Well this was something new for our family, and our kids LOVED it! In American Samoa, it is tradition to hold a “pre-conference activity” on the Friday night before Stake Conference. This is a chance for all the wards in the Stake to get together and share their talents with each other and the visiting General Authority, the Temple and Mission Presidents and to have an enjoyable evening with members of the stake. If that sounds like mumbo jumbo to you, let me try and explain. Members of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints meet each Sunday in congregations called “wards” or “branches” depending on the number of church members. Members of a “ward family” can live in close proximity or may be far away. In Wales, I grew up driving to Wrexham ward for church each Sunday which was about 15 minutes from my home. In Kaysville, our ward is made up of about 5 blocks of homes, and our chapel is just down the street in walking distance!
A stake is a group of about 7 or 8 wards, and is led by a Stake President, called of God by revelation. Twice each year, there is a conference for all members of the stake to meet together and be instructed and edified. There are almost 3000 stakes in the world. In my home country of Wales, there are only two stakes, and so some members would drive several hours to come to stake conference. In our town of Kaysville, there are several stakes, and although we had plenty of chapels nearby to meet in, there were so many church members who attended conference, that we needed to meet in the Bountiful regional center so that everyone could attend. Here in American Samoa, there are 4 stakes. There are a lot of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints here. The ward that we attend is called Mesapa International Ward, and is one of only two English speaking wards on the island. This meant that we didn’t understand very much of stake conference, although there was a translator who did a fantastic job, and of course we were inspired and felt the spirit in the beautiful Samoan hymns.
OK, so now to the pre-conference activity. I have never heard of this before, but it was a wonderful event. Many stakes have social gatherings at different times of the year to make friendships and show unity. In Wales we had annual sports days, swimming galas, roadshows etc. In Kaysville there are too many members, so we usually only meet once a year “socially” for a Christmas production. The pre-conference activity here was awesome. Of course, it started with food, and lots of it. There was a DJ who also sang songs with a band (very loudly!) and our kids went wild on the dance floor! No-one else was really dancing, not sure whether the kids were supposed to or not, but we just let them have a good time. After the dancing and food, each ward had been given a country and asked to perform a number from that country. We watched the Haka and some New Zealand dancing, dancing from Tonga, Samoa, and then our ward was asked to prepare a Filipino number to perform. Michael sang it with some of the members of the ward accompanied by a ukelele while someone did a candle dance in front of them.
We left after that because we had been there for 2 hours and the kids needed to go to bed, but we heard there was a lot more fun after we left. What a great tradition! It was a lot of fun. We filmed a lot of it, but I’ve just added two short video clips here so you could see. Can’t wait for the next one in another six months!