LDSTech Conference Hastens the Work in the Digital Realm

  By Ryan Morgenegg, Church News staff writer

  • 28 October 2013

Attendees collaborate on projects and attend informational sessions during the two-day conference for employees and volunteers who work on Church technology projects.  Photo by David Terry Photography.

Article Highlights

  • The conference opened with an address from the Church’s chief information officer, who spoke about the importance of using technology to preach, share, and live the gospel.
  • All attendees were invited to participate in projects testing Church software.

“When we submit ourselves to the idea that who we are and how we are as disciples has a direct and powerful effect on the work we do, including work in technology, we let the world see something about us that is truly beautiful and unusual.”
—David Warner of the Church’s Priesthood Department

“Every discovery in science and art, that is really true and useful to mankind has been given by direct revelation from God, though but few acknowledge it. It has been given with a view to prepare the way for the ultimate triumph of truth, and the redemption of the earth from the power of sin and Satan. We should take advantage of all these great discoveries, the accumulated wisdom of ages, and give to our children the benefit of every branch of useful knowledge, to prepare them to step forward and efficiently do their part in the great work” (Discourses of Brigham Young [1954], 18–19).

President Brigham Young made this declaration in 1862, generations before the word “technology” entered everyday lexicon. However, his statement could have been freshly issued for the LDSTech Conference held October 17–18 in Salt Lake City in the LDS institute building adjacent to the University of Utah campus. The annual conference, which began four years ago, serves as a meeting point between Church technology employees and tech community members who collaborate throughout the year on technology projects.

This conference covers the latest in Church technology and consists of two full days of information-packed sessions about Church technology, community sessions for testing and developing Church software, and opportunities to interact with other volunteers. The conference is free and everyone is invited to attend, regardless of technical skill.

A key part of the conference was to provide a time and space for project teams to work together, with several project work sessions scheduled as part of the conference. Alan Smoot, LDSTech solutions manager, suggested attendees should join a project on LDSTech after signing up for a particular project session. “We’ve found that anybody can be helpful when it comes to testing,” he said. “People can test beta versions using their own computers, devices, and logins. That kind of diversity is hard to replicate internally.”

The list of applications and projects available for display, demonstration, and to work on during the conference included LDS.org applications, meetinghouse technologies, mobile apps, and more. Attendees could sign up for as many project sessions as they wanted during the two days.

One attendee’s goal is to spread the word of God around the world. “The big reason I’m here is because I’ve been pushing to get the scriptures on the small feature phones,” said Hal Rushton from South Jordan, Utah. “There are billions of these small phones because [many] people don’t have the resources to own a smartphone. It’s not as easy to get the scriptures onto a feature phone like it is a smartphone. In some countries, you can’t even have a hard copy of the scriptures, but you can have a copy on your phone.”

Mafoya Dossoumon, an attendee from Chicago, came to learn more about starting a tech chapter in West Africa. “I heard about LDSTech about a year ago through a friend who created the first tech chapter in Africa, said Brother Dossoumon. “The most exciting thing about the conference is meeting different people from all over the world. Meeting hundreds of volunteers and seeing how everyone is dedicated to using their talents to further the work of the Church is inspiring.”

Many LDSTech conference attendees want to learn more about Church technology rather than participate on projects. Because of this interest, a variety of educational offerings including presentations, booths, handouts, and other information about Church technology were offered. For those who could not attend this year, a variety of sessions were recorded and can be viewed online.

Each day the conference began with a technology keynote speaker from the Church. Thursday, Blaine Maxfield, chief information officer for the Church, spoke about the hastening of the work in the Church and the importance of using technology in the world to share, preach, and live the gospel. “The purpose of me being here this morning is really to lend a helping hand by motivating and inspiring you,” said Brother Maxfield. “I’m here to let you know about what is taking place in the world and to help all of us continue to move this work forward.”

Friday’s keynote speaker was David Warner of the Church’s Priesthood Department. He spoke about technology giving people around the world the ability to see into lives of Latter-day Saints both at church and at home. He explained that it isn’t about what members do in their callings but about what they do at home. He said the Saints are a peculiar people and they should show that. “When we submit ourselves to the idea that who we are and how we are as disciples has a direct and powerful effect on the work we do, including work in technology, we let the world see something about us that is truly beautiful and unusual,” Brother Warner said.

A new feature implemented this year is called “Idea Share.” It was designed to give attendees the chance to share software and technology project ideas for potential sponsorship. This includes ideas for Church apps or if a person has already developed an app and wants to see it become an official Church app. More information can be found at tech.lds.org.