Caren McLane has a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Community Health Education from BYU. She met her husband, Todd, in her freshman year while at BYU. They are the parents of 5 children and live on a 4-acre “hobby farm” with chickens, cows, and dogs. She volunteers at the library and hospice and has blogged since 2014. Caren has served in a variety of callings in the Church and is currently serving as the JustServe coordinator in her Montana Ward.
Because we were traveling over conference weekend, I was absorbing the sessions piecemeal, reading and watching bits at a time. We’ve always been marathoners, settling in for the weekend, usually with a puzzle and coloring, cinnamon rolls and candy, so I missed our traditions heartily.
As I was flying I thought back to how it was. Following the previous conference, I decided to be a “higher and holier” conference attendee and take notes—like a lot of people do and as I’ve done on occasion. But at the risk of sounding light-minded, it wasn’t as enjoyable. I realized that I prefer gathering with my family in comfy clothes and treating it like a holiday.
I like the way we configure our furniture in random ways, how the way the house gets a little out of sorts. I still feel worshipful, but almost more than usual because it’s such a different way to do church and I tend to be more alert to what’s going on.
The cozy casualness to us feels restful and relaxed, rejuvenating and filling. I love just soaking it all in. I’m good with just a general overview, a few key take-aways. Like many, I’ll spend the next six months pouring over the talks. I’ll listen to them nearly daily. I’ll highlight and take notes in the margins. I’ll comb through all the tiny, printed footnotes gleaning any extra tidbits I can, a definition, an additional story, a few more insights. I know myself.
I love my conference editions; they become tattered and worn just like my beloved scriptures. Usually I’ll sense a theme, sometimes some specific direction, but honestly what I get most from conferences is reassurance that I’m not alone fighting this battle.
The Unity of Conference
I love the unity I feel seeing thousands of other members assembled, all eager for direction and encouragement just like me. I feel wrapped in peace like no other time during the year. I feel jubilant and joyous, inspired, and pumped up!
Throughout these two days I feel myself exhale, reminded that it’s not me and my family against the world. I have back-up, we’re an army! There is such reassurance and strength in the literal gathering of saints, the visual of so many together at once. And I feel that all over again when I turn the pages of the Liahona, seeing all the cultures and nationalities and family configurations throughout the world. It is so powerful!
I feel renewed strength in my convictions, supported by and aligned with other noble warriors.
What’s on the Lord’s Mind
Conference emphasizes that the gospel isn’t changing, Christ is the same as always. His doctrine is simple and clear, no matter how convincing the chatter around us seems.
I like to look at the topics in the beginning of the Liahona so I can see which ones were talked about most frequently. That seems to be my clue as to what’s on the Lord’s mind right now. This time the most repeated themes were:
- Divine nature
- Jesus Christ
Interesting. Not surprising.
Fortifying our Faith
I cherish specific reminders of our doctrine and feel renewed confidence as leaders reiterated what I have embraced and clung to for so many years. I appreciated the succinct and solid assurance that it is the world spinning out of its orbit, not God.
I loved familiar refrains and sound reasoning for staying on the covenant path. The talks are perfect references for teaching in our homes and for being able to explain doctrine and principles to those (including ourselves) who have questions.
I feel like I’m in a constant mental state of trying to hear and be aware of all the ways people tend to interpret and live (or not live) the gospel, wanting to be an open-minded confidant to those who are grieving and in pain because of their experiences with the Church. But sometimes I feel a little discouraged because I’m not sure I am doing any of it well. I don’t want to be dismissive or uncaring, so it takes some effort to maintain a reservoir of sensitivity while at the same time tending to my own growing faith.
Conference speaks to this attempt:
“Love thy neighbor. Compassion is an attribute of Christ. It is born of love for others and knows no boundaries.”—Elder Ian S. Ardern
At the same time, these highlights have buoyed me up with subsequent drops of comfort, doctrine, clear teaching, reminders, and the Spirit. Overall, I feel renewed optimism and hope. I feel to continue in the direction I’m facing. I feel like I have friends and associates and saints who are journeying in the faith right alongside me, and that provides a genuine sense of peace and determination to stick with it.
I feel a deep desire to recommit to the basic tenets of our faith and a renewed longing to follow my Savior.
“Stay on the covenant path. Your life will be easier, happier, and filled with joy.” —Elder Yoon Hwan Choi
We Are Known
One of my favorite parts in the October 2023 conference, besides the newly announced temples, was President Nelson talking about not paying tithing from his $150 a month budget. This is such a change from how I heard our leaders growing up; they all seem so much more real and normal and understanding these days, more like us. I feel a greater love and closeness with them as they’ve shared their vulnerabilities and human experiences, and I’m so grateful for this change.
“They of the last wagon….” That sentiment and the examples shared of “countless Church members who serve diligently and faithfully and who receive little or no public acknowledgment” helped me feel known by our Heavenly Father. I cherish the scripture regarding Helaman and his brethren who “were no less serviceable unto the people than was Moroni” (Elder David A. Bednar) because it assures us all that we matter, that our influence is making a difference, that we’re needed and valued exactly how and where we serve.
I found comfort in Sister Amy A. Wright’s experience with cancer and the subsequent peace she felt as she realized she’d been teaching and filling her family all along the way, that they had secured drops of essential oil over many years of devoted gospel living. I’ve felt that same calm as we’ve faced similar experiences. She’s right, our tiny efforts coalesce to create a reservoir we can count on and draw from when hard times come. And I always appreciate counsel about the Holy Ghost, our comfort and strength when we’re unsure, indecisive, or struggling, “one of the greatest spiritual gifts Latter-day Saints enjoy” (Elder Gary E. Stevenson), one we’re all constantly trying to understand better.
An Opportunity for Introspection
I couldn’t help but self-assess. What heroes do I worship? Do I struggle with spiritual face-blindness? How do I feel about the basics, garments, tithing, the temple? Do I still believe in the sealing power and the kingdoms of heaven? So much of what I’m hearing between conferences is contrary and persuasive.
These sessions pull me back to truths I know and feel deeply. I also sense our leaders are eager for us to share these teachings, traditions, habits, reasons, and our love for Christ within our families. We’ve been taught before about becoming casual, and Elder Carlos A. Godoy admonished us again to not
“be the weak link in this beautiful chain of faith you started, or you received, as a legacy. Be the strong one.”
And we heard again how
“one of our most sacred responsibilities is to help our children come to know deeply and specifically that Jesus is the Christ.” —Elder Jan E. Newman
With pep talks admonishing us to focus on our identity,
“God’s plan is all about you. You are His precious child and of great worth.” —Elder Alan T. Phillips
I feel known, confident, calm, inspired, and motivated to continue on. When every talk I hear is about Jesus and His love and His ability to strengthen and aid us, my focus becomes clear again. I know what I’ve been hearing and reading is right. These are true principles.
As these apostles, prophets, and leaders share their love, I feel the love our Savior and Heavenly Father have for all of us and each of us.
To me, that’s the greatest take-home message of all conference and one I’m determined and eager to share with the world, starting at home.