How I feel about #ldsconf

Some random thoughts as I get ready for Conference. It’s not that what comes out of Conference is unimportant; it is important. From the authorities of the Church we get new policies, new doctrines. The counsel from Conference is wise and often poignant. It means a lot. But Conference often feels abstract, distant to me; it is an image of authority and uniformity. It feels sometimes like a simulacrum of my faith, not my actual one that I live day to day. As such I want to think about what General Conference actually means.

I subscribe more and more to James’ declaration:

 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

I don’t know how much Conference fits in to this. My church is held every Sunday up the road. My bishop is a kind, thoughtful man. The Relief Society President works tirelessly. The kids I teach in Sunday School are unruly at times but really, really good. Pinewood Derby is coming up soon. My religion is based here, and while the messages from the Conference Center will be inspired and good, they are far removed from the church that sustains me.

At the same time, I recognize that without the central church organization, I probably wouldn’t have the local experience, at least not long. The church’s assets are maintained and protected centrally (and that’s a very good thing). I wouldn’t have the church structure, the resources, or the long term guidance that keeps it all ticking. Similarly, it is the central church organization that presents the face of my religion to the world. And perhaps most important, the centralized organization is where the keys are held. I believe that Joseph Smith restored those keys, and that the President of the Church is our prophet and sole authorized exerciser of all of those keys today. We wouldn’t have temples or sealing ordinances without the central organization. That’s critically important to me.

So I listen to General Conference and pay attention to the messages. It both is and isn’t my church. Conference weekend is an indelible part of being Mormon, but in some respects it’s one of the most irrelevant parts. The talks are important and show where we are as a collective. They show the path of doctrine. I am watching and praying to hear what I need to hear, but I’m also realizing that it’s not Conference messages that save me and sustain me and my family as we practice our faith.

I hope you all have a great Conference.

Comments

  1. Antonio Parr says:

    The great Christian writer Frederick Buechner writes this: “My story is important not because it is mine, God knows, but because if I tell it anything like right, the chances are you will recognize that in many ways it is also yours. Maybe nothing is more important than that we keep track, you and I, of these stories of who we are and where we have come from and the people we have met along the way because it is precisely through these stories in all their particularity, as I have long believed and often said, that God makes himself known to each of us most powerfully and personally. If this is true, it means that to lose track of our stories is to be profoundly impoverished not only humanly but spiritually.” Steve: your account of your story accomplished precisely what Buechner described. Thank you, and belated wishes for a Happy Easter – He is Risen! – and a wonderful Conference.

  2. Happy Easter to you, too. The great thing about Easter is that it lasts all year.

  3. I totally appreciate the sharing of honesty and faith here. Thank you!

  4. Amen!

    I do credit Gen Conf with teaching me how to binge watch tv. After 8-10 hours in one weekend, it was a slippery slope to 28-30 hours the next weekend on less conservative tv viewing.

  5. That’s interesting, because my experience with GC has often been the inverse; I have been in wards and branches, both at home and on my mission, that have felt a-times myopic, narrow, petty, with too much local drama. GC would then come as a much needed reminder that we’re actually part of something much bigger, grander, cosmic, than whatever our smaller, more sordid concerns may be. Now, I have also been in wards and branches staffed with wonderful leaders and families, so I do sympathize with the vague feeling of distant abstraction, for all the reasons you outlined; nevertheless, GC represents for me more than just the enabling of my local experience, but its transcendence as well.

  6. YMMV is the lesson, I guess.

  7. I think the real lesson is that regardless of the event or circumstances, you get out of it what you put into it.

  8. Angela C says:

    And sometimes you put into it what you get out of it.

  9. Word.

  10. Here is something to consider.
    Think of General conference as an invitation to the wedding.
    All are invited.
    Some are prepared and some are not.
    Some lamps are trimmed.
    Some are not.
    What a gift we have to be counseled by Prophets, Apostles, General Authorities, General Officers, the very least of which are multiple times brighter that the brightest of any reading this blog.
    If you struggle listening to counsel, maybe you should “trim your lamp” while you still have time.

  11. That is a dramatic misinterpretation of Jesus’ parable. I’ll fully admit that I’m no prophet, though.

  12. The church’s assets are maintained and protected centrally (and that’s a very good thing).

    Perhaps. But definitely not unambiguously so.

  13. RAF, I disagree with you. I think it’s pretty unambiguous.

  14. GBart,
    “maybe you should “trim your lamp” while you still have time.”

    This is an example of Mormonism at it’s worst.

  15. Daniel Truslove says:

    I too feel disassociated from GC and the Central Church. Not only because it is removed from my week to week experience, but the culture of the people speaking is nothing like my own. It is more like watching a foreign TV series where the themes and meta-stories are the same, but the prejudices are different and the imagery is therefore skewed.
    I can recognise what other people see as love, but it does not feel like the love I feel.
    I see what I can recognise is someone trying to uplift others, but i’s not uplifting.
    And like a TV series, the whole thing is just a bit too slick, and bit too polished to be real.