Sunday, October 6, 2013
General Conference: Take 60!
Ever since I was old enough to actually attend Conference - I have been 'going'. Sometimes to the church or stake center, sometimes to SLC, and many times, just at home. When I was about 6 months old, my father was called to serve as a General Authority for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I obviously don't remember the earlier years of my life, but from the time I was 8 years old, I was "required" (by my parents) to physically attend at least one session on Temple Square.
It was held in the Tabernacle back then, because there was no Conference Center. Those were some pretty exciting days. I have many memories relating to General Conference. During the other three sessions that we didn't have to sit through, me and my siblings used to LOVE to run around in the Church Office Building. We had pretty much free-reign of the place, because all of the 'GA's' and 'the 12' and everyone was over at the Tabernacle. I am pretty sure that we were single-handedly responsible for keeping the elevators greased up and working with what must have been hundreds of times of us riding them up and down, up and down, playing 'hide and seek', 'find the secret message', photocopying our smooshed faces, etc. I would like to take this moment to officially apologize to the security guards who I am sure were trying their best.
It is truly no wonder that they then moved my father over to the CAB from the COB. It is the more quieter and reverenter place of the two. It did however put a squash to our pre-9/11 shenanigans!
But as I grew up, I started to look forward to General Conference more and more. I really felt it was a time of gathering, meeting with family and dear friends, and feeling something special and happy. I remember meeting at the bell tower between sessions with about 80 of my dad's close Tongan Friends for the traditional boxed lunches in between sessions. I remember being semi-annoyed trying to walk with my parents anywhere on Temple Square because they would get stopped a bazillion times for handshakes, pictures, etc. I remember sitting in the pews of the Tabernacle once during the middle of a session and trying to pass the bag of jelly beans over to my sister and then spilling them. It made this super loud "ping ping ping ping ping" sound as they bounced on the floor of the Tabernacle with it's perfect acoustics - right during a quiet spiritual moment of one of the talks. Again, my sincere apologies to whomever was talking then.
Then as we left the country - Conference time became our week without parents, as they would fly back to the states to attend it faithfully every 6 months. When I went to BYU, and my parents were in Hong Kong, that is the only time I got to see them. Most Utah freshmen would go home for Sunday dinners and to throw in a load of laundry. I however would go to a hotel in SLC and see my folks for one weekend. Twice a year. Always at General Conference time.
When I returned from my mission and quickly became engaged to the love of my life, we were faced with when to get married. Well, there wasn't much of a decision to be made - either October or April - so my parents could be there! As I began to have children, then more children, then more, General Conference became a time of spiritual refuge for me. A few days where I felt like I could slip away from the utter chaos and into that 'peaceful place' in my life where everything just felt right. The memories of my childhood. The words of council and comfort. The uplifting music. The feeling of joy and contentment. The warm tears on my cheeks when the touching stories were shared. The comfortable feel of my testimony bulging out a bit more in my heart.
These last two days were no different. I felt all of that again. I was able to meet with dear friends and build eternal relationships. I was not able to get inside to any of the sessions, but I let the sessions get inside of me. I listened with an open heart and I prayed to feel the Lord's love and direction in my life.
I am now 38 years old, and if I figure that I have been involved with General Conference since I was 8, that is 60 semi-anual conferences that I have been a part of. Which is 240 sessions. Which is 480 hours of talks and music. Which is over 28,800 minutes of divine instruction!!
I cannot put into words what that has done for my life.
But, if you have ever doubted that Heavenly Father loves you or is there for you, then I urge you to listen to General Conference - listen to the words of the living Prophet of God. Let the peace flow into your life.
But the best part, the most vital and sustaining part of Conference is not in the music.
It is not in the thousands gathering there.
It is not even in the words that are spoken.
Rather it is in the LOVE that will permeate your life and all of your relationships as you LIVE the words that are taught there.
I testify of that. I am certain that Thomas S. Monson is a prophet of God and that God speaks to us, His children, through him.