Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Preparing for Conference

This past Sunday, I was able to speak in sacrament meeting.  I was asked to speak on preparing for General Conference.  This is a  topic that I was excited about and really love.  I am so thankful for General Conference and feel like we are doing a pretty good job of helping our kids to love it and look forward to it.   Here's my talk below:

Most of you have probably heard the story of a man telling his neighbor not of our faith about our beliefs.  He explained that we believe there is a prophet on the Earth. The neighbor was impressed and excited and asked what the prophet had taught recently.  Try as he might, the member couldn't think what had been taught in the most recent conference.  His neighbor was pretty disappointed and incredulous.  He believed there was a prophet but had no idea what that prophet had said? 

If someone were to ask you, what would you say?  What were we taught in October conference?  Do you really believe or know there IS a prophet of God on the Earth? Do you know what he has said or taught recently?


(Some of the things that stood out to me from Conference:  “What lack I yet?”   “Ponderize”   “Be thou an example of the believers/Let your light so shine.”  “Center your life on Christ.”   When we leave this life, we will probably say to our Father in Heaven, was that all that was required?  All of our trials will be worth it when we stand in His presence….)

*Parable of sower

In last April conference, Elder Oaks gave a beautiful and meaningful talk about the Parable of the Sower.  In this parable, found in Matthew 13, Luke 8 and Mark 4, we read of a sower planting seeds.  Christ explained that these seeds are the word of God...in other words...the scriptures AND the teachings we receive in conference.  In the parable, the seeds fell in 4 locations:  by the wayside, stony ground, thorny ground, and good ground.  

The first was seeds that fell by the wayside..  Read Matthew 13: 18-19..those that have hearts so hardened that the seeds can't take root or grow.  That's not us.  Second, they fell on stony ground.   Matthew 13:  20-21.  They began to grow but they didn't have a strong root.  These people received the gospel with gladness but then when trials or doubts arise, they are offended and fall away.  They aren't converted.  Perhaps something said in conference goes against their political opinion or they just don't take the time to study and aren't regular in its practice.  The next group fell among thorny ground.    Matthew 13: 22. The Savior explained that these represented those who allowed the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches and the lusts of other things to choke the word.  These are people who are focused on gaining and using money or possessions.  Perhaps these are those who are too busy on conference weekend to watch or listen.  Or those who spend so much time working/playing that they don't do the daily things needed to be truly converted.  

Elder Oaks said, "Savoring the things of men means putting the cares of this world ahead of the things of God in our actions, our priorities, and our thinking."  Probably most of us are guilty of this at times.

The fourth group were those seeds that fell into good ground and brought forth fruit...Matthew 13:  23. They were honest and good hearted, firmly rooted in the gospel.  They pray, read scriptures, study conference talks, serve, partake of the sacrament and seek a change of heart.

Elder Oaks said, "The suitability of the soil depends upon the heart of each one of us who is exposed to the gospel seed."  


We have a choice as we listen to conference...how will our heart be?  Will it be prepared and softened so we can receive the messages given, plant them in our hearts and allow them to grow and bring forth fruit?  Or will we be too busy to prepare or to listen...too busy seeking after worldly things?  (I recognize there are times when it is impossible to get off work or get out of other good activities...this is meant for your personal reflection …are you making Conference a priority?  Are there things you could/should rearrange to make Conference more important in your life or your family’s life?)  Or will we listen but then get offended or decide that what they ask is too hard?  We choose our response and the more prepared we are in advance the better the soil of our hearts will be.

Elder Robert D. Hales said,
"In conference, we can receive the word of The Lord meant just for us."  What a remarkable blessing!   Heavenly Father knows each of us.  He knows what trials we are facing, what blessings we need, what questions we have.  He knows what we need to draw nearer to Him and become more like Him.  We can receive this guidance through Conference.

So here are some suggestions for how we can prepare for Conference:


*1. Come with a question in mind. (Experience:  one conference I came really wanting to understand my role in regards to hastening the work and how I could help others to hasten the work as I served as RS President.  I took notes on everything that was said in regards to that topic and filled a huge posterboard which then helped me with my own opportunities but also with lessons I taught.   This past Conference I knew that the leaders of the church were especially emphasizing Sabbath Day observance so my question was how I could better keep the Sabbath Day holy and help my family to do so.  Nearly every talk addressed that in some way and I got some wonderful insights about the sacrament and Sabbath day. … Sometimes you'll also receive guidance or answers you weren't specifically seeking...Women's Conference a couple of years ago, I came with a question (and received an answer) but  I also KNEW what our visiting teaching seminar's theme needed to be.  That wasn’t something I had even been thinking about yet, but the Spirit told me what to do for the seminar while listening to conference.)

President Uchtdorf said, "Answers to your specific prayers may come directly from a particular talk or from a specific phrase. At other times answers may come in a seemingly unrelated word, phrase, or song. A heart filled with gratitude for the blessings of life and an earnest desire to hear and follow the words of counsel will prepare the way for personal revelation."

(Another example was also from Women's Conference when I felt so comforted when they turned around a well known scripture from "where much is given, much is required to instead say where much is required, much is given.  I clung to that as I served as RS President because I felt very inadequate and felt the heavy burden...but I also truly received some remarkable blessings.  I’ll be forever grateful for the opportunity I had to serve and the lessons I learned.  And I’ve noticed that often my answers and comfort come from the Women’s conference.)

2. Pray before and during conference that your mind and heart might be opened and you might receive the answers, guidance and inspiration you need.  You might even consider fasting before or during conference to help you have the spirit.  You might also consider attending the temple in the week leading up to Conference.

3.  Show Heavenly Father you are serious about learning from Conference.  Spend this month rereading the talks given at last conference.  Teach your children what our leaders have said.  Apply the counsel that was given. 

(If you were to read or listen to 1 talk/day for the next month, you would be able to read 3/4 of the talks before conference.).  I like to turn on a Conference talk while I am doing dishes/cleaning house.  I also read conference talks several times each week and take notes about what they say.  In the first month and a half after Conference, I studied each talk, looked up each scripture that was referenced in each talk.  Wrote down favorite quotes.  Recorded ideas for ways to teach some of the concepts to my children in FHE.  I have a notebook devoted to my Conference study (as well as a study guide for YW that I write about lots of Conference talks and a journal where I take notes WHILE I am actually listening to Conference.)

4.  Act upon what you have been taught. As you reread or relisten to conference, the spirit will prompt you to make changes.  Act upon these promptings to change.  In October 2005 conference, Elder Paul Johnson said, "In order for the messages of general conference to change our lives, we need to be willing to follow the counsel we hear. The Lord explained in a revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith “that when ye are assembled together ye shall instruct and edify each other, that ye may know … how to act upon the points of my law and commandment.” But knowing “how to act” isn’t enough. The Lord in the next verse said, “Ye shall bind yourselves to act in all holiness before me.” This willingness to take action on what we have learned opens the doors for marvelous blessings."

5.  Prepare physically.  Get enough sleep.  Have meals prepared in advance or have simple meals that can be prepared in between.  Keep schedule free and open so you can participate in all sessions.  *consider how you dress and watch...as a teenager, my parents took us to the stake center to watch at least two of the sessions because it helped make it feel like church and feel important. (which isn’t even an option now, but it has helped shape the way I think and feel about conference.)  I personally choose to dress up in Sunday dress on Sunday because it reminds me that these are my Sunday meetings and it shows The Lord that I value them. That doesn't mean that's what others have to do, but it is part of the sign I give The Lord.

6.    President Uchtdorf cautioned us not to discount a message because we have heard it before.  He said, "Prophets have always taught by repetition; it is a law of learning. You will hear repetition in themes and doctrines in general conference. Let me reassure you: this is not due to a lack of creativity or imagination. We continue to hear messages on similar issues because the Lord is teaching and impressing upon our minds and hearts certain foundational principles of great eternal importance that must be understood and acted upon before we can move on to other things. A wise builder first lays the foundation before erecting the walls and the roof."  We’ve all read scriptures before and noticed something that we didn’t think was there before.  We learn “line upon line, precept upon precept.”  I’ve heard countless talks on trials and yet there were several things said at the last Conference about adversity that really helped me.

7.  While watching, take notes.  It's great to take notes about quotes and beautiful language that is used...I definitely do that. (For example, I love President Uchtdorf's counsel a couple of years ago  to "set aside the bottle of bitterness and lift instead the goblet of gratitude."). But even more important than powerful quotes is to write down thoughts or feelings that prompt you to act or to change.  If you hear something that makes you think, "I need to teach this principle to my kids" or maybe even "here's how to teach this principle to my kids", write that down.  You might have thoughts about some choice or behavior that you need to change...something you need to stop doing or start doing.  Or perhaps a person's name will come to mind and you'll know you need to call or visit them. (A couple of examples:  after Oct. conference, I began ponderizing scriptures with my family, focusing especially on verses that were quoted in General Confence.  I also wrote down some notes of stories or ideas to teach several concepts in FHE.  Also, I knew that I needed to forgive someone that had hurt me and worked to do that.)

As we do this, lessons and quotes from conference will be written on our hearts.  We will be better able to teach them to others, apply them in our lives, etc.  TESTIMONY