Editor's note: While thousands gather in the Conference Center for general conference, many more tune in around the globe via several types of technology. This week, Mormon Times shares experiences and memories of those who have participated in general conference outside of the United States.
Having experienced general conference in Utah and in Canada, the messages from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' semiannual conference are the same — but the feel of general conference is different in Newmarket, Ontario, Canada, where I live.
Where I live, general conference is not available on television. The first time I attended the general conference broadcast was in 2003. Unfortunately, the satellite was broken at the meetinghouse I attend in Newmarket, so we had to drive 12 miles south to the meetinghouse in Richmond Hill where we watched live general conference broadcasts the entire weekend. The other option I had was to stay home and miss it, but I never thought of not seeing my first general conference.
There is something special about watching general conference at a meetinghouse with brothers and sisters present. When the first session was over, a large group of us ate lunch at a restaurant. It was a good experience for me because I was able to get to know brothers and sisters better. You really get to know people when you have a meal with them. On Saturday night, there were last-minute preparations made and a large group of brethren in the elders quorum traveled from Newmarket to Richmond Hill in a van. I was the new person in the group and we had a lot of fun. That was the night I learned that our church has a great brotherhood.
In some wards and branches in Canada, everyone is invited to stay between sessions to eat together, and it becomes a big social event. It is also practical because some wards and branches cover huge areas, so it's easier for everyone to eat at church than go home and come back to the meetinghouse. We serve food — usually ice cream with every possible topping you can put on it — before each priesthood session.
Another time when our satellite broke, we again had to go to Richmond Hill. On Sunday, I forgot to bring my lunch to eat at the meetinghouse so I had no food. One of the elders in the Richmond Hill Ward, Elder Mike Stevens from Alberta, was not aware of my problem. However, he invited me to the baptism of a Middle Eastern family that was being baptized between sessions, and he invited me to stay for the food afterwards. It was one of the best lunches I have ever had, with all sorts of Middle Eastern foods. I learned that Heavenly Father provides when the need is there.
When I worked full time, I always booked the Monday after general conference off as a vacation day. The things I would normally do on the weekend I would do on Monday. That way I had all of my time free to watch all five sessions of general conference. Now that I am retired, I don't have to take Monday off anymore.
As technology progressed, I started to listen to general conference on my computer at home but I would still attend the priesthood session at the meetinghouse where I attend. Next, general conference was available via both audio and video where I live on my computer at home. For the past few years, I watch four sessions on my home computer in addition to going to the chapel for the priesthood session.
When I was able to attend general conference in Salt Lake City, I attended three sessions in person, which I have never done before. The other two sessions I watched on television while laying on my bed in the hotel room where I was staying. It was certainly a different experience to watch general conference on television, especially knowing the talks were being given only four blocks from the hotel. This was my first time watching general conference live on television.
I am truly blessed that general conference is an important part of my life. I'm writing this article from a hotel lobby in Colorado Springs, where I will be on vacation for several more weeks, but I will be back before October. I wanted to make sure that I will be home for general conference.
Ken Sisler received his education at Harvard University, Yale University, Brigham Young University and Notre Dame University. Ken currently serves on a city board where he lives. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.