Last week I received an e-mail from my Bishopric, inviting me to watch a “historic General Conference”. I wondered why this coming General Conference was going to be historic.  Was last October’s General Conference historic? What about last April’s?
Definition of historic
a: famous or important in history
b: having great and lasting importance
a historic occasion
c: known or established in the past
historic interest rates
d: dating from or preserved from a past time or culture
I think ” having great and lasting importance” is the meaning the church leaders like to give when they say “this was truly a historic General Conference” But looking back at the last several Conferences, I don’t remember anything of great or lasting importance. I think the last “historic” general conference was when they announced church would be only two hours. Now that had some lasting importance!
This post from Bishop Bill could be historic in that it is the first time I’ve posted on a Sunday, which was also Easter Sunday, which is also a historic General Conference, which is also being held virtually for the 3rd time in a row! I hope you all make note of this in your personal journals this evening (are journals still a thing in the church?)
When you overuse the word “historic”, it will lose its meaning, and when everything thing is historic, nothing is historic. It is just not the church that likes to to overplay the use of this word. Here in the USA, we just went through a historic election. We had a historic inauguration. But again, isn’t every presidential election historic?
Contrast this overuse of the word historic to something truly historic, New Zealand electing the the youngest female leader in the world in 2017, Jacinda Arden at 37 years old. She is also the only ex-Mormon head of state, truly historic!
So is “historic” just another new buzz word from church leaders, or am I missing something truly historic going on at church?
 according to Google, it is correct to use “a historic” vice “an historic”, because the H is not silent.
“The Google Ngram Viewer provides an interesting look at the progress of “an historic” vs “a historic.” In 1800, “a historic” barely shows. It begins its rise in the 1820s. In 1869, “a historic” is neck and neck with “an historic.” The two travel along fairly close together until the First World War when “an historic” pulls ahead and dominates until 1938. After that, “a historic” becomes the clear winner, although “an historic” and “an historical” remain in use.”
Whatever. This use of “vice” is more historical than hysterical. I like it!
The music in yesterday’s evening session was historical. From 2010, I think. Could the bishop have meant that? 🙂
An antiquated general conference would be one that uses a format of having a bunch of mostly white old men give 10 to 20 minute talks that feel like they could have been written 20 years ago.
A historic general conference would be one where church membership voted on the ordination of women or the recognition of gay marriage.
An antiquated conference would be one held on Easter Sunday where a bunch of mostly old white men give 10 to 20 minute talks that mostly seem to ignore this most Christian of all holidays.
A historic conference would be one where on Easter, there was an actual world -wide Easter celebration with an entire focus on music (including praise music), short scripture readings from the gospels by both men snd women from around the world, and communal partaking of the sacrament .
An antiquated conference format will have a church auditor state that the church is complying with tax law but provide no other information.
A historic conference would be one that announces that all missionary service for the next 10 years will be directed at community service. That stake and ward mission leaders, who will be both men and women, will regularly meet with local civic leaders to identify ways that missionaries can spend up to 50 hours a week working as part of community organizations to help the poor and needy and with $10 billion dollars in funds to help those efforts in the neediest places around the world.
I would be very excited for such historic general conferences to take place.
Maybe the word they were after was “histrionic.” At times that fits.
I understand what the bishop was trying to do, but there is no way that a bishop would know whether a conference was going o be historic or not. The actual plan for conference is under heavier guard than the secret recipe for KFC. There is no way a mere bishop would know it.
In addition, it does great harm to oversell conference. People who watch only because they are told it will be historic will leave the experience feeling disappointed if it was not. And let’s face it, unless it is something like the number of female speakers equaling the number of male or changing the Word of Wisdom, it is not going to be “historic.”
It would be far better to promote it for what it is: a chance to hear the general officers of the Church in a way that will hopefully build faith. Honesty is clearly the best policy here.
In the opening session the illustrious Pres Eyring seemed to double down on the infamous and notorious notion of sad heaven.
I will comment again when I think of other overused adjectives.
I don’t want to comment on General Conference nor do I want to comment on the word “historic”. Instead, I’d like to comment on the Brethren’s tendency to jump the shark (google that if you need to).
For a Church whose whitewashed history has proven to be counter factual, you would think we’d be a little more careful about word usage. People like me are said to be undergoing a faith crisis. I reject that. Instead, I’ll admit my trust crisis. And calling this conference historic isn’t helping. I doubt that I’m alone.
Historic. Not. But it certainly would have been if Pres Nelson had announced a policy change to payment of tithing from an encouraged 10% of one’s increase, to that of a mere donation, because the “rainy-day” $120 billion fund is being geared to relieve the 10% burden placed upon its membership. Unfortunately the marriage between our Faith and Mammon has also been sealed.
This post has me thinking—which conferences from my lifetime do I specifically remember? Which are historic for me personally? Let’s see…
There are a few talks that became lasting personal favs (Sunday Will Come comes to mind) but I don’t think the inclusion of one or two great talks makes a conference historic. What about big announcements? Changes in format? Special guests?
Oh I know! The conference where they let speakers speak in their native language. Google tells me it was October 2014. That feels significant. It’s been a few years since I’ve watched conference so can someone tell me if this is still happening or did we go back to English all around?
The missionary age change announcement in October 2012 was an even bigger deal, representing a sea change for the life cycle of a great many church members. That one feels historic to me.
There was also the first conference in which I heard someone yelling from the audience. That made an impression at the time though it became less exciting in the repetition (if no less important). Also, am I crazy or was there a conference where some guy tried to rush the pulpit?
The WONDERFUL choir from Mexico, singing in Spanish, in this morning’s general conference might count as historic — and more so with the WONDERFUL childrens choir from Korea.
@10ac ditto. Maybe they actually are just confusing the words “antiquated” and “historic”. Understandable mistake.
A church founded on continuing revelation that doesn’t actually offer any. People are starting to notice and calling something historic or revelatory doesn’t make it so.
The emperor has no clothes.
I wouldn’t exactly describe it as historic but I’m appreciating the diversity in this morning’s session. I think it’s indicative of how racism has been such a big issue this past year and something the church leadership has needed to address. I would also like to see that addressed in an overhaul of the art that is used in the church – I find I cringe at European Jesus lately. Since they only recently came up with an approved list for art in church buildings that may not happen soon. As well as this ethic diversity I’d would have liked to see more female speakers – that might be considered historic. Pres Oaks made a slip in thanking the brethren that had just spoken 😳 Hello – Sis Abutro!!!
At church once a member of the Stake Presidency stated “this is the best ward and the best youth group, in the whole stake !”
I was in that ward, but I still bothered by his comment. Is he ranking each of the wards ? Does he say this to every ward, thus diluting the comment. Or if other wards heard this, do they think they are less than the BEST ward/youth group ?
Often we hear, this is the best mission/ward/stake/family/etc. in the whole church. I have the best family/kids/wife. I think too often the adjectives best & historic and many others told by the Q15/Q70 are used inaccurately. They may mean well, but they say MANY things they are wrong and can be hurtful. They say their comments and ideas based on the bubble and environment they live in. We were taught to take every word told to us by the Q15 is the same as if from God. Do they realize that some people take their words literally ? Do they realize that their misuse of words are the cause of many faith crisis’ ? Do they really understand their audience ?
They do not live in our environment, and frankly do not understand the average member. Since they have planned for this conference it is the most important thing in their life. For the vast majority, it is another rote conference.
Yes, this is a historic conference, as were all others for the past 191 years……Spring 2021, too will pass into history. For some it will be historic, the the vast majority it is all jumbled together and in 6 months no one could recite much of what was said.
It would be interesting to compare this Sunday morning session with other April Sunday morning sessions that fell on Easter Sunday. To my memory (not particularly reliable) this one has placed a great deal more emphasis on Christ, Easter, etc. than others. Maybe it’s “historic” in placing emphasis where it was unfortunately missing earlier. I wonder if anyone as compared Easter general conferences for that question.
10ac, I love your list of things that could happen that would actually make Conference historic!
Echoing Faith’s comment, it always strikes me how at the end, the presiding person (typically the Church President) talks about what a wonderful Conference it has been. The thing is that there are *no* circumstances under which he *wouldn’t* say it was wonderful. So it’s not falsifiable and utterly meaningless. I think you make this point well, Bishop Bill, about “historic.” When every Conference is called historic, it doesn’t mean anything.
I think if you compared conference talks of 50 years ago with those of today you’d see some differences. But I bet you’d see a lot of similarities as well. The talks are mostly canned. General authorities don’t want to say anything out-of-line. Apostles don’t either. But then again they have little incentive to change it up. They’ve been using the same formula for decades and their legions of devotees cling to their every word, pay something close to $7 billion a year in tithing, and treat the conference talks as if God herself were speaking. To a large extent it isn’t even what they say. It is the delivery, the ambience, the tone, the appearance, what they wear, etc. All of these non-verbal communicative elements packaged with repetitive themes and words has a devotion-inspiring effect on the masses.
10ac: Meanwhile, today in Community of Christ, a worldwide Easter celebration. Not exactly historic, but joyful.
Sorry for the bad link. Maybe this should work better: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uMq8uu36pSs
I never take GC notes so I’m sure I surprised my wife, but Bishop Bill inspired me to play a sort of Bingo today – if we made a conference word cloud these adjectives would be prominent:
covenant (describing a path)
spiritual (describing one’s immune system, surgery, or an excavation)
I gave the Brethren a hard time previously for using the term “historic”. Doesn’t anyone want to call me out on this? After all…20 new temples. That’s indeed historic …for better or for worse.
@Rich Brown, yes after I wrote my post I realized that CofC pretty much has already done pretty much all of the things I hoped for the CofJCoLDS to do someday, and wondered if you would point that out. Your branch of the restoration movement is leading the way. Thanks for that.
What Dallin Oaks said during his talk on the Constitution was historic. Wish it would have been said decades ago but okay , better late than never. There are times political party lines should be crossed. I’m just sorry people had to be told that.
10ac: CofC has come a long way anf has much ahead on its journey. BTW, tomorrow (April 6) marks 20 years since we began ising our new name. If I can get my act together, I’ll post here on W&T this week how the name fits in to a chain of events and trends showing the transformation of the church, especially over the past half century.
Oops, sorry about the typos. Guess I’m more “retired” than “editor” these days.
General Conference had a bunch of international speakers. That was good. But their talks were fairly mundane, which is unfortunate. There were only 2 women speakers, that was unfortunate. I think Gong and Renlund “get it,” but Eyre, for unknown reasons, is severely underutilizing his potential. It was announced that they will be constructing 20 new temples, yawn. Temples have become legacy items for Church presidents. Something to brag about at their funerals.
Was conference historic? NO. But Americans (and particularly Mormons) exaggerate, which is truly not awesome. One conference speaker spoke of a miracle in Goshen. But his “miracle” caused me to roll my eyes. And several years ago, someone said that POX was a revelation. Mormons have devalued words like historic, miracle, and revelation. Which is truly NOT awesome.
The overuse of the word historic is totally one of my pet peeves. It’s been going on for at least 5-10 years now and has trickled down to my stake/ward as well. Historic meetings I’ve been apart of:
– a minor change to stake boundaries
– a minor change to ward boundaries
– a run of the mill stake conference!
– a few others that were so historic I have no recollection of them.
The term is overused to the point of meaninglessness. When everything is “historic”, the word completely loses its meaning. I really wish we would stop overselling what are pretty ordinary meetings. As others have pointed out, some conferences (and other meetings) might actually meet the “historic” bar, but every single one? Give it a rest guys!
It seems to me that you cannot know if something was truly “historic” until it has passed the test of time. It can even be that things which seemed important and historic at the time become at best footnotes in history. We need to be much more careful with that adjective.
This line of thinking is where I got my “Mormon Jargon” definition for the word historic in a post I did in 2014: https://bycommonconsent.com/2014/07/24/mormon-jargon-2/
Historic (adj.) forgettable
Kirkstall wrote “Oh I know! The conference where they let speakers speak in their native language. Google tells me it was October 2014. That feels significant. It’s been a few years since I’ve watched conference so can someone tell me if this is still happening or did we go back to English all around?”
Don’t know if I missed this being addressed in another comment. The rumor I heard was that logistically, it was just too much to handle. These talks have to be translated into English, so that they can therefore be translated into other languages throughout the world. Having heard a few stories from translators, and despite the somewhat monotone and deliberate nature of the talks, they say that GAs go off script far more often than we realize. So unless and/or until each country has a translator fluent in both the conference speaker’s language, as well as their own, English will be the preferred choice given it’s prevalence as a 2nd language. As one who speaks (or at least tries) three languages, I can see myself having a slightly harder time going directly between my two learned languages rather than using English as an intermediary first, but that’s largely because English is my native tongue. The Church is rapidly becoming more global, but as of now, I just doubt there are a lot of Swahili speakers fluent in Mongolian, or vice versa.
A bit ironic misspelling a word in a comment on languages. I blame it largely on finger muscle memory, and am very forgiving of others who make similar mistakes!
Maybe historic is the number of times Pres Nelson was quoted or referenced as an example to follow vs the number of times Jesus was quoted or referenced as an example to follow? Has someone calculated that because I am finally finishing up listening and I’m pretty stunned with the leader worship.
I loved the diversity Sunday morning but they still just all quoted Nelson a bunch which really hedges their impact.
Over promise/promote; the under deliver.
I think a key disconnect is the progressive imagination vs. the conservative imagination.