The Munich Area General Conference


An interview with the European conference coordinators

Q: In closing, what have been your feelings and testimony as you have worked on this conference?

Brother de Jager: I have no doubt in my mind that this conference is the work of the Lord. I have received impressions from him in the performance of my duties. This conference will have great effect on our work in Europe. It will present a breakthrough in the image of the Church. After the conference, Europeans will think differently of us. They will know that we are a solid people. It is a very important conference, and the great publicity it will receive will undoubtedly help the missionary work.

Brother Busche: I have a testimony that this is the right time for the conference. We have great need to strengthen the Church for the future. This conference will help us do that. The influence that it will have on the Saints in Europe will be great, and it is going to help us all to follow the teachings of the Savior so that he can bless us with happiness, joy, and peace in our hearts.

Q: How has the German public as well as the European public at large responded to the news of the conference?

Brother Busche: One month before the conference we will be making announcements in Europe about the conference. We expect that Europeans will be quite interested and that they will be surprised at the number of Saints attending the conference. It should do much good for the Church. We also expect to invite government officials of Munich and the province.

Q: What about the conference itself—what are the major meetings planned?

Brother Busche: On Friday we will have the sports activity as already discussed, and the evening festival. On Saturday we will have general sessions in the morning and afternoon, and in the evening there will be a meeting for all the sisters and a priesthood session for priesthood holders. Two general sessions will be held on Sunday.

The morning sessions will be held from 9:30 to 11:30 A.M., and the afternoon sessions from 1:30 to 3:30 P.M. The sports hall is next to a football stadium, and on that Sunday 80,000 people are expected in the stadium, which would intrude on our ability to hear the speakers. So we have adjusted our schedules to fit this situation.

Q: Speaking of music, the Tabernacle Choir will also sing at the conference and will present its Sunday morning broadcast from Munich. Are the facilities adequate to handle these performances?

Brother Busche: Yes. We are preparing the electrical systems to achieve excellent quality, and we have made arrangements for an organ to be brought in. As I mentioned earlier, the building already has good radio and television transmission facilities.

Q: You indicated that several large choirs will sing. How large are they, and how have they been organized?

Brother Busche: There will be two large choirs, one of 420 voices from the north region and one with 430 people from the south region of Europe. The choir members come from all the nationalities and languages represented at the conference, but they will all sing the numbers in German. The two choirs will sing as one large choir for the closing session. Throughout the spring and summer months, choir members have been practicing their numbers. They will sing as a unit for the first time when they assemble in Munich. But we know that with their dedicated efforts and faith they will be blessed, and we should enjoy some very beautiful music.

Q: Can you tell us something about the conference site?

Brother Busche: We will meet in the Olympic Hall, as it is now called. It used to be a sports hall, where gymnastics were held. A modern building in the shape of a large oval, it was built originally as a cycle stadium but then was turned into a sports hall. About 10,000 people will sit in the main stands, with 2,000 on the lower central floor. Church officers and leaders from throughout Europe, as well as General Authorities and their guests, will sit on a specially built flooring, raised up so that the audience will be able to see them easily. There will also be up to 500 seats for the large choirs that will participate.

I must say that the facilities are tremendous. Every chair in the hall is upholstered. There are plenty of rest rooms, interview rooms for the visiting press, rest areas, and facilities for radio and television transmission. The public address system was built for a sports arena, so we are doing some adjusting in this matter.

Q: And what about visiting General Authorities?

Brother Busche: President Lee will be with us, of course. This is a great thrill and privilege for the Saints in Europe to be with him. In addition, we understand that several other General Authorities will attend, including members of the Council of the Twelve, some of the Assistants to the Twelve, members of the First Council of the Seventy, and the Presiding Bishopric.

Q: Will there be many participants from the European Church units?

Brother de Jager: Yes, it is planned that leaders from the stakes and missions in Europe will participate.

Q: What does this mean for the speakers?

Brother Busche: All talks will either be translated simultaneously or spoken in German over the loudspeaker system. Persons who understand a language other than German will use their headsets. We will use two methods of translation: sequential and simultaneous. The sequential translation in which the speaker speaks and waits for the translator to restate his words will be used for the General Authorities and all speakers using a language other than German. Simultaneous translation, in which the speaker speaks in his tongue and translators deliver the same words at almost the same instant over the translation system in other tongues, will be used for German-language speakers. Anyone wishing to hear the actual voice may listen to the loudspeaker system, with one ear listening to that and the other ear to the headset for appropriate translation.

Q: That raises an interesting question. How will Saints of these six languages (German, French, Dutch, Italian, Spanish, and English) understand those who are speaking?

Brother Busche: First, the host language will be German, which will take care of two-thirds of those attending. We will have three to four thousand headsets for those who need to hear the talks in other languages. To make this workable, the German-speaking Saints will all sit together. The French-speaking will all be seated together and will plug in their headsets for the French translation; the Italian will all be together, and so forth.

Q: Now we come to the subject of the conference itself. What are the activities planned to open the conference?

Brother Busche: We will have the final German youth competition in volleyball and table tennis on Friday afternoon, the day the conference opens. We have asked the German Saints to be in town by two P.M., and shortly after, we will start the sports competition. In the evening, we have planned a great festivity. We have divided Europe into eleven regions, and each region has been asked to present a talent number of ten minutes. These will be roadshow acts, folk dancing, or musical numbers. The numbers will reflect the nature and character of the nationality participating.

Brother de Jager: This Friday program is being given great stress by the youth of the Church. It will be the first opportunity for most of our young people to see so many Mormon youths gathered together. I have a son 18 years old, and when we talk about the conference, the main thing he wants to talk about is the Friday festivity. What most of the young people in Europe will see and participate in will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, a great unifying experience. They have already developed an abbreviation for the conference—OCOS: One Church, One Spirit. That is their view of this occasion when so many different tongues will be getting together. For the first time in Europe, a great body of 13,000 Saints from different lands and cultures will join together in song and prayer. It symbolizes that the gospel of Jesus Christ is for all mankind.

Q: How long have you been mapping out all these details?

Brother Busche: We have been meeting since January. We have organized our members into a committee consisting of the following divisions: general administration, financing, legal matters, physical facilities, travel, conference services, public relations, graphics, conference schedules and programs, documentation, music. I cannot say enough good about the leaders of these committees. They are marvelous people and have been inspired in their labors. We have had many sub-committee meetings, so our Saints have not had to spend a lot of time traveling back and forth to large committee meetings. However, we have been traveling nearly every weekend since January!

Q: What about transportation from their lodging areas to the conference sites—do you foresee any special problems for transporting 12,000 people?

Brother Busche: No, because public transportation has the capacity to handle our needs. Every person coming to the conference will receive a kit of information, which will include a map pinpointing his lodging. The restaurants near it will also be listed, as well as trains, underground fast trains, and other means of transportation by which they can arrive at the conference.

Brother de Jager: The Saints generally will group themselves into lodging areas near each other so they will be associated with members of their own nationality, language, and stake or mission.

Q: How will the Saints be fed?

Brother Busche: We have not concerned ourselves with cooking facilities. There are many restaurants in and around Munich, and the people of Munich are used to dealing with large numbers of visitors. For this reason cooking on the Olympic grounds is not allowed by the municipality of Munich.

Q: How will the other nearly 12,000 Saints be housed?

Brother Busche: The organizing committee has provided five different choices of housing possibilities: (1) low-price mass quarters such as schools, where persons may use their own sleeping bags or air mattresses; (2) private homes in Munich, at which many rooms are available; (3) pensions, small boardinghouses at modest prices; (4) hotels in a middle price range, and (5) hotels at top prices. Several large camping areas are also available. Circulars have been sent to all wards and branches, and all persons coming will have pre-registered. We think it is all very well planned and will work out well.

Q: Tell us more about the Saints coming from the German Democratic Republic.

Brother Busche: Because of governmental regulations in the Democratic Republic, more than 500 of the Saints attending will be over 60 years of age; that is, because of their age they are permitted to travel into West Germany. Also thrilling is the response of the Saints in Munich, who are going to house without cost the Saints from the German Democratic Republic. Munich has two branches with 700 members, and they are going to be housing and caring for another 700 people. Our members don’t have large private homes, which makes this an especially inspiring gesture.

The Munich Saints will also be involved in many other duties. The brethren will clean the hall after every session. Special transportation for General Authorities and other important guests must be arranged for. Many members will serve as guides and interpreters.

Q: How will most of the Saints make the journey to Munich?

Brother de Jager: The Saints from Holland and Belgium are only ten hours away from Munich by autobahn (four-lane highway). The placement of the conference in Munich is appropriate because it is rather central. Most members today in Belgium and Holland have cars, which is quite a difference from 25 years ago, when everyone was on bicycles. After World War II, great welfare assistance of the nations of the world came to Europe. Now we have parking problems just as do Saints in many other lands.

Most of the Germans will be able to leave their homes for the conference the morning of the first day, Friday, and arrive on time. Many others in Austria, Switzerland, and France will also be able to do this. Some of the Saints, however, will be traveling for two days. Many Church units have chartered special trains. Within seven to ten hours, most of the Saints attending the conference will be in Munich.

Q: What are the attendance estimates?

Brother Busche: We presently plan on 12,500 to 13,000 persons. You can see why the German tongue will be the host language when you see the projections from the 21 units coming to the conference. [Estimates of attendance follow name of Church unit.] There are five German-speaking stakes: Berlin, 400; Dusseldorf, 800; Hamburg, 600; Stuttgart, 600; and Swiss, 500. One Dutch-speaking stake: Holland, 400. Servicemen’s Stake-Europe, 800. From the 13 missions we expect the following German-speaking saints: Germany Central, 500; Germany North, 600; Germany South, 1,400; and Germany West, 800; Austria, 700; and Switzerland, 200. French-speaking: France, 800; France-Belgium, 500; and France-Switzerland, 500. Italian-speaking: Italy North, 300; and Italy South, 200. Dutch-speaking: Netherlands, 400. Spanish-speaking: Spain, 40.

This totals 20 units. There is one more unit that we are very excited about. We expect to have about 700 Saints coming from the German Democratic Republic. This is a real thrill. You will also note that the number of Saints from Spain is low. The reasons are twofold: the Spain Mission is quite new, and a temple excursion had already been planned for the Saints to go to the Swiss Temple in July.

Q: What has been the response of the Saints in Europe to the announcement of the conference?

Brother Busche: There is great interest throughout Europe in the conference. The Saints have never had an experience like this, and they are most enthusiastic. I have heard some thrilling reports from some of the preparation sessions concerning how members are planning to raise money to attend the conference.

Brother de Jager: Wherever I have traveled, I find the Saints enthusiastic. The more we learn about their response, the more it appears that our attendance estimates may be too conservative.

An event of the magnitude and importance of the Munich Area General Conference requires an enormous amount of planning and work to bring about a successful conference. The Church and the Saints in Europe are blessed with gifted and inspired leaders in their two Regional Representatives of the Twelve, who are coordinating conference plans.

F. Enzio Busche, of Dortmund, Germany, is a prominent business executive in Germany in the printing industry. A member of the Church for 16 years, he is assigned to the six regions in Germany. He and his wife, Jutta, have four children.

Jacob de Jager, who resides in Nijmegen, The Netherlands, is vice-president of an electronics company; he has had major longtime assignments for his company and has lived in Indonesia, Canada, Mexico, Turkey, and The Netherlands. Also a member of the Church for 16 years, he is assigned to the Holland and Spain regions. He and his wife, Bea, have two children.

Both of these men have faith-promoting conversion stories and unusual Church leadership experiences. They are most qualified to coordinate the conference. We recently conducted the following conversation with these brethren.

The Editors