I’m one of those church members who often feels guilty about the fact that I don’t like General Conference. Don’t get me wrong. I sustain our church leaders, love the messages that come from their talks, and enjoy the spiritual renewal from personal revelation and answers to prayers that often accompanies General Conference. However, these things usually happen for me the week after conference is over and into the following months, once the text and videos are released online and in printed form.
Why don’t I “like” conference?
- I get overwhelmed with the time. It’s hours upon hours….upon hours--into days, for two weekends. I begin to feel anxiety from an overload of information, all at once. (Side note: my LEAST effective Love Language is Quality Time.) It all begins to run together and get muddled.
- Also, I have 3 young children. Much of my time during talks is spent corralling my boys, coercing (bribing) them to listen to a certain number of talks, interrupting messages for snacks/meals, and countless other distractions. Plus, our Saturday mornings are often full of kid activities—sports, etc., which often poses scheduling issues.
- I am a napper. The calming, soothing voices of those wonderfully gentle men and women put me to sleep, and I end up napping through half the talks.
- Finally, I am not a strong auditory learner. When I try to sit and simply listen to messages, I feel like I miss important ideas, or talks all flow in one ear and out the other. Even with note-taking, I find myself doodling and distracted. My favorite talks during conference are the ones that have subtitles! Reading while I listen helps. If only all the speakers had that!
So, it’s not that I don’t LOVE conference. I just like it better after-the-fact.
How I’ve learned to survive conference, and begin to give myself a break during General Conference Weekend:
1. Record Live Conference:
This way, we can pause and rewind quotes or announcements we might have missed. If a soccer game, meal, or meltdown occurs during the structured schedule of speakers, we can leave it be and catch up later. Plus, breaking up the back-to-back-to-back speakers allows us digest the information in smaller chunks.
2. Try to Keep the Kids Busy
We’ve tried games, General Conference Packets, Candy/Snacks, and several other kid-friendly Conference ideas, but two ideas have surfaced that work best for our children: Legos and Money.
— Before each Conference, each of our 3 boys gets to pick out a new Lego set. It’s become a fun tradition that they look forward to and love. Legos work because building the sets keeps the boys sitting still, busy, not fighting, focused, and listening while they work. It’s genius!
— My children love earning money even more than candy. As they are building Legos, they also have Conference Notes/Bingo/activity pages to complete. They can earn coins for talk summaries, identifying speakers/hymns, taking notes on what they’ve learned. This way, they know to pay attention to what our leaders are saying—in addition to searching for the next Lego piece.
3. Don’t Feel Guilty About Sleeping
I learned long ago that I couldn’t beat myself up about falling asleep during General Conference. Knowing that I can go back and catch up, whether rewinding or waiting for online and printed sources, helps. In addition, President Uchtdorf shared his thoughts on the subject during April’s conference, “I am pretty sure that church sleep is among the healthiest of all sleeps.” (Maybe naps are a way to show us that it’s important to slow down and de-stress!)
4. Study in Small Chunks Over Six Months
Once I have my copy of the General Conference edition of the Ensign Magazine, along with the online videos plus transcripts of talks, I’m able to dissect and enjoy General Conference. Tackling one or two talks at a time, or reading and watching the same talks, even if it takes me a few days to get through each one, allows me to finally enjoy General Conference. I’m able to learn in the way I learn, without guilt or distractions or feeling overwhelmed.
Live General Conference gives me anxiety. It’s the least effective way for me to gain the benefits, and it actually stresses me out a bit. I try, year after year to like it, but I’ve learned to cut myself some slack, do the best I can, and go back after the fact and study the messages, one-by-one, over the six months that follow until Conference comes around again. Learning tricks for our family to “survive” the first weekend of April and October has actually helped me look forward to six months of personal revelation. The ability to study and digest new material over time and in my ideal learning style has helped me learn to like General Conference—my way.