Today was Stake Conference. For the uninitiated, it entails 6-10 congregations gathering for one 2 hour meeting. Since our usual Sunday fare is three hours, you’d think Stake Conference would be a welcome reprieve– but for families with small children it’s more like the Mormon version of self-flagellation and wearing hair shirts.
Most Sundays are broken into three meetings– we get up, we walk around, kids go to their own classes– and no forum is longer than the divinely instituted 1 hour limit. Stake Conference is one long two-hour slog.
The two thousand or so conference attendees don’t fit into the chapel or even the gym, so we choose to sit on one of the many “cry rooms” with twenty other families and a 16″ TV broadcasting the events.
It’s a circus. Parents come prepared with carb laden snacks– animal crackers, eggos, baggies spilling over with sugared cereal. Quiet books, coloring pages and toys emerge from overstuffed purses before we get through the opening prayer. And I laughed out loud when a meek woman tiptoed out with two toddlers at her feet, a baby on one hip and a confiscated 18″ plastic sword in her hand.
The meeting progresses through a dull roar of crying, giggling, squabbling and multiple trips to the drinking fountain and bathroom. I catch bits and pieces but never an entire talk. Our four year old friend Sarah, wanders into the hall and is lost, LOST for a full 1/2 hour.
And then, with a final prayer of gratitude, the meeting ends. The boys scramble to put away chairs while the women chat and mingle and admire each others’ growing babes. Scampering between legs and chairs, the toddlers embrace their new found freedom.
And as I scan the room, this seeming exercise in futility is beautiful. Because that’s what Mormons do. We get dressed, we show up, we sit through long meetings with some hope of receiving inspiration but primarily to teach our kids that on Sunday we simply go to church. It’s the same attitude that fills sign-up sheets to can green beans at Welfare Square, visit the local rest home or to clean the temple at midnight– midnight!– because vacuums would shatter the peace during daylight hours. It’s an old-fashioned sort of dedication that I find refreshing.
But I’m certainly glad Stake conference is only twice a year.