Last Saturday and Sunday were “Conference Weekend” for millions of Mormons around the world. Every April and October, we gather together to listen to counsel from the current Prophet, the Twelve Apostles, and other Church leaders, as well as beautiful music by the world-famous Tabernacle Choir, in what is known as General Conference.
Watching Conference overseas, though, can be a bit of a challenge. My first experience with this was when I was in Syria in 2001. A friend who owned a business offered to let us come sit in his office and watch Conference streaming on the internet. Considering the fact that our only other option would have been spending a fortune to sit for eight hours watching it in an internet cafe with loud music blaring in the background, we took him up on the offer. It was one of the first years Conference was streamed over the internet, and it kept freezing and skipping. Maybe it was technical difficulties on the Utah, end, or perhaps our internet in Syria just wasn’t up to snuff (but at least the Church website wasn’t blocked, like many other useful sites, including yahoo, where I had my email at the time). I think we got about halfway through one session before it completely froze up, and we were consigned to reading it in the Ensign in a month.
When we moved to Italy in 2008, Conference was the week after we arrived. We pulled out our laptop and unreliable internet key, but we could only really manage a couple of sessions live. We hadn’t considered beforehand the ramifications of the time difference on our Conference viewing experience. In Utah, the Conference begins at the comfortable hour of 10:00 a.m., and the very last session is over at 8:00 p.m. In Italy, they end up being at weird times of night, like midnight and 4:00 a.m. Which might be alright for the notoriously night owlish Italians, but for us with two toddlers it was a bit out of reach. At the time, sessions were available streaming live, but didn’t appear for download until days or weeks later. So once again, we ended up catching the talks later, when we could, in printed form.
However, in Italy they do have some kind of clever system wherein they watch the Saturday sessions on Sunday morning. We duly drove up to Turin and had a lovely picnic there, but technical difficulties in the Chapel prevented us from seeing Conference that time around, consigning us once again to figure out how to work it in later. In any case, it’s always hard to see all the sessions, since by the time they’re showing Sunday’s sessions, it’s time to go to work Monday morning. Last Conference (also in Italy), I ended up watching the talks over the next several weeks while I folded laundry or washed dishes.
From one point of view, it’s nice to spread it out and have time to digest each individual talk. But I missed the “Conference Weekend” experience. So this year, we decided to take matters into our own hands. Our little informal Church group here in Tunisia (we call it a twig, since it’s too tiny to be anywhere near the size of a branch) elected to just have regular meetings Conference Sunday and leave everyone to do Conference as they liked. So we are dividing our “Conference Weekend” into two Saturdays. We’re in the middle of number one, and I am really enjoying it. Tony and I are snuggled on the couch, while the children have their pens and paper and little chairs pulled up to the coffee table. It’s the same holiday/holy day feeling I remember from regular Saturday Conference days as a child, when we used to go over to my Grandparents’ house to watch it on television.
I know I’m a whole week late with the big news. (I didn’t even know till today that there will be a Temple built in Winnipeg. What if it had been Paris or Jerusalem?) And I’ve read some talk spoilers in other people’s blogs. But on the whole, I’m happy with our own little way to fit Conference into our lives. And I’m looking forward to another “Conference Weekend” next week.