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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Church Leadership Corruption: Discussion 6 Not Implementing Authorized Changes

(Originally posted, July 25, this has been reposted because of problems in the original post that could not be corrected any other way.)

Since local Church leadership is lay leadership, local Church leadership is us –YOU and ME. My intent in writing this essay is so people can evaluate their own behavior, not label or malign others. It also assumes that local Church leadership at the stake and unit level is the only Church leadership corruption that needs to concern ordinary members today. Corrupt Church leadership ABOVE the stake level IS NOT addressed.

Please do not email the content of this blog to others. Send them the link to it, so they can read it here. It is the only way to avoid things getting altered.

Disclaimer: If anything I say violates scripture, modern revelation or current Church guidance like that contained in the Handbook, I withdraw it. I do not have direct access to all these materials, so I cannot be completely certain that what I am asserting is currently accurate. I hope the reader will absorb my general points and not pick at the details. Most of the details are for illustration purposes only.

These series of postings will consist of eight parts and be posted every three days according to the schedule below.

Discussion 7: Pride: The Source of It All -- Wednesday, July 28
Discussion 8: Conclusions and Solutions -- Saturday, July 31

6. Not Implementing Authorized Changes


Example: Homemaking to Enrichment to R.S. Meetings

When I was called to be Relief Society President, I was told by the out-going President that Enrichment was just the same as the old Homemaking program. When I looked into things, I discovered it was very different. For over a year, no changes had been made in our meetings to reflect the new guidelines. I immediately sought to change this and implement the new guidelines to the best of my ability. It was an uphill battle.

I had particular difficulty in getting the “Topic Presentation” done properly. I moved from that ward soon afterward. In my new ward I was called to teach the “Topic Presentation” at Enrichment meetings and did so for several months. I soon moved again and was astonished that I was called to teach the “Topic Presentation” at Enrichment meetings in my new ward. The Bishopric shared my astonishment when I told them this when they extended the call. They had not known what my calling had been in my prior ward. Coincidence? I do not think so.

Changes from 2009 can be found in the March 2010 Ensign to Relief Society meetings. Have the recent changes been implemented yet in your unit? If not, do it NOW.

The Church has good reasons for why it does what it does and for what changes it makes. We may not always understand them, but we should implement them. Often, time confirms the wisdom of the changes. I implement them now on the basis of faith but generally the Church explains why changes are made.

I have completed a great deal of formal schooling and I even worked as a professor for about ten years. It was enormously difficult to get the students to follow instructions on anything.

When a class begins, the teacher generally asks students to introduce themselves, whether in person or online. Usually the teacher would say something like, tell us where you are from, your major, why you are in this course, etc. The list generally is not too long. However, almost no student remembers to include answers to all the questions as instructed. It just goes downhill from there.

I was torn between making my syllabi too long and detailed, which the students might not read, versus too short where they would not get adequate instructions. I could anticipate just about every stumbling block I knew the students would have. I tried to steer them away from them. Most students ended up struggling because they ignored something I had warned them about. If they would just do what I told them, their student lives would have been so much easier.

When I went back for additional schooling I took these lessons with me. I discovered I could read instructions and accurately pinpoint what other students were likely to omit. By doing everything I was instructed to do, and paying particular attention to other students projected omissions, I cruised through my work with near perfect scores and many accolades.

Gee, what a novel idea for success – do exactly what you are told. I cannot help thinking that if we gave our spiritual work the same attention we could all excel there too.

Example: Not implementing the Church’s guidelines on improving teaching.

In the June 2010 Ensign in the “News of the Church” section, there is the following under “Change to Teacher Improvement Explained”:
In a letter dated November 17, 2006, the First Presidency announced changes to how teacher improvement should be handled.
Some confusion persists. The following identifies what the policy discontinued and what it did not.
This change took place over three and a half years ago. Why is there confusion, unless people simply have not read and implemented the letter? I can see where confusion may persist for three and a half months, but three and a half years?

Example: The Church’s Local Unit Web Sites and Broadcast Email Networks

A momentous change that has had only sketchy implementation worldwide is using the Church’s official stake and unit web sites and broadcast email networks. This is baffling because the web sites and email networks, even in their imperfect state, are superior to anything we could put together ourselves. They are far superior to any paper system.

I thought perhaps it was just the rural nature of my living environment that explained their lack of use. After visiting relatives in Silicon Valley, and seeing almost total ignorance of these tools, I have to ask, “If they aren’t using them there, where are they using them?”

Not everyone wants all members to have information equality. Information is power. By controlling information, individuals can keep certain people outside the information loop – people they would rather not deal with or individuals that are not members of their chosen social circle. Church leaders should not do this or allow it to exist or proliferate under their leadership.

When I was called as my unit’s Web Site Administrator I was given a copy of instructions from the Handbook. It was basically one paragraph. However, I discovered that there were extensive instructions on the administrator’s pages online, about sixteen pages worth that included instructions on everything. In addition, LDSTech was launched in January 2007. It has evolved to include instructions, policies, procedures, advice, forums, ideas, wikisnewsletters and even ways to help the Church develop its digital tools.

Besides the web sites and email networks, there are a number of resources to help those in clerking and financial positions operate the Church’s MLS. Has your unit discovered these resources? Have you?

We are to use web sites and email networks provided by the Church. No outside web site or email network should be created or sponsored. The Church has been very clear on this. It issued a letter in 2001 and one in 2004. These letters are still in force. We are told not to put unit activity or member information on outside sites. These instructions are easily accessible. There is also an archive of relevant First Presidency letters available to anyone online.

There are significant consequences for NOT utilizing these Church provided digital tools:

-       Those not physically present in meetings, for whatever reason, are left out of the information loop. This is true for inactives, those who must work on Sunday, etc. This creates an information hierarchy of information haves and information have-nots. Digital tools are egalitarian. Everyone can have the same information equally.

-       All other information tools can disseminate only brief information such as announcements, bulletin items, newsletter etc. No other tool has the potential to deliver complete information will all the details, and without distortion, than digital tools.

-       The Internet has existed since 1991. We now have generations that are born digital. If we do not use digital tools we forego the single best tool to convey information to the young both now and in the future. When my husband moved into The Hyde Park Ward in Chicago, where most of the members are affiliated with The University of Chicago, he asked for a membership list and other documents. He was told to get an email and they would send everything to him. They no longer did ANYTHING on paper. This was in 1995.

-       We waste our time that could be more productively spent on other things.

Some people are not digital. This is not an excuse for not using these tools. We did not avoid using the telephone, just because all the people did not have phones. No other communication tool has as wide of access as digital tools have. We have the highest likelihood of reaching the highest number of people possible with them.

There are consequences of underutilizing or misusing these tools:

-       Some units are putting nothing but leadership meetings on the web sites or the unit calendars. If this persists, these digital tools will be nothing but leadership tools for leadership purposes. Most people will conclude the tools have no relevance to them and will neither visit the sites nor keep their emails updated. Unit administrators will get most emails back as undeliverable; which can cause their personal ISP to label them as spammers and cut off their Internet service. This is already happening in some units.

-       Inaccurate, or outdated, information is neither being corrected nor deleted. This will cause people to doubt all the information on the digital tools and undermine their usefulness to the Church, both now and in the future. Currently, my own unit has outdated information from 2008 on its web site. Church leaders generally correct bad information in announcements or the bulletin. It is puzzling why they let bad information persist on digital tools.

-       The Church’s tools are carefully calibrated to respect copyright, liability and privacy laws. By misusing the tools, units expose the Church to legal challenge. This is happening because units are posting copyrighted pictures on their homepages, amongst other things. These problems occur because units ignore the Church’s guidelines for digital tools. A quick review of my current stake and units’ web sites yielded one copyright protected picture and nearly all the units included information about the Young Men and Young Women programs on their homepages – something expressly forbidden in the guidelines.

There are consequences to using other digital tools besides the ones provided by the Church. Some Church leaders are emailing Church members from their own personal email sites, using their own email lists. This is bad practice for a number of reasons:

-       It violates Church policy and procedure. (See links above.)

-       No one has a complete list of all relevant email addresses that exist in the unit.

-       No one has an accurate list of all relevant email addresses that exist in the unit.

-       Emails do not go out under Priesthood authority. These systems bypass local unit leaders.

-       More apt to expose members to malware, via email from infected personal systems.

-       Exposes members to spam, because few people blind-copy and email addresses are then harvested by unscrupulous others.

-       People may not know when an email address is dead or undeliverable. The Church’s system identifies these.

-       People spend valuable time stockpiling emails on their own computers, when it is not necessary.

-       People can be intentionally or unintentionally excluded from these private lists.

-       Leaves the Church open to allegations of spamming and other legal irregularities.

-       The lists are not accessible to the stake or other people in the unit.

-       The lists are not accessible to the Church. These systems PREVENTS THE CHURCH ITSELF FROM EMAILING ITS OWN MEMBERS.

The Church’s system is carefully set up; whereby an individual places his or her own email on email networks, keeps its current, makes it visible or invisible to other members, chooses which emails he or she wants to receive, etc. By using the Church’s system, no one can EVER claim they have received an unwanted email from anyone in the Church. The legal definition of spam is simply an “unwanted email”. By using one’s own system and choosing who to include, an individual can claim an email is unwanted – a legal violation.

From what I have observed, many people conclude that they only need to send one email per household. Often they choose the least digital spouse as their recipient, insuring that information does not reach anyone at all. They always exclude children and most young single adults. Why? This makes no sense on any level. We do not stop children from hearing announcements or reading the bulletin. Why should we exclude them from emails? The Church’s system does not do this.

In addition, people seem to conclude that young adults’ parents can inform them of things. This is horribly insulting to young people and alienating as well. The Church’s system does not do this. These age hierarchies persist from outdated cultural mores, not Church teachings. The Church does not consider them second class members. Besides, young single adults are highly digital. It would make more sense to email them and assume they will inform their parents, rather than the other way around.

Age information hierarchies handicap the Church from truly engaging and informing its single members. Single members do not meet regularly as a group, like the auxiliaries do on Sunday, where information is conveyed to members. Their activities are often stake or regional and they are dependent on units to get information to them.

I have been excluded from receiving emails in two different units by the acts of other individual members. This is horribly alienating. When confronted, those culpable gave me lame excuses.

The Church’s system eliminates the need for any of us to stockpile unit emails on our own computer system, while providing a safe and secure mechanism for emailing members.

The Church’s email networks and web site shift the burden of responsibility for information. Instead of it being up to leaders to assure that members receive it, it is now up to members to access the information and assure their inclusion in the information network.

My father was in crucial leadership positions throughout my childhood. For the first twelve years of my life, I was firmly in the Church information loop. When he died, this stopped abruptly. As a single woman on my own, I have had to experience what it is like to be out of the information loop and it is not pleasant. However, I generally fight to get the information I need. Most people do not. It only takes two weeks of not receiving information to be entirely outside the information loop. I do not know how many times someone asked me why I did not go to a particular Church event and I had to respond, “Because I did not know about it.”

The stake and unit web sites and email networks provide a vital information tool that is unequaled in its ability to deliver timely and complete information to the highest number of members equally. For this reason, its full potential should be utilized.

I am not suggesting we stop putting announcements in the bulletin or cut back some other information vehicle. I am merely suggesting we put these digital tools to their full use.

Next time: Pride: The Source of it All

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