As most of you know, Saturday and Sunday were the LDS General Conference, marking the 188th time that viewers and participants were bored to tears by droning talks from their supposedly spiritual superiors. And to make it all the sweeter, yesterday was Jesus’ birthday.
When I was a believing member, I waited for conference every six months with great anticipation. What would the prophets have to say to us now? I wondered. On my mission, I wore out a set of tape recordings of the October 1984 conference, and I wept when I heard Bruce R. McConkie’s final testimony in April of 1985. But usually the conferences were disappointments; I struggled to stay awake through most of it, yet I always proclaimed how uplifting and wonderful it was, especially because they always seemed to be speaking directly to me, telling me the things I needed to hear.
Over the last 3 years, I’ve watched most of conference, probably out of curiosity more than anything else. Sure, there was always something slightly outrageous (such as Julie Becks’ deplorable denigration of women) and something ridiculous (David Bednar’s pickles discourse elicited giggles from my kids), but most of it was mind-numbingly boring. Gordon B. Hinckley sometimes got our attention with his homespun humor, but most of what we heard was either the same “counsel” we’d heard many times before, or it was a doctrinal recitation that only the truly righteous would appreciate.
Some people really enjoyed the trite, kindergarten-teacher homilies of Thomas Monson, whereas others lapped up the alliterative pseudopoetry of Neal Maxwell, but I didn’t enjoy either. But they were the exceptions. Mostly we got dry standard-issue talks from Howard W. Hunter or David B. Haight, neither of whom will ever be considered great speakers. And often the leaders recycled their talks. Monson in particular has routinely used the same talks verbatim or taken sections of them over and over. How else would I know the precise number of widows in Monson’s ward when he was bishop (87, you can look it up) or the color of the elderly widow’s canary Petey (yellow, with gray wings)?
This conference I didn’t pay much attention. I was busy running errands on Saturday, and all I caught was the end of the closing prayer of the morning session. I skipped the priesthood session because it was my son’s birthday (well, that and I didn’t want to go). Yesterday I slept in and read a book during the morning session and cooked during the afternoon session, though I did catch an extended guilt trip from David Bednar and the closing remarks from Monson.
But I finally feel like I know what the rest of the world feels like. Nobody cares what is said at the pulpit in Salt Lake. Heck, at least half the members of the church don’t really care, either. My dad told me about driving out to see the California poppies in bloom yesterday but somehow didn’t mention conference. And even those who watched conference don’t care all that much. Judging by past conferences, there wasn’t much said over the weekend that will stay in anyone’s mind for very long.
The reaction at my house was interesting. My 9 year old wiggled through the afternoon session and finally said, “Dad, when is this over? Do I have to watch it?” Owing to my wife’s rule that they sit through one session per day, I asked, “Did you watch the session this morning?” “Yep.” “Then you don’t have to watch this one.” With that he literally ran into his room to play.
After Monson’s closing remarks, my daughter turned to me and said, “Well, his talk was funny, but he didn’t really say anything, did he?”
No, sweetheart, he didn’t.