[Note: For excellent notes on the April 2007 Priesthood Session, go here.]
For the benefit of those persons not invited, here are quick notes on a fine Priesthood Session. The six speakers were Elders Uchtdorf, Rasband, Hinckley fils, and Presidents Faust, Monson, and Hinckley. I'll give brief notes on the first five, then extended notes on Pres. Hinckley's remarks.
I like this guy. He gave an upbeat talk in a commanding style. His theme was "seeing the end from the beginning." His remarks on the For the Strength of Youth handbook were instructive. Made me think of the little white book that missionaries used to live by.
Issued an "all hands on deck" call to respond to the dangers to youth. He advocated family togetherness, suggesting that maybe teenagers should skip a few athletic events or outside activities in favor of spending more time with Mom and Dad. Good luck.
Elder Richard G. Hinckley
Made a nice self-deprecating joke to start. Theme: repentence. He suggested starting a notebook on "what membership in the Church means to me."
A standard Aaronic Priesthood talk (one or two of these in every priesthood session). Ministering of angels can be yours, young men (see D&C 13). Avoid addictions (a very popular word this conference) of any kind.
More AP talk. Know what you believe, with two good stories where knowing something about the Church was very helpful. A story about a stake president who, in interviews, grilled young men about the scriptures to motivate more serious study.
This one you'll hear about. He noted that getting old softens one's manner, and lamented the disturbing amount of jealousy, bitterness, and anger in the world today. Then he got down to brass tacks.
First, he denounced in very blunt terms the existence of what he called "racial strife" but which would generally be called racial bias or bigotry. He related (by general reference, not in detail) instances he is aware of where racial slurs or denigrating remarks were used by LDS priesthood holders against other priesthood holders. He said that no one who acts in this way should consider themselves in harmony with the Church. Pres. Hinckley was visibly upset as he related these comments.
Next, he criticized men who exit the job market on a long-term basis and let their wives support the family. Husbands are to be the breadwinners and should work to support the family.
Finally, he related the case of a young man who was of another faith but grew up in an LDS community, where he was ostracized and belittled by LDS youth. So treated, he learned to despise the Church. When he went away to college was the first time he had a circle of friends, other young people who were friendly to him, which was a wonderful development. One of those new friends turned out to be LDS, and (to shorten the story) the young man eventually joined the Church. Then wrote a long letter to Pres. Hinckley, who was again rather agitated as he related this long story, although not as irate as when he spoke against racial animosity.
President Hinckley's pointed remarks will make the papers. Maybe Pres. Hinckley is starting to sense the downside of LDS organizational culture having become so religiously and politically conservative over the past three decades? It sounds like those unresolved post-1978 racial issues that remain a part of LDS folk doctrine are finally on the radar screen. It will be interesting to see if he visits these themes again (likely in a gentler tone) if he delivers closing remarks at the Sunday afternoon session.