Sunday, November 2, 2008

General Conference: guidance for the next six months

It's been a long time since I posted. I had a very busy October - half of which was spent on the Oregon coast at a professional fiction writers' workshop called the "Master Class" - 15 straight days of intense learning about the publishing business and the craft of being a commercial fiction writer, with a set of teachers who are well-published and experienced writers themselves who are "paying it forward" to upcoming writers. I worked very hard, and it was well worth every penny.

However, there was, for me, a considerable down side to the workshop (other than the obvious: missing my wife and son tremendously) - for the first time in about ten years, I missed watching the semi-annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I also missed attending regular Sunday church, which is extremely rare for me. I really missed these opportunities to refuel my spirit.

For this post, I'd especially like to focus on General Conference.

I have to admit: I am a HUGE lover of Conference. In fact, I am very particular about making sure not to miss any part of this twice-a-year event. In most places in the world, Church members gather in their meetinghouses to watch a satellite broadcast of the Conference sessions (always the first full weekend of April and October). Here in Utah, we are blessed to be able to watch it in the comfort of our own homes on the local NBC affiliate, KSL. (Of course, there's a down side to that - it's easy to get TOO comfortable and fall asleep while watching.) And although it's more convenient to watch at home when you have little children, I do miss the increased feeling of reverence that I got when I had to dress in my Sunday best and sit in a pew among fellow Saints to watch Conference (back when I lived outside Utah).

Each General Conference consists of five two-hour sessions: Saturday morning, Saturday afternoon, Sunday morning, Sunday afternoon, and a special Saturday evening session for the Priesthood holders of the Church. (There is also a special session for the women of the Church the week prior.)

Ten hours of church in one weekend? Yep, and I truly relish every minute of it.

Twice a year, I get the opportunity to listen to the prophets of the Lord present amazing, powerful, important, loving messages to the Church. This is a chance to hear from Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ; to hear what is needed for the church membership to know for the next six months. And there is always such beautiful, uplifting music provided by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Since I joined the church I have always held these Conferences sacred, and count myself truly privileged to be able to watch and listen to them (of course, anyone, church member or not, may listen to or watch Conference). And I have even been so blessed as to have been able to attend General Conference in person a couple of times over the years.

The month following General Conference, the Church magazine, Ensign, collates all the talks from Conference into one convenient resource. This is great, since it is always edifying to read and re-read the Conference talks, refresh one's memory, or fill in blanks where you may have been distracted or sleepy. It's also a great resource for developing lessons and talks that you give in church during the following few months (or any time thereafter).

I love hearing from the living Prophet. I love knowing what the Lord wants me to know in a contemporary setting. Not only can I look to the ancient scriptures for guidance, but I know that the Lord loves me and wants what is best for me here and now, and will not leave me alone without ongoing guidance. General Conference provides that ongoing guidance, and if we listen to the wonderful lessons taught, we can become better people, learning to serve others, make good choices, and prepare ourselves for what is ahead.

As disappointed as I am to have missed this most recent General Conference, the good news is I can read or listen or watch any of the talks online, and I can also buy them on CD or DVD (very inexpensive at the LDS Distribution Center).

General Conference has truly been a blessing in my life, and I encourage all to spend some time reading, listening to, or watching the excellent talks.

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