Last weekend was my church's semi-annual General Conference. General Conference was a hugely uplifting and motivating event for me this year. I'd like to spend a few posts sharing and discussing my feelings about some of the talks that were given during this marvelous weekend.
For those not familiar with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, General Conference is held on the first weekend of April and October each year. There are five 2-hour sessions: Saturday Morning, Saturday Afternoon, Saturday Evening Priesthood Session (for men and boys age 12 and up), Sunday Morning, and Sunday Afternoon. On the last Saturday of September is the General Relief Society Meeting for women, and the last Saturday of March is the Young Women General Meeting for girls age 12 and up and their mothers and leaders.
Each session is filled with music and inspirational talks chosen from among the Church's general authorities. For members of the church, it is a time to listen to our living prophets and hear God's specific instructions through them.
General Conference (GC for short - since I'm lazy) is like a buffet for me; I tend to pick and choose from the talks that are most interesting and personally relevant. Over the years I have come to realize that what I get out of GC is directly related to my spiritual preparation for it. If I am praying and studying the scriptures, I have a much more fulfilling and positive experience with GC than if I am just coasting along, neglecting those very most basic principles that invite tutoring by the Holy Ghost.
Last April, GC was kind of a been-there-done-that event. I wasn't reading scriptures or praying regularly (more on that later), and therefore wasn't really prepared for the feast that was available to me. All the talks sounded much the same; just more humdrum "do better" and "beware the world" ... frankly I don't remember much. I watched because A) we always watch/listen, and B) it was the first GC since President Hinckley had died and we had a new President to sustain. I remember feeling neutral about President Monson, nothing particularly critical, but nothing amazing either. I had long since gained a testimony of the succession of prophets, and it didn't particularly bother me that I didn't have a huge Witness that Thomas S. Monson was now the Lord's Prophet, Seer, and Revelator for the entire church. It was no surprise, therefore why would I need a witness?
I remember being somewhat interested in some of the talks, bored by most, and downright annoyed by others. I didn't make a great effort to concentrate on all of the sessions. The weekend came and went. I told myself that I would study the talks more carefully in the weeks ahead. I even downloaded mp3 files of all the talks to my computer and mp3 player. And I never listened or read a single one.
This Conference was entirely different. A few weeks ago I began, with the encouragement of a good friend, another attempt to read scriptures everyday and pray at least once per day. It's been making a difference in me. But I didn't realize how much of a difference until GC weekend. Whereas past conferences I've picked a little from the buffet of talks, here a little and there a little, tasting with skepticism and often disappointment, this time I felt like I was gorging on a succulent feast. Nearly every talk had something in it that was delicious to me. My heart felt full to bursting with renewed hope and optimism. It came too fast and furious to take it all in, and I felt an enthusiastic motivation to study the counsel until I could make it part of me.
FYI - the church website has a media player on which you can watch all sessions of GC -- with the exception of the SECRET priesthood session, which has always been odd to me, since it eventually gets published in the Ensign anyway -- and I highly recommend this. It includes all the prayers and music, and you can also skip to the specific talks you'd like to watch. Mp3 audio files are available now at this link, and soon will be followed by written transcripts if you prefer that method of study.
My plan is to share a few thoughts about some of the talks I found most helpful and inspiring. I would love it if you would like to join in and discuss them with me.