During General Conference I optimistically vowed to start going to all my Young Single Adult (YSA) activities. Normally, I am the type of person who only goes to the events when I like the activity, so even back home where I knew people this would prove to be a difficult resolution for me. As if to challenge my resolve, the first activity that I could attend was a “Country Swing” dance activity. In Victoria or Montreal alike, there is not a living chance in hell I would go to this activity; I hate country and I am a horrible dancer. The idea of travelling by myself in Central America, which I did before I got here, is somehow less frightening to me than being in a gymnasium full of go-getting Mormon singles who I do not know.
I dragged myself to the activity and reluctantly joined the ranks of line dancers. A leader from the sidelines called to me and gestured for me to “turn that frown upside down.” I lasted just under a half hour until I had to leave.
One thing that does feel very familiar to me about my congregation of Mormon singles is the man to woman ratio. A few weeks ago, the men got up during sacrament to sing a song. The girl next to me leaned over and whispered to me that there were thirty-five men singing and just over a hundred girls in the congregation. The notion of having a 30:70 ratio is like a little slice of home, but I am not sure if I should feel comforted or disturbed by it.
Because I am only living in Salt Lake for a short time, I thought that I should take advantage of being Mormonland. One date a month, I told myself! With one month already gone without promise of a date, my friend and I decided to look at the online selection. After all, just the other day one of my cousins was complaining to me that she never sees one of her friends anymore because her friend is constantly going on dates with guys she meets online. Encouraged but still skeptical, I created a fake online profile (my name is Clara Templemon – like what I did with the last name?) so I could lurk other people and get a feel for the choices before I made any real monetary or date commitments. Because I am in Salt Lake, I felt that it would be reasonable for me to arrange my profile so that my match had to be a Mormon. Match.com then matched me with Mormons, all of whom professed to love “social drinking.” Social drinking? If I wanted someone who drank I would date a nonMormon. Frustrated I went to an LDS only dating site and plugged in my fake profile but did not get any better results. I am sure that if I gave it sometime that I could find a date on this site but what I saw on the site, from contrived pictures to self descriptions, made me feel incredibly depressed. So much for that dating option.
By the way, I guess the danger of having available pictures online is that people can steal them and make them their fake online dating profile…
D. Todd Christofferson began his talk in General Conference* with an anecdote of how in colonial times there was a need for workers and therefore a recruitment program for labour workers in Europe to immigrate to the US. He did not mention that during this time there were also many future slaves from Africa being forcibly removed to also become part of this workforce. During this talk I realized that the stories and images used in General Conference by the general authorities construct notions of how we as members understand the gospel through metaphors and daily experiences.
This is why, I thought during Christofferson’s talk, we as a church need more talks from people outside of the Utah/Idaho or generally US; the daily experiences of white upper class men from the US are over represented in General Conference. I always smile to myself when I see a women talking (or praying) in General Conference, or when the person that is speaking has a different accent. Although I do not doubt the authenticity of each of these people’s calling, I believe diversity is important. I was talking to someone at my work about this and she agreed, saying that her husband helps translate General Conference into Russian and stories about football for example are both really difficult to translate and also are hold no metaphorical value to the people of Russia. I noticed that a few times in General Conference, different church authorities talked about visiting churches in Africa. How would those stories of the LDS church in Africa be different if the person telling the story was African?
One place that the church has succeeded at showcasing diversity of religious experiences is the “I am a Mormon” videos on Mormon.org. I had a sick day from work today and I took advantage of my spare time to watch a great deal of these videos. On the down side, I am sure there is an over-representation Olympic gold medalists sports players, as well as a deficit of fat people as well as people of lower classes. However, I really like the videos’ inherent approval of the different ways that Mormons across the world live out their faith. I especially liked hearing about when the people have less than perfect lives and how they emerge from those challenges. Despite the numerous attention grabbing videos of famous Mormon, I appreciated looking at the videos of normal people and how their lives were being legitimated by these videos.
The last thing that I have to say is that between the Young Women’s Conference and the Priesthood Conference, President Uchtdorf talks definitely impressed me. Speaking of diversity, he is the only non-American among the apostles. I will end this blog with a quotation from his talk during the Priesthood session, “As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are united in our testimony of the restored gospel and our commitment to keep God’s commandments. But we are diverse in our cultural, social, and political preferences.” I love that General Authorities are talking about this! Now it is time for the church to increasingly put that into action.
What did everyone else think of General Conference?
*General Conference is an event that happens twice a year in the LDS church where the members of the church listen to a variety of talks on different topics given by Church leaders.