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59 Thoughts from LDS Church General Conference



In the spring and fall of each year, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints holds its annual general conference. Hundreds of thousands of Mormons converge on Salt Lake City for two days of sermons from top leaders of the Church, which with around 16 million members is by far the largest Mormon denomination in the world. The most recent conference was held yesterday and today. Below are 59 thoughts, from me and others, that I collected as I watched the conference and discussed it. The thoughts range from affirmations to criticisms, and from questions to assertions. I intend them to provoke reflection, questions, and comments, and to contribute to a meaningful engagement with the ideas generally.

  1. I enjoyed hearing Dieter Uchtdorf open LDS Church General Conference with an expression of gratitude for technology.

  2. Robert Hales points out that salvation is a matter of lifting each other up, as exemplified by Jesus. It's a communal endeavor.

  3. Robert Hales says we may learn compassion from suffering. I agree. But it seems insufficient in itself. Some seem to learn hatred.

  4. Craig Christensen points out Joseph Smith was and is a controversial religious figure. For me, that's part of Joseph's charm. :)

  5. Craig Christensen refers to Joseph Smith's first vision. LDS Church now publishes multiple accounts. https://www.lds.org/topics/first-vision-accounts

  6. Juan Uceda says we pray to God as imagined in our mind. That has implications. God always has been and is at least our projection. http://lincoln.metacannon.net/2012/06/post-secularism-and-resurrecting-god.html

  7. Devn Cornish says we'll all "make it." I love Mormonism's nearly-universalist (for all who desire it) soteriology.

  8. Devn Cornish says God's standard is in temple recommend questions. Scriptures may suggest otherwise. https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/moro/10.32-33?lang=eng#31

  9. Neil Andersen suggests Confucius and Buddha were participants in the work of God.

  10. Neil Andersen just used an image of people building a world that looks like Minecraft.

  11. Neil Andersen says we have technology to assist us with participating in the work of God.

  12. Mormonism is a pragmatic faith. When we recognize how technology forwards the work of immortality and eternal life, we embrace it.

  13. Here's hoping LDS Church leaders will talk about exaltation (theosis, deification, Christosis) during the afternoon session.

  14. My son's MTC missionary companion, Kevin Gauthier, is singing in the choir. Let's just say he sings better than my son. ;)

  15. The subtitles for LDS Church conference speakers spell "esthetics" the beautiful way. :)

  16. "I keep being reminded how fortunate I am to have technology in my life." (@SupermanLegion)

  17. Quentin Cook distinguishes between the "philosophies of men" and the Gospel of Christ. I call that the "philosophies of gods". :)

  18. Quentin Cook quotes Paul, but leaves out the remainder, referring to "wisdom of God:" philosophies of gods. https://www.lds.org/scriptures/nt/1-cor/2.6-7?lang=eng#5

  19. Quentin Cook points out Christianity syncretized with Greek philosophy. He's right, and that's not all bad. http://lincoln.metacannon.net/2016/01/christian-conflict-and-integration-with.html

  20. Quentin Cook elevates Church leaders too much when he suggests they're a standard against which we should measure our views.

  21. Gary Stevenson just suggested that my children should not watch General Conference for six hours today. ;) No worries. They're not.

  22. Gary Stevenson spoke at length about spiritual confirmation of the Book of Mormon. I wonder if he extends that to historic truth.

  23. Todd Christofferson exemplifies Christian apostleship, prophesying of grace and forgiveness in unity with Christ.

  24. "... the ecstasy of divine potential ..." (Todd Christofferson)

  25. Dallin Oaks prioritized love for the Gospel of Christ above love for the institutional church. The latter is a tool for the former.

  26. I loved Jeffrey Holland's joke about Freudian travel agencies selling guilt trips for home teaching. :)

  27. Thank you, Jeffrey Holland, for relieving us from a heavy burden of shame over excessive formalities. I see Christian apostleship.

  28. LeGrand Curtis is enthused with inspiration from the Book of Mormon. I am too. You might be, even if you think it fiction. Read it? https://discover.mormon.org/en-us/contact/free-book-of-mormon/

  29. Dieter Uchtdorf appeals to emotional pull the Church may have on former members. Some may underestimate the morality of such pull.

  30. Henry Eyring refers to his father, a scientist who counseled Church leaders on the ancient age of the Earth. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Eyring_(chemist)

  31. President Thomas Monson seems often to end his speeches with forth-telling rhetoric like "that this may be so, I pray."

  32. Russell Nelson cites one of my favorite ideas from the Book of Mormon: we are that we might have joy. https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/2-ne/2.25?lang=eng#24

  33. Russell Nelson suggests it's possible to rejoice in suffering. I saw this in my dad's persistent gratitude while dying of cancer.

  34. Linda Reeves suggests repentance, as conceived in Christianity, is effective for changing desire. I'd like to see a study on this.

  35. I love the song, "I Am a Child of God." It's a simple expression of sublime aspiration. I love its persistence in Mormonism.

  36. Russell Ballard talks to persons leaving the Church. This topic seems to be raised with increasing regularity, reflecting new challenges.

  37. Russell Ballard appeals mostly to trust, to persuade those leaving the Church to stay. I suspect that's not an effective strategy.

  38. "The most meaningful understanding of 'worship' for me is emulation. Worshipping God is striving to be like them." (@cbgrasshopper)

  39. Dean Davies says true worship changes us to become like God. Right on.

  40. "Our lives become the expression of our worship," says Dean Davies. We begin to manifest that which we project. This is theosis.

  41. Lynn Robbins goes to the Latin. I love it. Add some intellectual challenge to general conference talks.

  42. Lynn Robbins references Joseph Smith's words on moral leadership. I've often found inspiration in them. https://www.lds.org/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/121.34-46?lang=eng#33

  43. "Anger = contention. This is not the same as disagreement = contention. We must learn how to disagree better as a church." (@jonimnewman)

  44. Henry Eyring takes up the subject of gratitude. Good choice. :) http://lincoln.metacannon.net/2016/09/gratitude-is-superpower.html

  45. David Bednar points out that following Jesus is to emulate him. Following Jesus is to become Christ with him.

  46. "Jesus and the Book of Mormon also suggest that part of God’s desire is to help us achieve our desires." (@cbgrasshopper)

  47. David Bednar suggests we should believe what we know. This sounds authoritarian, as if we're now giving mere propositional consent.

  48. "Believe what you know" = you know I expect you to consent to this

  49. Brian Ashton reiterates advocacy to align our will with God's. I think that's important but incomplete. https://www.lds.org/scriptures/nt/john/14.13-15?lang=eng#12

  50. Carl Cook notes greater power achievable through religious communal action. That's probably religion's main value proposition. http://lincoln.metacannon.net/2014/06/what-is-value-of-religion.html

  51. "Even the gods accomplish more together than they can alone." (@cbgrasshopper)

  52. Carl Cook says that service is means for exaltation. In other words, service is how we raise each other to join and become God.

  53. "Service is not something we have to endure to obtain exaltation. It is the very fiber of an exalted existence." (Carl Cook)

  54. Ronald Rasband impresses me with his sincerity and humility, and how he has taken up the mantle of Christian apostleship.

  55. "One of my favorite lines from a restoration hymn: 'And save ourselves with all our dead'." (@cbgrasshopper)

  56. I'm more inspired by religious testimony focused on experience than on knowledge claims extrapolated from experience.

  57. "Suggestion: As you read through the scriptures and encounter the direct voice and words of God, imagine them spoken by a female voice." (@cbgrasshopper)

  58. Evan Schmutz appeals to confidence that comes from trusting in the Gospel of Christ. I have experienced that.

  59. Brett Nattress' voice reminds me of the voice of Penguin in the Gotham TV series -- without the anger. ;)
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