Despite the fact that I’ve lived in Utah most of my life, I’d never been to General Conference until this weekend. In the tabernacle days, the idea of standing in line all night in order to maybe get in sounded miserably unappealing. However, even since the conference center has been used, it still didn’t call to me. It’s just really nice to sleep in and then watch conference on TV in my pajamas or sweats or whatever. But for some reason, when my bishop announced that he had tickets to a couple sessions, I really, really wanted to go. Weird, I know. As soon as sacrament meeting was over, I threw myself over the benches, flinging sunbeams and deacons over my shoulders, and stopped with a screech in front of the bishop to ask for a couple tickets. (I may have exaggerated a bit in that previous sentence.)
Thus I found myself in Salt Lake this weekend, with tickets to the Saturday morning and Sunday morning sessions of conference. I brought my camera along and thought I’d share some images. (There are lots of pictures below, so it’s not the most dial-up friendly post. I have dial-up, so I feel your pain.)
Saturday morning was mild, but rain and possibly snow was in the forecast. However, the weather was fine at this moment, and it made it a pleasant walk to the conference center.
Unfortunately, as usually happens when crossing through Temple Square, the missionaries stopped me to chat. Man, I hate that. Temple Square was crawling with people on their way to conference, so I thought I’d just be one with the crowd and not have to carry on a conversation, but I must look approachable or something. They asked me what brought me to Temple Square. “Um, General Conference,” I responded, thinking it had to be pretty obvious. We chatted for a couple minutes and I prepared to leave them to snap some pictures of the temple. They offered to take my picture with the temple in the background. I passed, but asked if I could take their picture.
Our paths crossed again Sunday morning, but we just said hello.
I’d never seen ducks in the reflection pool before. Maybe they were drawn by the Spirit :-).
There are several groups of missionaries (and a few others who joined in) singing hymns around the area to set the tone and to be a joyful sound over the shouts of the few, but annoying, protesters.
The police officers seemed to be having fun teasing the protester, who was taking it in good fun. I couldn’t hear exactly what they were saying to each other, though.
Here was the line to enter. It wasn’t very long. You have to go through metal detectors and have your purse or bag searched. They aren’t gentle when searching. If you’ve got a camera or something else breakable, make sure it is safe in a padded case or something. They’re nicer than the airport people, though.
I was waaaaay up and waaaaay over, but I was still able to get some pictures. I arrived just as they opened to doors to let people in – an hour and half before conference started, and the choir was practicing the songs they would sing that morning. It was wonderful to hear them for quite a while. It meant I got to hear “Consider the Lilies” more than just the one time performed during conference, which was a lovely treat. A lot of the guys have their jackets off. I wonder if it is hot down there. By the way, with all of the bodies in the conference center, it is NOT hot (though the choir members are under lights, so they might be a different case). Actually, I was pretty sure hypothermia was setting in during the Sunday morning session. Brrr.
Ah, everyone has arrived. The sisters on the right side of the stand always confused me. Adding up the Primary, Young Women, and Relief Society general presidencies, you just don’t get as many people as there are on the stand. I finally had that cleared up. The sisters on the bottom two or three rows are the wives of the men in the Quorum of the Twelve. The husbands and wives come in sort of randomly and separately before the session, but after the session, as the Quorum of Twelve file out, they join their wives and walk out hand in hand or arm in arm or arms around waists (as was the case of Elder Bednar and his wife after the Sunday morning session). Awwwww….
It’s about 5 minutes before start, and an announcement is given asking everyone to be courteous to the protesters (it was the rare person who did anything besides ignore the protesters, and the rest seemed kind of amused and took their picture – I was the latter) and to follow traffic rules when leaving. The voice also tells us that there is no photography or recording allowed, so I put my camera away. Obviously no one cared about photography before conference starts, though. There were several ushers inches away from me, and no one objected to me taking pictures.
One either side of the Twelve is a bench seat for the non-front row folks to sit on when they come down while the previous speaker finishes up. This way, they are close to the podium and can get there in just a few seconds. Bishop Burton came down way early and was there for quite a while. They can also get a bit of water there before going up to speak (or, at least Elder Tingey did during the Sunday morning session).
A lady a few rows from me seemed to have passed out or something. She wasn’t out for more than a few seconds, but still…. Some nearby men offered assistance, but the lady who was with her said that they were okay. A couple minutes later she changed her mind and a couple strong men helped the poor woman up the stairs (and there were a lot of stairs to go up) during the rest hymn. She was looking mighty woosy. Hopefully she recovered.
During the rest hymn in the middle of the Saturday morning session (“Now Let Us Rejoice”), when everyone stands (ahhhh… that feels good), President Hinckley tapped his cane in rhythm with the words.
When Sister Beck finished her talk and returned to her seat, the sister next to her (possibly the YW president – I’m too far away to actually see faces, so I’m not sure) took her arm and hand and seemed to offer “congrats” or “good job” or “you survived”. I’m not sure if actual words were exchanged (again, nosebleed section), but she kept her friendly hand on Sister Beck through part of the next hymn.
When President Monson sat down after giving his talk, President Hinckley patted him on his arm. I wonder if the members of the Twelve who have been in that quorum for quite a while still get nervous when they speak.
You can tell when the choir is going to be singing next (aside from the announced order of things). During the Saturday morning session, the organist would turn on the organ lights as the speaker is finishing up. During the Sunday morning session, the organist left the lights on the whole session, but you could see when he moved from his chair to the organ. You can also tell by the movement of the cameras. On the front lower level, directly in front of the stand, are three cameras. The two side ones are low when they are aiming at the speakers, but when the speaker is finishing up, only the middle camera stays on the speaker, and the side cameras move up higher to be level with the choir. When they move up, it looks kind of alien or else like weapons from Star Wars. “Okay, you aim for the sopranos, I’ll take out the tenors.”
When the Saturday morning session ended, I was sad but not surprised that I didn’t get to hear President Hinckley. I was thus very happy when he spoke in the Sunday morning session when I was there.
It had rained while we were in the Saturday morning session, but had stopped. The temperature was quickly dropping, though, and more rain was definitely coming, so I just snapped a couple pictures of the temple and went back to my hotel to watch the Saturday afternoon session on TV. The picture above is of the conference center just after the Saturday afternoon session started. It is very wet and cold out there.
I arrived bright and early again for the Sunday morning session. Still in the nosebleed seats, but slightly more central. I was right by a camera this time (most of the cameras are remotely controlled). Before the session started, the cameraman (in whatever yonder control box he or she is in) turned the camera to us behind it. Several people waved, and the cameraman waved back by quickly moving the camera up and down. Ah, a friendly cameraman.
It was again wonderful to hear the choir practicing for conference as well as for “Music and the Spoken Word”. A couple minutes before “Music and the Spoken Word” started, Lloyd Newell (a.k.a., the Spoken Word guy) welcomed us and told us to be quiet during the program. He also told us that Justice Sandra Day O’Connor was in the audience for that show and for the immediately-following session of conference.
Sunday was a beautiful day. It was quite cold walking to the conference center in the morning, but by the time we came out of the morning session, it was a great temperature – still slightly cool, but comfortable. There seemed to be more protesters Sunday than on Saturday.
However, there were a lot more conference-goers just milling about, enjoying the beautiful ambiance. That reflection pool is quite a draw. Obviously I was drawn to it too.