Preparing for General Conference

 If you want a great pattern for preparing for LDS General Conference, re-read Mosiah 2. This is the chapter where King Benjamin is about to present his son as the new king and give his last sermon. But the first part of the chapter talks about how the people prepared for his talk. Check out what they did, and notice how it can apply to us as we prepare for conference:

1 And it came to pass that after Mosiah had done as his father had commanded him, and had made a proclamation throughout all the land, that the people gathered themselves together throughout all the land, that they might go up to the temple to hear the words which king Benjamin should speak unto them.

The first thing they did? Show up! They came! We’ll read later that the words were written down for those who couldn’t hear, but the people didn’t wait for it to come out in the Ensign. They were present. That doesn’t mean you have to be at the conference center, but it will help a lot if you are at your TV or radio at the time it’s taking place.

3 And they also took of the firstlings of their flocks, that they might offer sacrifice and burnt offerings according to the law of Moses;

Obviously we don’t do animal sacrifices, but do you remember what Jesus said replaced burnt offerings? A broken heart and a contrite spirit. Approach general conference in a spirit of humility, repentance, and sacrifice, and not only will the experience be awesomer, but you’ll change what the Lord asks you during conference to change, and you’ll be what the Lord asks you to be.

4 And also that they might give thanks to the Lord their God, who had brought them out of the land of Jerusalem, and who had delivered them out of the hands of their enemies, and had appointed just men to be their teachers, and also a just man to be their king, who had established peace in the land of Zarahemla, and who had taught them to keep the commandments of God, that they might rejoice and be filled with love towards God and all men.

Carry a spirit of gratitude. If you’re struggling to feel spiritually motivated, either about the gospel or the things taught in the gospel, take a half hour and go for a walk, or find a quiet place to kneel. Pray to your Father in Heaven and just list off to Him the things you’re grateful for. “I thank thee for…” “I thank thee that…” “I’m so grateful that…”

At first it may feel forced, but keep it up until you are filled with gratitude. You’ll be amazed how powerful gratitude is in increasing spiritual desire. Approach general conference with a spirit of gratitude, and you’ll see a huge difference.

5 And it came to pass that when they came up to the temple, they pitched their tents round about, every man according to his family, consisting of his wife, and his sons, and his daughters, and their sons, and their daughters, from the eldest down to the youngest, every family being separate one from another.


Involve the family. If possible, watch together, and don’t shoosh people when they interrupt to say something relevant to the talk. They are likening the words to you and your loved ones–that’s what you’re supposed to do. Experiencing conference together builds the family up, and reminds all how much the Savior is a part of your family. And, yes, conference bingo is good, too.

6 And they pitched their tents round about the temple, every man having his tent with the door thereof towards the temple, that thereby they might remain in their tents and hear the words which king Benjamin should speak unto them;

However you are watching, face the speaker. Face the TV, radio, or computer, where the talk is happening. Not only will it send a message to your own brain that this is important (thus helping you pay attention), but it will help others see how much you want to be involved. They are less likely to ask you to come help them clean up the garage, because they will see that doing so would interrupt. If you’re listening passively to the background radio, your likely to get distracted and/or interrupted.


8 And it came to pass that he began to speak to his people from the tower; and they could not all hear his words because of the greatness of the multitude; therefore he caused that the words which he spake should be written and sent forth among those that were not under the sound of his voice, that they might also receive his words.

Don’t just suck in the words and expect them to stay. Take notes! Bring a notebook, portable device, or computer to write down things that catch your attention. Even more important, write down thoughts that the Spirit gives you while you listen. That is God’s revelation to you personally. You can trust that the guidance will come, but if you have no way to record it when it happens, you’ll forget. Believe me, no matter how powerful the experience, if you don’t record it, you will forget.

If for whatever reason you can’t be present for conference, take advantage of the many means the church has provided to review it. The Internet archives are available immediately, so you don’t have to wait for the Ensign. The video is up within minutes after the session ends. The audio will be available within a day or so, and the text will be up within a week. Don’t miss conference. If you can’t attend, make sure a week doesn’t pass before you’ve watched or read the entire four sessions (or five, if you’re a guy).

Never in the history of the world has there been such remarkable tools for reviewing the words of God. Even after you do watch the whole program, either live or afterward, go back through and read more carefully. The first time through is a marathon. The second time through, go through carefully, deliberately, taking the time necessary to learn all that you can from the talks. If you have a portable device or laptop, download the audio and listen to it often. Read the words, cross-referencing with the given links.

Do these things, and this may be the best conference you’ve ever participated in.

Why do Mormons Make Such a Big Deal Out of LDS General Conference?

Mormons, which is a nickname for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, believe that God has called prophets in our day, just as there were prophets in the old and new testaments. The living prophet today, who holds the same role and call as Peter in the bible, is President Thomas S. Monson. There are also twelve apostles living today in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Their call is to teach the gospel all over the world.

 

Every six months, in April and October, the prophet, apostles, and other leaders of the church gather to discuss and broadcast a conference where the teachings of Jesus Christ are taught.

 

Members of the church are encouraged to hear their words and live by their teachings, just as the children of Israel were encouraged to listen to and follow the counsel given by Moses.

 

I know that President Monson is a true prophet, called by God to declare His word. I know that the twelve apostles are given the same charge, and that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the church that Jesus Christ established, restored in these days. If you have never heard these prophets speak, I encourage you to do so. I know that their words come from God. How do I know it? Because it has been made known to me by the power of the Holy Ghost. I’m not unique in this. There are millions who share this testimony.

 

To hear what the modern prophets are saying today, go to http://lds.org/general-conference/sessions/2011/04?lang=eng

Listen to them. Pray to God about what they teach. I’m confident that something in what they say will move you for the better.

The LDSF Society

While it’s true that I belong to the LDS church, some weeks, with the kids crawling on the bench, and the floor, and each other, and me, and the baby,  I feel more like a member of the LDSF society. Not to be confused with the fundementalist church, this is the Latter-day Sunday Fiasco society. In the LDS church, the family gathers for sacrament meeting and all listen and enjoy the spirit in the meeting. But in the LDSF society, kids jump on benches, and parents do sweet sixteens up and down the chapel, racing kids in and out of the meeting, wails drowning out any and all audio reception.

Just today I woke up about halfway through the meeting (yes woke up – It was a long morning for the parents of said munchkins), I woke and discovered marker markings on my hands. What the?!

That’s when I noticed my kids coloring with markers and eating cereal next to me. Where did they get markers? We don’t even allow those in our house, let alone at church! And cereal? We had oatmeal for breakfast because we’re out of cereal!

Then the culprits revealed themselves as the kids belonging to the family sitting next to us on the bench. Ah. Well, they’re a great family, so I guess it was okay, but it did help me realize the importance of staying awake at church… especially as I remembered the marker markings and got self conscious about my face…

I only had to take Tootles out once – well, I guess you could say it was twice, since we had to go back in after he calmed down in order to fetch the diaper bag, since his foyer tantrum had released an ominous unpleasant smell. I would have had Jenni fetch it for me, but by then, she was out with another kid.

Popcorn and Podcasting: Kiddoes

Kiddoes

Jenni and I have been doing our Popcorn and Podcasting LDS podcast for awhile, but we’ve been out of it for the past couple months. We’ve decided to try various topics, though, instead of having many podcasts on one topic – just to see how that goes.

This time we focused on Children

James E. Faust:

If parents do not discipline their children and teach them to obey, society may discipline them in a way neither the parents nor the children will like. Dr. Lee Salk, child psychologist, said: “The ‘do your own thing’ trend has interfered with people developing close and trusting family relationships. It tells people that they are neurotic if they feel a sense of responsibility for the feelings of other family members. People are also told to let all their feelings out, even if it is very hurtful to someone else.”

(Special Section Families, U.S. News and World Report, Inc., 16 June 1980, p. 60.) As Dr. Salk states, this is, of course, patently wrong. Without discipline and obedience in the home, the unity of the family collapses.

Anne G. Wirthlin:

Recent research on the development of a child’s brain has revealed new insights into how and when a child learns. I quote from a recent study: “From birth, a baby’s brain cells proliferate wildly, making connections that may shape a lifetime of experience. The first three years are critical” (J. Madeleine Nash, “Fertile Minds,” Time, 3 Feb. 1997, 49).

Anne G. Wirthlin, “Teaching Our Children to Love the Scriptures,” Ensign, May 1998, 9

Anne G. Wirthlin:

When first we love the Lord with all our hearts, then we can lead our children to Him in all of our interactions. They will grow in their devotion to the Lord as they see our devotion to Him. They will understand the power of prayer as they hear us pray to a loving Heavenly Father who is there listening and answering our prayers. They will understand faith as they see us live by faith. And they will learn the power of love by the kind and respectful ways that we relate to them. We cannot teach truth to our children apart from the trusting, caring relationships that we have with them. President Howard W. Hunter said, “A successful parent is one who has loved, one who has sacrificed, and one who has cared for, taught, and ministered to the needs of a child” (Ensign, Nov. 1983, p. 65).

Anne G. Wirthlin, “Touch the Hearts of the Children,” Ensign, Nov 1995, 81

Neal A. Maxwell:

Children often have the “thoughts and [the] intents of [their] hearts” focused on the Master. Though not full of years, such children are full of faith! Too young for formal Church callings, they have been “called to serve” as exemplifiers, doing especially well when blessed with “goodly parents” (1 Ne. 1:1).

Just as the scriptures assure, “little children do have words given unto them many times” (Alma 32:23). For example, the resurrected Jesus revealed things to the Nephite children, who then taught adults and their parents “even greater” things than Jesus had taught (3 Ne. 26:14).

It has been a privilege to seal several adopted children to Nan and Dan Barker, now of Arizona. Some time ago Nate, then just over three, said: “Mommy, there is another little girl who is supposed to come to our family. She has dark hair and dark eyes and lives a long way from here.”

The wise mother asked, “How do you know this?”

“Jesus told me, upstairs.”

The mother noted, “We don’t have an upstairs,” but quickly sensed the significance of what had been communicated. After much travail and many prayers, the Barker family were in a sealing room in the Salt Lake Temple in the fall of 1995—where a little girl with dark hair and dark eyes, from Kazakhstan, was sealed to them for time and eternity. Inspired children still tell parents “great and marvelous things” (3 Ne. 26:14).

Benjamin Ballam is the special spina bifida child of Michael and Laurie Ballam. He has been such a blessing to them and many others. Also spiritually precocious, Benjamin is a constant source of love and reassurance. Having had 17 surgeries, resilient Benjamin knows all about hospitals and doctors. Once, when an overwhelmed attendant became vocally upset—not at Benjamin, but over stressful circumstances—little three-year-old Benjamin exemplified the words of another Benjamin about our need to be childlike and “full of love” (Mosiah 3:19). Little Benjamin reached out, tenderly patted the irritated attendant, and said, “I love you anyway.” A similar episode occurred recently in an Israeli hospital, where little Benjamin, going through a necessary but very painful procedure, used the same loving words to reassure a physician. No wonder, brothers and sisters, in certain moments we feel children are our spiritual superiors.

Neal A. Maxwell, “‘Becometh As a Child’,” Ensign, May 1996, 68

Elder M. Russell Ballard

“The most important work we can do is to help God’s children come to a full understanding of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. This I know to be true…”

(Ensign, Nov. 2000 pg. 77 – 2nd to last sentence)

Barbara B. Smith:

It might be a temptation for a working mother to plan special outings and play times as the so-called “quality” time she has with her children. But many are aware of the danger this poses in giving them a distorted picture of life by using all their time together in recreation. It is important for children to see the balance that is necessary between work and play. They need to know that special events are more meaningful when daily routines are established and when assigned duties are completed.

One grandmother helped her grandchildren learn this truth. When they came to her house she was careful to have jobs they could do together; then afterward, they played a game. Then another task was followed by another game. The children learned, as she hoped they would, the relationship between work and play and the comfortable sense of playing after work is completed.

Barbara B. Smith, “‘Her Children Arise Up, and Call Her Blessed’,” Ensign, May 1982, 79

Patricia P. Pinegar:

The blessings of parenting and helping to care for children are many. President Hinckley said: “Of all the joys of life, none other equals that of happy parenthood. Of all the responsibilities with which we struggle, none other is so serious. To rear children in an atmosphere of love, security, and faith is the most rewarding of all challenges. The good result from such efforts becomes life’s most satisfying compensation” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1994, 74; or Ensign, Nov. 1994, 54).

Patricia P. Pinegar, “Caring for the Souls of Children,” Ensign, May 1997, 13

Elder Harold G. Hillam:

Many, perhaps most, adult members of the Church, however, find themselves in a position to teach in a more direct manner. Leaders, parents, and called teachers have the specific responsibility to constantly improve their teaching abilities so they can prepare, train, and edify those who fall within their stewardship. President David O. McKay reminded us that “the proper training of childhood is man’s most important and sacred duty” (Gospel Ideals [1953], 220). The Lord has made it clear that parents shall “teach their children to pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord” (D&C 68:28).

There is power in the doctrines of the Church—hence the need for us all to be ever learning and constantly fortifying ourselves spiritually. President Hinckley has said: “The forces against which we labor are tremendous. We need more than our own strength to cope with them. To all who hold positions of leadership, to the vast corps of teachers and missionaries, to heads of families, I should like to make a plea: In all you do, feed the Spirit—nourish the soul. … I am satisfied that the world is starved for spiritual food” (“Feed the Spirit—Nourish the Soul,” Improvement Era, Dec. 1967, 85–86).

Harold G. Hillam, “Teachers, the Timeless Key,” Ensign, Nov 1997, 62

Anne G. Wirthlin:

President Kimball shared vivid memories of his home when the family knelt before meals to pray, their chairs turned back from the table, dinner plates upside down. He remembers night prayers at his mother’s knee. He said, “I feel sorry for children who must learn these important lessons after they are grown, when it is so much harder” (Edward L. Kimball and Andrew E. Kimball, Jr., Spencer W. Kimball, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1977, p. 31). Home can be an oasis in the world. It’s a place where every child has a right to feel safe.

Anne G. Wirthlin, “Touch the Hearts of the Children,” Ensign, Nov 1995, 81

Elder Joe Christensen:

Remember family prayer every day. With schedules as they are today, you may need to have more than one prayer. Sending your children out of the home without the spiritual protection of prayer is like sending them out into a blizzard without sufficient clothing.”

Elder Joe Christensen, Ensign Nov 1993

When the Night Came: The Meaning Behind the Music

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When the Night Came

when-the-night-came1

Enos

1 Behold, it came to pass that I, Enos, knowing my father that he was a just man—for he taught me in his language, and also in the nurture and admonition of the Lord—and blessed be the name of my God for it—

2 And I will tell you of the wrestle which I had before God, before I received a remission of my sins.

3 Behold, I went to hunt beasts in the forests; and the words which I had often heard my father speak concerning eternal life, and the joy of the saints, sunk deep into my heart.

4 And my soul hungered; and I kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul; and all the day long did I cry unto him; yea, and when the night came I did still raise my voice high that it reached the heavens.

5 And there came a voice unto me, saying: Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed.

6 And I, Enos, knew that God could not lie; wherefore, my guilt was swept away.

7 And I said: Lord, how is it done?

8 And he said unto me: Because of thy faith in Christ, whom thou hast never before heard nor seen. And many years pass away before he shall manifest himself in the flesh; wherefore, go to, thy faith hath made thee whole.

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To hear the music without my voice, scroll to playlist on the sidebar called, “The Ancestor CD,” and click on When the Night Came


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First Dance

First Dance

My first dance was in the fifth grade, but I made sure not to dance with anyone. Me and another guy came up with a strategy to avoid dancing on the girls-choice dances, since we never would have asked anyone ourselves! It quickly became clear that wall-flowers usually ended up dancing with someone at some point, so as soon as the music started, we would walk around the middle of the dance floor as if headed somewhere.


Sometimes I’d dance in place for a moment if a teacher was near. Teachers were good at setting people up to get them to dance with someone. When the snowball dance started, we made sure to go get a drink and use the bathroom, taking a considerable amount of time getting back. Using these methods, I was able to make it through the dance without ever having to dance with a girl.

When I turned twelve, one of my first church youth activities was a youth dance. Using my sneaky method, I was able to avoid dancing with a girl for a while – until Sister Johnson, one of the young-women leaders caught on to what I was doing. While strolling about in the middle of the dance floor, weaving in and out of dancing couples, I suddenly walked right into Sister Johnson (obviously she had aligned her position). With a big smile, she said, “Chas, have you danced with anyone yet?”

I knew I was doomed, and gave in, saying, “Uh… no… not really.”

Then she grabbed the first laurel to walk by and said, “Dawn, would you like to dance with Chas?”

Of course, being a mature 16 year-old, she took pity on this poor little deacon. “I’d love to!”

Feeling like a mouse caught in a trap, I stood there as she put her hands on my shoulders. I was shocked. What was I supposed to do now? I stood there stupidly.

“Put your hands on my waist,” she instructed. I couldn’t believe this was happening. I was supposed to actually dance with this girl! I’d seen the others dancing, so I guess I knew I was supposed to put my hands on her waist, but I couldn’t work up the courage to do it before the invitation came. I put my hands on her waist and we rocked back and forth slightly, turning gradually in circles. The song was already half over by the time we started dancing, but that second half of a song felt like the length of twenty songs.

When the song finally ended, she thanked me for the dance and I bolted. For the rest of the evening, I kept clear of that girl.

At home after the dance, mom told me how Dawn had come up to her and Dad after our dance and said, “Your son is so cute! I had to tell him to put his hands on my hips!”

Turning purple at the thought that Mom and Dad knew that I had danced with a girl, I wormed off to my room. Maybe next time I would slough the dance entirely.

Making Moments – Free to Choose

Making Moments – Free to Choose

I’ve decided to try to take a moment each day to teach each of the kids some important gospel principle.  They are so young, and it would be easy to start the habit now.  If I wait, it will get tougher to do later.

Some say that they will make church available to their kids, but will allow them to choose whether or not they want to attend.

This idea is terribly lacking.  Our children cannot choose between good and evil if they do not get sufficient encouragement toward the good.  Just by living in the world, they will see all the bad they need to in order to know what the bad choices are.

If we do ALL WE CAN to teach, guide, and encourage, our children to live the gospel – if we live the gospel as conspicuously as we can, and do all we can to help our kids know how a righteous person lives the gospel, then and only then will they have sufficient knowledge to choose whether to accept or reject it.

The world will not offer them the fulness of the gospel.  You must do that.  Then, when they are mature enough, and have had enough exposure to know the blessings of a Christ-centered life, they will choose.
And a good parent will never give up, no matter how how strongly the child turns against the truth, they will continue to love, encourage, exemplify, and teach their children the Lord’s way to live.

That is how we give our kids agency.  Anything less is denying them the opportunity to choose.