In Which A GA Says “Wanna See My McCain Button?”

January 27, 2008    By: Matt W. @ 8:26 am   Category: Life

This weekend our stake is splitting, so Elder Perry M. Webb of the Seventy and Elder Neil L. Anderson of the presidency of the seventy are here for a special stake conference for this purpose.

Yesterday, as is typical, we had a priesthood session followed by an adult session of conference.

As the typical nature of priesthood session, this is where the GAs are at their most candid. It was especially interesting yesterday as rather than having any prepared remarks, Elder Anderson opened the time up to be a question and answer session (with the caveat that we kept the questions spiritual and not intellectual, and with the preemptive example that he did not know where the sword of Laban was currently.) I never ask questions in these sorts of forums (Maybe because my first instinct is always to ask about the second anointing, which shuts me up pretty quickly) but there were some very interesting comments made, and I thought some would be interesting to share.

1. When asked about the Health of President Hinckley, Anderson said his mind is clear, but he is weakening. Meetings are shorter than they were a year ago, though Hinckley is still in the office everyday. He delegates more to his councilors. In a recent meeting, when a 70 mentioned he had been at his Mother’s 106th birthday during the weekend, Hinckley stood up and quipped, “when I heard about that 106th birthday, I thought that would be nice, but then I stood up and felt all my bones!”

2. When asked about missionary work, Anderson noted that the church is very aware that “missionary work doesn’t work as well as it used to when you go door to door.” especially here in the US. He said this was one reason for the great emphasis on member missionary work, and why, Like Elder Ballard had recently encouraged, members are being asked to “step into the public square” in ways like blogging etc. One example Anderson specifically gave was simply acknowledging you are LDS freely.

3. When asked that while it is known the church takes no political stance, what is the churches feeling about Romney’s run, Anderson said, joking, “Wanna see my McCain Button?” but went on to talk about how it was important to the church not to jump in and comment on when the church receives negative press at this time as they didn’t want to look like they were endorsing a candidate, and that one reason candidates were not endorsed is that the church was looking forward to a day when there were more than one LDS candidate in a political race (and thus did not want to get into issues of which one was more righteous). He said the church is politically diverse, and that there was a democrat in his quorum (presidency of the seventy) who constantly defended the democrats to him, and they had great fun with it, but mainly tried to keep politics out of it. (by the way, this plays fine in the very red state of Texas)

4. When asked by one person why the Church doesn’t make home teaching a requirement for a temple recommend, Elder Webb responded “We will not improve home teaching by whipping home teachers.” and “I don’t know why I have home teachers” when he knows for a fact that there are widows in his ward who don’t have home teachers. He said for home teaching, the idea should be that the “greatest need needs the greatest resources” and that he does really know why he has home teachers, it’s because they want him to think they are doing their home teaching. But he’s on to them.


  1. I love straight-talkin’ GA’s. Thanks for the report Matt.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 27, 2008 @ 9:24 am

  2. You really have to wonder why these [policy] questions are considered “spiritual,” while those about the second anointing or the nature of the atonement, etc. are not.

    Comment by Bored in Vernal — January 27, 2008 @ 9:51 am

  3. (That said, I really enjoyed reading about this question and answer session. Thank you.)

    Comment by Bored in Vernal — January 27, 2008 @ 9:54 am

  4. When Elder Anderson was in the Europe West presidency he came and spoke to our mission, beginning by rattling off some sobering mission statistics. Then, in a pretty blunt reference to the violin solo an elder had just played, said, “Go play that on your fiddle!” I thought it was pretty tactless, but I guess that’s some McCain-style straight talking for you.

    A couple of years later he spoke to a stake conference at the BYU. Expecting the worst, I was surprised when he basically gushed about how righteous we were for being at church that day.

    So, yeah, lock the priesthood up in a room with a GA and you’d think the forces of evil had practically won; open the meeting to women and birds start singing the songs of Zion from sun-drenched tree-tops.

    Comment by Peter LLC — January 27, 2008 @ 10:53 am

  5. Hehe. That is a good point BiV. Matt said that the caveat was that “we kept the questions spiritual and not intellectual” and yet none of the questions Matt reported on seem very “spiritual” at all. Rather they are statistics and policy questions and answers.

    I suspect that people probably don’t like to ask “spiritual” questions because they have been beaten down over the years every time they have tried with rebukes like “stop wasting your time on that” and “why not ask if the pearly gates swing or slide” or “I suppose next you’ll want to know how many angels dance on the head of a needle”. Get burned enough times and most people get the message.

    Of course Elder Anderson probably doesn’t know the answers to most theological questions people might pose to him to begin with so the correct answer might be “I don’t know” or “God hasn’t clarified that for us yet”, but that is another subject altogether.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 27, 2008 @ 10:55 am

  6. BiV: I think it is honestly because people who ask questions in these sort of settings are they types who don’t give a dang to what the GA said before hand. I was personally shocked that someone would suggest to a general authority that they should require hometeaching as a temple recomend question, and to push it in the form of a question.

    I thought about asking a question at the end, but there was not enough time “You’ve seen us from the outside looking in, from the perspective of Church headquarters. How are we doing? How are we measured there? What can we do better?”

    As for my personally considering the question about the second anointing to be an intellectual question, I think it is because of the way it is framed in my mind. Plus, I am personally uncomfortable with bringing something up in a public setting that 75% of the people at may have not even heard of.

    Comment by Matt W. — January 27, 2008 @ 12:14 pm

  7. Personally, I think your “how are we doing” question is even more of a minefield than your “second anointing” question.

    So how do you frame the question in your mind? And what the heck is the “second anointing” anyway?

    Comment by Seth R. — January 27, 2008 @ 1:52 pm

  8. Seth, the Exmo board will only be too happy to desacralize it by telling you all about their rumors thereof, if you’re willing to listen ;)

    Rather, email J Stapley. He had a post about it a while ago.

    Comment by Ben — January 27, 2008 @ 2:05 pm

  9. re: #4

    I wish more priesthood leaders understood that.

    Comment by Kim Siever — January 27, 2008 @ 3:55 pm

  10. it’s because they want him to think they are doing their home teaching. But he’s on to them.

    Classic. This convinces me he really is on to them.

    Comment by Jacob J — January 27, 2008 @ 7:22 pm

  11. Just got word that President Hinckley has passed away…

    Comment by Nitsav — January 27, 2008 @ 8:12 pm

  12. When asked about the Health of President Hinckley, Anderson said his mind is clear, but he is weakening.

    Wow, talk about a timely post, Matt. My condolences to LDS members everywhere.

    Comment by Nick Literski — January 27, 2008 @ 10:01 pm