What to expect at General Conference

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Missionaries Sister Khanitta Puttapong, center left, and Sister Christina Wong, center right, talk to Casey Ahlstrom, left, and Jason Mondon in Temple Square during the 182nd Semiannual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City on Sunday, Oct, 7, 2012. (AP Photo)
Missionaries Sister Khanitta Puttapong, center left, and Sister Christina Wong, center right, talk to Casey Ahlstrom, left, and Jason Mondon in Temple Square during the 182nd Semiannual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City on Sunday, Oct, 7, 2012. (AP Photo)

Living in and around Provo offers BYU students from around the world an easier opportunity to sit with more than 100,000 Latter-day Saints and listen to the guidance of general authorities live in the Conference Center.

Here are a few tips for first-time conference-goers to keep in mind:

Getting tickets

Tickets for General Conference are distributed to LDS stakes in the United States and Canada for each session. Interested members can ask their priesthood leaders for tickets in advance. But for those who missed this opportunity, there is still hope.

Guests without tickets can line up in the standby line at the North Gate of the Conference Center. Guests in this line will be let in on a first-come, first-serve basis according to the number of empty seats in the Conference Center.

There is no guarantee of getting in. Caroline Black, a junior from Salt Lake City studying international relations, said she will never do standby again.

“We got there early and were in the front of the line for both the morning and afternoon sessions on Sunday,” she said. “However, we were sorely disappointed because they did not let a single person into conference from the standby line either session.”

Other hopeful conference-goers try scalping tickets on site.

Ynna Kutney, a BYU graduate from Pennsylvania who studied communication disorders, said she and her friend arrived at the Conference Center 10 minutes before it started one year and were still able to get in.

“We saw a nice family and asked if they had any extra tickets, and they had plenty to spare,” she said. “People want to share, but sometimes you just need to politely ask.”

What if you don’t get in?

For those who don’t succeed with waiting in the standby line or scalping tickets, there are various places on Temple Square where General Conference is broadcasted.

Danica Holdaway, a BYU graduate, said she watched conference in one of the Temple Square visitors’ centers once when she didn’t get into the Conference Center.

“It was really nice,” she said. “We still kind of got the Temple Square experience.”

The Tabernacle, the North Visitors’ Center and the Assembly Hall at Temple Square all offer overflow seating for ticketless attendants.

Getting there

The drive from Provo to Salt Lake City takes about 45 minutes on a normal day, about an hour on conference weekend. But to avoid the woes of traffic and parking, the UTA FrontRunner offers a good alternative for the Saturday sessions, though it is closed on Sunday.

According to UTA’s online Trip Planner, a Provo resident can make it to Temple Square in 1 hour and 10 minutes for $6.10, $12.20 round-trip. See www.rideuta.com for route details.

Sunday conference-goers can ride from the Trax station in Sandy.

Parking

The Conference Center parking lot is closed to the public during conference weekend. However, there is public parking available within walking distance of the Conference Center. LDS.org recommends the Triad Center Lot, the Parking Place Lot, the Regent Street Lot and the Eagle Gate Terrace Parking Lot, which are available for nominal hourly fees.

According to mormonlifehacker.com, “The best parking spot is just north of the Maverick on the corner of 200 West and North Temple.” They said parking here is free of charge, and there are always plenty of spots available on the roof.

Holdaway said her family usually parks at City Creek.

“That was really nice because on Saturday all the stores and things are open,” she said. “City Creek now makes it a lot easier to go (to conference), have stuff to do and have places to sit down and hang out with your family.”

Protesters

The Conference Center and Temple Square are private property, but the sidewalks and roads around them are known as “traditional public forums” where free speech is constitutionally protected,¬†according to Benjamin Whisenat, attorney and adjunct professor of media law at BYU.

However, in 2004 Salt Lake City divided the sidewalks around Temple Square into “free speech zones,” restricting street protesters to certain areas. This happened after two conference attendees assaulted two protesters whom they felt were doing things disrespectful to their faith.

Holdaway said she remembers the street protesters when she was young. “I remember being really confused like, ‘Dad, why are people protesting?’ The Church is true; the Church is great!” she said.

Since then, she feels like the protesting has become more severe.

“There’s probably more of them, and they are probably more outspoken than they were (a few years ago),” she said.

However, she doesn’t feel the protesters succeed in detracting from the spirit of conference. On the other hand, she feels like it only solidifies her belief.

“The second you step from the crosswalk onto Temple Square grounds, the Spirit is so strong there,” she said. “It just makes the Spirit so much more obvious.”

She said it is best to ignore the protesters. She said one year it was really bad and people started singing hymns as they walked by to tune it out.

Other information

Seating in the Conference Center opens up 90 minutes before each session starts. All ticket-holders should be in their seats at least 30 minutes before the session starts.

Attendants are not permitted to bring backpacks or food and drink into the Conference Center. Video and audio recording and photographs are also prohibited.

Sunday dress is encouraged.

Use the hashtag #LDSconf to share thoughts about conference on Twitter and Facebook.

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