I may choose to ignore people who comment anonymously. I choose never to be anonymous online myself. I have little tolerance for this behavior.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Don't Let Telling Tales Trip Up Your Truthfulness

Big Lies, Big Lies Can Start with a Little Yarn. May 1984.
Accessed October 10, 2016 from the LDS Media LIbrary.
Some people seem able to turn every life experience into a faith promoting story. This applies to ordinary mortals, as well as prolific newspaper columnists.

Writers, especially LDS writers and bloggers, seem to have a constant supply of inspiring experiences and they seem able to publish them on demand.

We all like to hear good stories. So, why am I complaining? I don't believe these story tellers are telling the complete, unvarnished truth. In other words, they are lying. In the Church, we called it false witness. It is just downright dishonesty.

Why did it take me so long to come to this conclusion? Well, I've been one of these writers and I nearly exhausted my repertoire with just 17 stories. Sure, I've got a few more but not nearly as many as I would need to match all these other writers and bloggers. Even my eventful life couldn't keep up with demand.

I don't believe the human experience can produce enough stories through just one person to justify what is attributed to them.

Lately, I had become attached to some columns and writers. They always seem to have a good story. After some good hard thought, I just can't believe them anymore.

We all like to tell good stories. We like looking clever and funny and especially inspirational at church. We like being popular.

Do we all have the self-discipline, mastery and moral sense to confine ourselves to the truth? History tells us this is unlikely. There are two prominent LDS examples:

  1. Paul H. Dunn
  2. Douglas Stringfellow
Paul H. Dunn, a General Authority, tried to justify his good stories. We don't know what penalties and loss of privileges he had to endure as a result, but we know they were imposed on him by the Church.

Douglas Stringfellow hails from the 1950s. You can find out more about him on page 40 of the Sunstone issue devoted to Dunn's unmasking.

These sorts of problems start out innocently enough. We all want to hear something uplifting, enlightening or entertaining. We all want to be uplifting, enlightening and entertaining.

However, it is almost like we get addicted to the adulation our stories produce. This results in an attempt to tighten up our stories, make them flow better and proceed seamlessly to the punchline, spiritual point or doctrinal concept we wish to emphasize.

We tell ourselves we are more effective in teaching the gospel. Maybe we are. However, most of it is about us. It makes us feel good. It makes us more popular. It may even make us more respected, at least in this life.

We tell ourselves there is no initial harm in the small embellishments, right? We're just tweaking the facts a little, right?

Soon, stories get wilder and more complex. We always end up looking clever in our stories; while others look like twits, silly or completely idiotic. Surely you've been the victim of these stories at some point in your life.

We may end up convincing ourselves that our stories are accurate and they really happened the way we claim. Exaggerations typically multiply. Ask yourself if you are really the author of that snappy comeback or brilliant retort.

This is a slippery slope. Once we tell a story we are stuck with it. It isn't possible to retract it without damage to ourselves. These stories will hurt both ourselves and others.

Heavenly Father is our ultimate fact checker. You will never put one over on Him, however much you fool people in this life.

Honesty is more important than stories. Being truthful is more important than being entertaining. Being factual is more important than being engaging.

During a rare visit to my own family, a relative remarked that they had heard so-and-so's version of the stories and now they got to hear my version.

My version? This thought was horrifying to me. Do they expect to hear embellished stories? Do they think no one can be truly honest?

Telling embellished stories can, and should, result in a loss of trust and a loss of respect.

So, the next time you are tempted to fracture the facts, recheck your moral compass and reattach yourself to the iron rod of truth. You are not under the pressure Scheherazade faced. We should be more concerned about our eternal life, not our mortal life.

Truth is hard enough to come by in this modern world. Don't clutter it up with your lies or more lies. Your version should be the honest one.

In the end, we all know where liars go.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Don't Let Creeping Change Creep Up On You, Especially in a New Calling!

Called to the Work,

Accessed August 15, 2016 from the LDS Media Library.

I've addressed creeping change before. It's a theme that needs to be revisited constantly. So, here it is again; but with a new twist.

Creeping change is change that comes incrementally, without people intending to make changes. It is insidious change; because people usually aren't aware of how much change has occurred or what the standards really should be.

Most people happily go along with the status quo, because it is what they are used to. You have to go back and revisit the basics before you continue with past practices or change them.

Getting a new calling gives you the ability to avoid creeping change by encouraging you to go back to the basics and essentials of what you should be doing.

Let's assume you have just received a new calling. What is the first thing to do?

Here are my guidelines:

1. Read up in Handbook 2 on the Computer or Other Digital Device!

Okay, why on the computer? Simple. Only the digital copy of the Handbook is accurate. There have been additions and changes. You need to know what they are. You cannot rely on the printed copy of the Handbook to be accurate.

You should read the following at the very least:

For example, you need to know the Church's new policies on social media. You will only find it online. Access 21.2.22 and look for the link to internet.lds.org for specific guidelines on using social media in your church callings.

Remember, President Monson said there is safety in the handbooks:

You may think you know how to handle situation, but in fact, you may be on the wrong track. There's safety in the handbooks.

2. Find Out What Your Calling Should Entail.

Go to LDS.org and look at the navigation items. Working from the left to the right, click on Serve and Teach. From the drop down menu, look at the middle column and go all the way to the bottom. Click on All Callings.

There are 20 different categories. Identify where your new calling resides on click on it. This isn't rocket science. If you will be working in the Primary, then click on Primary.

There will be links directing you to Handbook 2 guidance, as well as other guidelines. Make note of these emphases.

3. View Videos on the Leadership Library

If you are unfamiliar with the Leadership Training Library, you must access it promptly and review all its guidance that relates to your calling. Some is general guidance and some is specific to callings.

Examples of general guidance include the resources on the right under Leadership Principles:
Everybody needs this general guidance. Look at the top of the screen to find specific guidance, like Bishopric, Relief Society, Primary, etc. View all the listed videos.

4. Connect With the Person Most Recently Released From This Calling

This is such a no-brainer, I almost hesitate to mention. It seems so obvious, doesn't it? Not so.  Outside of the Mormon Corridor, this is not as common as it should be.

Whoever preceded you in the calling can give you valuable advice, help you avoid landmines and help you refrain from rediscovering the wheel.

5. Meet With Your Current Leaders And Get Their Guidance

This includes members of the Bishopric, Priesthood and Auxiliary Leaders. Every calling has a chain of command. Make certain you've connected with yours before you start doing anything.

6. Teaching Calling? You've Got A Lot to Do!

The Church just rolled out a bundle of new teaching resources. If you are a teacher anywhere in the Church, you've got a lot to do. Access the new teaching resources at teaching.lds.org and get to work!

Keep going back to these resources, especially 1, 2 and 3. They will help you from getting off track. If you are already on track, they will help you stay on it.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Stop Trying to Apply Secular Tools to Spiritual Things

A young woman writing a note on paper.
Accessed August 5, 2016 from the LDS Media Library.
We occasionally hear of well-intentioned efforts by individual Mormons and LDS leaders to address some particular problem in the Church.

Consider this recent example of a, "Goal Planning and Personal Performance Contract" supposedly issued by an Arizona stake.

Contracts of any sort are generally a secular legal tool used to enforce some sort of secular agreement. Contracts can be litigated in court, if necessary, to ensure all parties abide by the contents or punish them if they do not.

There is no spiritual supreme court wherein to enforce spiritual contracts so what use are they in a spiritual setting? To me it seems like a misguided attempt to use a reasonably popular secular tool to address a spiritual problem before the spiritual problem has been correctly identified.

I suspect there are multiple reasons for returned missionaries struggling, going inactive or leaving the church entirely. I think this is best diagnosed by considering the individual in question and attempting to understand what is going on with him or her.

What is more, you only need a paper relationship where there is no trust. Consider that all the covenants/ordinances we receive or perform do not involve a written contract with Heavenly Father. Records are kept of these covenants/ordinances, but these records are not structured like secular contracts.

Another variation on this idea is parenting contracts or behavior contracts. This is a thinly disguised attempt to manage families like we do our businesses. If you, as a parent, try to utilize them, don't be surprised if your children start exploiting legalistic loopholes in the language.

For example, a mother told her daughter she must be home by 1 a.m. The daughter came home at 2 a.m. justifying herself with the rationale that it was daylight savings time and clocks were moved back one hour. Therefore, she was on time. What could the mother say?

One also wonders why the creators of this R.M. contract didn't pay more attention to what the Church provides. In July, 2015, the Church notified us all that a new tool called, "My Plan" would soon be rolled out and available on the missionary portal.

Announced by the First Presidency, the tool is intended "to help returning missionaries use their mission experiences to plan for continued, lifelong discipleship." This collection of eight interactive lessons seems intended to address what the Arizona contract is trying to address.

All of this is actually symptomatic of a general problem infecting the Church: Ignorance or laxness in exploring church instruction and tools that already address the issue we are dealing with.

However, I feel like a broken record on this topic. The most obvious example is one I've written on extensively -- the LDS.org tools the Church provides for wards and stakes. In fact, people spend more time trying to duplicate or get around these tools than it would take to master them. The Church has made them straightforward and intuitive but simple instruction does exist.

I think Satan enjoys when members and leaders continue going around in unproductive circles.

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Benefits of Blind Gratitude: Did I Just Get Saved?

After going to bed last night, I was awakened at about 1 a.m. by a smell. I can't really describe it. It smelled strange and the possibility of danger tugged me fully awake. Naturally, my rising awakened my husband as well. However, he could not smell anything

The smell was quickly replaced by a strobe light effect coming from one of our covered windows. I knew it couldn't be lightening because lightening doesn't strike in one place multiple times at the same intensity. Also, there was no thunder.

For a moment I thought fireworks. However, even my half asleep brain suggested that was unlikely. Indiana doesn't celebrate Pioneer Day.

Turning on a light in our home didn't illuminate anything. The lights were only 1/4 the typical brightness. My husband flipped on the utility room light and it quickly shorted out. He yelled at me not to turn on any more lights.

A glance out of one of our uncovered windows revealed a pretty spectacular pyrotechnics show. My husband identified the problem: a downed power line.

After retrieving footwear, eye glasses and some clothing, we ventured outside where a crowd was already gathering. I made it outside first.

The power line was sparking and snapping in the backyard of a home located near ours. Soon a fire engine siren joined the highly charged buzzing from the downed power line.

As experienced emergency response people converged on the scene, our new neighbors introduced themselves and we compared notes about what was going on.

A firefighter yelled over to us not to touch the fence. Oops, I'd already opened the gate to walk over to the neighbors. I should have waited for my husband. He always seems to know how to minimize my safety stupidity.

Soon, the power was cut and the excitement went dark. A falling tree branch was the culprit. Crews mopped up the damage by midday today and had power restored.

Were we in danger? I have to think we were somehow. I can sleep through anything. What woke me up? After the initial sniff, the smell was gone. If Heavenly Father was protecting us from some danger, we emerged almost unscathed.

The house with the downed power line also had a fire kindled in the attic. Shorts in our home knocked out an alarm clock and the light bulb in the utility room. Obviously, things could have been worse, much worse.

It is impossible to count, or account for, all the disasters that don't occur. I can think of many times when I was able to narrowly avert danger, usually through some sort of spiritual prompting.

I just don't know how many disasters have been averted in my life that I remain unaware of. Blind obedience is not a good idea, but I think blind gratitude is.

I'm going to keep thanking deity for my safety ...

Friday, July 22, 2016

Mormons Are Making Their Mark on Academia

Learn of Me. The knowledge of the gospel
of Jesus Christ is the greatest education
 of all. (See Matthew 11:29.) Apr. 2009.
Accessed July 22, 2016
from the LDS Media Library.
By the time the rest of the world wakes up and discovers what Mormons have accomplished, and are still doing, in higher education; it will be too late for them to catch up or copy us.

What are they doing? I'm glad you asked. Mormons are making higher education inexpensive, high quality and available anywhere in the world.

Few people outside of Mormondom even know what Mormons have already done in academia. 

They may have heard about BYU in a sports context; but that is now a small, and insignificant detail.

Mormons have several types of schools:

A research university: Brigham Young University

A teaching college/university: Brigham Young University-Idaho
An international college with intensive English instruction: Brigham Young University-Hawaii
A business and technical college: LDS Business College

All of these Church schools are working together, along with the Church Education System (CES), to accomplish this ambitious plan. The BYU-Idaho Pathway program and the new Self-Reliance effort will also play a big part.

They are fixing some of the most difficult problems that plague higher education in both the secular and religious worlds.

Here's just a snippet of what they are doing and how they are doing it:
  • The Church is expanding the work of existing higher education schools and efforts. It is not building something entirely new. This will lower costs, because the administrative structure already exists.
  • BYU-Idaho has abolished tenure. This is significant because most professors are forced to compete against each other in their schools as well as with professors in other schools for advancement honors.
  • BYU-Idaho will deliver the educational product. Professors will be focused on teaching and serving students. By de-emphasizing research, professors can be freed from publishing requirements that don't serve teaching needs.
  • The Church is making maximum use of the Internet and digital teaching tools to provide blended and online only educational options.
  • The Church can utilize qualified teachers all over the world, via digital tools. The teachers don't need to be physically close to a campus.
  • This blended and online model doesn't require a lot of brick and mortar buildings to be built.
  • Education can be delivered during the week in existing buildings -- stake centers and meetinghouses.
  • The Church is making judicious use of volunteers. Students starting their schooling by learning English can practice their skills with speaking partners.

It won't be long before other schools across the world take an interest in all this, just like others do the Church's welfare program now.

Sadly, they won't be able to make it work for them. Part of will make the LDS effort successful in the future, and what is making it successful now, is the LDS value structure unique to our faith.

This and combining secular education with religious instruction is an unbeatable combination!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

We Must Become Much Better Than We Are Right Now!

A group of men and women seated during institute. Accessed June 30, 2016 from the LDS Media Library
Whatever we are right now, educationally and spiritually, it is not sufficient for what we need to be! We must become much better than we are right now!

It is clear from the tantalizing tidbits and hints from Elder Kim B. Clark's recent addresses that the Church is on the verge of something big. In fact, the ground work for this effort has already been laid.

Digital tools are a big part of it, but are still just a part. Delivering both religious and secular education is being rolled out worldwide. Instead of just attending church worship services on Sunday's, meetinghouses and stake centers are delivering secular education as well. What is more, these efforts will get bigger, much bigger.

The Global Education Initiative (GEI) was formally announced by Elder Clark in the recent annual meeting for the employees of the Church Educational System (CES).

Both our religious and secular education must increase. A diploma for anything from anywhere is not enough. It cannot be the end of our formal education. It cannot be just our ticket to a lifetime of leisure and recreation outside our regular workday.

Even if you have already cashed in on your education by securing gainful employment and a secure financial future, you must gain more. Everyone must acquire more, if we are to be prepared for the Second Coming of the Lord, Jesus Christ.

We have a greater work to do than most of us have ever anticipated. We need to get started on it. NOW!

Global Education Initiative (GEI) Introduced by Elder Kim B. Clark
Kim B. Clark “CES: The Lord’s Educational System for His Church”

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Satan Exploits Sexual Missteps and Mistakes For His Own Ends

I was single a long time. I was in college for most of that time. I had a lot of roommates, friends and acquaintances. What follows is my observations and my theories. Don't get it mixed up with LDS doctrine. 

With that qualifier, I also want to state that I have considered this for decades. My thinking is not recent or undeveloped. I've been mulling this over for a very long time.

I knew young women who were raped and/or molested. I believed then and I believe now that they were victims in every sense.

What troubles me is that many, if not all, had some consensual sexual missteps in their past. Because of these wholly unconnected missteps, at least two problems resulted after they became victims of a sexual crime:

  1. They were reluctant to report the crime against them to anyone.
  2. They feared they would not be believed.
Being on the receiving end of these confidences has had an impact on me. The victims' extreme trauma was evident. I was troubled because I could not help them with this dilemma at all.

I was able to sympathize, although not empathize, with their trauma, having never been a victim of sexual crimes myself. From listening and thinking about what they told me, I understood why they remained quiet. I could not condemn their silence. Given the circumstances they described, I don't think I would have acted any differently.

It seemed to me then, and it seems to me now, that Satan made these young women targets because of their past. Satan exploited their past mistakes.

This is horrifying.

Satan's diabolical tactic of using someone's past against them in such a horrendous manner should make us more sympathetic to victims of this tactic.

“Throughout our lives, whether in times of darkness, challenge, sorrow, or sin, we may feel the Holy Ghost reminding us that we are truly sons and daughters of a caring Heavenly Father, who loves us, and we may hunger for the sacred blessings that only He can provide.”—Elder Robert D. Hales, “Coming to Ourselves: The Sacrament, the Temple, and Sacrifice in Service” Accessed June 9, 2016 from the LDS Media Library.