Are Sacrament Meeting Talks Rehashes of General Conference Talks Where You Live?

Clay Whipkey church, conference, diversity, General Authorities, General Conference, Leaders, mormon, sacrament meeting 27 Comments

In my ward in a very LDS-heavy area of Arizona, I’ve been noticing a pattern in the sacrament meeting talks. I’m not sure how far back it has been going, but at least for this year every talk has been based on a talk from a General Authority at the most recent General Conference.

Some speakers overtly state something like, “I was assigned to speak on this talk entitled _______ by Elder ________ in the April General Conference.” Others go about speaking on the subject and then in the process make multiple references to a single recent General Conference talk.

The last talk I gave was in 2007 and I was given a topic, but not a General Conference talk. In all the speaking assignments I have had, most have come with a topic (although a couple times I was given a blank canvas), but never anything as specific as a talk given by someone else. In this ward it is completely consistent now, though.

Is this happening where you live? What are the pros and cons of this kind of practice?

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Comments 27

  1. This has become a fairly consistent practice where I live (Sacramento area of CA) as well. At least, it is in my ward, I shouldn’t try to speak for the rest of Sacramento.

  2. Nope. I haven’t heard a single General Conference-rehash talk in my ward in New York, or in the ward I was in for a year a couple years ago in Virginia.

  3. Amazing, Clay, you nailed it!. I think that some bishoprics are getting lazy in determining the true needs of their wards. Just think, they are responsible for the topics in two, possible three weeks a month and they just fall back in conference talks, not the subjects, mind you, but the talks themselves. They don’t tell the member not to read major parts of the talk but to develop some of their own thinking on the subject, possibly quoting from the talk itself.

  4. Coming up with a talk based on all original ideas is not a simple exercise (albeit a very useful one). Considering that many bishoprics assign talks to people 1 week or less in advance, it is not surprising that you get this.

    Having said that – are you saying that when people give talks they literally quote vast portions of the general conference talk? If that is the case, I have not seen that- and it seems to come more from laziness, or a lack of ability to write a talk. We use conference talks as the subject material for priesthood and RS lessons on the 4th Sunday – and those are not usually just requoting the entire talk – are they?

  5. Thank you Clay I was worried that my ward was an anomaly.

    I have taught High Priests Group six times this year and on every occasion was assigned to review a Conference talk chosen by the Bishop. Teaching a group of tired, bored, somewhat overweight middle aged men on Sunday Afternoons at 3:00 P.M. material they have heard countless times before is my definition of torture.

  6. No.

    Most wards in our stake will have topics that include suggestions to read certain talks, and the week following GC it is fairly common to hear a talk about what the person learned from a GC talk, but I have not heard a speaker spend extensive time simply reading from a talk more than once or twice in my 11 years in this ward.

  7. My ward has youth talks on some gospel topics, but the adult talks (the “theme” of the sacrament meeting) is always about programs. Last Sunday was about the Daily Dose program. Oftentimes it is mission farewells or recaps. Other times, it’s about the latest Young Womens or Scout camping trip.

    Frankly, I would love General Conference recaps.

  8. SilverRain, what is the Daily Dose programme?

    In our ward (waaaaaayyyy out in the “Mission Field”) the whole theme for Sacrament Meeting talks goes on the RS/PH lesson – ie 2 weeks it is on whatever chapter of the Jpseph Smith book, and the 4th on the conference talk that is chosen for that week. I don`t go to RS because of my calling, but I would think for those who do (and PH too) it could get boring hearing 2 hours based on the same materials(?).

  9. Yes, it’s that way in our ward. Has been for a long time. In fact, on October 12 we had four talks by young marrieds rehashing and badly mauling four talks we had heard only the weekend before!

    In part it’s the laziness of the internet — if you’re given a general topic, you go to lds.org and search for the term and rehash the first talk or two that comes up. And we’ve been doing it that way for so long that most people have forgotten what talks should really be. They think they’re doing what they’re supposed to do, kind of like starting with a stupid story of how they met their wife/husband, and how scared they’ve been ever since the bishop called them, and how Webster (or Google) define the topic. That’s all they’ve ever seen in a ward, so they go on repeating the awful pattern.

    I get to speak this week. I’ve been given a bland topic, but I won’t simply find the first talk that uses that word. I’m writing a REAL talk.

  10. In Salt Lake some think conference is a day off from church and covering the talks is just lookong out for the 1 of the 99.

  11. That seems to be the rule in my wards as well. In all my BYU student wards, and even in my current YSA ward in San Francisco, Sacrament meeting talks are General Conference based.

    I have mixed feelings about it. I think some General Conference talk are phenomenal, and hate to see them forgotten so soon, so I like going back to them at times. However, sometimes it feels like just stirring up an algae-filled pool when what it really needs is an infusion of fresh material.

  12. You know, you could do like we do in RS/Priesthood with the fourth Sunday lessons (at least, it’s what *I* do — maybe others just rehash the talk they’ve been assigned) and use the theme and a quotation or two from the talk, but otherwise make it your own, using personal experiences, different illustrations, other scriptures. Just because the bishop tells you to base a talk on some conference talk doesn’t mean we have to read or paraphrase the same structure and language of the original. But we do. I like KC Kern’s “algae-filled pool” as a descriptor!

  13. My Bay Area ward: nope. SacMtgs are by “topics” (Faith, Repentence, Prayer, etc). 4th sunday PH and RS lessons are conference talks chosen by Ward Council. Even then, only the less prepared and less interesting teachers read large portions of the talk. I’ll count myself as lucky.

  14. Back a few years ago when I was in a bishopric, we were instructed by our stake president to assign talks based on General Conference addresses. It wasn’t a directive from higher than him but a response to some rather doctrinally and spiritually poor talks the presidency had seen throughout the stake. (This was an upper-Midwest stake with a high percentage of converts in the wards and in leadership positions. Both the finest and the least uplifting talks each tended to come from converts.)

    At least in our ward, the improvement was immediate. Far fewer cringe moments for new members and investigators, less glurge and more Spirit — much more uplifting meetings. It probably helped that we picked the topics according to the bishop’s list of topics prepared for ward needs, and he assigned the topics to specific individuals. Then we counselors found talks that supported the given topic and presented them with the talk and took a few minutes for coaching them on preparation. We told them that this was to be the foundation for their talk, but that they needed to look up other scriptures, add personal experiences and testimony, and that they were to only quote passages — not simply recycle the talk.

    It really worked wonderfully for both the talk-givers and for the ward. It kept people focused on the spirit of the talk and most people added a lot of wonderful and relevant personal information to the mix. And the ones who were either too lazy or unskilled to prepare much of a talk on their own at least ended up more or less delivering someone else’s excellent talk.

    I can see how there are many ways to do this wrong. For our particular ward, it was a great launching point and collectively raised the quality of sacrament meetings quite a bit. Those we trusted to prepare well on their own, on the other hand, weren’t always assigned specific General Conference talks.

  15. Lorin,

    That is certainly the way to do it. you didn’t automatically choose the most recent talks. That was probably the key. Plus you basically covered the topics you thought the ward needed to hear rather than force a conference talk subject.

  16. It is interesting to see what is happening in your wards. I am afraid my brothers ward, in North Salt Lake, has the most boring format. The Bishop chooses a topic and everyone that speaks is assigned the same topic for the entire month. Sorry but I would be taking an Ambien before Sacrament meeting if they did that here.

    When I was a Bishop I rarely assigned topics and usually only when I felt the individual or the ward needed to learn more about a specific aspect of the gospel. As for conference talks. On occassion I think that happens but generally it is from a conference 2 – 3 years ago.

  17. This is the rule in my ward, too, although my bishop makes many exceptions. Or the speakers do a great job of concealing the talks.

  18. Our bishop has often directed talks on the “themes” of the last general conference. Sometimes they end up being rehashes, sometimes not. When its my turn to select speakers and themes, I try to stay away from the rehash tendency. Some members who don’t speak as frequently as others need direction to a reference. If I direct them, I always mention that they are free to use it or not. One member beat me to the punch by asking me if she HAD to use the reference. She and others did an amazing job of researching their own information from a number of sources and throwing in personal experiences. I do remember hearing Elder Bednar’s pickle talk almost word for word as a rehash. I didn’t mind listening to it again, but I like the other style of talk better. If Elder Oakes has to use valuable conference talk time to tell people not to “text” during church, then there could be worse things then asking the Sacrament Meeting congregation to listen to a conference talk again.

  19. I’ve been on the stake high council for 5 years, and more and more we are being assigned to rehash a conference talk. This past month was Elder Oaks talk. I really rebel against the whole thing. People watch or listen to the talk, then they read the talk, then a ward member is assigned it in Sacrament Meeting, then it becomes the 1st or 5th sunday RS/Priesthood lesson…then the high council speaks on it. I’ll typically make a one-sentence reference to it if a member of the stake presidency is there, but then I go my own way within the topic. (Ya, I know, I have no idea why I haven’t been fired yet either).

    #11 The Daily Dose Program is a part of the Latino Initiative, where individuals in hispanic branches and their friends are taught basic english.

  20. 22 Larryco

    I think your correct on this I think most ward talks now are based around General Conference.
    Our stake presidency was the same.

    I’ll typically make a one-sentence reference to it if a member of the stake presidency is there, but then I go my own way within the topic.”

    Any high councilman with an inch of compassion will do the same.

  21. In one of my CA wards, the bishopric assigned talks based on General Conference talks. Whoever in our ward bishopric was responsible for calendaring the talks simply went through the index of talks and calendared them. My assigned talk was “Sustaining of Church Officers”. The page given in the Ensign for reference, turned out to be the actual conference sustaining of the officers. I started my talk by giving a rehash of the sustainings. I couldn’t resist giving my friend a bad time.

  22. If attention is really paid, it is real easy to notice that almost all talks and testaments are copy cat versions of sayings and talks already heard. Where is the originality? Did not Jesus say? “Think not what to say, for I shall tell you what to say in the hour that you do speak”. My personal pet peeve comes from the fast and testimony meetings when Members stand and declare ” I believe the Church is true” of course the church is ‘True’! The Church is a true organization that arranges into weekly activity social groupings and meetings of a ‘People’ whom share common beliefs and aspirations. What could possible be false about that, it can not be anything but ‘True’! unless of course ‘The Church’ is so strongly identified as being ‘God’ or ‘Jesus’ that its truth is determed being in the purpose of those that Attend said Church in ‘Worship’. Who is being worshipped here God, Jesus Christ, or the ‘Church? that is the question!???

  23. We are a church that believes in continuing revelation and in living prophets. During general conference we hear from prophets what the Lord wants us to learn and understand for the next 6 months; these are the topics that the Lord has chosen. What better topics could there be for our members to study and teach to each other? Talks and lessons based on a General Conference talk doesn’t need to be reading the talk aloud, in fact I have never heard a lesson or talk that was a simple re-reading. Instead we can discuss the counsel given in the talks, what we have learned about the subject, personal experiences that highlight the principles, and how we can impliment the counsel in our lives. Each person who speaks or teaches on the subject will have a slightly different perspective, thus enhancing our understanding of how “real people” can put the principles to work in our lives. I’m greatful for the inspired words of prophets and general authorities given to us at conference and am also greatful that my ward-mate’s lessons can help me to keep the words of the Lord for this time at the forefront of my mind each week as I hear how conference talks have impacted their lives.

  24. In my ward most speakers are given a topic and usually also some general conference talks that they might find useful. They are told that they can use the talks as a starting point for their talk if they wish. The talks may not be from the most recent conference. Speakers are usually asked to speak several weeks in advance.

    At a worldwide leadership training meeting on 21 June 2003, Elder Russell M. Nelson said “Invitations to speak should be extended well in advance and include a clear description of the topic assigned and time allotted, along with an offer to help.” (“Worshiping at Sacrament Meeting,” Liahona, Aug. 2004, 12; Ensign, Aug. 2004, 26) I think our practice follows Elder Nelson’s instructions fairly closely.

    Still, I have heard at least once or twice in the last year where the speaker said that such and so talk said it so much better than they could in their own words and then read the entire talk with a few sentences of comments and testimony at the end.

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