GCBC Week 6: “Ask the Missionaries! They Can Help You!” By Elder Russell M. Nelson

It’s week 6 of general conference book club, and we’ll be studying Elder Nelson’s talk from the Saturday A.M. session:

Ask the Missionaries! They Can Help You!

By Elder Russell M. Nelson

Elder Nelson repeated the phrase that is the title of his talk so many times that all of my children started paying attention. Every time he started building up to it, my son Clark would say, “Oh no, not again!,” and then Elder Nelson would say again: “Ask the missionaries. They can help you.”  Even now, they remember that specific phrase from conference, so it was definitely memorable.

I thought this was a fun talk in context of the big announcement about the new age requirements for missionary service. We were all already missionary-minded, knowing that we have to get to work to get our children prepared sooner for missionary service, and then Elder Nelson’s talk reinforced why that is so important.

He presented a long list of knowledge and services that missionaries can provide for those searching for truth. I think that list makes a good curriculum for our at-home pre-MTC efforts. At the same time, there are plenty of things he mentioned that I probably couldn’t have helped people with when I was a missionary, which brought to mind two thoughts: 1) They’ve definitely raised the bar, and 2) Missionaries welcome any kind of sincere questions, whether they know all the answers or not. They can always point people in the right direction. (For example, I couldn’t have answered questions about how to find your ancestors, but I could have hooked you up with Stake specialists who could help you.)

Also, I know this wasn’t the point of his talk, but I really love the Preach My Gospel manual that missionaries study and teach. I think if we use that as the curriculum to prepare our own children for future missionary service, they will be remarkably up for the task.

I love missionaries and missionary work. I cannot think of my own time as a missionary without being filled with gratitude for all I learned and felt as the Lord let me serve. I’m so excited for this rising generation and the opportunity they will have to join a royal army and go forth and do amazing things as the Lord is hastening His work.

You may have noticed completely different things as you studied this talk. Please share in the comments below some of the things you learned and felt.

(A reminder to those of you who are new to General Conference Book Club: You’re welcome to return to this post any time this week and leave your comment and thoughts in the comment section below. You may also want to see what others are saying about the talk and engage in a conversation for mutual understanding and encouragement. A new talk will be posted each Sunday and will be studied and discussed throughout the week.)

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How to Prepare a Church Talk or Lesson

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I’ve had a couple people ask me lately about how to get ready for a big speaking assignment at church– a sacrament meeting talk, fireside, full lesson, etc.  I can only assume they are asking me since I always have too much to say about everything.

Anyway, in response to a recent email, I typed up my own personal preparation routine, and then I thought, “I wonder if this would be helpful to anyone else?”  So then I decided I might as well just stick it up on my blog because maybe someday a random person will Google “How to Prepare a Talk” and voila, it can be an answer to prayer.

I’m nothing if not magnanimous.

My only disclaimer is this:  It might be a really cruddy list for someone else, but it works for me.

This is how I prepare for a large speaking assignment.  Sort of.  It always changes from occasion to occasion depending on how I’m feeling about it, but this is a good general overview:

  1. Get my topic and ask the person who assigned the topic if there’s anything in particular they’d like me to focus on.  (Sometimes they have a wish-list agenda they didn’t communicate originally.)
  2. Read everything I can get my hands on about that topic.  And by everything, I mostly mean an exhaustive search on lds.org.  I print out talks and articles and mark up favorite quotes and ideas that help me begin to decide on the parts I want to focus on.  (Don’t go overboard, especially if the assignment is for 10-15 minutes or less.  Choose a tight focus and don’t even try to cover it all.)
  3. Keep the topic in mind when I do my personal scripture study and any additional reading of the Ensign, church manuals, etc.  Look for stuff that applies.
  4. Pray about it and think about it a lot.
  5. Write an outline, very skeletal, that identifies my main points and puts them in a semi-logical flow/order.
  6. Take all those highlighted quotes and scriptures and examples I’ve thought of and plug them into the outline where they best belong.
  7. Keep a notepad by my bed so that when I think of random phrases or experiences or thoughts that apply, I can jot them down.  Plug those things into the outline too.
  8. Sometimes, that’s all I do, and I take all my quotes and notes in a labeled easy-to-find way and just teach using my outline and hop from one point to the next.  If I’m feeling extra nervous, or I’m really worried about time-management, I write out more word-for-word what I want to say for each point on the outline.
  9. I pray a lot more after this point for the Spirit to help me edit appropriately.  I usually have more material than I can possibly use, so I rely a lot on promptings of what to include and what to leave out.  If I’m struggling with the outline/order, I pray about that too, and I’ve gotten promptings or “visions” about how to organize everything.
  10. Trust the Spirit even when you’re nervous as heck.  He knows how to do it right.  🙂

The hardest part (for me) is keeping it within the time limit you’ve been given.  Watch the clock carefully, pace yourself the best you can, and don’t be afraid to let stuff go.  In real life, you’ll never have enough time to do all the things your heart wants to do, and when it comes to giving a talk or lesson, you’ll never have enough time to say all your heart wants to say.  Focus on teaching meaningfully what you do have time to say, and don’t rush and cram to get in more material than is realistic.  And don’t assume that no one will mind if you just take a little extra time.  It’s tempting, but not polite.  You’re welcome.

Feel free to add your own tips (or questions) in the comments below, just in case the random Googler is severely disappointed by my advice.

Preparing Yourself for General Conference

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Here’s the thing about General Conference that’s key:  The talks can answer your prayers and give you specific, personal direction for whatever you’re dealing with in your life.  When you open your mind and heart to the possibility of finding those answers, they are there.  Totally there.  This is where my deep love of General Conference comes from– some of my most specific, immediate answers to prayers and heart-musings have come through living prophets speaking straight to me right through my TV screen.  Those answers have come in the form of reassurances, gentle chastenings, practical ideas, reminders, and simple expressions of love.  The Holy Ghost helps me feel what the message is for me.

Here are a few disjointed thoughts and suggestions that might help you get more out of your conference experience.

  1. Pray.  A lot.  Just ramp it up a little this week.  Any time you find yourself worrying or wondering or stressing about anything in your life– no matter how small– make it a matter of prayer.  Even a quick turn-your-thoughts-upward prayer will do.  Lay that concern out for Heavenly Father and ask Him to help you find some kind of answer or direction as you listen to conference.
  2. Write those questions down.  This can help you keep them in your prayers and thoughts.  It can be a list or a collection of scrap paper.  One year I wrote individual questions on post-it notes and stuck them in my scriptures.  You might even want to keep those written questions right on your lap as you listen to the conference talks.  Keep looking at them and keep listening for related content.  Continue reading

Countdown to General Conference: Packets and Preparation

UPDATE:  If you’ve landed here looking for stuff related to the upcoming General Conference, click here for more current resources.

I wanted to share the summary of a workshop I’ve taught a few times about preparation for General Conferences and how to get more out of it.  Also, at the end, I’ve posted several links of General Conference packets for children of all ages and a few extra resources as well.  I submitted this over at MMB as well, but I’m not sure it will make it up this week, so I wanted to pass it along to my readers.  I think most of you know how I feel about General Conference.  Love.  It is my semi-annual recharging of the spiritual batteries.  I really encourage all of you to consider joining us this next round of General Conference Book Club, too.  It helps so much to keep the words of the prophets fresh on the mind and in the heart.  Maybe those of you who have participated in the past can leave a little testimonial in the comments about your experience in studying a talk a week.

Preparing Yourself for General Conference:

Jeffrey R. Holland, “Prophets in the Land Again,” Ensign, Nov 2006, 104-7

“In my own expression of testimony and gratitude for the messages and meaning of general conference, may I suggest three things these twice-yearly gatherings declare to all the world:

1. First, they declare eagerly and unequivocally that there is again a living prophet on the earth speaking in the name of the Lord. And how we need such guidance! … We all need that word. No one is safe without it…

2. Secondly, each of these conferences marks a call to action not only in our own lives but also on behalf of others around us, those who are of our own family and faith and those who are not.

3. Lastly, a general conference of the Church is a declaration to all the world that Jesus is the Christ, that He and His Father, the God and Father of us all, appeared to the boy prophet Joseph Smith in fulfillment of that ancient promise that the resurrected Jesus of Nazareth would again restore His Church on earth and [return] again.”

Henry B. Eyring, “Finding Safety in Counsel,” Ensign, May 1997, 24

“There seems to be no end to the Savior’s desire to lead us to safety. And there is constancy in the way He shows us the path. … Those means always include sending the message by the mouths of His prophets whenever people have qualified to have the prophets of God among them. Those authorized servants are always charged with warning the people, telling them the way to safety….

In our own time, we have been warned with counsel of where to find safety from sin and from sorrow. One of the keys to recognizing those warnings is that they are repeated.

One of the ways we may know that the warning is from the Lord is that the law of witnesses, authorized witnesses, has been invoked. When the words of prophets seem repetitive, that should rivet our attention…

Boyd K. Packer, “The Twelve Apostles,” Ensign, Nov 1996, 6

“We are overcome with what the Lord said of those who hold these sacred callings: ‘Whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation.’ (D&C 68:4) … These men are true servants of the Lord; give heed to their counsel.”

Think about and write down questions that you would really like some insight about.  (Think about your role as a wife, mother, friend, sister, employee, calling, etc. . . . What would you ask the Lord about?)  Imagine the Savior as your “Counselor”and ask Him things with a desire to hear His advice.  Pray about those questions.  Request that He answers them as you listen to General Conference.

As you watch conference, pay careful attention and identify talk(s) that may give you some direction for your questions.

As you listen to (and later study) these talks, look for two things: (I recommend writing them down.)

1) main points: truths, principles, doctrine
2) action items: what does this speaker want me to DO? What is the “call to action”?

You can watch a highlight video from the latest general conference here at this link.

In summary,

How to make General Conference meaningful:

1. Pray and prepare before General Conference.

2. Carefully study the Conference edition of the Ensign.

3. Watch or listen to General Conference with purpose.

4. Identify action items based on their counsel.

5. Obey.

President Monson stated at the conclusion of a recent General Conference:

“My beloved brothers and sisters, my heart is full and my feelings tender as we conclude this great general conference. We have been richly blessed as we have listened to the counsel and testimonies of those who have spoken to us. I believe we are all more determined to live the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ. May we long remember that which we have heard during this conference. I remind you that the messages will be printed in next month’s Ensign… I urge you to study the messages and to ponder their teachings and then to apply them in your life.”

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Resources to help your children prepare for and be active listeners during General Conference

The Church has provided this page with some print-outs and computer games to help children prepare for General Conference.

The following are all excellent references offered from Sugardoodle.net, including General Conference Activity Packets for all ages (When you click on them, you can download the documents and print them out.):

Youth Packet

Senior Primary Packet and Sticker Pages (print on sticker/label paper from Office Supply Store)

Junior Primary Packet

Primary Packet (compact 2-page)

Nursery Packet

Check out this Sugardoodle.net page for other General Conference ideas, coloring pages, snacks, activities, etc.

Here’s another site with a lot of packets, cards, and other resources.

This is an article that I helped author:  “Preparing Our Children for General Conference” It has some specific ideas of activities/games you can do with children (even small children) before, during, and after conference.

Here are also some great articles to help you get yourself and your children in the General Conference mindset:

Neil L. Andersen, “Teaching Our Children to Love the Prophets,”

Jeffrey R. Holland, “Prophets in the Land Again,”

Henry B. Eyring, “Safety in Counsel,”

Here’s to having your best General Conference experience ever.

Spring Break, General Conference Packets and other conference preparation strategies

UPDATE:  For anyone coming to this post looking for a packet for the upcoming conference, you can click here for more links.

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So I’m taking this whole “Spring Break” thing pretty literally and may be more absent here in the blog world for a couple weeks.  I’ll still pop in for General Conference Book Club stuff because (hello!) Conference is right around the corner and it’s one of my favorite parts of Springtime. (Psst, don’t tell anyone, but I might actually go to General Conference.  *squeal*)

In the meantime, I wanted to put up a few great tools to help out with General Conference Preparation.

For children and youth:

Melanie Day at Sugardoodle.com put together some really great packets for small children (mostly coloring), older children (both my kindergartener and 1st grader could do most of it), and for youth (I think adults could use it too!).  They are all specific to the 2010 Spring General Conference and are great for helping your children to pay attention and stay occupied during the talks.  You can find the packets by clicking on this link, then scroll down and download whatever version you want. (There are also several extra links to G.C. resources at the bottom of the page.)

Here’s another site with a lot of packets, cards, and other resources.

Finally, here is an article from the Ensign that I contributed to a while back:  “Preparing Our Children for General Conference.” I can honestly say that my children LOVE conference and look forward to it and usually surprise us with how much they do pay attention.  The article includes some games and activities that have worked smashingly for us in the past.  I hope you can find something helpful there.

For yourself:

This is a pattern I’ve tried to follow in the past, and I’ve learned that it makes my conference experience feel meaningful and personalized.  I’m going to try and start the process now.  Join me?  I’m sure you have some of your own strategies, so I’d love to hear your ideas too.

  1. Pray everyday that my mind and heart will be prepared for any specific message that the Lord wants me to know.
  2. Read my scriptures and/or recent conference talks every day to keep me in the habit of inviting and recognizing the Spirit.
  3. Think about questions I would like answers to, topics I find myself struggling with, and write them down. Include them specifically in my prayers as I do #1.

Happy preparing.  And happy Spring break.

General Conference Book Club Week 18: Elder Perry

Today in Sunday School, we talked about Noah, and how people lacked the faith to act on prophetic advice that would prepare them for dangers that were coming, dangers that they could not see nor anticipate.  The teacher made an analogy about his high school football days when the coach would have them watch game film of their upcoming opponent to prepare them to compete against them.  I thought about the analogy for a while and raised my hand (I’m one of those really annoying can’t-keep-my-mouth-shut kind of Sunday School participants):  “The game film is actually much like the scriptures.  It shows us patterns from the past and gives us the examples of what works and what does not.  A living prophet, then, would be like if the coach watched a film of what WILL happen and explains to the team exactly what should be practiced and prepared in order to meet the opponent and all that will occur.”  And I mentioned this talk that I only vaguely remembered, but now I want to study.

The talk is “The Past Way of Facing the Future” by Elder L. Tom Perry, from the Sunday morning session of the October 2009 conference.  He said, “The lessons of the past . . . prepare us to face the challenges of the future.” Upon reviewing the talk, it wasn’t quite what I had remembered, but he relates some specific accounts from the lives of pioneers and other historical events, and then harvests important lessons from them that we should learn and remember.  And as living apostle, sustained as a seer, he must speak of principles pertinent to our future.

You can read the talk herelisten to it here, or watch it here.  Visit here to learn more about General Conference Book Club.

Referring back to Noah, what things to you find in Elder Perry’s talk that would help us to build our own arks or be protected from the coming floods or calamities?