Citations Exhibiting the Most Prominent Reading…

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Since last General Conference I’ve been meaning to look at the books mentioned in each Conference, just to see what items General Authorities think fit to mention. I’ve finally managed to complete my look at last conference, and I’m starting to look at this conference. The list is, I think, interesting.

Looking at what books are mentioned in Conference is much easier these days than it used to be. The talks as published on the web and in the Ensign include notes, and almost always the notes include a reference to the book, including date published. Years ago there were no notes, which makes looking at what books were referenced much more difficult.

Here’s the list of books (doesn’t include periodical articles, the Scriptures, Hymnals and Church manuals, pamphlets and handbooks) mentioned in April Conference (I think I got everything — let me know if something is missing):

I guess its not too surprising a list, but I do find several items very interesting. The books on the biblical canon are all from Elder Holland’s talk My Words”¦ Never Cease, which refutes the idea that the canon is closed. I found the citation to the book by Helen Steiner Rice interesting, because its unusual to see poetry or fiction cited in Conference. [From what I can tell, she is poetry’s answer to Thomas Kincade – not exactly the kind of poetry that I enjoy.]

For what its worth, today’s sessions brought another unusual reference, this time to fiction: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince. With that reference, I’m very interested to see what else might be mentioned.

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23 thoughts on “Citations Exhibiting the Most Prominent Reading…”

  1. .

    Me, I’m always happy to see Emerson. (Not so much Thoreau, as in this conference. Stupid Thoreau) David O McKay called him the wisest American and I’m inclined to agree.

    I’m surprised the list is so short—not even any Shakespeare or Lewis!

  2. .

    Really? I guess it’s just because talks like Elder Holland’s are better at sticking in my memory. And that I love (LOVE) footnotes in a conference talk.

  3. It is interesting that Emerson would be mentioned, anarchist that he is. Ironic that his works would be used in a church meeting where conformity to a straight path is a fundamental, given all that he and the transcendentalists represented.

    Not much of a Thoreau fan myself, but delighted to hear L. Tom Perry speak of Walden Pond, which is a glorious place. Every time I am in Boston, I drive out to Concord in order to walk around the pond, to place a stone on the foundation of Thoreau’s cabin, to eat breakfast at America’s oldest inn, to visit Sleepy Hollow Cemetary, to sit in the church where Emerson preached, and to visit the Allcott’s place.

    When one visits this area, it is obvious to see how place and landscape influenced these thinkers. Concord is a village filled with marvelous forested hills, wonderful waterways, and secluded ponds. It was incredibly idyllic in its day and lends itself to a thoughtful repose.

  4. From a citation on transcendentalism: “Transcendentalism began as a protest against the general state of culture and society, and in particular, the state of intellectualism at Harvard and the doctrine of the Unitarian church taught at Harvard Divinity School. Among transcendentalists’ core beliefs was an ideal spiritual state that ‘transcends’ the physical and empirical and is only realized through the individual’s intuition, rather than through the doctrines of established religions.”

  5. I thought the list was short, as well. Also that CS Lewis wasn’t on it. I hear his name mentioned regularly and long ago, that piqued my curiosity to read his books. Wow, that changed my life!

    Will you do this for this conference? I find this very interesting.

  6. .

    Mormons are anarchists too. We just believe that all roads to truth lead in only one direction. So, for all our hierarchy and bureaucracy, we believe in letting people pray for themselves and act on whatever answer they receive.

    We share a lot of soul with Emerson, Oversoul or not. Our God is a god of self-empowerment.

  7. President Monson just added a bunch, including Shakespeare, Thornton Wilder and Meredith Wilson.

    Perhaps it was just me but I thought that his blend of anecdotes (personal, scriptural, historical and literary), scriptural phrases, homilies and testimony was more cohesive and elegantly structured than it ever has been. I haven’t been a huge fan of his style over the years (although loving his personality and service and enjoying many of his stories), but the way he moved from carpe diem to gratitude really touched me and taught me just now.

  8. I agree, Wm., on all parts. I’ve noticed a big change in his speaking style in the past two conferences and I particularly enjoyed his special mixture today.

  9. I agree, William. For some reason President Monson’s talks have begun to carry an immediacy for me that they never did in the past. Ditto on the carpe diem discussion.

    One of the most memorable quotes from literature in GConference comes from a talk given DH Oakes in about 1991. He mentioned Henley’s Invictus in a powerful sermon on the atonement.

    TH – no disagreement with you about Emerson and the thrust of his ideas.

  10. .

    I was going to write a long paper comparing the ideas of Emerson and Joseph Smith once, but as I was checking out the lit, I found an old paper on the same topic that had preemptively stolen from my notes and been published almost ten years earlier. Parts of it were word-for-word out of my notebook! The only real difference was that the already published paper was anemic and in desperate need of at least three more rewrites.

    I was angry. The published paper was so close to my unwritten one that I couldn’t write my own words anymore without feeling I was plagiarizing, yet my paper would have been a hundred times better.

    I ended up discarding the project. Twas the single most disheartening moment in my entire academic career.

  11. annegb (6): “Will you do this for this conference? I find this very interesting.”

    I hope to do it for this conference. There have been a number of references that were obvious from hearing — The Little Prince, Tale of Two Cities.

    But there will be more references in the notes in the printed version.

    I should probably mention that I haven’t tried to include references that aren’t explicit and don’t make it to the notes.

  12. William (8) wrote:

    I haven’t been a huge fan of his style over the years (although loving his personality and service and enjoying many of his stories), but the way he moved from carpe diem to gratitude really touched me and taught me just now.

    BCC’s open conference thread pointed out one of Pres. Monson’s unusual speech patterns–the {noun} was/were {verb}, as in:

    tears were shed
    hearts were mended

    Despite some criticism on the BCC thread, I kind of like the construction. While in the passive voice, it isn’t a grammatical error as someone claimed on the thread.

    In fact, its such an unusual construction that I think it adds to his talks. It gives a wonderful break to the narrative, one that emphasizes the critical moment in the story. I think it works very well.

  13. Th-
    I think Harold Bloom mentions *your* ideas in his book “The American Religion”. Maybe it’s a stretch (Bradley will probably disagree with me) but a lot of Mormon ideas and rhetoric seemed steeped in transcendentalism–especially when you factor in its modern incarnations. I also don’t think it’s any surprise, given that Joseph Smith and Emerson and Thoreau and Whitman were all kicking around at the same time. . .

  14. Oh, sorry one more p.s. But this is entertaining. In “The American Religion” and his chapter on “Mormonism” Bloom says something to the effect of the Book of Mormon being quite dull and the Doctrine and Covenants being gripping. Also, he said that under the leadership of prophets like ETB, HWH, and GBH, the church would be stymied. It would only be under the leadership of Thomas S. Monson (who was so much younger than the others) that the Church would pick up speed again! I guess some literary critics just don’t get it. *wink*

  15. .

    I can’t believe even Eugene Woodbury and Harold Bloom would steal my ideas.

    Honestly though, the idea doesn’t require a huge leap. If Joseph Smith had a) not founded a religion and b) actually written things down himself, then he would no doubt be read today outside Mormondom much more widely than he is.

  16. I was so happy when The Little Prince was quoted. It is such a great piece of literature/philosophical writing. In fact we used to use it on my mission (in France) to help members understand the importance of creating true friendships in order to share the Gospel. Makes me feel like we were on the right track.

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