By Susan Baird, Janna Barnes, Kristen Chevrier, Sherri Hayes, Michelle Jones, Karmel Larson, Mary Martin, Karen Newmeyer, Shelly Parcell, Sheri Peterson, Rosana Sorensen, Angela Silva, Alison Moore Smith, & others
Twice each year we have the opportunity to hear, directly, the words of our prophets and other general leaders at General Conference. For many of us, there are established traditions that make this time extra-special for the whole family. Below we share some of the things we like to do. But keep in mind that these are ideas are an amalgamation from many families; don’t try to do them all. Pick one or two things that will fit with your family and establish your own traditions, ones that will enhance the weekend without adding stress.
Tents Toward the Temple
The week before conference, we read the story of King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon, talking about how the people gathered as families with their tents facing the temple to listen. Then, on Saturday morning, we set up the kids pop-up castle with the door facing the TV and we gather as a family to watch and listen to the prophet. We “close” the tent between sessions to make the novelty last longer.
You could also use a pop-up tent, a blanket over a table, or a decorated box.
Another family teaches the same story and emphasizes it by building a tent in the family room the night before conference and sleeping in it, in anticipation of hearing the prophet the next morning.
Law of Witnesses
On the Monday before conference we have a Family Home Evening about “a watchman on the tower” and challenge our children that week to do three things:
- Pray for those who will be speaking that the spirit will guide them.
- Pray that you will have the spirit and that question or challenges you have in your life will be addressed.
- Look for three’s. We always look for subjects in three’s and talk about how that particular principle must be important enough that it was spoken of three times. We have in the past let our children know that subjects are not assigned to speakers, they are to follow the spirit when preparing talks for conference, so it is interesting to find three repetitions.
Pray for the Prophet
During the week preceding General Conference, we make a special effort to pray for the prophet, the apostles, and all the general auxiliary leaders that will be speaking. We also ask that we will be ready to hear and accept those things that are most needful to us individually and as a family.
We memorize the names of the apostles in the weeks leading up to conference. It’s more interesting to watch when you are familiar with the speakers. Learning past presidents of the church is also beneficial as they are often referenced in conference talks.
One family learns the names of the first presidency by singing their last names to the tune of three little Indians.
Hinckley, Monson, Faust and Packer,
Perry, Nelson, Oaks and Ballard,
Wirthlin, Scott and Hales and Holland
Eyring, Uchtdorf, Bednar
Past prophets are often quoted in conference. In order to familiarize our children with church history and to make conference more meaningful, we learn the names of each prophet using the Primary song “Latter-Day Prophets.” We have also used both the Prophets Sketch and Portrait of the Prophets as we sing to put a face to the name.
When Ye Are Prepared
We use conference as a semi-annual reminder to get our lives in order. At this time we have a family fire drill, change the batteries in our smoke alarms, empty and refill our water storage containers, rotate our 72-hour kits (and eat the food from them over the weekend ?yum!), and inventory our year’s supply of food and supplies.
Three days before conference, another family sets up their tent in the living room and camsp out as a family trying to live off their emergency supplies. During this time they eat our 72-hour kit food to rotate it. This helps them discover if we have the needed supplies for an emergency.
My husband and I attend the temple together the week before conference. This helps us set a spiritual tone and to remember our covenants.
Full Eight Hours
We make sure that we get a good night’s sleep before conference so that we won’t be tired and irritable during the sessions. A good breakfast helps, too, as long as it’s not so heavy that it puts us to sleep!
Picnic in the Park(ing Lot)
When we have watched conference at a building some distance from home, we always packed a picnic lunch to eat between sessions. We would sit on the church grass and enjoy the fresh air and (usually) sunshine. More often that not, we were joined by other families.
Linger in Between
Most of our ward members watch conference at the stake center. Since we are not close to our homes, it is almost impossible to try do drive home to feed the family between sessions. Instead, we all bring a big potluck dish and have a great feast and fellowship time between the sessions. It not only feeds our physical hunger, but meets emotional needs as well.
Yummy in My Tummy
On conference weekend, we always have four special meals, including a special, fancy breakfast each day and a nice, unusual supper between sessions. The kids always look forward to “conference food.”
Scones American Style
We have a family tradition of making scones for breakfast on conference weekend. I make a big batch on Saturday morning (enough that we can have the leftovers on Sunday morning, too). I only make scones at General Conference time.
In between Saturday sessions we always get hamburgers at a fun place down the street.
Shake It Up
We always make homemade shakes between sessions in the blender. Ice cream and any sort of mix-in is a special treat.
One of the favorite traditions on Sunday is to have a special meal. We have what we call Conference Ribs. Only on conference Sunday do we make baby back ribs. The kids love them and it helps them look forward to conference.
We get pillows, blankets, and have plenty of snacks for the kids. It’s a bit like “movie night.”
In between sessions, we get up, stretch, run around, and get the wiggles out to prepare for another period of sitting.
We ask our children to draw pictures of those who are speaking. We also write down who is speaking and then they are able to write the person’s name below the picture at their own pace (for the younger ones of course), the date, and if they are a little older we asked them to write a little about their message to us. I love it because it keeps their attention, we are all together, and I have wonderful fun treasures to keep. It is so fun to look back at these pictures!
Last year I made a booklet out of paper folded in half and stapled together. On the cover of the booklet I wrote, “What the Prophets Said to Me, General Conference, October 2005. I got pictures of each member of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve from the church website. On the left side of each page spread, I glued a picture of one of the general authorities. The children then draw pictures or take notes about what the person said and what they learned from it.
We photocopy pictures of our general leaders with the names printed below. The kids find and color the picture of the current speaker.
I created a difficult crossword puzzle that I save until the kids are getting restless and/or sleepy. In order to answer it, they have to look up things in their scriptures, etc. It keeps them focused on the gospel, if not directly on the speakers. It is personalized for our family, but you can alter it to suit, or just use it for an example. It’s in Excel format.
I create a manilla folder for each child. The folders include gospel puzzles, note-taking supplies, games, and stories and activities from The Friend. All I add is a box of colored pencils and we’re good to go!
We create gospel games using Puzzlemaker. This is also great to use after conference, for Family Home Evening, for review. When the Ensign comes out, let your kids solve the puzzles using the magazine. You can make some puzzles free at Free Online Puzzle Maker.
We have special forms that we use to fill out for each talk. It is in Word format. All the older children use this as well as the adults. We also have conference binders, along with dated dividers, that we use year after year to store our conference notes.
Another family purchases special notebooks and fun pens to take notes with.
One family passes out clipboards with attached pens. It feels very official!
Printing out pictures of the apostles to put blue next to the speaker’s name is another way to add interest and build recognition.
The Friend is a great source for all sorts of fun gospel activities. If you haven’t saved up your old ones, you can find the in the Gospel Library on the Church website.
Age Gap Solution
We get out puzzles and coloring stuff and have the little kids watch one session each day. Then they can play quietly in another room or in the back yard while we watch the rest. (They have to come and sit down whenever the prophet speaks.)
Every autumn, I drag my laptop into the bathroom and set up the wireless connection. Then I fill the tub with a steaming hot bubble bath, get my infatable bathtub pillow, and turn on the jets. I watch live streaming video of the General Relief Society Meeting in luxury and bliss. Sometimes I even bring chocolate! Oh, it’s great to be a woman!
My parents always broadcast conference through the house and the yard over the intercom. You couldn’t get away if you tried! We do the same thing in our home now. You can even hear it out in the yard.
Often we would go for a drive up the canyon to see the beautiful autumn leaves during one of the Saturday sessions, while listening to conference on the radio. Sometimes we stopped between sessions for a cool canyon picnic. It was also fun, in predominantly LDS areas, to see masses of people in their cars, raising their hands to sustain the prophet and other leaders!
Another family has radios on throughout the house, so anyone who is inside, but not watching, can still absorb bits and pieces.
We love to choose two or three words to listen for during each talk. During the first 30 ?60 seconds of each talk, listen for these words the speaker’s talk. Each time you hear one of the chosen words in the talk, you get an M&M (or peanut, Skittle, penny, jelly bean, pinto bean, etc.). The person with the most items at the end can win a prize, or you can just be content to eat your treats as you go. Last year we let the kids trade in their collected beans for prizes at the end of the session. They had a great time and were quite attentive.
I print the pages of all the general authorities and auxiliary leaders from the Ensign. When someone speaks, we have the kids look for the speaker and then circle his or her picture. It takes them a little while to find some of them!
We always play Conference Bingo. Make a 6×6 grid on a piece of paper. In each of the 16 squares, put a word commonly used in conference, such as prayer, charity, tithing, etc. Use M&Ms or other candy as markers to be used each time a child hears reference to one of the key words. (Of course, the markers must be eaten at the end of the game!) One family has three versions of things to listen for: gospel words; church history names; different names for Jesus Christ (Christ, Lamb of God, Son of God, etc.).
I make a list of words commonly used in conference addresses (prayer, temple, love, family, obey, church, etc.). Everytime my daughter hears one the words in conference she gets to put a star next to the word. This time I’m going to use stickers since my kids love stickers so much. I found that they actually listen more to what the speakers were saying.
We buy the prophets stickers and any child who hears a modern-day prophet’s name mentioned, gets the corresponding sticker for their conference book.
A Whopper of a Good Time
We always had paper and pencils for each child that could write and a big bag of Whoppers candy. After each talk we asked a child to tell us a favorite part of the previous talk. Each time they could do so, they would receive a whopper. They also received a whopper if they could identify the speaker. We were pleased as a family when after the session we could visit and share the things we learned with each other.
School of the Prophets
As our kids get older, we intend to include conference a great deal in homeschool for doing reports, oral summaries of favorite speaker at Family Home Evening, etc.
We use our conference notes as an aid to set goals for the following six months.
All In the Family
My adult daughters and I have a tradition of attending or listening to the General Relief Society Meeting together and then going out to eat together. I hope one day to include daughters-in-law in this tradition. After the General Priesthood Session, my husband goes out with our sons as well.
Ice Cream Social
After the General Priesthood Session, our family eats ice cream together and we discuss the meeting together.
I take careful notes during each session of conference and then create questions using my notes. On Sunday afternoons we split up into teams and see who can answer the most questions. The winning team gets a prize. This encourages the kids to take good notes and it gets us all to review what we learned!
General Conference Bingo (reloadable page)