Twice a year, during the first weekend of April and the first weekend of October, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints holds a worldwide gathering where church leaders teach, uplift and educate about Jesus Christ and His restored gospel.
All are welcome and invited to join and participate in this bi-annual conference. Although messages are taught clearly and simply from the pulpit, members of the Church are encouraged to prepare for the conference in a way that makes it revelatory and personal. BYU students have said they embrace the opportunity to learn from God’s prophets and to receive unique guidance to help them as they navigate life.
BYU junior Ikakia Jensen said he has prepared for this conference by identifying a need he has in his life and making it a focus throughout the conference.
“I’ll usually think of a question that I want an answer to. Then I’ll write that question at the top of every page of the notebook I’m going to use to take notes,” Jensen said. “While I watch, I’ll draw a little arrow pointing up towards the question next to anything that I have written that could help answer it.”
With this focus, Jensen said he is able to identify the answers that he received throughout the conference. Institute teacher Andrew Gebert said he agrees with Jensen’s approach. “If we don’t approach conference with a question or a hunger then it can be just a time to eat a lot of snacks,” Gebert said.
Regarding a shift in culture, Gebert said, “Sometimes there is a cultural thing where we will listen to conferences and do something else. Like housework, or work in the garden or yard, or homework and although we may be listening, we aren’t internalizing it.”
Gebert asserts that this approach limits the impact the conference can have on its listener. He referred to the parable of the sower found in Matthew 13. This parable tells the story of a man who is sowing seeds in four different places: a path, rocky ground, thorny ground and good soil. The seeds are only able to grow in good soil as it gives them the nutrients to place and build good, strong roots.
Gebert built on this parable through a series of application-based questions saying, “Good soil represents people who hear the message and live it in their lives. How is your dirt? What kind of soil are you? And what does it take to be ‘fertile soil’ for the seed to grow and how does that compare to my heart being prepared to receive what the lord wants to give me in conference? Am I really seeking or am I approaching it as a checklist of what I am supposed to do?”
BYU sophomore James Finlinson built on this principle of the sower saying that an individual’s heart will learn different principles based on their personal preparedness to receive knowledge.
With a focus on preparation, Finlinson said, “One who has a rich soil of understanding about recent conference addresses, recent major gospel themes, an acute awareness of one’s personal standing with God, and an intentional plan to grow to the next level is much better prepared to gain actionable insight and valuable insight from General Conference.”
The First Presidency of the Church invited all to participate and join in the coming conference. They said in a letter to local church leaders, “General conference provides an opportunity to receive personal revelation as general Church leaders give counsel and direction. We encourage members to listen to, study, ponder, and apply the counsel given.”
Prayer should be an essential part of the conference experience, Gebert said. He encouraged people to not only take notes on what is said throughout General Conference, but to pay attention to what is being taught by the Holy Ghost.
Finlinson has seen this principle proved true in his own experience saying, “I’ve nearly always learned lessons and felt direction from God to do certain things, but at conference there are so many of them I forget them all by the end.”