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A gathering of saints

By Dalene Rowley

Last night I was reminded in a literal way what I find beautiful about gathering together with my sisters in Zion. Although I have an aversion to crowds, when my ward announced we had some tickets for the Young Women General Meeting I snagged some for my daughter and made arrangements to go up with some other mothers and sisters in our ward.

During our drive we noticed carload after carload of women and girls on the freeway. The further north we got, the more crowded the streets became; teaming with women of all ages, all moving in the same direction, toward the same goal. Finally we made it to our designated gate, through security, and, after a pit-stop in the what I will forever more refer to as the 100-acre water closet, we took our seats. We sought and found familiar faces in the crowd while the enormous room was filled with a muted buzz of positive energy as females of many ages greeted one another. I’d only ever been there once before, but to me this is one of the best parts of being there.

I felt the change before I heard or saw it. Then, as the prophet entered the room, the buzz gave way to the rustle of skirts and seats as the congregation of girls and women stood to acknowledge him. The rustling gave way to silence as President Monson made his way to his seat and then sat down.

At the end of the meeting we again rose from our seats, this time to raise our voices in song. To me, this is the second best part of the experience:

As I sing I am aware of the women and daughters to the lower left who are singing their praises with their hands, flowing in unison in ASL. As voices swell, I am conscious of the fact that women and girls are singing together stake centers throughout the world. I won’t pretend to understand the logistics–how we overcome the bounds of space, time and language. But I know we are sharing this moment together–no matter where, when or how. I feel joy in the good news of the gospel and an almost tangible power in our collective goodness (not perfection, but simple goodness) as we sing.

After the meeting I love to watch as that same energy, along with what I know is just one small part of that collective goodness, disperses out of the building and onto the streets of Salt Lake City, spreading out towards individual homes. This is the third best part of the experience. There is a certain hopefulness in the air knowing that each of us has been lifted and edified and is going forth into the world with a strengthened resolve to be and do better.

I look forward to the next gathering of saints, to take place next weekend. I’m sure wherever we are and however we are watching–whether pajama-clad or in our Sunday best in our respective homes, in the Conference Center or in branch, stake or ward buildings throughout the world–we will feel the positive energy and the collective goodness that is present wherever there is a gathering of saints.

About Dalene Rowley

Began blogging as a legitimate way to avoid housework and to keep a journal of sorts. In her other life she wants to be excellent at a number of things, but in this one she's settling for baking a mean sour cream lemon pie, keeping most of the points on her quilt blocks in line, being a loyal friend and aspiring to moments of goodness as a wife and mother.

20 thoughts on “A gathering of saints”

  1. My Stake also had tickets to the YW broadcast last night, and I felt envious of all those women and their daughters going together –my oldest daughter is only seven. 🙂

    But what you described is how I feel every October at the RS conference. The feeling is palpable –so much unity, reverance, respect, hope, love, etc. And yes! It feels that way during General Conference, too –knowing that people all over the world are listening to the same things and uniting in the same purpose. It's really remarkable and another testament to the truth of it all.

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  2. I have this feeling in my church when we gather for Ladies Aid once a month. Many times is is the only time that some of the elderly can join us, as just women gatherings. We eat lunch, have communion and have a program. And each month I feel completely renewed.

    Weekly (before marriage, now when can) I went to Quilters on Thursday. This is where I beleive I have learned what it means to be daughter, woman, wife.

    The singing part I completely relate to. When i was in choir, I left feeling transcended. I loved it!

    I don't know how kosher this is, but I wrote of similar experiences here: if I offend, please forgive!

    http://appalachianwoman.blogspot.com/2009/01/lutheran-women.html

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  3. Cheryl–your turn will come soon! There is such great strength built when we unite in purpose and truth.

    Traci–Thank you so much for sharing the link. Your post resonates with me on many levels. I love knowing that the feelings I have about the gathering of women is so universal.

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  4. I'm taking my 11 year old to the YW broadcast tonight. I'm excited that she'll be going into YW in a few weeks. I loved YW growing up and I hope my daughter gets the same uplift from it that I did.

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  5. I often see people complain about how General Conference feels too much like a reminder of the central power of the church and/or its base in Utah. I've always felt the opposite–I love the idea that we are all gathered together everywhere we can to worship and learn together. To me it is a reminder of the unity we share as a people–that we are all part of a worldwide movement.

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  6. Being far from Utah this type of experience makes me miss home. My family all lives in Utah and I went to high school just blocks from temple square. I love seeing the familiar mountains and vistas in the views of the conference center and temple square.

    On another level, these conference experiences are so important to our worldwide church. To remind us that we are united in a way that no other church organization is. Led ultimately by the Savior, we are guided by his chosen prophet. Being able to see the prophet, and hear his words that pertain to every daughter (or son) of God is indespensible for retaining the unity we have in doctrine and spirit. They are not just words in a book or a magazine, they are from a real man. Whose faith and connection to God we can witness through the wonderful media of our modern age.

    It does get me revved up for General Conference next week as well. How blessed we are!

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  7. We were fortunate one year to have planned our trip to visit family in Utah during conference. Since we live in NY, it was easy to get a hold of a few of the Stake's allotted tickets. Only my oldest son was old enough, so we also took a cousin along. I felt so much the same spirit I feel attending conference as I do attending the temple. It was a glorious day and a delight to be in the presence of Pres. Hinckley (I think this was '04). We are indeed blessed to have such feelings of love and unity as a church. Thanks for sharing this post.
    I loved the image of all the women and girls converging on Salt Lake. I look forward to going in a few years with my 8 yr. old.

    Love my Segullah sisters!

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  8. my darling 12 y.o. was in the GYWC choir last night. From the first rehearsal to the final performance, it was one of the best experiences of her entire life. we moved from vermont, where we were the only members in our town, to slc where we are surrounded by wonderful members, two summers ago…and it still makes me marvel.

    i'm so grateful she has had this experience at such a young age. to sit five seats above the prophet, and learn at the feet of those great leaders was thrilling for her. and for her mom, who was in the audience. i loved this conference, and appreciate the messages they gave our girls. i went with some questions that needed answers, and i was fed and filled. the messages they gave resonated within me, and i loved every moment of it.

    thanks for this post! ♥

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  9. I, too, was in the congregation at the conference center. I was caught off guard when the silence swept through the room. What an amazing sight to see all of those wonderful YW and the sisters who love them stand to welcome and reverence a prophet of God. What powerful examples for our girls to be watching. Thanks for celebrating a heart-stirring evening.

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  10. I know this feeling you describe- Even seeing it in pictures or on a screen I feel it. It is indeed a sweet feeling especially in my neck of the woods where being LDS can be very lonely. It's nice to see the bigger picture, the immenseness of it all to feel others strivings and goodness.

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  11. Thank you for posting this link. It's wonderful to read about sisters in other faiths and feel our similarities. I'm of German heritage and smiled to think of my grandmothers having a group of Quilter friends like you described.

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  12. Last weekend was pretty much an uber sister weekend. I felt it was not just a gathering of saints but a gathering of Sisters. I think there is more to sisterhood and womanhood than we understand and can fully appreciate. I love how C.S. Lewis phrases it in the beginning of the Narina books; Daughters of Eve.

    All those daughters of Eve converging on Salt Lake City it was a beautiful thing. Then on Sunday in my own ward in the sister part of that family a wonderful Visiting Teaching meeting and interview. How I love to be a sister how I love to have so many sisters to love.

    When I was little I remember wishing for a sister so much. I remember praying for a sister so earnestly. Alas when my mama her last baby it was yet another baby boy… He was pretty much the cutest little baby ever but he was not a sister.

    Many years have past and I've been blessed with more sisters that I can count. Testimony that Heavenly Father hears our prayers even if he can't answer them the way we expect or on a timetable that we choose.

    From my four lovely daughters to my mother who is now my sister mamma, a wonderful mother in law, sisters in law (how those annoying little brothers could have snagged such wonderful wives still amazes me, though that cute baby boy, now grown, is still looking for one of his very own). To my sisters in the gospel that I've grown to know and love through being visit taught and teaching. Being served and serving, being loved and loving, as sisters as Daughters of Eve.

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  13. Your description gave me goosebumps. I have nothing to add, except that (as my kids used to say), "I'm feelin' ya!"

    And I can't wait for conference next week.

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  14. It sounds wonderful! Living in England I never been to conference in Salt Lake and have often wondered how it must feel. This Saturday I will be taking my 12 year old daughter to watch her first Young Womens conference at the stake centre. I can't wait and really hope my rebellious angel can feel something and realise that she is part of something amazing and different.

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  15. I too am always humbled and amazed when I see a gathering of the Saints. I watched the rebroadcast with my oldest son who was anxiously looking for a certain pretty blond in the choir…

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  16. Well I am jealous (in only the best way!) of most all of you who have gone to some of these events in person. I just about can't wait until I move to Utah for grad school. I am going to try to go to every Conference I can. And oddly, or maybe not odd after all, even when I watch on my computer screen live, I can feel the presence of the Prophet. I like how you described the reverent hush that took place when he entered and took his seat. It would be such a comforting and wonderfully spiritual experience to be near the Prophet of the Lord…

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