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

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Church Leadership Corruption: Discussion 8 Conclusions and Solutions

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 8: Conclusions and Solutions -- Saturday, July 31


A.   Conclusions and Solutions

We can keep ourselves and our own houses in order.

Elder Donald L. Hallstrom tell us:

If you feel you have been wronged—by anyone (a family member, a friend, another member of the Church, a Church leader, a business associate) or by anything (the death of a loved one, health problems, a financial reversal, abuse, addictions)—deal with the matter directly and with all the strength you have.

He adds later:

Never let an earthly circumstance disable you spiritually. Donald L. Hallstrom, “Turn to the Lord,” Ensign, May 2010, 78–80.

We do not have control over what we are subjected to; but we can use our own power, authority, influence, money or information righteously. And, we also have control over how we react to what is imposed on us.

We are in charge of whether we walk the road of apostasy. In order to do His Will; we have to know what it is, then we have to do it.

We should avidly seek to implement authorized changes and to fear God more than we fear men. It is crucial that we be honest in all our dealings.

Making seemingly innocuous or unimportant changes in how the Lord has instructed his Church to operate is as much apostasy as making momentous changes. The only difference is the speed with which the changes take place.

We should seek to be inclusionary in all our Church responsibilities. Social cliques, generation gaps and other distinctions are not of God and have no place in his Church.

We should faithfully seek to serve and seek to make our service, in the Church and of the Church, anonymous, so far as we are able. Those that do not have already received their reward. (Matthew 6). 

We must also be humble. 

Real corruption in others is not for individual members to expose, identify or correct outside of official channels. Corruption in the Church is corruption in Church members, by its very definition.

This is a top down organization, not a true hierarchy, and should not be made into such. A democracy is a bottom-up system where the government gets its power and authority “from the people.” This is not where the Church’s power and authority comes from. It is appropriately a top-down organization and will always remain such.

Unfortunately, the Lord has had to constantly designate outside prophets to call corrupt people and corrupt Church leaders to repentance. This is what Lehi and Abinadi did.

There may have been others testifying against corruption at the same time, the difference would be that instead of being “called of God” they were called by themselves. I count myself among them. These blog postings are mine and this blog is a personal one.

I would caution you not to discount my ideas; just because you consider yourself faithful, have a current temple recommend and are worthy to hold Church callings. Wickedness or unrighteousness is not the absence of religion. It can be quite the opposite. Priestcrafts generally exist under the guise of religion. Communities such as the Zoramites and Amulonites built Churches, had Church leaders and some semblance of religious worship, despite their extreme wickedness.

The Church itself will not apostatize, so we can be confident that our leaders at the top can be relied on. But individuals are just as prone to apostasy as they ever were. We must guard against it by focusing on the scriptures, revelation from modern prophets and the guidance and counsel we receive from righteous Church leaders.

Sadly, I suspect much of the fallout from this series of blog postings will consist of nothing more than “shoot the messenger”, even if people can get past a knee-jerk reaction to the title and actually read what I have posted.

Only in a time of extreme apostasy, would it seem radical, controversial, or cause me to be labeled a trouble maker; because I advocate following the scriptures, modern Church prophets and their policies, guidelines and procedures.

I have one last suggestion to make that I have not covered previously: We should not fail to realize when a moral decision is necessary.

Yes, you have authority and power to do something, but should you? Should you have this activity? Should you have this event? Should this be done this way? Should we teach in this manner? Should we treat a person or persons this way?

We should be constantly asking ourselves these questions and more. We should not just kick into automatic pilot, doing what we have always done or others have always done. We need to examine the moral implications of all our actions and behaviors.

We should not cede this moral decision making responsibility to our leaders. We cannot say to ourselves that they are our leaders and we can let them decide what is right and what is wrong. I suspect that many of the people who took part in the Mountain Meadows Massacre assumed their local stake and unit leaders were acting properly and relied on this as a comfort. We should not make this mistake.

If a stake or unit leader told me to do something I knew was wrong, I would not do it. In fact, I have refused on occasion, and requested I be released as a result. I will not do something I know is counter to the Scriptures, instruction by prophets or against the policies and procedures of the Church, primarily the Handbook. I refuse to violate any of them even if I know a stake or unit leader will let me.

Elder Koelliker makes another statement we need to take to heart:
Studying and applying the righteous patterns of leadership, service, and worship taught in the scriptures will help our homes become sanctuaries of safety and fortresses of faith for our precious loved ones. May we have the wisdom in our leadership roles to shun our own reflection and instead seek to radiate the light of the Savior. 
It is our choice. We have the ability to act. Let us choose humility, a broken heart, a contrite spirit – the opposites of pride. I will close with further quotes from Elder Benson’s address on pride.

God will have a humble people. Either we can choose to be humble or we can be compelled to be humble. Alma said, “Blessed are they who humble themselves without being compelled to be humble.” (Alma 32:16.)

Let us choose to be humble.
We can choose to humble ourselves by conquering enmity toward our brothers and sisters, esteeming them as ourselves, and lifting them as high or higher than we are. (See D&C 38:24; D&C 81:5; D&C 84:106.)

We can choose to humble ourselves by receiving counsel and chastisement. (See Jacob 4:10; Hel. 15:3; D&C 63:55; D&C 101:4–5; D&C 108:1; D&C 124:61, 84; D&C 136:31; Prov. 9:8.)

We can choose to humble ourselves by forgiving those who have offended us. (See 3 Ne. 13:11, 14; D&C 64:10.)

We can choose to humble ourselves by rendering selfless service. (See Mosiah 2:16–17.)
We can choose to humble ourselves by going on missions and preaching the word that can humble others. (See Alma 4:19; Alma 31:5; Alma 48:20.)

We can choose to humble ourselves by getting to the temple more frequently.
We can choose to humble ourselves by confessing and forsaking our sins and being born of God. (See D&C 58:43; Mosiah 27:25–26; Alma 5:7–14, 49.)

We can choose to humble ourselves by loving God, submitting our will to His, and putting Him first in our lives. (See 3 Ne. 11:11; 3 Ne. 13:33; Moro. 10:32.)

Let us choose to be humble. We can do it. I know we can.
I know we can too. I hope we do.

This series is now complete.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Church Leadership Corruption: Discussion 7 Pride: The Source of it All

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.


Pride: The Source of it All

Pride is really the bottom line here. President Bensen captured so many facets of pride in his classic address: Ezra Taft Benson, “Beware of Pride,” Ensign, May 1989, 4. Unless otherwise noted, all the quotes below come from this talk. 
Think of what pride has cost us in the past and what it is now costing us in our own lives, our families, and the Church.
 Pride is the great stumbling block to Zion. I repeat: Pride is the great stumbling block to Zion.
 We must cleanse the inner vessel by conquering pride. (See Alma 6:2–4Matt. 23:25–26.) 
Cleansing the inner vessel is my intent in writing this polemic. In further guidance, Elder Benson states: 
The Doctrine and Covenants tells us that the Book of Mormon is the “record of a fallen people.” (D&C 20:9.) Why did they fall? This is one of the major messages of the Book of Mormon. Mormon gives the answer in the closing chapters of the book in these words: “Behold, the pride of this nation, or the people of the Nephites, hath proven their destruction.” (Moro. 8:27.) And then, lest we miss that momentous Book of Mormon message from that fallen people, the Lord warns us in the Doctrine and Covenants, “Beware of pride, lest ye become as the Nephites of old.” (D&C 38:39.) 
Pride caused the Book of Mormon people to fall. It can cause us to fall as well. Let’s look at the various facets of pride and compare them to the points I have brought up. 
Most of us think of pride as self-centeredness, conceit, boastfulness, arrogance, or haughtiness. All of these are elements of the sin, but the heart, or core, is still missing.
 The central feature of pride is enmity—enmity toward God and enmity toward our fellowmen. Enmity means “hatred toward, hostility to, or a state of opposition.” It is the power by which Satan wishes to reign over us. 
Enmity toward God and outr fellow men means we are hostile or in opposition to them in some manner. Corrupt Church leaders can be hostile or in opposition to those directing their actions, or hostile or in opposition to those who receive their actions. 
When we direct our pride toward God, it is in the spirit of “my will and not thine be done.” As Paul said, they “seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.” (Philip. 2:21.) 
Without enmity, we would be scrupulous about following the scriptures, modern prophets and their directions. We would never want to be at odds with them in any way. We would seek to know and follow all relevant instructions. Personal decision making would not come into play, unless one is simply trying to apply divine guidance in something where some ambiguity exists. Where ambiguity does exist, we would seek His Will rather than our own. 
Another major portion of this very prevalent sin of pride is enmity toward our fellowmen. We are tempted daily to elevate ourselves above others and diminish them. (See Hel. 6:17D&C 58:41.) 
One of the most oft-observed failures of leadership comes when we place too much emphasis on being recognized as a leader. Thinking that we are more important than others can be perilous to us and to those we lead. It is vital that we not become trapped by the enticement of recognition or adulation.
 President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) counseled: “It is so very important that you do not let praise and adulation go to your head. Adulation is poison. You better never lose sight of the fact that the Lord put you where you are according to His design, which you don’t understand. Acknowledge the Lord for whatever good you can accomplish and give Him the credit and the glory and [do] not worry about that coming to yourself. If you can do that, you’ll get along all right and [you] will go forward with a love for the people and a great respect for them and [you will] try to accomplish what your office demands of you.”1 
Leadership titles in the Church are generally only temporary and we will yield them up regularly to others. Having the title does not make us righteous leaders any more than Eli’s did. Our actions while holding the title do. Our concerns should center in being worthy and acting worthy of the title. Seeking and valuing any praise or acclaim can derail us and the success of our otherwise worthy efforts. 
In the words of C. S. Lewis: “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. … It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. 
Emphasizing one’s title, seeking acclaim for oneself, using position to acquire resources and privileges in order to make comments like, “It was such a privilege to attend [insert event name], be in [insert person’s name]’s presence, experience this event etc., is simply emphasizing that you have had access to something than someone else did not. You should not be advertising to other members what you received or experienced and they did not, especially when your motive is simply to engender jealousy because of your favored position or privileges. 
In the pre-earthly council, Lucifer placed his proposal in competition with the Father’s plan as advocated by Jesus Christ. (See Moses 4:1–3.) He wished to be honored above all others. (See 2 Ne. 24:13.) 
Satan’s plan called for him to receive all the glory. Christ’s plan would give all the glory to Heavenly Father. It is interesting that Satan was jockeying for the glory before the deed was even done. It suggests he valued the glory more than the deed. People now seek glory and give the deed short shrift, sometimes even masking over the failure of their effort, because the glory is most important to them, not the deed intended to have produced it. 
It was through pride that Christ was crucified. The Pharisees were wroth because Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, which was a threat to their position, and so they plotted His death. (See John 11:53.) 
For the Pharisees to have embraced Jesus as the true Christ, it would have up-ended their world badly. They would no longer have had their exalted position in the Jewish religion or the Jewish society. When Christ found fault with what they had done, it was even more of an affront. His teachings criticized, minimized and declared corrupted the very practices they had sought so hard to set up. To abandon them would be an admission they had been wrong. Admitting wrong-doing is not something easy for the proud. 
Saul became an enemy to David through pride. He was jealous because the crowds of Israelite women were singing that “Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” (1 Sam. 18:6–8.) 
Here is out-right competition between two military leaders. When the people seemed to elevate David over Saul, in Saul’s mind at least, he exerted effort to tear down his rival. It is plausible that both men’s military successes served God’s purposes. Once Saul made David his target then God’s purposes suffered. 
The proud stand more in fear of men’s judgment than of God’s judgment. (See D&C 3:6–7D&C 30:1–2D&C 60:2.) “What will men think of me?” weighs heavier than “What will God think of me?”
 Fear of men’s judgment manifests itself in competition for men’s approval. The proud love “the praise of men more than the praise of God.” (John 12:42–43.) 
Efforts to cook the book or skew statistics in our favor suggests that men’s judgment weight heavier than God’s. Heavenly Father knows the truth, even though distortions can muddle men’s knowledge. All the elaborate food, decoration, music and other money excesses discussed cannot possibly be for Heavenly Father’s benefit. The objective is obviously men’s approval, not Heavenly Father's. 
When pride has a hold on our hearts, we lose our independence of the world and deliver our freedoms to the bondage of men’s judgment. The world shouts louder than the whisperings of the Holy Ghost. The reasoning of men overrides the revelations of God, and the proud let go of the iron rod. (See 1 Ne. 8:19–281 Ne. 11:251 Ne. 15:23–24.) 
Pride is a sin that can readily be seen in others but is rarely admitted in ourselves. Most of us consider pride to be a sin of those on the top, such as the rich and the learned, looking down at the rest of us. (See2 Ne. 9:42.) There is, however, a far more common ailment among us—and that is pride from the bottom looking up. It is manifest in so many ways, such as faultfinding, gossiping, backbiting, murmuring, living beyond our means, envying, coveting, withholding gratitude and praise that might lift another, and being unforgiving and jealous. 
This bottom-up pride is largely what tears stakes and units apart. Of all the ways I have discussed how local leader corruption can manifest itself and cause discord, discord often exists because of the temporarily non-called leaders who murmur, find fault, gossip and otherwise undermine a leader – whether the leader is good or bad. 
Disobedience is essentially a prideful power struggle against someone in authority over us. It can be a parent, a priesthood leader, a teacher, or ultimately God. A proud person hates the fact that someone is above him. He thinks this lowers his position. 
Selfishness is one of the more common faces of pride. “How everything affects me” is the center of all that matters—self-conceit, self-pity, worldly self-fulfillment, self-gratification, and self-seeking. 
People primarily concerned with self care little if others are being oppressed, forgotten, minimized or otherwise marginalized; as long as they themselves are happy with things. They care little if others are not fully informed of activities or given the opportunity to participate. 
Another face of pride is contention. Arguments, fights, unrighteous dominion, generation gaps, divorces, spouse abuse, riots, and disturbances all fall into this category of pride. 
It is interesting that “generation gaps” is mentioned. Young Single Adults and especially children are often forgotten or rendered second-class members. Christ’s behavior on this earth, his teachings, his visit to the Nephites in the new world all stand as a witness that he did not consider them of secondary importance. In fact, the opposite is true. In the pre-earth or post-earth life there is no reason to consider them secondary. Our cultural mores that still hold children to be less important than adults should be set aside. 
The scriptures testify that the proud are easily offended and hold grudges. (See 1 Ne. 16:1–3.) They withhold forgiveness to keep another in their debt and to justify their injured feelings. 
The proud do not receive counsel or correction easily. (See Prov. 15:10Amos 5:10.) Defensiveness is used by them to justify and rationalize their frailties and failures. (See Matt. 3:9John 6:30–59.) 
Pride is a damning sin in the true sense of that word. It limits or stops progression. (See Alma 12:10–11.) The proud are not easily taught. (See 1 Ne. 15:3, 7–11.) They won’t change their minds to accept truths, because to do so implies they have been wrong. 
I almost despair in trying to appeal to proud leaders. The tendency is to discount what I say, condemn me for saying it and cling even tighter to what they have been doing. The proud dig in and stay put. I have learned over the years that this is a dangerous mind set.

This can often be gauged by how people react to having their urban legends, feel good stories and faith promoting rumors they constantly email around to people refuted. In the early days of the Internet I corrected a somewhat distant cousin of mine. This person sent me an email profusely thanking me for sending the truth and immediately sent out a retraction to everyone who had received the original email. Since that time, this person’s reaction has been my model for how to deal with this. It amazes me how many people who have been corrected by me and others defiantly continue to send these same types of stories out and sometimes even the same stories multiple times. Also, some of them are very mad at me for correcting their misinformation. They simply do not want to deal with the truth.

An excellent scriptural example of how to react to correction is Alma when he heard the words of Abinadi. (See Mosiah 17). Alma listened, changed his own behavior, and encouraged others to do the same. Whatever pride he had as one of King Noah’s priests, he swallowed it. His transformation became complete. As a result, he lost his religious and secular positions and titles. He almost lost his life. We should be guided by his example. 
The proud depend upon the world to tell them whether they have value or not. Their self-esteem is determined by where they are judged to be on the ladders of worldly success. They feel worthwhile as individuals if the numbers beneath them in achievement, talent, beauty, or intellect are large enough. Pride is ugly. It says, “If you succeed, I am a failure.”
 If we love God, do His will, and fear His judgment more than men’s, we will have self-esteem. 
Let us work to ensure that our self-esteem has the proper foundation. 
Pride adversely affects all our relationships—our relationship with God and His servants, between husband and wife, parent and child, employer and employee, teacher and student, and all mankind. Our degree of pride determines how we treat our God and our brothers and sisters. Christ wants to lift us to where He is. Do we desire to do the same for others? 
Pride fades our feelings of sonship to God and brotherhood to man. It separates and divides us by “ranks,” according to our “riches” and our “chances for learning.” (3 Ne. 6:12.) Unity is impossible for a proud people, and unless we are one we are not the Lord’s. (See Mosiah 18:21D&C 38:27D&C 105:2–4Moses 7:18.) 
In a recent talk Elder Claudio D. Zivic remarked, “Conflicts between Church members can also lead to apostasy.” Claudio D. Zivic, “Avoiding Personal Apostasy,” Ensign, June 2009, 26–27.

In the Teachings of Joseph Smith manual there are several quotes that are a bit different from what usually gets referred to: 
Orson Hyde, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, reported: “Joseph the Prophet … said, ‘Brethren, remember that the majority of this people will never go astray; and as long as you keep with the majority you are sure to enter the celestial kingdom.’ ”16
 William G. Nelson reported: “I have heard the Prophet speak in public on many occasions. In one meeting I heard him say: ‘I will give you a key that will never rust,—if you will stay with the majority of the Twelve Apostles, and the records of the Church, you will never be led astray.’ The history of the Church has proven this to be true.”17
 Ezra T. Clark remembered: “I heard the Prophet Joseph say that he would give the Saints a key whereby they would never be led away or deceived, and that was: The Lord would never suffer a majority of this people to be led away or deceived by imposters, nor would He allow the records of this Church to fall into the hands of the enemy.”18 “Chapter 27: Beware the Bitter Fruits of Apostasy,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, (2007),315–26. 
We have the fullness of the gospel. We have extensive and thorough guidelines from modern prophets. There is no reason for us to go astray, except for pride.

Next time: Conclusions and Solutions



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