It is generally well known that to become an apostle in the modern Mormon church you have to undergo a thorough vetting process. The church is surprisingly savvy when it comes to public relations (with a few exceptions regarding civil liberties like race, sexism, homophobia. Ya know, small stuff.), and they have a history of selecting non-controversial figures as their leaders (at least since ultra-conservative President of the church Ezra Benson led them down the "civil rights for blacks leads to Communism" path). I guess having polygamous firebrands like Joseph Smith and Brigham Young as their founders will make an organization a bit self-conscious in the public arena today. And so, evidently, for several decades the church has made it a point to stock the shelves with leaders who have about as much life experience as Charlie Brown. And Mr. Gong makes Charlie Brown look like a Garbage Pail Kid.
First, I went to a Stake Conference where Mr. Gong was the presiding authority. From what I recall, he spent some time talking about his background, and shared some anecdotes which he thought the auditorium of a thousand or more young men and young women would find spiritually uplifting. All I found was an unshakable desire for a nap, which I quickly remedied once I returned home. This was around the time in my journey out of the church that I realized that I didn't much care for church meetings which were all filled with the same weak appeals to authority, fallacious arguments from ignorance, and unfalsifiable claims about the nature of the universe. So, maybe I wasn't in the proper head space to truly appreciate the greatness of this man. Fair enough.
Second, Mr. Gong decided to make the ward circuit and hold special meetings with all of the Elders Quorums in his stake. This is not unheard of, and many Mormons today would likely envy my being present for such an intimate, close-quarters discussion led by a newly appointed apostle (never let it be said that Mormons are impervious to hero worship). So what topic did this self-proclaimed man of god and future "Special Witness of Christ" (TM) chose to impart to a classroom of young adult men and future leaders of the church? He set up the projector to display a PowerPoint presentation he had prepared about the pros and cons of the World Wide Web.
Yup. This was the indispensable information he chose to share with us. He started out by sharing some statistics about the prevalence of porn use among young men in the church (I have no idea if his numbers were accurate, but that's not really the point). And he shared a few stories about people misusing the internet and falling away from the church (usually through porn). He then countered everything he just said by pointing to all the great things the internet can be used for, like family history research, preparing for Sunday School lessons and talks, etc. You know the drill.
Of course you know the drill. Everyone knows this particular drill. And that is exactly my point. Mr. Gong had nothing of substance to add to the conversation. Every person in that room could have just as easily given the same lesson and made the same "moderation in all things" argument we've all heard a thousand times. There was nothing revolutionary about what he said. Furthermore, I recall having a conversation with my roommates (some of whom are still active believing members of the church, so don't they feel sheepish) about how pointless and uninspired that whole lesson was. Seriously, we had a good laugh on the drive home.
So what am I getting at? This is the current state of affairs for god's "One True Church" on the earth. This is the great awakening which Mormons believe is taking place all over the planet as they baptize new members and strengthen their numbers. They are becoming less and less distinct from other Christian denominations because they desperately want to be taken seriously on the world stage. And soon enough (or maybe not soon enough) the things which make the Mormon church unique in any way will be white washed away and they will look just like everyone else. They will become a distinct denomination without a difference. And maybe then, one can hope, they will finally become truly obsolete.
Mr. Gong tackling the provocative topic of science-based morality in his usual mind-numbingly mundane tone: