Knitting and Listening: Conference Time

Last night I followed my EC around Hobby Lobby looking for crafty stuff or the grands. Lo and behold, I saw a plastic spool knitting kit on the shelf. I didn’t even know you could buy those things – I thought you had to make them. Either way, it brought back a flood of memories that are directly linked to General Conference and my childhood.

For those who don’t know about spool knitting, it is also called “French spool knitting.” Why? I have no idea. It is basically this: A spool with 4 or five nails sticking out the top. You then wind the yarn around the nails, and lift the yarn over the nail, and move to the next nail. The yarn “rope” comes out the bottom of the spool, like this:

(I realize that I just typed the worst possible description about how spool knitting works, but it isn’t really germane to the post. If you would like more – and better – info, here is a link: How to Spool Knit.)

It was easy enough to learn as a little kid, and I got quite proficient at it. I could “knit’ a long rope. Now, I don’t recall ever actually doing anything with the rope that I knit, but was happy to be doing it. As were my parents.

The reason they were happy, is because spool knitting was one of the go-to activities for my sister and me, specifically two times a year: General Conference weekends. Since I grew up deep in the heart of suburban Utah, we had the blessing of having all of the Saturday and Sunday sessions broadcast over local TV. Today there are oodles of ways to participate live.

When Conference was on, two things were required of us: 1) That we were in the room listening, and 2) that we were quiet. The best way for us to do that was to keep occupied with something, hence, the spool knitting. It was a quiet and mindless activity that allowed what was on the television to drift into our young brains.

The kids would usually be on the floor, with mom and dad on the sofa in the downstairs family room, because that is where the television was. Our ONE television, black and white at that.

Over the years, spool knitting gave way to other crafts: origami, crochet, coloring books, etc., but seeing a spool knitting kit on the shelf at Hobby Lobby brought back warm memories. Watching Conference with my family was a tradition that endured. Keeping quietly occupied was as well.

Eventually, the crafts were put aside, and the note-taking began. As a missionary, serving is Chile, our only taste of Conference was reading the May edition of the Liahona magazine with the addresses in print. And I did feel like I was missing out every time those weekend rolled around.

Post-mission, Conference was still important to me. I have a memory of sitting on the lawn at the Provo Temple with my newlywed wife, listening to Conference on a transistor radio. I remember the first time I “streamed” Conference in a hotel room in California with our young children as we looked forward to hitting Disneyland the next day.

I also remember how frustrating it was when I was coaching or parenting youth basketball and soccer and had to miss a Saturday session because of a game. Made me crazy. Thankfully, the talks were posted quickly, and I didn’t have to wait for months to find out what I missed.

The older I got, the more earnest my note taking became. I have a stack of notebooks from over the years with page after page of thoughts, ideas, and information that proved to be of great worth to me. (I even blogged about my Conference note-taking system back in 2011.: On Your Mark.)

Beginning in October 2011, I began typing up my thoughts about each session as they unfolded. The posts are titled “Instant Post-Conference Thoughts.” Amazingly, I don’t think I have missed a session since that time. I write the posts for me, to help me remember what I heard – whether it was actually spoken or not – and to have notes to look back on for review. One of the biggest surprises in my time as a blogger has been finding out how many readers like to read those notes after each session. I didn’t see that coming.

In fact, the Conference posts continue to be my most popular posts of the year. Conference has also the time of year that my internet service provider couldn’t keep up with the traffic, and the site would inevitably crash during the weekend. So frustrating – but I do believe that is now resolved. We shall see…

Here is my point: I love General Conference.

I credit my parents for pointing me in that direction at an early age. The things they taught me have proven to be of great worth to me throughout my life. Here are a few, in summary:

  1. I learned that my parents felt Conference was important to them, so it became important to me. I am grateful for that.
  2. Conference is Saturday and Saturday night, and Sunday. There are are not many things that take priority over the opportunity to hear God’s servants teaching and counseling us in real time. To me, watching it after-the-fact is a lot like watching a sporting event after it is already over. It just doesn’t feel the same. I also feel that it is the least I can do to show God that what he says through his servants is important enough for me to put aside ought things a handful of days out of the year to focus on them.
  3. I learned that young-us can be present, occupied and reverent during Conference and that everyone in the room can get something out of it. (Of course, your mileage may vary – all kids are different.)
  4. When the Prophet(s) speak, God is speaking: Wherefore, meaning the church, thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me; For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith. (D&C 21:4-5)

The last one begs the question…If it were announced that Jesus would be speaking at Conference Saturday afternoon, how many more of us might find a way to make time for it on a busy weekend?

Next weekend we have family in town and Easter, but we also have Conference. I will be watching Conference, because that is what I do, and what I have always done. It is good for my soul, and a habit/traditon I will not readily relinquish.

Instead of spool knitting, I will be typing my notes to share with you. I hope you can join me.

“There is a treasure chest of heavenly direction awaiting your discovery in the messages of general conference. The test for each of us is how we respond to what we hear, what we read, and what we feel.” Elder Neil L. Anderson.

“Children and youth love to be included. We make a serious mistake if we assume that the conference is above their intellect and spiritual sensitivity. To the young members of the Church, I promise that if you will listen, you will feel the Spirit well up within you. The Lord will tell you what He wants you to do with your life.” Elder Robert D. Hales

“Oh, how we need general conference! Through conferences our faith is fortified and our testimonies deepened. And when we are converted, we strengthen each other to stand strong amid the fiery darts of these last days.” Elder Robert D. Hales


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  1. I came from a convert family and my parents later “dropped out”. We never developed any good habits regarding conference. Thank goodness, I married a good strong member and my life began to change. Still, for many years I remember thinking : “Oh no, Conference weekend–all those hour and hours of meetings”. As I became more spiritually mature, the change in my attitude has become clear–on Sunday afternoon I always turn to my husband and complain: “Oh no, it’s over already”! So for me, It has been a litmus test of the strength of my testimony.

  2. Thanks Brad. Love, love, love Conference weekend. And I came to appreciate it even more when I was taught this little gem from D&C 52:2 by Elder Kopischke – we have right there in that verse the Lord’s thoughts about Conference, speaking to Elders of the early Church at a Conference He had instructed them to call: “I, the Lord, will make known unto you what I will that ye shall do from this time until the next conference”.

    It’s not that we have our regular Church meetings that are periodically interrupted by Stake and General Conferences. We have Conferences where the Lord reveals His will and we’re supposed to spend the intervening time implementing what He revealed to us (as a Church, as a Stake, as a congregation, as a family, as a person…). Totally changed my perspective on the importance of Conference. Can’t wait for the feast on Saturday and Sunday – and thanks much for making the effort to share your insightful notes. They are much appreciated.

  3. I was born in 1979 and we lived in a little town in Arkansas. To participate in conference, everyone went to the branch building where the speakers for the mic had been hooked up to the phone line somehow. Dial-up streaming, of a type, I guess!? Then we moved to Virginia and Comcast carried it on cable at the request of local members (though it was kind of iffy- sometimes it seems they forgot to hook into the feed to get it and people would start calling them). We’d go to my grandma’s (who had a TV and cable- we had neither) and watch on Saturday (kids didn’t have to stay and watch) and then to the satellite broadcast at church on Sundays (where we did have to stay in the room, but we could bring quiet things to do, and even pillows for napping during the afternoon session…) and an almost 30 year tradition of feeding the missionaries a build-your-own-hoagie lunch between sessions, right on up to the conference before COVID (when it was pretty much just missionaries and our family at the church building). So grateful that with COVID we can stream at home!
    Looking forward to conference- might have to see if my kids will give spool knitting a go, though they’re generally pretty good about listening. (Toward the end of the last session they can start getting grumpy, though.) I, too, love the instant post-conference thoughts- glad they’re still going to be around!

  4. I appreciate your notes. You catch things I didn’t. A different perspectives broadens the mind and opens the heart. Thank you. Looking forward to your notes again.

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