Friday, April 01, 2011

See, it's FUNNY cuz . . .

Usually, having to explain the joke ruins it.

But today? I think it may help. And I'll explain so that we can all enjoy the funny together.

For members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ("You know, the Mormons"), Sunday is the Sabbath Day. It's a day of worship and rest and time spent with family. Sunday is the day when our church services are held. Twice a year (specifically: the first weekend in April and the first weekend in October), rather than attend traditional church services, we participate in what's called General Conference. Essentially, General Conference is a semi-annual worldwide church meeting, and since it's not practical for many millions of people the world over to meet in one physical place, the meetings are held in Salt Lake City (where the LDS church headquarters happen to be) and while people do attend the meetings live in the Conference Center (many people travel very far distances to attend in person), said meetings are then broadcast via satellite, internet, and radio, and then also distributed via good ol' fashioned print in the church's May and November issues of the Ensign magazine. During conference weekend many who don't have satellite access in their homes will attend the broadcast in their local church building (ever noticed the satellite dish outside your local Mormon church?), as was the case where I grew up. Yes, I'd get dressed in my church clothes and sit in a chapel and watch the Salt Lake proceedings on a television set. Where I live now, we can watch it on a local television station, or listen on local radio.

The speakers at General Conference are church leaders, men and women who preside over the different organizations (Primary for children, Young Women (ages 12-18), Young Men (ages 12-18), Sunday School, Relief Society for women, etc.), as well as our Prophet, his counselors, and the twelve apostles (our church is organized the way that Jesus organized it when He was living on the earth). In general, really great and inspired messages of faith, hope, charity, as well as encouragement, support, and love. For the past . . . oh, I don't know how many years, a recurring theme of instruction (particularly in the priesthood session) has been to avoid pornography like the plague that it is -- destructive to individuals, families, and therefore, society.

Notice I said that General Conference is held the first weekend April and the first weekend in October, not the first Sunday in those months. Here's the deal: There are four general sessions of conference, held (Mountain Time) at 10:am on Saturday, 2:pm on Saturday, 10:am on Sunday, and 2:pm on Sunday. There is also a priesthood session (for priesthood holders/males ages 12 and up) held on Saturday at 6:pm which is not broadcast (attend your local meetinghouse to participate via satellite) (even though it's not broadcast anywhere other than to chapels, the transcripts are included in the conference editions of the Ensign magazine). Each meeting lasts two hours.

Two hours each.

That's eight hours of church meetings in one weekend (ten for priesthood holders), twice a year.

No small thing. And it certainly could be seen as inconvenient.

Since we're accustomed to attending our church meetings on Sundays, many in our faith only participate in the Sunday morning session of General Conference. I don't have any statistics on this, but I'd wager that of the entire weekend, Sunday morning is the session in which the most people participate 'live', as it's happening. Many say that they will, "just read it in the Ensign later," and that's not unreasonable: even those who spend their entire weekends watching/listening to conference will usually review it (not to mention that talks and lessons in church are often given with specific conference talks as the subject). In fact, many individuals (and families) don't watch or listen to conference at all when it's being broadcast, instead looking at the first weekends in April and October as "Free Weekends" from church.

It wasn't until I was living in Utah that I even knew that all sessions of conference go together; previously I had learned that, "Sunday morning is the important session; all the others are optional." This is an interesting statement to me because what in this gospel (in this life?) isn't optional? I don't have to go to church at all. (I could go on and on here.) I could be incorrect, but I'll just go ahead and say it: Though the Sunday morning session of General Conference may be the most popular, the session most attended, I've never seen any sort of Official Statement saying that it's the most important session, the priority to be attended. I don't think that it's any more or less important than the other sessions held throughout the weekend, and I might add: MOST of the talks which have meant the most to me in my life have been given during sessions other than the Sunday morning session.

*ahem*

I'm getting back to the explaining-the-funny thing, I promise.

Another cultural observation is that when anyone, in reference to conference, says, "I'll just listen to it on the radio," the reaction from some die-hards is to look down on such a thing. This is funny to me: I prefer to listen to conference on the radio (I love radio) (and think of how many people on this planet have access to radio but not television or internet - is their experience solely second-rate?), but if I'm being honest, I can see how people might think this is a cop-out. It's hard for me to describe: if I'm listening to conference on my radio while I'm ironing, am I participating/engaging less than if I were to be watching the speaker in addition to listening without the distraction of a mindless chore? Does my attention to pressing wrinkles out of a collar distract any portion of my attention which would have otherwise been placed on the words of the message? Maybe, I don't know. What I do know is that, locally, there seems to be a hierarchy (culturally, mind you) about participating in conference, which is:

Attending Live At The Conference Center
Watching At Home/Church
Listening On The Radio
Not Participating

Let it be known that the above hierarchy list is both weird and insignificant because it involves people making inappropriate assumptions and judgments about not only what people are doing with their weekend, but also their methods of doing such.

THAT BEING SAID . . .


(I hope I've adequately explained why.)

Happy Conference Weekend!


*Come back next week if you want to learn about My Trip To Europe And All That.

8 comments:

Emily said...

I saw that post a couple days ago and seriously laughed. So funny! (And your post? I might have to print it and hand it out in Young Women's...)

sue-donym said...

Wait. You iron?

~j. said...

Emily - aww, thanks! It's great to come across a post and think, "Our YW need to know this."

~j. said...

sue-do - YES I DO. Right after balancing the checkbook.

Logan said...

ya know, I don't know if you're the same way as me, but I actually tend to pay attention better if I'm doing some mundane task. It's the same way in church. People probably think I'm totally ignoring all the talks because I write in my journal during Sacrament Meeting every week, but it actually helps me to block out all the noise (our primary is 150+ kids) and focus on what's being said. I've been doing laundry while watching/listening to Conference today and I swear it helps me retain more of the information. :) Now I'm going to go click on that link and see what's so funny!

Melody said...

Great post! Peculiar people, indeed.

Now, on to Paris. Can't wait to read about it! Paris By Proxy is almost as good as the real thing.

~j. said...

Logan - yes, if I'm doing something (usually laundry) that is a mindless enough task that still allows me to listen to conference? Everybody wins. Otherwise my mind tends to wander.

~j. said...

Melody - thank you! Writing my travel posts are *almost* as exhausting as the traveling. (Almost.)