With General Conference hitting this weekend, I’ve been thinking about my best and worst General Conferences experiences. Note I said “experiences” because I don’t really mean favorite / least favorite talk. Rather, I mean the way I experienced that talk in the moment. It would be hard for me to pick a favorite talk (I have plenty) and it would also be hard to pick a worst (I have plenty). But it’s easy for me to remember my best and worst experiences. Here they are.
Best: President Hinckley delivering his talk The Times in Which We Live in October 2001. This was weeks after 9/11, and I was living in Washington, D.C. as a college student. This was, needless to say, a stressful time to be living in D.C. far away from family. I had classmates who lost family members in the attacks and I watched them scream and cry on campus as we watched smoke pouring out of the Pentagon. I couldn’t reach my family for most of the day because phone lines were jammed, and I had friends who had to walk for miles to get back to campus because public transportation shut down (and, in the meantime, I couldn’t reach them either). D.C. turned into a tense and unsettling place in the wake of the attacks, with military vehicles filling the quaint streets of Georgetown and armed military and law enforcement at every corner–it was pretty surreal to pass navigate through that kind of military presence just trying to walk into J. Crew or Benetton on M Street. I lived right under a flight path into Ronald Reagan National Airport and, while flights were grounded for a time after 9/11, once they resumed it was unsettling to hear the air traffic above and wonder if we were safe. To top it off, there was also a set of anthrax attacks via mail to several D.C. locations (we stopped getting mail for a while as a result).
I was anxious in a way I’d never been anxious before and eager to hear some comfort during General Conference–which I was watching, incidentally, in a friend’s apartment across the street from the Pentagon where we could see the wreckage of the attacks. When President Hinckley opened his talk by announcing that he had just been handed a note stating that a United States missile attack in response to 9/11 was underway, we realized this explained the flurry of overhead activity (military jets) that had been building in the airspace over Virginia and D.C. while we had been watching conference.
I recognize, now, problems with that talk. The American exceptionalism; the prosperity gospel; the idea that we earn blessings by obedience. But there were also some really beautiful things–including a call to reach out to our Muslim neighbors and not to blame or mistreat them. Most of all, in that moment, for me, it was supremely comforting to hear someone I believed was a prophet of God and trusted with all of my heart specifically address the attacks, the pending military conflict, the economic and other uncertainty we were facing (recall it was also the dot.com bust). He didn’t try to minimize that, but he did tell us we could feel peace anyway. And for the first time in a month, I did.
These closing paragraphs in particular still brings tears to me 21 years later remembering how relieved I felt when he delivered them:
Now, brothers and sisters, we must do our duty, whatever that duty might be. Peace may be denied for a season. Some of our liberties may be curtailed. We may be inconvenienced. We may even be called on to suffer in one way or another. But God our Eternal Father will watch over this nation and all of the civilized world who look to Him. He has declared, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Ps. 33:12). Our safety lies in repentance. Our strength comes of obedience to the commandments of God.
Let us be prayerful. Let us pray for righteousness. Let us pray for the forces of good. Let us reach out to help men and women of goodwill, whatever their religious persuasion and wherever they live. Let us stand firm against evil, both at home and abroad. Let us live worthy of the blessings of heaven, reforming our lives where necessary and looking to Him, the Father of us all. He has said, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10).
Are these perilous times? They are. But there is no need to fear. We can have peace in our hearts and peace in our homes. We can be an influence for good in this world, every one of us.
May the God of heaven, the Almighty, bless us, help us, as we walk our various ways in the uncertain days that lie ahead. May we look to Him with unfailing faith. May we worthily place our reliance on His Beloved Son who is our great Redeemer, whether it be in life or in death, is my prayer in His holy name, even the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
For me, it was a talk I turned to over and over during times of turmoil. I think it’s a pretty great example of real spiritual leadership during a time of crisis (and I couldn’t help but compare it to the General Conference in April 2020, which did an absolutely terrible job of addressing the Covid crisis).
Worst: There are some good candidates for this one, but I would have to say that Boyd Packer’s Cleansing the Inner Vessel wins. This talk was delivered in October 2010, six months after I found out a close personal relation was gay. Although I had always been uncomfortable and confused about the Church’s position on homosexuality and gay marriage, I did not really, truly wrestle and grapple with the issue until that time when it became a lot more concrete and immediate to me. I was trying so hard to reconcile Church teachings with my personal feelings about homosexuality and (still limited, but suddenly expanded) experience with gay people. I didn’t know much, but one thing I knew without a doubt: this person had not chosen to be gay. I had known them their entire life, and I knew that as certainly as I knew the Church was true (which I strongly believed at the time).
During the live version of this talk, Packer said the following:
“Some suppose that they were pre-set and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn tendencies toward the impure and unnatural. Not so! Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone? Remember he is our father.”
I was thunderstruck, because for the first time–ever–I knew that what was being preached over the pulpit in General Conference was wrong. Absolutely, dangerously, tragically wrong.
I wasn’t indignant like I would be in a similar situation now; I was crushed. Devastated. I wanted to believe these men spoke for God. I needed to believe these men spoke for God. And none of the usual “it’s not doctrine” excuses to previous Church mistakes help up because this was a General Conference talk by the person next in line to be prophet!!! If that’s not doctrine, what is?
It was somewhat comforting when this talk was (infamously) altered in the printed version to say:
“Some suppose that they were preset and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn temptations toward the impure and unnatural. Not so! Remember, God is our Heavenly Father.”
This, unlike the original spoken version, gave wiggle room to argue (as other Church leaders had equivocated) that people may be born gay (we just don’t know! was the line at the time). It also showed that perhaps if an apostle goes crazy in a talk, measures will be taken to address (although of course no apology or explanation was given–just a quiet change in the printed version).
Still, it was a painful, watershed event for me. It was many years of wrestling before I got comfortable with the idea that prophets can be wrong, about anything, any time. I still get mad when they teach harmful things because I believe it’s harmful to my community. But that moment stands out as the very first moment that I disagreed with something said by a living Church leader, and it was terrifying to me. I could and would never go back to the kind of faith I had then, but boy, it was pretty cozy while it lasted.
- Who remembers those talks and did you have similar or different experiences?
- What are your best and worst General Conference experiences?
- Are there talks that you no longer really agree with because your beliefs have shifted but for which you still feel a lot of nostalgia over?
- Does the distinction between “experiences” vs. “talks” make sense? Do you have a favorite or least favorite General Conference “experience” that is different from your favorite or least favorite General Conference “talk”?
- Do you plan to watch this weekend? I listened last time and my summary post was really fun and generated great comments. (It’s also my most-read post, which is funny because it was pretty quick to write–although I suppose listening to 10 hours of conference in order to do so means it wasn’t actually that quick to write.). But I don’t know that I’ll listen this time around. We’ll see.
Elisa, I had a very similar reaction to Pres. Packer’s talk. Like you, I was very close to someone who had told me he was gay. A few years before that talk, he had even said to me, “Why would I CHOOSE to be gay?” As a devout member of the Church, he was hurting so much, and he was depressed by the thought of having to live a long life alone. I’m glad he found a safer place and was no longer listening to General Conference when Pres. Packer gave that talk.
My best: Elder Holland in Oct 1999 “An high priest of good things to come.” I was in the MTC and was really already not enjoying my mission. This talk was extremely helpful. Two weeks later, Elder Holland was on my flight to Hong Kong! He then addressed the missionaries there. I fell in love with Elder Holland and I looked forward to his talks for the next decade. His comments at BYU in August 2021 really broke me and my relationship with the institutional church forever changed at that time. My bishop at the time, who was a good friend, kept trying to meet with me, but I declined. What was the point? Elder Holland represented the Church’s view and no amount of local pastoral care could change that.
My worst: I also remember Elder Packer’s talk. We were driving up American Fork Canyon and I almost lost it in the car at the exact moment he asked why a loving God would do such a thing. Also, pretty much any talk by Elder Oaks, ever, is on my worst list. I’m also really not a fan of any of Julie Beck’s talks. That one where she cried over her friend drinking a cup of coffee was just way too much. Also, pretty much all the talks since RMN became president because each speaker fawns over him so much I just can’t.
I will not watch conference, but I greatly appreciate those who do. I use your notes to determine which talks to stay away from, and the others I watch on double speed in the car or out on walks. I can get through 10 hours of conference usually in about 3 hours. Thank you technology.
As a church history buff, one of the best moments in General Conference history was in 2013 when President Uchtdorf acknowledged that “there have been times when members or leaders in the church have simply made mistakes. There may have been things said or done that were not in harmony with our values, principles or doctrine.”
As for a painfully difficult moment, I’d have to nominate Ezra Taft Benson’s talk on motherhood way back in 1987. Not a high point. It left women confused, battered and honestly was quite strange and problematic (e.g. the claim that righteous spirits would be born to evil parents if LDS adults limited their family size).
October 2nd, 1976; a day which will “live in infamy”. This was the day in time when Boyd K. Packer gave his infamous “Little Factory” talk; during the Saturday evening Priesthood Session. I was 17 years old – was there – and yes, it was just as awful as you might imagine. This guy and this talk – damaged and shamed an entire generation of young men; including me. I hold BKP in absolute contempt. “For Young Men Only” – the Worst Conference Talk ever!
I also remember being shocked at Packer’s talk. The reasoning he gave just floored me: “Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone? Remember he is our father.” It was shocking because it just a clear demonstration of how an apostle has such a pre-school understanding of the gospel and the realities of the world we live in. At the time of Packer’s talk, I, too, had already long ago repented of my previous view of the evils of homosexuality (most of which can be credited to my upbringing in the Church). Contrary to what I had been taught in the Church growing up, I was firmly convinced that gay people didn’t make the choice to be gay, so Packer arguing otherwise made me furious. I was literally yelling at the television screen when I heard him say these words.
My shock went beyond his denunciation of gay people, though. There are so many horrible, horrible things that happen to people on this planet that are so much worse than being born gay (which I no longer believe is a bad thing in the first place): birth defects, chronic diseases, hunger, child abuse, sex abuse, torture, etc. I have often wondered–and still do–why Heavenly Father does allow these things to happen to anyone if he is our father. I would never dream of doing these sorts of things to my own children. Even when they were teenagers, the worst things I did to my own children was occasionally restrict access to the car or prevent them from going out until they caught up on homework. Has Packer lived such a sheltered life that he isn’t aware of the horrors (and this doesn’t include being gay) that millions of Heavenly Father’s children face on a day-to-day basis? If Packer is aware of all of these horrible things, is he actually OK with them (Heavenly Father is just “testing” them, I guess?)–in his mind being gay is so much worse that while he can conceive of Heavenly Father allowing rape, child abuse, chronic disease, etc., he simply can’t fathom that Heavenly Father would allow someone to be born gay? Packer’s reasoning is just so problematic when applied to LGBTQ people as well as to anyone who suffers from anything in this world, and he was supposedly one of the 15 special witnesses of Jesus Christ to the world (and, I believe at the time, next in line to be the prophet)?
Here are a few of my favorite GC talks:
1. “On Being Genuine” by Uctdorf, April 2015. This is the “Potemkin Village” talk. I love how Uctdorf talked about how our church culture tends to make people put on a false outer appearance to appear righteous to our peers in the Church. I also love how Uctdorf talked about how one stake set some numerical goals for the year–the stake president wanted to report real “progress” to upper leadership. Upon further reflection, the stake president decided it was more important for the stake to feed the hungry, help the afflicted, etc. members of the stake, so even though the new goals weren’t very measurable, they were still far superior to the original, measurable goals.
2. “The Merciful Obtain Mercy”, Uctdorf, April 2012. This is the “Stop it!” talk. This is a beautiful talk on how we should love everyone and STOP judging , holding grudges, etc. It’s really a good talk on the Second Great Commandment, and interestingly never mentions how we have to be careful to follow the First Great Commandment when it conflicts with the Second Great Commandment (as Oaks/Nelson are currently preaching).
3. “The Gospel and the Church”, Ronald Poelman, Oct. 1984. I was around but too young to remember this talk when it was given. However, I discovered it later thanks to the controversy that surrounds it. Poelman’s original talk was really a beautiful talk about how the gospel and the Church are 2 very different things. He talked about how the Church can help us learn the gospel, when we reach a certain level of spiritual maturity, we don’t really need the Church for much any longer (to be clear, he was not advocating people leave the Church). Church leaders didn’t like the message, and Poelman was forced to re-record a modified version of his speech a few days later in an empty tabernacle (the Church actually added a “cough track” to make it sound like he was speaking at GC.) The modified version of the talk is much worse–it emphasizes how the Church and the gospel are intertwined and how everyone really needs to look to the Church for how to think on issues, and Church programs are important for everyone (yuck!). The think the Church hoped no one would notice the change, but people had home VCRs at that time, so the original recording was preserved. The Salt Lake Tribune ran a story on the changes and attempted coverup a few weeks later. Too bad the Church hadn’t yet had a change to hear Uctdorf’s Potemkin Village talk yet, I guess!
The classic unedited live 1984 Ronald Poelman talk is my favorite.
The talk I find the most useful is Oaks’ Two Lines of Communication. In it he says: “Unfortunately, it is common for persons who are violating God’s commandments or disobedient to the counsel of their priesthood leaders to declare that God has revealed to them that they are excused from obeying some commandment or from following some counsel. Such persons may be receiving revelation or inspiration, but it is not from the source they suppose. The devil is the father of lies, and he is ever anxious to frustrate the work of God by his clever imitations.”
Why is it useful, you might ask? Well, because he lays out very clearly that the devil can be a source of revelation and inspiration and actually imitate God’s revelations, which then begs the question: if you believe yourself to have received revelation/inspiration, how do you know whether it is the devil tricking you or not? I have used this talk over a dozen times to show that claimed revelation is a faulty method of nailing down the truthfulness of a proposition and that we ultimately need reason and evidence to back up our claims. True believers have challenged me saying, “well, you know if you’re feeling the truth if what you’re feeling to be truthful aligns with what the church leaders say.” I then say, “OK well, why not just discard the whole ‘praying about it’ and just accept the leaders’ words blindly, or how do you know that the leaders or Joseph Smith wasn’t deceived by the devil if the devil can be a source of revelation and inspiration?”
There are many worsts. But I was unaware of the 2017 Julie Beck talk Remembering, Repenting, and Changing. I read it and think that may just be in the running for the worst conference talk ever delivered. The lowlights: “Though she knew it was contrary to the Word of Wisdom, she developed the habit of drinking coffee and kept a coffee pot on the back of her stove. She claimed that “the Lord will not keep me out of heaven for a little cup of coffee.” But, because of that little cup of coffee, she could not qualify for a temple recommend, and neither could those of her children who drank coffee with her. Though she lived to a good old age and did eventually qualify to reenter and serve in the temple, only one of her 10 children had a worthy temple marriage, and a great number of her posterity, which is now in its fifth generation, live outside of the blessings of the restored gospel she believed in and her forefathers sacrificed so much for.”
In other words, “oh yeah, you think having a sip of coffee isn’t going to do anything, well, now your kids mostly aren’t temple-worthy and members, so ha! Take that, coffee sipper!” So dumb. And to top it off: “We must not let one little cup of coffee, one bad habit, one bad choice, one wrong decision derail us for a lifetime.” A cup of coffee can derail you for a lifetime. There you have it folks. The apologists want to say that that kind of thinking doesn’t define Mormonism and that real Mormon thinking is so much deeper, but my whole life growing up I’ve kept hearing the “not once” philosophy over and over. Didn’t Jesus forgive a woman “caught in adultery” and spare her from getting stoned by Pharisees? Whatever happened to teaching what Jesus taught? The church leaders and the culture are a bunch of Pharisees, and it is horrific. With “sins” like drinking coffee (recently found to lower risk of heart problems and early death (https://www.cnn.com/2022/09/29/health/coffee-live-longer-wellness/index.html)) being harped upon, how do people like Beck handle serial sexual harassers and Ponzi schemers? I don’t know, maybe she doesn’t think Ponzi scheming is a sin. Or maybe Ponzi scheming is a sin, but the schemers only arrived at that sin by having a sip of coffee. It boggles the mind.
Suffice it to say, I will not be watching conference next week. I don’t expect much from it, so why bother? Bunch of canned, rehashed, old drivel that I’ve heard ever since I was a kid.
I remember that Hinckley 2001 talk and the associated peace. I was my most devout in the early 2000s and really appreciated him.
One of my favorite messages was 2007 “Good better best”. Apparently that was Oaks; I’d forgotten. I love the basic message of setting aside good in search of better. My kids are the prime age for youth sports and we’ve had to cut back for everyone’s mental health. Oaks even calls out excessive church activities (my ward hasn’t had primary activity days since May). I really have had to work on acknowledging that just because something is good does not mean I/my family need to do it. Life is better when I give myself the grace not to do everything.
That was the same day as “Mothers who know”. That was painful and I didn’t even have kids yet.
@Elisa – I think none of us will ever forget where we where and what we were doing when 9/11 happened. You were so close to what what was going on 😕 My husband and I were supposed to fly back to our Western Canadian home that day but were stranded when flights were suspended so I think I completely missed GF as we had no access to TV except bumping into friends who invited us to come and watch all the devastating news. Everyone just wanted to get back to their families – I remember the devastated hoards of US boaters who were stranded at our BC marina waiting in line for the pay phones and wondering when they’d be allowed home. The small coastal town on a flight path was so eerily quiet. I miss Pres Hinkley and glad that he was able to bring you comfort during that difficult time.
Best – I don’t have good recall like some people seem to have but would put Elder Uchtdorf on the list of those that I look forward to hearing from
Worst – Definitely the one you mentioned @Elisa by BKP.. There was so much chatter in our family after that one with having LGBTQ+ loved ones in our expanded family circle. This subject has been the biggest contributor to my faith shift.
Other worsts –
The whole April 2020 weekend where they forged ahead with planned celebration of priesthood anniversary or something? We were waiting for comforting or encouraging words at the start of the pandemic.
More – RMN sad heaven and DHO polygamy joke.
I confess that I have a little list of GAs that I find triggering to watch and for the past couple of years I find something else to do and wait for folk to discuss the pros and cons on social media before deciding to listen to or read.
Worst talk 2019 by President Nelson “Come Follow Me”. This talk came right after my son came out as gay, my daughter moved in with her boyfriend, and my other son joined the Baptist church not to mention our other 4 children are not active. I was left with no hope to be with my family. I have not listened to General Conference since and I also have only attended church 3 times since that talk. I have no intention of listening to it this weekend. I just can’t bring myself to do it. I prefer listening to podcasts like, Faith Matters, At Last She Said it, etc.
The concept of the best Conference “experience” really resonates with me. The best Conference experience I had was the October 2006 General Conference, and in particular the Saturday Afternoon session. It was the session that Elder Wirthlin gave his “Sunday Will Come” talk, and to this day it still speaks volumes to my soul. He was grieving his wife’s death and testified of how our darkest days are like the dark Friday that Christ was crucified, but even the darkest of moments are erased by the glorious resurrection that occurred on Sunday. I needed those words at that time and even now I feel the peace I felt then when I think of it. In that session they also had a missionary choir from the MTC. Choir had always been an important part of my spiritual journey in life and as they sang I felt an intense desire to be like them. I just so happened to turn 21 the month after that so I decided shortly after that to serve a mission, a decision that shaped my life in many ways. I remember feeling like talk after talk and especially the music in that entire conference spoke to me directly and I was spiritually fed to overflowing. (Ironically that was also the conference of one of my least favorite stories, by Elder Christofferson, in which he tells of his dad saving up to buy his wife an ironing machine. Why couldn’t he have just done the ironing himself instead of going hungry and also watching his wife suffer? Are household tasks really that unheard of for men that even while in excruciating pain women are expected to do them?)
Ever since the incredible spiritual feast of that particular Conference I had been yearning and seeking to have a similar experience with all subsequent conferences. A talk or song here or there almost came close, but I have never had a repeat of that incredible uplifting and, at the time, lifechanging weekend. During some difficult years I continued to be disappointed by lack-luster overall experiences of conference with my biggest heartaches and concerns unaddressed. Then came April 2020, which I’d consider one of my worst overall conference experiences. In October 2019 we were promised an unforgettable upcoming conference experience, one to prepare ourselves for and to look to with eagerness. Then Covid hit everyone, including those claiming to be literal prophets and revelators, by surprise and threw the world into uncharted commotion. The impact of Covid made the difficult issues I was facing in my personal and family life even worse. More than ever I was hoping to have the spiritual nourishment with conference that I and the world desperately needed in such an uncertain time.
What a total letdown! A new logo, a proclamation that stated nothing new, and the performance of a boring and weird ritual with handkerchiefs. Where is the inspiration? How are we to cope? Why, when the world is desperate for healing – literal and figurative, are we talking about a farmboy from New York in the 1800s? That restoration story has been told a million times over (while leaving out the unpleasant and inconvenient details) in the Church, so how will that help anyone in the face of a worldwide pandemic that no one, especially the prophets, seers, and revelators, had any idea would last so long or kill so many? The only thing unforgettable about that conference was how out of touch and completely uninspired the leaders of the Church are. After such lofty conference promises in Oct 2019 followed by total tone-deafness of Apr 2020 I stopped anticipating Conference to ever offer a spiritual feast again.
Elder Oaks’s Good, Better, Best. It was the first time I realized that I was supposed to weigh choices out and decide what was most helpful in my spiritual journey rather than just following a set of rules. My whole view of spiritual growth changed and in many ways this talk was the nexus of my faith transition.
But Elder Oaks has a string of my worst as well for all the usual reasons. I want to approach him charitably (he’s clearly getting elderly), but every time he opens his mouth at the pulpit, I feel defensive and tense on behalf of my LGBT family.
My favorite general conference experiences were when I was a missionary. In enjoyed most opportunities to join in the fellowship of other missionaries and the break from the monotony of trying to find people to teach. The mission field was the most lonely and isolating time of my life, in spite of the fact that I was never alone. General conference was a connection to other missionaries in the island where I served as well as a reminder of home. Of course none of that had any thing to do with what was actually said in conference.
Another favorite conference of mine was when Hinkley announced the expansion of temple building and the small temples that would be built in more places. I wouldn’t think much of it now, though.
Worst experiences? I’m sure I’ll think of some later. I could list all the sad Heaven talks, I suppose, but they don’t bother me because I don’t believe them. Conference bothers me less in some ways now that I have changed a lot of my beliefs. My heart goes out to people who feel judged, isolated, or otherwise hurt by conference.
Oh yes. I agree with the commenters advice that that April 2020 conference was a massive let down, a complete inability to address a massive worldwide crisis in any meaningful way. They get credit for doing it safely, without a choir and congregation present, but that’s it.
As far as GC experiences versus GC talks go, my favorite GC experiences are pretty much everything except for the GC talks themselves. I mean, there is usually one or maybe two or three of the talks I actually find useful or uplifting. I usually find the rest of the talks to be boring at best or false doctrine at worst (and, no, despite what my children’s seminary teacher fervently taught them last year, GC talks are most definitely *not* “scripture”–I was proud that my high school kids were smarter than that).
I often took my family camping on GC weekends. It was just that much easier to get out of town when there were no church responsibilities that weekend. We’d turn on GC while we were in the car, but I was always happy when we were in a remote enough location that we just couldn’t pick up any station broadcasting it. Those weekends together outdoors just as a family are so much more memorable than if we’d stayed home and forced the kids to watch 10 hours of GC. If we didn’t go camping, then instead of having to get dressed up and get the kids ready for church like a normal Sunday, I could enjoy lying on the couch watching GC (but really mostly just napping).
I feel like the GC format is really outdated and in need of change. In the 1800s and early 1900s, there was really no way for Church leadership to meet together with themselves and with the Church membership at large other than getting together in a big conference. The travel required to do this took a lot of time and money, so it made sense to compress as much content as possible into a single weekend. In the end, we ended up with 10 hours of talks in 2 days. That may have been necessary before the internet, but it’s really just too much for me. I’m quite certain that I would not want to sit through 10 hours worth of the best GC talks over the past 40 years over 2 dyas much less 10 hours of what we get in a single GC.
With today’s technology, it seems like it would be quite easy to just eliminate GC weekend altogether. Perhaps once a month, a single GC-style talk from top leadership could be streamed during sacrament in place of the monthly high counselor talk (which are almost always worse than GC talks–in fact, nowadays, they are almost always rehashes of GC talks). Alternatively, perhaps once a month, GC-style talks could be streamed during second hour, leaving 20 minutes at the end for group discussion. 2 hours of church every Sunday is enough for me. If we can’t fit the gospel of Christ into that amount of time over the course of a year, then maybe we aren’t really teaching the gospel of Christ. I simply don’t need two 10-hour weekends each year, and with today’s internet streaming technology, the 10-hour talk weekend isn’t necessary. Yes, I know people have GC traditions that they love, and I’m sure they’re nice, but we don’t need to keep GC going just to keep the traditions going (that’s like letting the tail wag the dog). I frequently took my family camping on non-GC weekends, too, so we still would have had those wonderful times together without GC.
While we’re talking about streaming to spread out Church leadership’s messages to membership into more easily digestible chunks, I’ve also been wondering about the possibility of streaming 2nd hour lessons. My ward is a large ward (though it appears to be significantly smaller after covid), and I think it is currently only offering a gospel doctrine class (no gospel essentials or other classes). Out of all of my 2nd hour lessons, there is currently only one teacher whose lessons I find worthwhile attending (I do attend all of them, though, but I just read my own stuff if the lesson isn’t working out for me), and that teacher doesn’t follow the Come Follow Me manual AT ALL. That teacher just comes up with their own lessons based on their own personal gospel interests, and since that teacher’s interests and viewpoints have at least some overlap to my own, I find their lessons to often be quite meaningful. All of the other 2nd hour teachers just follow Come Follow Me, and I find the lessons super boring and unfulfilling. I wonder if the Church could offer like 5 different 2nd hour lessons at least some of the weeks that would be streamed into the chapels. If you’re the type of person that likes Come Follow Me-style lessons, then great, one of the 5 lessons is intended for you. If you like really reading deeply into the scriptures, then we have another lesson for you. If you’re into “gospel entertainers” like Brad Wilcox, John Bytheway, etc., there’s another lesson for you. If you’re interested in a Terryl Givens/Patrick Mason type of lesson, there’s a lesson for you. You get the idea. The Church could easily provide 2nd hour content of a much higher quality than is typically provided at the local level by calling/hiring (yes, we could pay these people some money) some high quality teachers to teach 2nd hour lessons that were streamed into chapels. I do kind of hate the idea of taking 2nd hour completely away from the local level, but the fact of the matter is that locally provided lessons are generally pretty lousy, and class discussion could be potentially enriching, but it’s not because the only discussion really allowed in local classes is very orthodox discussion, anyway. Perhaps we could have half of the lessons still provided locally and half of the lessons streamed into the chapels from excellent instructors (every other week).
For me, the best would be when Pres. Hinckley announced the building of smaller temples. Not that I loved the temple or understood much of anything going on in there (I spent a lot of years and emotional energy feeling guilty for not loving the temple, and thinking if I went often enough I’d finally “get it”). I knew the temple was supposed to be the pinnacle of the church experience, and I was supposed to be thrilled that more people would have a chance to experience it, so I played along so well that I even fooled myself.
Worst experience wasn’t a talk. It was a moment in time where I saw something I could never unsee. It was a Saturday afternoon session in about 2016, the one where they do all the sustainings, followed by asking all the newly called GA’s to take their seats in the red velvet chairs. With my baby-feminist eyes, I watched as a horde of old, white men rose to fulfill their new roles in misogynistic leadership. And in that moment, I could never again watch a conference session without anger. It was the catalyst I needed to begin my journey away out of a toxic relationship with the church.
Sometimes it is hard to separate the talk from the experience. In 1987 I was a very dedicated high school student taking all AP classes, studying for the ACT and trying to decide which universities would offer me the best launch into a career that I would love for the rest of my life. (The Glory of God is intelligence, right?, Don’t hide your talents under a bushel, right?) I went to general conference with my young womens class and heard President Benson give his Mothers in Zion talk. I was thrown for a serious loop as I tried to square away the teachings/commandments of the prophet with my desires and gifts. Even worse, were my leaders who were so happy to have validation for their own choices and ammunition to further discourage my aspirations. This one talk has lead to a lifetime experience of feeling either spiritually inadequate or personally inadequate as it has been impossible to keep both the church and myself happy.
My best conference moment in recent memory was April 2016. This was when a large number of refugees were fleeing Syria and other Middle-Eastern countries. The refugees were facing incredible hardship as they tried to find a home, some even dying in various ways on the way. Many in the US (and in the Church) were spouting anti-immigration rhetoric (I heard things said in church classes several times). There was much fear and misunderstanding and resentment in our country and in our church. And Elder Patrick Kearon (who is from England) gave this talk in the April General Conference called “Refuge from the Storm,” where he just came on SO strong and clear, with great power, about our need to rise to the moment and HELP THE REFUGEES, to welcome them into our communities, serve them, love them, and help them. Near the end of his talk (and I was in tears at that point), he said: “This moment does not define them, but our response will help define us.” Never have I been prouder of what was said at Conference.
I well remember Packer’s talk about why would Heavenly Father do that to anyone. But all it got from me was an eye roll because, well, I already thought Packer was devil spawn, so it was just what I expected. I can’t remember when I started despising Packer, his little factory talk, or maybe when he pounded the pulpit yelling that the Holy Ghost was male! Male! Male! Yeah, methinks he doth protest too much. I decided Packer had a supper weak testimony when he declared that homosexuals, feminists, and intellectuals were the worst enemies of the church. So, let me get this straight, gays who just want to be free to love who they love, women who just want to be treated like full human beings, and intellectuals, who are just those evil historians who want the truth about the church instead of pretty fairy tails that are essentially lies, ummm, those are the enemies of the church? People who want fairness and truth are enemies of the church? The church cannot stand up to women being full human beings and the real truth about itself? Houston, we have a problem. It gave me my first real glimpse of how weak the church really was. But anyway, I pretty much already hated Packer at that point, so, what’s a bit more to hate?
My worst talk was one that I knew was the biggest wad of crap as it was being given. 1992. Some of y’all are going to guess. I was working as a social worker and doing counseling with rape and incest victims. Most of my clients were Mormon as we were in Utah. Some of my clients had discussed the church’s lack of any guidance for how to heal from child sexual abuse. One told me that every month she prayed and waited anxiously hoping for something, anything to be in the Ensign that might help her understand why Heavenly Father could allow something like that, help in trying to heal and trying to forgive the unforgivable. With about the 6th client with the same need for some guidance from the church, I arranged for some of my clients to meet with Marlin Jensen. He was wonderful as my clients poured out their hearts, begging him for help from the church. He admitted that he did not have answers to their questions, but he would “take it up the line”. I got a message that a talk would be given in General conference. Then Richard G Scott gets up in conference and tell my clients that if they really think about it, they may realize that they bare some responsibility for their abuse. Yeah, right, some of them were three and four, and this (swear word deleted) wants them to believe it is their fault and also that they should avoid professional counseling because, after all, that is just “wallowing in it” as some of their bishops had already told them. I am sitting there thinking about suicidal clients and how this could just push them over the edge.
Yeah, it was h*ll week trying to tell my clients that this “prophet of God” hasn’t the foggiest idea what he was talking about without saying one bad word about him, because professional ethics say you don’t undermine people’s religion or values. How do I walk the professional line, and tell them it was not one bit of their fault, when a prophet of God has just told them they were right all along to suspect it was. Just how much do I as counselor avoid calling the man the swear words going through my own brain? And how do I avoid feeling like this was my fault for getting them the interview with Jensen, who did as promised and told his higher ups that a talk on child sexual abuse was needed, and then the higher up proves that not only does he have zero inspiration from God, he has zero compassion for the actual human beings he was talking to. Yeah, six months later, I am still undoing the damage from some old man who hasn’t a clue what he is even blabbing on about. My clients needed their value to God affirmed with love, not to have it shattered.
Best, hard to choose, but it was given by Utchdorf. He always leaves me feeling like maybe if there were 14 more of him in the 12 and first presidency, that maybe I could have stayed in the church I that I loved so much.
Any, I will be watching if my husband puts it on. Our house is too small to really escape. But I will be tuned into New Order Mormon and their running discussion of conference. See, we make it fun by giving or subtracting points to each speaker. Sort of like the House competition on Harry Potter. If the GAs say something loving, thoughtful, or inspiring, we give them plus points and if they say something hateful, uninspiring, or downright stupid, they get points subtracted. So, come join us as we play NOMfrence. Oaks usually loses.
I love these comments & thanks for sharing your best / worst. I am too young to remember talks from before the 90’s, but otherwise I remember many / most of the talks people are mentioning. What a weird cultural bubble to have these shared experiences / reference points. I, too, like many of the talks mentioned (although I can’t abide Good, Better, Best, for no other reason than that Oaks is absolutely ruined for me).
I definitely agree that April 2020 was a train wreck of a General Conference for so many reasons: (1) they made big promises and we just got a logo, (2) they totally failed to actually address the pandemic and instead stuck to the restoration theme, (3) the Hosanna thing did not turn out, and (4) many people expected there to be some change / announcement around women & the priesthood because of (a) women not being able to take the sacrament and (b) some of the chatter leading up to conference. So it was a major letdown.
I would also say October 2018 was a horrible conference. Nelson’s rise to power and Oaks closing in on his endgame of stealth-canonizing the family proc.
For the October 2001 GC I was at my sister’s house in Idaho. Immediately following President Hinckley’s last talk the TV station showed Osama bin laden speaking. It was jarring to hear the exact same kind of rhetoric from him that I had just heard from President Hinckley. I don’t remember the exact wording now, but they both spoke as if they were prophets and leaders. I finally decided that it would be by their fruits that I would know what kind of people they were. But at the time it made me realize how some people could follow Osama bin Laden and others like him.
I remember President Packer’s October 2010 talk and being amazed that he would say something like that in General Conference. I thought it was so mean and couldn’t possibly be true.
Julie Beck’s “Mother’s who Know” was awful. I sat in the Stake Center hating how everything women were supposed to do was so gendered. And then she said “Home is where women have the most power and influence; therefore, Latter-day Saint women should be the best homemakers in the world.” Latter-day Saint women should be the best homemakers in the world? I couldn’t believe the us vs them. My best friend at the time was not LDS and was an incredible woman, wife, mother & homemaker, but because I’m LDS I’m supposed to be “the best homemaker in the world”? That talk just drove me nuts.
As my children hit teenage years and beyond GC was hard because none of them were active and I always felt like such a failure. I’ve been able to let go of that mostly, but every now and again one of the talks will still get me and knock me down. I choose the talks for our ward RS/EQ lessons so I feel obligated to listen and take notes, but I’m not sure how much I’ll listen to after I no longer have that responsibility.
I remember being riveted as a tween whenever Sister Okazaki would speak. Her talks were highlights for me. Another best was when GBH challenged RMN to a duel (I think I’m remembering this right) after RMN gave a fawning talk about GBH that presaged the kind of rhetoric he appears to enjoy about himself. That was fun!
Worsts. So many of mine are already here, but the sycophantic laughter at things that either aren’t at all funny or just barely amusing. Especially when in the conference center itself—so creepy.
I remember how much I used to look forward to Conference, even through the first phase of my faith transition. Then I remember the April conference of 2013. That Saturday I was attending an academic conference with some of my students and between sessions of that conference would try to catch GC talks. There came a moment when I realized that what the students at the academic conference had to say was more meaningful to me than anything I was hearing from the GC pulpit. That moment isn’t really a worst for me—in hindsight it marked the beginning of many good things in my spiritual development, but I remember sitting in an armchair in the foyer of an academic building and crying over that realization and the disappointment and emptiness in my faith tradition I felt then.
My best GC experience was the October 2016 Conference, because that was when I proposed to my wife. She said yes, and my life has been better since.
My most disappointing, like many others, was April 2020. All show and no substance. Tone deaf to what was going on in the world. I have yet to read the “proclamation” of whatever it was about. We got a new logo with so much fussy detail that it is embarrassing.
Well, I’m old.
The talk that has stuck with me throughout my life was Neal A. Maxwell’s 1976 Notwithstanding My Weakness. I was attending BYU at the time. The list of suggestions for combatting feelings of inadequacy seemed so important and very helpful given what we were all struggling with at the time. Just the idea that my feelings of inadequacy didn’t mean I actually was less than I needed and wanted to be was a comfort.
The worst conference experiences were all the years of listening to Ezra Taft Benson. Those talks always left me depressed at the knowledge that nothing I wanted was good and angry because nothing I wanted was acceptable. It was during his talks that I began to ignore the overall message and ask if there was some part of the talk I could believe. That was the beginning of a more nuanced testimony and relationship with the institutional church.
October 2003. I was a missionary in Puerto Rico, and our top investigator agreed to watch General Conference with us at the stake center. I was worried she was bored throughout the session, but she later told us that it was though the speakers were talking directly to her, that she felt the Spirit more powerfully than she ever had before in her life, and was the experience that finally convinced her to get baptized. She is still active today, and is part of the San Juan stake choir that will perform at the Puerto Rican temple dedication in January. So, that particular conference will always be a high-point for me.
Now listen: do I remember a single talk or lesson from October 2003? I do not, and neither does she. The speakers were the absolute least relevant part of conference. I have found that to be an eminently healthy approach to take towards GC.
Other best conferences: the inspiring call to help the Syrian refugees in 2016 (even if the general membership utterly failed to rise up to that call); most of Uchtdorf’s talks during his First Presidency run; all the times Gordon B. Hinckley closed GC by hoping we’d all be a little kinder, a little gentler with each other afterwords.
I have mostly the same worst conferences as everyone else, e.g. Packer’s clueless why-would-God-make-anyone-gay, the wet-fart that was April 2020, Oaks’s tone-deaf polygamy joke. I’d like to add April 2003–also during my mission–when David B. Haight gave one of his final talks, and boy was it not the King Benjamin address. It was a rambling, senile, incoherent mess, and clear sign of his rapidly deteriorating mental state. It was my first time as an earnest young missionary realizing that these men were as human and subject to the vicissitudes of mortality as I. In retrospect, that was a very good lesson to learn young.
Not necessarily my best or my worst experience, but perhaps my most remembered. In November 2000, Gordon Hinckley gave his talk decreeing no tattoos/no earrings (unless you’re a woman in which case one pair is ok, but only one pair because… ???). I remember being in the chapel feeing the spirit leave the building. I was further disheartened when church members began falling in line with the “revelation” when I felt the spirit had clearly confirm to me it was not of God
The following conference hinckley announced the perpetual education fund. At the time I thought it was so inspired. It was the complete antithesis of the previous conference. As I have since learned details about the program I am much less inclined to see it as anything other than a money grab by a wealthy American corporation, but back in my believing days I found it so amazing
Bad experience: When the #MeToo movement really gained steam, and then the LDS Church got dragged into the scandals because of Whats-his-name that worked at the White House and beat his wife, I listened to every word of the next General Conference (April 2018), sure that the Brethren would address sexual assault. The Church was missing the point of the #MeToo movement. Everyone was talking about holding wrongdoers accountable, and Church sources were just using their sweetest voices to reassure women that they could be completely healed. I just *knew* that someone at conference would say sexual assault is a sin and men shouldn’t do it. Instead, Quentin Cook tossed off a stupid remark about how consensual sexual activity can be a sin too. That was it. I listened to every single talk, and that was the only reference to the #MeToo movement. I was so heartbroken and disappointed.
Maybe I am the only one here, but for me the GC talk that put the first really major crack in my shelf was President Hinckley’s talk a week after the Bush/Cheney instigated invasion of Iraq. (I am thinking this was April 2003). Given how obvious the false pretenses that were used to justify the invasion were, and its onvious motive to gain control of the Iraqi oilfields and given what I was sure was the obvious doctrine in the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants prohibiting offensive wars for gain or first strikes against an enemy, I was sure that President Hinckley was going to say something in conference about the evil of the invasion. Instead he got up and basically said that we had to trust Dick Cheney. That Bush and Cheney knew better than anyone what the truth was about the supposed threat of weapons of mass destruction (despite significant evidence Saddam had no such weapons or intent). President Hinckley also implied that the Iraq war was a direct extension of 9/11 ( again despite lots and lots of expert testimony that Saddam and Osama bin Laden were actually enemies, not allies) and that if anyone protested against the war, they would have to account for that at the judgment seat of God.
I was stunned. How could a man that I believed was a prophet of God and who I had loved hearing from each conference, be so bamboozled by what seemed like an obvious deception? How could God not have revealed the deception to the living prophet?
That talk broke my heart and shook me to the core. For weeks it was painful to think about, so I just went through the motions at church. It took me many months to recover from that. And after that I never believed again that any of the Q15 really had a clear communication line with God, but instead just received inspiration as they were willing to receive.
After that I became more cautious about listening to conference. And finally sometime in 2015, I think, I was at a scientific conference near Yellowstone that had just finished. I had the choice to listen to conference or spend the day in Yellowstone (where April is still winter). I went into Yellowstone from the Gardiner entrance and it was one of the most profoundly beautiful days of my life. (Yellowstone without crowds is simply anazing. After that, I realized the best thing I could do for my spirit was not listen to GC live but do something else that was spiritually rewarding. Then I would read the quick summaries on Monday to see which talks were worth reading and which ones to avoid. I think I was still in the bishopric at the time, so I had to at least have some fluency with what had been said. But I stopped setting aside two days to listen live. Eventually I realized there were usually only one or two talks per GC that were really meaningful to me (almost always Uchtdorfs) and often four or five that would be triggering if I tried to listen to them rather than read them analytically. (Sad heaven anyone?) Since I am now post-Mormon, I don’t have to worry about that, and my local Methodist pastor’s talks every week rank up there with Uchtdorf’s, so I don’t miss GC at all.
One of my favorite conference talks and experiences, both for what it meant to me at the time and the nostalgia which keeps it in my mind, was Elder David B. Haight’s talk The Sacrament–and the Sacrifice. He delivered the address during the October 1989 conference, after having survived a near-fatal heart attack. That health crisis provided him with a vision/dream of the Savior’s life and ministry. I still remember watching it at home on cable with my folks. We regarded his experience as a literal vision. I’d be more inclined to see it as an elaborate and profound dream, a beautiful and clear testament of Haight’s genuine belief and devotion for his apostolic calling. I think this is the talk where I became entranced by the phrase, “the eyes of my understanding.” But these days, I find myself most touched when Elder Haight says, seemingly out of the blue midway through the talk: “To be remembered is a wonderful thing.” Though I care less now for his pointing out the exclusivity of Mormon sacrament–a bit of sternness in an otherwise gentle address–I still regard the talk as beautiful overall and deeply Christian.
One of my least favorite experiences can be summed up with Elder Loren C. Dunn’s October 1995 address “Witnesses.” This came during the third general conference on my mission, but the first after I had my shelf-breaking faith crisis. The first two general conferences on my mission were wonderful, enlivening, and admittedly a chance to take the weekend off from proselyting to watch television. Now, fresh off my shelf breaking, I felt myself torn between talks that still enlivened me and talks that triggered my faith crisis to fire back up. Elder Dunn’s talk is a classic example of a general authority deliberately enticing members to believe he has had a vision, without actually coming right out and saying he had one. Before my shelf broke, I kind of enjoyed when general authorities would coyly hint at having had some sort of special experience. By the time Elder Dunn gave his address, I was more suspicious. Still, at the end of his address, by alternating between repeated statements of “I know God lives” and dramatic pauses, he creates quite an effect for those well-versed in the mythos of being a special witness.
This post reminds me of how much I lovesd President Hinckley. So humble and I always felt as if he was a fellow Saint and he spoke in a way that felt so genuine and sincere. If he expressed views that I didn’t really agree with it didn’t lessen my love and respect for him because of his humility. I used to love General Conference but it feels different to me now and I think it is because of the change in the attitude conveyed by our current leaders. I really dislike the “prophet worship”, it feels blasphemous to me.
Worst: As a kid growing up in rural California in the 80s, watching conference at the church building was the only option. I remember feeling trapped—stuck at a church building all weekend twice a year. The outdated format made no sense and did nothing to inspire faith or testimony. I was bored.
Worst: As a missionary in Eastern Europe in the late 90s, there was no conference. No satellite connections in the country. Internet streaming still wasn’t a thing. Conference weekend was just another opportunity to search (usually unsuccessfully) for a kind soul who would listen to our message. We’d eventually get the Ensign and I’d study the messages closely along with messages from past conferences. This was the first time I realized that President Monson would occasionally recycle past messages he’d delivered years earlier.
Worst: In grad school, I was EQP in the singles branch. It was a busy time but I faithfully attended the entire conference every year. I showed up to the church building in a colored shirt and no tie for one session and was chewed out in the parking lot by the senior CES missionary couple for my choice of attire, bad example, and lack of respect for the prophet. I only remember a great sense of shame and disappointment for letting the Lord and others down. Looking back I can now see the ridiculousness of the situation. They self righteously demanded that I wear a white shirt and tie to sit in a dark chapel, while millions of Mormons in Utah and the western US were watching at home in their PJs.
Worst: In recent years, anything Oaks says. For years I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt and find a silver lining in his messages. I’ve concluded he is an out of touch, unhappy, unkind man.
Best: Uchtdorf. His messages lift and inspire. They are relevant regardless of where you are on your faith journey.
Best: We lived overseas about a decade ago. We decided to not participate in conference with branch because our young kids would disrupt others. Instead we steamed one talk a day from home and had more of a conference month. We could avoid the triggering talks. You learn more when you’re able to focus for short amounts of time.
Best: This weekend. I’m not watching and I don’t intend to ever read it. I will use my weekend to spend time with my family, complete some projects at home, help others, and relax.
The best conference talk was when President Hinckley talked about the general news headlines and complained that too many newspeople were “pickle suckers.” It reminded me that despite any problems around we still live in pretty good times.I like the advice to not be a pickle sucker and learn to be happy.
@Anna – as mentioned in my comments I have poor recall of most things said in conference and had forgotten how truly awful that talk by Elder Scott was. I don’t think I saw it in real time but read it much later after hearing discussion. It’s another truly awful example how, though these men in their personal lives are probably good, kind and caring people, they are still old white men who’s privilege has given them comfortable lives far removed for the gritty and messier lives that many travelers have to navigate. Not to say they haven’t had challenges and difficult times like all of us do, but it’s obvious they are inoculated from the type of abuse you describe.
Di, you are right that the general authorities have not faced the really difficult life challenges. If they had, they would never have made it that high up in the church, because their life would have been filled with things other than going above and beyond in their church callings.
I realized that they have led almost charmed lives once when one of them, and I can’t remember who, had some medical problem at 80 something, and said something about the worst trial he had been through. At 80, some surgery that is far from even life threatening is his worst trial?.!! It was just surgery, but the way he talked about how traumatic and difficult it just shocked me. That is the worst thing he has been through? At first I was angry at how easy f a life he must have had, and yet he thinks his puny struggles were how most of us live.
It reminded me of when my mother was a older lady returning to BYU and she took a class about writing your life history, so she started. Her professor was HORRIFIED. He tried to make her write something inspiring and uplifting to pass on to her grandchildren, *not the truth* about the real struggles without easy answers or happy endings. You know, real life. She came home yelling about idiots whose biggest life challenge was a sassy teen aged kid.
Anyway, when I thought about it, I realized that if these men had even been through normal difficulty, they would not have made it to the top layer of church leadership. I looked around at the people I knew, those recovering from child abuse, or raised so poor that university took ten years because they had to support disabled parents. People with that kind of difficulty just don’t have time to devote to extra church service. Or the wife with breast cancer at 40, nope, that would have knocked them out of the running. Laid off from a job at 50, would have knocked them out of the running. A kid with brain injury after returning from his mission, a severely autistic child, 3 deaf children, a Downs child, several children leaving the church, child born with a learning disability, any family problem like these would have put then out of the running for the top church positions. Any chronic health problem such as diabetes or lupus, and they would not have had time and energy to devote to being a general authority. They would not have had time and energy to even be bishop, because they had other pressing responsibilities.
So, our top leadership are kind of self selected to be people who have never faced the real tough challenges of life. The kind of challenge that make you doubt that God is loving or that living righteously pays off. They never had the kind of bad luck to disprove the prosperity gospel, or learn that paying tithing makes you 10% poorer. They have never forgiven the unforgivable. They never had the kind of challenge that take all your time and energy for years.
Of course they have never dealt with tough challenges, so why do we expect them to have the wisdom or life experience or mature spirituality of someone who has?
Best talk? Maybe this one 😉: https://wheatandtares.org/2022/09/30/lds-and-pro-choice-a-modest-proposal-for-pro-life-equality/
A worst experience was Women’s Session Oct 2019. I was painting the room while watching/listening on TV when Pres. Nelson implored the women of the Church to speak up, to contribute more, the Church needs them, while the men had just taken over 60% of said women’s session. I nearly threw a loaded paintbrush at my new TV while yelling at Nelson to stop talking and to step back and allow space for women to speak and contribute. This was followed by the nadir conference of April 2020. That pretty much ended my conference viewing days.
@LHCA, that was a bad one. I actually wasn’t listening, I was in Asia so it was morning my time and several friends starting texting me about Oaks’ talk (that same session) so I frantically texted my very TBM MIL who was with my kids and told her that I didn’t want them hearing it so if it was on please turn it off.
Was that also the year where RMN asked only the women to take a break from social media? I’d already begun my selective viewing of GC sessions by then but heard all about it on social media 😂. That was a hard NO. I’m sure we can all benefit from cutting back but we’re not children for crying out loud!
@Di, no, that was October 2018.
Women’s session consisted of Nelson, Oaks, and Eyring putting us in our places (don’t delay having babies! Don’t limit the size of your families! The responsibility of teaching children rests on you!) and then giving us the same instruction they’d given the youth (social media fast) but not the men.
It was like “let’s say some unpopular things but keep you off of social media so you can’t gripe about it online.”
I was a branch Relief Society president in the middle of a Feminist faith crisis when the General Women’s meeting first became an official session of conference. Frankly, I was looking forward to it greatly, expecting that women’s voices would have more weight and meaning in the bigger picture of conference. We gathered as a RS to watch in the chapel before having a meal. When all three members of the First Presidency spoke, they spoke longer than the female leaders, and the talks (especially Oaks, but Nelson too) were AWFUL in the extreme, I was DONE. I had to walk out and cool down to be able to meet with the rest of the sisters afterward and have any semblance of being a faithful RS President. No more conference for me. If I ever get word that approx 50% of the speakers are women, I will think of checking it out.
I got tired of reading all the comments without anyone mentioning Oct 2018 Women’s Session, so I made my own comment about it. Then I finished reading comments and see I am not alone! Thankful for solidarity!
@jessica yep. While none of the talks in the session were the actual worst talk ever, the session as a whole was an actual worst session ever.
Had a very similar experience excited for a women’s “session” of conference only to have more men then women speak. And it was my daughter’s first time at women’s session and I actually had her leave because I didn’t want her to hear the messages.
“I couldn’t help but compare it to the General Conference in April 2020, which did an absolutely terrible job of addressing the Covid crisis.”
I’ve been mulling over my best/worst GC conference and discovered they share a common theme.
A little background for context. I’m Canadian, and although I grew up in a small branch, extended family lived in Southern Alberta, which is overwhelmingly Mormon. My grandmother would unironically ask my father, “When are you moving back to Zion?”
I’ve never lived in southern Alberta, but have spent decades in areas where the church has been solid and established for generations. Where we can say stuff like, “Yup, after WW2, N. Eldon Tanner, the branch president, started an Institute program, and the first teacher was Hugh B. Brown.” Although I think it’s a silly idea that someone’s more special if they have pioneer ancestry (growing up in a district will cure anyone of that notion), if I wanted I could play the I-have-more-relatives-mentioned-in-the-D&C-than-you with most members.
So it was a shock to join an LDS forum and discover that anyone outside Utah was “the mission field.” It was an additional shock to see how many American members would constantly joke about Canada being the 51st state. Sovereign nation, people. SOVEREIGN. NATION. It was eye-opening to watch the arguments and scriptures quoted about politics that had nothing to do with my life and I didn’t care about. It took an embarrassingly long time for me to remember if it was Democrats or Republicans who were more conservative.
And I’ve never forgotten when a fellow forum member, who I really respected, admitted that she would genuinely forget there were members outside the U.S when the conversation turned to Glenn Beck and another non-US forum member asked, “Who’s Glenn Beck?”
So my best GC ever? When they announced all general authorities would be giving their talks in their native language. I was over-the-moon ecstatic. It was something I had wanted my entire life. We talked with our kids about the growth of the church, we read the subtitles out loud to them. It was wonderful. Sigh.
Worst GC? When my husband and I finally made the trip to attend General Conference in person for the first time ever. It was supposed to be this supernal experience. Someone mentioned we could get great tickets because we were from another country. After waiting in line to get them, we were informed “Canada doesn’t count.” (Once again for the people in the back: Sovereign. Nation.)
But once we were in the Conference Center it was completely underwhelming. So weird to be there in person and yet you’re still watching the TV because you really can’t see the speaker’s face. I thought attending in person would bring a wonderful feeling of community, like you sometimes feel at Stake Conference, yet General Conference never felt more impersonal.
The ironic thing now is, because I’m so sick of every Sacrament meeting talk and every lesson being on a GC talk, it’s turned me off of Conference weekend altogether. My husband is far more TBM than I am, but he feels the same way I do about the overemphasis, so our new tradition is getting away for the weekend on holiday. Right now we’re exploring one of the small islands off the West Coast and having a ball. I’ll read the blogs/Facebook/Twitter when I get home to discover which talks to listen to and which ones to avoid.
Thank you for mentioning the conference with speakers using their native languages. It was wonderful and probably one of my best GC experiences. I was so disappointed when they did not continue it.
Best talk: “The Way” – Lawrence Corbridge October 2008. A great read, but even better listened to. It was a Saturday Afternoon talk. I remember being a little busy around the house while listening, but very shortly into it, I stopped whatever I was doing and was hyper-focused on Elder Corbridge. I refer to this talk periodically still and re-read it occasionally.
Worst – Oct 2015. Running a long distance race with friends… later in the day we looked to see who the three new apostles were. All wealthy white men… I just shook my head and looked away. So disappointed. A month later the policy of exclusion came out and I was done. No longer believed… (So maybe it was my best conference ever – being out is better than being in_
Elder Kearon- in 2016 he was the only one who addressed the epic Syrian refugee crisis with the talk “refuge from the storm”. Everyone else missed this international crises.
Sister Abuerto gave 3 excellent talks about mental illness, personally sharing the circumstances of her father’s suicide and daughter’s depression.
The indomitable Cheiko Okazaki (everything she said)
Aileen Clyde – charity (she was a rock star, a champion for women).
Imperfect things- Elder Holland
Elder Uchtdorf- correcting Miracle of Forgiveness
Hinckley- several talks with his simple poetry, optimism, and humble message of perseverance.
Elder Monson (pre-President) was beloved for telling beautiful stories in his unique sing-song , past present voice. He quoted Victorian poetry from memory and added a good dose of chicken soup for the Broadway soul. His talks were heart-warming and woke everyone up from Maxwell’s academic treatises. Monson stopped the poetry and story-telling, the very thing he was beloved by the saints for, when he became President. I don’t know if he felt the mantle required more decorum, or if he was ailing by that time and spoke less.
Elder Ballard- correcting Julie B Becks atrocious “mothers who know” talk the following conference. Thank you, brother.
Elder Nelson- celestial marriage talk immediately after marrying Wendy Watson. Laid out the rational and (gulp) doctrine for spiritual polygamy.
Julie B Beck- Mothers who know
Elder Anderson- pro-choice talk (last spring or fall)
All the anti LGBT talks (listed above)
All the anti working women, anti ERA and anti women’s emancipation talks over the years. (Sometimes these were explicit, and sometimes implicit- where bread-baking SAHMs were glorified.)
Elder Cook – Hope ya know (tone deaf talk about enduring adversity by keeping a stiff upper lip as a righteous soldier- told by an extremely privileged person).
Elder Oaks- 2021 “defending our divinely inspired constitution”. Ok, a lot of people appreciated this talk because it somewhat addressed the disaster of Trumpism, political divisiveness and the Jan 6 insurrection. But he also drew a line to absolve his daughter from the political stumping she did for Trump using her clout and LDS affiliation. Hmmm.
Elder Bednar- I never got the pickles talk, or “tender mercies”. Most of his talks are rotely obedience/justification based.
All the talks about grandkids saying the darndest things. I don’t care about your grandkids the way you do.
Elaine Dalton- misquoting the BOM and shaming women who lost their virtue. (The s rupture she quotes was about raped women, and stop it already with the purity culture). I’m also adding her vacuuming the new conference center talk to the dud lists.
The Proclamation. I remember peeking my ears when they started reading this, and being disappointed. I never understood the families who studied it in FHE for a year, or the kids who memorized it. It just never impacted me.
Corre room to my list above. The Elder Anderson talk on the “worst” list was pro-life, not pro-choice. He failed to intellectually, doctrinally, or compassionately address women’s experiences.