Our fifth Sunday lesson last week discussed preparing for General Conference. People talked about their conference traditions, about preparing spiritually by listening to talks from last conference, and about the importance of getting on board with whatever new changes actually emerge from all the rumors we’ve been hearing.
It was a good lesson, and a good discussion; I’m not criticizing the class, just musing about it. During the entire class, I kept feeling like I should raise my hand and comment about this: what about when General Conference hurts?
What do you do when there’s a talk that’s painful, that hits you badly because it pokes at a place where you are already wounded, or because the doctrine itself is hard? I felt like the teacher and most of the class operated on the assumption that everyone in there would be listening to Conference and inspired by all of the speakers. And there was also this underlying idea, unspoken but still present, that no one in the room would be anything but inspired by Conference. For me, that’s not always true, even though I’m trying.
So I did comment. The teacher acknowledged my comment and quickly returned to the main point of the lesson, which was fine. I wondered if there was someone else in the class who needed to hear what I had to say–I hoped so, because I would have preferred to stay silent.
Then I went home and thought about it some more. Here’s what I came up with:
-I listen to Conference assuming that the men speaking are truly prophets, seers, and revelators. I sustain them as such. I believe that this assumption is vital (see, for instance, this post). I do not want to be someone who makes prophets and apostles offenders for a word, or even for an entire talk. I am grateful for the sacrifices they make to serve, and I do not want to speak disrespectfully of them. I try to come to Conference with an open heart. I realize that these talks go through many drafts and many prayers.
-Having said that, there are times when I’ve really, really struggled with Conference talks. I have listened to certain talks and felt like this speaker does not know me, and maybe, since that speaker is called of God to say these things, God doesn’t know me either. Discussions of women’s roles are particularly challenging. To feel at peace I need to go back to times when I have felt the comfort of the Spirit, that I’m doing the best I can in spite of the gap between my lived reality and the ideals preached, and let that sustain me.
-Sometimes with talks that hurt, I have reviewed them, and studied and prayed about them until I felt more peace. Sometimes I didn’t do that, and instead focused on the talks that did resonate for me and gathered strength from them.
-I keep showing up. I’m there, surrounded by blankets, snacks, and Legos, every six months. Sometimes when I’m hurting from a talk, it’s a message that God wants me to dig deeper, to find comfort and strength in Him. Sometimes I need to learn to see my leaders with greater charity. I think it’s important to keep showing up, to be present, to witness. I’ve been blessed by General Conference, by talks that immediately spoke to my soul and healed things I didn’t even realize were broken, and also by talks that caused me to wrestle and struggle and weep.
I believe that God is with me–in the wrestle, and also in the joy. May He be with you this weekend, too.