The difficult year of 2020 is still throwing punches, and this post is your chance to talk about it. This morning, there was snow on my deck and trees blown down all over town in my little corner of Wyoming, while the headlines report 120-degree weather in California, with wildfires running amok and Santa Ana winds expected this week (those are hot winds blowing from the east, very not good during fire season). I’m sure a couple of readers will remind us that hurricanes are hitting Florida and the Gulf Coast already and it’s not even hurricane season yet. When did the weather get so freaky?
First, let’s talk about fire. Twice in my life I’ve had the car packed with a few necessities (water, snacks, a bag with clothes, the wedding pictures), parked facing outward with a full tank of gas. Last week, my son and his family left their home in the Bay Area for a week because of fire — the mandatory evacuation line was two blocks from their home. They figured it was wise to get out of town before fires closed the highways they would use to evacuate.
A roaring, racing forest fire is one of those natural events that is largely beyond human control, even with planes dropping fire retardant and choppers makes water drops. I’m sure you’ve seen photos of a family sorting through the debris of a destroyed home when such a fire sweeps through a neighborhood, usually with a quote to the effect of “we’re just happy everyone made it out safely and our family is safe and sound.” It’s going to be an ugly fire season. If you’re facing a fire threat, I hope you get lucky and the fire moves away. If not, I hope you and your family get out early and safely.
Then there’s Covid-19. Yes, it has become a medical disaster, at least in the US. Recall that just over 400,000 United States soldiers, sailors, and airmen died in all of World War Two. That was over four years. We’re close to 200,000 deaths right now in the US, and it’s still going strong. It has also become a social disaster and is becoming a political disaster. Who would have thought, a year ago, that the key issue framing the presidential election of 2020 would be a new version of the superflu? Who would have thought, a year ago, that many schools and universities would suspend in-person attendance for millions of students? Who would have thought, a year ago, that any set of circumstances could arise that would shut down LDS church services in the US for four months? And that, upon re-starting sacrament meetings, such drastic changes as these would be implemented: only one ward per Sunday in a building; every other row seating, with attendance limited to one hundred people; no singing; young men actually washing their hands before administering the sacrament. If you’re facing a Covid-19 case in your family, I hope it is a mild case and everyone makes a full recovery.
I just received an email announcing the resumption of church services later this month for my stake. There was a four-page attachment outlining the many measures being taken to provide for the safety of those who choose to attend, along with the suggestion that those who are at heightened risk should consider just staying home. Some of the details: just one ward in the building each Sunday; no second-hour meetings; masks required for all in attendance; cleaning and disinfecting the chapel before and after meetings; bread morsels spaced out on the tray; a pair of young men passing the water, one with a water tray and one following with an empty tray to gather used cups (this is very clever). My only concern is that singing is still part of the meeting, although all hymnals will be removed and people are asked to instead use their devices to access the lyrics and music. On the one hand, this is a very responsible set of procedures, and the local leadership deserves credit for thinking seriously about how to deal with this challenge. On the other hand … this is likely to be an entirely different, somewhat alienating, church experience.
Riots and music. Do you miss the sixties? If so, I have some good news. Riots and music are back on the menu. You might still enjoy those old tunes on your favorite classic rock station or stream, but suddenly they are more than just a catchy tune: they’re relevant. Four dead in Ohio. Once again, we find the cost of freedom buried in the ground. Who would have thought, a year ago, that Stephen Stills would be playing For What It’s Worth at the Democratic National Convention? Battle lines being drawn. A man with a gun over there. Paranoia strikes deep. Time to pack your bags for the Misty Mountains.
This too shall pass. Nice thought, but we’re not there yet. Covid-19 can still deliver a second and a third wave, with no vaccine clearly in sight yet. The election is going to get very messy. We could very well have a contested result. The period between the election and a new president taking office (if that, indeed, is what happens) may see large-scale civil unrest. It is, perhaps, an apocalyptic moment, and Mormonism certainly has a strong dose of apocalypticism in its history and doctrine.
I wonder what we’ll hear in General Conference next month? Will apostles be quoting Joel, “the sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come”? Will significant new changes be announced, perhaps to the missionary program? Or will we get the usual talks on the usual topics, with little or no reference to the new world we seem to be living in?
When times are good, the thinking goes, some people drift away from religion. Likewise, during difficult times, some people gravitate towards religion. But I’m not seeing any movements towards religion either in my life, my acquaintance’s lives, or anywhere else. It seems to me as if religion and religious organizations are as clueless as the rest of us.
I don’t really anticipate anything meaningful from General Conference next month other than the usual messages (which are 50-50 in their utility in my opinion). Maybe this says more about me than it does the Church but honestly I see the Church and the Brethren as bystanders in this like the rest of us.
I don’t know about anybody else, but the medical, environmental, economic, racial and political chaos that is happening in this country serve to remind me just how powerless the church is. When the world is both literally and figuratively on fire, I want solutions, not just platitudes. I’m sure next month we’ll get some of the tried and true cliches about “this too shall pass” or having faith or enduring to the end, etc. The problem is, that kind of rhetoric merely serves to demonstrate the church’s ineffectiveness when it comes to bringing about real and lasting change in the world. The LDS Church has always been a bit behind the social justice curve, IMHO, and such situations as the ones we’re facing merely exacerbate how removed we can sometimes be from “the world”. The truth is, for a Christian trying to enact Christ’s love and care in the world, the more one knows about the world and how it works, the better. The world is Christ’s workshop and to be told that we should not be “of the world” I think misses that point. Perhaps we shouldn’t follow every worldly trend, but we should be deeply engaged with and educated about how the world works if we are to improve it for our brothers and sisters. Clearly, God’s not going to get us out of this, so we have to.
April conference failed miserably at addressing any of the issues we’re facing right now – with the excuse made that talks are prepared far in advance & they seemed really set on celebrating the Restoration. It’ll be interesting to see if this time around they make more of an effort. Not holding my breath for anything more than platitudes after April’s disappointment but would love to be pleasantly surprised.
Criticizing the church, church leaders, and trivializing General Conference messages is part of today’s culture among some at W&T.
I’m looking forward to General Conference. I’m praying that all those who speak will bring a message that is inspired by the Spirit.
The day will come, I’m not looking forward to it–events seem to be accelerating to the time when the prophets will announce a proclamation to the world to–“repent or perish”. A message similar to what Samuel the Lamanite gave to the Nephites.
I wonder how that will go over at W&T?
I have heard that part of the miracle of the conference addresses is that no GA discusses with another what their subject will be. It just happens that they address a wide variety of random subjects as guided by the spirit. Which makes me wonder how Boyd K. Packer and now Dallin Oaks selected their subjects. A kinder, gentler Dallin Oaks would also be a “miracle,” but I’m not holding my breath. I am not an avid listener of conference. Too much “Groundhog Day” with the same subjects, over and over. I, too, was disappointed in April’s conference. I hope for an attitude adjustment and positivity in October.
What will this year’s conference talks be like? For a sneak peak, look at last April’s conference talks, or last October’s conference talks, or conference talks a year before that. Don’t leave the church. Keep your covenants. Maybe an extra vague talk about dealing with adversity (with the answers being paying tithing, praying, keeping covenants).
Amazing that talks need to be prepared far in advance. It’ always seemed to me that the banalities were just recycled from previous talks, with the focus (boats! shelves! obedience!) changed slightly to protect the uninspired.
Covid has been a disaster of global proportions and yet I see people beginning to take it into their stride and accept it rather than ask how it got so out of hand in this nation that boasts the greatest medical system and had several months warning of what was happening in Europe and China. We’ve become inured to the staggering numbers of deaths. But does anyone talk about those who “recover” only to face what appear to be lifetime compromises to their respiratory systems? Do we even consider what the cost of spending a month in hospital is for those survivors? And there’s a good chance for those unlucky enough to have had lengthy hospitalizations that the charges will also include accelerated costs of ICU services. And will insurance companies even be able to keep up with the obligations they’ve undertaken without being able to envision the shopping list of disasters Dave B catalogues?
My daughter who’s an ICU nurse talks about treating young people in their mid-30s who come into the hospital with severe flu for strokes and heart attacks. She talks about people having to learn new strategies for breathing with damaged lungs that will probably plague them the rest of their lives. She talks about people who are finally released to their families only to return in a week or 10 days time.
These are not just statistics! These are real life cases of dereliction of duty at the very top and the consequences to people who’ve paid taxes their adult lives to have a government that provides for their basic safety. Paid for a CDC whose every warning, guideline and earnest advice has gone ignored for political advantage. Not unlike climate scientists who’ve been warning us about climate change since the 90s.
I have never seen such abandonment of the population in my 7 decades of life. And the most discouraging part of all is the number of people who ignore and excuse it and take comfort in the politicians and religious leaders of all denominations who encourage them to ignore the evidence rather than take precautions.
“Protests” is a more accurate description than “riots”.
Today ACLED (Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project) which monitors conflicts in over 150 countries, released findings from the US conflicts since George Floyd’s death. 93% were peaceful; in most of the ones that turned violent, the violence was contained to a small area, not widespread; police and especially federal intervention escalated tensions.
The word “riots” is often intentionally used politically to portray the protesters as dangerous.
It looks like the report’s been out for a week. I saw a couple of media outlets report on the report today, so I assumed the release was today.
What I would like to hear in Oct Conference:
1. The Church is discontinuing efforts to construct a temple in China over concerns about the lack of religious freedom for the Uighurs and Tibetans.
2. A strong endorsement for science as it relates to vaccinations, global warming, masks, etc.
3. A major initiative to help slow the pandemic in India (spearheaded by the RS)
4. A major educational initiative in Africa for members and their neighbors (not spearheaded by CES)
5. Deleting section 132 from the D&C
None of these are controversial, and the Church has the personnel and financial means to accomplish 3 and 4.
Australia had the fires and extreme weather last summer. All the experts said it was unprecedented and the result of climate change. There were some on the extreme right who denied that and blamed it on not enough hazard reduction burning, and arson. There has now been an enquiry saying all of the major fires were started by lightning, and that the hazard reduction burning season was being reduced, because the fire season was longer. As America is furtur right politically, what is being said there? We regularly have our weather person tell us the forecast temperature, then the average, for this day then what the average was in 1970 (usually 1.5 to 2 degrees cooler. Not sure if that happens in America, might be construed as a political statement there, and self censored. Trump has removed America from world efforts to combat climate change, and wound back environmental changes in America.
The virus has been mishandled terribly in America. Still highest deaths in the world, and forcast to be 400,000 by christmas. Trump is talking about a vaccine by November. My wife and I are involved in thentrial of a vaccine developed by Qld University (who developed the vacine for cervical cancer), and that will not be available till the end of next year. One of the other vaccines has had its trial put on hold because of side effects. If an american vaccine were to have problems, would you want to tell trump, if a vaccine is put out that has problems, but is rushed through, proof for antivaxers.
There is also the problem of China. Trump has picked a fight with china over trade, and persuaded some of his allies to join in. Australia joined in the request for an inquiry into the source of the virus, and is paying for it. Trump also demanded China buy more from America to ballance trade. Australia, supplied coal, wine, beef, and grain to china. All these have been stopped, some are now sourced from US. It is damaging to be a friend of the US.
And the protests against racism which Trump has no solution for.
I think the biggest threat to America is the politicization of everything. This will be on full display in November. Even the election, and voting has been politicized, to the point where the result will not be accepted by the right unless Trump wins. Or the left?
That helping the poor is painted as evil by many members is incomprehensible, and immoral.
To me there are some big moral problems here. Especially the loss of truth in politics. Unless there are some clear statements about what is moral and not by the Prophets, their credibility is gone. We have just read in the BOM about prophets who preached about the evils in their society, now is the time for ours to stand up. The mess in America is many levels of magnitude worse than anything gay marriage could do. They wasted lots of energy on that, this is much more important. Will America still be a democracy next year?
I realise there are members on the right who believe a different set of “truths” and believe the threats are coming from the left. Should the prophet be able to say who is right in this time of cricis? Irrelavent if he cant/wont.
Rogerdhansen, I would love to see those changes, but I think none of them will happen ever. The church doesn’t want to spend its money and I suspect a good number of the Q15 would not support #2. Religious freedom is only for Mormons and too many important people are too invested in polygamy. It would be an awesome conference though…
Jared said “The day will come, I’m not looking forward to it–events seem to be accelerating to the time when the prophets will announce a proclamation to the world to–“repent or perish”. A message similar to what Samuel the Lamanite gave to the Nephites. I wonder how that will go over at W&T?”
Here’s language Samuel actually used: “[H]earken unto the words which the Lord saith; for behold, he saith that ye are cursed because of your riches.” I have a hard time seeing leaders of our church using language like that at general conference, but if they did, I wonder how well it would go over with the average American church member. Not well, I imagine. I think the average W&T participant would handle Samuel’s actual calls to repentance–which were largely based on the handling of wealth–better than most.
The last 6 months have really damaged my faith in humanity.
I’ve always hated gender reveals and am glad my kids were born before such nonsense. We now have two wildfires caused by people setting off blue pipe bombs in dry grass in the middle of the summer. My sky has been grey for three days and ash is raining from the sky thanks to the CA fire.
We have been home for 6 months, going out for essentials and to exercise. We wear masks. My kids are distance learning. We are so sick of it. But here we are, because there will always be a few people who just won’t comply and keep spreading the disease.
We have government leaders who feel no need to be held accountable for their choices. I have e-mailed so many local leaders asking basic questions about school waiver process, re-opening city parks for my kids, how they are enforcing mask mandates in public spaces, how I can get involved to help clean up after protests, and how we can improve the testing disaster. One response out of 100 emails sent. We no longer have a representative government.
Lastly, I’ve been very disappointed in the Church. The “this too shall pass” or the “it’s been so great being home all day in my huge empty-nest house cutting my wife’s hair living off my church pension” is so unbelievably tone deaf to those who have to make tough choices to survive in a pandemic. It’s clear to me they have no clue how the pandemic is affecting the average member in Utah, let alone the average member in Brazil. I will not hold my breath for anyone useful in General Conference.
Our local ward here in Utah is now operating every other week. We attended last Sunday, which was Sacrament meeting. I’ve mentioned in previous posts that Sacrament meeting is actually my favorite. Some months are better than others, but it does allow a different set of personalities to “speak their piece”. I can say that every single person who bore their testimony this month made reference in some way to the pandemic. And two testimonies stood out to me:
1. Are we doing what we can to prepare during this pandemic to eventually be called upon to walk back to Missouri, as assigned by the Prophet? I remember hearing this a lot as a young girl. Do people still believe this? Does the church still believe and/or preach this?
2. Did you know that 2033 is the year to welcome the Second Coming of Christ? This pandemic is preparing us for what is about to happen in 13 years.
At times I am speechless and dumbfounded.
Not much of substance was said by the Big 3 in recent counsel appearing in the Church News (“Amid Fear, Isolation and Sorrow”).
I really don’t know that I want GC to be about comfort in the pandemic or why you need to wear masks. Maybe it should just be about the gospel principles that we need to live better lives during the pandemic, to help those in need, to reach out to the marginalized and suffering, etc. But my fear is that once more gender roles and culture wars are more top of mind to the Q12 (a few of them anyway) than actual gospel principles, and from all I can tell, they have no problem with one of the most amoral leaders the country has ever had so long as he fights for their terrible causes (the ability to discriminate against LGBT, chiefly).
@Susan Brown, occasionally I’ll be in a conversation with pretty normal, well-educated LDS women and then suddenly one will make a reference like that and I’m so shocked. So yeah, it’s a thing.
For those who wonder if fires in the Western US are indicative of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) the total acreage burned in recent years is only 20-30% of what it was in the 1920s and 30s. We are not at the lowest point anymore, but changes in forest management from the 1980s & 90s are likely the bigger contributor to this.
Rogerdhansen, You really think that completely stopping construction on a temple in China, due to religious freedom concerns that have been around for 70 years and the elimination of a revelation that includes explanation of one of the temple ordinances is not “controversial”? Wow! I would think that the church leaders are more likely to call out the government of India, because religious freedom is being curtailed substantially by the current administration. Even that would be somewhat controversial, though.
For those who look to the church leaders to discuss major changes due to the current health and economic disruption, you need to look at the state by state data on Covid infections and mortality plus economic recovery. Utah has a fairly low mortality rate versus other US states and Idaho has the best economic recovery in the nation, with Utah in second place, as measured by the % change in employment from July 2020 vs. 2019. The current LDS teachings as practiced by members seem to be working better than almost any US peer group.
I would not expect church leaders to speak out about any specific US election candidate. There is a fine line to walk if they do not want to run afoul of US election laws and religious tax exemption. There were all sorts of lies and obvious propaganda in the 1992 presidential campaign and senior leaders who detested Bill Clinton said virtually nothing. Even more morally bankrupt (at least to public knowledge), Ted Kennedy vs. Jimmy Carter in the democrat primary in 1980 did not receive any mention in general conference. The Arizona caucus was the next week and the morally far superior President Carter could have wrapped up the nomination sooner with a victory in Arizona, yet I recall no mention of anything even obliquely referencing Ted Kennedy’s moral depravity.
el oso https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-07-25/climate-change-nothing-like-this-over-past-2000-years-scientists/11345022
In a year like this, I wish GBH could speak at conference. His training in journalism and PR made him extraordinarily perceptive of changing conditions in the world. (You can find talks of his about the advent on online gambling and a sudden rise in the popularity of BDSM among Wasatch Front youth. “They choke one another,” he said, with palpable grief. Not kidding. Recall that, at the October 2001 conference, he announced in real time, from the pulpit, that the US had officially commenced air strikes in Afghanistan.)
Certainly he was of a conservative stripe, but I like to think he would have kept up with changing public sentiment much better than RMN has.
@Billy, agree. The October 2001 general conference was so much more in tune with current events than April 2020.
El oso, who has a track record of promoting conspiracy theories (including that Bill Gates is secretly profiting from coronavirus), comes in a trolling with his typical Gish Gallop of distorted talking points that he regurgitates from conspiracist libertarian media sites. And he attempts to hijack the discussion to promote conspiracist libertarianism and talk about things he wants to talk about rather than the topic at hand. Sorry not worth my time even addressing.
el oso, just a couple of clarifications, the Church is not currently constructing a temple in China. Apparently, the leaders are in early negotiations with Chinese officials about the possible construction of a temple. And at the same time, China is holding Uighars in concentration camps and attempting to reprogram them. They are committing ethnicide. The Uighars are Muslim. The Chinese have decimated the culture of Tibet, a Buddhist country. I guess the religious freedom concerns that Prez Oaks obsesses over only apply to the USA . And if Church leaders decide to put the China temple on hold, it would hardly be controversial. And then there is the issue of the P3 refusing to meeting with the Dalai Lama. The Church is paying too high a price for the temple.
As for India, the country is having a very rough time during the pandemic. While the current government is much less than ideal (sound familiar?), India is the world’s largest democracy. The Indian populous needs assistance; a project there, if handled right, would hardly be controversial.
The temple ceremony does not need to be affected by the deletion of 132. The Church needs to admit that polygamy was a failed social experiment. This is hardly controversial unless you are a fundamentalist.
One hundred people at a sacrament meeting? Seriously? I’m sorry but that number just really jumped out at me. Here in Canada we just went back to church and we are allowed 25 people max. That is local church policy. The government will allow 50 but local church leaders will only allow 25. That means you can only attend sacrament meeting once a month with most members being advised to stay home if they have any concerns at all. And our covid rates are much lower than the U.S. Gatherings of one hundred people are just much too high if you want to get this thing under control.
My source on the dramatic reduction in fires over the past 100 years in the US comes from the National Interagency Fire Center here: https://climateataglance.com/climate-at-a-glance-u-s-wildfires/
The amount of acreage burned in the US was stable from the 1960s through the 1990s, consistent with the improved firefighting, etc. It has risen since the 90s probably due to intentional changes in forest management that happened towards the end of the 20th century.
I am aware of many of the religious persecutions by the communist government of China. I only was trying to make the point that this has been going on since Mao came to power 70 years ago. The church is unlikely to change their longstanding policy very much by any temple or other change. As for deleting section 132, I think that certain verses which mention polygamy might be deleted, but that the basics of eternal marriage are very embedded in current doctrine and definitely going to stay in the canon.
I notice that you resort to name calling and do not even attempt to address the facts that I present. Was I mistaken in the way I read them? Or do you just want to ignore these inconvenient truths? In previous exchanges on here I have been called out on scientific issues and used peer reviewed studies by leading researchers to back up my assertions. Others were using general media reports, some with just the reporter’s opinion.
el oso, “Or do you just want to ignore these inconvenient truths?” Haha. Stick to the topic. You have a long history of threadjacking. “some with just the reporter’s opinion.” Oh, whoa. And we all know that a reporter’s opinion is inherently wrong. Get lost, troll.
We might all reflect on Michelle Obama’s line “When they go low, we go high” as we consider how (and whether) to engage with trolls and other contrarians who visit this site. It will be more effective in the long run.
Thanks for the comments, everyone. I have really enjoyed reading your comments.
Just a note about comment etiquette: you can refer to other people’s comments, you can disagree with them, but no name-calling and no calling into question another person’s righteousness or membership. That goes even if they say something stupid or ignorant, because let’s be honest, we all say something stupid or ignorant from time to time. And sometimes stupidity and ignorance is in the eye of the beholder rather than being the case objectively. Motes, beams, eyes, that sort of thing.
Brother Sky said, “I don’t know about anybody else, but the medical, environmental, economic, racial and political chaos that is happening in this country serve to remind me just how powerless the church is.” Yeah, both locally and at the COB the Church has sort of been AWOL for four months.
Jared said, “Criticizing the church, church leaders, and trivializing General Conference messages is part of today’s culture among some at W&T. I’m looking forward to General Conference. I’m praying that all those who speak will bring a message that is inspired by the Spirit.” I think carefully reading what they say and talking about it in a post, and inviting discussion by readers, is the exact opposite of trivializing. If we didn’t care, we wouldn’t post and discuss.
Chadwick said, “The last 6 months have really damaged my faith in humanity.” Is that because of pandemic-related behavior, or because of the election cycle and politics? Or both?
Billy Possum said, “In a year like this, I wish GBH could speak at conference.” Yes, I really miss Pres. Hinckley’s approach. He was very in tune with what was going on in the world and the Church. He grasped the notion of relevance.
Sam Brunson discusses the situation in western China with the Uyghurs on an excellent recent post at bcc. He also wonders about the efficacy of pursuing a temple in China at this time.
I am struggling mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I hate working from home, but it’s what I have to do and I am grateful that my job is taking this seriously. And that I have a job… but this is so hard. My depression and anxiety have spiked. My employer announced we will not be going back into office in October, but no possible return date has been anounced and I am struggling with that. This has aggravated my IBS and I am eating basics, but also eating out a lot because it’s so hard to get up the energy to cook.
My brother, his wife, and my niece are now homeless thanks to the fires in Oregon. I haven’t had the sacrament in three months since I don’t feel safe going to my ministering brother’s house and our ward had their first meeting today, sacrament only, first part of the alphabet meets at 9, second part meets at 10:30. But I didn’t go. I just don’t feel safe. But we’re not meeting again until October. It’s so frustrating.
I miss people. I miss family. I live alone and honestly, I feel abandoned by my Church, my family, and my friends.
I didn’t watch or listen to much of conference, but I would love for them to announced that you can bless the dang sacrament over the phone.