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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The What Why and How of General Conference

Taught by Jeaneen M.

I was introduced to the author Chaim Potok in Jr. High. I instantly fell in love with the book "The Chosen" and continued to read other books written by this author. I was always fascinated with the Jews and their study of the Talmud.  Hours of a school day were devoted to studying this scripture.  I wondered back then and I still wonder today what Mormons would be like if they studied the gospel with the same fervor as the characters in his books.

One thing that sets us apart from other religions is the practice of holding a General Conference twice a year.  In Elder Hales' October conference talk, he refers to this as being the Lord's conference. (see Doctrine and Covenants 124:88)

There are many scriptural references to conference where the Lord's prophets gathered his people. (Adam, Moses, Jesus, Paul, Peter, King Benjamin) In Latter-days the first one was held in June 1830 with 27 members.  It has been held semi-annually since 1840 with a few exceptions such as WW 2 when travel was restricted.

What is your earliest memory of conference?  Have you had an unusual experience watching conference (such as watching in a different country, etc.)?

Why do you think we have conference?  See Ephesians 4:11-13.  So we can be perfected, unified in faith, come to a knowledge of the Son of God and to be edified.  To be edified means to be built.  Each person has capacity for growth and potential to reach perfection. The Church as a whole is also being built.

I found it interesting that Elder Hales says they are not assigned a topic, but they fast, pray for weeks even months, to know what the Lord would have them say.  He was the first speaker after Pres. Monson welcomed us.  His talk prepared us to listen to conference with a desire to strengthen our faith and testimony.

Elder Packer gave an address at BYU where he explained that we all have a tendency to resist instruction.  We are more ready to say after a sermon, "I wish Sister so-and-so were here, she really needed to hear that." He then describes the scene of the Last Super where Christ says that one of them will betray him.  The disciples asked, Lord, is it I? (Matthew 26:22)  He then pleads with us to overrule the tendency to resist and ask, "Is it I/, should I take this counsel to heart and act upon it?"

Often there are experiences where people feel that a specific talk was meant just for them.  In April of 2007, just three months after my father passed away, President Monson said, "through tears and trials, through fears and sorrows, through the heartache and loneliness of losing loved ones, there is assurance that life is everlasting.  Our Lord and Savior is the living witness that such is so."  This brought comfort to my mother who had been living in a daze for 3 month.  She needed to hear those words and I was grateful they were said.

Elder Hales said, "What is said is not as important as what we hear and what we feel.  That is why we make an effort to experience conference in a setting where the still, small voice of the Spirit can be clearly heard, felt, and understood.

Oh, how we need General Conference!  Through conferences our faith is fortified and our testimonies deepened.  And when we are converted, we strengthen each other to stand strong amid the fiery darts of these last days."

What traditions do you have that help your families feel what is being said?  A few years ago, we started going on Conference hikes in October.  We listened as we walked and there are certain talks or songs that I can still picture where we were on the trail.  What a gorgeous setting to be in to hear the words of the prophets!

There are many challenges as to the HOW of watching conference.  It is easier than ever to watch talks from places other than home.  We can watch and listen to them shortly after conference is over.

President Harold B. Lee taught:  "The only safety we have as members of this church is to... give heed to the words and commandments that the Lord shall give through His prophet.  There will be some things that take patience and faith.  You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church.   It may contradict your (personal) views.  It may contradict your social views.  It may interfere with some of your social life.  But if you listen to these things, as if from the mouth of the Lord Himself, with patience and faith, the promise is that "the gates of hell shall not prevail against you;... and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name's glory"  The only safety we have is to give heed to the words of the prophet?  That sounds so simple.  Who doesn't want to be safe?

In 3rd Nephi 17:3 Christ tells the people to go home and ponder.  Elder Hales issued the same challenge to us, "We accept the Savior's invitation when we ponder and pray to understand what we have been taught and then go forward and do His will."

"The greatest blessings of general conference come to us after the conference is over.  Remember the pattern recorded frequently in scripture: we gather to hear the words of the Lord, and we return to our homes to live them."

"In addition to inviting us to hold personal and family scripture study, Heavenly father wants us to regularly study and apply what we have learned in conference.  I testify that those who put their trust in the Lord and heed this counsel in faith will gain great strength to bless themselves and their families for generations to come."

Please accept this challenge by creating your own personal Conference commitment.  Do something between now and the next conference that is just a little more than you usually do.  Some ideas are: Use the online resources, listen to, re-read, use talks in Family Home Evening, come prepared to Relief Society having already read the talk we will discuss, read the footnotes or choose one talk to read several times as you try to improve and edify yourself.  I will have a box each month where you can write your name to say that you accepted and fulfilled this challenge.   You can also e-mail me.  You do not have to share what you did (unless you want to), I just need your name.

"Human beings do not live forever, Reuven.  We live less than the time it takes to blink an eye, if we measure our lives against eternity.  A span of life is nothing.  But the man who lives that span, he is something.  It is hard work to fill one's life with meaning.  A life filled with meaning is worthy of rest.  I want to be worthy of rest when I am no longer here." - Chaim Potok, The Chosen

Let's make meaning in our lives by making a Conference commitment to be just a little closer to finding rest and peace in the 
Gospel of Jesus Christ.

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