“Guests for General Conference,” Friend, Nov. 2003, 32
Abbie lived near Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah. She loved to see the Christmas lights twinkling in the winter and the tulips blooming in the spring, and hear the Tabernacle Choir singing all year round.
One day in sacrament meeting, Bishop Allen made an announcement: “Some Church members from Mexico are thinking about coming to general conference, and they’ll need places to stay. If any of you can host these guests, please talk to me after the meeting.”
On the way home from church, Abbie asked, “Will any of the visitors from Mexico come to our house for general conference?”
“I’m not sure, sweetie. But we’ve volunteered to let a family stay with us if they need to,” Dad said.
“Why do they want to come all this way for general conference? Can’t they watch it on TV?”
“They can watch it at their stake center,” Mom explained. “But until now, they have never had the opportunity to see a prophet in person. Do you remember how you felt when you saw President Hinckley?”
Abbie nodded. “I felt the Spirit really strongly when he walked into the room.” She had never been to general conference, but she had seen the prophet and two Apostles speak in other meetings. She had even gotten to shake an Apostle’s hand. Until now, she had never really thought about how special that was.
“Not every member of the Church gets a chance to see the prophet,” Dad said. “Some watch conference at a stake center and others listen to him on the radio. Some people can only read what he says weeks or months later.”
“Listening to him any way you can and obeying his words is what matters most,” Mom added.
Abbie knew that Mom was right, but she was still glad she had been able to see President Hinckley. She imagined living far away from Salt Lake, not being able to hear the prophet speaking inside the Conference Center or see the tulips blooming around the temple nearby. “I would travel a long way, too,” she decided aloud, “just to see the prophet once.” She hoped that the families from Mexico would come.
When the bishop called to tell Abbie’s dad that they would have guests for general conference, Abbie was excited and worried. Her family’s house was small. Would the visitors like staying here? She was also worried about the language differences. She didn’t know any Spanish! How would she talk to them?
Three weeks later, she stood with her parents in the stake center parking lot, waiting for their guests to arrive. Soon a dusty bus pulled into the lot. It jerked to a stop, and people piled out the door. They looked tired, and their clothes were wrinkled, but they were smiling.
Dad walked over to the group and started speaking in Spanish. He had learned it while serving a mission in Argentina. Soon he came back with a couple and their two children.
“This is Bishop Martinez, Sister Martinez, and their children, Isabel and Alejandro.” Alejandro was barely old enough to walk, but Isabel seemed to be only a bit younger than Abbie. Then Dad introduced Abbie and her mom to the Martinezes in Spanish.
“Hola,” Isabel said shyly.
“Hola,” Abbie repeated. Her dad had taught her that it meant “hello.” As Isabel smiled at her, Abbie’s worries disappeared. They couldn’t speak very well to each other, but they could still be friends.
After dinner, Isabel followed Abbie into her room. Abbie pulled out her box of toy dishes and food. Picking up a plastic apple, she told Isabel the English word.
“Apple?” Isabel repeated. “Manzana.”
“Manzana,” Abbie said. Isabel pretended to gobble it up, and they both laughed.
Isabel rummaged through the box and pulled out a little milk carton. “Leche,” she said. Abbie repeated the Spanish word, then told her the English word. One by one, they learned all the toys’ names.
“This is fun,” Abbie thought.
Suddenly, Isabel covered her face with her hands and cried, “Adios!” Abbie knew that meant good-bye. Confused, she wondered if she had somehow hurt Isabel’s feelings. But then Isabel opened her hands like shutters and yelled, “Hola!” She giggled. Her hands flapped shut again. “Adios!”
“It’s like peekaboo,” Abbie realized. She joined in. “Hello! Good-bye! Hello! Good-bye!”
The next day during conference, Abbie imagined Isabel sitting at the Conference Center, listening to a translator through headphones. She couldn’t wait for her new friend to come back and tell her what she thought of everything.
When the Martinezes returned, Isabel chattered excitedly. Abbie had never heard anyone talk so fast!
“What’s she saying, Dad?” Abbie asked. “Did she like conference?”
“Yes,” Dad answered with a smile. “She saw the prophet.” Abbie grinned.
In no time at all, Abbie and her family were taking the Martinezes back to the stake center to board their bus for home. Abbie felt so sad she couldn’t even look at Isabel. She didn’t want anyone to see her cry. But Isabel wasn’t going to leave without a good-bye. She hugged Abbie. Then she brought her hands up to her face. “Hola! Adios! Hola! Adios!” She laughed as she played their peekaboo game.
“Hello! Good-bye! Hello! Good-bye!” Abbie replied. She giggled, too, even though there was a lump in her throat.
As the bus drove away, Abbie tried to smile. “Can we have guests for general conference every year?” she asked. “I liked making a new friend.”
“The spirit of love reaches across language barriers. There is a purity about it that lifts the soul and causes us all to realize that we are the children of the same God.”
Elder Loren C. Dunn (1930–2001) of the Seventy, “The Gospel of Love,” Ensign, Nov. 1985, 12.