This session was somewhat uneventful. The two most notable details were from early on. The church's self-reported membership increase is the smallest numerical growth since 1987 and the smallest percentage increase since 1937. And is it just me or are the people voting opposed during the sustaining of church officers getting louder—or perhaps merely more numerous?
Interesting, either way. Moving on to my first selection:
...guns and slurs and vitriol are not the way to deal with human conflict. The declarations of heaven cry out to us that the only way complex societal issues can ever be satisfactorily resolved is by loving God and keeping his commandments, thus opening the door to the one lasting salvific way to love each other as neighbors.Oh man, he was so close!
—Jeffrey R. Holland
God has nothing to do with it. If the only way you can muster up the strength to love your fellow homo sapiens is by loving God first, that's a failure on your part. The only way complex societal issues can ever be satisfactorily resolved is by loving each other. You can cut out the middle man on this one, Jeffrey.
Overall, though, he was making some admirable points here. Guns and slurs and vitriol are not the way. Though I don't think that Jeffrey "Taffy-pulled" Holland is in the best position to cast the first stone at those who employ vitriol as a tactic.
That day I learned the principles of paying tithing and the blessings that follow.This kind of thing really bothers me. Cordón was wrapping up a story about how his parents had chosen to pay their tithing instead of buying food for their family. It all worked out in the end because a stroke of professional luck brought Cordón's father a sudden source of income. But, of course, they had no way of knowing that beforehand except for their trust that they would be blessed for their reckless obedience.
—Valeri V. Cordón
This is a terrible thing to teach and a terrible behavior to celebrate. What Cordón's father did took a tremendous amount of faith and courage, but his religion should never have indicated to him that such courage was required. His religion should have taught him that his first responsibility was to take care of his family. Both God and the church would have been fine without one of this faithful family's contributions if it meant they'd have some peace of mind about the source of their next meal.
What does it say about a religion when its leaders crow about the way the poorest members dutifully submit to the extortion of their money?
Overcoming the world is not a global invasion but a private, personal battle requiring hand-to-hand combat with our own internal foes.Nothing particularly shocking here. I just got a little chuckle out of the sloppily-conceived metaphor. Go ahead, try to picture hand-to-hand combat with your personal, internal foes. What the devil does that even look like?
—Neil L. Andersen
With increasing temptations, distractions, and distortions, the world attempts to beguile the faithful into dismissing the rich spiritual experiences of one's past, redefining them as foolish deceptions.I swear I've heard him say almost the exact same thing before.
—Neil L. Andersen
There's nothing wrong with redefining experiences from one's past. In fact, it can often be helpful to review the past from another vantage point. But it shouldn't be anyone else's role to say for sure whether those were rich spiritual experiences or foolish deceptions. Just because an apostle seems to think that you should uphold your memories as spiritual experiences doesn't mean you don't owe it to yourself to revisit those memories based on new perspectives. If you've received new information that may significantly alter your interpretation of earlier events, I don't think anyone should stop you from seeing if that information also has an impact on your past, your present, and your future.
If it's real, it's real. If it's not, it's not. Don't let people scare you away from chasing the truth with dismissive, self-serving mischaracterizations like Andersen's.
Satan's plan to accomplish his diabolical goal applies to every individual, generation, culture, and society. He uses loud voices—voices that seek to drown out the small and still voice of the holy spirit that can show us all things we should do to return and receive. These voices belong to those who disregard gospel truth and who use the internet, social and print media, radio, television, and movies to present an enticing way, immorality, violence, ugly language, filth, and sleaze in a way that distracts us from our goals and the plans that we have for eternity. These voices may also include well-intentioned individuals who are blinded by the secular philosophies of men and women and who seek to destroy the faith and divert the eternal focus of those who are simply trying to return to the presence of God and receive all that our father hath.Woof, what a mouthful.
—M. Russell Ballard
I completely understand the warning against too much distraction, of course. Everybody should have a little time for introspection. Or meditation. Or prayer. Or whatever. A lot of people do have a tendency to get too wrapped up in inconsequential distractions from more important endeavors. But damn. The way he's calling out so many different mediums and so many kinds of offenses makes me wonder what he could possibly use for entertainment. If you remove the immorality, violence, ugly language, filth and sleaze from television and literature, you'll have no conflict. No character development. Nothing to learn from, nothing to be interested in. I'm not saying everybody should sit down and watch the undeniably messed-up stories of Game of Thrones or anything, but come on, be reasonable.
I'm almost caught up on Game of Thrones at the moment. I've watched five and a half seasons of violence, betrayal, manipulativeness, sexual depravity, greed, profanity, lust for power, incest, fratricide, patricide, infanticide, and regular old homicide, and I have yet to experience the faintest urge to mimic any of those behaviors [edit: except, obvioiusly, profanity. But that shit was already long established when I started the show]. Should I spend every waking moment watching this stuff? No, of course not. But it's hardly distracted me from my goals and my plans. It's entertainment. It contains some insights into human nature and makes some interesting statements concerning good and evil, moral complexity, and survival. But entertainment that contains bad things doesn't necessarily derail the moral trajectory of its viewers.
Now, if Ballard had said something about shameless glorification of some negative behaviors, that could be different. The argument can be very easily made that Game of Thrones has some serious sexist underpinnings—not because of the sexism within its fictional universe, but because of the way that sexism is presented to our non-fictional universe. If it encourages negative behavior—which it certainly should have the right to do—I can understand how certain forms of entertainment can be seen as spanners in the works of the Plan of Salvation. But the mere presence of bad things in media is not even close to being the same thing as all that.
And lastly, let's dwell for a moment on those well-intentioned individuals who are blinded by the secular philosophies of men. This is judgment of the kettle straight from the pot's mouth. It's not a huge stretch of the imagination to admit that perhaps Ballard is blinded by the dogmatic philosophies of religion and that he seeks to destroy secularism and divert the worldly focus of those who are simply trying to live by comprehensible rules within the realms of what is observable to them. Maybe both groups can learn to live and let live.