After a turbulent six months, many were expecting some bold declarations at this weekend’s General Conference. That did not come to pass. Just a few weeks ago, Elder Ballard directed CES teachers to stop teaching folklore, stop evading tough questions from students, and start reading publications by faithful LDS scholars. In his Saturday afternoon Conference talk, Elder Ballard talked about … family councils. Late last year, President Nelson announced that what has become known as “the Exclusion Policy” was not a policy, it was a revelation and is here to stay. In his Priesthood session talk, President Nelson talked about … the role of men in the Church. Elder Steven E. Snow, the Church Historian, talked not about one of the Gospel Topics essays that addresses a key issue in LDS history but about the LDS hymnal and humility. The theme for this Conference seems to be: Don’t rock the boat. Nothing controversial here. Perhaps it is a good time for a quiet, reflective Conference.
The closest a speaker came to pointed remarks was this passage from Elder Oaks.
Some of this opposition even comes from church members. Some who use personal reasoning or wisdom to resist prophetic direction give themselves a label borrowed from elected bodies — “the loyal opposition.” How ever appropriate for a democracy, there is no warrant for this concept in the government of God’s kingdom, where questions are honored but opposition is
At least he carves out space for questioning, although I suspect many local leaders see loyal questioners as the loyal opposition Elder Oaks has just redefined as the disloyal opposition. “Questions are honored” more in theory than in practice. Furthermore, the biggest problem the Church seems to be facing right now is not a loyal opposition but a disloyal non-opposition — members who, rather than ask questions or express a desire for reform, just leave the building and look for other options for worshipping God or just getting on with secular lives. Didn’t hear much about that demographic this Conference. Maybe next time.
A couple of minor themes did emerge from this Conference. Priesthood keys are really important. I know it’s just a metaphor, but it is a foundational metaphor. The key point (catch that?) is that real women can never get metaphorical keys. Women can get real keys — to the car, to the building, to the library — but not metaphorical keys. They can do things that men with metaphorical keys can do, like teach and run church organizations and talk in Conference, but they can never hold the metaphorical keys. The other theme: The Internet is not a source of reliable information. Since you’re reading that last sentence on the Internet, you might now be stuck in a paradox. From President Oscarson: Faith comes “when we search the scriptures instead of the Internet.” Elder Ballard cautioned against “negative technology that can distract us from spending quality time with each other.” My advice: Let your blog so shine that they may see your good posts and glorify your Father and Mother in Heaven.
There was a gem hiding in Elder Kevin R. Duncan’s Saturday morning talk.
In our shortsightedness we may sometimes find it easy to develop resentments toward others who do not act or think the way we do. We may form intolerant attitudes based on such superficial things as rooting for opposing sports teams, holding different political views, or having different religious beliefs. President Russell M. Nelson gave wise counsel when he said, “Opportunities to listen to those of diverse religious or political persuasion can promote tolerance and learning.”
That’s us, not the other guys, that he is addressing, directing us to exercise tolerance toward those whose religious views differ from ours and endorsing learning as a means to help promote such tolerance. Deserved or not, Mormons and Mormonism now have a reputation as being intolerant. Collectively and individually, we need to avoid words or actions that reinforce that perception.
On Sunday morning, President Uchtdorf sounded a similar message.
During the Savior’s ministry, the religious leaders of His day disapproved of Jesus spending time with people they had labelled “sinners.” Perhaps to them it looked like He was tolerating or even condoning sinful behavior. Perhaps they believed that the best way to help sinners repent was by condemning, ridiculing, and shaming them.
President Uchtdorf’s rejoinder to that thoroughly inappropriate conduct was to recount the parable of the lost sheep. If you can’t rescue them, at least don’t engage in ridicule or shaming.