As I uncovered and heaved out the five-men tent from the deep recesses of our dusty garage Saturday morning, sweat pearling on my brow, I thought,
“Why in the world do we do this again?”
And then I remembered: Because our young children think General Conference weekend is the ultimate and I want it to stay that way.
That’s why I didn’t mind pushing back the sofa and setting up a monstrous red tent smack dab in the middle of our modest-sized living room with the door flap facing the television and keeping it pitched all weekend. Some of you may know where I was going with this insanity. I can’t claim the tradition as my own invention, but we’ve been watching General Conference King Benjamin style for about a dozen General Conferences now.
Yes, before the talks begin, while we’re all huddled together in our cozy fortress, we pull out our “Book of Mormon Stories” reader and review with the kids the story of that remarkable prophet-king and how his people brought their families to the temple and set up their tents with the door facing the temple to hear him speak the word of the Lord from his custom built tower he had erected just for the occasion.
The tradition has evolved over the years to include homemade cinnamon rolls, rousing games of Memory, chess, Crazy 8’s and Rivers Roads & Rails in between sessions. Everything’s more fun when you wake up under a cover of taut, red nylon.
So when my husband regretted to announce he’d be abroad on business over General Conference weekend this time around, I knew it was up to me to keep the tradition alive. I would have to be the one to set up the tent, bake the rolls, organize the Memory round robin tournament and maintain a semblance of order with the six of us dog piled in our tight quarters amid mountains of blankets and pillows all while nursing a fussy baby for two whole days. That’s how important this tradition is to us. At least there was no one around to shush us.
I wonder how parents in King Benjamin’s day did it? Did all those small children really sit still that whole time, even though they probably didn’t have a great view of what was going on? Even with a great view, an HD view, my kids still struggled with being quiet for two-hour stretches. At one point, in an irritated huff, I made the kids change into their church clothes in an attempt to help them be more reverent. It did help. For about 15 minutes. Then the session was adjourned. Saved by the closing prayer again.
I’m sure it’s no coincidence that King Benjamin preached on the subject of teaching our children not to fight with one another. (There’s a reason the Conference Center only permits children eight and up.)
But I suppose that’s why King Benjamin also had his words written out, copied and delivered out to the crowds, just in case they missed something when the baby was crying, the preschooler was teasing the toddler and the older two were bickering about who was in whose spot.
I can’t wait to get next month’s Ensign. As for the kids, they can’t wait for April to do it all over again.
Margaret Anderson is a BYU graduate, returned missionary, free-lance writer, wife and the mother of five small children. Read more at www.jamsandpickles.wordpress.com