11 March 2023

Preparing for Conference

As conference approaches, we are encouraged to prepare to hear the messages of the Lord, and some might ask, ‘How do I do that?’

One day last year my daughter, Nora, saw me snap my fingers at the dog. This is my signal to Atticus to move out of my way, whether it’s from my spot on the couch, my spot on the bed, or just standing in my path as I walk.

Later she came to me and asked how to do it, so I showed her the basics of pushing her thumb and middle finger together, letting the middle finger slip from her thumb and slap against the meat of the palm. She spent several weeks practicing, reporting her progress to me, until she could easily snap her fingers with an audible click.

A couple weeks ago she heard someone on a TV show whistle, and she has been practicing this as well. She purses up her lips and breathes rapidly, and can often produce a whistle in both directions, like this: <whistle>. I love seeing her successes as she builds her confidence.

We got them little bikes with no pedals when they were two or three, and they love riding them all over. This practice has prepared their balance so when we got them pedal bikes, it wasn’t long before Nora was ready to try with the training wheels off. We got them new bikes for Christmas and she didn’t want to have anything to do with the training wheels from day one.

They practice coloring, painting, counting, riding their bikes, singing, and many other skills.

I think this simple example that Nora and Clara provide is an excellent way to prepare for conference: Practice.

We practice hearing the messages of the Lord by listening so we easily recognize those things. Listen to talks from the last General Conference. Listen to devotionals. Listen to the choir and uplifting music. Listen to or read the scriptures. Listen to older talks that may have been before your time, or when you were younger. Practice recognizing the theme of the talk, and practice applying the message to your life.

The truths that were spoken by President Hinkley, President Kimball, or Elder McConkie, are just as true today as they were in the 1980’s, 1970’s, and older.

We can also turn off other media that doesn’t invite the spirit. News, politics, social media. Each of these things is not necessarily bad, but is often a mix of positive and negative, and in the case of news and politics, rarely contains uplifting messages.

As Don Henley pointed out in the 1982 song, “Dirty Laundry”:

...The bubble-headed bleached blonde comes on at five
she can tell you ‘bout the plane crash with a gleam in her eye.
It’s interesting when people die
Give us dirty laundry.

We can do “the innuendo”, we can dance and sing
When it’s said and done we haven’t told you a thing
We all know that crap is king
Give us dirty laundry!

Taking a media fast and focusing on spiritual and uplifting content leading up to conference will help to cleanse our minds of the often negative messages and influences so we can better focus on hearing the spirit.

President and Sister Nelson have given the youth a challenge of taking a seven day social media fast.

Quote: 'President Nelson shared the story of a young man who had to give up his smartphone for a bit. At first, he panicked. (Can you relate?) But then, he was grateful. He felt “free for the first time in a long time” and loved being “free from the fake life that social media creates” and had much more time and energy to be outside, serve others, listen in church, and prepare for his mission. And he was so much happier.'

Social media can certainly be a wonderful tool to connect with others and share goodness, but if you’re paying more attention to your Instagram feed or favorite YouTube videos than to the Spirit, it’s a problem.

“[The] downside of social media is that it creates a false reality,” President Nelson said. “Everyone posts their most fun, adventurous, and exciting pictures, which create the erroneous impression that everyone except you is leading a fun, adventurous, and exciting life. Much of what appears in your various social media feeds is distorted, if not fake.”

End Quote

Author Sheridan Voysey, in his article, Four Reasons to Try a Social Media Fast, talks about the benefits he received doing a month-long social media fast. He found he had more energy, less distraction, more focus, more peace, more contentment, and taken back precious time. His attention and memory increase. he has less annoyance and disappointment.

As with all things in life, social media should be taken in moderation.

While I was in college, I needed an easy class to fill a credit requirement. I looked through the catalog and picked one called, “Learning to Learn”. This was probably the most useful class that I took in college. I sure don’t remember any calculus. I’m not an accountant, and I’m not critiquing Jazz festivals. But the lessons I learned in this class have helped me in many other things in life.

One of the most important principles is, if you want to learn, you have to pay attention. I know, easier said than done, but paying attention comes from one major component: Interest.

If we are interested in the subject, we are more likely to pay attention.

Think about your favorite subject. This could be baseball, cars, Pokemon, animals, Egyptian archaeology, whatever. You know about this subject because it interests you. You know about this subject because when you read about it, or watch a YouTube video or lecture about it, your interest keeps your attention.

The same way, when we aren’t interested in a subject, we have a harder time paying attention.

One way we can increase our interest in conference is to have some questions that we would like answered. These answers may be something you hear directly, or they may be a prompting during a particularly spiritual talk. Listening for answers to questions helps to focus your mind so you are able to pay attention.

Other ways to pay attention is to play Conference Bingo. LDSBookstore.com has free conference packets that include four bingo cards, or there are numerous ones online that can be downloaded and printed. Listening carefully for the words, concepts, or phrases on your bingo card are a great way to pay attention.

We also find it easier to be interested and pay attention when we remove distractions. Get household chores done in the days or hours before so you can focus on the listening. Don’t play Candy Crush or other mobile games. Use your phone for notes, or sending “Wow, did you hear that?!” to family when a great message strikes home.

Being well rested so we aren’t dozing off during conference is also important. Go to bed at a reasonable hour and eat a healthy breakfast that will give you the energy to last all the way through.

Another way we prepare in our family is by having tradition. Contrary to my last point of eating a healthy breakfast, Saturday we have snacks. There is a bowl of M&Ms and a bowl of Skittles, mandarin oranges, trail mix, etc.

Sunday, Stephanie makes German Pancakes for breakfast. So like Christmas, General Conference is a family holiday, and this brings us into the spirit of conference and helps to put us in that frame of mind.

So as General Conference approaches, let us practice hearing the messages of the Lord, just as Nora practices her finger snaps, her whistles, and her artwork, and Clara practices her singing, dancing, and her own art.

Let us have reason to pay attention, and let us make these things a tradition to pass on, and I say these things in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,


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