Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Talk: Conference Prep

Justin and I were asked to speak in church last Sunday. Our assigned topic? "Listen to the Prophet's Voice/Preparing for General Conference." Here's what I prepared:



I love Conference. More now than when I was younger, perhaps because I’ve matured a bit, but I think it is because of the preparation I now put in before each session. I think some temporal preparation is required before we can really reap the benefits of preparing spiritually, so I’ll start with that.

Temporal Prep:
 I always try to keep our schedule clear. I want my kids to grow up knowing General Conference is special and important. I try to go to bed earlier than usual the night before, so I'm not tired (or as tired... because it seems like I'll never get caught up on all my sleep) during the talks. I do my best to get all of my chores done by Friday; things like grocery shopping, house cleaning, etc.
-          
Preparing for Children:
If you don’t have children, or your children are grown and gone... don’t stop listening here, because I have gotten much more out of Conference myself by doing these things for my children, so maybe you can glean a little tip or two as well.
“It is when children are young that parents must be innovated in helping them develop good habits regarding conference participation. As our children are given opportunities to observe and learn the role of these special witnesses, they will receive a spiritual confirmation of the sacred calling of their church leaders and they will feel a deeper love for and interest in these leaders and their message.” – Neil L. Anderson
While I look for ideas for my children, I try to keep 3 goals in mind:

1. Help them  Get to Know the Speakers:
  • Guess Who – replaced the original pictures with pictures of the Apostles and General Auxiliary. (Free printable...)
  • Family Home Evening  – held the Monday before Conference. We listen/watch this song to learn the First Presidency and Quorum of the 12 Apostles names and interests, and we talk a little bit about each one and attach their pictures to the wall to display all week. 
)

2. Make Conference Weekend Fun and Special:
If you couldn't already tell, I love Holiday traditions. I love to make special meals - like a green dinner on St. Patrick's Day, and do fun activities like a glow in the dark egg hunt around Easter. My kids think holidays are exciting around our house, and often ask when the next holiday will occur. A few years ago, it occurred to me that the Prophet was being trumped by the Easter Bunny. That needed to change - General Conference Weekend could be exciting too! 
  • I often make cinnamon rolls, or a breakfast casserole (reserved for "special" Sundays and holidays) for breakfast, and I think it would be fun to do a dinner of everyone's favorites as well. 
  • My hubby attends the Priesthood Session with his brothers and father, then they go back to his parent's house for ice cream or banana splits afterward. Even when a brother or two hasn't really wanted to go to Priesthood, often the family time and dessert has been bribery enough to attend. :)
  • Plan a fun family outing in between sessions. I hope that even as my kids grow older and friends become so important, that they will love spending time with our family and choose us that weekend.
  • I try very hard to have the right attitude – not “making” them, but “inviting” them. I love Conference, excited to listen to the Prophet and Apostles, and hopefully they can see that. When I remember to pray for the right attitude during Conference, it goes so much better, and I find I am not getting upset when they aren't focused, but instead I am able to kindly redirect them and the Spirit continues to reside in our home.
3. Make Watching Conference a Meaningful Experience:
When Harvey was younger, I tried to find activities that would entertain him during Conference, so he would leave me alone and I could enjoy watching. But I had an ah-ha moment and realized that I didn't want to train him not to listen... I wanted to encourage him to participate and learn how to get something out of Conference as well. So I changed my strategy. Instead of looking for activities that distract, I look for activities that involve my children in General Conference. 
Elder Robert D. Hales gave me encouragement when he said, "“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.”
Our kids really can be taught how to get something out of General Conference. It is always a learning process, and we are still evolving, but here are some things that I have done that have helped my children actively (key word here) participate in Conference.
  • Speaker Stickers - simply remove the centerfold (with pictures) from the previous Conference edition of the Ensign magazine. Tape it to the wall, and let the kids find the picture of the speaker, and attach a sticker his/her face. 
  • Conference Wall - tape up pictures that represent subject that you think might come up in Conference. I choose common ones like scripture study, Jesus Christ, and temples so the kids can point often. Encourage your kids to point to or tally mark (on a sheet protector with a dry erase marker) on the pictures when they hear those subjects. 
  • Treat Buckets - Set out a few buckets or bowls with small treats inside. Add a word to the outside and each time you hear that word you can get a treat. Or, visit the link to see how I incorporate it with our Conference Center Board
  • Conference Center Board - Our interactive center where they can follow right along with just about everything that happens during Conference. It is pretty involved, so check out the post for all the details (and free printable to make your own). 
  • Journals - I have found endless ideas for children's journals online. I have taken what I feel is the best from many of them, and assembled them into binders for my children. (Most is just rearranging what other's have designed, so I don't feel it's appropriate for me to share the files here. Sorry about that.) But they include: coloring in ties, tracing letters in the apostles names, tally marks on different subjects, and a space to draw or write a little blurb on what each speaker talks about. I hope to include this more as my children get older. 
I find that as I spend time with my children during Conference working with these activities, they stay more involved than if I just set it out and leave them to do it on their own. I am still able to take a break and write down things here and there in my own journal, and we are both paying attention to the speakers. 

I know Conference is long, but I am amazed at the success of my efforts with my children. Even my active little Harvey loves Conference. When he was younger, I pushed back his nap a little so it would overlap the afternoon session. When he saw that conference was starting and I said it was time for his nap he said, “No! I don’t want to take a nap! I want to watch the Prophet!”

Okay, now that our chores are done, the house is clean, and the kids are engaged... what about us?

Spiritual Prep: 
We are entitled to personal revelation as we listen and study the inspired words spoken in Conference. We are told in the D&C, 
“You must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you…” 
General Conference is the same way – we need to study out in our minds what we need and desire from Heavenly Father. I ponder questions that I need to have answered in my life. I pray before Conference to understand and apply the things that I will be taught.
 “If we teach by the Spirit, and you listen by the Spirit, some one of us will touch on your circumstance, sending a personal prophetic epistle just to you.” – Jeffery R. Holland

I have a personal General Conference journal, but I don't take notes in it like I did in school. I don’t write down everything I hear, because probably within hours we can access the words of our prophets through the website, or LDS App, and we can get a copy of the Conference Ensign just a couple of weeks later. Instead, I write down specific counsel that touches me. Sometimes it is just what the speaker says, and other times it is an impression or feeling or even a totally unrelated thought that comes. I often label my notes in the margin – “call to action,” “love this quote,” “scripture journal,” “challenge,” and stars next to specific answers to my questions. I also like to summarize each talk into 1 or 2 words so I can find what I am looking for faster as I come back to my notes later. It is important to write it down!




"The prompting that goes unresponded to may not be repeated. Writing down what we have been prompted with is vital." - Elder Neal A. Maxwell
Sometimes, I receive revelation during General Conference that doesn't pertain to what I was seeking. But it is needed nonetheless.  A couple of years ago, my mom asked me to check my dad's lines on NewFamilySearch. As I went though the names, there was a married couple, surrounded by so many ancestors whose work had already been finished, that had somehow been missed. They stuck out to me, and after double checking that their word had indeed not been done, I submitted their names for temple ready and received the cards in the mail. I put them in my temple bag to be sure to do the work for them the next time we attended... and life took over. A few months had gone by, and I was listening to General Conference. Elder Richard G. Scott was talking about genealogy and temple work, and said something to prompt me. I immediately thought of that sweet couple, and wrote the following in my journal:
“Ancestors are no doubt excited when their names are found and cleared for ordinance work… they are not happy when they have to continue to wait for you to go to the temple!”
Not to mention, I added a very BOLD "Call to action!" in the margin next to that one. Then, feeling a major urgency, I paused Conference, ran upstairs to make sure the cards were in my temple bag and told Justin that we needed to schedule a time to attend the temple. Yes, before we could continue watching Conference. We did attend the temple the next weekend, and it was such a special experience. I know that my sweet ancestor's spirit was with me, and that she was grateful to me for finding her name and completing her work. I'm so grateful that I was in the right place - listening to Conference - so that I was able to receive that prompting/reminder. 

EDITed to add: I made some study stickers to go in my journal instead of just writing my "tags" in the margins. You can download them in THIS POST.


After Conference is over... we aren't done. It is our responsibility to listen and apply what we learned. It is not enough just to know. The words spoken at General Conference should be a compass that points the way for us during the coming months. 
D&C 43:8-9  “And now, behold, I give unto you a commandment, that when ye are assembled together ye shall instruct and edify each other, that we may know how to act and direct my church, how to act upon the points of my law and commandments which I have given. And thus ye shall become instructed in my law of my church, and be sanctified by that which ye have received,..."
Many of us say, "Oh that session of Conference was awesome! I felt like the talks were just for me." And we take notes in our journals, then place them on the shelf for the next 6 months. But that verse in D&C wasn't over. 
"... and ye shall bind yourselves to act in all holiness before me."
That is the challenge. We need to incorporate those answers to our questions and problems into our lives and become more like Heavenly Father wants us to be - has instructed us to be through his living prophets.

Much of what Heavenly Father tells us through His prophets is intended to prevent sorrows for us individually and as a society (to teach, inspire, refine, or warn).
“The only safety we have as members of this church is to… give heed to the words and commandments that the Lord shall give through His prophet. There will be some things that take patience and faith. You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church. It may contradict your [personal] views. It may contradict your social views. It may interfere with some of your social life. But if you listen to these things, as if from the mouth of the Lord Himself, with patience and faith, the promise is that ‘the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; … and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory’.” –Harold B. Lee.
I like that promise. When we follow the counsel given in General Conference, we will be blessed with protection from the powers of Satan. I know that as we decide to make General Conference a priority in our lives, listen to the words of Heavenly Father though his mouth piece (the prophets, apostles, and other church leaders), and apply those teachings into our lives, we will be blessed.

While preparing for this talk, I realized that while I do try to incorporate the teachings I glean from General Conference into my life, my kids are getting old enough that I should find ways to help them do the same. That is something I am going to try to do after this next session of General Conference. Some ideas I have so far include:

  • Listen to a General Conference talk while we are getting ready for church each Sunday, then try to spend that week focused on incorporating some of the counsel into our lives.
  • My friend records Conference on her DVR and watches a talk each week for Family Home Evening, and they discuss it as a family. 

What are you going to do to prepare for the next session of General Conference? :)

2 comments:

  1. Best ideas! Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  2. LOVE all these ideas!!
    We get to watch conference this weekend in Australia- so looking forward to it!
    Love Georgina

    ReplyDelete

I've been getting so many spam comments lately, I've decided to disable "anonymous commenting" for a while. Sorry for any difficulty!

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