LIVE FROM SALT LAKE, IT’S SATURDAY NIGHT!!!

So the church just announced that they were reinstating the Saturday evening session of General Conference. To be honest, I had kind of forgotten that they ever got rid of the Saturday evening session of General Conference, probably because it happened, like, six weeks ago, and that’s ancient history for my middle-aged brain. But now that they mentioned it, I did recall them announcing they would discontinue the Saturday evening session now that every session was available for viewing on the internet because what’s the point of having a Priesthood session if it can’t be a secret from the ladies, amirite?  

The difference between the new Saturday evening session and the old Saturday evening session is that this new Saturday Night Conference will not be geared toward any particular group of church members, such as priesthood holders or birthing people 8 & up. (Was it okay that I said “birthing people”? Am I just trolling now? Signs point to yes.) It will just be another opportunity for “more gospel topics to be taught” and “more general leaders to address the conference.” Because if there’s anything people who’ve just sat through four hours of gospel teaching want more than another two hours of gospel teaching, I don’t know what it is.

I know some folks were dismayed when the church announced back in June that they were discontinuing the Priesthood and Women’s sessions. Women may have been particularly distressed because the annual Women’s session was the only session that ever featured multiple women speakers. Would the church make up for this by asking more women to speak in the remaining general sessions? Frankly, I don’t see why they would have, but we’ll never know now, will we? The Saturday evening general session is happening in October, and according to my calculations, that means we should get 0.67 additional women speakers. I for one can’t wait.

Not to tell President Nelson his business, but I think the Saturday evening session would be a good opportunity to try out some new things. I mean, people are always trying to find the theme of General Conference even though leaders have told us time and again that speakers aren’t assigned particular topics. Maybe they could have one session where the speakers are assigned a particular topic, but you won’t know what it is until you show up. (“Tonight, brothers and sisters, we wish to do a deep dive into the Book of Abraham.”) Or forget the themes, maybe Saturday night should be an improv night, where each speaker has to speak off the cuff about whatever topic they pull out of a hat. (Actually, it could be like Primary, maybe the topics are written on the leaves of one of the plants at the pulpit, and when it’s your turn you just close your eyes and pull one off? Maybe?) Maybe the Saturday night session could be a more casual one, where the apostles show up in loafers and cardigans and Mack Wilberg leads the congregation in some praise music. It could be a Q&A session—those are always fun. You could have an AMA with a particular apostle or the General Sunday School president or the Presiding Bishopric. (Just not any of the female officers of the church because that would just make it a de facto women’s session, wouldn’t it, and we want to move forward, not backward.)

What would you like to see at the new Saturday evening session?

Comments

  1. I would like to see /no/ Saturday evening session, if it’s just gonna be more of the same. So much talking, so many words . . .

    P.S. I’m waiting for Elder Rasband to try to convince us that this was not actually a reversal of an earlier decision (see the reversal of the decision to tear out the artwork from the Manti Temple).

  2. nobody, really says:

    I’m imagining the complete and total train wreck that would be a church-wide testimony meeting. Completely uncorrelated. Everyone wanting to get up and speak in General Conference could toss their name into the virtual hat, and thirty people could be allocated three minutes each. We’ll get to hear about essential oils curing prostate cancer, the blessings of paying on gross instead of net, angelic visitors during chemistry exams, and the full details of driving to St George last April to visit the newest great-granddaughter who is half-Lamanite but cute anyway.

  3. It was only with the un-cancelling of the Saturday evening session that I fully realized how much I wanted it to remain cancelled. My attention span for general conference is somewhere around 6 hours. I really feel like for every talk beyond the 6 hour point that goes in my head, it pushes one from Saturday morning out. Maybe this is something I need to repent of (and I’m being serious here) but I don’t want to listen to 10 hours of conference. Some people do – I’ve met them – but I’m either missing that gene, or haven’t learned that skill, or I’m too rebellious or something.

    For all the statements about decreasing the number of church meetings, and the recent move to 2-hour church, adding hours of conference seems an odd direction. (Even ignoring the cancel/un-cancel, the annual number of sessions of conference per year for adults has now increased from 9 to 10, and for 10-year-old boys (and others) it has increased from 8 to 10.)

    I can’t help but wonder if there wasn’t a realization that eliminating the Saturday evening session limited the number of speaking slots, and that if every Apostle is still going to get 15 minutes every conference, all the other speakers are going to get squeezed out. Last conference we had 432 minutes of talks (about 86 minutes per session). Over a 4 session conference, that would shrink to 346 minutes. 15 minutes to each Apostle, plus 5 minutes for RMN at the beginning and end of the conference would account for 235 minutes, leaving 111 for non-Apostles. At 10 minutes each (standard) that would leave time for 11 non-Apostle speakers (we had 15 last time). If members of the first presidency were to still get a second slot, that’s 30 more minutes and would leave the non-Apostles with only 8 slots.

    Finally (because if you’re going to complain, you had better at least have a suggestion) here’s my conference plan. 1 Saturday session, 2 Sunday sessions. 2 hours each. Everyone is invited to every session. Cut the audit report and sustaining of church officers except for Apostles and Organization presidencies (RS, YW, etc.) Cut the congregational hymns – I can stand up and stretch my legs any time I want now. That gets our usable speaking time in each session up from 86 minutes to something more like 95. Now the speaking assignments: President of the church gets 10 minutes for opening/closing remarks, and a 15 minute talk. 1st Pres members get 15 minute talks. 6 Apostles get 15 minute talks (each apostle speaks only once per year now). We have now accounted for almost exactly half the speaking time. 140 minutes remain, allowing for 14 ten-minute talks. Split them 7&7 between men and women selected from . . . actually, I don’t care. Obviously the presidencies of the 70, RS, YW, Primary, YM, SS are a good place to start. That only includes 9 women, so either they’re going to speak nearly every conference (which I’m fine with) or expand that list to include some of the boards they have or invite someone else. If we can have teenagers speak in general conference, we can have some “random” adults speak, too. This proposal does not achieve the absolute gender parity that some desire, but it would increase the presence of women dramatically both in an absolute sense (70 minutes of speaking vs 21 in the last conference, a 3.5x increase) and in a relative sense (25% of speaking time vs 5% in the last conference, a 5x increase), while still acknowledging that if the church is going to be lead by Apostles, it is reasonable to provide them a chance to speak. Also, with only 6 hours of conference, everyone (especially me) might pay attention a little bit more as we go for quality over quantity.

  4. Wondering says:

    Not going to hold my breath, but I suspect “more general leaders to address the conference” was worded that way and not as “more general priesthood leaders” and not as “address the conference in the Saturday evening session,specifically to include the general presidencies of the RS, the YW and Primary and not limit them to a “women’s session.” that the men don’t need to pay attention to. That would be consistent with the Q15 expecting that we need to hear from all the “prophets, seers, and revelators” each conference in order to get to know them prior to their possible promotion by means of death of others. :)

  5. Clark’s suggestion is great.

    Honestly cannot believe that the Q15 actually think people want 10 hours of conference. Did they do another survey I didn’t get? With all of the opportunities they have to address people throughout the year (in regional conferences, face-to-faces, firesides, etc. etc. etc. – way more opportunities than in the past thanks to the internet), they really need to completely re-envision General Conference. We do not need to hear from all of the Q15 at every conference.

    One thing writers have to learn is to write for their audience and not for themselves. I can’t help but think this is a lesson that some Church leaders need to learn. Honestly it reeks of ego to think you’re so important that you can’t possibly change things in a way that might diminish your own speaking time.

    That said, I refuse to watch conference again until there is better gender representation so I’ve got no skin in this game. To the rest of you, enjoy conference weekend!

  6. Kirby Valenzuela says:

    The Q&A would just be a lot of members asking a question but then being told by leaders: “Let me reframe your question” or “I think that’s the wrong question.”

  7. Angela C says:

    I’m with Elisa, and “it reeks of ego” pretty much sums up General Conference for me.

  8. I don’t understand the animosity toward another session (Is it really “another” session if we haven’t had a Conference without it?) I mean, you don’t have to attend. You don’t have to listen. Go out for ice cream. Doze on the couch. Heck, get drunk and kick the dog, if that is what you normally do on a Saturday evening. But I don’t understand hating on a session that can’t inconvenience you in the slightest if you don’t want to be inconvenienced.

  9. Kevin Barney says:

    My thoughts were along the lines you suggest at the end. Not just GAs, less formal, more interactive. The Church broadcast a great face to face event from Nauvoo featuring two experts from the History Dept. (coincidentally a man and a woman). It was fantastic; I’m sure many of you saw it. It should be like that, or don’t bother.

  10. Elizabeth says:

    Thank you, Ardis. The voice of reason sounds good.

  11. Old Man says:

    Ardis is right. If you hit “conference overload” (which I do), you can always catch up via technology.

    As for content, I would enjoy a session on a single topic approached from a variety of perspectives. Can you imagine a session devoted to the Atonement?

  12. Kevin Barney says:

    Even though my comment is below that of Ardis, I hadn’t seen it when I posted. So let me clarify that if they just want to do another two hours of the standard format, fine by me. She is correct that I can self medicate and not watch it; I don’t begrudge GC fans another two hours of the same format. I was just describing the kind of thing that would motivate me to tune in on a Saturday night.

  13. I am all for the extra two hours because the Priesthood lessons follow conference talks. This is probably going to sound terrible, but my favorite lessons are mostly from non Q15 members. The apostles are great and all, but they all have their distinct flavor and I like to try new flavors and stories. An extra two hours increases the likelihood of a Eubanks type talk, so I am in favor.

    Suggestions – I liked the two kids who spoke a few years ago – a hologram of Boyd giving us a little factory speech would be entertaining – a lottery where $1 million was given to some random TR holder – I wish they still gave talks in their native languages –

  14. Kristine says:

    RJ, you are the best. That is all.

  15. Amen to Ardis.

  16. Ardis stole my thought. I will appreciate having more material to pour over, even if I may not always watch the evening session live every time. Even when I do watch, I often have to watch again later because watching it live with family often involves various ongoing conversations in the room, grandkids running around, etc.

    I certainly wouldn’t condemn anybody for not tuning in live for every session (though I normally try to). But for me, I benefit most from conference talks when I go back and listen later and/or read the talks.

  17. lastlemming says:

    I suspect that somebody convinced the brethren that BYU will never ever make the NCAA basketball semifinals (which conflict with the Saturday evening session), so they might as well go ahead and give talks.

  18. Holly Miller says:

    It’s always interesting to think about how things could be different.

    Having a wider variety of material to use in talks and lessons is an advantage of an extra session IMO

  19. Michael H. says:

    I like the improv idea. It would actually be a throwback. In the good ol’ Journal of Discourses era, the conducting First Presidency member would randomly announce the next speaker, AND the topic that speaker would speak on. The improvised talks might last an hour or only a couple minutes. (Those old sessions could last for several hours at a stretch. Hardly anyone back then had a 9-to-5 job to get back to.) And I’d love to see the president of the church, Brigham-Young-like, doing a critique of earlier speakers, telling us what he agreed and disagreed with, sometimes scolding or shaming apostles.

    Contrariwise, in a certain respect, I’d like even MORE rigidly pre-programmed predictability: Give us advance notice of who’s speaking when. That way, I can more easily avoid a certain relentlessly smarmy speaker that I won’t name, or an especially cranky speaker who’s just going to bash today and glorify yesterday (like I sort of do in the above paragraph, I guess). And do a Nielsen’s rating, to learn that more people tuned in when women were speaking, and fewer people tuned in when Elder Smarmy spoke, etc.

  20. stephenchardy says:

    I have long thought of GC as a massive missed opportunity. We seem to be unable to get past the idea that the pinnacle of our church experience is listening to elderly (mostly) white men (and a small sample of women) lecturing or sermonizing. I believe that we could do much better. A few sermons: yes, please. 25 sermons: please, no! Just how many times can we hear the word “lascivious” during a given weekend?

    I believe that we would be a better church if our leaders trusted us a bit more. Trusted us with information. Imagine something like this for a Saturday night session. (which could be more informal) Perhaps one GA or other person could open a two hour session on the problem of people not feeling welcome at church. He or she could show us the data (we know they have it) that reveals that some number of people are leaving our church. Then another leader (or other person) could review the data (again, you know they have it) that lists people’s reasons for leaving. Judgement, isolation, LGBTQIA+ issues, and other stumbling blocks. I don’t know what they all are. A summary of statements, interviews, collections of responses could be reviewed. Then another set of speakers could speak to how we can and should respond to this challenge.

    This might include some “audience” participation. Our leaders could ask us what we think. Perhaps the responses would not be “live” (how do you have a live conversation with millions (?) across continents?) but could rather be sent to some website, and then reported on in the “Liahona” or the next conference. Or perhaps this would be a focus for ward discussions in RS and PH meetings on Sundays. Way way way way better than reviewing a conference address.

    Certainly an important part of the solution to the problem of members feeling that they don’t belong is “building testimonies” and this could lead to the sermons that our leaders appear to love so much. These sermons would be oriented to the problem of helping members who no longer come to church, or to trying to convince many to stay. But these sermons would be grounded in data, and less so on judgement, if that is possible.

    We know that our GAs carry on such discussions in private. But the data and discussions are never shared with us. Possibly because they don’t want to air our dirty laundry. Or because they want to show us that they have answers for everything, and so discussing an on-going problem with no clear-cut solution may undercut their authority. I don’t know.

    But such a “session” would require a level of trust that is simply not there. We aren’t allowed to see the data.

    There are other issues that could be addressed in such a way:

    There is the huge issue of our members of color and their relative lack of involvement in leadership. Lots to study, review, share, discuss, and finally (for our GAs) to sermonize here.

    How about a discussion of the limits that we place on women’s participation? Can’t we discuss ways to increase women’s profile and participation even if we aren’t going to give them the priesthood? Can we address the gigantic problem of women not being heard? Can we gather data that reviews women’s experiences? (of course such experiences vary greatly.)

    How about a session on civic responsibility? On community participation, and civility, and love? There are great examples out there of members who build something good in the community; something non-political, but that creates trust among our neighbors. Plenty of sermons there, too, for our GAs.

    Having one of our sessions each conference dedicated to a specific problem in our church would, in my opinion, be welcomed by most. And highly, highly, attended in my opinion. Wouldn’t you show up for such a session? “This Saturday we have asked Elder A and Sister B to lead a discussion on our civic responsibilities and our relationships to our neighborhoods and communities. Please come prepared to participate.”

    Don’t worry, there would still remain plenty of time to sermonize against lascivious behavior.

  21. The primary original purpose of conferences was business, not sermons. And sustaining votes were more often really votes and not just pro forma. It’s probably not possible with a worldwide church to return to having the general membership take such an active role in the day-to-day business of running the church as they did in those early conferences, but I’d love to find a way to use conference to make knowledge about the inner workings of the presiding councils of the church more accessible to the general membership. The audit report and the sustainings in theory are a kind of transparency/participation, but my sense is that most members just find them boring. I wonder if there’s an engaging way to do this.

  22. Eventually, we’ll forget about the Lord flip-flopping on this issue. I think in a few years we’ll look back and see that opportunities for women to speak (which are few and far between – there’s only ONE session out of an annual ten where WOMEN, plural, are allowed to speak) were taken away from women and given to men. And the church is going to continue to insist that my children’s generation parted ways with religion because they were lazy and wanted to sin.

  23. The announcement to reinstate Saturday night sessions was such a relief! What would we have done with only 8 hours of church Conference weekend? I would have ended up 2 hours less righteous! Phew!

  24. eastofthemississippi says:

    Ardis misses the point, some of us don’t have the option of not viewing the Saturday evening, or any other, session of conference. When the cancellation was announced last month I literally cheered during bishopric meeting, much to the surprise of my brethren.

    Clearly the Saturday evening session has been reinstated due to feedback, what I want to know is, who the heck complained about having less meetings? I do not have a firm testimony of The 14th Article of Faith. ;)

  25. I think you always have the option of not watching any or all sessions of conference. Why would you not have the option? Because you’re a member of the bishopric? I serve in the stake presidency and don’t have any problem missing a session of conference (of course, I know I’ll watch/read it later, so don’t have any guilt).

  26. Interesting. I’d never thought about this before. I could see several options that I might like:

    1) A themed meeting that really delves into a specific issue (forget who suggested that, but I like the idea);
    2) A devotional format with less speaking, a lot of music and some congregational singing, featuring LDS composers and musicians, and yes, the Choir at Temple Square or whatever they’re called now;
    3) Something along the lines of an old-school women’s meeting because I liked the opportunity to get together with other women and listen to women speakers about issues that are of concern to women but often get short shrift in general meetings – so sue me.

    And this was not the question but I just have to say, I would prefer that RS and EQ lessons not have to come from conference talks anymore. However anyone might feel about individual GAs, we’re putting way too much focus on them.

  27. I’ve got a bold idea. We want to hear from more women so what if we had a special session a week before conference where we heard from the entire Relief Society Presidency? We’d even have enough time to hear from a few other female leaders, too, like members of the Primary Presidency or general boards. We could even do the Young Women leaders in the Fall!

  28. To @Ardis’s point and others – I think the “just don’t watch it” misses the point and misconstrues the reason people are annoyed. People aren’t annoyed about having 2 hours of conference back. I think people are annoyed that (1) it’s another example of a rather mundane change being labeled as “revelation” rather than them just saying “hey we got this wrong”, (2) it feels like leaders are REALLY out of touch if they think that preaching AT us for 2 more hours is what we want / need, and (3) it smacks of ego if they think they’re so important that we can’t go without hearing more from them.

  29. No, I don’t think we’re missing the point. As Joseph Smith famously said, “I teach them correct principles, and expect them to put their big boy pants on.”

  30. Mortimer says:

    Rebecca J,
    I know you are being funny, but I’m voting absolutely NO on praise music. Can we still buy “keep Mormonism weird” bumper stickers? We need them now more than ever. Mainstreaming the church might seem like a good PR tool, but I don’t have any desire to relinquish LDS beliefs in lieu of evangelical ones (delivered through the music) and I’m certainly not wanting the church to align with evangelical politics at the moment. (Good heavens, no.) And art/music/culture are the most powerful alignment tool you can wield.

    So, to praise music I repeat the words of Gandolf, “Run! You Fools!”

    In the 60’s and 70’s there was a big push to create a unique LDS artistic aesthetic. We got some beautiful primary songs out of it, and things like My Turn on Earth, etc. Maybe it’s time for an artistic renaissance. I’m up for that. Casual? No problem. Bring on the drums, guitars, trumpets, and all the other verboten instruments!

    But, yeah good luck on speeding up or rocking out Wilberg. His music is always dramatically slow, or obsequiously sycophantic to the geriatric set in the red chairs. (That’s right Jean B. Bingham, we’re looking at you. Who did you think I was talking about?)

    That’s a joke, btw. Sorry, Sister Bingham.

    Seriously though, to speed up Wilberg, we need those pills that Dick Van Dyke gave in a mickey to the Russian ballet maestro in the musical “Bye, Bye, Birdie”.

  31. Left Field says:

    In my moderately humble opinion, identifying something as “revelation” is not mutually exclusive with it being either a “rather mundane change” or “hey, we got this wrong.” For example, I think one wouldn’t have much trouble identifying revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants that fit in either or both categories.

  32. Left Field, of course you’re right: they’re not mutually exclusive. A mundane (or even big) mistake can be corrected by revelation. I’m just not expecting that we’ll hear this reversal described in terms *other than* related to revelation. In other words, it seems that it’s actually Salt Lake that thinks the two concepts are mutually exclusive (not Elisa, or others here).

  33. The Other Brother Jones says:

    Hunter, I’m not expecting that we’ll hear of this reversal from the Brethren at all. The decision has been made.

  34. Aussie Mormon says:

    Isn’t every decision in the church meant to be done through revelation and inspiration?

  35. your food allergy is real says:

    The other Br. Jones, the first presidency wrote a letter about it on July 27, and presented it as revelation, going to some length to try to explain why the change in plan was so soon after the first change in plan. It reads like they feel sheepish about it. Why not just say “we changed our mind” and just leave it at that? If everything has to be revelation, there’s a lot more that needs to be explained than changing conference plans.

  36. Maybe we’re imposing our own definition of what “revelation” is.

  37. The Other Brother Jones says:

    Food Allergy, Sure, I get that. My point is that there won’t be further explanation in conference, defense of it in the Liahona. It was announced. And that’s the end of it.

  38. C’mon, Mike. Your comment sounds like trolling. (“Maybe we’re imposing our own definition of what “is” is.”).

  39. I guess I can spell it out for you. People often think that “revelation” is the heavens literally opening and an angel coming down, handing a manuscript to the recipient. Sometimes it’s just leaders trying to work through things the best they can and the Lord letting them proceed on the path they’re on and allowing them to figure out a correction is needed (ala 18-month missions in 1982-83), praying all the while for guidance.

  40. Right, I don’t disagree with that, Mike. But that’s a pretty watered-down definition of revelation. (Imagine that definition being taught by the missionaries: “We have a prophet on the earth today who often just tries to work through decisions the best he can, and the Lord lets him proceed on the path he’s on, and allows him to figure out a correction is needed! Isn’t that amazing?”)

    Despite that, that’s how inspiration seems to occur most of the time in my life, and I believe, with Church leaders, too. Still the premise of your definition is that the initial decision needed some inspired /correction/. In other words, under that definition of revelation, the initial decision was not necessarily the precise will of the Lord. He may have let it happen. But that’s my rub here: why does the Church feel that it needs to say that the initial decision was the result of revelation /and/ the about-face was also the result of revelation? They want to have their cake and eat it, too.

    If my wife and I felt inspired that we were done having children, and we told friends and family as much, if later, we felt inspired to have another child, we would hopefully have the humility to say, “I guess we got it wrong when we thought we were supposed to be done having kids!” Or we could avoid the situation altogether by being circumspect when describing revelation: “We’ve prayed about it, and we think we are done having kids.” Anyhow, the Church loses credibility when it gets away from the way President Hinckley used to describe things: with the word “we.” I recall him often saying things like, “We have decided to go this direction. . .” or, “After prayer, we have decided . . .”

  41. Loursat says:

    Here’s another angle on what Hunter just said.

    Mike, I think you’re certainly right that there are different understandings about what constitutes revelation. Your description of what it might mean accurately describes one of those understandings. Nonetheless, there is ambiguity about it that causes real difficulties.

    Many members of the First Presidency and Q12 have become more willing than they once were to speak of their decisions as the result of revelation. But they haven’t explained why. This raises the question: are they receiving revelation more often now than they used to, or are they using the word “revelation” in a somewhat different sense? This question matters because the concept of revelation has great rhetorical power among us.

    There has been a distinction in our discourse between “revelation” and “inspiration.” It’s a rather subtle distinction but a meaningful one. Perhaps that distinction is disappearing. Your description, Mike, of what revelation might mean is more similar to what “inspiration” has traditionally meant. “Revelation” used to be mostly reserved for momentous pronouncements, on the model of teachings that are eligible for canonization as scripture.

    My sense is that by using “revelation” to refer to larger range of decisions, leaders are claiming the rhetorical authority of revelation without the deliberation that it used to imply. In the short term this might lend their decisions greater authority. In the long term, though, it will probably dilute the concept of revelation. Whether this is good or bad, on the whole, is really hard to say.

  42. Old Man says:

    It would be a lot more enjoyable if the church administration just learned to say “Oops!” once in awhile. And then Oops could become a doctrinal topic for priesthood/RS and SS lessons.

  43. Michael H. says:

    Excellent comments, Loursat. I’ve thought about that a lot for many years. Long ago, I was called to be a high priest group leader, and I thought I really had to pray–even FAST and pray–to receive revelation on who should be my assistants and secretary. I believed I DID receive personal revelation. I got my two assistants, but secretary was the sticking point. I fasted, prayed, felt I received revelation, then reported to the bishop. The bishop said “No, you can’t have him, ’cause of A, B, C.” Went through the process again, and got a different revelation. The bishop’s response: “No, you can’t have him, either, ’cause of X, Y, Z. How about Brother So-and-So?” he suggested. “We’re trying to find a place for him.” At that point, I just said, “Fine.”

    I think there are two extreme, not-necessarily-mutually-exclusive notions about revelation: 1) Yeah, you DO have to work for revelation. You have to be worthy, you have to strive, you have to pray, you have to fast and pray, and if the Lord sees fit, eventually you get revelation. 2) You have this calling or responsibility, and that–in and of itself–is evidence that the Lord has validated you, given you the divine seal of approval in advance. “The Lord knows me, likes the cut of my jib, and this calling is proof that I was right all along, and all my ideas and feelings and attitudes and anything I might do in the future are exactly what the Lord wants, so off I go, proud as a peacock, making decisions, and whatever decision I make is the result of revelation.”

    I think most folks with church callings probably range somewhere in between, probably sliding back and forth, but I sometimes feel that there’s way too much of the #2 attitude, and I won’t say where exactly in the church hierarchy, or how high up or low down exactly.

  44. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    Inspiration is dead. Long live revelation!

  45. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    Inspiration is dead. Long live revelation!

  46. I was excited about the cancellation of the Saturday night session altogether. But in reality the “new” version will just be the same old stuff, it is just that now it is no longer addressed specifically to males. Mostly older white males, who often belong to families who go back generations in the church, beating on the same drum of topics, albeit gently omitting outdated teachings such as last days theories and McConkieism in general.

  47. More sisters speaking. That is all we need. Mostly, their talks are better.

  48. I love it when RJ “reveals” her thoughts, especially in written form. All good points and the heavier notions are leavened with exactly the right touch of humor. (i.e., plenty)

    My heart belongs to Ardis, because her voice. It’s such a rarity. Such thoughtfulness cultivated, yet not drained of the lifeblood of bluntness.

    I see no conflict here that is a problem. Can we have Ardis and RJ as our Saturday night speakers? I’m pretty serious here. I would watch that session with rapt attention.

    Okay, all facetious suggestions aside, why not allow for some creativity and experimentation on Saturday night? Throw some thoughtful noodles at the wall and see what sticks. Try out an all-women session, with male presiders of course, just that they hold their tongues. Or deliver a brief “amen” at exactly 1:55 hrs. Allow a hard-working and already well-rehearsed stake choir (or two, or three, combined) to perform some of their repertoire and shine bright. Let some non-GA, talented, member orators give a lively talk to wake us up. Spend 30 minutes or so on an AMA with someone like Pres. Oaks or Eyring. Let Dieter speak.

    I would totally watch that.

  49. “More sisters speaking. That is all we need. Mostly, their talks are better.”

    I fully agree that more women should speak. However, I must disagree that the talks of the women are generally better. I can’t point to one talk given by a female speaker that reverberated throughout Mormon culture ever. For the women who are picked to speak are not the leadership types of people who are teeming with good ideas, ways of expression, perspective, and vision, but submissive types who talk with muffled uninspiring voices and come off as people who have felt guilty about freely thinking on the topic of religion their whole lives. They are truly terrible, forgettable talks. But not because they given by women. But because the women giving them are people who’ve submitted to alpha male patriarchal dominance their whole lives.

  50. Rebecca J, you’re my fave. Always keeping me giggling.

  51. Several notable things: First off from the comments above, nobody seems to like General Conference, especially to extend it to yet another 2 hours. What is it about having the people most in touch with God standing up and preaching that distresses us so much? You would think that with this much wisdom and enlightenment flowing, we would not ever wish to have less.

    After conference we get 6 months of conference repetition in our meetings. Do we greet this with more acclamation than conference itself?

    The reduction of Church meetings generally: See above. If Church is important, we should want more of it, not less. I cannot imagine that “Family Oriented” Church is more attractive than Church oriented Church, generally. At least at Church people are chosen for their abilities, sometimes, to do something with more polish and thought.

    Finally: God changed His mind in a real hurry. Why was that?

  52. Simply a sister says:

    Sister R Aburto counsellor in General Relief Society gave a amazing talk in a general conference session on depression, our bishop had us sisters use it in a Sunday lesson as he was so impressed with the talk.

  53. Kristine says:

    Brent P., that’s a staggeringly sexist comment. And mistaken. Chieko Okazaki gave some of the best General Conference sermons ever recorded. Sister Eubanks and Sister Aburto are giving Elder Uchtdorf a run for the best recent conference talks title. You’re missing out.

  54. SVbob: If 10 hours of conference is good, why not 12? Why not 20? Why not have general conference the first Sunday of every month? I’m being sarcastic and a bit snide here, but it’s to make a point: I think we can all agree that there is a “best” amount of general conference to have and that more general conference is not in and of itself an improvement. It sounds like we probably disagree on where that ideal amount of general conference is. That’s ok.

    For me, I think 6 hours of conference would be more ideal. (If you read all the way back up to my comment near the top, you’ll see that I actually suggest eliminating congregational hymns and audit reports so we can get more talks in per hour.) Here are some reasons why:
    1. I get tired. I literally can’t remember the first session by the time we get to the last session. And I can hardly pay attention to the last session. There’s too much. Maybe others are better at drinking from the firehose than I am.
    2. My kids get tired much more quickly than I do. Now, I know that no one is forcing us to watch all the sessions. My bishop isn’t going to ask me next week if I did. But the fact is that I know (and my kids know) how many sessions there are, and whether we are watching them. It is a hard thing to decide that we’re simply skipping sessions of conference.
    3. The principle of always leave them wanting more. Yes, I know the quote comes from someone who literally ran a clown show, but we are real life human beings that are subject to realities of how our brains work. Scarcity and anticipation of a slightly more rare conference address might lead to more people paying attention.
    4. This is a little bit counter to point 3, but the leadership of the church has literally never been more capable of reaching out to members than they are now. In decades past, general conference was a unique event that gave church leaders an opportunity to connect with every single member of the church. That isn’t the case today. The General RS Pres can record a 5 minute video and ask every single Relief Society across the world to play it in their next meeting. The President of the Church can make a special video asking us to be thankful on social media, and we can watch it on our phones. We have face-to-face events regularly. You can follow them on instagram. The point is, there are many ways to engage with church leaders, lessoning the need for us to hear from them as much at general conference.
    5. We don’t need more conference talks to use as lessons in church, we need fewer. Surely I’m not the only one who has been to a lesson at church where the instructor has taken a conference talk, numbered the paragraphs, handed them out and asked people to read them one by one, pausing in between to futilely ask for comments. Yes, I know that bad teaching would happen with or without conference talks, but my point is that we use conference talks too much as a crutch for our own lessons and sacrament meeting talks. I already heard the conference talk, I want to hear from the people in my ward.
    6. Sometimes the speakers literally don’t have anything to say. They’ve said it all, but there they are speaking again, because I guess we have to fill the time. President Hinckley spoke more than 200 times in general conference. How do I know that? Because he referenced it himself more than once in general conference. In his last general conference he said, “Now, my brothers and sisters, we live with an interesting phenomenon. A soloist sings the same song again and again. An orchestra repeats the same music. But a speaker is expected to come up with something new every time he speaks. I am going to break that tradition this morning and repeat in a measure what I have said on another occasion.” Certainly this is partly his sense of humor, and as it was his last conference, perhaps it really was true that he had finally said everything that God needed him to say. And yes, we do learn from repetition, and speakers are obviously going to repeat themes, scriptures and admonitions for as long as we have general conference, but teaching the gospel is not accomplished by reaching an arbitrary 6, or 8 or 10 hour mark.

  55. I get the argument that the church can simply record talks/presentations and ask local leaders to relay that to the members. My experience as a leader, however, has shown that the water rarely reaches the end of the row. Conference is an opportunity for members (at least those who wish) to get this stuff directly from the leaders. People need to decide for themselves how much they consume live and/or later, or at all. The church produces general conference for the general membership. If someone determines that they are an exception then, as Pres. Oaks said not too long ago, that’s something for them to work out between them and the Lord. (I think a closer paraphrase would be: As general authorities we teach general principles. Whether an exception applies to individuals is to be worked out between them and the Lord). I think Joseph Smith similarly said “We teach correct principles and let them govern themselves.”

    With that, if the church were to expand general conference to 3 days or more I doubt I would be consuming all of that live, though I would be watching/reading later. But I would have no problem with it (meaning I wouldn’t feel guilty or blame the church for trying to make me feel guilty).

  56. I’m response to SVBob’s comment: “… What is it about having the people most in touch with God standing up and preaching that distresses us so much? You would think that with this much wisdom and enlightenment flowing, we would not ever wish to have less.”: why do you think speakers at General Conference are more in touch with God than the general populace of the church? Than perhaps anyone commenting on this thread? Being in touch with God is a rather personal thing, isn’t it? I imagine some speakers/general authority/church leaders are more “in touch” with God than some other random person. I also imagine that there are multiple random people in and out of the church who are more “in touch” with God than the aforementioned speakers/general authorities/church leaders. I cringe at the idea that church hierarchy is correlated with being “in touch” with God, or out another way, correlates with God’s favor.

  57. Kristine, none of these women you mention could even pray in General Conference before 2013. I call for not just more women’s talks but more leading women’s talks at conference and for more women’s voices to be featured throughout church culture and your response is to tell me that everything has been OK all along. Ha. Please tell me again how my comment is “sexist.” Get over yourself.

  58. The general leaders of the church may or may not, as individuals, be more in touch with God, but they have been given special callings to lead the members of the church. For me, that warrants paying attention to what they say more so than I would say, my next door neighbor. I think God expects us to determine for ourselves whether what the leaders say is from God (and there are a number of quotes you can find from GAs that support that).

  59. Kristine says:

    Brent, I didn’t say (and do not believe) it has been ok all along. I’m on the record, in fact, as pretty adamantly in favor of more women’s voices in all LDS spaces. I simply object to your characterization of current women’s talks as unimportant and uninteresting. Because that is sexist.

  60. Clark, appreciated your comment. It reminds of something C. S. Lewis once said when he was asked if he was going to add to his Narnia canon: “There are two times to stop a thing – before people are tired of it, or after.”

  61. eastofthemississippi says:

    Mostly I just hate burning up two perfectly good Saturday nights, plus two stake conference Saturday nights. I got stuff to do on good weather Saturday nights… and not watching real time isn’t an option for me.

  62. You always have options, one of which is to simply not participate when you don’t feel like it. Nobody is forcing you do to anything.

  63. Mike, how many times have you told the members of your stake, from the pulpit, that it’s acceptable not to watch general conference live if they don’t feel like it? If you have led the members of your stake to be comfortable with that message, then I congratulate you! That would make you an unusual leader.

  64. Never. That’s not my prerogative. But members have been told plenty of times that they have their agency. Plus, they never get asked in a temple recommend interview whether they watch GC or not. People don’t want to be responsible for their own decisions–they want the church to do that for them.

  65. eastofmississippi says:

    Oh, I’m plenty responsible my own decisions, which is why I watch in real time, otherwise judgements are made. Good that you said agency, not “free” agency, cuz agency is definitely not free.

  66. The problem here, Mike, is that you’re trying to have it both ways. You scold the commenters on this thread who are struggling with the excessive guilt which is a genuine part of our culture, and you disclaim responsibility for helping them with that problem. Neither of those responses is constructive.

  67. No, agency is not free, but we’re always free to choose how we respond to the reactions of others.

  68. Scold is a wrong word. I certainly had no intention of scolding anybody. But yes, if your definition of scolding is telling people they need to accept responsibility for their own decisions, then I’m guilty. But I don’t apologize for that.

  69. Kristine, your original reply to me was clearly angling toward a soft denial of endemic sexism in the church when it comes to general conference. You insist, just insist, that women’s talks have gained traction in Mormon culture. Yeah, right. Nowhere near those of the apostles or the FP. I’ve never heard members proclaim leaders of the General Relief Society Presidency to be demigods the way they proclaim the apostles and First Presidency to be. You’re really trying to play this up in a way that it is just not. And then you insist that I must like the talks because, well, they were given by women, and to do anything less than that is sexist. Sorry, no. I do not like the talks (simply a matter of personal preference, and you don’t need my permission to like the talks if you do), because they were not well delivered, and also because the women giving the talks are clearly doing the bidding of the highly patriarchal order of the leadership. They are mostly Uncle Toms. I ask you this. Did other women have any role in formally assigning the women’s presidency? No. How about assigning who and at what point in conference the talks were to be delivered? No. Who reviews these talks and gives them the stamp of approval? Any women? Actually I don’t entirely know. But I’m pretty sure women do not give the final stamp of approval on these talks. Men are almost entirely responsible for choosing which talks to features in church magazines are for lessons. All male local leaders assign talks for lessons and sacrament meeting talks.

    So you calling my comment sexist sounds about as sincere and believable as Tucker Carlson crying racism against whites by proponents of Critical Race Theory. Please.

  70. There is a scolding way of sending that message, and there’s a loving way. Either you’re not hearing the tone of your own comments, or you’re badly misreading your audience. There is pain running under the surface here. It’s not helpful to respond to the pain by telling people they just need to buck up and stop being irresponsible.

  71. Brent, pivoting from sexist to racist is a pretty bold move on your part!

  72. Brent, I really don’t think you want to try proving your feminist bona fides by questioning mine. Here’s my version of your critique, in just one of the many, many places I’ve made it over decades. https://bycommonconsent.com/2018/08/28/can-women-matter/

  73. It’s just so entertaining to watch a man stamp his foot and loudly dismiss women’s voices as a method of standing up for women’s voices. The combination of petulance, privilege, and tone-deafness is highly entertaining. Popping popcorn……

  74. I think your implication is correct. I must a horrible person to think that too much general conference can’t possibly be the scourge on humanity that seems to be the message here. How did I miss that panacea to all of society’s ills . . .

    Perhaps I’m being too harsh, but my wife is battling cancer, dealing with all the crap that comes with chemo: the vomiting, the dizziness, the chemical burns on her hands, the loss of hair, etc. I’m going to call that pain. Too many conference sessions? Forgive me (or not) for not buying into this safe space crap, or whatever it is.

  75. Kristine says:

    Mike, I’m so sorry you and your wife are dealing with cancer and chemo–that does sound very painful. Watching a loved one suffer is a special kind of hell. And I don’t think anyone here is trying to suggest any equivalence.

  76. I don’t think you’re a horrible person. I think you’re misunderstanding the nature of the conversation in this comment thread. You’re presenting yourself as an adversary to people you’re in a position to help.

  77. I will admit I went too far mentioning cancer. I’m going to bow out of this conversation.

  78. I would add, Mike, that I appreciate your participation here. I hope that your comments here are helpful, in some way, as you cope with the very difficult circumstances you’re in right now.

  79. Brent P. Really? Calm down dude, you’ve got the wrong tree.

  80. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    Those “muffled uninspiring voices” that Brent P. wants to dismiss have been received as bold and inspiring by so many members. His is a very gendered notion of what an authoritative voice should sound like. While Church leaders repeatedly encourage women to share their voices, those voices are often criticized for their tone, and men won’t look past their gendered expectations to benefit from the content and faithfulness in those sermons. The same lack of respect and acknowledgment of the ability of women to lead and inspire continues to infect the workplace. To be sure, there have been plenty (too many!) talks by women that parrot their male leaders and lack content. But painting them all with that brush is severely myopic. General Conference talks by women may never sound like those given by men. That wouldn’t be a bad thing.

  81. Kristine, your feminist bona fides outside Mormonism are zero. Sorry, but last I checked the larger world of feminism sees Mormonism and Mormon culture as a big old sexist joke. Just check the comment section on the NYTimes recent article on women’s garments.

    Others, didn’t know there would be such hyperventilation over a late comment. (Thin-skinned crowd, I guess?). Bear in mind, Kristine took the first swing. I’ve always been calm. She hasn’t. Calling me sexist over calling for greater gender equality in the church while turning a blind eye to the glaring sexism in the LDS church? Unconscionable.

    Turtle name mack, did you read your comment before posting? Wow. I have a gendered notion of an authoritative voice?? Seriously? Yeah, I’m calling for more talks by women and a greater role for them in the leadership of the church. You know who has a gendered notion of authority? That would be traditional Mormon culture and LDS church leadership. Truth hurts.

  82. PS, bowing out of the conversation, won’t be reading replies. Lots of denial and cognitive dissonance among the readership here.

  83. nobody, really says:

    Brent P, I’m pretty sure I was your last missionary companion.

    I really wish I’d called the police.

  84. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    Hmmm… guess I won’t reply to Brent P. since he’s conveniently taken his ball and run away home. But anyone who questions Kristine’s feminism hasn’t been paying attention and isn’t really worth my time, anyway.

  85. Aussie Mormon says:

    So we’ve gone from “What would you like to see at the new Saturday evening session?” to “Is Kristine a feminist?”.?

  86. Kristine says:

    I just want to know how we skipped over lobbying for me to speak at General Conference ;)

  87. Hey Brent P, I know you’ve said you’re not coming back but, just in case you change your mind, a thought (and it’s not one about your absurd assertion that somehow Kristine’s feminist bona fides are deficient): your assertion that women’s talks are somehow less memorable than men’s says far more about you (and the institutional church) than it does about their talks. If you find their talks unmemorable, but men’s talks memorable, then somehow you’re attuned to men’s voices and rhetorical styles. Moreover, to the extent that women’s talks are unmemorable in your mind, that suggests to me that your ward isn’t referring to them and using them as lessons. Because honestly, if you think that somehow objectively the women who speak are incapable of providing memorable discourses but the men are, you’re betraying your own deeply misogynistic gloss on their talks.

  88. Aussie Mormon says:

    I probably wouldn’t lobby for a particular speaker Kristine, but I might lobby for the Tabernacle choir to do a selection of primary songs including Father Abraham (complete with actions).

  89. You, Rebecca, I want to hear you, for the whole session, every six months, every time. That wuld be great. :)

  90. I’ve personally found several female LDS speakers who could or can “rock the house” if given the opportunity to speak. Remember Chieko Okazaki? Sheri Dew? Sharon Eubank?

    I am a grumpy old dude. But the idea that women can’t be speakers, teachers and prophetesses at conference needs to be summarily dismissed as sheer idiocy.

  91. It makes me nostalgic to witness a lively comment thread with commenters in *ahem* conversation with each other, fine-tuning the nuance surrounding— what else?— women’s voices at church.

    I’m still trying to see the human being underneath the commenter, but BrentP’s stubborn insistence on schooling Kristine (and the rest of us) in her (our) feminism, capped with a particularly odious YAGE challenged my efforts too far. Failure alert. But then Mike cracked open my cynical heart. There is nothing that compares to being the caregiver of a loved one as their life deteriorates, and I don’t care if it seems off topic, he won my full empathy and forgiveness for rather mild crotchetiness.

    What mystifies me just a bit, is that we’re all pretty much in agreement about more women speakers at conference, just having spats about who. The Brethren will make sure the women who speak are “equivalent” to male GAs, but on Saturday night we could mix it up a little with emeritus women who don’t have leadership callings. I nominate Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, who I’ve actually heard deliver a conference-worthy talk. It practically had the presiders leaping with joy and affirmation to close the meeting. And yep, Kristine, whose faithful feminism has been honed in a crucible none of you men (and some women) will never know. In addition to Ardis and RebeccaJ.

    Or we could quote Chieko Okazaki way more than we do, even in the “regular” meetings. Or perhaps call women into leadership positions who are practiced at speaking their minds. Or maybe, empower those women already called to leadership positions to speak their minds— to a congregation of listeners who respect their authority and voices.

  92. Ann Porter says:

    MDearest, Google was no help. What is a YAGE?

  93. Ann: “Yet Another Grand Exit.” https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=YAGE

  94. Who was that commenter who shook the digital dust from his feet at BCC back in the day? Best. YAGE ever.

  95. Kristine says:

    Ah, Ardis. Such, such were the joys!!!

  96. Ann Porter says:

    Tell the truth, Ziff: You have that bookmarked, right?

  97. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    Can’t believe that was over a decade ago! Time sure does fly when you’re on the expressway to hell.

  98. Ann, I wish I were that on top of things! I had to search it up. But I have it bookmarked now! Thanks for the suggestion!

  99. That’s the one! A cherished memory, indeed.

  100. I know this ship has sailed, but I could list a bunch of amazing talks by women. Because I pay attention. Others did a really good job explaining why that comment was so problematic.

    I’d just add that the phrase “covenant path” was literally first coined by a woman (Elaine Dalton, 2007). She just doesn’t get credit for it.

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