Every six months — in April and October — millions of Latter-day Saints around the world pause work and activities for two days to gather in families and hear messages of hope and inspiration from leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
While the Conference Center isn’t open to the public for this general conference due to COVID-19, the event is still a unique opportunity for Latter-day Saints to receive spiritual nourishment wherever they are in the world.
“Welcome to general conference and to the privilege of hearing the voice of the Lord,” President Russell M. Nelson said at the opening of last April’s conference.
Here are five ideas for how to get the most out of general conference:
1. Write down your questions before general conference
Church leaders have encouraged members to pray for guidance and write down questions before general conference, then listen for answers through impressions and thoughts during each session.
“As you prepare for general conference, I invite you to ponder questions you need to have answered,” Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles wrote in September 2011. “Answers to your specific prayers may come directly from a particular talk or from a specific phrase. At other times answers may come in a seemingly unrelated word, phrase, or song. A heart filled with gratitude for the blessings of life and an earnest desire to hear and follow the words of counsel will prepare the way for personal revelation.”
Possible questions might include:
- How can I improve my relationship with my spouse or a family member?
- How can I help a friend with a problem?
- How can I be more kind and forgiving of others?
- What can I do to become a more spiritual person?
- What is the next step in my career path?
Elder Robert D. Hales, who also served with the Quorum of the Twelve, gave the following counsel in the October 2013 general conference:
“If you will listen, you will feel the spirit well up within you. The Lord will tell you what he wants you to do with your life. In conferences we can receive the word of the Lord meant just for us,” he said. “If you pray with a sincere desire to hear your Heavenly Father’s voice in the messages of … conference, you will discover that he has spoken to you to help you, to strengthen you, and to lead you home into his presence.”
2. Review messages from the previous general conferences
Refresh your memory by reviewing messages from the previous general conference.
The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles extended at least 15 invitations during the October 2021 general conference, according to the Church News.
Assigned speakers spend months preparing and revising their messages. Topics are not assigned.
“To me, it is remarkable how those themes seem to fit so well with each other,” President Nelson said at the end of the April 2019 conference. “As you study them, seek to learn what the Lord is trying to teach you through his servants.”
3. Get to know the speakers
Getting to know and feel a connection to a speaker’s personal life will help listeners, particularly youth, to feel more engaged in conference, Brother Bradley R. Wilcox said in a 2010 Deseret News interview.
Meet the global leadership of the church, learning faces and names, by downloading a chart of of the general authorities and general officers of the church on ChurchofJesusChrist.org.
“When youth can put a real face on these special messengers, they will become human,” said Brother Wilcox, who was called as the second counselor in the Young Men general presidency in April 2020.
Here are a few interesting notes from the biographies of the church’s First Presidency:
- President Nelson is a father of 10 children and was a world-renowned heart surgeon before his call to the Quorum of the Twelve.
- President Dallin H. Oaks was raised by a single parent, served as the president of BYU, had a legal career and was close to a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court before his call to the apostleship.
- President Henry B. Eyring taught in the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University, served as president of Ricks College (BYU-Idaho) and developed a talent for artwork.
Brother Wilcox said he connected with the late Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, of the Quorum of the Twelve, when he met him on his mission. His son paid more attention to Elder Wirthlin’s talks after he learned the church leader was a football star in his younger days.
As church leadership continues to expand around the globe, there is an opportunity to learn and understand more about the countries and cultures of international church leaders, Brother Wilcox said.
“Help youth learn about and understand who they are,” Brother Wilcox said in 2010. “If they can feel a connection with the brethren, then they are going to tune into what they are teaching.”
4. Take notes and be ready to respond when answers come
Recording the highlights of each talk, especially impressions, thoughts and lessons learned, can lead to personal revelation.
In the same 2013 talk, Elder Hales noted that he doesn’t always write down exactly what a speaker is saying, but rather he writes the message he received from the spirit.
“What is said is not as important as what we hear and what we feel,” he said. “That is why we make an effort to experience conference in a setting where the still, small voice of the spirit can be clearly heard, felt and understood.”
Recording heavenly direction shows the Lord how it is valued, the late Elder Richard G. Scott, of the Quorum of the Twelve, said in April 2012.
“Inspiration carefully recorded shows God that his communications are sacred to us,” Elder Scott said. “Recording will also enhance our ability to recall revelation. Such recording of direction of the Spirit should be protected from loss or intrusion by others.”
Those who listen closely will hear a “customized,” personal message from the Lord, said Elder Neil L. Andersen, of the Quorum of the Twelve, in October 2017.
“As you listen, the messages you receive may be very literal or they may be customized just for you,” Elder Andersen said. “I promise you that as you prepare your spirit and come with the anticipation that you will hear the voice of the Lord, thoughts and feelings will come into your mind that are customized especially for you.”
Elder Andersen encouraged Latter-day Saints to review notes and conference messages after the conference, then respond to the Lord’s direction.
“There is a treasure chest of heavenly direction awaiting your discovery in the messages of general conference,” the apostle said. “The test for each of us is how we respond to what we hear, what we read, and what we feel. ... I promise that as you hear the voice of the Lord to you in the teachings of this general conference, and then act on those promptings, you will feel heaven’s hand upon you, and your life and the lives of those around you will be blessed.”
President Nelson urged members to “study conference messages frequently — even repeatedly — during the next six months,” at the conclusion of the April 2018 conference.
“Conscientiously look for ways to incorporate these messages in your family home evenings, your gospel teaching, your conversations with family and friends, and even your discussions with those not of our faith,” President Nelson said. “Many good people will respond to the truths taught in this conference when offered in love. And your desire to obey will be enhanced as you remember and reflect upon what you have felt these past two days.”
Consider setting goals for how you will apply counsel received during general conference.
5. Start a fun family general conference tradition
In the years when young men and fathers attended a Saturday evening priesthood session, women in the Nelson family made large batches of homemade doughnuts so when the Nelson men returned home they could feast, President Nelson said in April 1999.
“When we return home, we will feast on those doughnuts,” President Nelson said. “While we enjoy them, these mothers, sisters and daughters will listen intently as each of us speaks of things he learned here tonight. It’s a nice family tradition, symbolic of the fact that everything we learn and do as priesthood bearers should bless our families.”
Most Latter-day Saint traditions involve large family gatherings for meals and making favorite recipes while listening to conference. Families with younger children have been known to build big puzzles and invent games like conference bingo to help kids stay in the room.
The late Elder L. Tom Perry, of the Quorum of the Twelve, spoke of righteous family traditions in April 1990.
“If we will build righteous traditions in our families, the light of the gospel can grow ever brighter in the lives of our children from generation to generation,” the apostle said. “Our family activities and traditions can be a beacon to the rest of the world as an example of how we should live to merit his choice blessings and live in peace and harmony until the day that he returns to rule and reign over us.”