General onference interpretation has come a long way from its humble beginnings of bulky headphones and dirt floors 50 years ago to the 58 interpretation booths and 93 languages that conference will be translated in this week.
The process of interpretation, the spoken transfer of information from one language to another, actually began with the October 1961 session of conference.
From that time to today, thousands of interpreters have participated in conveying messages of church leaders throughout the entire world.
In a media release from the LDS church, Jeff Bateson, director of the church's translation division, said the interpretation began because stakes were being organized outside the United States and church leaders were coming to conference from other parts of the world and needed to understand what was being said. Interpreters began with German, Dutch, Samoan and Spanish; now there are 93, with Georgian being added to this year's conference.
Interpretation was difficult in those early years, many recall.
"Those early interpreters were true pioneers," said Doug Rosborough, who has worked with the Italian team since the 1970s.
One element that hasn't changed is the ability for the interpreters to convey the message with the same spirit that has been delivered over the pulpit. They work to be very accurate.
"If a talk runs 10 minutes, so does the interpretation," said Brad Lindsay, manager of interpretation services.
"These are amazing people who understand two languages, two cultures and two value systems in order to convey the whole meaning of the message."
What started out with three or four interpreters has now grown to 800. The language each conference is interpreted in depends on who is coming, Lindsay said.
In 1962, conference was interpreted over shortwave radio. Transmissions originated in New York City, with three going to European countries and two to South and Central America.
Beginning in 2000, translations have gone out from a sophisticated system from the conference center created by Dave Bytheway.
Bytheway was called to do the project and didn't work directly for the LDS church, so still worked a full-time job and spent his weekends and evenings developing the system in his home.
The ATM-2000 system automatically adjusts the microphone volume of each interpreter, fades the live program up and down for the musical numbers and provides an intercom to each interpreter's booth.
The system automates the creation of each language feed and eliminates the need for manual microphone adjustments.
With this system, one operator can handle a full broadcast, replacing the dozens of operators that were previously required. The ATM-2000 switches and conditions the language feeds to the church satellite system and the Internet.
Although the sophisticated system is used and works well, interpreters still depend on a paper copy of the session's agenda to fall back on if necessary.
"Fifty years ago we were interpreting from dirt floors in the Tabernacle, and now we are interpreting for a single event from essentially anywhere in the world," Lindsay said. "This is a huge change, and technology makes this all possible."