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90 Thoughts on October 2017 General Conference

1 October 2017 (updated 12 May 2024)

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90 Thoughts on October 2017 General Conference

Each spring and fall, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the largest Mormon denomination) holds a worldwide conference. For ten hours over two days, top leaders of the Church speak in-person to over 20,000 members gathered in a conference center in Salt Lake City, and via Internet and television broadcast to a much larger audience (probably in the millions) gathered in homes and church buildings around the world. The most recent conference was held yesterday and today.

Below are 90 of my own thoughts as I watched October 2017 General Conference. As is my custom, the thoughts include observations, and range from affirmations to criticisms, and from questions to assertions. My intent is to provoke reflection, questions, and comments. I feel this is essential to meaningful engagement with the conference, which is something I value as a member of the Church.

  1. I wonder if we’ve already received Thomas Monson’s last general conference sermon?

  2. Eyring looks healthy and happy. Good. For me, he represents an important influence on Mormon tradition.

  3. Uchtdorf suggests humans feel the call of heaven like non-human animals instinctually feel their way home across great distances.

  4. Uchtdorf finds encouragement in the weaknesses of religious leaders in our history. If they can do divine work, so can we.

  5. Uchtdorf says God works through us if we make an effort, learning and applying. Christian discipleship must be an active faith.

  6. Oscarson is the first woman to speak at LDS conference. Maybe she thought too few women spoke last time. ;)

  7. Oscarson wants to have a face-to-face conversation with me rather than have me tweet about her! :)

  8. The main limitation of tech communication compared to face-to-face is its relatively low bandwidth, for now. That will change.

  9. Oscarson just shared a picture of her daughter-in-law and my friend, Marie-Laure Oscarson, who taught me French in the MTC.

  10. Oaks says exaltation is more than salvation, and that exaltation is a family matter. Isn’t all of humanity our family?

  11. Oaks construes progressive marriage law as worldly, but most of the world is conservative on marriage law.

  12. Oaks points out that the Proclamation explicitly promotes straight marriage. But it does not explicitly demote gay marriage. Why?

  13. Dear Elder Oaks, why did God NOT inspire you and the other authors of the Proclamation to demote gay marriage explicitly?

  14. Pingree says God uses ordinary persons to accomplish extraordinary things. How about immortality and eternal life!

  15. We often over-emphasize criticisms of the world and under-recognize that Mormon scripture teaches that Earth will become heaven.

  16. Christofferson says we ought to fully and completely incorporate the life and character of Christ in our being. This is theosis.

  17. Christofferson encourages holiness, as we esteem God holy. This is the sublime esthetic, the holy esthetic, the holy spirit.

  18. I like the French translation of “Holiness to the Lord” on LDS temples, transliterated back to English: Sanctity to the Eternal.

  19. Christofferson points out that we’re not alone in salvation. We are the Body of Christ. Salvation is not individual after all.

  20. Holland jokes about the apparent impossible weight of Jesus’ command to be perfect as God is perfect.

  21. Holland encourages personal improvement in a way that doesn’t include ulcers, anorexia, or depression.

  22. Holland points out that we now “live in a Telestial kingdom”. So let it be settled: progression between heavens must be possible.

  23. Holland points out our only hope for perfection is as a gift of grace. Exactly. Forgive. Give grace as received. It’s the only way.

  24. Holland is perhaps the most empathetic advocate of divine grace that Mormon leadership has ever produced.

  25. Holland discourages toxic expectations of ourselves, each other, and Church leaders. Good advice. We all need each other’s grace.

  26. Holland points out the sublime Mormon teaching that Jesus himself progressed “grace for grace” and extends it to us.

  27. Amen, Elder Holland. Amen.

  28. Salvation is not an individual matter. It requires grace, of God and of each other. We are saved as the Body of Christ, not alone.

  29. I know I’m not the only Mormon who finds the Scandinavian Jesus with an Oxford accent incredibly distracting from the message.

  30. Remember. Technology is not the enemy. Technology empowers our participation in the work and glory of God.

  31. I look forward to the day when technology empowers the average person, if she chooses, to heal others as medical doctors do today.

  32. Uchtdorf is letting Eyring take his turn at facing the opposition votes. :)

  33. “I’m trying to be like Jesus.” This may be the most dangerous song Mormons teach our children to sing. ;)

  34. Stevenson compares the solar eclipse to small mundane matters that block our vision of large sublime matters. Interesting analogy.

  35. Stevenson rightly points out that technology is not inherently good or evil. It’s just power to use for good or evil.

  36. Stevenson reminds us that the carefully crafted self-presentations on social media are always incomplete. Life is complex.

  37. Stevenson says, “Let us use technology to help each other … become our finest.”

  38. I’m not sure Stevenson’s “gospel glasses” metaphor works as well as his “gospel eclipse” metaphor.

  39. Owen points out that repentance should be framed as uplifting progress. It is change, taking on Christ. It is transfiguration.

  40. Owen says the Atonement is not merely for sinners. It’s for saints too. At-one-ment requires all. Reconciliation requires all.

  41. Framing repentance in context of “atonement,” as Mormons do, has interesting ramifications. Change. Be one.

  42. Cook says our time on Earth is as fleeting as a British summer. :)

  43. Cook contrasts the smallness of humanity with our divine potential, no matter our race or gender.

  44. Cook says Christ-character includes humility, righteousness, and intelligence. There’s both some heart and some brain there.

  45. Cook says emphasis of authenticity sometimes leads to arrogance. He’s right.

  46. Authenticity has no inherent value. It may have contextual value. Love the superhumanity in your neighbor as in yourself.

  47. Cook quotes, “The test of greatness is how one meets the eternal everyday.” I imagine the Gods reminding themselves of that.

  48. Rasband rejects coincidence. I wonder if God rejects coincidence. Is there a way around Heisenberg and Godel? I doubt it.

  49. Rasband says God orchestrates. I trust that to be the case. I also consider that completely compatible with coincidence.

  50. It seems to me that there is no need for orchestration where there is no possibility of coincidence.

  51. Rasband says agency fits into the plan of God. I wonder if he thinks God always knows our choices in advance of us making them.

  52. Rasband quotes the Bible, which claims that all things will work together for good. That’s an idea worth trusting – actively.

  53. Haleck points out that Church members in developing areas contribute as illustrated by the story of the widow’s mite.

  54. Nelson, speaking now, is most likely the next president of the LDS Church – perhaps soon because Monson’s health appears poor.

  55. Nelson emphasizes “him” and “his” describing God. I wish our leaders would talk more about Heavenly Mother.

  56. Nelson calls attention to the idea that progress continues after this life. I love this very Mormon conception of heaven.

  57. Nelson says death allows us to progress to the next world. I wonder if he would tell the Three Nephites that? ;)

  58. Renlund’s reasoning on the relation between priesthood and atonement doesn’t make sense to me. Wish we could ask questions.

  59. Renlund seems to be suggesting there’s some kind or extent of unique access to atonement for priesthood holders. Strange.

  60. Evans encourages questioning and shows respect for good persons that question matters related to the Church. I like that.

  61. I’m interested in an LDS leader talk comparing and contrasting scientific knowledge with confidence in trustworthiness of religion.

  62. Uchtdorf is emphasizing a conception of spiritual light. For some inspiration, look at “light” references in D&C.

  63. Uchtdorf points out that Mormon scripture equivocates between “light” and “spirit” and “truth”. He could add “intelligence”.

  64. Nice to hear Uchtdorf mention Christ as the “light of the world” after previous talks on negative characterizations of the world.

  65. I want to be OF that world of which Christ is the light – to those with ears to hear. ;)

  66. Eyring points out that it takes great faith to sustain imperfect leaders. He’s right, but he’s among the easier to sustain. :)

  67. Eyring mentions that Bishops have a hard job because ward members know their weaknesses. Indeed. What a difficult job.

  68. Eyring’s persistent willingness to vulnerability about his own shortcomings is among the reasons he’s relatively easy to sustain.

  69. Bingham says Christ can relieve disasters and commotions in the world. I’d like to hear LDS leaders say more about those problems.

  70. Hallstrom addresses the problem of evil. Without a solution, he praises faith in the face of evil. This is unsatisfying for many.

  71. Bednar takes up the subject of theosis, taking on the divine nature, progressing grace by grace as exemplified by Jesus.

  72. Zwick says we should look past easy assumptions and stereotypes. Amen.

  73. Ballard encourages remembrance of Mormon pioneers. I’m often inspired by their practical perseverance in pursuit of our vision.

  74. Ballard raises warnings against charlatans who promote supernatural healing. Good call. Science and medicine matter.

  75. Ballard criticizes sexism, racism, and “nationalism.” I wonder what he thinks constitutes the latter.

  76. Callister describes the complexity of the production of the Book of Mormon. Strong point. It is strange book.

  77. Callister rightly points out that the purpose of the Book of Mormon is to advocate the Gospel of Christ, and not history.

  78. Koch encourages saying “Amen” after talks, to signify agreement. Okay. But I don’t always agree! :)

  79. I’m concerned that some may interpret Koch’s thoughts to mean they should not express disagreements constructively.

  80. I do not feel united with persons who withhold constructive expressions of their disagreements from me.

  81. Ellis asks if we trust imperfect persons to lead us well? Sure. But I don’t trust them to lead us perfectly.

  82. Ellis says some people create businesses from nothing. Hmm. Not even God created the world from nothing, according to Mormonism.

  83. Parrella also takes up the theme of authoritarian obedience. Our culture excessively emphasizes this.

  84. I think we should give more attention to persuasion and less attention to obedience. And I suspect we would like the results.

  85. Parrella quotes the Book of Mormon declaration that death is an “awful monster.” I like that passage.

  86. Andersen shared some visuals depicting light moving across the world. Conference would probably benefit from more use of visuals.

  87. Andersen gives insight into how LDS leaders prepare conference talks. I appreciate the humanity of it.

  88. Andersen repeats the denunciation of “nationalism.” What do LDS leaders mean by this?

  89. Andersen shares some thoughts and words in tribute to Elder Hales, who passed away during conference.

  90. Anderson quotes Monson in conclusion, emphasizing love. That’s a good way to end.

More Thoughts on General Conference

If you enjoyed reading my thoughts on this general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, you might also enjoy reading my thoughts on other general conferences. Here's a list, in reverse chronological order, of the conferences for which I've published thoughts:

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