It’s mid-September, and you know what that means. It’s almost time for general conference! As we prepare to receive revelation and inspiration from the words of our leaders, we should remember that we can also help the children in our lives do the same.
I have many fond memories of watching conference with my family. It is a wonderful time to introduce traditions and bond together with our loved ones and friends. But conference is more than cinnamon rolls, bingo games, or the chance to “attend church” in our PJ’s. If we prepare diligently and help the children we love to do the same, we can all come away from conference with a renewed enthusiasm for the gospel and firmer commitments to live its teachings.
With that in mind, here are a few ideas to use in your home or primary to help children to prepare for and participate in conference more fully.
This video from the church encourages us to ask questions. While the video features mostly youth and adults, children can also come to conference with questions, and it can be a time of learning for them also.
You may want to help children write down a few questions they can listen for answers to during conference. Help them think of questions they really want to know more about. For young children, these questions might be about actual gospel learning. For example, a child might ask, “Why are we called Mormons?” or “Who was Paul the Apostle?” Rather than answering these questions immediately, encourage children to learn the answers for themselves from the general authorities.
Get to Know the Prophet and the Apostles
For children, it can be easier to connect with a speaker if they already know something about him. You can find biographical information about the prophet and the apostles on LDS.org. Help children learn to identify each one by sharing a story from his childhood or an interesting fact about him.
You can also testify that the prophet and each of his apostles love us and want us to be happy. As you watch conference, encourage children to listen for those expressions of love from the speakers. See if they can count the number of times one of the speakers says that he or she loves us.
Encourage Active Listening
Since it can be hard for children (and all of us) to sit still and listen attentively through all of conference, you might want to plan times for everyone to get up and move around, such as during the hymns. Encourage them to sing along to primary songs.
Some speakers address their remarks specifically to primary children. If this happens, help children to pay closer attention to that talk by having them put away any activities they have been doing while listening. I remember that in my family, growing up, we were free to color or play reverently during most of conference, but whenever the prophet was speaking, we had to put away our toys, sit still, and listen more carefully.
Active listening involves engaging with the speakers by asking questions in your mind and reflecting about how the message applies to you personally. You can help children learn to do this by listening to a talk together before conference and pausing every few minutes to discuss what the speaker is saying or consider what he might say next.
A good talk to try this with is President Boyd K. Packer’s “Counsel to Youth,” given in October 2011. You can find it on LDS.org here: https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2011/10/counsel-to-youth?lang=eng or watch it on youtube.
Minimize Worldly Distractions
Do all you can to give yourself the time to listen to general conference by taking care of your to-do list before that weekend. While the rest of the world doesn’t stop, we can put our busy lives on pause for conference more easily if we say no to other commitments that weekend or if we can get homework, chores, and other things done before Saturday and Sunday. Show the children you love by your example that conference is important to you and that you value that time more than you value other pursuits or business.
Conference can be a great time to renew your goals or make new goals personally or as a family. Help children think about what they want to do better as they are listening. Then when conference is over, tell them about the goals you have made and ask them what they plan to do differently in the next six months. You may want to write these goals down in a special conference goals notebook or record them in some other way so that you can look back on them as you prepare for the next conference.
Bring Conference Home
Whether you watch or listen to conference in your house, at a church building, or wherever you are, make sure that in the weeks and months following conference, you continue to bring conference into your home by reviewing the talks and discussing them together. Help children understand that the words of the general authorities are meant for us in our day. They are like the scriptures and we can learn from them all year round, not just for two weekends a year. Show the children you love how to access conference messages anytime online, in the Ensign, and through the gospel library app.
I hope that you’re looking forward to conference as much as I am! I love listening for the answers to my questions and learning what Heavenly Father wants me to know right now. The words and music bring a special spirit to conference weekend that bring us all closer to Christ. I know that if we prepare for conference, we will all be able to learn and grow from the words of our leaders.
As President Monson said in April 2015, conference is a time to “be filled with the Spirit of the Lord and be uplifted and inspired as we listen and learn.” Let’s get ready to do that ourselves and help the children we love do the same.