Getting the most out of General Conference
I remember when I was younger and General Conference meant a week off from going to church! That’s because I lived in Utah where it was broadcast on TV, but I know it wasn’t that way for everyone, including my husband who grew up in California and it still meant driving to the church building and sitting in hard folding chairs in his church clothes for hours. He wasn’t a fan.
Times have changed
Now that I’ve gotten older, my attitude has changed. I absolutely love General Conference, but for so many other, better reasons! I look forward to the next one almost as soon as the current one is over. I love reviewing the talks and studying them thoroughly. They are, after all, our modern day revelation. This week I’ve been reading King Benjamin’s speech, and it’s amazing how similar it is. I pitch my tent facing the temple, and listen to amazing messages, and if I’m really paying attention, I walk away with a new commitment to do a little better to follow the Savior.
And all of this is how the General Conference Challenge was born.
I remember taking part in one many years ago and how much I loved it. When I started my own blog, the idea came flooding back to me and I knew I wanted to participate in such a challenge again, and hopefully others would join me. So if you’ve never done it before, I hope you will! There is so much to be gained from it!
So what is a General Conference Challenge?
It’s actually really simple. Basically, it is taking the time to study the entire Conference Report right before the next Conference happens. Think of a show you’ve binged on Netflix….because it’s a little like that, only better. You can set it up for any schedule that you like, but it’s usually about one talk a day, to read it, watch it or listen to it. You can (and should) take some notes or write in a journal the inspiration that comes. And if you’ve never done one of these challenges before, it is quite amazing how much inspiration can come when you’re submerging yourself in the words of the prophets every single day.
This is a chance to remind yourself what you were taught and how you felt during the last Conference. It reinvigorates those feelings that you felt when you listened the first time, the things you planned to do, and the commitment you felt to do them. Kind of like those feelings you get every New Year’s when you say “this is the year that I REALLY WILL…(your lofty goal here…)”
And it gets you into the “listening and learning” mode as you prepare for the next Conference. It invites the Spirit early, and that Spirit testifies of how important it is to pay attention. After all, these are the words given for us, in our day.
This is how Conference always goes for me…
Every six months, I get so excited as Conference approaches. THIS is the time—I will listen, I will pay attention, I will take notes and I will NOT get distracted! And I will most definitely NOT FALL ASLEEP!
And the truth is, even if I do all those things, and I pay attention and listen and stay awake, it doesn’t matter because General Conference is a dump truck, and all I have is a wheelbarrow. No matter how hard I try, I can’t fit it all. I can shovel and run as fast as I can, but there’s no way I can get it all. And even though I love every minute of it, most of what they offer me ends up laying in the driveway waiting for me to come back and move it.
And then life happens...
I lose track of what was said and who said it. It all blurs together and all my best plans start to be forgotten.
The motivation I felt to do better starts to slip away and old routines come back.
Soon all I remember of Conference are the snippets and quotes I see on social media.
This is why I love doing a General Conference Challenge
No matter how much I intend to do better every six months, there will always be obstacles preventing me from getting out of it what I really need. So many years ago when some friends invited me to participate in their challenge, I decided to give it a try. It was such an amazing experience that I have been doing it ever since. Sometimes I’ve been done it on my own, but it is so much better with others.
I don’t know why it matters, but it does. There is something special about knowing others are participating at the same time. Maybe it’s the the feeling you get knowing that all the Saints are gathering in their homes when Conference happens, but on a smaller scale. Or going to Relief Society and feeling the comaraderie with the sisters in your ward as you learn and grow together. Whatever it is, I can feel the difference when I do it as part of a group.
So how does the challenge work?
It’s really quite simple, and you don’t need anything special to participate. Just commit to study.
Step 1: Pick a time frame and set up a schedule.
This is going to be up to you completely. I like to do a talk a day, but if that’s too much, you can do every other day. Plan to be done as close to the start of next Conference as possible if you can. This puts you in a great frame of mind for listening when it begins. However, don’t let the time frame stop you! If it’s too close to the next Conference to finish, start anyway! You can take a break and then resume if you need to. It’s not a hard and fast requirement.
Step 2: Think about your life and where you are right now, and prayerfully think about the inspiration you’re looking for
Before beginning, make a list of any questions you have. Like I stated before, this challenge is best done with a journal. Take the time to write about what you’re hoping to gain from the challenge. You won’t see the answers you need if you don’t know what the questions are. Heavenly Father knows what you need, but you still need to ask.
Step 3: Pray for inspiration as you study
This is an important step! The messages in each talk will mean something different to everyone, and what the Lord needs to tell me right now is different than what He needs to tell you. Pray to recognize the message, and be sure to listen and prepare for the answer.
Don't limit your questions to the things that you want, but be sure to ask Him to tell you what He wants you to know. The answers may surprise you!
Step 4: Gather the right materials
We all learn differently, so maybe you prefer to listen or watch the talks. My personal favorite is to sit at my desk and watch the video replay with a written copy in front of me to follow along. I can pause the video and mark things or take notes when needed. I also prefer a wide margin copy of the Conference Report so there is plenty of room for notes and doodling (yes, I love the doodling and making things look cute and pretty is so fun for me!) If you don’t have a copy with wide margins and want one, there is a free version you can download right here in my shop.
And I can’t state strongly enough the importance of a JOURNAL.
Whether it is an “official” journal or just a notebook or composition book, writing and keeping track of your thoughts is so important. And it should be more than some doodles in the margins. I recently went back and read some of my journal entries from about five years ago as I was doing a study of the Book of Mormon, and it’s amazing to see where I was then, what has changed and what hasn’t….and the funny thing is, I think I was inspired to do it. Because the words I wrote were a message I needed to hear right now. Who knew I could be my own inspiration five years in the future?
I have a lot of great journals available in my shop, and if you want something like that, I hope you’ll check it out. There is one that specifically matches the General Conference Report if you want it to match.
Whether you use one that I have created or choose something else, I recommend having a brand new one that is specific to this challenge/Conference. That way you can label it and tuck it away, but find it if you ever need or want to go back and read what you wrote about a specific talk.
Get Ready to Participate!
I hope you’ll want to join the challenge and participate with me as I get started! You can join the official challenge here.
When joining, you’ll get a series of emails with all kinds of tips and tricks for studying, and motivation to help you out along the way (as well as some freebies that I know you’ll love) And I hope you’ll get so much out of it and love it as much as I do!