So, as I sat there feeling sorry for them, wondering if they might ever get to a point of asking me where I stand in my beliefs (I have not been open with them about where I am at) and wondering what exactly I might feel the need to say if they ever actually did, I also geared up for attempting to tame my anger that would invariably be aroused from their "spiritual" message for the day.
The message given on this occasion was actually cracking me up inside to the point where I could barely contain myself. The message they gave came from Dieter Uchtdorf's First Presidency message for the month. Dieter talked about the blessing of General Conference. He started out by telling a story about a conversation between an LDS member and a non-member. The subject of general conference apparently came up and the member said that conference was a time when the leaders of the church (called as prophets of God and, therefore, representing those authorized to receive and impart instruction directly from God to the people of the earth) impart messages - supposedly received from God - to the world in their conference sessions. In response to this remarkable claim, the non-member asked the member to give some examples of what these "prophets" said at the last general conference. Unfortunately, the member could not think of one single thing they could recall being said at the last conference. Dieter then goes on to tell us that the member was chided by the non-member who likely said something to the effect of, "Well, if you can't remember anything these spokespeople for God said was a message from God, what good is that?"
While Dieter, I'm sure, would likely be quick to point out that the fact that the member could not remember any of the messages presented at the last general conference were due to his inability to remember any of those "super speshal structions straight from God's eternally inspiring mouth", I had a different thought. My thought was, what if the poor soul couldn't remember anything that was said because there was really NOTHING remarkable said at conference to be able to remember, let alone something WORTH remembering?
Instead of Dieter being up front and admitting that conference is actually very boring and pretty much devoid of anything that could be labeled as inspirational or remotely memorable (at least for more than a few minutes after something is said, anyway), the implication of the message received among the members of the church is that they need to do a better job in paying attention to the messages of general conference. I can back this up by noticing that in his piece he goes on to list 3 things that members can do to get more out of general conference. This is compared to the one very short comment that might be construed to pay some lip service to the idea that conference is actually boring at times (he said, "We all know how hard it is to remember every message of general conference, and I’m confident that we need not be embarrassed if we don’t remember everything." I can't believe how condescending this is. It is even worse than I originally thought. Anyway...).
I find it humorous and troubling at the same time that if there are things said at general conference that are not remembered that it is the members who should fix that by remembering better and not the leaders/speakers themselves by saying things that are more memorable. Granted, most of these men did not move up in the ranks of the church because of their dynamic speaking ability so you can't expect them to wow us with charisma and an engaging speaking style. However, is it too much to ask that they actually give us useful and memorable content delivered in that boring monotone style?
So, in the spirit of my observation, let me make 3 recommendations to Dieter (and all those that will be speaking at general conference):
1. Speak the truth
Saying that it is important to tell the truth kind of loses it's meaning when there are things hidden behind just about everything you're saying. Tell the truth because that is infinitely more interesting than your continued attempts to whitewash everything in the interest of keeping the faith of the members strong.
2. Come up with some actual revelations
While the stories told in conference are all touching and borderline inspirational, receiving revelations on the tough issues that face the students of the doctrine of the church would be largely advanced by some actual statement's on what is considered to be the current doctrine of the church. Instead of coating everything said in terms that only lead to more questions, lay down the gauntlet. Give us some meat for a change. Tell us exactly how life in the eternities will be. Tell us who exactly will actually be in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom and what we will be doing for ETERNITY. Re-affirm the doctrinal validity of polygamy and the law of consecration. Announce when the gathering to Missouri will be taking place and what we should be doing to prepare. Or just go out on a limb and tell us exactly what to expect when Jesus comes again. Give us all the details so we have something to talk about instead of painting everything in ambiguous terms that we will all disagree on (and not have any good answers to) until the next sessions of general conference where the cycle will just continue.
3. Don't just teach people to be like Jesus, be like Jesus yourselves
Don't tell us all to give to the poor while you build multi-billion dollar malls in downtown Salt Lake City. Don't insist that we pay a full tithing and not even give a 10th of that revenue to charitable causes around the world. Better yet, tell us exactly where all the tithing dollars are going so we can feel good about contributions to the only institution fully sanctioned by Jesus Himself. Teach the members to love and forgive everyone...even those that leave the church because they don't feel like they can be honest and support the church anymore in its current form. Teach them to be more tolerant and not continue to hold prejudices against those that are homosexual by insisting that their tendencies are a choice and not a part of who they are. Tell Thomas S. Monson to not continue to prosecute a homeless man for stalking him, but instead, do what Jesus would do and, give him a place to live, food to eat and the help he needs somewhere outside of a Utah corrections facility.
I testify that if you will do these things, not only will you receive peace to your souls, but you will also gain the affection of so many that have left your halls because they just can't stand the duplicity of everything you do. I say these things to anyone that will read them, Amen.
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