General Conference has been disrupted by disease pandemics twice before, in 1918 when it was postponed for a couple months and in 1957 when it was canceled altogether, and its being disrupted a third time really underscores the seriousness of the situation we find ourselves in as a global community. But thanks to our miracles of miraculous technology in this, the world of tomorrow, the disruption didn't amount to much this time around and things continued on schedule with the necessary precautions taken. The only real loss was being forced to use Tabernacle Choir recordings for the music instead of the originally planned live multicultural choir from the Wasatch Front. Yes, I know a multicultural choir from the Wasatch Front sounds like an oxymoron, but apparently they were going to make it happen and it would have been cool.
I have little to say about the actual content of the actual talks, because most of them seemed to hammer home the same point over and over: the importance and desirability of seeking and receiving personal revelation. That's exactly what one would expect on the two hundredth anniversary of Joseph Smith's First Vision, and exactly what I wanted to hear in this delicate phase of my life where I crave said personal revelation. I have a strong testimony of personal revelation because I've had experiences with God placing thoughts in my head, giving me knowledge I didn't have and guiding me to do things I couldn't do on my own. I've also had experiences with begging God for said guidance, being told to make my own decisions, and making my own decisions which then lead to disaster. Last year I got pretty upset with him for not helping me out of a situation that I was only in because I followed his prompting to begin with. Maybe it was just a learning and growth experience. Maybe the actual outcome didn't matter to him. But it mattered to me.
So in this situation I'm currently facing which is none of your business, I have perfect faith that God can help me, but whether he will is another question altogether. And if he's not going to then I'd just as soon bail out now and not waste any more emotional energy on it. But after these messages and the thoughts and feelings that came to mind, I feel good about continuing in my present course one day at a time. And my present course involves hoping and praying but not actually doing much of anything because I can't. I have to learn patience, you see, during those periods of life when I'm all but powerless to effect actual change. It sucks.
I did also like these words from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: "When we have conquered this [the you-know-what], and we will, may we be equally committed to freeing the world from the virus of hunger and freeing neighborhoods and countries from the virus of poverty. May we hope for schools where students are taught - not terrified they will be shot - and for the gift of personal dignity for every child of God, unmarred by any form of racial, ethnic or religious prejudice. The rising generation deserve so much more."
Okay, so actually the United States of America is the only country where students are terrified they will be shot, because the United States of America is the only country where students are shot in schools on a regular basis. And usually it bothers me when church members or leaders bring up specifically American politics or concerns in what's supposed to be a global context. But in this case, the rebuke is so well-deserved that I'm letting it slide.
New Black Leaders
Anyone who's bothered to peruse the rest of my site has noticed that I follow the Church's past and present relations with people of black African descent religiously, no pun intended, so it brought me great joy to see the number of men of black African descent on the annual General Authorities and General Officers chart double from three to six in one afternoon. I mean, the chart isn't out yet but when it is these men of black African descent will be on it.
With a much larger and faster growing church membership, it's quite ironic that Nigeria took eleven years longer than Kenya to get its first General Authority. Speaking of growing church membership...
I don't know why they stopped reporting the annual statistics in the conference itself, but I think it was a good move because it makes it harder for lazy members to be like "Yay, the Church is growing because it's true" and pat themselves on the back for doing nothing. Still, the latest statistics do contain some data to be happy about. After being its lowest since 1937 in 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018, the Church's growth rate in 2019 went up instead of down for the first time in thirty years. This will probably be an increasing trend rather than a fluke because we knew it was coming sooner or later as an inevitable result of countries with smaller membership bases and higher growth rates finally gaining the critical mass to make a dent in the global trend. Of course, that global trend might completely go to hell in 2020 thanks to the you-know-what disrupting missionary work and church operations, but the long-term future is bright.
The youth speakers in the Saturday afternoon session were adorable, yet powerful and moving in their conviction. I want to hear random people speak in General Conference more often.
The Church has a new logo to broadcast its Christ-centric focus to the world. This logo will be used for official broadcasts and publications. Naturally, it goes without saying that we ordinary members should not start plastering this logo all over our own memes, inspirational quotes, blogs and so forth, falsely implying official endorsement or sanction for them. I will continue to use my little Moroni favicon that faces the wrong way.
Also, it really triggered some guy named Kenneth and I thought that was funny.
I've accepted that despite all my effort I will never be as smart or influential as Jaxon Washburn is without trying, but I've been Facebook friends with him for a few years and he didn't used to be this sarcastic, so I'm going to take credit for that aspect of his personality. You're welcome.
New Proclamation to the World
Declaring to the world the truth and importance of Joseph Smith's First Vision, this is only the fifth such proclamation from church leadership in history. I mean, there's nothing in it that we didn't already know, but it's a cool thing to hang on your wall. Read it here.
President Rusell M. Nelson saved these for the end of the last session, as he always does except when he decides to be a troll and put them in the women's session.
Bahía Blanca, Argentina
Enthusiasm Level: High
Enthusiasm Level: Moderate
Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Enthusiasm Level: High
Enthusiasm Level: Moderate
Benin City, Nigeria
Enthusiasm Level: High
Enthusiasm Level: Literally nonexistent as soon as I realized that of course he wasn't talking about Syracuse, New York
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Enthusiasm Level: Through the proverbial roof
Shanghai, People's Republic of China
Enthusiasm Level: I swore out loud, but in a good way
These latter two temples obviously took a great deal of delicate work behind the scenes. In the case of the PRC, President Nelson was of course uniquely positioned to make it happen because of his positive relationship with the country going back decades. I knew better than to get my hopes up but I didn't think it at all unlikely that something would happen in that regard with him as President of the Church. I think it's neat that as an Apostle over thirty years ago, he also spearheaded the Church's establishment in several countries of the Soviet Union. In his book Accomplishing the Impossible he recalls meeting with Bulgaria's head of religous affairs Tsviatko Tsvetkov who gruffly said, "Mormons? I've never heard of you." To which he responded, "That makes us even. We have never heard of you, either. It's time we got acquainted." Everyone laughed and the tension dissipated. Love that man.
During this last bit I thought of my paternal grandmother who joined the Church fifty years ago, and how awe-inspiring it must be for her to witness the growth and changes that have happened during that time. I don't expect or hope to live that long, but I wonder what the next fifty years will hold?
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender Christian male, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic and asexual, so you can't, unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.