Here are a few things from General Conference that I loved:
1. Sister Linda S. Reeves:
As we faced the challenges of parenting and keeping up with the demands of life, we were desperate for help. We prayed and pleaded to know what to do. The answer that came was clear: “It is OK if the house is a mess and the children are still in their pajamas and some responsibilities are left undone. The only things that really need to be accomplished in the home are daily scripture study and prayer and weekly family home evening.”
Why this is awesome: I think one of the worst aspects of Mormon culture is that we have sometimes taken clean homes as the one and only true and living sign of good mothering. That isn’t always the case. I wish I had had this talk to read when my kids were tiny. (I’m cool with a trashed house now, but I used to feel guilty.)
2. Elder Dallin H. Oaks:
While addressing a women’s conference, Relief Society general president Linda K. Burton said, “We hope to instill within each of us a greater desire to better understand the priesthood.” That need applies to all of us, and I will pursue it by speaking of the keys and authority of the priesthood.
Why this is awesome: Did you see what he did there? He quoted a female as if she were an authority. As if her words mattered and, indeed, provided him with the direction for his talk. That is a big deal.
3. Elder Quentin L. Cook:
On October 11, 1840, in Nauvoo, Vilate Kimball wrote a letter to her husband, Elder Heber C. Kimball, who with other members of the Twelve was serving a mission in Great Britain. The October general conference had been held a few days before.
I quote from parts of Vilate’s personal letter: “We had the largest and most interesting conference that ever has been since the Church was organized. … President [Joseph] Smith has opened a new and glorious subject. … That is, being baptized for the dead. Paul speaks of it, in First Corinthians 15th chapter 29th verse. Joseph has received a more full explanation of it by revelation. He says it is the privilege of [members of] this Church to be baptized for all their kinsfolk that have died before this gospel came forth. … By so doing, we act as agents for them, and give them the privilege of coming forth in the First Resurrection. He says they will have the gospel preached to them in prison.”
Vilate added: “I want to be baptized for my mother. … Is not this a glorious doctrine?”
Why this is awesome: see above. He did what Elder Oaks did, by framing the teachings of Joseph Smith within the words of a woman. Given what I have noticed in the church magazines lately, I am suspicious that there is an actual trend of deliberately choosing to quote women. (And did you notice the change in seating arrangement?)
4. Elder David A. Bednar:
Thus, the Savior has suffered not just for our sins and iniquities—but also for our physical pains and anguish, our weaknesses and shortcomings, our fears and frustrations, our disappointments and discouragement, our regrets and remorse, our despair and desperation, the injustices and inequities we experience, and the emotional distresses that beset us.
Why this is awesome: it was hard to pick out just one section, but everything that he had to say about the atonement was great. This is probably, in my opinion, his best talk. I’ve really come to appreciate the way he does close readings of scripture. He’s getting some grief for weighing in so strongly on the dating of Jesus’ birth, given the complicated back story of that issue, but I hope that doesn’t overshadow the really great things that he said about the atonement in this talk.
5. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf:
In May 1966, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used this story as an illustration for his speech “Don’t Sleep Through the Revolution.”
Why this is awesome: seriously, have you read that speech? Every progressive Mormon could take enough solace from that speech getting a shout-out in General Conference to happily survive another six months of Tea-Party inspired comments in Sunday School without grimacing even once.