On Not Being a Big Fan of Conference

I hate to admit this, but I’ve never been much of a fan of conference. These days I’ll usually catch the Sunday a.m. session, read the Bloggernacle commentary and then glance over the talks in the May/November Ensign, and that’s pretty much it.

I have fond memories of when I was a boy and we would drive up to Rockford, 45 miles away, to listen to the Priesthood session over a live phone line, which seemed like amazing technology at the time. We got to sit on the stand in the soft seats, various high priests nodding off here and there.

And I did very much enjoy conference when on my mission, as it provided a license not to have to proselyte for a weekend. We got to sit in comfort in some member’s living room, sipping a drink while we watched conference on TV (in Colorado where I served usually the whole thing would be carried). Although I remember in one ward where we served we had a devil of a time finding anyone who was going to watch it, and we had to guilt this one family into it, because if they didn’t watch we didn’t get to watch (and get a day off).

Other than those fond memories, however, I just can’t get very excited over conference. I am well aware of what an anomaly this makes me among most Mormons, for whom conferences are the highlights of their religious years. In fact, I thought twice about even posting on this topic, as it sounds so heretical (which is why I decided not to threadjack the open conference thread and post this separately).

I remember when I was at BYU, the whole campus would basically shut down conference weekend, and everyone seemed so excited to sit down and watch it. I usually went outside to shoot baskets.

I wish I could say that I’ve analyzed why I don’t much care for it. I’m not really sure. I guess part of it is that it all seems so boring, so obvious, so cliched. The constraints of modernity–talks have to be vetted beforehand, the timing has to be to the second in a TV age, nothing too new or controversial may be broached–means there are no Brigham Youngs’ or J. Golden Kimballs’ or LeGrand Richards’ any more. The delivery is uniformly bland and monotone, the content is mostly highly repetitive. One of the curses of being a lifelong member of the Church is that there is nothing new under the sun.

I know how heretical this sounds, and trust me, I’m not trying to proselyte anyone to my perspective. I’m glad most of you find spiritual nourishment in conference. I’ve heard the apologetic that they always teach the basics because we haven’t really learned them yet. I realize that I’m in a minority among members of the Church.

But conference just doesn’t do it for me.

Comments

  1. Julie M. Smith says:

    I’ve found that if I do something with my hands (Saturday am: pantry and fridge), conference is a lovely backdrop. If I try to sit and listen, I just can’t focus–for many of the reasons that you name. (This isn’t advice per se, just my experience.)

  2. I can sympathize. I am going to the Conference Center today for the Priesthood session with some of my boys because the oldest one got tickets. In order to stay in the good graces of my wife, I need to do my duty.

    I would like to see more speakers address topics that deal with how we as Christians ought to really be involved in this world we live in. I would like to see us enter the fray of what has been termed “radical Christianity” of late. But the Church does not seem comfortable with our being involved in much of any type of activism. The August thread “The Gods of War” dealt with many of these issues indirectly.

    Will we ever see another statement such as the June 1976 SWK statement calling us “a warlike people”? Are those days gone? If we returned to a time like that, it would certainly energize and encourage me to get my head and heart back into things.

  3. I often get the feeling that many LDS love General Conference because it is something that they have been taught and constructed to do. It reminds me of hearing my grandmother and aunt telling everyone how wonderful the new Joseph Smith movie in Salt Lake was. I couldn’t help but feel like they would have been saying the exact same thing had the film been un-engaging, poorly written, over-dramatized, and historically inaccurate.

    Like much of what goes on in this culture, GC has an a priori status of being wonderful, fantastic, edifying, and ‘the greatest ever’ because it is an offical Church production. No matter how boring, mundane, repetitive, or uninspiring a talk may be, it already has the status of being lively, exciting, ‘just for us,’ and inspiring – before it is even read.

    I understand that several things make interesting talks difficult. Church leaders are called to be great orators, writers, or even profound theologians. They are called to lead the church. Many of these leaders have been giving talks at GC every six months for the past several decades. President Hinckley has had to prepare at least 3 or 4 talks for each confernce. Eventually you’ll run out of things to say.

    I do have to concur with MRB’s comment though. I would much rather hear talks that push the LDS to be more Christian, even revolutionary to an extent, in trying to make this world a better place. Like the direction of the Community of Christ, I’d love to see more calls for peace, inclusiveness, and charity abroad.

  4. One more thing. I usually find myself watching/listening to conference with the hope that something interesting will be said. That way I don’t feel left out of the later discussions.

  5. I guess one problem with Conference is that there isn’t much conferring.

  6. Sit in a darkened room listening to a bunch of old men drone on a Saturday afternoon? I prefer my naps horizontal, thanks.

  7. Molly Bennion says:

    After years of just reading the conference Ensigns, I watched the Sunday sessions of April Conference. It was a mistake. Is anyone else struck by the grimness of it all? Almost no speaker smiled. President Hinckley did, as did Elder Jenson and RS Counselor Anne Pingrey, but most never showed the slightest positive expression. There’s joy in the gospel, but a nonmember happening upon Conference would not get an inkling. The average funeral is more joyful. For all your reasons, Kevin, and for my own need for a little happiness in my religion, I’m back to reading.

  8. I’ve thought that too. I can’t imagine what a non-member would think of a great deal of it. I usually listen, or read the discussions from folks who have watched it, but I can sure read it a lot faster than I can listen, and would rather do that.

  9. I wonder if the television coverage — beamed to hundreds of thousands — changes the tone of the speakers. Knowing your talk is being watched, live, by that many people probably has a sobering effect. When Elder Oaks spoke at our stake conference a few years back, I was simply stunned at how warm, friendly, even funny he was at the podium. None of that comes through when he’s “on stage” at Conference.

  10. To me, conference seems of a piece with our scriptures: old-fashioned, dull, at times preposterous. But you are not willingly in the church if you have not figured out how to find inspiration underneath (or beyond) this veneer.

    The stiffness of most of the speakers makes it harder to do this in realtime (i.e. while listening). They can’t be like this in real life, can they?

    On a different front: one thing I like about listening to conference is hearing what they do with the music. The Tabs have become a pretty good choir.

  11. cj douglass says:

    I feel your pain KB. The biggest reason I watch conference and get excited about it is every conference there is one talk that hits me to the core. All the “droning” is worth that one glimpse. Its like seeing a band live, you might see or hear something that changes your life. Here are a few in recent memory that illistrate this point.

    Jeffrey R. Holland October 1997
    Neal A. Maxwell April 1997
    Henry B. Eyring October 1998
    Dallin H. Oaks October 2000
    Neal A Maxwell October 2001

  12. cj douglass says:

    And gills speaking of live bands, I agree the Tab is like the Grateful Dead: infinitely better live or on live recordings than those stiff “God of our Fathers” studio recordings.

  13. I couldn’t help but feel like they would have been saying the exact same thing had the film been un-engaging, poorly written, over-dramatized, and historically inaccurate.

    Not to stray too far off-topic, but I found the new JS movie to be just that: unengaging, poorly written, over-dramatized, and historically inaccurate.

  14. I’m rereading a book of Eugene England essays, and coincidentally ran across this paragraph today, from a 1973 essay:

    “Conference is a time for feeling more than for ideas, as President Lee reminded us in his last address. Those who go looking for dramatic new doctrine or new policy are apt to continue to be disappointed (I too have gone yearning, hoping to hear that announcement about the priesthood being extended to all). Those things will come in statements from the First Presidency day by day as the revelations come. Conference will continue to be a kind of rite, a shoring up of faith and confidence, of feelings of unity and achievement.”

    Kevin’s curse is another man’s rite.

  15. I find General Conference exciting. I know of no other place on earth where we can see the power of the Lord resting upon His servants for so many hours at a time.

    We hear so many voices on TV and radio pushing agendas and strange and often bad ideas [and some good ones] that it becomes refreshing to hear the solid gospel truths testified of again and again in conference.

    If I’m not living the principle being taught as well as I should, then the talk was obviously helpful. Even if I am living the principle well, I get a different perspective on how to teach that principle to others. The speakers point out scriptures that I hadn’t noticed before.

    If we need medical checkups, we surely need spiritual checkups. General Conference is one of my spiritual checkups.

    I’ve been so blessed by General Conferences that I’m afraid of what I’ll miss if I don’t see them.

  16. nonamethistime says:

    I would guess that there are more people than not who find Conference inspid, mind-numbingly boring, trite, redundant and an enormous waste of time. But–like The Emperor’s New Clothes–no one wants to admit they see nothing so as to lock step with the crowd.

    I liked your post.

  17. I agree to a large degree, Kevin. (I’ve blogged about this before).

    On the other hand, I can see the reason conference is as it is. As Julie in A. commented during a prior discussion of this topic:

    Let’s say I was given the following assignment:

    Give a talk or write an article that (1) expresses the will of God (2) can be easily translated into 68 different languages (3) will make as much sense (and not confuse) someone in Ghana who has been a member of the Church for two months and someone in Texas who has an advanced degree in Biblical Studies.

    I think I would crawl under my bed.

    So yes, I absolutely sympathize. But I also think that, to a large degree, conference is what it is because of the constraints of the form.

  18. Maybe it is time to retire conference, then.

  19. I like Conference — not, perhaps for anything that is said, but the ambiance, the deep social connection, the spirit of the thing. Not much of a reason, I admit: similar justifications enabled fanboys to enjoy the Star Wars prequels. But take it for what it’s worth (on the internet = not much).

  20. I unabashedly love Conference. I used to hate it, but I have grown into a love of it. I like discussing the talks and trying to figure out why I have already forgotten the talks I have forgotten (for instance, I know that I heard every word of the “landfill” talk, but I cannot remember a bit of it). Even if you’re bored senseless, you never nap so well as you do during conference.

    I admit that I am a bit like Bro. England and YL. I go into every conference expecting something new and exciting. And, usually, I find it (like cj above). If nothing else, I leave every conference with a profound renewal of desire: desire to be better, desire to build Zion, desire to return to God (which is more, much more, than I can say for my weekly sacrament meeting (which is usually very good, in its own way)).

    I usually listen to conference (whilst here in Utah) while doing something else (today it was picking apples). I love it, love it, love it. It is one of the few times I can successfully multi-task. So, while I used to love Conference only because it was a day home from church, I now love it because it is a time to renew my devotion. For what its worth…

  21. Conference is so much more than eight or ten hours of broadcast talks and music.

    It’s leaders and members coming from all over the world — many of them for the first and perhaps only time — to go to auxiliary open houses, and join in training, and to witness first-hand a gathering of saints that they have only imagined previously. Sometimes it’s people getting copies of patriarchal blessings to take home to parts of the world where mail delivery is so uncertain that previous attempts to deliver them have failed. In April, it’s dozens of men in every imaginable American military uniform, coming for their chaplain certification. It’s music workshops, and a chance for members from odd corners of the world to visit a distribution center and a bookstore to pick up materials that we pretty much take for granted. It’s having the opportunity to sustain general authorities — I know I’m not the only one who raised my hand at home this afternoon, and took it seriously, even though there was no clerk here to register my uplifted hand.

    I’m 20 years older than most of you, so maybe you don’t all have my memories of how utterly thrilling it was to see a single session of conference broadcast on some low-watt station, followed by pleas from our stake leaders to flood the station with letters of thanks so that they would broadcast a single session six months later. You don’t remember Sunday mornings of anxiously twisting the rabbit ears on the TV, trying to bring in a fuzzy picture from some very distant station, and finally giving up in disappointment. In other words, you take it for granted.

    Conference is everything it’s always been, with the added bonus that all of us can take part in at least part of it, if we choose to.

  22. Kaimi quoted Julie:
    ” Let’s say I was given the following assignment:

    Give a talk or write an article that (1) expresses the will of God (2) can be easily translated into 68 different languages (3) will make as much sense (and not confuse) someone in Ghana who has been a member of the Church for two months and someone in Texas who has an advanced degree in Biblical Studies.

    I think I would crawl under my bed.”

    This is an excellent point…..but it made me think of something: Why is there only one set of 12 apostles on the earth today? After Christ’s death and resurrection there were two sets, one in charge of the old world, and one in charge of the new. So if the church is a restoration of the primitive church, why only one set? Perhaps if there were one set per hemisphere or something, then Conference would be a little more interesting.

  23. But–like The Emperor’s New Clothes–no one wants to admit they see nothing so as to lock step with the crowd.

    I often get the feeling that many LDS love General Conference because it is something that they have been taught and constructed to do.

    and similar statements –

    Wow. wow. what an insult to the intelligence of the enormous portion of Saints like myself who find conference to be an engaging experience. At least Kevin had the tact to simply post on why he finds conference uninvigorating. Thank you for going straight to a self-lauding denunciation of those of us who aren’t smart/brave enough to dislike conference and then announce it to the rest of our wards.

  24. I quite enjoyed general conference today. I think I’m on a spiritual upswing at the moment or something. I especially liked that brother from Scotland and Elder Didier’s talk.

    Tomorrow I’m going to make a ham and funeral potatoes and just veg out. Because Bill has gone fishing. Woo-hoo.

    I usually tape conference for him, then tell him about it, then I read it in the Ensign. He doesn’t often watch the tape. He is getting his blessings second hand. As I get the joy of the outdoors second hand.

    Does anybody remember when they edited Elder Poelman’s talk? I heard it and applauded it, then they took the good parts out. I wrote to BKP and objected, but he just sort of chewed me out about it.

    Our church’s progress is really quite phenomenal, exponential growth, it seems. Ardis is right, you guys, times have changed.

  25. Gerald Smith says:

    Kevin,
    It seems that you protest too much about not having LeGrand Richards, et al, available anymore. If you miss such days, then why did you prefer basketball over General Conference in your college days? Or are you younger than I think you are? ;-)

    I look at General Conference in the way that Hugh Nibley looked at the temple: he always learned something new. Well, if you are bored at the repetition in Conference, how do you handle the Endowment? It is exact word for word each and every time. You don’t even get Pres Monson’s cute stories of his childhood! I look at both Gen Conf and the Endowment the same way: if I’m in tune, they will lead me to personal inspiration and a higher level of instruction on what I need to know, as I ponder what is taught. In this way, they are not boring to me, but alive and well – because the Spirit makes them alive with new information for me personally.

  26. nonamethistime says:

    Well, I think if people were required to go to Conference as a prerequisite for marrying in the temple or going on a mission, there would be a lot more feigned excitement about it and/or interest in it.

    But as it stands, the talks are boring, repetitive and nothing that you can’t get from cracking open an Ensign.

    This is the 21st century. There are ways of rallying the troops without boring them to tears.

  27. ryan:

    Wow. wow. what an insult to the intelligence of the enormous portion of Saints like myself who find conference to be an engaging experience….Thank you for going straight to a self-lauding denunciation of those of us who aren’t smart/brave enough to dislike conference and then announce it to the rest of our wards.

    When I was 9 years old I didn’t like green peppers (I still don’t like green peppers). My 5 year old brother at the time also did not like green peppers. He’d gag while trying to eat them and I think it was an honest dislike of green peppers. One day my dad sliced some green peppers up and told my brother that they weren’t green peppers. He said that they were “curly Q’s.” My brother shoveled them down and asked for another serving – twice.

    So much of our likes and dislikes are products of social constructions. I am not trying to insult anyone, I’m just pointing out my observation. Perhaps I am completely wrong. Perhaps my boredom with conference is a construction developed over the last few years of attending more academic conferences where the content and delivery is often quite different.

    As evidenced by many of the comments in this post, many people who enjoy conference do so because they go into conference with the determination that they will enjoy it. We all do that sort of thing all of the time. We all go to parties, meetings, classes, dates, and other events with a determination that we will either enjoy or not enjoy the event. Sometime that determination is voluntary, other times it is not.

    From my perspective, conference can be very boring. As I sat in the priesthood meeting and watched all of the bobbing heads around me, I could see that I’m not the only one. From my perspective I have a difficult time understanding why some people would have found conference enjoyable… solely by the conference and talks by themselves. Thus it seems to me that many people enjoy conference because they have already determined to like conference and the talks before the conference and talks have been given. In a world that is heavily influenced by social construction, it doesn’t seem all that difficult to see that it affects how we see conference as well.

    Many of the previous comments confirm this. Some have shown the choice (and methods) they make to enjoy conference, others have pointed out other aspects of conference they enjoy (the social and aesthetic aspects), others have just indicated that it is something they just enjoy.

    I’m sorry that you felt insulted. That was not at all my desire.

  28. Mark Butler says:

    Katie (#22),

    From what I understand the twelve disciples in America were technically not Apostles in the same sense as the apostles in Jerusalem:

    Yea, behold, I write unto all the ends of the earth; yea, unto you, twelve tribes of Israel, who shall be judged according to your works by the twelve whom Jesus chose to be his disciples in the land of Jerusalem.

    And I write also unto the remnant of this people, who shall also be judged by the twelve whom Jesus chose in this land; and they shall be judged by the other twelve whom Jesus chose in the land of Jerusalem.
    (Morm 3:18-19)

    However, each stake of the Church has a high council, which is a type and a shadow of the quorum of the Twelve (as a stake is type of the Church in almost all respects, so in a way we do have apostles all over the earth, and if they are worthy they bear the same witness, the same mantle, and the same authority within their stake as the Apostles do with regard to the entire Church.

    In fact the Quorum of the Twelve is known as the presiding high council of the Church:

    The Twelve are a Traveling Presiding High Council, to officiate in the name of the Lord, under the direction of the Presidency of the Church, agreeable to the institution of heaven; to build up the church, and regulate all the affairs of the same in all nations, first unto the Gentiles and secondly unto the Jews.
    (D&C 107:33)

  29. This year is my 13th Conference, and I don’t find them boring or repetitive. Maybe I have to wait till Conference #14 for that. ;)

    I can understand how Conference wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but the student in me loves it. It’s like sitting through eight hours of lecture (and the whole watching online makes it more like a discussion, when we can comment on Blogs in real time). I’m the weird kid who likes sitting through eight hours of lecture.

    I do think it’s insulting to liken those who enjoy Conference to the Emperor’s New Clothes, but I know that wasn’t anywhere near what Kevin was saying. I really hate Relief Society, for many similar reasons, which I too can’t quite specify, but I don’t think those who enjoy it are in fearful denial or anything.

  30. I love conference. It creates a connection between the membership and the leadership that might not otherwise exist. We get a sense of the personalities of the members of the Quorum of the Twelve and certainly the First Presidency. We get to hear the word of God and feel the Spirit.

    Without conference I think there would be a major sense of disconnect between the broad membership and the leadership.

  31. Some people do love conference. That is great. But there are also people who just do not, and it should be their right to so state. It is typical in LDS culture to emphasize the positive and not vocalize doubts or criticisms, especially of established church programs and leaders. I also believe many people hate conference or like it because it is a welcome break.

  32. The reason conference is boring and repetitive is because people dont listen, hear and do what the leaders of the Church say.

    Guess what? If everyone paid their tithing, there wouldnt be anymore talks quoting Mal. 3:7-10. If everyone did their HT/VTind there wouldnt be talks admonishing us to do it. If people stopped looking at pr0n, no more talks about pr0n. And so on. Want something different at conference? The do what they said last time.

    Emporer has no clothes, huh? Not even. The people have no eyes to see or ears to hear, their hearts have grown fat.

  33. Another good point. Adults in the 21st century are not used to being belittled and talked down to for 10 hrs straight. Maybe there could be thematic workshops and sessions for those who actually need it. Spare the rest of us. We are not all faithless p0rn users and wife beaters.

  34. Steve Evans says:

    ED, that’s the most common explanation, and of course you’re right: we’re no more obedient this year than we were last. However, if that’s the prerequisite for hearing something new, I submit that the Restoration could have been a lot smaller or taken a LOT longer.

    In other words, you’re right, but is that all that’s going on? really??

  35. D. Fletcher says:

    General Conference = weekend off from Church. Pretty much for my entire adult life.

  36. cj douglass says:

    D Fletcher,
    ya know you could just not go to church one week. Do you really need conference to give you permission to go fishing? Have a calling? Get a sub.

  37. ED: Maybe you are correct. On the other hand, if people aren’t improving and thing aren’t changing, maybe the answer is to try something different.

  38. I like General Conference. It’s a needed spiritual recharge for me.

    There are other things I could be doing with the time. Sure.

    I could go hiking. I could binge on that new computer game I bought. I could put in some overtime on work. I could sleep in. I could mow the lawn.

    All of these seem like pretty stupid reasons to skip Conference though, even if the talks are a bit dry.

    The way some people talk, you’d think they’d never have another Saturday again.

    Is your time really that valuable?

    Mine sure isn’t and I charge over $100 per hour!

    Embrace the break in the same-ol-same-ol. Even if you are bored to tears, boredom is also a valuable experience – one that is being lost on our attention deficit society.

  39. Seth, it’s not just a matter of how much my time is worth – it’s how much I value what I’d be trading it for.

    And the answer is: not much.

    Even if I placed enormous value on the messages of the FP & QoT and the Misc. 70 that will be speaking, I will have a chance to read those messages at my leisure in November.

  40. I can’t listen to ten hours of talks, I prefer reading them in the Ensign. I’m the same way in school, lecturing does very little for me, I prefer going over my notes, reading the text or reading papers the techer has handed out.

  41. cj douglass says:

    Forgive me Ann but why is it a suprise to us that you, someone who stays for “cultural and social reasons” would not enjoy 2 days of doctrinal discourse? Is this something you needed to tell us?

  42. D. Fletcher says:

    Hi, Ann!

    The church, to me, is about a community of individuals supporting each other in the very difficult task of living life, using some helpful guidelines set up by God, and some uplifting life lessons supplied by Jesus. The key to my belief is the word *community*; I actually attend church to be a part of my little community, my ward.

    The brethren in SLC rarely, if ever, say something new. The correlation committee makes sure of that. And yet, I’m happy to hear them, when I’m in the same room as they are. President Hinckley understands this, which is why he built an enormous conference center so many more people can be in the room with him.

    But over a television monitor? It isn’t necessary to my well-being, or support for my belief system. I can read the talks later, as a number of people have mentioned.

    When I was young, GC was always followed by an evening Sacrament Meeting of my ward. Now, the Sacrament isn’t taken on GC weekends. I’m surprised nobody ever brings this up.

  43. watch the tone please, CJ. No need to be mean.

  44. I enjoy conference when I hear one of the Twelve teach doctrine. Elder Nelson did that this morning. That motivates and energizes me more than a talk emphasizing three alliterative phrases that, if followed, will help me become a better person. I know we all need to hear that, but it just doesn’t do much for me.

  45. I usually just read the talks in the Ensign, since I’m a print media person and loathe tv. This year it was available online on BYU tv, so I just wanted to see what it was like live. I listened to the Saturday morning session and loved it! Kaimi had challenged us to ask a question and see if conference answered it. My question was answered by the very first talk. It was funny and endearing, and made me feel very protected and very watched over.

    I can find plenty of things to criticize about the church, the services, the rituals, as things actually work out in real life, but why? The church is something I follow voluntarily. If I didn’t get something from it, I would quit going. The church has so much goodness in it, that I think sometimes lifetime members can miss, because they haven’t lived the contrast with the rest of the world. Above all, though, it comes to the touch of the spirit in my heart. When I feel that, I know that this is where God wants me to be. The constant companionship of a living God, what other church can make such a promise, and deliver on it?

    I may not watch live every time. I will probably still read most of the talks in the Ensign, but I am grateful for the guidance, and the reiteration of the teachings. I’m grateful for the companionship of the Spirit. It makes a huge difference in my life. I love the Apostles and the General Authorities for the love and care they feel for all of us. I’m just glad they are around.

  46. The church has so much goodness in it, that I think sometimes lifetime members can miss, because they haven’t lived the contrast with the rest of the world.

    Wise words, Tatiana.

  47. nonamethistime says:

    Here’s what I think would be great to see during “General Conference Weekend”:

    1. Conferences headed and presided over by local leadership, with a member of a quorum/committee/seventies group in attendance where possible, if possible. The worldwide church is divided into regions, ostensibly because each area has specific needs and unique challenges. Would it be so hard to convene all these conferences on the same day, perhaps with ONE talk by a GA delivered via broadcast and then actual, helpful, meaningful discussions in each area-conference group?

    2. Real workshops or “sessions” which may involve questions and answers by regular, run of the mill members. Workshops might be geared to single/divorced adults with children, part-member families, people struggling with various challenges or even sins who want to air their issues and get helpful feedback. This might also include helpful information from some of the Church’s therapy resources. With modern technology and smaller gatherings for conference, this should not be hard to do.

    3. Other religious leaders and groups invited for panel discussions or sermons in a spirit of friendly discourse. Members could learn something about other religions as well as their own.

    4. Different musical groups each session/conference. Maybe the MoTab sings ONE hymn (and does it have to be a hymn?)

  48. Kevin, great post. You’ve said what’s been on my mind for years. However, when I say it out loud I feel like a whiner and complainer. With the exception of Elder Ballard’s and Elder _____’s (on honesty) talks, the rest have been same old, same old. And very grim.

    I still love the choir though.

  49. In the last six to eight months, I have probably started over 100 comments here on the bloggernacle, which I have decided not to send, thinking “Nobody gives a damn what I think.”

    Thank you so much, cj, for confirming that.

  50. cj douglass says:

    Ann,
    I deserved that. Your statement that you did not place “enormous value on the messeges of the FP & Q 12” rufled my feathers a little bit. Certainly this is a forum where individuals should feel comfortable making such statements and my attack was innapropriate. Sorry.

  51. What did you all think of the closing session? I felt it had a preponderance of good talks, delivered well [a big element in conference seeming grim/boring]. Elder Holland’s talk moved me. Liked having the congregation join in the closing hymn. But that certainly felt like a valedictory for Pres. Hinckley. Will we see him again at Conference?

  52. lucky2tone says:

    Elder Holland’s talk was the only one that really moved me. President Hinckley gave similar words last conference. I guess every day now for him is a blessing… I would suggest that when President Hinckley goes Pres Monson and Faust won’t be too far behind…We really need some new blood or vigour and some ethnic diversity in the leadership. Do you think that with all of the other changes the church has done in the last number of years that maybe this time we might see a different ascension process in place? I think Elder Bednar would be terrific as the new prophet, seer and revelator for our times…

  53. cj douglass says:

    Has Pres. Monson ever looked like he’s loosing step? No, he’s going to be around for a long time I believe.

  54. Mike Parker says:

    I can watch about 15 minutes of any given session of conference before my ADHD kicks in and I’m looking for something to do. So most conference weekends find me on the sofa in front of the TV … with my laptop, checking email and cleaning out old files and updating applications.

    TiVo has also been a boon of late — I can skip the hymns and speakers and talks that don’t engage me.

  55. Mike Parker says:

    May I add that I’d enjoy conference a lot more if it was a lot shorter. Say, an hour priesthood session, and one two-hour general session on Sunday.

  56. cj douglass says:

    What about cutting out the Seventies?

  57. #35, is that all there is? No, it isnt. But as a long time member, you know what you can do to go beyond the milk and get to the meat. An awful lot of new and struggling members are having difficulty with the milk and need hand holding. If you dont, great, then stop complaining and do something constructive with your time, like help some of those people who need hand holding. Bunch of damned whiners.

  58. Mike Parker says:

    But, Dorito, if we actually started helping people, there wouldn’t be time for blogging! ;-)

  59. Brad Kramer says:

    “Does anybody remember when they edited Elder Poelman’s talk? I heard it and applauded it, then they took the good parts out. I wrote to BKP and objected, but he just sort of chewed me out about it.”

    See here.

  60. I was sitting in the Conference Center Saturday night telling my son about the Poelman incident. He was quite shocked to hear that anything like that had ever been done, including retaping the talk in the Tabernacle (with a few coughs thrown in for realism).

    Isn’t it interesting when our children become old enough to start thinking for themselves. It’s kind of scary if they’re not ready to hear the truth.

  61. We really need some new blood or vigour and some ethnic diversity in the leadership…I think Elder Bednar would be terrific as the new prophet

    Hey lucky, I don’t disagree, but he hardly qualifies as “ethnically diverse”!

  62. any mouse says:

    i am terribly deficient on the attention span area and a wonderful cynic who can find negativity in all things, yet i love conference weekends. i like having a “week off,” yet still being nourished spiritually (and i do watch it in the local chapel). i like the communal feeling of conference; that collective joy we feel when we see the prophet wave his cane in the air and how we feel as though we’re in his midst when we sing “we thank thee, o god, for a prophet.” something is lost when we only read the text a month later.

    president monson is near ageless. i think (and hope and pray) that he’ll be around for years to come. he’s always been my favorite. elders uchtdorf and bednar definitely changed the dynamic of the “old man club” and uchtdorf added at least a bit of culture, if not color. it’s been interesting to look at the ensign’s pull-out picture charts every year to see how the leadership is changing. korean, japanese, austrian, south american, mexican. it’s changing, slowly but surely.

  63. I found myself thinking about this post from time to time during Conference. The post demonstrates a lack of appreciation for something special that we have been given. Is it ingratitude, immaturity? Are we spoiled? I don’t know. But it’s messed up. For two reasons.

    1) These are prophets of God.

    2) Due to modern technology, it’s so easy to listen.

    How many of us are able to listen to conference without even leaving the comfort of our homes? The first meetings are at 10:00am, and many of us are sleeping in and then listening to conference in our pajamas, while we eat breakfast — or whatever it is that we do.

    Some have complained about ten hours of meetings. It’s not ten consecutive hours. For crying out loud. Even if you go to a meetinghouse to listen to the talks, you have two hour breaks between meetings to eat, use the bathroom, take a nap … to do whatever needs to be done.

    General Conference is like a spiritual holiday or a spiritual buffet, served to your convenience.

    So stop your kvetching.

    I have to wonder why President Hinckley, a divinely-inspired man in his nineties, would bother to get up and put on a tie, to speak to the likes of you.

    Get over yourselves.

  64. To speak to the likes of you.

    Good grief, Danithew. Such vitriol!

  65. But conference just doesn’t do it for me.

    Good grief … such ingratitude.

  66. Speaking of the Poelman incident, one (surely unrighteous) way to keep myself engaged when boredom starts to set in is to try to predict the speaker(s) most likely to receive the Poelman treatment (recognizing that such treatment is rare). My prediction this time: whichever Seventy it was yesterday (anyone remember?) that repeated a quote of Heber J. Grant to the effect that faith (e.g. in the restoration or the B of M) is relatively unimportant compared to keeping the commandments. The fact that it was a quote from a prophet, though, will probably be quite effective innoculation.

  67. Ronan, I’ve been holding back on my feelings about this post … that’s why I originally posted my purely warm and fuzzy “I love General Conference” comment earlier.

    I had worst comments. One of my recurring thoughts has been that if all the posts at BCC: were of this tenor, JMax was right. Fortunately, BCC: does a lot better than this. Unless my positive impressions are mistaken.

    We have a responsibility as LDS people to point people in the right direction. When one of the most prominent LDS blogs has a post, at conference-time, telling people that General Conference is not that big a deal … well, that sucks. Entirely. It’s disgusting.

    There are two possibilities, both of them troublesome:

    1) Kevin Barney does not believe that these men are actually prophets of God. Listening to them isn’t important.

    2) Kevin Barney believes that these men are prophets of God. Listening to them isn’t important.

    Either way, this post was lousy and the timing even lousier.

  68. Dan,

    You’ve got it all wrong. Kevin was not “telling people that General Conference is not that big a deal.” He was saying that he personally didn’t enjoy it.

    Not personally enjoying the aesthetics of Conference (and that was largely the complaint, not the substance) isn’t the same as saying that you shouldn’t like it either. And not enjoying the aesthetic does not mean that someone does not have a testimony (not that that’s anyone else’s business).

    As for BCC being Satan’s blog. Sigh. OK, I admit it. Scratch your screen and you’ll smell sulphur.

  69. #69 – It’s more fun if you read BCC backwards.

  70. On my comment (#67) I guess it was Larry Gibbons, and I should make clear that it was only the specific idea advanced by the HJ Grant quote that some might object to. The rest of his talk seemed quite orthodox.

    On danithew’s comment, I strongly disagree. I hope it is just a failure of imagination on your part that you can’t come up with any alternatives more charitable to Kevin than your 1) and 2).

  71. I’ve gone and re-read the post according to what I am reading in the criticisms of my comments. Ronan makes an interesting point. It does seem that Kevin is speaking completely about style and not about substance and Dan Y. could be right that I’m not being imaginative enough in interpreting what Kevin is saying. I don’t think I’ll try reading BCC: backwards, though I find that comment funny. So I hope some will forgive my vitriolic strident tone in the previous comments. Particularly, I’m sorry to Kevin that I got too personal in using his full name in my accusatory questions like that.

    I still think this post lacks sufficient appreciation for our leaders and church members, historically and in present times, who have gone to such considerable efforts and expense to make General Conference easily available, attractive and uplifting to us. The point between criticizing aesthetics and substance is a rather fine distinction to make. If the substance is of high enough quality, that kind of criticism could even be considered rude. And if one truly considers all that goes into conference preparation, are the aesthetics really so horrible? Far from it, I hope. At times I’ve been critical of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir … but when I sat in the Tabernacle and heard them personally, I was awed and even a little bit ashamed. Which of the apostles is too dry, monotonous and un-spontaneous for us to tolerate listening to? That’s a scary question and probably shouldn’t be asked … though I’m sure some wouldn’t hesitate to answer it.

    Perhaps part of the problem is our lack of proximity to what we are hearing and to the people who are involved in what is happening. If we knew what was invested in the process, the anxiety and attention that these people are giving to their talks (despite such busy schedules) – we might be a bit more respectful of what is happening.

    What is the burden that we are willing to put on our leadership? How inspired and entertaining do they have to be before we will embrace them fully and appreciate what they are giving us?

    You may think that in my comments I am self-righteous. Honestly, I know better. Have I ever dozed off during a general conference talk? On more than one occasion. Have I ever allowed myself to be distracted or irritated by a particular approach, style or tone of a conference talk. Admittedly, yes. But I do know that these men are prophets and it worries me that we might be under-estimating the value of the blessings that we are being given by the Church.

  72. There are two possibilities, both of them troublesome:

    1) Kevin Barney does not believe that these men are actually prophets of God. Listening to them isn’t important.

    2) Kevin Barney believes that these men are prophets of God. Listening to them isn’t important.

    Either way, this post was lousy and the timing even lousier.

    I say we excommunicate him and anyone who agrees with him! It’s time for a good ol’ fasioned lynch mob.

  73. Now Loyd, that would be taking it too far.

  74. Danithew:

    I totally agree with you. I always found it better to just show disdain and contempt for those who raise criticisms. Really, if people have problems with how things in the Church are run, they should just not have those problem. It’s obviously a sign of immaturity and a lack of faith. Instead of listening and trying to understand the criticisms and frustrations some may feel in church, we just need to reaffirm that they lack the Spirit of God and are merely gestating the spirits of apostacy and contention. Those guys serious just need to get a life and quit being so ugghgh. You know what i mean?

  75. Loyd, if I think criticisms are legit, I’ll support them.

  76. Kevin, I’m sorry for the overall tone of my comments in this post. I got worked up and let my thoughts out. Even if I feel strongly one way or the other, I need to be careful how I choose to say things. I’m don’t even know you and I’m sure you’re a great person. So again, I’m sorry for being so accusatory and blunt in the way I said things.

  77. Kevin Barney says:

    I appreciate the apology, danithew, but it’s not necessary. I understand that you feel very strongly about conference and were disappointed in my less positive feelings. I was steeled for such reactions, and frankly was surprised that there were not more. As I tried to convey in the post, I’m really glad that you find deep fulfillment in GC, and I hope you continue to find spiritual nourishment in it for many years to come.

  78. There have been a few complaints about the scriptedness of GC, missing the freewheeling off-the-cuff talks we used to get from, for example, LeGrande Richards. I remember that I used to love his talks, especially when he hit his time limit and he would make some remark about the light going on. More than once he would find something to cover it and just keep going.

    But I also used to cringe when David Haight used to just ramble. You can’t tell me his talks were pre-written and correlated. Ugh. Give me a Neal Maxwell or Jeffrey Holland well-turned phrase over a David Haight trip down memory lane.

  79. 1. General Conference, for me, is a mixed blessing. Some of the talks are full of healing and hope. But some of them make me feel hopelessly inadequate. They remind me, too much, of priesthood leadership meetings, often short on appreciation and affirmation, many times long on assignments and pointed reminders of not measuring up. Sometimes I feel, somewhat as Geena articulates in 34, that, as a listener, I am treated not as an independent adult but as an adolescent who cannot be trusted to make a correct decision without constant second guessing.

    2. I liked Elder Ballard’s exhortation that we “eliminate guilt,” and his observation that sometimes some of us inappropriatly emphasize Church work to the detriment of employment and family life. I hope those comments remain in the printed verion (this sentence is in jest, for those who cannot tell).

    3. Elder Bednar’s point that people “choose” to be offended is, of course, true. But I am concerned that if too many of us take this too literally, and state this too bluntly to our nonparticipating brothers and sisters, we will only assure that they continue in their estrangement from the Church for a much longer period. I prefer Elder Wirthlin’s approach with respect to people who have been offended, as set forth in his talk about kindness. In that case, in a visit to a brother who had been offended long ago and had since then stayed away, Elder Wirthlin told him that the incident was very unfortunate, and that “[a]fter 40 years, it’s time the Church made things right.” Joseph B. Wirthlin, “The Virtue of Kindness,” Ensign, May 2005, 26

    For people in good emotional health, a sense of offense may largely be a matter of choice, and forgiveness and letting go, a relatively easy exercise of will power. But not all of us are in such good emotional health, and hopefully the Church is a place where those of us who feel spiritually or emotionally wounded may find peace and healing.

    4. I believe the first version of Elder Poelman’s talk was correct, and that there is an important distinction between the gospel and the Church. I would add that there is an important distinction between God and His Church (and His leaders). It bothers me that a number of Brethren are reluctant to acknowledge this in a straightforward way.

    5. Like several others, I find the long periods of listening to conference more tolerable when, like my wife, I multitask, doing other things with the conference talks as backdrop (kind of like doing my homework while listening to the radio and eating a snack when I was growing up). I think it would help things if the priesthood session, like the YW or RS sessions, were moved to another weekend, so we only had 4 hours on Saturday.

    6. I find I can respond to conference in a more healthy way by following the adage of 12 step meetings, that we “take what we can use and leave the rest”; the same is true of priesthood leadership meetings, gospel doctrine classes, and even Sacrament meetings. I can acknowledge that I do not, and will probably never, measure up, but that is okay, that is why there is a Savior. (See Elder Oaks opening talk.)

  80. I took my 12-year old son to Priesthood meeting for the first time on Saturday. I have looked forward to this moment for many years. Unfortunately, my son didn’t get much out of the meeting. He spent half the time thumbing through the hymnal and the other half dozing with his head on my shoulder – an unusual event for my soon-to-be teenager.

    I woke him up for President Monson’s talk because I knew there would be a few good stories. (BTW, is it just me, or has President Monson has given that “duty” talk several times?)

    After the meeting I asked him how he had liked it. He said that 2 hours was a long time, and I had to agree. He said he particularly liked Elder Monson’s talk, and I just smiled.

  81. Even when they look catatonic, don’t underestimate how much teenagers are hearing and taking in. They might surprise you.

  82. Nick Literski says:

    President Monson has given *every* talk, *every* story, and *every* poem quotation several times. If he survives to become president of the church (he has had complications of diabetes, after all), perhaps he can shorten General Conference by just standing up and saying “Brethren and Sisters, sweet bedtime story number twelve, in the name of ____, amen.”

  83. Bro. Jones says:

    Once again, the bloggernacle has made me feel–not so alone.

    Conference illustrates for me one of the greatest problems facing the Church today–a failure to actually apply Gospel principles to relevant, real-world situations. The teachings of Christ are not only necessary in today’s world, but can provide critical guidance in all kinds of situations.

    But what do we get at Conference? Platitudes. Most talks are nothing but fluffy “feel good” pieces that don’t enrich understanding, teach important lessons, or provide Gospel context for understanding/rising above the world. Sure, it’s nice to hear that honesty is good, or that Christ’s sacrifice is wondrous.

    But what do those things mean for us? For teenagers, or senior citizens, or new members, or inactive members? The last Ensign brought this problem home, too. The vocabulary lessons were spot-on, useful and relevant. But the big Q&A was “I feel nervous about bearing my testimony?” My wife has never shared her testimony on a fast Sunday in the 4 years she’s been a member, and her discipleship is none the worse for it. She had (and does have) bigger questions about her place in the Gospel than how to deal with public speaking.

  84. I’m not sure if this thread is dead, but I haven’t had a moment to post until now.

    I this these comments uncover a larger issue, namely, how do we as members of the church faithfully pose problems that we have, without being “othered” by those who do not share the problem?

    The optmists assert that there is room for questioning as long as it’s done “in a spirit of faith”. This is roughly defined as incorporating a sense of humility when questioning. In other words, one must pose the question in a non-threatening manner, be open to the fact the he/she could be wrong, and reflect a series of other listening and communication skills. The problem that I have with this line of discussion is that it limits those who can “faithfully” question to the individuals with a specific skill set that in the end may or may not be related to humility. This is to say that the only people who can express their concerns are those with the ability to express them according to a narrow pedagogy, which in the end few members posess.

    I of course have many more thoughts on the matter, but I’d like to see if anyone is interested in pursuing the topic before continuing.

  85. Kevin Barney says:

    As you may have noticed, SmallAxe, I framed my post with an awful lot of sugar, because I knew a lot of people would otherwise feel threatened by it.

  86. Kevin,

    And of course that’s part of my point, is it fair that only those who can sugar-coat are allowed to question?

    Using this discussion as an example, how is one to raise the issue of dis-connect with GC without fear of being labeled “testimony lacking” etc.? IMO the inability to raise issues fosters an even greater disconnect. Personally, I don’t think I could have attached my name to a post such as your’s, although I feel very much the same way.

    BTW, your recipe must have been a little off judging by some of the response ;>) Although I read it as a sincere issue asked with an eye of faith.

  87. General Conference talks about those things that ultimately decide our happiness. The world changes its mind every 5 minutes: e.g. eat no meat vs. eat mainly meat [Atkins], a little adultery is okay if you’re not happily married vs new research that shows all adultery is harmful.

    But General Conference shows us how to judge current fads in the world, shows us what really works, shows us how to avoid the traps of the world.

    Nothing in the world has nearly the relevance of General Conference. It’s my spiritual checkup and spiritual guide in a world of confusion.

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