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Zion’s Best Bastion of Conservatism

November 22, 2008

I have a special appreciation for deep thought about Mormon topics. That’s why I like blogs, talks by general authorities, and the like. Sometimes, I find ideas that I agree with. Other times, I find ideas I disagree with. It is to be expected. After all, I’m not a true-blue, and even if I were, then there’d always be Sunstone, Signature, and Dialogue to disagree with.

But sometimes, the ideas make me chuckle. They make me wonder if I haven’t entered a Bizarro Mormon Culture land.

One such place is this little collection of things called Zion’s Best. To be honest, it seems a bit…antiquated. Like a relic of the internet from a time before the Bloggernacle. When people actually communicated via emails and newsgroups. (The author actually has a more current blog, but if I link to it, then I might be opening myself up to some pingback conflict.)

It has a collection of the “best talks” in the church…of course, any such list is going to involve the compiler’s selection bias, but what makes me chuckle is how this guy describes entries. Of course, to him, his descriptions are justified, faithful, and correct. But…to me, it seems like he takes a lot for granted. I don’t necessarily want to go into whether he’s right or wrong (conflict = bad), but I just want to point out some things that caught my eye.

About his first entry:

This is the most controversial talk ever circulated on the Internet. It…caused a lengthy flame war over whether or not Elder Packer is a “fascist.”… Absolutely polarizing, virtually everyone who reads it either agrees strongly or disagrees strongly depending on his type of testimony.

“Most controversial” is quite a title to live up to…but then again, I see that this talk is about the All-Church Coordinating Council, which seems to be this ubiquitous shadowy entity that people either admire as what glues things together, or fear as what makes the church eerily similar to 1984’s Ingsoc. John Nilsson at Mormon Matters has an entire series of articles about things that wouldn’t “make it past correlation” — it’s absolutely fascinating how the church has a grip on this (while hiding if correlation actually happens…) and apparently, the “best talk” in the church concerns it!

I was concerned with the compiler’s words…”everyone…agrees strongly or disagrees strongly depending on his type of testimony,”…but I didn’t have anything yet.

Entry 3 is where his descriptions become a bit more interesting:

…The liberals…detest it. And the Bruce R. McConkie Mormons love it for its hard-core orthodox view. Test your own opinions against these strong words from a mighty prophet.

“liberals.” Detest. Ok. Such words seem laced with disgust (this one time, I watched this Oklahoma gubernatorial ad that derided a Republican candidate, Ernest Istook, for being a liberal spender…man…that “liberal” was enunciated in the most dischordant tone. FYI, Istook, a Mormon, possibly got politically Romney’d even before Romney did! I remember that woman from the ad…she has also voiced ads [two of them!] for Jim Inhofe against Democrat senator Andrew Rice — holy CARP, can you hear how cold-blooded she might sound saying liberal?)

Anyway. My thoughts were confirmed when the compiler beckoned people to test their opinions against “strong words from a mighty prophet.” Geez, I can’t beat that. I’ll Just accept being a liberal spender.

I admit I laughed by number 5.

…this conference talk by Elder Harold B. Lee contains the famous line “A liberal in the Church is merely one who does not have a testimony.” …a person can see which way he leans. To the right…or to the wrong.

I ignored the prophetic zing on liberals (to be taken as religious liberals, not political liberals — but how can a church that relies on ongoing revelation reject all theological liberalism?) and then focused on the author’s words…you can lean to the right…or to the wrong.

Amid many good ones, 9 was the next one I was intrigued by:

This proclamation finally puts this question to rest…leaves little room for misinterpretation. Sometimes it seems like half the discussion on the Mormon email lists is about homosexual issues. This document really clears things up.

Although in recent years, the church has made its position clearer (to the chagrin of gay rights supporters), one of the things about the Proclamation on the Family that I noticed was that it left a lot of room for misinterpretation. Even today, there is discussion.

–My secretary lets me know that I’m way over my maximum word length for an entry, so I’d like to conclude with food for thought: in this list of 25 Best Talks…two are articles by the compiler of this list. I like that. That’s gutsy.

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