By David Barrett
A young Thai woman’s leader has served faithfully in her branch for nearly eight years, and yet this Sunday will be the first stake conference she’s ever attended. Blessings like these are what LDS Church Meetinghouse Technology Manager Paul M. Scherbel envisions church members enjoying across the world.
“How blessed we are to have Internet access at our fingertips,” Scherbel said during his Education Week class. And Scherbel demonstrated just that, taking the audience on a virtual tour to church meetinghouse locations across the globe.
First, Papua, New Guinea, in large lacks electricity, water or other basic infrastructure needs. The LDS congregation regularly meets in a thatched-roof gazebo.
“How do they watch general conference?” Scherbel asked the audience. He then explained the people’s solution: one of the few members with Internet access downloads the messages to a USB thumb drive, allowing members to enjoy conference on a battery-powered television.
Next, in Albania, 11 congregations gathered for the reorganization of their stake at one point. Scherbel explained that with the blessings of webcasts, multiple regions of a stake can more easily gather to hear the word of the Lord.
Then to Russia. At a stake family history center, members installed a locking garage door to protect their computers from potential theft from a dangerous local community.
Afterwards, Scherbel took the audience to Playa del Carmen, Mexico, where church members used to spend about $70 per person, plus the cost of a night at a hotel, to attend their stake conference in the neighboring island of Cozumel. “An average family of four spent $300,” Scherbel said. “Technology and broadcasts have proved an enormous cost savings for the people of this stake.”
In Asia, where church land is expensive and scarce, Scherbel explained that meeting webcasts serve a variety of purposes. “Webcasts prevent harm from dangerous weather, saves sacred tithing funds and allows the church to build smaller buildings,” Scherbel said. “As a result, there is a large increase in attendance, and it solves the parking issues.”
Continuing on “visits” to the Middle-East, the Philippines and Africa, Scherbel listed other ways today’s technology blesses church members, including lesson preparation, gospel study, employment resources, online missionary applications, family history and church welfare. In this way technology has helped enable members in performing the Lord’s work.
Scherbel told the audience he’s hopeful about the future of the church as it expands both its global presence and its technological capacity. “I hope this has allowed you to see the Lord’s hand in the work,” he said. “He provides technology to meet the world’s challenges.”