Dieter F. Uchtdorf, who was at that time second counselor in the LDS First Presidency, addresses the audience during the Saturday morning session of general conference in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, October 1, 2016. ©2016 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

What to watch for in this weekend's Mormon General Conference

Dieter F. Uchtdorf, who was at that time second counselor in the LDS First Presidency, addresses the audience during the Saturday morning session of general conference in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, October 1, 2016. ©2016 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.


Ye Olde Mormon Internette has been abuzz in recent weeks with rumors about possible changes or even revelations coming at this weekend’s Mormon General Conference, which will be the first semiannual churchwide meeting under the leadership of new president Russell M. Nelson.

I’ve now read several times that visiting general authorities have hinted when speaking to local Mormon leaders that some big announcement would be coming a the conference, which takes place on Saturday and Sunday and will be streamed live from Salt Lake City.

“President Nelson is receiving revelation” is the phrase that keeps coming up as people recap what was said at these meetings.

When Mormons hear the R Word, our ears perk up. So either the prophet really is receiving revelation and it will be announced this weekend OR the church is totally punking its members into watching every minute of General Conference, which does not appear to have high viewership among younger Mormons in the United States.

Well played, church leaders. Well played.

But since we’re speculating, I’ve come up with some of my own crazy-eyed guesses about what could happen this weekend. These are just speculations and are not based on any inside info about things going on at LDS Church HQ. I’m serious. This is just me, sitting here with my dog and a bottle of Sprite, wondering what could happen. Here goes.

  • We’ll finally get an apostle of color. Wishful thinking on my part? Maybe. Certainly I was ridiculously disappointed the last time the Church had the opportunity to diversify its leadership—there were not one, not two, but three spots open in 2015, but the Church appointed three white men, all from Utah. I’m hoping that this weekend the Church will start living up to its claim to be a global religion, rather than an American church that has some outposts abroad. Maybe it will be Elder Joseph W. Sitati of Kenya, who has been a Seventy since 2009. The Middle Ground possibility: The Church appoints Elder Gerrit W. Gong for one of the two open positions. As an Asian American, he adds diversity to the quorum without challenging its Amerocentric sensibility. He’s also come up through the ranks of the Seventy and is of comparable age to recently appointed apostles (64), both of which are common qualifications in this hierarchy.
  • We’ll see a further deceleration of LDS membership growth, but not an actual decline. At each April conference, the Church releases its membership statistics from the previous year. In 2015, the Church had growth of 1.7%, while in 2016 it was 1.59% around the world and just .93% in the United States. I would speculate that we’ll remain around 1.5% globally, and possibly a bit lower, but dip to something more like three-quarters of a percent in the US. You’ll know we’re in trouble when: the Church stops publicly releasing its annual country-by-country membership numbers.
  • We’ll hear more about recent changes to the home and visiting teaching programs. We’ve already seen that there are no more monthly messages from the First Presidency in the Ensign or the Liahona, starting with the current issue. (This seems to be a nod to changing media; announcements and news are shared on in real time.) But home and visiting teaching are changing in focus—moving away from the one-size-fits-all approach of teaching a lesson and more toward being a friend. If you share a message, it should be one tailored for that person, like you would with any friend. The smugness factor: This is how a lot of us have been doing our home and visiting teaching for years, y’all. Just saying.
  • Much will be made of the vitality of 93-year-old President Nelson. He skis! He drops in on local stake conferences as a surprise guest! And he’s about to kick off his “global ministry tour”! He’s visiting eight nations in eleven days, which would be taxing for someone half his age. It’s been a very long time since Mormonism had a leader who was healthy enough to be jet-setting, so this is a breath of fresh air. Also coming along: Elder Holland, Patricia Holland, and Wendy Nelson.
  • The elephant in the room will be very, very quiet. Sex abuse scandal? What sex abuse scandal? Let's move along . . . did we mention that President Nelson is in excellent health?

Many other things are possible, like that President Nelson will double down on Mormonism’s commitment to a particular configuration of the family. This is the man who, as an apostle, raised the status of the Church’s 2015 LGBT policy from a handbook rule to a revelation from the Lord. I don’t think it’s at all likely that he’s going to back down from that, or from the Church’s doctrine that marriage is between a man and a woman. In fact, it’s possible that he’ll propose elevating the Proclamation on the Family to the status of revelation. I dearly hope not, but it’s possible.

Another possibility is that we’ll see positive incremental changes to the status and visibility of women in the church. Over the past few years the Church has implemented small measures such as:

But these are tiny changes, and should have happened long ago. What if the new LDS prophet received revelation that truly expanded women’s roles and possibilities? So, so much could be done to expand women’s leadership even without priesthood, as Neylan McBaine’s book Women at Church has suggested.

That would be a revelation worth tuning in for.

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  1. And wouldn’t it be wonderful if they talked about our Mother in Heaven? I’ve been waiting a lifetime to come to know Her. I feel that I have been raised by a single Father, as if my Mother were dead. I think it is important that they ask or continue to ask for further light and knowledge.

  2. But which Mother in Heaven is yours and which one is mine. Isn’t Heavenly Father a polygamist? Isn’t having multiple wives exactly how he attained the highest priesthood office, Godhood? If it was good enough for Brother Brigham, it certainly was good enough for Father Elohim! Perhaps The Brethren steer away from this subject for the very can of worms it could be!

    As to empowering women in the Church, once when I was a District Leader, I had more Sisters than Elders in my district ; myself & my companion, 1 set of Elders and 3 sets of Sisters. During district meetings, rather than sing Ye Elders of Israel, I changed the verse to Ye Elders & Sisters. It got back to the Zone Leaders, then the Mission President and in the next Mission Conference I was, without naming me, made a public issue as we were instructed never to do such inclusive changes in future.

    I later learned, as I completed my 4 year Master of Theology in graduate seminary, that I was right inline with the inclusion occurring mostly in Protestant churches who were reforming/revising their churches’ liturgies at that time.

  3. I wouldn’t care which Mother we talked about. I just want to know more about divine womanhood. Right now it has no shape, no form. It is nameless and voiceless. I hate living in what Carol Lynn Pearson calls “a Motherless house, the spiritual home that is my patriarchal world, my patriarchal church.” I believe that our gospel experience is incomplete without Her and we need “to invite our Mother back into the family” (no matter how many there are).

  4. The DIVINE role of women as partners with Father and Mother in heaven in giving birth to infant
    bodies which house little Godly spirits, and raising them, is already so superior to ANY male role in the church, that I would ask why some women would ever wish to lower themselves to assume a male

    In my 71 years as a member and leader in the church, I’m still striving to be as holy, righteous, and pure as most of the women I’ve had the privilege and blessing of leading. Be patient, sisters, we brethren are trying to overcome our pride, arrogance, unrighteous dominion, lack of humility, and be worthy of you and the Lord.

  5. do we need to watch for the earth to crack open and they all being swallowed up?

  6. Be patient, seriously?! This organization has valued women for little else but their fecundity and submissiveness for decades, to change would be to admit to lies and deception.

  7. I am more interested in learning about the nature and place of God the Mother. Is she a deified being, or merely a helper to her husband, the Supreme Being? Is she a Supreme Being or merely a demigod?

    George Q. Cannon stated that “There is too much of this inclination to deify our mother in heaven.” He went on to say that “In the revelation of God the Eternal Father to the Prophet Joseph Smith there was no revelation of the feminine element as part of the Godhead, and no idea was conveyed that any such element was equal in power and glory with the masculine.” And yet, Susa Young Gates believed that “the divine Mother, side by side with the divine Father, has the equal sharing of equal rights, privileges and responsibilities.”

    So, are women just an appendage to a supreme male being or an equal partner? Women need to have a divine role model to emulate; they need to know what to aspire to be. I would like to have some sort of view of my eternal future.

  8. I’m sorry if that has been your experience. It has never been mine. I have known some LDS men who would have their wives and daughters in the background and that is wrong. For the most part I have seen men who treat their wives as equals if not superiors. I have never been in a leadership position where the influence of the sisters was not only recognized but highly regarded. I’m only 50, but every bit of training and instruction I have received has demonstrated a high respect for women everywhere, not just in the church. Every male leader I have had since my youth has placed their wife above themselves. You can express issues with my dad, but criticize my mom in front of him and you’ll wish you hadn’t. I realize I am only 1 person, but most people I know have had the same experience. Again I’m sorry if your has not been what it should have.

  9. Being that you are a 4-year Master of Theology graduate, maybe you can answer a question for me. You said that godhood is a priesthood office. Are you telling me then that women will never attain godhood, or are you telling me that women will attain the priesthood in heaven?

  10. Godhead being a priesthood office is my deduction of LDS theology taken to it’s ultimate end. Women aren’t ordained to the priesthood, so I doubt that your attainment of being a goddess is anything short of through your husband’s priesthood. But that is my opinion (not official LDS theology) as one who is no longer LDS. The LDS Church kicked me out after finding out that I was gay. I am a pastor in mainstream Christianity today.

  11. I am so sorry to hear about this. I have a good friend who had a similar experience, and he too is a minister, and a good one!

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