Saints Share Experiences Attending October 2016 General Conference
Contributed By Marian Spencer, Church News staff writer
Messages from the Church’s 186th Semiannual General Conference have inspired and blessed Latter-day Saints around the world. Following are a few experiences of members who attended a session of general conference in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.
“We're all Mormons!”
Douglas had only just met Matteo and Julia while in line to get conference tickets, but they were all chatting so easily, it was hard to tell they weren’t old friends. “We are now!” said Douglas, shaking Matteo’s hand. Matteo confirmed, “We’re all Mormons!”
Matteo and Julia are from Arizona. It was Matteo’s first time attending conference sessions at the Conference Center. “I only started watching conference when I went on my mission,” he said, explaining that he joined the Church when he was 11 years old but wasn't active until he was 16.
Douglas hails from Alberta, Canada. Like most members there, he usually watches conference proceedings in a stake center or at home on television, but he’s been able to attend sessions at the Conference Center multiple times. “This is the place to be today and tomorrow to hear the voice of the Lord!” exclaimed Douglas with a grin.
“I can still feel the same feeling wherever I listen to it”
Nao Tsuchida is a student at Brigham Young University, but she spent most of her summer at home in Fukuoka, Japan, where she was a For the Strength of Youth program counselor. This wasn’t her first time at the Conference Center. In the past, Nao's friends provided her with tickets, for which she was very grateful. “I just love it!” she said as she waited in the standby line for tickets. “But I also feel like it’s not the most important thing to actually be at the Conference Center, because I can still feel the same feeling … wherever I listen to it. It’s the same Spirit, and I love that.”
He will see his friend again
Anthony; his mother, Mei; and his girlfriend, Annie, attended general conference together at the Conference Center. Although Anthony and Annie currently live in Provo and attend BYU, Hong Kong is where they call home. Anthony and Annie had attended general conference sessions in Salt Lake before, but for Mei, this was an all-new experience, and she’d flown from Hong Kong to Utah just to attend.
As translated from Cantonese by her son, Mei expressed her joy at being able to see the Apostles and all of the General Officers. “It’s been incredible,” Anthony said on her behalf. “They were so close!”
“[This conference] has been very tender, very special,” Anthony added, explaining that his friend had recently passed away in Hong Kong. “He was a member of the Church, served a mission, went to school here [in Utah],” he said. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s talk reminded Anthony that he would see his friend again. “It’s part of the plan of salvation—that’s what President Uchtdorf said.”
“The gospel is really for everyone”
For Jason Ni, watching conference from Taiwan always feels “like a big event.” “Not a lot of people stay at home,” he said. “Everybody goes to the stake center“ a week later when sessions have been translated into their native language, Chinese.
“But no matter what language, what tongue you’re speaking, you feel the Spirit so strongly,” he said. “The gospel is really for everyone.”
Jason, a BYU student, first attended general conference at the Conference Center in 2012, his freshman year. “It’s just so neat to be able listen to God’s living prophets and seers and revelators. There’s a power that unites all of the Saints together. It’s such a neat experience. I feel like it’s something like a picture moment that I’ll remember forever.”
“They'll get to see each other here once a year”
For Chaplain Daiman Saxton and Chaplain Candidate Brian Payne, attending conference is a strongly encouraged part of their jobs. “But we absolutely love it,” said Chaplain Saxton.
For those who aren’t familiar with the term “chaplain,” Chaplain Saxton explained, “We minister to soldiers and sailors and marines.”
Chaplain Candidate Payne explained that the military requires chaplains to be endorsed, and their endorser at Church headquarters encourages them to attend conference. Smiling, he added, “It’s not like he’s twisting our arm, because everyone jumps on board [to go to conference] anyway.”
The general conference experience lasts several days longer for the chaplains who attend. On the Monday and Tuesday following conference, LDS chaplains attend meetings where they hear additional messages from Church leaders.
Referring to his fellow LDS chaplains, Payne said, “We all get to know each other, so there’s a camaraderie. … They’ll break up and be in different parts of the world, and they’ll get to see each other here [for general conference] once a year.”
“This year my dreams finally came true”
Tearna Salvesen has been all over the map. She’s originally from Brisbane, Australia, but spent the last couple of years attending BYU in Provo, Utah. Just this summer, she and her husband, Jake (from Orange County, California) were married in the Salt Lake Temple, after which they moved to Dallas, Texas, for Jake’s job. They returned to Salt Lake for conference weekend.
Tearna said attending general conference at the Conference Center “is something I would dream about doing when I was a little girl.” She never believed she would have the opportunity. “This year my dreams finally came true.”
She said her favorite talk was given by Elder Dallin H. Oaks during the Saturday morning session. “I love sharing the gospel to those around me, because the gospel brings me joy and I want them to feel the same joy. I am excited to use the techniques Elder Oaks spoke about to become a better member missionary.”
So many members
Elder Banks is serving a mission in Provo, Utah—and he’s a long way from home. Originally from Stirling, Scotland, Elder Banks said attending general conference in Salt Lake City is quite different from his conference experience back home. Stirling, located in Scotland’s center, is known for its breathtaking Stirling Castle and rich history, but not for its number of members.
Before his mission, Elder Banks and his family would watch conference in a chapel back home with just five or six other members.
“It’s kind of weird to see so many members of the Church in one place, and it’s really cool,” Elder Banks said of the crowded Conference Center. “The Spirit here is ridiculous. I’ve not felt the Spirit as strong as I have here. It’s kind of like [being in] a temple.”
Members from all over the world travel far and wide to hear the words of the prophets and apostles. Image courtesy of Jason Ni.