Summarized by Kent Larsen
Conference Tickets For Sale On Ebay Attract Non-Member
Kent Larsen 29Mar00 N6
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH -- When he ended up with extra tickets to attend
the LDS Church's General Conference this weekend, one enterprising
member put the pair of tickets up for sale on ebay, the well-known
Internet auction site. The sale soon attracted a lot of attention
from Salt Lake radio and television stations, echoing the attention
following an attempt last summer to sell an LDS Temple recommend on
But the attention soon made the member's family uncomfortable, so he
pulled the sale just two hours after it started, leaving a non-member
trying to attend conference without that opportunity. The attempted
sale also leaves unanswered the question of what LDS material can and
should be sold in online venues like ebay and raises the question of
how non-members and people outside of the Wasatch Front can manage to
attend General Conference.
The anonymous member requested General Conference tickets through his
local bishop, like thousands of other Church members in Utah. He
asked for 4 tickets, since his parents usually come to Utah at
General Conference time. After he heard reports that demand far
exceeded supply (some sources say that the Church received 350,000
ticket requests for the 21,000 tickets in the new Conference Center),
he assumed he wouldn't get tickets, and told his parents as much.
Then, several weeks ago, the tickets came, and the Church member
discovered that his parents wouldn't be able to make it for
conference for health reasons. Rather than return the tickets to his
bishop, he decided to auction off the tickets on ebay, and donate the
proceeds to the Church's missionary fund.
The member told Mormon News that he knew the Church expected him to
return the tickets to his bishop, but he "wanted to create some
controversy." And the controversy came, almost immediately. Within
two hours of posting the tickets for sale on ebay, KSL radio had
already called him about the tickets. But his wife was upset by the
publicity and by felt that the tickets should be given back to the
bishop, so the member pulled the sale.
In a public statement on the attempted sale, the LDS Church issued
the following statement on General Conference tickets, "Tickets to
General Conference have been distributed to Church members by Stake
Presidents and Bishops, with no cost to the member. If a Church
member has tickets that are not needed, the appropriate thing to do
is to return them to the bishop or stake president, so that someone
who needs the tickets may get them without charge."
Unfortunately, neither the tickets themselves nor the sign up
material that the member saw prohibited their transferral. It is also
common for members that can't attend to pass their tickets on to
family members and friends.
Bids for the tickets also came, and one non-LDS-Church member, Jim
Bailey, had the winning bid at the time the auction was cancelled.
Bailey initially thought he had won the tickets and was looking
forward to attending General Conference with his wife, "I have a
strong interest in the Mormon religion and Mormon history, and
thought it would be a great experience to actually attend the first
session in the new building. I am also an engineer and am interested
in the building itself." he told Mormon-News.
The member says that he has not been contacted by his bishop or stake
president in connection with the incident, but has received an e-mail
message from the LDS Church's public affairs office including the
same statement released to the public. In spite of press reports to
the contrary, the member says he hasn't yet returned the tickets to
In the wake of the controversy, the member has been criticized by
several Church members, and reports receiving 2 'hate' e-mail
messages, condemning him for trying to profit from something provided
free by the LDS Church, evidently from people that didn't notice he
was passing the proceeds on to the Church's missionary fund. This at
least made a difference to Bailey, the non-mormon who attempted to
buy the tickets, "As the money was going to the missionary fund, I
would hardly consider this scalping tickets. Actually, I felt the
seller was providing a service and had good intentions. Not being
LDS, I had no other way of getting tickets to the first session in
the new building, so I was thrilled to have won until I heard the bad
news about the tickets being returned to the man's bishop. I'm really
bummed out about not being able to go."