Chapter 6:General Conference

Teachings of the Living Prophets Teacher Manual, (2010), 28–32


Introduction

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained some of the purposes of general conference:

General conference allows members to listen and learn from Church leaders.

A general conference of the Church is a declaration to all the world that Jesus is the Christ, that He and His Father, the God and Father of us all, appeared to the boy prophet Joseph Smith in fulfillment of that ancient promise that the resurrected Jesus of Nazareth would again restore His Church on earth. … [These conferences proclaim] to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people the loving messianic promise that “his mercy endureth for ever” [Psalm 136:1; 1 Chronicles 16:34]. (In Conference Report, Oct. 2006, 112–13; or Ensign, Nov. 2006, 106)

General conference provides an opportunity for Church members to listen to and learn from those we sustain as prophets, seers, and revelators. Help your students understand the importance of preparing for general conference and applying the words of living prophets. Furthermore, help them understand the need to regularly study the Ensign or Liahona conference issues. Students’ desires to apply the words of the modern prophets in their lives will increase as they recognize the blessings that come from following prophetic warnings and counsel. Encourage students to also seek out the teachings of living prophets that are contained in other Church publications or are given on occasions other than general conference.

Some Doctrines and Principles

  • General conference provides opportunities for spiritual renewal.

  • We commit to heed and support those we sustain in general conference.

  • Our preparation affects what we gain from general conference.

  • Applying the teachings of general conference will improve our lives.

Suggestions for Teaching

General Conference Provides Opportunities for Spiritual Renewal

Before class, write on the board the four “Doctrines and Principles” listed above. Ask:

  • What words in these statements indicate responsibility on our part?

  • Why do some individuals gain more spiritual strength from the proceedings of general conference than others?

  • What can you do to gain the most from general conference?

Write on the board: Conference time is a season of …

Ask students how they would complete this phrase. Record their answers on the board. Invite a student to read the quotation by President Howard W. Hunter from pages 71–72 of the student manual under the heading “General Conference Provides Opportunities for Spiritual Renewal.” Ask students to listen for how President Hunter completed the phrase that is written on the board. Then ask:

  • In what ways have you experienced the fulfillment of President Hunter’s statement?

Have students search Doctrine and Covenants 43:8–9; 124:144 and answer the following questions:

  • What are some of the purposes of general conference?

  • What is the meaning of the word edify?

Share the following definition of what it means to edify, made by Elder Robert L. Backman of the Seventy:

To edify means to build up, to increase the faith of, to improve the morality of. When you think about it, this is the way the Lord has built his kingdom. Just think what it means to us to feel the brotherhood of Jesus Christ in our gatherings. “Wherefore, be faithful; stand in the office which I have appointed unto you; succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.” (D&C 81:5.) (“Giving Spiritual Nourishment to the Less Active: A Panel Discussion,” Ensign, Apr. 1987, 16)

Then ask:

  • In what ways has general conference been an “edifying” experience for you?

Testify that general conference, if we give it the proper attention and attitude, will provide spiritual renewal and help us improve and become more like the Savior.

We Commit to Heed and Support Those We Sustain in General Conference

Assign half of the class to read the statement by President Gordon B. Hinckley on page 75 of the student manual. Assign the other half to read the statement by Elder David B. Haight of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on page 75 of the student manual (both statements are under the heading “We Commit to Heed and Support Those We Sustain in General Conference”). When they are finished, ask the following questions:

  • What does it signify when we raise our hand to sustain our leaders?

  • What can we do to show we sustain our leaders?

Arrange students in pairs and give each pair a piece of paper. Have them read the following scriptures. Invite each pair to write a short statement explaining the doctrine conveyed in each of these scriptures:

After sufficient time, ask students to share with the class some of what they have written.

Assign half of your class to read the statement by President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency from page 76 of the student manual under the heading “We Commit to Heed and Support Those We Sustain in General Conference.” Ask students to be prepared to discuss the following questions:

  • What should we do after we raise our hand in sustaining vote in general conference?

  • What effect will our actions have on our leaders?

  • What effect will our actions have on us?

Assign the other half of the class to read the statement by President Joseph F. Smith from page 76 of the student manual under the heading “We Commit to Heed and Support Those We Sustain in General Conference.” Ask students to be prepared to discuss the following questions:

  • How did Joseph F. Smith feel about Brigham Young?

  • What effect did heeding the call of a prophet have on President Smith?

Invite students to discuss their findings with the other half of the class.

Encourage students to talk about the blessings they or their families have received in heeding and supporting the Lord’s servants. Express your own feelings about following the Lord’s servants.

Our Preparation Affects What We Gain from General Conference

Explain to the students that how they prepare for general conference may depend on how the proceedings are made available to them. Help students understand that even though the circumstances in which they receive and listen to general conference vary, how they prioritize and prepare for general conference is what really determines what they will gain from it. Ask:

  • What are some daily, weekly, and monthly priorities in your life that you take time to prepare for?

  • What motivates you to prepare for a particular event over another? (You may want to list student responses on the board.)

Share with students the statement by President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles from page 77 of the student manual under the heading “Our Preparation Affects What We Gain from General Conference.” Then ask students:

  • Why do you think what we will gain from conference depends more on our preparation than on the preparation of the speakers?

Have students turn to pages 76–77 of the student manual titled “Our Preparation Affects What We Gain from General Conference” and read the experience by Elder Paul V. Johnson of the Seventy. Then ask students the following questions:

  • In what ways do you feel we can grow to love the words of the prophets and apostles as Elder Johnson does?

  • What did Elder Johnson encourage us to decide?

  • Once general conference is a priority in our lives, what practices would help us prepare for the counsel given there?

Ask students what they have found to be helpful in preparing themselves for general conference. Once students have suggested their ideas, you could have the class turn to the student manual and read the list of preparation ideas under the heading “Our Preparation Affects What We Gain from General Conference” (pages 77–78).

Explain to students that the list in the student manual is not meant to be complete; it merely gives ideas and suggestions. After students have had time to read the list, invite them to share times when they have applied a particular suggestion and experienced greater personal growth. Invite students to testify of successful practices that they have found.

Testify to your students that when general conference is a priority in our lives, our desire to prepare for it increases. In addition, invite students to share with family and friends their thoughts and ideas on how to prepare to receive the Lord’s word through His servants.

Applying the Teachings of General Conference Will Improve Our Lives

Relate the following account shared by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

President Boyd K. Packer … has a question he often asks when we have made a presentation or given some sort of exhortation to one another in the Twelve. He looks up as if to say, “Are you through?” And then says to the speaker … , “Therefore, what?”

“Therefore, what?” I think that is what the Savior answered day in and day out as an inseparable element of His teaching and preaching. … These sermons and exhortations were to no avail if the actual lives of His disciples did not change. (“Therefore, What?” [CES conference on the New Testament, Aug. 8, 2000], 4–5)

Ask the following questions:

  • Why do you think President Packer asks, “Therefore, what?”

  • In what ways can our lives change because of what we experience during general conference?

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 43:8–10. Then ask students the following questions:

  • According to verse 8, what goals might Church leaders have as they prepare to speak to the Saints in general conference?

  • According to verse 9, how should we as members of the Church respond to what we hear from our leaders in general conference?

  • According to verse 10, what are the results of acting on or not acting on what we hear at general conference?

Invite students to turn to the student manual and read the statements from President Spencer W. Kimball under the heading “Applying the Teachings of General Conference Will Improve Our Lives” (pages 79–80). Then ask students the following questions:

  • What value did President Kimball place on the conference Ensign?

  • What did President Kimball say we should do with the conference Ensign?

  • What thoughts come into your mind when you hear these statements from President Kimball?

  • What do these statements cause you to feel you ought to do?

Have two students turn to the student manual heading “Applying the Teachings of General Conference Will Improve Our Lives” (pages 80–81). Ask one student to read the quotation from President Ezra Taft Benson, and ask the other student to read the quotation from President Gordon B. Hinckley. Then discuss the following questions:

  • What are some ways general conference can guide our “walk and talk”?

  • What is the “test” President Hinckley described to determine whether general conference is successful?

  • How does President Hinckley suggest we measure improvement in our lives? (Have a student write responses to this question on the board.)

  • What specific suggestions did President Hinckley give to help us apply the teachings of what we learned in general conference?

  • What benefits do you think come to families who use the conference issues of the Ensign or Liahona for their family home evenings and their family scripture study?

As they review the conference addresses, encourage students to identify and record blessings they receive. Further, you may wish to invite your students to record in a notebook, journal, or their scriptures the spiritual growth they have recognized in their lives as they have applied the teachings of living prophets.

Conclude by explaining that the rest of this course will help students better understand the most recent counsel given by the prophets, seers, and revelators. Moreover, it will demonstrate how they can more fully apply in their lives the principles taught in general conference and share them with others. Share your feelings about the importance of general conference and testify that conference is a time when the word and will of the Lord is delivered to His children by His servants, the prophets.