Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Notes on General Conference, Part III

Last one, I swear.  This is just filling in some gaps in my General Conference viewership and note-taking.

In the gospel of Jesus Christ, there is no place for ridicule, bullying, or bigotry.
--Neil L. Andersen, Saturday morning session

I got the apostles confused.  I thought Cook gave the sermon that touched on gay marriage, but it was actually Andersen.  I get the apostles who were called after I stopped believing in the church mixed up sometimes.

Anyway, Andersen is sternly declaring that the church does not condone anti-gay bigotry.  The problem with this is that he just finished praising a young woman who bravely publicized her support of "traditional" marriage on Facebook, reminding his audience that God has not "redefined marriage" and slighted homosexuals' validity as parents by claiming that "traditional" families are important for the purpose of "advancing the ideal setting for children to be born, reared and nurtured."

If you walked up to a black guy and said, "I love you as a child of God, but your race, which is an important part of your identity, is evidence of a curse which makes you unqualified to have equal part in religious ceremonies with the rest of us," the vast majority of society, Mormons included, would label you as a bigot.  A hundred years ago, the Mormons would have been on your side.

If you walked up to a gay guy and said, "I love you as a child of God, but your sexual orientation, which is an important part of your identity, is something that you should be expected to repress your entire life and the public expression of which is something that I feel justified in taking political action to quell," you'd still be a bigot, but at least you'd have the Mormons on your side this time.

An old Chevy with a fresh paint job and a Mercedes-Benz hood ornament is still an old Chevy.  Bigotry stemming from religious fervor is still bigotry.

You need the strength that comes from trusting the Lord's prophets.  President Harold B. Lee said:  "The only safety we have as members of this church is to ... learn to give heed to the words and commandments that the Lord shall give through His prophet."
--Neil L. Andersen, Saturday morning session
It sounds like Andersen and L. Tom Perry coordinated their General Conference messages.  The only safety isn't prayer or personal revelation or even trusting your conscience.  It's obedience.  It's submission.  It's trusting Big Brother.

You may wonder if it is worth it to take a courageous moral stand in high school or to go on a mission only to have your most cherished beliefs reviled or to strive against much in society that sometimes ridicules a life of religious devotion.  Yes, it is worth it, because the alternative is to have our "houses" left unto us "desolate"desolate individuals, desolate families, desolate neighborhoods, and desolate nations.
--Jeffrey R. Holland, Saturday morning session
Wow, that's pretty heavy-handed stuff.  But then, that's Elder Holland's favorite kind of subject matter, anyway.

Let's be reasonable herethe kinds of stands that Elder Holland expects his high schoolers to make aren't all moral stands.  A lot of them are denominational stands.  He wants them to stand up for the church but that's not the same thing as standing up for what's morally right.  He wants them to stand up against gay marriage and against tattoos and against R-rated movies.  He wants them to feel proud of themselves when they explain the "truth" about polygamy in answer to their non-member friends' ridicule on the matter.  He wants them to take a courageous emotional stand in favor of the church, not necessarily a courageous moral stand in favor of the truth.

And there's a threat at the end here.  If you don't stand up for the church, you'll be left "desolate."  But not just youyour families, communities and countries will suffer for your spinelessness. Funny...not only did I stop standing up for my religion, but I eventually left it completely (in favor of my own morals instead of the general authorities' morals) and I don't feel desolate at all.  I am one of many, many ex-Mormons who would describe the experience of leaving the church as bringing a feeling very far removed from desolation.

They need to know the dangers of pornography and how it overtakes lives, causing loss of the Spirit, distorted feelings, deceit, damaged relationship, loss of self-control, and nearly total consumption of time, thought and energy.
--Linda S. Reeves, Saturday morning session
Oh, okay.  Let's check off the list.

  1. Loss of the Spirit.  Considering I masturbated before I ever discovered pornography, I guess I never really had the Spirit to begin with, so pornography isn't to blame for that.
  2. Distorted Feelings.  I'm not sure what this is referring to, unless it's the classic claim that pornography messes with people's expectations for how sex is supposed to work.  If that's the case, considering that I'm now an adult, I've managed to learn the difference between TV and reality over the years.  My personal experiences do not match the things I've seen in porn, and I didn't expect them to because my personal experience with high school did not match the events I witness in high schools on television.  So no worries here either.
  3. Deceit.  Yes.  I have been deceitful because of porn.  I was taught to be ashamed of it and I knew my parents did not approve of it, so of course I hid it from them and lied about it.  But that's not pornography's fault either.  That's the the fault of the church for demonizing it.  I agree that too much porn is probably a bad thing and that parents should monitor what their children do with their time, but shaming the simple act of curiosity is not a recipe for a healthy relationship with your parents.
  4. Damaged Relationships.  My relationship with my parents has been damaged by many things, including pornography.  But the healthiest relationship in my life (my girlfriend) is also the relationship in which pornography is discussed most openly.
  5. Loss of Self-Control.  I suppose for genuine porn addiction, that is a very real possibility.  Just as loss of self-control is a possibility for those with the tendency to overeat.  But Reeves isn't preaching the evils of food, is she?
  6. Consumption of Time, Thought and Energy.  I only watch porn when I have free time and nothing particularly important to do.  (Yes, I know, "idle hands are the devil's playground" or whatever.)  I've never been late to my job because I was too engrossed in pornography.  I've never forgotten an anniversary or an appointment because I was too wrapped up in my carnal endeavors.  And when I'm at work, I focus on work.  When I'm with my girlfriend, I focus on my girlfriend.  Pornography does not occupy time I don't have.  It does not dictate thoughts I don't need.  It does not expend energy I can't spare.  
Her summary isn't nearly as condemning as she thinks it is.  There are a lot of problems with pornography.  I don't believe it should be viewed in excess.  I don't think it should be available to children.  It should never supplant personal physical relationships.  And those who choose to be performers should be of legal age and perform willingly.  Pornography can be damaging but it is not the destructive force the church claims it is.

If Jesus was in fact literally resurrected, it necessarily follows that He is a divine being.  No mere mortal has the power in himself to come to life again after dying.  Because he was resurrected, Jesus cannot have been only a carpenter, a teacher, a rabbi, or a prophet.  Because he was resurrected, Jesus had to have been a God, even the Only Begotten Son of the Father.
Therefore, what he taught is true; God cannot lie.  Therefore, He was the Creator of the earth, as He said.  Therefore, heaven and hell are real, as He taught.  Therefore, there is a world of spirits, which He visited after His death.  Therefore, He will come again, as the angels said, and "reign personally upon the earth."  Therefore, there is a resurrection and a final judgment for all.
Given the reality of the Resurrection of Christ, doubts about the omnipotence, omniscience and benevolence of God the Fatherwho gave His Only Begotten Son for the redemption of the worldare groundless.
--D. Todd Christofferson, Sunday evening session
 Apologies for the long quote, but it's a line of reasoning so broad that it's difficult to capture just the essentials.

Prior to this quote, Christofferson quoted Jesus's explanation to the Nephites of his death and resurrection.  He uses Christ's assertion that he was resurrected to apparently prove that Christ was resurrected and that God is good.  His reasoning basically boils down to this, the way I see it:  "Christ said he was resurrected.  If he was resurrected, he's a god, which means everything he said was true.  That means that when he said he was resurrected, it was true."  Jesus just proved Jesus by being Jesusy.

Christofferson extends this ridiculous logic to include God's omnipotence, omniscience and benevolence.  Because apparently it's always accurate to judge someone's character based on the qualities of that person's offspring.  But Christ's resurrection may speak to God's power, but not necessarily his power to do all things (omnipotence).  And Christ's resurrection may similarly indicate God's knowledge, but I think it's fair to say that you can accomplish something awesome without knowing everything (omniscience).  And even if you brought your son back from the dead, that doesn't mean you haven't created a flawed plan for exaltation that many of your supposedly beloved children are going to fail, especially the third you cast out simply for disagreeing with you (and there goes the benevolence).

Christofferson's grasp on logical reasoning is even worse than Aidukakis's grasp on the scientific method.

And that's it for General Conference.  It was a fun analysis.  I'm expecting the flurry of concerned emails with links to some of these talks to arrive from my family any day now.  After all, Russell M. Nelson warned them not to compartmentalize their lives to hide the gospel.


  1. "It sounds like Andersen and L. Tom Perry coordinated their General Conference messages. The only safety isn't prayer or personal revelation or even trusting your conscience. It's obedience. It's submission. It's trusting Big Brother."

    In some of my readings over the last year or so, I've studied cults, and I've enjoyed the 2nd season of The Following, the Kevin Bacon TV series about a murderous cult. Anyway, one of the ways the cult leaders keep their followers in line is through fear. If the people are constantly in fear of losing their families, livelihoods, friends, future salvation, and even their lives, they will be more likely to stay within the "safe" confines of the cult. In conference, their cult-like message is to follow the prophet and apostles. They will keep you safe. They will guide you to salvation. They will keep your family together. They will protect you from the ills of the world.

    That reminds me of something I saw a few months ago that I found rather disgusting. I happened to be at a fun center on a Tuesday night, around 7:15, when a bunch of young women came in all wearing matching shirts that said "I can't...I'm Mormon." (Check it out on Google images.) Can't what? Can't hold the priesthood? Can't pass, prepare or bless the sacrament? Can't say the opening prayer in sacrament meeting. Can't have a career or work outside the home? Can't kiss a boy before marriage? CAN'T THINK FOR YOURSELF??? But man, they sure seemed proud that they can't. That's the wrong message for my daughter. We are teaching her to be confident and that she CAN be whatever she desires. We're teaching her the message of "I am woman, hear me roar," rather than the church message of, "I am a mother in zion, I will suffer in silence and total submission."

    1. Yeah, I've seen the shirt. What's amusing to me is that it's not WON'T. It's CAN'T. That makes it sound to me like "I'd like to have sex with you but I can't because I'm Mormon." It doesn't really adhere to the spirit of the law. It's like a slutty Mormon thing--except that Mormons can't really be sluts anyway, which makes it that much more idiotic and confusing.

      I should look up The Following. I've scrolled past it on Netflix a bunch of times, but you're making it sound pretty interesting.

    2. You should definitely look it up. If you like Dexter, I think you'll like the Following. It's pretty intense for network TV, though, but I like it. Season 2 is almost over. I think it ends about the time they start 24 back up in May. They recently announced that there will be a season 3 of the Following.

    3. I love Dexter, to varying degrees depending on the season. Once I catch up on Doctor Who, maybe I'll take a gander at The Following.