The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints holds General Conference every six months with the most recent one being held October 5-6, 2013. Members are encouraged to “await patiently and diligently for further instruction at my general conference, saith the Lord” (Doctrine and Covenants 24:88; emphasis added).
Members are also instructed to listen carefully to what is taught by the prophets and apostles: “What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (Doctrine and Covenants 1:38; emphasis added).
Last month Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke about the importance of General Conference: “Conferences have always been part of the true Church of Jesus Christ. Adam gathered his posterity and prophesied of things to come. Moses gathered the children of Israel and taught them the commandments he had received. The Savior taught multitudes gathered in the Holy Land and on the American continent. Peter gathered believers in Jerusalem. The first general conference in these latter days was convened just two months after the Church was organized, and conferences have continued to this very day.
“These conferences are always under the direction of the Lord, guided by His Spirit….
“In conferences we can receive the word of the Lord meant just for us….
“This is possible because the Holy Ghost carries the word of the Lord unto our hearts in terms we can understand [See 2 Nephi 33:1.]…. [The Holy Ghost carries the word of the Lord “unto our hearts” but not “into our hearts” unless we invite Him to do so by our thoughts and actions.]
“What is said is not as important as what we hear and what we feel. [See Spencer W. Kimball, in Conference Report, Tonga Area Conference 1976, 27.] That is why we make an effort to experience conference in a setting where the still, small voice of the Spirit can be clearly heard, felt, and understood.”
Elder Hales said that “we need general conference” to fortify our faith and to deepen our testimonies and then “strengthen each other to stand strong amid the fiery darts of these last days.” [See Luke 22:31-32.] ….
“We may not know all the reasons why the prophets and conference speakers address us with certain topics in conference, but the Lord does. President Harold B. Lee taught: `The only safety we have as members of this church is to … give heed to the words and commandments that the Lord shall give through His prophet. … There will be some things that take patience and faith. You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church. It may contradict your [personal] views. It may contradict your social life. But if you listen to these things, as if from the mouth of the Lord Himself, with patience and faith, the promise is that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; … and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory” (Doctrine and Covenants 21:6).’
“How did President Lee know what we would be facing in our day? He knew because he was a prophet, seer, and revelator. And if we listen and obey the prophets now, including those who will speak in this very conference, we will be strengthened and protected.
“The greatest blessings of general conference come to us after the conference is over. Remember the pattern recorded frequently in scripture: we gather to hear the words of the Lord, and we return to our homes to live them….”
When Jesus Christ visited the Christians living in ancient America He gave us a pattern for gaining the most from our conferences, “I perceive that ye are weak, that ye cannot understand all my words which I am commanded of the Father to speak unto you at this time.
“Therefore, go ye unto you homes, and ponder upon the things which I have said, and ask of the Father, in my name, that ye may understand, and prepare your minds for the morrow, and I come unto you again (Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ,
3 Nephi 17:2-3).
Elder Hales continued, “We accept the Savior’s invitation when we ponder and pray to understand what we have been taught and then go forward and do His will. Remember President Spencer W. Kimball’s words: `I have made up my mind that when I go home from this [general] conference … there are many, many areas in my life that I can perfect. I have made a mental list of tem, and I expect to go to work as soon as we get through’ [“Spoken from Their Hearts,” Ensign, Nov. 1975, 111]. President Monson recently said: `I encourage you to read the talks … and to ponder the messages contained therein. I have found in my own life that I gain even more from these inspired sermons when I study them in greater depth’ (“God Be with You till We Meet Again,’ Ensign, Nov. 202, 110).
“In addition to inviting us to hold personal and family scripture study, Heavenly Father wants us to regularly study and apply what we have learned in conference…” (“General Conference: Strengthening Faith and Testimony,” Ensign, Nov. 2013, 6-8).
I am grateful for the opportunity to listen to prophets and apostles every six months. I am also grateful to have the talks available to study later. The talks are available on the Church’s website within days to watch on video or to read in print, and I encourage you to go here to hear the words of prophets and apostles. I especially appreciate having the talks printed in the Ensign and other Church magazines and delivered to my mailbox for later study. In fact, we have been counseled to keep our conference edition of the Ensign with our scriptures for easy access during our daily gospel study. I usually read one conference address each morning after studying the scriptures. I pay particular when one prophet quotes another prophet because I know the Lord establishes His word by the mouths of two or three witnesses. General Conference is valuable to all people who desire to know what the Lord would have us do for the coming six months. The Lord has promised that He “will do nothing [until] he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7) – which is one of the most important reasons why we need General Conference!