As much as I like General Conference, I have to admit it started off on the wrong foot as the prophet and apostles, who should be leading the charge for liberty and agency (which are the same thing), instead opted to continue giving into fear of a virus that's no more dangerous than the flu. They closed Conference to the public once again, social distanced, wore masks, and in Elder Gong's case self-isolated after a potential exposure. I was not impressed. I expect the Lord's anointed to set a better example for us.
Favorite talk from Saturday morning session
President Dallin H. Oaks nailed it. First of all, I love how he didn't even try to hide his disgust with the current state of American political discourse. I don't either. Right now I'm teaching my students to accurately summarize and thoughtfully engage with ideas they may or may not agree with, and this past week I literally brought up the presidential debate as an example of why this is important. "Someday when you run for president," I said, mostly addressing my female students because Lord knows we don't need yet another white male president, "you can hold this country to a higher standard."
President Oaks condemned the rioting and violence that's been going on in the United States, and that didn't offend me since I've never supported the rioting and violence. I do understand the place of profound pain that it's coming from, and I did laugh when I told a friend that some people in Salt Lake flipped over a police car and set it on fire and without missing a beat she said "Well, roast pork is good", and I do think it's beyond ridiculous that those people are already facing life in prison for destroying an inanimate object while George Floyd's murderers haven't even gone to trial yet and Breonna Taylor's murderers just got a slap on the wrist for sending some stray bullets into a white family's apartment wall, but I don't support the rioting and violence.
So I really appreciated it when he went on to put a lot of people in their place, specifically the people who have unilateral condemned all the peaceful protests and pretended that racism is no longer an issue. It reminds me of the time a few years ago when I participated in a protest against Trump's Musl- er, refugee ban, and then went to church and listened to some idiot bear his testimony that the protests were part of the wickedness of the last days. Protesting, Elder Oaks said, is a constitutionally protected right and an acceptable way to push for change against unjust laws and abuses of power, which, Elder Oaks said, have occurred. (Emphasis in original.) It shouldn't take a legal scholar of his calibre to point that out, but here we are. He called on the United States and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to do better at rooting out racism. It was a breath of fresh air for many of my black brothers and sisters who have yearned for the Church to talk about these things more.
Elder Oaks, if not for the distance between us, the pandemic going on, and our socially constructed guidelines on acceptable modes of expression for same-sex platonic love, I could kiss you.
Favorite talk from Saturday afternoon session
Elder William K. Jackson, with a nice swinging cadence to his speech that one doesn't often get in this venue, spoke about how cultural diversity is awesome and how joining the Church doesn't mean giving up your culture. I'm big on cultural diversity, I love the rare occasions when I'm not surrounded by people who look and dress and talk like me, and I dream of a day when all white Saints in Utah can tell the difference between their cultural preferences (white shirts, no facial hair, boring music, etc.) and the actual gospel of Jesus Christ. Last year a black temple worker in Payson was told he couldn't be a temple worker if he had dreadlocks, but then the temple president checked with church headquarters and found out there's nothing wrong with a temple worker having dreadlocks, so that was very promising.
Honorable mention: Matthew S. Holland, for his hilarious kidney stone joke. Will he become an Apostle like his dad someday? I'm not sure how I would feel about that. The nepotism wouldn't bother me, but we don't need another white Apostle.
Favorite talk from Women's session
Honestly, I was half-asleep during this session. That sounds like a really rude thing to say but it really is just a natural result of the sleep deprivation torture that God has been subjecting me to since always. All the talks were really good. President Russell M. Nelson double-trolled me by mentioning temples like he was going to segue into surprise announcing the temples during the Women's session like he did last year, and then not doing that.
Favorite talk from Sunday morning session
President Russell M. Nelson discussed the interesting fact that one meaning of the word "Israel" is "Let God prevail", and it was really interesting. Then he seconded President Oaks' call for us to eradicate racism, and specifically singled out the plight of black people worldwide. Some of my black brothers and sisters were upset that at the opening of Conference he acknowledged the pandemic and wildfires but not racial unrest, and I hope this soothed their souls. For my white brothers and sisters who are sarcastically asking what they're supposed to do about racism when "I'm not racist and nobody I know is racist", here are a few suggestions to start with. They're my suggestions, not President Nelson's, but obviously we need some concrete ideas to translate his counsel into action.
1. The next time a cop murders a black person - which, let's be honest, will probably be tomorrow - don't immediately defend the cop and victim-blame the black person. Even if he or she "was no saint".
Edit: Actually, turns out it was yesterday. My bad.
2. Never touch a black woman's hair without permission. This is probably the most universal complaint I've heard from black women in Utah.
3. Stop pretending you don't understand what the phrase "black lives matter" means or why it's a thing. This has been explained many, many times. It doesn't mean you have to embrace every position of the BLM organization. I don't.
4. When your black friends, or people of any other race, complain about experiencing racism, listen to them instead of telling them they must be wrong because your perspective is the only one that's valid. Yes, this also means stop pretending that Candace Owens is the only black person who exists.
Honorable mention: Ulisses Soares with his talk about temptation and magnets. Sorry, Elder Soares, the competition was stiff.
Favorite talk from Sunday afternoon session
This was my favorite session overall, but I'm gonna have to say Elder Jeffrey R. Holland for his candid acknowledgement that this pandemic has gone on too freaking long (paraphrase) and that waiting really, really, really sucks (also a paraphrase). The isolation has been taking a heavy toll on me for nearly seven months and I'm also still waiting on God to fulfill some unrelated promises. I don't mind admitting that I hate God's timing. Don't lie, so do you. But I'll trust and be patient and then if He doesn't do what He said He would do, I'm going to become a deist. At least for now I have a nice job, schooling, and a bright future to dedicate myself to in the meantime.
Interest level: High
Interest level: High
Interest level: Negative infinity
Greater Guatemala City, Guatemala
Interest level: High
São Paulo East, Brazil
Interest level: High. I have a friend who lives in São Paulo and it takes him three hours to get to the temple that currently exists there. I'm not sure if he lives on the east side though.
Santa Cruz, Bolivia
Interest level: High
October 2020 General Conference can be viewed here.
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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.