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It's the words of the prophet — not the voice — that matters

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 27 2011 5:00 a.m. MDT

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.

I was born in Utah and grew up in southeastern Idaho. Aside from a stint as a white-water rafting guide in Alaska just prior to my mission in Europe, I never experienced much of life outside of areas with predominantly Mormon populations.

My first general conference in another country came during my mission in Italy. I remember longing to hear what the brethren were saying. The weekend of the conference came and went. Several months later, I received a copy of the Ensign with the conference addresses and poured over them with new gratitude for the words of living prophets.

Shortly thereafter, our mission president authorized us to watch general conference.

I remember the excitement I felt as the date of the next conference drew near. My companion and I met with the members of our branch as a satellite feed projected the familiar images of Temple Square onto the screen. As the prophet welcomed us to general conference, there was a delay of several seconds before his voice was superimposed with that of the interpreter. During those seconds, I felt a rush of emotion as the voice I knew so well touched my spirit and provided me with a much-needed taste of home.

At first, I was disappointed when the interpreter’s voice made it impossible to focus on the prophet’s voice. It was a voice I knew and loved. Yet as I looked around the room, I realized that it was full of people who were gathered together not to hear the prophet’s voice but to hear his words.

In an instant, I came to understand how the doctrines of the gospel transcend all boundaries. The church is headquartered in Salt Lake City, but the doctrines apply equally to all men and women regardless of nationality or language.

And while the actual voice of the prophet provides an immense feeling of immediate comfort, it is his words which, if heeded, provide lasting safety.

My experience with general conference outside of the United States has helped me to develop a greater appreciation not just for the Lord’s servants but for the words that he gives through them.

Kurt Manwaring is pursuing a graduate degree in public administration at the University of Utah. He is a consultant with Manwaring Consulting LLC and maintains a personal blog at www.kurtsperspective.blogspot.com.

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