Culture Reference Clash!

Sometimes amusing things happen when we least expect it.

Last night was the adult session of our stake conference, and our visiting General Authority chose to take the time to explain the interaction of culture and the Gospel. As part of his presentation, he drew a circle on a chalk board to represent the celestial kingdom. And, quite unexpectedly, he said that the celestial kingdom included 42.

I half expected him to say “because 42 is the answer to life, the universe and everything.”

Of course, he didn’t intend a reference to the Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It turns out that 42 is not a reference to Douglas Adams, but instead a reference to the number of principles in the missionary discussions (in their current iteration found in Preach My Gospel.
The reference was particularly funny because the speaker was making the point that some cultural elements can take us to the celestial kingdom and others take us away from the celestial kingdom. So I suppose the reference to 42 should now be dropped from my personal culture as a distraction from the celestial culture.

Still, the reference gave me a chuckle. I wonder how many General Authorities would get the cultural reference to ’42?’

I’m sure this kind of clash of cultural references has happened before — its one of those things that makes for puns and demonstrates the importance of context. It also demonstrates how complex culture can be. What is a clear reference for one person can either be unknown to another, or a reference to something else entirely.

So what clashes of cultural references have you observed?

6 thoughts on “Culture Reference Clash!”

  1. Culture clash or not, you won’t forget the talk, or the reason for it, or how it made you feel when you understood. That’s good teaching 🙂

  2. Perhaps you are right, Anne.

    But I don’t think so. I don’t think that remembering a talk because of an unintended reference to popular culture makes the talk “good teaching.” It would be better to remember the talk for its content and subject.

    I did like the talk in a lot of ways. But I really don’t want to delve into literary criticism (or any kind of criticism) of the talk. [Although I think that I can’t help but analyze things as I hear them — a hazard of this avocation, I think.]

  3. Just to make my point a little clearer, I’ve modified the post, adding the sentence “Of course, he didn’t intend a reference to the Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”

    When I reread the post, I realized that some readers might have thought that the reference was intended by this General Authority. It clearly wasn’t.

  4. Funny! It kind of bothers me, though, that he quantified the principles in Preach My Gospel. The whole point of Preach My Gospel being, of course, the end of quantifiable, formulaic gospel teaching. I would have much rather seen him write “The basic principles of the gospel, as taught in Preach My Gospel” or somesuch.

  5. I once heard a member of a Stake Presidency, in a Stake Priesthood Meeting, mention a song from his youth that asked the question, “Who are you? Who?” I spent the remainder of his talk thinking of CSI. (If you don’t get the reference, the song is used as the theme song for the TV show.) I don’t even remember the point of his talk, just that he made an unintended reference to a popular TV show.

  6. My Stake President once secured his popularity with the YM/YW crowd by comparing the suit he wore to his first dance with Napoleon Dynamite’s. 🙂

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