Nobody Watches Conference Anymore

Of course, that’s not true. It might feel that way, and there might be circumstantial or anecdotal evidence to support you feeling that way, but it’s just a likely that, thanks to technology, church scheduling, social expectations and pressure, and more, a greater percentage of the total worldwide church membership is watching conference than ever before. So really, when you think “nobody,” you’re mainly thinking of yourself.

And that’s okay! Because honestly, yesterday was a busy day, and you genuinely forgot it was conference weekend. Plus, all the sermons will be available for you to listen to and/or read sooner than ever before. And you know that over the next six months, you’re going to be reading and discussing a large percentage of them in church meetings anyway. So really, you haven’t missed anything.

And then also…it is kind of boring, isn’t it? Or frustrating? I mean, sure, there will be some good speakers that might balance out the bad or just unengaging ones, but sacrament meeting is the same way, and at least with sacrament meeting you’re meeting (or mostly so, depending on the COVID concerns in your area and your family, knock on wood) with a community of people whom you know (again, hopefully mostly) and serve and are served by. With general conference, you’re just watching it on your own (unless you’re driving to the stake center, since most places in North America have abandoned the satellite links to individual church buildings). Which I guess means…no one would know if you didn’t watch conference. Not even me.

Consider this a judgment-free zone. You’re here, you’ve read this far, which potentially means either a) you saw the headline and felt some combination of guilt and/or pique, which suggests that you may have something you could say about not watching yesterday or not planning to watch today, or b) you read everything on BCC, which also means you’re likely the sort of person with a history of watching or not watching conference. So share! I promise, I won’t judge. I mean, I’m not even awake yet. It’s conference weekend, after all.

Comments

  1. Yes to all the above except that I’m awake already (an artifact of creeping age). I am genuinely curious about the audience. “Nobody” is clearly not correct, and more than ever is much more likely correct.

    Most of my life, in Wisconsin and points east, GC was not available in real time but only weeks and months later in print. Then there was a short period when it felt like everybody around me listened live with rapt attention and a “yes, so it shall be” attitude. Then came a period of general disinterest on my part. Finally, where I am today, I’m surrounded (virtually) by people paying close attention but critically dissecting every line and the purpose behind them. I suspect I’m in a bubble and I’m curious what the outside looks like.

  2. A few observations from an active member in the US outside of the Jello-belt:
    * The baseline expectation we’ve created in my family has been to watch all sessions of conference, which is a really big ask. I’m normally tired going back to work on Monday rather than refreshed.
    * Most talks are incredibly boring and provide no real value to me (or even my teenage kids). But the gems are worth it – I’m looking at Elder Gong’s talk yesterday.
    * Over the years we’ve tried bribing the kids (and adults) to pay attention, set up note-taking regimes, but nothing works as well to keep our focus as doing chores around the house. Honestly, I get a lot more out of a Saturday session if I am doing dishes than just sitting on the couch.
    * It was special for my family yesterday hearing talks about the importance of missionary service, knowing that a son who just finished his mission was watching from the conference center, and another was watching on the other side of the globe in his mission assignment. Conference is still an event we experience together even though our family is spread apart. I love the thought that we’re singing the same hymns together.
    * I took my teenager’s phone during a session yesterday because he was playing a game. I then proceeded to play Wordle on mine (4 guesses; par for the course), which he noticed and accused me of hypocrisy. Our ensuing discussion was one of the more fruitful parts of that session for us both.
    * I’m very grateful my conference weekend doesn’t start on Thursday (and never will). Have sympathy for anyone called to be an AA70.
    * I like how the temple announcements get shuffled so no one knows what session they’ll come in. Kind of how the Oscars shuffle when the big prizes get announced instead of holding them to the end. Speaking of the Oscars, maybe there’s a way to get interest in conference rekindled …
    * The constant adjustments of how the Saturday evening session gets utilized has seriously decreased its value. It used to be a planned highlight for men or women to get together and have social interaction, a real right of passion for me as a young man. Even after streaming became the norm, my ward would have formal and informal groups gather to watch together. But now-a-days there’s no pattern and everyone watches alone at home, if at all.

  3. hurstme1990 says:

    Hmmm. It’s never really occurred to me to not watch all, or most of the conference broadcast. I’ve always lived where I could get the sessions easily on TV, so I guess I’ve taken that for granted. As a retired senior citizen I have the luxury of a relatively quiet environment in which to watch. Perhaps I’m insulated enough that I don’t realize the extent to which « nobody » watches conference anymore. I suspect that would be a misinterpretation of the « ratings. » I must admit that if I miss a speaker or am distracted (or dozing?) I feel assured that I can catch up quickly when the talks are published in print.

  4. Raymond Winn says:

    Until fairly recently, GC over-the-air was only available in the Utah Bubble area. In the late 1960s we lived in Wichita KS, when the new phenomenon of FM radio was gradually coming to town. One new low-power indy station agreed to carry one Saturday session of LDS conference, at the urging of the local stake president, who was a lawyer of some status. We were encouraged to write letters of gratitude to the station after the event, but were also STRONGLY urged not to suggest that they carry more sessions, since any suggestion that they had not met their listening public’s expectations had to be reported to the FCC as a “criticism” (this was back in the day when FCC actually watched radio content, and granted/withheld license renewals accordingly).

  5. Used to love watching and listening to conference, all sessions (except the Priesthood session which wasn’t available to me back then). But then came Prop 8, the POX, the appalling treatment of the OW crowd, all that blatant homophobia and misogyny, and then I couldn’t unsee all the other ways our rhetoric is so often hurtful and harmful to others, especially marginalized people of all stripes. Not every speaker. Not all the time. But too much. So now I keep an eye on conference, I read summaries and most of the actual talks when they’re available. But I find watching in real time too difficult and sad.

  6. Saturday’s sessions I listened on headphones as I practiced the piano and shopped at Costco. Multitasking for the win. I don’t have it in me to force my kids to listen to all four sessions. I am happy if they listen to morning Sunday session (which replaces church) and distractedly listen to the afternoon on Sunday. The last I don’t know how many years I listen semi-critically, meaning I am open to finding both the good and the bad and the boring. Generally most of the talks fall in the boring category, although I thought yesterday’s offerings were above average. Until the women’s session.

  7. waynefrank says:

    I try to listen. To me, it is like spending a day rock hunting. Every once in a while you find a beautiful stone, making the whole effort worth while. Yesterday, Elder Kearon’s talk was that gem.

  8. Jack Hughes says:

    When I was growing up, my siblings and I were made to watch every session of GC with rapt attention, and take notes (our notes were inspected afterwards to make sure we were paying attention). We were on the west coast, so it wasn’t available over the air, but our local cable provider showed GC on the cable access channel. If we complained, my mom threatened to make us get dressed up and go to the stake center to watch the sessions, then launched into a diatribe about how blessed we are with modern technology to watch it from home, etc. That was enough to put us back in line. At any rate, I came to view GC as a dreaded chore, and developed lifelong ambivalence for the event. When I got married, I compared notes with my wife, who grew up in Utah and usually spent conference weekends having big family gatherings or camping trips, while GC was on the radio in the background. She has mostly warm happy memories associated with GC. Reconciling those disparate views while raising our kids has been an interesting process.

    These days, we tend to skip it more than we watch it.

  9. I’ll admit that, on top of beginning to find the ten hours of Conference exhausting and having trouble focusing on and processing mostly monotone and often repetitive talks, I stopped watching regularly because it was such a crapshoot: for every talk that was halfway decent, there was one that set me off. (I turned off Pres. Nelson’s hyperbolic talk about the name of the church *before* he said that “Mormon” was a victory for Satan. and then there are all the unreflective culture war talking points filtered through LDS politeness.) It just… wasn’t worth the effort.

  10. I listen to all broadcasts live. I’m not a great auditory learner and rarely get anything out of church, but with conference I can listen while working or doing house stuff. Keeping my hands busy means I actually hear what is being said. I look forward to conference as being different than ask my other over scheduled weekend.

  11. Growing up, Conference would be blaring through the house, or in the backyard, or wherever my Dad was doing chores, on Saturdays. On Sundays we would watch it as a family. How much a child was expected to watch was dependent upon their age. A few years ago (less than 5) my Dad mentioned how he noticed a shift amongst family members and peers to actually watch all four general sessions live. No doing yardwork on Saturdays, no multi-tasking with speakers on in the background. So he’s started to watch all four live as well. I’ve watched all four session live for the last twenty years. Yesterday was the first time I remember missed a noticeable part of a session (working with kids on doing chores to not upset their mother). Previous to that, the only parts of session I’d miss would be to break up contention amongst the kids in other rooms.
    I’m not great at keeping my eyes open for the sessions. I believe that it’s due to the familiarity that I have with the topics that my brain and body start to shutdown out of boredom. So one session many years ago, I started playing FreeCell while watching. It was enough to keep me awake and I felt like I could pay better attention. Afterwards I thought that it also might be preventing the Spirit from confirming the truthfulness of what is being spoken about. The Spirit wouldn’t want me to accidentally confuse a confirmation of truth with my FreeCell game, or whatever else I might be doing to try and keep my eyes open.
    I’m not as good about blaring Conference through the house like my parents were. It’s me, whoever wants to sit with me, and the TV.

  12. I watch and skip around. The gimmicky PR that leadership relies on makes the conference experience too evangelical–it’s not authentic, it feels manufactured like a commercial. It feels like a Utah multi-level marketing company and a manipluative behavior management team have combined to consult the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

    Quite a few speakers promote belief systems that do not clearly link to the theology of the Gospel of Jesus Christ–it’s reaching at times–as if they are more intetested in the feigned affect of presentation and placebo, rather than principles.

    It is clear to me that some of the folks up top are more devoted to the institution, than to the congregation. More than half of our youth have been exiting the church for about ten years and the CES has failed to raise the spiritual maturity of the congregation: correlation, censorship, and the infantilization of the Gospel has left us vulnerable and incapable of reconciling our own texts, history, policy, and authority.

    The church can be true and apostate at the same time. Everything Joseph Smith warned us about–regarding LDS leadership–is present before us. I hope we do better.

  13. Salzgitter says:

    Ten hours of talking heads is more than I can take. Since all of the priesthood meeting lessons are a rehash of the talks of the last conference, I can just wait for the reruns.

  14. we had a lovely time at our ward here in the UK. This morning watched the womens session while the men looked after the children, then a munch and mingle where most people contributed food and then we watched the Saturday evening session as a ward. Came home to watch the live Sunday morning session. We will watch the later session tomorrow for FHE

  15. I love conference. It seems to get better every year. I’ve tried to do as taught by church leaders and it has really improved and blessed my life. Receiving answers to prayer is a big plus. The gospel of Jesus Christ is incredible! It sure has worked for me.

  16. I watch one session live with my full attention and invite anyone in the family who wants to join me (usually just my daughter). The other sessions I listen to over the next month or so in the car, while doing chores, etc, and I try to pick one positive thing out of each talk to focus on for a while. This has worked really well for me but I like hearing from others, too!

  17. Travis took the words right out of my mouth.

  18. Roger Hansen says:

    Why don’t Church leaders talk about things that matter? We are living in a world with tremendous opportunities to do good. Why not encourage emulating Christ? Loving your global neighbors. Many need our help. Instead of just encouraging proselytizing, also encourage service missions. Put service missions on an equal par with conventional missions. Give members permission to give part of their tithing contributions to charitable organizations. And I’m not talking about the NRA, political parties, etc. Do away with make work church jobs, freeing up time for family activities and charitable work.

    Talk more about refugees. Talk more about Christ the rebel. The way GAs talk you would that Christ was a conformist. Talk about the marvelous example that Sharon Eubanks provides for young women.

    Jeffrey Holland’s talk missed the mark. He talked about dealing with the symptoms of suicide. He needs to be talking about the causes.

  19. Yosemite Sam says:

    Roger you seriously were not listening were you? The items in your first 4 sentences were all addressed profusely throughout conference.

    As for tithing, your request will never happen. Tithing will always go to the church. Remember it’s the Lords church. The lord requires 10%. You can pay extra to other places if you wish. Heck, you can pay less in tithing all you want. Just be sure you understand it’s not a full tithing.

    I’ll now start my stop watch to see how long my comment stays up. Those moderating this website seem very against anyone commenting who is for the LDS faith and common doctrine. Lots of comments mysteriously disappear…

  20. Hi there Yosemite Sam, still see you. :)
    Since you did not say anything hateful or mean, I don’t see why you think your comment would disappear. But I am not a moderator. I think there is validity to your comment, that is how I understand tithing too.
    I am just a rascally varmint, but I used to really love conference.
    Now, I feel that I am the one of 99 that is being kept out by the flock. Last time I listened to conference, DHO referred to me as being gender confused and it was a white knuckle experience to get through it, being as I was having suicidal dysphoria at the time. I used to glean through to see what I could learn, and look for a glimmer of hope that I could be trans, and out, and transitioned, and happy (all of which has happened in the interim) and still be able to go back to the temple some day. Now I really don’t think it will be ever in my lifetime. I am now also in a very wonderful same-sex marriage, so there is that too, apparently not gonna change. I now find conference triggering. I do believe the Q15 have apostolic keys, etc and all that – but they are not always right, even on critically profound issues (Is that another way to say the church can be true and apostate at the same time?) .
    And I miss hearing the GA’s I feel welcome at my ward, but I don’t feel welcome at conference, but I do miss it, especially Elder Maxwell. I know this is on me, as long as I don’t tune in, my experience with it will never change. I just can’t do it yet. I don’t want to send this thread down a rabbit hole on LGBTQ stuff, it is just my personal issue with conference, which is what the OP is about. I guess it is hard to look at the speakers and think, that person is one of the people who could make a difference in my life and in the lives of people like me and welcome us back in (like I personally feel that Christ has done), but yet they don’t. It just gets harder.

  21. For years I would have my kids pick 5 words to listen for in conference, if they (any of them) heard one of those words, they would call it out and I would give each kid an m&m/skittle/etc. They quickly found it pays to make sure “prophet” was one of the words! Now even candy won’t get my teenagers to engage with conference.

    I do know that we will hear each talk covered multiple times in sacrament mtg and eq/rs. It has been many years since we had a non-conference talk based sacrament mtg topic.

  22. Allan Garber says:

    What was the point of President Oaks telling everyone that the First Presidency planned the Women’s meeting, selected the talks and the music, and asked Sister Bingham to conduct. Do they have the be front row center on everything? Can’t they just let it go?

  23. Allan they don’t want anyone to be confused, thinking that women have any actual power or authority whatsoever over any aspect at all of the church.

  24. Most of the talks do not do a whole lot for me. I’m middle aged. I’ve been watching conference for decades. There is a lot of repetition in them and a lot are formulaic.

    That said, it is not uncommon for a part of a talk to hit me particularly hard, feel like an answer to prayer, or just an answer to a concern I didn’t know I had. But they are so easy to miss, buried in the rest of a talk that does not engage me. Those moments are fleeting but important.

    Hearing from the prophet always seems different to me than hearing from everybody else. It does feel like he is the centerpiece of the whole show and its really him we are here to listen to.

    And I’m old enough and maybe opinionated enough to where usually once or twice a conference I hear something that I am not sure I agree with or is worded badly. This conference that seemed to happen twice, but I’m not sure that these moments are bad. They can be important as well in their own way.

    I wish I think, overall, that there was more variety in all aspects of these meetings. But that said, I do think in many ways we are intended more to listen to them later as much as to hear them now. What non-retired, actually working adult has time for 10 hours of conference over a weekend?

  25. Allan Garber says:

    What Oaks did was petty. Or pathetic. Or both. The Jesus Christ who I serve would never have acted that way.

  26. I no longer watch live but will read summaries, commentary, and eventually, some of the messages. Not an auditory learner, so spoken sermons do not do much for me. Nor do the pet projects of many of the leadership. For example, the focus on the church’s name seems silly, and Oaks’ near singular focus on disparaging the lgbt community is maddening, and one of the reasons many I know have left the church, and frankly makes me question why I stay. I would not tolerate or associate myself with such hateful rhetoric in any other circumstance, yet here I remain.

    I hope that one day the church will use conference to help people, to address pressing needs of the day, to announce changes and programs that actually help people. For example, what if, in addition to temples, we announced, built and staffed shelters to help those in need. Or hospitals, or soup kitchens, or low income housing, or any number of other projects that more closely align with Christ’s call to care for those in need?

    Until then, I will focus on studying the addresses that are worthwhile and will disregard those that are designed to divide, to stoke culture wars, or that otherwise do not unify and help build Zion.

  27. I made the mistake of trying to listen to conference, hoping to hear a message that would chart a path between the sides of the culture war, as the Church has done in the past in non-Conference settings (for instance, “please stop treating LGBTQ people as pedophiles and predators; that’s not Christlike”).

    Welp, I learned my lesson there, and it hurts.

  28. Interesting to read the different viewing habits. I’ve always been horrified at the parental units that expect children to watch and take notes, one session or all. Seems insane and totally unrealistic to me.

    In the mid 90’s after moving back to Utah following a 20 year absence for professional reasons, i remember driving my husband and son to Temple Square for the Priesthood Session, planning to hang around Deseret Book and then drive home together. Standing outside the north side of the tabernacle shortly before the session began I ran into the only GA I personally knew. We chatted for a few minutes then I said, “I’d better let you go” as it was just minutes before the start. He responded “Oh, that’s ok. I’ll slip in at the last second; sitting there looking awake for 10 hours while speakers drone on and on is a real killer.” That shocked me and gave me a little peek into how he felt as a FQ70 for 20 years by then.

    I’m out and believe none of it but after taking a needed break for a few years I’ve gone back to watching all of it—only missed part of Saturday eve this time—because I want to know what was said, not what other people heard or thought was said. And I have family members including beloved grandchildren being raised in it so I want to know what they’re being taught.

  29. I listen to all the Saturday sessions as I’m out and about, but I only have the kids sit down and watch Sunday Morning with me. I used to have them watch all the Sunday sessions but that’s just exhausting for all of us. I’ve also been increasingly weary about the messages they might hear so I limit how much they’re exposed to (this turned out to be very prescient- I was very glad my kids missed Oak’s talk).

    I have a jellybean jar and we pick one word- it was “Christ” this time- and they got to get a jellybean each time it was said. They were actually pretty attentive, so it worked out well this time.

    There was a funny moment where Elder Rasband stepped up to the podium to give his talk and my 10 year old said “I don’t think this guy is going to say ‘Christ’ very much” and then Elder Rasband proceeded to give a talk on religious freedom. (He did close with some Christ centered scripture, so that was nice)

    I thought about telling my kids they could have a jellybean every time a woman spoke. At least then it would be more than just me who was upset about representation!

  30. Chadwick says:

    I grew up in a house where we watched all the sessions from age 8 on. I didn’t hate it, but didn’t love it.

    I used to do really well watching conference but a few years ago found my attention span starting to drift. So I decided to watch just one session per day and then I would listen to a talk a day on a walk which helped me to focus my attention and get more out of General Conference.

    Fast forward to today. I can’t watch it. What I hear causes me too much anxiety. I follow social media to determine what I can listen to later. As noted above, I won’t be listening to Elder Oaks, Elder Rasband, or the male speakers in the special session. Those messages don’t reflect my values.

  31. Off the top of my head, I loved most of the talks. Me and son in law found answers to our specific prayers. I found Pres. Nelson’s message to be peacemakers very moving. An ultra conservative friend of mine who can’t have a conversation without disrespecting democrats, told me he now wants to be a peacemaker because he was touched by Nelson’s words– that’s a huge change for him. I especially appreciated Christofferson’s talk about injustice and the examples he used. I’d not thought of it that way and now I can thanks to him. I think Pres. Oaks said they were responsible for the women’s meeting because of Elder Renlund’s topic –which I thought he addressed thoroughly and nicely– and because all of the church is under the First Presidency. If someone has a problem with what’s said, blame the First Presidency–not the women.
    I found the talks uplifting to my spirit about how we can manage with the awful things happening in the world.

  32. Kristine N says:

    I personally am grateful most of the talks are up on youtube, where I can watch them at 1.5X speed. It’s amazing how much better I can pay attention when I’m not bored.

    Living in Australia means we don’t watch until next weekend anyway. At this point I listen to the discourse on teh interwebs and avoid anything I know I’m going to take issue with, or at least go in prepared!

  33. eastofthemississippi says:

    By the end of the last session on Sunday I was exhausted, and all I’d done was sit in an easy chair and watch, going back to work Monday morning was a relief. President Nelson’s remarks were terrific, I appreciate Elder Hollands directness on a topic dear to me, overall mostly good talks with the occasional cringeworthy moment.

    In between sessions on Saturday we watched “Grace Notes”, and then watched a couple more episodes before Sunday’s first session. Surprisingly my TBM bride said she got more from hearing those faith journeys and music then she did from Saturdays GC.

  34. I’ve always liked conference. We’ve always watched with our kids. It’s hard to pay attention sometimes, I am known to doze off for a talk or two, but overall I like being together and not running around for one weekend.

    Pres. Oaks’ talk, unfortunately, ruined the experience for me. I will never again watch a live session with my LGBTQ child. All of the good feelings and spirit we had felt evaporated with his words. From now on I will curate every conference talk shown in my home.

    That I have to do so makes me sad. But my kid is far more important.

  35. Ryan Jones says:

    Hey Leona,

    I feel the same way there just so much anti gay rhetoric in conference Sunday morning it was really painful to listen to. I don’t need Elder Oaks opinions on what he thinks will never change when the church hasn’t been able to receive a coherent revelation on how a gay man can inherit exaltation.

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