Oh, and General Conference is Being Held Too

By: Jeff Spector
April 4, 2014

Most members of the LDS Church look forward to the first weekend in April and October to hear from the Prophets, Apostles and other General Leaders of the Church. It also affords them a weekend off of normal Church activities.  But this time around, the main attraction may not actually be in the Conference Center, but outside.

 

Ifconference 1 you’ve ever been to Temple Square during conference time, you cannot miss those who are located outside who seem to have a myriad of complaints against the Church.

  • We’re not Christian
  • We worship Satan as Jesus’ brother
  • Joseph Smith was a false Prophet
  • The LDS Church is a cult…..
  • And so on.

conference 2 These folks tend to be loud and very confident in their convictions. They try to engage members as they enter Temple Square with either a conversation or a piece of literature. Returned Missionaries and Church zealots will sometimes engage them for the sport of it, but generally they are ignored.

This year may be different. We will add both new and returning, but unique groups to the mix.

  1. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Atheists plan to march with ex-Mormons during General Conference. They are hoping that active, but atheist Church members will join them to “…come out or would like to be able to identify as their more authentic and true selves to let the world know that they are atheists; that they don’t have to try to maintain the facade of being LDS, when they’re not,” Dan Ellis, president of Atheists of Utah, said Wednesday. “Hopefully, it will be cathartic for people who are participating.”  This march is in preparation for the American Atheist 40th Annual Convention to be held in Salt Lake April 17-20, Easter Weekend.  I am sure they will get a crowd to join them but not clear how many will be active LDS members. I am certain many will say they are, but who knows?
  2. Again, according to Salt Lake Tribune, which I might add is not friend to the Church (but does employ the wonderful Peggy Fletcher Stack), 500 Mormon women to enter Temple Square to seek priesthood tickets . According to the article, the Ordain Women group, in spite of receiving a letter from the Church asking them not to try to attend the Priesthood session are going to march on Temple Square as they did last year and ask for tickets to the meeting. They even gone so far as hire off-duty Salt Lake Police to manage the crowd. According to the group, church security will not try to stop them. What happens next is anyone’s guess. TV cameras and now, journalists are not allowed on Temple Square.Ordain Women at General Conference

So, a couple of questions:

  1. Do these two activities, well publicized, take away from General Conference and the messages we will hear?
  2. Will you be paying more attention to the activities outside Conference than inside?

24 Responses to Oh, and General Conference is Being Held Too

  1. Howard on April 4, 2014 at 7:56 AM

    Sure it detracts and I don’t blame members from disliking it.

    At the same time those outside often carry a message of truth. Tension is created as a result. If the demonstrators assertions were completely without merit something totally made up like signs saying “Mormons have horns” it would be easy to shrug off even laugh at but women, atheists and gays (Where are the intellectuals? Too smart to be there, writing instead?) all have a legitimate points to make because their positions contain some truth. It persists because in spite of the the church’s resistance it slowly changes to accommodate these positions while the “faithful” INSIST there is no connection between the activism and the church’s policy changes at all, the timing is purely coincidental. It all makes for wonderful drama!

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  2. Jack Hughes on April 4, 2014 at 8:04 AM

    To the contrary, Jeff; because of the events going on in the streets of SLC, I will probably be paying attention to GC a lot more closely than I normally do. Looking for a reaction, or maybe prophetic guidance in turbulent times.

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  3. anonymous on April 4, 2014 at 8:51 AM

    Why do you choose to say “march on” instead of “walk to?” It sounds like you are trying to demonize them as attacking the church.

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  4. Jeff Spector on April 4, 2014 at 9:07 AM

    “march on” instead of “walk to”

    Those are the newspaper headlines. Their words, not mind.

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  5. Rigel Hawthorne on April 4, 2014 at 9:35 AM

    So it would seem this would be the OW scenario:

    Q. Can I get standby tickets for the Priesthood session.

    A. No, the tickets for the session are reserved for men and boys.

    Q. Why?

    A. See the letter that was released by church media affairs.

    Q. Is there no further explanation?

    A. No, I’m just here as a volunteer to distribute tickets according to the instructions I have been given.

    Q. Is there someone else I can talk to?

    A. No one is here at this time.

    Q. Ok, so I guess I’ll go to City Creek Park now.

    A Ok, Bye.

    Of course, the asking may be more persistent than this scenario, but what’s the point in heckling a volunteer ticket distributor?

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  6. Jeff Spector on April 4, 2014 at 10:35 AM

    Another way of saying it is:

    If a ticket request is made and there is no media around to record it, did the request get made at all?

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  7. Howard on April 4, 2014 at 10:41 AM

    No the request cannot be made without media, that’s a necessity the church is requiring.

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  8. New Iconoclast on April 4, 2014 at 11:02 AM

    1.Do these two activities, well publicized, take away from General Conference and the messages we will hear?
    2.Will you be paying more attention to the activities outside Conference than inside?

    Utah problems. This stuff may be well-publicized if you live in Happy Valley, but for those of us in the rest of the Church, I’d bet most active members of my ward are almost completely unaware of it. So, no, none of it will detract from the Conference messages my family will hear over my laptop speakers this weekend, 1300 miles away from SLC; and we won’t have any idea what’s happening outside Conference unless I pass on to the family what all of you are saying.

    This is not a Church-wide fuss. I say that completely without judgment as to whether or not it ought to be; it simply isn’t on most members’ radar screens this weekend.

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  9. Jeff Spector on April 4, 2014 at 11:40 AM

    New Iconoclast;

    I do agree that these tend to be Utah-centric issues regarding what actually goes on outside Temple Square. This is especially true, if you have not been there. But there has been some media coverage of OW, so I would be surprised if many were not somewhat familiar.

    OTOH, if you are skiing or at the beach, you probably wouldn’t care either….. :)

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  10. New Iconoclast on April 4, 2014 at 12:46 PM

    Skiing is more likely in Minnesota, given that we just got hammered with another 10 inches of snow! :) I’ll see if I can take a kind of informal straw poll in my ward next week, to see how many people noticed.

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  11. Rigel Hawthorne on April 4, 2014 at 1:02 PM

    I’d bet most active members of my ward are almost completely unaware of it.

    Ditto here in Oregon. Even my family in Arizona had never heard of “Wear Pants day”. I do remember when I was a kid watching general conference, they called for a sustaining vote for the general authorities and after each one, someone in the audience yelled, “NO! BECAUSE OF EQUAL RIGHTS AMMENDMENT”. That message of protest managed to make it audible to every television watcher who was paying attention. As I recall, the person reading the list of officers for sustaining just kept going, as if there was no dissenting vote and the voice eventually stopped–presumably after receiving an escort out of the tabernacle.

    I noticed that the new guest poster representing the COC cross posted on the COC blog SaintsHerald explaining that he had been asked to submit for the “liberal blog” W&T. I guess the awareness of this debate could be from reading Utah News OR from following “so-called” “liberal” websites. :)

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  12. Jeff Spector on April 4, 2014 at 1:28 PM

    yeah, I get it. We got 12 inches at our house yesterday. Went into town, practically nothing…..

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  13. Jeff Spector on April 4, 2014 at 1:31 PM

    ““so-called” “liberal” websites.”

    To our conservative/teaparty friends, there is no greater shame you can thrust upon a person than to call them “a liberal.”

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  14. anonymous on April 4, 2014 at 2:05 PM

    I looked at the salt lake tribune article you linked to and it doesn’t contain the word “march” anywhere. Certainly not the title, so I don’t know what you are referring to.

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  15. Ken on April 4, 2014 at 2:56 PM

    “Do these two activities, well publicized, take away from General Conference and the messages we will hear?”

    This is up to the protestors. That is thier intent — to protest, demonize or in some way shame the church. I thnk the church is wise to move them to an isolated area where they can conduct thier protests with as little conflict or disruption as possible. Likewise, those that have been specifically asked to take thier cause to the protest area should be arrested for trespassing if they choose to enter temple square.

    Anon,

    March is the correct term – they are trying to agitate, disrupt and/or gain attention to their cause.

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  16. wreddyornot on April 4, 2014 at 6:35 PM

    1.Do these two activities, well publicized, take away from General Conference and the messages we will hear?

    Not at all; they enliven the experience to an even greater degree. And I take issue with the terms used by many of “demonize” and “shame”. What is a shame is that we boys hardly ever if ever ask after our missing Mother . . . or our sisters or our daughters.

    2.Will you be paying more attention to the activities outside Conference than inside?
    No. No reason too. OW activities — asking to attend — will take place before the session starts. If excluded, they will return to a park nearby where they gathered to begin with and watch conference.

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  17. MB on April 4, 2014 at 8:28 PM

    Rigel #11,

    I remember that general conference with the shout out during sustainings. At the end of the long list of sustainings the one at the pulpit invited the ones who had dissented to meet with church authorities.

    That resulted in speculation about why they’d been asked to do that and what was intended.

    I guess there was a lot of curiosity and rumor going because, 6 months later, at the next general conference, the one doing the sustainings stopped to explain that it was church policy that anyone who casts a dissenting vote at a worship service is invited to meet with church leaders in order to have an opportunity to discuss their concerns and reasons for opposition. And that, he said, is what the invitation, 6 months earlier had been about.

    Both occasions were unusual enough that I never forgot them.

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  18. hawkgrrrl on April 4, 2014 at 11:42 PM

    You can bar cameras and the press, but every single cell phone has a camera. I’m beginning to think that nobody in Church HQ has ever seen an episode of Gossip Girl! xoxo

    Personally, I’m far more interested to hear what the talks are saying that obliquely references these actions. What I want to hear is that the church understands that there are people who feel they can’t be themselves, and they are welcome anyway, and that women are valued as more than just mothers, future and former. I’m sure some talks will disappoint me, while others will give me hope. That seems to be how it goes every six months.

    While it “detracts” from the message (?) in that these groups are not “on message” with the church’s party line, they are also an important part of the membership, IMO, if not in some members’ minds. He that is not against me is for me. We shouldn’t kick out anyone who wants to participate on whatever terms. I’ll take 10 honest atheists over a sanctimonious hypocrite any day and twice on Sunday.

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  19. KT on April 4, 2014 at 11:57 PM

    @New Iconoclast…. Minnesota, eh? At least it started melting right away! I too being not in the Utah area think it’s fairly utah centric. Most members don’t seem too aware of these sorts of happenings unless they are on the bloggernacle.

    I also agree with what Howard said…. It’s not as though they are saying outright ‘anti Mormon’ things, like ‘Mormons have horns’. That would be easier for the org to shrug off and ignore. But, when there are elements of truth, it seems to bring more tension.

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  20. Hedgehog on April 5, 2014 at 3:31 AM

    I don’t think they take away from General Conference.

    Like hawkgrrrl, I’ll be paying close attention to the messages inside.

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  21. Ken on April 5, 2014 at 9:51 AM

    “You can bar cameras and the press, but every single cell phone has a camera. I’m beginning to think that nobody in Church HQ has ever seen an episode of Gossip Girl! xoxo”

    The church knows they have camera phone and they know they will be used. They have asked the media to stay out to deny these groups (mostly ow) the attention they seek. These groups are NOT interested in the message, they are after attention. If they were after the message, they could watch from thier same phone they use to take pictures.

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  22. […] to do SiOB a little early this week because it looks like this conference is going to generate some interesting news. That news will be rolling in over the next few days, so let’s wrap up this past […]

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  23. Douglas on April 5, 2014 at 7:28 PM

    Dissenters and nay-sayers glom onto the Conference proceedings to gain attention to their cause(s). The best thing to do is to politely ignore them and pay attention to the proceedings at hand.

    We each choose what we want to get out of Conference. If we’re interested in controversy, the Adversary is more than able and willing to distract with same. If we’re interested in the message(s), that too is freely available. As Luke Skywalker, when entering into the cave on Dagobah which was “strong with the Dark Side”, asking what he’d find, was told, “Only what you take with you.”

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  24. New Iconoclast on April 15, 2014 at 8:08 AM

    Results of informal, unscientific straw poll: most of the members of my ward who were asked are aware that there are protests on/near Temple Square and that these get larger during Conference; a few had heard of the Ordain Women movement (and none thought much of it); some women wear pants to church anyway and no one seems to mind; and we got a new Bishopric so everyone was a little distracted anyway. ;)

    FWIW, the new bishop is a great guy, and his second counselor, in particular, is a questioner who, while orthodox, is not one to parrot the party line. He is, for example, one of the most outspoken opponents of Friends of Scouting in the ward. That passes for free thinking in many LDS circles. :)

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