3 Things I Learned Watching General Conference Without the Spirit

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For reasons literally 100% out of our control, the spirit was not in our home this weekend. It didn’t take long for us to notice; a beloved visitor (not being sarcastic on that one) who is living a different lifestyle than us came to visit, and while the visitor was there, the Spirit was not. Given the temporary  spiritual discomfort, I was excited for general conference; I thought it would help Jeremy and I, as well as the visitor (whom I love very much). I was surprised that general conference did not help, if anything it made my situation worse. The biggest reason was that the spirit was gone, and we watched an entire weekend of conference without the spirit. Doing that taught me a few things.

I have a testimony in Jesus Christ and His gospel, not the administration of the church

That statement doesn’t mean I believe the organization of the church is wrong –  I know the LDS church is set up by Christ. Now that I got that out of the way, let me say that as I watched conference, things started to bother me, to really get under my skin like a little tick burrowing its head into my armpit or in between my fingers, or some other really uncomfortable location. One of those things that bothered me was that all of the talks were in English this time. I remember being so excited when they changed the policy, and speakers could speak in their native tongue during general conference. Seeing all of these people struggle through English phrases in heavy accents just started to get under my skin as I continued to watch general conference. I thought to myself, This is so messed up, why don’t they keep allowing people to speaking their native tongue? I kept racking my brain for the reasons why they would change the policy, and I just kept getting more and more frustrated the more I thought about it.

The Church released a statement about the all-English talks. The official Church statement is “Decisions about general conference proceedings rest with the First Presidency who have decided that all talks for this weekend’s sessions will be given in English.” On Monday when I read this  statement, it still bothered me. Then I started thinking (aka I started feeling the Spirit again) and I realized that my testimony is not founded on arbitrary administrative decisions that the First Presidency makes. People speaking in English or their native tongue has nothing to do with me getting to heaven or not, to be honest. Things like that, or how people sit on the stand, or random other things have nothing to do with my testimony. My testimony is founded in my Savior; I have felt Him reach out to me, I have felt Him wrap his arms around me when I plead with Him to help. When I live the way He asked me to live, I feel a sense of purpose in my actions, and I feel a connection to something greater than I am. My testimony is in Christ, who is the head of this Church. So little decisions that affect the Church in administrative ways don’t need to have a bearing on my testimony.

Ponderize apparel was not a sign of priestcraft. General conference is not the first time leaders teach about topics.

It was REALLY hard to focus on conference this weekend. I was on Facebook basically the whole time, I really got very little out of it. After conference, I continued my aimless search on Facebook and clicked on someone’s #ponderize hashtag. I was surprised that there was already anti-Mormon posts using the same hashtag; Apparently, as many of you may have seen, that Seventy’s son had posted an online store with apparel sporting the phrase “Ponderize.” They were accusing this leader of priestcraft, saying that he was only giving the conference talk to promote his son’s business. As soon as I saw that – I bet you can’t guess – I was so bothered! How could that man play the entire Church like that?!

It wasn’t until the weekend was over, when I had the Spirit with me again, that I realized that yes, leaders do give general conference talks. But guess what? It may be the first time that we hear something come out of their mouths, but it’s definitely not the first time they’ve ever taught it. I mean, in his talk he even said that he and his family had already been “ponderizing” for a long time. I’m sure that he had given talks and speeches and councils to other people with that exact same council. That’s the way the Church works. When Elder Hamula of the Seventy taught my mission at a Zone conference, it was obvious he had taught the lesson to other people before. In addition, my husband told me  that Elder S. Gifford Nielsen visited his mission and shared at least a portion of the talk “Hastening the Lord’s Game Plan!” that was shared a year or so later in general conference. Elder Nielsen had already taught that lesson before! I’m sure that this is the case with Elder Devin Durrant. The ponderize fiasco was not an example of priestcraft, but was an example of a leader learning something, sharing it with other people, and the people embracing it. In this case, somebody just set up an online store using his phrase. I don’t know that person’s motives but considering the fact that the products encouraged us to read the word of God, I doubt that there are malicious motives behind the selling of those items. Obviously, you are free to draw your own conclusions.

I rely on the Spirit a lot more than I thought I did

Over the course of the weekend, everything seemed worse. Jeremy and I snapped at each other more, we got annoyed easier, I was more stressed out than normal, and it was harder to compromise. Jeremy and I saw all theses things happening and would quickly apologize, but to be honest, I just felt hopeless. It was easy to apologize, but hard to make changes.

Jeremy and I sat in bed one night, apologizing yet again for all the snapping. Jeremy said something to the effect of, “Now we realize that the Spirit makes our marriage virtually seamless.” I kind of thought that we were just in the honeymoon phase, but to be honest, this weekend made me realize that it’s not a “honeymoon phase,” we have a seamless marriage because we have the Spirit. Jeremy and I have never been in a fight – ever. And that’s not to say we don’t disagree – we respectfully disagree on plenty of things. We just don’t fight. And this is totally new for me. I never thought I’d have one of those marriages where you just don’t fight. But I am, and this weekend I realized that it’s because of the Spirit. To be honest, my mission helped me get to a place where I could have this kind of marriage. On the evening that marked I had been on my mission for 3 months, I stood in the hallways of our old, dark flat and got into a yelling match with one of my companions. The Spirit disappeared like a fleeting whisp of smoke. It was the most awful feeling in the world. My companion went into the bathroom and I sat in a cold, damp New Zealand apartment and felt totally, completely, and utterly alone. I was in an abyss of nothingness. In that dark moment, I vowed that that something like this would never happen again. And guess what? It never has. That was almost 3 years ago now. This weekend helped me learn that the Spirit makes my life – and especially my marriage – totally awesome. I can get answer to questions, I can think clearly, I can control myself. I also learned that my meager efforts are good enough. I may not be as spiritual as I was on my mission, but my efforts as they are combined with my husband’s efforts, turn our little apartment into a sanctuary. What a wonderful weekend.

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