USU students observe, respond to conference protests

The wind carried the voices of 30 USU students across Temple Square on as they stood outside the Latter-day Saint Conference Center on Saturday and staged their own kind of demonstration. “There are protesters against the church, and we’re just here to kind of be the other side,” said Tanner Croshaw, a USU student participating in the choir. “We wanted to sing, bring the spirit, help people to understand that we’re just here to make people feel better and have a better life.” Ken Tafoia, who described himself as a peaceful protester, said his mission is the same, and he comes each year to conference to help members of the LDS faith see why they are blinded and what spiritual truths they are missing. He said he was given the chance to find truth outside the LDS church and his mission is to help others find truth as well. Jerry Sisneros, a non-LDS resident of Salt Lake City, said he comes down to the conference center this time each year, and the controversy between members and protesters is always the same. “It’s pretty much a tradition around here,” Sisneros said. He also said the only difference in this year’s conference debate is the presence of a new player — the student choir. Helen Cooper, the musical director for the Smithfield and Providence groups, said she feels the singing is making a positive difference for LDS members and other Salt Lake City residents in the area. “They sing with us. As they are going up the sidewalk they start to sing the hymn we’re singing,” Cooper said. She said the organization allowed for several rotations of students from different stakes. Gathering to sing an hour prior to each session of conference, the choir would then attend the meeting together. After the session, the singers were replaced by another group. Camille Gilbert, a member of the 1 p.m. choir, said the drive from Cache Valley and the time spent are worth it.

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