The BYU-Idaho Center is built to seat 15,000 students on several floors, but not a single seat is filled.
Many will tune in via broadcast or through BYU-I’s radio station during the normal Tuesday devotional hours, but the I-Center will be empty.
The recording for devotional now happens each Thursday before the broadcast.
At the moment LaNae H. Poulter would speak when only a few staff members knew, not in real-time.
“Speaking a devotional that was pre-recorded felt a bit like Christmas to me,” said Poulter “there was great effort and anticipation in preparing, wrapping the gift of presentation, and then waiting and hoping with great anticipation.”
The scene isn’t full of new students meeting up with roommates and Get Connected groups, couples on their first date, or even co-workers filing in.
It is quite the opposite.
The room was pulsing with silence.
Staff members help Poulter prepare to run through her talk and check spelling, punctuation, flow and visuals.
During the devotional recording, the usual laughter, suspense, sighs and audience involvement was absent.
Poulter would motion to the empty room a few times during her speech and receive no response.
“I generally feed off the energy of those in my audience whether it is one-on-one in my office or speaking before an audience. So speaking before an empty hall, felt a bit empty!” said Poulter, “But I tried to envision the students and employees of BYU-Idaho sitting in the chairs and still sense their spirits.”
There is no one to continue the tradition of raising notebooks, scriptures, phones or tablets to show preparation for the devotional Poulter worked hard to prepare.
Michael Lewis, a faculty photographer, shows up, takes a few photos, then takes a seat in the front few rows of the hall. He listens to a portion of the devotional, a physical audience of one.
Behind the scenes, a fraction of the staff sit in production rooms.
The staff usually has a duplicate of every production room; video, audio and visual running in case of a live emergency.
But with everything being virtual, problems can be tackled before the final recording, meaning only half of the production family comes in.
Poulter finally walks away from the pulpit, not to the cacophony of students, faculty and friends on their way to class, work or home, but to the echoes of her footsteps on stage.