Everyone has conference traditions, but watching these videos has kind of become a new tradition for me. I just love mormon.org. I know the purpose of the site is for preaching the gospel and having one spot where people's google searches can end up, but I love it for me. It is so interesting to see the details of the lives of people in our global church and how their experiences might compare to mine. I like reading the profiles of other mormons and reading about their testimonies.
I especially love watching these before general conference. I get really excited for talks and topics that are a little different than the basic doctrines or that focus on something that I am particularly interested in. I really love when our leaders talk about history or a new intellectual way of looking at a basic tenet of our faith. I enjoy it so much, that sometimes I am slightly disappointed when my favorite topics aren't discussed or I don't seem to learn anything ground-breaking-ly new. But when I watch videos about mormons all throughout the world, I remember that we all need different things. We all find joy in the gospel, but we struggle from different things.
I love it because, even though we are a family-centered church, the gospel is personal and for every individual. It is easy to assume that every mormon person's life is the same and that we all live in families and have the same types of jobs. But we don't. Everyone's situation is unique. Profiles aren't created by families, they are by individuals.
Last summer I read Emily's book, A Single Voice, written by Sis. Kristen Oaks. It's a great read. One of my favorite sections was about the importance of the individual. Here is a snippet from this section that I typed up,
No matter what our relationships with others may be, many of life's greatest experiences take place individually. Joseph Smith walked in the grove alone, Moses ascended Mount Sinai alone and Nephi sought spiritual enlightenment alone. In like manner Sarah, Rebekah, Mary and Elisabeth were informed of miraculous births by heavenly messages. Other holy assignments were issued individually. Our deepest spiritual communion with Heavevnly Father and His Son occurs on an individual basis.
When we come into this world, we are alone. When we enter the waters of baptism, we do this as individuals. We are confirmed one at a time. One by one we bear our testimonies. Each of us is endowed in the temple as an individual. Our church callings usually come to the one and when we die it will likely be a lone experience. I think that we expect that so much of life is being a couple or with others that we ignore all the times that Heavenly Father expects us to stand alone, to be counted as an individual, and to personally bear witness. We shouldn't be surprised that so many of our key experiences come to us alone. Likewise, salvation comes to one soul at a time. Thus, we had better like ourselves and feel comfortable with who we are.
I have thought about this concept many a time since then for various reasons. But today I am thinking about it in terms of my global church. How grateful I am to be part of this big, huge organization that is so detailed and has thought through so many of the logistics that must go into arranging and meeting the needs of 14 million members. But also to know that I am valued as an individual, just as I am. I came across a quote recently from President Benson that I put up on my wall, "Your individual worth as a daughter of God transcends all." I love that and I know it is true. As much as I love my family and my ward and I love belonging, I know that if even without all of them and their support, I would still be important to God.
So as I approach another session of general conference, I am learning to remember that the leadership of the church knows a whole lot more than me. The apostles and the general authorities travel and meet all of these individuals and get to hear their stories (and luckily, they sometimes take a film crew so that I can watch their stories too). They know who needs what. They know the best things that need to be addressed in this the fall of 2012.
Happy General Conference weekend!
p.s. Great article about Sarah Jane's dad in the Salt Lake Tribune.