Thursday, September 29, 2011

How Can You Beat TV Church?

TV Church. That’s what a friend of mine calls conference weekend.

I love conference, and I really look forward to its coming around each Fall and Spring. We have for quite a number of years participated at home via the internet. We don’t get cable (and none of our local cable stations carry conference anyway), and we can’t use a dish because our home’s trees don’t allow a clear line of sight to the satellite (without a VERY tall tower which I’m unwilling to have built). So I’m thrilled that the church has dramatically improved the availability of video feeds of conference through the computer.

We used to go to the stake center in our family’s pre-internet days (yes, children, there was a time when not every home had a computer with a high-speed connection). I can remember spending conference weekend in the “children’s” room with kids playing on the floor while we watched the small TV at the front of the room. (I remember sneaking out of that room into the cultural hall for the solemn assembly sustaining of President Benson.)

The internet has been especially helpful when we lived in Asia recently. “Conference weekend” is a week later there, since the live broadcasts are in the middle of the night. Sessions were available at our stake center in Mandarin and English, though we watched most of them at home, thrilled to have figured out how to use our TV as a monitor for our daughter’s laptop. (Yes, we can be taught…)

This was all a marked improvement over our experience in Japan years ago, when we'd received videos of conference weeks later and circulate them among the English speaking members of our ward. By the time we got to Venezuela, we had someone in Utah record the English sessions for us, since only Spanish tapes came to the stake, but we convinced our stake president to allow us to watch a session of conference in lieu of Sunday School and Priesthood; there was a real power in our ward's being able to watch conference together.

My wife and I tend to be note takers during conference. I do it out of habit – for years I had one assignment or another that required me to be able to recall what happened at conference (either planning speaking assignments or preparing conference quizzes for seminary or institute or priesthood lessons). My wife (again) has a calling where she participates in determining which talks will be used for the Teaching For Our Times lessons.

Now I tend to take note of my impressions during the talks more than the subject matter of the talks. I note talks I’ll want to go back and read or listen to first when they’re available. (I also load the talks onto my I-Pod as fast as I can so I can listen to them en route to work shortly after they are televised; hearing them a second time allows me to get new nuances I’d missed the first time around.)

I try hard to go into conference with a clean slate of expectations for the meeting. Of course I pray about issues that are important to me and listen for counsel on those subjects. But I try not to guess what the speaker will say before he or she says it. Sometimes I’m surprised; sometimes I’m comforted; sometimes I’m gently prodded to improve (sometimes by my son who hears a talk he thinks I need to pay specific attention to: a number of years ago when Elder Oaks told fathers what their children wanted most for dinner was for their fathers to be home, my son leaned over to me and said, “He’s right, Dad”).

Our children are getting too old for conference bingo, though I think we may implement a little game our sister-in-law uses. She sets out bowls of various goodies with a word attached to each one. When the word is mentioned in a talk or song, the goodies are available to those who hear it. (He who hath ears to hear, let him munch!) That might be enough to keep my 15-year old awake for a session or two.

I hope you’ll fire up your La-Z-Boy and enjoy some TV Church of your own this weekend.

You can tune in at Live sessions are Saturday and Sunday at 10 and 2 MDT in the US (UTC +6).

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