Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Make the Most of General Conference for Your Family

My experience and attitude towards General Conference has changed as I’ve grown up. When I was a young child, my parents asked my siblings and me to dedicate ourselves to watching at least one session of General Conference each day—both Saturday and Sunday. I remember that we’d ban together and plan out whether to sacrifice our Saturday morning or afternoon depending on what other activities—bike riding, swimming, or street games—were calling and when. On Sunday, we only had to stay in the living room for one session, but the rest of the day we could do quiet inside things—like coloring, reading, drawing, and board games—to keep the Sabbath Day holy even though we didn’t go to the church house on General Conference Sunday.

I can distinctly remember when I was about six or seven when I asked my mother if it was hard to be a grown-up because grown-ups had to sit still for both sessions on both days. My mother smiled and explained to me that it wasn’t hard because she and Dad enjoyed watching General Conference; it wasn’t a chore to them. I puzzled over what she said for quite some time. I remembered it for several more General Conference seasons and I noticed that it was true—she and Dad were always riveted to the television and listened carefully to every talk. They didn’t need coloring books or basic embroidery kits to keep them quiet and entertained; they just listened.

My parents’ interest in General Conference fascinated me. Several years later, when my attention span was finally long enough, I remember the first General Conference Saturday afternoon when I decided to stay in from play and see if I would like watching General Conference like my mother. Even though I was still too young to understand everything in the session, I remember a good feeling flowed into my heart. I knew that feeling came because I did something good even though I didn’t have to—because I did something good because I wanted to.

Now I’m a grown-up too. I am happy that I’m like my mother—that I look forward to General Conference and sincerely want to pay good attention to all sessions. But even now there are often outside distractions that compete for my attention on General Conference weekend and may even keep me from continual study of the Conference report afterward. The following ten tips have helped me make the most of General Conference for myself and my family.

1. Plan Ahead
General Conference is always the first weekend in October and April, but if, you’re like me, if you don’t plan carefully ahead then you’ll forget and schedule something else that Saturday. Carefully mark your family calendar so that everyone can plan to be free to fully participate in General Conference. Planning ahead will save you the stress of rescheduling conflicting events later.

2. Preparatory Family Home Evening

The Monday night before General Conference, present a special Family Home Evening lesson about General Conference. Discuss the importance of modern-day prophets and why we have General Conference. Help family members remember and understand the importance of continued revelation and that the General Authorities are receiving specific revelation for us and for our day. Encourage each individual to prepare themselves spiritually to receive revelation during General Conference by writing questions in their journals and praying for answers. In family prayer, ask for Heavenly Father to help family members to prepare to receive answers and revelation to uplift them in their trials. Also pray for the speakers of the Conference, even several weeks before General Conference, that they can have the Spirit guide them as they prepare talks.

3. Women’s Evening
Encourage the women in your home to attend the General Relief Society and/or General Young Women’s meeting the week before General Conference. Make it a special time for women to receive instruction from the prophet and spend time together as well as a special
time for the men in the home to support women’s Church activities.

4. Participate in the Sessions
Listen to or watch every session of General Conference. Encourage family members to take notes and write down personal thoughts on the talks in a personal scripture study journal.

5. Priesthood Session
Encourage the priesthood holders in your home to attend Priesthood session. If there are non-priesthood holding boys or men in your home, spend the time during Priesthood session teaching them about the priesthood to prepare them for that important responsibility.

6. Use Online Resources
If any family members miss a session of General Conference due to scheduling conflicts, record the session to watch later or download the video or audio file from lds.org. Make sure that any family member who missed a session has someone to watch the make-up session with.

7. Continuing Study
Get a copy of the Conference Ensign for every member of the family. Encourage each family member to highlight or underline their copy, write notes in the margins, look up the scriptures cited in the talks, and use the Conference talks as an opportunity for individual study, reflection, and meditation.

8. Family Scripture Study
Read the Conference Ensign aloud as a family as part of daily family scripture study. Invite family members to share insights from their personal study of the conference talks with the rest of the family during family scripture study. Display the pictures of the speakers in the Ensign during the lesson so young children can learn to recognize the General Authorities.

9. Continued Family Discussion
Help family members recognize quotes from the recent Conference talks in Sacrament Meeting talks. Discuss how the speakers did or could have used the talks you are studying as a family.

10. Ongoing Resources
Use video clips and quotes of recent Conference talks to supplement Family Home Evening, Sunday School, Young Men, Young Women, Priesthood, and Relief Society lessons. Remind participants that you’re referring to the most recent General Conference to inspire them to continue to study and treasure the words of the living prophets.

By preparing for General Conference, taking time for it when it comes, and continuing to use Conference addresses for the months afterward, each General Conference can become a bi-annual uplift and enrichment to our homes and to each of us personally. After implementing these ideas, keep looking for ways to let General Conference spiritually rejuvenate you and your family as much as possible. Through your example, you can help other family members learn for themselves the blessings of following our modern-day prophets as you and your family learn to appreciate, love, and look forward to General Conference.

Our Family Journal

It was almost a year ago when my husband and I took some advice and guidance from general conference and applied it to our family. I never thought that a General Conference talk could still impact my life this much a year later. As the first talk in the Sunday Morning session of the October 2007 General Conference of the Church, President Eyring taught the members of the Church by example “to find ways to recognize and remember God’s kindness” (Ensign, Nov. 2007, 67). As President Eyring related to us the account of his first inspiration to begin keeping a family journal and how keeping the family journal was a daily blessing for him as he “became ever more certain that our Heavenly Father hears and answers prayers” and “felt more gratitude for the softening and refining that [came] because of the Atonement of the Savior Jesus Christ,” President Eyring also shared that that his family journal has since been a blessing years later to his sons as “reading of what happened long ago helped [them] notice something God had done in [their] day.”

After hearing President Eyring’s talk, I knew that this was the perfect use for a wedding gift that had been dormant for months. One of my former Young Women’s advisors had given us a beautiful wedding gift: a leather-bound journal with gold-edged pages and an artistically textured cover. She also pasted our wedding announcement in the inside cover of the book to make it especially ours. I knew that such a wonderful gift deserved a wonderful purpose and all summer I had been brainstorming how we could use the journal and put the gift to good use. I toyed with a lot of ideas in my mind, but nothing ever stuck or gave me enough motivation to begin writing in the journal. The summer ended and we were well into autumn before the answer of what to do with the beautiful journal came where I least expected it, in President Eyring’s talk.

After General Conference, my husband and I prayerfully decided that we should follow President Eyring’s example and use our wedding gift to start our own family journal. While President Eyring used his family journal to write down “evidence of what God had done” for his family each day, we decided that we needed to use our family journal to write down a moment when we were happy each day. Every night we take turns and each write a sentence or two in our family journal about a happy event that day. We have found that by writing in our family journal we have been more grateful for the many blessings that Heavenly Father gives us each day. As we approach General Conference this year, I’m excited to have a year’s worth of entries in our family journal. Soon I’ll be able to look back and see what blessings had come into our lives exactly a year ago. This exercise has been important in motivating us to keep important family records and has helped us draw closer as a family as we seek to recognize the daily blessings that the Lord gives to us.

In beginning a family journal of your own, you could do as President Eyring did and ask: “Have I seen the hand of God reaching out to touch us or our children or our family today?” Or, you could personalize the idea of a family journal and prayerfully adapt it to your own family’s needs. This could mean a happiness journal, a gratitude journal, a journal of family spiritual experiences, or a blessings journal. As you seek his inspiration, the Lord will bless you with promptings of how you can better keep baptismal covenants as a family to always remember him. President Eyring has promised us that as we “will find a way to preserve [memories of God’s messages] for the day that [we], and those that [we] love, will need to remember how much God loves us how much we need Him,” these memories “will soften [our] hearts to allow the Holy Ghost to testify to [us].”