The Prophet Project: An Introduction

I’ve never been a “modern prophets” guy. My testimony, such as it is, is rooted in the experience of inspiration and revelation while reading and pondering scripture (The Book of Mormon and the Bible, specifically). While I don’t have anything against modern prophets and I understand their role on an intellectual level, my interest always lay elsewhere. They just weren’t that important to my Mormonism.

Things have gotten worse. The Nov 5 policy caused me to question their relevance to my life on any level. I was already struggling with a personal life in disarray, one that would be simplified by my rejection of the church, and here was a perfect reason to up and leave. It leaves me with the question of whether my continued interest and belief in the church is really a matter of personal conviction or just a way to stick it to the doubters out there. I always told myself that if the church was causing more harm than good, I’d leave. It appeared to be doing that, but I was sticking around (mentally, at least, I hadn’t attended in a couple of years due to above-stated personal life issues).

And now, I’m trying to come back. I’m not in what I would consider full-fellowship yet, but I’ve been attending church. It is sometimes hard for me to sit still during the whole thing, but I do try. And, when I’ve attended and opened myself up to it, I’ve felt the Spirit. God seems to want me in this church. And I seem to want to be there, too. But I’m ambivalent, as I do believe that the Nov 5 policy was sinful. I’m glad it’s gone, but it did real harm, and not just to my testimony. It probably contributed to some deaths. It was cruel and unnecessary. And now, with it gone, there’s nothing to stop it from returning again at the whim of someone in the COB. It is Damocles’s sword, hanging over the head of some people I care about. What does it mean that I think these things and yet I still believe in the church? Am I a monster?

I believe in the potential good in the church and, if I’m honest, that is the good to which I’ve wed my testimony. The Nov 5 policy was such a shock because, in addition to everything I said above, it was a move away from that potential good. But the potential is still there. I believe in the church and in what it can be, which is the Kingdom of God on Earth. But if we want to build Zion, we must become one. And that means we must find that potential good in all the sources God gives us.

With that in mind, I’m starting a new series. I don’t know how long it will last or if it will be interesting to anyone but myself. But I’m going to go through the conference talks and find something interesting and positive to talk about in each one. I’ll write something up about once a week. This doesn’t mean that I’ll refrain from critique per se, but the goal of each essay will be to find the nuggets of good in each talk for me. Your mileage may, of course, vary. The first essay will be up on Friday. I hope you’ll join me in this quest for positivity and inspiration.


  1. I’m very interested in this project. I look forward to reading.

  2. I’m in.

  3. it's a series of tubes says:

    Looking forward to it. This sounds like Jacob 5:65-66 work to me.

  4. Just a suggestion says:

    John C. – Since you have publicly announced the project, I imagine you will follow through with it. But in the interests of a future project, may I make a few observations?

    – We get more than enough exposure to the Conference talks at Church already. Don’t we get enough correlation already?
    – Some talks really aren’t that great.
    – Most speakers at conference don’t have much in the way of new insights. If they did, people would pay much more attention to it, and people wouldn’t find it so painful to base church lessons on said talks.
    – Most people aren’t deep thinkers, theologians, or philosophers. That includes conference speakers of all ranks.

    The project that I hope you’ll do in the future is looking at what the greatest minds and souls of history have to teach us. People like Plato, Aristotle, Epictetus, Origen, Aquinas, Erasmus, Wesley and so many others who are not LDS (like 99.8% of humanity presently living, and 99.999% of people ever born). People whose ideas have changed history and whose ideas have stood the test of time, but will probably never be mentioned in a church meeting. Those are the ideas we need to be discussing in the Bloggernacle.

  5. Just a suggestion says:

    On the positive side, the project you are suggesting will be superior to most of the drivel people talk about in the Bloggernacle, so don’t let the best be the enemy of the good :)

  6. Just,
    It’s an interesting suggestion. While I think there is something worthwhile in it, this project, to a great degree, is about reconciling myself to the church. Or, at least, that is the plan right now. I apologize that this strikes you as more of the same. Hopefully, I will at least give somebody good talk fodder.

  7. I’m all for being able to see good wherever it is found and all of us coming together on that common ground.

  8. John C., do it for yourself and I’ll be happy to read along.
    Knowing the prevalence of conference talks assigned for Priesthood and Relief Society lessons, and Sacrament Meeting talks, anything you do in addition to support and sustain that curricular choice will be appreciated by many.

  9. Kevin Barney says:

    I’ll look forward to it with interest.

  10. Billy Possum says:

    What a happy topic. I’m looking forward to reading.

  11. Angela C says:

    I’m in, eager to read your insights. I too find the regurgitation of pablum a bit watery for the focus we give it, but just because I feel like we are putting more effort and thought into these talks than many of the speakers have done doesn’t mean it won’t bear fruit.

  12. Anon for this says:

    I love that you say reconciling yourself to the church.

    The miracle of Oaks and Nelson rescinding that dreadful policy has put me at peace with the Church and I feel fully reconciled for the first time in a long time.

  13. Another anon says:

    Russell M Nelson said we need women’s voices and insights, yet Conference talks are almost exclusively male.
    Not that we have two hour church, there is 50% less chance to hear women at church (Relief Society is now only twice a month).
    Worse, we only rehash conference talks in Relief Societ – by our male speakers – in our women’s class.
    This is a church for men. It’s depressing me to no end.
    My challenge to you, John C., as a man, would be to include as many female perspectives, quotes, and voices as you can.
    Even if you need to call your Mom to get the female side of it, just do it, just go for it.
    Somehow make this project female – as a man. This is my chalenge to you.

  14. Kristine says:

    John–you’re wonderful. I’m glad you are doing this.

  15. Mortimer says:

    In my previous paradigm of “the church can do no wrong” everything was simple and the stakes were low to non-existent. Now I think that its actions -our decisions- have varied and heightened consequences. Our potential is for good or sIn (missing the mark- and sadly sometimes harming others). Our contributions matter- what we’re doing teeters precariously between good and sIn with no guarantee- no absolutes that just because it’s “The Church”, it is acting correctly. Although I’ve been angered, embarrassed, and in mourning over the whole POX debacle, I think one of the lessons learned is that our failure is possible, our success —elusive, and everything we do counts. Just because we are The Church doesn’t give us a “pass” out of agency and consequences- mortalities’ hallmarks. It turns out that even Excalibur can be weilded poorly.

  16. Great idea.

    More content like the last paragraph than the proceeding four please.

  17. My concern is that the church seems to be becoming more and more legalistic, not at all Christ-centered. Pres. Nelson has made several GC talks about how God’s love is conditional, which thing I cannot accept. Now he says that either you live up to all the church’s policies or you won’t be with your family in the hereafter. I’m not buying it.

    When I hear such messages, I wonder why no one ever quotes D&C 137. It is never quoted in GC, nor in Sunday classes or SM talks. Clearly we needn’t worry about the billions of people who have lived and never even heard of Jesus Christ. That makes temple work a footnote, not a major focus for the church members.

    What think ye?

  18. I think your project is a great idea. I really welcome anything that can help me feel at home in the Church again.

    I stopped attending years ago. I literally cannot recall if I was attendant or in-attendant when the Nov 5 policy came down, but I do remember the spike that lanced through my soul when I learned about it. It was horrifying. And now that it’s gone I still don’t know how to feel.

    A year ago I tried attending an Episcopal church. It was the Lenten season and, due to my family’s and my own Protestant history, I’ve always appreciated the mainline Christian liturgical year. My Dad, who is the kind of True Blue Mormon that you’d think he was third generation member rather than a middle-of-life convert, has often expressed disappointment with how the Church celebrates the Easter season.

    Anyway, that’s a lot of background. The point is, I attended an Episcopal church. And in some ways it was so familiar. The people were kind and welcoming. The priest made a point of welcoming me as I sat in the pew before the service began. I even partook of communion.

    And then, when I was alone in my car after the service, I started crying. Because I miss my spiritual home so much. And for as kind and familiar as everyone was, it wasn’t my home, these weren’t my people. It wasn’t my church. But attending my church hurts so much. It still does. There’s a wound inside of me that is maybe healing, but it hasn’t healed yet. And until it does I can’t go home.

    So like I said, I really do welcome your series. Because this lost sheep desperately wants to be found.

  19. Elizabeth says:

    I, for one, welcome your “quest for positivity and inspiration” and will enjoy reading your essays. Years ago I heard a quote, about religion in general, not our church in particular, that went something like “that in the church which is of God is good. That in the church which is of man is too often not good.” Our leaders are men, first, with all the faults, vanities etc. to which mankind is prone. While we seek God’s grace and forgiveness for ourselves, we are slow to grant the same to our oh, so fallible leaders. A positive view of our leaders efforts is welcome.

  20. Elizabeth says:

    I, for one, will welcome your “quest for positivity and inspiration.” The negative grows tiresome after a while.

  21. Another Anon says:

    I just read D&C 137. You are right. I can’t believe I didn’t read this before or think about it in that way.
    Thanks you. This brings me peace.

  22. I too would like to see more focus on the positive. I just hope the comments do not degrade into ‘this statement agrees with my personal opinion of truth so must be correct, while this statement does not, so must be taken as evidence of the fallibility of our leaders. Good luck. I look forward to your quest.

  23. I’m looking forward to reading and learning from you and everyone here. I’m especially interested in Elder Renlund’s talk. I have questions about prayer and what the bible dictionary says about blessings (for ourselves and others) being conditional based upon our asking for them. It has always bothered me, and I’m not sure it’s quite right. I’m interested in knowing what others believe about it.

  24. I love this idea, John C. I look forward to the series. I’m also interested to see what you do with talks that, at least to my eye, contradict each other. I’ve always read those as places I needed to grapple with the differences and seek inspirations about what applies to me. I’m interested in the insights you will share with us. I’m not sure if you’re doing only the most recent conference. If so, can I put in a request for Bro. Gay’s “Taking upon Ourselves the Name of Jesus Christ” in Oct 2018? To me it, and section 137, contradict Pres. Nelson’s “Come, Follow Me” talk from this conference. I’d love to get someone else’s thoughts about that.

  25. pamelaweste, I believe Moroni 10: 8 – 18 teaches us that we pray to receive spiritual gifts but not sure about other blessings.

  26. I can’t handle the idea of “the Lord’s Battalion.” Some of us parents are just trying to love our kids who don’t fit the mold.

  27. pamelaweste says:

    Nancy, thank you. You’ve given me something to think about.

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