I was informed that the previous installment in this series was too long - and that was by someone who actually liked it - so this time I just picked a handful of talks to mention. In the women's session, which I watched to better understand the enemy, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf told a neat story about missionaries tracting through an apartment building and only finding someone who would listen behind the last door on the last floor. This is a great story for missionary work, but of course the principle also has broader applications. Publishing a manuscript can be like that too. At least that's what I've heard. I haven't submitted one yet. But what I've heard is that sometimes the publishers reject it, one after the other, and you have to be confident and not let it get you down, and you have to be persistent and keep going because maybe the last publisher in the country will accept it.
In the second Saturday session, Elder Quentin L. Cook taught, "We are committed to knowledge of every kind and believe 'the glory of God is intelligence.' But we also know that the preferred strategy of the adversary is to lead people away from God and cause them to stumble by emphasizing the philosophies of men over the Savior and His teachings." This was one of the more meaningful talks for me with my love of philosophizing. Here, it seems to me, is a place for moderation and balance and necessary course correction prompted by talks like this. I notice he didn't say that all philosophies of men are false or should be rejected, but warned against putting undue emphasis on them. Obviously some of them are true and some of them are false, like the examples he gave, but none of them are of eternal significance. I am reminded of Elder Bradley D. Foster's remark that "a distraction does not have to be evil to be effective".
One issue that arises, however, is when Latter-day Saints mistakenly conflate their own philosophies of men with core doctrines and then project their own mistake onto others who decline to do the same. For example, I was recently accused of following the "philosophies of men" because I rejected the "core doctrine" that there was no death for any forms of life before the Fall - a heresy that puts me in bad company with, for example, the apostate who wrote "Jesus the Christ". That guy was a wolf in sheep's clothing if ever there was one. Anyway, a list of these philosophies of men is a topic for another post, or perhaps a book. Suffice it to say that we would all do well to pay attention to which of our beliefs come from gospel teachings and which ones we just assimilate into it.
Elder Kazuhiko Yamashita explained, "Being ambitious for Christ means being motivated, focused, and dedicated to His work. Being ambitious for Christ will seldom mean that we are singled out for public honor. Being ambitious for Christ means that we serve faithfully and diligently in our wards and branches without complaint and with joyful hearts." I was predisposed to really like this talk no matter what it was about, because Elder Yamashita and his wife came and spoke to the stake I was in a little over five years ago, and they were just really charming and funny and delightful people. They had just been called, so they had just started learning English and their grasp of it was mediocre, but that didn't get in the way. I don't remember anything they talked about except for one funny thing his wife said that would be pointless to write here because the humor was in the way she said it. I should have taken notes. I just remember that they were really charming and funny and delightful people. He could have talked about calculus and I would have loved it anyway.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks pondered, "Today we have many resources to share the gospel that were not available in earlier generations. We have TV, the internet, and social media channels. We have many valuable messages to introduce the restored gospel. We have the prominence of the Church in many nations. We have a greatly increased number of missionaries. But are we using all these resources to maximum effect?" Here I said out loud, "I'm trying! It's not my fault nobody reads my blog!" which I retract because it was an exaggeration and an unwarranted insult to my loyal followers. Member missionary work was a big theme in this conference, and even though nobody asked me I would like to add my unauthoritative voice to say that it's really really important. I was happy to hear the reminders in this and another talk, I forget which, that success is not measured by anyone else's responses to our efforts. And even if we do look at people's responses, there are other possible positive results besides baptisms.
The other main theme, I felt, was the usual stuff about enduring and hoping and trusting in God even though life sucks. I don't know about you, but I always consider that really obvious in theory but then go right to complaining and swearing as soon as bad things start happening in practice. I rely on the Lord for some periods of time but never consistently or permanently. I suspect most people are like that and that's why the Brethren need to go over this point again and again and again. This time around, there was some drama going on that I decided not to explain here because it would take another post and I would just as soon suppress it from my memory, so I clung to any mentions of that sort of thing like an iron rod. Who knows how long that will last.
In priesthood session, President Henry B. Eyring said, "My father did the same thing for me. He was a seasoned and wise holder of the Melchizedek Priesthood. Once he was asked by an Apostle to write a short note about the scientific evidence for the age of the earth. He wrote it carefully, knowing that some who might read it had strong feelings that the earth was much younger than the scientific evidence suggested." This was really cool because as far as I'm aware it was the first time he's publicly alluded to this incident. (His father was another prominent apostate.)
In summary, the feeling that I was left with was of God saying, "I really, really love you no matter what, and you're awesome, and oh, by the way, if you could improve these twenty-seven things for starters, that would be great. Thanks."
On Sunday morning, as everyone already knows, the accomplice of a nondisclosure agreement violator posted fifteen recordings of the Apostles and other General Authorities meeting behind closed doors to receive presentations on various timely topics. Since these were not meant to be shared with the public, I decided not to watch them. My resolve lasted an hour. I watched as these men discussed the intimate details of their scheme, laughed at the gullibility of their followers, and divided up millions of dollars in tithing money as they boasted of the expensive toys they would buy to luxuriate in their extensive free time. Just kidding. None of that happened. Actually, from the way they talked about scriptures and the Holy Ghost and stuff, one might almost be tempted to think they actually really believe the stuff they teach in public.
Many of the Church's critics vacillate between two mutually exclusive options, maybe hoping no one will notice or maybe not noticing themselves - when it's convenient, they paint the Brethren as power-hungry, money-hungry con men, and when it's convenient, they paint the Brethren as hopelessly out-of-touch dupes with absurd beliefs. Perhaps these videos will help them resolve their cognitive dissonance, since there is nothing conniving or underhanded or insincere in any of them. (The bias in several of the video titles is also so blatant that it crosses the line into nonsense - many of them are titled "In Which They Fret Over [Whatever]", which is nonsense because "fret" means "be constantly or visibly worried or anxious" and nobody in any of them displays that kind of behavior.) As Donald E. Neighbors wrote, "Anyone trying to use these videos against the Church is no longer merely scraping the bottom of the barrel, they have turned it on its side to see if there is anything underneath it."
This was my favorite one.
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender male and a Latter-day Saint, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic, 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.