It looks like President Nelson has opted to make a strong start from the gate. The Priesthood session was dedicated almost entirely to an announcement about a new policy reorganizing the quorums we've all become familiar with:
To accomplish the work of the Lord more effectively, in each ward the High Priests and the Elders will now be combined into one Elders Quorum. The composition of the stake High Priests Quorum will be based on current callings.
As explained by the prophet and multiple apostles, this essentially means that Elders and High Priests will meet together instead of separately during Sunday meetings and that High Priests actively serving in stake positions that can only be filled by a High Priest will be part of a stake council thing. There will be one Quorum President of each ward's new combined Elder's Quorum, and that President can be either an Elder or a High Priest. The Elder's Quorum President will report directly to the Stake President instead of to the Bishop, and the Bishop, as the Presiding High Priest in each ward, will also report to the Stake President.
Don't ever let anyone tell you the gospel is simple.
Anyway, here are a few highlights from the meeting, which mostly functioned as a theocratic-slash-bureaucratic circlejerk to prop up Nelson as the awesomest prophet who ever awesomed and his restructuring as the most inspired inspiration that ever awesomed.
In much the same way that angels are authorized messengers sent by God to declare his word and thereby build faith, we who hold the Aaronic Priesthood have been ordained to teach and invite all to come unto Christ.
—Douglas D. Holmes
This is just a depressing contrast to Sister Oscarson's approach in the Saturday evening session mere hours earlier. Oscarson was pleading for young women to feel valued. Holmes is simply reminding the young men about the fantastic, vital, and noble role they have in the work of God. The tone is diametrically different—and that's because young men are filled with a sense of purpose and value because of their Aaronic Priesthood. Young women don't have that and nothing is offered to them as an equivalent.
These adjustments are inspired of the Lord. As we implement them, we will be even more effective than we've been previously.
—Russell M. Nelson
"Inspired of the Lord." That's the best he can do. See, back in the day, God would actually, like, talk to his prophets. Later in this meeting, Rasband will quote a prophetic revelation from generations ago that is written as the actual words of God himself. But nobody admits to talking to God anymore or even hearing God's voice. So this policy shift, which is being treated like Revelation with a capital R, is, at best, merely inspired by God.
We are moving forward with unanimity, in what is in reality one more step in the unfolding of the Restoration. The Lord's direction is manifest and I rejoice in it.
One more step in the unfolding of the Restoration? Gimme a break! The Restoration was God and Jesus in the Sacred Grove. It was the Angel Moroni in Joseph Smith's bedroom. It was John the Baptist dipping Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Susquehanna River. It was the prophet Elijah appearing in the Kirtland Temple. This is basically consolidating two Sunday School classes and rearranging some administrative meetings. Don't credit it to the miraculous arm of the Lord if it's something any non-prophetic public school principal could do before he finishes his morning coffee.—D. Todd Christofferson
Since [pioneer days] , the Lord has used a variety of ways to help his saints care for each other. Now he has blessed us with strengthened and unified quorums at the ward and stake levels.
—Ronald A. Rasband
I have basically the same objection to this as to the Christofferson quote, but to a lesser degree. Rasband is doing the same thing, trying to lend gravitas to this restructuring by likening it to revered events from church history. And sure, maybe it will make quorums stronger and more unified. But through each batch of blandishments and each parade of platitudes during this session, I couldn't help but wonder...is this really what God cares about? All the problems in the world, all the moral complexities and urgent concerns of daily life that his children face, and he's really going to have his chosen mouthpieces spend almost an entire session of General Conference lecturing us on what amounts to a corporate mini-reorganization? High Priests are being downsized. We get it. Let's talk about solutions to pressing moral, social, humanitarian, financial, and geopolitical crises.
Then, one day he received an urgent text from her. She desperately needed help. She didn't know who the bishop was, but she did know her home teachers.
—Henry B. Eyring
Here, Eyring has just told a story about an inactive single mother with several jobs who has rebuffed attempts for her home teachers to visit her. The dutiful home teacher sent her text messages and letters on a monthly basis instead, which she invariably ignored. But Eyring praises the home teacher because when the woman had an emergency requiring her to leave the country temporarily but she couldn't afford to take both her children with her, she knew who she could call for help.
That much I guess I'm okay with. The home teacher's persistent contact isn't great, but Eyring is presenting it as though the woman didn't have time for the church, not that she specifically requested that she be left alone.
What I'm really not okay with is that the woman asked her home teacher if there was a Mormon family that she could leave her youngest son with for about a month until she could return. The home teacher contacted his bishop, and they worked something out so that the boy could stay with several different Mormon families during that time frame. These families welcomed the child into their homes, included him in their activities and Family Home Evenings, took him to church with them, and made sure he was looked after. He continued attending church even after his mother returned to the country and he'll grow up a strong faithful member. Happy ending! Right?
Maybe not so much. The issue was a plane ticket. The mother simply couldn't afford an extra ticket to take her son to Europe with her and bring him back to the States when she was done. If the home teacher and the bishop cared about this family the way they should, they would have opted for a solution involving buying a plane ticket. Take up a collection, see if a wealthy member will donate or lend money, maybe find someone who's really great at finding deals and coupons, whatever. It was terrific of these people to take care of this little boy, but wouldn't the ideal solution be keeping the family unit together for the whole month? Instead, the mother came home to a religiously converted son who'd had to use Mormonism as an improvised social and emotional crutch because he was literally the only member of his family in the entire goddamn country for weeks.
This isn't a victory like Eyring wants us to believe. The victory is that people stepped up to help. The defeat is that they helped with ulterior motives, they perhaps unknowingly manipulated a child, and the outcome was less honest and less ideal than it could have been.
I thought the LDS church was all about families. Why couldn't the church find a way to put the kid on a goddamn plane with his mother?
It is not appropriate to refer to "the Priesthood" and "the women." We should always refer to "the holders of the Priesthood" and "the women."
—Dallin H. Oaks
Taking a page out of Nelson's book and instructing us on semantics, I see. Although I'm a little bothered by the fact that "the women" don't get a fancy title. Why not "the men" and "the women" or "the holders of the Priesthood" and "the members of the Relief Society?"
But I nitpick.
Fathers should also cultivate loving family relationships so that family members will want to ask their fathers for blessings.
—Dallin H. Oaks
What. No. That is not why you should do that.
I can't imagine how this guy must have treated his own children if he regards "cultivating loving family relationships" as part of his divine responsibility to exercise his Priesthood authority more fully in the home. Can children wanting to ask for a father's blessing be a good byproduct of healthy parenting? Sure. But presenting this as an actual reason for why fathers should have good relationships with their kids is...shocking? Appalling? Depressing? Laughable? Idiotic? I don't know, take your pick.
Too many of our brothers and sisters do not fully understand the concept of Priesthood power and authority.
Maybe that's because it's such a nebulous and convoluted concept that it takes almost two hours for you to explain a minor administrative change to it.—Russell M. Nelson