Oct 7, 2007

Conference Memories

by Marsha Ward

I love General Conference.

This morning, as I watched (watched!) the proceedings from the Conference Center on BYU TV via satellite in the comfort of my living room and my pajamas, I reflected back on my childhood, when we didn't enjoy the miracles of today. I think we were able, from time to time, to listen to a session on the radio, but I don't have any memories of my family sitting around the radio doing that, so I may be wrong. Maybe we didn't have a radio all the time. I know we didn't have a television.

If I remember correctly, during my childhood, the only reliable way to listen to General Conference was to go to Salt Lake City and sit in the Tabernacle or the Assembly Hall, or perhaps a certain stake center. There was no television broadcast. There were no satellites at stake centers. There was no Internet as we know it.

We lived in Arizona, so we didn't make it to Conference very often. I can recall one trip when I was seven or eight years old. I don't remember going to the Tabernacle, though. We must have listened at a stake center.

I do remember that we always had a subscription to the Church's magazine (oh, help me with the name), the one that came before The Ensign. Was it The Improvement Era, or was that the youth magazine?

Anyway, in those days we had to wait three months for the issue with the Conference talks to come. That's right, three months. I particularly liked the annual issue that had the Church leaders' pictures in the middle. You could take it out and put it on the wall, and we did that. My parents encouraged us to read the messages from the prophet, his counselors, and the twelve apostles. I believe we discussed them in family meetings.

When I went on my mission, if we could get access to a radio with shortwave capacity at a member's home, we could listen to Conference. By this time, if you had a cooperating television station in your town, you could watch Conference, but that didn't happen in South America.

When audio cassette tapes appeared in the world, the Church made sets of the Conference talks available. If you could afford it, you could relive Conference anytime you wanted to.

By and by, I married, and eventually, a miracle happened. The Church started to put satellite dishes up outside stake centers in the United States. We could go to the stake center on both Saturday and Sunday and watch Conference! What a remarkable blessing that was! I required my children to attend at least one of the two Sunday sessions. I went to the Saturday sessions as often as I could.

Along came video technology, and you could order sets of video tapes with the talks. What a remarkable thing! Computer typesetting brought us the Conference talks in The Ensign in May and November, only a month after the Conference. But, now you don't even have to wait that long. By next Thursday, you can go to the Internet and all the talks will be posted on the Church's website. You can also order DVDs of the Conference.

Where I live I don't have a broadband Internet connection like I did in the Valley, where I could watch streaming video of the sessions. I believe I can get the audio version, though. As I mentioned before, I have satellite television and watch Conference on BYU TV. That's certainly more upllifting than the TV station that broadcasts loud cartoon shows between Conference sessions. It is a great blessing and a wonder to me.

God continues to bless the lives of His children with innumerable advances in technology that bring the words of the prophets into our lives in immediate and miraculous ways. It's up to us to take advantage of our miracles to partake of the Spirit. It is my hope that we will do so, on this and each Conference weekend.


  1. I remember one Tucson channel and one Phoenix channel each running a different session of Conference on TV twice a year, though the picture often wasn't very good quality. The next step was a radio stream up at the ward building, then satellite at the stake center when I got into college.

    Now, like you, I can watch General Conference in my jammies right in my living room via my own satellite TV. (Lots more comfortable than sitting in a computer chair to watch it on the internet, for all it's "miraculous technology". ;-) )

    Truly, we live in a blessed age, when so many of us can, with some validity, now say, "I was taught at the feet of the prophets".

    And yes, the Improvement Era was the precursor to the Ensign. :-)

  2. Aha! Then the youth magazine that came along sometime during my life must have been The Era of Youth, and the children's mag was The Children's Friend. I remember this all changed about the time I got married in 1972. Maybe in 1971. The advertisements were out and the names were changed to The Ensign (en - sign, not en - sun), The New Era, and The Friend.

    Of course, The Improvement Era wasn't the first church magazine, but it's the first I ever remembered receiving--I'm not THAT old!

  3. Yikes! I forgot the Relief Society Magazine that got dropped when The Ensign came along. I remember so many ladies were a tad peeved at losing "their" magazine.

  4. But anyway... I have a friend who said you can tell you're in Zion when you watch conference in your pajamas. How sweet it is.

  5. Conference was amazing! I, too, love being able to watch and listen in my home. Our recently converted son-in-law said, "I love General Conference. I get to hear the gospel taught without having to deal with all the annoying people."...sigh...you have to know him to understand what he meant...
    He had asked his nonmember parents to record the sessions for him. That way he could get his mom to watch them with him...then he had a 3 hour discussion about the gospel with her. He knows that when his mother accepts the gospel, his father will eventually do so as well.

    I thought the talks were very direct and clear and left no doubt as to their meaning. Awesome!

  6. Ah, such glorious memories you have invoked for us about conference, technology, and publications. I'm three days into post-conference, and it's my turn to blog, yet I haven't decided what to write about. I am torn between conference, publications, and age. What a wealth of subject matter lies in the counsel to "write what you know." Thanks for sharing.

    BTW, I don't recall an 'Era of Youth' publication, but I remember 'The Instructor,' which was a Sunday School magazine, if my memory is correct.


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