We are now, two days after the conclusion of a most unusual General Conference, in that short gap between hearing all of the talks delivered but not yet having transcripts to review and discuss in detail. So I’m going to do a broad recap focusing on what was said and what wasn’t said. On the whole, I thought Saturday was rather disappointing inasmuch as the talks could have been from any of the last twenty General Conferences, with hardly a single reference to the difficult and sometimes tragic situations in which so many members and missionaries suddenly find themselves. Sunday at least touched on some of the challenges we and the Church are facing.
What Was Said
We have a new Church symbol or logo, making it even trickier for non-LDS to identify and discuss the Church in the media and in casual conversations. With the Moroni image and LDS as our moniker, pretty much everyone knew who we were. With a Christ statue and the Church of Jesus Christ name, only those already clued in will know it’s the Mormons. It seems like dissimulation as much as rebranding.
We have a new Proclamation. The good news is we’ll talk about the older Proclamation a lot less now. It’s not proclaiming anything particularly new, but it’s not doing any harm either.
From my sparse notes on the talks, here are a few highlights (and some lowlights) from what was said:
- In his opening remarks, Pres. Nelson stated, in reference to his previous declaration that this would be a Conference unlike any other, that “little did I know” the particular circumstances we would be facing. This is a welcome corrective to inflated claims circulating in social media.
- Elder Ballard next set the tone for the Conference by referring to the four reliable accounts of the First Vision, then basically recapitulating the standard 1838 account that has constituted the narrative for more than a century, adding a detail or two from other accounts but ignoring all differences. Several speakers followed this template in presenting their own summarized accounts.
- James Rasband of the Seventy labelled the well known “first four principles of the gospel” as The Doctrine of Christ (with enduring to the end thrown in).
- Elder Soares emphasized the miraculous (= supernatural) aspects of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, quite clearly rejecting the standard English meaning of “translation” in favor of supernatural not-really-translation.
- Elder Renlund told some doctor stories (I like airline pilot stories a lot more) and pushed the idea of emotional testimonies (my term, not his).
- In the Saturday evening session, Pres. Nelson spent two minutes on the coronavirus pandemic and ten minutes on the new logo.
- Elder Rasband of the Twelve offered another First Vision conflation talk.
- Pres. Bonnie Cordon, YW General President, gave a fine talk on letting your light shine so as to help others along their path.
- Elder Holland saved the Conference by addressing the pandemic and its attendant suffering in the context of his talk on hope. He extended this to the hope that we can combat the virus of hunger and of want, stressing kindness, compassion, patience, and forgiveness in these turbulent times.
- Pres. Nelson spoke against people of our day who seek power, popularity, and pleasures of the flesh, before officially launching the new Church logo.
- Pres. Oaks again shared his view that some marriages are good and some marriages are bad.
- Elder Cook stated that, if you have left, the Church and its members will always welcome you back.
- Elder Uchtdorf’s evil twin stated that, if you have left the Church, you are like unruly children who stomped off to play somewhere else.
- Pres. Nelson concluded by announcing eight new temples. Which is what the world really needs at this moment when all of the Church’s temples are presently shuttered and people (including some who contracted their illness attending an LDS temple) are dying by the thousands.
What Was Not Said
What was NOT said at the Conference was almost louder than what was said.
- Not a single speaker !!! made direct reference to the thousands of young LDS missionaries who are thoroughly discouraged and confused at having their missions cut short or reassigned, or offered words of hope or consolation to them. Many of these missionaries are in lockdown at their missionary apartments or in self-isolation back home. Elder Christofferson came close, discussing missionary work in his talk on the Restoration, but offered no direct message to our missionaries.
- Pres. Nelson referred in passing to the closure of LDS temples, but there was no discussion of how LDS temple practices might change in the future. No awareness that this might be an issue for temple-attending Latter-day Saints. No assurance that the health and safety of LDS templegoers was a primary concern of the leadership.
- Likewise no reference or discussion to the problematic issue of the sacrament bread that teenage priests touch and sacrament trays that everyone touches. Maybe do it just once a month? BYOB (bring your own bread)? Let the bishop symbolically partake on behalf of the entire congregation? Something has to change.
- Almost no direct reference to the elephant in the room, that most LDS Sunday meetings have been cancelled for three weeks now and will continue that way for many more weeks. You’d think they might offer a GA fireside broadcast every Sunday evening or something to keep touch with the members.
Those are some of my observations. I’m looking forward to the transcripts to fill in a few things I missed and revisit the talks where I nodded off in the first few minutes.
What do you like or not about what was said? Was there anything else that was not said that you wish had been?