As I've been listening to conference again during my daily commute, I've been impressed by the talks of many of the Seventy. I really enjoy General Conference as a rule, and like many, I have some speakers I typically like more than others.
Through the years I've had more than one opportunity to be the person who selected themes for Sacrament Meetings, and for years I followed the common model to invite people to start with a conference talk in preparing their own. (In fairness, I assigned a topic with a conference talk as a reference, not a talk as topic.)
There are great apostolic talks that I still remember through the years. In October 2000, Elder Hales gave what I still consider to be The Talk on Baptism. Elder Oaks gave a talk on the sacrament in April 1985 that teaches clear truths about taking the name of Christ upon ourselves . Elder Holland's "None Were With Him" provided eloquent comfort for all who stand alone at one time or another in their lives.
Those apostolic sermons are impressive and teach us a great deal. But I think the talks of the Seventy are great models for us as we prepare our own talks. Typically they are shorter – about 10 minutes in length. (Even the apostles speak only for about 15 minutes these days, with members of the First Presidency only taking a little longer.) Often they are focused on one theme, idea or concept. They often include scriptural foundation, teaching of the modern prophets and personal experience to illustrate the point.
For instance, from this conference:
Elder Gong's talk about temple mirrors, family history and temple covenants drew on his own Chinese ancestry, his mother's convert experience, and his own reflections on his family.
Elder Kearon's talk to young men in the priesthood session (and its message easily adapted to all members) spoke of his own boyhood error of disobeying his parents out of laziness and rebellion and the positive scriptural example of the Anti Nephi-Lehis who had buried their weapons of war and rebellion.
Elder Oceda told a story of a father who learned a lesson of humilty after behaving badly with his family regarding family scripture reading.
Elder Jensen's personal story of seeking his testimony as a missionary led to a discussion of the role of the Holy Ghost and his personal story of the loss of a grandson while Elder and Sister Jenser were serving out of the country reinforced his quoted teaching of President Monson regarding the Holy Ghost's role as comforter.
Elder Lawrence used his own experience – as well as Alma's -- to teach about parenting teenagers.
Elder Malm used the object lesson of a hollow tree in Gothenburg, Sweden as a contrast to the healthy path of accepting the blessings of the atonement in our lives through obedience to commandments and the sustaining influence of the spirit.
Elder Mazzagardi's account of his interview with his granddaughter while walking around a lake prior to her baptism allowed him to teach us the dangers of the influence of the adversary.
Elder Arnold's story of his wife's "stupid cow" will help us to remember the value of fences to protect us in our lives.
As I think about future assignments to speak, I'll remember these examples of teaching from personal experience, from the scriptures and from the words of the living prophets.