Church News viewpoint: Season of spiritual revival

“Where are you going for conference?”

Now, before you do a double-take look at the calendar, rest assured — we’re nowhere near April or October, the months of the Church’s general conferences. While principles and reminders — including those in this Viewpoint piece — seem to primarily apply to preparing for and participating in the semiannual sessions, members also attend regularly scheduled regional, stake and ward conferences. Because of that, a reminder about conferences is timely all year round.

And so, back to the original question — often heard in meetinghouse hallways as these special large-scale sessions approach: “Where are you going for conference?”

Sadly, too many members see general conference or stake conference weekends as an “off” weekend — they think that since regular Sunday meetings, Sunday callings and Sunday responsibilities are dispensed with so is the commitment to attend the conference sessions.

As for the general conferences, some members think that no one will know whether they attend sessions in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, the satellite broadcasts in a local stake center or the media broadcasts in their own homes. They think maybe they’ll do something else during the meetings and then play catch-up with Internet rebroadcasts or reading the messages in the Church magazines.

As for stake conferences, some think the combination of multiple ward congregations coming together means an absence won’t be noticed, they think the meetings are too long for young children, or they think their young children will be a distraction to others.

In short, they think they won’t be missed, when in reality they themselves are missing out — missing the chance to participate in and benefit from the purposes of conferences.

Section 44 of the Doctrine and Covenants was given in February 1831, as the Lord commanded the Prophet Joseph Smith to call what would be the fourth conference of the Church — convened on June 3 in Kirtland, Ohio. The three previous conferences had been held in Fayette, New York — June 9, 1830; Sept. 26, 1830; and Jan. 2, 1831.

The first verses of that section outline some of the purposes of conferences, as the “elders of my church should be called together, from the east and from the west, and from the north and from the south” (Doctrine and Covenants 44:1). The Lord promises “that inasmuch as they are faithful, and exercise faith in me, I will pour out my Spirit upon them in the day that they assemble themselves together” (Doctrine and Covenants 44:2).

Speaking as members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, three future prophet-presidents of the Church — Presidents David O. McKay, Howard W. Hunter and Thomas S. Monson — underscored the purposes and blessings of conference participation. Their messages were presented, of course, during conferences.

In the October 1938 general conference, then-Elder David O. McKay outlined some of the principle purposes of the Church holding conferences, citing other Doctrine and Covenants scriptures:

“First, to transact Church business (Doctrine and Covenants 20:62),

“Second, to hear reports and general Church statistics (Doctrine and Covenants 73:2]),

“Third, to ‘approve of those names which I (the Lord) have appointed, or to disapprove of them’ (Doctrine and Covenants 123:144),

“Fourth, to worship the Lord in sincerity and reverence and to give and to receive encouragement, exhortation, and instruction (Doctrine and Covenants 58:56; 72:7)” (In Conference Report, October 1938, pp. 130-31).

More than four decades later in the October 1981 general conference, then-Elder Howard W. Hunter offered these insights :

“Conference time is a season of spiritual revival when knowledge and testimony are increased and solidified that God lives and blesses those who are faithful. It is a time when an understanding that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, is burned into the hearts of those who have the determination to serve Him and keep His commandments. Conference is the time when our leaders give us inspired direction in the conduct of our lives — a time when souls are stirred and resolutions are made to be better husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, more obedient sons and daughters, better friends and neighbors” (In Conference Report, October 1981, page 15; or Ensign, November 1981, p. 12).

Speaking of the Church’s area conferences — held at various sites worldwide from the 1970s into the ’80s and since replaced with regional conferences — then-Elder Thomas S. Monson described conferences as a time to ponder, a time to pray, a time to reflect and a time to resolve.

Quoted by President N. Eldon Tanner in October 1975 General Conference , Elder Monson gave a four-item alliterative list as suggestions for putting conference messages into action:

• “To listen” — to the Lord, to prophets, to parents, and to the still, small voice that whispers;

• “To learn” — from scriptures, from good books, from the lives of good men, such as the General Authorities;

• “To labor” — in building God’s kingdom, as one way to share our testimonies;

• “And to love” — in loving God and loving others as ourselves.

Such are the purposes and blessings of participating in conferences. Again, if you miss conferences, you miss out.

The best answer the question, “Where are you going for conference weekend?” “To conference, of course.”

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