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Radio Free Mormon: 140: A Conference Unlike Any Other

RFM gives us a few thoughts on the highlights of the April 2020 General Conference that has just concluded.  We were told it would be a conference unlike any other.  But was it really?  Listen to Radio Free Mormon to get his take!


19 thoughts on “Radio Free Mormon: 140: A Conference Unlike Any Other”

  1. My thought on why it is that Pres. Nelson deemed it necessary to release a new proclamation is because he, a man who seems very concerned about his legacy, knows that members of the church hang these things (Proclamation on the Family, The Living Christ, etc.) in their homes. As such, a new proclamation at this point would ensure that his name (with President of the Church written underneath) will hang in Mormon households for decades to come.

    1. I agree with you. Church leaders know they are being criticized for not providing any new revelation. The proclamation is the best they could do.

  2. I think the Proclamation on the Restoration is aimed squarely at modern apologists like Spencer Fluhman, Richard Bushman, Terryl Givens, and Jim Bennett. These new apologists want to make room for a “nuanced,” non-literal interpretation of the First Vision and the Book of Mormon.

    The Brethren feel the need to re-affirm to all members that there is no room for nuance in the Church. They are stamping out any vestige of non-literal interpretation of Mormon theology. I’d be very interested in an RFM take on this.

    1. I think this may be correct, as well, Nick. The Proclamation on the Family seemed bent on enshrining in cement for future generations the church’s current stance on sexual orientation and gender. In the same way, I can envision the same impetus behind the new Proclamation on the Restoration. Once these teachings are chiseled into a proclamation, they assume the authority of scripture. Even without a vote of the members. And I did note the Proclamation says the Book of Mormon was “translated,” not “revealed.”

    2. I agree. Since it touched on the orthodox foundations of the church, a proclamation is a signal to church apologists of where the line is. I expressed my disappointment with the proclamation on FB (Shameless promotion).

      “I am disappointed with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints’ proclamation titled “The Restoration of the Fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ: A Bicentennial Proclamation to the World” that it revealed this past Sunday. It undermines members and potential members who have a nuanced view of the church’s truth claims. These individuals hold a nuanced view because they cannot ignore the many fields of scholarship and academics that discredit the orthodox perspective of the church’s core foundations. And for this post, its regarding the historicity of the Book of Mormon.

      Regarding the Book of Mormon, the document states: “We further witness that Joseph Smith was given the gift and power of God to translate an ancient record: the Book of Mormon—Another Testament of Jesus Christ. Pages of this sacred text include an account of the personal ministry of Jesus Christ among people in the Western Hemisphere soon after His Resurrection” (LDS Church Proclamation 2020, Para. 5). Among the various fields of scholarship that heavily implicates Joseph Smith as the creator the Book of Mormon, Biblical scholarship (academically called Higher Criticism) is one of those fields that severely undercuts the orthodox claim that the Book of Mormon is an ancient record. I’m not going to give a exhaustive rundown of those issues, but even a basic understanding of Biblical scholarship with an eye toward the Book of Mormon will show the problems of stating that the scripture has an ancient source (examples: Deutero-Isaiah & the Brass Plates / Old & New World Sermon on the Mount by Christ / Flood-Tower of Babel Myth & the Jaredites).

      Stating that the Book of Mormon is an ancient record undercuts many church apologists and friendly historians who have made great efforts to reconcile scholarship and belief in the Book of Mormon. With this proclamation, not only has the church further backed itself into a corner by continuing its zero-sum game of orthodoxy verses credible scholarship. The church is forcing non-orthodox members to choose between orthodoxy and intellectual integrity. For the church there is no space for nuanced belief. I hope I am wrong, but such a proclamation further propagates a binary paradigm.

      Elder B.H. Roberts, member of the First Quorum of the Seventy and church historian in the early twentieth century, perceived the dangers of taking a literal view of the Book of Mormon’s origin. He warned the church’s top leaders of taking such a perspective against scholars and academic research that began to invalidate the believed source of the Book of Mormon. Hoping to lean on men who claimed revelatory powers from God, Roberts was disappointed at the “irrelevancy of [their] comments” and inability to resolve the serious credibility problem of the church’s foundational scripture. The early twentieth century church leaders did not effectively confront the issues presented to them as Roberts’ had hoped (B.H. Roberts, “Studies of the Book of Mormon,” 22-23; 48; 60; xxi; 50).

      Prominent church historian Dr. Richard Bushman in a 2016 local church gathering stated: “The dominant [church] narrative is not true; it can’t be sustained. The church has to absorb all this new information, or it will be on very shaky grounds … But I think it has to change” (Bushman, Minute 43:50, Unfortunately, the 2020 church leaders have decided to follow in their predecessors’ steps by further staking a position that cannot “be sustained” against the historical record and scholarship. And the result will be that the church will continue to alienate non-orthodox members.”

  3. Hey there RFM,

    During my forced incarceration yesterday I happened to idly stumble upon your podcast. And it came to pass that I did listen.

    While a-listening you got me to a-thinking and a-pondering; yea even a-ponderizing on what the import of its seemingly redundant message could be.

    My whole take on this Proclamation to the World is this: I believe that it was less directed to “the world” so much as a passive-aggressive shot across the bow to those in the flock who are starting to get a little bit too nuanced about Joseph Smith’s prophetic abilities. That is why, I think, that they drug in John the Baptist and Peter, James and John as a kind of Deus ex machina to remind everyone that Joseph Smith didn’t just study-it-out-in-his-mind after reading Adam Clarke or Josephus before writing his scriptures; but that he was visited by heavenly messengers, as well. After all, everyone has an imagination -prophetic or otherwise- but few of us have the luxury of chit-chatting with some of the big boys from above. And nuanced believers tend to blow their trumpets with an uncertain sound, which in turn might cause others to be nuanced about church attendance, or maybe even nuanced about the amount of cash they fork over to the church. I am not suggesting that the Q15 are solely motivated by pecuniary issues; I think that these people invested a lot of years in getting where they are, and their own reputations and legacies (not to mention: Authority) depends on propping up Joseph Smith at all costs.

    Which brings me to my next point: this whole thing about the “pouting little runaways” – I don’t remember – did he say “petulant children”? (BTW I like the word “petulant”. PETULANT, PETULANT…How trippingly it rolls off the tongue! But where was I? Oh yes:) I think that he was just setting an example. That way the average member of the church can say “If Elder Uchtdorf calls them “runaway children” then why should I bother engaging or trying to understand what their issues are? Besides, didn’t President Oaks just say that they all want to come back anyway?”

    And when President Oaks said that those leaving the church just don’t have a “proper understanding of the plan of salvation”; what else could he have meant but “I sure wouldn’t want to be in THEIR shoes when they die!”?


    Anyway RFM, I wanted to share a little anecdote. My wife and I were thirty when we got married 28 years ago. (And what a thing it is to be accused of having seven wives when I look around and can see only one – with seven personalities!) So, Sue, my wife, wasn’t around when I grew up as a Mormon. Anyway, I happened to be listening to your Halloween podcast in the parking lot while she was shopping. When Sue came back to the car, she heard you talking about moving to Kent WA and later going on a mission to Japan. Since she knew that I also moved to Kent around that time and I also went on a mission to Japan; and because the pitch and timbre of your voice is similar to my own, she actually turned to me and asked, “When did you record this?”

    Now personally, I don’t think we sound that much alike. I haven’t heard my voice on recording in a long time. When I hear myself talking I hear a deeply resonant voice which is both glorious and beautiful. Nevertheless, it leaves me to wonder: How were you able to seduce my wife into thinking that You were Me? Did you use the ol’ angel-with-a-drawn-sword trick? If so, Bad Form, RFM! Bad Form! But then again, Sue enjoyed your podcast, and anyone who can keep my wife happy for even five minutes is a friend of mine.

    You’re doing the Lord’s work, RFM.

    I will see if I can nuance a few bucks into the kitty (with my wife’s permission)

    Best Regards to you and your family

    Rob Hastings


    1. Wow, Rob! You not only sound like me, you write like me! And as it so happens, my middle name is Hastings! (Okay, I’m kidding about that part.) But seriously, thank you for your kind support and for your insightful comments. I was in Kent from 1969 to 1975. During that time, we lived at three locations; one rental home over by SeaTac, and then two successive apartments (The Village Green and later The Comstock Club) on the other hill not far from Kent-Meridian High School and Sequoia Junior High. Please give my best regards to Sue. And thanks for listening!

      1. Ah, the timing was a little further off than I thought. I moved up my senior year and graduated from Kentridge in 80, Sue lived in SeaTac and graduated at Tyee.

        I went to the Japan Sendai Mission in 82. I remember in the MTC we were all told that the Japanese were on fire; that it was Pentecost over there and that the Tokyo South Mission was baptizing a thousand people a month! I remember that my companion in the MTC looked at me beaming and said, “You know what? I want to baptize a thousand people!”

        Alas! When I got to Northern Japan…well, that’s a long story. Let’s just say that my own adventure was not like Uncle Bilbo’s down south.

        Actually, my mood kind of matched your selection of poetry today. Even Ray Bradbury’s story was very poetically written and told.

        Thank you, RFM

  4. Thanks so much for your effort to make the big nothing burger of General Conference a palatable meal. The only chuckle I got was seeing Dieter fall off the NOM pedestal.

    1. O how the mighty are fallen! I think Elder Uchtdorf’s followers on Twitter may have been reduced drastically this week.

  5. The new church logo and proclamation only remind me again the only prophets running the church are in the PR and Legal departments. All of this is just another marketing ploy, a business plan. The only thing missing is a banner or label stating “NEW AND IMPROVED”. No wonder Utah is full of multi-level marketing schemes. The church is the biggest pyramid company on the planet with a new and exciting marketing plan to you can show your friends and family how the church can get their money.

    Did you also notice no one would teach you anything? You have heard it all a million times. Would appear that the only purpose of general conference is to dumb us down and was blatantly full of self worship. We do not worship God in this church, not in General Conference! We worship our selves. “We are so blessed to have our beloved prophet leading us today.” I get so tired of hearing about our beloved prophet who is so full of himself, how can there possibly be any room for the spirit. And D Oaks’ unctuous character makes me retch. There is some good messages in the BOM and if you read it you will find out that church leadership has become everything the BOM warms us about– Haughty, prideful, legalistic. We have been following boyd k packerism for the last 40 years. It is amazing how reductive the leadership is. They can take any topic reduce it down to something meaningless and pat themselves on the back for being so G** Damned inspired! Which was, of course, boyd’s only message.

  6. It really is nothing but the same. They call every Conference “historic” despite the fact that nothing changes.

    “Sit down and shut up, the thinking has been done.”

  7. Thanks for the great episode. I agree that your earlier podcasts–which focused in part on the current penchant for proclamations and how that reflects evolving concepts of the source and nature of revelation and the sidelining of common consent–must have been inspired as they made this episode’s material more meaningful.

    Also, I have a friend who was an elder in attendance at that Tokyo temple dedication who shares the following story. He was in a group of missionaries chatting after the ceremony when he felt what he could only describe as an intense heat in his back. The sensation grew in intensity until he had to turn around and see what was going on; and there was Spencer W Kimball standing about 12 feet away from him. He was so dumbstruck by the experience that he didn’t even think to shake the Prophet’s hand. (This comes from someone who is generally reliable, is no longer a church member, and has very few stories like this so I believe his account of his experience is credible.) I share it because I thought you might find it interesting in light of your attendance at the same event as well as the personal “spiritual experience” stories that you shared in this podcast.

    Keep up the good work.


    1. That is an interesting story shared by your friend. I would ask his name, but there were about a thousand or more missionaries in attendance from all the 9 or so missions in existence at the time. I think there were around 200 missionaries per mission, so odds are I wouldn’t have known him. But I appreciate your sharing that story. It is interesting, isn’t it? Thanks for your comment!

  8. About the Hosanna shout…

    Conference Sunday was “Palm Sunday” in the Catholic liturgical calendar. It is the a day when Catholics all over the world recall the event of Christ’s “Triumphal Entry” to Jerusalem. It’s an ancient Catholic tradition.

    Since many Mormons are now converts from the Catholic Church, I’m sure they miss the fun of having processions and waving palm branches on Palm Sunday…:-)

    Now they have to do it with white hankies while shouting hosanna for no real reason other than to follow their prophet’s cue. Note that Mormonism has no Palm Sunday observations. It doesn’t have the 40-day Lent and Holy Week practices that lead to Easter.

    The Mormon hosanna shout last conference is truly weird because there is no theology that rationally explains it. I think the top leadership are just making stuff up as they go.

    Or maybe it’s slowly dawning on them that Catholic traditions, like Christmas, do have theological sense.

    1. Interesting thoughts, Rico.

      You know, if President Nelson had said the Hosanna Shout was done in honor of Palm Sunday as you suggest, I would have appreciate it more.

      I went back and checked the video, though, and my take is he actually said it was done not in honor of Jesus, but in honor of Joseph Smith, the 200th anniversary of whose First Vision we were celebrating.

      So we did a Hosanna Shout on Palm Sunday, but we didn’t do it for Jesus Christ.

      We did it for Joseph Smith.

      That is a sobering thought . . .

      Thanks for listening!


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