Satellite Stake Conference

April 24, 2005 | 30 comments
By

I spent most of my morning in a very enjoyable Stake Conference. Many of you were probably there, too. After all, it included 61 stakes and one district covering nine Midwestern states.

President Boyd K. Packer presided, and Elder Robert C. Oaks conducted. Elder Keith K. Hilbig, a Milwaukee native, also spoke, as did Sisters Packer, Oaks, and Hilbig. All six of the speakers were in Salt Lake City, while I listened with the members of two wards in the Madison, Wisconsin stake. Other attendees were scattered across the Midwest in any Church building with a satellite feed. According to Elder Oaks, this is the new order of Stake Conferences:

* Two Stake Conferences per year
* The Stake President presides at one Stake Conference per year
* A General Authority will visit each stake once every two years
* An Apostle will preside via satellite over a multi-Stake Conference once every two years

I hope this doesn’t sound petty and ungrateful, but what is the point of having a satellite Stake Conference? Although the talks contained occasional references to the Midwest, this didn’t have the feel of a tailored message. And, of course, the General Authorities did not conduct any local business or perform any local leadership training. It felt a lot like a less formal version of General Conference, and even though I enjoyed the talks, I couldn’t see the point.

30 Responses to Satellite Stake Conference

  1. Blake on April 24, 2005 at 2:49 pm

    Gordon: What is the point of having a Stake or Stake conference at all? If I were king of the forest, I’d abolish the stake and send the stake leaders back to their wards where the real work is done and the Church is still true [grin].

  2. Gordon Smith on April 24, 2005 at 3:01 pm

    Blake, I see value in Stake Presidencies and High Councils — someone needs to administer and monitor wards — but I don’t understand what most people in Stake auxiliaries are doing.

  3. a random John on April 24, 2005 at 3:17 pm

    I have been to Stake Conferences that addressed very specific local needs. I have a hard time seeing how a mega-stake conference can do that. It seems like a scaled down version of general conference, which we already get twice a year. Not that I want less instruction from our leaders, but I appreciate the applicability of a local conference. I guess getting that three times out of four isn’t so bad.

  4. Jed on April 24, 2005 at 3:30 pm

    Gordon. I think the answer is pretty simple. The authorities want to teach the people. They want their presence felt. A couple years ago I was talking to one of my friends who works as an assistant editor at the Ensign. She remarked that her traveling assignments were being cut back. She would be writing far few articles than before. When I asked why, she said the authorities wanted to “reestablish the prophetic voice.” They wanted to teach “the doctrine.” They would be writing most of the articles. I’m not sure what the ultimate meaning is, but for the last few years the Ensign has far more articles written by GA’s. I think having a GA speak at Stake Conference, particularly an apostle, is part of the same trend.

  5. Kevin Barney on April 24, 2005 at 4:12 pm

    I was glad the wives got to speak.

    Is this Elder Oaks related to Dallin? He didn’t look much like him, but does anyone know for sure?

    I agree with you guys about cutting stakes back dramatically. It seems like a lot of bloated bureaucracy to no good purpose. We have a smallish ward in the stake center building, and most of our good people are in stake callings. I feel sorry for the poor bishop, who has to try to run the ward with one hand tied behind his back in terms of using our people resources.

  6. Justin on April 24, 2005 at 4:41 pm

    The Church News has noted several times that they’re cousins.

  7. Julie in Austin on April 24, 2005 at 4:45 pm

    I can think of a few advantages of this format:

    (1) weaker/newer areas of the Church will be taught pure doctrine, removing some of the burden from local leaders

    (2) if nothing else, it is a ‘vacation’ for the bishop, RS Pres., nursery workers, GD teacher, etc., etc., etc., who get a break from their callings

    (3) while I haven’t experienced this new stake conf. format, I have been in big meetings (usually a rented indoor stadium) in Austin, San Antonio, and Oakland where GAs have spoken. I felt that these were very good and spiritual meetings. it seems that this stake thing is one way to accomplish that without renting a huge arena and requiring some of the Saints to do a lot of driving

    It is kind of a separate issue, but I, too, wonder what people like the stake RS presidency, SS presidency, etc., etc. really do. Anyone?

  8. J. Stapley on April 24, 2005 at 5:15 pm

    A Stake President that I am close to has one major complaint about the new arrangement – they no longer have Stake President’s training. Up until a couple of years ago, an apostle would visit and teach a group of Stake Presidents (like an area) on site. The stake presidents could interact and then the Apostle would open it up for questions.

    I see many parallels to internet based education. While watching a lecture over a broadband connection and receiving the appropriate notes is better than nothing, it can’t compare to the educational dynamic of sitting in a classroom with peers and with a teacher. Stake Presidents don’t get to relate (or commiserate) and neither do we.

    Perhaps they want to restore some intimacy with the Brethren that the early saints had. But while we may see them, they do not see us. The intimacy is still elusive.

  9. Russell Arben Fox on April 24, 2005 at 5:49 pm

    Our turn–stakes from throughout Arkansas and a good chunk of the Ohio River valley–is coming up on May 15th. President Hinckley will conduct. I’m curious to see how it’ll work. I’m doubtful that the increased exposure to the counsel of general authorities (to the extent that satellite feeds constitute “exposure”) will be that valuable insofar as the particular needs of the stakes are concerned, but I also recognize that I’m a poor judge of such things. Stake and regional meetings are, to my mind, the least important in the church–the sacrament ordinance isn’t conducted at such meetings, so they aren’t really “worship” services; as for prophetic counsel, I’ve rarely heard anything from a stake president which provided as much affective aid and truth as something a any bishop could say. General conference is just a big meeting also, but because I hold general authorities to have a different order of responsibility and a different sort of place in the structure of the church than a stake president does, listening to their counsel involves an imperative that I’ve never felt whenever I’ve been obliged to drive two hours to our stake center. Who knows–maybe the GAs feel the same way, and so figure they may as tell try to inject themselves more into the stakes. It’ll be an interesting experiment, at any rate.

  10. Ben S. on April 24, 2005 at 5:50 pm

    I went in to this with a bad attitude, but I came out very impressed. I regret that there’s no interaction. However, the talks were excellent, useful and (apparently) unscripted. I found the atmosphere to be much more casual, pleasant, and tailored than General Conference.

    I also think it interesting, given the various discussions of feminism and female visiblity in the Church, that three of the speakers were women.

  11. Rosalynde Welch on April 24, 2005 at 6:07 pm

    What was interesting about the three women speakers, Ben, was that they were the wives of the three general authorities who spoke–Sister Oaks, Sister Hilbig, and Sister Packer. This is very different from the GC women speakers, who are selected from the auxiliary presidencies, and thus by virtue of their own callings and responsibilities.

  12. Ben S. on April 24, 2005 at 6:12 pm

    Would you have preferred all male speakers?

  13. Rosalynde Welch on April 24, 2005 at 8:13 pm

    Hi Ben–

    Nope, I’m happy to be fed by the Spirit with words from men and women. I was just noting that, in contrast to the GC model (which others previously in the thread had compared to this regional satellite conference), the speakers seemed to be selected on a different basis. It seemed more like the missionary zone conferences I attended, where our mission president and his wife both spoke (usually). I think that those women who respond especially to hearing women’s voices across the pulpit will be gratified and edified by this format.

  14. a random John on April 24, 2005 at 8:22 pm

    Julie,

    I must admit that I don’t understand your three points.

    My questions:

    1 – Huh? Local leaders have the “burden” of teaching “pure doctrine”? Maybe your point is about levels of indirection, but I don’t see it. This probably is more of an issue outside of the USA, but there problems of live translation create even more indirection for meetings such as these. In any case, it seems that if you stick to the manuals then there isn’t much of a burden.

    2 – Don’t the great majority of local leaders already get this same break during normal stake conference?

    3 – The stadium meetings I have been to have had horrible audio and were difficult to understand. The setting seemed to detract from the spirit. I don’t know how to balance the need for the first presidency and the apostles to interact with/testify to as many people as possible with the odd cult of personality aspect that I have seen surrounding these giant meetings. Basically it was a chance to see someone in person and not understand what they were trying to say very well. I am probably being too critical of adoring members here, so I’ll stop.

    Maybe they shouldn’t call this a “stake conference”. It probably deserves a name of its own.

    While we’re on the subject of mega-conferences, I have thought for a while that it would be interesting if one general conference per year were held in a location other than Salt Lake City. They could even give as many talks as possible in the local language and make us in the US live with a translation.

  15. Julie in Austin on April 24, 2005 at 8:30 pm

    a random John–

    (1) I know that problems crop up from time to time where inexperienced local leaders teach false doctrine. This new format would prevent that. I have to admit that if given the choice between hearing from a live stake SS president or a video feed of a member of the Q12, I’d take the Q12.

    (2) yes, my contrast here wasn’t new format versus old, but rather stake conf. versus regular meetings

    (3) sorry your experiences weren’t good. (perhaps it is the problems of dealing with rental facilities with uncertain audio that’s led to this new format!!)

    I am intrigued with your last idea. At least, I’d like to see GAs whose first language isn’t English speak in their native tongue. Mostly because half the time I cannot understand their English anyway, and I think nonEnglish speakers would enjoy hearing the talk untranslated.

  16. a random John on April 24, 2005 at 8:56 pm

    Julie,

    Thanks for your speedy response!

    1- I’ve heard all sorts of interesting false doctrine, especially “in the mission field”, and I don’t see how one meeting every two years will really stem the tide. Besides, stake conference in the past often featured a live general authority.

    2- Sounds good to me.

    3- Good point. I wonder if there will be few stadium meetings as a result of this format. I also wonder if the stadium meeting concept was partially due to President Hinckley’s willingness and ability to travel early in his presidency.

  17. Soyde River on April 25, 2005 at 3:17 am

    Stake Conferences have undergone numerous changes over the years. In the early days in the Salt Lake Valley, all the members of the Quorum of the Twelve would attend stake conferences. They were quarterly. As the Church grew, there was of necessity, a change in who attended. I believe they were quarterly until the late 1970′s.

    Since that time, they were held twice a year, and a GA or AA 70 would preside at one, with the Stake President presiding at the other. With the growth of the Church, it is inevitable that there will have to be changes. As I read the scripture, the Seventies will be capped at 490 (but not necessarily quorums, witness the creation of the 8th Quorum at this last conference). However, other organizational arrangements are possible (remember Regional Representatives?).

    I believe the current modern technology arrangement has more to do with bringing the General Authorities closer to the people (but not bringing the people closer to the General Authorities–if I explain the concept correctly), so that they feel a more direct communication from them.

    Is it ideal? Certainly not, because we would all like to have been at Jesus’ feet at the Sermon on the Mount. The immediacy of being physically in someone’s presence is incomparable. But with a worldwide Church of millions, it is probably the best compromise. Of course, as with any compromise, you gain something and lose something in the process.

  18. JrL on April 25, 2005 at 9:37 am

    I enjoyed the conference session — which was certainly less scripted than a general conference. But otherwise, is it really different from general conference? I’d say yes — and not just because of the regional references (President Packer having Sister Oaks wave to her kids and grandkids who live in the area, for example). The topics weren’t for general Church consumption, they were for our particular area. Having spoken with a stake president who’d been in regional training sessions over the last few years and heard where our area lagged behind the rest of North America, I wasn’t surprised to hear certain topics given repeated emphasis. The emphasis may be different elsehwere. 61 is a lot of stakes, and the messages certainly weren’t as tailored as for a single stake (as we’ll have next year, when our area gets personal visits). But it is few enough to have a focus far narrower than general conference.

    By the way — Pres Packer commented about the history of stake conferences. He said the 4-per-year approach ended in 1978 (good memory, Soyde!). Can’t say as I miss those — particularly the 4-times-per-year, 2-2-hour-sessions-per-day, hard-pews-in-the-Provo-Tabernacle days of my youth…. Pres Packer also commented that Elder Robert Oaks had been on another such conference Saturday night at 9 Utah time — which was Sunday morning in the receiving buildings in The Philippines.

    I was interested that it appeared the Church has built a set for these broadcasts, and that there didn’t seem to be any audience at all, unlike the worldwide training broadcasts. Too bad they didn’t gather a few dozen of the midwesterners in town for their kids’ BYU graduations….

  19. Chris Estep on April 25, 2005 at 9:40 am

    Allow me to be one of the few dissenters.

    I went to this SC broadcast and didn’t like it at all and I’ll tell you why.

    1. It was impersonal, in my opinion. It felt staged, where GC does not. I suspect that it is because GC is in front of a live audience. It also felt impersonal because it simply wasn’t personal. I don’t see how they can call this a stake conference. It wasn’t. It was a regional conference. By the logic of this being a “stake conference” you could also call General Conference a stake conference that is being broadcast to every stake. Or a ward conference.

    2. Because it was a broadcast, the typical sacrament meeting din was 5x as bad. While it’s not the fault of SLC and is the fault of the parents, the format didn’t help.

    3. I frankly don’t see the point of it and I read every comment here as well. A stake conference is for the stake. I’d much rather have had my stake presidency speak than watch something on TV. Heck, I’d rather they have a GA tape a personalized talk from SLC and have THAT shown, along with the local leaders. I understand that it is simply too difficult to have GA’s go to every stake once a year.

    As I said, my biggest beef is that it was so impersonal. It just seems like the Church is getting away from us. Perhaps if they had actually come to the midwest and arranged to have it broadcast from here or something, it wouldn’t seem so bad. But it seems to me leadership by remote control. We shouldn’t even be having a discussion of why do we need stakes and I think that’s a result of the remote control syndrome I’m talking about.

  20. Jed on April 25, 2005 at 11:03 am

    Chris: “my biggest beef is that it was so impersonal. It just seems like the Church is getting away from us.”

    I see the point, but I want to challenge you for a moment. Imagine you are Elder Packer and are getting letters from people of the Depression Generation living in the Midwest saying, “We never see you. It used to be the case that we could count on a GA visiting our stake once a year. Now we see you only twice a year at General Conference in an impersonal setting where you are speaking from a teleprompter. Your mission is to teach the gospel to all the world, but we only get you twice a year. That’s not enough. It seems like the Church is moving away from us.”

    If you’re Elder Packer, how do you respond?

  21. Gordon Smith on April 25, 2005 at 12:19 pm

    I think Jed makes a fair point about the General Authorities wanting to have their presence felt, and I would certainly prefer this format to a stadium meeting. As I said in the original post, I thought the meeting was quite enjoyable.

    I was surprised to read JrL’s assertion: “The topics weren’t for general Church consumption, they were for our particular area.” Now, I can’t remember all of the talks, but I remember Sister Hilbig discussed role models, and Elder Hilbig talked about obedience bringing blessings. Elder Oaks and Elder Packer both addressed tithing. It all seemed very general to me, though I am not sure it was any more general than the typical talk by a visiting General Authority to Stake Conference.

  22. JrL on April 25, 2005 at 1:49 pm

    I should have said that the selection of topics was not for the general church but for our area. Certainly the topics were of value to anyone.

  23. Colleen on April 25, 2005 at 2:31 pm

    I thought the talks were better than your average stake conference (does anyone know if transcripts will be available?), but the home-grownness was lacking, despite the Midwest native speakers. At stake conferences I look forward to hearing from local members like recent strong converts, a mission-bound teenager, the temple president and matron, and our stake president — who’s brand new and we haven’t heard much from. (It must be nice for him to have one less conference to plan each year, though.)

    Another strike against the new format: My teenagers were disappointed at having one fewer chance to see friends from other wards. It can make stake conference bearable for them.

  24. Vicki on April 25, 2005 at 2:31 pm

    I liked it. Maybe the fact that my baby was not fussy and I actually got to listen to a fair amount of the meeting is why. I liked hearing President Packer speak to our area, even though it’s a big area. I don’t think we get apostles in live visits at stake conference very often, and this meeting seemed a little less formal than GC to me. President and Sister Packer seemed quite warm and friendly in their talks, and I thought it was sweet when he had Sis. Oaks wave.

  25. annegb on April 25, 2005 at 2:48 pm

    I’m not clear on the type of meeting you are describing, did you all just watch it on TV? or was it just piped in to different places?

    I would take my wisdom wherever I could get it, written down, or taped, whatever.

  26. quinn mccoy hansen on April 25, 2005 at 3:11 pm

    if any one is interested, we had a similiar conference last may 2004 here in portugal, the prophet was is Madrid, and they broadcast the meeting through out iberia. it was kinda hard to do the translations because the prophet would speak in english, then we would hear the spanish translation at the same time that the portuguese translation was being given. however, it was a good experience for the members here because they got to feel a little closer to the prophet.

  27. N Miller on April 26, 2005 at 3:26 pm

    I think we need to remind ourselves about the setup of the church from the beginning to now.

    We are a growing church. The doctrines haven’t changed, but that doesn’t mean that the church should continue to operate how it used to. It must find ways to get the message out to the members. How many of you remember apostles and other general authorities coming to your stake conference? It was of course a special treat. Now, with the size of the church, can they do that? Of course not. But is their calling still in force to teach and train? Of course it is. They have always taught in stake conference to try to get maximum benefit of a speaking engagement. I am sure back in the day when the church was smaller, apostles would speak to specific wards because they could. Then the church grew and they had to change their methods to accomodate a changing church. I am sure there were discussions like this one with some mambers cursing the change. But alas, the church moves on as it grows.

    Last, concerning the personal training portion of stake conference. Indeed I would say that is missed. But as with my comment above, as the church continues to grow the leaders must find better ways to train. Hence, we have had the semi-annual leadership trainings in January and June. The spirit can be just as strong listening to an apostle on video as it is in person. If you have questions, ask your local priesthood authorities.

  28. Jeremy Jackson on May 15, 2005 at 4:27 am

    I found this website by accident and I think it may have been better had I not found it because some of the comments I have read make my blood boil. I can only assume that these comments questioning the purpose of the stake and its leadership are from non-LDS people seeking to cast a negative light on the Church. It concerns me to have to remind anyone that the structure of the Church is so because the Lord wanted it so. While you abolish the broadcast Stake Conferences because they are not “personal enough” for you, why not get rid of the scriptures as well–they weren’t even written in our time! I hope you note the sarcasm there–the Scripures are true, we have a true and inspired Prophet today, and the Church is organized as is seen appropriate by its Creator, our Savior, Jesus Christ. I don’t mean to degrade anyone with my heart-felt comments, but I KNOW the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true. I know that the leadership of our Church is inspired. As well, I know that behind every action of the Church leadership (like the new broadcast stake conferences), there is a revelation and a commandment of God. I have a testimony of this and testify that it is true.

  29. Stephen M (Ethesis) on May 15, 2005 at 9:20 am

    Is this Elder Oaks related to Dallin? He didn’t look much like him, but does anyone know for sure?

    Well, back in 1973 I was told they were related, though not closely.

    I’d love a copy of Sister Oaks talk, she is very sweet (or was) and I muchly admired her husband.

    The Church continues to try things out. There is a real question about how to have presence (all Stake Conferences used to have general authorities attend) while adjusting for size. At this point they are studying it out and asking God if they’ve got it right. Should be interesting to see what the next ten years bring.

  30. Rhonda on May 22, 2005 at 10:49 pm

    Just stumbled across this site and this thread discussing the broadcast stake conferences, and I have to put in my 2 cents worth. The purpose of stake conference is to conduct the business of the stake and to receive instructions. Before the broadcast, the business of the various stakes — Melchizedek priesthood ordinations, sustainings of stake callings, etc. was conducted in the respective stake centers. Then the meeting continued with the broadcast.

    I find the comments about talks not being tailored for the individual stake(s) interesting. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I (hem, hem, — feeling very “holier than thou” :-)) went to the Saturday evening session of our stake conference. At that time we had 2 hours of instruction from the stake president and other members of the stake. Perhaps, Chris, this would have helped you enjoy the experience more.

    One more point — regarding the question on stake callings. I think this is a good question, and perhaps it’s an area we need work on. As I understand it, a primary responsibility of the stake auxiliary leaders is to train and supervise the ward people, but I’m not sure that’s really going on the way it should be. For example, I’ve known people who served in auxiliary presidencies, and as soon as they were called, the stake person over them conducted training — teaching them what their calling was, how it worked in the organization, etc. My own experiences in this regard have been spotty — some good, some not so good, and some almost non-existent. I’ve had some stake leaders who were important resources for me, and others who came to our ward conference, and that’s about the only time I ever saw them. I don’t think it’s necessarily the individual’s fault; I don’t think we’re training the stake people on how to do that, either. The handbook offers a framework for those callings, but how it is filled varies so much from stake to stake and from individual to individual.