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3 General Conference Talks That Changed my Life

life-changing lds talks

1. The Nourishing Power of Hymns

elder jensen conference talk

If you haven’t read this talk by Elder Jay E. Jensen, you have to read it. It’s life-changing. At least it was for me.

 

conference talk on hymns

The Power of Hymns to Invite the Spirit

Probably the most significant way that this talk changed my life was by strengthening my testimony of the power of hymns to invite the spirit into our lives.

Hymns vs. Classical Music 

In the front of the LDS hymnbook, I once read that each of the hymns in our hymnbook were chosen to be included based on their ability to invite the spirit.  That gave me the desire to listen to more hymns as background music in my home, rather than just classical music or other music. I know they say that classical music is good for babies’ brain development–and I think it is–but this talk convinced me that sacred music/hymns are even better in that regard because they bring in the spirit so strongly. With the spirit, we learn quicker and grow better (I think there’s a quote somewhere about that); there’s just really nothing that can affect our development quite as positively as can the spirit. It’s a catalyst for every good thing and can accelerate our development in so many ways. It’s my firm belief that hymns that testify of Christ can bring the spirit into our homes 10 times faster than any other types of music.
So those are just my thoughts. Of course, I think there are also other inspired classical pieces written by famous composers, but perhaps a lot of it has to do with the kind of life they lived. As I was listening to this talk, it got me thinking about how “a bitter fountain cannot bring forth good fruit” (and vice versa). So it made me want to look into the lives of famous composers and try to listen more to those whose lives more closely reflected the teachings of the Savior, because I feel like their music is more likely to bring in the spirit than others who lived contrary to the commandments, however beautiful and praised-by-the-world their music may be. Just something I’ve been thinking about.

Singing Hymns as Lullabies

One of my favorite lines quoted in this talk was:

Teach your children to love the hymns. Sing them on the Sabbath, in family home evening, during scripture study, at prayer time. Sing as you work, as you play, and as you travel together. Sing hymns as lullabies to build faith and testimony in your young ones.”

I love that. Singing hymns should be woven into our everyday activities! It should become part of who we are. When we use them often, they can build testimony and strengthen faith.
When I heard this talk, I decided that when I became a mother, I wanted to sing hymns as lullabies to my children. I remember that first week after bringing Nephi home from the hospital, I started trying to sing hymns to him often, while nursing him to sleep, holding him, etc. One thing that’s been neat — I’ve actually noticed that hymns have a calming affect on Nephi. Sometimes when he’s crying and inconsolable, nothing will work, but if I start singing a hymn to him he settles right down. It’s really sweet. Every time that happens, it strengthens my testimony of the power of hymns to invite the spirit.

Nighttime Rituals

Right along with that, this talk also sparked in me the desire to make nighttime rituals an important part of my family life. It gave me a desire to sing my children to sleep, or at least bring hymns in as a fundamental part of their bedtime routine. When I was a little girl, my mom would rock me on her lap and sing to me. I also remember my dad standing next to my top-bunk bed singing “Abide with me” at night before I went to sleep. I don’t remember how young I was or for how long that that routine lasted, but it definitely created a lasting memory. I remember when the twins (my two youngest sisters) were growing up, my sister Lisa would often volunteer to go in and sing them to sleep. Sometimes I would join in, but most of the time I’d just go to bed – busy with other things, school, etc. But now I kind of regret not doing that more often. The twins (now 14) remember those nightly rituals with fondness. Back then it really didn’t seem like a big deal. They were so little it didn’t seem like they’d even remember those bedtime rituals or that it would even make a difference if I opted out of participating. Anyways, it just made me want to not miss out on those kinds of opportunities with my own children. This talk reinforced my desire to make those bedtime rituals a priority.

Memorizing the Hymns

This talk also inspired me to memorize all the hymns. That may seem like a lofty goal, but I’ve already got a head start. When I was growing up, we sang the hymns in order (1 a day) as part of family scripture study. So I became familiar with a lot of the lesser known hymns and consequently already have a bunch of them pretty much memorized just from pure repetition. Of course, I’m not nearly there yet, but I feel a pretty strong urge to make that a lifetime pursuit. I guess it’s because I feel that, like scriptures, the lyrics of hymns can be a powerful force against evil and temptation. And if I have them memorized, I can call upon them at any time. And it would be SO cool to be able to have a hymn in my head that’s appropriate to meet any situation, no matter where I am.

On my Mission

Guess what! Elder Jensen (the person who gave this talk) actually came to my mission and spoke about this very same thing! It was really neat. He had us all sing all the verses to “Ye Elders of Israel” and then we talked about the message of the song and what we had all felt while singing it. It was pretty powerful. He asked how many of us sang a hymn with our investigators before teaching a lesson. Only a few of us raised our hands. Then he asked those of us who didn’t to “repent.” Needless to say, I tried to make sure to sing with our investigators from that time forward. My trainer had always made it a point to start off our lessons by singing a hymn, and I remember it really was powerful in bringing the spirit into our lessons.

Musical Callings

It was from this talk that I realized how important my calling was as a sacrament meeting pianist, and later, as Relief Society pianist. As a result, I took it more seriously. I chose the hymns I played for prelude more prayerfully, when otherwise I might have considered it an insignificant responsibility and not given much thought to it. This talk also gave me a greater love for the sacrament hymns and made me realize the importance of helping the congregation to focus on Christ’s atonement through prelude music in sacrament meeting. I grew a deeper love for the hymns through these callings.

A Way of Life

I’m grateful to have married someone who loves singing hymns. I remember when we were first getting to know each other, I thought it was neat how Alex would gather friends together to sing hymns. He also loved playing the hymns on the piano and he took his calling as a ward choir director very seriously. Alex loves to sing songs that invite the spirit. Because of the type of person he is, it’s felt pretty natural to incorporate the singing of hymns into our lifestyle and make it an frequent and fundamental part of family life. I’m grateful for that.

2. The Lord’s Way

ellis

Wow. I had a huge paradigm shift after hearing this talk, given by Elder Stanley G. Ellis in the April 2013 General Conference. I’ll include the excerpt from his talk that really changed the way I thought about things (emphasis added):

One thing we have often been taught is to bloom where we are planted. Yet sometimes we are tempted to migrate to some new area, thinking our children will have more friends and therefore better youth programs.

Brothers and sisters, do we really think the critical factor in the salvation of our children is the neighborhood where we live? The apostles and prophets have often taught that what happens inside the home is far more important than what our children encounter outside. How we raise our children is more important than where we raise them.

Certainly there are other factors involved in deciding where to live, and thankfully, the Lord will guide us if we seek His confirmation.

Another question is “Where are we needed?” For 16 years I served in the presidency of the Houston Texas North Stake. Many moved to our area during those years. We would often receive a phone call announcing someone moving in and asking which was the best ward. Only once in 16 years did I receive a call asking, “Which ward needs a good family? Where can we help?”

In the early years of the Church, President Brigham Young and others would call members to go to a certain place to build up the Church there. The irony is that even now we have faithful Church members everywhere who would go anywhere the prophet asked them to go. Do we really expect President Monson to individually tell more than 14 million of us where our family is needed? The Lord’s way is that we hearken to our leaders’ teachings, understand correct principles, and govern ourselves.”

Castle-Valley-Pageant-580

Thinking Back to the Castle Valley Pageant

I think a major reason why this talk had such a profound impact on me was because I had recently gone to see the Castle Valley pageant with some high school friends. It was my first time ever visiting Castle Valley, and as we drove out there, I have to admit, I didn’t really like it. Castle Valley just seemed like a desolate desert. I felt a little like Lehi in the wilderness. We drove and drove, and I remember coming to the outside amphitheater where the pageant was held. It was literally smack dab in the middle of nowhere – desert and sagebrush on all sides. And I remember thinking how Castle Valley is probably the last place I’d ever want to live.

Castle_Valley,_Utah_(6045125414)

(Photo by russavia)

Well, come to find out–the theme of the pageant actually touched on that very thing. It was a story of a family from Mount Pleasant, Utah (which happens to be my hometown, so this hit home even more for me!) who were called by the prophet to go settle and build up the church in Castle Valley. Some members of the family protested and didn’t want to go. They had just built their homes in Mount Pleasant. They were comfortable there. That’s where their extended family was (and back then I imagine it was probably a lot harder to keep connected with family if you lived far away). But the pageant told of their journey of faith and how they accepted their call from the prophet to go and settle in Castle Valley.

I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go

So, in light of that, this conference talk made me realize that the principle of going where He wants you to go is still a true principle (which perhaps nowadays we don’t consider as seriously as we should when deciding where to settle down with our families). I had always been one to want to live in a really good neighborhood with a really good ward. So this got me thinking. Maybe even if we do seek direction for where we should live, perhaps we limit the revelation we might receive because of our own preconceived conditions that we’ve already set in stone. (i.e. As long as it’s one of the options we’ve already chosen. As long as it’s where we can get a good job and where there will be “good opportunities.” Or, as long as it’s close to family, etc.) Of course, those are all important factors. But–setting all that aside–what if the Lord told me I was needed in Castle Valley? Would I be willing to go, without question, no matter the sacrifice? Or would I cling to my own preferences and opinions of what would be best for my future and my family? Honestly, I’ll admit that it would be reeeeeeally hard for me to drop everything I go somewhere like that, so I’m not saying I’d be the perfect example of this. It would definitely take a lot of faith.

Where should I live?

The Law of Sacrifice

Elder Ellis’ remarks made me think about how this is part of the law of sacrifice. He reminded us that just because President Monson isn’t going to individually tell each of us where to live, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still govern ourselves by that very same principle. The only difference is that we need to be the ones to actively seek out that revelation for ourselves, just like Lehi did for his family when he was inspired to leave Jerusalem and go journey into the wilderness, leaving behind all their gold and silver. Thinking about this has made me more willing to go wherever Heavenly Father wants us to go. Rather than basing where I end up on whether or not it’s a “good neighborhood,” I realized the great importance of seeking direct personal revelation to guide our moving decisions.

Building up the Kingdom

This talk also made me realize that my main goal in everything I do should be to build up the kingdom of God. I realized that it is selfish to think only of my own comfort and have the mindset of “what’s in it for me and family?” when deciding where to settle down. I should also be focused on how I can help the work to progress and where my influence might be needed the most.

Faith in the Lord

Also, one idea I had — Perhaps basing where I live solely on its visible “opportunities” shows a lack of faith. Heavenly Father can make more out of our lives than we can. Because, really, if Heavenly Father wanted me to live in a certain place, then certainly He would provide even better opportunities there for my family and children than I could ever find somewhere else on my own.  He’d put the right people in our lives, line up certain things just right, or bless us with unexpected tender mercies, etc. These trump any benefits we try to get by relying on our own knowledge to seek out “better youth programs” and “better neighborhoods.”

I once remember one of my uncles commenting on how, when his family was relocating to Salt Lake City, several people advised him to avoid certain “sketchy neighborhoods” in the area. But they ended up moving into one of those neighborhoods and met some of the most down-to-earth people there and had a really positive experience. I guess it’s not where we live. It’s how we live. It’s how we raise our family that matters. Blessings will flow when we’re willing to sacrifice to go where the Lord wants us to go. This was a humbling message for me.

3. Nothing Shall Offend Them

best bednar talk

This was a very empowering talk. I felt empowered when I first heard it, and every time I think back to it and try to apply it, I feel empowered. I like how Elder Bednar uses the phrase “triumph over offense.” From this talk I learned about the huge role of our own free agency in choosing to be offended. It also made me realize how free and peaceful life can be when we choose not to take offense.

And just because that excerpt of the talk is so good, I’m going to include it here:

When we believe or say we have been offended, we usually mean we feel insulted, mistreated, snubbed, or disrespected. And certainly clumsy, embarrassing, unprincipled, and mean-spirited things do occur in our interactions with other people that would allow us to take offense. However, it ultimately is impossible for another person to offend you or to offend me. Indeed, believing that another person offended us is fundamentally false. To be offended is a choice we make; it is not a condition inflicted or imposed upon us by someone or something else. . .Through the strengthening power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, you and I can be blessed to avoid and triumph over offense.”

praying for charity

triumph over offense

Reactivation

This talk changed my whole outlook on my mission, especially with regard to the way I approached reactivation on my mission. It helped me to gain a greater conviction that when you fall away from the church because of taking offense at something someone did or said, you are really only hurting yourself. You voluntarily deprive yourself of countless blessings that could be yours, simply because someone offended you. We don’t stop shopping at the grocery store if a fellow shopper happens to offend us while we are there. Why? Because we need food. Well, we need the nourishment of the gospel just as we need food from the grocery store. How silly to cut ourselves off from the source of nourishment because of being offended at someone else’s actions or inactions. Because of this talk, I approached reactivating inactive members as a rescuing effort. But I saw it as rescuing them from themselves. We were helping them see how they were only hurting themselves by staying away from church and that they needed to come back in order to access the atonement of Jesus Christ, which would enable them to “triumph over offense.”  I learned of the effectiveness of being bold in inviting others back to church. I actually carried around copies of this talk to share with members/fellow missionaries because I felt that the counsel and teachings in it were so valuable.

One of the Purposes of Attending Church

This talk also changed the way I think about church and how I approach situations involving social interaction at church. One of the things he said that I thought was interesting was that church is a “learning laboratory” where we learn by practicing on each other. It’s not meant to be a perfect place where everyone is flawless and where no offensive things ever happen. In fact, that’s one of the main reasons for attending church, so we can learn from our mistakes in our interactions with others. It can refine us into more charitable people and be better forgivers. That’s a comforting thought!

Not Making a Big Deal over Little Things

Because of this talk, I realized that most of the things that we get offended by are really rather trivial unless we allow our own pride to magnify them. I learned from the example of Pahoran. He was innocent of any wrongdoing, but was reprimanded harshly by Moroni, who didn’t see the whole picture. But instead of being offended at Moroni wrongly accusing him, Pahoran simply replied, “It mattereth not; I am not angry, but do rejoice in the greatness of your heart.” How inspiring. He didn’t let it get to him. He chose to focus on Moroni’s good qualities rather than dwell on his shortcomings. He triumphed over offense. What a great way to live. I want to be more like that and be able to say “it mattereth not” when faced with the temptation to be offended.

 

So there you have it. Those the 3 general conference talks that changed my life. Wow, this ended up being a super long post! But I guess when you’re talking about something life-changing, it’s not really something you can skim over very easily. I hope that if nothing else, this gives someone the desire to go back and review these talks. They are wonderful.

 

I know that we have living prophets on the Earth today and that their counsel is inspired and can literally change our lives if we let it. I’m so grateful to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and to be living in a time when the words of the living prophets are so easily accessible to almost anyone in the world. Life is wonderful!

 

(Photo credits: LDS.org and Mormon Newsroom)

 

What are some general conference talks that have changed your life?
I’d love to hear about them.

 

6 comments

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  1. Lindsy

    Thank you so much for your thoughts. I found your blog because a friend posted your muffin-style german pancakes on facebook, then I clicked on this link for “3 talks that changed my life”. I have to tell you really quickly that this was an answer to prayer for me. I teach the 13-year-old Sunday School youth in my ward and one of the young men in my class has a sister who just passed away. I couldn’t imagine how I would even approach any lesson this week. As I was preparing tonight, I asked for guidance … then I found your post here about the hymns and how they bring the spirit. I know I don’t need to worry about it because the hymns will bring the spirit and will teach and comfort all of us. So thank you so much.
    Lindsy (Oregon)

    1. Rebecca

      Lindsy, thanks for sharing that with me. I’m so grateful you were able to come across something on my blog that was helpful in a time of need. Sometimes I wonder if anyone even reads my posts, but receiving comments like these make me want to keep writing! Thank you.

  2. Lynne Welter

    I just saw an article in the paper about conference talks that had changed lives. One mentioned was from 1989 by Sister Jayne Malan called The Summer of the Lambs. I found it on lds.org and I thought you might enjoy it as well.

  3. Amber Eldredge

    Im sitting in my room at 5 am trying to prepare my talk for tomorrow in sacrament meeting. i’ll be speaking about the power of music. After reading multiple talks from leaders of this great church I came across your thoughts. I love your testimony. It shines through. Thank you so much for your comments full of faith.

    1. Rebecca

      Thank you for sharing! I’m so glad, I hope your talk went well :)

  4. Kacito

    Awesome list! There is a great site http://www.votebestldstalks.com where you can vote on your favorite LDS talks that have strengthened your testimony.

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