The Stake Conference Experience

April 15, 2007 | 83 comments
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Today we had stake conference. It was our turn for one of those newfangled and (I hope) still evolving “multistake conference broadcast” experiences; at least some of you living in the Midwest and Great Plains must have caught it also. I think this is the fourth time we’ve been part of one of these over the past five years or so in four different states. Of course, the language of our having “had” stake conference, or being “part” of it, is rather misleading; what I really mean is, we joined twenty or so others in a cacophonous side room, sat on folding chairs, alternately hushed our kids in vain or supplied them with snacks and crayons and paper, and strained to hear and see what was being relayed to us from Salt Lake City on an 18-inch TV screen. As far as meetings go, it’s not my favorite format. Still, I managed to take a few notes. Here they are, irreverent as they may be.

1. These multistake broadcast things still have a long way to go before we can listen to those who speak at them and actually believe that they had one specific subsection of the whole church in mind in preparing their remarks, assuming that is even their goal. Elder Rasband, who conducted the meeting and spoke first, valiantly attempted somehow personalize things for the 61 stakes that were listening in by rattling off their seven temple districts, but he didn’t even have his list up to date: our Kansas stakes and temple district down here in Wichita, while electronically present and accounted for, apparently didn’t make his list. (I hope this doesn’t mean we’re going to learn next Sunday that we’re actually supposed to tune in to another next month.)

2. Just where are these general authorites sitting, anyway? They say the broadcast is coming from the conference center; so, it’s originating in some downstairs television studio, perhaps? I couldn’t help but wonder, as I have every time I’ve sat through one of these, just what those speaking to us are looking at. I mean, a television camera and a teleprompter, obviously, but what else? Do they look at the camera man? The sound guy? Maybe a mirror? Do you suppose anybody else in the studio besides those on the makeshift stand stood up when the choir director stood up in front of…well, the assembled technicians I guess, to lead those of us watching on the other end of the satellite feed in a hymn?

3. I’m taking it on faith that this was live, but I was not able to discern anything that guaranteed such was the case. You know some diligent personnel guy in the Church Office Building has contemplated how much easier the logistics of these multistake things would be if the talks were pre-recorded; already major portions of church-wide, satellite-carried training meetings are prepared beforehand, and extending that practice to stake broadcasts would be pretty natural. And it’s not like, as is the case with general conference, there is any actual physical or temporal space, in Salt Lake City or on the calendar, that the scheduling and delivery of stake broadcast messages is required by tradition to occupy; they could shoot them and upload them from anywhere. So I suspect the at least partial abandonment of the principle of having a “live meeting” with numerous stakes by satellite is inevitable.

4. Elder Bednar said that it was a pleasure to “worship with us this day.” I’ll happily allow that talking about the gospel can always or at least should always be a pleasure, but was this really “worship”? I mean, we did sing a hymn along with Elder Bednar & Co.; that’s true. But there was no sacrament, of course, and not even any prayers; they were provided by the local stake leadership, who had to rush through the opening song and prayer and all the stake business before the satellite feed kicked in. So, is what Salt Lake provided to us today really “worship”? I guess if talks alone count, then I suppose they did. But I’m not sure I’d use that term though: words of inspiration and instruction are much needed, to be sure, but they aren’t the same as acts of communion and devotion.

5. Still, it’s always good to hear from the general authorities, and one suspects that speaking as they are to distant groups without the same oversight and attention and pressure that attends general or regional conferences has got to loosen them up a little bit. I liked Elder’s Rasband’s tribute to his hardworking father, complete with a shout out to the Teamsters. Sister Dalton’s testimony was a strong one. Elder Bednar’s talk on prayer was excellent and full of good advice. And President Monson…

6. …well, he’s just a force of nature. I mean, there’s no one–no one–in the church who has met so many people, visited so many places, been witness to so many dramatic and tender and funny stories, and can wrap them up and deliver them through the medium of the television camera with such skill and emotion. And it’s plain that he takes great joy in wandering through his memory and crafting these little stories for the consumption of the saints…maybe too much joy, sometimes. This time, somewhere around the 40 minute mark, after President Monson had cracked jokes about Fargo and Cedar Rapids that no doubt got a lot of laughter in those respective stakes, after he had finished reciting much of Dickens’ The Christmas Carol and Van Dyke’s The Mansion from memory, after he’d dropped an odd mish-mash of child psychology and computer science on us, and once he’d started getting into some of his favorite musicals, it was clear the man had gone completely into automatic mode. Which I suppose is his right. Actually, I kind of wonder if such is commonplace in these loosely structured broadcasts: a few years back, at a multistake broadcast in the South, we watched in fascination as Elder Wirthlin, in his talk, wandered way out into left field and then pretty much just left the ball park entirely, and started meandering up and down side streets, completely lost. In that case, Elder Nelson came to his rescue: towering over him by the pulpit with his arm kindly guiding Elder Wirthlin back to the microphone and metaphorically back to the business at hand, he helped Elder Wirthlin finish up with a proper testimony and “amen.” I really suspect that, while the camera never showed his face, the no-nonsense Elder Bednar must have been longing to do the same for Elder Monson, but he didn’t, perhaps because Elder Monson outranks him in the Quorum of the Twelve, perhaps because Elder Bednar appears to be about six inches shorter than Elder Monson, and so was worried that trying the “whoa-there-brother!”, arm-on-the-shoulder trick might get himself tossed over the pulpit if he caught Elder Monson in the middle of one of his beloved stories.

7. Speaking of which (and I’m sorry, but yes: by the end, my mind was wandering far afield), just who do you think it is the most physically imposing apostle? For years the obvious answer was Elder McConkie; with his long arms, heavy eyebrows, and buzz cut, you just felt he was entirely prepared to reach through the tv set and grab some hippie or sinner by the scruff of the neck and give them a good shaking. Nowadays, I think it’s clearly Elder Uchtdorf. Just look at that man’s jaw! His chin looks strong enough to cut glass.

83 Responses to The Stake Conference Experience

  1. Ardis Parshall on April 15, 2007 at 11:30 pm

    Elder Uchtdorf, or maybe Elder Perry. LTP is well over six feet tall, and almost as broad through the shoulders. He doesn’t look it on TV when there is little to give him scale, but that man is massive.

    I’m not a big fan of broadcasts, either. It’s one thing when it’s General Conference and I have no hope of getting tickets anyway, but there’s something really off-putting about getting dressed up and going to the stake center, sitting on uncomfortable folding chairs, and trying to glimpse a TV screen somewhere off to the right, over there behind that lady with the tall hair, and that couple who thinks a church meeting is a good place to neck, and, oh, yeah, somewhere behind where those tall guys decided to stop and greet each other as they passed on their way to business more impressive than the talks.

    The most intriguing part of our next-to-last broadcast was that some unstable man decided to start a fist fight with the stranger walking down one aisle. It was impressive to see how many elders instantly and silently surrounded the man, lifted him off his feet, and carried him out — so quietly and smoothly that I don’t think anybody in the front half of the hall was aware of it.

    But trying to focus on a TV screen and feel like I’ve been part of a worship service? Naah.

  2. Wacky Hermit on April 15, 2007 at 11:55 pm

    Having very small children, I would love it if they would broadcast stake conference on TV so that I could record it and watch it after the kids go to bed. Live stake conference for us means absolutely no worship OR guidance, unless by “guidance” you mean guiding small children to the bathroom, away from the stairs, etc. and if by “worship” you mean getting down on your knees to keep your toddler from biting your baby.

  3. a random John on April 16, 2007 at 12:32 am

    Please share the details of the computer science that Pres. Monson delved into. I’d love to hear more.

  4. An observer on April 16, 2007 at 12:39 am

    President Hinckley, Elder Holland and Elder John Madsen the marvelous Sister Vicki Matsumori (listed in alpha order)–and the Sunday School President spoke in Nevada’s recent broadcast.

    Elder Holland started his talk with a 3 minute recitation of his “bona fides” to speak to the state of Nevada, listing every connection he has to the state, including a son and his family. This was deeply endearing with a thick slathering of JRH charisma. Further, his talk centered around a church history episode involving a family from Nephi that Brigham Young called to colonize the Muddy River area in Nevada–unless I misunderstood. The most memorable line, adapted from the comment of a young girl that her father wouldn’t be much of a father if he didn’t accept that we all go out and serve wherever called and that “you wouldn’t be much of a father or a mother, an elder or a prophet if you didn’t.”

    I understand that not everyone called to speak at these will have deep (or even superficial ties) to a geographical area. But it was, again, endearing and charming for Elder Holland to be moderately connected to this area, and to take as his text a bit of church history associated with this area.

  5. Mark D. on April 16, 2007 at 12:41 am

    Why would you watch it in a side room? Or was that just overflow for the chapel?

  6. Russell Arben Fox on April 16, 2007 at 12:41 am

    Ardis, you’re right that I should have thrown L. Tom Perry in there; he is a big man (though health problems have made him seem somewhat less of stature of late). And really, the height difference between Monson and Bednar probably isn’t what I make it out to be; just, for some reason, Monson has always seemed to me like a big bear of a man. Maybe it’s just the way he owns the pulpit when he speaks.

    ARJ, he said something about how a child’s mind is like a computer, and you have until age three to program it correctly, or maybe age eight, or both. He used a pop psychology book he’d read a while ago as support of his theory, which he of course also tied into scripture. Sorry, I can’t help you more than that; it was just one of the perhaps 30 topics or more than he brought up in his talk.

  7. An observer on April 16, 2007 at 12:41 am

    One more thought: Back in the good old days pre-satelite, didn’t we have a chance to hear from a GA wife on occasion as well? Hearing from an apostolic wife or two would be a welcomed unique aspect of the satellite conference since we don’t ever get that in general conference. Not that the church is asking for or needs my opinion…

  8. Russell Arben Fox on April 16, 2007 at 12:45 am

    Mark, yes, I meant “side” as in a room on the side of the building rather than in the chapel or cultural hall. It was just one of three or four overflow rooms set up.

    An Observer, I salute Elder Holland’s efforts. That’s more than I can say for any of the speakers I listened to today, though Elder Bednar did mention (without elaboration) his time as a regional representative in Springfield, MO, and as I mentioned, Elder Monson told some tales about Iowa and North Dakota.

  9. a random John on April 16, 2007 at 12:52 am

    So from age 8 onward it’s all debugging? Ouch.

  10. Edje on April 16, 2007 at 12:56 am

    4: Elder Holland did a similar thing when he spoke at a Texas/Louisiana/New Mexico/Oklahoma broadcast a couple of years back. He gave a catalog of connections to the state (including a daughter living there at the time) and, IIRC, noted some local church history. Later in his talk he referred to a regional grocery store by name (something to the effect of “…when you’re out running erands, stopping at the HEB or the Krogers…”).

  11. A. Nonny Mouse on April 16, 2007 at 1:29 am

    I had the cubicle next to the guy who scheduled all the sattelite time for these broadcasts for about a year. (This was about a year ago…). At the time, I’m pretty sure (95%) that they were live. I’ll try and pull out my Bonneville Sattelite connections tomorrow to see if they’re still doing them live or not, but I’m pretty sure they are, at least for the continental US. I might even be able to get the guy who now sits in the cubicle next to the guy to ask where they film it at (when they broadcast to the Salt Lake area, they do it in the Conference Center, and they invite some local stakes to the conference center, and have the rest attend at their own stake centers.)

  12. diogenes on April 16, 2007 at 1:51 am

    I heard the same broadcast. My take was somewhat different.

    Rasband was mechanical. Bednar was quite good, both in substance and delivery. Monson appeared to be losing it — he meandered all over the place, faltered in a number of spots, couldn’t remember things (like the name Henry Higgins, while quoting from “My Fair Lady”) spoke several times about LeGrand Richards in the present tense (hasn’t he been dead about 25 years now? How many people in the audience have any idea who L.R. was?). He actually looked quite frail I thought.

    I hate the canned broadcast format. As one of my daughters said on the way to the meeting, “Not more talking heads!”

    I suppose it is instruction with some value, but it’s not a stake conference.

  13. Russell Arben Fox on April 16, 2007 at 7:50 am

    See what you can find out, Nonny Mouse; I’d be very interested to know just how these things are being organized and produced on the Salt Lake City end. Not that it would make much difference in terms of content, of course, but who knows? Maybe if I could “place” them, I’d appreciate them more. (Doubtful, but at least possible.)

    I’m a little more sympathetic towards Elder Monson than you, Diogenes (he didn’t strike me as frail or confused so much as an loquacious, loving old geezer who just decided to wing it and lost track of the time), but in regards to your final comment, I completely agree. Receiving instruction from general authorities is usually valuable–I mean, that is what they’ve been called to do–but I’m not sure in what sense it can be considered “confering” with anyone or anything, certainly not in regards to one’s own stake. I mean, unless we’re actually there in Salt Lake, no one really imagines that going to the stake center to watch the satellite feed consists of “attending” general conference; we all know that we’re just watching a one-way tv broadcast, that’s all. So maybe in time people will drop the pretense of twice a year stake conferences, and we’ll content ourselves with just one a year, the other six months being taken up by general conference lite. What this increasing reliance on firing up the satellite dish means for the order of the church in the long run is, of course, another discussion.

  14. Nick Rouse on April 16, 2007 at 9:21 am

    I live in Melbourne, Australia, and have been to a few of these Stake Conferences, both on my mission and off. They are intended for all of the Australian Stakes and Papua New Guinea. I really enjoyed them, especially the one just gone, president Monson spoke of people he had met in Australia, places he had been and sayings he learned in our slang. He is a machine! I love these conferences because alot of the time it feels like they are talking to us as Americans, but we are different, albeit slightly, and the messages they presented were fantastic.

    I also wonder if they are live, if so, the last one would have been filmed at 8:00pm Saturday Night for our Sunday 12 noon broadcast.

  15. Norbert on April 16, 2007 at 9:31 am

    We had one of these when I lived in England. I got the impression it was the first one, as I remember they made some faff about how they always try new stuff first in England. It was broadcast not from SLC, but from Preston, England. I think it was the meeting where the Area President (don’t remember his name) got his terms mixed up, saying ‘England’ when he meant the UK, etc. There was a murmur when he did so where I was, but he later corrected himself.

    I only went to the priesthood leadership session. Both Monson and Packer gave offhand, anecdotal talks first, then delivered messages. I wonder if they think this is what we want from them: the same personal interaction that they had with GAs in the old days, only on the TV. I hope at some point they see that the medium doesn’t make that seem very meaningful, and for more and more members wacky stories about ol’ Charlie Callis and references to Showboat are not part of their experience.

    I think Nelson is a pretty imposing guy as well. He’s got an eagle eye that would stop a train if wasn’t smiling. I was going to make a prediction about the outcome of possible fisticuffs, but that would probably be improper.

  16. Justin on April 16, 2007 at 10:56 am

    President Monson was quoting Glenn Doman, author of How to Teach Your Baby to Read:

    “’The newborn child is almost an exact duplicate of an empty … computer, although superior to such a computer in almost every way. … What is placed in the child’s [mind] during the first eight years of life is probably there to stay. … If you put misinformation into his [mind] during [this period], it is extremely difficult to erase it.’ Dr. Doman added that the most receptive age in human life is that of two or three years” (April 2005 General Conference).

    Other uses of this quotation can be found here.

  17. JrL on April 16, 2007 at 11:02 am

    “That’s more than I can say for any of the speakers I listened to today, though Elder Bednar did mention (without elaboration) his time as a regional representative in Springfield, MO….”

    Except that Southwestern Missouri, including Springfield, wasn’t included in the broadcast.

  18. J.A.T. on April 16, 2007 at 11:02 am

    I was there too. President Monson had the charisma to talk into the camera lens and (maybe as a result of his spaciness) “connect” with us in a way. When he started concluding his talk at 11:35, I saw him look at a clock and realize he had about 30 minutes to fill. He flipped into his lovable “storytelling/rambling” mode. It was rather like hearing someone someone sing in the shower when they don’t care if someone is listening or not. One of my biggest complaints over the years is that we only see the stuffy teleprompted apostles, never the REAL human ones. I was glad to hear the real Elder Monson just chatting away, age and all.

    However, Elder Bednar and Sister Dalton didn’t really connect to us. It was as if they really were starring at the red light of a TV camera and not mentally picturing WE THE MASSES out in the audience. I wondered why it had to be live . . . they weren’t looking into our faces, there was NO interaction. Dissemination, not diffusion. I felt very spiritually disconnected from them, the prayers, the hymns, the talks, etc. There just isn’t a substitute for singing in one great chorus. One way to address this problem would be to broadcast the conference from ONE representative stake center in the region. (At least there would be an audience.) Another solution would be to install cameras pointed out into each chapel. Feed the lines into multiple tv screens so that the speakers can look into the chapels as they are talking. (A la a TV editing room). Heck, the technology isn’t that tricky. I’ll do it myself. You could even use webcams.

    Because they weren’t looking at us, there was a HUGE point that each speaker was totally oblivious to. Had they seen us, they would have been absolutely STUNNED.

    I attended two stakes that day. In our midwestern state (which is comprised of just a few stakes) we showed up in RECORD NUMBERS. All time HIGH numbers. Numbers never before seen in this state numbers. Numbers which would make even a Utahan gasp. My pa and his fellow clerks were in a numerical frenzy. The number of people in EACH OF THE FIVE WARD BUILDINGS WE COUNTED had more people in attendance than ANY STAKE CONFERENCE in the whole history of the stake (20+ years). Each ward was in 90+% attendance (whereas weekly attendance floats around 30-40%). Each ward building was filled to capacity, as were the overflows and gyms and classrooms.

    There was room to receive them, the message had been brought to the people, and they came in droves. (We are a rural state and often people can’t make the drive into stake conferences.) If other regional video-conferences have as high attendance as this one did, these things are going to take off in a big way.

    The numbers have not been sent in the reports yet, so Salt Lake probably still doesn’t know.

  19. Ben on April 16, 2007 at 11:19 am

    We got the impression that Elder Monson had prepared a 30-minute talk, but realized he had another 30 minutes left after that. Scheduling gaff perhaps?

    Given the choice between not seeing GA’s at all or seeing them in less formal situations (ie. when they’re only addressing 10,000 members via satellite instead of 12 million), I’ll take #2.

  20. Ebenezer Robinson on April 16, 2007 at 11:22 am

    I saw the same conference from Independence Stake, and my take was similar to J.A.T.’s. I just figured that Monson had a half-hour talk prepared and suddenly realized he had an hour to fill. And I can remember lots of stake conference sessions from my youth (when we had four a year and at least two of them had GAs in attendance!), when visiting GAs went on in this sort of self-revelatory mode. I was struck, though, when Pres. Monson’s take on “a house of learning” was to vamp on Charles Dickens and Henry Van Dyke. Sort of like GWBush’s pride in his reading skills. OTOH, his stories about LR and his own behavior at conference and in parades were fun. Maybe he was trying his hand at a LeGrand Richards free-swinging sermon; too bad he didn’t spend as much time as Bro. Richards did in the Southern US.

    Of course, the sister we drove to the conference, who’s a retired nurse, went straight to the point, speculating on whether Pres. Monson is showing incipient Alzheimer’s symptoms.

  21. D. Fletcher on April 16, 2007 at 11:30 am

    I loathe the broadcasts. Why not just broadcast over the Web to everybody’s home? In fact, they could do this every week, and save a lot of money on buildings, hymnbooks, and lesson manuals.

  22. J.A.T. on April 16, 2007 at 11:34 am

    Anyone else seeing the record attendance numbers?

  23. cantinflas on April 16, 2007 at 12:05 pm

    “I just figured that Monson had a half-hour talk prepared and suddenly realized he had an hour to fill”

    I wonder what would be so wrong with letting everybody go home 25 minutes early. If the speakers gave the talks they felt the spirit wanted them to give, why not end it?

    Our Mesa stake conference was two weeks before conference. Elder Bednar was in town, speaking at the stake center, but all wards were assigned the same time. My ward was assigned to attend at our own building, where we would watch a broadcast from our stake center 1.2 miles away. I didn’t even go, just asked my home teachers what was said. I can’t get much out of a video screen. I think the meeting reduction policy is a good one, though, and wouldn’t change a thing.

    I guess I’m relaying this so Russell won’t feel so bad. Even if the conference was held at your stake center, you may not have been invited.

  24. Russell Arben Fox on April 16, 2007 at 12:11 pm

    “When he started concluding his talk at 11:35, I saw him look at a clock and realize he had about 30 minutes to fill. He flipped into his lovable “storytelling/rambling” mode. It was rather like hearing someone someone sing in the shower when they don’t care if someone is listening or not.”

    I didn’t get that impression, J.A.T. (and Ben and Ebenezer too); I think he was on cruise control pretty much from the get-go. I’ve been to at least one of these multistake broadcasts where they ended after only an hour and twenty minutes, so I find it hard to believe the church could have scheduled only four speakers and then realized too late that they had to fill two hours. Of course, that’s not to say that dear old Elder Monson couldn’t have looked at the clock (the timer on the camera, perhaps?), and decided on his own that he was “supposed to” go use up the full hour.

    “I wondered why it had to be live . . . they weren’t looking into our faces, there was NO interaction. Dissemination, not diffusion.”

    Right, J.A.T. Of course, general conference is the same way…except that it’s not, because there is a real place (not a nondescript television studio somewhere) with real people making a real journey through real weather to be part of a real history involved in every general conference. I suppose that, in time, the same sort of feeling of “placement” could evolve in our appreciation of these multistake broadcasts, but I’m doubtful. Honestly, the more conference because of matter of hearing the words of the prophets and…well, that’s it really, just hearing the words of the prophets, the more reasonable it becomes to just take D. Fletcher’s recommended route, and make everything web-based and downloadable.

    “There just isn’t a substitute for singing in one great chorus.”

    That’s for certain.

    “One way to address this problem would be to broadcast the conference from ONE representative stake center in the region. (At least there would be an audience.)”

    This might be an interesting way to go. And they could rotate it, so every year a different state in the region gets to be the “host stake” for the broadcast.

  25. Cameron on April 16, 2007 at 12:11 pm

    We had one early in 2005. it was a four hour session with three speakers and their wives. Elders Bednar, Marlin K. Jensen-who is a way, way better speaker then Bednar and Pres Monson who talked for almost two hours-absolutley incredible! Then on the sunday session it was two hours I think and they had more stuff to share. Another one I went to the 70 said to baptize everyone and then Pres. Hinckley said to adequatley prepare people to join the church and not to rush things. Interesting both times!

  26. greenfrog on April 16, 2007 at 12:14 pm

    Russell,

    I’m interested in your thoughts regarding what is and isn’t worship. If the speakers had been present in the side room with you, would the experience have felt more like worship to you, assuming the same format and content?

    I’ve wondered for some time about the structural dynamics of the ways that we interact within the Church’s general liturgical practices. Is there something particularly divine about one person speaking to a congregation of non-speakers? Are there elements of worship embedded in the structure of the communal speaking/hearing experience? Or is worship only a function of more dynamic actions by the congregation (singing, eating bread, drinking water, etc.)?

  27. D. Fletcher on April 16, 2007 at 12:15 pm

    “One way to address this problem would be to broadcast the conference from ONE representative stake center in the region. (At least there would be an audience.)”

    This has been done, many times. We had at least 2 area conferences this way. It seems to have been replaced with the broadcast coming from SLC.

  28. WillF on April 16, 2007 at 12:15 pm

    We saw it too in the Kansas City area. We started out in the overflow in the carpeted gym, but when we realized how hard it might be to hear with our sound system the way it is in the back, we moved to the overflow in the Relief Society Room. When President Monson started his talk and there was an hour left of the conference, I thought we might get out early. I told myself, “there isn’t a rule that it absolutely has to go 2 hours, and I can’t imagine they would expect someone to speak for an hour.” I guess if you are going to listen to someone speak for an hour at church, President Monson is probably your best candidate. I didn’t really hear the last much of the last half hour though due to parental duress.

    I thought I heard laughter coming through the speakers during President Monson’s talk, so would that indicate an audience in the studio? On second thought, maybe it was just coming through the microphone in the chapel.

    My 8-year-old son asked me where the people were who were speaking. I didn’t really have an answer for him other than “somewhere in Salt Lake.” He also refused to believe that it was being broadcast to 61 stakes and insisted it could only be 50 stakes. It turns out he thought they were saying 61 states and was holding firm to there only being 50 in the USA. Maybe they could display a map that shows everyone in the audience just exactly who is in the audience?

    Maybe my kids are attention span deficient, but my 3 and 6 year old boys never really focused on the T.V. in the same way they won’t watch the Newshour with Jim Lehrer. By the end the three-year-old was making constant round trips to the drinking fountain in the hall; at first due to thirst, but later because drinking fountains are a form of entertainment at his age. I would have stopped him, but the 6 and 8 year old boys were doing the “he’s touching me” Bill Cosby routine with their feet, and my efforts to distance them didn’t seem to have any effect.

    At the end my eight year old said, “at least General Conference has half-time!” which I gather he meant was the break between sessions.

    I tried to think up some theories about why young children are expected to be in meetings like this. Maybe if I didn’t bring them to Stake Conference now they wouldn’t be able to make it through them as adults? or maybe it is an obedience trial, as in, “I have no idea why I bring my kids to this, but I am being obedient and we will be blessed.” Any other ideas as to why we include young children in 2 hour meetings?

  29. Julie M. Smith on April 16, 2007 at 12:31 pm

    ““One way to address this problem would be to broadcast the conference from ONE representative stake center in the region. (At least there would be an audience.)””

    But I thought a big part of the rationale for this kind of broadcast was that it meant that the GAs wouldn’t have to travel to much . . .

    Also: I like the broadcasts; I’d rather hear a member of the Q12 on TV than some local person live. That said, I’m with you, WillF: I think a two-hour stake conference with little kids is little more than a taste of life in outer darkness. (Hence our new family rule: you have to be eight to get to go to stake conference. Other kids stay home with one parent.)

  30. Russell Arben Fox on April 16, 2007 at 12:36 pm

    “I tried to think up some theories about why young children are expected to be in meetings like this. Maybe if I didn’t bring them to Stake Conference now they wouldn’t be able to make it through them as adults?”

    Will, Melissa and I pretty much are just settled on the explanation that on Sunday, if at all possible, you go to church, period. It’s what we want the children to think characterizes the Sabbath, at least in part. When it’s regular church meetings there is of course the sacrament, as wella s your callings to perform and a community to be a part of. When it comes to stake and regional conferences…well, I don’t expect any blessings out of it, and any edification that comes from it is a bonus. And clearly it’s far from the ideal setting for teaching young children about the gospel. For us it’s a ritualization thing, I guess.

    “If the speakers had been present in the side room with you, would the experience have felt more like worship to you, assuming the same format and content?”

    No, Greenfrog, I don’t think it would have. I would have liked it better, because there would have been eye contact and a sense of shared space and thus the possibility of some sort of communion, but I probably wouldn’t have called it “worship.” To me, that word means ordinances and acts of praise and devotion: prayers, hymns, spontaneous testimonies, etc. General conference is a wonderful and needed meeting, but I don’t particularly consider it as characterized by mass acts of “worshipping.” (Other definitions may differ, of course.)

  31. D. Fletcher on April 16, 2007 at 1:00 pm

    I’m sure it sounds blasphemous, but when I was little, Sacrament Meeting was held in the late afternoon, and my parents left me and my siblings at home with a babysitter, until we were 8 and baptized.

  32. Kristine on April 16, 2007 at 1:18 pm

    D. Fletcher–not blasphemous! It’s what Brigham Young recommended.

  33. Carolyn on April 16, 2007 at 1:20 pm

    One of the problems I have with these multi-stake broadcasts is that while we get to hear from church leaders they don’t get to hear from us. I can remember stake conferences of the past where there was real interaction between visiting general authorities and local leaders. This was especially true in leadership meetings where there were Q and A sessions. I can’t see how these broadcasts would fill the same need. Or maybe we have become such a top down organization that the general leadership no longer feels that it needs to hear from the grass roots.

  34. anothernonymous on April 16, 2007 at 1:29 pm

    I have recordings of the multi-stake conference talks yesterday if anyone wants me to upload them (who would be willing to host them?). Not surprisingly, by the time the “rest hymn” was over and Pres. Monson started speaking, the volume of children chatting and scruffing around made even a replay of the talk at some points indistinguishable from white noise. I wondered last night in desiring to review the talks whether a stake specialist recorded the audio feed for future reference in ward Priesthood and Relief Society lessons.

  35. Russell Arben Fox on April 16, 2007 at 1:48 pm

    Kristine, you’ve mentioned that recommendation from BY before. Where is it found? I’d like a copy of his actual quote.

  36. Bill on April 16, 2007 at 2:21 pm

    “Or maybe we have become such a top down organization that the general leadership no longer feels that it needs to hear from the grass roots.”

    This is a big problem. An even bigger problem is the self-censoring that goes on in the middle levels where people will tell the top levels only what they think the top levels want to hear. Constructive suggestions and honest assessments of problems are sometimes stigmatized as murmuring. If this attitude is enshrined by middle level leaders, they themselves may begin to be told only what they want to hear.

  37. DavidH on April 16, 2007 at 2:26 pm

    “maybe we have become such a top down organization that the general leadership no longer feels that it needs to hear from the grass roots.”

    The Brethren can receive feedback from the grassroots by reading the Bloggernacle, where quasi-anonymity allows for more candid comments. And I say this only partially in jest.

  38. Brian D. on April 16, 2007 at 2:39 pm

    Re #29:

    Julie, I love your rule! My wife and I normally go into the overflow where children are supposed to be welcome. Invariably we find an overflow of adults who seem bothered by the presence of children. My in-laws were kind enough to take our children to Sunday Mass during the last Stake Conference (Catholics have a wonderful cry room for kids) so my wife and I could enjoy the session sans kids.

  39. Kristine on April 16, 2007 at 2:47 pm

    Russell, I’ll dig it up, but it may take me a while–all my books are in boxes at the moment…

  40. John Mansfield on April 16, 2007 at 2:56 pm

    Journal of Discourses 13:343

    REMARKS BY PRESIDENT BRIGHAM YOUNG,
    DELIVERED IN THE NEW TABERNACLE, SALT LAKE CITY,
    MAY 5, 1870

    During our Conference we shall require the people to pay attention and to preserve good order, and perhaps we shall require that that will not be altogether pleasing in some respects. One thing which strikes me here this morning, and which is a source of considerable annoyance to the congregation, appears to me might be avoided, and that is bringing children here who are not capable of understanding the preaching. If we were to set them on the stand, where they could hear every word, it would convey to them no knowledge or instruction, and would not be the least benefit to them. I will ask my sisters: Cannot we avoid this? Have you not daughters, sisters, or friends, or some one who can take care of these children while you attend meeting? When meetings are over, the mothers can go home and bestow all the care and attention upon their children which may be necessary. I cannot understand the utility of bringing children into such a congregation as we shall have here through the Conference, just for the sake of pleasing the mothers, when the noise made by them disturbs all around them. I therefore request that the sisters will leave their babies at home in the care of good nurses.

  41. Julie M. Smith on April 16, 2007 at 2:59 pm

    “all my books are in boxes at the moment”

    Hey! That’s my line!

    (Are you moving, too?)

  42. Rex on April 16, 2007 at 3:08 pm

    I, for one, would be very interested in having the recordings available. Thanks.

  43. Kristine on April 16, 2007 at 3:18 pm

    Julie, not yet–just trying to make it look like normal people (i.e. not the kind who have 4 huge floor to ceiling bookcases and still have 14 boxes of extraneous books) live in my house while it’s on the market (a condition that could last a long time, I’m afraid).

  44. Matt W. on April 16, 2007 at 3:19 pm

    I may not get much out of the talks when my kids are at stake conference, but I sure get a lot out of my kids. And that’s ok by me.

  45. Pat Eyler on April 16, 2007 at 3:37 pm

    As far as the production of these Conference Broadcast, I can shed a little light. A friend of mine is has a brazilian wife, she was asked to conduct the music for a broadcast done for several brazilian stake conferences and he was invited to be a part of the audience. My understanding is that the meeting was held (and filmed) in the ‘little theater’ on the west side of the conference center, with a small live audience. (This is the same place that
    the Young Men’s open houses used to be held.)

  46. Edje on April 16, 2007 at 3:40 pm

    Julie M. Smith (29): “But I thought a big part of the rationale for this kind of broadcast was that it meant that the GAs wouldn’t have to travel to much . . .”

    Carolyn (33): “Or maybe we have become such a top down organization that the general leadership no longer feels that it needs to hear from the grass roots.” (cf. Bill, 36).

    I agree with Julie M. Smith that reducing travel is probably a significant part of the rationale. I disagree with Carolyn that the reduction is in anyway motivated by a desire to distance the leadership from the membership. In fact, I bet it is quite the opposite. I conjecture that the amount of time that General Authorities spend in face-to-face local meetings has not changed. That is, the average number of General Authorities attending a live conference on a given weekend is probably about the same as it was before broadcast conferences. It’s just that the number of conferences went up.

    Thus, the broadcast format reduces General Authority travel to visit some members precisely so that they can be free to travel to visit others and precisely those other members whose situation is most foreign to the leaders.

    Also, we experience religious telecommunication as a mostly one-way phenomenon. I don’t think it is so for Stake Presidents. They are able to counsel with General Authorities singly and in conference calls with other SPs far more frequently–weekly, perhaps–than before, which lessens the urgency for counseling face-to-face at formal conferences. Of course, this isn’t the same as input from the rest of the stake leadership, but I doubt that this seriously impacts the overall flow of information “up the chain.” Is the situation in my stake that much different from the next one over, on average? Does the situation in my stake change so rapidly that, on average, a visit every other year will miss vital information?

  47. Ugly Mahana on April 16, 2007 at 3:41 pm

    Re: GAs not visiting stakes.

    The broadcast stake conferences do not replace all stake conferences. My understanding is that even stakes that have had broadcasts rotate between broadcasts, actual GA visits, and conferences w/o GA visits.

  48. Russell Arben Fox on April 16, 2007 at 3:46 pm

    “My understanding is that the meeting was held (and filmed) in the ‘little theater’ on the west side of the conference center, with a small live audience.”

    So there is a live audience, Pat? Interesting! I honestly doubted there was anyone there besides the technicians. But your friend’s wife’s input concurs with Will’s belief, up in #28, that there were people laughing and singing on the satellite feed (though I have to say I have never heard any).

    This raises the question…who volunteers (or is volunteered, as the case may be) to sit in that small theater and listen to an extra stake conference?

  49. Russell Arben Fox on April 16, 2007 at 3:49 pm

    Incidentally, I must confess that I’m somewhat put out that this thread has developed in such a responsible and practical direction, with so few people weighing in on the pressing issue mentioned at the end of my post which popped into my zoned-out head around when Elder Monson was starting his third or fourth conclusion.

  50. J.A.T. on April 16, 2007 at 3:51 pm

    Russell,
    I think I’m just North of you, but we’re not in the same stake. I don’t know what to say about these conferences, except that I applaud SLC for reaching out to us, but was saddened that we weren’t able to reach back. I really want the regional interaction with SLC, and hope that since this is just the first year, we’re still working out the bugs. I do agree that this is better than nothing. I hope it grows.

    At the end of the day, none of the speakers knew any more about us midwesterners than they knew coming into the conference. They didn’t even know that we had come in staggering record numbers to hear them. Monson told stories about being with the people, mingling with the red headed children, speaking in Samoan or Tahitian in Polynesia, blessing the sick in the South Pacific, and meeting the people. Wasn’t he missing that human interaction as well? That’s what I missed. *I sometimes joke that I ought to move to Hawaii, as for some reason the saints there need more spiritual support and visits from the brethren than we midwesterners do . . . at least they get visited a whole heck-of-a-lot more!

    I like your rotation schedule for “hosting stakes”, the speakers really need an audience. My hubby voted against the idea I had for webcams in the chapels broadcasting back the to the speakers. He reminded me that senior citizens and neotechies won’t want to multi-task and watch dozens of screens a la NASA’s mission control or a network tv station’s editing room. He reminded me that LeGrand Richards would get flustered at the little red and yellow flashing lights that were installed at the tabernacle podium to warn speakers of the time limit. Since they were frustrating to him, he would just put his hand over them when they started lighting up and go on talking until he finished!

    I think the idea of webcams posted on the chapel podiums would work though . . .
    Put the speakers in front of (perhaps) three screens that montage throughout the various chapels.

  51. John Mansfield on April 16, 2007 at 4:04 pm

    General Authorities are still going out to stake conferences. They are still interacting with members as they did before. Each particular stake doesn’t see them so often, but that’s OK because we’re not so unique.

  52. D. Fletcher on April 16, 2007 at 4:10 pm

    Russell, it just seems unseemly to weigh in on the…*hottest* GA.

    ;)

  53. Russell Arben Fox on April 16, 2007 at 4:20 pm

    J.A.T., so are you in the Salina stake? Maybe we’ll be able to meet sometime. I agree with you in hoping that this version of stake conferences are still in the experimental stage, though the church appears to have been doing this for a few years now. Maybe the “rotation” idea will catch on.

    D, I’m not asking who the “hottest” GA is, just the one you’d least like to have to tap on the shoulder and give the “let’s wrap it up, brother” signal to, for fear that they’d shove you over the pulpit. I get that impression from President Monson when he’s really wound up. As for Uchtdorf, he could probably go all WWF, lift me over his shoulders and throw me into the congregation.

  54. D. Fletcher on April 16, 2007 at 4:32 pm

    So, which is of the GAs would make the best wrestler, then?

    Um, this is weird territory for me…

    P.S. When my mom was the Stake Relief Society president in Boston some years ago, they received a notice about an upcoming visit of President Monson for Area Conference. The letter said Monson required “3 helpings” of each dish prepared for him.

    :)

  55. John Mansfield on April 16, 2007 at 4:37 pm

    I’ve wondered if Hales and Uchtdorf have a fighter pilot vs. bomber pilot thing going on with Packer.

  56. Naismith on April 16, 2007 at 4:41 pm

    I guess I’m not understanding how these stake conferences are any different from a stake conference that is “live.” In our stake, conference is broadcast to a huge screen in the front of the cultural hall, to the primary room which serves as a cry room for rug rats, and in Spanish in the RS room. So most people, even though they are present in the same building as the GA, actually view it on a screen as well.

    Admittedly, there are some great interactions in leadership meetings, and if the visiting GA opts to do an extra session with youth or/and bishop and wives or whatever. But for the rank-and-file member who attends only the main Sunday session, it does not seem that different of an experience.

  57. D. Fletcher on April 16, 2007 at 4:52 pm

    There is a huge difference in the quality of the worship when you’re in the same room as the speaker/GA. The Church knows this, which is why it built the enormous conference center. Why do people want to touch celebrities they’ve seen on TV? It’s the same principle.

    I know, let’s just record each of the Apostles doing 10 of their best talks ever, with a video director and live audience present. We’ll make sure they change into a different suit and tie for each talk, and we’ll edit all the talks to conform perfectly to Correlation Committee standards. This way, the Apostles won’t ever have to travel, won’t ever have to give a talk again.

    Then, we’ll just broadcast these talks out to the Church, and no one will ever know whether they were live or not. In fact, maybe we should just broadcast footage of some really great GA speakers from the past, like J. Golden Kimball or Heber J. Grant.

  58. Edje on April 16, 2007 at 5:01 pm

    Ugly Mahana (47): In my stake, which just had its second broadcast conference, the rotation was just as you describe: broadcast–local–visit–local–broadcast.

  59. A. Nonny Mouse on April 16, 2007 at 5:16 pm

    Unfortunately, the planner of stake-conferences guy is out at a conference this week, and my source in the cubicle next to him doesn’t know when he’ll be back… I’ll send an e-mail to RAF and post here when I get the info.

  60. Justin on April 16, 2007 at 5:19 pm

    “The [Conference Center’s] broadcast studio houses a set that replicates the pulpit and stand of a meetinghouse chapel. Many of the worldwide leadership meetings or stake conference broadcasts are taped or broadcast from inside the Conference Center’s studio.”

    Technology is Spreading

  61. Adam Greenwood on April 16, 2007 at 6:18 pm

    “Back in the good old days pre-satelite, didn’t we have a chance to hear from a GA wife on occasion as well?”

    In our broadcast stake conference, the wives did speak. Also the broadcast was only for an hour and then we had our own speakers for the rest of the time.

  62. jose on April 16, 2007 at 6:32 pm

    I don’t like the change of replacing a local, custom stake conference with a remote, generic conference. Inspired words spoken by local leaders which focus on problems unique to our stake in a language that only my stake may understand will have a greater impact than a broad message to 60 stakes. I’m indifferent if a “rockstar” GA is seen on a TV screen and tries to engender empathy because they mention a regional grocery chain. What is important is that the speaker becomes a focused oracle for God. I think that can be better delivered by the local conference sans GA every now and then. Sure they may not be as polished as someone who has a teleprompter and has given thousands of such addresses, but aren’t we all rough stones rolling?

  63. jose on April 16, 2007 at 6:33 pm

    JAT–With the addition of webcams, is Pres. Monson going to say “I prepared a talk today, but instead I’m going to speak to little Susie whom I see in the webcam”?

    Since the church is trying new conference formats for our dynamic church, how about having a telepromptless conference every year or two.

  64. claire on April 16, 2007 at 6:55 pm

    If I’m not mistaken, we attended our broadcast stake conference in our own building, so we didn’t even get to gether with other members of the stake.

  65. Bev P on April 16, 2007 at 7:33 pm

    We’ve got one of those conferences coming up, and we’re spoiled rotten in our ward, we’ve had an Area President and one or two counselors in the ward since there was an organized area here, many years now. Seeing and hearing from GAs isn’t quite the novelty it might be for most other units, but whoever they are, and wherever they are, live or recorded or warm to the touch, I just really love to look at and listen to these good men [and women] who have said they’ll go, do, be what the Lord wants them to go, do, be, and I always come away glad to be part of it all. Worship is something you do, not something that’s done to you.

  66. Bev P on April 16, 2007 at 7:40 pm

    I just tried to post one, but the system said I’d already said that. Don’t know where, so I’m trying again. We have a broadcast conference coming up, but we’re spoiled rotten in our ward. We’ve had an Area President and one or two counselors in the ward as long as there’s been an area organized here, many years now. So seeing and hearing GAs isn’t such a novelty for us, but I still love to look at and listen to these good men [and women] who have said they’ll go, do, be what the Lord wants them to go, do be, whether live or recorded or warm to the touch, and I always come away so glad to be a part of it all. Worship is something you do, not something that’s done to you.

  67. WillF on April 16, 2007 at 8:20 pm

    I love the Brigham Young quote. Our problem is that we have no family in the area to leave the children with, and the majority of people we trust to watch our children are also at the event (so so clannish are we).

    Keeping these boys from damaging property falls under the definition of “work” so I also have a problem with requiring someone to toil like this on the Sabbath.

  68. queuno on April 16, 2007 at 10:58 pm

    In the Texas/Oklahoma/NM broadcast, we had the General YM president speak, who then also spoke at GC and repeated the bulk of his talk. At least we got Hinckley to close…

  69. Jessawhy on April 17, 2007 at 12:56 am

    I think the new broadcasts are part of an effort by the Brethren to tighten the reigns on local church leadership. Even the last several general conferences have been directed to bishops and stake presidents. (think of Bednar’s talk on counseling with those who are offended, or when he talked about a stk pres who laid hands on almost every member of his stake) With the growth of the church, it is probably harder to control the daily workings of each church unit, and I think we see the effort to exert greater control in these stk conference broadcasts.

  70. CS Eric on April 17, 2007 at 10:25 am

    I know this discussion is much higher in the thread, but I have seen many of the GAs in person, and Pres Monson, if anything, is larger in person than he seems on the screen.

    We were at Lagoon one evening when Pres Monson was there with his extended family. We were at the end of the line for one of the rides, and the Monsons were at the front. One of the smaller granddaughters ( I am guessing), about five years old, got to the ride at about the same time Pres Monson was ready to go on it. He reached over three rows of people to pick the little girl up, lifted her over all those people, and set her down in front of him, all in one smooth motion.

    He could break Elder Bednar in half if he wanted to.

  71. Russell Arben Fox on April 17, 2007 at 10:47 am

    “He could break Elder Bednar in half if he wanted to.”

    See, this is what I’m saying. Surely that’s at least part of the reason why Bednar didn’t dare try to reign in Monson once he was in his groove, the way I once saw Elder Nelson corral an utterly lost and rather diminutive Elder Wirthlin and guide him to a safe landing. (Of course, the fact that Monson outranks Bednar, the way Nelson outranks Wirthlin, has to be part of it too.)

  72. The_Monk on April 17, 2007 at 11:15 am

    \”“Or maybe we have become such a top down organization that the general leadership no longer feels that it needs to hear from the grass roots.”

    This is a big problem. An even bigger problem is the self-censoring that goes on in the middle levels where people will tell the top levels only what they think the top levels want to hear. Constructive suggestions and honest assessments of problems are sometimes stigmatized as murmuring. If this attitude is enshrined by middle level leaders, they themselves may begin to be told only what they want to hear. \”

    This is not my experience. I had a conversation with one GA, who happened to be in charge of a the temple preparation manuals, and expresed my frustration with it. He offered me his email address, wanted to hear my suggestions, and take a look at my site. I also happened to have an Apostle to myself for 5 minutes once, for discussion of a different issue. They hear plenty from us out in the trenches.

  73. lurker on April 17, 2007 at 11:54 am

    Nelson outranks Wirthlin? Wirthlin was called to the 12 before Nelson wasn’t he?

  74. Bill on April 17, 2007 at 12:11 pm

    Nelson: called as apostle April, 1984.

    Then Oaks, then Ballard, then

    Wirthlin: called as apostle October, 1986

  75. Rosalynde on April 17, 2007 at 12:33 pm

    I attended the same broadcast, Russell, and of course had the same issues with my kids. Pr. Monson’s talk was really something; I’ve never heard anything like it, in fact. He clearly understands God to be a storyteller—and not just any kind of storyteller, but something like a soap opera writer: God intervenes in the mortal world by plotting seemingly-accidental but deeply meaningful redemptive encounters between individuals. Virtually every one of the scores of discrete narratives in the talk followed this pattern.

    There was one exception: the story about his visit to drought-ravaged Australia (?), where everyone he met had names like “Brooks,” Rainy” and “Stormy,” and his own name was misspelled on the hotel register as “Monsoon.” It never did rain, though. This was God as absurdist playwright.

  76. Meg on April 17, 2007 at 1:02 pm

    #72
    I think that is part of the problem. I’m sure that many GAs would like to hear what we have to say. The problem is that we aren’t seeing them, and that relaying a particular problem or hangup we have with something where feedback would be useful isn’t getting done.
    For example – I think, and I think this is a fair assessment, that the Young Women’s manuals could use an overhaul in order to be taken more seriously by the YW.
    Now, say, a YW says something about this to the YW President. The YW president would then have to take this to the Bishop, then the Bishop would have to take it to the Stake President, etc, etc. Somewhere along the lines, someone regards this feedback as unimportant, or even worse, assumes that since the manuals are inspired, we shouldn’t be making suggestions about them, and the feedback, which can be done in full faith and with the best intentions, gets completely lost in the bureaucratic line.
    I think the problem with these kinds of broadcasts is that they make the GAs seem even less accessible than they already are.

  77. Russell Arben Fox on April 17, 2007 at 1:08 pm

    “He clearly understands God to be a storyteller—and not just any kind of storyteller, but something like a soap opera writer: God intervenes in the mortal world by plotting seemingly-accidental but deeply meaningful redemptive encounters between individuals.”

    That is a great way to put it, Rosalynde. And I think you’re absolutely correct; while his story about meeting a doubting missionary’s parents at a stake conference in Ohio, and then visiting that same missionary the very next week at another conference in Germany, was the most obviously example, just about all of his stories he told really did fall into that model.

    “There was one exception: the story about his visit to drought-ravaged Australia (?), where everyone he met had names like ‘Brooks,’ ‘Rainy’ and ‘Stormy,’ and his own name was misspelled on the hotel register as ‘Monsoon.'”

    That was totally my favorite part of his talk. I half-expected him to chuckle and quote Douglas Adams: “Funny old thing, life.”

  78. Cameron on April 17, 2007 at 1:19 pm

    I wrote a letter once to a Seventy and expressed some frustrations. Much to my surprise, he wrote back and told me he was well aware of the problems and said he appreciated the letter and said some nice things.

  79. warno on April 17, 2007 at 2:53 pm

    I’ve noticed that lesson manuals have a small paragraph at the front inviting comments and suggestions. Granted, these will go to a COB employee writing manuals, not a GA, but that’s probably the appropriate place for those types of suggestions to go. That being said, I’ve never sent in any suggestions, has anyone ever taken the time to do so? Any acknowledgement or response?

    This reminds me that I need to send something in to ask for an updated FHE manual. That thing was published in 1983 at the latest.

  80. Mike on April 20, 2007 at 11:05 am

    Late comment from a not very faithful follower of T&S but….

    Many years ago Salt Lake Tribune humorist Robert Kirby proposed a classification system of Mormons based on their behavior at conference time. I remember it like this:

    I. Square Conference Mormons (SCM)
    a. Indoors
    b. Outdoors

    II. Home Conference Mormons (HCM)
    a. Strict
    b. Causal
    c. Desultatory
    d. Deferred

    III. Other

    SCM’s go to Temple square. Those who arrive early, get in and sit on hard benches with no leg room and witness in person our GA’s speak from a distance. Those who arrive later recline on the lawn and listen to the talks broadcast on loud speakers while they picnic. (It usually snows on conference weekend.) Some would go to other assembly halls and listen as the technology to do so emerged. Today the new Hinckley Conference Center with the free tickets renders this portion of the classification scheme completely obsolete. (SCM now means Supernacle Conference Mormons?)

    HCM’s stay home and watch conference on TV or listened to it on the radio in a previous generation. Strict HCM’s borrow metal chairs from the nearby ward house and sit in rows reverently dressed in Sunday best. Full participation is required; heads bowed and eyes closed during prayers, stand and sing during hymns, no comments or other disruptions allowed. Causal HCM’s are up and dressed and lounge on comfortable furniture and eat a snack. Breaks to the kitchen or bathroom during hymns are allowed but quiet is expected during prayers. Children play on the rug in front of the TV and may run off for awhile when bored. Some brief positive comments are permitted but no lengthy discourses are to disrupt the concentration of the devoted listeners.

    Desultatory HCM’s are in their pajamas and often sipping their sanka. They utter zingers frequently and may tell stories about dating the daughters/grandaughters of the speaker or beating up their sons/grandsons in a game of church ball. They may do humorous impersonations of the speakers and long contradictory diatribes may erupt. Speculation of every kind is the rule. Reading the paper or switching to other channels periodically happens. Conflict between more dedicated and less dedicated family members is almost inevitable. Deferred HCM’s record the sessions while they go somewhere like Lake Powell and watch conference later. Sometimes.

    Other types include doing yard work (usually only on Saturday) with the radio turned up so loud during conference that the entire neighborhood can hear. If the entire neighborhood is Mormon, no one seems to mind. Or it includes taking a hike and listening to a conference session with a small radio from the top of one of the mountains overlooking the Salt Lake valley.

    It seems to me that people close to Utah usually have large or extended families that gather for general conference. Those who live farther away or do not have large extended families substitute the ward family in its place. People who have satellite and can get general conference at home often invite their friends in the ward over. Now the Internet opens up more possibilities. Conflict can occur when invitations are extended across these classification lines. If a desultatory type happens to be invited to a strict home conference session, trouble is at hand.

    *************************************************************************************************

    I think we can modify and apply this scheme to the modern stake conference experience.
    SCM indoors in the actual audience of the GA’s is not often possible in the enormous modern church for those of us who live far from Utah. Maybe once every decade a GA comes to an area and they rent a coliseum and thousands drive hundreds of miles to be part of the event. I have attended 2 in 25 years since I moved away from Utah. I needed binoculars to see the visiting GA.

    A variant of SCM outdoor subtype is possible every conference. We could broadcast general and stake conference outdoors at the ward house and have people come and picnic on the lawn. Most places have a more moderate climate than Utah and stake conference could be scheduled at times when the weather is likely to be nice.

    HCM variants seem to be the direction we are going with stake conference far from Utah with the preponderance being of the strict variety. Except we haven’t entirely decided on substituting the ward house for the family home. We could, if we wanted to, designate different rooms in the church building for different styles. Formal in the chapel for those who prefer the strict approach. More causal for others in the soft chairs of the RS room.

    Another room could be designated for families with disruptive children. Large screens with high volume to drown out the background noise. One thing to remember is that even though our children seem to be not paying attention and making all manner of disturbances and trips to the drinking fountain and bathroom, their minds do not function like those of an adult. Children absorb information around them from many sources all at the same time. They especially absorb attitudes and emotions well. You might be pleasantly surprised at how much they gather and retain.

    (For those of you who have small children, it doesn’t get any better when they are teenagers. My daughter and her posse of 15 year old girls water-ballooned the full-time missionaries right before stake conference about a year ago.)

    Finally, how about a room for the token intellectuals and trouble-makers? It could be a small dark room with an old black and white screen and the heat turned up a bit too high. Broken chairs and a coffee-maker that doesn’t work in the corner on the floor. The next step, after we get all these different conference types defined strictly and correlated throughout the church, is to have specific talks tailored to each group. Yeh, conference, a time for everyone to come together, each in their own individual way.

    It seems to me we are going to have to decide whether to have folks physically gather for conference or whether we are going to allow most of us to experience conference at home, via satellite or internet (or whatever other digital wonder is next), where we might or might not invite friends over. I see advantages and disadvantages both ways. But I think there is something to the act of physically gathering, aside from whatever messages are delivered and by whom. It is what makes us into a community.

  81. Space Chick on April 20, 2007 at 3:00 pm

    Mike, deferred HCMs download the audio off the church site and listen to it on the mp3 player later.

    D Fletcher, you just described Sunday School for us on Easter–a video of each Apostle discussing some aspect of his testimony. Worked great while they were talking about Christ, but it totally lost me once the focus shifted to the Restoration. It’s Easter–let’s talk about the Savior instead of Joseph.

    We skipped this “stake conference” broadcast–driving 2 hours to watch a broadcast from SLC that isn’t local? No way. Someone on the web will post the transcript. In fact, I think RAF effectively covered it for me. The idea of actually driving to Fargo (3 hours one way) for this nonsense is absurd.

  82. J.A.T. on April 23, 2007 at 12:08 pm

    RAF-
    Yep, howdy neighbor! I’m in the TPK stake, but have been in the SAL and Derby as well. (Drat . . . my anonymity is crumbling : ) We used to drive 30 minutes to church, and our VT/ HT routes stretch up to Nebraska and down to Council Grove. I’ve been researching late 19thC LDS settlements in this area and tracing history and artifacts. I’m glad that we’re bringing Oz into the bloggernacle!

    #72 The Monk– I don’t think you understand how unique your experiences were and how much of an anomaly you are for having had them. Private jets, underground tunnels, celebrity status, body guards, elderly health and immunity problems, personal attendants, traveling entourages, busy schedules, the church office building, introverted personalities, and a surprisingly small (and geographically limited) circle of family and acquaintances really put a damper on rubbing shoulders with the common folk.

    One more thing: about 10+ or so yrs ago, there was an Auxillary regional women’s conference out here in the midwest. Some of the YW, Primary and RS Presidencies flew out and we drove for hours to see them. There were leadership training sessions, messages from the presidencies, testimony meetings, luncheons, choirs, art exhibits, plays, service projects, etc. (We had been doing a lot of work at the time with the RS’s literacy program.) One of the “sessions” was a Q & A time, in which the RS presidency took questions from the peanut gallery and also ASKED questions about the status of the auxillaries and programs. They asked us “what can we do to support you” and we asked them the same q in return. IT WAS BEAUTIFUL! Everyone learned a great deal! The auxillary GA presidencies all said that they were excited to bring some of our ideas and input back to SL to the brethren. By the end of our Q&A, we had built a repore of sorts and in the spirit of listening and asking. We very respectfully asked about some of the bloggernacle type connundrums. That led to a lot of “ummm”s. I haven’t seen the Q&A time used very much at all before or since, which I think is a pity, b/c we need it, “umm”s and all.

  83. M.R.P. on May 30, 2007 at 12:37 am

    I am an avid fan of conference, and ANYthing that\’s satallite broadcasted from that building. I\’ve been to the building on many many occasions, whether for conference, or for other broadcasts, I also am familiar with the rigerous schedule of the brotheren, and also with the many newly formed aspects of church business. I just finished taking a technical tour of the LDS Conference Center last Wendsday, and I felt it appropriate to let you know something that I\’ve noticed from all of these things:
    -Yes, stake conferences are live even when Elder Bednar is speaking from a pulpit in Utah. It\’s broadcasted from a special room set apart for this purpose soley. Because of the vigerous schedules of the bretheren, and the many many tasks and duties that they respond to on a daily basis, it is very difficult to be able to commonly leave for a stake conference. They are busy fulfilling the the callings they\’ve been given by the Lord, for the benefit of serving us and building up the kingdom of the Lord. They serve within the church (obviously) to plan for church meetinghouses, stake centers, temples, etc. They serve to attend to all church matters including maintaining local facilities and leadership including Bishops, stake presidents, mission presidents, temple presidents, etc. They meet with finincial, legal, and real estate advisors to keep watch over the steady roll of church business. They meet daily in the temple to recieve inspired counsel from the Lord on how to better lead the saints. There is not a minute in their day that I think they waste, there is not a penny of money that is not ultimately accounted for, and there is not a single person even living in no-wheres-ville Nebraska (No I\’m not bias, I spent the last 18 years of my life living in no-wheres-ville- WI) that the overhead of our church (The Lord, and his Prophet and Apostles) does not care for, and attend to. Whether it\’s by prayer, visit, or satellite broadcast, those men serve us as Valient, Righteous Servants Chosen by the Lord, the person that we all claim that we want to follow, so why not spend a little less effort complaining about issues that hurt your pride, and a little more effort supporting the Lords representatives.