Part of a 13 million-member family while watching general conference in Poland

Published: Thursday, Oct. 8 2015 6:55 p.m. MDT

Justin Ritter (Julia Woodbury) Justin Ritter (Julia Woodbury)

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 didn't fully realize just how widespread The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its blessings are until I watched general conference in a country where it is still very small.

After growing up on the Wasatch Front, where sessions are shown on local TV, general conference during my mission in Poland was an entirely new experience. The only place in the country you could see it was in the only LDS chapel in Warsaw, Poland, where it was beamed in on satellite.

The members at conference were either those who lived in the city or the handful who had made the trip from Mormon branches scattered across the country. We missionaries who served in the area joined them, bringing investigators when we could. It was a time for gathering and learning that united everyone physically and spiritually.

After months of serving in small branches and working in areas with few members, it felt wonderful to be surrounded by the other Saints at the chapel and see thousands more assembled in the Conference Center. Watching those conference sessions, thousands of miles from Temple Square, I felt more connected to the church than I ever had.

At the beginning of my first general conference in Poland, the usual announcement that members around the world were joining the conference by satellite took on a whole new importance. Back home I hadn't thought about it much, but this time was different. They were talking about us — and, I came to realize, about thousands, if not millions, more like us.

Moments later, President Gordon B. Hinckley rose to speak at this conference in April 2004. He put into words what I was just beginning to really see for the first time.

"We are now a great international family, living in many nations and speaking many languages," he said. "To me, it is a marvelous and miraculous thing that you are able to see us and hear us across the globe. ... Once we were recognized as a Utah church. Now we have become a great international body."

We were a family — those of us in the chapel that day, the members gathered in the Conference Center, the congregations tuning in all over the world and countless others. We're different in so many ways but we are all united as brothers and sisters in the gospel. My international conference experience gave me a glimpse of just how big that family is — and an inkling of how many lives the gospel has touched.

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