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.