Yesterday (Saturday), we managed to watch all 3 sessions of General Conference, despite having to also clean the chapel in the morning, prepare food for Brother Mora’s funeral, and attend the funeral and meal afterwards.
The first session was a “Solemn Assembly” where we sustained our new Prophet – Russell M. Nelson, and 2 new apostles – Ulisses Soares and Gerrit W. Gong. Soares is from Brazil and Gong is Asian, although he was born and raised in the U.S. That fact that they are both members of minority groups was significant. The church has been criticized for having only U.S. born white males in the Quorum of the Twelve (although Elder Uchtdorf is from Germany).
President Nelson, by the way, looked sharp and fit, despite his age (93). It was strange, of course, not to see President Monson on the stand. Also strange to see Dallin Oaks conducting instead of Dieter Uchtdorf, who was sitting among other members of the Quorum of the Twelve (Elders Oaks and Eyring are now the First and Second Counselors in the First Presidency).
During the second session, they called many new general and area authorities, and while they were walking up to the front, someone from the congregation yelled “Stop protecting sexual predators”, probably a reference to a recent story about charges of a possible cover-up of inappropriate behavior by a former MTC President. I find it annoying when someone does something like yelling out in General Conference, but perhaps it does help motivate our leader to always do the right things.
The biggest surprise of the day was an announcement during the Priesthood Session that the Elders and High Priests Quorums in every ward and branch were being combined – something I’ve actually been advocating for years, although this action had nothing to do with me, of course. It was interesting though because I had recently mentioned this idea to some people in our ward – Bro. Winebrenner being one of them. He texted me after the meeting, congratulating me for being “inspired”. Previous to this announcement, most would probably have considered my suggestion nonsense or even heretical.
I think it’s a great idea, of course. It eliminates the problems that some areas face in having too few high priests. It also eliminates confusion about who should attend which quorum meeting and what the purpose of each group is. It also reduces inefficiencies in assigning and reporting home teaching (now “ministering”) and other responsibilities.
It’s now Sunday evening. The 188th Annual General Conference is now history and the surprise changes kept coming until the end. During the final session, they announced that home teaching and visiting teaching was being replaced with “ministering”. I don’t think it’s too different than what we’ve been doing in practice over the past few years, but it’s become more official now. We’ll still have a list of people to contact, married couples can be paired together as companions in making the contacts, and any kind of contact is acceptable as long as it helps to meet the needs of members. We no longer need to report our numbers monthly, but quarterly interviews with leaders will be more strongly emphasised.
I think it’s a good change. It removes emphasis on the number of home visits, and focuses more on meeting the needs of members in whatever way works best. Immediately after the final session, they sent a letter via email to every member outlining the changes. I’ve attached it here: First Presidency Letter Apr 2 2018
As always, I feel a bit of sadness to see General Conference to come to an end. I look forward to it every time, actually counting the months, but when it’s here the two days seem to go by so quickly.