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Cover Image via Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.
General Conference is here and we can’t wait to gather around the screen or tune in to the radio to hear our leaders speak. It makes us think of all the other moments in conference that have stuck with us over the years, replayed themselves in our mind and become even more important to us over time.
As members of the Church we are like one, big, extended international family with shared memories of tender times and things that made us laugh or taught us deeply. When we meet other Latter-day Saints—even if we don’t know them—we immediately have this shared reference and they become instant friends.
So below are some of our favorites in no particular order. We could have listed another dozen dozen. Where we have not embedded videos, the written and spoken talk is at the link provided. (See our article on President Monson’s admonitions here.)
1. President Thomas S. Monson Wiggles His Ears
Can we forget President Monson showing us all how he could wiggle his ears in the April 2008 Priesthood Session? He was explaining how he was on the podium and a little boy in the audience was mimicking his every move. Finally, President Monson wiggled his ears—and that the little boy couldn’t do.
2. Elder Russell M. Nelson Assists Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin
This next moment brought tears to our eyes to see again. In one of his last General Conference talks, Elder Wirthlin was speaking of “The Great Commandment” with this message: “When we reach out to assist the least of Heavenly Father’s children, we do it unto Him.”
As he spoke, he began to shake in his old age, but then Elder Nelson quietly came behind him and stood there the rest of the talk to steady him. There couldn’t have been a more tender demonstration of the very love to which Elder Wirthlin was referring.
3. Elder David B. Haight – I’m Waving
President Gordon B. Hinckley called Elder David B. Haight up to the stand to remark that he was 97 years of age and had lived longer than any other apostle in the history of this dispensation. Elder Haight had recently become ill and couldn’t speak in this particular conference but President Hinckley just wanted him to wave. This is the cute result:
4. Elder Bruce R. McConkie’s Last Testimony
It was Saturday, April 6, 1985 when Elder McConkie bore his last testimony in General Conference. His sonorous, authoritative voice had borne testimony of Jesus Christ both in the written and spoken word for his entire lifetime, but none was more engraved in the memory of everyone who heard him than this one. Gaunt with the cancer that had plagued him for more than a year, weak from the chemotherapy and only 69 years old he spoke of “The Purifying Power of Gethsemane” and said:
I am one of his witnesses, and in a coming day I shall feel the nail marks in his hands and in his feet and shall wet his feet with my tears.
But I shall not know any better then than I know now that he is God’s Almighty Son, that he is our Savior and Redeemer, and that salvation comes in and through his atoning blood and in no other way.
He would die on April 19, just 13 days later.
5. Elder Neal A. Maxwell Nearly Bald at Conference
At the Oct. 1998 General Conference, Elder Maxwell was nearly bald, a result of the treatment he had been receiving for chemotherapy. He joked, “My pate is still somewhat shiny, but not because my barber friends have magnified their calling.”
That day he spoke on hope, but he had long been teaching us to be “content with the things allotted unto us.” He was, not asking “Why me,” but “Why not me?”
That day he was a living, breathing testimony of one of our favorite talks that he had given 13 years earlier, in the April 1985 conference called “Willing to Submit”.
He had said:
I do not apologize for trying to speak about one of what Paul called “the deep things of God,” (1 Cor. 2:10), only for my inability to go deeply enough.
While we see this quality in the quiet but spiritually luxuriant lives of the genuine, spiritual heroes and heroines about us, the lack of it keeps so many of us straggling in the foothills and off the peaks in the adventure of full discipleship. I refer to our hesitancy and our holding back in submitting fully to the Lord and His purposes for us.
This holding back is like leaving Egypt without journeying all the way to the Holy Land, or waiting in Nauvoo for the railroad to come through, or staying permanently at Winter Quarters…
Just how much submissiveness to circumstance there should be is not treated in these brief remarks. Suffice it to say, God “allotteth unto men” certain things with which we are to be content. (See Alma 29:4, Philip. 4:11; 1 Tim. 6:8.)…
Suppose Peter had not left his nets “straightway”? (See Mark 1:18.) He might have become the respected president of the local Galilean fishermen’s association. But he would not have been on the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus, Moses, and Elias and heard the voice of God.
6. President Gordon B. Hinckley Announcing the Nauvoo Temple
President Hinckley was just wrapping up conference and bearing his last testimony in the April 1999 General Conference when he added an announcement that brought an audible gasp to the audience—including in homes across the world. We gasped before our television with sheer excitement.
He said, “In closing now, I feel impressed to announce that among all of the temples we are constructing, we plan to rebuild the Nauvoo Temple. A member of the Church and his family have provided a very substantial contribution to make that possible.”
Because we visit Nauvoo often, we had walked across grassy, empty temple lot many times and thought of the sorrow of the Saints to leave their temple behind.
That President Hinckley would announce this temple that day almost came as a surprise to others who already knew it was in the works. He said, “I feel impressed to announce.” Yet, it seemed something exciting was often announced in conference, and President Hinckley had a way of bringing us as church members in to feel a part of things.
As the April 1996 conference ended, he announced that his interview with Mike Wallace would be on CBS 60 Minutes program that night, broadcast across America to more than 20 million listeners.
I recognized that if I were to appear, critics and detractors of the Church would also be invited to participate. I knew we could not expect that the program would be entirely positive for us.
On the other hand, I felt that it offered the opportunity to present some affirmative aspects of our culture and message to many millions of people. I concluded that it was better to lean into the stiff wind of opportunity than to simply hunker down and do nothing…
We have no idea what the outcome will be—that is, I don’t. We will discover this this evening when it is aired in this valley. If it turns out to be favorable, I will be grateful. Otherwise, I pledge I’ll never get my foot in that kind of trap again.
7. Elder David B. Haight Shares His Vision
In his Oct. 1989 conference talk, Elder Haight shared the details of an extensive vision he had where he saw events from the life of the Savior play out before him.
Six months before he had had a serious health crisis and he described what happened:
While still praying, I began to lose consciousness. The siren of the paramedic truck was the last that I remembered before unconsciousness overtook me, which would last for the next several days.
The terrible pain and commotion of people ceased. I was now in a calm, peaceful setting; all was serene and quiet. I was conscious of two persons in the distance on a hillside, one standing on a higher level than the other. Detailed features were not discernible. The person on the higher level was pointing to something I could not see…
I was shown a panoramic view of His earthly ministry: His baptism, His teaching, His healing the sick and lame, the mock trial, His crucifixion, His resurrection and ascension. There followed scenes of His earthly ministry to my mind in impressive detail, confirming scriptural eyewitness accounts. I was being taught, and the eyes of my understanding were opened by the Holy Spirit of God so as to behold many things.
8. President Ezra Taft Benson’s Talk on Pride
President Benson told us to sweep the world with the Book of Mormon and that it was a witness and a warning for all people. At the April 1989 General Conference, he took up one of the central themes of the Book of Mormon and opened our eyes to what it really meant in his talk “Beware of Pride.”It is a seminal talk, which President Hinckley read on President Benson’s behalf. He said:
Most of us think of pride as self-centeredness, conceit, boastfulness, arrogance, or haughtiness. All of these are elements of the sin, but the heart, or core, is still missing.
The central feature of pride is enmity—enmity toward God and enmity toward our fellowmen. Enmity means “hatred toward, hostility to, or a state of opposition.” It is the power by which Satan wishes to reign over us.
Pride is essentially competitive in nature. We pit our will against God’s. When we direct our pride toward God, it is in the spirit of “my will and not thine be done.”
9. Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin’s Last Talk
In October 2008, Elder Wirthlin gave a piece of counsel that is simple and absolutely memorable:
When I was young I loved playing sports, and I have many fond memories of those days. But not all of them are pleasant. I remember one day after my football team lost a tough game, I came home feeling discouraged. My mother was there. She listened to my sad story. She taught her children to trust in themselves and each other, not blame others for their misfortunes, and give their best effort in everything they attempted.
When we fell down, she expected us to pick ourselves up and get going again. So the advice my mother gave to me then wasn’t altogether unexpected. It has stayed with me all my life.
“Joseph,” she said, “come what may, and love it.”
10. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland Encourages Us and Witnesses of the Book of Mormon
Elder Holland has brought us unforgettable moments in General Conference with his stunning testimony of the Savior and his encouragement to us wherever we might be on this mortal journey.
Who didn’t laugh at his illustration of the T-rex representing “tomorrow”chasing the two children representing “us”? He reminded us in his April 2016 talk:
Please remember tomorrow, and all the days after that, that the Lord blesses those who want to improve, who accept the need for commandments and try to keep them, who cherish Christlike virtues and strive to the best of their ability to acquire them. If you stumble in that pursuit, so does everyone; the Savior is there to help you keep going. If you fall, summon His strength. Call out like Alma, “O Jesus, … have mercy on me.”7 He will help you get back up. He will help you repent, repair, fix whatever you have to fix, and keep going. Soon enough you will have the success you seek…
My brothers and sisters, the first great commandment of all eternity is to love God with all of our heart, might, mind, and strength—that’s the first great commandment. But the first great truth of all eternity is that God loves us with all of His heart, might, mind, and strength. That love is the foundation stone of eternity, and it should be the foundation stone of our daily life. Indeed it is only with that reassurance burning in our soul that we can have the confidence to keep trying to improve, keep seeking forgiveness for our sins, and keep extending that grace to our neighbor.
In April 2009, Elder Holland bore a solemn and unforgettable testimony of the Book of Mormon in his talk “Safety for the Soul”:
I hold in my hand that book, the very copy from which Hyrum read, the same corner of the page turned down, still visible. Later, when actually incarcerated in the jail, Joseph the Prophet turned to the guards who held him captive and bore a powerful testimony of the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon.8 Shortly thereafter pistol and ball would take the lives of these two testators.
As one of a thousand elements of my own testimony of the divinity of the Book of Mormon, I submit this as yet one more evidence of its truthfulness. In this their greatest—and last—hour of need, I ask you: would these men blaspheme before God by continuing to fix their lives, their honor, and their own search for eternal salvation on a book (and by implication a church and a ministry) they had fictitiously created out of whole cloth?
Never mind that their wives are about to be widows and their children fatherless. Never mind that their little band of followers will yet be “houseless, friendless and homeless” and that their children will leave footprints of blood across frozen rivers and an untamed prairie floor.9 Never mind that legions will die and other legions live declaring in the four quarters of this earth that they know the Book of Mormon and the Church which espouses it to be true. Disregard all of that, and tell me whether in this hour of death these two men would enter the presence of their Eternal Judge quoting from and finding solace in a book which, if not the very word of God, would brand them as imposters and charlatans until the end of time? They would not do that! They were willing to die rather than deny the divine origin and the eternal truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.
11. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf – Lift Where You Stand
Everyone has a favorite President Uchtdorf talk and we were hard pressed to pick a stand-out moment because there were so many. He teases about his aviation analogies, as he said in the April 2011 General Conference, “With so many social media resources and a multitude of more or less useful gadgets at our disposal, sharing the good news of the gospel is easier and the effects more far-reaching than ever before. In fact, I am almost afraid that some listening have already sent text messages like ‘He’s been speaking for 10 minutes and still no aviation analogy!’
In our own lives and struggle to improve, however, we remind ourselves again and again, “Lift where you stand” from a different analogy altogether. Here’s what President Uchtdorf said:
Some years ago in our meetinghouse in Darmstadt, Germany, a group of brethren was asked to move a grand piano from the chapel to the adjoining cultural hall, where it was needed for a musical event. None were professional movers, and the task of getting that gravity-friendly instrument through the chapel and into the cultural hall seemed nearly impossible. Everybody knew that this task required not only physical strength but also careful coordination. There were plenty of ideas, but not one could keep the piano balanced correctly. They repositioned the brethren by strength, height, and age over and over again—nothing worked.
As they stood around the piano, uncertain of what to do next, a good friend of mine, Brother Hanno Luschin, spoke up. He said, “Brethren, stand close together and lift where you stand.”
It seemed too simple. Nevertheless, each lifted where he stood, and the piano rose from the ground and moved into the cultural hall as if on its own power. That was the answer to the challenge. They merely needed to stand close together and lift where they stood.
12. President Henry B. Eyring Teaches Us to Remember
In Oct. 2007, President Eyring made it clear in his talk “O Remember, Remember” why we should keep a journal.
He said that when their children were small, his father-in-law did an act of service for their family and
as I got to the door, I heard in my mind—not in my own voice—these words: “I’m not giving you these experiences for yourself. Write them down.”
I went inside. I didn’t go to bed. Although I was tired, I took out some paper and began to write. And as I did, I understood the message I had heard in my mind. I was supposed to record for my children to read, someday in the future, how I had seen the hand of God blessing our family. Grandpa didn’t have to do what he was doing for us. He could have had someone else do it or not have done it at all. But he was serving us, his family, in the way covenant disciples of Jesus Christ always do. I knew that was true. And so I wrote it down, so that my children could have the memory someday when they would need it.
I wrote down a few lines every day for years. I never missed a day no matter how tired I was or how early I would have to start the next day. Before I would write, I would ponder this question: “Have I seen the hand of God reaching out to touch us or our children or our family today?” As I kept at it, something began to happen. As I would cast my mind over the day, I would see evidence of what God had done for one of us that I had not recognized in the busy moments of the day. As that happened, and it happened often, I realized that trying to remember had allowed God to show me what He had done.
13. Elder Richard G. Scott Teaches Us about Revelation
In October 2009, in a talk called “To Acquire Spiritual Guidance” Elder Scott opened our eyes further about how to receive revelation. He shared an experience he had in a classroom in Mexico where the sincerity and purity of intent of the instructor was so great that he began to receive several impressions related to his assignments in the area.
As each impression came, I carefully wrote it down. In the process, I was given precious truths that I greatly needed in order to be a more effective servant of the Lord. The details of the communication are sacred and, like a patriarchal blessing, were for my individual benefit. I was given specific directions, instructions, and conditioned promises that have beneficially altered the course of my life.
Then in a Sunday School class back home, impressions began to flow again.
In that environment, strong impressions began to flow to me again. I wrote them down. The message included specific counsel on how to become more effective as an instrument in the hands of the Lord. I received such an outpouring of impressions that were so personal that I felt it was not appropriate to record them in the midst of a Sunday School class. I sought a more private location, where I continued to write the feelings that flooded into my mind and heart as faithfully as possible. After each powerful impression was recorded, I pondered the feelings I had received to determine if I had accurately expressed them in writing. As a result, I made a few minor changes to what had been written. Then I studied their meaning and application in my own life.
Subsequently I prayed, reviewing with the Lord what I thought I had been taught by the Spirit. When a feeling of peace came, I thanked Him for the guidance given. I was then impressed to ask, “Was there yet more to be given?” I received further impressions, and the process of writing down the impressions, pondering, and praying for confirmation was repeated. Again I was prompted to ask, “Is there more I should know?” And there was. When that last, most sacred experience was concluded, I had received some of the most precious, specific, personal direction one could hope to obtain in this life. Had I not responded to the first impressions and recorded them, I would not have received the last, most precious guidance.
14. Elder Dallin H. Oaks on “The Keys and Authority of the Priesthood”
In the April 2014 conference, Elder Oaks explained priesthood authority in a way that applied directly to women:
We are not accustomed to speaking of women having the authority of the priesthood in their Church callings, but what other authority can it be? When a woman—young or old—is set apart to preach the gospel as a full-time missionary, she is given priesthood authority to perform a priesthood function. The same is true when a woman is set apart to function as an officer or teacher in a Church organization under the direction of one who holds the keys of the priesthood. Whoever functions in an office or calling received from one who holds priesthood keys exercises priesthood authority in performing her or his assigned duties.