I love General Conference. I look forward to it every spring and fall and then after it's over instead of mourning it's passing like I used to, I now re-listen to the talks over and over and over on lds.org. Technology is an amazing, miraculous thing.
Don't you love when you go to Conference and you hear something specific and perfectly relevant to whatever you happen to be going through at the time? I love that. And it happens to me so often that I crave it now. I sit down expecting it. And I listen intently for that thing that is exactly what I need to hear.
Tonight, I didn't hear it for awhile. I loved the talks from the new RS Presidency. In fact, as I listened to their voices shake a little during their first talks in front of such a vast audience, I felt an overwhelming feeling of love for each one of them. It was like watching my friends, and wishing them support and fortification as they said the things they had prayerfully prepared. They were emotional, but their messages were powerful and clear. They weren't the ones I had come to hear, though.
It wasn't until the very last talk, when President Henry B. Eyring stood up, that I heard the personal message I had been waiting for. I love him. I've said that before, I'm sure. He's my favorite. I have memorized his voice. And nearly every time there is a message for me in Conference, Heavenly Father sends it through him, probably because He knows I will be listening more intently.
President Eyring talked about service tonight. He talked about Lucy Mack Smith's vision of a united group of sisters who "cherish one another, watch over one another, comfort one another and gain instruction that we may all sit down in heaven together." He talked about faithful and willing sisters who find opportunities to serve even when it's inconvenient or hard. (nope, that part wasn't about me.) He talked about listening and acting on the promptings to serve. And he talked about how pleased the Lord is when we do that. (nope, still not me...although I have a desire to be more like that.) But as he kept talking, I heard him say that "sometimes we are just the first step in a plan set forth by the Lord." Sometimes our efforts to serve don't go quite the way we planned or they're not received the way we intend them to be, but if "our feelings of compassion prevail over our selfish desires and we feel an increase in love toward another" then Heavenly Father is still pleased. He loves us for any part we play as long as we are willing. (that was for me.)
There is a family who has been offended on a number of occasions by things that our family has done; sometimes intentionally, most of the time not. I realize that sometimes this happens and that despite our best efforts, not everyone is going to love everything we do. But it's still a little unsettling to know that there are people you cross paths with often who may be unhappy because of something you've done. This particular family has been on my mind A LOT lately. That's always an indication that it's time for me to do something about it. On Thursday, I got a distinct impression that I should text the mom of the family to see if she wanted to meet me for lunch. I wanted to wait until Monday or Tuesday because I had a pretty busy Thursday and Friday, but I had another distinct impression that I needed to "do it now!" So I texted her. She said "thanks, but I can't." Later in the afternoon, I thought I'd just drop by and try to connect with her. No one was home. This morning, I thought I would see if I could scoop up the 13 year old and take her out for a treat. I honestly didn't even have a plan for the part after I picked her up, but I thought with three teenage daughters in my house, surely I could think of something to talk about. So I texted her. At first she said yes, but then an hour later she texted that she couldn't after all because she had a lot of homework. But, I was unusually persistent, so I jumped in my car, grabbed some M&Ms from the grocery store, and popped over to their house to drop off an unexpected surprise for the 13 year old. The family was home, but the mood there was noticeably icy. I was seriously deflated. I wondered why I had felt so strongly that I needed to reach out to them if they weren't exactly interested in reaching back. I wondered what more I could possibly do. I wondered if I had mis-heard something in all those little promptings I received.
And then tonight, President Eyring told me that I did exactly what I was supposed to do. And that I hadn't mis-heard anything. "Sometimes we're just the first step." Sometimes our efforts don't go the way we planned, but if "our feelings of compassion prevail over our selfish desires and we feel an increase in love toward another" then Heavenly Father is still pleased.
Maybe this first step will make the next steps easier. Maybe that family will feel our love and compassion and have a change of heart. Maybe they won't.
Maybe I just needed an exercise in listening and acting on a prompting. Maybe I needed to be in a place where I would listen more intently to the words of inspired leaders. Maybe this step was more for me than for that family. I'm not sure. What I am sure of, though, is that I have a blazing testimony of General Conference. I know that the things we hear twice a year from the Prophet and other leaders of this Church are divinely inspired, relevant, personal guidance that we absolutely need. I am so grateful for the efforts of all the people who make General Conference possible. I'm grateful for a loving Heavenly Father who has given us modern day revelation. And I'm grateful for the miracle of technology that puts it in our living rooms and at our fingertips. I can't wait to hear the rest of General Conference next weekend!