General Conference is once more just around the corner. And once more, I can hardly wait. The spiritual power available at Conference has been increasing over the years. If you’re anything like me, you can’t wait to access that increasing spiritual power in your life.
Of course, we can receive that strength and guidance more readily when we prepare ourselves to receive it. Like many other applications of the gospel, preparation can be very individualized. How I prepare for Conference may be quite different from how you prepare.
That said, some principles remain constant across applications. Three effective guides can help all of us to prepare ourselves more effectively for the spiritual feast that is General Conference. When we seek to follow the Spirit, our leaders, and our own experience, we can position ourselves to receive added spiritual strength during General Conference.
Let the Spirit guide
The first and most important guide for us in any endeavor is the Spirit. So it makes sense that we should seek the promptings of the Holy Ghost as we prepare ourselves to receive spiritual direction during Conference.
Recently I’ve directed my scripture study towards fasting. I remember reading an intriguing book on fasting some years ago, and I want to confirm for myself the conclusions of that author who is a friend of another faith.
My study is still ongoing, but I’ve made some interesting discoveries. One that pertains directly to preparing for Conference appears in Jeremiah 36. The prophet Jeremiah sent Baruch to read his words to the people in the Lord’s house on a day in which a fast had been established.
It occurred to me while reading these verses that fasting could help me prepare for Conference. We know from scriptures like Alma 17:3 that fasting invites the Spirit. And the Spirit can guide us in any endeavor, regardless of the path we travel.
I’ve determined to follow the promptings I’ve received from the Spirit and include fasting in my Conference experience this weekend. I invite you to follow whatever promptings you have from the Spirit as you determine how you will prepare.
Let your leaders guide
In addition to the Spirit, our leaders provide counsel regarding how to prepare for Conference. The Church website has some excellent suggestions made by our leaders in this regard.
One such suggestion is to come prepared with questions you want answered. Start by writing down your questions. This shows the Lord that you want to know your answers enough to make sure you don’t forget them. Then during Conference, listen for the answers to your questions. A related idea is to keep a general conference notebook in which you record the questions and answers you have every six months. Perusing this record of past experiences with revelation can offer great benefit.
I really love that the Church provides something for everyone. For example, links to past Conference addresses about Conference appear on the page. I found this 2011 Ensign article about Conference given by then President Uchtdorf very helpful. There’s also a separate page devoted to activities for children and ideas for helping them learn something during Conference. And there are resources for learning about the leaders who will address us during Conference.
Let experience guide
Ultimately, whatever experiences we have will tell the final tale regarding what works and what doesn’t work for each of us. We should not expect to have the perfect approach to Conference all at once. Rather we should expect to refine our own individual approach through many iterations.
That iterative process describes very well my own journey as I develop my own approach to Conference. I remember years ago when I decided to experiment with taking notes during Conference. The result was an overwhelming experience as I confronted a list of improvements that I needed to make in myself spanning six pages. I vowed never to do that again.
But I learned from my failure. Six months later, I refined my approach to look just for the one or two items that most need my attention during the next six months. My experience was greatly improved over what I had previously. That aspect still comprises a key part of my approach to Conference today.
However we determine to prepare for General Conference, we can position ourselves to receive the answers and strength we need when we make the changes we need to make in our individual approach. We can follow the Spirit, our leaders, and our experience in determining what will work best for us. In so doing, we’ll find ourselves best prepared for Conference. And that will bring more joy in our journey.
As 2018 dawned, I had heard about the Church’s new self-reliance initiative but didn’t know much about it. I became more interested upon learning part of it concerned starting a business.
Then a self-reliance fireside in my stake was announced from the pulpit, and I went. I learned stakes throughout the Church now hold self-reliance classes every 12 weeks in four areas:
After the presentations, everyone divided into groups based on which area interested them most. In this way, we formed ourselves into class groups. Group members then decided when and where to meet for the next 12 weeks.
Now that the 12 weeks are ending, I can’t say enough good things about this new self-reliance initiative. This program can bless everyone to improve upon themselves. But it can also bring joy to LDS singles while making them more attractive for eternal blessings.
Throw off frustration and hopelessness
Many LDS singles feel frustration and hopelessness in their pursuit of eternal blessings. Paired with negative self-talk, that frustration and hopelessness can grow to astronomical levels.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Frustration results from having unmet expectations. Change your expectations, and you can avoid frustration.
But changing an expectation so it’ll be met doesn’t discard hopelessness. That feeling comes mostly from the sense of lacking motion. It’s easy to feel hopeful when you’re moving in some direction. Even if you don’t know where you’re going, at least you know your destination might be a better place.
That’s why I’ve long advocated LDS singles adopt a personal ministry. Working towards worthwhile objectives from a personal ministry provides a feeling of progress many LDS singles aren’t finding in their dating journey. And a personal ministry just might ease that dating journey, because everyone is more attractive when devoted to worthy pursuits.
That’s not the only way to feel a sense of progression. The Church’s self-reliance classes can accomplish the same ends. They align directly with the noble pursuit of improving oneself.
I really like the program’s structure. There’s no dedicated instructor. Instead, the Church provides basic materials we all use to learn from one another. Each lesson contains commitments which class members are supposed to keep, and keeping them provides valuable lessons. At the start of each new lesson, class members report on how well they kept their commitments and what they learned from it.
Class members are also paired as action partners. Action partners contact each other during the week to provide support for keeping commitments. I really love this model of everyone helping someone else. That’s a great environment for improving oneself.
And let’s be honest. Some of us are single because we need to improve ourselves. We need more education or a better job to attract the companion we desire. The Church’s self-reliance program can help there.
Bring it all together
Attending my classes, I learned more about how to start a business. But I also learned how intertwined the gospel is into every aspect of our lives.
Each lesson begins with a review of foundational principles — gospel standards of living found in the scriptures and the teachings of modern-day prophets and apostles. These foundational principles connect to the rest of the lesson content as well as the commitments we need to complete during the coming week.
The Lord cares not just about the spiritual aspect of our lives, but every other aspect as well, including the way we provide for our temporal needs. We can and should partner with the Lord to improve ourselves and our temporal situations. Those who are more self-reliant — and therefore less dependent on others — are able to give more, serve more, and satisfy the needs of more people.
Taking my self-reliance class over the past 12 weeks has taught me more than just how to start a business. I’ve learned more about how much the Lord truly loves all of us, how interested He is in the details of our lives, and what glorious potential we can fulfill when we partner with Him in every aspect of our lives. When we do, He’ll make more out of our lives than we can by ourselves. And that will bring more joy in our journey.
Life has a way of feeling wearisome when all you can see is day-to-day drudgery. Combine that with the normal human propensity to get caught up in one’s own world, and you have a sure-fire recipe for hopelessness.
Many LDS singles feel even more burdened when the drudgery they encounter is negative self-talk — negative messages one gives to oneself, often reminders of one’s failings, shortcomings, and inadequacies. When you surround yourself constantly with negative messages, you’re likely to believe yourself.
It’s easiest to get this way when you have two very destructive habits:
But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can have joy in your journey regardless of your circumstances. That joy comes easiest to you when you truly believe you are good enough.
Watch your mouth
Too many LDS singles don’t believe they’re good enough to secure the eternal blessings they desire primarily because they keep telling themselves that. If that applies to you, here’s some free advice: Stop telling yourself you’re not good enough!
Negative self-talk is one of the most destructive habits for LDS singles. If this is your habit, then stop believing yourself and start believing the Lord. He has declared that “the worth of souls is great in the sight of God” (D&C 18:10). And why do souls have such great worth? The Lord gives the reason: Because He suffered the Atonement for all (D&C 18:11-12).
Why would Christ have suffered so much if your worth is so little? He wouldn’t have. He suffered tremendously for you because you are worth it.
That message, however, won’t remain with you if you have a habit of negative self-talk. We can’t function without habits because we’re all designed to have them. So unless you replace your negative habit with a positive one, you’ll always go back to your default option, which is the negative habit. That means you must replace any habit of negative self-talk with a habit of positive self-talk.
Our focus becomes our reality. If you’re tired of a negative reality, then stop having a negative focus. Focus on the positive, and your reality will be positive.
Stop the comparisons with others
Too many LDS singles also need to stop comparing themselves with others. As if it were part of our design as human beings, we all seem to gain our sense of normal from those around us. Perhaps that’s why not comparing themselves to others challenges so many.
Engaged in a habit of constant comparisons, we’ll constantly find the flaws in ourselves — the times when we failed, the imperfections that seem to disqualify us, and the moments in which we fell short. Providing ourselves regularly with such a list just creates another channel for negative self-talk.
That’s why comparisons with others never end well. We’re all so different that we’ll always find ourselves wanting somehow when measured against others.
Just as we need to replace negative self-talk habits with positive self-talk habits, we need to replace habits of comparing ourselves to others with habits of comparing ourselves to ourselves. That really is the only fair comparison anyway. Only you have been where you’ve been experiencing what you’ve experienced.
Embrace the truth
Often the “evidences” that we provide ourselves through negative self-talk and comparing ourselves to others — “evidences” that we aren’t good enough — are simply lack of results. We can think, I’m still single, so that must prove there’s something wrong with me. Or perhaps our dating invitations have been rejected. Or perhaps no one’s invited us on a date in some time, or even ever.
When we don’t have the results we want, it’s easy to conclude we aren’t good enough. But concluding you aren’t good enough based on a lack of desired results is faulty logic. You don’t get what you get based on who you are. You get what you get based on what you do. If you want better results, improve your approach.
You really should believe you are good enough if for no other reason than that you are. If you don’t feel that truth inside you, then perhaps you’ve engaged bad habits of negative self-talk and comparing yourself with others for so long that it’s hard to believe anything else.
Start today to embrace habits of positive self-talk and comparing yourself only to yourself. When you do, you can more easily embrace the truth of your own worth as a child of God. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
I have a love-hate relationship with RootsTech. I love the energy and excitement which RootsTech generates for family history work. But you can’t really talk about family history work without telling stories about ancestors who did this wonderful thing or left that inspiring heritage. And hearing those stories makes me bawl like a baby every time. Yeah, that’s right. Every time.
Stories connect us to our ancestors and help us discover who we are. Truly our hearts turn towards our fathers when we discover, gather, and share stories of our ancestors with the generations after us. That turning of the children’s hearts aligns very well with our innate yearning for our heavenly home. And that provides for a contribution we need to make.
What will you leave?
When I learned that Family Discovery Day at RootsTech 2018 would feature President Oakes, I could hardly contain my excitement. Here we have the General Authority who’s perhaps more closely identified with LDS singles life and issues than any other General Authority.
Of course the presentation was outstanding. President and Sister Oakes told stories, and I broke yet another water main. But they also touched on a theme similar to Elder Uctdorf. The Oakeses emphasized the need not just to provide ordinances for our ancestors but also to retell the stories about those ancestors continuously for the benefit of future generations.
And they brought examples. President Oakes showed copies of journals from some of his ancestors and told how sharing those journals have benefitted his descendants. Sister Oakes described how the journals of her ancestors gave her a wonderful religious education. The testimonies they bore of the restored gospel taught her much.
It made me wonder, “What stories am I leaving for the generations that come after me?” You don’t need to be married to leave a strong testimony or inspire a wonderful heritage of faith and courage. But future generations will never know it unless someone records it.
Who will you follow?
Hearing the stories of our ancestors stirs a longing inside of us. We yearn to be united with those we love who have passed on before us. Yet the same Spirit which prompts us to turn our hearts towards our fathers also invites us to follow the Savior and return to our heavenly home.
Elder Uchtdorf spoke of how God knows each one of us intimately — “your every thought, your sorrows, and your greatest hopes.” He also declared that following the Lord on the path back to our heavenly home will make our lives better. Said he,
Is there any better way to follow the Savior than participating in family history and temple work? Surely the fruits of the Spirit will be ours when we contribute to this wonderful work. And LDS singles can make very meaningful contributions.
What will you contribute?
Those who embrace this cause on their journey home will reach a wonderful realization. Elder Uchtdorf declared this life isn’t about just you or me but all of us. We all feel the yearning to come home, and that puts all of us on the same journey back to that heavenly home.
President and Sister Oakes shared similar principles in their RootsTech presentation. We must be linked together with our ancestors because we cannot be saved without them, nor can they be saved without us.
If such grandiose visions make you question what role you could possibly have in such a cause, consider Elder Uchtdorf’s remarks when he offered these thoughts:
Family history and temple work isn’t just for old people. And I don’t care how much pioneer ancestry you have; there’s work for you to do! We singles can make mighty, meaningful contributions to advancing this work. We can discover, gather, and share the stories of our ancestors in ways that will inspire those who come after us — whether or not they are our literal descendants.
As Elder Uchtdorf testified,
Let us each move forward and embrace our own contribution to the cause. When we do, we’ll work miracles in the lives of others. And that will bring more joy in our journey.
Howdy! I'm Lance, host of Joy in the Journey Radio. I've been blogging about LDS singles life since 2012, and now I produce a weekly radio show to help LDS singles have more joy in their journey and bring all Latter-day Saints together. Let's engage a conversation that will increase the faith of LDS singles and bring singles and marrieds together in a true unity of the faith.
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