Gospel Q&A is a series from LDS Daily that strives to answer important gospel questions from readers. Today, we’ll be answering the question, “How can I approach General Conference if I have felt marginalized by it in the past?”
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I think this question is so lovely because it is so faithful. I love that you still want to approach General Conference even if it has been difficult for you. It takes such courage to continue to act in faith when it’s been difficult in the past. I have some encouragement and suggestions I hope will help as you prepare for Conference.
The best thing we can do when we are faced with a policy or a talking point that is difficult to understand or cope with is to hold space for more understanding to come in the future. We can have a tendency to make snap judgments based on our circumstances instead of waiting for further information or inspiration that would enlighten the topic for our understanding.
Have you ever seen someone comment on an article when all they read was the headline? They may have very strong feelings about the article topic, but it’s a little bold to make assertions about what the writer was saying when the reader never actually read what the writer wrote.
When we hear one General Conference talk that doesn’t sit right with us, we shouldn’t jump straight to the comments section of our feelings. Instead, hold space. Read more. Pray more. Study more. Dog-ear this talk or policy for now until you have more information to cast more understanding on it.
Seek to understand what was meant, even if humanity got in the way.
I want to be careful with this one because I know the hurt is real. But, if you’re asking this question and want to give Conference its best chance, I invite you to listen to the speakers with an open heart and mind, trying to understand what they actually mean to say, even if their way of saying it isn’t as sensitive as we might like it to be.
Sometimes the message from the Spirit is true, but that message is lost in translation between Heaven and the speaker’s word choice. With humility, seek to understand the truth of the message.
I believe that generally, the authorities speaking at Conference are attempting to be not only understood but to prepare their message so that it cannot be misunderstood. The limitations of language and various translations of their message, however, probably mean there are occasions when the speaker believes they are being perfectly clear, but are in fact obfuscating the message for people coming to it from a different perspective.
Allow some grace for these speakers.
I know that when I have had a history of a hurtful or challenging relationship with someone, it is difficult to give them the benefit of the doubt. It can be easy to look for the hurt I expect will be coming from them rather than to hear them out without bias. If this is the case for you and a certain authority, pray for a soft heart. If the speaker’s humanity is revealed through unintended insensitive language, seek instead to understand the message as the Spirit would speak it to you. There is truth in the message, though, so seek that truth even when humanity has gotten in the way of communicating it effectively.
Be careful not to fill in words or beliefs they didn’t express, and instead ask the Holy Ghost to help you translate the Lord’s message into language you can understand. Additionally, be careful to avoid taking any phrases or sentences out of context.
Finally, watch and listen intently for the message the Lord has prepared for you.
There will be many speakers and perhaps one of them has a unique message that touches your heart and directs your path. But consider also that the message uniquely prepared for you may come during a prayer or one of the musical numbers. Be prepared for how God will show His love for you. It might not be in the way you planned or expected, so if you can, don’t miss a moment, because He certainly has uniquely prepared at least one moment for you this general conference. Watch for it and feel His love.
Brothers and sisters, I have seen General Conference change hearts and change lives. If we come to the Lord with humility, patience, grace, and with the intent to receive, we can be uplifted by the Lord even when He works through imperfect servants.
I’m rooting for you.
Disclaimer: While all of my answers will use scriptures and/or words of modern prophets, I do not represent The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I don’t believe any of my answers are comprehensive. I’m just one person using the gospel I have been blessed with to bring hope, peace, and answers to other seekers of truth.