"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
July 7, 2014
Stake Conference on the Fly
by Kathryn H. Kidd

We had our stake conference recently. For you who are not members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, stake conference is a twice-yearly meeting where a bunch of local congregations (“wards”) in the same area get together for a meeting.

An average stake has about ten congregations. Ours has twelve, so you could say we’re overdue for realignment — something no Mormon wants to see. Oh, we all want to see our ranks growing, but that’s only theoretically. When it happens to our stake or, far worse, our ward, it’s a crisis of epic proportions. It means saying goodbye to old friends, and several months of changes as all of the dominos fall.

But that’s not today’s topic. Thank goodness. I hope I don’t have to even think about a ward or stake reorganization for — well, forever. I’m too old for that sort of trauma.

Stake conferences take place in a “stake center,” which is one of the larger buildings in the stake. But it only makes sense that twelve Mormon congregations cannot fit in such a small space. When our friend Dick presided over the stake, the way he solved the problem was to hold two identical meetings, with half the members attending one session and half the members attending the other.

Even with two meetings, the number of people attending would fill the chapel and all of the overflow areas.

It made for a long day for people like Fluffy, who was the stake clerk. As Fluffy’s wife, I took it upon myself to help feed all the people who talked at the identical meetings, so I was there for both meetings as well. We were always glad when stake conferences were over.

But there have been two stake presidents since our friend Dick was released, and things are done differently these days. Thanks to modern technology, the meeting is broadcast simultaneously to all four buildings in our stake. That way there is only one meeting. That means no food, but the speakers only have to speak once.

One would think this would be a happy solution to everything. After all, modern technology allows the speakers to reach all the stake members by only giving their talks one time. This is where you would be wrong.

The reason you would be wrong is that our church uses the tithing dollars of its members to pay for all the niceties in our buildings, and every penny is accountable to an auditor. With thousands of buildings scattered across the globe, it makes sense that those in charge are always looking for a good deal.

If you can shave just a dollar off the cost of an item, this will result in a savings of thousands of dollars across the entire Church. Unfortunately, this also means that the items provided are not always of the absolutely highest quality.

I am old enough to remember the hands-free toilets that were installed in the bathrooms at the Washington D.C. Temple. They weren’t toilets at all. They were surprise bidets! They shot cold water into the nether regions of hapless patrons for three weeks until they were unceremoniously removed. The temple workers wondered for years how much that little experiment cost the Church.

Then there were the ceiling tile bombs that were installed in our very own stake center. After our stake center had been in operation for less than two years, ceiling tiles started dive-bombing the people who dared to sit underneath them. Apparently they were voice-activated.

The Church leaders in Utah couldn’t understand it. The glue worked fine there in Utah, which has no humidity whatsoever. It must be Virginia’s fault that the glue wasn’t working here. People should not be talking underneath those ceiling tiles!

All we could do was shake our heads.

Getting back to our recent stake conference, our wards do have an audio-video connection to our stake center, but the equipment was paid for by tithing dollars. I suspect that smoke signals would probably be more reliable. We have been burned before. Would we be burned again?

Sure enough, the first forty-five minutes or so of our stake conference went fine. We had a great experience listening to people we didn’t know, who nevertheless gave excellent talks. Then the person in charge announced the rest hymn (a real snoozer), followed by the rest of the agenda. We were going to hear from some old friends, and it was promising to be a good program.

Cue the technology failure! Suddenly the screen went blank, and that was the end of stake conference for everyone who was not fortunate enough to be sitting in the stake center.

This is where being a Mormon really comes into play. I don’t know what happens when you’re a member of another religion and your priest or preacher suddenly stops preaching mid-sermon. I guess everyone just leaves the church and drives home. But that would never happen in a Mormon congregation. Oh no.

In a Mormon congregation, it’s business as usual. In fact, depending on who was on the program originally, and who is in the building where you happen to be sitting, it may be better than what was scheduled in the first place. You never know.

In our case, the bishops of the two congregations that meet in our building bounced up like Jacks-in-the-box (no, not the hamburger franchise) to grab an organist and chorister. They conducted the same slow and whiny rest hymn that had originally been on the program.

Then, when the audio-visual still hadn’t been established, they called a guy out of our ward to talk about genealogy. Completely off the cuff, he talked about using the genealogy software to find a Jewish branch of his family that he did not know existed. He met this family, and has established a nice relationship with them, just by doing a little genealogy research.

The next extemporaneous speaker was from the other ward. He gave a powerful talk about going with the youth of our stake two weeks ago as they went on a “Pioneer trek,” simulating the Mormon trek westward more than 150 years ago. It was a spiritual experience for him as well as for the youth, and he gave some great examples of how both he and the teenagers were affected by the experience.

The final speaker was a 22-year-old young lady from our ward, who told her conversion story. It was an interesting one, because she used to be a Muslim. She only joined the Church a few months ago, but she spoke like a lifer. It was such a great talk that I was glad we were able to hear her testimony.

Although I really wanted to hear from our friends on Sunday’s schedule, and although I was annoyed once again at the failures of modern technology, the thing that I took away from our stake conference is how resourceful our church members are when they need to be.

Oh, we can be just as lazy as the next person most of the time. But when an emergency strikes, be it a major disaster or just a little technology glitch, you can count on a Mormon any day of the week.

You see, if the three people who spoke in our chapel on Sunday hadn’t been there, the two bishops could have called upon just about any three people sitting in the room and would have gotten results that were just about as good.

That’s the way Mormons are. We’re ready for just about anything. When you don’t have a paid minister and are used to being responsible for your own entertainment, you just step up and do what needs to be done. And it doesn’t even cost a cent.


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About Kathryn H. Kidd

Kathryn H. Kidd has been writing fiction, nonfiction, and "anything for money" longer than most of her readers have even been alive. She has something to say on every topic, and the possibility that her opinions may be dead wrong has never stopped her from expressing them at every opportunity.

A native of New Orleans, Kathy grew up in Mandeville, Louisiana. She attended Brigham Young University as a generic Protestant, having left the Episcopal Church when she was eight because that church didn't believe what she did. She joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a BYU junior, finally overcoming her natural stubbornness because she wanted a patriarchal blessing and couldn't get one unless she was a member of the Church. She was baptized on a Saturday and received her patriarchal blessing two days later.

She married Clark L. Kidd, who appears in her columns as "Fluffy," more than thirty-five years ago. They are the authors of numerous LDS-related books, the most popular of which is A Convert's Guide to Mormon Life.

A former managing editor for Meridian Magazine, Kathy moderated a weekly column ("Circle of Sisters") for Meridian until she was derailed by illness in December of 2012. However, her biggest claim to fame is that she co-authored Lovelock with Orson Scott Card. Lovelock has been translated into Spanish and Polish, which would be a little more gratifying than it actually is if Kathy had been referred to by her real name and not "Kathryn Kerr" on the cover of the Polish version.

Kathy has her own website, www.planetkathy.com, where she hopes to get back to writing a weekday blog once she recovers from being dysfunctional. Her entries recount her adventures and misadventures with Fluffy, who heroically allows himself to be used as fodder for her columns at every possible opportunity.

Kathy spent seven years as a teacher of the Young Women in her ward, until she was recently released. She has not yet gotten used to interacting with the adults, and suspects it may take another seven years. A long-time home teacher with her husband, Clark, they have home taught the same family since 1988. The two of them have been temple workers since 1995, serving in the Washington D.C. Temple.

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