Speaking Evil of the Lord’s Anointed (and their trite, poorly-written talks)

A friend of mine asked me why I hadn’t blogged about General Conference, in particular wondering if I had any spectacular thoughts on Pres. Hinckley’s words regarding women. My initial, glib response to him was that I hadn’t posted because I was underwhelmed, but upon reflection, I remain underwhelmed. With a couple of (major) exceptions, GC just didn’t do it for me, and I was a little disappointed. The choir was wonderful as ever, the themes were similar to those of Conferences past — so what’s wrong with me?

Boo Hoo, you say. Don’t you know it’s the responsibility of the listener to glean from Conference, and you must not have had the Spirit, and we have a lay clergy, and I thought it was fantastic? Well, yes. I know all that — in fact, the last Priesthood lesson I had was all about how only evil/stupid people get nothing from boring Sacrament talks. The lesson established two lines of thinking that I’ve seen a lot in the Church, even though I’m not certain that either is necessarily correct:

1. Not only should our leaders not be criticized, no one should be criticized for what they say in the course of lessons or talks.

2. The onus is (pretty much) always on the listener to get something out of talks, even bad ones, and as a baseline, no General Conference talk is a bad one.

I can see how we might want to avoid criticism as a way of solidifying our bonds of love to each other in the Church. But I don’t think that the spirit of Christ excludes all criticism. You’d better show those outpourings of love afterwards, but our scripture clearly identifies ways for us to correct each other, at least in doctrinal matters. Can we also consider this to be a basis for social correction as well?

Here is what I really want to say, but I’m just not getting around to it very well: can we legitimately criticize Conference talks for being garbagey rhetoric, without such criticisms constituting “speaking evil“? I like folksy stories as much as the next person, for example, but can I say that I am sick of Pres. Monson’s tripartite phrasings and passive voice(without going to hell)? Talks were written; speeches were delivered; congregations were bored.

It’s not like I have some boatload of critiques that I’ve been aching to unload on the Brethren. I am mostly interested in the proper realm of criticism and correction in the Church, generally speaking. In light of the restrictions on evil speaking, what then are the boundaries on criticism and correction? Is Church a proper forum to give (or receive) correction and advice on social issues? I think that there is clearly some minimal level that we could all accept — the Gospel doesn’t seem to exclude all critiquing. So where are the margins?

Comments

  1. “From my perspective as an LDS male, neither I nor anyone I know has any interest in silencing LDS women or is bothered by LDS women speaking with their “real voice.””

    I silence LDS women all the time. :-) Ok, maybe not, but perhaps there is very little overlap between the men john fowles knows and the men Kristine and/or Karen know, thus making john fowles’ association with unanimous non-silencing males not very applicable.

    I’m glad john fowles has had such a spot free track record with LDS males. But I think I know of the men of whom Kristine speaks… and we don’t even know the same people!

  2. “so long as you keep your criticisms general and not mention anyone by name, you can pretty much say whatever you want.”

    Er, Steve, I wish you’d posted that 5 minutes ago :)

  3. “When a new president of the church is called it is interesting to see how his delivery style changes and becomes more free. I never anticipated enjoying President Hinckley’s talks as much as I do.”

    I agree with you wholeheartedly. If only we could also free up the rest of the speakers in the same way!

  4. (Come to think of it, in another couple of years, she’d probably have been comparing people whose vision of the family is a little broader than the Proclamation’s to Hitler. Oh, wait…)

  5. john fowles says:

    And I think you will agree that they run no more risk as being seen as flirting with a women when they discuss the law, business or philosophy with her than they do when they discuss children and certain other favored subjects with her. This behavior is disrespectful to women who are qualified to be and want to be included in those conversations. You are right about one thing though, I do think this is the result of a built-in chauvanism that stems from our culture.

    I was only trying to come up with alternative suggestions as to why some LDS men might act like that. The suggestions that I provided give LDS the benefit of the doubt (sparing them accusations of being chauvanist) without falling prey to the type of disrespect that you are seeing in the suggestions. If an LDS male acts like that around an LDS female, I don’t see why it necessarily has to lead to the angel or harlot scenario you described. It could just be a misguided conception of what is polite.

    Again, I wasn’t saying that I believe this but was merely speculating as to other reasons that this might occur in the Church rather than that the Church has produced a culture in which chauvanism is built into the very fabric.

  6. I think the idea that our speakers are deliberately (ahem) low-key to differentiate themselves is quite silly.I think it’s just because they don’t know how to use a teleprompter.

    You may be right that the lack of skill with a teleprompter hampers their delivery. But that shouldn’t be construed to mean that they are poor speakers or lack insight.

    If that were the case then they would exhibit the same “low-key” style in all settings. You may attribute it to poor ability and superficial knowledge if you wish. In my experience, however, that is simply not the case. As I mentioned, many of them are exciting, skilled orators outside of a Conference setting and exhibit a great deal of “book learnin'” as well.

    For many members, distinguishing the Spirit from mere emotion can be hard. I don’t think there is anything silly about wanting to avoid contributing to the difficulty.

    When a leader, like Sister Dew, begins to attract a “cult following” there is a danger that member’s testimonies will transfer from the Gospel to the personality of the leader and that members will confuse the emotion evoked by the oratory skill with the Spirit. This also produces a danger of priestcraft as the leader is tempted to extend his or her personal influence and following.

    Of course these are just speculations. Perhaps they are as silly as you suggest.

  7. About “shutting down women”–I think John F is correct that female LDS speakers are viewed as acceptable only when they speak as generic LDS humans and simply repeat what the Brethren have said in earlier talks. But that also describes how the ever-increasing horde of Seventies craft their generally rather circumspect remarks at Conference. Seventies stick to simple gospel themes, supported by scriptures, quotes from the Big 15, and stories of their own personal experiences. That’s just what the women are expected to do, although more of their stories are about children and women. Only when there is a female apostle will an outspoken LDS woman be tolerated.

    But, to push this interesting thread back toward Steve’s original thesis, I’m surprised no one has called him on his description of Conference talks as “trite” and “poorly written.” Some may be basic rather than deep or authoritative, but never trite. Some may be poorly delivered rather than smooth or commanding, but rarely poorly written. Perhaps one should ask, “Trite and poorly written compared to what?”.

  8. Amen to Melissa! But I don’t think what she and D are talking about are really that separated…

  9. Rosalynde Welch says:

    As much as I quibble with many aspects of the Sheri Dew phenomenon, I must say that I really miss her direct and vigorous delivery at conference.

    And the power of the big pulpit really does exercise a frighteningly powerful psychological restraint on the speaker: after four years of being Student Review-reading (but not writing), VOICE-sympathizing (but not organizing), Universe-ridiculing (but not ranting) BYU student, when I was invited to give the student address at the commencement exercises I found myself writing and delivering a fairly insipid speech of my very own accord.

    None of this really goes to the substance of your question, Steve, which is the extent to which criticism of leadership figures may charitably go. I think the position of that line has everything to do with the audience before whom you’re criticizing, and the effect your critiques might have one them (because, let’s face it, your or my critiques are unlikely to make it to Monson’s ear). It’s my observation that an aura of unshakeable loyalty can cover a multitude of (gentle) critiques: if your audience is absolutely sure that you love the church and don’t aim to harm it, they’ll be a lot more comfortable with exploratory criticisms.

  10. D. Fletcher says:

    Boy, this thread certainly went to a weird place.

    I seriously think the Church would be better off if only the women spoke (I’m serious). Women are often the leaders in Quakerism — why not us?

  11. Brent, good counterpoint. Perhaps any form of monotony is best avoided. I’d like to think, though, that I am doing more here than just longing for the golden age or church oratory. I’m really curious as to whether we should properly engage in this type of criticism, with regards to GC or towards the average Sac. Mtg. Can this be a constructive thing to do, or is it always something to discourage, Lowell-style?

  12. Brent, I don’t think you necessarily need to expound deep doctrines in order to give a great talk…. you just need to know how to do public speaking. In my view, GAs speak much more like CEOs and corporate executives than like political leaders or other religious leaders. That could be because our church places high value on administrative function relative to bold leadership, but I’m not sure.

  13. john fowles says:

    Christina wrote, There are men in our ward who will happily engage with my husband, but can’t look me in the eye, let along engage with me as a peer.

    Maybe this doesn’t have to do with some kind of built-in chauvanism (which is what Mat’s comment implies) but rather with . . . respect. Maybe those LDS men don’t want you to think that they are flirting with you or have ulterior motives. Maybe they feel uncomfortable talking with a married woman, not because of chauvanism but because of other (whether misplaced or proper–that is a different issue) subconscious relationship-oriented concerns, that actually stem from a profound respect and courtesy of the kind that you seem to find lacking. Perhaps it is a matter of perspective.

    Rosalynde: thank you for your very kind words. I take issue with one thing though: I don’t view you as my peer because you are so much smarter and more well read than I, so if anything, I look to you as a teacher!

    But I think when you characterized me as believing that the techniques of rational analysis have no place within the church, it was a little inaccurate. For instance, I am wholly on board with an academic approach, but that does not mean that I have fully subordinated my own (irrational) faith to academic or intellectual strictures.

  14. continued —

    Clearly there isn’t anything doctrinally incorrect about having such a meeting. I suspect that the reason this isn’t done has mostly to do with the age of the presiding Brethren. I do think it would be a good idea if it ever occurred to them to think of doing it.

    If I: (1) ascribe their failure to do so to innocent generational factors rather than raging male chauvinism, (2) accept that it is their prerogative whether to have such meetings, and (3) agree to continue to sustain them if they don’t follow this suggestion, am I within acceptable bounds?

    Since I am floating the proposal that they should have such meetings (like it would ever come to their attention from this blog), obviously I think that it is kosher to do so. I also think that if any of (1), (2), or (3) above were not the case, I would feel that it was out of bounds.

    In summary, I think some tests of remarks about the Brethren and the Church which may fall short of being obviously fawning are: (1) are they constructive rather than negative, (2) are we willing to give them the benefit of a doubt as to motivations and (3) are we willing to remain loyal to the Kingdom if we don’t get our way?

    Can these tests define simply “speaking of the Lord’s Anointed” as opposed to “*evil* speaking of the same?

  15. D.,

    For you to say that this thread went to a strange place is like Mike Tyson saying boxing has really gone downhill:)

  16. D., it would clearly take some doing to bring that miracle about. So many people (men, mostly) don’t like to listen to women, don’t like the way the women in G.C. speak, and believe in man’s inherent right to rule, that we are still a long ways off.

  17. Did Hitler have a broad view on the family? I would’ve thought he would be a little more restrictive…

  18. Heaven forbid, Lowell — you’re just too darned nice, that’s all. Don’t worry, there’s hope for you yet :)

  19. I actually really liked Pres. Monson’s talk this conference, it seemed stronger and more doctrinally centered than in the past, while still retaining the warmth of folksy wisdom. (This coming from the gal who has, admittedly, used Pres. Monson in the past to explain to other people what the passive voice is…)

    I imagine that there is incredible pressure on conference speakers knowing that their words are not only being broadcast, but will also enter the realm of near cannonized scripture–the vast library of conference talks used in weekly lessons in church. I think it is no wonder that we have more thoughtful writing, more tempered delivery, and less fire in conference these days.

    (Which reminds me of a funny funny story. I was reading in Arrington’s Building the City of God (title?) a week or so ago and came across a conference talk of Brigham Young, where he was encouraging women to work as shop keepers and men to work in the fields– something to the effect of “Nothing disgusts me as seeing a great lubbery man handing out calico and ribbons to women…” That really wouldn’t make it into conference these days, which is probably best….)

  20. I always hope for someone to drop a bomb or shout or _something_ different. It’s true, conference talks are typically everything that’s been criticized in this post. Even Elder Maxwell, who I thought could really lay down some doctrine, had the stereotypical “soft” delivery. Often in church in general, I get tired of the same ol’ same ol’. But, I also understand why it is the way it is (to a degree). I think that generally, there are a few reasons:

    1) The fact of the matter is that the vast majority of members are in the beginning stages of gospel understanding, whether due to recent conversion or due to apathy. For whatever reason, the leadership has decided to cater to this audience.

    2) There’s no question that people want to emulate those they hold in high regard (this is my nice way of saying that regular old members want to mimic leaders, and “low level” leaders hope by mimicking “high level” leaders, they’ll be that much better of leaders), so it leads to perpetual modeling of the same mannerisms, stories, cliches, etc.

    3) Who wants to rock the boat? I mean, easy to say you want to, but when you get up in front of 12 million people (give or take 7 million inactives), it’s a lot easier to go with the tried and true.

    4) After a rich and often tumultuous history, The Church has come to understand that models of consistency — from speaking styles to church buildings to dress to… — do a lot towards making a unified body of Christ. The problem is, strict adherence to models of consistency also leads to a dulling of culture, uniqueness, and individuality. Maybe the Church has gone too far in that direction? I tend to think so.

    So, I too would like to see something earthshattering, or even, sheesh, _different_. Delving a little deeper, going beyond the ordinary, avoiding cliches (should I take my own advice? ;)) would be nice for me. But, I understand that there’s still good info, nice reminders I can glean from conference. Obviously, another talk about honoring my priesthood may be old hat, but that doesn’t mean I still don’t need to be reminded. I think that for those of us who are feeling, perhaps, bored, it might be because we’ve been blessed to have a deeper understanding as well as a desire to know/learn more. In such cases, my opinion is that we’ve been given more than enough tools and resources since JS to delve deeper of our own volition, not to mention the whole aspect of personal revelation.

    Funny side story — one of my best friend’s parents is a GA that spoke during conference. S/he is one of the coolest, down to earth and even occassionally cynical about church people you’ll ever meet. Yet, when s/he got up to the pulpit and started into conference-speak, my wife and I just looked at each other and smiled. Cest la vie in the present church.

    (sorry for the long comment)

  21. I don’t think we really need to get nervous until GAs start getting up in stake conferences in Idaho and Arizona and start talking about LDS lebensraum…

  22. D. Fletcher says:

    I hate to bring this up, but is it possible that the reason GC is boring, for the most part, is that there simply isn’t anything new to say? It feels to me like the same syndrome which hits our Sacrament Meetings, week after week. The only way to give good energy is to infuse one’s talk with personality, one’s OWN personality.

  23. I just want to second Mat’s comments. I have experienced similar things my entire adult life in the church, both from LDS men at my university, at my law school, and today at church. There are men in our ward who will happily engage with my husband, but can’t look me in the eye, let along engage with me as a peer. There are others who do, and I’m not talking about them. But why are the majority of men so unwilling to respect women and work and learn with them on a human level? I don’t experience this anywhere else in my life, yet in the church, it is overwhelming and one of the things that makes it hard to go to church on Sundays.

  24. I love listening to older recordings of conference talks, or reading transcripts of older addresses. There is a fire coming from the pulpit that is undeniable. Take, say, Hugh B. Brown, a fairly recent Apostle. His talks are legendary, and possess none of the mushiness that completely turns me off during modern Conferences.

    I’d also note that Pres. Hinckley is among our better orators. You could hear a pin drop when he talked about pr0n, and it wasn’t just the subject matter.

  25. I said this in a comment far below, but I think it got buried. I am just intellectually vain enough to repeat most of it here.

    In my college days I was a Sunstone enthusiast, was even on the magazine’s masthead (although truthfully I never did much of anything because I became uncomfortable with the “feel” of the magazine). 25 years have passed and I still feel that discomfort when I read statements like “[g]enerally, they’re boring and given in that sing-songy conference talk voice in proper conference language (no gets ‘baptized’ in conference; they ‘enter the waters of baptism’).” Here’s another, from the title segement at the top of the blog: “[W]e tolerate dissent, but not stupidity.”

    Those statements, unkind as they are, are also interesting, because they suggest that this forum’s approach is always intellectually rigorous and thus never wrong, and that ridicule is an appropriate way to review efforts like conference talks.

    They are excellent examples of what turned me away from Sunstone all those years ago. The magazine at that time (I have not read it lately) was suffused with resentment, anger, disappointment, and often a snide undercurrent. Whatever else we Mormons might disagree about, it seems clear that charity is the one thing on which we can all agree that we all should seek (or about which we should “pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart,” that we might be filled with it). Although some posters here (bless them) clearly try hard to include it in their expressions, charity does not seem to abound here. Instead, I see more anger, resentment, snideness, and occasional cruelty.

    Again, that’s just how it seems to me. I’ll drop by from time to time to try to understand better what you are trying to express.

  26. I should clarify that I really like Pres. Monson, I liked the one-eyed pigeon and I like who he comes off as on screen. I was just using him as an illustration because many of his talks share common rhetorical techniques and grammatical flaws.

    Perhaps the high pressure of GC and the use of a teleprompter are to blame for some of the wooden oratory. But then, I’m not just talking about GC, I’m talking about the church in general and the types of ways that are acceptable for us to criticize one another. It would seem, thus far, that so long as you keep your criticisms general and not mention anyone by name, you can pretty much say whatever you want.

  27. I think it’s telling that the “cult-like following” charge only gets leveled at *women* who become popular speakers–I heard it about Chieko Okazaki, as well. But Neal Maxwell or Bruce Hafen or Hal Eyring or _________ (fill in charismatic GA of your choice) can be a popular fireside speaker, or sell as many books as he wants without ever hearing this charge. This inequity is structurally reinforced by the fact that (most) men are called for life, while women serve at the whim of the Brethren.

    I don’t want to imply anything sinister, but I don’t think it’s too strong to say that there are some men in the church who *really* don’t like to hear women speak boldly, in their real voices.

    (for the record, Sheri Dew got shut down pretty quickly, actually–if you read her last few talks, they are dramatically different than her first few. She willingly rewrote the history of the Relief Society to make it sound as though it had always been the wimpy correlated backwater it is now, she carried water for the womanhood=motherhood line of sloppy thinking, etc., etc., etc. I’m glad she’s back to her Chief Censor job–with the trajectory she was on, one shudders to think what she’d have said in another couple of years.)

  28. I think Ms. Dew’s cult following developed because she sounded like a real person when she spoke.

    I also think your statement that GAs are only low-key at General Conference is a supporting datum for the teleprompter hypothesis.

  29. john fowles says:

    I think that Dave over at Dave’s Mormon Inquiry has a good approach. It doesn’t seem to speak evil of the Lord’s annointed; rather, it addresses the substance of the talks.

    Style is an interesting question. I will admit that when I hear pejorative remarks about Elder Monson’s style in public speaking, it makes me a little uncomfortable and seems to be on the borderline of evil-speaking (even if I personally also wish he would cut the passive and speak in a less sing-song tone). I think that the reason it seems (to me) to border on evil-speaking is because of its ad hominem nature. We are criticizing his style rather than his talk itself. When we do this, we somehow cease to give him the benefit of the doubt given his upbringing, which we are inclined to give everyone else in our society outside of this context. Somehow, because he is a GA, we suddenly don’t need to cut him some slack anymore because of the largely blue-collar-type experiences (and method of presenting them) that he shares at GC. If he were an ivy-league grad like many of those at BCC, then I would expect some eloquent rhetoric or presentation. But can we really expect that of him?

    In this vein, we are lucky to have someone as articulate as Pres. Hinckley (even despite not being an ivy-leaguer) at the head of the Church right now. His talks always feed me spiritually as well as intellectually.

    But when we think about the GAs we should also remember where they are coming from. For example, we should rightly hold Oaks to a very high standard indeed, since he was a law professor at no less than Chicago and a justice on the Utah Supreme Court. We need to see informed, logical, and effective presentation from him–and I think that we do for the most part.

    In my own personal tastes, I am glad that none of our GAs are pulpit pounding psuedo-baptist hellfire-and-damnation style orators. Just so you know where I am coming from, I actually find Elder Maxwell’s substance and style ideal for LDS purposes. I would say the same for Elder Eyring. Of course, this is a matter of taste and very subjective.

  30. I think we’ve taken the whole “no evil speaking of the Lord’s anointed” way, way, WAY too far.

    We’re all God’s children, so we shouldn’t be speaking “ill” or “evil” of anybody. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to pretend to love conference talks. Generally, they’re boring and given in that sing-songy conference talk voice in proper conference language (no gets “baptized” in conference; they “enter the waters of baptism”).

    People have turned not speaking ill of the Lord’s anointed into a way to avoid any kind of discussion that isn’t gushing, glowing, or praising of what they say.

  31. john fowles says:

    I usually try to dismiss such thoughts as sexist (such is my cultural training), but I keep coming back to D’s comment earlier that I just love to hear the women. They seem to be more emotionally connected to speaking than men (I know, it’s a generalization). Now I don’t know about the emotional connection to speaking that he mentioned, but I in retrospect, most of the truly excellent, thought-provoking, and generally well done talks that I have enjoyed in sacrament meeting over the years have been by women. I suppose it’s okay to single women out and attribute special characteristics to them if they are positive characteristics that aren’t gender stereotyped?

    Anyway, one of the best talks I have ever heard in sacrament meeting was by Liz Charles (some of you might know her–she lives in Boston now and her husband Dave is doing a PhD at Harvard). When Dave and I were at Oxford together, Liz gave a gripping talk in sacrament meeting about the position of homosexuals in the Gospel. It was at once orthodox and “liberal” with regards to their status, as paradoxical as that might seem. She pulled it off very well; it was truly riveting (which is a lot to say about any sacrament meeting talk). Actually, come to think of it, most of the great talks I’ve ever heard in sacrament meeting were all in the Oxford ward.

  32. D. Fletcher says:

    I’m not sure, Mathew, but I think you just complimented me.

    I just love to hear the women. They seem to be more emotionally connected to speaking than men (I know, it’s a generalization).

    I don’t think there are enough women blogging to these blogs, and this doesn’t mean that I don’t completely love Karen and Melissa and Kristine and Christina and Jennifer and Sumer and Mardell. I do, but where’s the rest of you? Is blogging inherently… male? like, fixing the xerox machine? (I worked in an office with all women, and me. I was ALWAYS called upon to fix things, though I really knew nothing about it.)

    Meanwhile, Mathew, you are a really wonderful writer.

  33. I’ve read that Adolf Hitler used to study the acts of comedians to learn how they used facial expressions, gesticulations, and changes in vocal tone, register, and meter to manipulate the emotions of their audiences. He would then incorporate their techniques into his own oratory.

    Sometimes I think that the brethren go out of their way to keep the meetings relatively dull and the oratory generally monotonous. Perhaps it is their way if making the focus doctrine, not delivery; they want Spiritual feelings and confirmations that emanate from the truthfulness of the word, not manufactured by the oratory skill of the speaker. That way, if you do feel the Spirit, it is hard to attribute it to the wonderful oratory.

    In smaller, private meetings, I’ve seen many of the apostles and of the seventy give impassioned speeches employing excellent oratory technique.

    Perhaps they just want to make the distinction between themselves and televangelists unquestionably clear.

  34. In defense of protestant ministers with superb oratorical skills, not only have many of the ones I’ve heard spoken enthusiastically and convincing, but they offered an enormous depth of knowledge (OK, book learnin’) that I’ve found woefully lacking at GC.

    And it’s not as if excellent oratorical skills speak AGAINST a speaker.

    I think the idea that our speakers are deliberately (ahem) low-key to differentiate themselves is quite silly. I think it’s just because they don’t know how to use a teleprompter.

    Witness the cult following developed by Sherry Dew during her tenure in the RS Presidency: a strong, confident woman with excellent speaking ability. Women loved hearing her talk, because she wasn’t…mealy-mouthed.

  35. Is Karen BCC’s analog to Nate Oman–i.e. someone whose posts are given extra weight due to her ability to consistenty make trenchant observations? I hereby nominate Karen to become a Guru of the Bloggernacle.

    Karen,

    Despite what I wrote above, you need to drop the idea of having a discussion of what is the purpose of BCC. Reminds me of the annual discussions of “what is the purpose of LDSSA” we had in law school.

  36. JF, why bother speculating as to other reasons? Occam’s Razor, my friend.

  37. John,

    I understand that you you are were only giving an alternative explanation–but even you seem to have reservations about the particular explanation you put forward. If your point was that alternative explanations are possible–I take your point, but with the caveat that there are alternative explanations to higher incidences of death among smokers–just not very good ones.

    Here is my other problem: You have provided a reason as to why a certain group of Mormon men may not talk to women at all. But you didn’t explain what I have observed–that many men don’t have a problem talking to women about what I termed “favored topics”, but not about “manly topics” such as law. Perhaps the problem may simply be that Mormon men aren’t used to talking with women about such topics–but that is a very big problem and, to borrow a line from my favorite candidate, we can do better.

    One other point–I’m not attacking you personally. When I write that we can do better I am writing to myself. Gigi has assured me that I’m hardly the picture of enlightenment.

  38. John,

    If men aren’t looking women in the eye and speaking to them out of respect/because they don’t want to give the appearance of flirting then the problem is worse than I thought. If I accepted your explanation (which I don’t), I would have to conclude that in their attempt to show profound respect, these men have decided the best way to respect someone women is to ignore them. I wonder how men would feel if in their hurry to show them profound respect, Mormon women barely acknowledged them less they be perceived as doing something untoward. It lands us back to the overused trope of the angel and the harlot. Women either need protection from the world or they are vixens whose very conversation can sully a man’s reputation. If a man has so low an opinion of women or of mankind as to believe that mere conversation will be seen as improper, his behavior in itself is disrespectful.

    Fortunately, I don’t accept your explanation not simply because I think that things aren’t that bad, but because I see how some Mormon men interact with Mormon women. Mormon men talk and interact with women all of the time–my point wasn’t that they didn’t talk with women at all, but that a significant percentage of Mormon men don’t talk to women in certain settings and about subjects they must perceive as being a man’s domain. And I think you will agree that they run no more risk as being seen as flirting with a women when they discuss the law, business or philosophy with her than they do when they discuss children and certain other favored subjects with her. This behavior is disrespectful to women who are qualified to be and want to be included in those conversations. You are right about one thing though, I do think this is the result of a built-in chauvanism that stems from our culture.

  39. John,

    My wife (then girlfriend) converted to the church while we were at law school. Her first exposure to Mormonism came through me, the other Mormon’s at the law school, their wives (yes–almost all of us were men (Karen was one of three exceptions out of about 40) and the people in my ward. One of the wonderful things I learned from my girlfriend early on was that my view of fellow church members was lacking in charity. I remember sitting in church listening to a talk and attributing one set of motives to the speaker and then having my girlfriend lean over and tell me how open, loving and refreshing she found the talk. That was a very big moment for me–I began to reevaluate many of the preconceptions that I harbored. I began trying to look at things with new eyes the way that my girlfriend did and found that in many instance I was quick to judge other’s actions without giving them the benefit of the doubt.

    On the other hand, very early in Gigi’s association with the church she expressed frustration with how some men treated her. She felt that even some of the Mormon men at our law school treated her poorly, didn’t listen when she spoke or simply ignored her entirely when we would meet and talk. She couldn’t understand why these men were happy to talk about contracts, torts or whatever else with me for 40 minutes in the hallways but never address a question or remark to her. We were, after all, all in the same law school and sharing a common experience. This is a fact–and it speaks as much to my own insensitivity as those of my Mormon classmates.

    My wife tried repeatedly to engage some of these men–some of them did engage her, but some of them would never give her more than a cursory response before directing the conversation back to me.

    I don’t think that these people were evil or bad people, in fact, as I have hinted, they were a lot like me. Growing up they had assimilated attitudes and learned behavior towards women that made it easy to forget to think of women as peers.

    I imagine that if a woman whose education and accomplishments exceeded those of virtually every one of the Mormon men at our law school is not seen as a peer, a woman who has less education and fewer accomplishments will not likely be treated better–not in the workplace, not at ward council and not at home.

    Let me be clear: None of this is to say that Mormon men are bad people, that they are abusive women-haters who do not care about women’s happiness. I believe that the majority of us do care about our mother, wives and daughters. We want them to be happy–but we tend to respect only select characteristics and dismiss others. We are often dismissive of them in situations where we would be responsive if they were men.

  40. John, do you have an alternative conclusion? Why do the Sheri Dews and Chieko Okazakis of the church get pushed to the margins?

  41. Rosalynde Welch says:

    John, I can tell that you feel defensive, so I will speak up in your defense now: since I know you personally, I can say that you have only ever treated me with the respect of a peer, and have never been dismissive or peremptory with me. Did you feel that Kristine’s statement was directed at you personally? I’m sure it wasn’t, and if it was, it shouldn’t have been; it doesn’t describe you at all.

    I think, though, that you’re too quick to assume first that dissatisfied or critical comments coming from women’s mouths can only be articulating politicized academic feminism, and second that the techniques of rational analysis have no place within the church. Surely our father-in-law’s contributions suggest the contrary, right?

    Where you are right, I think, is that most LDS men like you have no problem with women speaking out boldly as their equals (though I suspect this might not happen often), but that when women express frustration with aspects of the church that are seen as intrinsic or inspired, they become wary and suspicious.

  42. John, I can tell you with certainty that those meetings do *not* now take place, and haven’t for quite a while.

  43. John, I certainly understand the distinction between conclusions and the desire the silence women. I apologize for the insinuation because I’ve found that even though we’ve disagreed here, we’ve always listened to each other. I did find the timing ironic, though. And I hope you won’t take this the wrong way, but I want to question you on your choice of phrasing.

    I’m curious why did Kristine’s statement “bother” you? Krisine reported her opinion, which I assume is based on her experiences. (Is this a wrong assumption?)

    Kristine wrote “but I don’t think it’s too strong to say that there are some men in the church who *really* don’t like to hear women speak boldly, in their real voices.” Instead of saying that in your experience you didn’t find that to be true, you said “This is the kind of statement that bothers me. I can’t imagine that this is really the case.” Why is this “the kind of statement that bothers” you? Are there other statements in that category? And if so, is your concern with questions regarding gender and church culture? Or with critical statments in general?

    So, I guess my question is, did you phrase it in that way as a way to distance yourself from just coming out and saying “I disagree with you”. Because I think it is a common posters technique to try and use phrases that soften our comments to make up for lack of facial expression etc.

    Or, on the other hand, are there “kinds of statements” that you think commenters here shouldn’t make, and if so what are your criteria?

    I suppose I’m particularly interested in this, because lately we’ve had a lot of commenters question what the “purpose” of BCC is…and I’ve been wondering that too…perhaps we should start a separate discussion examining that question.

  44. John, I must have been even less articulate than usual. I wasn’t talking about myself or my own experience, or about women speaking about controversial or “feminist” topics at all. I’m talking specifically about women speaking in general church settings. One thing I noticed in the last conference was that, while I recognized many of the male speakers’ voices, and there was a broad range of inflections, timbres, and regional accents, the women *all sound exactly the same*! We don’t often know their names, we don’t know their stories, we don’t know who they are.

    A few women (I can think only of the Elaine Jack, Aileen Clyde, Chieko Okazaki pres’cy and Sheri Dew) have broken out of this mold a little bit, and there has been a strong reaction against them (I’ve spoken personally with Sis. Jack, Sis. Clyde, and Sis. Okazaki about this; I’m not making it up)–Sis. Okazaki was specifically asked to talk less about certain topics, and then was persona non grata on the fireside speaker circuit for awhile; her books were somewhat severely edited by Deseret Book (you can actually see some of the changes between first and second printings of the first one). I have no idea what happened to Sheri Dew, but a comparison of her early themes and later ones suggests to me that something happened–she did a pretty sudden turn. (I don’t think, by the way, that any of her talks contained any unorthodoxy or anything controversial, before or after the turn).

    I think Ebeneezer voiced a pretty common justification for discouraging women from speaking in their own style–we don’t want them to have a “cult following.” I’ve certainly heard this often enough. But the fact that women who speak differently than the Wasatch-raised Nordstrom-dressed fembot so quickly gather a following that seems alarming to some people suggests that there is a real hunger among LDS women for women leaders that they can “know,” who seem like real people, and who speak in an authentic voice. That doesn’t seem like so much to ask.

    Finally, John, I don’t think you were “shut down” on the authority issue; some people strongly disagreed with you, but that is not the same thing.

    Dave’s point about the 70s sounding increasingly the same is salutory. I think there’s such a strong impulse to please the higher-ups and conform to what is perceived to be expected, that there doesn’t have to be a lot of overt pressure from above to ensure this uniformity. And, to grossly generalize, I think women often have this desire to please those around them in even greater measure than men, and so there needn’t be any vast conspiracy to censor women’s voices. They do it themselves. Still, I think the reaction to a 70 who quickly became a popular speaker might well be to notice him and think he should be “promoted” (and John, let’s just assume, for the sake of the discussion, that you’ve already criticized me for thinking in such worldly terms about the church h

  45. John, it’s interesting that you say that critiquing style comes closer to evil speaking than critiquing substance. I would have thought that fundamentally, criticisms regarding substance would go much more to the heart of the rule than talking about oratorical skill.

    That’s precisely the type of vein, however, that our modern church seems to go in, for some reason. In other words, I can disagree with the brethren on political viewpoints, but the minute I talk about how bad they are at speaking, I’ve crossed some sort of line — even if it’s not ad hominem.

  46. john fowles says:

    JWL, I really like your three points there at the end. Most importantly, I think, and this has surely come out in my continual harping, is your #2, which I genuinely feel is not complied with in many of the discussions in which Church leaders from the GAs down to the bishops or auxilliary leaders are criticized because they are trying to implement a program that some members find foolish or because they are boring or trite in their presentation/orartory skills (and not ivy league educated). It seems that if we all gave them the benefit of the doubt that they have good intentions in what they are doing, then that would affect the types of criticisms that we direct at them.

    As for the meetings between the RS and the FP, I would surmise that they already take place. It would indeed be an efficient teaching method if the FP would refer to such meetings from the pulpit once in a while. As I have expressed earlier in this discussion, I question your assumption that LDS men need a powerful signal . . . that women should be listened to, because I just don’t see LDS men dismissing women like Mathew and others here seem to have seen. But despite my view on that, it surely couldn’t hurt for the FP to make reference to their collaboration with the auxiliaries.

    Why are we so eager to criticize instead of just live and let live, anyway?

  47. JWL, it seems that President Hinckley took a step in the direction you are suggesting in his Sunday morning Conference talk:

    “I witnessed a very interesting thing the other day. The General Authorities were in a meeting, and the presidency of the Relief Society were there with us. These able women stood in our council room and shared with us principles of welfare and of helping those who are in distress. Our stature as officers of this Church was not diminished by what they did. Our capacities to serve were increased.”

  48. john fowles says:

    Karen, first of all, I did phrase it that way to avoid saying simply “I disagree with you.”

    But it also did literally “bother” me because of how it stereotyped LDS men. From my perspective as an LDS male, neither I nor anyone I know has any interest in silencing LDS women or is bothered by LDS women speaking with their “real voice.”

  49. john fowles says:

    Karen, I resent the insinuation that I am one of the Mormon men to whom Kristine was referring just because I question the accuracy of her observation. There is a difference between not wanting women to speak in their “real voice” and arguing with their conclusions.

  50. Karen, we’ve already decided what the purpose of BCC is — to line my pockets. Expect lots of pop-up ads shortly.

    I like this: “Because I think it is a common posters technique to try and use phrases that soften our comments to make up for lack of facial expression etc.”

    That’s more than just a technique — it’s a social necessity, the blog equivalent of “have a nice day.” While I don’t particularly like to dance around issues, if you take out the added tact, blog conversations start to sound extremely hostile. Hence people think that I want to beat up Pres. “Tommy” Monson.

  51. john fowles says:

    Kristine wrote but I don’t think it’s too strong to say that there are some men in the church who *really* don’t like to hear women speak boldly, in their real voices.

    This is the kind of statement that bothers me. I can’t imagine that this is really the case.

  52. Kristine, it’s the “view of women as peers of men” that’s the problem. Leaders see women as complementary to men rather than as equal peers, and that carries down to how rank-and-file Mormon men view women. I think the term “equality” carries a lot of baggage and is a real hang-up. Here’s a quote from Pres. Hickley’s Sunday morning talk:

    Their duality [of men and women] is His design. Their complementary relationships and functions are fundamental to His purposes. One is incomplete without the other.

    So the ideal woman is complementary, not equal. Forthright women are acting too much equal and not enough complementary (not to be confused with complimentary, although frequent compliments likely enhance complementarity in the eyes of the average Mormon male).

  53. Kristine, you need to read his whole talk, since you missed it:

    http://www.lds.org/conference/talk/display/0,5232,49-1-479-26,00.html

  54. Lowell, I don’t think your prior comment was buried.

    There is certainly some snideness here, but you’re also seeing things that just aren’t there. Anger? Cruelty? I disagree.

    Perhaps the tongue-in-cheek nature of our site has eluded you. The fact that you said “they suggest that this forum’s approach is always intellectually rigorous and thus never wrong, and that ridicule is an appropriate way to review efforts…” illustrates to me that really, you just don’t understand what this site is about. I’m not quite sure what we’re about, but I’m fairly certain that intellectual rigor is not it. Ridicule may play a role, however :)

    In the 25 years since you were on the Sunstone masthead, it seems to me that you’ve developed a rather thin skin on certain topics. May I suggest that you are taking things a little too seriously?

    On a side note, you imply that ridicule is not a proper way to review conference talks. I agree — and wasn’t meaning to ridicule. I think that if you’ll read my post, you’ll see that the issue I’m trying to explore is whether there is any basis to review conference talks, outside of simply gushing praise. Don’t you think that’s a legitimate line of inquiry?

  55. Mat, I didn’t know what trenchant meant, so I looked it up:

    1. Forceful, effective, and vigorous: a trenchant argument. See Synonyms at incisive.
    2. Caustic; cutting: trenchant criticism.
    3. Distinct; clear-cut.

    So, if you were going for caustic and cutting, then hooray, finally some honest disagreement.

    If you were going for forceful, effective, distinct and clear cut, I think that your point is somewhat negated by the fact that I had to look trenchant up in the dictionary. This, coupled with my long-ago confession to you regarding a certain Russian literature class and cliff’s notes should pretty much have shot my credibility by now.

    Oh, and I always try to analyze the purpose of what I’m participating in as a self-aggrandizing technique. There is nothing I love more than when all the attention is on me me me. :o) Now I know what to blog about next.

    (For those of you who don’t know personally how socially awkward I am….I was kidding about that whole attention thing!!!)

  56. OK, so here is a good case study for Steve E’s point. Officially, Latter-day Saints accept the general principle that women in the Church have valuable things to say and contribute, and should be encouraged to say and contribute them. I think that even the most mainstream Latter-day Saint man would agree that this ideal, like most ideals, is not followed as much as it should be (citation to frequent GC talks by Elder Ballard on listening to women in Church councils).

    Now, one way to get practice closer to the ideal, especially in LDS culture, is the example from the top. For example, no matter how Stepford you may think they are, the fact is that having women talk in GC did send an important signal that was heard in the Church. Now another powerful signal from the top would be to elevate the hierarchical status of the Relief Society by having the primary liaison for the Church-wide RS be a counselor in the First Pres. rather than some sub-junior Seventy. This would only make the general Church organization correspond to the existing procedure on the stake/ward level, so it wouldn’t be seen as that radical. Yet it would send a powerful signal to LDS men that women should be listened to. All it would take would be a few passing references in a 1st Pres. GC talk — “as we were having our regular meeting with the general Relief Society presidency, Sister X rightfully pointed out that 1+1=2.”

  57. OK, so now it’s obvious that I’m a complete idiot–if Pres. Hinckley is talking about a meeting with the RS Presidency, then obviously it does happen occasionally. My information was from a conversation with some former General Presidency and Board members last summer, so maybe there has been a dramatic shift. I still suspect that these meetings are not regular occurrences. It sounds as though Pres. Hinckley was describing a welfare committee meeting of some sort, not the regular meeting of the 12 and the FPcy. Also, I think it’s odd that President Hinckley would feel the need to reassure people that listening to women does not diminish the status of the listeners. The whole passage is kind of disconcerting to me.

  58. john fowles says:

    One of my concerns is that Kristine is interpreting the reaction of some LDS males to critical ideas as annoyance at an LDS woman speaking with her “real voice” and not simply as LDS (men or women) uncomfortable with academic/intellectual criticism of something which they hold to be spiritual and transcendental. I was shut down very strongly on the T&S thread about prophets, their authority, and their access to the divine, and I discerned that the “enlightened” view, i.e., that we can’t really know when a prophet is speaking as a prophet or that our prophet even has any kind of special access that anyone else doesn’t have, is very common among those who aim to analyze everything, including things of the spirit, critically. If that desire comes through in Kristine’s conversations with people, then (1) I think it is a natural reaction for non-critical LDS (especially those without graduate degrees in philosophy, the arts, or law) to be shocked at the implications of this attitude for the basic tenets of a faith that prizes modern and continuing revelation, and (2) these people might have indeed sought to silence her or discourage this type of theorizing in a generic sense without necessarily being annoyed that she is a woman speaking with her “real voice.” They would have the same reaction to Steve Evans voicing such ideas.

    Kristine: as to you question of why Dew and others are marginalized or pushed to the margins, I don’t have an answer for you, and I don’t even know if I agree with your assumption that that is in fact happening. As for Dew, it was a bad example: if she was pushed to the margins, then it was because of unorthodox teachings that were not only likely uncomfortable for the Brethren, but also for you, as you expressed above. You claim that only women are labelled as being in a “cult” of a given person like Dew and that there is no “cult” of Maxwell or Nelson. I can’t say whether that is true or not, but it seems unreasonable to me. As a male, I am not looking for ways to denigrate women through segratory speech. I don’t think I am all that abnormal of an LDS male.

  59. oops.

    …thinking in such worldly terms about the church hierarchy–the fact that this is somewhat problematic is duly noted), or at least to have his name cross one’s mind when one begins thinking about who should be called into the 1st Quorum, or as one of the Presidents of the Seventy, or whatever. The reaction to a woman who is a skilled and popular orator seems quite different to me, partly for (obvious) structural reasons, but also, perhaps, out of lingering discomfort or unease with women as authoritative speakers on anything. Let me say, too, that I don’t think it’s overt chauvinism or any conscious desire to keep women down–I don’t believe there’s any malice in the process at all. It’s just cultural remnants of the era in which many of our church leaders grew up, which has been (unfortunately, I think) reinforced by the process of Correlation, which makes every action of a woman leader in the church subject to male approval, and thus undermines the view of women as peers of men.

  60. Or Leberwurst.

  61. Playing brethren’s advocate here — one other aspect to remember is that not only are a huge segment of conference listeners converts, for whom many of the principles are still new, but many of them are hearing the talks in a language other than English. I’m sure the folks in the translation booths are grateful for short, grammatically uncomplicated, semantically direct sentences.

  62. Steve, I agree, with the exception of the Sisters tend to speak not like business people, but as ultra-sweet June Cleavers. I’m not trying to be mean, that’s just the description I’m going with. But, if they all spoke like Hillary Clinton, and all the Brethern spoke like “political or religious” leaders — wouldn’t we get just as bored? I think it’s good to bring up the fact that it’s pretty homogenous, and that we might all be served better for a little (or a lot) more individuality. But, hey, maybe not. That’s just what _I’d_ like.

  63. Steve, I think that maybe I am just too old. :)

  64. Tears were near the surface as I read this…

  65. Telling a speaker their talk was awful is hardly a sin unless they are your banker and you are trying to get a 2nd mortgage!
    I love the GAs but I will tell them the truth and the truth hurts sometimes.

  66. Thanks for the nice comment, John F. I almost passed on doing a set of Conference blogs this time over at my other blog, but in the end I felt compelled to.

    We are constantly told that Joseph said, “I teach them correct principles, then I let the people govern themselves.” How are we supposed to apply this without thinking, reasoning, and discussing the talks and counsel given by leaders at all levels of the Church? First, we must identify correct principles from the stream of scriptures, statements, and stories presented in Conference. And even given a correct principle, how to apply it in various situations is no simple problem (remember, the devil is in the details). So a spirited discussion trying to identify the principles we have been taught at Conference (and which ones are correct, and how to apply them) seems quite appropriate.

  67. To the contrary D. – I think there’s plenty new to say – at least new to what might come across the podium. It’s not just women who need to be able to speak with their own bold — dare I say *honest* voices – it is frankly anyone, regardless of gender.

    I remember distinctly giving a talk on the Iron Rod in my old NYC ward (for which I think you were there D.), which was the height of irony given my tennuous grasp thereon at the time. Too naive at the time to realize the heresy that was coming out of my mouth I actually got up and ADMITTED my grasp was tennuous, that I had a serious struggle juggling single motherhood and a major legal career without copious amounts of coffee – but basically opined that as long as we are holding onto any part of the Word of God we’ve at least still got a fighting chance.

    Well you could have heard a pin drop….

    And afterward, no fewer than fifteen people surreptitiously pulled me aside to thank me for my refreshing honesty (silly me I didn’t know at the time it would be refreshing) and to opine how much they would like it if more people used a little candor from time to time. That naive talk on my part generated a whole lot of buzz in my ward for at least a month to come….

    So my point is that there is PLENTY of new to say — from all concerned — and *new* honesty can be galvanizing in a very positive way. It’s like somewhere there’s this unwritten rule that nothing honest about our lives can come across the pulpit, that our talks have to make our lives reflect the lives to which we aspire – not the ones we’re really living…..

  68. Julie in Austin says:

    True story: I was a convert of about a year when I dragged my (nonLDS) father to the 1stPres. Christmas Devotional.

    On the way home, he told me how much he liked ‘that Monson.’

    I was a little taken aback, because I wouldn’t say that Pres. Monson’s style resonates with me the most.

    Point: different speakers with different styles reach different people. That’s why there are twelve of them. :)

  69. Um, actually, Nazi propaganda on the family, and particularly on the importance of mothers, bears a startling resemblance to, um, more recent conservative religous rhetoric on motherhood. But I wouldn’t have brought it up :)

  70. Um, John, with all due respect, Kristine just spoke boldly in her real voice, and you said “this is the kind of statement that bothers me…” Slightly ironic.

    I understand that most Mormon men, and probably all Mormon men on this blog, have no problem with accepting women as intellectual equals, and are willing and happy to engage with us. As a Mormon woman who doesn’t shy away from engaging, I have to say that there are Mormon men who are uncomfortable with it. I’m not saying that isn’t changing, or that they are bad people, but it is an attitude that I’ve noticed. And I’m not really a firebrand type person….

    I think that pointing out that it really happens is probably the best way to speed up the process of accepting women for all of their positive attributes, not just those that coincide with traditional femininity.

  71. um, not to be dense, but does complementarity exclude equality? In fact, in the Hebrew, the term translated “an help meet for him” requires equality, or even superiority of the helper. If we’re using complementary to mean “less equal” then I think we’re missing something important.

    Unfortunately, I missed Pres. Hinckley’s Sunday Morning talk, as I was performing the complementary (and complimentary) childcare while my husband listened. Sigh.

  72. Ummmm…… Christina hasn’t been heard from in a while. She knows that she is overdue for a post :)

  73. a random John says:

    What an interesting thread. John F., do you think that your experience with how women are treated within the church is common? It certainly isn’t my experience.

    As for the cult-like following, I have walked down the street with Chieko Okazaki and with some NBA players. Chieko gets more attention.

    I am opening a bag of worms here, but perhaps the reason some of the women that speak in conference develop a following is that they such better speakers than the men and than the other women. They allow their personalities to come out and they aren’t petrified to be speaking.

    I do think that the GAs hold themselves in check. I am often more impressed with the talks I hear in stake conferences and leadership meetings than in general conference. When a new president of the church is called it is interesting to see how his delivery style changes and becomes more free. I never anticipated enjoying President Hinckley’s talks as much as I do.

  74. When Elder Holland came to our SC, he told the story about how sisters became involved in the Q of 12 mtgs.

    According to him, it was basically via protest, rather than through any inspiration.

    His exact words were, “You heard about a tornado in Salt Lake. That was not a tornado. That was this sister slamming the door on our meeting!”

  75. Why isn’t priesthood session broadcast on the Internet? Is it more “secret” or more “sacred”?

    In the mission field in Europe, we always had the sisters sitting next to us during GC PH mtg. It was just accepted.

  76. D. Fletcher says:

    Yeah, I didn’t really say what I meant to say.

    I had a conversation with Elder Nelson once after one of our Stake Conferences. I asked him why he didn’t use notes (as opposed to General Conference) and he said the Twelve had decided that all talks given, excepting GC, would be extemporaneous, “from the heart.” They even decided not to really prepare too much, lest the preparation obscure the sincerity. The idea being (I guess) that since they basically know the scriptures by heart, they can just pull brilliant, motivating sermons out of the air, or out of their brain, without too much effort.

    Did this make his talk in our Stake Conference better, or worse? I’d say, a little of both. To me, the best talks are ones where a personality in full testimonial bloom is revealed. But sometimes, those personalities themselves are less than interesting (read: dull).

    No use blaming the Brethren for their lack of scintillating communication, any more than our own local leaders. The GAs have been doing it over, and over, and over, for how many years — and quite often have probably censored their own words for the good of the Church as a whole, sacrificing fascination for correlation.

    It’s a little bit different than a Protestant minister who is paid to come up with a new and unusual sermon every week.

    One of the best talks I ever heard was by Steve Evans in our ward, which was meeting in the gym while the chapel was being renovated. His talk began, “I never thought I’d give a talk in a Home Depot,” which revealed him to be a completely witty, intelligent, and sincere person — I’ll never forget it.

    The GAs have often revealed themselves this way, to me, but never in General Conference — it’s always some other meeting, where they shine forth.

  77. Yeah, I’ll cast a vote for “the Monson style.” I think we’re underestimating the difficulty of projecting a warm and friendly tone when being targeted by four TV cameras, speaking to a darkened hall the size of a football stadium, and knowing your image and words are being projected to three million people. These guys are not actors or professional TV preachers (who, like actors, also spend years working on their stagecraft).

    Plainly some Conference speakers get a bit rattled by the ordeal, but Elder Monson just beams when he’s at the podium. I think some of you are just jealous because you don’t have any one-eyed pigeon stories of your own to tell.