In the writing class George and I attend, our instructor assigned us to write a dialogue between a talking horse and bear that meet on a deserted road at midnight and encounter a storm. Next, we were to write a moral for our story—essentially creating a fable. Then Ms Instructor pushed us a step further and asked us to write two or three different morals that could apply to our story. Most of us found our first morals tended to be clichés. As we pushed ourselves to create new morals—basically, to find the point to our stories—we came up with fresh insights.
One member of the group suggested we should have started with the moral—then written a story to support it. Hasn’t she heard enough Church lessons and talks to know that starting with the moral and concocting or choosing illustrative anecdotes is the surest way to lifeless, didactic rhetoric?
General Conference saddens me because bright men (and two women) with varied life experiences, in most cases deliver trite, repetitive discourse on one of 20 or more rotated topics: faith, repentance, the restoration, the Book of Mormon, priesthood, the atonement, etc. I long to hear something fresh and meaningful—a new insight the speaker has gained from life experience.
How would it be to hear an anecdote such as an encounter with an arrogant TSA agent in an airport and hear the speaker reflect upon the involvement of his ego in his actions and reactions with other people? Or hear the victim of a stress-related illness such as colitis or ulcers consider the pros and cons of continual striving.
Same thing with lesson manuals—open up the field of topics to include issues relevant to contemporary Mormons—divorce, blended families, making wise choices in a world filled with worthwhile ways to use our time, energy, and money. Issues that have more than one solution.
The argument for keeping tight control over what is preached and taught within the Mormon fold in order to “keep the doctrine pure” is flawed. Far out and outdated notions abound in Mormon discourse under the present system. Opening discussion to relevant topics would not eliminate speculation and disinformation, but at least the rambling would be on more interesting topics—and might promote personal reflection and application to members’ lives.