The Conference Showdown: Ward, Stake, or General?

August 14, 2011 | 23 comments
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It’s ward conference for us today. Ward conference is kind of a let-down for me. It doesn’t offer the short church session that we get from stake conference, and I can’t watch it on my laptop while eating not-Cap’n-Crunch in my pajamas. It’s pretty much just business-as-usual.

But it’s not like the two-hour session of stake conference is really such a break when you’ve got to keep small kids quiet for the duration. Really, I’d rather have three hours of church with someone else watching my kids than to try and keep them quiet and attentive for two hours of sermons. However, stake conference does offer the Saturday adult session. I enjoy getting to go to spend an hour and a half in church on a Saturday evening. The talks don’t usually stick with me, but the experience is nice and relaxing. A pre-Sabbath Sabbath.

And general conference is general conference. (My only question there is, am I supposed to capitalize it — “General Conference” — or is it okay to leave it lowercase? A quick Google search of lds.org shows both usages.)

Of course, ward conference is different from behind the scenes. It’s one of the rare opportunities for ward and stake leadership to connect and align. I imagine that the same thing happens at stake conference between stake and general leaders. So here’s my questions:

  1. Which conference do you most look forward to?
  2. Which conference do you feel is the most important to keeping the church functioning effectively?

23 Responses to The Conference Showdown: Ward, Stake, or General?

  1. Sam Brunson on August 14, 2011 at 6:39 am

    I have to admit that I’m a fan of Stake Conference. Especially since we discovered that our Stake has a video feed into the Relief Society room, but that almost nobody goes there. So we can let our girls play and color and be noisy without fear of interrupting the worship of others, while we pay attention to what’s being said.

  2. Whizzbang of Winnipeg on August 14, 2011 at 8:32 am

    Definately General Conference-although now that we are extremely blessed and bewildered in getting a Temple here, stake conference is a great outlet for hopefully learning about any legit developments in the Temple details!

  3. Hilary on August 14, 2011 at 9:22 am

    I do love ‘attending’ Church in my pajamas . . . so General Conference has probably always been my favorite. I liked Stake Conference more before I had three kids five years and younger. Now I dread it a little. (As a kid, with a partially active father, I was 14 before I realized that people actually attended meetings on Stake Conference — I thought it was a ‘free day’, when leadership got together for meetings or something and the rest of us went to Lake Powell). :-)

    I’ve never thought much about Ward Conference until this year . . . when our Bishop challenged the entire Ward to read the Book of Mormon before Ward Conference to prepare (we had about 5 months, I think) and he promised that if we would prepare ourselves and our families for Ward Conference like never before, we’d get more out of it than ever before. Couple that with awesome talks in Sacrament, and amazing teachers for class, and it truly was one of the most amazing blocks of Church I’ve ever attended. It changed my life and heart about something I’d been struggling with in my life; and I wasn’t alone. I’m in the Relief Society Presidency, so we have had at least a dozen women report back how much they’d gotten from the women’s block of the meeting, and I know from Ward Council that there were many more who really felt something different in these meetings. I had never thought much about Ward Conference before, but I’m REALLY looking forward to our next one now!

  4. BethSmash on August 14, 2011 at 9:23 am

    General Conference,
    sleepin’ in, pjs, fall asleep in the middle and no one cares. listening to it on the radio while having a picnic. good times.

  5. Dane Laverty on August 14, 2011 at 9:39 am

    Sam, good point about the video feed. I think that’s a technological application that could work just as well for sacrament meeting too!

    Whizzbang, congrats on the upcoming temple!

    Hilary, when I was a kid we only watched the Sunday morning session of general conference. As a freshman at BYU I was all excited for general conference weekend, only to discover that everyone was going to spend essentially two full days in the commons room at the dorm. So I watched all the sessions for the first time. It was long and painful. But I kept it up, and after my mission I found that general conference weekend became one of my favorite times. I especially loved heading up to SLC for it. We very rarely had tickets, but I just enjoy spreading a blanket out on the grass and listening to it piped over the PA system. I think that in the celestial kingdom, church will be experienced outdoors, the way it is meant to be :)

    BethSmash, yup.

  6. John AC on August 14, 2011 at 9:57 am

    Having joined Sam for the video feed in our stake center, I’ll second his sentiments. On the other hand, it’s hard to beat Sunday morning General Conference cinnamon rolls…

    My experience with ward conferences has been really uneven from stake to stake. The sacrament meeting tends to be handled the same way (stake president and bishop giving sermons), but I’ve seen several variations on the other meetings (combined Priesthood-RS, stake leaders teaching Primary and/or YM/YW, stake president with youth, stake president with RS, stake president with Priesthood). I tend to enjoy more the less top-down it feels. That is, I like it when it feels like stake leaders are trying to understand our ward’s issues and connect with us, rather than just talking at us.

  7. Naismith on August 14, 2011 at 10:41 am

    “I have to admit that I’m a fan of Stake Conference. Especially since we discovered that our Stake has a video feed into the Relief Society room, but that almost nobody goes there.”

    That’s where the Spanish feed has been in our stakes….

  8. Clark Herlin on August 14, 2011 at 10:53 am

    I love both Stake and General Conference. However, I really look forward to General Conferences because (and I guess this is a lame reason) I like how official the Rostrum looks, with the seating for the two Quorums of the Seventies, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the First Presidency. It is a wish of mine (a far out wish) to one day sit there during a meeting like Conference.

  9. Sonny on August 14, 2011 at 11:15 am

    General Conference, no question. In fact, I would not complain if it were announced that we swapped General Conference with fast meeting–so monthly conference and semi-annual fast meetings.

  10. Left Field on August 14, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    I liked stake conference better before we got moved into a stake an hour away. The meeting better be good if we’re going to commit four hours and $10 of gas to it. The evening stake meetings are worse. I don’t know when they expect you to eat dinner when they have a stake meeting at 6:00 on a Sunday evening.

  11. Michael on August 14, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    I’ve always wondered why we mostly (or exclusively) hear from stake leaders at ward conference. I’ve always thought we could find a more apt name for it, like maybe “ward inspection.”

  12. Boldly, Nobly, and Independent on August 14, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    I prefer General Conference. I use it as my new years resolution.

  13. Keri Brooks on August 14, 2011 at 5:57 pm

    I prefer general conference. I treat it like a holiday. I’ve often envied the liturgical calendars of other churches, and I like to view general conference as a part of our liturgy.

    I like the adult session of stake conference, but the general session is a bit long to be sitting on uncomfortable folding chairs at the back of the cultural hall. (In my stake, they reserve the pews for families with young children.) My favorite stake conference was when I was on my mission. I was serving in an area in rural southern Virginia, and we had to go to Winston-Salem, NC for stake conference. It was a two hour drive each way. We carpooled with some branch members and had a picnic afterward. I loved the journey. It made it feel special. (I was used to a 5-10 minute drive to church and a 15-20 minute drive to stake meetings.)

  14. Jax on August 14, 2011 at 6:10 pm

    We live 2 1/2 hours from Stake Center, and I consider it a great blessing to be able to make it to the adult session each time (despite the $10+ in gas, and sometimes a hotel room for the night). Our stake conference happened to be today and it was great to sit with another GA and ask some of the questions that get asked around these type of sites and hear the GA’s answer them. Not bad hearing them talk about things that really matter too.

    I could soak in a general conference once a month too. I second the motion for swapping it with fast sundays – I’m sick of hearing travel reports and ‘Thank-a-monies’ from the same 10-20 people each month. It’s almost like noone in the church even has a testimony anymore!

    Ward Conference would be nice if it weren’t the only time of the year I saw the stake person who is supposed to be training our branch leaders.

  15. Dane Laverty on August 14, 2011 at 6:50 pm

    John, ditto on the cinnamon rolls. Eating cinnamon rolls with my wife on general conference morning at Wymount is one of my cherished BYU memories.

    Sonny, that’s a petition-worthy idea. Let me know if you get any traction on that :)

    Left Field, you must be getting some good gas mileage if you can drive for two hours on $10 of gas.

    Michael, I agree that “ward inspecton” might be more appropriate. When I was elders quorum president, it certainly felt that way.

    Keri, I think back to the long car drives we took to area conferences when I was a kid. You’re right, the long drive itself really lends a sense of specialness to the event.

    Jax, I’m glad you enjoyed your stake conference. We had Elder Jensen attend ours a while back and I got to say to him afterwards. I haven’t really had much interaction with general authorities, but the ones I have met always strike me as genuinely warm, caring individuals.

  16. Bro. Jones on August 14, 2011 at 9:13 pm

    There was no “none of the above” option, but failing that I’ll pick Stake Conference. Most bang for the buck in terms of time invested.

  17. Paul on August 14, 2011 at 10:06 pm

    GC is great, and I love TV church at home.

    But I also relish any chance I get to listen to my stake president speak, so I’m happy for Ward Conference and Stake Conference.

  18. Left Field on August 14, 2011 at 10:10 pm

    Dane, I don’t think I’m too far off. It’s about 100 miles round trip. I think I get about 30 mpg. Gas here has been running about $3.50/gal. If my math is right, that comes to $11.67 at current gas prices.

  19. Jason on August 14, 2011 at 11:32 pm

    My son calls that first Sunday in April and October “Saint Conference Day.” My kids all love the Sundays when they can watch (more often, not watch) church on TV. I love General Conference for two things. First, I appreciate the opportunity to be doing something while I listen, whether working in the yard, sorting toys, or reviewing documents in my office. For some reason, the messages seem to resonate more when I am not just sitting in our pew. Second, I love the tradition of Priesthood Session. My Dad would take my brothers and I for dinner after each session (first time I went to the old Taco John’s in SLC) and now that my son has turned 12, we are continuing the tradition. I hope that this tradition will continue in coming generations, as family ties are forged with a combination of the Priesthood Session the bad Mexican food.

  20. AndrewJDavis on August 15, 2011 at 4:26 am

    My answer has changed since I had my daughter (born on General Conference weekend 3 years ago).

    Before: G.C. I enjoyed hearing different people talk, and usually felt uplifted.

    Now: Ward Conference. That way, my daughter still goes off to nursery. We haven’t heard GC for 3 years now. We’ve tried each time, but 4×2 hour sessions is too much for our kid. We usually end up chasing her around the house/church. Stake Conference: our ward has zero teenagers, so it’s been very very hard to get a babysitter for the adult session. So my wife and I swap. I don’t like going without her. The Sunday session: again, 2 hours + 3 year old + uncomfortable chairs = no spiritual insights.

  21. H.Bob on August 15, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    The editing wonk in me replies: According to the Church Style Guide (3rd edition), you should only capitalize “General Conference” if you’re using the whole, official title, e.g., “The 181st Semi-Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” Generic usage dictates lowercase for “We went to general conference this year.” Ditto ward conference, stake conference, the general Relief Society meeting, etc.; however, “Mutual” is an exception to this rule–”We went to Mutual on Tuesday night and watched a DVD of the general Relief Society meeting.” If you ask me, many in the Church are a little too capitalization-happy anyway, so it’s nice to see a little pushback on overcapping.

  22. Dane Laverty on August 15, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    Thanks for the clarification, H.Bob. I’m actually really fascinated by the minutiae of style in situations like that.

  23. BJH on August 18, 2011 at 10:38 pm

    General conference has always been a real high for me. The opportunity to hear from apostles and prophets of God is just great. And of course the benefit of being able to do it in the comfort of my own home is a bonus.

    Stake conference is also a great experience. Although, I am somewhat disappointed now that most stake conferences have now been scheduled within a month or two of General Conference. And, honestly I’m not too fond of the broadcast stake conference sessions. (Seems like a little of a contradiction, doesn’t it? Considering why I enjoy General Conference.)

    Ward Conference has always been a drudgery for me. I’m not sure why. But to me it always seems like just a little of a hassle. I will admit that I enjoy it more when the stake leadership do an excellent job communicating well in advance what the schedule and assignments of the conference will be. All try to do this, but then as the stake holds ward conferences through the stake, they start fine tuning and then verbal changes are sent out via the HC. And things go downhill from there.

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