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

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.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Don't Expect Spiritual Success if You Skip Serious Steps

When I was teaching college, I watched students engage in all sorts of behaviors intended to achieve success, without being conscientious about the fundamentals.

The fundamentals were coming to class, doing the assigned reading and studying.

Nothing could compensate for these basics, however much student's tried to do otherwise.

There was one student that left me a phone message about missing one of the last classes of the year. He apologized, but then remarked that he would have to just rely on reading the textbook.

I groaned inwardly when I accessed his message.

I had specifically told the students that that last class period would have no reading and they must come to class that day to get the material.

I stressed this in class and on the syllabus.

Scripture study is the foundation on which every other success in this life builds. This is true for our spiritual health; as well as our physical, social or emotional health.

If you are not studying scriptures daily, you are not experiencing the spiritual power that is available to you.

Even superficial daily study is better than nothing. However, you are not making use of all the spiritual power available to you; if you do not engage in some sort of daily, meaningful scripture study.

If you are like nearly every other person on the earth, your scripture study is inclined to stop and start suddenly, depending on whatever responsibilities and stresses are complicating your life.

Every time your life changes in any significant way, you will probably have to rethink your scripture study and how to do it. This is especially true of students; because their academic schedule is not wholly within their control.

Like any other commandment, you need to keep it before you will develop a strong testimony of it.

When you experience the spiritual power that comes with meaningful scripture study, you will naturally be more conscientious about doing it.

Build your faith of it by doing it.

Joint scripture study by spouses can help ensure you both grow spiritually and grow together as well. Any distance Satan tries to wedge between you and your spouse will be stymied, if you are studying scripture together daily.

With a scriptural foundation, your life will be on solid ground and the natural difficulties you face in mortality will be easier to address.

10 Steps to a Blueprint of Success “Establish principles to guide your life. Don’t make exceptions to your standards. Be loyal. Live so that the Lord can guide you. Serve others. Smile. Don’t complain. Always have a Church assignment. Worship in the temple. Follow the Savior’s example.”—Elder Richard G. Scott, “As You Go Forth” Accessed June 6, 2016 from the LDS Media Library.