This morning was the first session (after the Women’s Session last week) of General Conference!
General Conference is a worldwide meeting for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and happens twice a year when we all gather to listen to living prophets and apostles. You can watch it, read it, or listen to it HERE (including the archives, which already have this morning’s talks!).
This was our second conference with children, and it was interesting to experience it differently than last October. The combination of foster kids we had last October required all the printouts and handouts we could find, giving them activities to do to help them listen during conference. The kids we have now were wiggly at times, but mostly just sat and listened! I was so proud of them! The toddler kept running from us to the screen, trying to imitate the interpreter, and that kept us laughing (or frustrated when we couldn’t see!), and all the kids really tried hard to do all the signs for all the songs! It made me so happy!
There was definitely a theme this morning, and that was about having the courage to remain true to our beliefs even when no one else around us does, and to be prepared to be highly uncomfortable or even in danger because of others not believing or wanting to know. Both The Living Christ and The Family Proclamation were referenced in explaining what we believe. We were also cautioned, however, to have courtesy for others who believe differently and to love all people, regardless of their choices. We were warned by Elder Andersen against self-righteousness, and straight up told there is no place for bullying or bigotry. Only pure love can change the world, Elder Holland said, and we know love can change the world like nothing else can.
Our family got some specific help from the talks and revelation that came with it. President Eyring said, “the happiness of eternal life comes through family bonds that last forever”. This is especially poignant to us who are still happy-sappy-newlyweds, me who just got sealed to my parents, and to us as a couple as we prepare for our first adoption in just a few weeks. It is also a reminder that happiness is not about temporal things, the circumstances in which we find ourselves, or how comfortable we are in our physical life.
Nathan and I got plenty of good counsel for being parents, too. Our favorite reminder came from Sister Reeves, who said that we cannot coerce children to righteousness, but we can help them taste the sweetness of it. This is one Nathan and I talk about a lot, because we often have some very feral children arrive in our home! They may have different rules than we have at our house, or none at all! It is so important to remember that our job is to teach choices: the good and the bad, the right and the wrong, the bitter and the sweet, the truth and illusions. But the actual choosing is up to each individual, even the children. We can train, encourage, and even set boundaries and limits. We can point out natural consequences for both good and bad choices. But coercing or forcing children is Lucifer’s plan, not Jehovah’s.
My personal question for conference had to do with personal covenants. I know the baptismal covenants I made when I was baptized and that I renew each week at sacrament. I will forever be learning more about the covenants I make at the temple. But I have been wanting to better understand personal covenants. Elder Holland talked about keeping the commandments, and Elder Asband talked about how “sustaining” includes doing our part to share the burden of responsibility, and that this work includes loving and praying and appreciating. Sister Reeves spoke about how so many women feel like they are overwhelmed and can’t get this done and that done, and that we only need to do two things in our home: prayer and scripture study. This was so powerful for me, and I am so grateful! Nathan and I also felt that while we do FHE regularly, we need to be sure we are calling it “Family Home Evening” explicitly when referencing it to the children, so that they realize that is what is happening and know the pattern to follow. I also realized that so many of the crazy things I do because I feel the Lord has asked me to do them are exactly what “personal covenants” are.
Finally, we were twice given a list of blessings, and once a list of three promises, that specifically come from regular prayer and scripture study (individually and as a family). One of the blessings was reduced stress, and one of the promises was confidence before the Lord. Nathan and I plan on pulling those talks to identify the other specific promises and blessings given and using those for FHE one night soon. This was all such good help to us and to our family!