“Stake centers and chapels are a luxury”

Jun 30, 2019
2 min read

This is an excerpt from a book by Sheri Dew about President Nelson [1] and I wanted to share it along with some commentary.

As President of the Quorum of the Twelve, President Nelson encouraged frequent conversation with his Brethren about the “imbalance between what we are doing as a church and what we must do” as he described it.
Those who drive by or enter Latter-day Saints chapels see beautiful landscaping, nice parking lots, and handsome buildings with basketball courts inside. And yet most of the people of the earth live in China, India, and the Middle East- areas where billions live stacked on top of each other, wall to wall.

This discrepancy between the “first world” experience and these other nations we hope to take our faith to is pretty sobering especially when we consider the vastly different lifestyles.

“This imbalance is on our worry list—high on the list. One Muslim man said it this way, ‘When your Christianity is simple enough that I can take it on the back of a camel, I will be interested.’ Faith, repentance, baptism, the endowment, and the sealing ordinance are essential. Everything you’ll see happening in the Church from this point forward will be in that direction.”

I’m very encouraged to hear that this line of thinking is present in the highest councils of the church. This idea of allowing the gospel in its simplicity to flow unencumbered to the people is wonderful.

It could be that in preparing to enter these nations with our message that we will be able to strip away those things that are creating the imbalance that was mentioned. I think we have already seen steps in that direction and I can’t help but be encouraged.

“One question we’ve wrestled with,” President Nelson said, “is how to take the gospel in its simple purity and the ordinances with their eternal efficacy to all of God’s children without having basketball hoops get in the way. We are accustomed to a church that is supported at home but accomplished in the chapels. We need a complete turnaround, where we have a home-centered church supported by what takes place inside our buildings. The only buildings that are absolutely essential are temples. Stake centers and chapels are a luxury.”

We have already seen the first push toward making church a home-centered institution and I’m all for it. I think that this will be key in how we approach other nations.

I appreciate the acknowledgement that stake centers and chapels are a luxury and not a necessity; they are! Think of the amount of resources that are required to acquire the land and keep the building running.

What could this mean for the future? I’m not sure but some of the possibilities are fun to ponder. Will we see a future where the church sheds off the need for stake centers and chapels? Will we convert all existing stake centers and chapels into temples?

As we adopt this idea of a home-centered church, what else would flow from that paradigm gaining success and traction?

  1. Sheri Dew, Insights from a Prophet’s Life Russell M. Nelson


  1. This is lovely, but will actually have meaning when the church ceases announcing new temples. Our ward and stake buildings could readily be adapted for temple use by preparing “temple conversion kits” in wheels, just we ha e with canning and packing equipment and Road Shows in our history.
    Some of our buildings could (upon consultation) be gifted to communities for their budget limited purposes…. health care centres, overnight homeless shelters, preschools/kindergartens, soup kitchens with recreation, showers and laundry facilities.
    The church is still living in the “Brigham Young” era where temples and world travel are assumed. Buildings with diverse purposes are key to our “brotherly, Zion, charitable purposes…
    I love the gospel but lost respect for our “big” traditional behaviors/Buildings, etc in a thirsty, starving world, long ago.

    • That’s the point, it seems there is a shift happening. It seems that such big changes are going to take some time but it is clear that between now and Zion there will be changes. Perhaps it was necessary that there was a central meeting place where a culture could be established. Communication then is not what it is today. Like you said, we had to travel to meet and fellowship with one another.

      In the Book of Mormon, Nephi taught us that a temple is still a temple even if it isn’t built with the ultra finest of things. I think our move to smaller temples around the turn of the century was another big shift. It seems that the church is bit by bit giving more influence to the family and local levels rather than becoming more bureaucratic and centralized.

      The world has always been thirsty and starving. Even if we sold all the buildings we’d feed and clothe the world for a day. Poverty is not solved with money, it is far more complex than that, right down to the individual.

      But I do think that we could make a bigger difference if the buildings were used for diverse purposes as you suggested. They sit unused during the week, there is no reason I can think of why we couldn’t have classes and programs in them to help people get back on their feet.

      I’ve been noticing things shifting for a couple decades now. It seems that changes are coming more rapidly and I’m encouraged by the direction I see things going in.

  2. Thank you for posting this. It corroborates what my stake president recently said to me of our burgeoning stake. “If there is a chapel within 15 minutes of a person and there’s room, a new chapel will not be built. The days of a chapel on every corner is over!”

    • I wonder if our advances in communication technology will make the need for a large physical gathering place obsolete. It used to be back in the day that everyone came to the conference center to hear general conference. Then it was broadcast on the radio, then by satellite to buildings across the world. Today, people don’t even go to the chapels to watch conference, they do so sitting in their homes.

      This shift to home-centered church signals to me that the stage is officially being set for some bigger changes that are possible now, in part, due to advancements in technology. In the past, perhaps, it was probably necessary to have a building as a central gathering place to have the cohesion and fellowship of a church.

      This goes all the way back to the synagogues, cathedrals, and chapels that have been used as a central gathering place for worship that has been in use for thousands of years. I don’t expect that such a departure will happen overnight, but it does seem that something is in the works.

  3. I once had Sacrament Meeting at a family’s home in India. We tuned in to the Sacrament service broadcast from BYU via the internet complete with prayers, hymns and talks. At the appropriate time, we were directed to pause the broadcast to administer the Sacrament itself and then to re-start when we had completed the ordinance. This was in a city that did not have a branch or a ward and the family had permission to do this from the Mission President. It’s already there.

    • That’s awesome, I didn’t realize there was a sacrament service broadcast do you have a link to it? There’s always more going on behind the scenes than we know about and it is great to hear that these kinds of resources are available.

      • Particle Man

        Sounds like one of the Worship Service recordings on BYUtv: https://www.byutv.org/show/89883728-9bf8-4d39-b699-cb49bc2a51c6/worship-service

        FWIW, Sharon Eubank speaks in one or more of these meetings. (I first saw her there and was impressed, figuring she would rise through the ranks.)

        Perhaps future conditions may necessitate the holding of all Sunday worship in homes, especially if travel to a church building may be prohibitive or even prohibited. I’ve participated in one such Sacrament meeting, held by permission from the bishop, and it was wonderful.

        The more those in attendance are unified and purified, the more the Spirit can be poured out. And, it would seem, in many places, this outpouring is not experienced as much as it could be, and perhaps may need to be in the future.

        Although technology has facilitated and continues to facilitate astounding achievements, one might see the trajectory of the world as a sign, instead, to decelerate one’s reliance on technology, despite sponsored messages to the contrary.

        In this, perhaps there’s a pattern, which surely someone has described better but here’s my take: from rudimentary to complex to simplified.

        For example, in Brother Joseph’s day, there were no church buildings, no auxiliary organizations, and so forth. I wonder whether the current trajectory the Church in simplifying may be toward something akin to the early days of the Restoration.

        • Thanks for the link. One would hope that it doesn’t get to the point of being forced to have meetings at home because we are unable to gather for whatever reason. I’d much prefer than any changes we make occur because we are trying to do better.

          Good point about the technology angle. I’ve recently cut my personal use of tech down quite a bit, especially my phone though it has been an ongoing deceleration. I just got a wallet (a phone sleeve wallet actually) that only holds four cards and instead of a phone holds a pocket-sized notebook that I use as a bullet journal. I’ve been able to reduce screen time by 150% and when I’m with my wife I don’t even take my phone if she has hers. I’m not anti-tech (otherwise I wouldn’t be blogging) but I think we are getting to a place where we are learning that there isn’t an app for everything as was promised.

          I liked your comment about how rudimentary progresses to complex and back to simple. That’s a pattern I have found in my own studies where a simplistic view begins to get more complex when you peel back the layers until you realize at long last how simple it was all along. I think it’s good for us to go through that cycle.

          I believe I have shared this before in another post but there’s a quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes that fits perfectly here: “I would not give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity.”

          • Sarah Johnson

            Wow! This thread takes on a whole new meaning following 2020 and the pandemic .. Thankful we were well prepared for worshipping at home ❤️

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