Every six months during general conference, there are many talks and hymns that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can enjoy. There are moments that are deeply spiritual, and personal, for those who watch conference.
But there are some conference moments that are simply memorable and historic.
Here are five of those from past October conferences:
1. President Monson’s historic mission age change announcement (October, 2012)
During President Thomas S. Monson’s opening remarks in October 2012, he shared a story about how his mother wished he would have played the piano. Then he made a landmark announcement where the age for missionary service was changed from 19 to 18 for young men and 21 to 19 for young women.
“We affirm that missionary work is a priesthood duty — and we encourage all young men who are worthy and who are physically able and mentally capable to respond to the call to serve. Many young women also serve, but they are not under the same mandate to serve as are the young men. We assure the young sisters of the Church, however, that they make a valuable contribution as missionaries, and we welcome their service.”
When President Monson announced the lowering of the ages for missionaries, there were audible gasps throughout the conference center — and wherever conference was watched.
2. President Hinckley announces U.S.-led bombing weeks after 9-11 and offers counsel (October 2001)
General conference was held just weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. In his Sunday morning address, President Hinckley informed conference-goers and watchers that he had “just been handed a note that says that a U.S. missile attack is under way. I need not remind you that we live in perilous times.”
President Hinckley continued to talk about his invitation to meet with the United States president at the White House along with other national religious leaders. In speaking of the meeting, President Hinckley shared how the president was frank in speech as was the president when assuring Congress that he would “hunt down the terrorists.”
“Now we are at war,” President Hinckley said in his talk. “Great forces have been mobilized and will continue to be. Political alliances are being forged. We do not know how long this conflict will last. We do not know what it will cost in lives and treasure. We do not know the manner in which it will be carried out. It could impact the work of the Church in various ways.”
Later, President Hinckley, as was his wont, closed his talk with a tone of optimism and hope and counseled members of the Church to be obedient.
“Now, brothers and sisters, we must do our duty, whatever that duty might be. Peace may be denied for a season. Some of our liberties may be curtailed. We may be inconvenienced. We may even be called on to suffer in one way or another. But God our Eternal Father will watch over this nation and all of the civilized world who look to Him. He has declared, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Ps. 33:12). Our safety lies in repentance. Our strength comes of obedience to the commandments of God.
“Let us be prayerful. Let us pray for righteousness. Let us pray for the forces of good. Let us reach out to help men and women of goodwill, whatever their religious persuasion and wherever they live. Let us stand firm against evil, both at home and abroad. Let us live worthy of the blessings of heaven, reforming our lives where necessary and looking to Him, the Father of us all. He has said, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10).
3. LaVell Edwards speaks during Priesthood Session (October, 1984)
Legendary BYU coach LaVell Edwards gave an address during the Priesthood Session in October 1984. Earlier in the day, Edwards’ team had defeated Colorado State, 52–9, in Fort Collins, then he took a charter flight to Salt Lake City, arriving just before the Priesthood session.
It came during BYU’s eventual national championship season, as the Cougars were climbing the polls. Edwards’ topic that night was missionary service, as he encouraged young men to prepare to serve a full-time mission.
“I would like to pose one or two points for your consideration, particularly to you young brethren. First, will going on a full-time mission have an adverse effect on a future athletic career? When I started coaching at BYU in 1962, there was a prevailing attitude that missions and football did not mix. As a result, very few players went on missions and returned to play the game, the feeling being that a young man could not go into the mission field, preach love for two years and return with the desire to play a physical contact sport such as football. Many felt there would be a loss of coordination, specific techniques, and the strength and the conditioning necessary to perform at a high level of competency required for major college athletics. This attitude prevailed until our beloved prophet, President Kimball, proclaimed that every man of missionary age should prepare himself for a mission. As a result of this proclamation, many more of our athletes started going on missions. It has been our experience that if a young man decides to go on a mission, he cannot only play well when he returns, he will often play better.
“If I could draw one general conclusion, it would be that if an athlete could play well before he went on a mission, he will definitely play well when he returns; and, if an athlete could not play well before his mission, he probably won’t play well when he returns. However, his chances of playing well are perhaps better if he goes because he will return with a greater understanding of himself, greater leadership capabilities, better work habits, and a better knowledge of what it takes to be successful. It really depends on the young man’s desire, commitment, work habits, and how important it is to him when he returns. This year alone we have fifty-two returned missionaries on our football team. I suspect that these traits — desire, commitment, and good work habits — are important in all facets of our lives, brethren.”
4. President Hinckley reads transcript of Mike Wallace interview (October, 1996)
In 1996, CBS’ news program, “60 Minutes,” investigated the beliefs, and the impact, of the LDS Church.
The following October, in his address in Priesthood Session, President Hinckley read a transcript of his interview with hardscrabble “60 Minutes” reporter Mike Wallace.
“I developed a deep respect for Mr. Wallace. He is a very able professional. He was courteous, respectful, incisive in his questions, one who might be described as a tough, streetwise reporter with long experience, but a gentleman in the best sense of the word. I first met him at a luncheon at the Harvard Club in New York about a year ago. He then came to Salt Lake City on two different occasions and interviewed me at great length in my office. I have thought this evening to read parts of those interviews as they were recorded — his questions and my extemporaneous answers just as they were given and without editing except to delete areas in the interest of time and add in brackets an occasional needed word. I do so in the spirit of reaffirming the position of this Church on a number of different and significant matters of general concern. For the most part, this is from the material not used in the broadcast.”
Here’s a sample from the transcript read by President Hinckley:
Mr. Wallace: “Why is it that Mormons apparently have so many children?”
Reply: “We don’t dictate family size. That is left to the father and the mother, the husband and wife. And we expect them to make of this the most serious business of their lives, the rearing of the family. …”
Next question: “There are those who say that Mormonism began as a cult. You don’t like to hear that.”
Response: “I don’t know what that means, really. But if it has negative connotations, I don’t accept it as applying to this Church. People may have applied it; they may have applied it in the early days. But look, here is this great Church now. There are only six churches in America with more members than this Church. We are the second church in membership in the state of California. We are reaching out across the world. We are in more than 150 nations. This is a great, strong, viable organization with a tremendous outreach. … You will find our people in business institutions, high in educational circles, in politics, in government, in whatever. We are [rather] ordinary people trying to do an extraordinary work.”
Mr. Wallace: “It’s expensive to be a Mormon.”
Answer: “Oh, it isn’t expensive. We are living by the law of the Lord — tithing.”
5. President Benson removes his coat before his landmark talk “To the Fathers of Israel.” (October, 1987)
As President Ezra Taft Benson stepped to the podium for Priesthood session in October 1987, he removed his coat, much to the bemusement of the congregation. That night, President Benson shared:
“Fathers, yours is an eternal calling from which you are never released. Callings in the Church, as important as they are, by their very nature are only for a period of time, and then an appropriate release takes place. But a father’s calling is eternal, and its importance transcends time. It is a calling for both time and eternity. … In a home where there is an able-bodied husband, he is expected to be the breadwinner. Sometimes we hear of husbands who, because of economic conditions, have lost their jobs and expect the wives to go out of the home and work, even though the husband is still capable of providing for his family. In these cases, we urge the husband to do all in his power to allow his wife to remain in the home caring for the children while he continues to provide for his family the best he can, even though the job he is able to secure may not be ideal and family budgeting may have to be tighter. Also, the need for education or material things does not justify the postponing of children in order to keep the wife working as the breadwinner of the family.”