Photo Courtesy, LDS Media Library
A returned missionary once told me about an experience he had with general conference. His mission president had recently returned from the mission field and held a mission reunion right before general conference. His words to the missionaries were inspiring and helpful, but my RM friend said that one piece of advice stuck out to him. His president had said: “Do not leave the room or change the channel, don’t fall asleep or distract yourself, don’t cease to pay attention in any way. Exactly what you need to hear will most likely be the most difficult thing to listen to. The adversary will greatly tempt you to leave, stop listening, turn off the message, or change the channel. But don’t you do it.”
This returned missionary confidently stated that he did not expect this to be a challenge for him, but this was just the Friday before general conference. He continues in his own words;
“Saturday night, an amazing young woman abruptly and unexpectedly ended a relationship with me that I had very high hopes for. I went to sleep that night very frustrated, confused, and bitter. I felt I had been doing everything exactly as I was supposed to in God’s eyes, and was confused why I needed to go through this frustration during one of the most difficult academic semesters of my life. Sunday morning, President Eyring began his message by directing it towards those earnestly seeking happy and spiritually founded eternal families. I was watching conference completely alone in my apartment, the breakup from the night before leaving my conference plans cancelled.
“I got up and left the room, not wanting to hear the relationship advice that came merely ten hours too late. Then I laughed at myself, remembered my Mission Presidents advice to not change the channel, and went back and finished listening. President Eyring focused on the two great commandments, to love God with all thy heart, might, mind and strength and to love thy neighbor as thyself. As I listened, I realized how inwardly focused my frustrations were and I received the comfort I needed.”
This young man’s story really struck a chord with me. Am I missing out on important revelation when I allow myself to get distracted? I thought. This led me to wonder what I could be doing to hinder spiritual experiences during conference.
Here are just a few ways I have been tempted to justify my casualness during general conference and how you can avoid falling into the same traps.
“I want to sit down and focus on conference, but I can only think about all the things I need to get done.”
Life can make us crazy sometimes. There is often a lot demanded of us, but it is important to make our spiritual well-being a priority. Conference time can be a very sacred time for you and bless you in every facet of your life. It is important that you prepare beforehand to make your experience unforgettable. Get major projects done before conference or set aside a time to accomplish those projects after conference is over. Clean your home. A clean and organized space does wonders in inviting the spirit. Try to create an environment where the spirit can teach you and your family. You won’t have a sink full of dishes nag you while you are trying to listen. Don’t plan on working on projects or chores during the sessions. Instead, plan on being spiritually fed.
“I have to work during general conference.”
Work is sometimes a necessary thing and can’t be avoided. But isn’t it great to know that general conference comes the same time every year! Try to arrange your work schedule to allow you to participate those two days. Use one of your sick days if you must, I promise it will be worth it. If work is absolutely unavoidable, talk to your boss and co-workers and see if they wouldn’t mind listening to conference during work. It may seem awkward to ask if you could listen while at work, but you will be setting a powerful example and you will be blessed for your diligence.
“I always fall asleep during conference talks.”
In many places, we are blessed with the opportunity to watch conference from the comfort of our own homes. Many members take advantage of this by sleeping in and dressing as comfortably as possible. While comfort is important, when wearing pajamas, sleep is sure to follow. Try this instead: you and your family can dress in church attire to watch conference at home. Think about it. You’d be showing the Lord that you’re ready for spiritual nourishment, you’d put on an attitude of learning, and your brain would be less inclined to think it’s bed time. For those of you who fall asleep on the pew or the couch, take it from this narcoleptic: mints and chewing gum are your best friends. If you are truly determined to stay awake, prepare beforehand and get a good night’s sleep. Don’t sleep through your spiritual rescue! There is so much revelation that God wants you to have, so make the effort and the Lord will bless you with alertness.
“I know I should look for questions to ask before conference, but I can never think of good questions.”
Answers to questions don’t have to be the only thing you look for when watching conference. You could choose an interesting gospel study topic you’ve had on your mind and see what the prophets have to say about it. If you are struggling to find the right questions to ask, pray and ask Heavenly Father what you should be asking. Ask Him what you should be looking for as you watch conference, and He will let you know.
“I can always read the talks later.”
It is one of the Church’s highest priorities to make conference talks as accessible as possible as fast as possible. With the amazing advances in technology, we have access to almost every general conference ever given in a variety of different formats. With the talks being this accessible, it is easy for members to justify not watching conference and going out to do other things. But there is so much power that comes when you show the Lord you are going to make conference time a holy time. The talks are available for us afterward to re-read and to receive additional guidance, but there is nothing that can compare with the revelation you will receive when you are prepared and actively listening to our leaders and prophets today.
Don’t let the adversary trap you in these pitfalls. You have the resources and the motivation to escape these excuses and make your General Conference experience different and more edifying than ever. Remember, exactly what you need to hear will most likely be the most difficult thing to listen to. So listen carefully, and the Lord will shower you with His blessings.