Sunday, April 11, 2010

Lafayette Journal And Courier Conducts Rare Exit Interview With Outgoing Lafayette, Indiana LDS Stake President Pat Connolly

A local media outlet has conducted a rare interview with a stake president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. On April 10th, 2010, the Lafayette Journal and Courier published what can be best classified as an exit interview with the outgoing President of the Lafayette, Indiana Stake, Pat Connolly. This was an unusually stable appointment; the 51-year-old Connolly presided over the stake for nine years. Most stake presidents serve no more than five years in the position at most in order to rotate and expand leadership opportunities while creating a larger pool of trained leadership cadre. Read the full interview HERE. Significant is the fact that the Journal and Courier unequivocally referred to the LDS Church as a Christian denomination.

Summary: In the interview, Connolly spoke about his conversion to the Church. He was particularly attracted by the focus on eternal families and our Heavenly Father's plan for our happiness. But most of the interview was devoted to explaining the local organization of the Church at the stake level. For the uninformed, the term "stake" comes from the prophet Isaiah, who prophesied that the latter-day church would be like a tent, held secure by stakes. Connolly explained that a stake president presides over congregations in the Lafayette area. The small congregations are called branches. Each is staffed with a branch president, assisted by two counselors. The larger congregations are called wards, and are presided over by a bishop (a pastor, in some other faiths), similarly assisted by two counselors. Then he disclosed how the stake was specifically organized:

(1). Lafayette First, Second, And Third Wards: Approximately 300-400 members each. Meet at the University Farm chapel.

(2). Lafayette Fourth (Spanish) Branch: Around 60 members, also meets at the University Farm chapel. The LDS Church strongly promotes the idea that, for maximum understanding, everyone should hear the Gospel in his or her own native tongue; consequently, foreign-language congregations are created wherever sufficient demand exists.

(3). Lafayette Singles Ward: Primarily for single members attending Purdue University, although any single member 30 years old or younger within the stake's boundaries can join. They meet in a building on Waldron next to campus.

(4). Additional Congregations: Located in Logansport, Kokomo, Lebanon, Frankfort, Crawfordsville and Williamsport, each in their own building. Connolly didn't specify whether they were wards, branches, or a mix of the two.

President Connolly also disclosed that a new chapel in the area was nearing completion. When finished, the Lafayette Third Ward and the Lafayette Fourth (Spanish) Branch are projected to move into the new building.

Service as a stake president is considered a necessary stop on the path towards Church-wide leadership as a member of the Quorum of the Seventy, the Quorum of the Twelve, or even the First Presidency itself. However, most stake presidents do not consciously aspire to higher-level service, although they strive to prepare themselves spiritually in case such a calling is extended. When asked what he expected to do after his release from his stake presidency position, which will formally occur at a special stake conference to be held on April 18th, Connolly replied "I will be asked to take on another role, maybe as a teacher for a Sunday School class, or as a youth group leader, etc. There are many jobs to fill". Connolly has the right attitude - and the typical attitude; no job is too small or humble, and no calling should be looked upon as "going backwards". A General Authority from Utah will show up on April 18th to preside over the change of command. Update April 21st: Elder Richard Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve was the General Authority who showed up to officiate.

We need more of these type of interviews. The Courier and Journal did an excellent job of doing their homework, and President Connolly portrayed our Church professionally and accurately.


Jeff said...

Great post, although I might point out that it’s the Journal and Courier.

I was also surprised to see your assertion that stake presidents tend to serve for about a five-year term; I’ve always thought the rule of thumb was ten years, but it would seem from my limited research (in the last few minutes) that you’re pretty spot on with that one. Thanks for teaching me something!

As an aside—and in case anyone is interested—President Connolly was indeed released yesterday, in a meeting presided over by Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Connolly’s second counselor, President P. Ron Ellis, was called to succeed him.

Jack Mormon said...

Thanks for the comment, Jeff. I just saw where I reversed the order of "Journal and Courier" and have corrected it.

Based upon my own time in the Church, as well as reading numerous posts throughout the Bloggernacle, I got the impression that the average bishop serves for three years and the average stake president for five years. There are exceptions; we give our leaders reasonable latitude (to paraphrase Joseph Smith, teach them correct principles and they govern themselves).

I was impressed that the media would be interested enough to do a story on this. It shows how the Church has grown in influence. Although we took a beating over Prop 8, the resultant publicity introduced a lot of people to the Church who otherwise would not have learned of it.

The anti-Prop 8 contingent may have proved to be our "best" missionaries, in a sense. BTW, thanks for letting me know it was Richard Scott who officiated.