I hate having to admit this, but I have never been to a session of General Conference for The Church of Jesus Christ of LatterDay Saints (my church) in the new conference center. And by new, I mean about 10 or 15 years old (too tired to go research.)
Why you ask? I dunno. Maybe because I'm just too lazy to make the effort to get tickets, and then take it even a step further and actually leave my bed, get dressed and venture out on a Sunday when I have the rare opportunity to do "church" from home and in my jammies. Pure, unadulterated laziness. Watching conference at home means, the cozy fireplace on, the recliner sofa engaged, and the huge, high-def screen TV. So big and so clear, I can see a speck of lint on a speaker's suit.
Well all that changed this past conference when a friend stopped in the store and asked me about getting tickets. "Can I buy like a two-day pass or something?" was how he phrased it.
I laughed, explained that each ward gets allocated some and that the missionaries he was working with could probably get him some. He didn't seem too convinced so before I could even think about it, the words "I'll get you tickets" came out of my mouth.
Now what? I'd committed. First thing I did was check with my own Bishop to see what we had left as a ward. Priesthood session. Well that wasn't getting me anywhere. Next, I posed the question in our ward facebook group page in case someone else had a link to getting some seats. Within a few minutes, a former ward member and facebook friend messaged me to let me know she thought she could help, and by the next day or so, I had confirmation from her that there were 3 tickets for the Sunday afternoon session at Will Call with my name on them. SCORE!! And all of a sudden, I was excited for the opportunity!
Sunday afternoon, Splenda Daddy and I met up with our dear friend Galen and headed downtown. Not really knowing where to park, Splenda dropped us off at the corner by the conference center and he went in search of a place to leave the car. As we waited at the corner for the light to turn so we could cross the street with the masses of people gathering, a protester was right behind us yelling his hateful message. I tried to tune him out, but my natural man and inner contentious personality wanted to argue with him. I think the fact that I had someone with me, stopped me. I didn't want to engage in that kind of crap with my friend watching. It wouldn't end well.
We made our way across the street and into the throngs of people. One thing captured my attention. Several people were standing holding up fingers or signs with the number of tickets needed on them. They were dressed in their Sunday best, and basically begging for an admission seat. I felt slightly guilty that I was just going to stroll right up and get my tickets. I also immediately flashed upon the thought of people "waiting and asking for their temple work to be done so they could come in and move forward". Instantly, I was humbled.
After finding the Will Call door, we came upon a family of 5 or 6 people that were being told by the missionary at the gate that there were no tickets and the best they could hope for was an unclaimed seat after the session started. I watched their faces as they were turned away, and felt dejected for them, but again, humbled and grateful that our tickets were secured. After showing my picture ID, leaving a ticket for Splenda Daddy, going through security, and having volunteers show us where to go, we entered the big auditorium and my breath was taken away. I've been in there before, but I forgot how big and simply wonderful it was. It felt like I had the golden ticket, passed the test and made it to the magic kingdom.
We found our section and then was told by the usher to find the seats we wanted. We moved down as close as we could with three empty seats. I quickly texted Splenda to tell him where to find us and then I settled in and looked around. HOLY SMOKES! We were right down in the front and center! Like right in front of the podium and just a few rows back from the orchestra pit! Talk about prime seats. Galen and I giggled at our success and began to make some small talk with people around us. How awesome it was to be there and know that within a few minutes, modern day prophets were going to come into the same room and preach the things that God wanted us to hear.
Splenda Daddy made it in time, and after capturing a quick pic, the audience was standing while President Monsen entered the center. Silence. Absolute, reverent silence.
(G, me, & the Splenda Daddy)
The session got underway, and seriously, it was absolutely the best! I generally have the attention span of a gnat so I usually do more people watching at things like this than actually paying attention to the program. But in this case, I was engaged with every speaker. The choir was fabulous and if you are interested in watching it, click here.
I took some notes, pondered some things in my mind, uttered quick prayers about a few things, and soaked up the Spirit. On occasion Galen would ask a question but for the most part, all three of us were just focused on the speakers and the messages they were sharing. For me, it was a beautiful, wonderful, exquisite experience that I won't ever forget. You know those times when you feel the Spirit so strongly that it imprints on your soul? Yeah, that kind of experience.
I felt like I didn't want it to end. Just another speaker or two. Maybe another song by the choir. I just wanted it to last a little bit longer. Such an unusual feeling for me, the girl that gets bored after about 10 minutes and wants to move on to something else. I think because of that usual trait of mine, I was cognizant of others around me that were less than engaged. As the prophet was speaking, or another leader in my church, I noticed that some attendees were whispering conversations, scratching each other's backs, playing with hair, looking down at phones..... etc. I was baffled by this. I couldn't understand why, when the PROPHET OF THE LORD and HIS WITNESSES are speaking to us, one wouldn't sit up and pay attention with exactness.
Now that I've had some time to think about it, my heart has softened a bit. I don't know the people around me. I don't know their situations, their life stories, their histories. I don't know what battles they are facing at the present time, I don't KNOW them. It isn't my place to criticize, judge or even take note of their response whether it's the same or different than mine. I am only responsible for myself. I have only myself to answer for. If the Lord one day asks me about the time I attended Conference, would I be able to answer Him in a way that pleased Him and myself?
After the final song and benediction, I wasn't ready to leave. Thankfully, the audience stood again as the Prophet made his way out of the auditorium. I tried not to pay attention to the people who were already leaving, again, I had to tell myself, I don't know them or their situation, it's none of my business - I can only answer for my actions. But dang, if I wasn't going to stand there and be as respectful as I could.
Slowly, we started making our way out of the auditorium, and with the masses spilled out onto the sidewalks. Gone were the people holding fingers and signs for tickets, just happy smiles as people talked about the great session, took photos on the beautiful grounds and headed in different directions.
We had a little hike to the car, which was totally fine because it gave us a chance to talk about the session, ask each other questions and discuss answers. Again, I was reminded of the things I have grown up with all my life and taken for granted when Galen asked questions like "What kind of blossoms are these? Smell them!" "Is this City Creek?" "Are we in the Avenues?" What a blessed girl I am to just know that those are Apricot blossoms, know the Popcorn Popping song, and be oriented in my beautiful Salt Lake City. I made a mental note to be more appreciative.
Our afternoon/evening continued with dinner at Corbin's house and some awesome discussion. Lot's of questions regarding my faith and church and much scripture studying together to find the answers. It was like the cherry on top of the Session Sundae. I got a little taste of what it must feel like to be a missionary for the church. The thrill of discussing what you love so dearly with someone who is curious to know and is interested in learning. And the real beauty is that Galen is my friend who will ALWAYS be my friend whether or not we eventually share membership in the same church. It's a beautiful thing to have relationships that don't hinge on conditions.
As I went to bed that night, I thanked Heavenly Father for the opportunity of that awesome day. To be where I was, with whom I was, doing what I was doing and most of all for feeling God's love throughout the entire day. Not much better than that kids. Not much better.
My favorite talk of the afternoon? This one.
Again, if you're interested in watching all or part of General Conference, click here and enjoy. Questions? Ask me, I'm happy to answer or find the answer or send missionary's to you to answer.
So another Conference weekend in the books. This one never to be forgotten.
Peace and blessings yo