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.