Last weekend I went on one of my little experiential adventures. This used to be the sole territory of business functions with Thaddeus and Michelle, but now includes religious conferences. At the invitation of my colleague Ron, I attended the 178th General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
I am not particularly religious of my own accord, but I have a long time curiosity about religion in all its many forms. Ron has been good enough to keep me well informed of the LDS version and in his mode of trying to save my eternal soul Ron felt the conference might be just the thing to take me over the edge - beyond academia and into some hands on conversion.
To do this, I flew from Burbank to Salt Lake City after a grueling adventure getting from work to Ron's house. (As an aside, my last trip to Salt Lake took place in the middle of a long night riding in a Volvo with myriad electrical problems and a broken exhaust pipe that necessitated purchasing a fire extinguisher just in case a fire might break out in the back seat. This trip began to feel eerily similar.)
In another of what would be many parallels to attending a Quixtar function with Thaddeus, I found myself up and in line for my seat hours before the actual first session. And it was cold. And I had forgotten that the weather in northern Utah might not be like the weather in Los Angeles so I hadn't packed for it. And did I add that I was cold?
Once inside, I was much better. I had a great seat only rows back from the rostrum and looking up at the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
The day was filled mostly with waiting. We'd listen to speeches and talks given by various general authorities of the Church. I had the good fortune to attend a solemn ceremony in which the new president, his counselors and the general authorities were sustained. It was in the second session that I realized I was in special territory as a young lady in the seat next to me began weeping in appreciation for the tickets two women in the row in front of us had given her and her friend.
For two session in the morning, the 21,000 seat conference center was filled. Then that night in a priesthood session open only to men the 21,000 seats were filled again. And there I stood, a lonely non-member in a sea of true believers.
After a full day of doctrine, covenants, words of wisdom and sincere testimony we called it a day and had a burger at the Training Table.
There I committed a small religious faux pas and ordered a tea. Small gasps could be heard throughout the establishment.
Pictured above is Ron mixing the special dipping sauce for the fries. So quickly is he stirring that he blurred as I took his picture. After a day of racing from line to line I can't imagine how he had the energy.
There are only a couple other thoughts. I appreciate the hospitality of Ron's family - his mother that gave us a place to sleep and breakfast to eat, his brother Wayne that picked us up at the airport and Ron's brother-in-law Gene and sister Judy that toted us around the rest of the time. A special thanks is in order for Gene who loaned this foolish Southern California resident a coat.
Finally, to all that may wonder - no, I did not convert. Those that know me well know that it wouldn't be that easy. I wouldn't mind being found in the company of anyone I met at the conference. I have great appreciation for their values, their beliefs and the church to which they belong. Still, I do not yet believe, but they didn't seem to mind. (If one day they drop this aversion to iced tea, I might just reconsider.)