An Insider's Look at Mormon Culture

We invited Lolly and family for General Conference last weekend. By choice they have no TV and spend conference weekends at their stake center if they don’t visit us. While George and I are not big conference fans, any excuse to bring the grandkids here works.

They arrived in time for the Saturday afternoon session, all the kids—ages 4-11—in church clothes. George insists he listens better to the radio in his easy chair than in front of the TV, but I try to be supportive by sitting through at least part of each session. The afternoon session began peacefully enough with the boys on the floor in front of the TV constructing castles from a construction set. The girls sat close to me with picture books on their laps. Peaceful Mormon family watching General Conference.

Unfortunately, I had chosen a chair too uncomfortable for a nap in order to sit by my granddaughters and when the first speaker started in on the Joseph Smith story, I couldn’t force myself to sit through a 10,000th repetition of the account and sneaked upstairs. The girls followed and their parents, mesmerized either by conference or quiet children, didn’t call them back. We had a good time in the kitchen. I occasionally caught part of the conference addresses from the radio. At least I tried to listen until Elder Anderson’s remarks on the role of women caused me to wonder in what century the poor man thinks he lives.

Next morning I vowed to spend a full hour in front of the TV before excusing myself to prepare Sunday dinner. The session started with typical spirituality for our household. Six-year-old Tiger started a fight with 8-year-old Priss and responded to parental chastisement by sulking in the closet while Priss nursed her hurts by my side. Then Pres. Eyring took the podium and began relating a silly story about the problem he faced when assigned (as a replacement for then Pres. Hinckley) to give a commencement address at a non-Mormon university.

When told by the administration that religious references would be inappropriate in that setting, Eyring faced a grave moral dilemma. Should he cancel? How could he possibly address a university commencement audience without testifying of Christ?

His tearful account of the experience moved me, but not spiritually. When the phone rang, I escaped to answer—not bothering to return after finding a wrong number. The girls followed and we began dinner prep early.

As we cleared up the dinner dishes, Lolly asked how I managed to get the family to watch conference when she was growing up. “Well, I left you in your pajamas and served snacks,” I recalled. Jaycee, who had showed up for her dad’s grilled pork loin but not conference, added: “And we gave back rubs, shoulder rubs and head and neck massages while watching.”

“Maybe I should try that,” Lolly said.

“It may not encourage you, but you might want to consider the effects of conference watching on our family,” I said, “Four of five non-affiliated with the Church.”

Will Lolly give up trying to interest her kids in General Conference? If she’s anything like me at her age, she’ll keep doing what doesn’t work longer and harder.

 

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