What is General Conference?
One of the blessings of being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is being able to learn from a living Prophet and modern-day Apostles. Our church leaders address us at General Conference, a semiannual gathering in which members of the church gather worldwide for a series of two-hour sessions. Because General Conference is an opportunity to hear inspired messages from the Lord’s servants, many church members view General Conference with the same anticipation that people have for the Super Bowl.
To prepare for conference, members of the LDS church are encouraged to search our hearts for a question or issue we need answered. By having a specific question in mind as we learn from our church leaders, the doors of personal revelation open to us as we receive answers by the power of the Holy Ghost. Because I wanted guidance as I brainstormed future blog topics, the question I took with me for this session of General Conference was simple: How does the restored gospel of Jesus Christ address common issues or concerns that face LDS single adults? With this question in mind, I was excited about the opportunity to partake of this spiritual feast.
I woke up early and served a delicious continental breakfast, so we could feast physically as well as spiritually, as we gathered in our home to watch the first Saturday morning session of conference. Aside from my roommates Daniel and Erich, I watched conference with my blog teammates Kirsten and Marc. My friend Jason also was able to join us and we also had a special guest, Tiffany, who was visiting from Rexburg, Idaho. Tiffany is a longtime friend of Kirsten’s and because she’s a Canadian Asian, Tiffany’s affectionate nickname is the “Canasian.”
Saturday Morning Conference Session
During the first session of conference, I particularly enjoyed President Uchtdorf’s talk, “Come, Join with Us.” In this talk, President Uchtdorf addressed common challenges that cause members to distance themselves from the church, such as doubt, perceived inadequacies, or feeling that they don’t quite fit in. Ultimately, President Uchtdorf addressed each of these issues and explained how the church needs the unique talents and perspectives that each member brings to the church.
President Uchtdorf said, “The Church is designed to nourish the imperfect, the struggling, and the exhausted. It is filled with people who desire with all their heart to keep the commandments, even if they haven’t mastered them yet…If these are your desires, then regardless of your circumstances, your personal history, or the strength of your testimony, there is room for you in this Church.”
President Uchtdorf’s talk was meaning to me because as single adults, it can be easy to feel that we don’t fit in a family-oriented church or that our doubts or human frailties somehow disqualify us from the fellowship of other church members. However, as long as we desire to keep the commandments, regardless of our circumstances, there is a place for us in the Church. This is the Lord’s church and He wants us to partake of all the blessings that come through church activity.
After the morning session of conference ended, we played a few games of foosball. Because Erich is a pro foosball player (he plays competitively every day at work), to make things even, Erich and Daniel played with one of their hands behind their back. Kirsten and Tiffany did well and surprised Daniel and Eric with a few trick plays, although in the end, my roommates were still triumphant. We then went outside and tossed around a football in our neighborhood until it was time to head back inside for the Saturday afternoon session of General Conference.
Saturday Afternoon Conference Session
During the second session of General Conference, I was touched by Elder Holland’s talk, “Like a Broken Vessel,” which addressed the challenges of mental illness and emotional disorders. Elder Holland testified that “broken minds can be healed just the way broken bones and broken hearts are healed” and bore a powerful testimony of how gospel principles give us strength to overcome our challenges.
Elder Holland said,“So how do you best respond when mental or emotional challenges confront you or those you love? Above all, never lose faith in your Father in Heaven, who loves you more than you can comprehend… We are infinitely more than our limitations or our afflictions!”
I felt Elder Holland’s talk was particularly relevant in addressing some of the challenges that face LDS single adults. Because LDS single adults often don’t have as strong of a support system as married members, it can make it even more difficult to overcome mental or emotional challenges. However, despite our circumstances, there is always hope. Whatever challenges we have don’t define us. Rather, through the strength of the Lord, they can refine us. The Lord loves us and even if we feel like a “broken vessel,” we are all in His hands and need to trust in His ability to make us whole.
Group Photoshoot and Dinner With the Missionaries
After the afternoon session of conference, we adjourned to the backyard and Marc was kind enough to take some professional group pictures. Through our friend Jason, we also had the privilege of hosting the Sister Missionaries for dinner. Sister Del Nero and Sister Allen joined us for a meal and we were somehow able to fit nine people around our modest sized table.
Sister Allen shared a spiritual thought from President Uchtdorf’s “Forget Me Not” talk and encouraged us to find happiness now, rather than putting our happiness on hold while we wait for a future event – such as marriage, for example – to find happiness. It was an excellent message for a group of LDS singles and it was a blessing to have the missionaries in our home.
Priesthood Session of Conference
After dinner, the men got ready to leave for the Priesthood session of General Conference, which is a session in which our church leaders specifically address the men of the church. Because the women of the church had their special session of conference last week, Kirsten and Tiffany decided to hang out at our home while the men went to the local church meetinghouse where the Priesthood session was being broadcasted.
At the church, we met up with Donovan, one of our longtime friends. During the priesthood session, I connected with Bishop Gerald Causse’s talk, “Ye Are No More Strangers.” Bishop Causse’s talk explained how in the church, no one is a stranger or an outcast. All members of the church belong to a worldwide family and should treat each other accordingly. Our congregations do not belong to us – they belong to Jesus Christ. In light of this, we have a sacred responsibility to reach out to others, especially those who particularly need fellowship.
Bishop Causse said, “Unity is not achieved by ignoring and isolating members who seem to be different or weaker and only associating with people who are like us. On the contrary, unity is gained by welcoming and serving those who are new and who have particular needs. These members are a blessing for the Church and provide us with opportunities to serve our neighbors and thus purify our own hearts.”
This talk really hit home for me because there are many LDS single adults who distance themselves from the church because they don’t feel that they belong. In fact, it’s estimated that at least 50 percent of LDS single adults are less active. This makes it critical for active members to effectively reach out to single adults who may feel like strangers in a family-oriented church. Because this is the Lord’s church, every member should feel loved, included, and valued. I believe there would be a greater number of active LDS single adults if we learned how to more effectively reach out to all of our brothers and sisters, regardless of their backgrounds or personal circumstances.
End of Conference Party
After priesthood session, we drove home and hosted an end of conference party. Our friends Bridgette, Sarah, Ronnie, and Paul joined us and we had a great time playing foosball, pool, video games, and card games. It was a great opportunity to unwind, relax, and enjoy time with friends. After the party, I made plans to meet up with Marc to watch the Sunday sessions of General Conference, since my two roommates and other friends had plans to watch those sessions with their families.
I am grateful for the chance I had to learn from our inspired church leaders and have my personal question answered. Through the power of the Holy Ghost, I know that our church leaders are called by God and that we are led by a modern Prophet, Thomas S. Monson. If we follow their counsel, even through our challenges and trials, our lives will be greatly blessed.