For Irena, a member of the Beograd Branch in Serbia, the anticipation of upcoming general conference is comparable to a holiday like Easter or Christmas. “I love general conference,” she said. “By listening to the talks from our inspired General Authority leaders, I always get answers [to] my questions.”
Or as Kelvin Wonder Peni, a member of the Munali Ward, Lusaka Zambia Stake, noted, conference time is revelation time.
For members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the biannual event which features counsel, direction and invitations from Church leaders provides opportunities to learn, receive answers to specific questions, feel the Holy Ghost and recharge spiritual batteries.
“There have been many occasions over the years where I have felt that a particular talk is specifically for me,” said Felicity M. Stevenson, a member of the Roodepoort Ward, Roodepoort South Africa Stake. “Sometimes there have been more than one talk that ‘has my name on it,’ as it were. My Heavenly Father knows me.”
For new convert Popescu Alexandru Olimpiu of the Mihai Bravu Branch in Bucharest, Romania, listening to general conference will be a first. “I will expect to find answers to my problems, strengthen my testimony and find peace.”
As Gibson Pandian from the Coimbatore 2nd Branch, Coimbatore India District, listens to the prophet’s messages, “I deeply feel the love that God has for me,” he said.
During each general conference, the Spirit witnesses that the prophets and apostles are called by God, Pandian added. “I believe that our spiritual preparation towards every general conference is a manifestation of our desire and willingness to listen to our Father in Heaven,” he said.
Violeta Paneva, the Relief Society president in the Sofia Branch in the Bulgaria/Central Eurasian Mission, recently distributed a gift for each sister in her branch in preparation for general conference: a notebook, pen, a message about Christlike love and an invitation to listen to conference and record spiritual impressions and answers they receive to questions and challenges. “I have noticed that the answers are proportional to the work and effort I have put into my preparation,” she said.
That “work and effort” can look a little different for each Church member and each family. Here are a few examples from Latter-day Saints throughout the world about how they prepare to participate in this special event.
Taking physical preparations can lay a solid foundation for good spiritual preparation.
For example, because of the time difference between Salt Lake City and the island of Tahiti, general conference starts at 6 a.m. Tetuanuit Teriitemoehaa of the Punaruu Ward, Punaauia Tahiti Stake, makes sure his family gets to bed early the night before and prepares food to be ready between sessions so that they are well equipped to listen.
As a “night person” who has a hard time getting to bed before midnight, Pou Narii of the Nuuroa Ward in the Punaauia Tahiti Stake can struggle with the early start time. “But recently I have started a new good habit, which is to strive to be to bed around 10 p.m.,” Narii said.
Because internet access can be unreliable, Luis Fernando López Moreno from the Enoc Ward, Maturín Venezuela Stake, said members in his ward are striving to coordinate transportation and set in place COVID-19 precautions so that members can watch in the chapel. For those who can’t attend, they are looking for ways to share internet.
“It’s a blessing to have the internet today that allows us to be present in these sacred meetings, especially in this time of the pandemic. I love the Lord and His kingdom on the earth,” Moreno said.
During the time of pandemic when many Church members are following local guidelines to limit gatherings, Brother Essombo from the Massa Ward in the Brazzaville Republic of Congo Stake said he is preparing financially so that his family can afford the internet connection to watch in their home. “General conference has always been a time when the Lord speaks to us through His servants,” he said.
Sukoluhle Maturure Dickie from the Palmeiras Ward, Beira Mozambique Stake, makes sure the internet, computer and television are connected and the family is in their “Sunday best” sitting in the living room before conference begins. “That way we avoid losing out on the talks trying to connect.”
Alexia Pommells Pinnock of the Old Harbour Branch, Kingston Jamaica Stake, said she and her husband ensure they have pens and journals for recording impressions. “My husband usually prints out general conference activity booklets for the children to help them focus on the speaker and listen for key words in their messages since they are still very young.”
As an interpreter, Sunee A. A. Rakotonindriana from the Antananarivo Ward, Ivandry Madagascar Stake, prepares in a unique way. “Part of my preparation as well for this service is to read previous general conference talks out loud in Malagasy, review the latest Church policies and changes, and know specific words or Church program names to better interpret the messages to local members.”
Rachel Buck, a member of the Sharjah Ward in the Abu Dhabi Stake, said she lives in a place surrounded by multiple mosques. Every time she hears “the beautiful Muslim Call to Prayer” — which happens five times a day — she spends a few minutes pondering how Heavenly Father speaks to her. “I know that it is vital to be able to hear the Spirit and spending quiet reflection helps me prepare to recognize moments of revelation while listening to conference.”
Heide Duckert of the Munich 2nd Ward in the Munich Germany Stake not only prays about the messages but also for the speakers. “I can imagine that they feel nervous and worry that they are prepared enough or that they will say what the Lord wants them to. They have a great responsibility.”
In the past, Yury Orlov and the other members of the Dnepr Left Bank Branch, Kharkov Ukraine District, have used general conference as an opportunity to invite others to hear the words of the Lord’s prophets and apostles. “We invite as many people as we can to hear the words of our beloved prophets, seers and revelators. It is always a special activity, because we speak with so many people of different faiths,” Orlov said.
This year, however, due to the pandemic everyone will be watching from home. So for the upcoming general conference they plan to invite friends using social media and online methods, he said.
For Tawanda Fred Msasa of the Luveve Branch, Bulawayo Zimbabwe Stake, the spiritual preparation for general conference comes through his daily efforts to keep the commandments — prayer, scripture study, ministering, paying tithes and partaking of the sacrament. “I know these are daily and weekly acts, and aren’t always easy to do sometimes, but it is their positive effect on my everyday life that help me have fulfilling general conference days.”
Having the right mindset going into conference is important to Ulihlonolo Chrispen Matsetlo, Famona Ward, Bulawayo Zimbabwe Stake. “My spiritual preparation begins the with the understanding that general conference is a sacred privilege to #HEARHIM through His servants. With this understanding in mind, I go there ready in my mind and heart with questions, listening ear, ready heart and real intent to act on the impressions I receive.”
As the parents of small children, Luis Arturo Zegarra Marcelo and his wife know how difficult it can be to wrangle little ones through eight to 10 hours of conference.
Each session, Marcelo and his wife, members from the Chorillos Ward, Lima Peru Chorillos Stake, take turns being in charge of caring for the kids so that the other can focus on the messages. “We try to have [our children] participate in at least one session on Sunday,” Marcelo said.
For the past several years Destiny Mawson and her family have participated in a technology fast during the month prior to conference.
“We forgo television and video games, take all games and apps off our smartphones, and only use our computers for necessary work,” she explained.
They have started their fast anywhere from a week to a month prior to general conference.
“It creates time for us to ponder and puts us in a more positive mindset so we can be receptive to the voice of the Lord,” Mawson, a member of the Hartman Park Ward, Sammamish Valley Washington Stake, said.
Lloyd Boggs from the Grafenwöhr Ward, Nuremberg Germany Stake, recalled a year when his family completed reading the Book of Mosiah in the Book of Mormon during their family scripture reading. Inspired by King Benjamin and his people, they set up a small tent in the living room to watch some of the general conference sessions. “That had a great impact on our son.”
Annette Mason from the Indian Lakes Ward, Boise Idaho West Stake, and her family participate in a general conference lineup where they guess which three members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and First Presidency will speak in each session and are awarded points for each one they got correct. Not only did it help the kids learn to recognize the Brethren, but it also encouraged them to stay engaged during the eight-plus hours of general conference.
“We found that completing the lineup really helps our teens get excited about general conference, and we made some fun memories as a family,” she said.
The Monday before general conference, Lucia Burnside and her family, members of the Munich 4th Ward, Munich Germany Stake, have a special family home evening about conference and listening to the prophet’s voice. The kids receive conference packets equipped with coloring pages, bingo and other activities and then they talk about the questions they have and would like to seek answers to during the meetings.
Even though there are many ways to prepare for general conference, for Rasolofonjatovomalala Tafitasoa from Anjanahary Ward, Ivandry Madagascar Stake, “Understanding that the general conference is a great privilege, as well as a blessing, helps me to prepare myself with joy both physically and spiritually.”