Every six months, someone is sure to remind us that preparing for General Conference means identifying some personal need or question, then listening with an ear toward hearing counsel on that need. People often testify that they receive the answer to their question, either through the explicit words of some speaker or by listening to a talk that may not have addressed the question directly but still inspired relevant reflection.
I’ve done that. For more than 30 years, I’ve listened to Conference praying for counsel on one particular topic. Candidly, I’ve never heard or been inspired with anything having to do with my need. It’s not like I’m seeking any specific answer – any inspired counsel in any direction would do – but only to have my great need addressed with whatever answer the Lord or his servants offered. I’ll no doubt go on watching for that counsel, although the practical use to which it could be put narrows as the years pass, and may soon be moot. Still, I hope …
This year I’m adding another question to my Conference Watch List, one provoked by my poor initial reaction to the Women’s Meeting last weekend. Oh, in most ways it was a good meeting – the Bloggernacle has certainly provided many positive reports, all of which I recognize as accurate descriptions of the meeting I watched. But for me one repeated point grated on my ears.
With the Rain
By Harrison R. Merrill
Dear Love, when April comes again this spring
And lilac blossoms droop in weeping showers
Where lonely robins flit about and bring
Back memories of dear, lost hours
When our young loves were stirred — awakening –
Twin blossoms sweeter far than perfumed flowers –
Sweet songs far lovelier than birds can sing –
A melody made deep by all our powers –
I’ll seek you where the old fence meets the stile
Beneath the catkined alders by the stream
Where in other days I’ve thrilled at your sweet smile
And in the dusk have seen your dear face gleam.
I’ll tremble then at all the old sweet pain –
My pent up tears will mingle with the rain.
– Relief Society Magazine
Think Conference weekends in the 21st century are busy, with eight hours of televised general sessions and two hours of the Priesthood session?
You may recall that for much of the 20th century, General Conference sessions were held over three days: In April, Conference always included April 6, no matter what day of the week it was, plus Saturday and Sunday, even when that meant there was an “empty” day or two between conference sessions. If April 6th fell on the weekend, and also during October Conference, Friday was also a conference day. You may also know that we also held a Welfare Session for many years, and that the Relief Society also held a multi-day conference in the days leading up to the General Conference. And while you may not have been aware that smaller, private conference sessions were often held for, say, mission presidents or stake patriarchs, it probably won’t surprise you to learn that such sessions were held – they weren’t advertised publicly, because the group of invited officers was so small; private invitations were issued.
But maybe, like me, you will be startled to learn just how busy Conference week has been in the past, with meetings far beyond the ones we’re familiar with today. The week was so busy that special Conference bulletins were printed and distributed (and published in the Salt Lake newspapers) for the convenience of those who were invited to meetings in so many venues at so many hours that they needed to keep track of where they should be when. And that doesn’t even include unofficial, social gatherings, like the mission reunions that have been held at Conference time since well before the turn of the 20th century.
From the Relief Society Magazine, 1958 (Second Place winner, Annual Relief Society Short Story Contest) –
Fifty Singing Aprils
By Mabel Law Atkinson
A flash of cerulean blue wings through the lacy, greening limbs of the old black willow and a lark-flute calling from the fence post announced to Susan Barclay that spring had come. “Another singing April!” she said softly to no one in particular. “Another singing April, and I have a letter to write this morning!”
Her step was buoyant as she walked the winding path of stepping stones from her back garden to her kitchen door, noticing the bordering tulips still in their green nightcaps, and the snow-on-the-mountain just beginning to send out its green tendrils.
A half hour later, she was sitting at her desk when the doorbell rang. She looked up to greet four smiling little boys.
These days if you think of balloons and the Fourth of July, you probably picture colorful hot air balloons carrying crews in their hanging baskets, drifting in a blue sky, perhaps dozens at a time, as part of a rally or festival. In 1887, though, balloons on the Fourth of July were small unmanned fireworks launched after the sun had set, small lights floating in the sky above a city’s roofs and treetops. (I have been unable to find a technical description – were they carried aloft by gas? or merely thrown up by muscle power, left to drift down like a parachute? If there was gas, how did they carry a candle or other flame without burning up? If a reader knows or can find the answers, please share in a comment.)
However they were launched, and however beautiful they may have been, glittering in the twilight, you have to think there was more than a little element of danger involved when flame, carried in an uncontrolled apparatus, drifted down over Utah’s usually tinder-dry summer landscape …
On the night of July 4, 1887, a young man named George was sitting with his sweetheart in a hammock on the porch of his grandmother’s house in downtown Salt Lake, watching the sunset and dreaming as lovers do. George noticed a fireworks balloon floating above him, drifting lower as it passed. Suddenly he bolted out of the hammock and said to his startled lady, “I think it’s going to hit the Tabernacle!”
From the Relief Society Magazine, 1927 –
April Fool’s Day
by Ellen L. Jakeman
“Within certain well defined limits you boys may play pranks on one another and ‘April fool,’ but let it be understood, right now, that I will not allow you to include me in any of your jokes, practical or otherwise; if that idea is what is making you all so hilarious this morning,” remarked the lady at the head of the breakfast table.
A look, brief but significant, passed among the half dozen boys, students of the B.Y.U., and boarders at the comfortable home of Mrs. Johnson.
Byron looked up with his face arranged to resemble a very much disappointed infant, and asked:
The April Fool
By Annie Malin
I jumped out from behind the door
One day, just after school,
To scare my sister Margaret,
An’ called out “April Fool.”
But Margaret can’t take a joke
And mentioned “Golden Rule,”
An’ said the one who tried the game
Was really “April Fool.”
I called out to my brother Dick
To hurry out to see
A hundred thousand little cats
All hangin’ in a tree.
An’ when he looked around, he laughed
An’ said, “You’re ‘April Fool,’
For pussy willows are not cats,”
Then hurried off to school.
An’ then my cousin Eleanor,
Who doesn’t go to school,
Said “Look behind you, Walter dear,
An’ see an ‘April Fool.’”
An’ when I turned an’ looked behind
The “April Fool” to see –
Right in the great big lookin’ glass
Was no one, ’ceptin’ me.
Well, I don’t think that it is fair
For all the older folks
to make out that the younger ones
Don’t know about the jokes.
An’ when I’m bigger, big as Dick
An’ goin’ to High School,
I bet I’ll fool somebody then,
An’ not be ‘April Fool.”
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