Things that Stood Out to Me in the April 2022 General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
The conference opened with a big emphasis on full-time missionary service, obviously in response to the big drop in missionary numbers that hasn't yet rebounded to pre-pandemic levels. It reminded me that my last love served a mission once. So that was a depressing note to start on.
Reyna I. Aburto asserted on Saturday morning, "The Church is more than the buildings and the ecclesiastical structure; the Church is us, the members. We are The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with Christ at the head and the prophet as His mouthpiece." I loved to hear her say that because for a few years I've been responding to the false and annoying cliche "The Church is perfect, but the people aren't" with "The Church is the people." This cliche is as nonsensical as "The body is perfect, but the cells aren't." The last time I brought this up, the other person insisted that the Church is Christ. And I said no it isn't, because without the people, it would be nothing more than an idea in Christ's head, and also, the Bible describes it as the bride of Christ, and I'm not sure what kind of weird modalist reading could twist that into saying they're the same entity. Anyway, most members are more likely to listen to Sister Aburto than to me.
Patrick Kearon, I mean Jeffrey R. Holland was on fire during the Saturday afternoon session with his candid recognition and denunciation of abuse. "The abuse was not, is not, and never will be your fault, no matter what the abuser or anyone else may have said to the contrary. When you have been a victim of cruelty, incest, or any other perversion, you are not the one who needs to repent; you are not responsible. You are not less worthy or less valuable or less loved as a human being, or as a daughter or son of God, because of what someone else has done to you." I think Elder Kearon should be an apostle.
Dale G. Renlund gave the concluding remarks in the women's session on Saturday evening. He talked about the Young Women theme. Just a couple weeks ago, a former church member in my poetry class shared a poem about the sexism that was drilled into her in the Young Women program, and it excerpted the pre-2019 version of the theme. A current member recited the theme from memory and a never-member beatboxed along with it, which didn't really work but was funny. The current member mentioned the 2019 revision from "Heavenly Father" to "heavenly parents," and acknowledged, "It's not much, but... it's not much." I respectfully disagree; I think any phrasing in a thing that gets repeated every week and memorized for life is significant. Elder Renlund also fixated on that phrasing and talked about Heavenly Mother. After rumors and reports about him and other leaders, I had some idea what he would say. "Very little has been revealed about Mother in Heaven, but what we do know is summarized in a gospel topic found in our Gospel Library application. Once you have read what is there, you will know everything that I know about the subject. I wish I knew more. You too may still have questions and want to find more answers. Seeking greater understanding is an important part of our spiritual development, but please be cautious. Reason cannot replace revelation."
A lot of people are very upset about that. Personally, I think he did the best he could and I choose to focus on the postiive that he discussed Heavenly Mother at all. I don't think any reasonable person will be able to interpret him as saying that we shouldn't talk about Her or that she's "too sacred" and needs to be "protected" by Heavenly Father. (By the way, I've seen Elder Renlund and his wife relentlessly tease each other in a smaller and less formal setting, so I'm pretty sure he wouldn't relate to that ridiculous and sexist hypothesis at all.) Granted, many members of the church are not reasonable people. But I don't think this talk would have the same chilling effect on discussion as President Hinckley's similar talk in 1991 even if that were Elder Renlund's intention, which I'm sure it is not. The culture is very different. The essay is on the website. And right after the caution that "Demanding revelation from God is both arrogant and unproductive" came an implied openness to receive it anyway: "Instead, we wait on the Lord and His timetable to reveal His truths through the means that He has established."
On Sunday morning, Russell M. Nelson referred to Russia's invasion of Ukraine and actually mentioned the two countries involved by name this time. He said, "None of us can control nations or the actions of others or even members of our own families. But we can control ourselves. My call today, dear brothers and sisters, is to end conflicts that are raging in your heart, your home, and your life. Bury any and all inclinations to hurt others - whether those inclinations be a temper, a sharp tongue, or a resentment for someone who has hurt you. The Savior commanded us to turn the other cheek, to love our enemies, and to pray for those who despitefully use us." And that phrasing really stood out to me because everyone over the age of two without a severe mental disability has wanted to hurt someone else at some point, but we're not supposed to admit it. Only dangerous and scary people admit it.
Dallin H. Oaks' Sunday afternoon talk was so repetitive of his previous talking points that I really and truly thought I was watching an old conference by mistake, and I would have said so, but I was watching at someone's house and switching between a laptop and the TV as the latter kept failing to work, and I realized it was unlikely that she had brought up the wrong conference on both devices. I've been uncomfortable with Oaks' anti-LGBTQ+ talks for years but now my conscience leads me to straight-up disagree on at least one major point. Even granting "that exaltation can be attained only through faithfulness to the covenants of an eternal marriage between a man and a woman," I do not see how legalized or socially accepted same-sex marriage "oppose[s] progress toward exaltation." Most people aren't choosing same-sex marriage over opposite-sex marriage, they're choosing it over being alone until they die, which wouldn't get them any closer to exaltation either but would probably make them a lot less happy in this life. If same-sex marriage can't be sealed in the temple, then it ends at death and is moot in the long term. I see no reason why the Church needs to keep worrying about it at all. I know that if it does, it's going to continue pushing out its younger members and shrivel up to a shadow of its former self as the older ones die off.
New children of record during 2021: 89,069
Converts baptized during 2021: 168,283
Wards and branches: 31,315
Full-time teaching missionaries: 54,539
Church-service missionaries: 36,639
Temples in operation: 170
Temples dedicated during 2021: 2
Temples rededicated during 2021: 1
Growth has started to rebound from the catastrophe of 2020, but not all the way, and it was in steady decline for thirty years before that anyway.
Following President Nelson's trend, most of these temples are clearly not warranted by membership numbers alone (which have actually gone down in the UK and California in recent years) but will be more convenient for nearby members to attend. Breaking from the trend, one wasn't announced for Utah. Oh no, whatever shall we do? How will we get by with only 28 temples?
Good for Ohio though. Some of my favorite people in the world live in Ohio.
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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.