Regional Conference Broadcast: What is it for?

May 22, 2014

A recent post by Gina Colvin over on KiwiMormon has kicked up a furor. New Zealand has just had their regional stake conference broadcast, which replaces one of the twice yearly stake conferences, every so often, but where the stake president also gets to address the assembled group. One of the broadcast talks didn’t go down too well, and was judged inappropriate for the audience, addressing as it did an issue on which the ship already sailed in New Zealand. My first thought was to hope we have different assigned speakers, that ship sailed here already too, until I realised we’d had our broadcast last year. It was a mixed bag. This year we’re having our local stake conference broadcast to our building. My second and wider thought was to wonder what the purpose of a regional broadcast is meant to be.

Back when I was a teen, every few years there would be a regional conference. A conference centre had been hired, and members might be taken over by coach or drive under their own steam, with entrance by ticket. It was regarded as an opportunity to see a GA, several of them, in the flesh, and they us, albeit from a distance. But they’d be here, in our country, to speak to us, having at the very least been driven through our countryside and eaten our food before doing so.

Now, we have something else. A broadcast, specifically for our region. Just a few years ago our broadcast came from London. Most of us may not have been with the speakers in person, but they were in the country and there was a local congregation in attendance with whom they were able to interact. Last year, our broadcast came from Salt Lake. From the point of view of the ordinary person in the congregation, not much different from sitting in the chapel to watch the general conference broadcast. As a family we do that for at least one session anyway, so as to actually be attending church on the Sunday. Nor is it just us. Maybe it’s more common for members in the US to watch it all at home. As with the general conference broadcast, smooth-running will involve your local tech specialist – they have discussion forums for it, who knew? Unlike general conference, transcripts are not available. Perhaps they should be. We might see greater scrutiny of content Colvin suggested was lacking. Anyway, divided by a screen, in which we can see them, but they presumably cannot see us, and will not have heard the individual stake presidents speak, there’s an element or two of that personal attention lost.

We’ve been given to understand that these broadcasts from Salt Lake are live. Perhaps I’m wrong. It seems strange at any rate, and isn’t saving much on jet lag to have them get up in the middle of the night. Given they all looked a tad spaced out last year, I didn’t find it hard to believe. British Summer Time is 7 hours ahead of Mountain Standard Time, and stake conference starts at 10am. Were they here, they may well have been jet lagged, but would at any rate have experienced daylight beforehand. Maybe a live broadcast can help retain some vestige of the personal though.

I’m also wondering how a region is defined. In the past we have had broadcasts to the British Isles as a region, but I’m not aware of a regional presidency in the way we have area, stake or mission presidencies. Are regions perhaps more fluid than stakes, missions and areas, and created solely for the purposes of any one broadcast?

One thought did occur to me over the New Zealand furor. Perhaps the speaker in question in the New Zealand broadcast had had his attention drawn to an earlier post on the KiwiMormon blog. Just maybe those elements of his talk were in response to that. There’s certainly precedent for that kind of thing: the public smack down that makes the position absolutely clear to those who may have read and have some sympathy with an opinion with which a GA happens to disagree. I’m not convinced a regional conference broadcast, a public meeting to which we are encouraged to invite nonmember friends, investigators, and less active members, anticipated as an uplifting experience, is really the place though.

  • Do you prefer the broadcast, or the old style regional conferences?
  • In your experience how do the talks given in a regional broadcast differ from those given in general conference? Do they differ? Have you noticed a problem with cultural sensitivity?
  • Would you like to see transcripts in the local pages of your Ensign?
  • Is it different when the broadcast comes from within the region, as opposed to coming from Salt Lake?
  • Do you think there could be a benefit to having the speakers in the country, even though they may not be with your congregation?
  • Does the broadcast format affect the ability of the speaker to relate to the audience? If so how?
  • What’s a region?
  • Is it ever appropriate to deliver a smack down in such a setting?

Please note: the purpose of this discussion is to take a wider look at regional conference broadcasts, their purposes, and our experiences. The particular topic and speaker in this latest New Zealand broadcast have been discussed extensively over on the KiwiMormon blog, and can be taken as read.

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14 Responses to Regional Conference Broadcast: What is it for?

  1. el oso on May 22, 2014 at 6:30 PM

    Some observations from a US perspective.
    The talks are not much different from general conferences, but there is usually some local notes, either speakers who have lived in the area, or stories of members or missionaries in the area. In 2 of the past 3 stakes in which we have lived, there has been an apostle from a neighboring stake.
    Some of the regional areas for a broadcast are not based upon any other church division that I know of. There have been some that cross multiple area boundaries. Others have been just one area. In the US, the area presidency all live in Utah and I have yet to see ours in any area since the Presidency of the 70 took over. They conduct a lot of business by phone or other electronic communication.
    A smackdown may be appropriate, but I do not know that the address in NZ is a locally directed smackdown. I would expect that a similar talk would be given here, even though the GA well knows that the issue at hand is not being pressed at the ballot, but rather in the federal courts. He should lobby his collegues Justice Roberts, Scalia, etc. to get anything done from a legal perspective. The talk may be primarily addressed at the church’s moral position.

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  2. forgetting on May 22, 2014 at 7:34 PM

    Thanks Hedgehog,

    Because of the way the contract and move fell, we had to opportunity to attend two of these within a month of each other. Elder Packard spoke at both and the talk was essentially the same talk. The topics of the other talks were the same as well. It was an odd feeling of déjà vu. I wondered then if it was because it was close geographically, Seattle and Eastern Idaho.

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  3. whizzbang on May 22, 2014 at 9:36 PM

    Canada gets ours next weekend and now I am all goose pimples to see and hear what’s what. Our SSM ship sailed as well. Honestly I don’t mind the broadcasts and to me I think it cuts down on all the travel to visit the individual stakes when you can get a team of speakers and hit all of them at once and “gitter dunn”. I think it hearkens back to the 70’s and early 80’s when they did those Area Conferences and had the same basic idea but have the people go to one location, now it’s the speakers go to one location and everyone stay at home.

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  4. Mormon Heretic on May 22, 2014 at 10:01 PM

    In the old days, apostles tried to visit all the stakes. When the church go so big, they decided regional conferences would be better. Now that the church is even bigger, they’ve decided to broadcast.

    I think the idea is for the apostles to get to know individual church members. The problem is that the church is too big to make this practical anymore.

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  5. Kristine A on May 23, 2014 at 12:16 AM

    I have no idea – we just had our east idaho one. It was . . . ended early, which everyone appreciated. Sometimes it’s nice to have church done in 90 minutes I’ll admit, but primary chorister is still more fun than that was.

    I do believe the topics were: keep your covenants, invite others into the Gospel to keep their covenants, and Elder Perry belongs to the GREATEST GENERATION EVAR and you lazy schlubs of the Millennial Generation and your newfangled ideas of non-homophobia are just satan-whisperers…….

    Was hoping for a talk about Christ………

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  6. Hedgehog on May 23, 2014 at 2:10 AM

    el oso; ” there is usually some local notes”
    Yeah, I find the speakers are usually quite keen to establish some British credentials of some sort, usually referring to their ancestors who emigrated. Last year our ‘local’ speaker in the broadcast was a Scot. He did acknowledge that hearing of pioneer ancestors, and pioneer stories in general, who were by defintion not our ancestors since we’re still here in Britain could grate, but then went on to speak about Utah pioneer stories anyway.
    It’s interesting that region seems so variably defined, especially if as you say, it can cross Area boundaries.

    forgetting: I was wondering the extent to which talks might be used at multiple conferences. Of course the same may well have been true for old style conferences as well. I did read some blog comment somewhere last year that suggested to me Australia had had the same Elder Scott talk we then had. Perhaps more culture than geography in that case?

    whizzbang: “Canada gets ours next weekend”
    Do let us know how it went.
    I’m not so fussed that it’s broadcasts. I do wonder if things are so globalised, and we’re getting the same talks, why they need to be in addition to general conference, especially if they’re broadcast from Salt Lake anyway.

    MH: I do wonder if the reduced interaction with local culture can contribute to things that sometimes seem tone deaf. I think the broadcast to Britain, but from London, a few years ago was a good compromise, but I also acknowledge there were members outside the stake there, anxious to get tickets to attend in London rather than their local venue too.

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  7. Hedgehog on May 23, 2014 at 2:22 AM

    Kristine: “Elder Perry belongs to the GREATEST GENERATION EVAR and you lazy schlubs of the Millennial Generation and your newfangled ideas of non-homophobia are just satan-whisperers…….”
    So possibly they’ve all been instructed to address that topic one way or another?
    “Was hoping for a talk about Christ”
    I do think that’s what we want for the nonmember friends, investigators, and less active members contingent as well as ourselves. We hear the exhortations to get the invitations to attend out, but perhaps we need some kind of reassurances that what they’re going to hear isn’t going to chase them right out again.

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  8. KMarkP on May 23, 2014 at 2:18 PM

    The last Regional Conference broadcast I attended was absolutely no different than any General Conference session. I live in the Salt Lake City area so I didn’t expect any local adaptations. And there were none. There were talks from Stake leaders but we could get those in Stake Conference easily enough. One general authority stated that the tithing and offerings made by the Wasatch Front Saints were basically funding the church so we should keep them coming. In the next breath he emphasized the need to reactivate lapsed members, as if there were a connection somehow…hmm.

    Elder Packer’s contribution was a video of a talk he gave back in the 1980’s–a rambling sermon about surviving in a sinful and evil world. He quite literally “phoned it in.”

    This may show a lack of charity and evidence that I lack the proper spirit, but I found this meeting to be a complete waste of time–a meeting held only for the purpose of having a meeting. I have been to some very inspiring church meetings, but this was not one of them.

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  9. hawkgrrrl on May 23, 2014 at 6:21 PM

    Wow, I just read Gina Colvin’s write up, and that Regional Conference was pretty terrible. It’s interesting because as a yank, I often used to conflate Aussies and Kiwis, but having lived and worked over yonder, I now know that while Aussies are a bit behind the US on acceptance of gay equality (I’d ballpark it at about 8-10 years), Kiwis are well ahead of us on mainstream acceptance (probably 2-3 years ahead). I imagine E. Oaks was reacting to a lot of the public support for gay equality that has been in the news for the last few years in NZ. There was a particularly rousing speech in their parliament that was forwarded all over the globe.

    There’s something I learned in a training once. You can break down a prejudice, but you can’t create one where none exists. If someone has reached adulthood without being raised to be anti-gay equality, you simply can’t make them against gay equality suddenly. It just doesn’t work that way. Prejudice requires early indoctrination to calcify.

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  10. Phoning it in on May 24, 2014 at 1:46 AM

    The church certainly has the resources to make more GA’s and to send them around preaching in person full time. I think the reason that they don’t is because they feel like they handle general problems and deal with generalities like policies and implementing policies and local leaders handle specific problems and deal with individuals. This belief that they acquired (about what their function is) means that you will get impersonal one-way stuff instead of real communication. The last couple of these seemed to be totally fake. What I mean by that is the organist or pianist was off camera, and there seemed to be evidence that several portions of the ‘meeting’ were recorded separately. I don’t think that there was a corresponding meeting on the other side.

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  11. Hedgehog on May 24, 2014 at 4:37 AM

    KMarkP: That sounds disappointing. Especially the phoning in of an old talk. Wouldn’t it be on on lds.org anyway, readily available?

    hawkgrrrl: You might be right that the tone of NZ media was the driver.
    However, I was struck by (from the January post): “As the ultra conservative Utah church responds to the super conservative Utah politics it sends doctrinal ripples out to the rest of the world which means that with impunity they have a habit of dropping very gauche, very noisy, and very foreign eggs in our local nests. ….. I don’t want our church experience in New Zealand to be contaminated by Utah politics fought out in a climate of nauseating conservatism. It doesn’t fit here.”
    Against content of the talk described in her current post : “The conversation in the United States … is just as relevant in New Zealand.”
    But it is a topic he speaks about a lot anyway.

    Phoning it in: “The last couple of these seemed to be totally fake. What I mean by that is the organist or pianist was off camera, and there seemed to be evidence that several portions of the ‘meeting’ were recorded separately. I don’t think that there was a corresponding meeting on the other side.”
    As I recall, we did get to see the organist in our last broadcast, though the volume was too low once the congregation were singing, meaning we could no longer hear the accompaniment, and the speed was excruciating. The congregation hilariously finished a good half verse ahead of the organist. I’m not sure I’d be looking forward to the kind of fake meeting you decribe. Pre-recording the meeting as a whole is one thing (so as not to get up in the middle of the night), but assembling the broadcast piecemeal… ouch!

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  12. whizzbang on May 24, 2014 at 7:24 PM

    So far I had heard that Pres. Eyring and Elder Holland are speaking to us Canadians so we’ll see what we’ll get!

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  13. whizzbang on June 1, 2014 at 2:27 PM

    So, Canada just had our broadcast. Elder Perkins of the Seventy talked about standing on guard of the youth and for the youth to do that. Sis. Burton, the RS Pres. talked about families and being women of Faith, pretty good, every family situation is different. Elder Holland talked about faith in Christ and was reminiscent of his “Come Unto Me” devotional he gave to BYU or CES or something in 1997, I know because i remember that talk but even though it wasn’t new it was great none the less. Pres. Eyring talked about the rescue and family members that were rescued, some were successful and some weren’t. Interestingly enough his uncle was a RM and quit the Church and his son who was Pres. Eyring’s cousin quit the Church and sounds like he bounced around various religions until he started his own church and later was killed in a crash of some kind

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  14. Hedgehog on June 2, 2014 at 12:43 PM

    Thanks for that report whizzbang. Sounds like it went over fairly well. Good that Pres Eyring highlighted, that sometimes rescue efforts will meet with success, and sometimes not, and that Sis Burton about differing family situations, I think. More inclusive of all our different experiences.

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