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Conference moment: Return to Witmer farm

The dedication of the 21,000-seat Conference Center during the Church's 170th Semiannual General Conference will be a precious memory for faithful members around the globe.

Perhaps some who listened to President Gordon B. Hinckley's dedicatory prayer thought back to another general conference dedication a little over 20 years ago. President Hinckley, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, accompanied President Spencer W. Kimball to Fayette, N.Y., for the dedication of the structures on the Peter Whitmer farm. President Kimball's dedicatory prayer and comments were telecast live during the Sunday sessions of the 150th Annual General Conference of the Church on April 6, 1980. It was the first time in history that the Church held general conference in two different locations nearly a continent apart at the same time, via satellite.

The reconstructed Peter Whitmer log house, which stands today, is a replica of the Whitmer home where Joseph Smith and five others formally organized the Church on April 6, 1830.

The 1980 Fayette proceedings were projected on 17-foot high screens on the sides of the organ pipes at the Tabernacle on Temple Square and were carried throughout the world wherever conference was shown. President Kimball had arrived in Fayette the night before, after having participated in Saturday morning sessions in Salt Lake City.

While in the farmhouse, President Kimball stood behind a unique pulpit placed on an antique table. The pulpit was the wooden box that Joseph Smith used to house the golden plates after he received them from the Angel Moroni.

"It is a deeply moving and wonderful experience to stand here today where the Prophet Joseph Smith stood 150 years ago," President Kimball said.

Following brief remarks in the log house, Elder Hinckley read a proclamation to the nations from the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve. The proclamation marked the sesquicentennial anniversary of the Church and reaffirmed the faith's progress, doctrine, mission and message.

Portions of the Fayette proceedings took place at the nearby Fayette Branch meetinghouse and visitors center. As President Kimball left that chapel, the small congregation responded by singing "We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet." There were tears and embraces. Once again, a prophet was at the Peter Whitmer farm.

Another in a series of "Conference Moments."

Illustration by John Clark.