By Randall Thacker, President, Affirmation
Do not be surprised to hear talks about protecting traditional marriage, etc. Decide in advance to focus on the uplifting messages that will help YOU grow spiritually.
During the October 2013 General Conference, there were a number of excellent and spiritually nourishing talks that were given and many of their uplifting messages went viral in social media. Yet two talks that discussed gay marriage during the second half of conference also went viral and caused some tremendous heartache and pain.
So, what will we hear this general conference? I don’t know for sure, but there is a VERY high probability that we will hear talk about protecting the traditional family, concerns about the growing legalization of gay marriage, and the sin of intimate relationships that are not between a man and a woman. Don’t be surprised when they come up! It is not new and for some general authorities these are very important topics and will be for the rest of their lives. It is unrealistic to think they would suddenly stop talking about these subjects. Let’s get very real – it wont change overnight or every 6 months. I liken the increased acceptance and understanding these past few years of LGBT individuals within the Mormon community to the Israelites being freed from Egypt. The freedom was a great relief. Yet, what came next? Forty years of ups and downs, trials, suffering, strife, and very gradual progress before eventually entering the Promised Land. It will be the same for the institutional Church – a very long journey.
The choice of what you do with what you hear is YOURS. It’s a great blessing to know that we are “free to act for ourselves and not be acted upon.” We can choose what we listen to or not listen to, what we feel is of value to our spiritual growth and what is not. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf reminded us in the last conference that Church leaders are not perfect and there “have been things said or done [by LDS Church leaders] that are not in harmony with our values.” We can listen and then decide how to act upon what we hear. We don’t have to accept everything at face value and we don’t have to approach it with an all or nothing mentality. We can blend our own spiritual experiences with what is said and then figure out what we will take and what we will leave behind using our agency and personal revelation. When I was young, I was like a robot during conference, receiving data that was to be automatically force-fed into my being for blind obedience. I don’t now and will never see it that way again; and I don’t believe my Heavenly Father wants me to be that way either.
During the years when I felt the most vulnerable, I chose for my own mental and emotional health to avoid conference completely or would selectively read conference talks by subject or referral instead of watching conference live. During the years of the church’s involvement with Proposition 8 I had no desire to listen to what anyone from Church leadership had to say. I felt I couldn’t trust them. Occasionally, I would see an article shared on Facebook that sounded good, then read it and be edified. From this I learned that it wasn’t fair for me to see it as “all or nothing” and that a number of Church leaders could still inspire me.
About 4 years ago, I was home for Easter and also conference weekend and watched most of conference with my parents. I was pleasantly surprised at how moved I was by the majority of the talks and how edified I felt after that weekend was over. There were a few talks though that within 30 seconds I knew would not leave me feeling uplifted, so I did others things or went out in the yard and enjoyed the sun and spring blossoms. Since then, I have been more open to and appreciated the significant spiritual value of general conference talks. I am fully aware that I can take in what feels right to me and can leave the rest behind.
I invite you to value your agency and the remarkable gift of personal revelation this coming conference weekend. Don’t accept everything at face value. Study what you hear out in your mind, and then ask the Lord if it be right (D&C 9:8). If watching conference isn’t healthy for you emotionally, then find out from others which talks they found helpful and watch or read them later. Keep your life focused on how to become more like our Savior and how to develop the fruits of the Spirit. Don’t let the other stuff distract you from growing spiritually and helping to build Zion.
If you will be in the Salt Lake City area for General Conference, join us Friday evening, April 4 for a pre-conference fireside.
Also, join us for a virtual interactive post-General Conference Discussion on Wednesday, April 9th at 8 p.m. ET (6 p.m. MT). Berta Marquez will host a panel of LGBT Mormons, family members & friends who will discuss and take questions about the conference. Visit www.affirmation.org in the next few days for more details.