Sunday, October 1, 2006

Recycled Conference Talks

I posted this at BCC--go there to see comments.

I’ve listened to all four sessions of Conference, and I feel refreshed. I even have some things I’m going to work on. Honesty, for example. (I’ve got a little pile of pens on the counter that need to go back to the workplace.) When the Ensign comes out next month, I’ll put it in the magazine rack in the bathroom and we’ll all page through it. I’ll read through the blogs and the comments about Conference, and I’m sure M&M will quote liberally from the talks for the next 6 months. But…must we listen to recycled conference talks again and again in Sacrament Meetings?

I’m not sure exactly when this practice began. It sort of snuck up on us. One day we were listening to members’ ruminations on any subject they chose. Some were great and some were pretty bad. Yes, there was false doctrine preached over the pulpit. So we went to Sacrament Meeting Themes. Speakers were assigned to give a talk with a theme that was carried over throughout the meeting in talks and music. This seemed to help the false doctrine a bit. And we still had the personalities of the speakers and their own personal stories to add interest to the meeting. This is where we became acquainted with the new couple in the ward. We were able to compare the amazing growth in our young men as they spoke to us in farewell and homecoming missionary talks. We heard how members applied doctrine to their own lives.

This new trend of being assigned a Conference Talk upon which to base our discourse in Sacrament Meeting is one I dislike intensely. Not because I didn’t enjoy the CT’s. But when the talk was given by the GA or Church leader, it was their personal take on a gospel subject. Perhaps it was the word of the Lord revealed to them. When reprocessed by another person, it loses its immediacy and power. We lose the opportunity to receive direction from the Spirit and teach others. The practice discourages thinking by the average member and encourages passive acceptance.

The best use of recycled Conference Talks I’ve seen happens when the speaker takes the talk as a text—similar to what Protestant ministers do when they preach using a quote or a scripture as a text. The talk focuses on the theme of the scripture, but the preacher will bring in other references, personal stories, and other thoughts to bolster his/her message. The worst scenario happens when an LDS speaker paraphrases the Conference talk and quotes it liberally. Even the most interesting of Conference talks can completely lose their potency. But no matter how well a speaker reuses a Conference talk, this technique is ineffective in Sacrament Meetings.

I wonder how deeply entrenched this convention has become. Are there some Bishops out there who still resist assigning Conference Talks as themes? How would a Bishop react if a member countered the assignment with a suggestion of their own for a talk? Will this deplorable custom continue, or are we doomed to endless years of fusty, faded, watered-down Conference crumbs?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You know, I think the intent of such assignments is NOT to have folks read or summarize the talk but instead to have it as a jumping-off point. People get lazy, though. Don't blame the Bishop...blame the speaker. No one forced them to read the talk verbatum! They could have taken the theme of the talk and given a lovely talk with personal references etc.