Things I heard (And didn’t hear) at General Conference


Conference flowers

What a great Conference weekend! It took me a few days to process my thoughts as it usually does. Sure, I post notes right after each session, but the main reason I even do those summaries is to force myself to listen with a ridiculous intensity. Thank heavens for the pause and rewind feature. One of my sons went as far to describe me Sunday as “passive aggressive with the remote.”

My EC brought up a point I had never considered. She asked if I had ever thought that people might read my summaries so they can talk intelligently about Conference without actually watching it – sort of a Conference “Cliffs Notes.” Of course, I would never subscribe to such a cynical view of my fellow brothers and sisters. (Except maybe for a handful of seminary students.)

Conference is very subjective. While the words which are said come to us the same, what we actually hear can be wildly different – and that is a beautiful thing. Better yet, the feelings that accompany those words should be wildly customized. In my experience I noticed something different this year, and I’ll do my best to describe it.

Have you ever heard the word “Systemic?” It is usually used in medical or organizational terms. Here are a few definitions:

  • relating to a system, especially as opposed to a particular part.
  • pertaining to or affecting the body as a whole.
  • pertaining to, affecting, or circulating through the entire body:

I felt that “Systemic” was the word to describe this year’s conference, specifically referring to our “spiritual systems.” It is probably easier to explain by mentioning some talks I did not hear:

  • Tithing
  • Law of Consecration
  • Fast Offernings
  • Welfare
  • Prayer
  • Sabbath Day
  • Word of Wisdom
  • Temple
  • Family Home Evening
  • Pioneers
  • Joesph Smith
  • Prophets
  • Easter (I don’t know that the word was ever even used.)
  • Missionary Work
  • Family Councils
  • etc

Yes, many of this topics were briefly mentioned in the context of a larger topic, but many of the usual “go-to” subjects were conspicuously absent. Instead, often the talks were more “systemic” in nature. I think you can even spot the trend in the titles of some of the talks:

What I heard was a tremendous effort by our leaders to get us to look at the systemic and foundational elements in our lives. The subject of “Light” was mentioned or alluded to so many times that I lost track. The importance of being worthy to have the Holy Ghost, and to listen to Him was woven throughout the entire Conference.

Rather than focus on individual commandments or topics, I thought out leaders were teaching us – begging us – to become stronger through purity. To enhance our relationship with the Savior and the Holy Ghost. To increase our faith.

Maybe that is what the Church is struggling with most right now – lack of faith and personal spiritual guidance. (Conjecture: Perhaps if we could increase our systemic faith and spiritual guidance, there would be less conflict, fewer crises of faith, fewer conflicts with others, and less reason to preach individual commandments.)

There were a few exceptions to my theory, such as Elder Bednar‘s interesting talk about mission calls, and Elder Oaks‘ primer on the Godhead and the Plan of Salvation.

The most notable exception came from President Monson. He spoke on, and implored us to read, the Book of Mormon. But, even he tied reading the Book of Mormon to the overall, “systemic” theme when he said:

“… I implore each of us to prayerfully study and ponder the Book of Mormon each day. As we do so, we will be in a position to hear the voice of the Spirit, to resist temptation, to overcome doubt and fear, and to receive heaven’s help in our lives.”

That was the final paragraph of his talk. In the context of his current health troubles, I would ask you this question: If you knew your health was failing, and had roughly three minutes to communicate any one thing to the entire Church, what would you choose?  For President Monson, it was the blessings that come from reading the Book of Mormon.

To me, this Conference was about how I need to become a better follower of the Savior to be prepared to handle whatever this world and life might throw at me. Thankfully, it was full of counsel on how to make that happen.

Your milage may vary. (Your mileage should vary.)


Note:  I was driving to work and thought of this scripture: “…and the whole earth shall be in commotion, and men’s hearts shall fail them,…” (D&C 45:26)  Seems appropriate for this discussion.



  1. this is what crossed my mind listening to him and wondering if it was his last time to address us.
    “That was the final paragraph of his talk. In the context of his current health troubles, I would ask you this question: If you knew your health was failing, and had roughly three minutes to communicate any one thing to the entire Church, what would you choose? For President Monson, it was the blessings that come from reading the Book of Mormon.”

  2. I read your after conference comments for the off the topic comments. I like them. For impressions of conference I rely on reading them on my own because I get overwhelmed by conference. Since I am not on twitter, I read with bemusement your comments that people were using conference to support their political opinions. I don’t do that and it puzzles me that people would. By the way, I was one who called you judgmental in the past. I’m sorry. I was commenting in the heat of the moment and that was the first word that came to mind.

  3. First let me say that I rotate my scripture reading. Pearl of Great Price and Bible one year , Book of Mormon and D&C the next. Started Bible this year . I was on 2Kings during conference weekend. That said , this will make more sense. As you just pointed out conference focused on the basics . So I read the story of Naaman, the Syrian captain who was a leper. He hears that there is a prophet in Israel who could cure his problem. The first person he goes to is the king , his friend. He grants Naaman 40 camels worth of riches to buy the solution to his problem. Will riches solve this ? Naaman takes all this wealth to the king of Israel to solve his problem. Can the politician solve his problem ? Finally he goes to Elisha , the prophet, who does not even come out to meet him , but sends his servant. Just go bathe in Jordan 7 times and you will be healed. Naaman was furious. But his servant meekly asks , ” if he had asked you to do some great thing , would you not do it ?” Back to conference, our world is a mess, are we not all trying to find our way through serious problems. Do we turn to wealth, politicians, or the prophet ? Did we hear to do ” some great thing “? or get the spirit of the Lord to guide us. That “systemic ” conference was exactly what we needed to hear. Go bathe in the scriptures, prayer, and the spirit to get clean of what ails us and the world.
    just my 5 cents worth.

    • “Go bathe in the scriptures, prayer, and the spirit to get clean of what ails us and the world.” I love this.

    • Like you I am re-reading the Bible – and I was also in 2 Kings – and the story of Naaman – thank you for your insights – I have always loved this “story’ – particularly as it was a young Israelite maid just living her faith that caused Naaman to feel he had nothing to lose. She didn’t preach, she didn’t ‘brag – about how her Prophet could ‘save’ her Master’ – she just – as President Uchtdorf tells us – bore her testimony – and sometimes used words!

      Follow the Prophets – they lead the way.

  4. Spot on! I love that president Monson told us to read the Book of Mormon everyday. I had a bishop once that said something along the lines of how you never hear of anyone falling away that is reading the Book of Mormon everyday. There is power in it!

  5. Conference weekend became inadvertently busy as we were traveling, sending 2 toddler grandsons back home (with their mom) and my son-in-law’s business trip overseas being bumped a week. Our tradition of pajama’s & hot orange rolls went out the window. Unfortunately, with the final 4 this weekend, I could not find a single radio station in Arizona that carried conference. I relied on your “cliff notes” to just get the jist of what was said. this morning we started our “tradition” of listening to a talk while we get ready for work.

  6. Yes, I thought overall, the messages were about our heart. That the Lord wants our hearts. That is where real change happens. Our hearts will not fail us, because we have given them to the Lord, and our trust is is with Jesus Christ.

  7. Your EC was right, in a way. I was one out there who was reading your notes instead of watching conference. But it wasn’t like she thought. I couldn’t watch it because my husband (a former member, now anti) and I were spending the weekend together (poor calendaring on my part). One of my great consolations was in the thought that I could check up on conference through your Instant Post-Conference Thoughts posts. And now I am catching up on what I missed and loving it. Thanks for putting your voice out there.

  8. I’m fairly new to your blog, and look forward to your posts. Thank you for enhancing my conference weekend with your notes to compare to my own. I missed the point on some talks, because my well was filling a bit to fast…but I had great notes on talks that “spoke” to me! Your notes added the clarity (and humor) I needed to open my eyes of understanding a little better. I look forward to studying each talk individually, and personally focusing on my Savior a little more.

  9. I love conference, and this year was able to sit in the Conference Center on Saturday afternoon. But as hard as I try, sleep overcomes and some talks are sleep learning. So grateful to President Uchtdorf for his comment on church sleep being a good sleep! The Conference CDs are wonderful for me. Kept in the car, I can listen over and over again, hitting replay for the choir, and repeating the talks until they are firmly in my heart.

  10. My family and I were also surprised how many references there were to the Holy Ghost. You could argue that even Elder Oaks’s talk was on the systemic thread in his discussion of the role of the Comforter. Great post. Thanks for sharing your obvious talent for writing.

  11. And here you’ve stated the reason why I hadn’t commented yet, nor had even finished reading your conference notes. For the first time, I came away from conference without a checklist of things to do. Instead I saw all the things that were needed – as one “thing” all by itself. A system, if you will.

    We are entering a new stage or even age of the Church. I think the Lord has been showing us what needs done, it’s time to get to work – and we have a lot of good examples of how to get much done through small and simple ways.

    It is stunning how our prophet showed us a system which looks like the same system for everyone, but is actually very, very individualized and will provide inspiration as we need it.

  12. I had a niece who had heard a comment about this conference being “underwhelming.” I found it the opposite, and felt great strength in the repeated urging to strengthen ourselves in those basic, foundational practices that can easily be taken for granted and ignored or delayed. I certainly am taking that to heart.

    Thanks for your comments and observations. And, again, I keep wondering “where is the LIKE button?” for many of the posts. I loved Bev Stevens’ comment, “Go bathe in the scriptures, prayer, and the spirit to get clean of what ails us and the world.”

  13. As a mother of small children, I appreciate your post conference thoughts​ since i can’t take as good of notes as I wish. Your wit and especially your enthusiasm for the words of the prophets help me keep trying to get as much as I can out of conference even if it is hard. Thank you!

  14. I would add a couple of things to your list. I think they were extremely important and woven through numerous talks. Charity and the importance of living Doctrine and Covenants 121:34 onward. Priesthood session’s President Monson talk was amazing. I also thought the President. Ucktdorf’s talk went along with it as did others. Pres. Eyrings talks in Priesthood and Women’s Conference and General were all amazing.

  15. I am one of those seminary teachers!! Sunday evening I have my notes, your “instant” notes and the talk summaries all laid out before me. We do a conference review in class on monday morning. I love having the different sources so that when a student mentions a story or a quote or even just a theme, I will have an idea of which talk it was from. So thank you for the cliff notes, they are more than appreciated!
    That being said, our class talked the longest about Pres. Monson’s last talk. Since we are studying the New Testament right now, we discussed the challenge of also reading the BofM. Our youth are amazing! I have one student that reads the BofM before homework everyday and then listens to the NT while driving to seminary in the mornings. The focus of the basics was not unnoticed by them either. Such wonderful messages.

  16. I read your notes and appreciate noticing the similarities and differences between what we noticed. And I admit to using your notes on the priesthood session to know what it was about because I didn’t watch it. But I will go back and reread it in the upcoming weeks. So I sort of do what your wife said…but only for 1 session and only temporarily. Thanks for your insights. In my head, I summed up conference as teaching us/reviewing with us what we know about the Godhead and how to strengthen our relationship with them and a reminder to continue (or start) doing the “small and simple” things to improve our relationship with the Godhead and with our fellow man. In fact as I read/study conference, I’m taking note of exactly what was taught about the Godhead. I’m also going to embark on studying/memorizing The Living Christ with my family.

  17. Your notes were great. I read them as review and loved your thoughts. On purpose I did not take notes….they distract me from the next thing said. I prayed that I would “hear” what I needed to “learn” from conference. My testimony of Christ grew miles. I just listened to Pres. Monson’s talk again yesterday, wondering how I can fit reading both the D&C, the Book of Mormon, work full time and go to school part time and still spend time with family. So I prayed about it. Answer: Listen to the Book of Mormon while driving. I feel like I am following Naaman’s example. It’s the simple things that impact us the most.

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