Excerpts from two talks by prominent General Authorities (one by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, and the other by Elder Richard J. Maynes) have in the past two weeks generated a lot of buzz in certain online forums that many listeners to this program would be familiar with, most of it negative or sarcastic. The reactions came mostly to a few sentences from the talks, presented online largely without wider framing, and sometimes placed as part of memes designed to heighten the impact of the quotations and their being read in a particular way. The memes and presentations themselves suggest how a viewer or reader should react to the words being quoted. But is this a fair—”virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy”—way of presenting ideas, especially those with which we have an issue? Is it fair to the speaker? To the readers? Is it deliberate dissembling? Those who write or pass these along generally know that what they are doing is presenting to some degree a caricature of a speaker and her or his presentation, something deliberately distorting, and they also know that many who encounter the meme or quotations will most likely react the way the intend and very seldom will themselves chase down the fuller context.
In this episode, Kristine Haglund and Jon Grimes join Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon to explore the two talks in question and what unfolded online. They each certainly take exception to things said in each talk, the way they were said, or in some other way wish various ideas had been presented differently, but they also attempt to give much fuller context to the speeches, their settings, and other factors that mitigate against much of the full-on negative or exasperated reactions that unfolded. The conversation also takes important turns in other directions, for instance toward the way Latter-day Saints (and others) read or use scripture, as well as about the nature of religious experience and how humans tell of them.
After closing the conversation with the two panelists, Dan Wotherspoon then speaks for a few minutes about another recent talk, the BYU commencement address by Elder L. Whitney Clayton, that he feels also suffers from distortions in certain online conversation about parts of it.
Please listen and then share your questions and comments below!
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, untitled address to Tempe, Arizona, LDS Institute, April 2016
Elder Richard J. Maynes, “The Truth Restored,” worldwide devotional address given 1 May 2016
Eugene England, “On Spectral Evidence,” originally published in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 26, no. 1 (Spring 1993), version here from the Eugene England Foundation website
See below for link to the version of “Where Can I Turn for Peace?” by Chelan Hunt Clason recorded for the new Mormon Matters podcast bumpers