Today speakers for the general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are chosen from among the general authorities and general officers of the Church. Other Church members with significant influence are given other opportunities to address certain groups, but this happens in Face2Face chats, firesides or other venues. General conference is reserved for official Church leaders.
At least, it is now. But there was a time when Mormon “celebrities” were occasionally invited to speak in general conference sessions. Here are three names you may or may not remember who spoke in general conference without being called and set apart as a Church leader.
Just as the coach’s legendary 1984 football season was opening, then-BYU coach LaVell Edwards spoke in priesthood session on the topic of mission preparation. His talk, entitled “Prepare for a Mission,” specifically addressed the young men. He spoke about the question of whether mission service negatively affects athletic pursuits (“If an athlete could play well before he went on a mission, he will definitely play well when he returns”) and taught other principles.
He also drew parallels between lessons learned on the field and important life lessons. Read or watch his entire address here.
Six months later, Olympic gymnast Peter Vidmar addressed the young men in the April 1985 priesthood session. Vidmar had recently won two gold medals and a silver medal at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. His talk was called “Pursuing Excellence” and encouraged young men to develop the characteristics that lead to success in both athletics and in life. Read or watch his entire address here.
Don L. Lind
For the third priesthood session in a row, the Church invited a non-general authority to speak at general conference in October 1985. Don L. Lind, who in April 1985 rode the space shuttle Challenger into orbit to conduct a mission called Spacelab 3, spoke about his experience in his talk “The Heavens Declare the Glory of God.” He especially focused on the spiritual experiences he had on the trip, including taking in a view of Earth from space and taking the sacrament in orbit. Watch or read his entire address here.