During general conferences, Temple Square becomes a gathering place. Its dome-shaped Tabernacle is a "school of spiritual learning," and its grounds are a courtyard adorned in seasonal beauty.
As the 158th Seminannual General Conference convenes Oct. 1-2, brilliant flowers and manicured lawns welcome visitors to Temple Square. Tourists who wisit throughout the year are impressed with its landscaping and buildings. But during each conference, the 10-acre oasis in downtown Salt Lake City is blanketed with a beauty that transcends the visual appeal of shape and color formed by architecture and foral displays. The beauty of conference lies in its pirit. This kind of beauty is something felt, not seen.Among those who have felt the spirit of conference are Jordan and Vella rose Smith of the Chandler Arizona Alma Stake. Ever since they were married 36 years ago, they have attended conference, missing only a few times.
"I think the main reason we are drawn to general conference is the spiritual uplift it gives us," said Sister Smith, who is stake Relief Society president. "We love to hear the propet speak, and to listen to the General Authorities and the instructions they give. We know we can read reports of conference in the Church News and then read the full texts of the addresses in the Ensign, but reading is not like being at conference in person. You get a special spiritual feeling when you are on Temple Square.
"If we arrive early enough, we might get inside the Tabernacle. We spend a lot of time in lines, but it's worth it. Some years, we go into the Assembly Hall.
"We know everybody can't come to conference, but I think if members would go to their stake centers and watch conference with others, they would feel some of the same spirit present on Temple Square." Trent Tanner, who was released only a few weeks ago as president of the Durango Colorado Stake, said before the church began broadcasting general conference on its satellite network, a few stake members traveled to Salt Lake City for conferences. "We are about 350 miles from Salt Lake City, so it was quite a long trip," he said. "Those who went to conference felt the 61/2-hour trip was worth it. Before the satellite broadcasts, we received only one or two sessions, but never the full conference. Now we can get the entire conference.
"When I was stake president, I encouraged emmbers to watch the sessions and to read the conference reports. In my opinion, what is said in conference is like current scripture for us."
Blackfoot Idaho Stake Pres. Arvid M. Jensen and his wife, mary, are among those who have recently begun coming to Temple Square for conference. "I grew up in ephriam, Utah, and, as a teenager, I went to conference a couple of times," said Sister Jensen. "But my family usually watched conference on television.
"My husband has been stake president 11/2 years. Since his call, we have been to conference on Temple Square. Our children are now 10, 11, and 12. When the children were younger and we were watching conference on television, they played with quiet toys on the floor. But as they have grown older, they each get a pad of paper and a pencil and write down highlights from each address. This helps them learn to concentrate on the talks and to remember what was said.
Sister Jensen recalled one of her most memorable conference experiences. "I was standing at one of the odors, looking inside the Tabernacle during one seesion," she said. "A man came up and asked, 'Can this sister stand here so she can see the propet? She has never seen a prophet before.'
Everyone moved aside for her to move up to the doorway. she spoke Spanish, but I understood what she said as tears streamed down her face: 'The prophet! I see the prophet.'"
Sister Jensen not only undrestood what the woman said, but she and that Spanish-speaking sister also felt the same spirit - the beautiful spirit of conference.