The Faces, Thoughts, and Feelings of the Manchester Conference

Manchester—the word itself now goes down as hallowed in the memories and hearts of those who attended the recent conference. It was more than a gathering of 14,000 Latter-day Saints from the British Isles. It was a milestone, a historic turning point that will be hailed and praised in the yet unwritten Church history books.

What was it like to be there? What were the dominant themes? What were the feelings of Mormon youth in attendance, many of whom had prayed, saved, and journeyed long and hard to get there?

The accompanying photographs, thoughts, and responses help suggest what the Manchester conference was all about.—JMT

I’ve heard foolish young girls and boys say, “Well, what’s wrong with satisfying our appetites, as long as we don’t harm anyone else?” Others ask about pornography, wondering how to tell what is art and what is filth. Well, the Lord has given us some truths by which we are to measure right and wrong. The great prophet Moroni said, “… it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night.

“For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.” (Moro. 7:15–16.)

Now this is true of secular life as well as for religious things. If there is any kind of teaching that leads you away from a knowledge of God and his son Jesus Christ, you know it’s of evil. But if it’s truth, it will lead you towards an acceptance of the Savior. It’s as simple as that.

President Harold B. Lee of the First Presidency

Each evening as daylight departs and darkness comes to New York’s famed Broadway or London’s Drury Lane, the bright lights of the theatre bid welcome to native and to tourist. Some productions are poor and play for but an abbreviated season. Others are splendid and continue to attract hosts of patrons. Both Broadway and Drury Lane boast of one marvelous musical that has set a new world record for continuous performances and expands the record each time the curtain is raised. Fiddler On The Roof, by Joseph Stein, is in a class by itself.

One laughs as he observes the old-fashioned father of a Jewish family in Russia attempting to cope with the changing times brought forcibly home to him by his beautiful daughters. With abandon they sing “Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match.” Tevye, the father, replies with “If I were a rich man.” Tears come to the viewer as he hears the beautiful strains of “Sunrise, Sunset,” and he seems to appreciate Tevye’s love for his native village when the cast sings “Anatevka.”

The gaiety of the dance, the rhythm of the music, the excellence of the acting all fade in significance when Tevye speaks what to me becomes the message of the musical. He gathers his lovely daughters to his side, and in the simplicity of his peasant surroundings, counsels them as they ponder their future. “Remember,” cautions Tevye, “in Anatevka each one of us knows who he is and what God expects him to become.”

Considering the significance of this historic gathering and the personal commitment we as participants feel, could not each of us well consider Tevye’s statement and respond, “In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, each one of us knows who he is and what God expects him to become.”

Elder Thomas S. Monson of the Council of the Twelve

For my text I have chosen a verse from the Doctrine and Covenants:

“He that receiveth my law and doeth it, the same is my disciple; and he that saith he receiveth it and doeth it not, the same is not my disciple, and shall be cast out from among you.” (D&C 41:5.)

Christ’s invitation to become his disciple is universal. He extends it to everyone. His call and promise is, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28.)

Jesus has put no money price tag on his invitation. This does not mean, of course, that there is no cost involved. There is a cost, a very real cost, a performance cost.

Elder Marion G. Romney of the Council of the Twelve

There are examples that lead one to believe that your history is a guided history. In the days when Phillip of Spain determined to conquer these islands, his motivation, his determination, the size and scope of his preparations all summed up made certain the outcome. The British Isles would be conquered. The Armada sailed, the result a foregone conclusion. And yet, tiny things weighed n the outcome, small miscalculations—a general commanding the fleet instead of an admiral, other things. When it was over, Queen Elizabeth sought to honor those who had defended these islands, and a medal was struck taking note of two things: a change in the weather and the hand of God. An unexpected wind in an unusual place at the precise time, and the outcome of the whole war was settled. Engraved on the face of that medal were these words: “God breathed and they were scattered.”

Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Council of the Twelve

Every member is a potential leader. Today he might be a follower, tomorrow a leader. This is truly a church of opportunities. Each calling affords an opportunity for service. Oft times as callings come to us, we ask ourselves the question, “Why has this call come to me? There are others in the ward or branch more qualified than I.” But we must remember that the Lord knows our abilities and potentials better than we do. So often we are called, not for what we are, but for what we may become.

Elder Henry D. Taylor Assistant to the Council of the Twelve

The special talents with which we have been blessed—our intelligence, physical abilities, time, money, and the many opportunities given to us—have come from the Lord. They nave been entrusted to us to be used—not for safekeeping or to be hidden away, but to be used.

Elder Howard W. Hunter of the Council of the Twelve

I don’t know how much you would place on the worth of a soul, but I witnessed an interesting experience in Boston. Last winter it got pretty cold. As February drew to a close, the ice in some of the rivers and lakes began to thaw. Unnoticed, and certainly not newsworthy, a little mongrel dog walked out into the Boston Harbor, doing, I guess, what dogs like to do. And while the dog was about a quarter of a mile from the shore, the ice commenced to break, and it trapped the little fellow. Before he realized it, he was stranded and the ice flow was moving. An interested passenger on Old Mystic Bridge, seeing the plight of the dog, summoned the fire department. The fire department rushed out with a number of ladder trucks and other equipment; and before the story ended, the police department, the mayor’s office, and several selectmen had gathered, and the whole city of Boston came to rescue one little dog. One newsman totaled the tab at the end of the day and found it had cost the city of Boston $18,000 to rescue the little dog!

I’ve thought about that in relationship to people. What price do you place on a spirit child of God? Of course there is none.

President Paul H. Dunn of the First Council of the Seventy

There are two remarkable, brief sermons in two very short sentences from the Book of Mormon, one in about seven words, and the other in four: “Men are that they might have joy.” “Wickedness never was happiness.” I don’t know how we could preach two sermons in fewer words.

Elder Richard L. Evans of the Council of the Twelve

In a country like this, and all others on earth that I know of, you with your peculiar views are outnumbered tremendously. A walk down the streets of Manchester, London, New York, Buenos Aires, or other cities could discourage you greatly, unless you are acquainted with the fact that God’s work has always been done by a remnant who unquestionably drew all along the way the patronizing glance, the raised eyebrow, the curled lip, and the “wise” comment of others.

Elder Marion D. Hanks Assistant to the Council of the Twelve

Roger Galloway, 25, Worksop Branch—Getting together in a big group means a tremendous lot to the British people. It means there is unity in the Church. It gives us a sense of purpose. We can see that other members have the same problems we have, and we can grow together.

Graham Stott, 23, Southampton Branch—It’s really exciting to get an idea of the potential that we have as kingdom-builders once we really get down to It. I’m a bit dazed at the moment, but thinking back to yesterday’s session, I’m appreciating it already. By the time another month has gone, I’ll have absorbed it, I think.

Sheila Cuthbert, 18, Nottingham Ward—This conference was a dream come true for all those who, like myself, have never had the opportunity of going to general conference in Salt Lake City.

Physically these meetings have been exhausting. May father said that when the Brethren congratulated President Smith on his inspiring opening remarks, he replied, “Well, I didn’t come all this way to fail.”

Sheila King, 19, England Central Mission—I, too, ate little, slept less, shed many ounces, and even more tears. And I feel great! May I never recover from conference.

Kathryn M. Jones, Whitefield Ward—The florist arranging the flowers prior to the conference commented on the atmosphere. She said that she did not know what it was, but the feeling was wonderful, and she had never been in an atmosphere quite like it before.

Mary Tolley, 26, Manchester Ward—Walking home from a morning session, I saw people shopping, and I thought, Oh, is life still going on? I had forgotten it was Friday in the ordinary world.

Ronald Asher, 25, Manchester Ward—Looking for my parents was futile, but I must have met at least 200 people I know. My heart leaps, and I know of a surety that these are my brothers and sisters. I have a deep love for them. The Church is like a large family.

Marianne Hill, 21, Liverpool South Branch—It was very moving when at the closing of conference everyone sang “God be with you till we meet again,” and the people started spontaneously to sing the last line of “Jerusalem” that says, “We will not cease from mental strife, nor shall our sword sleep in our hand, Till we have built Jerusalem in England’s green and pleasant land.” Many of my friends were moved to tears. At the end, it was hard to believe that it was all over and that the prophet and the other leaders of the Church had been amongst us and had talked to us.

Joe Bushnell, 16, Hyde Park Ward—The best part of the conference was at the end when the prophet stood up to go out and the organ started playing “God be with you till we meet again.” I just cried.

Margaret Davies, 23, Staines Branch—The ladies’ session was for me a most spiritual experience. It’s wonderful to know that the Brethren are aware of the sisters’ problems and understand them.

Kathy Peak, Portsmouth Branch—The ladies’ meeting last night made me so proud to be a woman.

Helen Hughes, 18, Manchester Ward—To me, our leaders are some of the greatest people on the earth. From what I’ve seen, they really care. I mean, they came to speak to about a hundred of us youth. This amazed me. I nearly died when President Lee actually shook hands with me.

Susan Frazer, 18, Newcastle Ward—The spirit really changed when he [President Smith] came in—it was marvelous. That’s what got me.

John Godley, 18, Leigh Park Branch—I wish we could stay here another week.

Lynn Ball, 22, North London Ward—It’s hard to put into words what that lump in my throat means.

Keith Brook, Huddersfield Ward—It was a great thrill to sit for two hours on the stand on Saturday evening at the general priesthood session and to look at 2,000 men who can act in the name of God. In that building was one of the most powerful gatherings ever held in the history of the British Isles.

Jeff Davis, 25, Woodsetton Branch—It was the most amazing experience of my life to see the prophet. He stood there, a man of 95, with intelligence and ability, physically and mentally, to address young people and interest them. I thought he was marvelous. I only had to look at him, and I knew he was the prophet. If I had stood him amongst everybody else, I would have known he was the prophet.

Helen Craven, 15, Woodsetton Branch—It’s easy to say you know he’s a prophet when he’s here, but he doesn’t need to come; we know he’s a prophet without his coming. You expect the General Authorities to respect him, but you don’t really realize how much they do. They never said, “You’re going to have the opportunity to hear the prophet,” but always, “We’re going to have the opportunity.”

John Hill, 22, Northfield Branch—In the future, instead of saying there is a prophet, I can say that I have seen the prophet.

Clive Norton, 19, Northfield Branch—It was an emotional experience to hear him. I was overcome by feelings of awe and respect.

Valerie Wilson, 19, Coventry Ward—I had heard that there was to be some kind of flag ceremony at the entertainment, and frankly I was doubtful. I should explain that the British as a nation are known for their lack of outward emotion. A show of patriotism in any form, short of standing to honour the Queen, is just not British! It may well be that Britain’s extraordinary history of power and influence had had the effect of making the self-conscious British loath to demonstrate their love of country in front of strangers for fear of offending them, and because of this Britishers have simply lost the habit. Whatever the explanation, that night was the first time I have ever heard “Land of Hope and Glory” played just for the sake of it, and it was a glorious moment. I saw girls march proudly, carrying the familiar flags of the United Kingdom. I joined in the cheers with everyone else as we expressed, for the first time in our lives, our deep and sincere love for our country.

[photos] Photos by young British Mormons: Reginald and Victor Wilkins, and Malcolm Fielding