Jon Ryan Jensen: Conference is the conference tradition

Whether enjoying warm cinnamon rolls or warm arepas during general conference, embrace the Savior’s warmth, as well

Special breakfasts, snacks, coloring pages, notebooks — many members of the Church, families and wards have traditions when preparing for and participating with general conference.

My dad made cinnamon rolls (with raisins) to help the five of us kids be a little more excited to get out of bed on Saturday morning. We had conference games, tie-coloring pages and other activities to stay engaged. Heaven bless my mother for all the work she put in to try to put us in a position to have a spiritual experience when we were young.

Time has passed, and so has my dad. But we still make cinnamon rolls with my own kids. And my wife and I have the same intent my parents had.

Ryan Jensen in Leticia, Colombia, while serving in the Colombia Bogotá South Mission in 2000. | Provided by Jon Ryan Jensen

I served a mission in Colombia before general conference was available to watch via the internet. As a result, members would gather at stake centers to watch the satellite feed. As missionaries, we would invite those who were learning about the Church to come and hear from living prophets.

The experience of going to a chapel for conference was new to me. Dressing up in Sunday clothes for general conference was new. Watching with a couple of hundred other people was new. Eating arepas and drinking hot chocolate with a little piece of cheese in it between sessions was new.

Shannon Symonds makes General Conference Cinnamon Rolls, a recipe she received from her mother, for her family as they gather for general conference. | Shannon Symonds

Whether it was the traditions my parents had, the ones my wife and I have, or the ones my friends in Colombia had, the important part wasn’t what we did around general conference. The important part was the actual general conference.

In the October 2019 general conference, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke about the message and meaning that is an inherent part of gathering for general conference.

“Those blessed with sight will recognize that, in spite of everything else this conference tradition may offer us, it will mean little or nothing unless we find Jesus at the center of it all,” Elder Holland said.

My mom wasn’t really interested in bribing me to watch television (she spent a lot of non-conference time getting me away from it). What she wanted was for me to hear about and learn about the Savior.

Elder Holland’s message came before a pandemic. It came before many changes took hold around the world. Looking back, the message may be more important today than it was four years ago.

“Commotion and confusion? Crowds and contention? There is plenty of all that in our world,” he said.

Maybe some ancillary traditions help us to find our way to the more important traditions that help us put Jesus Christ in the proper place in our lives.

“Sisters and brothers, through the incessant din and drumbeat of our day, may we strive to see Christ at the center of our lives, of our faith and of our service. That is where true meaning lies,” Elder Holland concluded.

So, in addition to the warm cinnamon rolls or arepas this weekend, embrace another warmth — the one that comes from the Holy Ghost as you listen to God’s prophets, Apostles and other Church leaders who share messages of eternal joy and hope at general conference.

— Jon Ryan Jensen is the director of audience and product development for the Church News.

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