There's a surprisingly prevalent view within the Church that at General Conference we should listen carefully for what we need to hear. This approach is generally presented as a form of personal revelation: if you listen closely, you will discern what God wants you to hear. That really isn't much different from a cafeteria approach to Conference: listen for what you want to hear; ignore the rest. Brethren, turn off the TV and go do your home teaching ... no, that's not it. You should be reading your scriptures daily ... no, that's not it. Let me tell you a story about when I played basketball in college ... yes, that's it! That's the piece of Conference that I'm supposed to listen to!
Why is the cafeteria approach to Conference so popular in the Church? It's certainly not how we approach most gospel topics. Here is Elder Nelson in his April 2011 talk "Face the Future with Faith":
Teach [your children] of faith to keep all the commandments of God, knowing that they are given to bless His children and bring them joy. Warn them that they will encounter people who pick which commandments they will keep and ignore others that they choose to break. I call this the cafeteria approach to obedience. This practice of picking and choosing will not work. It will lead to misery. To prepare to meet God, one keeps all of His commandments. It takes faith to obey them, and keeping His commandments will strengthen that faith. (emphasis added)
In line with that sort of counsel, what you would expect to hear locally would be: listen carefully to *all* the talks that are given and apply them to yourselves and your families. Inviting people to pick and choose from what they hear is just a variation on what Elder Nelson calls cafeteria obedience. Maybe listening to everything attentively would be easier if Conference wasn't ten hours long. Or if they weren't saying the same thing over and over. Or if they mixed in some video segments. Maybe get one of those highly entertaining Especially For Youth speakers on the program. Let's hear from Steve Young or Brandon Flowers or Elder Archuleta. Alas, I am a blogger, and do sin in my wish; for I ought to be content with the things which the Lord hath allotted unto us in Conference.
Still, I'm going to do some winnowing. I'm going to focus on three apostles: Elder Christofferson, Elder Oaks, and Elder Holland. [And of course Elder Steven Snow, the new Church Historian, should he be one of the speakers.] I'm thinking that reading the prior talks of a particular apostle should add meaning and insight to the current talk, much like one's understanding of one of Paul's epistles is increased by consulting his other authentic letters. LDS.org makes that relatively easy by listing a bio and all prior Conference talks for each General Authority (see the links above).
Maybe I'll do a post or two on the above-named speakers — I really hate open threads. And there is nothing like planning a post to make you listen carefully to a speaker.