SALT LAKE CITY – In a preplanned vocal demonstration Saturday, a handful of audience members at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Conference Center in Salt Lake City shouted protests during the customary presentation of church officers and authorities at the church’s General Conference. The conference, held twice each year in Salt Lake City and broadcast worldwide, continues through Sunday afternoon.
Typically, during the Saturday afternoon session of the semiannual conference, the names of church authorities are read aloud for church members’ sustaining or opposing votes. As the names are read, audience members in the Conference Center – and those watching remotely in their homes or other locations – are asked to raise their hands in a silent vote of support of, or opposition to, church leaders.
When the names of the church’s First Presidency members were read Saturday – President Thomas S. Monson, First Counselor Henry B. Eyring and Second Counselor Dieter F. Uchtdorf – and the opposing vote was called for, voices could be heard shouting “Opposed!” in the audience. A church spokesman later confirmed five individuals were behind the oppositional shouts.
Uchtdorf, who was reading the names, acknowledged the opposing votes and then continued with the sustainings.
When the next supporting and opposing votes were called for, regarding members of the church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, another scattered chorus of “Opposed!” could be heard in the Conference Center.
“Thank you. The vote has been noted,” Uchtdorf said.
When the audience was asked to sustain or oppose the church’s leaders as “prophets, seers and revelators,” only one “opposed” could be heard shouted in the Conference Center.
No further “opposed” shouts were called out after that as the names of the remaining church leaders were read for sustaining vote.
“President Monson, the voting has been noted. We invite those who oppose any of the proposals to contact their stake presidents,” Uchtdorf said.
Saturday’s action was organized by a group called “Any Opposed?”
The group’s website states those behind the movement are concerned members of the church who have started a grassroots effort to “attend and oppose the sustaining of the leaders and officers of the LDS Church at General Conference.”
No action was taken against the demonstrators during the conference. After the opposing votes were expressed by the five individuals, an “Any Opposed?” administrator tweeted:
Our opposing votes were recognized and we are still in our seats.
According to information posted on the “Any Opposed?” website, the movement has not been organized in opposition to any specific church teaching or policy. Rather, it states, the movement is an expression of discontent that church members do not have a satisfactory forum through which “to express feedback, opinions, dissent, or dissatisfaction about the current views, positions and teachings of the LDS Church.”
“Layers of bureaucracy keep higher LDS leadership insulated from hearing authentic concerns and feedback of their members,” a press release published March 6 on the “Any Opposed?” website said.
In the press release, group organizers encouraged church members to anonymously send their general conference admission tickets to a post office box in American Fork, prior to the conference, so the tickets could be redistributed to those desiring to express opposing votes but who were unable to obtain tickets.
According to the press release:
Participants are to be aware that this is a peaceful vote and not a disruption of General Conference. Participants are encouraged to dress and behave respectfully due to the sacredness and decorum of the Conference setting. Any indication of violent or malicious intent will be reported to law enforcement authorities.
Eric Hawkins, an official spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, told St. George News the church has not issued an official statement regarding this matter but defers to Uchtdorf’s statement, made during the conference, that the opposing individuals should bring their concerns to the stake presidents in their individual home areas.
On the “Any Opposed?” website, organizers posted a link to a 1978 General Conference address given by N. Eldon Tanner, at that time first counselor in the church’s First Presidency. In his address, Tanner discussed that in the previous conference, a congregation member had raised his hand to express an opposing vote. Tanner said:
I would just like to explain just what takes place if anyone or a number of people have a dissenting vote. We give them the opportunity to go to one of the general authorities to explain to that general authority why they feel the person (being voted on) is not qualified, and if he’s found not qualified, then we take the necessary action.
Hawkins said Saturday’s opposing voters were not granted an audience with first presidency members following the conference. The admonition to speak with their stake presidents stands, he said.
On the “Any Opposed?” website, supporters not attending the conference in person were encouraged to send letters to the church’s First Presidency expressing their individual statements of opposition.
After the voting concluded, the conference proceeded without incident.
Among addresses presented by church leaders, both men and women, during the Saturday sessions of the conference, there were talks on marriage and family; overcoming fear through faith in Jesus Christ; prayer; being a committed Christian; and the “Parable of the Sower” from the Bible.
The conference resumes Sunday morning at 10 a.m. MDT and can be viewed on television or heard on the radio throughout Utah. Written transcripts, audio recordings and video of the conference addresses can be accessed on LDS.org.
The concluding session of the conference will take place Sunday at 2 p.m. MDT.
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