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Trent Toone: What it meant to me to take my family to a session of general conference

As nice as it is to watch general conference at home, there is nothing quite as powerful as being present in the Conference Center

As a member of the news media, I have attended and reported on general conference for nearly a decade now.

The experience has been both richly rewarding and at times daunting.

It’s a blessing because I have been seated in the Conference Center for numerous sessions where I have felt the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ as taught by the Lord’s chosen servants. My faith and testimony have been strengthened immensely. Sometimes I want to stand and pump my fist because I get to be at general conference.

It’s also a challenge because I’m still working, and covering the two-day conference can be intense and demanding. I’m often juggling various tasks under tight deadlines, which makes it difficult to absorb each message. When it’s over I’m usually mentally exhausted and wonder how I will resume working the next day and throughout the week.

The other reality about reporting on general conference is not spending the weekend with my family. I have dearly missed sharing conference weekend with them.

But something special happened with the October 2022 general conference.

My family received tickets to attend one session in the Conference Center. I was able to participate off the clock and laptop free. 

I was thrilled for the opportunity but grimaced a little knowing it would involve extra work for my wife to bring our daughter with special needs in a wheelchair and our other two children to downtown Salt Lake City.

Then I thought about all the Latter-day Saints worldwide who would sacrifice so much just to attend one session in their lifetime and knew I couldn’t let this golden moment pass.

Trent and Lisa Toone with son Kalen and daughters Emma and Elise (wheelchair) outside the Conference Center on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022.
Trent and Lisa Toone with son Kalen and daughters Emma and Elise (wheelchair) outside the Conference Center on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. | Trent Toone, Church News

I’m happy to report the effort to get our family to the Conference Center was well worth it.

We attended the Saturday afternoon session and were first grateful for the music provided by a combined missionary choir, which sang some of my favorite missionary hymns. Our oldest son is currently serving a mission in Johannesburg, South Africa, and the beautiful music helped us feel a little closer to him.

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But being present also produced a profound experience for our 17-year-old son, who was attending general conference for the first time.

It took a little persuasion to get Kalen to come, and as the first speaker stepped to the pulpit, our son pulled out his sketchpad and started to doodle.

But within a speaker or two, I noticed Kalen had set the sketchpad aside and was listening more intently.

During a musical number with about 30 minutes remaining, our son leaned over to my wife and asked if this was an intermission? She told him the session was almost over. Kalen looked at her incredulously — “What?!?! We’ve already been here for almost two hours?”

We had expected a little complaining or whining of how he was ready to go home, but his next words astonished us.

“So it’s almost over? How did it pass so quickly? Why have I never watched conference before?” he said. “This was amazing.”

Kalen confounded us again when the session was over.

“I don’t think I have felt like that in a long time,” he said. “I feel so much warm joy and love. I feel light and peace.”

To be clear, our son had watched conference many times before. This time he was fully engaged and his faith and testimony were strengthened. As parents, we rejoiced.

Right, Lisa Toone, with daughter Emma and son Kalen, before the Saturday afternoon session of general conference on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022.
Right, Lisa Toone, with daughter Emma and son Kalen, before the Saturday afternoon session of general conference on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. | Trent Toone, Church News

But it wasn’t just Kalen. Our whole family had felt the “warm joy and love” of the Lord as we attended general conference together.

As members do in locations across the globe, we had dressed in Sunday best, heard the music and felt the influence of the Holy Ghost as prophets, seers and revelators delivered messages of inspiration and hope about the Savior. 

I know the Lord loves my family and made it possible for us to have this sweet experience.

— Trent Toone is a reporter for the Church News.

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