The whole tone of this Conference surprised me: it was quiet, reassuring, and encouraging. There were no "tough love" talks and precious little about The Passion or same-sex marriages. Instead, several speakers went out of their way to actually make members feel good!!! about being LDS despite life's challenges and imperfections. The highlight of the day was definitely Elder Packer repeating a grandchild's "Gwampa" and talking about the benefits of having a sense of humor. Oh, and the Brazilian diva was a real show-stopper too. I thought the best talks of the day were by three 70s:
Dennis E. Simmons gave the "But If Not" talk. By halfway through it I had the kids chiming in with the punch line, "but if not . . ." And what a voice! This guy should be on television (well, I guess he was). This one's a keeper.
Clate W. Mask, Jr. gave the "Missionaries in the Mud" talk. Fun guy, big smile, radiates happiness. Will probably be responsible for setting off a "painting scriptures on the wall of the family room" craze among the Utah faithful.
Bruce C. Hafen, one of my favorites, gave probably the sharpest talk of the conference, on the Atonement and grace. I think that I may disagree with some of his detailed detailed comments on grace and the Fall when I get a chance to read a hardcopy, but it was nice to hear a doctrinal talk that treated a doctrinal topic head-on, with no tearful pseudo-weeping to enhance the message.
I first ran across Hafen's name some years ago when I was leafing through a large stack of old Ensigns in the corner of a missionary apartment (there isn't much you can read as a missionary). I came across an article he wrote called Dealing With Uncertainty (Ensign, August 1979--available at LDS.org, but I can't get a link). It taught me to not be a bubble-popper. Here's the paragraph I remember, surprisingly relevant even now:
I found myself wanting to tell our third-year law students that those who take too much delight in their finely honed tools of skepticism and dispassionate analysis will limit their effectiveness, in the church and elsewhere, because they can become contentious, standoffish, arrogant, and unwilling to commit themselves. I have seen some of these try out their new intellectual tools in some context like a priesthood quorum or a Sunday School class. A well-meaning teacher will make a point they think is a little silly, and they will feel an irresistible urge to leap to their feet and pop the teacher’s bubble. If they are successful, they begin looking for other opportunities to point out the exception to any rule anybody can state. They begin to delight in cross-examination of the unsuspecting, just looking for somebody’s bubble up there floating around so that they can pop it with their shiny new pin of skepticism. And in all that, they fail to realize that when some of those bubbles pop, out goes the air, and with it goes much of the feeling of trust, loyalty, harmony, and sincerity so essential to preserving the Spirit of the Lord.