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Ten Talks that Changed My Life

This last weekend was General Conference, a semi-annual broadcast during which leaders in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints speak on a variety of gospel topics. And oh, what a conference it was. We sustained two new Apostles, prepared for some significant changes in how church administration and ministry are handled, and rejoiced at the announcement of seven new temples—including one in Russia! This was a conference to be remembered. (If you missed it, or if you’re curious about what General Conference is really like, you can listen and watch past sessions here.)

I love this two-day immersion in spirituality, especially because it always seems to give me solutions to whatever dilemma I’m facing at the moment. And after such a great conference, I started thinking about past talks (from both conference and other spiritual settings) that have had a major impact on my life. In no particular order, here are ten that have made a huge difference in who I am, what I believe, and how I see the world.

Cast Not Away Therefore Thy Confidence

Given as a devotional at BYU in 1999, I first learned of this talk by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland when a friend of mine used it as the basis of a lesson in Relief Society. I was so moved by her lesson that I immediately went home and found a copy of the talk so I could read it for myself. Over the years since then, I have returned to it again and again, and to this day, it is probably the most influential talk I’ve ever read. If you are facing a difficult decision or feeling like life is beating you down, this is the talk for you. Read the transcript here.

To Acquire Spiritual Guidance

Elder Richard G. Scott gave this talk in the October 2009 General Conference. I was impressed by it then, but it has recently come back into my life with greater power than ever before. In this talk, Elder Scott teaches a pattern of receiving personal revelation a little bit at a time, writing it down, praying to know if there is more, and repeating the process until you have received all the Lord needs you to receive at that time. Brett and I read this together a few months ago, and as we’ve worked on implementing this pattern in our own studies, it has made a tremendous difference in how well we are able to recognize promptings and receive inspiration from the Holy Ghost.

Read, watch, or listen to the talk here.

Turn on Your Light

I love Sister Sharon Eubank. Every time I’ve had the pleasure of hearing her speak, I come away feeling enlightened, inspired, and appreciated as a woman in the Church. Her talk during last October’s General Women’s Broadcast was so good that I listened to it twice in as many days. In this talk, she emphasizes the important influence of women in the Church and teaches us how to be the sort of true heroines the world needs today.

Read, watch or listen to the talk here.

The Joy of Womanhood

Margaret D. Nadauld, former Young Women General President, gave this talk in the October 2000 General Conference. I had this quote hanging on my wall for years:

Women of God can never be like women of the world. The world has enough women who are tough; we need women who are tender. There are enough women who are coarse; we need women who are kind. There are enough women who are rude; we need women who are refined. We have enough women of fame and fortune; we need more women of faith. We have enough greed; we need more goodness. We have enough vanity; we need more virtue. We have enough popularity; we need more purity.

Oh, how we pray that every young woman will grow up to be all the wonderful things she is meant to be.

– Margaret D. Nadauld, Young Women General President
October 2000 General Conference

Read, watch or listen to the talk here.

Elder Bednar speaking at my graduation. Photo by my mom, Jane Byam.

Learning to Love Learning

Elder David A. Bednar gave this talk at the commencement ceremonies when I graduated from BYU. It is part of why I have continued to pursue learning in my life, even now that I’m not in school anymore. Read the transcript or listen to the recording here.

The overarching purpose of Heavenly Father’s great plan of happiness is to provide His spirit children with opportunities to learn.

– Elder David A. Bednar, Quorum of the 12 Apostles
BYU Commencement Address, April 2012

Refuge from the Storm

Given during the same conference when the Relief Society General Presidency launched the I Was A Stranger initiative to help refugees in our home communities, this talk by Elder Patrick Kearon of the Seventy was a deeply moving talk on why we should reach out and serve those around us who need it most. I still get chills thinking about this talk.

Watch, listen to, or read this talk here.

Lord, I Believe

Another talk by Elder Holland (and I’m sure none of you who are LDS are surprised to see he’s on this list twice), in which he teaches that questions and concerns are nothing to be ashamed of so long as we press forward with hope in the faith that we do have. Read, watch, or listen to this talk here.

A 14-year-old boy recently said to me a little hesitantly, “Brother Holland, I can’t say yet that I know the Church is true, but I believe it is.” I hugged that boy until his eyes bulged out. I told him with all the fervor of my soul that belief is a precious word, an even more precious act, and he need never apologize for “only believing.” I told him that Christ Himself said, “Be not afraid, only believe.”

– Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, Quorum of the 12 Apostles
April 2003 General Conference

His Grace Is Sufficient

Brad Wilcox gave this talk as a BYU Devotional in July 2011, and it is the best explanation I have ever read of how Christ’s grace works in our lives. My favorite quote: “Jesus filled the whole space. He paid our debt in full. He didn’t pay it all except for a few coins. He paid it all. It is finished.” Isn’t that beautiful? Read the transcript here.

The Greatest Generation of Young Adults

Most of the world these days seems bent on beating the tar out of the Millennial generation and telling us how useless we are. That’s probably why I loved this April 2015 conference talk by Elder M. Russell Ballard so much. In it, he validates our strengths and encourages us to live to our full potential.

Read, listen to, or watch the talk here.

The Edge of the Light

My freshman year at BYU was a terrible experience. I left at the end of that year with a determination to never set foot on that campus ever again, even if my life depended on it. It was that bad. The following year, I did 10-months of national service with AmeriCorps*National Civilian Community Corps (*NCCC), hoping that a year of thinking about anyone but myself would help me figure out what to do with my life. As I neared the end of my term of service, I still hadn’t decided where I was going to go to school. A friend gave me a copy of the transcript for this talk, given as a fireside address by Elder Boyd K. Packer back in 1991. I cannot find the talk anywhere now, but this was my favorite quote:

“Shortly after I was called as a General Authority, I went to Elder Harold B. Lee for counsel. He listened very carefully to my problem and suggested that I see President David O. McKay. President McKay counseled me as to the direction I should go. I was very willing to be obedient but saw no way possible for me to do as he counseled me to do.

“I returned to Elder Lee and told him that I saw no way to move in the direction I was counseled to go. He said, ‘The trouble with you is you want to see the end from the beginning.’ I replied that I would like to see at least a step or two ahead. Then came the lesson of a lifetime: ‘You must learn to walk to the edge of the light, and then a few steps into the darkness; then the light will appear and show the way before you.’ Then he quoted these 18 words from the Book of Mormon:

“‘Dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith’” (Ether 12:6).

– Elder Boyd K. Packer, Quorum of the 12 Apostles
BYU Fireside Address, March 1991

This talk, coupled with lots of prayer and pondering, ultimately led to the decision to return to BYU. Round 2 in Cougar Town was much better than round 1. I met some of my best friends and studied topics I loved. I am forever grateful that my friend followed the inspiration to give me that transcript.

And in case you’re wondering, my favorite talks from this general conference were those by Lynn G. Robbins, Taylor G. Godoy, Dallin H. Oaks, and President Nelson.

What talks have had the greatest impact on your own life? And what were your favorites from this General Conference?

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Jess Friedman
Jess is a Canadian-American who’s always ready for the next adventure. She loves all things living, always has a million creative projects in progress, and polishes her nerd badge daily. She is passionate about helping families make and preserve treasured memories that strengthen bonds across generations. You can read more posts by Jess here.

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2 Responses

  1. Thanks for your blog post about Conference talks, Jess! I really appreciated it. I remember some of the talks you listed and I now plan to read the others. 🙂 BYU was a good place for me and for Randy. Ben likes it there a lot and I think Sierra will, too. But I don’t know if they will be able to stay there. I’m feeling quite bitter toward BYU right now because of the changes they keep making which now make it almost impossible for students to get or keep academic scholarships anymore. And our kids need those scholarships in order to be able to afford college. I’ve been feeling very depressed about it all. So I appreciate your blog post to help lift me up a bit. I appreciate Elder Packer’s quote about walking by faith even when we have to take steps into the dark before we see the light. Thanks for that tonight! I love you!

    1. Oh no! I’m sorry to hear you guys are struggling with scholarships at BYU. Your kids are so smart and talented, so that’s ridiculous. I was able to get scholarships for the first year, but after that, I was on my own, so I get it. It is tough. I’m glad these talks could help a little! <3

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