Friday, September 30, 2016

Ways to make the best of General Conference

On October 1, 2016 through October 2, 2016 members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will gather, whether in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, Utah or their own living rooms, to watch the 186th semi-annual General Conference. When doing so, they will have the opportunity to sustain their leaders and receive counsel from them.

Because conference is a regular occurrence, it has the possibility to become boring, redundant, or not as inspiring as it should be. While not every speaker at Conference will be as inspiring as Winston Churchill, members should if nothing else leave the last session with their spirits raised and their vision a little brighter. Allow me to share 3 brief thoughts about how to do this, though there are many others.

1. Prepare

The late President Boyd K. Packer (who was my favorite conference speaker for years) many years ago when he was a member of the now discontinued Assistants to the Quorum of the Twelve said this of General Conference:
"What we say in Conference will not matter as much as the preparation that you make for our message.
When things become regular, we sometimes look beyond the mark and think that we don't have a duty in the matter. General Conference, like scripture study, temple worship, and prayer, is an opportunity to receive revelation. But, revelation cannot come if we are not prepared to receive it. In order to prepare, it would be wise to have a prayerful attitude, as well as questions that need answering, and listening to the speakers as though they were an oracle, because they are.

2. Understanding

General Conference is not simply a time that we can consume information, it also a time of commitment and re-commitment. This is one of 4 times during the year (ward conferences being the other) that we will be able to sustain President Thomas S. Monson, the other general authorities, and general officers of the Church. If you have been doing this your whole life you may shrug and say "Yeah, so what?" Keep in mind that sustaining means to hold or lift another up; it is not primarily about you. These men and women, whether you always agree with their decisions, work countless hours to see the Lord's work succeed and your raised hands make all the difference in the world to them.

A word of caution for those who choose not to sustain. That is your privilege, but if you are in the Conference Center, simply raise your hand when asked if you do not support a motion; there is no reason to classless and tacky.

3. Remember

Elder Jeffery R. Holland in a recent message reminded us that not every message in General Conference will be directly applicable to us. I will go a little further. It may be the case that most of General Conference may not be for you, but keep in mind that what these men and women say may be useful to you later. As Elder David A. Bednar often says, "Scriptures do not change, but we do." My friend the late Joseph F. McConkie said in his book Answers: Straightforward Answers to Tough Gospel Questions that while not every word that is uttered in Conference can be counted as scripture, much of it can. Reverence these talks as sacred, even if they don't matter much to you... yet.

Also, keep in mind that while a majority of talks may not matter to you, they probably do for someone else. The Church has over 15 million members and have that many if not more problems; Conference combined is only around 12 hours. Not everyone will have their issue addressed, but that does not mean that we cannot learn from what these people are saying, regardless of whether or not it applies to us in that moment.

Hopefully these suggestions have been of some help to someone, and I hope that everyone enjoys the upcoming Conference. Can't wait to hear what the speakers will say, as well as see all the Conference memes on Facebook.


  1. Wonderful article and great ideas. I will use them. Thanks for sharing.