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Glenn and Carol Baugh have been directing Mormons to their seats in the giant Conference Center every six months since the massive building opened in the spring of 2000.
They know what to do in case of a heart attack raise their arms and make a fist, a signal that draws the instant attention of security guards who will come pronto. They know how the rows and levels are organized in the cavernous auditorium as well as the building's evacuation routes. They know where the restrooms are and where out-of-towners can get information about taxis and restaurants. They know how to spot contraband in purses and backpacks (such as a small dog dressed in a suit) as the attendees go through the metal detectors.
The retired orthodontist and his wife are the apotheosis of calm and competence, even in the face of hostility or confusion.
They are among 800 Latter-day Saint volunteers who serve as ushers for the faith's semiannual General Conferences, during which more than 100,000 people squeeze into five sessions. The events seem to run seamlessly, with this army of "guest service missionaries" GSMs for short maintaining orderly entering and exiting among the throngs.
They are called to serve by their Mormon leaders, then assigned to a team, which is part of a group, headed by a leader, says Chris Stepan, assistant event services manager for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
They must be "friendly and outgoing," Stepan says, "with strong legs and backs."
Thus, while these mostly retired missionaries don't have to pass physicals, they do have to attest to their ability to stand for 12 hours at a time, if necessary. During Conference weekend, they typically work 15 hours on Saturday and 12 hours on Sunday.
Some give out headsets for those needing the services translated into another language. Some give directions in Spanish. Others work with the hearing impaired.
Ted and Jan Campbell regularly take time off from grandparenting to help with Conference and other big events on the square. Like all the other missionaries, they wear name tags and modest clothing (suit for him, dress or skirt and blouse for her), but they don't have to go far from their Ogden home to serve.
New rules dictate a three-year stint for these guest-service missionaries, but the Campbells started before the time limits were in place, so they are going on four years. In addition to Conference, they usher at the weekly "Music and the Spoken Word" broadcast at the Mormon Tabernacle, other Tabernacle Choir concerts and numerous other special occasions.
"Getting ready for Conference, they tell us to walk and exercise," Jan Campbell says.
All have been trained in cultural sensitivity.
In certain countries, they say, pointing a finger to give directions is rude, so they've been instructed to direct people with open hands. They've been taught to smile but not touch people. They are taught to exude optimism and helpfulness.
Once Campbell watched in alarm as a woman seemed to be having a heart attack in the middle of the session's closing prayer. She witnessed another usher raise his fist and, by the time the prayer ended, the woman had been escorted out.
They are told explicitly not to argue with protesters.
"We live in a free country and they have a right to protest," Campbell says. "We just smile and walk on by. I've never had anyone be rude to me at all."
One thing these part-time missionaries are not allowed to do is proselytize. "We answer questions, but we do not preach the gospel," Campbell says. "If they want to know more, we refer them to missionaries on Temple Square."
For both couples, ushering has been a unique kind of spiritual experience.
"When you attend events and talk with people from all over the world, it is a great feeling," Glenn Baugh says. "A lot of people who are not [LDS Church] members say there's something special about this place, Salt Lake City, and they don't even know what it is."