To recap: General Conference is the bi-annual meeting where leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints address the membership, and those who aren't already familiar with it will probably get nothing out of this post. Sorry. Come back next week. I have tinkered a bit with the format of these bi-annual posts trying to find the approach that would resonate with people. I would have written them anyway, of course, but I also saw them as the best opportunities to insert myself into the LDS blogosphere. However, it's become obvious by now that I don't fit in with and am not welcome among those writers and influencers. That point was hammered home a final time when someone in charge of "1 Million Mormons on Fb" banned me for no apparent reason and made up a barefaced lie about me breaking one of the rules. I suspect that I really just annoyed them by respecting science and debunking one too many faith-promoting myths.
I know I'm more cynical and snarky and less happy-go-lucky than most of the "faithful" blogosphere. I don't like showing emotion and being vulnerable. But while I certainly have room for improvement, I have no desire to become something I'm not to fit into the standard mold. Some people fit into that mold naturally, and that's great for them. They can be them and I'll be me, and I guess they'll always be more popular but I'm over that. So without further ado I'm going to continue writing what I feel like, how I feel like it, and my own little niche will be of benefit to at least one person, myself, and hopefully a few others along the way. If you question whether I even have a testimony, feel free to read the one that's been posted on my site for years.
As a side note, it's been about a year now since Elder Holland's talk with the dinosaur meme about fearing tomorrow, and at that time I was in exactly such a situation as I didn't want to go back to the real world and the soul-crushingly dull job search again after blowing my most promising option. I felt so hopeless, but I let Elder Holland's words calm my fears and now here I am with those feared tomorrows far behind me. Yes, the job I got was predictably horrible and if faced with that situation again I'd choose to starve to death first, but it's over now and I have a much better one. Speaking of which, Jenson Online in Logan, Utah should be hiring soon as people leave for the summer.
Sustainings / Opposition
We will probably never again have a conference without opposing votes, though this time it sounded like just one very loud woman. As annoying as it is that those people to seek conference tickets for this sole purpose, and feel the need to shout instead of raising their hands as is the established protocol, I still respect them more than the members who indicate that they will sustain the leadership and then don't. I have this screenshot on my computer from when they first got started a couple years ago and I don't think I've ever shared it so here it is now.
Analysis of Statistics
The Church once again posted its lowest percentage membership increase since 1937, and its lowest numerical increase since 1987, when it had about half as many missionaries. This can probably be attributed in large part to the secularization of the Western nations where it has the largest membership base and gets most of its converts. Some nations are growing far more impressively, but because they have lower membership and therefore constitute a smaller percentage of the total to begin with their gains don't impact it as much. This will probably shift in future years. In the meantime, that's no excuse for shrugging off or ignoring the problem. I'm sure if we really tried we could do much better than this.
Analysis of Temple Announcements
The feeling of intense euphoria I get from each temple announcement is unfortunately very brief as the reality of waiting at least two years and usually more for construction to actually start sets in, but it's still my favorite part of General Conference.
Brasíla Brazil - This one comes as no surprise considering the concentration of stakes in the area versus the distance from the nearest temple in Campinas.
The greater Manila Philippines area - Apparently putting two temples in the same city is a normal thing now. Sweet.
Nairobi Kenya - While most Mormons assume the Church is growing spectacularly throughout Africa, this really isn't an accurate generalization. The Church's growth is spectacular in West Africa, good in Central Africa, meh in Southern Africa, abysmal in East Africa, and, for obvious reasons, virtually nonexistent in North Africa. Kenya just got its second stake a little over a year ago for a total of two stakes and four districts, while neighboring Uganda has three stakes and Ethiopia (possibly the only African nation where the number of congregations has significantly declined), Tanzania, and Rwanda (which is located between Central and East Africa and fortunately follows the growth patterns of the former) have one small district each. Burundi and Somalia don't even have that. However, the members in this region are ridiculously far from the nearest temple and will still be after the ones in Kinshasa and Harare are completed.
Pocatello Idaho - Another one that has been anticipated for years since Pocatello has the same number of stakes as Idaho Falls. It will take most of its stakes from that temple but also a few from the one in Star Valley (that only has six to begin with) and the one here in Logan which, I might add, has gotten insanely busy lately at least in the baptistry, where appointments are currently scheduled a month out.
Saratoga Springs Utah - I'd be lying if I said I feel any excitement for another temple on the Wasatch Front, but good for them. This city is just old enough to submit mission papers if it were a prospective sister missionary, and has gone from zero to six stakes since 2001. My initial thought for just a second when President Monson began speaking these words was the much older and slightly larger Saratoga Springs in New York, which I've passed through many times, but it isn't likely to get a temple in, well, ever.
The announcements for Pocatello and Saratoga Springs prompted the usual complaints about why do they need to build temples here when other temples are already so close by. In case any of the complainers are reading this, allow me to explain. This is a difficult concept but I'll try to break it down in simple terms. You see, temples are a kind of building. Most buildings have a finite, or limited, amount of space within their walls. Because of this they can only hold a finite, or limited, number of people. Are you still with me here? Once a certain number of people inside a building has been reached, the finite, or limited, space will be filled up. This means that there will be no more space left to hold other people who may want to go inside. These additional people may have to wait for a long time for the people who are already inside to leave, which will free some space up for them again. Do you understand now? Oh, I lost you at "buildings"? Sorry about that. You know what, never mind, forget I said anything. It's just a matter of faith.
Bits that I Liked
Jeffrey R. Holland: "When I see the staggering economic inequality in the world, I feel guilty singing with Mrs. Hewitt of 'blessings which [God] gives me now [and] joys ‘laid up’ above.' That chorus cannot be fully, faithfully sung until we have honorably cared for the poor. Economic deprivation is a curse that keeps on cursing, year after year and generation after generation. It damages bodies, maims spirits, harms families, and destroys dreams. If we could do more to alleviate poverty, as Jesus repeatedly commands us to do, maybe some of the less fortunate in the world could hum a few notes of 'There Is Sunshine in My Soul Today,' perhaps for the first time in their lives." Since I have no wish to be judgmental, I won't mention that this part of the talk reminded me of how, four days earlier, the (mostly LDS) citizens of Draper, Utah threw a temper tantrum and threatened impeachment and a lawsuit after their mayor proposed two sites within the city for a new homeless shelter.
Jeffrey R. Holland again: "Fortunately, the seats for this particular number are limitless. There is room for those who speak different languages, celebrate diverse cultures, and live in a host of locations. There is room for the single, for the married, for large families, and for the childless. There is room for those who once had questions regarding their faith and room for those who still do. There is room for those with differing sexual attractions. In short, there is a place for everyone who loves God and honors His commandments as the inviolable measuring rod for personal behavior, for if love of God is the melody of our shared song, surely our common quest to obey Him is the indispensable harmony in it. With divine imperatives of love and faith, repentance and compassion, honesty and forgiveness, there is room in this choir for all who wish to be there." These words spoke peace to my soul because, like I said, it often seems that I don't really belong, but when he said this I could feel that he meant it with all his heart.
Henry B. Eyring: "On another occasion a phone call came when I was a bishop - this time from the police. I was told that a drunk driver had crashed his car through the glass into the lobby of a bank. When the bewildered driver saw the security guard with his weapon brandished, he cried, 'Don’t shoot! I’m a Mormon!'" lol.
Dieter F. Uchtdorf: "One of the ways Satan wants us to manipulate others is by dwelling upon and even exaggerating the evil in the world. Certainly our world has always been, and will continue to be, imperfect. Far too many innocent people suffer because of circumstances of nature as well as from man’s inhumanity. The corruption and wickedness in our day are unique and alarming. But in spite of all this, I wouldn’t trade living in this time with any other time in the history of the world. We are blessed beyond measure to live in a day of unparalleled prosperity, enlightenment, and advantage. Most of all, we are blessed to have the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which gives us a unique perspective on the world’s dangers and shows us how to either avoid these dangers or deal with them. When I think of these blessings, I want to fall to my knees and offer praises to our Heavenly Father for His never-ending love for all of His children. I don’t believe God wants His children to be fearful or dwell on the evils of the world." Personally, I'm not afraid of the world so much as 110% fed up with it. And by "it" I mean the humans in it.
D. Todd Christofferson (approvingly quoting David Brooks): "In a guilt culture you know you are good or bad by what your conscience feels. In a shame culture you know you are good or bad by what your community says about you, by whether it honors or excludes you… [In the shame culture,] moral life is not built on the continuum of right and wrong; it’s built on the continuum of inclusion and exclusion… Everybody is perpetually insecure in a moral system based on inclusion and exclusion. There are no permanent standards, just the shifting judgment of the crowd. It is a culture of oversensitivity, overreaction and frequent moral panics, during which everybody feels compelled to go along… The guilt culture could be harsh, but at least you could hate the sin and still love the sinner. The modern shame culture allegedly values inclusion and tolerance, but it can be strangely unmerciful to those who disagree and to those who don’t fit in." Hearing society get called out on its stupidity is always music to my ears. When I'm famous and say something "offensive" and people feign righteous outrage I'll tell them, in the most Christian way possible, to bite me.
I also liked Joaquin E. Costa's entire talk, mainly because he's just a really attractive and charismatic guy. I read it after watching it and it just wasn't the same. You've probably also seen the great little story about him from "Nerdy Gay Mormon" and if you haven't then you really ought to.
Someone else also said something about being kind in all that we do - probably multiple someone elses, actually, but I don't take very good notes. It's no secret that I often forget to do that because I'm a jerk sometimes and feel justified in that when people are stupid and I think they deserve it. So apologies in advance for the next thousand times that it happens.
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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.