Allllll the Conference Talks
I went to General Conference in person last month. I haven't written about it because most of it is still too precious to me to write about. Maybe someday. Maybe not.
BUT, I will tell you this...I have listened to or read EVERY. SINGLE. TALK that has been given since the early 1970's. (We'll discuss my pathological need to set ridiculous goals another time.) I've started to do some meta-analysis on the talks as a whole - themes that come and go, etc - but have a lot more to do. So for now here are 4 observations.
1. Talks in the 1970s were soooo boring. At least in comparison to the talks of today. You could pick about any talk from a modern conference and it would contain at least one illustrative story guaranteed to keep the listener's attention. But back in the 1970's that was not the case. There was some story-telling but the stories were usually tucked into the back end of a talk. They were used to reinforce a point. Today illustrative stories are much more likely to open a talk. They seem to be intended to get the immagination engaged before the doctrine is introduced, but this was not the case in the past.
2. It's a global church now. Back in the 1970's and well into the 1980's it seems that the talks were aimed directly at the residents of Utah. They addressed their problems and offered solutions that would make sense to them. But by the 1990's you start to hear many more of the examples being given refer to Saints who live around the world, not just in Utah. And in the last 10 years there is a solid global focus. I imagine there are some folks living in Utah who have feelings about this, but from what I can tell, our leaders are not bothered by this.
3. Following the Prophet is a bit complicated. The talks I listened to had 7 different Prophets. And sometimes they contradict each other. My Protestant upbringing gets very nervous at this, though my friends raised in this church don't bat an eye at it. I bring this fact up with friends sometimes, and I think they wonder why I'm trying to create problems. It's jut not an issue for them. As I bat that fact around in my mind, I also think of the 4 Gospels. We have 4 versions of Jesus' baptism (and lots of other stories). The basic story is mostly the same, but they all report different versions of the Big Moment when the Voice comes from Heaven. All 4 Goselers have the Voice saying something different. Protestant friends mostly shrug at this and if I bring it up they wonder why I'm trying to create problems. Somehow we contextualize the differences in a way that makes sense. There are varying strategies for how people do this, a subject for a different time, but I suspect the same strategies are what LDS folks are using to contextualize the differences between the Prophets.
4. Everyone rolls their eyes. Not the speakers, the people I tell that I'm listening to every talk.No matter how faithful the member I talk to about this project, they all give me a little look that says: WHY do you have to be such a church-nerd, Jennifer? Why indeed.