Ravell Call, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Cecilie Lundgreen and nine young women from a Mormon congregation in Norway will be among the more than 100,000 people who are expected to attend sessions of the 182nd Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the church's downtown Conference Center this weekend.
General sessions featuring sermons and instruction from LDS Church leadership will be held at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday, with a priesthood session for male church members age 12 and up scheduled for Saturday evening at 6.
Millions of church members and interested friends will be watching the proceedings via television, radio, satellite and Internet broadcasts. But for Lundgreen and her young friends and thousands of others who make their way to Salt Lake City and secure tickets to attend the sessions in the 21,000-seat Conference Center, conference attendance can be a meaningful — even life-changing — experience.
"I've been here many times for conference," said Lundgreen, one of the Fredrikstad Ward's Young Women leaders who travels extensively as a professional golfer. The last time she attended conference in Salt Lake City she says she was overwhelmed by the desire to help her young friends in her home ward feel the same spirit she was feeling.
"I had been fasting and prayer about what I could do to bless the lives of these girls, and I felt like I wanted to give them this experience," she said. "That was the impression I had."
So she went back to Norway and talked through the ideas with her ecclesiastical leaders.
"My bishop said, 'I think you're crazy, but if you want to do this I'll support you," Lundgreen said. Working closely with the girls' families, they came up with a plan: if the girls would find a way to earn $30 per week for a year, that would give them enough money to pay their tithing (Latter-day Saints are asked to donate 10 percent of their income to the church), buy an airplane ticket and their food and contribute to ground transportation in Utah.
"There are nine girls who are here because they were able to do that," Lundgreen said, her pride in their accomplishment clearly evident. "I can't believe that we're actually here!"
The group arrived in Salt Lake City last Friday, in time to participate in last Saturday's General Relief Society Meeting at the Conference Center. They have also toured Temple Square, climbed Ensign Peak, performed baptisms for the dead in the Salt Lake Temple, visited with general LDS Church authorities and Young Women leaders and participated in joint activities with area youth groups.
"They liked the idea of meeting American boys," Lundgreen said, chuckling. "Imagine that."
But the most important element of the extraordinary trip, according to Lundgreen, will happen this weekend.
"For me, it was important to come and experience conference," she said. "I had a testimony, I knew the church was true, but coming here and sitting in conference and listening to the prophet in person made it all more real for me."
And that's what she hopes happens for her girls Saturday and Sunday.
"I want them to understand that being active in the church isn't something we do because Mom and Dad say it," said Lundgreen, who joined the LDS Church 10 years ago. "I want them to have their own testimony — a firm foundation — and I want them to understand that you have to have that burning testimony.
"I don't expect that attending general conference in person will give them a testimony," she said. "But if they feel something here, it will strengthen the testimony they already have. And I wanted to give them the opportunity to feel that, and to be strengthened."
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