With the marvels of modern Internet technology, I could just watch General Conference at home on my laptop or desktop computer. That's what a lot of my friends in the ward do. I suppose, especially if you have young children, that's a lot less complicated. Of course, when I was a kid, back in the prehistoric days of no Internet, the only way we could take in General Conference was at the local ward meeting house, where it was broadcast (sound only!) over the P.A. system of the chapel. So General Conference was still necessarily a time when the Saints had to leave their homes and gather together as a body if they wanted to receive the counsel of the Prophet, apostles, and other general authorities. Maybe it's just nostalgia on my part, but I feel like it's just not General Conference unless I gather at my ward meeting house with other members of my ward to listen.
Our ward has a great tradition of hosting a potluck in between the Saturday and Sunday morning and afternoon sessions. I contributed some Finnish rutabaga casserole on Saturday. This year, one of my dear friends in the ward made an apple pie just for me. It was baked in a small, personal-sized pie dish, and delivered to me while I eating! I love my ward! (I put on a few extra pounds this weekend!)
I confess I'm an avid note taker at General Conference. Being present and listening with other members of my ward, I notice that I'm not the only one. Lots of folks are there with their journals or other kinds of notebooks, scribbling away as they listen. I especially take notes whenever I hear something that speaks with poignancy to my personal situation, or that gives me some deeper insight into a particular problem or question I'm wrestling with. Occasionally, I get revelation at General Conference, and then I write that down too (in brackets, so I can distinguish those notes from the other notes I take).
I don't know why, but this past General Conference I was aware of an especially poignant sense of gratitude I was feeling for General Conference itself -- just for the fact that we have General Conference. I was especially grateful for the peculiar, sweet, peaceful feeling I get just being there. I realized that conference is not just about the intellectual knowledge that we get from the words spoken and that can be eagerly jotted down (though we get that, and that's important).
When Elder Russell M. Ballard shared some of his insights from the Book of Mormon in the Sunday afternoon session, he sort of summed it up for me when he used the analogy of facing the door of our tents in a particular direction. He talked about how Lot and his family had the doors of their tents facing toward Sodom, and he contrasted this with the Nephites who, when they came to hear the address of King Benjamin, faced the doors of their tents toward the prophet. I realized that attending conference (whether we do it from the comfort of our Internet-equipped home, or whether we do it in a ward meeting house), is about choosing which way we want to face the doors of our tents.
I do want to be a better person. I want to be more faithful, more patient, more disciplined, more loving. So I want to be in a place where I will receive reminders to try harder to be all those things. I want to be in a place where I will feel the Spirit driving those reminders home, deep into my heart, teaching me these truths in ways more profound than mere words.
I realized that I might go to Conference without taking a single note. Perhaps I should try that some time. Perhaps I should try just being there, just listening and taking it in, and trusting that the act of just being there at the appointed time and place, and taking the time to listen, will have the desired effect.
There were moments when the Spirit was so strong, the only thing that could be written was written only in my heart.