Another General Conference has come and gone. It is Wednesday already, and I haven’t written anything about it. Usually by now I would have written several silly “non-inspirational Conference observation” posts, as well as a more serious overview. I’ve been getting emails and FB messages wondering what’s going on. Basically, this year was just different for a couple of reasons.
First, we traveled to Salt Lake to attend. When you are going to and from the Conference Center, with family in tow, going out to eat, visiting family etc., there isn’t much time to sit down and write. Normally, I just have to turn off the TV and get cracking.
Second, after Conference was over, I looked at my notes and found that I had written down very few clever things to create a clever post – and I took lots of notes. Sure, there was a possessed fly, a yawning choir boy, and both Mormon and anti-Mormon protesters, but those were too easy of targets. I did not want to make any jokes about Elder Nielsen and energy drinks, because it seemed disrespectful (exclamation point.)
Basically, this year seemed to be more serious business to me, and I will touch on some of those things over the next few days. Sorry if I let you down.
Before the Saturday afternoon session began, I struck up a conversation with the couple seated next to me in the Conference Center. They were excited to be there. The wife told me that it was their very first time attending in person, and had ben looking forward to it for a long time.
If you are willing to strike up conversations, you can meet people from all over the world. I met a man on the Trax trolley from Honolulu – he gave me five extra tickets – I gave an extra one to a lovely girl from Brazil. So, out of curiosity, I asked the sister next to me where she was from.
She said, “Murray, Utah.” (For those who don’t know, Murray is about eight miles away from the Conference Center.) She went on to explain that she had always wanted to attend, but “just never did.”
It struck me as odd that people come from all over the world to attend General Conference, but people who live down the street have never been. I guess it is like those who live near the ocean, but never go to the beach, or someone who lives in NYC, but has never gone to the Statue of Liberty.
I do have something I would like you to consider: Attend. At least once.
Why? Because it is one of those things that everyone needs to experience. Sure, I understand the beauty of watching in the comfort of your own home, in your jammies, with food and traditions. All of that is great. Personally, I have come to rely on the “pause” and “rewind” buttons on the remote as I am watching conference, and feel somewhat lost without them.
Even with those good things, you need to attend at least ONCE in your life.
Here are my 10 reasons why:
1) The Music. Hearing the choirs in person is great. It moves you. But no matter how great the Tabernacle Choir is, it pales in comparison to 20,000 standing and singing together. Especially during the Priesthood sessions. You’ve never really heard men sing until you have stood with them and hear them belt out a hymn in Conference.
2. Belonging. There is something reassuring about seeing tens of thousands of people in one place, and knowing that those people share your faith and values. It reminds us that we are part of something really, really big – and getting bigger. I imagine this would be especially reaffirming to those who live in areas where there are not many members of the Church.
3) Sustaining. If you can, attend the Saturday Afternoon session when the sustaining votes are taken. It is a great feeling to raise your hand to sustain the prophets when they are sitting in front of you, in the same room. (A giant room, but the same room nonetheless.)
4) The Hush. 20,000 people can generate a lot of noise, even when trying to be reverent. But the moment that the prophet enters the room, everyone stands up, and the room becomes silent. It is remarkable how quiet it gets, and how instantly. I love this sign of respect.
5) The Example. I want my kids to know what I think is important in this life. I want them to see me stand in quiet respect. I want them to see me sustain the Brethren. I want them to see me taking notes and listening. I also want them to know that this is important enough for me to leave work, and spend the money it takes to do this once in a while – even if it means no Disneyland this year.
6) Build Family Memories. The FOMLs range from 11 to 25, and we are starting to spread out. Attending Conference together is something we can do. It is a bonding experience.
7) Admire the Beauty. The Conference Center is gorgeous, and immaculate. So is Temple Square, the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, and all the grounds in-between. The beauty of the gardens, fountains and buildings in admirable, and contributes to the peaceful feelings that permeate Conference Weekend,
8) Witness the Opposition. There are always protesters outside of Conference. They have their signs, and their voices. It is a good reminder to me, and a good thing for my kids to know, that there is opposition out there – right out there. This year was interesting in that it seemed that there were fewer anti-Mormon protesters at the Conference Center than usually, but they were offset by the increasing number of anti-Mormon protesters that belong to the Church.
9) Familiar Faces. I have never been to Conference without running into people I know – either people from home, or people I haven’t seen for ages. I have also met new friends, even during such a short trip.
10) Feel the Spirit. I feel the Spirit when I am watching at home. I feel him testify as to what is being taught. I also am taught things that aren’t being spoken. That is one of the beauties of Conference. I asked my EC what here favorite part of attending was, and she said it was the different Spirit that you feel when you are there in person. I agree. I don’t know if it is because there is a collective power that comes from so many like-minded people, or the presence of God’s chosen servants, or the sacrifice it takes so many to get there – but it is different, and palpable. And powerful.
We only attend Conference once every few years, and we rarely have tickets. We just show up and are provided for – I guess it is a test of faith.
If you have never attended, give it a try – at least once. Whether you live on the other side of the world, or just down the street, it is something you should experience.
April is coming soon, so get planning. Next time, I will be watching with my remote in hand, with my family gathered around the TV, with a great big drink next to me. Both methods are great, and both need to be experienced.