Wednesday, March 30, 2011

181 and Still Goin' Strong

Dear General Authorities and General Officers of the LDS Church,
The 181st Annual General Conference is coming up this weekend, April 2-3, 2011. Yay for you guys! I know most of you aren’t too keen on following recommendations from, you know, us lesser mortals. But I know some of you are still putting the finishing touches on your talks, so I made a little list of suggestions for your kind consideration. Oh, and if you decide to follow any of the these, it’ll be our little secret.
  • Please go easy on the gushing over Thomas Monson. He’s the leader of a major world religion, so he’s entitled to respect. But prophet adulation makes general conference look like a North Korean leadership love-in. If you just can’t help yourself, tell Pres. Monson he’s awesome during the continental breakfast before the first session to get it out of your system. Then skip the phrases such as “we love you” and “we honor you” and “your tireless devotion is an example to us all” and “thank you, dear leader, for your leadership” and “you are magnificently magnanimous among the multitudes of modern mormons.” Okay, the last one was a bit much. But you get the drift. If a few speakers just skip the gushing, there will be more than enough time for another song, which typically has more spiritual impact than the delivery of even the best conference talks anyway. (But pick a good song; NOT “Called to Serve”).
  • It’s pretty clear that the 15 apostles of the church are in charge. In fact, it’s one of the clearest things about Mormonism. So, my tip: If you’re an apostle, you don’t need to remind us of your position, your claim to authority or your duty. Just say what you have to say sans the word “apostolic.” If you’re a non-apostle general conference speaker, just assume that we all understand that the apostles are the big kahunas and move on to something that sounds more like a sermon and less like a Politburo speech praising the Glorious Central Committee.
  • Don’t overstate how amazing it is that conference is full of wonderfulness even though “no one is assigned a topic” for their talks. I accept that as true, but it’s not exactly as miraculous as turning water into wine, ahem, pure grape juice. I’m pretty sure people take some cues from items on agendas circulated among the hierarchy in the run-up to conference. I’m in favor of assigning topics, to be honest. It might increase the variety of useful topics, and improve the quality of talks.
  • By all means, cry repentance. It’s a major part of Christian theology. But since condemnation has nothing whatsoever to do with repentance, can you just leave out the condemnation this time, please? 
  • Yes, you are giving a formal speech to a large audience. But please, please, please speak like a human being living in the 21st century. Sorry to break this to you, but a lot of your talks sound either like a recitation of the Federalist Papers or a parent monologue from a Disney Channel sitcom. By all means, be creative. Make those corny jokes. Surprise us with some cool turns of phrase. Just be clear, and normal. If you use disciplined, interesting, thoughtful language, your high school language arts teachers will groan just a little less. So will everyone listening to you.
  • The recent Salt Lake Tribune article on the issue of infallibility is nothing new, but it is an important summary of some of the pitfalls of the culture of righteous leadership celebrity. I know you HATE the Tribune. I’m not a regular reader either. But it was a good article. Read it with an open mind.
  • On a related point, please keep in mind that general conference talks ARE. NOT. SCRIPTURE. Hopefully, they’re carefully prepared. However, they are not canonized through the magic of the sustaining of general authorities and general officers of the church. Also, they are not canonized by a large number of “Likes” from TBM Facebook users. More importantly, by attempting to elevate general conference talks to the rank of scripture you’re only painting yourselves into an even smaller corner than you already have. If any of you are planning on speaking about this (frankly pathetic, thanks JRH) notion this weekend, just delete that section now while there’s still time. Or skip it when it rolls up on the teleprompter. Of course, I’m a pragmatist. I’m pretty sure that at least one of you won’t be able to resist. 
I saved my most earnest request for last...
  • Leave us gay folk alone just for once. Please. And don’t use a bunch of ridiculous code words for The Gay when we know exactly what you’re talking about. Yeah, I’m talkin’ to you Boyd. And Dallin. And the resta y’all. LET. IT. GO. Look, I’m just asking for ONE conference here.
You’re welcome.


  1. I'm glad we clarified the JRH so I know you're not talking about me. :)

  2. @Invictus: Thank you.

    @Jon: "JRH" most definitely does NOT refer to you. You are the diametric opposite of that phrase.

  3. Loved this post! Right on the money!

  4. Oh, is it conference this weekend?

  5. @MoHoHawaii: Thanks. I'll admit I had fun writing this post.

    @Rob: Oh, Rob, you know you're totally gonna watch every talk with rapt attention.

  6. I was reading this post as Elder Holland hit EVERYONE of your points. Amazing.

  7. Thanks Paul. This was a great suggestion list.