Sunday, April 5, 2015

General Conference in the Conference Center: A Hallowed Place

Conference Center: A Hallowed Place
Darrel L. Hammon

The LDS Conference Center

There is something about attending General Conference in person. Despite the crowds, both on the grounds of the Conference Center and on the sidewalks, a sense of anticipation creeps upon you. A sense of awe and immense happiness permeate the entire place. Today was no different.

Los Hammon y Los Hernández
We had the grand opportunity to accompany President and Sister Hernández, former President of the Santo Domingo East Mission in the Dominican Republic. They are wonderful people with incredible testimonies. Although they are from Puerto Rico, they now live in Dallas, surrounded by their four children and their families.
The Conference Center from the outside
Once inside, we encountered a mass of people, all there for the same reason: to listen to prophets, seers, and revelators teach us about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Since this was Easter Sunday, we also knew we would hear much about Christ's Atonement and how important it is in our lives and in the lives of the people around us.
Each person had a ticket with a section number written on it. We headed in that direction. I had to stop at a different door and check in my camera case. Numerous volunteers were standing as sentinels—everywhere—ready to answer any question you might have. They were kind and gracious and always pointed us in the right direction.
Inside view of the Conference Center
Soon we were moving with the flow, up the elevator to Terrace Section. Our seats were on the far wall, stage left. No matter how many times I enter the Conference Center, I am awed with the structure and the construction and just the immenseness of the place. Over 21,000 people can enter and be comfortable. The acoustics are phenomenal.               
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir
 At 9:30 a.m. sharp, the “Spoken Word” began with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing. No other choir in the world is like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Their sound is unique because they sing with power and authority. Each of them has been called to the Choir. This is their calling, and they sing beautifully, especially our favorite “Consider the Lilies”—so melodious and incredible. We could listen to it over and over again.
 At 9:57 a.m., the crowd hushed and stood. We watched our dearly beloved Prophet, Thomas S. Monson, enter the hallowed Conference Center. The humble silence hung from the ceiling and lingered long and reverent. Then, he took his seat, and the entire 21,000+ people took their seats. Within a few minutes, the conference began with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir filling the Conference Center with their awesomeness.

The Mackenson Noël Family from Haiti
After the opening prayer, President Henry B. Eyring announced that President Monson will be the first speaker. President Monson stepped up to the pulpit and began. He revealed  three new temples to be built in Abidjan, Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire); Port-Au Prince, Haiti; and Bangkok, Thailand. Joanne and I looked each other, and I had Joanne repeat: Haiti! Haiti! We were ecstatic! I immediately emailed Mackenson Noël, our good friend who lives in Haiti. His return was also immediate: “Darrel! Thank you. We are blessed. We learnt to suffer with joy; then the blessing comes!!!"

English Daisies
Soon, the morning session was over. We cried, we laughed, we leaped for joy, and we felt the spirit as we listened to President Monson, Sister Rosemary Wixom, Elder José A. Teixeira, Bishop Gérald Caussé, Elder Brent H. Nielson, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, and President Dieter F. Uchtdorf. All talks were enlightening; Elder Nielson spoke about his sister who had left the church and then returned after 15 years of being gone. His parallel life with the “Prodigal Son” was comforting to us.
Outside, the people were milling about, standing and visiting about what had just gone on,  and some just observing the release of the thousands of Saints who had come today to listen to their beloved Prophet and other General Authorities. 

Garden near the Conference Center
We bid farewell to los Hernández and headed to the parking garage. We stopped and stood on the lawn that overlooked the temple. Literally hundreds of people were there: taking pictures, admiring the temple scene, smelling flowers, and just basking in the quiet reverence they had recently felt. They wanted to keep it close for a few minutes longer.
The Salt Lake Temple
Yes, Conference time is an incredible time. We were so blessed to have spent it in the Conference Center and soaking up the unwavering spirit that lingers there always. It’s almost palpable. Joanne and I know the Savior lives and atoned for our sins. We love Him and our Heavenly Father. We know that to love Them means that we obey their commandments. And we will continue trying to do so. 

Gorgeous tulips