“Conference in Sydney,” Ensign, May 1976, 139
SYDNEY, Australia—“My heart is filled with the love of God and my fellowmen after viewing your inspirational telecast,” wrote one Australian, following the live broadcast of Sunday’s area conference session here February 29.
The session was carried by ten television stations, and it elicited hundreds of letters from Australians who were touched by the spirit of conference. “An unforgettable hour of music and devotion,” wrote one viewer, while another described it as “one of my most glorious experiences.”
The impact of the broadcast was such that a major network rebroadcast the session to Western Australia where the Saints were unable to view the live telecast because of a technicians’ strike.
In preparation for the live broadcast, members and missionaries distributed more than 100,000 invitations to friends and neighbors to watch the historic telecast.
Some 3,500 members of the Church from Sydney and the surrounding mission area, as well as from other parts of the country, packed the city’s beautiful opera house and the town hall to listen to the words of love and counsel from President Spencer W. Kimball and other General Authorities. Those in the town hall were able to watch the proceedings on closed-circuit television.
The session opened with a 350-voice choir under the direction of Donald Newton singing “Come, Come, Ye Saints,” a presentation that set the spiritual tone for the session and brought tears to many eyes. Later, the choir sang a special number composed by Brother Newton, “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord.”
As the principal speaker, President Kimball spoke on the need for a prophet and concluded with the charge, “To your tents, O Israel, stand firm and loyal and immovable in support of the prophets of God!”
Ian G. Mackie, president of Sydney Australia Greenwich Stake told the congregation of the first missionaries who preached in Sydney not far from the Opera House on November 2, 1851. He concluded by saying, “I am deeply grateful for a church that teaches high ideals, the virtues of a good day’s work, and the responsibilities that go with freedom of choice.”
Concluding the telecast portion of the session, Sister Elva Mitchell, Relief Society president of the Harbor Ward, emphasized that a woman in today’s world “will be remembered most for the sons and daughters she leaves behind. That will be her greatest legacy.”
Earlier in the conference schedule, the premier (governor) of New South Wales, Sir Eric Willis, and his wife were guests of President and Sister Kimball at the cultural program depicting the development of Australia. The nation’s history was presented through music, song, drama, dance, and narration by some 200 cast members, accompanied by an orchestra. The high standard of performance was reflected in a five-minute standing ovation and in compliments from the premier, who commented that the show was of high quality, one that brought forth a feeling of national pride and excitement.
The auditorium could not hold all those who wanted to see the show, and so a special matinee was held the following day.
As the conference weekend progressed, the speakers continually expressed their love for the Saints. Elder Bruce R. McConkie spoke on the power of testimony and how it operates in people’s lives. Elder Loren C. Dunn reflected on his mission in Australia some twenty years ago. He recalled the visit to Australia by President David O. McKay in 1955 and noted the tremendous growth of the Church in this country. In twenty years, he pointed out, eight stakes and five missions had been organized.
It was announced by President Kimball that Elder Dunn has been called as the new president of the Australia Sydney Mission.
He also announced that Garry P. Mitchell of Sydney had been called as the new Regional Representative of the Council of the Twelve for Australia.
As the conference came to an end, the Saints stood and sang “God Be with You,” as tears streamed down their faces. Even the regular opera house ushers were moist-eyed as the spirit of the occasion touched their hearts.
One elderly lady who viewed the conference on closed-circuit television in the town hall told a missionary, “Young man, I’ve been looking for this for eighty-one years.”
The area conference in Sydney had come to an end, but its impact will long be felt.