Day 2 Conference reflections
About an hour and a half ago as I compose these lines, the 176th Annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints came to an end, although we always know there will be another such Conference six months later, which gives us time enough to digest it before we need to be spiritually recharged by the next one. This one is just a little sad for me, however, because tonight, for the first time since they became a regular part of my spiritual life about nine years ago, I will not be participating in real time in the Madsens' post-Conference wrapup. I attended both of them in person last year, and up till now, when I have been unable to be present in person, I always took part through a cellphone connection, with the phone being passed around from one person to another. Barney and Cindy have decided, however, that the cellphone is a bit of a hassle, which I understand; and when Barney and I tried earlier today to see if we could do this by means of a Yahoo Messenger voice connection, we learned that this was impossible because Yahoo does not have the Messenger voice software available for Macs. So unless things change in the next half-hour or so, they will simply record the gathering on a CD and mail it to me, and my e-mails with my own Conference reflections will be read aloud to the group when my normal turn comes up in the rotation. (They always start with the youngest person in the group, and work their way up to Truman Madsen, who closes the discussion, and always holds everyone's rapt attention as he does so. He is about 80 now.) This is all right with me, actually, because now I can look forward to getting that CD in the mail; and since I will be taking this entire week off work, I should have plenty of time to listen to it. Besides, audio quality should be much better than it was with that cellphone anyway.
I sent Barney an e-mail this morning, in which I wrote down my impressions of the Conference up to that point. Because it included some material that I feel should only be shared with that group, I will not say anything about it here, except that the talks given by President Hinckley and Elder Dallin H. Oaks in this morning's session are the two that left the strongest impressions on me. They are the ones I am least likely ever to forget. Nearly every Conference includes at least one talk which affects me in a profound way, and these were the two which did so this time.
My one outstanding overall impression has been the emphasis so many speakers put on our need to be good neighbors, and to avoid the contention, exclusivism, and nitpicky, hair-splitting arguments which so often characterize religious discourse. It was reassuring to me to hear in a Conference setting about something which, by just about all accounts, I have actually already succeeded in doing quite well. My own religious convictions, as I have said here and elsewhere, are what they are, and I make no apology for them; and I am also conscious of the need to share them with others in a positive, nonconfrontational way. But if anyone ever questions whether I am a Christian because of my particular church affiliation, I hope I will at least give them no reason to ask that question because of my personal conduct, or the way I treat others -- particularly those who do not agree with me. Which, of course, includes the vast majority of the world's population.
Whenever a General Conference ends, I always feel as if a glorious symphony or opera has just concluded; but it is reassuring to me to know that there will be another performance in a mere six months, and that it will be every bit as good as this one was. The gospel well never runs dry. Meanwhile, I think I will start a new practice with this Conference, by purchasing a set of the CD recordings of it as soon as they become available at Deseret Book, or the Distribution Centers. They could thus provide me with hours and hours of spiritual feasting between now and that eagerly-anticipated first weekend in October.