Speeches given at semiannual Mormon General Conferences, whether streamed, beamed or broadcast from the Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City, are viewed as authoritative.
They are posted on the faith’s website, printed in its official magazine and reviewed by Latter-day Saints in their homes and at their chapels.
Some addresses build hope; others tear down myths. Some lament worldly vices; others celebrate heavenly virtues.
We asked several Mormons to tell us about a favorite conference sermon and why it impressed them.
Kristine Haglund, editor of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought
Jayne B. Malan’s 1989 talk, "The Summer of the Lambs," remains the most moving and powerful statement of the great commission that I have ever heard. It is central to my understanding of the gospel and of the Savior. Through the years, I’ve read and listened to it many times and have been struck each time by another element of the sermon’s force and truth. I think the power comes first from how vividly she describes her childhood experience, and how matter-of-fact and unsparing she is in acknowledging the loss and sorrow that haunt mortality. Feeding sheep is difficult and risky, even with the best intentions in the world; the stakes are high. And yet she honors the young people she’s addressing as intelligent and respected partners in Christ’s saving work, as capable and needed: "Your Heavenly Father knows you and cares about what you are doing. He wants you to fulfill your divine mission, then come home and bring your family and friends with you." Because she had described both the difficulty and the joy of her experience with her lambs as a young girl, I could believe her. When Malan, a counselor in the Young Women’s presidency, repeated the Savior’s command to "feed my lambs," I felt both that I could and that I must join her efforts. Malan’s address was also the first conference talk I remember hearing from a woman — the actual first came from General Primary President Michaelene Grassli in 1988 — and her identifying herself with the great shepherd was an important moment for me. Of course, I had always known that I could and should try to emulate Christ, even though he was a man and I’m not, but it mattered deeply to me as a young woman to hear Christ’s words in a woman’s voice, and see a woman confidently identifying herself as an under-shepherd. When I read those words in the scriptures, I still hear them in her kind, earnest voice. And in that voice — a woman’s voice — I hear the Savior’s call to me.
Armand Mauss, retired LDS sociologist in Irvine, Calif.
A favorite of mine is from an earlier period, President Howard W. Hunter’s October 1991 address, "The Gospel — A Global Faith."
It has recurred in my memory many times since Hunter gave it while he was still heading the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Hunter was unusually expansive in his love and appreciation for other peoples of the world, and his public messages often reflected that outlook. This address was given just after the Cold War had ended, and before the new wariness about the Muslim world had begun to preoccupy our nation. It was as though he was urging us to look outward for the good that could be found in other cultures besides our own.
"This is a message of life and love that strikes squarely against all stifling traditions based on race, language, economic or political standing, educational rank, or cultural background, for we are all of the same spiritual descent," Hunter said. "We have a divine pedigree; every person is a spiritual child of God."
The apostle alluded to Alma 29:8 in the Book of Mormon as he emphasized that a great many religious leaders in the world are inspired, and then quoted an earlier conference talk by Elder Orson F. Whitney: "[O]ther good and great men, not bearing the priesthood, but possessing profundity of thought, great wisdom, and a desire to uplift their fellows, have been sent by the Almighty into many nations, to give them, not the fullness of the gospel, but that portion of truth that they were able to receive."
Saren Loosli, founder of Power of Moms: A Gathering Place for Deliberate Mothers
My favorite talk is "Daughters of God" by Elder M. Russell Ballard in April 2008.
"There is no one perfect way to be a good mother. Each situation is unique. Each mother has different challenges, different skills and abilities, and certainly different children. The choice is different and unique for each mother and each family," Ballard said. "Many are able to be ‘full-time moms,’ at least during the most formative years of their children’s lives, and many others would like to be. Some may have to work part or full time; some may work at home; some may divide their lives into periods of home and family and work. What matters is that a mother loves her children deeply and, in keeping with the devotion she has for God and her husband, prioritizes them above all else."
The apostle went on to say: "It is crucial to focus on our children for the short time we have them with us and to seek, with the help of the Lord, to teach them all we can before they leave our homes. This eternally important work falls to mothers and fathers as equal partners."Next Page >
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