Another weekend of general conference has come and gone. With the latest messages from Church leaders at the top of our minds, here is one way to study that can help add focus and spiritual direction so that conference is more than a weekend, it’s a 6-month event in our hearts.
In May of 2021, Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, asked this question on his Instagram account: “From your study this past month, what have you learned about the principles highlighted in the April  general conference talks?”
Elder Bednar’s insightful question comes from his own personal commitment to taking to heart the words of the prophets and his desire to follow their council. And that dedication has led to a very specific study pattern when he revisits the messages of general conference. He explained in a Church News podcast interview that when he was young, at the end of general conference, Spencer W. Kimball, “would say something akin to, ‘We should all make the record of this conference our walk and our talk for the next six months.’” Elder Bednar explains, “I would take a sheet of paper, and I would have three columns. And I would take the talks, and I just tried to summarize and identify those things. And that, in essence, became my walk and talk for the next six months.”
In his Instagram post, Elder Bednar shares his three-part pattern for general conference study, a doable and maintainable pattern we each can follow. He wrote, “For me personally, my study has focused on the doctrines and principles, the invitations to act, and the promised blessings taught in the messages.”
These three points of focus—doctrines and principles taught, invitations to act, and promised blessings—provide simple directions that can help make conference study a more spiritually enlightening personal experience. Elder Bednar said, “Faith in the Savior is a principle of action and of power.” Following this pattern provides a clear path for how to act on faith from the study of general conference.
To help illustrate how this study pattern works, Elder Bednar explains what he found in President Russell M. Nelson’s message, “Christ Is Risen: Faith in Him Will Move Mountains.” He shares, “[President Nelson], taught that our faith unlocks the power of God in our lives. He then invited us to start immediately to increase our faith in Jesus Christ and gave wise counsel on how to access the power available to us. President Nelson testified and promised that with faith in Him, we can move the mountains in our lives.”
In preparation for my personal study of the October 2023 general conference messages, I looked at a few talks from the April 2023 general conference with this study pattern in mind. This method of study offers clear directions on how I can read the talks with a specific focus. This in turn helps me feel more in tune with the messages of the Spirit I might receive while revisiting a particular address.
Here is how I used Elder Bednar’s pattern in my study of Sister Bonnie H. Cordon’s message, “Never Give Up an Opportunity to Testify of Christ.”
To help me understand the “doctrine taught,” I highlighted this section from Sister Cordon’s message: “Are we as anxious to witness for ourselves as the multitudes in the scriptures? Are the blessings we seek less needful than theirs?” For me, I felt that the doctrine to testify of the Savior, also mentioned in the title, was what I needed to focus on from this message and it became the starting point for my personal questions and notes.
The invitation I felt I needed from Sister Cordon’s words came from this question she posed: “How can we draw close enough to gain a personal witness of Jesus Christ?” And one of the promised blessings I found if I followed this doctrine and acted on the invitation was, “We can experience His power every day! As much as we need!”
While I consider myself a pen-to-paper person and often take copious notes during conference, I end up using my phone a lot for more regular gospel study because I almost always have my phone with me, which means my scriptures and conference messages are usually with me, too. For this pattern of study, I found it helpful to use the “Notes” and “Tags” features in the Gospel Library app, and I took advantage of being able to highlight in different colors as I read, one for each of the three study pattern points.
Of this study pattern Elder Bednar explains, “This is not an educational exercise. This is something where you can be tutored by the Holy Ghost. It’s just making a connection. And what you begin to see is that if I understand this truth, if I act in this way, then God has promised these blessings.”
How will you study the messages to make general conference a 6-month event in your life?
Journals will begin shipping in November.