Growth and the future were topics evident in both the surroundings and sermons presented during the first day of the 170th annual general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The conference opened Saturday with the first meetings to be held in the new 21,000-seat Conference Center, which was built to replace the 6,000-seat Tabernacle across the street as the venue for the church's general conferences."The organ is not completed and there are various construction details yet to be attended to. But fortunately the work is far enough along that we are able to use it for this conference," President Gordon B. Hinckley said Saturday as he opened the two-day conference. "The interior is beautiful and wonderfully impressive. It is huge, and it is constructed in such a way that nothing obstructs the view of the speaker. The carpets, the marble floors, the decorated walls, the handsome hardware, the wonderful wood all bespeak utility, with a touch of elegance."

One feature of the building singled out by President Hinckley was the building's pulpit, which was crafted from a black walnut tree that grew in the back yard of President Hinckley's Salt Lake home (see related story). "It represents superb workmanship, and here I am speaking to you from the tree I grew in my back yard where my children played and also grew."

Church leaders have envisioned an enlarged meeting hall on the block where the Conference Center now stands since the 1920s, President Hinckley said. "A year or so ago in speaking concerning it, I expressed the opinion that we may not be able to fill it initially. It seats 31/2 times the capacity of the Tabernacle. But already we are in trouble. People are filling all of the seats."

President James E. Faust, second counselor in the church's governing First Presidency, paid tribute to "the faith, vision and inspiration of Brigham Young and his associates" who built the historic Tabernacle. "The creative handiwork of the faithful pioneer saints still stands as a symbol of their great faith."

President Faust was one of several church authorities to speak Saturday about the work of the church in the world and the future.

"I believe the future will be great and marvelous in many respects. Opportunities for education and learning have increased and will continue to increase dramatically," President Faust said, adding the warning that vast amounts of information becoming available will create challenges "because with this wave of knowledge, life actually becomes more complicated."

Quoting Brigham Young, President Faust said the proliferation of the gospel would be accompanied by a proportionate growth in the power of Satan.

Elder Glenn L. Pace of the Seventy said the adversary "is having a major temper tantrum as he sees his power threatened."

Specific evidence of that is visible in West Africa, where President Hinckley two years ago announced plans to build a temple in Accra, Ghana. "Since then the adversary has been relentless in trying to prevent that from happening."

Temples help individuals increase in divine power and more completely realize their divine destiny. "That is why Lucifer is so concerned," Elder Pace said.

Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve said President Hinckley recently shared his concern that the great growth of the church throughout the world will make it increasingly difficult for the apostles to reach all members of the church "and personally admonish them to live the gospel. Thus, the future would bring greater reliance on technology to carry the gospel message to the worldwide church.

"The bricks and mortar and the continued expansion of technology will only bring the messages to us. Our challenge remains . . . to internalize the messages of the gospel of our Lord and Savior."

The conclusion of Saturday conference sessions saw more people spilling out onto downtown streets than had ever been seen when conference was hosted on Temple Square only, said Salt Lake police stationed between the Conference Center and Temple Square; but they reported nothing out of the ordinary for a conference weekend.