Technology expands impact of conference

Last April conference, Michael Obst, his wife, Marieanne, their three children and many other members in the Frankfurt area convened in the stake center here on Sunday afternoon to enjoy the satellite broadcast of conference.

Some came from as far away as 200 miles for the privilege of listening to the live broadcast, the first official satellite telecast of conference in Germany, excluding one previous test transmission. The windows were covered so the congregation could better see the large screen and several smaller monitors. The broadcast was received in both English and German.Brother Obst is president of the Hanau Branch of the Frankfurt Germany Stake. He has attended general conference in Salt Lake City previously, but most members of his branch have not. For most, April was their first experience seeing conference live.

"They were really thrilled," said Pres. Obst. "Many of them haven't been to the United States. To witness the conference live stirred their testimonies."

The Saints gathered in Frankfurt met at 2 p.m. Sunday to view one of the previous day's sessions, which had been recorded. After a half-hour break, they watched "Music and the Spoken Word"live, beginning at 4:30 p.m., followed by the live broadcast of the Sunday morning session.

"It is wonderful to read the words of conference and watch it on videotape, but you really get the feeling and spirit of it when you watch it live," reflected Pres. Obst. "To sing with the Saints worldwide and to participate, knowing we are a worldwide brotherhood and sisterhood being edified and instructed by our Church leaders, resulted in a strong feeling of unity.

"The stake center was overflowing for the broadcast. We were asked to participate as if present in the Tabernacle, saying amen aloud and singing when appropriate. That added to the feeling of being there, of being part of a worldwide general conference."


General conference time has always been a high point for the family of Robert and Lani Lambourne, but they have had to adapt their customs and traditions according to changing location, circumstances and family size.

Members of the Virginia Beach 4th Ward, Norfolk Virginia Stake, the couple have never lived in an area where they could stay home and view over-the-air telecasts of conference sessions since leaving BYU.

"When we had three children, we were living in Florida," said Sister Lambourne, whose offspring now number six. "We had to drive quite a ways away to the stake center to see conference sessions, and we would take a picnic lunch. We would go to the nearest park and enjoy our lunch between sessions."

That contrasts, she said, with the present situation in which the stake center is about a five- or 10-minutes' drive from their home. "You make adjustments according to the distance. If it's five minutes, you come home for lunch and then go back; if it's 45 minutes or an hour, you take a snack with you."

While the children were small, the couple would take along quiet-books or pencil and paper to occupy the children, now and then asking them to draw a picture about something they heard during one of the conference talks.

As the children have grown older, each has received an assignment to focus on a particular conference talk and then report on that talk at dinner time. The family has also planned home evening lessons around particular conference talks as they pertain to their needs.

The Lambournes' children range in age from 19 to 5, including a 17-year-old daughter who is developmentally disabled. The couple finds it is difficult for her to sit through an entire two-hour session, so they only require that she attend one session for one hour. Other family members take turns staying home with her.

In the Lambourne family, Sunday-best is mandatory for conference attendance, even at the Saturday sessions.

"We find if we dress nicely, our behavior is more to the occasion," said Sister Lambourne. "Since our boys were 2 years old, we've dressed them in little suits with vests and ties, and our girls in dresses [for going to the meetinghouse.T"

That applies not just to conference attendance but to other events at the meetinghouse, such as interviews with the bishop.


Having general conference broadcast live into their stake meetinghouse unifies the French Saints and helps them feel closer to the rest of the Church, said Elder Jacques Faudin.

"It is always a blessing to have conference broadcast here so we can feel the spirit of the conference," said Elder Faudin, a regional representative for regions in northern France, Switzerland and Belgium.

"Reading the talk is always different than when you can hear or see the speaker," said Elder Faudin. "When you know that the talk is happening right now in Salt Lake City, you can feel the same spirit at the same time. This is very very important, I think. We feel more closely associated; it strengthens everybody; it is very edifying."

He said the members of the Nice France Stake are among the fortunate ones who have the facilities to receive conference. They watch one session at 2 p.m., and a second session at 5 p.m. Before the conference was telecast to them via satellite, they only saw parts of it on videotape.

"This Sunday, we will have two sessions of two hours each," he explained. "We will also watch and hear the Tabernacle Choir. That is great for the members and great for the children."

He explained that he and his wife, Isabelle, have six children, ages 14, 12, 10, 9, 6 and 4. They are members of the Vitrolles Ward, Nice France Stake.

"I like to be with my wife and children and receive the advice, commandments, rules and policies of the Church directly. The members who have never been in the States, and never tasted the spirit of the general conference, can feel it. As far as I am concerned, it is a very, very good thing."

This feeling is especially important for the children. "The children are happy to watch conference. It is a transporting experience for them - a kind of a journey where in their minds they can travel to Salt Lake City, and imagine what is happening over there."

His children said they felt it was a good way to bring the Saints across the world together.


Pres. Miguel Alfredo Lee B. and his wife, Angelica, and their three children eagerly look forward to conference. Pres. Lee is president of the Dominican Republic San Geronimo Stake.

Sister Lee said that the family members prepare themselves in advance. "In our family home evening the week before, we always speak of the need to prepare ourselves spiritually for conference," she said. "It is important to be able to receive the messages of the spirit, and to understand and comprehend the things that the leaders say."

The Lees have three children: Elisabeth, 16; Miguel Alfredo, 9; and Miguel Angel, 7. They are all eager for the experience of general conference.

"Last year, Miguel Alfredo said, `I want to be able to go to priesthood meeting with Dad this afternoon,' " recalled Sister Lee.

She added, "This experience strengthens our family very much."

Sister Lee observed that the other members of the stake also enjoy conference.

"When Sundays come, we drink again of the experience, and continue to have gratitude for conference. The messages lift us for the next six months and strengthen us spiritually.

"We have not had a great deal of experience with the satellite program, but we feel a very special spirit on the day of conference. We are always ready before the conference begins. We feel we have a spiritual responsibility to hear that which our leaders bring to us every six months."

The stake meets at noon on Sunday to receive the broadcast.

"We will be at the chapel early, setting up seats, praying, preparing ourselves, and eagerly looking forward to receiving conference," said Sister Lee.


The opportunity to see general conference live via satellite has been a particular blessing for Amanda Dubee, an 18-year-old living in New Brunswick.

"When you're dealing with teen-agers, they get more out of TV than reading," said Margaret Dubee, Amanda's mother. "President Thomas S. Monson is Amanda's favorite speaker and she loves to be able to watch him when he speaks."

There is another big advantage to live television broadcasts, according to Sister Dubee of the Saint John Ward, Saint John New Brunswick Stake.

"When the prophet is there, it is a blessing for us since we are so far away that we don't get to see him very often," she said. "There is always a hush in the meetinghouse when we see the prophet.

"My husband and I won't miss a session," said Sister Dubee, who is the stake Relief Society president. "It is wonderful to read the talks in the Ensign, but it is more wonderful to sit there like you're right within the meeting. The messages seem to mean so much more."

Before the satellite network brought live conference telecasts into their meetinghouses, members in New Brunswick viewed conference a week late on videotape or read the talks in the Ensign. Occasionally they could hear a radio broadcast or see a single live session on a cable television channel.

Carol Ray, Relief Society president of the Fredericton Ward, Saint John New Brunswick Stake, enjoys the feeling of closeness to other Saints that the live broadcasts bring.

"It's a real thrill to watch [conference] live and know Saints all over the world are watching and listening at the same time," said Sister Ray.

"Knowing we are hearing the words of a prophet of God at the same time that they are being spoken is wonderful," she added.


General conference facts

All sessions of conference are televised via satellite to more than 3,000 meetinghouses in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Haiti, Jamaica, the West Indies, and the Dominican Republic.

The Saturday and Sunday morning sessions as well as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir program, "Music and the Spoken Word," will be transmitted to 60 Church-owned satellite downlinks in England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Germany France, Switzerland, Austria, Netherlands, Belgium, Portugal, Spain and Italy.

Videotapes of conference sessions will be sent to units in areas of the world where the satellite and other transmissions are not available.

From three to five translator-interpreters, mostly volunteers, will be on hand for one or more sessions for each of the following languages: Bulgarian, Cambodian, Cantonese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Haitian, Hmong, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Laotian, Mandarin, Navajo, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Samoan, Serbo-Croatian, Spanish, Swedish, Tagalog, Tahitian, Thai, Tongan and Vietnamese.

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