Friday, October 1, 2010

Anticipating General Conference

Twice a year, on the first weekends of October and April, tens of thousands of people converge upon the largest house of worship in the world (unless the Taj Mahal counts, I think), and millions from around the world tune-in via satelite or the web to watch talking, gray heads and a world-famous choir for 10 hours over one weekend.

I am speaking, of course, of the General Conference of my Church at Temple Square in Salt Lake City.

It sounds rather boring, but, because of a very clever trick played on me while growing up, and because of the Spirit which has subsequently kicked in and helped me to love it in its own right, I have an unexplainable love for this semi-annual ritual.

As a girl growing up in Provo, Utah, my family--both extended and immediate--took advantage of the close proximity to Salt Lake City (40 miles away) and watched the two Saturday sessions of conference on Temple Square.  In those days, when Conference was held in the historic Tabernacle built by Brigham Young, and seats were more scarce in the 6,000-capacity building, our default was to watch Conference in the "Assembly Hall," or a miniature replica of the Tabernacle right next to it on Temple Square.  By waiting in line for hours on end (arriving at 3:00 and 4:00 a.m. in the morning), by being nice to ushers, and by knowing where to stand when, many of my family would manage to get into the Tabernacle for one or both sessions.

What ensued among us children was a flurry of note-taking--both of what was said and in notes passed to each other.  We then had lunch in the basement of the now-gone ZCMI basement across the street where the sandwiches were 4 inches high.  A quick round of shopping for the women ensued before repeating the note-taking ritual for the afternoon session.  In the evening, when the men and boys 12 years and older attended "priesthood," the women went shopping before heading to my Aunt Janets for a feast and Conference de-briefing.

Sundays we would watch Conference from home on TV in our Sunday best, note-taking almost as furiously as before (falling asleep was much more common during Sunday sessions).

From a young age, I therefore associated Conference with lots of family, note-taking, good food, and the excitement of "getting in" to actually sit at the feet of those whom we considered prophets and apostles.

Over time, the periphery of excitement faded, and a more lasting excitement has replaced it, as I have learned that General Conference is a time of great inspiration for me as an individual and for the Church at large. I often get to see family and still even take notes, but I most look forward to the hours when I get to hear directly from my worldwide leaders, men and women whom I believe are called of God to speak on His behalf.  Pretty powerful stuff.

This year, my husband and I have set aside the 5-7 and 9-11 p.m. hours (as Salt Lake is 7 hours behind London) to watch General Conference on from our flat, and my husband will watch priesthood with his "elders quorum" at the Hyde Park chapel Sunday morning.

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