|[Editor’s Note: This is a first-hand account, written by a young woman who served as a missionary on Temple Square during the April 2003 General Conference.]
To be a missionary on Temple Square during General Conference is absolute heaven! Members of the Church travel hundreds of miles to Salt Lake City to see a prophet of God. The feeling within the walls is of peace, sacrifice, love, and testimony. Some members of the Church who don’t have a ticket to get into a conference session will wait in lines inside the square for hours in hopes of crossing the street to the beautiful Conference Center. No one is impatient or grumpy as they wait. Even as it hailed and snowed, smiles are seen and laughs are heard as members try to squeeze under umbrellas of those in line with them. What a happy, joyous thrill it is to be a part of this event.
Outside the walls of Temple Square, however, the scene is quite different. Several very vocal protesters have been attending General Conferences for many years. Each conference their following grows and becomes louder and even more disturbing than the last. Their main purpose? To yell and scream terrible things about the leaders, the doctrine and the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and in this way convince us we are wrong. The last time I checked, yelling profane assumptions at families who are minding their own business wasn’t the most effective teaching method. Yet, their posters and billboards get bigger, their voices louder and the result is the same–families scramble, covering the ears of their little ones as they hurry across the street between the Conference Center and Temple Square, where within the walls they can again feel the peace of the Spirit.
The Church got smart last year and came up with a plan. Anti-Mormons can buy a permit from the city to stand in a specific spot and conduct their protest. The Church decided to purchase their own permits, as well. They purchased one permit on the Conference Center side of the street and one on the Temple Square side of the street, just outside the gates. The Church called a special meeting with those sisters in mission leadership positions and asked us to be brave and place ourselves smack dab in the middle of all the drama. Can you imagine two sets of young sisters standing at their designated posts in the midst of mobs of angry men holding posters, yelling, and blowing their noses in sacred garments and waving them in the air. We were a small force, but a mighty one. We had shifts, so we’d stand for two hours and then recharge back inside the Square before going back out to the lions.
One funny thing about these men is that they are paid to do this, and so when each Conference session started and everyone was inside, there was no one to yell at, so they’d put their signs and megaphones down and relax. This was an opportune time to chat. We called one anti-Mormon over who seemed to be our age and asked why he was here. He didn’t really know. He was cold and “kind of wanted to get back home.” He came all the way from the east coast. (I hope he got a big paycheck.) We noticed one more man who seemed mentally slower than the others. As everyone was entering the Conference Center, he was holding an arrow that said “False Prophet,” but it was pointed at the man next to him who was also an anti-Mormon. When his partner noticed, he re-directed his arrow so it was pointing at the Conference Center. We chuckled. Now that it had died down we made eye contact with this man and smiled. He smiled back and waved as if he wasn’t aware of what he was being asked to do. My companion and I had a break, so we went across the street, back to Temple Square, to warm up. Before our next shift we really prayed that our presence would have some kind of impact.
Conference let out and as we positioned ourselves on the post outside of the gates of Temple Square, we watched as 21,000 people came streaming out of the Conference Center, spiritually fed and strengthened. I said one more prayer just as the anti-Mormons picked up all of their megaphones and signs. As we watched the peace destroyed and the faces of the members saddened and afraid of the mobs of yelling men, we were moved to action. My companion who has an incredibly powerful voice turned to me and said, “Let’s sing hymns and try to out sing these guys.” We began singing hymns as loud as we could. A few missionary sisters joined in and as the members crossed the street, they started to hear the singing behind all of the yelling. As they looked past the mobs they saw us, and some joined in. We became very powerful, which angered the men, causing them to yell louder. It didn’t matter–the members’ faces turned from fear to happiness as they saw a small army of Saints standing for truth. Some mouthed the words “thank you,” many waved and everyone smiled! More and more Saints joined in and we found more and more courage as we bore our testimony through song. As the mobs chanted “false prophet, false prophet,” we sang with power “We Thank Thee Oh God for a Prophet.” As they chanted “the Book of Mormon is false,” we sang with fervor, “We are as the Armies of Helaman,” and as they yelled with their megaphones that we were going to “burn in hell” we sang with full hearts, “The Spirit of God Like a Fire is Burning.” The feeling was unmistakable. The presence of the Spirit was powerful and we were all brought to tears. Never had the contrast between good and evil been so clear to those standing there that day.
In the midst of it all, my eyes were drawn to one man who had stopped yelling. I watched for a moment as the spirit of the music utterly stopped him from yelling. He lowered his sign and looked back to see a small army of Saints with faith in their eyes as they lifted their voices in song. He looked back down at his sign with the expression on his face as if to say, “what am I doing here?” There he stood with his head down, touched by the Spirit. At that moment I began to cry, knowing that the gospel of Jesus Christ will go forth boldly, nobly and independent and that no unhallowed hand will stop it. No amount of yelling men will change what is true and cause me to doubt the confirmation I received that day.
How grateful I am for the spirit of truth and for the hearts that were touched through this wonderful experience. The Spirit of God like a fire is burning, and will continue to burn brightly forever.
|[Editor’s Note: The FAIR Web site includes a video that shows the beginning of the events described by Sister Wilde. You can see the videoby clicking here. Shortly after the end of the video, dozens of members joined voices with the sister missionaries and finally drowned out the obnoxious yelling of the anti-Mormons that you see in the video.]