General Conference: Sunday Morning Session

Do people attend the chapel to watch this session of Conference, even when they get it in their home? That has been the custom in some places where I have lived, but I stayed at home, not wanting to discover any such custom here. Not to diminish any of the talks, but I thought the highlight of this session was Liriel Domiciano. Wow!

James E. Faust: Started by addressing the “glut of information” available on the internet. (Has he been visiting Times & Seasons?) The concern is that too much information will obscure the main message. He talked about the importance of personal revelation and compared it to receiving radio messages. This analogy resonates with me, but I wonder if my children can relate. The mobile phone analogy (“spiritual dead spots”) is a better one for this generation. At the end of his talk, he mentioned that he had been a counselor for President Hinckley for nine years. Nine years? Wow! Time flies when your’e building temples.

L. Tom Perry: “Satan is working overtime to enslave the souls of men.” His target: the family. Much of the talk was devoted to the importance of fathers. Among other things, he told fathers (1) lead a “family-centered life”; (2) be a teacher; (3) provide for the family in temporal things. Also, he emphasized the importance of two parents, man and woman, as a fundamental building block of society. I don’t think I have ever seen Elder Perry speak with such vigor. (My prediction: this will be the most talk-about talk of the entire Conference.)

Elder Simmons? Missed most of it.

Julie B. Beck: Motherhood … mother heart. “Female roles did not begin on earth and will not end here.” She spoke of the “eternal mission of motherhood.” She spoke of a group of women who had attained advanced degrees from leading universities, and now were turning their substantial talents toward planning dinner. (I can’t decide whether to be a reporter or commentator, but I may take back my prediction about Elder Perry’s talk. This could easily be the most-talked about talk.)

Boyd K. Packer: What does the future hold? I was so pleased to see the talk turn from “fear of the future” to “hope for the future.” He later read from Helaman 12:3, “And thus we see that except the Lord doth chasten his people with many afflictions, yea, except he doth visit them with death and with terror, and with famine and with all manner of pestilence, they will not remember him.” Have you ever noticed the word “terror” there, Elder Packer asked. (Actually, no.) Despite this, he is not afraid because he has faith. The stories about disease are repeats from CES training that I had earlier this year. Finally, he compared baptism to an inoculation (“eye within”).

Gordon B. Hinkley: these are perilous times, but times of hope. “We of this generation are the end harvest of all that has gone before.” He said that we must reach out, beyond the Church, to work with others, and affirmed that we can do this without sacrificing our doctrine. Calls our time a “unique and remarkable season.” (Is it my imagination, or is the “last days” theme stronger in this Conference than in most others recently?)

Finally, this simple question: can you think of any area of your life in which you know the middle (or first) initials of everyone you encounter? When I started using my middle name — changing my name from “Douglas G. Smith” to “D. Gordon Smith” — one of my friends jokingly accused me of having GA aspirations. Shortly after, I left Utah and I have been moving regularly ever since! It seems to be working, and I think my affiliation with Times & Seasons should crush that sort of speculation forever.

19 comments for “General Conference: Sunday Morning Session

  1. Ben Huff
    April 4, 2004 at 3:11 pm

    I’m thrilled! I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything delivered at General Conference in any language other than English. Am I out of it, or Liriel’s solo a first? Anyway, I think this sort of thing is key to our seriously becoming a world church. I would like to see musical performance in languages other than English become a standard part of Conference.

    (sorry if you already read my exclamation about this on the Saturday thread, since this one wasn’t up yet)

  2. Ben Huff
    April 4, 2004 at 3:20 pm

    Talks delivered over the pulpit in other languages would be tough because to translate for the whole live audience in the Conference Center would be tough. Hm. And l suppose having a choir of native speakers of a non-English language would be tough as well, from a transportation standpoint, but imagine what it would be like if, instead of a choir from Sandy, there were a choir from San Diego, singing in Spanish, for one of the Saturday sessions! Or a choir from Seoul, Korea?

  3. Ben
    April 4, 2004 at 3:40 pm

    I appreciate the multiculturalism in having her sing, but operatic voices with heavy vibrato don’t thrill me. I’d also like to see native speaker sof other languages address us in their language with Englsih subtitles (as could be done with the huge projections on both sides of the conference center, for those attending) instead of heavily accented English.

    Elder Packer gave this talk several months ago at a Wednesday night fireside for CES.

    My wife and I missed the first half, since we only changed the clock in our bedroom:)

  4. Julie in Austin
    April 4, 2004 at 3:46 pm

    It is going to take me a while to process Sr. Beck’s talk. You would think that during something like this I could sit back smugly and think “Temple marriage. Check. Having babies at regular intervals. Check. No paid employment. Check.”

    But instead, I feel myself thinking, what she is describing is so not my life. I don’t mind admitting that during the times of my motherhood when my best mental efforts were given to preparing dinner, I was absolutely miserable. Only when I woke up and realized that I could research, write books, homeschool, teach Institute, submit papers around, etc., did I begin to enjoy my motherhood immensely. Am I out of line? Is there something wrong with me that just motherhood isn’t ‘enough’? A talk like this really makes me think.

  5. Ivan Wolfe
    April 4, 2004 at 3:51 pm

    For Liriel Domiciano it really depends if you like that style of singing. The SLT article seems to indicate that she (and that style of singing) is popular in Brazil.

    I have never been a fan of opera/opera-like singing, but that was still pretty darned cool.

    I believe I have heard the MTChoir do verses in Spanish before, but I have no idea if this is a “first.”

    Stylistically I may not have enjoyed it (but then I have never liked the MTChoir because I have never liked the big thundering choir sound), but I can still appreciate how cool an event it was.

    The spirit of it moved me, even if I don’t like the style.

  6. April 4, 2004 at 5:34 pm

    Sister Beck’s talk will be the one that I use in my paper this semester for my class on Women and Religion. It is very similar to Sister Nadauld’s talk to the Young Women two years ago and to Sister Dew’s talk in Conference the year before that.

    Not to get back into these issues but . . .

    What if you happen to be an LDS female and have a scholar’s heart AND a mother’s heart? Or worse! What if you have a scholar’s heart INSTEAD of a mother’s heart? What are you promised in the next life as a result of your willingness to sacrifice your interests, your talents, your educational training and a satisfying career? You guessed it! Eternal Motherhood. Granted, eternal motherhood will include different things than earthly motherhood, (astrophysics perchance?), but still.

    This may come across as more caustic than I mean it. I love children and would love to have children. I think it is extremely important to take child raising seriously and to be devoted and thoughtful as parents. But, talks like these are troubling for reasons, some of which I’ve discussed at length already.

  7. Julie in Austin
    April 4, 2004 at 5:44 pm

    Melissa–

    I noticed that all three of the talks you mentioned were by women. Do you think this is significant?

    I noticed the other day that in the new Teachings of the Living Prophets manual, the section on President Hinckley includes, as one of hte major teachings of his presidency, the idea that YW should get all of the education that they can. I can also remember him sharing a story about a nurse he knew who had young children and managed her schedule (how? I don’t remember). He also has said working mothers should ‘do the best they can.’

    I guess what I am getting it is that it almost seems to me that the prophet is more moderate on these issues than some of hte female speakers of late.

  8. April 4, 2004 at 6:11 pm

    Julie,

    Yes, I do think this is significant. If the female leaders of the “auxiliaries” will send this message to the women themselves then there is no need for the prophet to speak on this issue (remember that Ezra Taft Benson told the women to go home in 1987) himself. There is a certain power inherent in women speaking to other women about this–it avoids the appearance of domination, I think. Also, if (almost) all LDS female leaders are women who have chosen to be full-time mothers and are happy and fulfilled then their very presence becomes evidence with normative implications.

  9. Grasshopper
    April 4, 2004 at 6:53 pm

    But is that the case, Melissa? I recall my mother commenting a few years ago that the Church was sending mixed messages by preaching motherhood but calling women to leadership positions who did not fit the pattern taught.

  10. Kristine
    April 4, 2004 at 7:48 pm

    cooper–they did your song!

    The motherhood talks unnerve me, too, Julie. I love being a mom, or at least I love my kids and love being with them and trying to help them grow. But I don’t feel defined by motherhood, and talks like this make me feel like a freak, even though I think they’re meant to make me feel good about what I’m doing.

  11. John H
    April 4, 2004 at 10:57 pm

    Grasshopper is right, the Church has been sending mixed messages about women outside the home. President Benson’s famous speech was given against the advice of his counselors, Hinckley and Monson. But more important, the actions of the Church continue to contradict what has been said, albeit unintentionally. What’s a woman to do when she sees a Church leader say mothers shouldn’t work outside the home when she has friends who work at the Church office building who are mothers?

    Immediately following President Benson’s address, President Hinckley gave some talks and published some things in the Ensign that could be construed as providing an alternative to Benson’s comments.

  12. cooper
    April 5, 2004 at 12:03 am

    I really don’t think the church has been sending mixed messages at all. The have set an ideal. A changing world continues to be a challenge. I think they’re doing the best they can trying to meet the needs of all those different women. Sure not all the right attention gets paid to the right group, but as women we are certainly moving targets: Single YSA, Single over 30, Young married, Married with children, married without children, widowed, divorced, married stay at home mom, married mom working outside the home, professional woman with husband at home, two professional households. The list can continue from there. Can you imagine how difficult these dynamics make it for everyone?

    Then we have the Priesthood. No dynamic – just guys trying to make ends meet with no one worrying about them except whether or not they got their home teaching done. And then also making them the butt of every joke we can think of.

  13. April 5, 2004 at 12:30 am

    Melissa,

    Do you have the title for that conference talk? I can’t seem to find it.

    The only one I could find that fits this topic is from 1981, when Pres Kimball was still President.

  14. Kristine N.
    April 5, 2004 at 12:02 pm

    I would call Elder Simmons talk, “But if not….” He talked about the faith of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego in facing the firey furnace, telling King Nebuccadnezer (yeah it’s spelled wrong) they had faith the Lord would save them, but even if he didn’t save them the would still refuse to disobey his commands. He encouraged us to have faith that the Lord will help us through our afflictions, but if not, we should still have faith. For me, Elder Simmons’ talk was one of the most powerful talks of conference. Admittedly, we discussed the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego in institute this week, so the ideas were fresh in my mind.

  15. April 5, 2004 at 2:08 pm

    Kim,

    It was a talk given in a fireside for parents in February 22, 1987 that was quickly pamphletized.

    Here are some “highlights,” much of which is quoted from Preident Kimball.

    Remember the counsel of President Kimball to John and Mary: “Mary, you are to become a career woman in the greatest career on earth–that of homemaker, wife, and mother. It was never intended by the Lord that married women should compete with men in employment. They have a far greater and more important service to render.

    Again President Kimball speaks: “The husband is expected to support his family and only in an emergency should a wife secure outside employment. Her place is in the home, to build the home into a haven of delight.

    “Numerous divorces can be traced directly to the day when the wife left the home and went out into the world into employment. Two incomes raise the standard of living beyond its norm. Two spouses working prevent the complete and proper home life, break into the family prayers, create an independence which is not cooperative, causes distortion, limits the family, and frustrates the children already born” (Spencer W. Kimball, San Antonio Fireside, Dec. 3, 1977, pp. 9-10 ).

    Finally President Kimball counsels: “I beg of you, you who could and should be bearing and rearing a family: Wives, come home from the typewriter, the laundry, the nursing, come home from the factory, the cafe. No career approaches in importance that of wife, homemaker, mother–cooking meals, washing dishes, making beds for one’s precious husband and children. Come home,
    wives, to your husbands. Make home a heaven for them. Come home, wives, to your children, born and unborn. Wrap the motherly cloak about you and, unembarrassed, help in a major role to create the bodies for the immortal souls who anxiously await.

    Besides the problem with telling all married women (notice, even those who aren’t mothers) to return home, I dislike the way he equates motherhood with washing dishes and making beds among other things. I don’t think that motherhood is constituted by or even includes these things. One can be a very good mother and hire a cook and a maid. One can be a very good mother and divide the household duties with one’s spouse such that one never makes a bed or does the laundry.

    I also think the terminology in this talk is interesting—women shouldn’t “compete” with men in employment, as though our very presence indicates a competition. I think this talk is more of a window into President Benson’s personality than a doctrinal treatise or a guide for living, but I know many women who were devastated and/or outraged by this talk.

    A very good friend of mine, who is in her 60’s now, wrote a letter to President Benson in response to this talk in which she challenged him on some of his conclusions. Her husband died when she was 27 and she raised her 3 sons alone, working all the time and eventually earning a Ph.D. and teaching at a university. She was offended by the implication of his talk that her sons were neglected or deprived in some way. She made a point of saying that all of them served missions and married in the Temple. Further, she spent her professional life teaching women to pursue careers for the sake of their sanity.

    President Benson sent her an interesting letter in reply (of which I have a copy) which explains that his counsel was directed at mothers with young children at home since before they are eight years old, before they become accountable, is so important for impressing truth upon their minds.

    I thought this was particularly interesting as a response and something I have never heard said anywhere by anyone else.

  16. April 5, 2004 at 2:59 pm

    For any interested, I was able to track down the full text of the address.

    http://www.byu.edu/fc/ee/w_etb87.htm

  17. April 5, 2004 at 5:35 pm

    Nate and Steve,

    I’m not home right now–but when I’m back to my files late tonight I’ll email you.

Comments are closed.