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The Money Quote in President Uchtdorf’s Talk

By: Ardis E. Parshall - October 09, 2013

And, to be perfectly frank, there have been times when members or leaders in the Church have simply made mistakes. There may have been things said or done that were not in harmony with our values, principles, or doctrine. – Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Come, Join With Us,” October 2013 General Conference

To judge by my Facebook feed and some blog commentary and the public press, this was the money quote from last weekend’s conference. “Mormon Leader Says Church Has Made Mistakes” is a representative headline; the suggestion that Church members carry a copy of this talk with them to whip out as the ultimate weapon against viewpoints with which said Church members disagree has popped up here and there.

If I find myself relying on this quotation to make an argument, these are the points I intend to remember:

Members as well as leaders make mistakes. It’s right there in the quotation. I am as apt as my leader to be in the wrong in any case of disagreement – President Uchtdorf’s acknowledgment in no way dissolves principles of stewardship and authority and sustaining.

A general statement that “leaders have made mistakes” does exactly nothing to identify specific mistakes.
I must not succumb to the temptation to rationalize my wrongs or justify my wants with the unexamined claim that because leaders sometimes make mistakes, this is one of those times.

This extracted quotation hardly represents the totality of President Uchtdorf’s message. He spoke of unity, of joining, of finding ways to come together – not of looking for divisions and opposition and mistakes. I will value the larger message and not distort it by focusing too narrowly on the juicy line.

“Will ye also go away?”

“Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.”



12 Comments »

  1. While I agree that this talk and quote have been over-hyped, I will say that it is a conclusion I had come to myself some time ago, but that doesn’t bother me or cause me to speculate about what some “current mistakes” might be. First, “Lord to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life” represents my attitude. Where else would I go? A couple of experiences just last night in both my family life and in my church calling reaffirmed for me that there is nowhere else I can go for the peace and joy the gospel brings.

    Second, and this one is huge for me, if I can look at various latter-day prophets and leaders, knowing their weaknesses and shortcomings, and realize that they are still on the path to eternal life, it gives me a firm hope that even I, with all my own weaknesses and shortcomings, also have a real chance at that peace “which surpasseth all understanding.” There is no where else I would rather be.

    Comment by kevinf — October 9, 2013 @ 9:50 am

  2. I, too, understand that both members and leaders make mistakes. However, I also believe that when it comes to the overall rudder of this vessel we’re on, that having a First Presidency and Q12 are what keep the vessel steering on the correct course. There is great strength and safety in collective thought and prayer. Reading the forward to President Hinckley’s book “Standing For Something,” Mike Wallace asked President Hinckley if he was worried about the church being led by a bunch of octegenarians. His reply, paraphrasing, was of course not. Think of the wealth of knowledge and personal experience they have. I think members too often forget that our leaders are real people, with wives, sons, daughters of their own; that they’ve been around the block a few times, that they’ve counseled and met with more people with problems than the average member ever will. The issues of today are not new.

    Comment by IDIAT — October 9, 2013 @ 11:44 am

  3. Amen. Thank you for this.

    Comment by Samuel — October 9, 2013 @ 11:49 am

  4. Well said, Ardis and kevinf. I agree completely.

    Comment by Alison — October 9, 2013 @ 11:57 am

  5. Ardis, thanks for this. We were travelling on the day of President Uchtdorf’s talk and so I missed hearing it live, but almost immediately saw the media attention it generated. When I finally sat down and watched the video of the talk, I had the same feeling as you–that the extracted quotation hardly represents the totality of his talk. His message is bigger than the one quote. Surprise, surprise.

    In all, I’m glad for the ripple of attention the talk caused, but I do recommend listening and digesting the talk in its entirety. Pres. Uchtdorf’s message–the entire thing–is beautiful beyond words.

    Comment by David Y. — October 9, 2013 @ 12:28 pm

  6. Exactly!

    Comment by Ben S — October 9, 2013 @ 12:32 pm

  7. Ardis, thanks for giving this quote balance. I fear some will read it as saying the prophets know nothing and continually make huge mistakes.

    I also fear some will use it as an excuse for their own actions and behaviors.

    Comment by Rameumptom — October 10, 2013 @ 10:01 am

  8. I missed that point about the members. Thanks.

    Comment by Adam G. — October 10, 2013 @ 2:30 pm

  9. To agree with the comment that the quote hardly represents the totality of the message, I noticed that this 19 second long quotation (8:41 to 9:00 if anyone is interested in checking) fits perfectly into the 15 to 20 second sound bite favored by the news media. Alma warned the people of Ammonihah not to “wrest” the scriptures or “it shall be to your own destruction” (Alma 13:20). We need to make sure we don’t do the same thing with a 19 second quote in an 18 minute talk. As a member have I made mistakes? Certainly. Thankfully, those mistakes have been forgiven–although I’m afraid there was a time when what I thought was a gentle correction as a teacher was used by a person as an excuse not to return to church. Have other members made mistakes? Yes. Leaders? Yes. But how can I, who am imperfect, expect perfection from every one else even though I may consider them farther along the path than I?

    Not long after this “money quote,” Pres. Uchtdorf added:

    “But in spite of [mistakes], the eternal truth of the restored gospel found in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not tarnished, diminished, or destroyed.” He also assured us as Church members: “As an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ and as one who has seen firsthand the councils and workings of this Church, I bear solemn witness that no decision of significance affecting this Church or its members is ever made without earnestly seeking the inspiration, guidance, and approbation of our Eternal Father.”

    This is one of the reasons I am grateful for the organization God has restored to the earth and why I also can say with Peter: “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.”

    Comment by Chris M. — October 10, 2013 @ 5:42 pm

  10. And, going even further into Pres. Uchtdorf’s sermon, comes this very Woodruff-esque snippet:

    “God will not allow His Church to drift from its appointed course or fail to fulfill its divine destiny.”

    Comment by JimD — October 10, 2013 @ 10:32 pm

  11. When I heard President Uchtdorf’s sermon and heard this I immediately thought that every person with a personal vendetta would be hanging on to that quote and use it over and over. I’m with others, including Peter, “Lord, to whom shall we go?”

    Comment by Maurine — October 11, 2013 @ 1:20 am

  12. As one guilty of cluttering your Facebook newsfeed with a knee jerk reaction to the quote (excitement, but without really understanding Pres. Uchtdorf’s point), I am glad to read this. Thank you Ardis, for always teaching.

    Comment by jg — October 11, 2013 @ 7:30 am

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