Some Conference Reflections…

I always like a few days to reflect on conference. Partially that’s because I’m usually dealing with a bunch of kids during conference. Partially because I’ll admit I don’t learn well from lectures. It’s hard not to fall asleep. I also just learn better from the printed talks and it takes a few days for those to appear. Mainly though it’s because I just like to get an idea for what people see as the big concerns in the Church. So here’s my musings after they’ve had a few days to congeal.

There’s no particular organization to this.

First off it’s hard not to come away from both this conference and spring’s that leadership really wants to put more responsibility on individual members. The shift to Ministering and now the shortened meeting schedule seem oriented around that. There’s far less structure and a lot more individual responsibility. Really what’s happened with this week’s changes is to shift the burden of Sunday School lessons to the family or individual. While not explicitly stated, the thrust seems to assume parents will continue the Primary lesson as part of Family Home Evening on Sunday.

Many of these changes seem oriented around teaching children. I know that some see this as a problem as none of the changes seem targeted at singles who are such a rising demographic. They are also the demographic that has the biggest challenges in many ways maintaining a connection to Church. However in theory this helps them too by allowing study groups that serve a function similar to Sunday School but more able to be customized to individual needs. Again though the Church is offering no structure just individual responsibility to do these things.

My big concern is whether the membership will be able to step up and deal with this shift from structure to personal responsibility. Perhaps I’m just cynical, but I suspect they won’t. My guess is that Ministering will just do the occasional visit to drop off baked goods. It’ll work great for those families willing to call their Ministers when they need something. However without structure to provide an indirect way to friendship I wonder how many will feel comfortable doing that. Likewise with the changes to lessons how many people will teach their children properly? We’ll see I suppose.

It’s also seems clear that the brethren are very concerned about the effects of social media on the Church. Pres. Nelsons request for a social media fast became controversial among some. However I think there’s abundant empirical evidence for the negative effects of Facebook and Twitter. (And I say this as a regular Twitter user) That’s particularly true during times of political turmoil I think. I know many were put out by Pres. Nelson’s request but I’m taking it seriously. I just started a relative social media fast — which for me I’m interpreting as avoiding Twitter and not commenting in forums or blog comments. It’s worth noting how strong the correlation is between the rise of always available Twitter and Facebook and the rise in depression especially among the young. I think we should see this much like the Word of Wisdom. Good council.

Finally I think Pres. Nelson has some long term plans. The changes this year are probably more preparatory for these future changes. While there were no real announcements of significant changes to missionary work or temple work, he seems to be laying a foundation for such changes. It seems like they’re shifting missionary work at a ward level to be more the responsibility of Elders Quorums. (This wasn’t announced in conference but was directed in letters to Bishops and Stake Presidents this week) The shift in meetings times will also free up afternoons perhaps to allow Sunday temple sessions in the future.

What exactly Pres. Nelson’s long term goals are isn’t entirely clear. However I do think he wants to get more involvement by women in practical day to day running of the Church. My guess is that next conference we’ll see a continuation of the changes made this year.

39 comments for “Some Conference Reflections…

  1. I had some uneasiness about the two hour block that I couldn’t articulate. It’s not that I’m a glutton for punishment and just want more meetings but something was bothering me. It crystallized when I talked to a woman in our ward. She’s in her late 60s, never married, only one sibling who lives more than 1000 miles from her. I asked her what she thought about 2 hour church and she said, “That’s just one more hour in the week that I have to spend alone. In conference they seemed to paint a picture of large happy families gathering around the piano with that extra hour but I don’t have that.”

    I think we can rely too much on the fortress family, the church has to be more than just individual siloed families ensconced in their living rooms around the piano or studying the gospel together. The Mormon experiment since the restoration has been built on community, on building Zion, on creating something larger than our individual lives and families. And in this era of shrinking family size, divorce and grown children scattered across not just one nation but across the world it seems to be a curious choice to turn away from people, like my ward friend, who represent a large and growing proportion of church members.

    I was a young adult when the previous 3 hour block was instituted. All of the same rosy projections were made then that the extra time would allow families to study and learn together, to spend more time together. I don’t have any objective data but my personal experience didn’t really show that to be the case. And the sociality among members definitely decreased. We didn’t spend as much time together and the time we did have together, during the three hour block, was more rushed and less conducive to creating lasting friendships and stronger ties. That only accelerated with abolishing ward activities committees and I don’t see the change from 3 to 2 hours stopping that trend from continuing. Those with large, strong families, not coincidentally the kind that many GAs have, may find this to be a welcome change but those alone or with weak family ties will be the ones to feel the negative effects this change could bring.

  2. I’m going to be the pedantic member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and point out these changes aren’t necessarily Pres. Nelson’s personal long-term plan, but that of Jesus the Christ.

    With that out of the way, I’m reminded of the Hobbesian cynical view of human nature, and myself feel more like Rousseau in that when made responsible, people will surprise you and take up the slack.

    My opinion is that the Lord trusts those who belong to his restored church to continue to build upon Him as the foundation stone, and is less concerned about the particular view of His church on the skyline than the church being a vehicle for individuals and families to fit themselves for a heavenly realm.

  3. I have these opinions despite being recently divorced and living at least 45 minutes away from my former family. Fortunately I live with my sister, but I still understand loneliness.

  4. It is interesting as I see these changes as an attempt to de-institutionalise the members from the church a little bit. This is quite a change. It will take a long while for the membership to take the responsibilities that we once the purview of the church and its structures. I think it is a brave step.

  5. I think the Church has tried this in various ways in the past. My dad used to joke that the Church would start decentralizing slightly and people would screw up so everything would get more centralized. We’ll see how this latest effort works. Part of the problem is everyone wants services from Church rather than seeing it as an opportunity to serve others.

  6. I had a hard time with conference this past weekend. There were a few things said that I viscerally disagree with (that I won’t go into) and that prevented me from learning from any of the other speakers. Clark, your admission that you don’t learn well from lectures prompted me to read Elder Cook’s talk with fresh eyes. And reading it tonight, I didn’t feel any of the defensiveness I did over the weekend. It was quite a healing experience. Thanks for that.

  7. When Nelson became president, and Oaks replaced Uchtdorf, I was concerned at what this might signify. Last conference there seemed to be more mentions of Christlike Love, and I was hopeful.
    This conference; the 2 hour block was good, Oaks talk was a disaster, and he was congratulated by Nelson. He told everyone who was not in a man woman marriage that they were lead astray by satan (satan got a good run this conference), and not going to the celestial kingdom. And the same applies to those who don’t agree with his views on gays, or the place of women in this world.
    One woman speaks, (outside the womens meeting) although men tell them they want to hear from them. The womens meeting is reduced to the first presidency telling women how to be women, and for the minority of the time women speaking.
    I have trouble equating Christlike Love, with homophobia, sexism, and any other form of discrimination. I heard no love at all from Oaks, if he is the next president, the church is in big strife.
    Haven’t heard all talks yet, may be something better.

  8. KLC, I had the same thought, and am sad to hear that thought is accurate. I also am ambivalent about the majority of the membership’s willingness to step up and do more home study, though I pray we surprise ourselves.

    Immediately after the 2-hour announcement, I texted a couple of LDS friends in my friends and asked whether most members would merely see this as an opportunity to watch more sports. I was raised in an active LDS home (weekly attendance, accept and perform callings, active in Mutual), but had this change happened then, I suspect there would have been no discernible change in our home habits. Family scripture study, family prayer, family home evening and just generally talking about God and the Gospel on a regular basis were always a bit awkward and very sporadic and became increasingly sporadic as we kids grew older.

    Perhaps our family was an outlier when it comes to regularly-attending LDS families, but my experience in other members’ homes is that it wasn’t and isn’t.

  9. “they were lead astray by satan (satan got a good run this conference), and not going to the celestial kingdom. And the same applies to those who don’t agree with his views on gays…”

    Yes, that’s true. It’s completely accurate. I realize it disturbs those who were quick to caricature their brothers and sisters in the church who have known this all along, but it’s true. Not sure what you disagree with about Pres. Oak’s views on the place of women in the world — that they are daughters of God who have the divine and noble responsibility to increase their own faith and righteousness while (and through) bringing more children of God into the world and pointing them to Christ as well to go and do likewise?

    Just what do you think your purpose actually IS? World piece? To discover the next DNA? Those are things we do along the way, and it’s great. But God didn’t put us in this world of strife, confusion, sin, chaos, and entropy so we could come up with cool innovations that make mortal life more comfortable.

    That’s great to do — but the families we are part of and building is the goal. What do you think a woman’s role is and what do you think Pres. Oaks thinks?

  10. Why do we have to make every little administrative change the equivalent of Moses coming down from Mount Sinai with the stone tablets?

    In my estimation, the reasons given for the shortened meeting schedule (i.e., putting Gospel teaching on parents) are mostly post facto rationales; so much important-sounding fluff. But let’s not put the cart before the horse. Yes, there is more opportunity for home-centered Gospel learning now with a shortened meeting schedule, but surely that wasn’t the driving impulse for the change. C’mon. In a word, shortening the meeting schedule is due to the current 3-hour block being (1) terribly boring and (2) just too long (for new converts, children, busy families, and for the relatively few overcrowded meeting houses). Full stop.

    But of course, no one asked me.

  11. @awkward

    Why the sneering reference to world peace as a life purpose or goal? Do you understand what DNA is, and how nonsensical it is to refer to the next one? Disparaging cool innovations that make life more comfortable? You mean things like antibiotics or advances in neonatal breathing assistance which have saved millions of people from untold pain and suffering?

    You are able to justify, in a single comment, the problem many people have with mormonism: that we’re selfishly insular, preoccupied with kids and the means by which they are produced, burdened with a compulsion toward blind obedience, and skeptical of science

    Why worry about world peace, or improving the lot of people plagued with illness, when there are so many babies to be made, and so many apostles to heed? We are, after all, the chosen people!

  12. Ted, I’m not sure I’d agree with your characterization of the Church. To say something shouldn’t be our main goal is not to disparage them. It’s simply to point out what our responsibility is. While I can understand those who felt left out because not every talk focused on what they want, the reality is we have responsibilities and reminding us of our responsibilities is one thing prophets should do. Surely we can take up our personal responsibilities and also value science and care for those in need.

  13. Clark, I agree with you, and should have been more clear. My characterization was of how many (perhaps erroneously) perceive mormonism as a culture.

    @awk’s comment is an example of why those perceptions can be well grounded.

  14. Benson, not to mention the fact that the Church cannot forever afford to build new meetinghouses. I can’t shake the feeling that this has much to do with the lack of growth (contraction?) in developed countries and the need to subsidize the Church in developing countries whose members cannot support construction to the standard the Church calls for (I’m thinking particularly of West Africa today but it was the same story in the Philippines two decades ago).

  15. Not a Cougar, I suspect building costs do have something to do with this. Although it seems to me that density in buildings is only an issue where the church is relatively strong. My guess is that while that is an aspect of the issue, it’s a more minor one. If building costs is a major issue we may have a significant change in building design. I’m skeptical though since the main cost of buildings is the cultural hall (not in all buildings) and then the number of classrooms. The latter is primarily due to Primary and pretty hard to eliminate without more significantly rethinking how we teach children. While this is a serious rethink (IMO) it’s not that major of a change. Really the biggest change is the elimination of sharing time and the shortening of the classes.

    I think shortening the classes for kids makes a lot of sense, particularly for Junior Primary, simply because 45 minutes or so is too long for their interest level. Most teachers just hand out coloring pages or some easy craft to fill up most of the time. So in that sense this is a pretty welcome change. Even for Senior Primary I think while it’ll mean less gets taught, I suspect what gets taught will be remembered better.

    Ted, that’s a good point although I think it gets at why perceptions of Mormon culture are so often misleading. Perhaps it’s unfair, but I think a lot exaggerate things simply because Mormon culture isn’t the culture they want it to be.

  16. Clark, it would be interesting to see what a “cheaper” chapel looked like, and it would definitely require adjusting our expectations. I’m sure there were a multitude of factors going into the decision, not the least of which was the inspiration of the Lord, but if we still had pre-21st century level growth, I would be surprised if the Church leaders thought a two-hour block was necessary.

  17. I believe even going back to the 80’s most churches had three phases. Depending upon size, a church might be built just with some of the phases. Our meeting house where I grew up was like that only later getting all three phases. I don’t know if that’s still true but judging from building design it likely is. It’s just that often it makes most sense to build complete buildings except in areas with low Mormon populations. (Such as the Maritime region I grew up in)

    The traditional problem with meetinghouses has always been the “one size fits all” mentality. That allowed economies of scale to a certain degree. It certainly made things easier for Salt Lake. The problem that popped up in the late 80’s and early 90’s was that sometimes decisions that worked great in Utah didn’t work elsewhere. For instance I believe several meetinghouses from that era in Calagary and Edmonton had to be expensively fixed because the insulation and other factors weren’t suitable for the cold Canadian environment. While I’m sure many of those bugs were worked out then, you can still see what works for a suburban environment creating unneeded costs in other areas. Not having visited the poorer nations with chapels I don’t know what they’re like. I ought ask my Bishop as he regularly travels to Africa for work. He’d know.

  18. I think the announcement of 12 new temples is also a reflection of cost savings from fewer new meetinghouses being built. Just speculation.

  19. I’ve been traveling a bit lately, and when out and about I attend church at the location I am in. It is almost never an LDS church however (can I use this abbreviation here?, maybe CJC is what I should use from now on?). Over the summer I attended Catholic, Anglican, Presbyterian, and Lutheran services; mostly because I was a tourist roaming the countryside and would pop into a cathedral or very old chapel to take a look and to sit down and listen to the service. I enjoy this experience, and I enjoy listening to other religious perspectives, which, for the most part, are in line with everything I believe.

    In every service I attended (and this by no means is a thorough review of the data) I noticed a few things. One, every service was under an hour. I really liked that. I have long thought the three hour block was too much; but I do a lot of my own scripture study and the church experience has been for me, for quite some time, rather draining. I have often said that I work in the church and I worship in the temple. I personally think the temple experience is the three hour block people should attend.

    Second, the congregations were always rather small. Of course I am coming from Utah County, and so it is perhaps an unfair comparison, but I never saw more than 30 or 40 people at a service. So while I do appreciate a 45 minute sermon or discussion, the small numbers (this particular summer trip was across England and Ireland) was rather a little depressing for me. I want my fellow religious institutions teaching Judaeo/Christian principles to be strong. In some places I went, there were about a dozen people. Of course, I’m not there on the main sermons on a Sunday sometimes, but it felt underwhelming often, despite the grand cathedral I was sitting in.

    I don’t know what the solution is. I am excited about 2 hour church. But whether the block is 2 or 3 hours does not really represent the test and trial of the secularization of the West and its impact on churches and their congregations. The LDS religion is a culture, and this has the upside of absorbing changes in the mechanical structure of the services or methods. Like most things, I will wait and see over time and assess if the changes are improving the culture and the community. I suspect that many will do the same.

  20. Awk, I’m on the other side of the world so now responding. My youngest daughter is 40, she decided she would marry in the temple, she has never been asked by a man who could take her to the temple. She is attractive but not glamorous, she is a federal police officer, specialising in bomb detection, in her spare time she is a smoke jumping fire officer. Under Oaks and your definitions she is damned. She was not happy with this talk. He did not include her or the other single women who will remain single. He did not include the infertile, he certainly excluded the gay.
    I have been a member for 60 years, and in that time the policy of the church with reguard to social issues has been more in line with conservative culture than the gospel of Christ, eg racism, birth control is of the devil, sexual positions of satan, now we have discrimination against gays and women. The position of the church on these already makes it very extreme in the first world except perhaps the US. There is a debate here about whether private religious schools should be able to exclude gay students or teachers, and the polling says 80% say no. To oppose equality for gays or women is about as acceptable as being racist.
    Women and gays will be treated equally by the church in the future, it is just a question of how many we exclude before we have a prophet who will get the word.
    I was once an unquestioning member, but my experience with the church, and things like this conference, where the prophet thinks the name of the church is more inportant than equality for women and gays, have caused me to question. My personal revelation tells me that my understanding is in line with the Gospel of Christ.

  21. @ Geoff-Aus:

    It seems that you’re not remembering the big picture here. Mortality isn’t everything. The prophets have consistently taught that those who are faithful and obedient will obtain every blessing offered through the gospel, even if such doesn’t happen in this life. One of the main purposes of temples is to provide saving ordinances for those who couldn’t obtain them during mortality.

    Church leaders teach the ideal because it’s the surest way to help people stay on the covenant path to the end. If not everyone is able to follow that idea, that doesn’t mean they’re not less loved by God or the Church’s leaders. (Incidentally, what difference does it make to my salvation, or anyone else’s, if the Church’s leaders love me? God’s love is the love that matters.) President Oaks didn’t come from ideal circumstances himself, having lost his father at an early age. Many people do just fine with obeying the commandments under less than ideal circumstances, but the Church’s leaders are still going to emphasize the circumstances with the least amount of risk.

    The gospel imposes certain standards, including love for all and obedience to commandments like chastity. Just because we expect Latter-day Saints to follow the law of chastity doesn’t mean we stop loving them if they don’t follow that standard perfectly. But we can love them and expect them to follow the standards at the same time; the two aren’t mutually exclusive.

  22. For every 5 members who are foolish and don’t fill their cruses with oil with home worship, there will be 5 who do, and the bridegroom will know them at the time of his coming.

  23. Ted, your reply further missed the point.

    I specifically said, ” Those are things we do along the way, and it’s great. ”

    GREAT. Meaning impressive. Important.

    Who sneered? Do you sneer at greatness?!? I don’t.
    But I’ll repeat the question. Just what do you think your purpose actually IS?

    We should strive to make amazing discoveries and tremendous contributions to alleviating suffering — that’s great.

    But the purpose of an immortal, eternal being, is not to help us understand DNA. If you believe God exists, and I know he does, he could very easily come down and teach us about DNA-like discoveries. He’s in fact already taught us about world peace. Are we listening? Are we pointing others to the source where they can discover for themselves?

    My purpose, your purpose, your children’s purposes, your many ancestors’ purposes are not to bring about temporal greatness. If that’s the case, the vast majority of human experience has failed its purpose.

    There’s a much humbler, and even greater purpose than that.

  24. Geof –

    “eg racism, birth control is of the devil, sexual positions of satan, now we have discrimination against gays and women. ”

    Racism – it was a policy that we don’t have a recorded revelation for (that we know of), but that clearly God allowed to continue, God had and yet has very exclusionary policies on all manner of issues, and specifically on the priesthood he allowed it’s continuation because his prophets had inquired from time to time. More could be said supporting and opposing this concept, but that’s the gist of it.

    Birth control – clearly birth control has brought some positive aspects, and a lot of bad ones. If you don’t see how family dynamics have changed, children with less siblings, parents raising their children differently, children not socializing as well, tremendous social consequences, and so on as a result of the 1-2 child families, you should ponder the issue more. I think the devil really is in the details, in spite of the fact that birth control can be a blessing as well. If a couple convinces themselves, that “we just don’t want children right now” (often can’t afford/etc) it’s probably not the voice of God, so I can see how satan would get accused there. No hyperventilation needed to beat the poor straw man of Mormons and Mormon culture to death. I’m a Latter-day Saint anyway ;)

    Sexual positions – you lost me there and google didn’t turn up any results of interest. I suppose if you’re looking at oral sex and masturbation, well there are issues with both of those. You might as well start complaining about Israel not eating pork, I suppose. And clearly issues of sex have pretty heavily social issues, just like hygiene. Everything must be grounded in science, which is ever-evolving and never firmly settled. Sex and underwear talk sells so people like to bring that up as a reason the church is just another moral institution that gets things right and wrong, and should be guided by the voice of its members.

    Gays and Women – two separate issues. I’m not sure what to make of you combining them. There’s probably something there…. maybe just because it’s fashion and we’re all susceptible to cultural influences. Homosexual activity certainly fits within that sex/societal concern. It’s not hyperbole to acknowledge that a society which is created from sexual reproduction will be altered if we redefine the purpose, scope, and appropriateness of sexual activity. There’s a lot of morality that can be injected around that rather banal observation.

    I hope things work out well for you and your daughter. I truly hope you don’t let your own political lens color your judgement of the teachings of the church leaders across generations. Truly, whatever bias we want to impugn on church authorities, can just as easily be turned on us in the exact manner we are cross examining every quote or statement from history. No charity, only accusations and disdain.

    I think it’s more likely that you are politically biased and wrong, than those issues which tangentially line up occasionally (or frequently) with conservative politics are wrong.

    Paying income taxes without unanimous consent is not theft — the church expects it. That’s pretty well opposed to some of the extreme conservative thought. (not that all conservatives are painted with the same brush) But do you tell the church they are equally misguided on this issue? No? Why not? Is it because it’s True® or do your political principles just happen to align there? That’s just a one-off example that I think all sides pretty much agree on. But the fact is it can be heavily argued that taxation is just as unjust as abortion restrictions.

    It’s not so easy to separate political bias. But one way I can tell is when people start telling me that the church is biased conservative, what I’m really hearing is that the speaker is actually the one revealing their own bias.

  25. @awkward

    The pit is getting deeper:

    Preoccupied with kids and the means by which they are produced:

    “birth control has brought some positive aspects, and a lot of bad ones.”

    “If a couple convinces themselves, that `we just don’t want children right now’… it’s probably not the voice of God”

    “I suppose if you’re looking at oral sex and masturbation, well there are issues with both of those.”

    “a society which is created from sexual reproduction will be altered if we redefine the purpose, scope, and appropriateness of sexual activity.”

    Burdened with a compulsion toward blind obedience: “don’t let your own political lens color your judgement of the teachings of the church leaders across generations.”

    Skeptical of science: “Everything must be grounded in science (/s), which is ever-evolving and never firmly settled.”

    You sneered. It’s evident from the trite, throwaway manner in which you referenced (and misspelled) “world piece” (sic).

    “The purpose of an immortal, eternal being, is not to help us understand DNA.” How does that little ditty go? As man is, god once was… you know the rest. I suppose you imagine that God’s going to hand you the keys to the Ferrari when you don’t even know where the clutch pedal is.

    And just as a reminder, the founder of mormonism was fond of teaching that man is saved no faster than he gains knowledge. Indeed, every bit of knowledge supposedly rises with him in the resurrection and gives him an advantage (Doctrine and Covenants 130:18–19). One could argue that imparting knowledge is the sum total of God’s purpose for his children.

  26. Geoff, I suspect Nelson is getting the easy things out of the way first. The question is what God wants with regards to marriage/sex. I think we can all agree that the situation for gay people sucks, but what the solution is given our revealed theology isn’t clear. Further whatever happens would require a pretty major revelation (IMO) if only to clarify things and likely unanimity among the apostles as with the blacks and the priesthood issue. While I can understand impatience, given the importance of things (and the fact that the answer may very well not be what everyone wants) it’s important to get things right rather than fast.

    Acceptability is more complex than I think you suggest. Certainly social norms, especially among the young (18-30) have changed extremely rapidly. Further we’re in a period of social upheaval and likely change. What that will bring isn’t clear. And it’s certainly not clear if the new social norms will be good. One need only look at the last period of upheaval in the late 60’s and early 70’s to see that.

  27. Awk and Geoff, you’re arguing positions the church no longer takes on certain issues:
    Racism—Awk, the church takes a neutral position about the priesthood ban being dictated by God. It seems that Pres. Nelson is maybe in the affirmative, but many other leaders seem to lean toward the negative.
    Non-intercourse sexual pratices and birth control: the church no longer takes a position on sexual practices between a monogamous heterosexual married couple. SWK was loudly opposed to non-intercourse sex acts, but that was when people were afraid that it could cause people to become gay. Three years ago at BYU, my husband (then-fiance) took the pre-marital class offered to teach young engaged men about healthy sexuality. I won’t go into it too much here, but I can confirm that they are not discouraging oral sex. They are also not discouraging birth control among married couple. I guarantee you that it’s the most frequent reason for female student visits to the health clinic. Once the church shifted toward encouraging women to get more education, they stepped off the birth control thing.
    It’s very challenging to be in an evolving church, both for liberal and conservative minded members. The people who complained two weeks ago that we didn’t talk enough about Jesus at church (a legitimate criticism at least in the “Jell-O belt” are making fun of the re-emphasis of the church’s official name. Members are still disowning their gay kids. I think all of these problems come from leaning heavily on tradition and not having a great understanding of revelation.

  28. Amanda, That was my point that on social issues the leadership of the church is governed by conservative rather than what is right or Gods will. The list was of things that were taught as satan trying to undermine the church, but are now acceptable, I see the position of Oaks on equality for women, and gays, as another example of conservative men using theology to justify their conservative views.
    All are alike unto God, but not yet the church.
    I don’ see a problem in our theology for gays and women to be treated just like we treat men now. I believe it is just a matter of time. How long it takes could determine how relavent the church is outside Utah. Remember when the church was going to roll forth and fill the earth?

    Eric, For Oaks to say with the authoritive tone and the position he does that “without a hetrosexual marriage you will not be exalted in the celestial kingdom”. Is excluding lots of faithfull saints. It should stand on its own. It should be true. I try to give my children hope that God loves them and is merciful and that there will be opportunities after this life, he intentionally destroys those hopes. I don’t think an apostle of Christ should behave like that.

  29. How does what President Oaks say (or Doctrine and Covenants 131) destroy those hopes of having a marriage after this life? One of the main purposes of the Millennium will be setting all those ordinances right for those who are worthy and willing to receive them, even if they didn’t have the chance during their mortal lives. That would include marriage, not just baptism.

    We have temples. We have the authority to seal people together no matter how long ago they died. We have from now until the final judgment to set things in order. I completely fail to see how President Oaks “intentionally destroys those hopes” of being able to realize the blessings of marriage and exaltation for those who desire them, even if that desired marriage doesn’t happen in this lifetime. I do not see it.

    President Nelson has been urging us to learn how to receive revelation. Without revelation, it will be impossible for us to redeem our dead ancestors, considering how many people have lived and died on this earth with no surviving records of their names. Questions of sealing deceased people in marriage will also require revelation, and I don’t have to be a prophet to know that they will be some of the sweetest and most sacred revelations we will receive.

    As for complaints about the Church being governed by conservative views, I assure you that the Church is far more liberal than the current conservative stance in America regarding matters like immigration. Perhaps you noticed what President Oaks said in condemning those (including some Church members) who bullied a young man until he lashed out and is now facing the prospect of deportation? The average “Trump conservative” would applaud such an outcome. American conservative values were largely compatible with the values of the gospel, but as time goes by that will become less and less true.

  30. Elder Oaks said none of that he was very clear of his view, there were none of the options you put. He did not make exceptions.

  31. It appears to me that the recent conference was a further attempt to move Mormonism closer to conservative Christians. A development that I don’t find appealing. Examples include the emphasis on the name of the Church. Doubling down on LGBTQ+ issues. A subtle anti-science message.

    This movement hit full swing with the death of Apostle Widtsoe in 1952 and has continued to this day. It is further aided by progressive members who advocate for more emphasis on grace and less emphasis on works.

    It no longer seems like the church I was born into 73 years ago.

  32. Other than immigration, what current issues does the church swing liberal on? I’ve seen immigration plus ‘other’ as a talking point pretty regularly, but I’m never quite sure what the other actually is.

  33. Geoff – Aus. I don’t have any difficulty at all with Pres Oaks talk. It’s really very basic doctrine. I have read many of your comments here over the last few years. I have just re-read Pres Oaks talk. Here’s a quote to think about. “As Elder Neal A. Maxwell urged, don’t be among those “who would rather try to change the Church than to change themselves.”
    It seems to me that you’re on the verge of leaving the Church. Stick with it mate! (from a fellow Aussie). I’ve seen some very good people leave the Church in recent years, often because they just they had more faith in their doubts than in their faith. We need to doubt our doubts more than we doubt our faith.

  34. This talk by President Oaks isn’t the complete word on the topics he brought up, nor does what he say negate the things I brought up about people having the potential to realize sealings and other ordinances after this life. I read through it again, and couldn’t help but notice how often he brought up God’s love for us. Again, I fail to see how this talk destroys hope for those who don’t have all the ideal things going for them right now.

    Think about this: We’ve heard of deathbed repentance. But with sealing as a requirement for exaltation in the celestial kingdom, if temple marriages could only be performed for those who haven’t left mortality yet, imagine how many deathbed marriages we’d see in the Church! But that doesn’t happen, because we know there’s more to the gospel than just this life, even when ordinances have to be performed on this earth for people who lived on this earth. That’s part of what temples are all about.

    To the others, “more liberal than the current conservative stance” is not the same as “swing liberal,” so don’t put words in my mouth. Our stance on abortion isn’t as extreme as that of some others on the conservative spectrum, what with allowances for rape, incest, or health of the mother. President Nelson has said some dismissive things about evolution, but every professor in the natural sciences at BYU takes the theory as a given for their fields. (My wife majored in zoology there; no one in her science classes had any issue with evolution, which was not the case with the science classes she took at Weber State University.) The Church’s official stance is that God created man and the earth, but that leaves a lot of room for details and nuance to add in as more data becomes available. Look at the compromises the Church was able to facilitate in Utah with the LGBT+ community in early 2015, and compare that to the legislation Indiana passed a few weeks later regarding such issues that got the media in much more of an uproar–and then Obergefell sucked all the air out of those dicussions.

  35. To Awk:

    “What do [I] think a woman’s role is? ”

    I think one of the most offensive and incorrect principles we teach is the idea that we each have a “role” or a “purpose.” Joseph Smith said it: “happiness is the object and design of your existence.” Its not being a wife or mother. I am not required to serve some purpose or function. Humans weren’t created for utilitarian purposes, but that is what this so-called “doctrine” reduces us to. Whether I marry or don’t, or have children, or don’t. If I lay face down in the gutter and never provide a minute of useful service to someone else, I am a divine, immortal being of infinite worth. Once I realized this, the fact that I have never married and have no children became a non-issue.

  36. In Australia we have a conservative government, with an extreme right group. Last year we had a vote on gay marriage, with about 66% approval. Mormons were very vocal in opposition, and are now being recruited by the extreme right group. This group, deny climate change, oppose gay marriage, and abortion, are anti muslim, and anti immigration, and white supremacist. There are no women in this group.
    They are seen as extreme, they just undermined their own prime minister, and got him replaced, but not with the extremist they hoped. I hope they will be voted out in the next election.
    These are the kind of people we associate with because of teachings like Oaks. Which would be OK if it were the Gospel. He seems to think being out of step is a sign of truth. I think I said earlier that there have been so many of these social issues where we have taught conservative culture as if it were gospel, and then eventually abandoned it. I had hoped we were moving forward but no. We are still conservatives first, and followers of Christ second.
    That was the most hurtfull message from the conference.
    There were some good messages, Uchtdorf as usual, and a few others.
    Is it church culture, or US that so many speakers suck up to the Pres no matter what?

  37. The self-reliance push is also conservatism being dressed up as religion. Having grown up poor(ish) in Utah, I remember a lot of political talk about self-reliance and the evils of the dole, usually aimed toward the poor. I find it disheartening to hear at church. The other side of self-reliance is that employers need to pay their employees enough to live. I don’t think we hear nearly enough talks about the obligation employers have to compensate their employees fairly.

    I’ve done a lot more of the OT readings this year and I’ve been impressed by the number of times the elites in scripture are called to repentance for enriching themselves at the expense of everyone else. I find the absence of such talks in a time of increasing wealth inequality in the US conspicuous. Yes, I know, the CoJCoLDS is a world-wide church, but there are *a lot* of talks that are pretty US, and even Utah centric.

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