Imagine spending eight to 10 hours of this beautiful spring weekend parked on the couch listening to about 30 religious speeches.
That’s how millions of Mormons will be spending this April weekend – glued to the television, listening to the radio or taking advantage of satellite and Internet broadcasts from Salt Lake City where more than 100,000 people will be watching it live.
We call this General Conference. And, we’ve been doing this twice a year since 1831 – every October and every April for all those years.
It’s a Mormon ritual and we love it. We happily, even excitedly, tune in to be taught and uplifted by the leaders of our church.
While growing up in Utah, I remember listening to General Conference on the car radio or watching it on our local CBS News affiliate station.
It sounds like drudgery, doesn’t it? Listening to one speaker after another for hours on end during two of the most beautiful weekends of the year?
Typically, the first weekends of October and April are beautiful, and most people want to be outside enjoying the weather.
Not us Mormons.
No, we turn on our televisions, set the DVR in case we miss something, pull out journals, pens and paper for serious note taking, settle in for each two-hour session, and soak it up like other people who are outside soaking up the bright spring sun.
It’s crazy, isn’t it? But, General Conference is a staple in our religious culture.
Silly fools that we are, we live for it. I think we spiritually thirst for it like nomads thirsty for water in the desert.
But, why, what do we get out of it?
For starters, spiritual sustenance and manna, hope, courage, strength, faith, knowledge, revelation, wisdom, peace, comfort, insight, love, compassion, understanding, a sense of belonging and well-being, and motivation.
What I like most is the feeling that pours into our homes as we watch it. I imagine it’s how an infant feels while being cradled by a loving parent singing a soft, melodic lullaby – safe, protected, and nurtured.
So, while it sounds crazy, we love conference weekends. It’s like church, but better because we can wear pajamas if we want.
Although I rarely do because my Great Aunt Anna would scold me good for being so slovenly during Conference. She sat up straight in her old rocking chair, dressed in her finest Sunday clothing and didn’t miss a word that was spoken. She loved and reverenced those prophets and apostles so much that she wouldn’t even consider not wearing her finest clothes around them, even if they were just on TV.
While I won’t be dressed in my finest clothes, I will be taking in every word, just like my sweet Aunt Anna. And you know what? I’ll be sad when it’s over. When the Tabernacle Choir sings the last hymn and the closing prayer is said on Sunday evening, I’ll feel like it all went by too fast, and I’ll want to run around my house and gather up all the sweetness that distilled on my home over the weekend and savor it until October when I can experience it all over again.