Best and Worst: GenCon

By: shenpa warrior
April 6, 2011

In the name of dissonance and ambiguity, remember to include a worst AND a best memory in your comments! Here are two each of mine:

Worst:

  • The debate about conference-as-scripture vs. conference-as-not-necessarily-scripture. Which is it? Either/or? Both/and? Part of this confusion I think comes from blanket (general?!) statements as people describe conference as “the words of prophets and apostles speaking for the Lord” and “modern-day scripture” and, here’s the kicker – “more important than the standard works.” Um, sorry, but generally (!) it seems to me that the standard works are still more important. Otherwise we all have a million talks to read. Or perhaps I’m getting it wrong and the talks have a shelf-life of 6 months? Do older conferences not carry the weight of scripture? Do we need expiration dates?
  • The apparent aftermath of any time President Packer speaks. Why does he need to be such a polarizing figure? Even my young son referred to him as “Sir Topham Hatt.” (from the Thomas wiki: “Despite being strict, he shows a fatherly side to the engines. He is quite a strong character and will remind the engines that he is in charge when they start to rebel against his authority.”) I know some of his remarks have been controversial (to say the least) but it seems like lately if he opens his mouth there are 1-people making snide remarks or 2-people starting facebook support groups in his defense.

Best:

  • Just about every conference I was able to watch on my mission. We got the tapes a week later in Japan, and there was usually a member who rigged up an extra audio feed so we could listen in English. I LOVED conference as a missionary. I even had tapes of old conferences sent to me that I listened to multiple times. I couldn’t get enough of the story of Henry Eyring senior in the onion patch. “I wasn’t there for the weeds Hal.”
  • Back to Pres. Eyring again, I have always loved his speaking style. Two things stand out – he doesn’t usually spend time at the beginning with introducing his talks. He just gets right to the point. I love that style, because it feels so engaging and different. He also seems to be able to break through the formality of the GenConWall better than anyone. Many speakers look like they’re talking to millions of people standing at a fancy podium reading teleprompters. He looks like he’s talking to a room of 10 people. He opens up. I first realized how different people could be in different settings when Elder Oaks came to my mission to speak. He was SO personable. Not necessarily in the “content” but in the process. Pres. Eyring I think has mastered bringing the art of “wise and concerned friend you really like” to his GenCon talks.

What are some of your best memories of General Conference? What are some of the worst? What did you like/dislike about Conference last weekend? Remember to be dissonant, ambivalent, and contradictory!

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26 Responses to Best and Worst: GenCon

  1. Bored in Vernal on April 6, 2011 at 7:35 AM

    Or perhaps I’m getting it wrong and the talks have a shelf-life of 6 months? Do older conferences not carry the weight of scripture? Do we need expiration dates?

    YES! We definitely need expiration dates on these! I don’t know if 6 months is optimum, but I’d say the talks are very dated within 5 years.

    One of my favorite parts of Conference was Elder Scott’s talk. If there have to be talks about women, this is the model I would suggest. He didn’t spout a lot of platitudes about how fabulous and righteous women are as a function of their gender, but he opened up about the sweet relationship he had with his late wife. I loved the tenderness and the personal stories. I don’t usually respond to Elder Scott’s speaking style but in this case I was very touched. It made me want to work on my marriage in a way that other speakers didn’t accomplish.

    Something I disliked was all the recycled stories. Almost every story told, from the parable of the cruise ship to the Hugh B. Brown story of the currant bush I had heard countless times before. Maybe this says something about how long I’ve been around. But considering that we are going to have to hear these talks in Church again and again in the coming months, I WISH they’d use fresh stories. Doesn’t anyone have any new experiences any more?

    Thanks for this post, I think it is going to be a fun thread to read.

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  2. shenpa warrior on April 6, 2011 at 8:23 AM

    BiV – Thanks for the comment. My experience is similar to yours with the speakers using more personal stories. Self-disclosure like that – both in content and emotion – usually leads to people being more connected and more inspired. Perhaps that is also a partial solution to your “dislike” here – sharing NEW experiences that one owns.

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  3. Kullervo on April 6, 2011 at 9:09 AM

    Oh, I thought for a second that this was going to be about GenCon.

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  4. jmb275 on April 6, 2011 at 10:12 AM

    Worst:
    1. the characterization of “cafeteria Mormons” by E Nelson. Very sad, very marginalizing, poor use of language.
    2. E Packer’s talk in general. I think I just have to say it – I just don’t like him much. I don’t like his authoritarian messages, I don’t like his doctrine, I don’t like his style. I think at this point, unfortunately, I just automatically cringe at everything he says. For me, he typifies the corporate authoritarian culture that exists in varying levels in the church which I truly detest.

    Best:
    1. President Uchtdorf. The man is brilliant. He gets it. He delivers a powerful address, that moves me to want to be better. I feel better, happy, motivated after listening to him. He’s amazing.
    2. E. Eyring. I really like his talks for the same reasons shenpa warrior mentioned. So personal, to tender, like a concerned benefactor. Probably helps that his dad is one of my all-time heroes within or without the church.

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  5. Eric on April 6, 2011 at 10:43 AM

    Worst: I thought that overall the General Conference was one of the better ones, and I can’t really say there was anything I found especially troubling. But I will comment very briefly about what has been said elsewhere on this blog: While well-meaning, and not even incorrect, the talk about women being wonderful just seems awkward. That’s the best word for it. And I’d like to hear more female speakers.

    Best: Talks by two of the Seventies, Lynn Robbins and Scott Grow. Robbins had some of the best parenting advice I’ve heard in a General Conference, and Grow provided a personal perspective that made me want to listen to what he had to say.

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  6. Paul on April 6, 2011 at 11:25 AM

    On General Conference in general:

    Best: being able to see more than I could as a kid when we got one session (usually the next day) on public television and then still had to go to Fast & Testimony Meeting afterwards. Seeing all the sessions (four of five in my home thanks to the internet) — now that I appreicate them more — is a great blessing for me.

    Worst: Standing in line on Temple Square to take my boys each to their first Gen PH meeting “live” (after having travelled from wherever we lived at the time to get there), and having the live session (cramped on the balcony of the tabernacle or Assembly Hall) not measure up to my hopes and dreams. I made the trip three times, but did not with #4 son.

    This conference: Best: specific talks that spoke to me and met my needs, especially President Eyring, Elder Grow’s, Elder Holland’s, Sister Allred’s. In the case of Pres E & Sister A, it’s their style as much as their substance that I love. Elder Grow’s talk gave me great hope because of my own family’s situation. And Elder Holland’s message that a discussion of issues in conference does not mean they are all MY issues was kind.

    Worst: Monday morning quarterbacking about how people said what they did. I think it’s ok — even healthy — to discuss how we feel about a message, and even whether we struggle to accept what was taught. We can do that, though, without condemning the speaker if we focus on ideas rather than personalities.

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  7. ldspsygenius on April 6, 2011 at 11:28 AM

    For me the worst was Packer’s going on and on about not calling ourselves Mormon. A little weird from a church that has a website called mormon.org. I also get really depressed over people’s reaction to Packer, my impression is there is a sizable group anxiously awaiting the time of his death.

    I loved priesthood session. I have grown to find our current first presidency as just wonderful. As always I get so excited by new temples. I never thought anyone would match Hinckley on this but with Winnepeg getting a temple for just one stake I am realizing potential I had never before contemplated.

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  8. Martin on April 6, 2011 at 12:08 PM

    Worst: Every priesthood conference when I hear about how deacons and teachers quorum presidents hold priesthood keys. I’ve never understood that. Priesthood keys give priesthood leaders authority to direct how priesthood is to be exercised (eg., bishop grants permission for a baptism). While I accept that deacons and teachers quorum presidents can receive inspiration for their quorums, I cannot see how they have any keys to exercise, and these talks seem to stretch credulity.

    Best: Pres. Uchtdorf, Bishop Burton, and Sister Allred in one morning session. I think the church needs to be reminded to look for people who need our help. I need to be reminded.

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  9. Jacob M on April 6, 2011 at 1:57 PM

    Bests from this Conference: Pres. Uchtdorf, Elder Scott (Richard G), and always, Elder Holland. Pres. Uchtdorf always gives great talks that show his love of people and flying. Elder Scott talking about his wife was very sweet. Elder Holland does a better job than anybody, in my opinion, of opening my mind and heart to new possibilities.

    Worst: Time Warner Cable. I found out this week that down in southern California, TWC is the only provider that doesn’t carry KBYUTV. As such, they have a special channel for Conference. Unforturnately, they set this channel as a subscription channel. We didn’t actually have to subscribe, but it took them two hours to correct the problem. Ergo, I got to miss the entire Sat. morning session.

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  10. Mike S on April 6, 2011 at 3:16 PM

    Jacob M:

    Just an FYI. My DISH went out during the Sunday AM session (too much wet snow on the dish). Conference was live-streamed from the Church’s website, so I just plugged the TV into my computer and voila, instant cable :-) It worked perfectly.

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  11. Gilroy on April 6, 2011 at 3:20 PM

    @ jmb275 (#4)

    “…he (BKP) typifies the corporate authoritarian culture that exists in varying levels in the church which I truly detest.”

    Agreed. Let’s just say that I once worked with a near relative of BKP in a church setting, and he was the complete epitome of the corporate, authoritarian culture that you detest. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, given the familial relation.

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  12. Mike S on April 6, 2011 at 3:21 PM

    Best:

    Elder Holland talking about how sometimes with the bedlam in life, our best is good enough. We don’t have to be perfect as long as we’re trying. After so many talks about “exactness”, this was very refreshing. Uchtdorf is always amazing as well.

    Worst:

    Elder Holland’s previous talk about the Book of Mormon, that drifted perilously close to a Charlie Sheen rant in intensity. That didn’t do too much for me. And the talks rehashing the 14 points without the historical context that the 14 points were condemned after the talk was given.

    All in all, this was one of my more enjoyable conferences in a long time. There really wasn’t much divisiveness. There was a lot about helping people and taking care of each other – which is the whole point of things. I’m just glad I’m not a young adult male and still single :-)

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  13. Mike S on April 6, 2011 at 3:24 PM

    I also like the fact that the love Elder Scott showed for his wife is so deep that he didn’t run out and get married right away like many others in his situation would do/have done. His one true love of his life is enough. Brilliant. That says a lot about him.

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  14. Stephen M (Ethesis) on April 6, 2011 at 6:36 PM

    Hmm, my last post seems to have been swallowed by the internet.

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  15. shenpa warrior on April 6, 2011 at 6:52 PM

    Blarg. Comments are getting lost everywhere.

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  16. Troth Everyman on April 6, 2011 at 7:42 PM

    Most enjoyable: All the talks that encourage helping those in need and especially the poor.

    Least enjoyable: Wrestling my three bedlamites so I could hear…it didn’t help that I jacked them up on cinnamon rolls between sessions!

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  17. Douglas on April 6, 2011 at 11:08 PM

    Worst: Not so much any particular speaker (not even BKP, sorry, folks), but the affected, holier-than-thou style of some. Even that hath a useful purpose..thanks to the DVR, and being able to download it and convert the audio portion to a WMV file…better than No-Doz!
    The Best? A tossup between Pres. Monson’s talk in PH and Elder Scott’s heartfelt expression of love for his departed wife. When it’s coming from the heart, the actual verbiage is unimportant, the message is loud and clear and UPLIFTING (and thanks, I needed that!).
    But Kudos to anyone who has the guts to get up in front of millions and bear their testimony!

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  18. Jared on April 7, 2011 at 8:49 AM

    Most would agree that some GC speakers are “natural” communicators, while others are not. It’s like everything else in life, individuals vary in abilities. I’ve learned to ignore, as best I can, those aspects of a speakers delivery that distracts my attention from their message.

    I try to focus on the content of their message. Even then, the “noise” that comes across with their message can be loud. This is where reading comes in. Reading conference talks does two things:

    1. Helps to moderate over excitement of a talk that is undeserving because of our adulation for the speaker.

    2. Helps to moderate lack of interest for a talk that is deserving because of our attitude for the speaker.

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  19. hawkgrrrl on April 7, 2011 at 9:10 AM

    BEST: Internet talks up so quickly, new ways of looking at old topics, spot on analogies, whatever topic just really resonates for me at that time, and evidence that the speakers “get it.”

    WORST: sickly sweet babytalk voices of female speakers, occasional fugly choir outfits, feeling like the extremely long-winded prayers are some sort of audition, schmaltzy stories that strain credulity, any talks by the “lower eschelons” that seem like they are sucking up (14 fundamentals, obedience, and anything uber-orthodox), and the word supernal.

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  20. Bored in Vernal on April 7, 2011 at 10:09 AM

    Hawkgrrrly, there were some really awesome “short and sweet” prayers this time. That’s one of my pet peeves, too; so I was glad they’d improved at this conference.

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  21. KLC on April 7, 2011 at 12:58 PM

    hawkgrrl, I agree about the appearance of sucking up. I wish we would stop treating the 70s like GC youth speakers who get a few token minutes to tell a generic story and make a generic point. These men have served as bishops, stake presidents and mission presidents and now they are part of the general authorities of the church. Give them the respect and the time that we give to the 12 and I think we would be pleasantly surprised and edified.

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  22. Paul on April 7, 2011 at 2:00 PM

    KLC, to whom is your suggestion directed? Give them 16 minutes instead of 10? I’d rather they use the 10 they have to the fullest. I thought in this conference, Elder Grow’s talk was a great example of that. So was Sister Allred’s (though she’s not a 70).

    I agree on the prayer issue. I remember someone (could it have been BRM?) teaching years ago that a closing prayer should be no longer than 30 seconds. I find myself counting seconds in GC sessions…

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  23. KLC on April 7, 2011 at 2:13 PM

    Paul, I’d rather everyone use the time they have to the fullest and I think generally they do, but that isn’t what I was talking about.

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  24. Paul on April 7, 2011 at 3:00 PM

    KLC, hence my question. Are you asking audience members to give the 70 the respect they give to apostles? (I agree with that.)

    Or are you asking someone else to give the 70 the freedom we give the apostles in preparing their talks? (I think they have that freedom, if we are to believe public statements from those who speak.)

    I don’t agree with HG that an orthodox talk is “sucking up”.

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  25. KLC on April 7, 2011 at 3:33 PM

    Paul, I said it the first time, 70s are the youth speakers of GC. I’m asking for them to have the same amount of time that the 12 have so they can develop their ideas and present a cogent, well thought out and complete conference talk. Yes, I know that there are many more of them than there are of the 12, so be it, we won’t hear from as many of them. They are accomplished men who have a wealth of experience, let them use it for more than a few minutes.

    I also agree that an orthodox talk is not “sucking up” but I don’t think HG and I said that either. There is a certain flavor of 70 talk that seems to be bound a determined to be as much about hoping the senior partners notice them as they are about talking to the audience listening to them. There aren’t that many like that and sucking up is probably too harsh a term but this is the bloggernacle and not a church meeting.

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  26. Cowboy on April 8, 2011 at 9:35 AM

    I don’t know if this was the worst – But Elder Bednars talk on revelation was kind of a let down. It was supposed to be a polite let down though. “Hey, it’s natural to want to have those big revelations that give the Church its authority, but most revelation is like watching the sun rise. Just look backwards not forwards, and when something good happens blame it on God – incidentally giving us the credit as well.” Still don’t forget that if you look at pornography you can’t recieve revelation.

    If I were to provide consulting to God, I think I would probably want to address his revelation processes. It makes sense to me that a person spiralling towards damnation through “pornography addiction and other harmful media” might not be best served by being cut off from the spirit of revelation. In fact, I would argue that he ought to mabey follow the example he allegedly did with Alma and Son’s of Mosiah, and use that as an opportunity to bring out the big guns. That would be a good time Angels I think. It allegedly worked for Alma anyway. The way it currently stands, it comes across more as a good excuse for why those “striking experiences” don’t happen. I can alway’s make an argument for why we’re just not quite worthy enough.

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