“With so many scandals involving religious ministers,” Jane Cameron reasoned, “why would Latter-day Saint leaders be any different?”
As a Christian, she recognized that there was truth in LDS doctrine. But friends and relatives convinced her that LDS leaders differed negatively from the Latter-day Saints she had known: The young LDS man she had met at college and later began dating seemed to be sincere, but she assumed that the Church authorities were men with personal agendas.
When Jane was invited by the young man’s family to watch general conference, she thought it would only support her bias against the Church’s leaders. The experience had a much different effect on her.
“Conference was my turning point,” she says of her decision to be baptized. “To some members, general conference may be only a meeting of instructions and policies. But to me—a nonmember—it represented the evasive ‘one fold’ the New Testament speaks of: a worldwide gathering of Christ’s church with one doctrine, one leadership. I knew when I heard those men speak, even on television, that they were men of God. I finally felt that here, at last, were real prophets.”
Many nonmembers who watch general conference, of course, do not experience such a dramatic change. But for many, conference does dispel misunderstandings they hold about Church teachings and leadership. It provides an opportunity for nonmembers to see modern-day prophets and modern inspiration in action. LDS beliefs about a restored gospel no longer seem abstract, and leaders no longer seem so austere.
How can we use general conference as an opportunity to introduce others to the gospel? We can first follow the friendshipping steps the Church encourages us to follow: Be an example of righteousness; prayerfully select a nonmember friend or family who may be ready to accept the gospel or learn more about it; then fellowship the friend or family before asking them to join you in watching or listening to a conference session.
An ideal time to watch general conference with nonmember friends is during a Sunday morning session, after which the family or friend might stay for lunch. People unaccustomed to attending church services may feel quite comfortable visiting a friend’s home to watch conference, and the setting lets them ask questions and feel inconspicuous.
For members who live in areas where they watch conference at a stake center, an invitation to attend a session could be accompanied by an explanation of the uniqueness of general conference, that members throughout the world gather semiannually to hear counsel from a body of leadership “joined together in the same mind.” (1 Cor. 1:10.) Attendance at general priesthood meeting or the annual general women’s meeting with nonmember friends could be followed by refreshments at the members’ home.
With prayerful consideration, members who are eager to share the gospel with relatives may find conference an ideal first step. Talks emphasize fundamental gospel principles; the goals and purposes of the restored gospel are reiterated; and modern prophets are inspired in such a way that those listening with the Spirit will sense their authority. For Jane Cameron, watching and listening to conference led to her conversion.
Could it do the same for your friends?