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.
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."
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.