In October of 2010 I had to give a talk in church about how to prepare for General Conference. In honor of this weekend being General Conference again, I’m posting that talk. How do you prepare for General Conference?
I’m going to tell you a boring story and it’s one that I’m sure you’ll get application of without me telling you, but I’m going to go ahead and tell you anyway because sometimes we just need to hear the obvious things for them to click.
Last year I had the opportunity to attend the national conference for people in my profession. I looked forward to the opportunity for months. I knew exactly which sessions I was going to attend and why I was going to attend them. Because the company that I work for is quite small, I don’t have the opportunity to be surrounded by people that have worked in my field and have many more years of experience than I do. I wish that I had someone with years of experience to give me direction on the different projects that I tackle each day.
I knew the questions that I wanted answered because I knew where I was trying to get my company to go and I knew that there would be sessions that would show me examples of other people in similar situations and what they had done to find success.
When Brother Jensen asked me to give a talk about how we could best personally prepare for general conference, I started thinking about why it was important to prepare ourselves. I mean if we watch the sessions, we’re sure to be instructed and learn what the Lord wants us to know.
But, then I remembered the amount of preparation I did for that work conference. And I realized that if I feel like I could use the counsel of people who have been in my field longer than I have to make sure that I’m taking my company in a direction it should go, why wouldn’t I want the counsel of people who have been on this earth longer than I have to direct me in my own life?
So I started to think about exactly how to go about getting ready. When I was preparing for my work conference I knew what projects I was working on and the ones that were coming up, so I chose the sessions that would give me the most insight about those specific areas and went to them, listening for tidbits of knowledge that I could scribble down and take back with me.
Luckily we don’t have to choose which sessions of conference would be good for us to attend because there is nothing to compete with them. Sometimes sitting through all four sessions can be tough, but there are ways to make it bearable.
For example, you could make up your own conference bingo. If you made up your own “conference bingo” and you had to look for the things that you wanted to learn more about, it would probably do more than keep you from falling asleep! If your conference bingo helps you to look for the things that you know you will be facing in the coming months, or the decisions and projects that you are working on right now, then you will get more out of the words of the prophets than if you just sat there and listened to what they had to say.
Ok, so that’s during the actual sessions of conference. But what about before conference begins? The stake presidency has asked us to attend the temple sometime before Saturday, so that’s one thing that we can do to prepare. Take the time to serve in the Lord’s house before we sit down to hear his most recent revelations for the world.
Last year, my stake presidency issued us a challenge to do a media fast for the two weeks before general conference. At first I thought it was a crazy idea and I didn’t know how I would be able to eliminate media from my life, or if I did, if I would be able to tell a difference.
In a study about trends in media use in children, it was found that “American youth spend more time with media than any single activity other than sleeping, with the average American youth reporting more than six hours of daily media use. The growing phenomenon of “media multitasking” using several media concurrently multiplies that figure to eight and a half hours of media exposure daily.”
I think most of the time we don’t even realize how much time we spend surrounded by distractions.
Those two weeks that I did the media fast were some of the longest commutes, work days and runs that I have ever had. Music, from the radio or my iPod, really is a release for me when I’m driving to and from work or while I’m running.
President Monson said about music: “Music can help you draw closer to your Heavenly Father. It can be used to educate, edify, inspire, and unite. However, music can, by its tempo, beat, intensity, and lyrics, dull your spiritual sensitivity. You cannot afford to fill your minds with unworthy music.”
I found I got more done at work when I didn’t check my email, Facebook or phone throughout the day. And that I had a more open mind because of the quiet time I had throughout the day.
My roommates and I also got to be really close during that time because instead of turning on the TV when we got home we all talked, we made dinner together and we made an effort to be around people that we thought we didn’t have time for when we filled up the hours with media.
The biggest difference though was turning on the TV to watch conference. Because my eyes and ears hadn’t been bombarded by media for so long, it was a lot easier to focus and really absorb what was being presented.
These talks that we get to see on Saturday and Sunday teach us what the Lord wants us to know. Elder Hales, in his talk about learning from the examples of the prophets, said, “Personal revelation is the way we know for ourselves the most important truths of our existence.”
If we aren’t prepared to receive the truths that will be taught this weekend, if we aren’t open to the personal revelation that will come to us through the words of the prophets, we are missing out on the opportunity to gain an additional testimony of the most important truths of our existence.
With all of the suggestions that we can give about how to prepare for general conference, I believe that Elder Hales gives us the most important advice. When we prepare to receive personal revelation, we can be truly taught by the Lord’s servants.
This is what Elder Hales said:
“You may ask, “How do we seek personal revelation?” Paul counseled the Saints to rely on the Spirit rather than the wisdom of the world. To obtain that Spirit, we begin with prayer. President Lorenzo Snow had studied the gospel for several years before joining the Church. But he did not receive a witness until two or three weeks after his baptism when he retired in secret prayer. “The Spirit of God descended upon me,” he said. “O, the joy and happiness I felt, [for] I then received a perfect knowledge that God lives, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and of the restoration of the holy Priesthood, and the fullness of the Gospel.”
“We prepare to receive personal revelation as the prophets do, by studying the scriptures, fasting, praying, and building faith. Faith is the key. Remember Joseph’s preparation for the First Vision:
“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God. …
“But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering.”
In his book, “To Draw Closer to God”, President Eyring gives us an example about how we should approach learning from speakers.
“Each time a general conference approaches, you can pray that the brethren who speak and who lead us will have the Holy Spirit. I will make a twofold promise to you, first your prayers will be answered if they are offered with faith and confidence, second, not only will you bring sunshine to the lives of others, but you will bring sunshine into your own life. As the brethren speak, you will be able to listen and hear the words of God as he instructs you through his servants. You will recognize the words of truth that you need.”
I’m excited for general conference and the chance to be open to receive more personal revelation. I know that a conference like this is more beneficial to me than any work conference that I could attend and as such, it deserves just as much attention and preparation.
Elder Eyring, continued saying, “President David O. McKay described what it means when the Holy Ghost comes into your life. “What the sunshine is to the field and to the flowers, the Holy Spirit is to the life of man.” It has been my experience that that sunshine comes into my life even more powerfully when my effort is to try to help those who lead or teach me.”
I know that modern revelation is one of the cornerstones of our religion. This weekend, this is what we are all about as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We have a living prophet who guides us in the way that Heavenly Father would have us go. I know that as we listen to him and the other servants who will speak to us that we gain insight into our lives and the direction that we need to take in our own life.
We can also have that sunshine of the Spirit more fully in our lives by praying for those who will be speaking this weekend. We can also prepare for General Conference by taking a break from our media consumption and creating a list of upcoming or current “projects” that we are facing in our lives that will help us focus as those messages are delivered.
I am excited to have the opportunity to hear the words of the Lord for this time and age this weekend. I know that President Monson is indeed a Prophet and that the words he speaks are the words of the Lord. I look forward to learning more of them this weekend.