Reflections on General Conference

As with most Mormon blogs, this is the week for writing about General Conference!

Here’s a basic map of what you might expect to encounter in the landscape of bloggery:

1. It was good.  My batteries have been re-charged.  I am apparently a robot.

2. It was good, but they didn’t talk about [insert pet topic]__________.  I would’ve liked that, you know?  Why?  Because [insert pet topic] is something I believe in, and I am “nuanced.”  And isn’t that enough to have it spoken at General Conference by my leaders?  Apparently I am not in a representative democracy structured by egalitarian exchange of ideas, but a voluntary spiritual-klepto-public-gerontocracy?  Oh.

3. It sucked, and I know, because I watched it.  And I know what sucks.  That sucked.

4. I didn’t watch it, but will pretend I did, so I can talk about 1, 2, or 3.

And finally, 5.  I didn’t watch it, and won’t pretend I did.  That’s me.

So, what am I reflecting upon, if not my experience of watching, if not personal surveillance on my feelings generated by watching, as I imagine they relate to some other “sphere of discourse”?

Some questions: 

If a voice is reciting sounds tied to characters scrolled on a screen, is that talking?  Is that language?  Let’s say, we are dealing with a text-to-voice program.  Or a general authority

If a being can recite such things, without having any thoughts connected to these sounds, is that language?   Again, examples: a voice recorder isn’t thinking. A player piano. What about a person not thinking as they speak?  Or incapable of thought related to their words?  Does crying make me believe they are alive and interacting with their words?  Why not the words themselves?

If one cannot distinguish between the beings without thought and those with thought, when both are reciting sounds, and thus we lump all these sounds into a genre (General Conference Talk), can we really say the “conscious” beings are using language?  If not, what are they using?  Magic?  Or is it sound we, the audience, convert into words and language?

I am not going to reflect on player pianos being Mozart, and complain they aren’t.

Even if I believe those player pianos were playing Mozart.  And they aren’t.

That podium looks an awful lot like a player piano.