General Conference weekend is as deep of a tradition for me as Christmas or Easter. I haven't always loved or appreciated this special opportunity to listen to the word of God as shared through His apostles and prophet. It was through consistent habit, personal experience, and purposeful preparation that General Conference has become a high-point of my entire year.
~ 1987: General conference wasn't widely available on cable TV, so we watched the broadcast at the stake center. My only have two snippets of memories from that session: the yellow legal pad notebooks that we brought to keep notes and that it seemed to be the most absolute boring two hours of my lifetime.
~ 1992: By this time we had the great luxury of watching conference from home, so my memory involves our family gathered in the family room in pajamas with the Sunday paper sprawled across the floor, and reading the funnies while osmosis-ly listening to conference.
~ 1995: A friend knocked on the door during conference and asked if I could play. My parents must have been tired of my constant complaining and asking, "how much longer until it's over?" because they surprisingly allowed me to play with this friend--outside. My friend and I jumped on the trampoline in the backyard and I remember feeling torn: partially a wave of excitement because I knew I was getting away with something--we were never allowed to play on Sunday--and partially guilty because I knew without having to be told that I should be listening to conference, too.
2000: Living in Hawaii while going to college, my roommates and I had the (not-so) bright idea to watch the broadcast live, rather than the taped broadcast shown on campus at 10 and 2. With the time difference, this meant that we'd watch conference live at 6 and 10 and then have the remainder of the day to hangout (or "appreciate nature" at the beach;) Naturally, we thought it made the most sense to pull an all-nighter (because waking up at 6 seemed absurd!) and bake elaborate braided bread for breakfast. 6am finally rolled around, the six of us all crowded onto the couch to eagerly watch the early morning conference session and promptly fell sound asleep...slept through the whole thing!
2008: I remember feeling so in tune with the spirit and soaking up each message as I watched conference, expecting the arrival of our third son any day and feeling a special spiritual connection with Heavenly Father as I prepared to expand my role as a mother. Just five weeks later, I never would have imagined how much strength, peace, and hope I would draw from those sacred conference addresses as I poured over them from my newborn baby's crib side in the hospital PICU where he nearly lost the fight for his life. Those conference talks seemed to speak directly and personally to be and literally sustained my aching heart. I have reread those inspired addresses several times since and still feel amazed that the topics and messages seem hand-picked just for me.
2014: We kicked off our conference weekend with a breakfast feast of monkey bread and orange juice and then gathered to watch and listen to conference as a family. I had prepared activities for the boys--puzzles, conference bingo, a dry-erase work book, and Book of Mormon card game--compete with treats and prizes to keep them occupied and half-way attentive in hopes that Aaron and I might be able to watch the talks in semi-peace. I'd file the conference weekend under the "as-good-as-it-could-be" category. The boys enjoyed the activities, we had fun finishing the puzzle together as a family, the food was delicious, and what I was able to hear of the sessions was awesome. Unfortunately, the boys boredom resulted in several meltdowns, the level of filth of our house (puzzle pieces covering the table, breakfast dishes cluttering the kitchen, toys dragged up from the basement, etc) stressed me out, and at times it was impossible to hear the speakers over all of the yelling (the yeller(s) will remain nameless).
Fighting, mess, and stress/claustrophobia aside, I will consider this conference weekend a success, not if the kids recall a single word that was spoken, but if they internalize the tradition that I am working so hard to build...a tradition of family time, of taking in the words of the Lord's servants into our hearts, and of setting new goals and recommitting to doing our very best to live in a way that would be pleasing to God.