Sunday, April 29, 2012

An advantageous calling

So i’ve mentioned being a ward clerk before. Being ward clerk has one very specific advantage over all other callings in the church—about midway through sacrament meeting you get to get up and walk around. Okay, okay, so it’s walking around with a purpose, since you do it so that you can get a headcount of sacrament meeting attendees, but still, it makes for a nice break in the middle of things, you know?

Once i get released from this calling, that’s what i’m gonna miss.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

We do it, too!

The next time i’m in a priesthood or Sunday school class and someone makes some comment about how they went to a Roman Catholic mass and that it was just weird, what with all the sitting then standing then sitting then kneeling then standing then sitting and so on and how that feels so “not reverent” or somesuch (something that doesn’t get said very often, but that gets mentioned more than i’m comfortable with), i’m going to stop stopping myself and simply mention standing for intermediate hymns.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Through which lineage?

So priesthood lineages are recorded through the person who ordained a priesthood holder to the highest office they hold. That is, if someone’s a priest, the priesthood lineage goes through whoever ordained them a priest; if they’re an elder, it goes through whoever ordained them an elder; and so on.

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

Painful histories

So it appears that members of the church continue to submit names for temple work that they’re not supposed to, particularly lists of victims of the Shoah. (Evidence for this: The first presidency sent out a letter to be read to the members of the church. Again.) This leads me to two questions:
  1. Will the members of the church ever learn?
  2. 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

Long and short prayers

Reflecting back on general conference, one of the things i found most interesting was how short the prayers for the Saturday sessions were.

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

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Sunday afternoon session

Saturday afternoon—time for everyone to relax, since we’re on a glide path to done.

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.

Closing thoughts
  • 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.

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Sunday morning session

Sunday morning is, as always, the big leagues of general conference—this is the one everybody watches. As a result, the internet feed is being slightly glitch as the church’s servers work to keep up with the load.

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.