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For week ended April 02, 2000 Posted 24 Feb 2001
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News about Mormons, Mormonism,
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Sent on Mormon-News: 29Mar00

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 ebay.

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 his bishop.

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."


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