Editor's note: While thousands gather in the Conference Center for general conference, many more tune in around the globe via several types of technology. This week, Mormon Times shares experiences and memories of those who have participated in general conference outside of the United States.
Born and raised in the LDS Church in England, I remember general conference broadcasts from my youth. In those days, church membership in England was still small; many had emigrated to the U.S. and growth was slow. Utah was thousands of miles away, not only across the Atlantic but also across the American continent, and contact with church leaders was very limited.
Each conference, what seems now like a very small band of members traveled to the one purpose-built chapel in our stake to listen to conference. This was many years before satellite broadcasts and online webcasts could bring conference directly into our homes. In those days, live conference sessions were brought to us via a scratchy telephone hookup from Salt Lake City, which sometimes broke down. We had seen photographs in the church magazines of conference sessions in the Tabernacle, but we had no real conception of what it was like to be at conference with church leaders. To help us visualise the distant speaker, as each apostle began to speak a slide transparency of that leader was projected onto a screen in front of the pews. Later in life, I did have the privilege of attending conference in the Tabernacle, seated only yards away from some of those same church leaders.
One early experience stands out; I often think of it. During conference I was sitting with a girl I admired and we were talking quietly, or so I thought. Suddenly, the stake president turned round from a few rows in front, looked me in the eye, and firmly told me to be quiet. I was embarrassed.
Immediately after the session he asked to speak with me. He told me that although I may not have realized it, I had a voice that carried. He pointed out that not only was I disturbing his concentration, it was disrespectful and irreverent to be chatting like that while an apostle of the Lord was speaking. I apologized and, realizing that he was right, thanked him for the correction.
Now I serve as the stake president, and that former stake president is one of our elder members. I’m sure he does not recall the incident, but it left a positive impression on me for the better. I have never forgotten that lesson of correction from long ago, for which I have always been grateful.
David M.W. Pickup serves as the stake president of the Chorley England Stake, based in Lancashire England, and is the author of "The Pick & Flower of England, the Story of the Mormons in Victorian England."