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Reflections on General Conference: Press Forward with Hope

I’m going to make a confession. When the General Conference Challenge was first issued, I couldn’t think of any specific questions to bring to General Conference. I wondered if it’s because during the last six months, perhaps almost more than any other time in my life, I have been in a sort of ongoing process of going to the Lord with questions and finding answers as He and I have been working hard on my life, my heart, my soul. I have felt His love, His guidance, His power, and His grace in amazing ways this year.

So, in a way, I planned to enter this conference weekend in a sort of “open slate” mode, waiting to discover what would reach me the most.

But then things sort of fell apart in my world on Friday night. I got a migraine. The stress of having hubby essentially gone for a month on business had caught up with me physically and emotionally. In addition, some significant responsibilities I have had on my plate managed to came to a head all at once in my scattered brain and life. All of a sudden, I was drowning, and I wasn’t sure what to do about it.

So I actually came to Conference needing a lot.

I heard so many talks that were a balm to my soul. I can’t name (or even remember) them all, but Elder Holland’s reminder that angels are among us, that God never leaves us alone, was, not surprisingly, a favorite. I loved Elder Cook’s tender talk, ”Hope Ya Know, We Had a Hard Time.” (Don’t we all feel that way sometimes?) President Uchtdorf’s talk on hope is one I want to read and re-read. There were many speakers who powerfully testified of God’s eternal love for us, for me. I was reminded time and time again that God is aware of me and my life and that brought great comfort to my soul.

I also heard talks that were hard for me to process, to be honest, simply because I was already feeling so weary and weighed down. This was not because I didn’t love the talks (because I really did), but just because of where I was personally.

I felt an intensity in many messages, a sense that we are being invited by the Lord through our leaders to “raise the bar” in our lives, individually and collectively. The Lord expects much. We must be prepared for His coming. We must be more like Him in our hearts and in our lives. Reminders of the need for unity, the declaration of what is required for us to become a Zion people, the plea to reach out and help change lives, and even the call to simplicity and the outline of how to improve my prayers all combined in a way to leave me feeling a bit like I was drinking out of a fire hydrant. And drowning.

As a result, while I found some significant answers, reminders, and strength to face my challenges, partaking of this wonderful conference also left me with more questions.

How do I focus?
How does God want me to spend my time?
There is too much to do; how can I do it all, or what shouldn’t I try to do right now?

I care so deeply about this work — all of it! — and yet my energy and resources are limited. Truth be told, at times like this weekend, my head spins (literally and figuratively) and my stomach churns and I can wear myself out before I even begin!

In this seeming dichotomy of emotions — comfort and strength to face my trials on one hand and feeling overwhelmed on the other — a clear but unexpected thought came to my mind. The General Relief Society Meeting laid the foundation for me for this entire weekend.

I loved every minute of the Relief Society broadcast. I loved both the call to action that came from the Relief Society leaders (Sister Beck in particular, but really from all of them), as well President Uchtdorf’s encouraging and powerful words as he spoke “to those who have ever felt inadequate, discouraged, or weary—in short…to all of us.”

Sister Beck began the broadcast by saying:

We rejoice in the knowledge that you are going about doing good, as the Savior did. You are doing a magnificent work. Yet we feel impressed to say that there is more to be done. It is time for…[us]…to fulfill its purpose as never before.

They are raising the bar!

But I remembered what President Uchtdorf said:

We know that sometimes it can be difficult to keep our heads above water. In fact, in our world of change, challenges, and checklists, sometimes it can seem nearly impossible to avoid feeling overwhelmed by emotions of suffering and sorrow. I am not suggesting that we can simply flip a switch and stop the negative feelings that distress us. This isn’t a pep talk or an attempt to encourage those sinking in quicksand to imagine instead they are relaxing on a beach. I recognize that in all of our lives there are real concerns….These things are not insignificant.

He then proceeded to teach beautifully about the principles of creation and compassion. I loved all of what he said, but wanted to include something in particular:

What you [do] doesn’t have to be perfect. So what if the eggs are greasy or the toast is burned? Don’t let fear of failure discourage you. Don’t let the voice of critics paralyze you—whether that voice comes from the outside or the inside.

The Lord prepared me for both the variety of messages I heard and the range of emotions I felt this weekend with the Relief Society broadcast last weekend, when I was less stressed. Am I supposed to do more or be patient and compassionate with myself? The answer is yes!

There will simply always be a tension between what I need to be doing and what I am able to do. Negotiating that tension is, I believe, a key part of life, and a key reason why the gift of the Holy Ghost is so critical in our mortal journey.

It is clear that for me, the answers weren’t supposed to all come this weekend. I have more work to do, more questions to explore! But this is the work of life. I am determined to take these fresh questions to my personal study of the powerful and broad-reaching talks of this weekend. I can feel already that I am going to find even more guidance — and probably more questions — that will help me continue to press forward and to do so with a brightness of hope, not those dreaded feelings of despair, inadequacy, or of being overwhelmed that are all too familiar in my life.

Postscript I: As I have been writing, I have had General Conference playing in the background. The very minute I finished writing the first draft of my last paragraph, President Uchtdorf quoted that scripture in 2 Nephi. Wow. I am grateful to the Lord for tender mercies. I needed to write this post so that I could really get that message. Onward and forward!

Postscript II: (And you won’t believe this….) The talk I had left to listen to was President Monson’s address from Sunday morning. (I slept in to help with the migraine and had to catch up.) Yeah, there’s a lot for me there. But I’m going to keep the post unchanged because it represents an important part of my process of finding answers this weekend.

Besides, the main purpose of this post is to invite you to share your experiences from this weekend. What themes struck you? What answers did you receive to your prayers and questions? What questions will you take to your personal study, prayer, and pondering? As I have experienced here, writing can sometimes help answers to distill. And so, we invite you to write!

13 thoughts on “Reflections on General Conference: Press Forward with Hope”

  1. This was the first time in my life I have taken the challenge to have specific questions for GC…I must admit: Sunday was a challenge for me. I woke with a migraine, two small kids, a distracted husband, and morning sickness and throwing up to boot. Not a good day for me. I got less than I wanted to out of the Sunday talks (they floated around my subconciousness). However, both my questions were answered in the Saturday morning session, by Pres. Monson, Pres. Uchtdorf. I felt my personal challenges were understood by the Lord, and this Conference gave me a much needed spiritual boost. I look forward to going back and listening to the talks I missed.

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  2. First time doing the challenge for me, too. I usually just listen, but not with specific concerns in mind. I had two. I was able to watch all but the Saturday afternoon session. One of my concerns was answered for me Sunday afternoon by President Monson. As he spoke it was as if he were in the room with me, speaking directly to me, showing me how clear the answer was. I feel like the 2nd concern is being answered collectively and quietly, but I still have that last session to watch, so who knows. It could be there in a bigger way.
    I am so grateful for general conference. I have always looked forward to it, but I will look forward to it with much more anticipation from now on.

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  3. This was the first year that I've actually written down questions. Saturday night (so, halfway through conference) I remember "Oh yeah, I was supposed to write specific questions!"–and so I did.

    None of my specific questions were answered directly, but all of my deeper questions were addressed. (I missed Elder Bednar's talk– who knows, maybe there's something more for me there too?) The most amazing and unusual experience was last night as I was writing in my journal. I wrote that Elder Perry's talk about Henry Davoid Thoreau and the importance of simplifying our lives had really resonated with me; up till that point I'd been thinking of the topic mostly as Elder Perry had presented it, from a standpoint of materialism. However, immediately after I'd written that sentence in my journal I realized how profoundly I needed the advice to "simplify my life" in every area (not just the area of stuff and materialism). Literally, every piece of spiritual prompting I have received over the last few weeks has been a command to "simplify my life."

    I also actually was really moved by some of the words of the opening prayer for the Saturday morning session this time. I've never been really touched or inspired by the words of a conference prayer before–has anyone else?

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  4. First time writing questions for myself too, and no they weren't answered specifically. Most of all I heard a personal call to repentance, and though it wasn't easy to hear, I know the answers will come if I can get my behind in gear. I appreciated the whole conference theme rotated around having hope. If the world needed anything that message of hope was it.

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  5. For me the biggest epiphany was halfway through the Sunday morning session when I realized that we had all missed the first part of the session because my kids were having tantrums. I realized that part of the problem was my stressing out over trying to get them to listen and realize the significance of conference (they're only 2 and 5) and that I was too worried about forcing them to feel the Spirit and so none of us were. I realized at that moment that I could go back and listen to or read the talks later, but I had a clear prompting that I should be more gentle with my kids and less stressed out about their spirituality.

    Anyways, the talks I was actually able to listen to were great. I loved the one on prayer–I've been really working on that particular issue lately.

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  6. I posted more on my blog, I've felt pretty cranky lately and REALLY needed conference. There were so many impressions. For me, simplifying my life and creating the day through meaningful prayer seem a pretty good place to start. Everyone has a need to create – Right?

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  7. wait, did you just write this post since our conversation? or are there two Michelle L.'s? (it does say "the other Michelle L.")

    Anyway, I loved all of it. It was thanksgiving feast day here…of the spiritual type. I just felt so encouraged and thankful and known by a loving Heavenly Father.

    Today I got out some acrylic paints for the first time and tried my hand at creating something (thanks President Uchtdorf!). I listened to the rebroadcast while I was at it. Such a plethora of wonderful wisdom…and though I'm no great artist, it was fun to do something creative. I usually blog or read for free-time entertainment. This was different and enjoyable.

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  8. The messages on hope were the most spiritually helpful for me. I found Pres.' Uchtdorf's words that it was a commandment to be hopeful very powerful and needed. I really felt "nourished by the good word of God" throughout this conference.

    The counsel to give thanks was timely. I am negligent with that too often.

    I forget who spoke on not being contentious, but it came just as I was grumbling about my husband for something fairly insignificant and I found myself pouting and arguing with myself through that whole talk, knowing I need to grow up, not necessarily wanting to be more humble about it, etc. 🙂

    I really am more excited to read this whole conference (and re-watch it) than I have been in a long time. I was amazed at how much the speakers seemed to be speaking to me. I suspect it had less to do with them and more to do with how I was trying to be more in tune than the last few conferences.

    I'm so grateful for "the challenge!" Most of my questions weren't directly answered, either, but somebody related partaking of the sacrament (Nelson?) and keeping those covenants to receiving revelation for our lives; I knew that was an answer to all of my questions.

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  9. I really received some direct answers to some direct questions, and for that I am enormously grateful. It was a wonderful conference, and three of my kids even sat still and took notes! That's gotta be some kind of miracle right there!

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  10. I re-listened to all 9.5 hours today. It's even better the second time around! My kids came home from school and we all sat at the kitchen table listening to it on the laptop while we painted pictures with water colors and acrylics. For FHE we watched "Finding Faith In Christ".

    It's been a lovely day.

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  11. As an artist, I must say yay for the painting!!I loved Elder U's talk, bring on the creativity in all its forms!

    I loved the thoughts from so many talks, amany reminded me through words and phrases of things in my patriarchal blessing, a true testament of both conference and my own personal outline of purpose for happiness. I look forward to conitnuing to absorb it as I reread!

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