Today, like most of you, my family and I will watch conference. We’ll sprawl in the family room in our pajamas while we eat French toast, take notes, and, after the French toast is gone, run to the kitchen for more snacks during the choir numbers. Between sessions we might go for a drive up the canyon or make an apple pie—two of our favorite conference traditions. In our house, conference weekend is one of the most anticipated weekends of the year, a weekend when we get a big dose of family togetherness, eat lots of good food, and receive much-needed spiritual renewal and instruction.
But conference wasn’t always a regular semi-annual occurrence for me. I grew up in Australia, which I loved, but that meant that we never got to watch or listen to conference (it was back in the 70s—yes, I am that old). But in November 1975, when I was 15, it was announced that an area conference would be held in Sydney the following February–in the Sydney Opera House, no less–and the prophet, President Spencer W. Kimball, and several other General Authorities of the Church, including President N. Eldon Tanner, Elder Bruce R. McConkie, and Bishop Victor L. Brown, would be attending the conference. It would be the first time a prophet had visited Australia in many years.
The news traveled like electricity through the wards and stakes in eastern Australia. It was all we could talk about at church and at home. I wrote the following in my diary: “Everywhere you go there is an air of suppressed excitement, so strong that you can almost touch it. What a privilege—a prophet of the Lord visiting us here!” My parents, my sister, and I joined the adult, youth, and children’s choirs, respectively, that would be singing during the four conference sessions (three sessions on Saturday, one on Sunday, plus a cultural celebration the night before the conference), and we drove back and forth to rehearsals every week for several months. I made myself a new dress (I actually sewed in those days) to wear while singing in the youth choir: a soft-green, floor-length crepe dress with puffed sleeves and a sweetheart neckline. Because we lived over an hour away from Sydney, my parents booked several hotel rooms in Sydney for us and my aunts and uncles and cousins to share so we could attend all of the conference sessions.
The conference was all that I anticipated it would be and more. From the cultural celebration, which highlighted the Church’s history in Australia through dancing and song, to the various sessions during which we heard inspired words from Church leaders, to singing in the choir along with a hundred other teenagers in the Opera House and feeling goose bumps prickle my skin, to sitting with my mother in the mother-daughter session on Saturday night and listening to Sister Kimball speak, to sharing a hotel room with my favorite cousins, it was the best weekend I’d ever spent. My mother, several of my siblings, my grandmother, and I even got to ride on the General Authorities’ bus after the Saturday afternoon session, when my mother pushed her way onto the bus during a rainstorm, not realizing that it wasn’t a public bus. Despite the driver’s protests, the Brethren on the bus graciously let all of us board and ride with them to their hotel, which was right next to ours. During our ride we greeted and chatted with Bishop Brown, Elder McConkie, President Tanner, and others. Elder McConkie even leapt out of his seat to give us a hearty handshake as we introduced ourselves.
But my favorite part of conference was seeing President Kimball and receiving my own witness of his prophetic calling. When he entered the room before the Sunday morning session began, everyone stood and a hushed silence swept over the congregation. The room seemed to glow, and as I looked down on that beloved man, who radiated light and love and goodness, I was swept from head to toe with an electric, tingling sensation, and I knew that I was in the presence of a true prophet. This feeling intensified later in the session after President Kimball spoke, when we all sang “We Thank Thee O God for a Prophet.” When the session ended, we stood and watched President Kimball leave the room while we sang “God Be with You ‘Til We Meet Again,” and I noticed that even the ushers—none of whom were LDS—were crying.
All too quickly, the conference was over, and we headed back to our home in Emu Plains. But I never forgot the feelings I had that weekend—the warmth of the Spirit, the reverence and gratitude I felt at being in the presence of a prophet, the sense of community I shared with the thousands of other Australian Saints who attended the conference. I’ve had many experiences with conferences over the years—including sitting in the Tabernacle as a young adult, listening to President Benson speak; watching conference at home while my young children built forts out of pillows and blankets; attending the general women’s session in the Conference Center with my teenage daughter; and now, with my children grown, watching conference in our pajamas as we eat French toast and take notes—but that area conference in Sydney will always be my favorite. It was the conference where my love for and appreciation of apostles and prophets began, and where I learned the joy that comes from being a Latter-day Saint.
What are some of your favorite conference memories? Have you ever been in the presence of a prophet or apostle? How did it feel? When have you felt a witness that the President of the Church is a prophet of God?