Sunday, April 22, 2018

Callings and releases

So my stake has, in the aftermath of the last general conference, been releasing elders quorum presidencies and high priests group leaderships and calling new elders quorum presidencies. One side effect of the way this all shook out is that releases were extended before the callings of people to replace them were made. That’s not the norm for these callings, though it certainly happens—for an obvious case, consider when the person who holds a particular position dies. (I think we can safely agree that death includes a release from the specific calling one had at the time.) It makes me wonder, though, whether there are any particular callings in the church where (cases of death aside) a release being issued before someone is called to fill that position is actually the norm. I haven’t thought of one yet, but i’m still turning it over in the back of my mind.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Avoiding (or not) the name of deity

So here’s a bit of a puzzlement: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a publicly stated position that they don’t want terms like Mormon Church or Church of the Latter-day Saints to be used in publications as short forms of the name of the church, preferring instead that, if a shortened name is needed, The Church of Jesus Christ be used.

Fair enough, i suppose. However, in the scriptural canon (Doctrine & Covenants 107:2–4, if you want to look it up), we’re told that the actual name of what we call the Melchizedek priesthood was actually the holy priesthood, after the order of the son of God—but it was referred to as the Melchizedek priesthood “out of respect or reverence to the name of the Supreme Being, to avoid the too frequent repetition of his name”.

So why isn’t it a problem using names for the church that so frequently repeat the name of a god? And, secondarily, if there’s precedent for replacing references to the name of deity with references to a great individual (e.g., Melchizedek), then whatever in the world is wrong with calling it the Mormon church?

Thursday, April 12, 2018

An abbrev to avoid

Can i, as someone with pretty decent fluency in German, please ask the entire abbreviation-obsessed English-speaking church to stop abbreviating Sunday school as SS in writing?

I mean, really, it doesn’t look good.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

One term, different readings

So that you know my biases going into this: I rather liked quentin L. Cook’s address at the most recent general conference—so i agree with second of the people below. But despite that, i’m not discarding the opinions of the first as completely out there.

And for background if you didn’t hear it or don’t remember it, Quentin L. Cook’s address included a bit where he condemned nonconsensual immorality. Well, i have two friends, both of whom would self-describe (and i think accurately!) as feminists, and who each had a radically different reaction to that part of his address.

One of them saw it as a way to avoid actually discussing issues of sexual abuse by individuals in church leadership positions, and providing a general suggestion that rape can be the fault of the victim. The other saw it as a much-needed shout-out to the #MeToo movement, and a statement that rape and other forms of sexual abuse are not to be tolerated within the church.

Anyway, just throwing that out there. It’s an interesting split, and one that makes me think that maybe i’m wrong, and that the deconstructionists might have something to actually take into consideration about the way meanings and language work, after all.

(I’ll certainly agree with both of them, though, that it could have been less obliquely phrased.)

Friday, April 6, 2018

What actually counts?

Time to resurrect this blog. I’ll probably only post once or at most twice a week, but i still…

So, to begin: This past general conference saw two new individuals brought into the quorum of apostles: Gerrit W. Gong and Ulisses Soares.

Interestingly, there was a lot of immediate reaction online decrying “two more white dudes”. I find this interesting, since Gerrit W. Gong is, by any definition, Asian-American—he’s of Asian descent on both parents’ sides.

So it leads to wondering what exactly people meant by that statement. Apparently, Asian-Americans now count as white for some people, at least with regard to Mormon church leadership. This is something to file away in the back of our minds—social categorization is nearly always fascinating.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Sunday afternoon session

Sunday afternoon, the final session of this general conference.

Since this may be the first of these you see, a primer on how to read them: Blogs run in reverse chronological order, so this one’s at the top of the page, followed by the entry for the previous session, followed by the previous one, and so on. Therefore, to make it easier to follow this whole thing chronologically, speakers are arranged within each session’s entry in reverse chronological order, as well—so the opening speaker for this session is at the bottom of this post, preceded by the next speaker, preceded by the next one, and so on.

So anyway—Dieter F. Uchtdorf and Jeffrey R. Holland are both left to speak in this session, as well as Quentin L. Cook and the two new apostles, so it’s gonna be a packed two hours. Let’s get on with it!

Closing thoughts
  • Well, nothing like a new church president coming in with a bang, eh?
  • I mean, not just the policy stuff, but the structure of general conference itself. Consider, f’rex, the lineup for the last session: five apostles, the presiding bishop, the general president of the relief society, and the president of the high priesthood (twice!), all within two hours. Dang.
  • And i think it’s fair to say that Russell M. Nelson has a flair for the dramatic.
  • It’s interesting—i don’t think the magnitude of the structural changes announced at this conference would be entirely clear to people outside of the church, but they’re pretty huge.
  • I mean, if nothing else, teenage Mormon girls get to be called “ministers”. Think about how likely that would have been, say, oh, two days ago.
  • So anyway, lots to work through from this one, both in terms of practical and spiritual stuff.
  • But in the meantime, i’ll do as i always do, and say what my favorite address was: Quentin l> Cook’s near the end of the final session. With everything else going on it’ll fly under the radar a bit, i think, but it’s a message that the church needs to hear, i think, and it was delivered in a way that will outlive the sturm und drang of people digesting the flashiness of the “big news” items.

Russell M. Nelson, president of the high priesthood
  • [A bit of a surprise move there—it sounded like we had a closing song, but nope—that was just a song, and now we get another speaker!]
  • An exhortation to review the messages of this conference.
  • An invitation to all of God’s children “on both sides of the veil” to embrace the ordinances of the temple and receive salvation.
  • Waiting til the end to announce seven new temples! Salta, Argentina; Bengaluru (more widely known as Bangalore), India; Managua, Nicaragua; Cagayan de Oro, Phillipines; Layton, Utah; Richmond, Virginia; and (after a dramatic pause) a city yet to be determined in Russia.

Quentin L. Cook, of the quorum of apostles
  • The primary purpose of the church can be accomplished because of the keys that were restored in the Kirtland temple: the keys of the gathering of Israel, the gospel of Abraham, and sealing.
  • There are three executive councils at church headquarters based on these sets of keys.
  • We are all required to do missionary work, temple and family history work, and prepare ourselves to meet God.
  • It is good that nonconsensual immorality has been denounced—it is a sin; remember, though, that consensual immorality is also a sin.
  • In our day the scriptural imperative for unity is widely ignored; in the church, we cannot divide ourselves by class, race, nationality, tribalism, or anything else.
  • Developing Christlike attributes is at the core of the only cultural distinction that should make a difference in the church.
  • We need to fulfill our responsibilities based on righteousness, unity, and equality before God.

Gérald Caussé, presiding bishop
  • The church is all about people—those who love and follow Jesus, and who have taken his name upon them by covenant.
  • “Nothing is more important: Our work is all about people and covenants.”
  • “Are we active in the gospel, or are we merely busy in the church?”
  • What classes would Jesus visit? Wouldn’t be surprising if he visited the primary children first, teaching simply and without affectation. Can we do the same?
  • We talk about “going to church”, but the church is more than just a building to go to.
  • A mention of a friend asking why we need so many more than just one priesthood holder at church on Sunday. Bishop Caussé’s answer? We probably don’t—but we need priesthood holders for every home.

Dieter F. Uchtdorf, of the quorum of apostles
  • He “asked the internet” what the most important day in history was and got lots of answers; but really, the most important day was when Jesus offered himself as a ransom for our sins in the Garden of Gethsemane.
  • Jesus gave all that we might receive all.
  • We will all die, and there will be nothing we or those around us can do about it—but Jesus opened the gates of death, and provided a way not just for us to be resurrected, but to receive eternal light and glory.
  • “This is what we celebrate on Easter Sunday—we celebrate life.”
  • There are, though, many who are unaware of or don’t believe in the precious gift Jesus has given us, and opinions vary about him; it is important that we each come to know for ourselves and truly “behold the man”.
  • When we truly behold, we learn of him and repent to become more like him.
  • The most important day in any of our lives is the day we learn to truly “behold the man”—when we see Jesus for who he is and commit to follow him—and may that day occur over and over and over again throughout our lives.

Jean B. Bingham, general president of the relief society
  • We have the privilege to represent the Savior in our ministering efforts.
  • How do we minister? Pray and counsel together to determine how to help people. Get together with them. Send a text or card. Hold ministering interviews. Perform service together. Care about people.
  • Young women will be ministering companions with relief society sisters, just as young men have done with home teaching.
  • Young women have, after all, undertaken ministering efforts on their own—this just brings it into wider, more formalized efforts.
  • There will need to be coordination between elders quorums and relief societies to make sure ministering efforts are powerful.

Jeffrey R. Holland, of the quorum of apostles
  • [He’s on fire with the opening jokes.]
  • Everything about this new ministering effort will be distributed to church leaders and posted online at the close of this conference session.
  • Don’t call it home teaching or visiting teaching—a lot of this will take place outside of the home, and it won’t be centered around teaching a prepared lesson.
  • We will continue to visit homes “as possible”—contacts can take place in any way that’s appropriate (which, of course, can include a home visit).
  • Ministering requires serious care and concern, though, not the minimal effort that sometimes passes for what’s reportable.
  • The only number that will be reported is the number of interviews by leaders with ministering companionships, not the number of visits made.
  • A really intense story, culminating in a cool bit of praise from one of the characters to their home teacher: “He's visited us more as a friend than by any assignment.”

Russell M. Nelson, president of the high priesthood
  • No more “home teaching” or “visiting teaching”—we’re moving toward ministering.
  • [The moment he said “we will hear briefly from Russell M. Nelson”, echoing the way he was announced at priesthood session, i was like, “Whoa, something’s coming!]
  • Young women will be part of this ministering effort!

Ulisses Soares, of the quorum of apostles
  • Having prophets is a sign of God’s love for us.
  • By exercising faith and following the teachings of the prophets we develop protection from all that surrounds us.

Gerritt W. Gong, of the quorum of apostles
  • A pledge to devote himself to the service of us and our God.
  • Everything worthy and eternal is centered in the majesty of God the Father, the atonement of Jesus, and the witness of the Holy Spirit.

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Sunday morning session

So now we’ve gotten to the Sunday morning session of general conference, a.k.a. sacrament meeting replacement timeslot.

Priesthood session last night was a pretty big deal for the men of the church, what with announcement of a restructuring of Melchizedek priesthood quorums, though i suspect a lot of women were all like, “So you’re doing it like we do now? [yawn]”. (With the exception, of course, of wives of elders quorum presidents and high priests group leaders, who realized they have a 50/50 chance of seeing their husband a bit more often.) So the big question: What are they going to do to top that?

So then. As with the rest of these, the first speaker is at the bottom with the entry running chronologically upward from there. Onward!

Russell M. Nelson, president of the high priesthood
  • Talking about growing up in a home with great parents—but where the parents weren’t fully active in the gospel. (They weren’t sealed as a family until his parents were in their 80s.)
  • Further talking about all sorts of family-related blessings he’s received, all of which have come from following the Spirit.
  • God is incredibly willing to provide us revelation.
  • Whatever our church calling, we can receive direction for matters large and small.
  • Do you need revelation? Follow the example of Joseph Smith: Pray to God in the name of Jesus, and listen. As you repeat this process, you will “grow into the principle of revelation”.
  • “Lay hold upon every good gift, beginning with the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

Dallin H. Oaks, of the first presidency
  • Death isn’t the conclusion of our identity, but a necessary step in our progression—and as part of that, the resurrection gives us a lively hope.
  • A tree root’s growth is too small to be measured at a rate of days or even months, but it is powerful enough to crack a thick concrete sidewalk—just like the “small and simple” regular practices of our faith leads to incredible spiritual growth.
  • The scriptures point out that “small means” result in the salvation of many souls.
  • It is the commonplace tasks that often have the greatest effect on other people (quoting Howard W. Hunter).
  • However, these small and simple things will not lift us to great things unless they are done consistently.
  • Just as small and simple acts of goodness can result in greatness, small and simple things that lead away from righteousness can lead to bad ends.
  • If we consistently do small things of righteousness, we will stay on the covenant path and be blessed accordingly.

Henry B. Eyring, of the first presidency
  • It is your choice to let the Spirit into your life.
  • “I have prayed to be allowed to feel something” of what Mary and the disciples on the road to Emmaus felt upon recognizing the resurrected Lord.
  • We are sent the Holy Ghost as a companion, and are directed to receive it over our lifetimes.
  • Joseph Smith knew his own wisdom wasn’t sufficient to let him know what to do, and so he humbled himself and asked for direction by praying in faith, and then obeyed when given direction and correction.
  • “Inspiration will help us to minister to others for the Lord.”
  • God the Father is aware of you and your needs, and the needs of everyone around you.

Claudio D. Zivic, of the quorums of seventy
  • We need to be on guard against drifting into inactivity.
  • Attending church allows us to take the sacrament, which is the most important thing we do on the sabbath.
  • The trial of our faith requires us to obey, often without knowing the result in advance.
  • What we need to do to be successful in the Lord’s way: Pray, take the sacrament each week, pay tithing, keep a current temple recommend, and serve in the work of the Lord.
  • The Lord knows how to inspire and encourage us.

Massimo De Feo, of the quorums of seventy
  • We are commanded to love God; God loves us.
  • Love is the sign of every true disciple of Jesus.
  • True disciples love to serve and forgive.
  • True disciples make holy the places they stand.

Reyna I. Aburto, of the general presidency of the relief society
  • Monarch butterflied do amazing things in their migrations, and they do it by working together.
  • There are multiple examples in the scriptures of the Lord’s followers acting “in one accord”.
  • We now have the opportunity to counsel together each month in our priesthood quorums and relief societies to determine how we can each individually contribute to unity.
  • By working together we move the work forward one step at a time.

Larry Y. Wilson, of the quorums of seventy
  • I really like this story of someone being repeatedly inspired to gain information.
  • To receive the Spirit’s guidance more frequently, we must be obedient, which will lead us to have spiritual confidence.
  • We shouldn’t just list our problems in prayer and ask the Lord to solve them, but rather ask what we can do.
  • The time to gain early experience receiving inspiration is before a crisis occurs, so that when crises occur we can recognize inspiration when it comes.
  • Seeking revelation is not seeking to be “command[ed] in all things”, but rather not doing so is sloth—“we must live a guided life”.
  • [Wow, that was a sudden ending for a general conference address. I kinda like it.]