For many, General Conference is a feast of inspiration and direction from heaven. However, there are also many who experience feelings of pain, loneliness, and even anger as they listen to the messages. The reasons for these feelings are varied and unique to the person.
Regardless of the cause or trigger, how can we reconcile some of these feelings with gospel truths? If you find yourself struggling with General Conference, these four points are important to remember and ponder upon.
You’re Not Alone
Do not feel broken or damaged because you had a different reaction than many other Conference-goers. You are not alone in how you feel. From the very beginning, disciples of Christ have struggled to understand, accept, and implement God’s teachings.
After Jesus taught he was the bread of life and that those who “eateth of this bread may live forever”, many of his followers responded with, “This is an hard saying; who can hear it?”
When Nephi expounded upon his vision of the tree of life and the justice of God, his brethren said, “Thou hast declared unto us hard things, more than we are able to bear.”
Joseph Smith, the prophet of the Restoration, struggled immensely to follow the command to begin practicing plural marriage. The Church explains, “Joseph told associates that an angel appeared to him three times between 1834 and 1842 and commanded him to proceed with plural marriage when he hesitated to move forward. During the third and final appearance, the angel came with a drawn sword, threatening Joseph with destruction unless he went forward and obeyed the commandment fully.”
Helen Mar Kimball Whitney would later record, “Joseph put off the dreaded day as long as he dared.”
From these examples, we can see the struggle to submit our will to the Lord is a very real one. What is more important than our initial reaction is our eventual choice. Do we seek God in an effort to understand his will through the prophets or do we walk away?
Revelation is Dispersed
In his wisdom, God has dispersed revelation throughout his leadership. We’ve addressed this topic when Church leadership has changed in major ways:
Consider a family, where a wife, husband, and children all bring their bits of revelation to solve a family problem.
Consider a Relief Society sitting in council, sharing revelation on how they can serve with love.
Consider the Bishopric that councils each week on how to bring their ward members closer to Christ.
Consider the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and First Presidency. Fifteen men, with different personalities and different experiences, called of God to lead His church. Each one with their own special witness of Christ.
The optimism and energy of President Nelson. The love and mercy of Elder Uchtdorf. The no-nonsense doctrinal focus of President Oaks. The passion and fire of Elder Holland. It goes on and on.
Joined together, these men are able to take their varying viewpoints and their different pieces of revelation to find the complete and whole vision God wants them to have. They act unanimously on behalf of the Lord to guide us.
The Spirit Teaches Specifics
When you look at the main leadership of the Church, there are approximately 33 men and women who head up the First Presidency, Quorum of the Twelve, and auxiliary presidencies. That is 33 people to tend to a flock of millions. We all want specific healing for our specific wounds. We want our problems addressed head-on.
However, General Conference is not necessarily meant to provide this outright, though it often works that way. Rather, it is often a conduit to the Spirit. It is the Holy Ghost who teaches us how each address might be used in our own lives to benefit our journey to Christ.
What may have seemed so pointless and off-putting to you may have been a treasured answer prayer to someone else, and vice-versa. What may seem like vague generalities may actually be an opportunity to focus on co-creating personal revelation.
The Spirit is also our tutor when we are angry, confused, or hurt by what we hear from Church leadership. If we take what we feel to the Lord, he can help us make sense of it and use those feelings as the starting point to spiritual progression.
Your Relationship With God
Sometimes, our struggles with others mirror our inner struggles with God. If we hear something in General Conference that hurts or angers us, do we also struggle with feelings of hurt and anger towards God? What is the true root of those feelings?
It is something we all will experience in our mortality, regardless of how we feel about what our prophets have spoken. Haven’t we all had times to cry out and wonder where God is and if he loves us? How could he abandon us? How could he let this happen?
When we struggle with any of these questions, it can be good to step back and take some to nurture our relationship with Jesus Christ. This is the sure foundation to build on. As we do so, we will become stronger spiritually and our ability to hear his voice, understand his will, and live accordingly will increase.
Whatever you feel, whatever you think, and however you react, Jesus Christ loves you. He wants to talk to you. He wants to lead you to a place of peace in his church. It isn’t an easy journey, but it is possible. Consume General Conference in a way that is uplifting and nourishing to your spirit. This means you may need to read the talks later, pause listening when certain topics are addressed, or debrief afterward with a trusted love one. May we all be more merciful and understanding of one another as we take that journey together.