Next week is a very exciting one for the entire LDS Church. Instead of going to the closest meetinghouse like we usually do each Sunday, we will be spending both Saturday and Sunday listening to a worldwide broadcast which will be based in Salt Lake City at the conference center. General conference is semi-annual, always occurring during the first week of April and the first week of October.
Sessions of general conference occur at 10:00 am and 2:00 pm on both Saturday and Sunday. Each session lasts for two hours, and consists of different speakers getting up and giving talks. Each session opens with a prayer, a song, and then there are speakers. A variety of men and women in different leadership positions in the Church get up and talk about a topic of their choice. Topics from last general conference include the sacred nature of the sacrament, the importance of praying always, and how to have a celestial marriage. In truth, they always talk about the same things, but it somehow ends up feeling new and revitalizing each time. There are always improvements I need to make in my life, and the leaders of the Church touch on them in their talks every single year.
When I was young, we used to put on our church clothes four different times over the weekend to visit the nearest meetinghouse for the session. Some families who didn’t want to travel or who weren’t able to might listen to it on the radio. Once my family purchased a satellite TV system we made sure to get the BYU TV channel in our package which enabled us to watch all four sessions in our pajamas (I love watching conference in my pajamas!). Modern technology has advanced so far, that now all sessions are available live via streaming internet broadcasts. With options including going to a meetinghouse, radio, TV, and internet, all families can find a way to watch conference no matter their circumstances.
My favorite way to watch general conference is in person at the conference center in Salt Lake City. I was blessed to have the opportunity to go up to Salt Lake three separate times during my time in Utah as a student at BYU. There are few feelings as wonderful as looking around to see thousands of people who believe the things that you do. And then I multiply that feeling many times over when I think of the many millions of people watching from their homes and meetinghouses all over the world.
I remember my mom making up little games to keep us entertained while we watched from home. She would put together bingo boards with key words that she knew would be included in the talks (temple, scriptures, prophet, Jesus Christ, salvation), and when we got five across we were able to eat the candy we used to mark the words on the bingo board. I always listened very closely to each session when we were playing this game because I wanted to eat some skittles!
Now that I am older (read: still without children so no excuse to make a bingo board and play), I will sit quetly next to my new husband on the couch as we watch the broadcast on the internet. In between sessions we will nap and eat lunch, and after it is all over we will talk about the things we have learned.
General Conference allows us to gather as a body of saints and listen to the leaders that we sustain. It is very rare that new doctrine is introduced during these sessions. Rather, doctrine is expounded upon. Changes to behavior are encouraged, with promises of great rewards to come for those who are obedient. Testimonies are born of the truthfulness of the Gospel and the reality of the Atonement and Resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Next week I’ll be posting reminders on both Saturday and Sunday about the live broadcasts for anyone who might be interested in tuning in to see what conference is like, for it will help you to see what our Church leaders talk to us about and how they do so. On Sunday I’ll also be posting a collection of photos from Flickr that will help you see what the experience of visiting general conference at the conference center in Salt Lake City is like. I wish I could go there myself this year and take the pictures in person, but that’s just not an option for us this year. Whether I am in the conference center or not though, the message is the same. And results only are seen as I apply the teachings of our leaders in my everyday life.
Does your faith have anything like General Conference?