forget the minor candidates) are fans of liberty. It’s not like we’ve got the Archangel Gabriel running against Benito Mussolini here, after all.
The absolute worst part, though, was the bit urging recipients to Please contact all your friends and family everywhere and ask them to join with us in this special day of fast. Ask them to contact all of their friends. Take this message to the churches.
Nuh-uh. No. Absolutely not. The Mormon church is, after all, very fond of its tax-exempt status in the United States, and (at least partly) as a result, this advice is simply against current church policy.
You can take such a message to other members of the church, but to take it to your entire congregation (which is what i get from to the churches)? Not in a Mormon church—if the bishop has been reading his leadership Handbook at all lately, you’ll get smacked down hard and quickly.
And so, on second thought, maybe i actually do wish people had done that—that would have been fun to see.
Sunday, September 30, 2012
It’s not ’cause i’ve been unwell or anything, and it’s not that i haven’t missed posting stuff, but i’ve gotten tired of public Mormonism—you know, all the stuff in the news and other bits of the public sphere lately, most likely as a result of Mitt Romney’s candidacy for the president of the United States, about Mormons and Mormonism. And no, i’m not talking about attacks on the church and its members—i’m a big enough boy that I can handle that. It’s just the sheer volume of mentions of my faith that i keep hearing. It’s simply tiring.
To be honest, i don’t know how the evangelicals have managed to deal with it for so long.
(And the fact that my computer meltdown meant that i couldn’t get on to post for a few weeks this summer just made it easier to go with my feeling of being sick of my religion having so many mentions, too.)
I mean, i even stopped in the middle of a series—my recent posts on home teaching experiences were originally planned to be the first two of a three-parter.
But i’ve decided that it’s time to get back on this, not least because general conference is coming up in less than a week, and i really do enjoy posting my thoughts on that event each time. So—sometime this or (much more likely) next evening i’ll start posting again. I’m thinking that my posts over the next couple months are pretty likely to deal with this newly public face of Mormonism, if only because i’m trying to work through that. We’ll see how it all shakes out, though.
Saturday, August 11, 2012
So we’d gone a few months without home teachers, but that didn’t really stress us out, so we didn’t think about it much.
We were about to start to think about it a bit more.
So our ward had the schedule where sacrament meeting came last, which has advantages and disadvantages, but one of the biggest advantages accrues to the ward choir director: you can corral people into choir practice a lot easier when everyone is in the same place at the end of the meeting block, rather than scattered around a bunch of different classrooms.
Therefore, as you might expect, sacrament meeting was followed immediately by choir practice. Well, neither of us were in the ward choir, so at the end of sacrament meeting the choir members headed to the front of the chapel, and we headed toward the back.
As we were about to leave the chapel, a man who we’d seen before but hadn’t ever properly met stopped us and asked, “Are you the B—s?” We said we were, and he said, “I’m your new home teacher—i’m Brother—” and at that moment there was a loud burst from the organ, drowning out his name.
Now, looking back on things, we realized that we should have asked him to repeat it—but we didn’t, instead just setting up an appointment for him to come by later that week.
Well, he came by, but at that point we couldn’t very well ask what his name was—i mean, he’d told us and we were even letting him in our house—so we listened carefully to see if he told us his name.
So next Sunday we listened carefully to see if he or anyone else would say his name.
Or rather, lots of people said his name, but he was well-known enough in the ward that everyone who talked to him used his first name, and it was a very, very common name.
Which means that for several months, we had monthly visits from a very good home teacher…whose name we didn’t know.
Tuesday, August 7, 2012
No, that’s not the surprising/amusing part, believe it or not. <rimshot />
So anyway, at one point early one month, we had someone come up to us and introduce himself as our new home teacher, and he set up a time to come over. We weren’t necessarily thrilled to switch home teachers, but we weren’t really sad about it, either—that’s the way it goes, and we figured that our previous home teacher was needed somewhere more pressing than visiting our active selves. No worries.
So our new home teacher came over, and it was a good visit—the first of several good visits, as he (and his companion, when his companion chose to come along) ended up coming every single month, teaching good lessons, and providing excellent emotional and spiritual support.
And then later that month our previous home teacher called to set up a time to come visit, and we were cool with that—one last visit from a good home teacher isn’t something to be avoided, after all.
So our old home teacher came over, we had a good visit, and we got to the next month.
And, once again, our new home teacher set up an appointment with us—and so did our old home teacher.
Now, we might should have told our old home teacher he didn’t really need to come any more, but he actually seemed to enjoy his visits with us, and it’s kind of awkward to tell someone they don’t need to hang out with you any more, at least when there’s no reason for it other than what you think the elders quorum president has done, but forgotten to tell anyone.
So for six months, until our old home teacher moved away, we had two home teachers (along with their companions, when their companions chose to come along) visiting us every month, teaching good lessons, and providing excellent emotional and spiritual support.
And most people i know have trouble getting just one home teaching companionship to come by even once in a while. Go figure.
Thursday, August 2, 2012
Therefore, i wonder: Does the church accept civil unions for, say, a couple desiring to be baptized? I can’t easily find anything definitive on that, but i may just be looking in the wrong places. Anyone out there know?
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Basically, moving to a new place, a failed logic board, and the local internet service taking a few unexpected extra days to get set up have created a break in posting. I should be back into it properly in a couple or three days, but until then, thanks for your patience.
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
|11-year-old:||Those cookies were really good.|
|Jeanne:||Yeah, she bakes really well.|
|11-year-old:||One day i want to be just like that.|
|Jeanne:||You want to learn how to bake?|
|11-year-old:||No. I want to visit teach someone who makes good cookies.|
Teaching our children priorities and goal-setting: We’re doing it right.
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Seriously, the number of people there who were stunned to find out that children are sometimes born with hair colors other than blond and eye colors other than blue…
Sunday, July 8, 2012
When the ward clerk roams the halls during church, he’s generally trying to get statistical information, and so the leaders of the various organizations run away from him and hide. When the executive secretary roams the halls during church, he’s generally trying to set up interviews with the bishop, and so it’s everyone else that runs away from him and hides.
Thursday, July 5, 2012
Anybody got any explanations?
* In the United States, at least. I don’t know what the situation is like in other countries.
Monday, July 2, 2012
Monday, June 25, 2012
That is all.
* It has long amused me that every time requirements for church activities involving swimming say that all of the girls and women must wear one-piece swimsuits, any of them could, technically, fulfill said requirement by wearing a monokini.
Thursday, June 21, 2012
Consider the following:
- Full-time missionaries aren’t allowed into the homes of single women* (which means that, say, a 70-year-old woman can’t serve lunch to the missionaries in her own home unless she goes through the trouble of getting a chaperone).
- Mixed-gender couples who are married but not to each other, as well as mixed-gender couples where one is married and the other is single, aren’t allowed to ride in the same car to and from church events or meetings. (And this one’s even enshrined into church policy in the Handbook!)
- A home teacher isn’t supposed to go into the home of a single sister he home teaches until the other home teacher is there, leading to the absurdity of guys waiting in their cars in the cold or stifling heat instead of going inside and being able to fellowship with the saints (and, in fact, the particular saint they’re assigned to fellowship as a priesthood responsibility).
- There is a strong social pressure on romantically involved couples to get engaged quickly, and to have a very short engagement, rather than taking time to get to know each other a bit better.
- Relatedly, there is pretty strong pressure brought onto young Mormons to get married pretty young (for the men, very soon after their return from a full-time mission), even to the point of being taught in general conferences.
- There is a strong social stigma attached to the sight of perfectly sexually innocent patches of skin, such as bare shoulders on women. (Or even prepubescent girls!)
- …And so on.
Basically, many (maybe most, but even i'm not that cynical most days) faithful Mormons seem to believe that nonmarital sex is something that human beings have no ability to resist, and therefore we have to build fences around the law—really, really horrible fences, in some cases.
I don't really get it, myself, but it's there—and i find it remarkably unhealthy. Not sure what to do about it, though. Thoughts?
* This rule wasn’t enforced in my mission when i was a full-time missionary twenty or so years ago, or at least all or most of us full-time missionaries in that mission weren’t aware of the rule. I’ve met others who served around the same time who report that it was an incredibly firm rule for them, though, and it’s been a pretty intensely-taught rule for the full-time missionaries in every mission i’ve lived in since then, too.
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
As seen recently on Facebook, as posted there by a reader of this blog (and reposted here, anonymized, with permission):
The situation: a parent talking to her child just before he turns four years old, saying that then he’ll be halfway to his eighth birthday.
Parent: What happens when you are eight?
Child: I get baptized.
Parent: What does it mean to be baptized?
Child: I drown.
I’m thinking that maybe they’re going to do a bit more teaching on that subject—but if they don’t, i totally want to be at the baptism to see his reaction.
Sunday, June 17, 2012
In my observations of the past few weeks, i’m thinking that the real reason for this policy suggestion is so that a ward doesn’t have to, all at once, come up with replacements for (to pick three callings utterly at random) the executive secretary, young women president, and beehive class president.
* Now titled Handbook, to contrast with the previous Church Handbook of Instructions, which replaced the earlier General Handbook of Instructions. I actually heard someone say at the time that the change of title to Handbook is evidence that the church is led by actual prophets. You know, there may well be evidences that this church is led by prophets, but i’m going to go out on a limb here and say that i’m pretty sure that that ain’t one of them.
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
So i got tripped up by an interesting bit of Mormon terminology yesterday afternoon. Consider this:
I’m going to the temple means that you’re going to perform ordinances of one kind or another (with a default of an endowment session, i think) inside a temple.
I’m going to the temple means that you’re going to the grounds of a temple, perhaps as part of a sightseeing event when you’re on holiday.
This isn’t the first time that this particular ambiguity has caught me. I’m not sure what to do about it (my personally preferred solution, replacing to with through in the ordinance-performing reading, isn’t likely to ever be widely adopted, i don’t think), but one would think we’d be a bit more precise about one of the distinguishing practices of our religion, you know?
Thursday, June 7, 2012
Thursday, May 31, 2012
And you know, i think they’re entirely right! You can’t have state-controlled liquor stores carrying products that are offensive to segments of the population that…aren’t remotely likely…to walk into…any of those stores…
Thursday, May 24, 2012
So this has gotten me wondering—is there a similar sort of effect among Mormon leaders (bishops, stake presidents, mission presidents, general authorities)? If one of them has daughters, especially an oldest child who’s a daughter, is he more likely to, say, listen to women in stake or ward or whatever councils, or focus on young women equally as much as the young men, or promote visiting teaching as vigorously as home teaching, or whatever else one might come up with? Also, how would one measure this?
Utah Valley University has a decent and growing Mormon Studies program, and Brigham Young University has a lot of folks interested in the social scientific study of religion, and the University of Illinois has a history of research into Mormonism, so there’s got to be somebody out there who has the desire and training to look into this.
Monday, May 21, 2012
Saturday, May 19, 2012
Sunday, May 13, 2012
Friday, May 11, 2012
Tuesday, May 8, 2012
I mean, whoever came up with the idea that this is anything even remotely approaching sound pedagogical practice?
Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Now swallow hard, and read the story. I expect there’ll be flinching, but make it all the way through.
And after that, discuss the following questions (and feel free to propose your own):
- What kind of drifted-away-from-someone friend rushes home from college for a weekend for no other reason than to, essentially, lecture their friend about a choice they made (and about something where the one rushing home hasn’t been faced with anything relating to the choice they’re giving the lecture about)?
- What kind of non-Mormons get engaged after two months of knowing somebody, and then get married one month later (even in the early 1970s, when these events allegedly happened)?
- Speaking of which, does anybody else doubt that these events actually happened? Hmmm, maybe i ought to rephrase that so that i can get an accurate count: Does anybody think that this actually happened even close to precisely as narrated?*
- It asks: If you were Emily’s friend, what would you say to her? I’m assuming you mean other than “Congratulations! Have you registered for gifts anywhere yet?”
- They read their vows while a flute played softly in the background? Filthy, dirty hippies!
- Did anybody else notice that when Emily surprisingly [sic!] stayed active in the church, she got called as assistant librarian? In the context of the story, does this feel utterly dismissive to anyone else, specifying that she got called as an “assistant” something?
- Emily, as a child, had wished that her non-member father would be able to baptize her, she wasn’t sure whether her father would go to Primary daddy-daughter parties with her, and he went golfing rather than attend her seminary graduation. Um, did the old Sesame Street “One of These Things Is Not Like the Other” song start going through anybody else’s mind? the first of those is a religious thing. The other two are just being involved in your kid’s life. Her father wasn’t a problem because he was a non-member, he was a problem because he wasn’t a fully involved father.
- So neither Emily’s husband nor father could give her child a name and blessing. Fine. But what’s up with her heavily-sobbed “Who is going to bless my baby?” They had home teachers in the 1970s, right? I’m pretty sure they had bishops. I mean, this is the ward she grew up in—she had to know somebody!
- Interesting assumption in this story, that “member of the church” means “worthy holder of the Melchizedek priesthood”. Hint: Those two sets are not identical. (And there are a lot of non-members i know who i believe are more worthy than a good number of holders of the Melchizedek priesthood i know—but that’s a somewhat different topic, really.)
- And finally, could the word choice throughout the story have been any more horrifically loaded? If your answer is yes, please describe in some detail, ’cause i can’t come up with anything.
- No, strike that, this is the and finally: This young women manual was written in 1992 (with a bit of a revision in 2002), and it was old-fashioned even then. Its outdatedness shows. Badly. Seriously, folks, if the youth programs are really all so important, isn’t it time we fixed stuff like this?
* One change that the church has made to its publications in recent years (that i approve of most vigorously!) is that all stories like this must be at least closely based on real-life events. Back in 1975, though, when this story appeared in the New Era, there was no such requirement.
Sunday, April 29, 2012
Once i get released from this calling, that’s what i’m gonna miss.
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Thursday, April 19, 2012
However, since an apostle is an elder (no, seriously—it’s canon), why are apostles’ lineages traced through whoever ordained them apostles, rather than whoever ordained them elders (and also, most likely, conferred the Melchizedek priesthood on them)?
Friday, April 13, 2012
- Will the members of the church ever learn?
- Are members of the church allowed to submit names of victims of the Shoah for temple work if those people are their direct ancestors?
Saturday, April 7, 2012
Easter weekend traditions we’re celebrating this year at the David B and family home:
- Having an Easter feast with, as its centerpiece, a pork shoulder brined overnight in a cola beverage (in order of preference, Dr. Pepper, Coca-Cola, or—the one we have to use this year—Pepsi, whichever we can most easily get in a made-with-real-sugar variety)
- Listening to a recording of David Sedaris’s reading of his own essay, “Jesus Shaves”
- Watching Jesus Christ Superstar
In other news, it’s fun occasionally making our fellow Mormons’ heads explode.
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Point of trivia: The longest general conference prayer i am aware of (i'm sure there have been longer ones, but this is just from those i’ve listened to) was the nearly-eight-minute prayer given to open the solemn assembly at which George Albert Smith was sustained as president of the church (during the October 1945 general conference). Interestingly, even though general conference prayers back then were usually delivered by stake presidents, this one was delivered by David O. McKay, then the president of the quorum of apostles.
Sunday, April 1, 2012
As always for these, these are ordered bottom-to-top, with the first speaker at the bottom of the post and each succeeding speaker higher up.
- The internet video feed from the church continues to improve. This is the first time we didn’t have to drop to an audio-only feed due to video-feed issues, and even momentary hiccups were pretty rare.
- Lots of love for the MoTab tenors in the arrangements in the final session.
- No new temples announced.
- In fact, no big news at all.
- And no mention of pornography—that’s gotta be a first in how many years?
Thomas S. Monson (president of the high priesthood)
- Great, great, great Freudian slip: If you see conflict in your family, “I urge you to sell ’em—settle them…”
- A general closing of the sort he usually gives, with a little bit of an extended riff on not being contentious.
- Also, this will make no sense without the video feed, but what was that…thing he did with his hand?
Neil L. Andersen (of the quorum of apostles)
- (Did i get the spelling of his name right this time?)
- He’s giving an interesting wrap-up, making sure to tie stuff in to previous speakers’ themes.
- “Discipleship is not a competition.”
- “We may not be at our very best every day, but if we are trying” we’ll be okay.
- God makes up for what we can’t do ourselves.
- A straight-up statement that there are non-Mormon disciples of Christ!
Paul B. Pieper (of the quorums of the seventy)
- We need to remember times we get spiritual inspiration.
- He said we have to be careful not to attribute spiritual inspiration to things like reason or intuition. My question: Can't reason or intuition be the result of spiritual inspiration? Where’s the problem?
- We should keep a record of divine inspiration we receive.
- “The opposite of sacred is profane, or secular.” Um, i don’t think that secular actually means what you think it means.
David F. Evans (of the quorums of seventy)
- The growth of the church begins within our own families.
- Every one of us has the responsibility to share the gospel. Question: How is this different from the responsibility to share the gospel that the book of Doctrine and Covenants says is inherent in holding the Melchizedek priesthood?
- We can’t just hearken back to the glory days of our full-time missions, we have to share the gospel now.
- Alpine German-speaking Mission represent! (That’s my old since-renamed mission.)
- Sharing the gospel should be “natural and normal”.
Larry Y. Wilson (of the quorums of the seventy)
- Controlling other people is a Bad Thing.
- Interesting reason for unrighteous dominion being bad: It makes people feel incompetent.
- “Wise parents prepare their children to get along without them.”
- We need to allow children to make their own decisions, and learn their own lessons.
- Question: We have lots of stories about deciding whether to play in sporting events on Sundays. Why don’t we get as much hand-wringing over, say, musical events, or cooking big meals for family gatherings, or…?
O. Vincent Haleck (of the quorums of seventy)
- Another general authority with a non-member father!
- God has a vision of what we can become, even if nobody else (including ourselves) can see it.
- As we figure out the way God sees us, we will become better people.
M. Russell Ballard (of the quorum of apostles)
- He has a cell phone—that’s gotta be a pretty closely-guarded phone number.
- “Today we live in a time when much of this world has lost its way.” I fear that many in the church are going to remember that as “Today we live in a time when this world has lost its way”, and there’s an important difference.
- Is he preaching a prosperity gospel?!?
- So commitment leads to prosperity? I suspect the sort of commitment he’s talking about is a very specific one, but it goes beyond commitment to marriage, and i can’t figure out its boundaries.
- Those married in the temple have better marriages, and are better off temporally. I’m curious if i see the causation here the same as he sees it.
- This is the closest we’ve gotten to the “everybody get married right away” that it feels like we’ve heard over and over and over the past few conferences.
L. Tom Perry (of the quorum of apostles)
- Some of you wouldn’t believe how much discussion online there is of the general authorities’ ties and their changes between sessions. L. Tom Perry appears to have been reading those threads.
- And L. Tom Perry fills in for Dieter F. Uchtdorf with the airplane reference!
- God has power to deliver.
- Nice exegesis, really.
- Alma’s people were delivered because they were “peaceful and righteous”. Nice to have peace endorsed along with righteousness.
- ”Neither the Bible nor the Book of Mormon in and of themselves are sufficient”, though each is necessary. I like that.
- The Book of Mormon: “It’s a great book”, in great part because of its harmony with the Bible. Interesting reason, really.
W. Craig Zwick (of the quorums of seventy), opening prayer (hope i got the right name)
- Never mind my comment on the closing prayer of the last session—i think we’ve got our longest prayer right here.
As a sidebar, the bloggernacle has been all atwitter with the lack of temple announcements so far. You know, it wasn’t really that long ago that temple announcements were rare, and it was exciting when we got one—how quickly we forget.
So anyway—the beginning of the session is at the bottom of the post, and then it runs from the bottom up, with each speaker’s (or event’s) entries arranged as you might expect. Basically, that means that if you don’t scroll down after this paragraph, you ‘ll be starting with the end of the session.
Didn’t catch the name, closing prayer
- The “keel of testimony”! Way to prove you were listening when the prophet spoke!
- Also, i think that was the longest prayer we’ve had at this conference so far.
Thomas S. Monson (president of the high priesthood)
- Times of crisis make us focus on the important things in our lives.
- The internet video has gone pixelated here—is that a glitch at our end, or are the servers getting hit hard now that the prophet’s speaking?
- A perfectly clean house is an ephemeral concern—a sitting prophet actually said so!
- We have the ability to discover good and evil for ourselves.
- We enter mortality with “the power to think, to reason, and to achieve”, which gives us the ability to make it through this life safely (in a spiritual sense).
- The resurrection is real.
- And anyone can come back to the church if they want to.
D. Todd Christofferson (of the quorum of apostles)
- We welcome academic-type research on religious things…but (essentially) get to ignore it. Is that actually what he just said?
- This is all (and i do mean all—it’s a bit repetitive, honestly) about the need for relying on revelation to clarify points of doctrine. I wonder what got his mind whirring along in that direction.
- The objective is not just consensus, but revelation (which requires the Spirit and reason).
- A bit on when prophets aren’t actually delivering prophecy. He didn’t give a clear line on how to tell when that happens (just saying that the Spirit tells you doesn’t give a yardstick for weighing competing claims for inspiration), but it’s nice to have a nod to the fact that it happens.
- A reminder that the core of our doctrine is Jesus and his atonement.
- And was that the first mention of the word “Easter” in the entire conference?
Julie B. Beck (just released as relief society general president)
- The relief society has power and authority, and is a vital part of the kingdom of God on the earth.
- How would this address have been different back when relief society membership was voluntary, rather than a function of sex and age?
- Preparation for relief society membership should begin long before a girl gets near the age of advancing into it. I’ve heard (anecdotally) lots of people say that there are difficulties for lots and lots of women as they move from the young women program into relief society—is this a reaction to that?
- Leading relief societies includes expounding the scriptures and such.
- The women of the church need to be seen as distinct from the rest of the world “in happy ways”. What exactly would those “happy ways” be—and that’s a serious question, ’cause i can’t figure out what that means.
- One last thought from me on this: Her rhetorical choice to quote only male voices in supporting her view of what the relief society should be is interesting, to say the least.
Ronald A. Rasband (of the Presidency of the seventy)
- We’ll end up having perfect bodies in the resurrection, even if we had an especially imperfect one in this life.
- I’m curious what exactly the chromosomal abnormality was that his grandson had.
- Praise for people who serve those who need it without having to be asked to do it.
- “Often…‘Let me know if i can help’ is really no help at all.” That’s gonna leave a mark in the morning.
Russell M. Nelson (of the quorum of apostles)
- So do the GAs draw straws or something to figure out who has to follow Dieter F. Uchtdorf?
- Is this an exegesis of the Proclamation on the Family?
- What does he think he is, a doctor or something? (And before i get indignant responses, yes, that was a joke.)
- We do not need a perfect body to house a perfect(ed) spirit.
- An open plea to folks speaking in church meetings, but especially in meetings archived in perpetuity: If you don't understand the Big Bang Theory, please don’t mock it, ’kay? As a (social) scientist, such rhetorical turns really annoy me. (Not to mention that it's possible to believe in the big bang and even—gasp and horror!—evolution and still believe that God's in charge.) Okay, end of rant.
- And now as he continues, he really didn’t need the anti-science turn—it was a throwaway part of the sermon. Why, oh why do people do stuff like that?
- We get judged on spiritual attributes, not physical ones (or, i think he’s also saying, not our deeds, at least not in the way they’re often thought of by members of our church).
Dieter F. Uchtdorf (of the first presidency)
- The opening leads to this question: If you were really angry with folks, and a general conference address told you to stop being angry, would you stop being angry or would you figure it must not have been meant for you, since your feelings are justified?
- “Of course, these words seem perfectly reasonable when applied to someone else.” Intense love for that line from me, and i think i heard a rumble (nervous giggling?) from the audience.
- Those who pass judgment on others are “inexcusable”.
- We’re required to forgive others, and if we don’t forgive, we’re condemned. This is the kind of call to repentance i really, really like.
- The requirement to forgive extends to ourselves, even (especially?) when that’s the hardest person to forgive.
- If you can’t forgive other people, apply the following (and i quote directly): “Stop it!”
- Quoting a bumper sticker: “Don’t judge me because i sin differently than you.” He’s right, there’s a pretty serious lesson there.
- This one’s edging past Jeffrey B. Holland’s address as my favorite sermon of the conference so far.
- A self-test: Do you harbor grudges? Do you gossip (even the truth)? Do you exclude others because of something they’ve done? Do you secretly envy others? Do you wish to harm others? If you answered yes to any of these: Stop it.
- A thought on that last line: A warning against even true gossip very cleanly undercuts several rationales i’ve heard given for gossiping.
- Vengeance belongs to God, not us.
- We’re not perfect, nor are those around us—but even so, we must let go of our grievances.
- Heaven is filled with those who are forgiven—and who forgive.
- And…that’s a wrap (and another sermon without a reference to airplanes).
Mormon Tabernacle Choir, opening song
- You know, purple’s my favorite color, but my eyes are totally not finding the choir’s robes happy.
- That said, “Praise to the Lord” is one of my three favorite songs in the hymnal, and as much as i’m not a fan of MoTab’s style, they can consistently knock this one out of the park, so i’m happy with that.
Henry B. Eyring (of the first presidency), opening remarks
- It’s the fourth general session of general conference. That means that priesthood session counts—but none of the meetings before general conference do, including the young women or relief society meetings. This is a consistent way of counting sessions going back at least decades, for what it’s worth.
Saturday, March 31, 2012
It’s always fun watching the pre-session conversations amongst the general authorities—some of them are very serious, even stern, but most are chatting, occasionally sharing laughs. The question, then: Why teach primary kids that reverence means silence?
Anyway, on to the comments. As with the others, you need to scroll to the bottom to get the first speaker, and then work your way up this post to get to the end of the session.
Salt Lake City institute choir, closing song
- Very nice arrangement of “Dear to the Heart of the Shepherd”—it got a little overly cute in one of the verses (the third?), but overall it was still quite pleasant.
Thomas S. Monson (president of the high priesthood)
- Cool quote: “When God speaks, and man obeys, that man will always be right.”
- We need to do our duty in the priesthood, which will lead us to joy.
- When he was a bishop, he wrote monthly letters to the twenty-three active military serving from his ward. He’s said in other addresses how he frequently visited all the widows in his ward. My question: Did the guy ever sleep?
- This has to be like the eighth time a speaker has quoted “Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only”.
- And a final thought, now that the final speaker’s done: There were really no speeches of the “I address my remarks to the young men of the Aaronic priesthood” type tonight (to which I say, good).
Henry B. Eyring (of the first presidency)
- The main thing to report from this one is a long one, his list of four things priesthood fathers should do: (1) Gain and keep a sure witness that the keys are with the church, and held by the president of the church; (2) love your wife, which requires faith to put her needs and happiness above your own; (3) enlist your entire family to love each other, including reassuring your children that they’re loved not just by their parents but also by their siblings, and so children should have the opportunity to pray for and serve each other; and (4) lead your family “in the Lord’s way” when discipline is called for, which he didn’t really explain, but he did quote from the unrighteous dominion bit from the book of Doctrine and Covenants.
- And he was really, really intense about the sealing keys being held in their fullness only by the president of the church. Is there some group that’s suddenly showed up (besides the ordinary background of the fundamentalist Mormons, of course) claiming to hold sealing keys outside of that structure?
- As a deacon, he and his friends joked about how old-fashioned his branch president dressed and acted; now he laughs, because he figures many of the youth of the church think the same of him now.
- It’s been nearly sixty years since he was ordained a deacon? Wow—the dude is well-preserved!
- Need to tell people not just what their callings are, but why they are.
- “Sermons that do not lead to action are like fires without heat, or water that doesn’t quench thirst.” Way to set the bar high, dude.
- Doctrines are only worthwhile when we put them to use. (Is that always true?)
- God understands that perfecting ourselves takes time and perseverance. Comforting thought, that.
- Okay, it’s finally ending—i’d thought he was finishing it off like four times before now.
- (And no reference to flying or airplanes? Um, i don’t know if we can accept this one as inspired, then.)
- ”Ye Elders of Israel” really does have some nice points where the chords open up in very excellent ways.
- He’s using “power” of the priesthood in exactly the same way that David A. Bednar defined it earlier this session.
- Basically, this is a standard “young men, be good” address.
- And a plug for the church’s youth website, and encouragement to use social media to declare the gospel.
- All members of the church (regardless of position, or sex, or age, or whatever) share a calling to bring others to Christ.
- Fun story about calling an inactive woman as a stake missionary.
- He first realized as a stake president that it’s hard for inactive folks to come back into the church, even if they want to do so? Took him a while to figure that out, dinnit?
- ”The harvest is great, and the lab’rers are few”—except, he noted, the laborers are no longer few.
- Wow—the dude’s visibly aged some in the last year or two. He still looks young for being an apostle, but not quite as young.
- Worthiness and willingness, not experience or education, qualify one to receive the priesthood. (I add: or any other church position.)
- Priesthood holders need both authority and power, where authority comes from the ordination and power comes from the actual righteous use of that authority.
- Yet another general authority talking about his non-member or inactive (or, in one case, absent) father. So does this mean the latest sure path to becoming a general authority is to not have an active father?
- Very, very cool that he talks about learning important gospel lessons from his non-member father.