Stake without the A-1 Sauce

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.

February 6, 2009



  1. jennie w.

    February 9, 2009

    Stake conference = no church for us

  2. Linn

    February 9, 2009

    Oh my goodness friend! I laughed so hard I couldn’t breath. And then I cried. Some people list their favorite writers as Shakespeare or Bronte. Mine is Michelle. And my husband just listened to me read him another one of my favorite posts. His response? “Wow.” That is an incredible compliment coming from the man I married. An incredible compliment.

  3. Kira

    February 9, 2009

    THANK YOU!!!! This last time Lee was sick and I had to do the Stake Conference thing ALONE!!! I have to be honest, the 3 year old won by 1/2 time 🙂 I finally decided me teaching Keaton that we go regardless was not worth the 5 rows around us getting NOTHING out of the meeting as well. Maybe next time more carbs? 🙂

  4. Claudia

    February 9, 2009

    Oh Michelle, you took the words right out of my head! We sat on the back row of the RS room and enjoyed apples and string cheese. Samuel came in from the hall half way through to check in. No A-1 at this meeting. Nourishing nonetheless.

  5. stace

    February 9, 2009

    amen…we have stake conference next week and I am already dreading it. Someone told me that the bishop knows how far we are into the meeting by who is up taking their kids out. My two are the first two. ahhhh. Sacarament mtg is long enough. Stake conference is painful, but we do it anyway, right?

  6. Azúcar

    February 9, 2009

    I really wish that I could read the talks from stake conference. I need the love, but there’s no way I’m going to hear it in our current state.

  7. Michelle

    February 9, 2009

    Apples? and string cheese C? Didn’t you get the “refined sugars only” memo. I’m trying to edit this to make it sound less self-righteous– but it’s such a unique part of Mormon culture that it also needs honesty.

  8. m_and_m

    February 9, 2009

    Love how you capture the beauty of the sometimes-seems-crazy-ness.

    (I actually got to enjoy stake conference this year. What a difference a couple of years can make.)

    And isn’t it funny that we might be anxious for the meeting to end, but that we often won’t miss the chance to chat afterwards? 🙂

  9. jess

    February 9, 2009

    we just had a conversation yesterday about why we even try to bring our 17 month old to 3 hours of church. no one gets anything out of it except a headache and major frustration, but somehow we hope our efforts don’t go unnoticed and our obedience will be counted for good. only 6 more weeks till nursery!! (then again, #2 will be here by then!)

  10. Christie

    February 9, 2009

    I don’t think I’ve ever read a truer account of the experience of stake conference. Well said, my friend.

  11. Mitchell Family

    February 9, 2009

    I think these long meetings are what make Mormons such great students. I remember in college some other students complaining about two hour classes–and I thought two hours that’s nothing. Ruth

  12. martha corinna

    February 9, 2009

    Amen. We pretty much got kicked out of our last stake conference. I’m not kidding.

  13. Judy Hammer

    February 11, 2009

    Michelle, this is Judy, Chelle’s Mom. She sent me your site to check out wedding pics (and I can hardly wait for Codye’s wedding to see what you come up with). I just have to tell you that reading your post on stake conference was WONDERFUL, brought back lots of good memories, and made me wanna be “just a Mom” all over again. It’s just what we Mormons do….

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