When the chance came to go to general conference, I took it — I’d braved the thronging pilgrims around Temple Square a few times before, but this time was different.
This time, I was going as press.
Specifically, I was going as a representative of i-Comm Student Media and of BYU–Idaho.
I arrived an hour early and parked like any other faithful conference-goer, dodging the crowd. I blissfully ignored the protesters on Temple Square, engaged as they were in their semi-annual quest to save our souls. The lines stretched longer than I would have liked, and I prepared myself for a half-hour wait in the wind and rain.
But, as I quickly discovered, being press had its advantages.
One of the ushers spotted my press pass and escorted me to the front of the line. I apologetically shrunk from the looks of the others waiting in line, who were clearly wondering what so special about me that allowed me to bypass the line.
The ushers, after subjecting me to the normal security check, led me to the pressroom, a soundproof enclosure on the back of the first floor of the Conference Center filled with chairs and snacks. Area journalists were setting their laptops in the back; a few people were repeatedly sampling the Skittles on the refreshment table. Copies of the talks lay on another table.
Watching conference from behind the glass, listening to it over a loudspeaker, was an experience unlike any I’ve ever had. It wasn’t formal and hushed like it would have been had I watched the proceedings from the main seats; it also had a spirit that beat anything I’d felt watching conference from the couch in my pajamas.
That was only the beginning.
President Monson announced the name of the new Apostle — Elder Neil Andersen — while I was in the pressroom, and within seconds, biography information almost literally fell into my hands. The details of the coming press conference filtered in.
When the press conference came, I sat in the lobby of the Church office building with another i-Comm reporter. We conversed with hushed voices until Elder Andersen entered.
It wasn’t my first time seeing an Apostle close and in person, but it was definitely the first time I’d done so while that Apostle stood before the gaze of millions. No one part of the entire experience could be more representative of the spirit felt than that moment — not the clattering of laptops behind me, not the nonchalant bathroom breaks in the middle of a session, and definitely not the free Skittles.