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.