Yet Another Conference Diary

If you’ve never been to a session of general conference live in the Tabernacle on Temple Square, I highly recommend that you do so at some point in the next century, when I-15 is either finished, or when they realize they have no idea what they’re doing and tear down the freeway altogether.

It is not uncommon for the persons responsible for the various freeway closures to put up only half as many “detour” signs as necessary. They’ll divert all the traffic off the freeway with a couple of signs, and then whoops! No more signs! You’re on your own to find a part of the freeway, somewhere down the road, that you can drive on. Occasionally it is faster and more economical to simply go to Salt Lake Airport, fly to Las Vegas, rent a car, and drive up to Provo from there.

But we are not here to complain about the freeway, as entertaining as that may be. No, we are here to discuss my experience covering the Sunday morning session of general conference for NewsNet.

9:00 a.m. — Fellow reporter Kimber Kay, photographer Joel Hill and I arrive at the Tabernacle, which is about two-thirds full. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir has just finished rehearsing for the “Music and the Spoken Word” broadcast, and they are milling around.

9:01 a.m. — I see Stan Crippen, who you don’t know, but who I know from back home. He taught at my high school, and everyone liked him. I will share an amusing anecdote concerning him later on.

9:04 a.m. — Elder Dallin H. Oaks and President Boyd K. Packer, the first Apostles to arrive, sit down and chat.

9:10 a.m. — The conversation seems to be lively, and I really wonder what Elders Oaks and Packer are talking about. I try to determine some way of finding out, but quickly dismiss the idea, since I am in the press section in the balcony, and they are down in the General Authority area, and there are several Men in Suits Wearing Earpieces standing between me and them. These Men do not look particularly threatening, but you can rest assured that they frightened me.

9:23 a.m. — Elder Neal A. Maxwell waves to someone. I wish he would wave to me, because I really like him, but alas, this is not to be.

9:25 a.m. — Kimber Kay laments the fact that the Tabernacle lacks a coat rack. Her coat goes on the floor, and I assume I will never hear the end of it.

10:00 a.m. — At EXACTLY 10 a.m., general conference begins. Dozens of bishops are in attendance, but do you think such obvious disdain for tardiness on the part of the Brethren will inspire these bishops to go back to their local wards and start doing things on time? All I can say is, “We’ll see” (i.e., “No”).

10:07 a.m. — During the opening prayer, the Men in Suits Wearing Earpieces do not close their eyes. Please do not ask me how I know this, as it will incriminate me.

10:10 a.m. — In his talk, President Thomas S. Monson quotes the lyrics to “Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, Zip-a-dee-ay.” To my knowledge, this is the first time this song has been quoted in general conference. Naturally, since President Monson is saying it, it sounds very eloquent and poetic. I imagine he could read the TV Guide listings and make them sound lyrical. (Not that I am suggesting President Monson ever watches TV.)

10:14 a.m. — It occurs to me that it is very cold and drafty where we are sitting. It surprises me that Kimber has not mentioned this.

10:40 a.m. — This whole “Daylight Savings Time” thing catches up with me. I lost an hour of sleep and had to get up at 6:45 a.m. It is very difficult to stay awake, and Kimber has to nudge me once. I’m proud of myself, though, for not totally falling asleep, which, according to my dad, the aforementioned Stan Crippen once did in the Tabernacle, and when he did, he either dropped his pen and it rolled down the aisle and it was really loud, or else he was snoring and everyone could hear it. Both events happened — one to Stan Crippen and the other to my dad — but I don’t remember what happened to whom, and it doesn’t really matter anyway, does it? Suffice it to say that two persons were embarrassed, and neither of them was me.

11:02 a.m. — We sing a congregational hymn. As I stand up, I realize how uncomfortable those benches really are. Perhaps I shouldn’t have recently lost 15 pounds, because in so doing, I also lost my natural cushioning.

11:04 a.m. — Near the end of the first verse of “I Stand All Amazed,” a technical TV-type person motions to the conductor that this is to be the only verse sung, no doubt because of factors of time. It is highly unlikely that you saw this on TV, because the TV guy was ducking way down low.

11:06 a.m. — I notice all the dignitaries in attendance. I see people wearing clothing that is obviously from foreign lands; perhaps these people are ambassadors or national leaders. I also see Steve Young.

11:08 a.m. — Sister Margaret D. Nadauld tells the story about the 5-year-old twin boys, Adam and Aaron. Adam gets hurt, and Aaron helps drag him home, by which time Adam is no longer crying, but now Aaron is, even though he wasn’t the one who got hurt. Mom says, “Why are YOU crying, Aaron?” and he says, “Because Adam hurts.” The whole story makes me cry a little, darn it, though fortunately Steve Young does not notice.

11:59 a.m. — Conference ends, one minute early. Kimber and I race out the door because we have to hurry back to Provo to do a radio report on KBYU-FM (89.1), but of course the I-15 construction makes us late, and we have to hurry, and I slip and fall outside the Wilkinson Center and get mud all over my suit. But at least I got to go to conference.

I needed a new suit anyway. As I briefly mentioned here (and this was the first allusion to the success of my previously mentioned diet), I had lost weight, and my suit didn't really fit anymore anyway. Still, I didn't like slipping in the mud.

I'm not sure what to make of this column. I wrote it mainly because people expected me to. My previous "General Conference Diaries" had been very popular. The first one was the first column to get me noticed by the Daily Universe staff in general, and the second one was noticed by a Salt Lake Tribune editor who then invited me to write freelance feature stories for that paper. So I felt just for karma's sake, I should do another "diary" column.

The problem, of course, was time. Once I got back from Salt Lake City, I had to write three regular news stories about the proceedings, then write this column, then get it approved via fax and e-mail by the Review Committee. About a thousand things had already gone wrong that day, not the least of which was my slipping in the mud, and when it came time to write the column, I was frankly not in the mood. Add to that the fact that I was rushed in writing it, and you get a column that doesn't flow very well in parts, and that has some other technical problems as well.

So I like the IDEA of this column, but....

I talked to Stan Crippen the day this was published, and he clarified the anecdote for me. He and my dad and Mike Phillips (you don't know him) drove from California to Salt Lake City for General Conference, way back in the early '80s. They drove a 1972 Toyota Corolla, or something like it, and it over-heated and had various other problems on the way up. They drove all night. Stan Crippen and my dad shared a bed in the room they were staying at -- only two beds, three guys, everyone dead tired -- and Stan and Mike even shared a toothbrush. They had practically no sleep and then had to go wait in line for Conference. It was Stan who dozed off and dropped his pen down the aisle; it was my dad whose alleged snoring could be heard by all in the vicinity. I say "alleged" because my dad insists he did NOT fall asleep -- that instead, he remained awake and was thus able to observe the hilarity of Stan nodding off SEVERAL times, each time dropping his pen. It would hit the floor with a thud and roll down several aisles. Someone would pick it up and it would get passed back to Stan, who would promptly fall asleep and drop it again. Stan and my dad both remember the trip with great fondness.