General Conference Talks…Again?

The High Council speaker stood up one Sunday in May and began reading from his notes on General Conference. I immediately thought: “And so it begins.”

I’m not sure when LDS church leaders decided to encourage speakers and teachers to regurgitate General Conference talks for the six months between General Conferences. It clearly follows the LDS Church’s love of correlation, uniformity, and sameness. This can be very comforting and uplifting for some. Unfortunately, it’s also problematic. Here’s why:

  1. It’s Often Like Listening to a Teacher Read Aloud From a Textbook. One of the biggest complaints I hear from students about teachers is that they simply read from the textbook during class. Having a teacher or speaker read large chunks of quotes from a conference talk has much the same feeling. Without substantial insight and discussion around the text, students check out. Quite frankly, it’s boring.
  2. It Severely Limits Studying the Words of Women. Two women spoke in the April 2022 General Sessions. Neither of them had a title representing any authority. While a few more women spoke at the Women’s Session (I thought we weren’t having these anymore?), those sessions are often passed over for talks and lessons, in my experience. If we primarily quote from recent Conference Talks, we will rarely hear words of wisdom and council from women.
  3. It’s Challenging–Even for Experienced Speakers and Teachers. Simply being handed someone else’s words and then being asked to plan a talk or lesson around them is incredibly challenging. First of all, how do you decide how much to review and summarize? How many direct quotes do you use? Is it okay to use the talk as inspiration, but then choose your own focus? What are good questions to ask about the material? What types of group work or activities might add variety or engage different learning styles?

What’s my solution? To be completely honest, I’m not entirely sure. I know the story of Moses, where he explains to God, “And Moses said unto the Lord, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.” (Exodus 4:10). Moses overcomes these challenges because he trusts in the spirit to help him. I also remember the stories of humble, poor men who became Bishops over wealthy, educated men. There is clearly great value in people finding the speaker and teacher within themselves through spiritual experiences.

That being said, there’s also a reason leaders in other churches earn degrees in divinity and teaching is a specialized profession. Effective, engaging teaching involves planning, variety, activity, and even expertise. When speakers and teachers lean too heavily on source material, such as General Conference talks, they often become stilted and dull. They are also limited in sharing the wealth of examples, quotes, and inspiration that come from books, art, music, and more outside of correlated materials and the words of a few selected men.

The LDS Church has the money and the resources to equip speakers and teachers with more than a selection of talks (primarily from men) every six months. There will never be a perfect speaker or teacher. Students need to come prepared, offer some grace, and supplement with their own experiences and study. But students can also only be so engaged in the constant quoting of talks many of them have already heard.

Mindy May Farmer
Mindy May Farmer
Mom of 4, librarian, writer, feminist, retro style enthusiast, bookworm, felter, and crocheter.


  1. I couldn’t agree more! We miss out on so much when we’re narrowly focused on the same General Conference talks (which often just heavily quote other General Conference talks) over and over again in Sacrament and Relief Society and local conference meetings.

    • Yes! The qouting of others qouting others is mind-numbing. I feel as though the current prophet is qouted constantly and I hear his name twice as much as that of Jesus.

  2. What I once thought of as a glorious gospel has been rendered boring, impotent, and not worth the time to sit there. Way to many great podcasts, such as Beyond the Block wirh Brother Knox and Brother Jones, where actual theologians and scriptorians share insight, inspiration, and mind-blowing truth. A great alternative to the insulting pablum in meetings.

  3. Sure, back in the old days when people were assigned a topic and had to write their own talk, we got some bad talks. We got some boring talks. We even got some talks that might be questionable as far as doctrine goes. Now, all we EVER get are boring, bad talks. And sometimes, they are even questionable as far as doctrine such as when they get saying that they don’t know that we teach that, or that evolution is absolutely false. No, we were told not to make pronouncements one way or the other. This is not an improvement.

  4. I have very, very recent experience with this, as I was asked to speak in my local ward last Sunday, and of course, my assigned topic was a conference talk. I am an experienced speaker–I am a professional keynote speaker—and yes, giving a talk about a talk was still challenging.

    I was fortunate to be assigned a talk by a woman. As you pointed out, that is against the odds, since so few women speak in Conference. The talk I was assigned was “Christ Heals That Which Is Broken” by Amy A. Wright. You can read it here:

    I thought it was a great talk. But what to do? I couldn’t just regurgitate someone else’s talk as my talk. Not only is that boring, it’s also plagiarism. But also, why would I want to rewrite a perfectly good talk? It didn’t need a rewrite. I think it is easier to use Conference talks as material for lesson plans, because then you are changing the format from talk to group discussion and so it feels less like regurgitation.

    To get out of writer’s block, I had to mentally back myself out of the “talk about this talk” assignment and change it in my mind to, “Give a talk about healing and Christ.” So for me, yes, talking about a topic, instead of talking about a talk, works better.

    BTW, I posted my talk here at the Exponent:

    • Thanks for sharing this link! I feel like this commentis such a great example of how this style challenges even experienced speakers. It’s helpful to see how you incorporated the assigned talk into your talk.

    • I think that’s the only way to make it un-boring. Just read the talk and then write a talk on a similar topic. Otherwise it is ridiculous! I’m looking forward to reading your talk

  5. It’s a real issue. It’s stifles creativity and the art of preparing and studying for a talk. I also agree that the General Conference talks aren’t always that good in the first place. We are then expected to fawn over them like they’re the pinnacle and essence of revealed heavenly truths.

  6. In all fairness, I have to say I have heard good talks based on conference talks, and I’ve been in some good lessons based on conference talks. But I really wish that those talks were not our sole course of study in RS and EQ, for all the reasons listed above, but also because – they’re limiting. It means that issues that should be talked about aren’t, just because they don’t come up in conference. It means the scriptures are used less and less. It means we talk about the life of the Savior less. I have no problem using conference talks to bolster sacrament meeting talks and lessons, but they are just a part of our body of doctrine and shouldn’t be considered the main thing.

    • I agree. They can be great supplemental resources and sources of inspiration. There current use, though, is problematic.

  7. I agree. I struggle to pay attention in sacrament meeting, and then again in Relief Society when the same General Conference talks are shared again and again with no original thought, and no imagination. It’s dull. I suspect a reason is the dwindling numbers in those who even listen to General Conference, but even then– when words are spoken that hurt (Lookin’ at you, Elder Renlund)- it only serves to alienate with those who are hurt with bad jokes and raps on the knuckles that bite enough to bleed.

  8. I’m suddenly feeling very lucky that my ward doesn’t assign conference talks as talk topics. You get a topic, and sometimes they’ll suggest one or two talks to look at as references, but often not that either. I have heard what you’re describing though and it absolutely is duller than dirt. And I agree that it pulls focus away from the scriptures because at that point you’re two or three degrees removed. A prophet studied a scripture and gave a talk. Then at the next conference a fawning GA more or less regurgitates what the prophet said. And now you’re hearing a talk about a talk about a talk about the scriptures. Assuming the first talk was about scripture in the first place. I strongly prefer hearing personal experiences.

    • Personal experiences – YES!!! A thousand times yet. I have learned so much from listening to people’s life experiences. This past Sunday a couple spoke and did that – he talked about his first marriage that ended in divorce, what he is doing differently in his current marriage, how their 2 yr old daughter teaches him to slow down and be aware, healing from the past so he doesn’t dump his issues on his daughter, she talked about her dad’s addiction, about how she had to grow up fast, how her dad has changed in the last 20 years in recovery. So good. Not a typical Father’s day talk. I would show up every week to listen to people’s personal experiences.

  9. Yup. Giving talks about talks is just an awful practice. We should be giving talks that focus on principles, ideas, scriptural stories, personal reflections, and/or experiences. Not talks on someone else’s talk. Even lessons based on talks make me crazy. Our church has 100 billion just sitting there. How about using some to develop some thoughtful curriculum?

    • When I see the materials and curriculum my neighbor’s have for their small start-up church of a few hundred people, it makes me wonder why the church with all its resources doesn’t have a decent curriculum. Who at the church is creating this stuff? I’ve had one curriculum design class and it kills me to see what we have because it makes me wonder if anyone with a background in teaching and/or instructional design created it.

      • The curriculum is so shallow and unsatisfying, hardly a good use of a Sunday. It’s a genuine waste of what could be a church that does some good in the world.

      • Exactly! I feel the same about primary. There’s a wealth of knowledge about educating and engaging children. Instead, we have a lackluster primary program.

    • It seems that I should just google “Russell M. Nelson quotes” instead of attending most Sundays. The results would be similar.

  10. Great points, Mindy. I was in a sacrament meeting a few weeks ago, and I found myself surprised at how engaged I was by the talks. It was only afterward that I realized that the speakers had not been assigned to talk about general conference talks, but instead had been just given a topic, and had come up with material on their own. It was refreshing!

    I realize that this approach won’t always work well, but I so prefer it to just having everyone essentially repeat a conference talk, especially given that I’ve already taken care to read them all.

  11. My ward has EQ and RS every other week (like most wards), and soon after General Conference, the leaders give us a sheet of paper with all the talks we’re going to be reviewing. 12 talks, one or two by women (in my case, Amy A. Wright and Reyna I. Aburto [maybe]?).

    Let’s face it, most of us are more interested in studying the apostles (Holland, Uchtdorf, Andersen, etc. etc.) than women. Maybe if you women had more interesting things to say, our leaders would be inspired to include them in the schedules.

    • You’re assuming that leaders are inspired, which is a stretch. Perhaps if women were asked to speak on things of importence to them in relation to the Savior, but not just being expected to regurgitate GC talks or having to include prieshood BS in their remarks, we’d all find them to be better talks. I don’t know anyone who is clamoring for more discussion of apostles. Most of us want to learn of the Lord, to see Him more clearly by learning the nuances of His teachings and doings, and to discuss ways in our real, day-to-day lives to follow Him more nearly. Women have been told since the very beginning of the church that we don’t need the prieshood, and many of us have finally figured out that following the men’s priesthood leaders is rarely in our best interest. We are Followers of Christ, not obedient servants to the brethren.

    • Men limit the authority, titles, and audience of women. They can’t be apostles because men say so for arbitrary reasons; not based on their speaking abilities. How can one even judge quality by such a small sampling in GC anyway? Also, your ward included nearly (if not ALL) the talks by women that session if they included 2. Sounds like the women had enough “interesting things to say” to represent 2 of the 12 talks chosen from that session.

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