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April 2017 General Conference Review Pt 1

Today Mormon Discussion Podcast and Radio Free Mormon combine our thoughts into a two part Conference Review of the April 2017 General Conference.  We look back in part one at Saturday’s Sessions and in Part two we hit on the Sunday Sessions along with some themes that run throughout conference.  We hope you enjoy


37 thoughts on “April 2017 General Conference Review Pt 1”

  1. Bill,

    I guess I really do need to lead with faith after hearing this discussion with RFM. Because according to what I just listened to the church is lead by a bunch of deceivers who engage in double talk, half truths, misogyny, and corporate greed.

    Little disappointed to hear the tone this episode takes. While I don’t always agree with you, I’ve always respected your talent, intellect and efforts that you put into this podcast. I admit that I thought I would hear some critical points of view worth considering, after all, that’s why I listen. But, to be frank, after this one I’m not sure why either one of you remain members of the church? It’s one thing to acknowledge our leaders are flawed and make mistakes and may even have biases against certain groups (because we are all human)but another to run down each one as purposefully misleading us with double talk.

    The sister who spoke in general conference, whose name I forget, have you ever considered that maybe she gave a talk that she truly believes in and is not worried about an all man hierarchy out to oppress her and her true feelings? Just saying

    1. Unfortunately “the Spirit speaketh the truth and lieth not. Wherefore, it speaketh of things as they really are, and of things as they really will be; wherefore, these things are manifested unto us plainly, for the salvation of our souls” Jacob 4:13 Truth is not always manifested with peaceful feelings to the heart, sometimes it is rather heartbreaking.

      1. I agree with your sentiment, Jan.

        Sometimes the reality that the Spirit bears witness to can really bite.

        Reality bites!

    2. Thanks for your comments, Jason.

      I am sorry if you felt that the comments made were unfairly critical of Church leaders. But I can see why you would feel that way.

      I don’t speak for Bill Reel, but from my point of view, there is going to be plenty of laudatory comments from other sources, including the next six-months where a number of the General Conference talks will be assigned in sacrament meeting and Priesthood/Relief Society meeting to be reviewed, where the custom is to say only wonderful things, and not engage in a lot of critical thinking. At least, that has been my experience.

      So from my point of view, what I am trying to do is give the balance to the almost universal praise that will be given these talks in TBM circles.

      Also, I am not sure that either Bill Reel or I actually ran down “each one” of the speakers as “purposefully misleading us with double talk.” Now, there were certainly examples of double talk in General Conference that I pointed out.

      But I also pointed out why it is I feel that double talk is being used. Were there any examples of double talk that I mentioned with which you disagree? And if so, I would be interested in hearing why it is you feel it is not double talk.

      I think the most important thing is not that you agree with me or Bill Reel or anybody else for that matter, but that we are able to express our thoughts and opinions with each other and hopefully learn from each other.

      Again I want to thank you for listening to the podcast and hope you will continue to do so.

      All the Best!


    3. Exactly my thoughts. I only listened to the first few minutes and deleted my downloads. It’s one thing to offer criticism when criticism is due but these two hosts are actively looking for things to be upset about. I see this as part of the larger outrage culture in our society. Some people aren’t happy unless they’re unhappy about something. I am done listening to this podcast for good.
      I have considered myself a new-order/liberal Mormon for a while but attitudes shared in podcasts like these no longer resonate with me. Apparently I have come to a different place in my faith journey now.

      1. Hi, Mike.

        Different people will experience the same things differently. I understand that.

        My perception, however, was that neither Bill nor I were “actively looking for things to be upset about,” nor did we come across as upset.

        There were a number of things that caught our attention, though, and which we thought worthy of critique. That much I freely admit.

        Spare the rod and spoil the church. ;^)

        If you are “done listening to this podcast for good,” my comments to you may be going into the ether, but I would encourage you to not throw out the baby with the bathwater.

        If you have “come to a different place” in your “faith journey” now that makes you not want to listen to such podcasts, I completely respect that, and wish you nothing but good fortune on your way.

        All the Best!


  2. I love RFM, but I do have to agree with Jason here. He becomes overly cynical and critical, even if it is justified there must always be some charity.

    Running the church isn’t easy, and I in similar circumstances might do the same. The church is bound to improve and over time it will get better even if it is currently lagging.

    1. Hi, David.

      I have to acknowledge that sometimes I am prone to being overly cynical where the LDS Church is concerned. I am aware of this tendency in me, but even though I am aware of it, I sometimes cross the line with my comments.

      But then I see your comment that, at least sometimes, my cynicism and criticalness “is justified.” This piques my curiosity, and raises a question to my mind.

      If my critiques are “justified” by the evidence, why are they objectionable? You suggest that there “must always be some charity.” But this makes me wonder, at least in some instances, how I could leaven in some charity.

      For example, I pretty thoroughly dissected Elder Stevenson’s recounting of the Tsunami disaster in Japan in 2011. Having shown how Elder Stevenson embellished the facts to make the account seem more miraculous than it was, how do I add charity to my observations?

      I mean, I fully understand that Elder Stevenson is not acting from malicious motives; that he is embellishing a story to make it more “faith promoting”; that he is attempting to use a highly fictionalized story in order to increase faith in the members.

      And maybe I should have added that much in the podcast. But the conclusion I keep coming to is that there can be no justification for making stuff up in order to increase faith.

      That is, unless I subscribe to the notion that the ends justify the means. And so, even if it were “charitable” for me to add that part to the conversation, I would have to come back to the conclusion that there can be no justification in such myth-making, at least to my mind.

      In fact, I think that ultimately it will do more harm than good, a point that I did make in the podcast.

      Now, there are doubtless other things that I could have talked about more charitably. And I will try to do a better job in that regard.

      But I have no reason to believe the “church is bound to improve” unless somebody somewhere is pointing out the deficiencies in the current church.

      That’s where I come in.

      Thanks again for listening!


  3. Bill, correct me if I am wrong, but I read a post once that completely dissected how missionaries are assigned to missions. There is an intricate computer program that tracks missionries coming and going, and the computer assigns the missionary to the mission. The only variables added or changed are specifics from stake presidents about mental health, physical health,and other specifics that may preclude a missionary from going to aspecific area of the world, etc. The prophet does not receve specific revelation for each of 80,000 missionaries. I am confused that Elder Bednar stated that when that is simply not how things are done in real time.

    1. Hi, Randall,

      I think you are correct that a computer program is used to assist the apostles in making missionary assignments.

      This only makes sense, as every month there are thousands of missionaries leaving different missions, and a certain number of missionaries must be called to replace them. Something has to keep track of all this, and computers are a good solution to the problem.

      To be charitable to Elder Bednar, though, I think his message was that the prophet receives revelation to call the missionaries to the general work, and it is the apostles who call the missionaries to their specific missions.

      See? I am being more charitable already!



      1. I can confirm that mission calls are made with the aid of a computer…a family member wrote the program. The programs lists missions with vacancies on one side and lists missionaries awaiting callings on the other side of the screen along with the missionaries picture. A member of the 12 connects the “vacancy” to the “missionary”…they call this process revelation

        1. Thanks for the intel, Craig!

          This is another good example of how the LDS Church has dumbed down “revelation” to the point it is virtually meaningless.

          I talk about this in the upcoming RFM podcast set for release Sunday.

          A good example is how President Eyring says it was a revelation when an earlier unnamed church leader decided to not buy computers from a particular salesman.

          But no mention is made of the revelation that led church leaders to buy forgeries from Mark Hofmann.

  4. Thanks for the podcast. I don’t find it unusual at allthat someone would feel guilty about being reassigned. The MTC is very consistent on the message of being worth to serve. We are taught to look inward to make sure we are worth to serve the Lord and his children. That someone might take reassignment as something caused by their own inadequacy is very believable. Just wanted to add my two cents.

    1. Thanks for your comments, Brian. I agree that it is possible that a reassigned missionary might feel somehow personally responsible, and therefore guilty, for a reassignment caused by external forces beyond his or her control.

      I have just never heard of it happening to anybody. So in theory, I guess it is possible, especially in a church that does such a good job of laying the blame at the feet of the members for everything that doesn’t go the way it is supposed to go.

      My question for you is whether you are actually aware of any missionary who has felt guilty over such a circumstance. Do you know of any?

      All the Best!


  5. Bill,
    I envisioned this scene with RFM on your left shoulder and the Church on your right. The head is turning back and forth from one side to another as the eyes are fully opened with bewildered anxiety. “Oh…which voice should I listen to?”. Note: I will give you kudos for at least making some attempts to be “charitable”. Nevertheless, RFM appears to be the choice and the winner!! YEAH!!!!CLAPPING!!!!. Therefore, open the curtain and see what your prize is. The audience gasps in anticipation as the curtain opens!!!. “You have just won the following”: Truth by judgment, insinuation, cynicism, mocking, reading between the lines etc. etc. etc…………

    Putting aside the shtick above I am obviously disappointed in this specific podcast. It is simply the usual RFM tactic of spending a myriad of hours (admittedly) to dig up anything critical or contradictory by mortal men trying to do their best with what they have. Frankly, it came off as petty and nit picking. Obviously, there are valid concerns and critiques to be made but there wasn’t even a single attempt on RFM’s part to show any partiality. This is just pure single sided criticism that does nothing to promote a morsel of faith in those trying to figure all of this out. Is the objective to build bridges or tear them down? I do not hear a voice that edifies or sustains any road to healing and understanding. I would expect better from two individuals with the knowledge and intelligence you both possess.

    I only respond to these type of podcasts in hope that hopefully the listeners will make some attempt to be objective and give each side of these difficult issues some objective consideration. Lest we be judged by the same judgment we render to our fellow man it would be good advice that the mode of operation used in this podcast at least be CONSIDERED as the one to criticize and not to utilize.

    Bill I will again tip my hat to you. You did seem to try to have objectivity or “charity” as you refer to it. However, to many “rights'” were your eventual response to the guy on your left shoulder. As for me and my choice I think it well to hedge my bet on that opposite shoulder for now.

    1. Hi, Dale.

      I am glad you are tipping your hat to Bill Reel. He did indeed make an attempt to be charitable in his comments about the speakers in General Conference.

      The only issue I have with how you envision the scene, though, is that I am on Bill’s RIGHT shoulder!

      You write, “Obviously, there are valid concerns and critiques to be made but there wasn’t even a single attempt on RFM’s part to show any partiality. ”

      Setting aside the fact that I think you meant “impartiality,” if there are, as you say, “valid concerns and critiques to be made,” why is it a problem for me to voice such “valid concerns and critiques”?

      In other words, is there any value in expressing “valid concerns and critiques,” even if done in a way that you don’t like?

      Put yet another way, even if there is less charity or impartiality coming from me, do the “valid concerns and critiques” I express become any less valid because they are not said in the way you would like?

      To be absolutely clear on the issue, I am not trying to get others to believe the way I believe, or to see things the way I see them.

      I am simply voicing my opinion about things. If people find them “valid,” that is good. If people do not find them “valid,” I am fine with that, too. I am not out to win any converts.

      I am just out to add my voice to the discussion.

      Thanks for listening, Dale! Sincerely.


  6. Yeah, quite nit picky. It’s a serious thing to try and figure this church out. I am quite skeptical about so much of what I hear coming from our leaders (I am skeptical of critics as well). Just trying to get a decent balance to make sense out of things. Bill, you are someone I feel is honestly doing his best at this too. I really enjoy your podcasts and observations. You have been a great help in my so called faith crisis/journey. This podcast however has left me feeling like the church is intentionally trying to dupe everyone and it is our job to expose the bretheren’s secret plan so we can get to the real Jesus. I don’t want to think that this is the intention of your guest but it’s the feeling I get. I’m trying to be open minded, the church has serious issues. I have hope in figuring some of it out. The feeling I get from this particular podcast is that it’s a waste of time to try.

    1. Thanks for your comments, Eric.

      It is indeed “a serious thing to try and figure this church out,” especially when one has devoted four decades of one’s life to it, as I have.

      You ask what my intention is, and so I will tell you as best I can. My intention is not to “expose the brethren’s secret plan so we can get to the real Jesus.”

      My intention is to work to dig out the truth. It is the truth I am after. And sometimes the leaders make the truth a difficult thing to find. Not only in what they say, but in what they don’t say.

      In short, I am not trying to get people to the “real Jesus.” I am trying as best I can to find out the truth, let it lead wherever it may.

      The LDS Church promotes the idea of finding out truth in theory, but in practice continues to follow Elder Packer’s mantra, “Some truths are not very useful.”

      I disagree. I think that all truth is useful. And sometimes the truths the Church thinks are “not useful” end up being the most useful.

      I mean, there is a reason a person or an organization wants to hide certain truths, and it is usually because those truths reflect negatively on the person or organization.

      History has shown that Elder Packer’s “not very useful” truths have followed this pattern.

      Thanks for listening!


  7. My brother was called to a mission where his long-time girlfriend just moved to attend college. My parents called Salt Lake to inform them that this would be distracting for him and the brethren immediately changed the call. I’ve wondered for years about how that “revelation” process worked. My brother has questioned it too and has never felt any “guilt” over the call changing.

    1. This is exactly the kind of thing I think lays at the foundation of why it is Elder Bednar gave the talk he gave.

      How do you explain this type of thing?

      Well, you could just say that missionaries are called to the work by revelation, but the actual assignments are done in a less revelatory manner and more a process of working things out logistically.

      I think everybody would be okay with that, and it would answer the question well enough.

      But instead, Elder Bednar chooses to double down on the revelation aspect. It is all revelation.

      When you are called to a certain mission, that is revelation.

      If something happens to cause you to not be able to serve in that particular mission (or have a girlfriend going to school there!), and you have to be reassigned, then the reassignment is by revelation, too.

      But all this type of argument does is make the issue even more sticky.

      If it is all revelation, why doesn’t God know that the first revelation won’t work out and instead just call you to the secondly revealed mission in the first place?

      Does God not know where your girlfriend is attending college?

      To me it is a mass of confusion! ;^)


      1. I have a good friend who is well connected with the church…he was able to tell his apostle friend where he preferred his son would serve…miracle of miracles the son was called exactly to the place he requested…they also call this revelation.

        1. I and my close friend took four years of German together in high school. We were the only two to complete the entire four-year course.

          We have no church leader friends, but he was called to Austria.

          I was called to Japan.

  8. Hi,

    Do you have a link to the story about the firemen and the paintings of Jesus? You said that’s not the way it really happened, so I was interested in reading the real story.


    1. Hi, Xavier!

      Thanks for your comment! To be completely accurate, neither Bill nor I actually came out and said the fireman story told in GC wasn’t the way it really happened.

      We did, however, share our reasons for doubting the story actually happened in the way it was told.

      Since doing the podcast, I have talked with a friend of mine who himself had a friend who worked for the Los Angeles Fire Department for four decades.

      It is apparently a common practice for the firemen to go into a building to retrieve things of value, but only after the fire has been put out.

      That only makes sense. But it is contrary to the way the story was told in GC.

      The news story to which I referred was an NBC video that aired shortly after the fire itself.

      Here is a link to that news video.

      It is at the 1.50 mark that the reporter states what is much more likely to have happened:

      “But from the rubble, religious paintings were rescued.” … 52731.html

      Thanks for listening!


      1. When listening to you guys this was exactly what I thought, Firemen knew it was safe to go back in to the building to retrieve valuables.

        I knew you two weren’t talking without the facts, but couldn’t care less about the difference. Fact is the pictures were there, and I think even during General Conference I knew the firemen were well out of Danger and pulling out pictures or sacred items was only a kind gesture towards us from their part and not necessarily act of inspiration from God, but hey why not?

        1. Here is the quote from the talk, with the relevant parts capitalized for emphasis:

          “I felt that joy when I heard about the efforts of a brave group of firefighters who fought to save a burning stake center in Southern California in 2015. AS THE FIRE RAGED, a battalion commander called an LDS friend to ask where the sacred relics and sacrament cups were kept so they could be saved. His friend assured him that there were no sacred relics and that the sacrament cups were actually very, very replaceable. But the commander felt he should do more, so he sent firefighters BACK INTO THE BURNING BUILDING to pull every painting of Christ off of the walls that they might be preserved. They even placed one in the firetruck in the hope that the firefighters might be watched over. I was truly touched by the commander’s kindness, goodness, and sensitivity to the Light during a dangerous and difficult time.”

        2. So let me get this right, your agreeing with Radio Free Mormon that these firemen did not get sent back into a burning building putting their lives in danger to save reprints?

  9. There are no more nits left to be picked after this episode. I know it’s usually the believers who are accused of mental gymnastics, but RFM, that was an extraordinary exercise in fault-finding. It’s not about being “charitable” or making sure to throw a nice thing in once in a while. If you go a whole hour and a half without being able to find one positive thing in any of the talks, your credibility is shot. I don’t know you personally so I can only judge your comments here, but this podcast was highly disappointing. Very little discussion of the talks, and just a re-hash of the same “issues,” most of which were not even spoken about at conference.

    I wish Bill had watched more of it because I did like a lot of his insights, not because he was “charitable” but because he could actually still see both good and bad. Especially like the comments on Elder Ballards talk. Elder Ballard just doesn’t get that lots of people don’t want to just mindlessly float Sunday to Sunday. They need more than that. And the church often doesn’t provide it.

  10. Allow me to disagree with those who are taking umbrage with RFM’s critique of some of the conference talks. For the most part I find his analysis to be correct, however painful that may be to some of you. Remember, we members are taught to feast upon the words that are spoken in general conference. GBH liked to remind us that they were to be our walk and our talk for the next six months. We are conditioned to accept the talks as the mind and will of God.

    I can guarantee you that many priesthood and RS lessons and far too many sacrament mtg. talks will take us almost verbatim through many of the talks over and over again. Indeed, its hard for me to think of a talk or lesson given in my ward that includes even a small amount of original thought. Almost all are a mentally and spiritually lazy regurgitation of a ga’s conference talk.

    SO–It’s refreshing to me to be able to hear
    insightful and critical analysis by someone that’s actually using their God-given intelligence and agency. I don’t think RFM was trying to hard at all to find issues. Many were clear to me as well. If the issues were all due to the “weaknesses of men” it might be uncharitable to pick on them. But I fear that they due more to an institutional imperative to sustain a narrative and image that is becoming increasingly hard to sustain.

    Two thumbs up for RFM!

  11. Thanks for your comments, Matt!

    But I have to disagree. If you think “there are no more nats to be picked,” tune in to the Radio Free Mormon General Conference Autopsy Report scheduled to be published this Sunday morning!

    There are nats aplenty from the April 2017 General Conference, and I have no problem picking them!

    All the Best!


  12. Frankly I’m a little confused as to why some listeners are so bothered by this podcast. I get that we’re not accustomed to hearing such a straight-forward, no-holds-barred critique of the Lord’s anointed (it does somehow seem grossly disrespectful – not necessarily because it’s “wrong” but maybe more because our shame culture has kept it from happening), but I don’t see how true critical thinking happens without polarizing points of view. Imagine what our court system would be like if one side was presented with passion and full-blown critique and the other side presented their case with charity and ambiguity. I think one of the hardest parts of this whole faith transition business for me has been learning to think for myself rather than relying on church leaders to tell me exactly what to believe and then being expected to defend those beliefs at all costs. Whether or not I agree with all (or any) of the points RFM made isn’t important, nor do I think it’s the point of the discussion. It really doesn’t matter if I’m offended by them. For me, that point is that it allows me think – for myself – in ways I haven’t allowed myself to do previously. If mortality truly is about agency (which I believe it is) then thinking and acting for myself is crucial to my mortal experience. And, I have to add, it feels really, really good to finally be able to do so.

    1. “We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us even in our soundest sleep. I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavour. It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do. To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.”

      ― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

  13. I enjoyed this and did not think you were too critical. Granted, it wasn’t the typical fawning over our leaders to which we’ve grown accustomed (and which we’ll get to endure as these talks are recycled in our church meetings for the next six months), but I felt like you were pretty fair.

    The little bit of skepticism was a welcome departure from the fawning Prophetpalooza that is General Conference and social media around that time.

    Thank you. I enjoyed the podcast.

  14. And…since many of the comments here deal with mission assignments, Bednar’s talk really confused me. Again, if there are any misunderstandings they are the fault of the members and never the fault of the GAs. So why is it that Rasband declared in April 2010 with unmistakable clarity that WHERE a missionary is called is the focus of divine inspiration?

    And why, if Where one serves was not considered divinely inspired, would Mormon newsroom include this statement in a piece published 28 May 2015:

    “Returned missionaries often express that their callings were inspired and they were sent to serve in a part of the world where they were intended to go.”

    Of course, there are no answers. It’s just another example of church leaders trying to back off of the “divine inspiration” claim when certain things are pretty obviously NOT universally inspired. Personally, I’m a little tired of being held accountable for my ignorance simply because I’m unable to keep up with and overlook all the contradictions.

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