Recent converts to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints often serve as reminders to lifetime members that General Conference can be a valuable, faith-building experience.
Brooke Zavodney, a recent convert to the Church, stands out from her BYU peers who were raised in the gospel and explained how General Conference has helped her conversion.
Zavodney, a sophomore majoring in family life, said she was born into the Catholic religion, but her family was not actively religious. She explained that she had no contact with the LDS Church until high school, where she met a member of the Church in one of her classes.
At the time, she had been attending Bible study and church meetings of another Christian faith. Zavodney said her attendance at these religious functions fueled her desire to gain a stronger relationship with God. After meeting a member of the LDS Church and attending both seminary and Church meetings with him, she met with the missionaries.
Zavodney said she was able to watch General Conference for the first time in October 2012 before her baptism a few weeks later. Her experience with this conference solidified her faith, largely due to the Saturday morning session talk “Because I Live, Ye Shall Live Also” given by Elder Shayne M. Bowen of the Seventy.
“The talk I remember the most from that conference was about how infants that are stillborn or are miscarried go to heaven. My aunt just had a miscarriage that week. I remember that week and wanting to talk to my aunt about it,” Zavodney said. “The talk reinforced my testimony of baptism and the whole agency, accountability and Atonement thing clicked a little more for me.”
Zavodney said that this past General Conference also had a huge impact on her life as a convert. She said the October 2014 Saturday afternoon session talk, “Approaching the Throne of God with Confidence,” given by Elder Jorg Klebingat of the Seventy, helped her strengthen her relationship with the Holy Ghost and gave her insight on how the gospel affects every aspect of her life.
“As I’ve followed the principles that are in this and have studied this talk, it has really blessed my life. It just put everything into perspective,” Zavodney said.
Zavodney’s close friend, Caroline Howard, said General Conference can be a great experience for new members like Zavodney. She said it is a way for recent converts to be strengthened by the words of Church leaders and helps them realize that they are not alone as new members. She said watching Zavodney’s excitement about General Conference is a good reminder to her about how impactful it really is.
“I think that it is really special for converts who kind of went out of their way to find the truth,” Howard said. “Brooke’s overall attitude about conference and the Church is refreshing, and it makes me try to be better.”
As a convert, Zavodney learned that there are some things Church members can do in preparation for General Conference. She explained that the best way to prepare for General Conference was to pray about questions to ask and think of an attribute to develop. She encouraged others to listen for ways to apply the gospel in every aspect of their lives.
Nick Bonner, a sophomore and Zavodney’s friend, said General Conference helps recent converts with their spiritual progression. He also explained that Zavodney’s conversion has played a huge role in his friendship with her.
“All recent converts need three things: a friend, to be nourished by the word of God, and to have a calling. General Conference is great for nourishing new converts, and I know that Brooke especially looks forward to listening to living apostles and prophets,” Bonner said. “Her dedication to doing what is right has helped us get to know each other so much better than we otherwise could have.”
Bishop Max Davis, Zavodney’s current bishop, said General Conference can be helpful to new members of the Church. “General Conference gives new converts a chance to hear from the prophet and Apostles, feel the Spirit and get a different perspective of the importance of the basic principles of the gospel,” Davis said.
He also gave four P’s as tips to new converts and life members as they get ready for General Conference, which include the steps: planning, preparing, promptings and pondering. Davis said these steps can help converts, like Zavodney, to get the most out of this upcoming conference session.