Church History Library
President Joseph F. Smith and counselors John Rex Winder, left, and Anthon Henrik Lund made up the First Presidency in 1908.

"Visitors find hotels full. Many times people have walked streets all night in quest of a room."

That was a Deseret News headline about the 79th Semiannual General Conference 100 years ago, on Oct. 3, 1908.

In contrast to previous years, when conference-goers would easily find "a hospitable door open to him or her," that was no longer the case.

"It means that there is not the warm cordiality existing as of yore between city residents and their country cousins," the News reported and advocated thoughtful persons provide bed and board for all conference visitors this time around.

Since the annual Utah State Fair was also held in early October, Salt Lake City had a large increase in outside visitors, who remained at least several days or more.

Large crowds at general conference made an overflow meeting in the Assembly Hall necessary and others stood up in the back of the Salt Lake Tabernacle rather than miss a session. Later, overflow church members also had to be seated in Barratt Hall (a downtown university building), as the Tabernacle and Assembly Hall were both full.

Lacking electronic sound systems, totally separate meetings had to be held in the three buildings. Church members also had to attend services in person, as there were no other means to hear them.

The Deseret News also reported that conference was perhaps quieter than it had ever been, despite the record large crowds. That's because child care was provided for the first time for small babies, so that mothers could attend services in a peaceful condition.

President Joseph F. Smith urged temperance and the observance of the Word of Wisdom.

Later, President Smith said that seven full-time missionaries had died while serving in various missions since Jan. 1, 1908. One elder had drowned and the other six passed away from illness.

"This is sad news," he said. "We are sorry indeed for the kindred and loved ones of these good and faithful elders."

He also noted there were now a little more than 2,000 elders laboring in the mission field.

Elder James E. Talmage spoke about the evils of speculative theology. He said too many people confuse their opinion with facts.

"But there are many things we do not know, and we should not be afraid to make it known that we do not know them," Elder Talmage said.

Conference and fair attendees were also warned against crooks, pickpockets and the like, who will even pose as policemen to try to take money from people.

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