Uncomfortable in Stake Conference

June 22, 2008 | 29 comments
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On the sweetness of Mormon life.

The devil Screwtape talks about the ‘meaningless acceleration of the rhythm of life’ that occurs when old friends get together. Its the unusual combination of high spirits and the higher type of feeling.

In Mormon settings, nothing quite captures that combination of hilarity and deep spirituality as when a visiting authority at stake conference starts calling people out of the congregation to talk.

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29 Responses to Uncomfortable in Stake Conference

  1. StillConfused on June 22, 2008 at 11:18 pm

    Do you mean he just randomly called people to come up there and start talking. We had a ward sacrament meeting once where the Bishop just called random people to get up and bear their testimonies. Totally unprepared. One man was a new convert and he got up and said that he was not yet comfortable bearing his testimony and sat back down. Good for him.

  2. Ray on June 23, 2008 at 12:34 am

    Amen, Adam. There’s nothing funnier than the collective breath-holding that happens when everyone realizes it’s unannounced testimony time, but there’s nothing more spiritually powerful than when the person asked to do so bears a testimony that simply blows everyone away.

    SC, I agree. Good for him.

  3. queuno on June 23, 2008 at 12:38 am

    Bah. Ever ward or stake I’ve ever lived in gave reminders to certain leaders ahead of time. Particularly in the case of the visiting authority, he’s got to rely on the bishop or stake president for candidates. 95% of the time it’s someone in the core leadership or a spouse of same — and if you fit into that category, I’d just recommend going to said conference prepared…

  4. Raymond Takashi Swenson on June 23, 2008 at 1:44 am

    At age 58 I can’t say I have ever been called on to speak without prior warning. I don’t know if that means the Lord doesn’t think the members need to hear from me. I teach Gospel Doctrine every week, so I generally avoid taking time in Testimony meetings. In 8 years in our current ward, I have only been asked to speak in Sacrament Meeting twice. The stake presidents have visited my class during ward conferences so they know who I am. But nothing has ever happened. So I have stopped worrying about it.

    In a stake conference, with a thousand or so people present, your chance of being called on to speak is about comparable to your being in a serious car accident that year. If you are called up unexpectedly, you only need to bear your testimony in the most basic way, just as Dallin Oaks spoke of in last Conference. You don’t have an obligation to occupy 5 or 10 minutes. So you shouldn’t feel any special pressure. If the Spirit tells you to say something else once you open your mouth, that’s fine. But that is not required, and you should not feel pressured to have a revelation on the spot for the gratification of the stake presidency or visiting General Authority. So I would recommend not worrying about what you are going to say.

    I would only worry about what your spouse might say about YOU if she (or he) is called up impromptu.

  5. allie james on June 23, 2008 at 1:46 am

    The last time I saw this done, my teenagers came home and said the man did it because he was too lazy to prepare a talk. I must admit, my kids seemed to have a point.

  6. John Burton on June 23, 2008 at 3:35 am

    I was once released from my calling and called to the high council from the stand – without a word spoken to me personally. Turns out Brother X thought Brother Y had spoken to me etc. But it made me listen to the announcements for the first time in my life.

  7. meems on June 23, 2008 at 5:53 am

    Wow, it’s a pretty common occurance in my stake to be called on with no warning.

    Once, when I was in Young Women’s, I had a strong impression that I would be called on that day to speak. I wrote notes for a brief talk and kept them in my pocket. When the meeting started running overtime and I hadn’t been called, I let out a sigh of relief. Lucky thing I wore the same jacket the very next week though, because the Bishopric started up where they left off. I was the first one called up (and it was a non-ward-conference day!!). I pulled out my notes and felt great! I learned to always be prepared!

  8. Seth R. on June 23, 2008 at 7:23 am

    The fact that the Stake Presidency usually only calls up members they personally like, means that a lot of us don’t really have much to worry about.

  9. MT on June 23, 2008 at 8:06 am

    It happens in my ward/stake conferences all the time, but the local leadership really should know better. I know of people who were disfellowshipped or excommunicated that were attending their church meetings as advised, and frequently got called on to get up and speak or offer a prayer without being asked beforehand. It makes for very awkward situations because the person being asked has to decide whether to refuse and be the subject of all the latest gossip, or do it and violate their disciplinary sanctions. Not an enviable position to be in and makes their continued attendance at church meetings unlikely.

  10. Michelle Glauser on June 23, 2008 at 8:23 am

    We had a stake president famous for this. He was a talker himself, and then he’d ask people to come stand by him while he told stories and then he’d ask the person to say something. One time a boy stood there so long that he fainted and went over the stand. People came up to help while the stake president kept talking. Finally he said, “I guess I’d better stop, huh?” Uhh, yep . . .

  11. Seth R. on June 23, 2008 at 11:23 am

    For instance, I would probably enjoy getting called on. Which is exactly why they should NOT call me, and probably why they will not call me.

  12. bfwebster on June 23, 2008 at 11:49 am

    ward conference — The meeting during which you are terrified that the bishopric will call upon you to speak, and after which you are miffed that they did not. — Orson Scott Card, Saintspeak: A Mormon Dictionary (Orion Books, 1981).

    Pretty much sums it up. ..bruce..

  13. bfwebster on June 23, 2008 at 11:54 am

    I was once released from my calling and called to the high council from the stand – without a word spoken to me personally.

    I once did this to someone else, as an Elder’s Quorum President in a BYU ward many years ago. We were doing the usual start-of-semester mass releases and callings. Afterwards, one of the brethren who had been presented and sustained came up to me and said that, while he was willing to accept the calling, this was the first he’d heard of it. Oops!

    But that’s still not as impressive as being called to the high council without prior notice. :-) ..bruce..

  14. Bookslinger on June 23, 2008 at 11:57 am

    Here’s one of my favorite conference talks, given by a single sister (by advance assignment, not a “surprise.”)

    I think it shows good sensitivity on the part of the stake presidency, because the theme of the conference was families, and she was asked to talk about being single in the church.

    http://www.ikosingles.com/indy-2006-02-stake-singles-talk.doc

    (The talk was posted online with the author’s permission, of course.)

    I wanted to give her talk a standing ovation, but didn’t. The other singles sitting with me said that if I had gotten up and applauded, they probably would have joined me.

  15. Sarah on June 23, 2008 at 12:03 pm

    I’d feel free to vote against sustaining myself if I were given a calling without any notice. It’s bad enough when they release someone you report to, without letting you know what’ll happen (fortunately, in my current Primary, we don’t goof around with “eh, well, I’ll just take over the Presidency NOW and you can find someone else to be a nursery leader, go off to Relief Society, my dears, everything will be fine” style nonsense.)

    But I’m both obstinate and set in my ways, and I don’t mind being a freak. I also say “no” to no-notice invitations to pray in Sacrament, so.

  16. Roland on June 23, 2008 at 12:36 pm

    My funniest moment was when as I was a 15 year old kid and the Bishop called on me unannounced to substitute for the closing prayer in Sacrament Meeting.

    I must of had a very shocked expression for I saw the whole bishobric laughing pretty good at my look.

  17. Tanya S. on June 23, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    Every stake conference I’m glad I have a low-profile calling and that, as far as I know, the stake presidency has no idea who I am.

    A slight variation is something that seems to happen a lot in my ward: the bishopric person conducting that week asks a couple people to share their testimonies. They believe him and plan on just taking a couple minutes. Then they get to church and find out that the two people “sharing their testimonies” are the only two speakers and are expected to take 15 minutes each. There have been quite a number of panicked people in my ward. This problem seems to be a serious lack of communication and misunderstood terms rather than an intent to spring a surprise on someone.

    Even the bishopric members themselves have been caught off guard. The 2nd counselor in our bishopric was released and a new one sustained yesterday. Both men were asked to share their testimonies but – surprise! – they were the only two adult speakers and didn’t know that they were expected to actually talk long. We got out of sacrament meeting 15 minutes early, though, so it worked out well ;-). (Sacrament meeting is last in my ward, so it meant going home early and didn’t impact classes.)

  18. kevinf on June 23, 2008 at 3:43 pm

    I’m always blown away by my wife’s intellect and spiritual capacity, but she got called on to do this by our SP in the Saturday evening session of Stake Conference about a year or so ago. We had flown out from Utah early that afternoon, as our HC was going to sing a song that evening, and I wanted to be in on it.

    When my wife’s name got called, she gave in about 4 or 5 minutes, one of the most powerful testimonies I’ve ever heard. The SP just said “We’d now like to hear from Sis. F”. Since there are three Sister F’s in our stake, and the SP didn’t look specifically at my wife, I didn’t immediately think it was her. After she sat back down, she said that on the plane back from SLC, she thought she might be called on, and so she had already collected her thoughts.

    I realize that there are unhappy incidents relating to this kind of testimony by ambush approach, but I also think it says volumes about our SP and my wife, both of whom are exceptional folks. Especially my wife.

  19. Amy S on June 23, 2008 at 7:58 pm

    No morbid examples Adam? I feel like you left us hanging! :0)

    Seriously, maybe this calls for a thread on testimony mtgs in general. I can’t help it, I cringe as soon as it begins each month. Either some guy wants to sing his testimony, or a bitter member begins a preach-a-mony, you know saying all the things they feel they can’t say to your face, or somebody brings all five kids up to whisper in their ears what to say, or the resident rambler gets up at five ’til to take up twenty minutes about absolutely nothing. I get all a-flutter about it. My husband, on the other hand, thinks it’s hilarious.

  20. Ray on June 23, 2008 at 8:29 pm
  21. Amy S on June 24, 2008 at 12:46 am

    oh my gosh ray! Thanks so much for the link! Talk about best. thread. ever. My husband and I were rolling on the ground!!

  22. Ray on June 24, 2008 at 12:56 am

    Yeah, Amy. If there’s a lifetime achievement award for contributions from one thread over time, Wiz should be nominated for this one. I go back and read it occasionally, again, whenever I need to laugh so hard I cry.

    Sorry, Adam, for the threadjack – but I thought it was appropriate, given the topic and Amy’s comment.

  23. mondo cool on June 24, 2008 at 1:06 pm

    I’d be tempted to just give a closing prayer.

  24. Ray on June 24, 2008 at 1:42 pm

    #23 – That might be the perfect solution.

  25. Gerald Smith on June 24, 2008 at 3:11 pm

    The Conference I was to be ordained an elder, the stake president had challenged all of us receiving the MP to memorize the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood. Then, prior to sustaining us, he called me up and asked me to quote it from memory. Good thing I prepared!

    Several times in Stake conference with a visiting General Authority, I’ve seen the Elder lean over to the stake president, point out to someone in the congregation, and whisper. The next moment, the stake president stands up and asks Brother or Sister So-and-so to bear a testimony. It has happened to me a couple times over the years. So, at least for me, it isn’t uncommon.

  26. Alison Moore Smith on June 25, 2008 at 3:51 pm

    John Burton #6:

    Once I had a bishop who did at least six of the following weekly:

    Sustained someone who hadn’t been called.
    Released someone who hadn’t been notified.
    Called the correct person to the wrong calling.
    Called the wrong person to the correct calling.
    Called more than one person to a single calling.
    Forgot to call, sustain, or notify someone for week’s on end.
    Called me “Pam.”
    Called Pam, “Paige.”
    Called Paige something or other I can’t recall.
    Called Christina: Christine, Chrissy, Crystal, or Chris.

    And that was just in the Relief Society. My biggest job during that period was to keep my presidency from mutiny. It all ended in a interesting blow-out that involved the bishopric, all the ward auxiliary leaders, and stake leaders, but had nothing whatsoever to do with stake conference–uncomfortable or not.

  27. Researcher on June 25, 2008 at 4:22 pm

    Wow. I had a bishop like that once upon a time. Forgot names, forgot details. Turned out it was some form of dementia setting in (it was a number of years ago, so don’t remember all the particulars). He must have been around 50 at the time. Great tragedy.

    Then some people are just forgetful…

  28. Alan on June 26, 2008 at 10:59 pm

    While on my mission, my dad wrote to me about his following experience. When he arrived at the adult meeting of stake conference, a member of the stake presidency asked him to come up and sit on the stand. He was the stake mission president at the time so concluded that they wanted the stake leaders up front. While he was sitting there, he was introduced as one of the night’s speakers. He quickly tried to gather some thoughts. He mentioned in his talk what a surprise the announcement had been for him. Soon after the meeting, the stake president rushed to my dad and apologized. He thought that my dad had been contacted.

  29. Maren on June 30, 2008 at 11:34 pm

    I have ben a member all my life and cannot recall ever having been at a meeting where someone was called out of the audience to speak! Pray: yes. But I have never seen someone speak in church without having some warning. Amazing that it happens in some places on a regular basis but not in others. (I was raised in the DC area, attended BYU, and live in New England.) I would love to see it done- what a thrill to go to a meeting and sit on pins and needles wondering if you will have to pull together the essence of what is in your heart that day. Cool.

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