I always like a few days to reflect on conference. Partially that’s because I’m usually dealing with a bunch of kids during conference. Partially because I’ll admit I don’t learn well from lectures. It’s hard not to fall asleep. I also just learn better from the printed talks and it takes a few days for those to appear. Mainly though it’s because I just like to get an idea for what people see as the big concerns in the Church. So here’s my musings after they’ve had a few days to congeal.
There’s no particular organization to this.
First off it’s hard not to come away from both this conference and spring’s that leadership really wants to put more responsibility on individual members. The shift to Ministering and now the shortened meeting schedule seem oriented around that. There’s far less structure and a lot more individual responsibility. Really what’s happened with this week’s changes is to shift the burden of Sunday School lessons to the family or individual. While not explicitly stated, the thrust seems to assume parents will continue the Primary lesson as part of Family Home Evening on Sunday.
Many of these changes seem oriented around teaching children. I know that some see this as a problem as none of the changes seem targeted at singles who are such a rising demographic. They are also the demographic that has the biggest challenges in many ways maintaining a connection to Church. However in theory this helps them too by allowing study groups that serve a function similar to Sunday School but more able to be customized to individual needs. Again though the Church is offering no structure just individual responsibility to do these things.
My big concern is whether the membership will be able to step up and deal with this shift from structure to personal responsibility. Perhaps I’m just cynical, but I suspect they won’t. My guess is that Ministering will just do the occasional visit to drop off baked goods. It’ll work great for those families willing to call their Ministers when they need something. However without structure to provide an indirect way to friendship I wonder how many will feel comfortable doing that. Likewise with the changes to lessons how many people will teach their children properly? We’ll see I suppose.
It’s also seems clear that the brethren are very concerned about the effects of social media on the Church. Pres. Nelsons request for a social media fast became controversial among some. However I think there’s abundant empirical evidence for the negative effects of Facebook and Twitter. (And I say this as a regular Twitter user) That’s particularly true during times of political turmoil I think. I know many were put out by Pres. Nelson’s request but I’m taking it seriously. I just started a relative social media fast — which for me I’m interpreting as avoiding Twitter and not commenting in forums or blog comments. It’s worth noting how strong the correlation is between the rise of always available Twitter and Facebook and the rise in depression especially among the young. I think we should see this much like the Word of Wisdom. Good council.
Finally I think Pres. Nelson has some long term plans. The changes this year are probably more preparatory for these future changes. While there were no real announcements of significant changes to missionary work or temple work, he seems to be laying a foundation for such changes. It seems like they’re shifting missionary work at a ward level to be more the responsibility of Elders Quorums. (This wasn’t announced in conference but was directed in letters to Bishops and Stake Presidents this week) The shift in meetings times will also free up afternoons perhaps to allow Sunday temple sessions in the future.
What exactly Pres. Nelson’s long term goals are isn’t entirely clear. However I do think he wants to get more involvement by women in practical day to day running of the Church. My guess is that next conference we’ll see a continuation of the changes made this year.