In a few days, we will have the privilege of hearing from our leaders in General Conference. And they will discuss . . . well, we can’t say for sure, but it’s a pretty good bet that they will mostly discuss the same things that were talked about at the last General Conference. (Though Russell may think otherwise).
Every month we also get the Ensign. It is extolled as the words of the living prophets. And every month, it seems to repeat, more or less, many of the same messages and ideas as it did last month, or the month before.
This can be embarassing to us as church members. We eagerly explain to our non-member friends that we have a living prophet who tells us what God is saying. The inevitable question is then, “What has he prophesied lately?” And the letdown answer is, “Well, um, we need to pray, read the scriptures, and do our home teaching.”
Are we expecting too much? Can revelation be dispensed at regular intervals (monthly, semi-annually) without becoming repetitive or monotonous?
A reader remarked that the Ensign is a boring magazine. As bad as that sounds, I find it hard to disagree. There are times — many times — when I’ve gone to the mailbox to see the Ensign and Sports Illustrated, or the Ensign and the New Republic, or the Ensign and U.S. News, arrived together. Guess which magazine I inevitably seem to read last?
The current canon of scripture does not show a tendency towards regular doses of revelation. The Book of Mormon skips over periods of hundreds of years, and then suddenly stops to concentrate on a few individuals. The Doctrine and Covenants was received at very sporadic intervals.
At times, I wonder what would happen if we didn’t have general conference. We would be forced to rely on our scriptures, on the Ensign (if we had that), on our bishops. And if Gordon B. Hinckley ordered that the members convene to hear the leaders speak, it would be a big deal. A huge deal. Not the “yawn, is it really time for general conference again? yawn” that it seems to have become for many members.
Perhaps Nate can enlighten us on the history — when did the church start meeting in regular general conferences? On a broader level, is this a good thing? Why is is that we are willing to bear the risk of monotony, of losing members to complacency and boredom, in order to provide a steady drip of communication from church leaders? And how do we reconcile our vivid scriptural images of prophecy with the sometimes monotonous reality?