“Conference Center Draws Members from Many Nations,” Ensign, May 2000, 106
They came to see the new building. They came because it was the first conference of the new millennium. They came because they wanted to be part of history. But most of all, thousands of Church members from around the world came to April’s general conference because they had dreamed of seeing and hearing the living prophets firsthand and now they knew they could. With the completion of the 21,000-seat auditorium of the Conference Center, many from distant locales rejoiced in being able to attend.
“I never dreamed this would be possible for me,” said Manuel Bauzán Carvajal of the Palmas Ward, Cuernavaca México Stake. “I haven’t come before because I knew the chances of getting into the Tabernacle were small. But now I’m able to enter, and for the first time I’ve heard the prophet’s words as they came from his lips.”
Foketti Brown’s time-weathered face beamed when ushers officially welcomed her as the first ticket holder to enter the Conference Center. “I’ve been waiting for this day for nearly 50 years, since the time I joined the Church,” said the 72-year-old temple worker from Apia, Samoa.
For many like Brother Carvajal and Sister Brown, who may ordinarily wait weeks to see a videotape of conference or months to read the translated talks in Church magazines, hearing the words of Church leaders in person was an unforgettable blessing.
Many members who live in or near Salt Lake City were satisfied to wait until another conference so that others from afar could attend this time. “We can come another time,” said 90-year-old Paul Jespersen, a member of President Gordon B. Hinckley’s home ward. “I’m really glad that members from outlying areas could go.”
While many were impressed with the beauty and grandeur of the Conference Center, what impressed them more was the Spirit that could be felt. Being with thousands of other Latter-day Saints was also a strengthening experience. “I don’t have the words to express what I felt as we all stood together and sang the congregational hymn in our own languages,” said 69-year-old Bertha Estrada Trujillo of Mexico. “I couldn’t understand the other languages, but I could feel of each member’s spirit as we sang together.”
Ato Dadson of the Dansoman Ward, Accra Ghana Lartebiokorshie Stake, observed, “It’s a mighty thing meeting Church members from different races and different countries. I sat by a man from Latin America. He could not speak English; I could not speak Spanish. But somehow we were able to communicate. He took my hand and I felt a bond. That’s how it is when you meet any Latter-day Saint. We are all brothers and sisters.”
Hearing conference with so many Church members “gives you that impetus to go home and do more, to be more faithful, to be more determined to live the gospel,” said Carol Rigby of the Eastwood Ward, Nottingham England Stake.
The stories of faith go on and on. A group of some 160 members came from Seoul, Korea. More than 400 came from the six stakes of Tahiti. On their way home to Cardston, Canada, 50 elderly members in one bus held a testimony meeting that lasted the entire 12-hour trip.
“What we can do now when we go home,” said Lorenzo Tabin of Manila, Philippines, “is to share our testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel and the wonderful feelings we had as we witnessed this great day.”