An important talk to watch again and again

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

10 thoughts on “An important talk to watch again and again

  1. Here’s the URL for the text, for those who can read far faster than they can listen:

    https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1971/04/the-iron-rod?lang=eng

    Words have many meanings. One can be a Mormon with a testimony and be “a liberal” in the sense of advocating for change in society and yet not be the kind of liberal Dr. Widtsoe decried:

    “The self-called liberal [in the Church] is usually one who has broken with the fundamental principles or guiding philosophy of the group to which he belongs. … He claims membership in an organization but does not believe in its basic concepts; and sets out to reform it by changing its foundations. …

    “It is folly to speak of a liberal religion, if that religion claims that it rests upon unchanging truth.”

    “It is well to beware of people who go about proclaiming that they are or their churches are liberal. The probabilities are that the structure of their faith is built on sand and will not withstand the storms of truth.” (“Evidences and Reconciliations,” Improvement Era, vol. 44 [1941], p. 609.)

    Interestingly, Elder Widtsoe was likely reacting to the University of Chicago school of theology, which was sufficiently liberal to admit Mormons and therefore also sufficiently liberal to admit all manner of non-traditional thought. By 1971 Harold B. Lee had seen churches overturn long-held traditions to “be relevant,” such as the Church of England making the decision to admit women to the clergy. In our day we see that those churches who have overturned tradition to “be relevant” have become irrelevant in the lives of the vast numbers who no longer attend, while those churches who have clung to “the rod” of tradition have seen their numbers increase (LDS, Baptist).

  2. Meg, good point. The word “liberal” has many meanings. If it were the 19th century, it would mean something very different than it means today.

    I do not think Harold B. Lee is referring to “liberal” as in “economically liberal.”

    He is referring to people who constantly challenge Church authorities. In effect, he is denouncing those who believe in the “philosophies of men” and do not accept the positions adopted by the inspired leaders of the Church.

    I discuss this more at length in this post: https://www.millennialstar.org/what-is-wrong-with-ralph-hancocks-talk-at-the-fair-conference/

  3. I’m grateful for the words of prophet of old (including Harold B Lee) but I am also grateful that we’ve been counselled to listen to the words of the modern prophet that supersedes the words of any former prophets.

    I think that President Lee would consider most of what was taught in the Oct 2017 General Conference in line with this definition of a liberal.

  4. Josh, by pure coincidence, I have been listening to a lot of talks from the 1970s. We would probably agree that the *tone* of talks have changed since then. There were a lot more talks mentioning specific sins and calling people to repentance in the old days.

    However, with the exception of blacks and the priesthood, I can find no evidence that Church doctrine has changed significantly since 1971, when Harold B. Lee gave this talk. So, I am going to disagree with you that the things taught in the most recent conference are different than what President Lee taught in 1971.

  5. Thanks, Geoff. One can only wonder just where the liberal agenda will eventually take us. For instance, at what point in time will the Church face charges of some kind of discrimination /hate crimes if we do not let everyone marry in the temple? I am sure we will know soon enough.

  6. Charlie, it won’t be hate crimes at that point. But it would be a property tax levy on religious institutions that don’t respect social values or something like that.

    When you consider the location of many temples that property tax could be pretty high. But as property taxes are more of a state and local issue the effect won’t be as dramatic.

    We’d also see BYU punished through a some connection to student loans or pel grants not being allowed before we get to hate crimes I think.

  7. Pretty sure Joseph Smith described himself as a liberal. If you don’t believe the church will change, do you believe in revelation?
    If you believe in revelation, do you believe it is initiated by man or by God. If by man, can the Prophet be influenced to ask, as Joseph often was, and the Dec2 was? Is that what liberals are trying to do?
    The middle of last century was a very conservative time for the Church, Et Benson for example.
    Unless we are happy to loose the next generation (millenials) we better make a place in the church where liberals are respected, and wanted.

  8. Geoff_Aus, do you consider the questions in the temple recommend interview to be conservative or liberal? And in what way?

  9. Geoff_Aus, did you watch President Lee’s talk? If you did you would understand the context of the word “liberal” being used is a bit different than the conventional usage in politics today. He means “liberal” as in challenging Church authorities and believing in their own wisdom rather than following prophetic counsel.

    On the moral issues regarding gender and sexuality, any significant changes in Church policy are extremely unlikely, regardless of whether millennials want such changes. (And by the way, the idea that the Church should change to attract young people is absurd — shouldn’t we be asking young people to change and mature so they can accept prophetic counsel? I would point out that young people have always challenged tradition since Cain killed Abel, so the idea that somehow we should accept young peoples’ “wisdom” to guide us is a bit misplaced.)

    I would also point out that all of the data shows that traditional churches are growing and “liberal” churches are losing members left and right. It turns out that people, if they are religious at all, prefer going to a church that reminds them of God-given moral absolutes. Why go to church at all if you can be “spiritual” while sitting at Starbucks on a Sunday morning?

  10. This is a talk given for a specific reason for a specific time: a GA was sharing his opinion about a popular essay — What the Church Means to People Like Me. That essay has helped thousands — including me — feel there is a place for them in the community of saints. It is the timeless themes in the essay, not this 1971 talk, that need regularly revisited. Doing so may help thousands more — my children included — stay.

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