I think the thing that always strikes me very quickly whenever I listen to any general conference talk is this, where is the revelation? Where is ANYTHING that is new. It just does not happen. There are thousands of missionaries around the world telling people how great it is that the LDS church has a modern-day Prophet, that the canon of scripture is not closed, and that God loves us too much to leave us without the modern revelation that we so need today.
Yet none of this is anywhere to be found, least of all in one of these sessions. From what I can tell general conference exists for 3 purposes.
1, To keep people active in the church.
2, To respond, usually indirectly to criticism or comments being made about the church.
3, To keep people obedient to the church.
This is it, and in this session this is as clear as any other.
The first talk of the Sunday Morning Session is by Henry B Eyring first counsellor to the presidency, and it is on Continuing Revelation.
Eyring says this:
President Boyd K. Packer described that identifying mark of the true Church this way: “Revelation continues in the Church: the prophet receiving it for the Church; the president for his stake, his mission, or his quorum; the bishop for his ward; the father for his family; the individual for himself.”
Nowhere in this talk does Eyring give an example of a Prophecy from current Mormon Prophet Thomas S Monson. Toward the end of his talk he says this
God pours out revelation, through the Holy Ghost, on His children. He speaks to His prophet on the earth, who today is Thomas S. Monson. I witness that he holds and exercises all the keys of the priesthood on earth.
Can any Mormon give me an example of when this has happened? The only thing I can think of that has happened of any significance under Monson’s tenure is reducing the age of missionaries. Which is a procedural change at best. Right now around the world we are facing some of the hardest issues ever, yet the Mormon Prophet and therefore the Mormon God, are silent on the matter, this to me and I hope others, speaks volumes.
The second talk is called Sustaining the Prophets and is by Elder Russell M Nelson, of the Quorum of the twelve Apostles.
This talk very strongly fits with my point number 2 above of what general conference does. General conference will indirectly respond to what’s being said about the church and its leaders, but will very rarely affirm that what is being said is the case.
For a number of years now there has been much discussion on whether Thomas S Monson is suffering from dementia. Monson is 87 years old and whether you believe he is a prophet or not, you will agree that he is human like the rest of us, subject to the same weaknesses, illnesses etc as the rest of us, so as a quick disclaimer even if this is true I don’t see this as a deal breaker as to whether the LDS “gospel” is true or not, however I wonder why this cannot be specifically and clearly addressed.
John Dehlin of the Mormon Stories podcast said this:
I’ve probably talked to 50 people who work directly with the church in some significant capacity who all confirm that President Monson has some form of dementia and that unless he’s got handlers around him, and unless he’s reading a speech, he’s unmanageable and incoherent, and you know that doesn’t mean he can’t be friendly to a child and wink to a crowd or wiggle his ears or read a teleprompter, but in terms of really managing the church, he’s over 90.(1)
This talk never affirms this is going on but it is filled with the idea that even if the Prophet is unwell the church is ok, here’s a quote. (bold added by me)
The Apostle with the longest seniority in the office of Apostle presides.15That system of seniority will usually bring older men to the office of President of the Church. It provides continuity, seasoned maturity, experience, and extensive preparation, as guided by the Lord.
The Church today has been organized by the Lord Himself. He has put in place a remarkable system of governance that provides redundancy and backup. That system provides for prophetic leadership even when the inevitable illnesses and incapacities may come with advancing age.Counterbalances and safeguards abound so that no one can ever lead the Church astray. Senior leaders are constantly being tutored such that one day they are ready to sit in the highest councils. They learn how to hear the voice of the Lord through the whisperings of the Spirit.
While serving as First Counselor to President Ezra Taft Benson, who was then nearing the end of his mortal life, President Gordon B. Hinckley explained:
“The principles and procedures which the Lord has put in place for the governance of His church make provision for any … circumstance. It is important … that there be no doubts or concerns about the governance of the Church and the exercise of the prophetic gifts, including the right to inspiration and revelation in administering the affairs and programs of the Church, when the President may be ill or is not able to function fully.
So we see here Nelson affirming that leaders are only there because God has put them there. That illnesses are inevitable given the age of the leaders, and not to worry if this happens. I think for now many LDS members are unaware or unconvinced of Monson’s dementia, and many are aware, this comment speaks to both of those sets of people while never affirming or denying this to be the case, this is a very common general conference theme.
Recently Thomas S Monson was pictured meeting a stake president.
This is obviously without the makeup that will go with a general conference day. There is nothing particularly shocking about this picture, it just simply shows a man who is getting very old. As we all will over time, however Nelson also makes this point.
The ways of the Lord are different from the ways of man. Man’s ways remove people from office or business when they grow old or become disabled. But man’s ways are not and never will be the Lord’s ways. Our sustaining of prophets is a personal commitment that we will do our utmost to uphold their prophetic priorities. Our sustaining is an oath-like indication that we recognize their calling as a prophet to be legitimate and binding upon us.
It seems to be saying that Monson cannot step down, that he must stay in the role till death. This saddens me a little for this man, his dementia if he truly has it is only going to manifest more over time, yet in the process he has to stay the at least named leader for this church, I struggle to see why this is such a good thing that makes the LDS church so unlike the so-called “man’s ways”.
This talk is all about the fact that the LDS church leaders know that this information is getting out, and so they want people to not worry, the church is still in good hands. Fulfilling my points 1, 2 and 3.
Nelson ends with this. (bold added)
Last year, when President Monson reached the milestone of 5 years of service as President of the Church, he reflected on his 50 years of apostolic service and made this statement: “Age eventually takes its toll on all of us. However, we join our voices with King Benjamin, who said, … ‘I am like as yourselves, subject to all manner of infirmities in body and mind; yet I have been chosen … and consecrated by my father, … and have been kept and preserved by his matchless power, to serve you with all the might, mind and strength which the Lord hath granted unto me’ (Mosiah 2:11).”
President Monson continued: “Despite any health challenges that may come to us, despite any weakness in body or mind, we serve to the best of our ability. I assure you that the Church is in good hands. The system set up for the Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve [Apostles] assures [us] that it will always be in good hands and that, come what may, there is no need to worry or to fear. Our Savior, Jesus Christ, whom we follow, whom we worship, and whom we serve, is ever at the helm.”
President Monson, we thank you for those truths! And we thank you for your lifetime of exemplary and dedicated service. May I presume to speak for the members of the Church throughout the world in our united and sincere expression of gratitude for you. We honor you! We love you! We sustain you, not only with uplifted hands but with all our hearts and consecrated efforts. Humbly and fervently, “we ever pray for thee, our prophet dear”! In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
The Mormon Church is, at its heart a man exalting organization, Jesus Christ is an after thought, I see this section of the talk as a clear affirmation of this. Why would we ever thank a man for any truths? Ever? It just would not happen. We see in the New Testament from the Apostle Paul a constant exalting of God. A constant grateful heart to God, for all things, here’s some examples.
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.
Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.
He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth Godthanks.
I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ;
I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all:
Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.
But thanks be to God, which put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus for you.
Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God.
For the administration of this service not only supplieth the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God;
As we strive to place Christ at the center of our lives by learning His words, by following His teachings, and by walking in His path, He has promised to share with us the eternal life that He died to gain. There is no higher end than this, that we should choose to accept His discipline and become His disciples and do His work throughout our lives. Nothing else, no other choice we make, can make of us what He can.