News Story

First-Time Conference Attendees Speak of Experience

Regardless of what country they live in, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who journey to Salt Lake City for the semiannual general conference meetings share similar reactions.

In their home stakes and wards, they view conference on a satellite feed to their meetinghouses at odd hours and usually while sitting on wooden benches. Though transmitted sessions of the conference are meaningful, attending the meetings in person provides a different experience.

Hannah Walters and Jacqui Mount of Birmingham, England, planned for more than a year to attend Salt Lake City conference sessions in April 2009. The idea germinated at a Church youth outing where the young women talked to others who had previously made the journey. “It’s something that a lot of English people determine to do, at least one time in their lives,” explained Walters, who grew up as a member the Church.

Mount noted the surprise of being around so many people of like faith. “I’ve never been around so many Mormons before,” she admitted. “I was at a conference in Manchester of about 1,000 people, but to be with 21,000 — that was amazing!”

The young woman had a two-fold purpose in her travels. “I just got engaged, and I also came to Salt Lake to find a wedding dress,” Mount said.

Walters observed subtle differences between the broadcast and the live experience in the moments before the beginning of a conference session. “When I walked into the Conference Center on Saturday morning and saw all the people and heard the organ, it really hit me that I was here. When the prophet walked in, the room fell silent and everyone stood up to honor him. I thought, ‘Oh, that’s what happens in the two minutes of silence we see at home before the broadcast starts.’”

For Cintia Garcia, an accounting professional from Jundai, São Paulo, Brazil, the response was similar. “Many people save a long time and sacrifice a lot to be here. We are happy and glad and amazed to see all of this,” Garcia reported. The Brazilian woman, a member of the Church for 15 years, planned her trip to conference for nearly 18 months. “It’s a very special experience for me,” she said. “Knowing everything I know, it is a dream for me to be here and listen to the prophets of God help us strengthen our testimonies and help us feel we are in the right way.”

Emigeio Gonzalez Niquet of Mexico, 25, is the first one in his entire family to attend conference in Salt Lake City. The young man recently completed a Church mission in Idaho and expressed gratitude for the opportunity “to be there with the servants of the Lord just a few feet away from me, to hear their voices and feel like they were talking to me personally.”

Many millions of Mormons who are not able to attend in Salt Lake City participate via local television or satellite broadcast in more than 6,000 meetinghouses in 85 countries or on the Internet. The 179th Semiannual General Conference of the Church is being translated into 92 languages.

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