Subject: Back way Passages, Teleprompters, Food fests and Church Security: "insider" memories of General Conference
Date: Oct 04 19:16 2003
Author: steve benson
Mail Address:


As we all bask in the baloney (or other appropriate word inserted here) of General Conference, I'd like to share a few recollections on having experienced the charade "from the inside," so to speak (with apologies to those who have heard these before).

Teleprompted by the Spirit

At General Conference time, members of ETB's family (along with the relations of other GAs) were provided special, nontransferable passes--identified as such--for admission into the sessions. They were issued to us through ETB's office manager and used to access the Tabernacle at a designated portal. We'd cut in line, flash the ticket, and be escorted to our seats. It wasn't fair or right, but neither concept operates in Mormonism.

One of the more interesting vantage points for viewing Conference was sitting high up in the dome, behind the Tabernacle Choir, next to the white plastered walls and massive organ pipes. To get there, the ushers would lead us through a low-ceiling wood-paneled carpeted area behind the dais, to a back passageway and up a narrow stairwell to the crow's nest. From there, I could look down over the bald spots of the fellows in the men's section, directly on to the pulpit.

While it provided a unique view, it was also as hot as hell. There were big, colored lights up where we sat, used for shining on the smooth, blank walls behind us for special effect. Sitting there in our Sunday best, we did a slow cook--but it wasn't due to any burning in the bosom. During the last few times I sat up there, I would read anti-Mormon literature that I had been handed at the gates of Temple Square a few minutes earlier, since it was often more interesting than the GA sermons.

From high atop the Choir lair, I could see the GAs reading from their teleprompted scripts. The texts would scroll across a screen embedded in the top of the pulpit and then reflect up on panes of glass strategically positioned in front of the speakers.

Not only were the sermons teleprompted, I witnessed the Lord's anointed getting cues on their prepared prayers by artificial means. Everything was tightly timed, with the GAs supposed heartfelt petitions to heaven, as well as their ostensibly Holy Ghost-inspired sermons, precisely orchestrated and slotted into the overall script, so that the camera operators could, on cue, cut to commercial breaks, or to warm and fuzzy Red Square (er, Temple Square) vignettes, or to the chime of the Nauvoo Bell.

We Thank Thee, Oh, God, We're Related to the Prophet--and Can be Seen at General Conference in These Latter Days

When Benson family members weren't perched up behind the Tabernacle Choir, we could sit in specially roped-off benches, front and center, on the main floor of the Tabernacle, along with the other family and friends of the "we're-oh-so-special" GA crowd.

Mary Ann and I became increasingly uncomfortable with what we considered to be an arrogant arrangement and so decided that we would remain behind and simply watch Conference on TV at the Salt Lake home of my parents.

My mother became quite upset when we told her of our decision. She said that ETB wanted his family to be with him--in the Tabernacle--during Conference so that he could look down from the dais and see us all there on those hard, fake wood-stained benches as a sign of our love and support.

I told my mother that if this was what my grandfather wanted, then we would sit there in the Tabernacle until ETB got up and left. That meant that because he was now pretty old and frail, his assistants would often escort him out of the Conference session at the hour break--during the rest song, when everyone would stand up, stretch and sing a hymn before dropping back on their faithful posteriors for the second half of indoctrination.

So that's what we did. ETB would be escorted out during the break, waving weakly, and we would likewise exit (without waving, by the way). We would meet up with him in the back area, out of sight behind the dais, where we would join him and his handlers in escorting him through an underground tunnel over to his Eagle Gate condo that was across the street from Temple Square.

Or, if his assistants got ETB out ahead of us, we would simply make our own way out of the Tabernacle and go over to his apartment. By then, ETB's staff had wheel chaired him into his small, private study, where they would place him in a soft, leather reclining chair. They would then either turn on the TV for the second half of Conference or merely play soft music for him to listen to.

I, and other members of the family, would join ETB here for the duration of the Conference session. I would sit by his side, holding his hand and occasionally speaking to him softly. He would smile, squeeze my hand and sometimes say a word or two. But most of the time, he would not say or do much of anything, but just sit there.

Inside the Tabernacle, Trying to Talk to Church Security

When we did sit in the Tabernacle's seating area set aside for GA family members and Church-designated dignitaries (like Senator Orrin Hatch), I would often spot a friend of mine, with whom I had grown up and played as a boy in Salt Lake City.

His name was Doyle. Doyle (now known as "Duff") had morphed into a buff, jut-jawed dude with a microphone screwed into his ear. Doyle, you see, had landed a job working the Church security Conference detail.

I would sit there on the benches and observe him standing silently down in front of the plush seats for the GAs, intently scanning the audience. Prior to the kick-off of the Conference sessions, as we made our way to our seats, I would say hi to Doyle. He would respond with a tight-lipped smile, nod briefly and not say much more.

GA Gluttony

It used to be a tradition among the "perkified" that between breaks of the Conference morning and afternoon sessions, GAs and their families were treated to a sumptuous lunch, high atop the Church Office building.

The GAs relations (as well as friends and dates brought along by, say, their grandchildren) would gather at large tables, where they would be served heaping plates full of hot food, brought to them by young, crisply dressed girls. It was a place to eat, to be seen and to impress.

Meanwhile, during this GA gorge fest, we could look out the windows of this Great and Spacious Building, down at the lawn directly outside the Tabernacle, where the "great unwashed"--those LDS "little people"--were clustered on blankets brought from home, eating cheap box lunches which they had bought or food they had packed themselves--waiting and hoping to get into the afternoon session.

With our bellies full and burping pleasantly, Benson family members would eventually make their way down to the Tabernacle where we would again flash our passes, cut into line at the last minute ahead of people who had been waiting for hours, and make our way into "our" special seating.

One year, after returning home to Arizona from Conference, a member of our ward mentioned to Mary Ann that she had seen us at Temple Square as we maneuvered our way into the Tabernacle, where she and her family had long been waiting, trying to get in by standing in line. It was an uncomfortable encounter for Mary Ann--and we both knew the arrangement was not right.

Mary Ann and I finally had enough of this kind of undeserved treatment, so decided in the future to wait in line with everyone else. If we couldn't make it in to the Tabernacle because seating ran out, we would go over to the Assembly Hall and listen to Conference being piped in from across the way.


With General Conference playing today and the prophets, seers and teleprompted revelators imparting their words of wisdom, I look back on those former days and did what had to be done:

I went and got a flat tire on my truck fixed.

Subject: Great insights to the church's social order
Date: Oct 04 20:25
Author: Tyler

Seeing preferential treatment by the higher order Mormons always created a sense of low self esteem in myself. Going to the BYU football games and seeing the rich LDS mingling with the GA's in the box seats roped off with tight security always made me wonder just exactly how were these "men of God" any different from rich elitists found in society at large.

Now it means nothing to me, but a passing curiosity into the workings and mechanics of mankind's societal pecking order. It is rather comical to behold.


Subject: I'm impressed
Date: Oct 05 17:00
Author: bridget
Mail Address:

and I know you didn't mean to impress....but I really honestly am impressed that you and MaryAnn decided to excuse yourself from the privileged seating arrangement and got in line.

I'm afraid while I was TBM, I would not have been as thoughtful and would have eaten up the perks, probably loved that I had been offered preferential treatment. Sad. I was really very selfish then in many ways.

I don't think I am this way anymore.

Subject: Of course the passes are nontransferable.
Date: Oct 04 21:02
Author: Stray Mutt

Can't have bleeding-hearts like yourselves giving their VIP seats to Brother and Sister Normal.

The first shall be last and the last shall be first in the next life, not now. Until then, outta my way, chump.

Subject: Re: Back way Passages, Teleprompters, Food fests and Church Security: "insider" memories of General Conference
Date: Oct 04 21:06
Author: Yvette

Sickening. In my TBM heyday I knew some faithful couples who could hardly afford groceries but gave their last five dollars to pay an honest tithe. True church, what a joke. Christ washed the disciples' feet.

Subject: Oh, that celestial treatment...
Date: Oct 05 18:52
Author: activejackmormon
Mail Address:

reminds me of just how aristocratic Mormon culture is. Thanks for exposing this part of the scam that is their tithing dollars at work.

Subject: Faux marble tabernacle
Date: Oct 05 21:34
Author: beaglie

A number of years ago I took some marbling classes from a couple specializing in faux finishes. They happened to mentioned that they had recently trained some people who were involved in restoring the interior of the Mormon tabernacle. A year or so later while visiting Salt Lake I took a quick tour (on my own) of the tabernacle. One of the tour guides came up to me and gave me the usual spiel-wanted to know if I wanted to join a tour. I told her "no I just want to look at the walls." (I got a weird look on that one.) I found it ironic that while most historic restorations seek to return a structure as close to the original in architecture as well as decoration, the Morg was trying to embellish the tabernacle and make it seem grander than it ever was-by marbleizing the interior walls, columns, etc. (As far as I know that were not originally finished that way.) And I'm sure it looks a lot grander in it's present state than it ever did in the 19th century.
When I returned back to the Morg family homestead late for a dinner in our honor everyone asked where I had been. I replied that I went on a tour of the tabernacle. I could tell bt MIL's look that she thought perhaps there had been some sort of a miracle and I was finally coming around. I left a pregnant pause and then added "I just wanted to check out the new marbleizing job." No one knew what to say.

I read your post with interest. I always wondered what the panes of glass are that are positioned I front of the President (US, not Morg) when he speaks. I used to think they were for security (bullet-proof?) but they never seem big enough for that? Is that what they are-for reading from the teleprompter? I've been wondering that for years, another mystery of life solved.


Subject: I read your post with great interest and was left feeling sick inside thinking of what 'they' do for themselves and what 'they' did to the custodians. nt
Subject: Re: Back way Passages, Teleprompters, Food fests and Church Security: "insider" memories of General Conference
Date: Oct 06 01:43
Author: jennifer

Thanks for sharing this for those of us who have not read it before. I never get tired of reading posts from you or Mary Ann.

And I really like the humor that is usually a part of your posts.


Recovery from Mormonism - The Mormon Church -   

Listing of additional short Topics  |  Main Page