Priesthood session traditions 'must be served'

Published: Monday, March 26 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

Jesse Burrell laughs with his sons Bo, Braydon and Caden while waiting in line at Chuck A Rama after attending LDS General Conference Priesthood session in Salt Lake City Saturday, Oct. 1, 2011.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

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For many priesthood-holding Latter-day Saint males, ages 12 and up, the Saturday night priesthood session of general conference means ice cream.

Of course, it also means listening to inspired words and teachings from the leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — including, traditionally, the entire First Presidency. And there's always a terrific men's choir to provide soul-stirring music and the opportunity to enjoy the session with other priesthood holders, either in the Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City or at one of the hundreds of satellite-broadcast locations around the church.

All of that is important — no doubt about it. But for many LDS males, shared pre- or post-conference treats and meals have become as much a part of their general conference traditions as wearing a white shirt and tie or standing and singing the congregational hymn in the middle of the session.

And for Deseret News contributors Bill Hill,Seth Saunders and many others, that means ice cream.

"I think everybody eats ice cream after this session," Hill writes from his home in Idaho Falls. "Maybe there is something in the (priesthood meeting) addresses that transacts well with something cold and sweet. I don't know."

When Saunders was growing up, he said, priesthood meeting "was less about the talks given but more about getting ice cream after the session with my dad."

"For some reason, that ice cream always seemed a bit sweeter and more tasteful than ice cream other times of the year," he writes from Virginia Beach, Va. "I am sure it was because we had just had such a wonderful spiritual feast, and the ice cream was the perfect ending."

Also in Virginia, Bishop Tony Padilla of the Manassas 2nd Ward mixes the ice cream treats with doughnuts and accountability for his sons. After conference is over, he takes his sons out for ice cream and also picks up some doughnuts, which they take home to share with his wife, Sue. While they enjoy the doughnuts together, the boys are called upon to report to their mother about the talks they heard during conference.

"They never know which talk they're going to have to report on, so they have to take notes on all of them," Padilla said. "It motivates them to pay attention during the session. It keeps me alert, too, because I have to know when they're bluffing."

The key to the exercise, however, is the ice cream and doughnuts.

"Because there are treats involved, they actually look forward to this each conference," he said. "Without the treats, it would just be another church meeting they have to put on a white shirt and tie for."

Which is not to say that ice cream is the only option for traditions associated with the general priesthood meeting. In Heber City, members of the Wright family gather after priesthood conference to share a meal of canned sardines, kipper snacks and Grandma Lois' homemade chili.

If ice cream has an opposite, the Wright family priesthood meal is probably it.

According to George Wright of Pleasant Grove, the tradition started years ago when his grandfather, Ray, became active in the LDS Church after years of inactivity. After he went to his first general conference priesthood meeting with his sons, they all decided to go back to the family home for something to eat. Unfortunately, the only thing they could find in the house to eat was a few cans of sardines. So they ate them — and had a pretty good time in the process.

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