LDS General Conference to be business as usual, despite 'Mormon moment'

Published: Thursday, March 29 2012 11:52 p.m. MDT

Priesthood-goers line up on Temple Square during last April's general conference.

Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News

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Read: Coverage, resources for the 2012 April LDS general conference

Top list: Quotes from October 2011 LDS general conference

SALT LAKE CITY — The 182nd Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will open Saturday morning, beginning two full days of conference sessions that will feature sermons, prayers, music and a little church business.

General sessions will be held both Saturday and Sunday at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. (MDT), with a priesthood session for male members of the church 12 and older Saturday evening at 6. More than 100,000 church members are expected to participate in weekend conference sessions in the LDS Church's Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City, while millions more will watch or listen to conference proceedings via television, radio, satellite and Internet broadcasts.

In other words, LDS general conference business as usual — "Mormon moment" notwithstanding.

Coined by the media and referenced consistently for almost a year, the Mormon moment phrase refers to a period of time during which the LDS Church, its people and its teachings have been front of mind in a variety of public and social contexts, from Broadway to academia to presidential politics.

It would stand to reason, then, that with all of this attention, national news media outlets would flock to what is semiannually the most momentous of Mormon moments: general conference. It is here, during these two days of conference sessions, that church President Thomas S. Monson – a man that Mormons believe is God's living prophet – and other church leaders speak to Latter-day Saints everywhere with words that Mormons believe are "the will of the Lord … the mind of the Lord … the word of the Lord … the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation" (Doctrine & Covenants 68: 4).

But evidently, the media is not flocking. According to church officials, they have had "about the same" number of requests for media credentials for this weekend's general conference sessions as they usually do.

Which may come as a surprise to some who may have anticipated that several controversial news threads that played out during the past six months might elicit more national scrutiny of this general conference — particularly in exploring how church policies, practices and teachings relate to the presidential candidacy of Republican front-runner Mitt Romney.

For example, a number of news outlets wrote during stories during the past six months about the LDS practice of proxy baptisms in its temples, noting that the names of a number of well-known victims of the Jewish Holocaust had either been submitted for temple proxy ordinances, or had actually been baptized by proxy. Because of agreements made with various Jewish and Holocaust organizations, the LDS Church apologized for those baptisms, which were performed contrary to church policy, and reiterated the policy to members in hopes that they would comply with the prescribed guidelines for submitting names for temple ordinances.

There have also been a significant number of news stories about LDS practices and policies regarding race , along with a strongly worded statement from the church condemning "any and all past racism by individuals both inside and outside the church." There were also a number of stories about the LDS doctrine of tithing following the release of Romney's tax documents, which included millions of dollars in tithing payments. And there have been a host of stories about whether or not Mormons — and Romney — are Christians.

That's a lot of headlines in one six-month news cycle — enough to suggest that this Mormon moment may be something more than that.

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