I suppose it was inevitable. Today, during Stake Conference, I saw a member of our congregation taking notes on a laptop.
Elsewhere I have discussed the topic of laptops in the classroom, but laptops in Church meetings may raise different considerations. Nevertheless, the focal point of discussion remains the fact that laptops can be distracting.
Keyboards are noisy. Some of my students complain about the noise caused by typing in the classroom, and I think the expectation of quiet is higher in the chapel than in a law school classroom. If allowed in the chapel, laptops will become our new “fussy babies.”
In addition, laptops are visually distracting to those who sit behind the laptop user. This is not such a problem if the user sticks to taking notes, but what are the chances of that? How long before Free Cell or Madden start springing up?
While people may find laptops useful — not only for note-taking, but also for looking up scriptures — my sense is that the benefits of laptops in most chapel meetings (sacrament meetings and Stake Conferences) is fairly small. On the other hand, I can understand the desire to take notes in leadership training sessions or certain firesides or to use laptops as a reference tool in Gospel Doctrine or Priesthood/Relief Society.
Of course, any attempt to regulate laptop use would result in line-drawing problems. PDAs, Blackberries, GameBoys, pagers, and other electronic devices have already gained widespread acceptance, though I would argue that they do not create the same problems as laptops. What about tablet PCs? This could get messy.
I suspect that laptop use will force Church leaders to confront the issue of electronic devices in worship services. It may make sense to distinguish sacrament meetings from other meetings. We might even allow local units to develop their own laptop policies. Any suggestions?