by Katie Parker
OK, I admit it. I live in what some people might call the Mormon boondocks. And I grew up in the Mormon boondocks, though they were different boondocks than the ones we live in now. We live in western Wisconsin now. There is a ward in our city, but only one. Not bad. There are plenty of other places in the world that are more boondocky.
I grew up in western Oklahoma. We lived in a small branch and drove half an hour to church. Some folks drove further, and from the opposite direction. They have a ward there now, by the way. Just one, but hey, the Church is even growing in western Oklahoma.
We also lived for nine years in Salt Lake City. That is the complete opposite of the Mormon boondocks. There, church is always right down the street and there are usually several other meetinghouses within only a few minutes' drive. People here in the boondocks laugh when I tell them that when I was in the stake Primary presidency in Salt Lake, all I had to do to attend our presidency meetings was walk to the next apartment complex. People in Salt Lake cluck sympathetically when I tell them that in the boondocks we drive an hour and fifteen minutes just to go to stake conference.
Even as we speak, I am in a car on a trek to the Saturday sessions of our stake conference. If we still lived in Salt Lake, we could walk to stake conference. In fact, our leaders there encouraged us to walk if we could, so those who couldn't could use the parking spots. In fact, when we actually tried to drive once to stake conference, we ended up parking only a block or two away from our house because the parking lot was so full and cars were backed up all the way down the street. So it didn't really do us any good to drive.
But here in the Mormon boondocks, we have to drive. In fact, in the wards that are in the farther reaches of the stake (ours being one of them), you drive a lot. We are pretty fortunate that we only live about an hour and fifteen minutes away from our stake center. You get used to it. I made the trip up just last week for a stake seminary activity. We'll be up again in a couple more weeks for a youth temple trip.
Even though I grew up making very similar treks to our stake center in Oklahoma, living in Utah for nine years really spoiled me. The first time I had to go all the way to our new stake center after we moved to Wisconsin, just for a seminary inservice meeting, my gut reaction was: "YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING! You expect me to spend almost 3 hours transit time for a meeting that lasts an hour and a half??"
But long trip up, in a way, makes the meetings more special when you go to them. Maybe it's because you've had to make an extra sacrifice to get there. There's also a kind of transition period, from the time you set aside your regular business at home to the time you get there and the meeting begins. The time in the car can be a time to get yourself in "spiritual" mode. In Salt Lake, you miss the transition time. You just leave your house, and then almost immediately afterwards you arrive at the church and the meeting starts.
Here in Boondock Land, sometimes when I'm driving up to the stake center or the temple by myself, I like to listen to general conference talks on my iPod. After an hour and fifteen minutes of conference talks, you'd better be feeling spiritual. Even without that, it can be a time of peaceful reflection, or of pleasant conversation with the people you're traveling with. I've gotten to know several people in our ward a lot better than I might have otherwise, because I've driven up to stake functions with them.
Anyway, so that's how stake conference is in Boondock Land. Since I started writing this, we have parked in the lot of our stake center, and my husband is in attending a priesthood leadership meeting. The rest of us will hang out till this is over, and then we'll get dinner someplace and head back to the church for the evening session. It's a different way of doing things, but I have to say I'm glad we can do them this way. It makes it all special.
Tomorrow morning when we drive back up here for the morning session, however, I just might be thinking something different. Maybe. But hopefully not for long.