Sunday Morning General Conference Open Thread

As we’ve done in the past, here’s a space to share any thoughts, inspirations, insights, and/or revelations that come to you through general conference. Enjoy!

91 comments for “Sunday Morning General Conference Open Thread

  1. From the opening prayer, a request for protection of those in the military, and then: “May their efforts to bring about peace be sanctioned by Thee.”

    The unstated assumptions of this phrasing concern me.

  2. There is more than one way to interpret that request. I think I’d be better off not to analyze it too carefully.

  3. Faust: great talk. Reminds me of business meeting last month; a member friend explaining to a group of non-members the atrocities committed against the early Church members. Have we all \”let go\” and \”emptied our hearts of festering resentment?\” Great talk.

  4. No, calling for God to “sanction” (authorize, approve of) the current military actions in the Middle East concerns me.

    It’s an issue of paradigms. The individual who gave the prayer almost certainly believes that the Iraq war is a noble act that has just run into difficulties in carrying out the details. I — and a significant percentage of Latter-day Saints — see things very differently.

  5. @Mike,

    Does the prayer drive a further wedge between Mormon intellectuals and the “old men,” not as enlightened as general members, who run the Church?

  6. @Mike Parker:

    Re: (5)

    If by “significant” you mean 5%, then maybe you’re right.

  7. Elder Oak’s talk may offend some, but for me, it is like manna from heaven. So very many people I know are affected by this issue, and counsel on this topic is sorely needed. I am grateful for this talk.

  8. There was a prayer about the troops last night at priesthood session, something about protecting the troops who are fighting for freedom or something like that. I didn’t feel comfortable with it, but I wasn’t listening carefully enough to remember exactly what was said. Somehow, I think God is more likely to cry over war than to take sides.

  9. MWH #8: I don’t agree with the “out of touch” theory of LDS leadership, and I believe that “intellectualism” is a trap. I just disagree with the (obvious) majority of Mormons who believe the current war is a righteous act.

  10. Having been through what Elder Oaks is describing, his talk is like a breath of fresh air. Its a tough subject, and everyone involved has such a different perspective from their partner as well as those viewing the destruction of the relationship from outside. Then you also have everyone after the fact who make snap judgements concerning those who have been through a divorce. He’s done a remarkable job addressing the problems and solutions. I especially like the comments at the end to those considering marriage. I just wish this talk had come earlier.

  11. I would much rather hear a prayer asking for participants and innocent civilians on all sides to be protected, for men to “beat their swords into plowshares,” and for peace to fill the hearts of those who would wish to harm others that the gospel may go forth on the earth.

    I don’t want to threadjack, so this will be my last comment on this. As Stephen Colbert says, “Moving on.”

  12. Comments about the opening prayer – check out the quote again. Nothing is said about war being santioned, but their efforts to bring about peace. Those fighting are not those who made the decision to go to war, they are those who volunteered to defend our country. He was not asking for war to be sanctioned, but for the efforts of the common man to bring peace.

    Having said that… I did notice that conference seems to have moved beyond the opening prayer… perhaps we should too.

  13. So we\’re to the point of criticizing the General Authorities\’ choice of prayer language? Methinks there\’s a chance, just a chance, that we\’re reading a bit too much into Elder Dellenbach\’s words. Sometimes a cigar really is just a cigar.

  14. I agree that Pres. Faust was in fine form. Very moving and memorable talk. I liked Oaks’ too, though I’m interested to know if those for whom divorce is a sensitive subject would agree, or if they had trouble with it.

    Aaron B

  15. Elder Anderson\’s talk when he quoted President Hinckley was great. \”Are you willing to pay such a great price for the Gospel?\”
    \”It\’s true, isn\’t it?\”
    \”Then what else matters.\”

  16. Aaron – I fall into that category. My other comments are above, but I really appreciated what he had to say. I think most people who have been through it who are watching conference today would agree.

  17. A nice talk by Vicki M. (from Primary), but oddly I felt transported back to my chair in the Blazer class. Had she surfaced a few sock puppets, the rendition would have been complete…

  18. RE: Elder Oaks–I think he got off to a great start and I love a lot of the tings he said. Towards the end, however, he said some things that encourage the destructive tendencies of some women in the church (using church doctrine to justify remaining in abusive situations to their own detriment and their children’s). I know some will take this and run with it.

  19. I am a divorced member, and I agree with what Elder Oaks said, every word. The only problem for me was that in many talks about a life problem the speaker will often have a comment about those caught up in the problem, for example a talk on the evils of pornography or a talk to about being a single adult member will usually have something to say to those who are ‘in’ the problem, some words of comfort, and advice. Elder Oaks clearly felt that in this instance this kind of comment to those who are divorced was beyond the scope of his talk.

  20. Lovely lovely talk by Elder Faust, and astute and tender treatment of a sensitive topic by Elder Oaks. Interesting that the 70 referenced President Hinckley’s life — perhaps the 70s/Prophet idea floated yesterday has merit?

    : )

  21. ( When will we stop mis-using “goodly parents”? And when will self-important people like me stop caring? I know which of these is the more important error… but it’s hard, nevertheless, to see such a casual approach to language. )

  22. I have fond memories of showing Elder Andersen and his family around Leipzig, Germany some 12 years ago…

  23. @Silus Grok:

    What does “goodly parents” really mean?


    Were you A. P.?

  24. Is it just me, or does Elder Ballard’s talk seem to be something of a response that that recent anti-Mormon DVD? “We don’t criticize others,” etc.

    See the Church’s statement on it, here.

  25. @Mike Parker:

    I haven’t seen the DVD, but it seems like you’re on to something.

  26. Mike,

    I just mentioned that same thing to my dad! I guess the Missionary Department will always be assigned to address such subjects.

  27. Silus #27, I noticed the 70’s prompt citation of GBH, too, and got a laugh from it based on the T&S comment from yesterday about how the Seventy are prone to quote GBH as a way to give authority to their words (or, in the TFPIC words of my wife, “to suck up.”)

    I had a more negative take on Elder Oaks’ talk, which I posted in the BCC thread.

  28. John Williams #31: What does “goodly parents” really mean?

    Hugh Nibley theorized that it meant wealthy (Lehi had many goods), which would mean they could afford to have Nephi educated. In other words, “I, Nephi, having been born of wealthy parents, therefore I was taught how to read and write,” etc. Literacy was not common then, and only had among the upper classes.

    I tend to agree with Nibley.

  29. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition.
    1. Of pleasing appearance; comely. 2. Quite large; considerable: a goodly sum.

  30. Oxford English Dictionary:
    1. Of good appearance; good-looking, well-favoured or proportioned; comely, fair, handsome.

    2. Notable or considerable in respect of size, quantity, or number (freq. with mixture of sense 1).

    3. Of good quality, admirable, splendid, excellent. Also, well suited for some purpose, proper, convenient (often with implication of sense 1).

    4. Gracious, kind, kindly-disposed. Also goodly of, liberal in. Obs.

  31. No- I would never aspire to such a high and noble calling… I was in the office though.

  32. Yes… I refer to the archaic usage of “goodly” which infers “wealthy” or “of substantial means”. It’s a minor thing… but, in my mind, it reminds me of how we (all — I’m one of the worst offenders) use the scriptures as a book of quotes, and not of something larger, more nuanced, and more complex.

  33. I’m going with definition #2:
    considerable in respect of size, quantity, or number

    Therefore, “goodly parents” means he had a lot of them – meaning Lehi was a polygamist or something. ;-)

  34. Let’s go with all of them. Nephi had a lot of rich, pretty, and kind parents. :D

  35. John Burton –

    the Oxford English Dictionary gives all definitions as well as indicating when they were used, along with historical examples. The first 3 definitions listed above in comment #4 were current in the 19th century.

  36. Silus, I’m sorry. You’re wrong. Nowhere in the OED is there any indication that “goodly” means “wealthy” or “substantial means.” It’s not an archaic usage: it’s no usage at all.

    If you have some 19th century documents using the word as such, please share them with us.

  37. Between this thread and the BCC thread, it’s amazing how much more brillant, nuanced and smarter we all are compared to the General Authorities. They really need to have the ‘Nacle vet all their talks.

    (that was sarcasm).

  38. @Ivan Wolfe:

    People become GAs for their leadership skills, not their intellectual skills.

  39. I thought Elder Ballard’s remarks sounded a tad hypocritical. We emphasize the B of M about 1000 times more than we ever do the Bible. We seem to only emphasize the Bible when we’re trying to convince our Christian neighbors that we really are Christian. For example, when was the last time the brethren came out and challenged all of us to read the Bible as a Church? Um, never. At least never in the 50 years I’ve been a member.

  40. I’ve heard lots of exhortations to read the Bible. And we do spend two of four years studying it in Gospel Doctrine. What planet are you living on?

    Aaron B

  41. My brother in law once mentioned to me, in confidence, that after his family had completed reading the Book of Mormon together, rather than reading it together again right away, they were going to read the New Testament together. He told me he almost felt like a sinner, given the repeated emphasis about reading the Book of Mormon as individuals and as a family every day.

    We have read the Book of Mormon twice as a family, but in between we read the New Testament, the Pearl of Great Price, the Doctrine and Covenants, and excerpts from the Old Testament. I feel like I can tell the truth now that Elder Ballard has sanctioned studying all the scriptures. I say this partially in jest, but not entirely in jest.

  42. @Rich (56) — Where in Utah do you live again?

    I’m my 30+ years in the Church, I’ve noted at least 8 occasions where the stake presidency in which I’ve lived had a NT/OT reading program for the stake members, complete with a schedule against which to track progress. And that didn’t necessarily correspond to seminary/gospel doctrine courses.

    Then again, those occurred in areas outside the traditional Mormon delta.

  43. Having just returned from our church building, let me say that I think this was the most spiritually edifying and fulfilling session of conference I’ve witnessed in years.

    Elder Faust’s sermon, as several have mentioned, is very possibly the most powerful talk I have ever heard him give. Without condemnation, he quite clearly pointed out, through real-world examples of holiness provided by both members of the Church and other Christian people, exactly what Christ would have us do when confronted by evil, by harm, by anger, and which so many of us (myself included) plainly fail to do–namely, forgive, and not make our forgiveness dependent upon the repentence of those who are responsible for those evils and harms. It puts me in mind of a powerful sermon given by Elder Packer many years ago, titled “Balm of Gilead.”

    Elder Oaks’s talk on divorce was, of course, inevitably going to cause some arguably justified offense amongst some people; he acknowledged that it was a sensitive and difficult subject, and I’d like to think he managed to cover quite a few different perspectives and issues as best he could. But all that being said, it was, on the whole, an utterly needed sermon. From a social conservative perspective, in light of concerns about marriage and society, a sermon like this is probably worth twenty sermons on gay marriage.

    I kept expecting Elder Ballard’s sermon to turn into a talk on the Book of Mormon, but it never did. He talked about the Bible…solely about the Bible, and our love and respect for it. Yes!

    The first part of President Hinckley’s closing testimony really struck me. Someone with more diligence than I would have to go back through his past testimonies to make certain, but it seems to me that on several occasions President Hinckley has made absolutely clear his convictions regarding what happened and what Joseph saw in the Sacred Grove. That doesn’t mean he’s also been a huge or learned defender of the King Follet Discourse or any of the many other common, unconventional-from-a-traditional-Christian-point-of-view interpretations of Mormon doctrine…but his determination to insist, again and again, that Joseph really saw two distinct personages is, from what I can tell, just about absolute. And that really strikes me.

  44. Rich,

    You’re confusing “the Bible” with “the Old Testament.”

    We only use the Old Testament when Bible-bashing. But we use the New Testament almost as much as the Book of Mormon in other areas.

  45. “Where in Utah do you live again?”

    Smile. I live in small-town northern Utah, and I thought the exhortation to read the Bible was meant for other Mormons, probably in “the mission field.” Maybe the reason we are encouraged so often to read the BoM is that we tend to favor the Bible, left to ourselves. I love reading both, and have never felt any competition between them for my reading time.

  46. The late Marc Schindler favored the view of goodly meaning something like wealthy:

    I remain undecided as to what force should be given to “goodly” in the passage, but I think this one needs to at least remain on the table. Indeed, I think this is a subject that is ripe for a good article in the JBMS if anyone would like to take it on.

  47. When I taught GD, the constant injunctions to read the BoM daily really bugged me, because while that was great during the BoM curriculum year, during the other years I knew that a lot of people would devote their limited reading efforts to the BoM rather than to our focus of study in SS.

    As I’ve gotten older, however, I’ve simply come to terms with the reality that very few students are going to actually read the scriptural assignment, and to just teach the lesson on the assumption that no one has read it.

  48. I have to agree with RAF: an incredible meeting. I will read and reread the Faust talk as soon as I can.

    Very quickly on the subject of being offended by General Conference: isn’t it possible that sometimes (not always), when we’re offended its because we’re being called to repentance? I have been offended by the insistance that we have a supply of food, considering I live in a small flat in the city. Shouldn’t they recognize my special circumstances? Last night I realized that maybe my circumstances aren’t that special: I need to change and do something about this.

    Or maybe my circumstances are that special, and I can relax knowing that I am not the person to whom he or she is speaking (like a divorcee who was a victim of abuse, for instance).

  49. #Clair — My observation was based on the fact that “non-Mormon delta” Mormons actively read all four standard works, while those in the “Mormon delta” didn’t know the Bible existed, except for a few stories.

    That (personal) observation squares with my experiences at BYU, with Mormon delta family members, and member from SLC and Provo who happened to get lost and accidentally move to other areas of the country.

  50. Norbert: I think you hit the nail on the head. How many times have we sat in conference, thinking, “Oh, I wish So-and-So were here; he really needs to hear this”?

    It’s not quite so comfortable when you are So-and-So.

  51. I forgot where I first gleaned the goodly definition I’ve held-to for the better part of two decades… I’m guessing, however, that it was first read in Nibley, reiterated by others, and reinforced by my personal experience and how easily I bristled as a youth at any mention of good families and good parents.

    I’ll have to look into it, but in the mean time will keep this definition to myself… apologies all around.

  52. No need to apologize, Silus; it’s a possible reading that needs to be seriously considered.

  53. “Hugh Nibley theorized that it meant wealthy (Lehi had many goods), which would mean they could afford to have Nephi educated. In other words, “I, Nephi, having been born of wealthy parents, therefore I was taught how to read and write,” etc. Literacy was not common then, and only had among the upper classes.”

    This may be true in context, but Joseph at one time refers to his parents as goodly folks — and they certainly weren’t wealthy. So it’s still a matter for legitimate differing views.

  54. #60 “The first part of President Hinckley’s closing testimony really struck me. Someone with more diligence than I would have to go back through his past testimonies to make certain, but it seems to me that on several occasions President Hinckley has made absolutely clear his convictions regarding what happened and what Joseph saw in the Sacred Grove. That doesn’t mean he’s also been a huge or learned defender of the King Follet Discourse or any of the many other common, unconventional-from-a-traditional-Christian-point-of-view interpretations of Mormon doctrine…but his determination to insist, again and again, that Joseph really saw two distinct personages is, from what I can tell, just about absolute. And that really strikes me.”

    I think you’re right. I recall one of his talks saying that a fundamental/crucial portion of our theology is founded on the First Vision. It really seems to be a key thing — something we can’t give up without changing who we are and what the restoration is..

  55. @Keith:

    How do you reconcile that with the different versions of the First Vision that Joseph Smith gave? I mean, at first, didn’t he say that he just saw angels?

  56. I should have attached this quote to the previous post. It is from President Hinckley’s October Conference address (morning session). Sorry for the length:

    “We declare without equivocation that God the Father and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, appeared in person to the boy Joseph Smith.

    When I was interviewed by Mike Wallace on the 60 Minutes program, he asked me if I actually believed that. I replied, “Yes, sir. That’s the miracle of it.”

    That is the way I feel about it. Our whole strength rests on the validity of that vision. It either occurred or it did not occur. If it did not, then this work is a fraud. If it did, then it is the most important and wonderful work under the heavens.

    Reflect upon it, my brethren and sisters. For centuries the heavens remained sealed. Good men and women, not a few—really great and wonderful people—tried to correct, strengthen, and improve their systems of worship and their body of doctrine. To them I pay honor and respect. How much better the world is because of their bold action. While I believe their work was inspired, it was not favored with the opening of the heavens, with the appearance of Deity.

    Then in 1820 came that glorious manifestation in answer to the prayer of a boy who had read in his family Bible the words of James: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5).

    Upon that unique and wonderful experience stands the validity of this Church.

    In all of recorded religious history there is nothing to compare with it. The New Testament recounts the baptism of Jesus when the voice of God was heard and the Holy Ghost descended in the form of a dove. At the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter, James, and John saw the Lord transfigured before them. They heard the voice of the Father, but they did not see Him.

    Why did both the Father and the Son come to a boy, a mere lad? For one thing, they came to usher in the greatest gospel dispensation of all time, when all of previous dispensations should be gathered and brought together in one.

    Can anyone doubt that the age in which we live is the most wonderful in the history of the world? There has been a marvelous flowering of science, of medicine, of communication, of transportation, unequaled in all the chronicles of mankind. Is it reasonable to submit that there should also be a flowering of spiritual knowledge as a part of this incomparable renaissance of light and understanding?

    The instrument in this work of God was a boy whose mind was not cluttered by the philosophies of men. That mind was fresh and without schooling in the traditions of the day.

    It is easy to see why people do not accept this account. It is almost beyond comprehension. And yet it is so reasonable. Those familiar with the Old Testament recognize the appearance of Jehovah to the prophets who lived in that comparatively simple time. Can they legitimately deny the need for an appearance of the God of heaven and His resurrected Son in this very complex period of the world’s history?

    That They came, both of Them, that Joseph saw Them in Their resplendent glory, that They spoke to him and that he heard and recorded Their words—of these remarkable things we testify.

    I knew a so-called intellectual who said the Church was trapped by its history. My response was that without that history we have nothing. The truth of that unique, singular, and remarkable event is the pivotal substance of our faith.”

  57. queuno,

    I actually spent the first 33 years of my life in Southern California, and the last 17 in Utah County. But I honestly do not remember in any of the Stakes I’ve lived in where we were ever encouraged as a body to read either the OT or NT, other than by the SS pres. or GD teacher. Even as missionaries (I served in Germany) we were not encouraged to read more than select parts of the OT. But more to the point, I’ve never seen the Brethren issue such a challenge from Conference (but I’ll admit I may have missed it if it has actually ever happened). Does anyone remember such a challenge from previous Conferences?

  58. John Williams #72: How do you reconcile that with the different versions of the First Vision that Joseph Smith gave? I mean, at first, didn’t he say that he just saw angels?

    A lot of research has been done on this. It’s not quite as simple as our critics would have us believe.

    Start your reading here:

  59. Did President Hinckley really say he can’t understand the Nicene Creed? Is he sure he isn’t thinking of the Athanasian Creed? I find the Nicene Creed quite lucid, personally.

  60. As somebody who is currently in the process of a divorce. I do not know whether Elder Oaks would believe that my divorce was justified; I do know that suicide has generally seemed a far more appealing option than staying married or getting divorced. I found Elder Oaks’ talk not offensive so much as excruciatingly painful. Does he really think that I need to be reminded to agonize about the effects of divorce on children? Does he not know that I weep many times a day over them, and shake in terror when I read the stats on their increased likelihood of dropping out of school, doing drugs, etc.? How can I reassure my children, who also heard the talk, that their parents are not sinners who are callously disregarding their needs? How can my children possibly figure out whether to side with a man they’ve been taught to revere as a prophet or with their parents? I wish they had not been put in that position. I wish that they had not had to feel their friends’ eyes on them during that talk, even more than I wish I had not had to endure the variably pitying and scornful glances of the members of my ward as I walked out of the chapel to sob.

  61. @Mike Parker:

    Thanks for the link. I’ve read about this before but it has been a while so I could use a refresher.

  62. So-and-so,

    Whether to stay married, to separate, or to divorce, is a very personal decision, taking into account the wellbeing of all parties involved. Elder Oaks gave an example where God (as a third party to the covenant) helped a person stay in a very difficult marriage. Yet Elder Oaks acknowledged that sometimes staying married is worse than a divorce, which means that sometimes God, as a third party to the covenant, blesses or confirms a decision to end the marriage.

    Elder Oaks once said that general authorities give “general” counsel in their talks, not individual counsel.

    In my mind, it is less important whether Elder Oaks would think a divorce in your case is “justified” (and even less what the views are of members of your congregation, family, friends, or commenters on the Bloggernacle). What matters most, I believe, is what you think, feel and believe after humbly seeking God’s strength and guidance.

    May God strengthen and comfort you today and always.

  63. Thank you, David. I may print this out and hand it out as a script for people who struggle to find the right words to say to me these days :)

  64. Dear Brother or Sister So-and-so. Have you sought and accepted psychological therapy for the suicidal thoughts, or for the mention of suicide to sway people your way? Whether you end up in the marriage or out, it could be helpful to you and your children.

  65. Gee, Clair, thanks for your, um, concern. I don’t think I was trying to sway anyone in any particular direction. Some commenters (Aaron, maybe?) were wondering how Elder Oaks’ words might strike someone in his intended audience; I was trying to convey my reaction. That was all.

  66. I worried that my suggestion wouldn’t be welcome, but I made it with all sincerity and with some experience with others having similar thoughts. Ponder it. Discuss it with someone who will be honest with you. If it doesn’t fit, then please ignore it.

  67. Dear So-and-So,

    I echo all David H. wrote. I’m so sorry for the experience you and your children went through with some of the ward members singling you out with looks. Please know that there are people like me in your ward who when they look at you, do so with admiration. You have been faithful through everything and what a fine example you are. Perhaps people were glancing at you and the children hoping you were all all right with what was being said
    because they knew how sensitive it would be for you. I hope that was the case instead of judging you. We all know better not to do that to anyone.

  68. @Keith (#70)
    Joseph’s usage of “goodly” to which you refer is likely from his 1832 history, in which he writes, “I was born in the town of Charon [Sharon] in the (State) of Vermont North America on the twenty third day of December AD 1805 of goodly Parents who spared no pains to instructing me in (the) christian religion…” The editorial emendations are from Dean Jessee (Papers of Joseph Smith Vol. 1 p.3).

    Joseph’s usage (especially its remarkable parallelism with I Nep 1:1) does not support Nibley’s “wealthy” interpretation, and a connection with physical appearance seems unlikely as well. The connection, however, between “goodly parents” and early childhood training is far more likely (both for Nephi and for Joseph), and supports Sister Matsumori’s usage quite well.

  69. As someone who’s the subject of both Elder Faust’s talk on forgiveness and Elder Oak’s talk on divorce, I appreciate the candid wisdom of both, painful as some of the memories are.

    Pres. Faust’s comment that

    When innocent children are molested or killed, most of us do not think first about forgiveness. Our natural response is anger. We may even feel justified in wanting to get even with anyone who inflicts injury on us or our family. (But the ideal is to forgive as do the Amish in the example he cited).

    reminded me of Pres. Hinckley’s comments about abuse in the Priesthood Session of GenCon 4/2002,

    Now the work of the Church is a work of salvation. I want to emphasize that. It is a work of saving souls. We desire to help both the victim and the offender. Our hearts reach out to the victim, and we must act to assist him or her. Our hearts reach out to the offender, but we cannot tolerate the sin of which he may be guilty. Where there has been offense, there is a penalty. The process of the civil law will work its way. And the ecclesiastical process will work its way, often resulting in excommunication. This is both a delicate and a serious matter.
    Nevertheless, we recognize, and must always recognize, that when the penalty has been paid and the demands of justice have been met, there will be a helpful and kindly hand reaching out to assist. There may be continuing restrictions, but there will also be kindness.

    After all, who needs kindness and help more?

    My own divorce was/is painful (8 years later, I’m pained every day by it) but I have to agree with all that Elder Oaks said today. So-and-so, there is comfort available, to my surprise, even for the person who mainly is the cause of the divorce. I hope you also find it.

  70. Between this thread and the BCC thread, it’s amazing how much more brillant, nuanced and smarter we all are compared to the General Authorities.

    Is it amazing? We’re all so awesome around here that the real surprise would be if the General Authorities measured up too us.

  71. Both President Faust and Brother Oaks gave me a lot to think about. The talk on Joseph Smith and praying for a witness of the First Vision was also pretty powerful.

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