As a kid, most of the General Conferences talks didn’t make much of an impression on me. I was sitting in the pews listening, but I was also a kid with a short attention span. Beyond feeling a sense of reverence for the guys on the screen, most of the talks went in one ear and out the other.
But there was one exception. One year, I heard a talk about people who leave the church. The speaker described people who left as being led astray by Satan, fallen into the depths of immorality. He told us that people who left were angry and deluded. Deep down they knew the Church was true and so, locked in the throes of Satan, were trying their best to tear the Church apart.
I was terrified. My dreams that night featured an army of people seeking to tear my family apart. The talk left an emotional imprint on my mind that lingered for years as I grew up and began navigating my religious identity.
About a year ago, I started wondering about this talk that had left such an impression on a little girl. I started combing through the LDS archives, searching for the talk that had struck so much fear in my mind.
Locating the talk took a long time. I was searching during the years when I would have been between 6 and 10 years of age. I kept searching, trying to find this talk but nothing seemed to fit my memories. Then I started searching the earlier years; that was when I finally yielded results.
If I am correct, I heard this talk in April 1989. I would have been four years old at the time. The talk was titled “Follow The Prophet” and given by Glenn L. Pace. I have included excerpts of his talk.
“The second category of critics is former members who have become disenchanted with the Church but who are obsessed with making vicious and vile attacks upon it [...]
[...] In addition to attacking our sacred beliefs, some former members speak evil of the Brethren [...]
[...] It seems that history continues to teach us: You can leave the Church, but you can’t leave it alone. The basic reason for this is simple. Once someone has received a witness of the Spirit and accepted it, he leaves neutral ground. One loses his testimony only by listening to the promptings of the evil one, and Satan’s goal is not complete when a person leaves the Church, but when he comes out in open rebellion against it.”
Sometimes I wish I could go back in time. If I could, I would walk into the darkened church of that General Conference. I would sit next to the girl with the ragged blonde hair, wearing threadbare hand-me-downs. I would put my arms around her and tell her that everything will be all-right. That I know what she is going through, that I know what she will go through in the future. That the road ahead of her will be long and winding and hard but that she will come out the other end a stronger, more resolute woman. She will become her own person; not the woman that others expect her to be but the woman that she truly is.
Link to referenced talk: http://www.lds.org/general-conference/1989/04/follow-the-prophet?lang=eng