What is General Conference?
This spring, Latter-day Saints across the world participated in the 187th annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Conference lasts 6 sessions with 4 general sessions, 1 for women and girls aged 8 and up, and 1 for boys and men age 12 and up. Speakers for the Conference sessions are selected from the general authorities and leaders of the Church. Men and women prayerfully prepare to share messages of hope, faith, love, and the doctrine of Jesus Christ.
Topics can range from how to maintain our relationship with God, helpful ideas on how to get the most out of studying the scriptures, and how to find healing through Jesus Christ and his atonement.
Our family treats Conference weekends like a holiday. We have special meals and we all hang out in the living room for the 4 general sessions. Adam and I have both gone to the Conference Center to watch a session, but it’s so nice to be at home watching it.
Without further ado, here are 10 insights I received as I watched the talks from the Spring 2017 General Conference.
My 12 Insights
1. Serve Instead of Dwell
My mind is sometimes my own worst enemy. Mistrust, over-analyzing, and fear sometimes find victory in my thoughts. Sis. Linda K. Burton’s talk entitled “Certain Women” reminded me that when I feel myself sinking into negativity, I should shift my thoughts to serving others. While I know serving others may not directly relate to whatever negative feelings I’m experiencing, I know that I can be lifted to a higher mental place when I serve, allowing me a more realistic, merciful, and kinder vantage point of myself and others.
2. My Calling Is for My Good
I’ve loved every single one of my callings. From my very first calling as Relief Society Chorister to my current calling as Personal Progress Specialist, I genuinely have loved the opportunity to serve in those capacities. However, my callings have not been all sunshine and rainbows. I’ve experienced some real testing and growing moments in all of my callings – hard times when I’ve wondered if I should have said “yes” in the first place.
But during the Women’s Session of Conference, I was reminded that every facet of every calling is for my good. Whatever challenges I face in my calling, I need to remember to seek the lesson and growth opportunity from it, rather than get stuck in the pity parties and anger sessions.
3. Feed His Sheep
For, what seemed like, the first time ever, I realized that Christ was the only person who could have rightly stoned the woman caught in adultery in John chapter 8. Instead of condemning her and satisfying the law of Moses, he invited her to repent – “go,” he told her, “and sin no more.”
I love this insight, received so early in the general session line-up, because it reminds me that instead of being quick to judge, we should be quick to invite others to be healed through Jesus Christ. We haven’t been commissioned by Christ to judge, slaughter, or condemn his sheep, but to feed them.
4. The Gospel Changes You
Repentance is a turning away, an absolute difference and change in either your habits, thoughts, or perspective. The gospel of Jesus Christ should change us – and if we’re living it right, it should change us for the better.
“Come as you are,” a loving Father says to each of us, but He adds, “Don’t plan to stay as you are.” We smile and remember that God is determined to make of us more than we thought we could be.
~Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “Songs Sung and Unsung“
5. Return and Receive
Return and receive: those are God’s goals for us. Elder Ballard invited us to create one- or two-word goals for ourselves that will help us stau focused on our ultimate journey.
I have considered what words would best define my current goals. Here are some ideas I’ve come up with:
- Be Charity
- Pray and Do
- Turn Away (or Resist Temptation)
6. Be a Spiritual First Responder
I want the Lord to trust me with sharing the gospel, with taking advantage of a teaching moment, with demonstrating the integrity to hold true to my covenants when it may be unpopular or awkward to do so. I want to be trusted as one of his “spiritual first responders,” as Elder Rasband put it. To do that, I need to work on looking outside myself more, acting on promptings more, and praying for more opportunities to be on the Lord’s errand.
7. Faith and Obedience Do Not Need to Know the Details
I’m a planner. Sometimes to a fault. Once, we had a guest over for a visit. After visiting for a while, it was nearing dinnertime. We started dropping hints that we were going to have dinner soon, hoping they’d understand we weren’t prepared to have an additional mouth to feed. This individual continued to stay until I was so hangry I just put the water to boil for some noodles. As the water boiled so did my temper. It was not my most brilliant of moments. In the end, we had enough food and as soon as they had emptied their dish, our guest decided it was time to leave.
Since then I’ve kept a little extra food that can be prepared at a moment’s notice if ever that situation presented itself again. But regardless of my temporal preparation, I don’t think God would direct anyone to my dinner table if He knew I was going to freak out (even a little) every time. No matter how much I read my scriptures, kept a great food storage, or served in my calling, if I lacked the faith and obedience to either literally or figuratively feed his sheep on a moment’s notice, I would be falling short of what I and God wanted from me. I need to work on having more frequent figurative “trust falls” with my Heavenly Father and allow Him to be the rightful planner He is.
8. Allow My Water to Become Wine
When Jesus turned the wedding feast’s water into wine – and not just any wine, but the best – it was a miracle. The water didn’t question its ability to become wine. It didn’t say “hold on, there, I don’t think you’ve got the right liquid – I’m water, and I can never be wine.” It harkened to the voice of its Master and became the impossible.
The gospel of Jesus Christ promises the same thing to us. We already have the potential to become wine – and not just any wine, but the very best. All we need to do is allow God’s plan to fully become part of us and we’ll become living, breathing miracles.
I want that. I want that so badly.
9. To Warn is to Care
Like many neighborhoods nowadays we have a private neighborhood Facebook group. Members and non-members post block parties, items for sale, babysitting needs, and other such things in the group. It’s been a wonderful tool to get to know each other better and help each other more.
Every now and again a sketchy looking van might be seen driving by too many times by the park. Or an angry-looking dog has been spotted. Members of the Facebook group jump on and share the warning to keep safe. “To warn,” Elder Christofferson says, “is to care.” As much as I’d hate for a child to go missing or a neighbor to be bitten, do I hate the thought of my neighbor missing out on the joy that can be found in the gospel?
It feels easy to warn of temporal or tangible dangers, but I’m reminded what Christ said when he was ridiculed for forgiving the man with palsy of his sins:
And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts?
For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk?
But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house.
And he arose, and departed to his house.
Christ saved the man from his spiritual dangers first.
10. Pray for Charity Before Correction
This was a great reminder as a parent. Whether I feel like exploding or see a need for gentle reproof, I have committed to praying before offering any kind of correction.
11. Pause and Behold
In 3 Nephi 17 we read of Christ and his angels blessing the children:
“And he spake unto the multitude, and said unto them: Behold your little ones.
“And as they looked to behold they cast their eyes towards heaven, and they saw the heavens open, and they saw angels descending out of heaven as it were in the midst of fire; and they came down and encircled those little ones about, and they were encircled about with fire; and the angels did minister unto them.
When Elder Palmer shared his message entitled “Then Jesus Beholding Him Loved Him” this is the scripture that came to me. Like Elder Palmer, I’ve read and re-read the story of the rich man many times and have never noticed that phrase. But it’s the one that makes all the difference, doesn’t it?
As a wife, I want to pause, behold, and see my husband’s goodness before I get irritated with or offended by him. As a mother, I want to pause, behold, and remember that mistakes are not sins and that teaching and learning happens best when the Spirit is present. As a daughter of God, I want to pause and behold the amazing creation I am and the individual worth inherent in my divine family history when I decide I hate this body part or that feature.
12. Thank the Lord for Correction
I make mistakes. I can be stubborn, offensive, and slow to obey promptings. Some days I don’t prioritize scripture study and prayer and, as a result, they don’t get done. The Lord, thankfully, doesn’t cast me aside each time I fail. He doesn’t say “I told you so” or “Seriously? Again?” every single time I mess up.
Like the woman at the well, Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father offer their living water to me – teachings that, if applied, will fill me with their redeeming mercy and grace. In my moments of stubbornness, self-pity, or anger, it can be hard to say “thank you” for the correction I’m receiving. But grateful is exactly what I should be: grateful that They are offering me a second (or millionth) chance, that They love me enough to try to teach me (again), that I have the opportunity to repent and try again because Christ already paid for my sin.
A Final Thought
Ultimately, that’s what General Conference is: a big dose of encouraging correction. These insights don’t mean much if I don’t attempt to apply them in my life and relationships. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to hear God’s instruction to His people through His ordained servants just as in times of old.
I encourage each of us to drink deeply from the scriptures and revisit the words from the speakers of this General Conference to see what the Lord wants us to do and who He wants us to become.
But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.