A Few Thoughts On Conference and Prophets

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I was able to watch or read most of Conference this past week.  I listened carefully hoping to be inspired by messages delivered by those we call prophets, seers, and revelators.

I thought some of the talks were okay.  It seemed as though there was an added emphasis on the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith which for me is always a good thing.

Below are a few observations of things from Conference that did not overly inspire me.

  • Elder Ballard’s reference yet again to the Same Ol’ Ship Zion.  (He just seems to really cling to themes, i.e. Counseling With Your Counsels, Raising the Bar, and now Same Ol’ Ship.)
  • Elder Ballard promised “In the name of the Lord, that the God would never abandon His Church.”  Some may argue that this was a “powerful and bold witness” from a prophet, who needs to do nothing but speak the scripture that comes to him.  But some of us are left wondering then why the Savior would quote Isaiah and other prophets in making such proclamations.  Or why the D&C would say that if the Nauvoo Temple was not completed the Lord would reject us as a church, if in fact such a thing was impossible.  Brigham Young also made some pretty bold statements (most of which I don’t agree with btw) about the Lord rejecting the church and the priesthood for things we have now allowed, i.e. ending polygamy and giving priesthood to all worthy males.  Where are we promised that this church or any church can never fall?  In the Book of Mormon?  Just the opposite.  In the D&C?  Nope.  Maybe His Kingdom, which has never been of this world will never fall.  But not a church, even the very one Jesus restored.  Otherwise God would cease to be God for He would take away the agency of man.
  • I dislike it when the brethren endlessly quote each other.  Although I noticed that no one quoted the living prophet when discussing the Book of Mormon.  Instead a couple of different GA’s quoted Ezra Taft Benson, a dead prophet, likely because the living prophet has said very little of the Book of Mormon in his tenure.  But why does Elder Ashton need to quote Elder Christofferson for the most mundane of ideas?  For example: “this ‘power of godliness’ comes in the person and by the influence of the Holy Ghost.”  Why not quote Moroni?  Or the Savior?  It feels so unnecessary, idolatrous, and patronizing.  Jesus quoting Isaiah regarding the fulfillment of ancient prophecy shows much more humility and is very different than men quoting their colleagues higher in rank than themselves.
  • I did not like the part from Sister Reeve’s talk where she referenced a sister missionary from her and her husband’s mission who thought she could “circumvent the repentance process” and try her hardest to serve a valiant mission and then confess her sins a few days before leaving the mission field.  She said her confession “lacked Godly sorrow.”  First of all, why would the mission president’s wife know anything about a missionary’s confession given to her priesthood leader?  Is that information NOT meant to be kept confidential?  Secondly, how do you think this poor sister feels hearing this talk?  Is that how you help someone who is struggling?  Kick to the face.  How many missionaries just never confess their sins?  Especially since Elder Ballard raised the bar?  I can promise you that many missionaries lie to get out, lie to stay in and lie when they get married in the temple.  What if this sweet sister had confessed her sins to the Lord?  I assume she pleaded day and night with Him!  Dedicating her service to Him!  And what does she get when she confesses?  A mission president who breaks her confidence and blabbers her “lack of Godly sorrow” to his gossiping wife.  What if God actually does forgive sin without the need to confess to some dishonest priesthood holder and his wife?  I vote that the church edit her talk and fire the guy from the Correlation Department who was responsible for approving it.
  • Elder Christoffersen suggesting that God’s love is not unconditional.  What kind of message does that send?
  • Elder Holland’s talk calling out the home teachers who left when they saw the family was “busy.”  Why lead with a bad example of someone else, who is hopefully listening to your talk?  Isn’t that a little ruthless and unkind?  I prefer hearing someone tell of their own failure to prove their point.  While I was moved by his second story of the man who lost his child tragically, I did not love that Elder Holland made his talk about home teaching.  Why not just talk about loving our neighbor, period.  Did the Savior turn his parable of the Good Samaritan into a talk about home teaching or some other church program?  No, his talk, funny enough, was about how the non-member (the loathsome Samaritan) stopped when the two leaders from the Church (Priest = bishop, Levite = temple worker) did not.  They were apparently running late for home teaching or to their temple shift.  Maybe the real message from our Savior is to have compassion on ALL of God’s children and to make time to do what we can to help people especially in distress, WHO WE ARE NOT ASSIGNED TO, who we happen upon along our way.

I just have to add that the format and tradition of Conference is not one that I like.  Talks read from teleprompters practiced and rehearsed countless times, delivered by those whose hairs and clothing and makeup are all in perfect order.  The format seems to make people nervous.  One poor brother looked like he might die, seemingly paralyzed by complete stage fright.

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And yet, these men and women travel the world giving speeches and hopefully interesting messages to members everywhere.  But in Conference, I believe because of the rigid format they are required to follow, many of them freeze up and become boringly robotic.

I suppose the inspiration behind reading talks from a teleprompter, approved by Church curriculum is to make sure no one deviates from Church doctrine or says anything controversial that has to be changed and apologized for after the fact.  Of course some will also argue that General Authority talks are scripture and must be read as to not deviate from the revelation they have received and recorded.

Either way, I find the format stifling.  At least in the olden days when someone like Apostle Matthew Cowley would speak, no one was sure what interesting ideas might be shared.  He’s the one who was told as a new General Authority to never prepare a talk.  His talks often included firsthand accounts of incredible miracles he witnessed over his lifetime, especially with the Maori people in the many years he served in the South Pacific.

This idea of not writing and reading a talk seems to better conform to the commandment from the Savior to His disciples:

Neither take ye thought beforehand what ye shall say; but treasure up in your minds continually the words of life, and it shall be given you in the very hour that portion that shall be meted unto every man.  (D&C 84:85)

But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost.  (Mark 13:11)

Joseph Smith as far as I know, did not prepare 20 minute long talks that he read word for word.  Joseph, like most prophets in scripture, spoke for hours at a time, with some notes I assume, but with an emphasis on the words given from the Holy Ghost in the very hour.  When Joseph spoke, even if at a funeral, he was expounding doctrine, and saying interesting and insightful things that challenged and inspired the saints, without any teleprompter or script.  I can’t imagine those talks were boring.  They certainly aren’t as I read and study them 190 years later.

Is anyone else not bored with the format of today’s Conferences?  I challenge you to be honest, at least with yourself.  I’m concerned we have created a culture of such fear of men that we are not honest with how we truly feel.  Don’t get me wrong, the messages are “nice” enough at times, but I ask in all sincerity, where is the power?  Where is the prophecy?  Where is the excitement?  We are living in the Last Days!  Where is the urgency to repent?  To prepare?  To be sanctified?  To be endowed with Priesthood power so as to survive the Burning that will come?

Do we as Latter-day Saints take the Savior’s charge to judge the fruits of those who call themselves prophets?  Honestly, do we?  Or are we too lulled and complacent to do so?  Too fearful that doing so puts us on the highroad of apostasy?

Below are some very interesting excerpts from Hugh Nibley from his The World and the Prophets.  As you read, I invite you to ask yourself if today’s LDS prophets pass the test of what a prophet will teach and if they are generally received by the world and the church as were true prophets of old.


In the dealings of men with each other, any assumption of infallibility or even superiority is sheer arrogance; we mortals are highly fallible.  For that very reason, Peter insists, it is all-important to prove that a prophet is a true prophet and not one of the swarming impostors.  We must, he says, “before all things try the faith of the prophet by every possible test.”  A prophet is no ordinary person; he makes no ordinary claim; and he does not ask people to believe him, but to test him.  God is no authoritarian: He asks no one to believe; but invites the world as the prophets do, “Prove me herewith.”

When the Lord was upon his earthly mission, he greatly angered and upset men by forcing them to decide whether he was a true prophet or not.  Early in his mission he was met by certain devils who begged him to leave them alone: “They cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God?  Art thou come hither to torment us before the time?”  The devils could not ignore him; his mere presence was a “torment” to them.  And it was the same with men, for when the people of a nearby town heard what had happened, “behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus: and when they saw him, they besought him that he would depart out of their coasts” (Matthew 8:29).  Apparently his presence made men uncomfortable as it did the devils, for while the Lord was in their midst, they could not be neutral regarding him.  Only after he had left the earth could Christians have an “open mind” regarding Christ’s mission.  Of such people he said through his prophet John, “So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:16).  The Lord insists that we make up our minds one way or another regarding his calling.

Before considering the test of a true prophet, we must make clear the fact that a prophet is a witness, not a reformer.  Criticism of the world is always implicit in a prophet’s message of repentance, but he is not sent for the purpose of criticizing the world.  Men know the world is wicked, and the wickedest ones often know it best.  To denounce human folly has been the avocation of teachers and philosophers in every age, and their reward, surprisingly enough, has not been death but usually a rather handsome fee.  The age of Christ, like the nineteenth century, was a remarkably tolerant one as far as ideas were concerned.  On the one hand we find quacks, impostors, and miracle mongers flourishing throughout the Roman empire; and on the other, traveling philosophers and high-powered professors indulging in the most unsparing and outspoken criticism of all established institutions, sacred and profane, while the world applauded.  It was not the Sermon on the Mount that drove men to crucify the Lord.  It was not for their moral tirades that the prophets of old and the Apostles were stoned.  In the age of Apollonius and Dio Chrysostom people liked nothing better than to sit in fashionable congregations while being scolded by picturesque crackpots.  No Christian writer ever made such devastating attacks on prevailing manners as the pagan satirists did; no Christian apologist ever debunked heathen religion as effectively as Cicero did—with perfect safety….

What, then, did Christ and the Apostles do and say that drove men into paroxysms of rage?  They performed tangible miracles such as could not be denied, and they reported what they had seen and heard.  That was all.  It was as witnesses endowed with power from on high that they earned the hatred of the world, of which John speaks so much: “We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness” (John 3:11).

…To come down to modern times, why were people so furiously angry with Joseph Smith?  It was not for being a reformer or rebuking a naughty world.  In his day, the most popular preacher was the one who could denounce the manners of the times most fiercely and paint the most lurid picture of the wrath to come.  Nobody led militant campaigns against even the most rabid preachers of hell-fire or swore to drink their blood.  We have said that the world in which Jesus lived was full of quacks and and impostors who carried on unmolested.  So in the time of Joseph Smith, the country was full of strange separatist cults as the Mormons were falsely accused of, but no one thought it virtuous to burn their settlements or shoot them on sight.  In what did the modern prophets’ deadly offense consist?  In the summer of 1833 a much-publicized mass meeting was held in Missouri to protest the admission of Mormon immigrants into Jackson County, and this was the official objection: “The committee express fears that … they will soon have all the offices in the county in their hands; and that the lives and property of other citizens would be insecure, under the administration of men who are so ignorant and superstitious as to believe that they have been the subjects of miraculous and supernatural cures; hold converse with God and his angels, and possess and exercise the gifts of divination and unknown tongues.”

… Before we even consider the question of whether Joseph Smith was a true prophet or not, the uniqueness of his position deserves respectful attention.  Because, true or false, he was the first man since the days of the Apostles to claim the things that real prophets claim.  The modern prophets who excited the laughter and contempt of the world exactly as the ancient prophets shocked and amused the friends of Justin were the first men since ancient times to talk of what they had seen and heard in the presence of God and angels.  What could they expect but a prophet’s reward?


And so I ask you, as nice as Conference may have been, did any of those we call prophets speak with power and authority?  Did they speak of their visions or revelations from Angels or from God?  Did they speak in tongues or share their own prophesies?  Did they reach out to the throngs of people who stand when they enter and stand and wait when they depart, to heal the sick and afflicted?

I don’t ask these questions to be gratuitously critical.  I ask these questions because we are commanded by the Lord to prove and test those who call themselves prophets and who speak in His name.

I think it’s fair to say that today’s messages are much less hell-fire and damnation as perhaps they once were, as that has become perhaps politically incorrect or seen by the world as uneducated and unrefined.  Today’s messages are nice sermons which gently call for reform while encouraging virtues.  One could argue that the Savior did likewise on the Mount.

But, the Savior did not stop there, nor does any true prophet in the recorded history of the world.  They bare solemn and unmistakable witness of seeing Him and knowing Him, testifying to the world that He and His Angels have physically ministered to them.

And they performed open miracles for many if not all to see.  We will be judged on how we judge and discern these things.

10 thoughts on “A Few Thoughts On Conference and Prophets

  1. Lily

    The issue of Sister Reeves having information about a confession that she shouldn’t be privy to came up in my house as well. This is exactly why people don’t want to go talk to their Bishop.

    Reply
  2. Shai

    There were several things that rubbed me the wrong way with Conference this time. They actually stated things like “if you’re learning beyond what the leaders of the church has authorized, you’re looking beyond the mark…” and looking beyond the mark was noted to be a very bad and wrong thing. I’m still shocked and angry over it. The ensign for October has an article about the Joy of Learning in it. In it, it states to “relentlessly pursue truth….” And yet you have a church leader come out a week later at GENERAL CONFERENCE and basically in more than one way in the same talk basically state (and I’m paraphrasing) “Don’t learn anything more than what we say is OK. If you do, you’re wrong and in rebellion and need to repent.”

    It’s so gone beyond unhealthy for me. I don’t know why I stay. It’s wrong. I came to the church because of things I learned that I guarantee you the First Presidency doesn’t think is “OK” or “Approved.” But I know they don’t care about that.

    There’s a prevailing unspoken “as long as” attached to lots of the things the church says:

    Let all the children come unto Christ…… “as long as” you’re parents aren’t gay.
    Relentlessly pursue truth….”as long as” you do it in the bounds we set for you.
    We need women who can fearlessly teach, who can drawn on the power of Heaven in bold faith….”as long as” you agree with everything we say and do everything we tell you to do.
    No matter what you’re strengths and backgrounds are, this church needs you and there is a place for you here…”as long as” you live your life painted into the picture we tell you to.

    What I’ve listed above is absolutely true based on personal experience and just watching/listening to to talks, and LDS materials in the last 2 years I’ve been a convert.

    I can’t keep it in anymore and it makes me weep.

    Reply
    1. owyhee cowboy

      Never trust the Church T.M.

      Trust the gospel!! I like the UPS man, and what he brings me.But I don’t worship him.

      The Lords Church has never been perfect.Even when he was here on earth.

      What if a guy had been one Judas’s groupies?Or Thomas’s

      Dont stand in anybody’s Line!! Especially these cornballs!!

      Reply
  3. Jeffrey Richardson

    “Elder Christoffersen suggesting that God’s love is not unconditional. What kind of message does that send?”

    This line of thought from Elder Christoffersen still baffles me. Maybe it’s because he and his companions don’t study the Lectures on Faith? He is not the only one, though. Elder Nelson has taught the same. However, *President* Gordon B Hinckley said it *is* unconditional. Who of all these men are right; or, are they all wrong? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?

    While I was laboring under the extreme difficulties caused by the contests of these men of religion, I was one day reading the First Epistle of John, fourth chapter and tenth verse, which reads: Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

    I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed to know if God loves us all unconditionally, I did; for these teachers of religion understood the same passage of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible.

    . . . OK, you get the point.

    I think these men of religion are confusing *favor* with God, with *love* from God.

    Reply
  4. Shai

    Jeffrey:

    You bring something important: “I think these men of religion are confusing *favor* with God, with *love* from God.” I agree with you on this completely.

    I also heard in Conference this time and other talks as well, that you cannot be saved in your sins. Every time I hear that and hear it in the way it is presented by the LDS leaders, I immediately think of the scripture that says, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Do we have to accept that? Yes, but the fact is, He still died for us while we were sinners….

    Reply
  5. Jeffrey Richardson

    Shai,

    It’s like a marriage, indeed. If my marriage was considered successful based solely upon our emotions and how we treat each other on a hourly basis, we would fail eventually. But what makes my marriage, or anyone’s marriage, successful is: commitment.

    Same with God. If God based the success of our relationship with Him on our emotions toward Him and how we treat Him, we would be unsuccessful. We would fail. We DO fail. Because to be honest, we don’t treat Him like we should. But our relationship with Him can be considered ‘successful’ based upon HIS commitment towards us. Hence, 1 John 4:10.

    That, is love.

    Not that we love Him, but He loves us. He works with us. He has mercy upon us. He is a good Teacher. He does not give up on us. Christ sacrifice was and is worth it all. He does not regret it.

    Nephi is a good example on how to obtain and retain favor with God, which is separate from His love for us.

    Reply
  6. Jaron Ahlmann

    I loved Elder Christopherson’s talk! I think you miss the spirit of his talk. “Rather, His love is described in scripture as “great and wonderful love,” “perfect love,” “redeeming love,” and “everlasting love.” These are better terms because the word unconditional can convey mistaken impressions about divine love, such as, God tolerates and excuses anything we do because His love is unconditional, or God makes no demands upon us because His love is unconditional, or all are saved in the heavenly kingdom of God because His love is unconditional.”

    I don’t know about you but one of the prevailing philosophies of Christianity is this – that God will save men as long as they profess belief and not DO what he says.

    Beautiful message!

    Reply
  7. Kathryn

    I prefer not to mention names, however, one of the “Seventies” who gave a talk at conference was my former Bishop and a member of the Stake Presidency and a Mission President. I have to say he is one of the most intelligent, yet humble and fine men I have ever come in in contact with.

    I was excited to learn he would be speaking in this past conference. I was on the road and was listening to conference when he gave his address. For the first few minutes, I thought they had introduced the wrong person. He did not sound at all like himself. In fact, I had to wait until he got into his talk to find any refection of his voice that I was familiar with.

    The talk did not have the wonderful flow of language and thought that I had heard so many times before when he spoke. It felt ridged, practiced and strange and his verbiage did not seem to be his own.

    A couple of days later, I ran in to him and of course I acknowledged his talk. He said it was a frightening experience. He also mention that his talk had gone through 7 committee’s including the first presidency. Hmmmmm no wonder the talk did not sound like him and represent him at his best.

    Reply
  8. Underdog

    Kathryn,

    Thank you for sharing that “inside” info that talks must be subject to a multitude of committees’ approval.

    In this “Nicean” process, we see a fulfillment of Jacob’s warning in Jacob 6 where he warns us to not:

    “…deny the good word of Christ, and the power of God, and the gift of the Holy Ghost, and quench the Holy Spirit…”

    Your former local leader who spoke so powerfully in local meetings because the Spirit could speak through him “in the moment” found his tongue stayed, as the committees “quenched” the Holy Spirit.

    Reply
  9. Matt

    I freely admit I haven’t watched conference in years. It bores me to tears. It the LDS version of a Hallmark Channel Movie. Or worse, a Hallmark card. It feels like every statement is made with the intent of it becoming a meme – flowery words over pretty pictures – to be posted on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. If you go to LDS.org, you’ll find plenty of “motivational” and “inspirational” stuff. You want find any prophesy, revelation, translations; or modern accounts of visions, miraculous healings, or speaking in tongues. Hell, you won’t even find a mention of the Book of Mormon on the landing page. In the last year — and I’ve been keeping track — I’ve found two features on the Book of Mormon on the landing page. One was a link to print out Book of Mormon art for your lessons (at the bottom of the page). The second was an announcement that the Church would be making some new BoM movies (also at the bottom of the page). That’s it. It’s nuts.

    How many LDS people are aware the day of the Gentiles (we Northern European Mormons) is over? That the Lord’s warning to the Gentiles when he appeared at Bountiful about the Remnant of the House of Jacob hewing us down is happening right in front of our eyes? That we Gentiles have polluted the Holy Church of God? That all our churches are corrupt – every last one! But hey, you can find an article on 25 Ways to Hashtag Light the World at LDS.org.

    I think it’s safe to assume we’re still under condemnation as a people. I want the rest of the Book of Mormon, so get with everyone. 🙂 Let’s work together.

    Earlier this year I spent six months in NYC. I had never been before, so I went out and explored. Central Park was hands down my favorite. It’s sacred ground, IMO. Two or three times a week I’d just go walk around for an hour or sit on a bench and think and ponder the scriptures and spiritual things. I had more spiritual insight, personal revelation, enlightenment, learning, understanding and peace come to me during those walks through inexplicably beautiful nature than I’ve had in 40 years of conference talks. Or church.

    My experience sounds an awful like our founder’s.

    Reply

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