In this sacred place of worship, we Thy glories loud proclaim.”
(Beginning lines of the opening hymn sung in second conference session by the family choir)
October 5th will long (forever) be in our Hislop hearts a day of joy and gladness, a day when we, in a sacred place of worship, sang praises to His holy name.
The day started a bit rocky…at least for me. Despite all the things I had done—sewed on buttons, soaked the boy’s shirts in an Oxyclean brine to make them white, collected footwear to make sure every shoe had a mate, found and stashed dark socks for the men, cut Miles’ hair, washed all the jewel-colored shirts—there was still lots to be done.
One of the things that had to happen was a haircut for Lance—not a huge issue given the fact that I’ve been cutting his hair for years. It became a huge issue, however, when the beard trimmer I’ve used to cut his hair, died in mid-cut. Long hair looks bad. Half long and half shaved hair looks really bad. At some point in the morning, both Grace and Tanah had partial meltdowns about their hair. I was able to help them. Lance I could not help.
He called (and awoke) Kathy Howell, a beautician in our ward and said, “I have a hair emergency.” She invited him and Chick (who also needed a cut) over to her home, asking only for a minute or two to put in her contacts. Major dilemma #1
Major dilemma #2….
We were to be at the Conference Center Theater at 11:00 a.m., in preparation for the 2:00 p.m. meeting. We hoped to leave the house at 9:45, though we did not have to leave until about 10:00 a.m. to be on time. We left at
10:05. Driving on I-15 (the interstate freeway), at about Farmington (20 minutes from home) I looked over at Lance, who was wearing his new white shirt, tie draped casually around his neck. “You have your suit coat with you, right?” I asked.
The look of utter horror on his face answered my question. Nope. No suit coat. “Turn around,” I said. “We have to go
Lance took the first exit, which put us on Legacy Highway, a road that leads west, towards the airport, not south towards the Conference Center, not north towards Roy. Not only did the Legacy Highway take us in the wrong direction, it took us in the wrong direction slowly; the speed limit is only 55 mph. And, there are no exits for over 5 miles. Aside from being upside down in a barrow pit, it was the worst possible place for us to be.
As we traveled slowly west on the Legacy Highway I called our home teacher. “Ken,” I said, “We need your help. Are you
available right now?” He responded affirmatively and graciously. I explained our situation and we agreed that he would fetch the coat from our home and meet us somewhere on I-15.
In the meantime, we’d found an emergency turn-around [For official use only] that crossed the Legacy meridian, had done a U-turn, and were headed back towards I-15. We met Ken and Amy Jefferies on I-15 near Clearfield, retrieved the coat, and were on our way again.
Apparently it takes a ward to get a family to sing in conference.
Breathlessly (partially from running from the parking garage and partially from the breath-taking ride to the parking garage) we entered the Conference Center Theater having missed nothing except the opening prayer. With the other 358 members
of the choir, we stood and warmed our voices. “Every time we practice,” Sister Felstead told us, “you get to the point where you sing beautifully. Today we do not have time to get there. You must be there now. Don’t be the singer you are; be the singer you want to be,” she told us.
Too soon the practice was over and they fed us the “nothing more than a glorified Lunchable” they had promised us. We weren’t expecting much…. but we got a lot; a chicken salad sandwich in a croissant, a banana, a bag of chips, a full size Snickers bar, a package of trail mix, a bottle of water, and a drink mix packet to put into the water bottle. [Miles had 2 full size
Snickers in his box; the kid leads a charmed life.] If that was a “glorified Lunchable” then I love how the Church glorifies things! (Multiples meanings here…..]
We walked through a connecting tunnel and were in the choir seats by 1:00 p.m. As we practiced a few pieces so thcamera crews could prepare, a kind woman approached Lance (who, if you remember, was sitting on the very back row), and said, “Your tie is coming apart” (meaning that the little back part of his tie was poking out from behind the wider, front part of the tie). She offered him a safety pin so he could fix the problem. [Imagine what she’d have said if he did not have a suit coat…..]
Please note—the attention given to the details of our appearance was not a result of a vain need to make a perfect appearance. It was a reflection of the sacredness of the occasion. We would be singing God’s praises to the world and it was imperative that we honor Him by making the best appearance possible.
The Conference Center slowly filled; 21,000 people making their way to their seats. Time passed more quickly than I expected and soon President Uchtdorf was standing at the podium opening the second session of the 183rd semi-annual conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. “Music will be provided by a family choir composed of members of the Roy, Hooper, and Kanesville Stakes," he announced.
We began the conference singing “On This Day of Joy and Gladness”. I felt we were a bit hesitant at first but we found ourselves and finished valiantly. Over almost before it began, we’d sung our first song in General Conference!
he second song, “I Know That My Savior Loves Me”, came quickly, right after President Eyring led the sustaining of church officers and before any talks were given. The song (I included the lyrics at the end of last week’s letter) starts tenderly
with words about Jesus teaching His little ones, includes an anthem-like declaration “I know He lives!” and ends with firm conviction, “I know my Savior loves me”. There is a beautiful segment where the children rise and sing “Now I am here in a beautiful place, learning the teachings of Jesus…” I glanced at my Mr. Miles and had to look away. His countenance was so earnest, his singing so heartfelt; I knew that if I watched him I would choke on my tears when it came my turn to sing.
It was the fastest conference ever. (And this may be the longest letter ever!) Long before it seemed like an hour had passed we were singing the intermediate hymn “Press Forward Saints”.
When President Uchtdorf announced that the second to last speaker would be Elder Holland, my heart leapt. Elder Holland is my favorite apostle. What a blessing that he would be speaking at this particular session of conference. When Elder Holland announced the topic of his talk, my heart melted. He spoke about mental illness, especially about major depressive disorder—a topic that is particularly and specifically relevant to our family. He spoke with genuine compassion, offered wise, practical counsel, and showed empathetic insight. With apostolic fervor he promised that bodies and minds will be perfect in the resurrection. It was a double tender mercy; first that he spoke and second that he spoke about depression.
Elder Ballard’s talk finished the conference. During his speech Miles whispered to me, referring to the conference
experience, “This is awesome.” What 9 year old finds 2 hours of religious speeches awesome? It was not the specific 9 year old, nor was it the specific speeches, that were awesome. It was the specific Spirit present. Being in a sacred building in the presence of the prophet of God, listening to apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ testify of Him was a truly awesome experience. In fact, “awesome” is an inadequate, understated adjective when applied to this but I don’t have any that would be better.
Then, before it seemed possible, Elder Ballard began to end his talk. An intangible wave of energy swept through our choir. As a body we moved forward in our seats, even before Sister Felstead stood to lead us. Filled with the Spirit of the truths we’d heard and enabled by the grace of God, we were ready, even eager. Everyone was totally present in the moment.
Sister Felstead stood….smiled….and signaled for the organist to begin. The familiar strains of “Love at Home” filled the conference center. Gently and gracefully we began to sing. “There is beauty all around when there’s love at home….” Our vowels were round and our diction clear. Perhaps most importantly, our hearts were, at that moment, pure. “In the cottage there is joy,” the men’s deep voices declared, “when there’s love at home.” The organist began to play a lyrical harmony that danced above the melody as the women sang “Roses bloom beneath our feet, all the Earth’s a garden sweet, making
life bliss complete, when there’s love at home.”
“All the world is filled with love,” all of us sang with building power, “when there’s love at home.” With full voices we testified, “Oh there’s One who smiles on high, when there’s love at home…….LOVE AT HOME…” The organ played the final note and there was silence. We were still. The congregation was still. The moment stood still, a reverent confirmation of the power of the message.
The final prayer was said and then it was over.
We stood in the choir seats for over 15 minutes, savoring our feelings. I did not want to move. Apparently no one else did
either. It was a priceless time. Totally surrounded by my little family—Lance on my left, Chick to my right, Grace, Miles and Tanah directly in front of me—I wished the moment could last forever. Together in a sacred place, having shared a sacred experience, I felt fully the sanctity of the family, particularly of my family. I cannot imagine how even heaven could be better. My heart was full. So were my eyes; tears ran down my face and dripped from my chin. The scriptures tell of
“unspeakable joy”. Now I know how it feels. Words fail.
Special thanks to Aunt Linda, Uncle Don, and Jennilyn Stoffers. I honestly did not think it mattered to me whether or not anyone was physically there to support us………..until the Stoffers came. I am dumbfounded by how much having them there in the Conference Center meant to me. Their physical presence multiplied my joy. Priceless.
Also priceless was the support we felt from friends and family. Before the session was even over, Brianna Kent posted pictures of us on Facebook. Friends and family from all over contacted us. I know Beth and Heidi prayed for us. My precious sister texted about the double tender mercy of Elder Holland’s talk. Thank you, thank you to all you who
shared the experience with us.
My heart is still full.