Sunday afternoon we made it through Elder Holland’s address before the grandkids staged an insurrection. I can’t say I was sorry to be distracted. Years ago I enjoyed General Conference and I still tend to agree with most of the messages. I especially liked Bishop Burton’s address on virtues. It’s just that hearing the same messages in the same words from the same people (mostly) year in and year out fails to inspire me at this point.
I was pleased to see Elder Holland announced as the first speaker Sunday afternoon. His literary and historical allusions and his spirituality have always appealed to me. Obviously, I was disappointed to see the thoughtful, reasoning apostle transform into a televangelist— badmouthing critics of the historicity of the BoM. Elder Holland is an educated man—his Ph.D. from Harvard is in American Studies. He must be aware that similarities between the BoM and Ethan Smith’s View of the Hebrews are far too extensive to be dismissed as “pathetic” attempts by enemies seeking to discredit the BoM.
I was initially surprised at the nearly overwhelming approval of Elder’s Holland’s remarks I’ve found on the Bloggernacle. http://timesandseasons.org/index.php/2009/10/sunday-afternoon-in-a-nutshell/, http://bycommonconsent.com/2009/10/04/sunday-afternoon-general-conference-the-only-true-and-living-session-with-which-the-nacle-is-well-pleased/#comment-161406, http://www.millennialstar.org/elder-hollands-talk-at-general-conference/comment-page-1/#comment-40050. In retrospect, I understand. General Conference is for faithful LDS. Non-LDS and skeptics do not spend a weekend listening to exhortations from Church leaders. Faithful members tune in to have their faith reaffirmed—and apparently the louder the better. Elder Holland’s purpose was neither to convert nonmembers nor to aid doubting members. He was rallying the troops in much the way Glenn Beck and other right-wing political hacks fire up the Republican base.
I hope Elder Holland’s example will not be followed by other General Authorities. Shrill, anti-intellectual rhetoric is divisive. It’s a hallmark of some Christian denominations. Let us hope it does not become a trademark of Latter-day Saints. Legitimate questions about the historicity of the BoM exist and thinking members need thoughtful, rational answers to their questions.