Latter-day Saint Life

What I learned from being shut out of President Nelson’s worldwide devotional on Sunday

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Young adults line up outside the Conference Center before the worldwide devotional for young adults on May 15, 2022.
Mary Richards, for Church News

The Conference Center was too packed to allow me in, but the Lord had lessons for me to learn from outside.

“I can’t believe I came all this way for nothing,” I thought as I drove home from the worldwide young adult devotional in Salt Lake City. Despite arriving extra early and waiting in extremely packed lines for almost two hours, my roommates and I weren’t able to get into the Conference Center or any of the overflow streaming areas on Temple Square.

I’d only been in the Conference Center once—right before the pandemic—and I was dying to get back into that special building. In-person devotionals are such a different experience than live streams. While waiting outside, the heat was unbearable and the cramped lines were tough. Each effort to find an overflow live streaming area was met by the same disappointments: long lines and closed doors.

It sounds silly, but as my friends and I and thousands of other young adults ran from building to building, desperately looking for a seat to hear the prophet, I kept thinking, “I can't believe I came all this way for nothing.”

Miraculously, after our very last option had been exhausted, my roommates and I ran into a friend. He helped us find a church building a couple of blocks away, and we were able to squeeze into seats four minutes before the devotional started. The messages shared answered prayers and problems I had been struggling with, and I left feeling hopeful.

But as we drove home, I was still thinking about our—and many others’—attempts to watch the devotional in the Conference Center. My frustration over our pointless efforts had cooled, but it was still simmering. As I pondered, the Spirit whispered, “Your urgency and desire to experience spiritual nourishment can be directed to other places.”

It wasn’t a condescending prompting, but a tender reminder. The prompting acknowledged and applauded thousand of young adults’ earnest desires to listen to the prophet, but gently reminded me that the same kind of effort we made to attend the devotional in person can be directed toward other spiritual pursuits.

Certainly, a prophet speaks directly on behalf of the Lord. We should cherish and sincerely apply his words. But sitting in the same room as him doesn’t really matter. What matters is that we approach all spiritual practices—prayer, scripture study, temple attendance, and so on—with similar devotion and effort. Because those individual, daily moments can be revelatory experiences, too. Our discipleship would be short lived if it all depended on attending a couple of yearly in-person devotionals. Faith isn’t really faith if we abandon it every time our expectations aren’t fulfilled to exactness.

Furthermore, if I believe anything, it’s that God never has us “come all this way for nothing.” I just don’t believe that He lets anything in life be pointless. He has amazing reasons for every letdown, betrayal, insecurity, or disappointment. We just have to let Him be the author of those experiences instead of the adversary or our negative internal dialogue.

So what would happen if we treated every day with similar spiritual urgency and excitement? Huge crowds dashed to reach redirected lines and opening doors; what would happen if we ran with similar vigor toward the temple? Or daily scripture study? What if we treated our calling or prayers with identical energy? What if we approached every day as if we were about to hear something special and life changing?

Because we can receive answers, peace, and hope every day. And, as bolstered by the Nelsons’ talks, a lot would positively change if we approached every day with a consistent desire to hear the Lord, and to act as “a holy young adult would.”

If you got into the Conference Center, remember the excitement and relief you felt when you finally crossed the threshold. Remember the special focus you gave the speakers, and commit to extending similar attention toward the Lord every day.

If you squished into one of the wooden booths in the Assembly Hall, rested on the stony floor of City Creek Mall and watched through a small phone screen, or sat in the very last seat on the third floor of the Conference Center, keep showing up to hear the Lord (and his prophets) speak.

And when God closes a literal or metaphorical door, don’t waste your time looking for an identical one to swing open. No room in the inn? Look for the stable.

Yesterday, no one banged on the closed doors and demanded entrance. They kept earnestly looking for other ways to listen to the prophet. Similarly, notice the windows, the trapdoors—and yes, maybe even the fire exits—in life. Take advantage of the other unpredictable or easily overlooked things that God has given you.

Because often what we expect, even when it’s something good, like sitting in the Conference Center, isn’t what God has in store for us.

But rest assured that every heartache or bruise inflicted by mortality can be soothed by our heavenly parents and then kissed, bandaged up, and healed by Christ, our perfect older brother and ultimate healer.

And as President and Sister Nelson reminded us yesterday, employing faith instead of fear in trials and preparing for the eternities is worth it.

“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).

So keep running towards eternal things.

Even if it means you have to endure some uncomfortable lines or persistent heat to hear Him. Don’t let perceived unrewarded efforts or initial letdowns take you off the covenant path.

Because God’s got so much in store. Doors may repeatedly shut, but He’s never done. In fact, He’s often just getting started.

The best is yet to come.

▶ You may also like: 17 fascinating footnotes from general conference talks you don’t want to gloss over

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