At the Church of Jesus Christ’s general conference last weekend, Elder Jeffrey Holland shared a letter that made everyone laugh.

It was from a child who had written in crayon:

“Dear Bishop, general confrins was boring why do we half to do it? tell me why.”

A writer at the Religion News Service took that laugh and ran with it, penning a column in which she raised the same question, but seriously. While I can’t speak for the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles or the church, I can speak for myself, a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

My answer starts at general conference and ends with me literally getting hit by a truck.

In October 2020, I was present in Utah when President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency, delivered a talk called “Tested, Proved and Polished.”

While listening to President Eyring’s talk, I had a strong impression that my time of testing would arrive soon. I wrote down this impression and no less than a month later, a pickup truck hit me as I crossed the street.

The night that I was hit, I couldn’t fall asleep because of the pain. I had my phone next to me and opened up my Gospel Library app to read President Eyring’s talk again. “When you wonder how much pain you can endure well, remember him,” it read. “(Jesus Christ) suffered what you suffer so that He would know how to lift you up. He may not remove the burden, but He will give you strength, comfort, and hope. He knows the way.”

I can’t fully explain it. President Eyring’s message was simple. Others had said similar things. And yet, when he expressed this message, the Holy Spirit communicated to me that these words would have a great impact in my life — and they did.

There have been many other such examples of how general conference has impacted me. This past weekend, I took to Facebook to discuss how I’ve felt frustrated recently that God hasn’t resolved some of the ongoing physical and mental health challenges that have stemmed from the car accident. And yet, the opening talks of general conference immediately helped me appreciate that our relationship with deity isn’t transactional, and that I also need to stop blaming myself for things which are beyond my control. Talks about waiting on the Lord and healing, I confessed publicly on Facebook, spoke to me in profound and deep ways that I very much needed.

I’m not alone.

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One of many other social media posts I encountered from fellow Latter-day Saints read: “Woke up today with a heart full of gratitude for this past (conference) weekend. Plenty of things for me now to ponder and dive into. I’m also grateful for answers that I needed that came very clearly. In a day that deconstruction of religion is the trend I am a witness that the plan does work, and even when I don’t understand it all, I know His heart and I’m so grateful He knows mine. #ldsconf #thechurchofjesuschristoflatterdaysaints.”

Some of the talks have designated turning points in my life where I felt forever changed by hearing them. My soul has been moved. Some talks cause me to weep, others to rejoice, others to contemplate, others to pause and others to change. I’ve had talks speak to me strongly and other talks that I have had to sit with and think about.

The experience, as it plays out over the course of two weekends a year, is a microcosm for my religion. It’s a meditative process that has become integral to my faith. I know of a tax accountant who listens to past general conference talks daily as she works in a high stress job.

Other religions have important holidays and annual rituals which mark believers’ devotion and remind them of their faith. The familiarity and repetition of these practices serve as comforting opportunities to pause and rediscover belief. Conference has come to serve a similar kind of function with its biannual rhythm.

It’s also a powerful opportunity to come together as one single body of Christ and experience the same messages as a unified faith community.

Although I’m originally from the East Coast, I now live in an area with a dense population of Latter-day Saints. General conference weekend has fostered traditions within my circles. I have participated in traditions like doing a service project in between sessions, journaling in picturesque places on Sunday night, and of course, eating cinnamon rolls.

This fellowship and renewed attention to the spiritual elements of my life rejuvenates my soul and gives me a strong sense of being part of something larger than myself.

A few years ago while watching a session with friends, I had a distinct and clear prompting to bring a friend cookies and write him a note expressing my love for him and God’s love for him. Shortly after doing this, I learned that he had a difficult time that weekend and that this was especially meaningful for him.

I believe the sense of unity and community that we facilitate and foster during conference can lead to more moments like this — moments where we feel God’s love for each other. Where we take time away from the normal pace of life and set aside a time for contemplation and inspiration in living more like Jesus Christ would have us live.

When I consider that members across the whole world gather in their homes, their wards and their stakes to listen to prophets, apostles and leaders, my heart feels connected to these saints. I’ve talked to Latter-day Saints who gather around a radio at odd hours to listen live to conference — their faith and devotion brings me to tears.

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It inspires me to see others sacrifice for an experience that they love so much. This worldwide unity is invaluable to fostering a unified global faith. In a world that has a lot of atomization, chaos and suffering, singing hymns of praise to God as a global people and listening to leaders repeat the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ in new and inspired ways reminds me of faith’s restorative power.

In this way, general conference is not incidental to the church — some relic of a past era worth dispensing with — but remains fundamental to rejuvenating faith in a world desperate for purpose, meaning and renewal.

The restoration of the church involves new and exciting teachings, but it also involves us being spiritually restored and remembering that if God speaks us every six months, he can surely speak to us each day. For those of us who see the value of these special weekends each calendar year, general conference is a time when the simplicity and universality of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ becomes crystal clear.

So, I believe that we “half” to do general conference because unlike most major media events, it allows us to find revelation, simplicity and peace in a complex world.

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