Members Share Their Experiences Attending October 2015 General Conference
Contributed By Church News staff
Messages from the Church's 185th Semiannual General Conference have inspired and blessed Latter-day Saints around the world. Following are a few experiences of members who attended conference in the Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City.
“You should persevere”
Javier Perez and Shelby Bryant, engaged to be married, participated in the October 2015 general conference together. He is a member of a young single adult ward associated with the Salt Lake Institute of Religion near the University of Utah campus. She is a Brigham Young University student and belongs to a student ward on the campus in Provo.
Sister Bryant said she was inspired by the address of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, delivered in the Saturday afternoon session. He spoke on the role of mothers and declared, “No love in mortality comes closer to approximating the pure love of Jesus Christ than the selfless love a devoted mother has for her child.”
“Since we are engaged to be married, it kind of inspired me to want to be better,” she said. “I really liked that talk.”
Brother Perez cited the talk given by President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency, at the priesthood session of the conference. President Eyring told of the missionary experience of his great-grandfather Henry Eyring. Brother Eyring was called to serve a mission to the Cherokee Nation just seven months after his own conversion in St. Louis, Missouri. Eventually he became president of the mission.
President Eyring related how his great-grandfather felt he should come home after the political situation made it impossible for him to continue missionary work, yet his letter to President Brigham Young in Salt Lake City went unanswered. Brother Eyring dreamed that he went to Salt Lake City anyway and was welcomed by President Young, who told Brother Eyring it was all right that he returned.
The dream was fulfilled when Brother Eyring did come to Salt Lake City and was received by President Young.
Brother Perez said the talk resonated with him because he had served a mission and had struggled as Brother Eyring had done.
“It made me realize how true it is and how you should persevere,” he said. “It’s similar to President [Thomas S.] Monson when he was giving his talk, and near the end you could tell he was fatigued, but he has served faithfully in the apostleship for so many years and throughout his life through 88 years of service.“
—By R. Scott Lloyd
”A lot to take in“
For Mereisi Tuinakauvadra, attending general conference in the 21,000-seat auditorium of the Conference Center was “a lot to take in.” In her youth, she walked about four miles to the only chapel on the South Pacific island where she grew up in Fiji to listen to general conference. Because of the time difference, that trek was sometimes in the wee hours of the morning.
Sister Tuinakauvadra, who was able to attend the Saturday afternoon session with her husband, Peceli, said the experience of being in the same room as the prophet and apostles was awe-inspiring. Being able to raise her hand to sustain three new Apostles was especially “exciting.”
“I’m just trying to take it all in,” she said. “It’s a wonderful feeling.”
Both Brother and Sister Tuinakauvadra said they were uplifted by the messages involving the family. The couple—who now live in Las Vegas, Nevada, with their three children—noted how difficult it is to live amidst worldly pressures. “[The world] is very different even from just a few years ago,” Sister Tuinakauvadra said. “I took away a lot just on asking Heavenly Father how we can hold on and be better. I feel like that’s really what we came here to hear.”
At the end of the day, Sister Tuinakauvadra said, listening to general conference is about faith. “I’m sure everyone here [comes] from different backgrounds, different states and countries, but we all came with that desire to learn and hear the words of the prophet and the apostles.”
—By Rachel Sterzer
“Gain that greater appreciation”
For many years, Tom Waldron and his wife, Rolayne, from Rexburg, Idaho, have tried to attend a session of conference as often as they can.
“We want our children to have this experience,” he said. “My wife and I made the decision that when each of our children turn eight we would bring them to a session—and more often if we can.”
Whether they were living in Arizona, Colorado, California, or Idaho, over the years they have tried to bring their seven children—when old enough—to the Conference Center.
“I know we can watch at home on the screen, but we like coming and being in the Conference Center,” said Brother Waldron. “We hope they gain that greater appreciation of the Brethren—the prophet and apostles—as they see them.”
Brother Waldron said one of his favorite parts of attending conference is when the prophet walks into the Conference Center. To have the room go silent and watch the Lord's prophet walk helps him remember how important it is to have a prophet on the earth.
“I think that’s something that is special,” he said with tears in his eyes.
His daughter Emma, 11, enjoyed being in the Conference Center for the Saturday morning session of conference.
“I just think it is fun being inside the Conference Center,” she said. “I like feeling the Spirit.”
When asked about hearing the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing the Primary song “I Know That My Savior Loves Me,” Emma’s eyes lit up.
“They sang the song we are learning in Primary this year,” she said. “I already know it, but some of the younger kids are still learning it. So we go over the words a lot.”
Prior to each conference the Waldron family holds a special family home evening where they talk about conference.
“We try to prepare and get out our journals and think of questions,” Brother Waldron said.
This way, Brother Waldron said, they are prepared and, hopefully, more engaged during the meetings. Most important, he hopes his children feel the Spirit and strengthen their testimonies of the restored gospel.
—By Marianne Holman Prescott
”I love missionaries“
Robert and Natalie Abudulahi of the Cedar Breaks Ward, Bennion Utah East Stake, attended the Sunday afternoon session of general conference on October 4. Originally from Nigeria, Brother Abudulahi discovered the Church while traveling by train. Some missionaries were also on that train. He saw the name of their church—The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—on their nametags. “I said, ‘Oh, please take me to that church.’ They took me to the Church in 2004 and I got baptized.”
After being baptized, he met Sister Abudulahi, who is from Idaho, online, and they were married soon after. “He’s been in the United States since 2012,” Sister Abudulahi said, “and we try to come to at least one session every time since then.”
“I love missionaries. I love seeing missionaries,” Brother Abudulahi said. On their way to the Conference Center by way of Trax, he saw missionaries on their train. “When I saw them on the train today, I said, ‘This is how I met missionaries on the train in 2004 when I got baptized.’”
Brother and Sister Abudulahi had the opportunity to hear from the three new Apostles during the Sunday morning session of general conference.
“I love that there’s an order to the Church and that there’s inspiration to the Church,” Sister Abudulahi said. “Hearing [the new Apostles] speak this morning, they’re great men and I’m excited to see what they do to help build the Church.”
“I know the Lord has prepared those three [men] already,” Brother Abudulahi said.
—By Valerie Johnson
“To gather and reunite”
Christians make up the largest religious minority in Pakistan, totaling about 1.6 percent of the country’s population. Of those Christians, only a few thousand are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. These members are pioneers in their faith and eager to fully live the gospel of Jesus Christ.
One of these Pakistani converts is Hina Magsood, a member of 10 years who served a mission in the Philippines. She and her husband carefully watched their finances and saved funds so that she could represent her home country at the 185th Semiannual General Conference of the Church.
“I’m basically here to attend the general conference and to do temple work on behalf of my parents because it is far away,” Sister Magsood said. “We don’t have a temple in Pakistan. So I prayed to Heavenly Father that He would help me to accomplish what I came here to do and return back with honor.”
(Left to right): Brittany Hunsaker, Hina Magsood, Nicole Rockwood, and Naila Mansha pose outside the Conference Center before the final session of the October 2015 general conference. Photo by Sarah Burchett.
Sister Magsood said she is grateful for the words of living prophets shared with the world every six months. “As I listened to the words of President Thomas S. Monson in this conference, I really felt that Heavenly Father has, through him, taught us what our values should be.”
For Pakistani members of the Church, general conference is an opportunity to gather and reunite with fellow Church members who may be spread over wide distances. Her visit to Salt Lake City gave Magsood an opportunity to reunite with former leader Elder Michael John U. Teh, a member of the Seventy and current president of the Philippines Area.
“I was blessed to hug him and shake hands,” Sister Magsood said. “I’m looking forward to taking that handshake back to Pakistan and sharing it with all the members.”
Her trip to Utah also allowed Sister Magsood to reunite with her friend Naila Mansha, who is from Pakistan as well. Mansha is currently living in Utah and learning about the Church from the sister missionaries.
“I’m investigating the Church, so this is an opportunity for me to get to know more about what the LDS believe and see if these men are really prophets of God,” Mansha said. “I’m really excited, and I will share everything I learn with my family back in Pakistan.”
Sister Magsood said she hopes Mansha will have as uplifting an experience listening to general conference as she has had. “I really felt the Spirit, and I’m looking forward to going back to my country and sharing my testimony with them.”
—By Sarah Burchett
“Drawing closer to Christ”
Twenty years ago Francisco Fabio da Silva stood in the doorway of his home, trying to decide whether or not to attend Mass.
Like many Brazilians, attending Mass was part of his weekly routine. He never missed a Sunday. But that particular day, something felt different. He stood in the doorway wondering whether or not he should go. He was still standing there when Derek Maxfield found him.
“My companion and I just walked up, and Francisco was baptized 10 days later. That was October 8, 1995. I was only 19,” Brother Maxfield said.
Derek Maxfield (back center) poses with Francisco Fabio da Silva (right), Vanuzia de Castro Silva (left), and their three daughters, Telma, Julie, and Eva. Photo by Sarah Burchett.
Two decades later, missionary and convert reunited in Salt Lake City during the 185th Semiannual General Conference of the Church. Brother Maxfield has returned to Brazil several times throughout the years, but this was the first time the da Silva family has visited America. Brother da Silva is now married with three daughters.
“I really want to help my children get a stronger testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ and be able to take that to somebody else,” Brother da Silva said. “Conference is a great time to learn how to separate ourselves from the world and draw closer to Christ.”
For both Brother Maxfield and Brother da Silva, drawing closer to Christ also means drawing closer together. “It helps me with my faith to have a family [like the da Silvas] that in many ways is a lot more faithful than I am,” Brother Maxfield said. “They have so much faith in me that I would never let them down. It’s just a blessing. It’s a blessing to see how much they care about me, but I know it’s because of the gospel.”
—By Sarah Burchett
“We just feel so very blessed”
Ask Wendi Bergeson and her daughter Brittani Gilbert how they feel about watching general conference together, and they’ll tell you the same thing: “We just feel so very blessed.”
Sister Bergeson and Sister Gilbert decided to take a mother-daughter road trip from their home in Arizona to Salt Lake City for a Spirit-filled weekend together before Sister Gilbert leaves to serve as a full-time missionary for the Church.
“It was a long drive,” Sister Bergeson said. “We just drove straight through, 14 hours, and we got right to the hotel, changed our clothes, got cleaned up, and were able to go to the temple and do a session in the baptistry together.”
The duo decided to try and get tickets to attend a session of general conference, but that meant taking a step outside their comfort zones. “We’re both very shy,” Sister Bergeson said. “This has been extremely hard for us to ask if anyone has extra tickets because we don’t like to draw attention to ourselves, but I just knew that if we kept having faith then the Lord would bless us.”
Both mother and daughter had never attended conference in the Conference Center and were able to get tickets. “The man who drove us here from our hotel was just amazed at how many people wanted to go to conference and from all over the world. He was even more amazed that the tickets are free!” Sister Bergeson said.
Sister Gilbert said preparing to serve a mission made her approach this general conference with a unique perspective. “I’ve been really focusing on the talks and listening for how I need to further prepare to be the Lord’s servant, and I’ve been really feeling the Spirit. It makes me excited. I just want to go to the MTC already and start being a missionary!”
Although it was a brief weekend, Sister Bergeson and Sister Gilbert’s few days together strengthened not only their family bonds but also their testimonies of God’s love. “The Lord has really helped us have energy and strength,” Sister Bergeson said, “and it just shows that if we have righteous desires, then we will be blessed.”
—By Sarah Burchett
“It’s a dream come true”
If Latter-day Saints in New Zealand want to watch a general conference broadcast live, they have to wake up at 4 a.m., and many of them do.
“We’re so thankful for the Internet and LDS.org because we don’t have to wait a week to watch the broadcast at the stake center,” Emma Carreon said. “We usually do both, live early in the morning and the rebroadcast the next weekend.”
Sister Carreon joined the Church in the Philippines when she was 15 years old. She married a nonmember and moved to New Zealand. For 28 years she prayed for her husband to have the desire to learn more about the Church.
“All those 28 years I’ve been petitioning the Lord, fasting, going to the temple, and writing my husband’s name on the prayer roll every time. After all that time I was almost hopeless,” Sister Carreon said.
Then, in 2009 Brother Carreon was baptized. “All of a sudden, it’s done,” Sister Carreon said. “It’s a miracle! I know that Heavenly Father grants our wishes in His time, not in our time.”
The Carreons came to share general conference with their daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren. They said getting to experience conference together is an item to check off their “bucket list.”
“I’m excited that we get to be together for a really special moment with three new Apostles being called,” Sister Carreon said. “For me it’s a double blessing: we get to hear the word of God at conference from prophets and apostles, and I get to be here with my husband. It’s a dream come true.”
—By Sarah Burchett