A weekend retreat
In many ways, it’s a spiritual retreat around here this weekend.
This is the weekend of General Conference for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This means that instead of attending Sunday services for three hours, LDS faithful will be near their televisions, computers or radios for a grand total of eight hours, listening to wise and uplifting counsel given by their leaders.
Conference happens twice a year, in April and October. Speakers are chosen from the General Authorities of the church and the General Auxiliary leaders. There are four sessions of General Conference, two on Saturday and two on Sunday. Last week, there was an additional General Relief Society Meeting for women; on Saturday evening there is a General Priesthood Meeting for men.
I love conference weekend, and not just because it means I don’t have to get up early and get children into church clothes. It is a relaxing, peaceful weekend, this time interrupted only by my boys’ Saturday soccer matches. The talks are only about 15 minutes long, are always well-prepared and pertinent, and never fail to remind me I am part of something much, much bigger than myself, or my ward or even the members of my faith in my country. General Conference is for people all over the world. I am always amazed that something as big as God’s love can be so personal, and General Conference reminds me of this. There is always some comment that seems to be just for me, a loving nudge from the spirit to help me feel peace as I scramble through life, trying to make the right choices.
This morning, LDS President Thomas S. Monson announced there will soon be five new temples. They will be built in Hartford, Connecticut; Indianapolis, Indiana; Urdaneta, Philippines; Tijuana, Mexico; and Lisbon, Portugal.
The news that an LDS temple will soon be built in Portugal got an especially joyful reaction at my house. Nearly 16 years ago, my husband was a missionary in Lisbon– yep, one of those young men wearing a white shirt, a necktie and a black name tag.
He learned to speak Portuguese respectably, eat fish stew and love the people of Portugal. Before serving his mission, I suspect he was mostly indifferent to the people of Portugal. But as a missionary and even now, he genuinely wants good things for the families there. They became his brothers and sisters in a very personal way.
For LDS people, the temple is where families are united, or “sealed,” for all eternity. Portuguese people who want to receive the blessings of the temple have to travel for days to a temple in another European country. Soon, those blessings will be available much more conveniently, and my family celebrates that with them.
General Conference is an easy way for anyone curious about LDS beliefs to learn more without attending a church service or meeting with missionaries. Live video streaming and transcripts are available at www.lds.org, although in many areas local television cable stations broadcast conference sessions live or recorded. There is also extensive conference coverage at www.ksl.com.
You’re also welcome to sit on the sofa with my family in our living room as we watch General Conference. The attire is casual and you can count on us honoring our family tradition of making Conference Nachos on Sunday afternoon.