Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Speaking Evil of the Lord's Anointed (and their trite, poorly-written talks) 

by NA
A friend of mine asked me why I hadn't blogged about General Conference, in particular wondering if I had any spectacular thoughts on Pres. Hinckley's words regarding women. My initial, glib response to him was that I hadn't posted because I was underwhelmed, but upon reflection, I remain underwhelmed. With a couple of (major) exceptions, GC just didn't do it for me, and I was a little disappointed. The choir was wonderful as ever, the themes were similar to those of Conferences past -- so what's wrong with me?

Boo Hoo, you say. Don't you know it's the responsibility of the listener to glean from Conference, and you must not have had the Spirit, and we have a lay clergy, and I thought it was fantastic? Well, yes. I know all that -- in fact, the last Priesthood lesson I had was all about how only evil/stupid people get nothing from boring Sacrament talks. The lesson established two lines of thinking that I've seen a lot in the Church, even though I'm not certain that either is necessarily correct:

1. Not only should our leaders not be criticized, no one should be criticized for what they say in the course of lessons or talks.

2. The onus is (pretty much) always on the listener to get something out of talks, even bad ones, and as a baseline, no General Conference talk is a bad one.

I can see how we might want to avoid criticism as a way of solidifying our bonds of love to each other in the Church. But I don't think that the spirit of Christ excludes all criticism. You'd better show those outpourings of love afterwards, but our scripture clearly identifies ways for us to correct each other, at least in doctrinal matters. Can we also consider this to be a basis for social correction as well?

Here is what I really want to say, but I'm just not getting around to it very well: can we legitimately criticize Conference talks for being garbagey rhetoric, without such criticisms constituting "speaking evil"? I like folksy stories as much as the next person, for example, but can I say that I am sick of Pres. Monson's tripartite phrasings and passive voice(without going to hell)? Talks were written; speeches were delivered; congregations were bored.

It's not like I have some boatload of critiques that I've been aching to unload on the Brethren. I am mostly interested in the proper realm of criticism and correction in the Church, generally speaking. In light of the restrictions on evil speaking, what then are the boundaries on criticism and correction? Is Church a proper forum to give (or receive) correction and advice on social issues? I think that there is clearly some minimal level that we could all accept -- the Gospel doesn't seem to exclude all critiquing. So where are the margins?

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