Every month priesthood and Relief Society lessons spend one Sunday discussing one or more conference talks. 

Teaching a lesson using a conference talk is challenging.  First, it requires careful study to get a sense of the theme and the important points used to build the message.  Second, there is hardly any supporting material or teaching suggestions available anywhere online or offline to help teachers because the talks are so new.  So….third, it requires the teacher to receive revelation as to the best way to approach the talk so as to invite the Spirit and promote learning and encourage participation. 

Usually if we look online hoping to find supporting material for conference talks, what we find is one of two things:
1)   Someone blogs, “This talk is awesome!  Here’s a link to it!” and doesn’t share their own thoughts.
2)   Someone blogs, “This talk is awesome!  Here’s my favorite part of it!” and then quotes that part and links to the talk, but doesn’t spend much time actually engaging with the quote to share what they think and feel and any experiences they’ve had with it.

So, I thought I’d share some methods I personally use to study conference talks.  So far I’ve found 15 methods that help me.   

If you need ideas for how to study conference talks to formulate and teach lessons, you can try these methods and start making progress more quickly.

1.  Decide what the main theme of the talk is.  It may seem obvious, but for some talks this is harder to do than with others.  The theme may or may not be the same as its title.  Take apart the talk to see what pieces were used to build up the main theme.   Can you tell why each piece was included?  Was there anything left out?   Understanding the pieces will help you know what parts are most important to focus on in your lesson and even the order they should be discussed.

2.  Look at stories, analogies, and extended metaphors.  They are often the most memorable part of talks and have lessons attached them.  Some lessons may be stated right out, but some may be only implied.  Try to squeeze every drop of insight you can get by pondering implications besides the obvious.  Take notes of everything you find so you can remember it.   Can you find all the ways that the stories or analogies illustrate lessons about the main theme?

3.  Think about what experiences you have with the topic and what personal stories you can share.  Sharing your own experiences will make the topic further come alive for your class and give you an opportunity to testify of truths.  Ask your class if they have personal experiences they can share about the truths in the talk.

4.  Think about what personal hang-ups you may have with the talk or the talk’s topic and why.  Teaching something you are challenged by is an opportunity to grow as you grapple with it and become reconciled with it.  Humble yourself and seek revelation.  Repent and recommit yourself as necessary.  Seek other study material on the topic.  Sharing your experience of struggle and enlightenment with the class will make your lesson all the more powerful.

5.  Notice where you have personal questions about what is in the talk.  Share these questions with your class and invite them to give answers.  Sincere questions will wake them up and they will be happy to help.

6.  Look at the parts of the talk that bore you.  (Yes, occasionally they seem boring, and that usually represents an area where there is opportunity for growth, even though it seems like the opposite.)  Try to figure out why you are bored by them.   Is it the language?  How would you have expressed the same idea in a better way?   Is the speaker trying to transition to another point of emphasis?  If the topic bores you, think about why.  Is there something you can do to help it become more interesting?   Why might the speaker have been interested in it?  What makes the topic important?  How might the church or life be impacted if nothing about this topic was ever known by anyone?

7.  Think about what concerns or trials or temptations the talk is meant to address.   List them. Look for how the talk addresses them.  This will give you insight into the trials people in your class may face and helps you understand how the talk is going to be helpful to them. 

8.  How does the talk draw a distinction between things of the world and the things of God?  Are any false doctrines skewered?  If so, what ones and how?  Are lines drawn between good and evil that weren’t understood before?  What evils can be discerned and avoided now because this talk was given?   This is also a good question to ask your class. 

9.  Look for processes shared or explained.  Processes help us know what we can expect as we progress spiritually.   See if your class can come up with the steps in the process that are covered in the talk.  See if your class understands why the order is what it is.

10.  Look for lists.   Write in numbers so you can identify parts of the list.  Why are those things part of the list?  Was anything left out?  Was anything on the list unnecessary?  Can people in the class explain each item on the list and why it is important?

11.  Look for prophecy of future challenges that the Saints may face.  Sometimes it seems like the talk doesn’t have much to do with present problems, which means it may be given ahead of when it is needed.   Can you imagine future problems that might be addressed by the talk?  What kind of spiritual preparation does the talk advise?

12.  Look for hidden mysteries of godliness.  Is there anything that seems counterintuitive or shows deep insight? 

13.  Look for the power quotes.  Power quotes are those parts of a talk that distill a large amount of truth and doctrine down into a very small space with firm and vivid language.   They are the parts that resonate strongly.  They are the parts you will be drawn to.  Think about what you like about these quotes and why.    Using these quotes in your lesson provides opportunities for your class to share what they think and feel about them. 

14.  Look for action items.  What does the talk say we should do?  How should we change?   Is the change or commandment simple or complex?   Are there many ways to do it or one way?   The more general the commandment, the more ways there are of keeping it.  Give your class opportunities to share how they try to keep the commandments and how they organize their lives to make it easier to do so.

15.  Look for promises given.  What is promised and what must be done to obtain those promises?   You can ask your class to imagine how their life would be improved if they could obtain those promises.  You can also ask individuals in the class to share how they were blessed when they saw those promises fulfilled in her lives.  This helps motivate others to exercise their faith to obtain those blessings themselves.

Maybe you have additional ways you study general conference talks to prepare lessons.  If so, will you share them? 

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