I was talking to a friend not long ago, who confessed that she doesn’t watch all four sessions of General Conference—and sometimes zero sessions—because she thinks they’re boring. “It’s always the same old messages we’ve heard dozens of times,” she said.
And I had to smile. You, I thought to myself, are part of the reason for that.
Imagine you are the teacher at a one-room school house in the Old West. In traipse 15 or so frontier kids of varying ages, all illiterate, all unable to add or subtract.
And so you begin at the beginning. Let’s say you’re teaching math. You start with simple addition and within a few days, everyone is able to add single digits. And then you hit the tens column and the idea of carrying. Suddenly progress slows down as you have to spend a little more time on this double-column concept. Would you think, this is boring—let’s just go on to calculus?
If you were a piano teacher and your student always got stuck on the top of the second page would you ignore that, or would you stop right there and work on it until it played as smoothly as the rest?
These examples are obvious: You stop and work on the sticky spots before you move to more advanced work. Likewise, Christ did not teach deep doctrine to people who couldn’t even grasp the problem with hypocrisy or selfishness. He stopped where they were and helped them on the level where they had stopped progressing.
So it is with General Conference. If the church, as a whole, needs to hear more about overcoming addiction, honoring the family, gratitude, scripture study—you name it, that’s what we’ll hear about.
And guess what? If we’ve gone backward a step or two, the leaders will once again meet us where we are and give us milk before meat. A good example is that we are now being instructed in far more detail than in past years, about piercings, tattoos, and casual attire at church. Years ago such messages weren’t needed; today they are.
Conversely, if we were to progress to a point where everyone paid an honest tithe, let’s say, what would be the point in belaboring something we all loved doing? We will hear about sticky spots, areas where we need to listen up and make course corrections.
When you listen to General Conference, do you honestly think, “Well, I’ve mastered this one!” every time you hear an address? Or do you come away thinking, “Wow, that whole conference seemed tailored to me—I really needed those messages.” Chances are you’re like me, solidly in that second group. I soak up all the counsel I can, and feel edified and uplifted, rejuvenated for the next six months with concrete goals and ideas for aligning my heart and life more in keeping with the Savior’s teachings.
Or, you can do as my friend does, shrug it off and decide you’ve got the math down good enough and the piano piece polished enough, and stop listening. But then you can expect a talk or two about folks who don’t heed the words of the Prophets, who settle for weak testimonies, and who resent rules instead of eagerly enjoying obedience. And, like my friend, you’ll probably never even realize that you are the very reason for the topic.