Wednesday, April 16, 2014

LDS General Conference (Walking to Missouri)

Every six months, faithful Mormons eschew regular worship services and spend two days watching  General Conference on TV or online. In all but the most orthodox homes, this is done in pajamas or casual clothes. General Conference begins on Saturday morning with a welcoming address by the President of the Church. During his address, the Prophet often makes major announcements, such as the construction of new temples or significant changes to church policies. Each conference I’m pretty sure I hear a “major announcement” that all the upcoming guidance and instructions are for other, less faithful, members and I can return to my slumber. Strangely, my wife never hears this same announcement. Two years ago a “major announcement” declared that the eligibility age for missionaries would be lowered to 18. In 1999, another major announcement revealed that the Nauvoo Temple would be rebuilt.

Like many members, I try and turn off the lawnmower long enough to hear the opening address just in case the Prophet calls me out by name for mowing the lawn or makes a “major announcement.” “Major announcements” (and the accompanying speculation) actually travel across Twitter and Facebook faster than the speed of light. When the mission age was lowered to 18 for young men, the first Facebook meme appeared two minutes before the end of the speech.

For members, major announcements generally relate to prophesied signs about the second coming of the Savior. Members rank these pronouncements in importance by their ability to generate the most Tweets (in the olden days “Tweets” were called “gossip”). For example, an announcement that the lost tribes of Israel were found living in Wyoming would generate a few hundred Tweets while an announcement that “darkness will cover the Earth—starting tomorrow” would set a new record for Tweets, memes and rampant speculation.  

It’s important to listen or read the announcements in person as sometimes members get carried away in their enthusiasm for “big news”. For example, by the time a generic recommendation to; “prepare now for the Second Coming” gets to someone’s Facebook status it may morph into: “my congregation was just asked to be the first to exchange our cars for cattle which we’ll herd across the Great Plains to Missouri.” An anonymous family, into which I married, may possibly lead the church in making these kinds of announcement transformations.

Most conferences are devoid of major revelations and instead focus on trying to get us (the members of the church) to do the things we’re supposed to be doing (or not doing) as the case may be. We’re counseled to keep all of the commandments, avoid pornography, share the gospel, stay on the straight and narrow, have faith, be grateful, love one another, pray, study the scriptures, forgive one another, feed the hungry, do our home and visiting teaching, clothe the naked, pay tithes and offerings, avoid adultery and keep the other nine commandments, etc. etc. etc.

Sometime the list of things we should be doing (and not doing) seems very long. Perhaps that’s why members so anxiously await major announcements. We’re hoping we can forget about listening to all the “perfecting of the saints” stuff and just hear that starting tomorrow we’ll all be riding back to Adam-ondi-Ahman in air-conditioned RVs purchased for us by the lost 10 tribes where we’ll eat manna and play with lions. That announcement is coming right after the one that tells me I can go back to sleep.