The Paperless Stake

by: Hedgehog

March 13, 2014

It’s all virtual now!

“Unfortunately, many of the benefits of living in a technology-rich age accrue primarily to those who can afford to learn about and gain access to new technology. Those who cannot are left further behind.”

(taken from Chapter 1 of  “Creating an Information Democracy” Centre for Urban Policy Research, Rutgers University)

In our embrace of modern technology will we find ourselves disenfranchising some members?

I don’t deny that there are some pluses to technology in church. It was pretty mind-blowing to discover the same wifi password that allows me to access the internet in my own ward building, not only also works in my stake centre, but chapels in Japan and Australia as well. But is this enthusiasm for embracing technology sometimes taking us too far?

I live in a Stake which has, for many many years, produced a Stake Diary, annually. It contains important information such as names and contact details for all Stake officers, Bishops, Family History Centres, temple opening times, lesson schedules (with reading assignments at the top of each calender week) and a phone directory and meeting times for each ward, in addition to all the required diary information (meetings, interviews, activities) for the stake, printed at the appropriate date. For me, it is the go to source for phone numbers, and to review who is in which ward.

For the last few years there have been noises that the Stake will no longer be producing this paper diary, and although the diary was in fact produced, with each succeeding year, the noises have been getting louder. This year looks like the year of the big push, the year I’ll have to keep the diary beyond it’s annual usefulness, if I want that quick reference directory. It’s only March, and already we have been told, there will be no diary next year. This time they really mean it. We will all have to set up our lds accounts and permit online access to those details.

The idea of the paperless office has been around for a long time. Yet walk into any office supplies store, and there are reams and reams of paper for sale, of varying brands and grades, stacked from floor to ceiling. They sell computers, but also printers, and printer ink. It looks like the paperless office is a long way off.

I have observed however, a change in where the costs fall, both out in the world at large, and at church. As examples:

  1. My children no longer bring letters home from school. Parents are expected to subscribe to an electronic mail system where they will be sent links for pdf versions of those letters. Quite often there are reply slips that will need to be returned, signed by the parent. The cost of paper and printing now falls on parents rather than the school. And it is absolutely expected that parents will have internet access, and a printer (also required for much of your child’s homework).
  2. At church, back when I was very young, the children’s lesson manuals would have associated activity kits for each child in the class that the ward would order. I particularly remember a stickered time-line chart that we completed the year we covered Church History in Junior Sunday School. With the advent of photocopy machines, each church building came to have a such a machine, and manuals contained activity pages that could be copied as many times as necessary for the number of children in the class. The added advantage being that these copies could be made on the day, and so there was little wastage. Come my time spent as a primary teacher, and in the primary presidency, and these costs fell on the teacher and presidency members themselves, as things are printed from online, and the ward no longer maintains a functioning photocopy machine. Because all printing is done at home, there is either quite a lot of wastage of paper and ink, or you find you haven’t printed enough because for once all your usual class members are here on the same day, and you have three additional children of either stake officers, or visiting family. In theory, you can put in a claim for costs, but you absolutely need a receipt for purchases. Whilst you are able to keep “primary paper” separate from your usual paper, it is not straight forward to separate “primary ink” (the largest cost), or the “primary wear and tear” of your printer. It is my experience that these costs are born by the teachers and presidency members themselves, for many of whom this is a significant sacrifice.

For the stake there are benefits to doing away with the printed diary: member details can be kept up to date, meetings on the calender can be changed (though these will still need to be announced, not everyone will be checking so regularly), and of course they won’t have the costs of printing and binding the diary. The departure from the printed diary will be difficult for many members though, and make quick reference a thing of the past for them. Many members keep their stake diary with them. It’s easy to look something up in a hurry. Even with an appropriate mobile device, logging on to look at the stake calender, or check a phone number is instantly more unwieldy (and I know already that my iPod touch is too old for this stuff, no longer supported). You will only be able to see those members who have created their lds accounts, and enabled their visibility (it remains to be seen how many will do that), and browsing will be more difficult. Members with a only a PC (and not every home has one) are certainly going to find it a bind to turn it on simply to look up a phone number. How many will flick through the ward directories and familiarise themselves with the names of the other members in the stake? It’s an exercise I find to be unifying, even if I don’t yet know who all those people are, but maybe I’m just weird. Our members have pretty modest incomes on the whole, not a few live in relative poverty. Many are very elderly, and are simply not accustomed to this modern cloud-connected way of living. Not everyone has internet access, even now. Mobile devices are not cheap, and internet access has to be paid for. To me this looks like significantly increasing the costs for members.

  • Does your ward or stake have a printed diary or directory?
  • If so, do you use it, do you like it or dislike it?
  • Has you ward or stake gone online in this way?
  • If so, does it work, do you like it or dislike it?
  • What do you think the pros and cons might be?
  • What is your opinion on the shifting costs technology seems to bring?
  • Have you seen other uses of technology disenfranchise members?


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27 Responses to The Paperless Stake

  1. Meshok on March 13, 2014 at 2:42 PM

    I’ve thought about this a lot– as a YW Secretary, I end up printing a lot of things from my home computer. I would suggest that ward buildings have a printer in their libraries.

    One thing that I really love about the technology of the ward directory is that I CAN leaf through and get acquainted with the names of the members of our ward. I do find it to be a unifying experience– but I just do mine electronically.

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  2. Hedgehog on March 13, 2014 at 3:09 PM

    You have a library? We lost ours years ago.
    I’m glad I’m not the only one to find browsing a directory to be unifying. Yours is ward-based? Are you also able to access other wards in your stake? One of the things I understand about this techy system is that the kind of information we are able to access will depend on the calling we have.

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  3. JrL on March 13, 2014 at 4:02 PM

    Our stake hasn’t printed a stake directory in the 20 years we’ve lived here. Our ward quit printing them years ago. Same for calendars. Sometimes a ward clark will print them for folks who ask and don’t have electronic access. But your reluctance to move to the eletronic directory baffles me. I find it very convenient to have access to the directory through LDS Tools by only carrying my (old, like yours) iPod Touch, or my recently inherited Kindle Fire. Not only do I have names and contact information, but real-time (well, not quite) changes in ward and stake leadership. And photos, though not nearly enough fmailies have put their online.

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  4. rpallred on March 13, 2014 at 4:11 PM

    The other great benefit of the online directory is that it allows fine-tuned privacy controls. I can decide whether members of the Stake can see my contact info, members of my ward, or only the Bishopric and Stake Presidency.

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  5. Ben Shideler on March 13, 2014 at 5:12 PM

    We haven’t had a printed directory from the stake now for a number of years. There was a little gnashing of teeth the first year. They did not announce it, so it was a surprise that none came.

    Most members of our elders quorum do not use it anyway. We only took a couple of the priesthood manuals as most of the members use their smartphone or tablet for the lesson manual.

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  6. Naismith on March 13, 2014 at 5:33 PM

    We haven’t had a printed stake directory in at least 15 years. One thing is that in the US, a husband and wife generally have separate phone numbers, which is obvious and clear in the LDS Tools app. But for a printed directory, people try to save paper by printing only one phone number per household, and that can be misleading.

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  7. Mormon Heretic on March 13, 2014 at 7:02 PM

    The computer directories are superior to the paper directories. They have pictures. They are updated more frequently. I don’t want a paper directory, because it is out of date as soon as it is printed.

    My wife on the other hand, is like you Hedgehog. She prefers paper. Yet she is the one asking me for someone’s phone number, and I pull up my computer or phone and find it for her. Paper vs computer is a personal preference.

    Now, I do prefer books to reading them on a Kindle. Books just feel better to me. But I prefer to read my news online rather than a newspaper. IT’s updated more often, has more photos and videos than a newspaper.

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  8. hawkgrrrl on March 13, 2014 at 8:31 PM

    We are totally paperless now. One greatly reduced cost to members that I’ve noticed is that nearly everyone is using electronic scriptures now, and they are a free app for all. The only time I have seen people still lugging their paper scriptures is in my parents’ ward – mostly retirees. Even the Q15 are all using iPads for their scriptures now. It’s a lower cost if you already have a phone or iPad anyway. Paper scriptures are often replaced every few years, and they can be quite expensive.

    Another benefit is ward FB groups that can post updates about missionaries, photos of the ward parties, or noticed and reminders of ward activities, all without having to make phone calls. Our primary posts a reminder mid-week, tagging parents whose children have talks, prayers or scriptures. It’s also a great way to find a substitute to teach a class.

    Every ward has one or two luddites, but overall, even in developing countries, I found many people had a smart phone.

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  9. Douglas on March 13, 2014 at 9:51 PM

    Use of LDS Tools, online scriptures and Church e-magazines, etc is GREAT.

    Some folks have trouble adjusting to “new-fangled” ways. We need to be nice, and print out on PAPER for those that just have to have it. If it enables faster, more accurate and concise information dissemination, and lowers costs, that’s the benefit of technological advances.

    Just avoid labelling folks “Luddites” or other derogatory names just b/c they don’t “grok” the latest toys. I like the story about how NASA spent thousands to develop a pen that’d write in zero gravity for the astronauts. What was the Russian Space agency’s solution? A box of pencils, a few erasers, and a couple of sharpeners.

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  10. Niklas on March 14, 2014 at 2:09 AM

    Our stake use to have a paper directory. I still miss it. I think the biggest reason not to print it anymore was the cost.
    Most of the members haven’t make their profiles public in the’s directory. So it is pretty much useless. The’s calender is rarely updated in my ward, it is useless too. As a ward clerk I am able to see the whole member list through or LDS Tools on my mobile, that is very useful. Gospel Library is also really neat. I would never take paper manuals with me to church.
    Some old members (those who still refuse to get computer) don’t like the way things are going.

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  11. Hedgehog on March 14, 2014 at 2:35 AM

    JrL(#3), MH (#7). It’s true I do prefer paper. Not least, because I still have access during a power cut, without requiring a monthly mobile 3G (or even 4G) contract. My daughter is totally embarrassed by my mobile phone, which is at at least 7 years old, is PAYG, I only top up the minimum once a quarter (it really is only for emergency contact by school or family), has good reception, and an easy to use keypad. And I still use a paper diary for my weekly planning, which I buy every year. Paper diaries still seem to sell quite well here. I use my old iPod for podcasts, and quick check of email from a wifi connection. It does have the old Gospel Library App, but since I am so out of date, it won’t take the new app, so I can’t get this year’s RS/Priesthood manual or magazines. It doesn’t have LDS tools. But for me it isn’t so much an issue of cost to me personally, we’re actually some of the better off people in the ward (though by no means rich), so much as the principle that attending and serving in church all this expensive equipment and connectivity is becoming a requirement. Yet who finds, when they’ve been called to the Bishopric, they’re handed an iPad, for example.

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  12. Hedgehog on March 14, 2014 at 2:52 AM

    rpallred (#4), Niklas (#10) I guess some will like the privacy adjustments, but I think that does detract from the unifying properties of a directory. In one way it’s sad that so many become invisible to the ordinary member, and only accessible by those with a calling that allows them access. It seems that the membership really need to be on board for the change to digital to work. I’m not sure they are here.

    One of the reasons the stake diary has been produced for so long here is because there has always been an outcry by the many on behalf of those without internet access, and an objection that it should be necessary. I’ve been surprised to read that so many of you haven’t had one for more than 10 years.

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  13. Hedgehog on March 14, 2014 at 3:00 AM

    Ben (#5), did the nashing of teeth stop because they found they liked the change afterall, or because they became resigned to it?

    I do wonder what the effect of almost everyone sitting in class using a mobile device is for poorer members, and investigators. Is it something that attracts them, or something they find off-putting, if they’re think they will need it to engage with the members?

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  14. Hedgehog on March 14, 2014 at 3:14 AM

    Naismith (#6), would these be mobile numbers? Most of the phone numbers in our directory are for the home phone, something many still have. and most homes have the one line. In a few cases mobile numbers are listed, and separately for spouses in some cases. But it is mainly the home phone that’s listed. I tend to keep my mobile number fairly private: family, close friends, and my kid’s school.

    hawkgrrrl (#8), I’m not sure I’d call that a *greatly* reduced cost. Members here didn’t change their paper scriptures that often (certainly not as often as electronic devices become obsolete), and paper copies are available very cheaply. I can see it is convenient though, not to have to carry around lots of books.
    I’m not a fan of ward facebook groups. Not everyone is going to want to sign up for a facebook account, for a whole variety of reasons. I don’t think they should feel obliged to.

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  15. Hedgehog on March 14, 2014 at 3:21 AM

    Douglas, I love that story about the pencils. Sometimes the solution is incredibly straightforward and simple. Like the litre of light project.

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  16. Naismith on March 14, 2014 at 6:27 AM

    Yes, mobile numbers. Most folks in our ward under age 50 do not have a landline in their home. In the US, the rate of wireless-only adults is just under 40%
    and ours is a bit higher because many of the young people in the ward are there temporarily for a residency or grad school, so they keep their cell plans from wherever they came from until they settle more permanently. Some of the older people in the ward resent having to make a long-distance call to reach someone about visiting teaching, etc

    But the great thing is that the church software allows the phone numbers of all adults to be entered. I remember ~10 years ago when it did not, and in RS we had to collect and maintain our own list of emails and phone numbers for the sisters.

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  17. Karen on March 14, 2014 at 9:15 AM

    Our stake did away with the stake calendar a few years ago. I think this is fine because they were often out of date within a month of being printed.

    One of the nice things about creating your own user name and password on is that you can print off your own ward list. I do that. It is nice to have it for the kids to look up numbers, especially as they enter yw/ym and sometimes have to make calls to others in their classes. You are given options for how much information to include and how big you want the font. You can print it or save a pdf file.

    In my ward, very few have a home phone #, so when I call the number listed as a home phone I usually get the husband (that seems to be the default). When printing the list you have an option of having the home phone as well as individual phone #s listed.(But we only get individual numbers if people take the time to get their individual numbers listed.)

    I still take my paper scriptures to church, I find it easier to flip back and forth between scriptures that way. But I have the gospel library on my phone and tablet.
    It is possible to mix paper and technology these days.

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  18. AndrewJDavis on March 14, 2014 at 9:50 AM

    I am not a fan of the Church’s online directory. That is, however, likely a function of where I’ve lived over the past three years: Munich and Edinburgh. In neither place has a ward printed directory been available, but nor has the online directory been anywhere close to up to date. Currently in Scotland, even our bishop is not online, so I don’t have his phone number. In Munich, only the US expats had an online directory, and it’s worse in Edinburgh.

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  19. IDIAT on March 14, 2014 at 9:56 AM

    Our stake has never printed a stake directory of all the members, but used to print a directory of stake and ward officers. I think the last attempt to do it was about 5 years ago. Most stake officers use LDS Tools and are computer savvy, even the older members. We’d die if we couldn’t communicate by email and text. Wards have pretty much followed suit. We’re a fairly transient ward, so a directory would be out of date within a week or two. The clerk will print an abbreviated roster if some requests it. The stake and wards still do a printed hard copy of the calendar at the beginning of the year for distribution among leaders. Most events are on the stake web site, plus ward programs, bulletin boards, etc.

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  20. whizzbang on March 14, 2014 at 10:01 AM

    Our Stake in Canada is actually pretty good about this. They print everything and also do digital. So the older folks and poorer folks don’t or shouldn’t have to pay for computer stuff and phones, emails. etc. They still print the Stake Directory and it’s all online as well.

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  21. Joni on March 14, 2014 at 10:22 AM

    The Russian space pencil story debunked:

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  22. Roger on March 14, 2014 at 5:03 PM

    “Luddites”. . .well, at least they weren’t referred to as “techno-peasants”. One of the more intense discussions I had before retirement from my firm was whether we should be “high-tech” or “high-touch” in terms of employee relations. The former didn’t seem to lend itself to enhanced relationships.

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  23. el oso on March 15, 2014 at 8:18 AM

    When I received a stake calling a few years back, the stake clerk immediately started e-mailing me about meetings, etc. They also expected me to contact leaders from other wards on my own. I soon remembered my lds account name, got my password updated, and got on-line.
    We have not seen a stake directory since we first moved here 7 years ago. We got a copy of the old one when we moved in, but new members probably will only get the single sheet ward list, and only if they ask the clerk. Contacgt info for ward leaders is on the weekly program, so even a first week move-in should have some connection.
    We still have a heavily used copier in the library. This is a major benefit for many teachers and leaders.

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  24. Douglas on March 15, 2014 at 10:35 AM

    #21 – I reiterated the story of the “million dollar astronaut pen” to show how some solutions are simple and don’t rely on the latest and greatest gadgets. The Mikkelsons, operators of, usually do great research but this refutation deserves some refutation of its own. NASA had already sponsored development of the “Space Pen” for reasons besides the space program (it has far greater use in military applications), which has always been part of their Agency’s mission. In wake of the 1967 Apollo 1 fire, which killed astronauts Grissom, Chafee, and White, NASA was desperate to eliminate potential COMBUSTION sources (neither carbon, nor wood, or rubber, even in particles or shavings, can be described as “flammable” as they are solids and don’t sublime to give off vapors). NASA’s understandable concern was about any combustible particles accumulating in switches and being a potential, even if unlikely, fire hazard, especially in a pure oxygen environment that was used in the Mercury and Gemini capsules. Ultimately, NASA went with a nitrogen-oxygen similar to the Earth atmosphere (it had a higher concentration of argon), but stuck with the “Space Pen” as its unit cost was infinitesimal compared to the billions (even then!) invested in the Apollo program. For want of a relatively paltry sum NASA was unwilling to risk another fire in an Apollo spacecraft.
    IDK when the Soviets (Russians) started using “Space Pens”, but w/o doubt it would have been a small gesture during “detente”, especially the joint Apollo-Soyuz mission in 1975, to give them some.
    Our newfangled gadgets are great. Every member of chez Douglas has a “smartphone” (with which we can do dumb things much more ‘effectively’), tablets, laptops, and even a few old-fashioned desktops. It’s nice to not have to carry around scriptures and manuals at Church. However, just try using your iPad in a ‘scripture chase’ Nothing like a thumb-indexed Quad, and you can get them at Deseret Book for $50. Again, sometimes “there’s no school like the OLD school” (Old guys from “The Incredibles”).

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  25. Hedgehog on March 16, 2014 at 1:33 AM

    Karen #17, it’s great that individuals can print out their own lists.

    Andrew #18, you could be right about location being a factor. Interesting observation, thank you.

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  26. Hedgehog on March 16, 2014 at 1:37 AM

    IDIAT #19, that’s great for those of you who are connected. Are you aware of any who aren’t, and thereby miss out?

    whizzbang #20, that sounds like the ideal. If only. I’m getting the impression here though, that the feeling is members will not go online and enable access to their information until they are forced to by the absence of the stake diary. And the stake diary is so convenient.

    Joni, #21. That debunking sounds overly far-fetched to me. Especially the idea of a pure oxygen atmosphere, so thank you Douglas #24, for that additional input.

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  27. Hedgehog on March 16, 2014 at 2:11 AM

    Roger #22, Yes. I think our stake does feel very unified at the moment. I’m concerned that we will lose that bit by bit if the diary goes. It is good to feel familiar with names, even without having met each individual.

    el oso #23, having no photocopier is a big loss, writing as the one who printed out 70 copies of our Christmas eve service programme last year… without it, we certainly don’t have a weekly programme, so the stake diary really is the go to place for information, even for local leaders, never mind stake.

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