GC Talk and The Rest of the Story

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amateurparent
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GC Talk and The Rest of the Story

Post by amateurparent » 28 May 2017, 09:24

Gary E Stevenson gave a talk in GC on the Holy Spirit. I would like to get your feedback. There was an online discussion going on about two parts of his talk. His comments about Japan and his story about a horrible traffic accident.

He wrote:
"I learned again of the important warning role of the Holy Ghost while I served in the Area Presidency in Japan.
During this time, I worked closely with President Reid Tateoka of the Japan Sendai Mission. As part of his usual mission routine, President Tateoka planned a meeting for missionary leaders in the southern portion of his mission. A few days prior to the meeting, President Tateoka had an impression, a feeling in his heart, to invite all missionaries of that zone to the leadership meeting, instead of the prescribed small number of elder and sister leaders.
When he announced his intention, he was reminded that this meeting was not designed for all missionaries but only for mission leaders. However, setting convention aside in order to follow the prompting he had received, he invited all missionaries serving in several coastal cities, including the city of Fukushima, to the meeting. On the appointed day, March 11, 2011, the missionaries gathered together for the expanded mission meeting in the inland city of Koriyama.
During this meeting a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami struck the region of Japan where the Japan Sendai Mission is located. Tragically, many coastal cities—including those from which the missionaries had been gathered—were devastated and suffered great loss of life. And the city of Fukushima suffered a subsequent nuclear event.
Although the meetinghouse where the missionaries were meeting that day was damaged by the earthquake, through following the promptings of the Holy Ghost, President and Sister Tateoka and all missionaries were safely assembled. They were out of harm’s way and miles from the devastation of the tsunami and the nuclear fallout."
People who were there at the time commented that the meeting was a small zone conference. It included a very small group of missionaries and did not include the majority of missionaries from the coastal areas. The vast majority of the missionaries serving in the mission were not there. The majority of missionaries' safety was not verified for many days. Many were in horrible circumstances.

Is this story a lie? Is it just a stretch of the truth? Because it is published and being used in teaching lessons, the stories will enter the culture and be taught as facts.

He also shared this story:
These peaceful, reassuring words from Jesus Christ describe this sacred role: “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever.”7
To illustrate this further, I share the true account of a family with five sons who moved from Los Angeles, California, USA, to a small community some years ago. The two oldest sons began playing high school sports and associating with friends, leaders, and coaches—many of whom were faithful members of the Church. These relationships helped lead to the baptism of Fernando, the oldest, and his next younger brother.
Fernando later moved away from home, where he continued his education and played college football. He married his high school sweetheart, Bayley, in the temple. As Fernando and Bayley finished their schooling, they eagerly anticipated the birth of their first child—a baby girl. But during the process of their families helping to move Fernando and Bayley back home, Bayley and her sister were driving on the freeway and were in a tragic accident involving many vehicles. Bayley and her unborn daughter lost their lives.
Fernando and Bayley
Yet as deep as was Fernando’s pain, as well as that of Bayley’s parents and siblings, so too was the depth of contrasting peace and comfort that distilled upon them almost immediately. The Holy Ghost in His role as Comforter truly sustained Fernando through this incomprehensible affliction. The Spirit communicated an abiding peace that led Fernando to an attitude of forgiveness and love toward everyone involved in the tragic crash.
Bayley’s parents called her brother who was serving as a missionary at the time of the accident. He described in a letter his feelings upon hearing the difficult news of his beloved sister: “It was amazing to hear your voices so calm in the midst of a tempest. I did not know what to say. … All I could think of is my sister may not be there when I come home. … I was comforted by your infallible testimonies of the Savior and His plan. The same sweet spirit that brings me to the verge of tears as I study and teach filled my heart. I was then comforted and reminded of the things that I know.”8
The Holy Ghost will help you by comforting you, as He did Fernando and Bayley’s family.
The Holy Ghost Testifies

The Holy Ghost also testifies and bears witness of the Father and the Son and of all truth.9 The Lord, speaking to His disciples, said, “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, … he shall testify of me.”10
In order to describe the valuable role of the Holy Ghost as witness, I will continue the story of Fernando and Bayley. If you remember, I shared that Fernando and his brother had been baptized, but his parents and three younger brothers had not. And, despite receiving numerous invitations to meet with the missionaries over the years, each time the family declined.
Upon the painful passing of Bayley and her baby daughter, Fernando’s family was inconsolable. Unlike Fernando and unlike Bayley’s family, they found no comfort or peace. They could not understand how their own son, along with Bayley’s family, could bear their heavy burden.
Eventually, they concluded that what their son possessed and they did not was the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and this must be his source of peace and comfort. Following this realization, they invited the missionaries to teach their family the gospel. As a result, they received their own witness and testimony of the great plan of happiness, which brought them the sweet peace and calming comfort they were desperately seeking.

During the online discussion, a woman commented that her husband was the truck driver whose rig slid on ice and caused the initial crash that led to the pile up event. She wrote about the on-going lawsuit, anger, and heinous communications from the family, her husband's inability to find work since this horrible wreck, and his own injuries related to the crash. From her perspective, nothing had been resolved and it was a horrific ongoing situation. She wrote about how incredulous she felt hearing this story. From her perspective, there was nothing kind nor good coming from the situation.

This written talk makes it look so simple ... I can imagine being curled up with my young child and getting to the last page, "And they all got baptized and lived happily ever after. The End."

Comments?
I have no advance degrees in parenting. No national credentials. I am an amateur parent. I read, study, and learn all I can to be the best parent possible. Every time I think I have reached expert status with one child for one stage in their life, something changes and I am back to amateur status again. Now when I really mess up, I just apologize to my child, and explain that I am indeed an amateur .. I'm still learning how to do this right.

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Reuben
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Re: GC Talk and The Rest of the Story

Post by Reuben » 28 May 2017, 10:14

Confirmation bias strikes again! I knew about the rest of the tsunami story, but not the other one. Thanks for the data point.

We want very badly to believe in a God of miracles. We want to think that we're right and others are wrong. We're much more comfortable knowing that we have God's favor than considering that time and chance happen to us all. So we select, select, select. Pare it down to faith-promoting essentials. Separate the wheat. Burn the chaff and bury the ashes.

This is all fine, I suppose. Folks have got to get through the day somehow. Besides, humans wouldn't be this way if it didn't have some survival benefit.

The point where I get frustrated is that pointing this out is regarded as sinful. Why are you tearing down our faith, to interrupt our rejoicings?

Maybe the right thing to do is help people trade up whenever possible. Relying on a rickety old story to bolster your belief? Here's a more solid story, or a better takeaway. The problem with that, though, is finding good replacements.
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nibbler
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Re: GC Talk and The Rest of the Story

Post by nibbler » 28 May 2017, 10:55

:think: Should we hold the stories shared during general conference to a higher standard than the stories we've canonized in scripture? :P

I think many stories in scripture are about establishing an ideal. If we could step into a time machine and witness the events firsthand we might not be as impressed in knowing the rest of the stories... provided the stories took place at all.

I take all general conference stories with a grain of salt. They aren't relating something that happened so much as they are relating what they want to be the ideal, a standard for the saints.

It's one of the reasons why (and this was recently shared in my ward so it's fresh on my mind) I don't like the story of the laurel that sacrificed a one time life event to attend a relief society meeting, I think it establishes an imbalanced ideal... but I don't have the rest of the story.
I hereby place an order for one cheese pizza. -nibbler

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SilentDawning
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Re: GC Talk and The Rest of the Story

Post by SilentDawning » 28 May 2017, 11:18

I look at people's willingness to believe just about anything faith promoting the same way I view a mother's love for her child. The mother carried the child for 9 months of uncomfortable labor, gave birth, and made many sacrifices. The commitment to the child is significant as a result. "That which we acquire to easily we esteem too lightly" -- the reverse is true.

You're paying 10% of your gross, giving all your free time, and giving up a lot to be a good, card-carrying Mormon...stories like these make it easier, and people tend to believe them.

I know from experience that there is great temptation to exaggerate the truth for a good story. Ask Paul H. Dunn. That's why I take a huge grain of salt when I hear any faith promoting story like this.
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Roy
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Re: GC Talk and The Rest of the Story

Post by Roy » 28 May 2017, 13:06

I personally am probably more forgiving then most about historical stories and accuracy.

I am in toastmasters and have studied some the art of story telling. History is academic - story telling is art. There is a concept called "exaggerate for effect" that I use. If I am telling the story of a big fish I caught, then the fish will grow in my retelling.

I will also selectively include elements that bolster my theme and leave out elements that detract from it. To do otherwise would bog down the story and confuse the audience. I need pacing and things that move the story along.

I tend to love movies "based on a true story" for the same reasons. I like to dissect what was fact from what was art. I do this not to tear the movie down but rather to understand (and appreciate) the creative choices that were made in the presentation of the story.
Eventually, they concluded that what their son possessed and they did not was the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and this must be his source of peace and comfort. Following this realization, they invited the missionaries to teach their family the gospel. As a result, they received their own witness and testimony of the great plan of happiness, which brought them the sweet peace and calming comfort they were desperately seeking.
I notice that he does not say that this family was baptized or joined the church. Perhaps this family only gained a new appreciation for LDS church teachings as having some value. Brother Stevenson phrases his sentences in a way that may lead the hearer to conclude that they were baptized without him actually saying that.
amateurparent wrote:
28 May 2017, 09:24
This written talk makes it look so simple ... I can imagine being curled up with my young child and getting to the last page, "And they all got baptized and lived happily ever after. The End."
Yes, and yet stories have value. Last night I was reading Aesop's fables with my 9 year old.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

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Re: GC Talk and The Rest of the Story

Post by Roy » 28 May 2017, 13:26

nibbler wrote:
28 May 2017, 10:55
It's one of the reasons why (and this was recently shared in my ward so it's fresh on my mind) I don't like the story of the laurel that sacrificed a one time life event to attend a relief society meeting, I think it establishes an imbalanced ideal...
While I am fairly forgiving of creativity in storytelling - I suppose I am more critical of the theme that the story is intended to communicate. I am personally sensitive to themes that seem to suggest that LDS beliefs can make grief unnecessary or that the ultimate indicator of how well you weather hardship is how loyal you remain to the church.

I once read in an LDS book about adversity the story of an LDS pioneer man that lost his entire family to small pox. Then they quote from a letter that he wrote much latter bearing his testimony of the truthfulness of the church. Then they say that he went on to settle a distant part of Deseret (and have another family).

This example made me so mad. It did not tell me anything about how he felt of how he dealt with his pain. The theme of the story was also maddening. It seemed to be saying that this guy lost more than you and stayed strong in his faith so if you are faltering you must be doing it wrong.

And that, to me is the bigger problem with this story's theme...
amateurparent wrote:
28 May 2017, 09:24
Upon the painful passing of Bayley and her baby daughter, Fernando’s family was inconsolable. Unlike Fernando and unlike Bayley’s family, they found no comfort or peace. They could not understand how their own son, along with Bayley’s family, could bear their heavy burden.
...It perpetuates the myth that death among the Mormons is not quite so painful and also that death outside of our ranks is inconsolable wailing and gnashing of teeth. It can make Mormons who grieve to feel guilty for their lack of faith. It can be dismissive of non-Mormons that find peace and comfort in their own faith when a loved one passes.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

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DarkJedi
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Re: GC Talk and The Rest of the Story

Post by DarkJedi » 28 May 2017, 13:58

As others have said, I also always take these "faith promoting" stories with a grain of salt - or many grains of salt. It does trouble me a bit that most of the stories are alleged actual events, and Elder Stevenson's stories each seem to contain elements of truth at their cores (the main events really happened). I agree that there is some confirmation bias involved, and It's unlikely Elder Stevenson knows all the details about the events themselves or everything that happened afterwards. Some of the faith promoting stories in scripture are clearly not true or actual events - yet we revere them as the "word of God." I think stories and parables can be effective teaching tools whether or not they actually happened. Nevertheless, I don't appreciate things that didn't happen being presented as if they did. I loved Paul H. Dunn's stories and I think he was a good man and did much good and I felt very bad about what happened to him in the end. I never really know where to draw the line, so I get out the salt shaker (which gets fairly heavily used in most F&TMs).

In GC (usually in the weeks that follow) I pick out talks I like :thumbup: , talks I don't like :thumbdown: , and leave the rest in a heap in the middle never to be heard from again :| (which is also what happens to the ones I don't like). Stevenson's went in the middle.

Side note: I'm not afraid to point out a story I know to be false. One such example is the story after 9/11 about missionaries being held up in traffic etc. and therefore not being at the WTC for the meeting they were supposed to be at when the planes hit. That one is total hogwash, no elements of truth. Another is the story that was quote popular last year involving Pres. Benson saying a a vote for the lesser of two evils is still a vote for evil (meaning I have voted for evil my entire voting history because I have never viewed it otherwise). It was presented in a fifth Sunday lesson as "a prophet said." Benson could have said it, but if he did it was in private and there is no proof he did say it - and most certainly not "as a prophet." Someone else beat me to that one and the teacher did apologize the next week for saying it was spoken by a prophet when it may not have been (and I admire her for that integrity). Lastly the story of the old man standing up and saying that not one of the Willy handcart company ever left the church. Nobody knows that for sure, they scattered across the West like the other immigrants did. It's pretty unlikely that this man kept track of all of them and would know, and it's pretty unlikely that none left the church or lost their testimonies. And who knows if the story actually ever happened. In all of these cases I redirect to Christ and the core principles of the gospel - that's what we're there to learn about and discuss and we have plenty of scriptural evidence to support the simple truths therein.
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

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Re: GC Talk and The Rest of the Story

Post by Ray DeGraw » 28 May 2017, 22:15

Let me point out something that is important:

When people get criticized, they often are criticized for things they didn't actually say. People tend to read and hear things that confirm their own confirmation biases, just as people tend to tell things based on theirs.

Elder Stephenson never said all the missionaries throughout the entire coastal regions attended the meeting. He said what would have been a district meeting was extended to all missionaries in that zone (including those from "several coastal cities", NOT all of the coastal cities). The online discussion accounts confirm that.

Technically, his statement was 100% correct, but he still got accused of lying about it.

I see the same thing in the second story: people reacting to their impressions of what he meant and what they saw as being implied, not ncessarily what he actually said.

I am sensitive to this for a simple reason. I choose my words carefully, especially when communicating online, and it is amazing how often I get criticized for things I don't say. It happens all. the. time.
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Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

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amateurparent
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Re: GC Talk and The Rest of the Story

Post by amateurparent » 29 May 2017, 06:32

DeGraw wrote:

Elder Stephenson never said all the missionaries throughout the entire coastal regions attended the meeting. He said what would have been a district meeting was extended to all missionaries in that zone (including those from "several coastal cities", NOT all of the coastal cities). The online discussion accounts confirm that.
You are correct. DH and I had that conversation as I was frothing at the mouth and venting about this particular GC talk.

He insinuates many things but doesn't actually say them. That habit increased my discomfort and annoyance.

Such speaking habits from high church officials cause members to hear the wonderful and miraculous conclusion without noticing or examining the careful phrasing that preceded the conclusion.

Such trickster habits are expected when promoting shady loans and business practices. In certain public speaking venues, hyperbole and dramatic license are expected and encouraged. I expect a different and better standard out of ecclesiastical leaders who claim to represent God, who are speaking in an ecclesiastical setting and who are called the Lords Appointed.

Comments state that GC talks should all be read with a grain of salt, an entire shaker, or a salt truck or two. What does that say about the authorities of the entire religion? At what point do we put church authority publications down on the Sci Fi/Fantasy shelf?
I have no advance degrees in parenting. No national credentials. I am an amateur parent. I read, study, and learn all I can to be the best parent possible. Every time I think I have reached expert status with one child for one stage in their life, something changes and I am back to amateur status again. Now when I really mess up, I just apologize to my child, and explain that I am indeed an amateur .. I'm still learning how to do this right.

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nibbler
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Re: GC Talk and The Rest of the Story

Post by nibbler » 29 May 2017, 07:30

Jesus' disciples are the salt of the earth. ;)

There's the content of a story and the source. When it comes to connecting with our spiritual side why do we hold the contents of the sci fi/fantasy shelf in lower regard than scripture or the words of ecclesiastical leaders?

Regardless of accuracy or carefully worded talks I'm not a fan of the first story.

The Japan Sendai mission story implies that the holy ghost warned church leaders of impending danger... but not really. It was a prompting to bring missionaries together and it just so happened to take them out of harm's way in the process. The implication is that if President Tateoka didn't receive the prompting or if he didn't obey the prompting that missionaries could have been injured or killed by the impending natural disaster.

The reason I'm not a fan is because my thoughts naturally gravitate toward all the "non-us" people that were caught up in the same event. If what President Tateoka received was a warning of impending danger (the prompting is not presented like that in the story) then I'd want that prompting to be a little more specific... a voice of warning to help protect more people.

It doesn't really work in this story because the prompting wasn't "look out, there's danger ahead" it was "make kids go to a meeting." It's hard to raise a red flag to the public based on those kind of promptings and there's a question as to whether people in the street would listen to someone else's promptings anyway... but these kind of stories crop up from time to time, stories about how some missionaries were protected but there's this shadow cast over the faith promoting story... what about all the other people?

I believe the moral of the story is that god will protect us... provided we listen and obey promptings. Can we make the "us" umbrella a little larger though? I think another lesson is that the world is a scary place, an earthquake could strike at any time, a bomb could go off, but if you're listening to the spirit you will be protected, so don't fear those things that are outside of our control.

I excuse a lot of this because people want to hear from and about their tribe and people want to calm their fears but I'm still not a fan of the story... regardless of accuracy. God protects his elect doesn't resonate unless we are all god's elect.
I hereby place an order for one cheese pizza. -nibbler

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