Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Editing Conference Talks

Elder Packer gave a controversial talk this past General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (October 2010). I only caught bits and pieces of the talk (having kids makes it really hard to pay attention), but it was obviously a strongly worded talk against immorality. The most controversial part came when he addressed the the theological issues around California's Proposition 8. That particular debate is not the subject of this post.

The subject of this post is related to what happened later. The Salt Lake Tribune reports how President Packer edited the transcript to "clarify his intent." You can read the article yourself for the details and the controversy. The significance to me is that I had not been aware of the practice of editing the transcripts. I also did not know about a previous (and more substantial) edit.

Elder Ronald E Poelman of the First Quorum of the Seventy gave a talk in the October 1984 General Conference entitled The Gospel and the Church. Apparently, Elder Poelman gave one version of the talk in Conference and then re-recorded it (with an audience or "cough track"). The second version became the official version. Whereas Elder Packer changed a couple lines, Elder Poelman performed much more substantial changes

The most intriguing aspect of all this (and the reason I am writing this post) is that I agree with Elder Poelman's original talk. I am not sure where it was inconsistent with the official position of the church. The talk is meatier and would probably find a more appropriate audience in a leadership training broadcast, but it still rings true. The original talk provides potential fodder for rationalization, which might be why it was changed.

So what did Elder Poelman talk about? He originally talked about separating "the gospel of Jesus Christ" and the "Church of Jesus Christ." Said differently, Mormon culture is not an eternal gospel principle. I think that is something all Latter-day Saints should remember.