Learning from General Conference as a Family
General conference is held every six months, but the inspiring and important messages shared in conference can bless your family all year long. By centering lessons and spontaneous teaching opportunities around the messages of conference, you can help your children remember and apply what the prophet and apostles teach. Here are some teaching tips that have worked for our family.
1. Keep it simple
When creating lessons, sometimes shorter is better. Depending on the age of your children, a lesson that is a few minutes long might be just right. Prayerfully choose and focus on just one or two short lines from each talk. Lines like “Catch the wave of missionary work” and “Fan the flame of your faith” are easy to remember and visualize. Paraphrase longer teachings if necessary. Poems or rhymes, like the ones President Monson often includes in his talks, are especially appealing to children. Memorizing them will make it easier for children to internalize the main point of a talk.
- What our family did: We used a menu board to display a general conference quote and the speaker’s name in a high-traffic area of our home. Now our children get a thrill each time they hear one of those lines quoted in sacrament meeting!
2. Bring object lessons to life
General conference speakers use everyday objects and common situations to teach great truths simply, as did the Savior. Using objects or pictures can help children remember and understand what was said. By re-creating the object lesson from a talk, you can allow children to draw their own insights from what is being taught. In addition to looking for familiar imagery during conference talks, listen for references to things kids can eat, drink, hear, feel, see, smell, or touch—and explore them together!
- What our family did: We identify memorable objects mentioned in conference talks and use them in later lessons to help the children remember the main point. A recent favorite was when we discussed a conference talk by President Uchtdorf. The kids learned for themselves the wisdom of gratitude when they sipped from a “bottle of bitterness,” filled with lemon juice, and drank from a “goblet of gratitude,” filled with apple juice.
3. Let children teach
From time to time let a child prepare and teach a talk to the rest of the family. Reinforce key points and gauge how much they understand by asking children to reteach the messages to one another. Journaling or drawing during lessons is another great way to encourage children to reflect on what they are learning.
- What our family did: Many parents print off activity packets for children to fill out while watching general conference. We gave each child a three-ring binder that they use to save the best pages of their activity packets. Special drawings and personal insights all go in the binder, as well as activities that we do as we study the words of the living prophets throughout the year. Since they use these binders during each conference, they can reread what they’ve written in the past, allowing their own words to remind them of what they’ve been taught by the Spirit.
4. Make it playful and personal
Try to experience conference through the eyes and ears of a child—not just any child, but your own child. What stories are your children most interested in? Was there a speaker who shared a message directly to children? When creating a lesson to reinforce these messages, tap into your imagination. Get physical. Let children dress up, act things out, go on a journey, or make a game out of what was taught. Whether you draw, write, bake, or craft, keeping little hands busy with a project can help children listen quietly, participate actively, and retain what they’ve learned.
- What our family did: For one family home evening, we helped our daughter dress up as a 97-year-old version of herself to come and remind us about the importance of leaving a legacy of faith. She had fun playing the part of an old woman, and I shared a simple lesson based on a recent conference talk. Then we invited the kids to write in their journals about what they planned to accomplish in their lives.
5. Answer a call
Every conference contains calls to action. What better way to help children learn to follow the prophet than by helping them respond to these calls? Many are simple enough for a child to do. For example, Elder Ballard recently asked members to use the full name of the Church when speaking about the Church. To answer this call, children can practice saying, singing, or writing the name of the Church. Always be on the lookout for ways children can act on what they learn.
- What our family did: After Elder Cook promised blessings to youth who would participate in family history, we invited our son to teach his sisters how to index. We also made small necklace charms out of family photos for the girls.
6. Use technology
You can now read, listen to, and watch the messages from conference anytime, anywhere. Consider taking your general conference lessons to a park or another peaceful spot to read or watch together over a picnic. Consider allowing children to pull up the conference talks online themselves with your supervision.
- What our family did: One of our kids wasn’t very excited about teaching the family about a conference talk—until we let him use the iPad! He prepared by watching the talk on the tablet and writing down key words. Then he used it to show brief sections of video to the family, pausing periodically to ask us questions about what we heard. It was great to envision him teaching this way someday as a full-time missionary.
7. Get to know the Church leaders
Help children become familiar with the names and faces of the prophets and apostles by posting their pictures in a place where you can review them often as a family. Refer to these photos as you teach. Reserve a place in your home to display teachings from conference and reminders from your lessons. Swap out teachings periodically and quiz each other. Use them as everyday teaching tools.
- What our family did: We laminated a set of pictures of the prophets and apostles and attached them to a sturdy poster board using strips of Velcro. We also made a set of names to go under the photos. This poster is displayed in our home where we can all see and study it. Sometimes we play a game where we remove the photos and see who can match the most faces to the correct names, and then we see who can do it the quickest.
8. Take advantage of informal teaching opportunities
In all of the fun, bear testimony, and let the Spirit do most of the teaching. Over time you will begin to see teaching moments in everyday situations all around you.
- What our family did: When a storm hit our area, we realized that the current event could be a teaching opportunity. So we held a special Tuesday-night family home evening and talked about Elder Andersen’s talk “Spiritual Whirlwinds.” The kids drew pictures of tornadoes and we worked on memorizing key words from the talk.
Jocelyn Christensen is a wife and the mother of four children (with one on the way). She is a writer, blogger, and former TV news producer living in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. One of her mottoes is "You always have time for the things you put first," which is why teaching and having fun with her children is something she finds time for every day!