Caren McLane has a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Community Health Education from BYU. She met her husband, Todd, 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.

Enter Caron…

The only reason I went back to taking notes during Conference is because my husband was making Jeopardy questions for the youth Sunday night, and I wanted to support him. And I also had questions and figured I should do my part if I expected to get answers. Maybe the Holy Ghost would speak to me between the lines and words of what the speakers were actually saying.

I usually prefer to do a puzzle with my husband and soak in the general vibe of Conference, knowing I would revisit every single talk in depth during the next several months. But my note-taking forced me to pay attention, and I had the idea to make a little section in my journal labeled Themes. As the sessions progressed, I started to notice main ideas that were either reiterated literally or just in my mind repeatedly, general take-home messages that felt just for me.

But my enchantment with Conference, as always, took flight right from the start: I was impressed with Elder Stevenson’s focus on Easter. I lost count of how many times we talked about Palm Sunday and Good Friday throughout the conference, and I loved the reference to our “Christian Cousins” along with the admonition to increase and improve our celebration of Easter similar to how we anticipate Christmas.

A New Tradition

When our kids were younger, we’d hang pictures from the Gospel Art Kit of the events of Easter on the walls and talk about them each corresponding day. We’d watch the video story of the last week of Christ’s life and his Atonement for Family Home Evening. But Elder Stevenson gave us a vision of possibilities and ways to take our worship to the next level. As he spoke, I felt a little disheartened and sad, like I’d missed my opportunity. Our kids are gone, our parenting chance feels all but over. But right before Easter dinner, our dad gathered the whole family, all 27 of us.

We balked a bit as the parents herded us into the family room, dinner was cooling, and we all just wanted to eat. But then he mentioned what we’d all heard at Conference and wanted to follow through on inspired counsel. He read to us out of 3 Nephi 11, the Easter story on the American continent. We settled down, even the littlest cousins were quiet. He mentioned that we’d never done this the way we’d always read Luke 2.

I loved that he took the initiative, that he knew it wasn’t too late to start a new tradition. There was a sweet spirit of gratitude, humility, and worship that came upon us all. I felt so grateful for that specific counsel, the first of so many conference gems, and for family who wanted to follow it.

And so it went, so many admonitions and encouragements, nuggets of wisdom, teachings, and ways to be better:

  • Sister Cordon told us to never give up an opportunity to testify of Christ and to look for Christ everywhere.
  • Elder Cook quoted Elder Packer: Reverence invites revelation.
  • Elder Gong told us that there are lives waiting to change; don’t give up. We change as we become closer to the Lord.
  • We cannot be in camouflage. (Elder Cook)
  • We will never be spiritually at risk when we follow the prophet. Parents can’t pick and choose what they will follow. (Elder Haynie)
  • Elder Eyring taught us how to experience the miracle of personal peace and reminded us that we can face the future with optimism and joy.
  • I loved that there were two talks on the specific topic of Patriarchal Blessings!
  • I was a little reprimanded when Elder Christensen told us that complacency is a sin. But felt encouraged when he reminded us that to be filled with joy means to be filled with the Holy Ghost. Repentance gives us increased strength.
  • I loved hearing the promises of covenant keeping from Elder Camargo and how he reminded us of President Nelson’s former promises.

On and on it went.

Discovering Conference Themes

That was just the beginning! But as I listened, I started to notice similar phrases, ideas, and words that kept coming back to me. When I get the printed copy of the talks in the Liahona, I go to the topics section at the beginning and highlight those that were spoken of five or more times to help me see what is on the mind of our leaders and our Heavenly Father, to help me visualize the main ideas of the conference. Rather than waiting, I wanted to capture what the Holy Ghost was saying to me specifically, and so my little section became my capsule note.

I heard over and over in my heart how Christ is the Master Healer. And the answer, solution, and strength to every problem, question, situation, and trouble we’re experiencing. I felt impressed to recommit to ministering to the one and to keep at it. So often I’m tempted to give up on friends and to give in to my feelings that I’m not doing much good in the world because my interactions are often with just one person at a time.

I heard repeatedly how much we need to quell our divisions and contentions and instead cultivate unity and become peacemakers. That has been simmering with me, and I can’t help but desire to do better. I’ve felt the draw to repent for my contrariness and stubborn heart, and I’ve even received inspiration about how to do that as I’ve tried to ask for help for very specific situations.

What Matters Most

Overall, I felt to remember and to focus on what matters most, which we were taught is based on what lasts the longest. But a specific prayer was answered at the very end with President Nelson promising that our Savior will heal us… from sin, sadness, wounds of this world and fear. I circled the word fear in my journal and said a quiet prayer of thanks for inspiring him to use the very word I’d written as a question. Jesus, once again, is the answer for my fears as well as everything else I worry or struggle with.

Uplifted More

I didn’t get much housework done. We didn’t make anything fancy to eat. Our puzzle still sits. But we stayed awake. I noticed themes woven in and between talks. I heard answers to my questions. I have notes that are helping me remember what I felt in the moment. It seemed like I’d participated and learned and gained a little more than I normally do.

I feel overwhelming gratitude for the uplift conference always is for me. So much of the year we try to keep the feelings alive, to remember to stay focused and positive and to truly be followers of Christ.

Centered, Confident and Calm

If we’re not invested, if we don’t engage with these words and messages consistently over the next six months, we may lose the enthusiasm and peace we felt during the weekend. So, I’m grateful for the tiny bullet points, the smallest of notes really, that I jotted down, words that mean something to me and that help me feel centered and confident and calm. Conference always does that for me; but this time it’s like I took home a little souvenir.

But then it feels like the day after Christmas. The choir has sung its last strains of “Till We Meet Again,” President Nelson blesses us in his sweet grandfatherly way, and my heart feels a little saggy. It’s like saying goodbye to my closest, truest friends for six months.

Unless of course we keep in touch.

Ideas To Help Remember and Learn

I’m like most of you, I like to try to listen to one of the talks in the morning when I get ready or drive. But I also like a physical copy of the Liahona so I can see the words and highlight quotes that answer a prayer or that provide direction.

I like to make a bullet list at the top of the talk with a few key points as a summary. I’ve noted invitations and promises and made lists.

But my favorite parts of reviewing the talks are the footnotes. Here is where I go to dive a little deeper into the topic and cross reference ideas, a place for explanations, additional insights, quotes from other leaders, sometimes even more stories.

I happened upon this article, Until Next Time: 5 Ways to Keep the Spirit of Conference with You, and appreciate the ideas to listen to the talks again, choose specific invitations to work on, post quotes around the house, search for answers within talks, and share conference with others. I feel like these suggestions are realistic and applicable. I remember Emily Belle Freeman telling how they like to display their favorite quotes from conference in their house, something I would love to do in our family.

A True Treasure

Conference is a true treasure, an invaluable blessing, one that I took for granted most of my life. But I remember after 9/11 anticipating it like never before. I was so eager and desperate to hear from our prophet and leaders for guidance after our lives had been so shaken. And so it’s been ever since. No matter what stage of life I’ve been in, whether I’ve been a young mom overwhelmed with the responsibility of preparing kids for their own lives ahead, wondering how to handle relationships, set-backs, or callings, and now as I reflect back and question and wonder what He expects. I always look forward to it just as desperately and consistently find comfort, peace, direction, answers, strength, and reassurance as I revisit the talks throughout the next six months.

Every so often I’ll pull up a random session from 1996 or 2007 and listen to the whole thing or read some of the talks, just to mix it up. And because I’m at a completely different spot all these years later, I maybe wasn’t paying attention to the parenting talks as a newlywed or the advice to grandparents back when I had toddlers, the talks feel brand new!

They’re so very much like the scriptures in that way, we find application changing as we grow and enter various phases of life. And engaging with conference can be similar to how we each study the scriptures. It matters less about what technique we use or how much time we devote and more that we’re consistent, that we are praying and searching for answers and counsel specific to our circumstances, and that we gather to discuss how we feel and how we can make changes as a family.

Recommitted Followers of Christ

I think that’s all our leaders are hoping for as they prepare and deliver their messages, that their words will simply encourage us to use the Spirit more in our lives as we recommit to following our Savior in living His gospel.

How do we help leaders

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