Posted by: 1of10boyz | November 10, 2011

Virtual Church – A branch for a nation

We knew when we got this assignment that church was going to be a new experience. We have been faithful members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints most of our lives and most definitely all of our married lives. We have lived in the “mission field” before and have enjoyed the closeness that exists in these small units of the church where you actually make a difference by carrying some of the load and responsibility of making the church function.

We know that there are many church members that are have work assignments in China and that in the cities like Shanghai and Beijing that there are branches of English speakers that meet. We are nowhere near those locations and Haiyang is 4th-5th level city so we know that we are going to be limited in our contact with other church members because there isn’t going to be the need for as many English speakers in the city’s industries. There is really not much hope that we are going to have even a branch.

We are able to make some connections to some church members via the Kennedy Center at BYU and learn that there is a branch based in Qingdao, about 1.5 to 2 hrs away. We learn from them that there is a virtual branch that covers the whole of China (except Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Macau) that meets via telephone. What an amazing concept. We are certainly excited about the possibilities of meeting in our own home and having the sacrament every week.

We will certainly have to evaluate the possibility of travelling to Qingdao to meet with the Saints but it is nice to know that we have another option.

We arrived at the Haiyang Expert Village and meet another member of the church as we are unpacking. They live in the same building, upstairs from us. They indicate that they go to the Qingdao branch each week. They invite us to attend with them. While we are tired we can’t pass up an opportunity to see what we think of the roundtrip to Qingdao and the meetings we attend.

We find that the branch mostly consists of BYU Kennedy Center instructors and Korean expats. The branch is translated in either English or Korean depending on native speaker that is talking. The drive to Qingdao is long and tiring, the need for items from Qingdao also impacts the ability to keep the Sabbath Day holy. We believe that the infrequent trips to Qingdao will make us more inclined to shop on Sunday while we are in Qingdao. It doesn’t appear to give us the type of rest that we are looking for on a Sabbath Day.

I remember many times talking in Priesthood meetings about how to maintain the appropriate attitude and reverence when making trips to the temple in Idaho Falls. The need to do shopping and conduct other business in the “big city” was always impacting the experience. I need the reset that happens on Sunday as I rest and focus on other aspects of my life. I don’t need the travel stress to make that impossible.

We are able to get a local Chinese telephone connected into our apartment. We are excited about the opportunity to try this virtual church experience. We have a good experience. It is nice to be able to feel the spirit and not have the travel impact the feeling, but the whole virtual church will take some getting used to.

We make a phone call and listen and participate on the phone. Imagine General Conference every week with the ability to asked questions, OK so maybe the speakers aren’t of that caliber but I think you get the picture, and participate for an hour at the end. During Sacrament meeting there is an 8 minute pause with all phones muted to allow for The Sacrament, where authorized. Really kind of weird to do the sacrament for just LaDawna and I, actually rather humbling to think about it. I have sat for many years and read the sacrament prayers and it was almost eerie to be blessing the sacrament by myself for just 2, I know that there are some that are actually by themselves.

We have a “roll call” after sacrament meeting to determine how many are in attendance, we had over 80 our week with the expectation to be nearly 160 during the school year. A small group considering that it covers nearly all of China.

I think about our experience and reflect on President Uchdorff’s talk in conference about trying to move a piano. In some ways it is how I feel right now. I think I will lift where I stand.



  1. It’s really a blessing that you are willing to share China with us,(what a fast paced strange world we are living in, it can only get faster and stranger,as the savior sets up HIS kingdom, the high priest leader in pine bluff ward who works in your old job, has a China student in our ward,real treat) (Darcy Hunt) God’s speed.

  2. Are you able to provide directions/locations/times for the Expat branches in Shanghai? I’m hoping to attend meetings on 27 April.


    • Shanghai is not in my District so my contact info for them may be a little out of date. Here is a contact email for someone that should be able to help since it looks like it moves with the position.

      shdistrictsecretary at gmail dot com

      If that doesn’t work I have some personal contacts there thru our branch I can reach out to. I think that their District President has remained the same since I got their list in late summer last year. Let me know if you need more help.

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