Elder Russell M. Nelson . . . A Wasted Opportunity

I recently (14 Sep 2014) attended a LDS Regional Conference that was held in the BYU Marriott Center.  At least 20,000 (mostly college-age students) were in attendance, with another 100,000 of the general membership watching in chapels around Utah and Wasatch Counties.  (I was in attendance because my wife was singing in the choir at the Marriott Center.)

Elder Russell M. Nelson, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, gave the concluding speech.  And it was a major disappointment.

As background, Elder Nelson is an “internationally renowned surgeon and medical researcher.”  He has both a medical degree and a PhD.  In other words, he is a well-educated man of science.  At the Regional Conference, he had a great opportunity to deal with some of the real concerns that young people might have concerning the relevance of religion.  Instead, he chose to talk about speculative-angel issues.  Areas that I would consider to be the “mysteries.”

He dealt in some length on the theory that the Archangel Michael is really Adam (from the OT), and that the Angel Gabriel is really Noah (from the OT).  For those of us who would rather believe in science and history, both a literal Adam and Noah are problematic.  Their stories seem more like ancient myths than actual, historical biographies.  How many members of the Church actually believe there was a flood that covered the entire earth?  How many believe that Noah lived to be 900+ years old?  If you believe in organic evolution, where does Adam fit in?

Not to leave mythology alone, Elder Nelson then went on to mention personages who have never tasted death:  John and the 3 Nephites.  So where is all this going?

Elder Nelson’s short conclusion was that there are non-celestial angels among us today.  For example, people who do wonderful things at great personal sacrifice   This is a wonderful message, but it was lost in all the OT literalism and eye-rolling speculation.

Elder Ballard, President Eyring, and others need to start discussing real-world issues.  They have the educational and professional backgrounds to do it.  Church members are looking for leaders who will lead, who will discuss real issues that members are concerned about.  Apostle Widtsoe did this until his death in 1954, why can’t our leaders today deal with relevant issues?  Why is the Archangel Michael/Adam theory important?  It’s not.

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13 Responses to Elder Russell M. Nelson . . . A Wasted Opportunity

  1. shematwater says:

    “all the OT literalism and eye-rolling speculation.”

    It is only speculation if you reject about half of the Doctrine and Covenants and most of what Joseph Smith taught. If you accept these things as divine revelation this is not speculation, but eternal truth.

    • rogerdhansen says:

      My major point was that there are much more important things to talk about (many which are currently being ignored by the GAs) to dwell on than whether Adam was the Archangel Michael, etc. Elder Nelson had an audience that could have used some more relevant counsel.

      • shematwater says:

        Then you would have to ask whether this is the counsel that God wanted him to give at this time and place.
        What may seem important to us is not always what really is important. God knows what is important, and the question is how much do we trust that He is directing the message being sent out.

  2. I found this blog by accident researching some things… I’m sorry you posted this. Fortunately for you, it appears you don’t have that far reaching of an audience or this post was largely ignored.

    While Elder Nelson’s talk was on the topic of Angels, if that is all you got from it you completely missed the purpose and point of it.

    You see, the whole conference was a set up for his talk. From the very beginning the ground was laid to teach the most concentrated and active gathering of LDS members of the church found in all the world specific doctrines pertaining to our day and time. Pertaining to our spiritual growth. That being the case, ask yourself again WHY Elder Nelson, this highly educated man, would choose to speak on angels.

    We come to hear a prophets voice; to learn the things of God. Yes, he spoke of Angels. A subject which would, by worldly standards, challenge the carnally minded. To the Corinthians Paul once said “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

    There are 506 references to Angels in the standard works. Surrounding many of those references you will find the most profound doctrines of salvation. We as LDS are not gathered to sit at a prophets feet to listen to him tickle our ears with “popular” messages of the day, much of which will become obsolete or evolve into something new in a matter of months or years by secular research, study and technology. We come to hear what we need to hear. Again, I ask… WHY would he then address the subject of angels.

    The lessons taught at conference were spiritual lessons. Those who went to learn in the spirit were largely fed and taught in the spirit. Those who showed up for a “show” on the “matters of the day”, which come and go as often as the weather, only got a talk on angels.

    There are many times when the brethren do speak on matters of the day as evidenced by Elder Oaks’s talks on the Constitution or Elder Nelson’s talk on family and abortion. The thing to understand is that their messages are largely driven by the audience’s preparation and faith. A pattern used by the Lord through all his prophets in all ages.

    Forums like these aught strengthen people in truth. I can’t help wonder what would “tired road warrior” have posted on his blog having actually understood the purpose of a talk on Angels given by a man who could have handily spoken on just about any topic of the day?

    I sincerely invite you to repent, fast, pray and search the scriptures. I also invite you to more fully invest yourself in the tried and true commandments of God and become worthy of temple worship that you may be more perfectly instructed in spiritual things.

    You and I don’t have a lot of time any more left to get our “houses” in order before the lights go out “wherein no man can labor”. Apostasy is a hard row to hoe my friend. It always begins with criticism of the brethren and leads a man to ignorance and ruin. From a worldly standpoint, they are easy targets to aim at.

    This is no longer a time to be found wanting in the spirit. You and I should be at the top of our game spiritually or we end up right here. If we miss the main messages we need to hear by living prophets, we will one day find ourselves alone, out of oil, on the other side of the door of the bridegroom’s wedding chamber vainly asking “can I come in too?”. Or worse, we may not even bother to knock.

    General Conference is coming in a couple of weeks. I challenge you to fast and pray prior to it to have a singular experience for yourself in learning this lesson… and when you are converted, cease being the “tired road warrior” and rather strengthen your brethren as was your agreement with your Father before you were born.

    God speed my friend. I wish you the best.

    • rogerdhansen says:

      Hi Steve, In all your verbosity, I don’t think you explained to me the actual message that Elder Nelson wanted to make. You just implied that I was a backslider (lacking the spirit) and therefore unable to grasp the concept. What was the point?

      Just two casual comments: First, you insulted my blog (“this post was largely ignored”). Then, you proceeded to categorize and judge me, and call me to repentance. I think I now know why they call Utah County the land of the self-righteous.

      I think true religion is loving God by loving your neighbor. True religion has nothing to do with Archangel Michael/Adam speculations. The latter just doesn’t really matter. But if you choose to obsess over trivialities that’s your right.

      And after reading your comment, I truly feel like a “tired road warrior.” Roger

      • shematwater says:

        D&C 20: 59
        “They are, however, to warn, expound, exhort, and teach, and invite all to come unto Christ.”
        While I am not in agreement with Steve’s tactics, I think calling him self-righteous for doing what God has commanded him to do is simply wrong. Nobody likes to be told they are wrong, and to find fault in the one saying it is merely a device to ignore what they are saying. Steve may not be the best speaker or writer, but he is hardly self-righteous.

        James 1: 27
        “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”
        Notice that pure religion is a lot more than just loving your neighbor. It is keeping one self unspotted from the world, and learning eternal truths regarding heaven, angels and the workings of God helps one to do this. Yes, the truths of Adam and place in the pre-Earth life as Michael do matter, because they teach us of God and knowing them helps us improve our lives. So, to dismiss such truths as mere theory because we want to trust more in research and reasoning of mortal men than we do in the revelations of God is a cause for concern.
        I don’t know what Elder Nelson said or meant. I was not there, and I have had no opportunity to read his words and study his meaning. But I do know that dismissing them because they disagree with uninspired scientific theory is dangerous; and while I think Steve could have said it better, his warning is perfectly valid and should not be ignored.

  3. rogerdhansen says:

    Hi Shem, I realize that self-righteous is not a term of endearment but wikipedia defines it as “a feeling or display of (usually smug) moral superiority.” And that accurately describes Steve’s screed.

    As to the subject matter of Elder Nelson’s talk, I would point out that the Adam/Archangel Michael speculation is heavily wrapped up in the “Adam-God Theory” of Brigham Young. This doctrine has been discredited by modern Mormon prophets and leaders. To somehow resurrect this whole subject is strange and totally irrelevant to contemporary Mormonism. So I strongly disagree with statement: “the truths of Adam and his place in the pre-Earth life as Michael do matter, because they teach us of God.”

    The other point I would like to comment on is your dismissal of science. “So, to dismiss such truths as mere theory because you want to trust more in research and reasoning of mortal men than we do in the revelations of God is a cause for concern.” It is my strong belief that scientists can be inspired just like Mormon leaders are inspired. For example, Darwin was inspired when he was doing his research and writing. Mormon’s believe in all truth wherever it is found. To dismiss real science and blindly accept theological speculation is a dangerous and unhealthy path.

  4. shematwater says:

    Adam being Michael is not speculation, and it has nothing to do with the Adam-God theory. In fact, that theory was developed by Brigham Young based on the doctrine of Adam being Michael.

    Doctrine and Covenants 27:11
    “And also with Michael, or Adam, the father of all, the prince of all, the ancient of days”
    Doctrine and Covenants 107:54
    “And the Lord appeared unto them, and they rose up and blessed Adam, and called him Michael, the prince, the archangel.”
    Doctrine and Covenants 128:21
    “…And the voice of Michael, the archangel; the voice of Gabriel, and of Raphael, and of divers angels, from Michael or Adam down to the present time…”

    As I said before, to reject Adam as a real person and as Michael, the archangel who stands as the head of the Human family and the greatest prophet (aside from Christ) is to reject the Doctrine and Covenants and what Joseph Smith taught. These things are not speculation, but are divine revelation of truth. Anyone who has been Endowed in the Temple should know this.

    As to science, I am all for it, as long as it is not speculative and claiming that which is contrary to the revealed truths of the gospel. Most scientists would reject the resurrection, the second coming, God himself. Why should I listen to men over God; and why should I listen to the secular world when God has appointed men to reveal His truth to us?
    Scientists can be inspired, but God will never inspire a scientist with a theory that contradicts what He reveals to His prophets.

    The problem I see is that many, like yourself, prefer the words of scientists to those of the prophets. You seem to accept what scientists say without question and without any real thought; and then, because you have accepted what these scientists teach, you turn around and not only reject the prophets but are angered when they don’t agree with what the scientists have said. That is a dangerous path and if one continues on it they will have to deal with the consequences.

    So, let me ask you this: How would you react if the prophets stood up in general conference and publicly and directly denounced organic evolution as stated (as Joseph Smith did) that Adam and Noah were real historic figures, that the flood actually happened, and that these men did truly live hundreds of years? How would you react if the Prophet of God stood up and declared to the world that God had revealed these truths and that no amount of scientific speculation could change their truth?
    Would you accept that God was revealing truth through His chosen prophet, or would dismiss everything said and simply complain, like you do about Elder Nelson, that they are not addressing what you feel they should be?

    • rogerdhansen says:

      According to Brigham Young in 1854: “When our father Adam came into the garden of Eden, he came into it with a celestial body, and brought Eve, one of his wives, with him. He helped to make and organize this world. He is Michael, the Archangel, the Ancient of Days! about whom holy men have written and spoken–He is our Father and our God, and the only God with who we have to do.”

      When I was on my Mormon mission in the 1960s, we were consistently advised to stay away from the “mysteries.” One of those who advised us to do that was Elder Mark E. Peterson. That advice is still very relevant. And I think that would apply to Adam/God/Archangel Michael theory. Let’s stay out of the mysteries.

      I really don’t like hypotheticals. So I’m inclined not to answer your question. But . . .

      In the 1950s, then Elder Joseph Fielding Smith published his ridiculous book “Man, His Origins and Destiny.” It was an anti-organic-evolution screed. Luckily, it has been largely ignored. In fact, President Eyring’s father (a brilliant scientist) suggested that we listen to JFS on religious matters but ignore him on matters of science. I would guess that the entire biology staff at BYU believes in organic evolution.

      Science and religion do not have to be in conflict. Whatever conflicts there are are man made. Let scientists do their job, and let religion deal with helping your neighbor.

      • shematwater says:

        “Let scientists do their job, and let religion deal with helping your neighbor.”

        This seems to me like limiting what God can reveal to the prophets, which is, again, a dangerous idea.
        Science and Religion don’t have to be in conflict, but truth will always be in conflict with error, regardless of the source. When God’s revealed word states one thing and scientists claim another there is going to be conflict, because only one can be right. To accept God word, whether it is popular in the worlds view, is always going to be the best course.

        Now, I have read the quote by Brigham Young, and it doesn’t really matter. The Doctrine and Covenants came first and is known to be direct revelation. Brigham Young’s ideas are not the cause of what the Doctrine and Covenant’s says, but it is the other way around.

        And Brigham Young also counseled the brethren not to discuss the mysteries when out among the world serving missions. But he also said that discussing them among the saints is a good thing, as then there is the greater chance of being corrected if you are wrong. No missionary should try and teach or discuss the mysteries, but at a closed meeting that is reserved for members of the church such a discussion is appropriate.
        I have a few friends who refuse to discuss the mysteries at any time, and so they don’t know them. Because of this when they discuss the simpler, common doctrine they teach errors based on their own reasoning from that common doctrine. I think the mysteries are exactly what these people need to hear, when the time is appropriate for it.

  5. rogerdhansen says:

    Hi Shem, Assuming that the scriptures (particularly the OT) are a history and science text is bizarre. The OT is neither. Genesis is a metaphor, or whatever. God gave us a brain, we need to use it.

    President Uchtdorf indicated that GAs make mistakes. JFS made a mistake with “Man, His Origins and Destiny.” Elder Bruce R. McConkie made mistakes in “Mormon Doctrine.” BYU biology professors know that, President Eyring knows that, and Elder Nelson probably knows that. That is why the Church took both books out of print.

    We also need to discern what is important and what is not. I choose to believe that angel theories are not important. You feel differently. I don’t care about the “mysteries,” but you do. We will just have to disagree.

    Science and religion are both evolving. I think they are getting closer together. It seems like you have the opposite opinion. I’m sure I won’t be convincing you, and visa versa.

    So while I’m in the world, you will be studying the minutia of doctrine. Your world is not for me, and my world is not for you.

  6. Susan says:

    People get so caught up on whether the pearly gates swing in or out. Does it really matter? What does matter is that a younger generation is fast approaching. Their idealology and minds are so different from ours. Before the internet, we had limited resources and relied almost solely upon the Bible, BofM, and other church periodicals. General conference was also a mainstay. It is time, however, for the General Authorities of the church to appeal to younger demographics. A 90-year-old man talking about angels does not quite cut it for me. And if you believe as President Uchtdorf stated, the GAs do make mistakes. Roger is right, discerning what is important is an individual choice. And Mr. Holland’s call to repentence (above) was insulting. For a guy who just “happened” to come across this blog, he certainly had a lot of words to say.

  7. Greg Bishop says:

    I found Elder Nelson’s talk truly inspiring and relevant for me and my personal journey – right now. Some of the things I did learn through the Spirit’s whispering to me but I was specifically taught from Elder Nelson’s talk many things that I could do right then (well, technically that coming week). There was a time when I would have thought he gave a talk about angels and that it didn’t have much to do with reality or my current walk in Christ. I know that different subjects and topics are relevant to different people but I for one know that this was an inspired message that resonated with my spiritual journey. I found much more insights than just the angels but I am a believer in Moroni 7:27-32 and this is one of the ways that God has and does work with me in my life. Anyway, that is my perspective and experience.

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