Tuesday, April 14, 2015

LDS General Conference April 2015: Parting Thoughts

There are four general sessions of General Conference, then there's a Women's Session and a Priesthood Session. You usually have the fifteen men from the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve speak at one of these sessions, but this year, Richard G. Scott's health prevented him from attending and speaking. He's 86; I hope he's able to recover. He's always been one of my favorites. There's a real sensitivity and genuine earnestness to his talks.

For the third conference in a row, I feel like I've seen Boyd K. Packer give his last talk. You can tell his mind is fully there, but his body is falling apart.

Pres. Monson spoke less this time, and that to me is an indication of the new normal under his Presidency. He's 87. Some say he's showing signs of dementia. He sounded great the times he spoke, but I don't think we're going to get any new revelations out of him. (I mean, I would love it; D&C 138 came in the final months in the life of Joseph F. Smith.) His talk from the Priesthood session was mostly cut together from talks he gave in 2006 and 2007, and in the previous Conference, one of his talks was one he'd given before.

L. Tom Perry's felt like the lion in winter the past couple weeks. He was the senior Apostle to meet with Pres. Obama, and he had a gusto to his talk when he closed the Saturday morning session. He's 92 and showing no signs of slowing down.

One of the big repeated messages from this General Conference was "Marriage is between a man and a woman." The eternal family has been central to the restored gospel since almost the beginning, but there's been a backlash against the Church in the US for their support of Prop 8, and I didn't hear anything in the talks on what gay people are supposed to actually do. Besides not marry and not have kids. It makes me wonder if there will be a movement within church leadership to canonize "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" as scripture.

Favorite talks this time around:

Pres. Uchtdorf's "The Gift of Grace"
Pres. Uchtdorf's "On Being Genuine"
Sis. Wixom's "Returning to Faith"
Bishop Causse's "Is It Still Wonderful to You"
Pres. Monson's "Blessings of the Temple"

Part of me hopes that when Pres. Monson dies, the remaining 14 receive the revelation that Uchtdorf should be the next prophet.

There used to be seven sessions of General Conference. Six regular sessions and a Priesthood session. In October 1975, they introduced a Welfare Session, and this is the first session that had a woman speaker - Relief Society General President Barbara B. Smith. A few years later, two
regular sessions were eliminated in favor of a General Relief Society Session, though this session was only held once a year. The Welfare session was dropped in 1984. Also, April 1984, with no Women's Session, was the only General Conference that I could find where there were four women speakers during the four regular Saturday/Sunday sessions. I may do a separate post on this.

(UPDATE: Sister Lilian V. Jones spoke in the April 1909 General Conference, so I do have more research to do on this topic.)

Some other thoughts:

- Why was the age range 8 and over for the Women's Session when the Priesthood Session is for 12 and over?
- Elder Cook's reference to "The Church has never been stronger" refers to not just total membership but the increased activity rates of the Church. We know the majority of counted members are less active, so it's nice to know more who still count as members are actually participating.
- For those who opposed during the sustaining of officers, they didn't really seem to have a concrete motive. An anonymous website collected General Conference tickets for those who wanted to oppose for whatever reason, and some people claimed the tickets, and then they raised their hand and yelled "Opposed" when the time came. In the early days, there'd be debates. When Joseph Smith tried to remove Sidney Rigdon from the First Presidency, the majority of members opposed, and so Rigdon stayed on. These days, I would say there's a difference between "vote" and "sustain."

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