Everybody who knows a Mormon knows we go to church a lot. Like, three hours every Sunday at minimum. For some this seems like a massive commitment, although I've never understood that. You can spend three hours playing video games or watching Lord of the Rings but you can't spend three hours a week worshiping the God that gave you everything? Priorities, people.
This weekend, however, is different. If you think three hours of church is a lot, try 10. That's how many a lot of Mormons will be attending this weekend. Fortunately, it doesn't require 10 hours in a dress sitting up straight in a pew. This weekend is General Conference, when we get to listen to several two-hour sessions of church leaders in Salt Lake City speaking to us by satellite, cable TV, Internet or radio. That means "church" is rolling out of bed and onto the couch, watching the television in pajamas while eating donuts. Which, I'm not gonna lie, is awesome. But really, I would think conference is awesome (albeit slightly less comfortable) even if it didn't involve pajamas and donuts.
So why do Mormons get all excited about "conference weekend" twice a year when they could be watching basketball or playing disc golf or getting the lawn in shape instead? I guess the first thing to understand is that we believe these men and women (yes, women speak in conference too) are called of God and that he is speaking to them, telling them what messages of hope and faith and guidance we most need for the coming six months. General Conference isn't just a bunch of generalized sermons about what Jesus was telling his followers centuries ago. It's messages relevant to today, straight from God himself.
Before the recession hit, there were several talks about getting out of debt and saving for a rainy day. During the recession there have been a variety of talks about not giving up and realizing our worth is measured in more than the jobs we may hold or have lost. There are talks warning of the way pornography, drug and gambling addictions can destroy our souls and our lives and our families, and urging smart use of the Internet. Church leaders warn of growing epidemics of child abuse and neglect and urge us to work to build a society where children are valued and protected. They urge men to be real men who don't neglect their responsibilities as husbands and fathers and who respect women and children. There are talks of encouragement for widows, single parents, divorcees, parents of children who have strayed, parents of children who died or who were born with a mental illness or disability, those who want to be married but it hasn't worked out yet, those with deadly diseases and others who struggle with some of life's most difficult challenges. And there are classic subjects like repentance, faith, charity, forgiveness and the Savior's life that we are reminded of and given new insights relevant to today's world.
That's why I listen. I learn new things and gain new insights. I'm encouraged and lifted up. I'm inspired to be a better person and determined to make changes for the better in my life. I hear stories from people that let me know I'm not alone in feeling a certain way about different things that have happened in my life. There have been talks in conference that I feel like were written specifically for me, because they were exactly what I needed to hear. Some of those talks have literally been life-changing. Who would want to miss out on all of that?
You can watch the rest of General Conference here: http://www.lds.org/general-conference/watch?lang=eng or later visit lds.org to read and watch specific talks.