General Conference October 2014. Sunday Morning Session, by Bobby Gilpin

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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.

Monson

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;

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;
We thank God for the blessings God gives, we thank God for the blessings that God gives through people. All things are by, from, and to God. No human no matter how significant their position, or great their gifting deserves the thanks and praise that only belongs to God.

 

For the sake of time I am going to jump straight to the last talk. Given by President Thomas S Monson and called Ponder the Path of thy feet.

 

Now to be fair I think on the whole this seemed a fine talk, sure terms like Exaltation that are used are ones that open theological minefields, however that aside, and casting aside the regular emphasis on obedience could take us into the faith/works debate, there were some good points made, such as:
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.
Sounds good to me, however what did strike me was that this was a very general, safe talk. Nothing new, certainly nothing revelatory, and it could have been given any time throughout the history of Mormonism with no real relevance to a specific time.
 In recent years Monson has seems to have started a habit of repeating talks that he gave years ago. In the Priesthood session this year he gave the talk “Guided safely home”. This has remarkable similarities to the 1982 talk Sailing Safely the seas of life.  There is some further discussion on this with other examples here.

 

I think there is only more of this to come and that this is a sign of Monson’s dementia. From some research I have found that familiarity is essential for people with this condition. Doing new things is very difficult and the more familiar surroundings/circumstances a person is in the better, see an article on this here. President Monson, has been giving general conference talks for many years, this is a familiar surrounding to him, I think giving him talks with content he has given before, with likely some re watching of these talks before conference will only help him carry out his role with this condition. However it does seem these days that he rarely makes an appearance otherwise.
As I said earlier this point alone is not a deal breaker for the truthfulness of the LDS message, however it is, I feel a cruel and irresponsible move to  have someone in this position still be expected to carry out this role. It is dishonest of the leadership to not spell this out, rather just giving a pep talk that if something is wrong you do not have to worry.

 

In some senses this would be an opportunity to show the true prophetic gift of the Mormon prophet, that even with this condition God is giving him clear prophetic messages for the LDS church. With respect I really would not hold your breath for this. The reality is that because President Monson is not a true Prophet, dementia or no dementia, it really does not make any difference if he has this illness, as nothing new was coming anyway.

Notes.

(1) http://www.wheatandtares.org/14846/does-pres-monson-have-dementia/

8 thoughts on “General Conference October 2014. Sunday Morning Session, by Bobby Gilpin”

      1. Well – to set people right that it is THE WORD AND WILL OF THE LORD that marriage is a union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others, for life or for time and all eternity; rather than a legalistic construct to determine the division of communal property between any two people who choose to live together for a while.

        Many people, even Christians (including Mormons) had been swayed to accept the “world view” of marriage, and now they’ve been put right.

        Prophets have made similar clarifications (declaring THE WORD AND WILL OF THE LORD) concerning women and the Priesthood.

        Those who have ears to hear…

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      2. Yeah but my point is that this stuff is written all over the Bible. Its just plagiarism to say that your “Prophets” are bringing anything new to this discussion, they are simply repeating what the word of God has said for years, this is what Christian preachers all over the world do every week. If they want to take the title of Prophet away and replace it with teacher then by all means.

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  1. Poor old Mr Monson is being sustained in his office as president for one reason and one reason alone.
    When he succumbs to mortality, as we all will, the next in line for the post is Boyd K. Packer a man who has proven himself such an embarrassment to the church with his many politically incorrect statements, avocations of now disavowed doctrines and plain stupidity.
    Boyd K. Packer is the man who seriously extolled the idea that historian should not be listened to because they as an occupational group were obsessed with finding out the truth and that was a bad thing because truth is not a good thing, if I recall correctly he gave the example of declaring all the female workers in the LDS offices were Fat and Ugly and that was the truth, but he would not tell them that because truth is a bad thing, like wise church history should not be investigated in case it proved unedifying.
    Then of course there is the infamous “little factory” talk a source of much hilarity since it was given
    The 30 year, one man war on, and condemnation of the American educational system for teaching humanism, pragmatism and philosophy by irreverent professors who are determined to destroy the family unit and God’s Church on behalf of their satanic masters. All of which he blames on publicly funded schools, that should give way to moral church education and home education of Mormon children by Mormon families.
    His unashamed bigotry is shown in this little pearl “The dangers I speak of come from the gay-lesbian movement, the feminist movement (both of which are relatively new), and the ever-present challenge from the so-called scholars or intellectuals.”
    And of course his public out dated stance against inter-racial marriage is still causes a few red faces and much *ahem* ing, when he puts it forward as still valid church doctrine.
    Imagine if this gaffmeister began speaking with the authority of being a living prophet, the church would be lucky to last a week with out mass apostasy and the legal writs beginning to fly.
    LDS legal department on standby.

    No wonder conference talk lack prophetic content, each new prophet has had to contend with the historical, sometimes illegal and contradictory rubbish revelations, put forward by his predecessors, after Mr Benson, the word seems to have gone out, ENOUGH, and revelation ceased.

    Cruel as it seems, Mr Monson being kept in post seems to be useful to the LDS even if he is ill since he may still outlive Boyd K. Packer and if he is senile he can be controlled and his words fed to him after being vetted and approved by committee, this being the case it would seem Mr Monsons mental state, yet physical strength have proved to be a blessing to the church as a whole and its governing body in particular.

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    1. I’m surprised you can write so much (so very, very much) criticising Mormon leadership when the points you make show you know so very little about it.
      President Monson can’t be sacked because he’s old / ill / senile – his only “Change of assignment” will come when he dies at which point he will be mourned and missed by millions.
      And President Packer IS a Prophet of the Lord and can therefore speak with authority on topics which he sees fit.

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      1. Who said anything about sacking anyone?
        I simply pointed out that it is to the advantage of the church to keeps the current incumbent in office for as long as possible to prevent the accession of a potentially embarrassing and unpleasant successor.
        President Packer may be A prophet (as are officially all of the apostles) but he is not THE prophet.
        However if you ask most Mormons how many prophets head the church they would indignantly tell you there is only one prophet, it is another of those deliberately fudged areas of Mormon dogma.
        The Apostles are called to be Prophets, Seers and Revelators, but this in effect only means they CAN become THE prophet of the church, not that they ARE Prophets of the church and entitled to speak as such.

        But if I take your point, why is President Packer so often given authority to say things so directly in opposition to the official professed policy of the LDS as a whole and his fellows “prophets” in particular?

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