Technology Is Spreading the Prophetic Voice
By Walter Cooley, Church Magazines
Since 2000, more and more Church members are hearing the words of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles each weekend. Yet it isn't the Brethrens' travel schedules that have changed; it's technology.
Recently President James E. Faust, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, and President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, participated in a multistake conference broadcast from Salt Lake City to members gathered in more than 182 meetinghouses in New England. Meanwhile, thousands of members sitting in chapels in the San Antonio, Texas, area watched live as President Gordon B. Hinckley dedicated a new temple there.
During the past year, almost every weekend has seen more of the same: thousands of members throughout the world hearing the word of the Lord and seeing His disciples.
In recent years, broadcast and interpretation technologies have created more opportunities for Church members to see and hear from General Authorities. Besides general conference, members can now hear General Authorities at several broadcasts including stake conferences every other year, worldwide leadership meetings once a year, regular Church Educational System broadcasts, and temple dedications on occasion. At any one time, broadcast systems can reach up to 97 percent of the Church's members throughout the world.
President Hinckley said these types of technology have become available as the Church grows stronger (see "The Church Grows Stronger," Ensign, May 2004, 4).
"I am so deeply thankful that we have the wonders of television, radio, cable, satellite transmission, and the Internet," said President Hinckley. "We have become a great worldwide Church, and it is now possible for the vast majority of our members to participate in these meetings as one great family, speaking many languages, found in many lands, but all of one faith and one doctrine and one baptism" ("Living in the Fulness of Times," Ensign, Nov. 2001, 4).
This Magnificent Hall
The ability to broadcast more often in an increasing number of languages began after the Conference Center was built in 2000. Dave Larsen, broadcast engineering manager, said that since then the number of Church broadcasts has increased dramatically.
"All of us who work here feel it is a blessing from the Lord to be able to communicate the words of the prophets to a wider population than ever before," Brother Larsen said. "We are seeing new technology that a number of years ago was just a dream."
Behind the north wall of the Conference Center auditorium is a labyrinth of broadcasting rooms filled with equipment. Audio-control rooms, closed-captioning booths, remote-camera operating consoles, and audio-recording booths fill the nearly 18,000-square-foot (1,670-sq. m) space.
The Conference Center has backup equipment and systems for almost everything involved in a broadcast, including production control rooms. During general conference one production control room is used for broadcast; the second control room performs other tasks as well as acts as a backup to the broadcast production control room.
At other times, however, the control rooms and support equipment are used to broadcast two separate meetings at the same time. This often happens on weekends when the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's Music and the Spoken Word broadcast begins on Sunday morning at the same time a stake conference broadcast begins. If necessary, one or both can be taped for later broadcast. But thanks to a special broadcast production studio, both can be done live simultaneously as well.
The broadcast studio houses a set that replicates the pulpit and stand of a meetinghouse chapel. Many of the worldwide leadership meetings or stake conference broadcasts are taped or broadcast from inside the Conference Center's studio.
General and stake conference broadcasts use the Conference Center's state-of-the-art interpretation capabilities. When interpretation is required for any broadcast, the Conference Center's production rooms can route English audio streams from the auditorium, broadcast studio, or remote location to any one of 58 interpretation booths. Microphones capture an interpreter's voice and send it to the production room, where it is added to the main video broadcast.
More languages are often recorded after general conference. Last general conference an additional 20 languages were recorded to be included on DVD for worldwide distribution. DVD versions of conference also contain the digital video captured during conference. Currently, the only outlet available for viewing the live high-definition broadcast is KSL in Salt Lake City.
The Conference Center’s video and interpretation facilities are also used remotely.
For broadcasts originating away from the Conference Center, local Church leaders can still request language interpretation for members within their stakes. In these cases, a General Authority's talk can be captured on location, relayed back to Salt Lake City by satellite, interpreted in the Conference Center, and sent back to the remote location with only a few seconds delay. Church Educational System fireside addresses, stake conferences, and other member meetings are interpreted and closed-captioned this way. This year CES firesides have been interpreted into 28 languages.
The Church also employs remote interpreters during general conference. In remote interpretation, an interpreter receives the English audio stream from general conference over a telephone or ISDN line. The interpreted audio stream returns on the same line to the Conference Center. Remote interpretation is used to capture some countries' distinct dialects.
Until recently, Church satellite broadcasts were limited to North and South America, the Pacific, Europe, and South Africa. In 2002, the Church expanded its satellite broadcast network to include signals to Asia. Latter-day Saints in Asia participated in their first Church satellite broadcast during the Nauvoo Illinois Temple dedication in June 2002. Church satellite signals now also reach into India.
The Church's broadcast system uses five satellites to relay satellite signals to most of the globe. A few remote areas such as the tip of South America and western Africa cannot receive a signal from one of the five satellites. Areas not served by satellite can receive audio by Internet or telephone lines.
At any one time the Church satellite system can handle up to four different taped or live broadcasts.
Reaching Out to the World
Brother Larsen said the Conference Center and new technology give the Church resources to do simultaneous broadcasts. On average, the Church broadcasts two events each weekend. These broadcasts continue to help Church leaders reach out to members throughout the world.
"We have made a very long journey in reaching out to the nations of the world," President Hinckley said. "There is much more yet to be done, but what has been accomplished is truly phenomenal" ("The Church Grows Stronger," Ensign, May 2004, 4).