It never feels good when we are going through a trial, trying to fix a life-altering problem, dealing with something that often feels like a solo mission destined for failure, and we approach General Conference with the hope of some kind of relief or answer, and the answers don’t come.
To the contrary, there may be times that something said hurts us deeply.
What is to be done when that happens? Does that mean the men and women who speak are automatically deemed a “fake” or a deceiver? Is their ultimate goal to try and strike a nerve with the downtrodden, to further deepen the chasm of doubt between them and God?
Isn’t the point of General Conference to uplift and inspire, to be a faith building and positive experience?
I will never forget the pain and anguish I felt as I fervently and honestly prayed before the April 2007 session. Having been 3 years removed from and emergency brain surgery on my mission, losing the ability to use my arms and legs for a few months, the symptoms started again and I was terrified.
I asked God to heal me by some sort of miracle. My father gave me a priesthood blessing the day before I was to have the same surgery I had as a 20 year old missionary, and in the blessing he said I would be healed.
Each talk in conference seemed like it was meant for me. The underlying theme was to have faith in the Savior and He would heal our wounds.
A few weeks after the surgery I had complications, and had to go under the knife again. I still had faith that I would be healed.
The pattern of surgeries returned and I had my 3rd one in less than 6 months. The next General Conference came, I prayed yet again to be healed, and before my 4th surgery my father blessed that the surgery would be a success and I would be healed. Having faith was yet again the interwoven theme it felt like during conference, and I felt a little discouraged.
Had I made sure to stay diligent, checking off all the “boxes” of the gospel, asking to be healed? Yes. The talks were aimed at the fact that if we have faith in the Savior, He would heal us.
I thought I was doing enough, trying hard enough, giving my all, and yet I was struggling mightily.
Fast forward a few years and I would end up having 15 brain surgeries in 3 years. I had to drop out of college, couldn’t keep a steady job, was physically unable to do things I used to. I looked to General Conference as a comfort, a road map, and there were times I would get upset at what was being said, because I was faithfully trying to live the gospel and it seemed like my refiner’s fire would engulf me completely. I had nothing left.
Then something changed.
Through my anger, my stresses, my frustrations, I failed to see tender mercies in certain talks. I decided to go back and read each message, even though, in my mind at the time, I didn’t think it would help.
Sure, something one person said may have hurt a bit, but I was so focused on that one thing, that I failed to see the countless other positive, spiritual things that would have been a huge help, had I listened more intently. I started to see that there were indeed answers to my questions, but in a different way.
The Genral Aurhorities of the church do not purposefully and intentionally try to offend. I was the one who got angry. I was the one who thought God had abandoned me and left me alone, but it was the opposite.
He was trying to correct my course through the words of those men and women called of God. He wanted to be the lighthouse in my storm, and I chose to turn my own way, and not look at the beaming light in the fog so to speak.
That being said, there will be times we get upset, so what do we do? What I should have done was get on my knees and pray. I should have tried to listen to the whisperings of the spirit to understand what God was trying to tell me. Granted, some of us do that already, or don’t feel like doing it (I reached that point), and that’s ok. There are other ways we can work through it.
No, I am not completely healed, and most likely will never be for the rest of my life. I have accepted that.
But what I can say is that even though I will never be fully physically healed, I have started to heal spiritually, and that is mainly due, in large portion, to the talks in Genral Conference. They have given me hope, even when all seemed lost.
They have literally given me the strength to stand on my feet and try to finish another day. The messages shared have saved me over and over again.
I can’t tell you how many times surgeons and doctors alike were baffled at how I was still alive during and after a number of operations.
I know it was because of the faith of my parents, friends, and loved ones. I also know it was because of the faith of the leaders of the church. I don’t know them personally, but their talks have helped me through a lot of pain and suffering.
No longer do I look to see what will offend me or set me off, I wait with anticipation because a seemingly small positive thing said, even just by one person, could be a life-changing and faith building experience.