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.