“…and your mind doth begin to expand.” – Alma 32:34

 While many self-styled Mormon intellectuals set faith at odds with critical thinking, Meridian’s Expand promotes an alternative model of the life of the mind. Here we engage current moral, political and cultural issues with intellectual rigor from a faithful LDS standpoint.

This weekend is the General Women’s Session of General Conference, and I’m excited! I love to hear from our leaders, and I think the church’s current crop of women leaders is an extraordinary and admirable group well worth hearing.

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As I read this advance news release that the main focus of the Women’s session will be families, I realized something sad: I don’t remember last fall’s Women’s meeting very well.

What do I remember? All of the chatter about the meeting. And not the substantive discussion of points from the talks; I remember the politics.

Politics and General Conference? I wish it weren’t so. But like so much in our culture, General Conference has become thoroughly politicized by strident voices, and I think that has overshadowed the messages the Lord is trying to get to us.

What I mean by politicization is that we (I include myself, and hopefully not you) have been culturally programmed with an instinct to analyze how a talk or action will be perceived by various factions. How will that talk sound to LDS women? Will that phrase alienate the LGBT community? That talk was signaling his approval of X political philosophy, right? Why haven’t church leaders adopted that practice/term that would signal their alignment with that popular cause?[i]

The problems with this approach are probably obvious:

  • We need to approach important things as disciples instead of PR firms. All of the chatter about the political implications of the messages at General Conference drowns out any humble contemplation of how we ought to change our lives and hearts in order to grow closer to the Lord.
  • Church leaders are people, not robots programmed to be perfect. But the political approach involves uncharitably looking for (and pouncing on) their purported mistakes and missed opportunities, instead of prayerfully sustaining them. This is dangerously prideful and against the spirit if not the letter of our covenants.
  • When we are learned, we think we are wise. I think people who have heard a lot of Conference talks and know a lot about the gospel fancy themselves bored with another Conference, and search for a new angle from which to approach it. That’s a mistake: the Spirit testifies of–and during the recitation of–truth, even if it’s truth we’ve heard a million times before. We need sustenance from the Spirit regularly no matter how learned and experienced we get.

So don’t be fooled into worrying about how this statement or that action will play out politically. The Lord chose our leaders, and is more than capable of running the church through them.

This General Conference, I’m going to try hard to approach every talk as a little child, soaking in both familiar and new ideas with eagerness. No cynicism. No criticism. No debates.

I think it will be refreshing.

 

 

[i] A friend wrote the following parody which brilliantly illustrates the thought processes I’m describing here:

Jesus: One of you will betray me.

Simon Zelotes: Finally! He said “betrayal.” This is a clear signal that we will soon betray our oath to Rome, and rise up in rebellion. He can’t say it outright, though, since Peter is dragging his feet, and he has to maintain the illusion of unity in the quorum.

Andrew: Hmmm. He said “me” instead of “The Son of Man.” He’s probably backing off on the Messianic claims due to the mass apostasy we had near Galilee. But, he has to do it gradually, so as not to spook the conservatives.

Timothy: Dang it! He’s displeased with my protest that he was going to die and we with him if we came to Jerusalem, so he’s pointing the finger at me but still has plausible deniability.

Peter: Nice to see a smack-down on Timothy’s apostasy and doubt.

Jesus wept.