Or, “how I stopped reading my book during stake conference because of the loud ‘BANG’ from somewhere near the pulpet.”
So last Sunday was stake conference, and two hours of talks is usually a bit much for me, let alone my two toddler-aged children. As usual, I normally bring something to read just in case the talks… well, go sour. This week’s reading was Phil Barlow’s Mormons and the Bible which I am enjoying immensely.
While totally wrapped up in my book, I vaguely heard the speaker (a member of the stake presidency) state that he was about to show a video clip he obtained from the History Channel the night before. Then I heard a mechanical buzz as a large screen descended behind the choir seats, and a projector whir itself to life as a brief, two minute clip on Roman architecture was presented on the screen. I thought the clip was neat, but right away I could tell where it was going; it was a clip that described the keystone of an arch, and how important it was for Roman architecture in the ancient world, and that the stake president would bust out that (supposed) Joseph Smith quotation about “the keystone of our religion.” I was right (for once).
Almost in the instant he began the film clip, the mention of obtaining it the night before struck me. “Does he need to obtain permission to show a clip of this nature?” That was the first thing that was strange to me.
As he gave his talk, he had to leave the microphone to walk over to the laptop, which was carefully balanced on the woodwork just below the lecturn, to advance PowerPoint slides once the film was done. The slides weren’t necessary, in my opinion, for they only flashed basic summaries of what he was already speaking and which were easily remembered by anyone paying attention. Several times the laptop was not responsive, and he left the lecturn to mess with it.
The next thing that seemed strange was: “Why is the chapel house all of a sudden a multi-media center?” A (most likely) $2,000 laptop and an equally expensive projector (probably his very own) were set up to show this thing in the chapel. Isn’t that sort of media inappropriate for a stake conference or sac. mtg. talk?
So I tuned him out again as he went on his keystone talk and got back to Barlow.
Then I vaguely heard the next speaker (a counselor in the SP) indicate that he made archstones out of foam and that he needed two missionaries to help him construct this thing while he spoke. I looked up. Off to the side, over on (what is traditionally) the clerk’s desk, the two missionaries were pulling rock-looking foam pieces that would make up an arch. As he spoke, they would listen for key breaks in the speech and build an arch, the keystone being the last, and set a Book of Mormon on a stand under the arch when complete. He too was using the laptop and projector to make a presentation on the large screen. I tuned him out too after I understood where that one was going. They both, of course, mentioned Hinckley’s challenge to read the book prior to year’s end. (Am I the only one who thinks it is strange that the Mormon Church’s presidency has to ask the Mormons, of all people, to read the Book of Mormon?). Back to Barlow.
During his talk, the loudest “bang” I’ve ever heard in a chapel rang out, and I looked up (as about 5 newborn babies in the audience woke up with a roar). The projector was placed upon–get this–a music stand! Those things have swivels on them! What’s even crazier is that when the projector fell, it clipped the laptop on the side, taking them both down! In a scramble, the stake presidency jumped up out of their seats and attempted to get things back to normal, their elegantly made comb-overs coming undone in the process. When they thought they got it right again, nothing worked, and the speaker had to (ironically) give a regualar, non-media-style discourse like the rest of us.
I felt bad that this man’s expensive equipment was now broken. I felt bad that his attempt at being more media-savvy was thwarted, and I felt bad that any visitors who were there may have thought the same, or that our multi-media presentations fail regularly.
Where I go to school, our professors are constantly struggling over using PowerPoint, the chalkboard (actually, “penboard”), or nothing at all. Sometimes it works, other times it doesn’t.
So the issue is this: is using this sort of media conducive to giving stake conference/sacrament meeting talks? Should multi-media devices such as these be used? Do they hinder more than they benefit?