I confess that I really enjoyed the October 2016 General Conference. No conference is perfect, but I felt a sweeping theme of love in the majority of the talks offered. Indeed, one of the talks hit my personal “top ten best talks of all time” list, and many of the others were refreshingly honest and spiritually enlightening.
What I also really loved is that for the first time in a long time, the two female speakers at the general Conference (outside of the Women’s session) by Carol F McKonkie and Linda S Reeves were not focused on parenthood. Don’t get me wrong, I love being a mother and I think parenthood is divine. But I loved that the women chosen to speak directly to the church focused on prayer and repentance.
Here are some of my personal highlights that I plan to share with the women I visit teach:
Carole M. Stevens surprised me with a deeply moving story about a young woman who suffered from bi-polar disorder in her talk, The Master Healer. It is a powerful, tear-invoking talk that does not promise miracles just because we are church members. The talk was hope-inspired, and I am sincerely grateful that she addressed mental illness in such a loving and compassionate way.
I think Linda S. Reeves’ talk, The Great Plan of Redemption, was inspiring because it discussed repentance– hard repentance. Scary repentance. Draining repentance. She dealt frankly with things are very real and painful. Highlights include, “Sometimes serious transgression leads to divorce, and depending on circumstances, that might be necessary.” Wow! No divorce guilt trip! The subtle parts of her speak in general was also inspiring. She said, “When I served with my husband as he presided over a mission...” Yep. “Mission President’s wife” title. But when she spoke, I did not feel her as positioning herself as secondary to her husband. This is key for me, because in the past, many talks by women lend an air of bowing to the male as weird an embodiment of “priesthood.” But Reeves’ speech in no way cowered to her husband, which was refreshing. I also loved that she shared stories that involved sister missionaries. It’s not the most feminist talk around, but it was also not even close to being the typical female smack-down as second to men.
President Monson’s talk in the General Priesthood session, titled Principals and Promises, was refreshing because it focused on the Word of Wisdom as a matter of obedience. In the story he shared in this very short talk, he focused on the fact that keeping the word of wisdom did not give the man in the story superhuman strength. Rather, that because the man made a covenant with God to keep the word of wisdom, God blessed him in a time of need. I love this differentiation and thought it was a generous inclusion in conference.
Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! This talk, The Sacrament Can Help Us Become Holy, is the
first General Conference talk for Peter F. Meurs, who was called as a member of the Seventy last April. This is a personal thing for me, but I loved that he talked about the branch he attended when he was young. He said, “Between 10 and 15 people attended our branch, and my father, one of three priesthood holders, regularly had the opportunity to bless the sacrament.” I am well familiar with these tiny branches, and I loved this talk for three reasons:
- I loved the way Meurs invited us to all spiritually participate in sacrament prayers. The overall talk for me was a great reminder of the atonement and the sacred nature of the sacrament.
- I loved that an Australian gave a talk that reflects my experience, and the experiences of others who live in such tiny branches.
- I am hopeful that Meurs’ experience in these tiny branches might have an effect in showing that sometimes women NEED priesthood keys. I am hopeful that he might be a voice for women because he knows what it is like to be in an area when no male over 12 shows up for church so no one can partake in the sacrament. I know this is a long shot, but yet I hope.
I loved Russel M. Nelson’s talk, Joy and Spiritual Survival. It was a great reminder that even in times of stress, we can feel joy. The emphasis was on finding joy through Christ, and Nelson, in addition to quoting Eliza R. Snow (Amen, brother!), philosophised that Christ Himself survived the cross by focusing on joy. He taught, “As our Savior becomes more and more real to us and as we plead for His joy to be given to us, our joy will increase.” It really is a powerful talk worth reading and pondering.
Lastly, I really loved Lynn G. Robbins’ talk, The Righteous Judge. The talk included this treasure: “The word discipline comes from the Latin word discere, “to learn,” or discipulus,“learner,” making a disciple a student and follower. To discipline in the Lord’s way is to lovingly and patiently teach.” This quote really inspired me. I have long been taught that to discipline is to love. But though the concept of teaching as an essential part of discipline is obvious, I found the reminder to be powerful. He also explained, “This scripture (3 Nephi 11:29) teaches us to reprove “when moved upon by the Holy Ghost,” not when moved upon by anger. The Holy Ghost and anger are incompatible.” Robbins taught this in connection with parents when moved to discipline children. His words were adamant that parents have the Holy Ghost with them. I am a long-time anti-spanking, anti-smacking advocate, and I was grateful for this direction and reminder that parenting need not involve violence against children.
That’s my favourites list! You might have other talks you feel inspired to share with the women you visit teach. But to be sure, there are two talks that I recommend NOT sharing. The first is Bonnie Oscarson’s Rise Up in Strength. I am an advocate for women suffering from infertility, and her words in this talk are a vicious, suicidal trigger for women who struggle with reproductive issues. Skip it. It’s bad news. The second is M. Russel Ballard’s To Whom Shall We Go? I know too many church members who are finding peace in non-Mormon, Christian congregations—peace that is absent in their Mormon home wards. I found this talk to be a push for those who are struggling with the church to just leave. Sure, if people want to leave, then that is their choice. BUT telling people to leave the church is not what visiting teaching is about. Skip this talk for sure.
What talks did you like best at the October 2016 General Conference? What talks or messages do you plan to share with the women you visit teach?