Conference Books–Fall 2011

Poetry, poetry everywhere, but not a word by a Mormon. Or, at least, that’s what you might think from the list below. During this recent General Conference speakers cited six books of poetry, half of them obscure works to most English speakers (despite Elder Packer’s claim to the contrary) and none of them works by LDS writers.

Of course, the latter view is not accurate, if you think about it. LDS poetry is cited in general conference all the time–in the form of hymns. LDS poetry was on display this conference in particular as Elder Keith B. McMullin read his own poetry as part of his address during the priesthood session. [The Priesthood Session as a literary salon; what a concept!]

It occurs to me that speakers are less likely to be familiar with LDS poetry that is not in the hymnal. There are few works available that are marketed as LDS poetry, and the best of those works are probably too subtle for use in conference–the poetry read in conference is either very familiar to the audience or has a clear and unambiguous message.

Poetry or not, several works cited were unusual. I think Elder Uchtdorf’s citation of Thomas Merton is very welcome, given our claim to seek truth wherever it is found. I’m still processing the reference to Rabindranath Tagore, the Bengali Nobel Laureate in Literature who, I’m embarrassed to say, I know almost nothing about. And I loved learning that there is a book about the now largely forgotten General Authority Alma Sonne.

I was also impressed to see a citation to Brian Stuy’s Collected Discourses, which includes many addresses given between the run of the Journal of Discourses and the Conference Reports (which began in 1897, if I recall correctly). Without this collection, much of the addresses from the Wilford Woodruff period would be hopelessly scattered among so many sources that they would effectively be lost to most readers.

In an effort to improve this listing, I’ve added the references to Church manuals and handbooks, which I’ve ignored in previous conferences. This is in part because I’ve better realized the important role that they play for the international Church (based on logic I discussed here last night). It appears to me that citations to the “Teachings of the Presidents of the Church” series will increase in the future.

Regardless, here are the books and other outside sources mentioned or citied in the most recent General Conference:


Periodical articles

  • Benson, Ezra Taft, “In His Steps,” 1979 Devotional Speeches of the Year: BYU Devotional and Fireside Addresses, 1980.
    • Thomas S. Monson, Dare to Stand Alone, Priesthood Session
  • Cannon, George Q., Deseret Weekly, November 2, 1889.
    • Keith B. McMullin, The Power of the Aaronic Priesthood, Priesthood Session
  • Craig, Andrew, “Astronomers Count the Stars,” BBC News, July 22, 2003.
    • Dieter F. Uchtdorf, You Matter to Him, Saturday Morning Session
  • Brooks, David, “If It Feels Right”¦,” New York Times, September 12, 2011.
    • Thomas S. Monson, Dare to Stand Alone, Priesthood Session
  • Lee, Harold B., “Be Loyal to the Royal within You,” Speeches of the Year: BYU Devotional and Ten-Stake Fireside Addresses 1973, 1974.
    • Elaine S. Dalton, Love Her Mother, Sunday Morning Session
  • Millward, Frank, “Eight Elders Missed Voyage on Titanic,” Deseret News, July 24, 2008, M6.
    • Quentin L. Cook, The Songs They Could Not Sing, Sunday Afternoon Session
  • “Quotable Quotes,” Reader’s Digest, January 1963.
    • Elaine S. Dalton, Love Her Mother, Sunday Morning Session
  • Reynolds, Noel B., “The True Points of My Doctrine,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, vol. 5, no. 2 (1996).
    • D. Todd Christoffersen, The Divine Gift of Repentance, Saturday Afternoon Session
  • Sacks, Jonathan, “,” Wall Street Journal, August 20, 2011.
    • Thomas S. Monson, Stand in Holy Places, Sunday Morning Session
  • “The Sinking of the World’s Greatest Liner,” Millennial Star, April 18, 1912.
    • Quentin L. Cook, The Songs They Could Not Sing, Sunday Afternoon Session
  • Who Are Utahns? Survey Shows We’re Highest, Lowest, Youngest,” Salt Lake Tribune, September 22, 2011, A1, A8.
    • Neil L. Andersen, Children, Saturday Afternoon Session

Manuals and Handbooks


  • Jankovic, Rachel, Motherhood is Calling (And Where Your Children Rank), July 14, 2011.
    • Neil L. Andersen, Children, Saturday Afternoon Session
  • Jokes and Funny Stories about Children.
    • Neil L. Andersen, Children, Saturday Afternoon Session
  • Monson, Thomas S., “Decisions Determine Destiny” (Church Educational System fireside for young adults), November 6, 2005.
    • Randall K. Bennett, Choose Eternal Life, Sunday Afternoon Session
  • Monson, Thomas S., General Authority training meeting, Apr. 2010.
    • Keith B. McMullin, The Power of the Aaronic Priesthood, Priesthood Session
  • Packer, Boyd K., “The Play and the Plan” (Church Educational System fireside for young adults), May 7, 1995.
    • Quentin L. Cook, The Songs They Could Not Sing, Sunday Afternoon Session
  • Provo Utah Central Stake general minutes, April 6, 1856, vol. 10 (1855-60), Church History Library.
    • Ian S. Ardern, A Time to Prepare, Saturday Afternoon Session

You can see the previous compilations of books cited in General conference here:

Spring 2011
Fall 2010
Spring 2010
October 2009
April 2009
October 2008
April 2008


1Ardis Parshall deserves credit for pointing this out to me a couple of years ago.

12 thoughts on “Conference Books–Fall 2011”

  1. As I said, James, I know almost nothing about him. I don’t know why anyone quotes him. I hope someone else knows what I don’t.

  2. Tagore is awesome. The extremely short version is that he was a turn-of-the-century Indian writer, philosopher, and cultural leader who remains huge in the national cultural memory. One of his poems is now the national anthem of India, another of Bangladesh (it makes an deeply moving appearance in Rushdie’s “Midnight’s Children). Anyway, I remember Pr. Monson quoting him last year because his thoughts on duty (=dharma) fit very nicely in with Mormon ways of thinking. But I didn’t even notice this time’s Tagore quote. And I wonder whether other American faiths use him much…no idea.

  3. I would add that my impression is that Tagore became a bit of cultural thing among middle class, college-educated Americans in either the 1950s or ’60s in a bit broader way than just the counterculture and its India fascination.

  4. Riding good hortatory poetry is actually quite difficult, even if the cultural moment supported it. Which it doesn’t. The precincts that would support hortatory poetry aren’t lively incubators of excellence in the word, and vice versa.

    The reason I suspect we don’t have LDS making good hortatory poetry is we aren’t accomplished enough to do it–would be very happy to be told I’d overlooked some gems, by the way.

  5. Could I really have written ‘riding’? I thought I’d given up my oral culture when I left my Amazonian tribe, but apparently not.

  6. Adam, I’m also wondering why you wrote “horatory” — don’t you mean “oratory”?

    And, as for the poetry, have you looked? Read anything from Lance Larsen? Javen Tanner? or, a bit older and more popular, perhaps Emma Lou Thayne? or Carol Lynn Pearson?

    You can find my list of Mormon poetry in print at:

    I’m not sure whether or not the list includes great poets of oratory, but if you don’t know about a good portion of them, you may indeed have missed some gems.

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