GenCon: Saturday Morning Session

Conference CenterWelcome to T&S sort-of live coverage of General Conference. President Uchtdorf conducted this opening session with President Monson (in attendance) presiding. Opening prayer by Carl B. Cook, a Seventy, and music by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Direct quotations of a speaker are given in quotation marks or blockquote form; other text represents my own summary of their remarks or, where noted, my own comments.

President Thomas S. Monson opened the session by reporting the dedication of the Gilbert Arizona Temple one month ago, the 142nd operating temple of the Church. There will be 170 temples when those currently announced and under construction are completed and dedicated, but no new temples to be announced today or in the immediate future.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Twelve addressed the trials of being a Latter-day Saint and how to gently defend the faith. Reviews how Jesus was rejected by the Jews of his day. Provincial, patriarchal, bigoted … latter-day prophets and disciples are called these and other derogatory terms. We don’t preach easy doctrine: avoid transgression; avoid even thinking about transgressing. “Be strong; live the gospel; defend your beliefs with compassion and courtesy, but defend them.” You will find safety against the winds that blow.

Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Presidency of the Seventy talked about the tornadoes that his Oklahoma City last year (with images of yellow-shirted Helping Hands volunteers assisting the cleanup). Temporal possessions can be swept away in just minutes; lay up treasures in heaven by using your time, talents, and energies in serving the Lord. Reads account of an LDS fifth-grader who, along with other students, hid in a restroom as a tornado hit the school and tore the roof off. “I will be on your right hand and your left; … angels of the Lord will bear you up.” Help others in their time of need; bear each others burdens.

Elder Carlos H. Amado of the Seventy spoke about Christ the Redeemer. Power over death; a new commandment to love one another; Gethsemane; crucifixion; work among the dead; Second Coming.

Sister Linda S. Reeves, Second Counselor in the Relief Society Presidency, talked about pornography. She’s against it. It ruins lives, families, marriages. Addiction. Filters. Mobile devices. Daily scripture study.

Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Twelve talked about spiritual whirlwinds, some of your own making, some from the choices of others, and some because that’s just what happens in mortality. Trees that grow in windy environments are stronger, with deeper roots; “the whirlwinds in your youth … can increase your spiritual strength.” Changes in the civil law cannot change the moral law that God has established, such as the law of chastity, sexual relations only between a man and woman lawfully married (see Proclamation on the Family). The Lord has not redefined marriage. Teen who posted endoresement of traditional marraige on Facebook got lots of online pushback. “Sometimes you have to stand alone,” she said. Everyone deserves our kindness and consideration (whatever their views on marriage, etc.). Beware of self-righteousness, warned Joseph Smith. No place for bullying or bigotry. Give heed to the words of the prophets (even if they contradict your personal views). Recommends temple attendance (85% of Church members live within 200 miles of a temple). “The peace of the Savior subdues the swirling whirlwinds of the world.”

President Henry B. Eyring talked about a heritage of hope, and related the story of his great-grandfather in Germany. An orphan, he left Germany for America and ended up in St. Louis, where he encountered LDS missionaries and joined the Church in March 1855. He served as a missionary to the Indian Territories for six years, moved to Southern Utah, then served another mission back to Germany. He is an example of faith and hope. You, too, may be the first in your family to lead the way to eternal life on the path of sacred covenants (which bring both promises and challenging duties). Keeping our second estate means making covenants, then performing the duties those covenants require of us. It takes faith in Jesus Christ to keep covenants for a lifetime. Parents, take hope: rebellious children (who break or forsake covenants) can return. The Savior desires to bring all of God’s children back home. Consequences (happiness for choosing the right, regret and sorrow for choosing evil) are often delayed for a purpose. The Lord acts in His own time and in His own way. Younger children will remember daily prayer, daily scripture study, and testimony. Take the long view if your children feel the pull of the world and have the clouds of doubt overshadow their faith. We have faith, hope, and charity to guide us and to strengthen them.

Closing prayer by W. Christopher Waddell, a Seventy.

36 comments for “GenCon: Saturday Morning Session

  1. Hunter
    April 5, 2014 at 12:48 pm

    See the women leaders sitting front and center?

  2. April 5, 2014 at 1:31 pm

    No, I missed that — too busy listening, reading, and typing. Nice touch. It reminds viewers that women *are* allowed to attend general General Confererence sessions.

  3. Hunter
    April 5, 2014 at 2:19 pm

    Ha! Good one, Dave.

  4. European Saint
    April 5, 2014 at 2:23 pm

    Great notes, Dave! Thank you for posting them.
    One small addition that I think is noteworthy: “Teen who posted endoresement of traditional marriage on Facebook got lots of online pushback”, [including by a good friend who is a member of the church]. I found it significant that Elder Andersen reminded us of and cautioned us against this online (and offline) trend where even some members are in essence contributing to “fire the Mozilla CEO”-type societal trends. It doesn’t take an in-depth analysis to understand how fueling that fire is hurting and will hurt the church. I recognize how unsavory and unwanted such discussions may be, which is why I thank Elder Holland all the more for his remarks, which reminded us that we are already being deemed “bigots” — and on what grounds? A question worth asking.

  5. Jax
    April 5, 2014 at 2:28 pm

    Combining Elder Holland and Elder Andersen and you get a VERY “It is not okay to support positions contrary to church doctrine, especially SSM” message. Anyone else get the same thing from those two talks?

  6. April 5, 2014 at 2:47 pm

    The Primary, YW, and RS General Presidencies have been sitting on the stand for a couple of decades.

  7. April 5, 2014 at 2:49 pm

    Elder Holland said “We must forsake transgression and any hint of advocacy for it in others.” I think that applies to all kinds of sin no matter how fashionable the sin or the enabling behavior is,

  8. Cameron N.
    April 5, 2014 at 4:46 pm

    Powerful talk from Sister Reeves. She touched on many important points on pornography that have not yet been covered in general conference, including having open relationships with children, healing from unsolicited exposure, the ultimate superiority of testimony and the Holy Ghost over digital filtering, and more.

    @Jax, about a dozen speakers covered that and the Priesthood issue 6 months ago. I take Elder Holland and Anderson at face value–they were speaking generally and letting the Spirit emphasize specific principles to individuals. SSM is only one of a host of sinful trends. I believe Elder Anderson likely selected his example story of the young woman because of her wise approach and restraint, rather than the specific issue.

  9. Mike Maxwell
    April 5, 2014 at 5:09 pm

    Some other things that were not said:

    President Monson: ” We are not announcing any new temples because Bishop Burton overspent $2 billion on the mall. He is no longer working for us, by the way…”

    Elder Holland: “Suck it up. They used to kill and torture Christians. You guys have it easy.”

    Elder Rasband: “None of those 7 that were killed were Mormons. Get it?”

    Elder Amado: (nothing to add. He said it all)

    Sister Reeves: Translation to condense about 12 obscure references to one… “my daughter saw porn on the neighbors TV”

    Elder Anderson: “We love marriage. We love Gays. We hate gay marriage”

    President Eyring: “Be patient… with your kids, with you conversion, with your faith, and for the day that somebody finally brings me glass of water when I get dry-mouthed and weepy in a conference talk”

  10. Steve Smith
    April 5, 2014 at 6:01 pm

    I second Cameron. Elders Holland and Anderson were speaking generally. They seem to hold quite firmly to neutrality when it comes to political issues. Besides, to go on a campaign against members whose political views are in support of SSM would be risky given the fact that according to recent polls some 30% of LDS people in Utah support SSM, not to mention over 60% who support civil unions. And erosion at the core will mean lots more erosion at the periphery. I think I’ll accept the idea that the church leaders are saying that it’s not OK to support SSM when they start actually telling local leaderships to inquire as to members’ beliefs about SSM and to formally discipline people who support it.

  11. Steve Smith
    April 5, 2014 at 6:39 pm

    Just thought I would add a tidbit from Elder Andersen: “But everyone, independent of their decisions and beliefs, deserves our kindness and consideration.”

  12. Xenophon
    April 5, 2014 at 9:10 pm

    Don’t these prophets get it? If they would just preach smooth things they could become so popular!

  13. European Saint
    April 5, 2014 at 9:42 pm

    To Steve Smith (with love): re·vi·sion·ism /ri?viZH??niz?m/ 1. a policy of revision or modification, esp. of Marxism on evolutionary socialist (rather than revolutionary) or pluralist principles.

  14. Jax
    April 6, 2014 at 8:52 am

    Not sure why church discipline is a benchmark for what the church finds acceptable or not. They don’t discipline for tattoos, yet that is clearly contrary to teachings. same with gambling, not wearing garments and other things.

    I think that Elder Holland was speaking generally because there are things other than SSM that we have problems with. Like the greedy accumulation of wealth (not disciplined for BTW), ignoring the begger/poor, etc

  15. Steve Smith
    April 6, 2014 at 11:50 am

    I’ve had this conversation before, and a lot of you seem to be chomping at the bit to show how the LDS leaders condemn members who support SSM. Sure, they probably don’t like it that many members support SSM, and they most certainly encourage people to oppose SSM. But since SSM is a political issue, they haven’t gone a campaign to censure members who support it. There is open discouragement of tattoos and gambling. You can’t obtain a temple recommend unless you wear garments. But people are strongly discouraged from talking about politics in the chapel. And if a local leadership finds out that one of the members of their congregation supports SSM (and are not spreading these beliefs in the chapel and are not coaxing other members to accept SSM), they are told to take no action. The problem is that some of you just hate gay marriage so much and hate the fact that a sizable number of active LDS support gay marriage that you are just grasping at justifications to condemn them. However, much as there are no justifications for condemning a member who votes Democrat, Libertarian, or Republican, there is no justification for condemning a member for supporting or being against SSM.

  16. European Saint
    April 6, 2014 at 2:05 pm

    “chomping at the bit”
    “condemn members”
    “campaign to censure members”
    “hate gay marriage so much”
    “grasping at justifications”

    Strong words, Brother Smith (do you believe Elder Holland “hates gay marriage so much”?), but I imagine “revisionism” is a strong word, too (my bad there; it was late, and I’ll admit to being at least slightly annoyed by your recasting of such inspired counsel). Needless to say, I disagree with your characterization of me and others who have posted alternate viewpoints to the accepted T&S norms (and if you do not believe that T&S norms exist, you might ask yourself why only outsiders have written in to take issue with what we view as drastic distortions of freshly given General Conference messages).

    Elder Nelson reminded us yesterday that we ought not to segment our lives into things like “my private life” and “my religious beliefs.” Now, I am not so foolhardy as to think I am capable of reasoning with you on such matters as, say, the merits of the man-woman marital model; however, I hope to have some chance of convincing you that your apolitical portrayal of the Brethren whom we sustain as prophets, seers, and revelators misses the mark. Yes, they will never condemn one party and endorse another–and for this I, like you, am grateful–but that is a different thing entirely than taking a firm, clear stand on moral issues that are at once political and religious in nature.

    The Church does indeed “reserve the right as an institution to address, in a nonpartisan way, issues that it believes have significant community or moral consequences or that directly affect the interests of the Church” (http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/official-statement/political-neutrality). Apostle after apostle, Conference after Conference, makes this point abundantly clear, albeit for those who have ears to hear. For you to state, regarding Elders Holland and Andersen, “They seem to hold quite firmly to neutrality when it comes to political issues,” just minutes or hours after listening to their latest remarks, strikes me as either naive or dishonest.

    Like all of us, I have plenty of faults. I am not interested in “condemning” you or any other member. But I do feel compelled to condemn sloppy thinking and twisted argumentation presented as factual. I think the main difference between our respective LDS worldviews can best be illustrated via your quote here:

    “I think I’ll accept the idea that the church leaders are saying that it’s not OK to support SSM when they start actually telling local leaderships to inquire as to members’ beliefs about SSM and to formally discipline people who support it.”

    To me, this is tantamount to saying, “There is no civil law (in many states) against committing adultery, so why should I take issue with it?” D&C 58:42 comes to mind here. In all sincerity, I do not hold up as my standard of becoming more Christ-like the notion that I should merely avoid all actions which could lead to formal discipline. What a standard that is!

  17. April 6, 2014 at 2:51 pm

    Thanks for the comments, everyone.

    Elder Andersen tries to give counsel to young Latter-day Saints on the tricky issue of gay marriage (without actually using the term “gay marriage”) but he sort of conflates two or three different issues and gives counsel which, on different issues, points in different directions. I think your average young Latter-day Saint would, if they read the talk carefully, come away a little confused.

    1. Kindness and civility. He says, “I want to express my love and admiration for those who courageously confront this trial of faith [same-sex attraction] and stay true to the commandments of God! But everyone, independent of their decisions and beliefs, deserves our kindness and consideration.” Few object to this. If anything, the problem seems to be that young Latter-day Saints are giving too much kindness and consideration to those facing this trial of faith, but it would be a little awkward to reprove them for being too kind.

    2. The LDS law of chastity. He says, “sexual relations are proper only between a man and a woman who are legally and lawfully wedded as husband and wife.” Again, few object to this as a statement of what LDS leaders apply to Latter-day Saints. The difference is between LDS leaders and LDS conservatives, who very much want this to be the legal standard that applies to everyone, LDS or not, and a growing percentage of Mormons, especially younger ones, who see no problem with allowing gay marriage outside the Church for those who choose it. By not distinguishing between whether they want to apply the LDS standard across all of society or only for Latter-day Saints, the counsel Elder Andersen (and others) give gets muddled. LDS leaders can’t quite bring themselves to say that it is okay for an active Latter-day Saint to support (but not practice) gay marriage for those outside of the Church (but not Mormons) who choose it.

    3. Siege mentality. “As the world slips away from the Lord’s law of chastity, we do not.” So instead of celebrating the good news of the gospel, we are getting locked into a permanent argument on the losing side of the culture war, lashing out at everyone who isn’t willing to go down with the ship (government, judges, the media, gays, LDS progressives, LDS youth). So an LDS teen or young adult who is 100% compliant with the LDS law of chastity and other commandments and supports the Church, but thinks letting gays get married (outside the Church) is okay or even the right thing might hear Elder Andersen’s talk and say, “wow, I guess I don’t fit in with the Church.” And THAT is a problem. I can understand and even defend the current LDS position, but the bottom line is that it is making more and more Latter-day Saints want to distance themselves from the Church. Something has to change.

  18. Xenophon
    April 6, 2014 at 3:03 pm

    SSM is a moral issue. It’s a political issue because immorality seeks justification through legislation. That is sad.

  19. Steve Smith
    April 6, 2014 at 6:28 pm

    “To me, this is tantamount to saying, “There is no civil law (in many states) against committing adultery, so why should I take issue with it?””

    Yes, I most certainly don’t support the criminalization of adultery. To my knowledge the LDS leaders have never made it a requirement that members support its criminalization.

  20. Steve Smith
    April 6, 2014 at 10:51 pm

    “The Church does indeed “reserve the right as an institution to address, in a nonpartisan way, issues that it believes have significant community or moral consequences or that directly affect the interests of the Church””

    The church most certainly does. Nonetheless, they aren’t going to take any action against members for their political beliefs, even as it concerns SSM. Consider the following letter to local leaderships in Hawaii back in Sept. 2013 about gay marriage. In it, church leaders note: “Whether or not you favor the proposed change, we hope that you will urge your elected representatives to include in any such legislation a strong exemption for people and organizations of faith.” http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/56890226-78/church-hawaii-lds-legislation.html.csp

    This is very revealing. Church leaders strongly suggested that they took no issue against any member for their political positions (“Whether or not you favor the proposed change”). They then urged members to tell their representatives to add into the legislation protections for religious organizations. In other words, the LDS church’s main concern about gay marriage is that it will directly affect them. They worry about being forced to marry gays themselves. But supporting the legalization of SSM and pushing the LDS church to perform SSM are two completely different things. A member who supports the former but takes no action for the former is in good standing.

  21. Steve Smith
    April 6, 2014 at 10:52 pm

    “…but takes no action for the latter.” Oops

  22. Cameron N.
    April 7, 2014 at 4:54 pm

    Two completely different things would be the orange I ate for my lunch today and legalization of SSM. SSM Legalization and changing civil laws governing marriage authority and requirements to have it are actually very close in our venn diagram.

  23. European Saint
    April 7, 2014 at 6:02 pm

    To Steve Smith (#20), who said: “the LDS church’s main concern about gay marriage is that it will directly affect them. They worry about being forced to marry gays themselves.”
    Brother Smith, the Church has a greater, prior, more overarching concern in this connection than being forced to carry out such unions (which is surely a threat viewed as shallow, uniformed fear-mongering by many readers of this site): as Elder [Lance] Wickman explained, “Because religion is fundamental to our very identities, it follows that the free exercise of religion must never be deemed a second-class or subordinate right. … In other words, a new closet is being constructed for those with traditional religious values on sexuality.”
    (From http://sutherlandinstitute.org/news/2013/06/10/sexual-orientation-religious-freedom-and-law/)
    My deepest beliefs are no less a part of me than–wait for it–sexual orientation is for my gay brothers and sisters. You seem confident that they have no choice but to act in accordance with said orientation, yet I supposedly have the ability to casually disregard the reason & revelation-based truths that make up the very fiber of my being. Not so, I claim.
    My contention here is that you, Brother Smith, are a prime example of those within the church who are actively contributing to building this new closet of which Elder Wickman spoke which increasingly will affect the church and its interests in a detrimental way. And yes, I take issue with that, even if you are convinced that doing so is A-ok merely because no church discipline is coming your way.

  24. European Saint
    April 7, 2014 at 6:03 pm

    *uninformed

  25. Steve Smith
    April 7, 2014 at 9:23 pm

    European Saint, three points:
    1) You still haven’t provided evidence that the LDS church is disciplining or plans to discipline members for privately (meaning not using the chapel or ward list to promote their political views, and not voicing open criticism of church leaders) supporting gay marriage.
    2) Up until now the LDS church has had nothing to worry about in terms of being forced to marry gays. I don’t know of a single case of this happening in any of the US states where gay marriage has been made legal. The Free Exercise Clause of the 1st Amendment still stands and it is still protecting the LDS church’s freedoms. I fully support the LDS church’s right to not marry gays, and many gay rights advocacy groups seem to agree. Of course, a more relevant question that gay marriage opponents often overlook is, are religious organizations infringing on gay couples’ religious freedoms by forcing them to bear the burden of their religious views? The 1st Amendment reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion.”
    3) I’m “contributing to building” some “closet…for those with traditional religious values on sexuality”????? Sheesh, last time I checked, people in my ward were pretty open about condemning gay marriage. On the other hand, I, and the other apparently 32% of Utah Mormons who support gay marriage (http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/57391605-78/marriage-sex-percent-state.html.csp), haven’t uttered a word at church about support for gay marriage. And somehow we’re the ones building a closet around “traditional religious values on sexuality”? You might want to reconsider your logic on that one.

  26. Roget
    April 8, 2014 at 7:13 am

    Steve,
    Suffice to say there is a rhetorical closet at church, where supporters of ssm feel pressure not to disclose their feelings and a closet in the world where opponents of ssm feel like they’ll lose their civic and professional standing if they voice opposition.

    In one case your name is driven through the mud, professional and civic doors are closed, and you become a pariah in 100x to the proportion to your actions. In the other you get rolled eyes in Sunday school and perhaps the occasional dirty look or unkind word from an unchristlike member.

  27. April 8, 2014 at 10:47 am

    Steve, I would ask you if you believe that supporting SSM is not advocating for transgression? Or do you believe that the Law of Chastity only applies to members of the church?

  28. Steve Smith
    April 8, 2014 at 12:55 pm

    Steve, the potential social consequences of voicing opposition to gay marriage in the US (as varied as they are) are beyond the point. Plus I find it rather ridiculous (if not horribly ignorant) to claim that opponents of gay marriage are the real victims. For one, gay marriage is still not allowed for the majority of US citizens (which well most likely soon change), and of course let’s not forget the plight of gay people, not just in the US, but around the world, where the vast majority of governments and people are hostile toward gays.

    James, actually wouldn’t we be increasing the likelihood that people abide by the law of chastity by legalizing gay marriages and encouraging gay couples to marry? Wouldn’t legalizing it increase the likelihood of more happy marriages and potentially lessen the degree of promiscuity in gay communities? Legalizing gay marriage would help provide for a more sexually moral society.

  29. James Francisco
    April 8, 2014 at 1:05 pm

    Steve just another thought, you stated that ” Up until now the LDS church has had nothing to worry about in terms of being forced to marry gays.” That is correct as far as it goes in the United States so far. There are two problems. First, the courts in the U.S. have been taking a rather flexible view of what is or is not constitutional. There is no guarantee that somewhere in the future there will be a creative District Court Judge with an agenda who will find somewhere in the penumbra of the constitution a right to be married in a church regardless of one’s status according to the teachings of that church.

    The second issue is that the LDS Church operates in a number of countries where there is no protection of freedom of religion. The church needs to preserve it’s ability to adhere to it’s teachings in those environments as well. England comes to mind where the Drewett-Barlow suit against the Church of England seeks to force the CofE to allow them to marry in their local church. Should the plaintiff prevail at trial, which is a possibility, then churches in the UK will be able to be forced to conduct gay marriages. Since, decisions in Crown Courts sometimes find their way into U.S. courts, the door will be opened to judicial reinterpretation of the First Amendment.

  30. James Francisco
    April 8, 2014 at 1:20 pm

    Steve,

    Let me summarize what I’m hearing from you.

    A. You do not believe that supporting SSM is advocating in favor of transgression by others, because..
    B. You do not believe that the Law of Chastity proscribes homosexual acts.

    Is that an accurate summary?

  31. Steve Smith
    April 8, 2014 at 2:48 pm

    James (29), the threat of the government/courts, in both the UK and the US, forcing churches to marry gays is imaginary. As far as I can tell there is no indication that magistrates are going to rule in favor of Drewitt-Barlow. Now, it may be that as gay marriage becomes increasingly accepted among Mormons (and the trends do strongly indicate that it will), there may be many LDS members and leaders who push for a policy change in the LDS church. Bear in mind that the LDS church didn’t change its policy barring blacks from leadership positions because of pressure from outside (the government/courts didn’t force them to change the policy).

    James (30), no I don’t believe that gay sexual relationships within the bonds of marriage are immoral or a violation of the law (meaning natural law, not the LDS church’s specified Law of Chastity) of chastity. My view is that a larger morality exists as do natural laws that govern morality. Nobody can grasp Morality (with a capital m) in full, but they can sense it, and some cultural norms are clearly more moral than others (ancient Aztec human sacrifice vs. the cultural norms of the Amish). However, I don’t claim to be an authority on all matters moral. And I don’t believe the LDS church to be an absolute authority about morality, but merely an organization that makes approximations at morality, and one that can serve as a useful guide to its members on moral issues. But as far as I can tell, there is no requirement that a member regard the LDS church to be an absolute authority about morality (although, to be a member in good standing, you do have to comply with their rules about morality). That said, I respect the LDS church’s positions about morality. I believe that the leaders have crafted them in good faith, and I don’t seek to openly challenge their policies. My support for the legalization of SSM is political. I am not openly advocating that the LDS church change its policy on SSM and begin marrying gays in the temple. Do I think that they should? Well, that’s a topic for a different discussion.

    Now to answer your question in comment 27 more fully…Technically, an LDS person could support the legalization of SSM, but still consider homosexuality to be immoral. Similarly, an LDS person can be against the criminalization of adultery, but still regard adultery to be an immoral act. I still can’t see where the grounds are for disciplining an LDS person for voicing political support for SSM. Its legalization in civil law is a strictly secular matter.

  32. Old Man
    April 8, 2014 at 4:02 pm

    Steve,

    The Law of Chastity is defined in church documents as NO sexual relations other than those between A MAN and A WOMAN who are legally and lawfully wed as husband and wife. You suggest that married homosexual relationships are within the law of chastity. They most definitely are not. Married gays are excommunicated from the LDS Church. Any aberration of marriage or any relationship other than that defined by God is a violation of the law of chastity.

  33. Old Man
    April 8, 2014 at 4:06 pm

    Sorry Steve, I was distracted away from the computer and posted before last comment.

  34. Steve Smith
    April 8, 2014 at 4:10 pm

    Old Man, you’re absolutely right when it comes to how the LDS church defines the Law of Chastity. But read over my point about natural moral law in comment 31, encompassed within which would be a natural law of chastity.

  35. James Francisco
    April 8, 2014 at 5:29 pm

    Steve. Thank you for making your starting point clear. I understand where you are doming from now.

  36. James Francisco
    April 8, 2014 at 5:30 pm

    Meant to say ‘coming’.

Comments are closed.