There are so many things to love about General Conference. Let’s be real: not having to get ready for Church is a perk in itself. I’ll take wearing my pajamas over a dress any day. (Remember when Elder Holland gave a talk in which he said that he could picture all of us at home listening to Conference, wearing our Sunday best? Good one, J. Holl!)
But that’s not the reason I love Conference. I mean, hey, it doesn’t hurt — but even aside from the wonder that is eating cinnamon rolls from the comfort of my own home while listening to incredible speakers, there’s more to it than that. I love General Conference because I love being taught how to grow closer to the Lord.
That being said, though, I’m going to let you in on a little secret: sometimes it makes me, a naturally anxious person, feel a tad overwhelmed.
Yes, I love hearing the word of the Lord via modern-day prophets and apostles. I love the strength of the Spirit as I listen to sagely wisdom and advice. But sometimes after listening to 30 different talks, I’m like, “Wow. I will never be able to be or do everything that was talked about today.”
And that, friends, is okay! Turns out, the Lord doesn’t expect overnight perfection. He expects improvement; for us to be, as the wise Gordon B. Hinckley once said, “a little better” each day.
I remember once talking with a close friend after conference. While she acknowledged the importance of what was said and the goodness that was shared during the sessions, she also expressed that watching conference often left her feeling like a terrible person.
“It makes me realize all of the things I’m doing wrong,” she lamented through tear-filled eyes. That statement broke my heart, but I understood why she felt this way. Hearing all of the attributes that she needed to gain made her feel like she wasn’t doing enough.
I also understood, however, that discouragement is not a tool of the Spirit. It’s a tool of the adversary.
The Spirit will never make us feel incapable, insufficient, or undeserving. He will never make us feel fear or crippling doubt. He will help us to realize that we can improve, but will also acknowledge the progress we’ve made and the things that we are excelling at.
Discouragement, disillusionment, and distortion are all tools in the adversary’s vast arsenal of weapons. But that is NOT what Conference is about, and we don’t need to ever walk away from Conference, church, or any other Christ-centered activity feeling bad about ourselves.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, in his April 2016 Conference address, remarked:
“The gospel, the Church, and these wonderful semiannual gatherings are intended to give hope and inspiration. They are not intended to discourage you. Only the adversary, the enemy of us all, would try to convince us that the ideals outlined in general conference are depressing and unrealistic, that people don’t really improve, that no one really progresses.”
He then continued, “And why does Lucifer give that speech? Because he knows he can’t improve, he can’t progress, that worlds without end he will never have a bright tomorrow. He is a miserable man bound by eternal limitations, and he wants you to be miserable too. Well, don’t fall for that. With the gift of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the strength of heaven to help us, we can improve, and the great thing about the gospel is we get credit for trying, even if we don’t always succeed.”
Heavenly Father is pleased with the progress we’re making and He doesn’t expect us to focus on a thousand different Christlike attributes at once. My dad once suggested to me that we take one or two principles from Conference (recognizing that we won’t be able to implement everything all at once), and work on those traits until we feel that we have mastered them or that we are at least significantly improving. Then, pick another one or two to focus on.
Wash, rinse, repeat. You get the drill.
Conference is supposed to be a time of edification, answers, and peace — so work on experiencing those things while you participate in conference (whether that’s watching, listening, or reading). Work on a few things, but don’t try to do everything at once. Remember King Benjamin’s words: don’t run faster than ye have strength.
Because at the end of the day, there’s only one thing we need to be concerned about: was I a little better today than yesterday? If not, how can I be better tomorrow?
Don’t beat yourself up for not being perfect, because none of us is right now — and God doesn’t expect us to be.