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, November 30, 2013

Treasure in Heaven is Now a Treasure Online!

Treasure in Heaven: The John Tanner Story touched me in a way few stories have. I wrote about it on January 8, 2011 on this blog.

I've just updated that blog posting because I just found the movie on the Church's website and available for downloading, sharing, linking, etc.

This is some of the best news I've heard all year! If you are unfamiliar with it, be sure and see it.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Are We Creating Mormon Celebrities?

The question is really two fold. Are we creating Mormon celebrities? And, if we are, is that good, or bad?

I think we are creating Mormon celebrities and I think it is bad.

I have nothing against Time Out For Women or Especially For Youth or other things like that. However, when I see people like John Bytheway flanked by colorful banners and people lined up to get his autograph, it just doesn't sit right with me.

I'm using John Bytheway as an example because I actually think highly of him. He has a way of extracting lessons from scripture that make them relevant, interesting and insightful. He seems to have a gift for it.

Of more concern, is the people and entities promoting him in the way they are. We shouldn't be peddling religious ideas like we peddle soap. It's just not right.

Shouldn't we be celebrating the ideas, the action taken or the unique insights we obtain rather than the person? Heavenly Father can use many conduits to speak truth, but they are still conduits.

With much of my academic training in management, all these events and all these speakers remind me of management seminars or motivational seminars. It is a lot of rah rah and not a lot of substance. Everything is packaged well and people feel good, but not much else actually gets accomplished. The following story from President Uchtdorf is instructive:
When I was called as a General Authority, I was blessed to be tutored by many of the senior Brethren in the Church. One day I had the opportunity to drive President James E. Faust to a stake conference. During the hours we spent in the car, President Faust took the time to teach me some important principles about my assignment. He explained also how gracious the members of the Church are, especially to General Authorities. He said, “They will treat you very kindly. They will say nice things about you.” He laughed a little and then said, “Dieter, be thankful for this. But don’t you ever inhale it.”
That is a good lesson for us all, brethren, in any calling or life situation. We can be grateful for our health, wealth, possessions, or positions, but when we begin to inhale it—when we become obsessed with our status; when we focus on our own importance, power, or reputation; when we dwell upon our public image and believe our own press clippings—that’s when the trouble begins; that’s when pride begins to corrupt.
Apparently, Elder Faust was reviewing something he was taught by Elder Hugh B. Brown:

Thank you, President Price, for those kind remarks. President Hugh B. Brown once told me, “It’s all right to hear these nice things about you, as long as you don’t inhale.” 
There is danger for us if we are involved with promoting religious ideas and people this way.

There is danger for us if we are the ones being promoted in this way.

There is danger for us if we are buying religious ideas being promoted in this way.

There is absolutely zero scriptural support for these types of efforts and a great deal of instruction opposing it. Jesus Christ did most of his good deeds and miracles in a quiet, unobtrusive way. He castigated his apostles for trying to figure out who among them was the most important. Righteous leaders always gave credit to God, trying to deflect attention away from themselves.

Truly righteous people do not try to attract attention to themselves personally. It just doesn't happen. Having entities like Deseret Book and BYU involved doesn't legitimize what is inherently wrong.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Things Aren't Bad Everywhere

Some people have expressed astonishment over some of the things I've revealed about how the church operates in places I've lived. They said they've never encountered anything like it. I believe them and I find their remarks encouraging.

I would hate to think my experiences are typical of the church everywhere. I'm not sure I could handle things if they were, so your stories and incredulous reactions are appreciated.

I've pondered on how things like this could happen. I'll proffer a few of my theories:

1. The church is more spread out.

Along the Mormon corridor, wards and stakes are relatively close together. It was easy to find out what was happening elsewhere and correct wrong-doing if it appeared.

Where things are spread out, we don't have any knowledge of other wards and stakes. There is less knowledge of what others are doing. I think it is harder to know and correct what is going on that shouldn't.

2. There are fewer examples of how things should be done.

Along the Mormon corridor, there are plenty of terrific examples of people being conscientious, upstanding and magnifying their callings.

In some of the places I've lived, there are only people who have lived there all their lives. Nobody moves in, although some move out. There are fewer exemplars, fewer people to use as examples of how things can be done and how things should be done.

I've always appreciated the Mormon transplants in some of my far-flung wards. They often provide the examples that less mature members need for how things should be done.

Granted, Mormon transplants sometimes brings bad habits with them, like extreme materialism, for example. However, generally speaking their examples are positive.

With almost no other units available for comparison, wards and stakes can get lulled into thinking they are doing okay when they aren't. I think that is the main problem with my current ward. I don't think anyone truly realizes how bad things are.

3. Wrong doing isn't as easily spotted.

In one of my units, my husband and I were driving around one day and happened to spot a priesthood leader showing inappropriate intimacy with a woman, not his wife, as they exited his vehicle and entered the liquor store. Obviously, we were pretty startled and reported it to the powers that be.

We just happened to see it. There were no church members currently living in this community. He obviously thought he could get away with it, because the likelihood of being observed by anyone connected to church was so remote.

I don't want anyone to think that people are more righteous along the Mormon corridor. That is not my argument at all. The very best, and the very worst Mormons I've ever seen all lived in Utah. There is a wide variety of people there. I've not experienced this wide variety in the far-flung, small, isolated units I've lived in. People tend to be more homogeneous in these areas.

Are online tools the answer?

I think online tools could help to unify things and heal some of these problems. However, they are being resisted.

The online tools threaten the grip of local leaders who misuse their power. For example, if local leaders do not enable or encourage people to use online tools, then the Church will never be able to directly email it's own members. Also, the church will have to rely on reports from local leaders, whereas if more activities were online, they would be able to get information directly from members themselves.

Without online tools, local leaders serve as a conduit for information to church headquarters. With online tools, the church can interact with its members directly. This could weaken local leaders' power.

For example, I've read where the church is beta testing a program where home teaching and visiting teaching reports are entered by the people online instead of through others. If this is true, it could help correct problems.

Recently, we were told that when our full-time missionaries contact members or inactives, that would be counted as home-teaching visits. This would have artificially inflated our abysmal ward statistics, especially because all of our missionaries, seniors and elders, are all from the Mormon corridor and are extremely conscientious.

Well, this system got shut-down pretty fast this time, although other irregularities still persist. At least someone was able to correct this before it got too well-entrenched. If it had taken hold at all, I'm convinced it would have been continued indefinitely and everyone would have morphed into thinking that this is how things should be done.

If reports were directly entered online, then these shenanigans are much less likely to get started, or persist.

Online tools ma may not be the full answer to these problems, but it's one answer.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Bizarre Experiences in Mormondom: Not That Unusual . . .

My last posting resulted in some strong feelings. I have somewhat avoided posting direct criticisms of my current ward, but I'll tell you some undisputed, accurate statistics:

  • 1. More than 3/4's of my ward is inactive.
  • 2. Our home teaching and visiting teaching  is either non-existent or less than 10 percent.

These facts are well known.

There are many theories about why, but there is one cause that is well known and undisputed: personal differences among family members and former family members.

I knew some of this before moving into the ward because we have lived in two other units in this stake. People darkly suggested other problems in the ward, but would give us no details. They would only infer that we might be "frustrated." Hmm.

For the record, in all my meanderings I have encountered the following viewpoints and practices in the many branches, wards and stakes I've been assigned, that I find troublesome:

- If you are active, you don't need a home teacher or visiting teacher and none will be assigned to you.

- Once every year, all church meetings are canceled after Sacrament meeting so that people can attend high school graduation.

- Church leaders can prohibit someone from attending church. Just meet them at the door and tell them they aren't welcome.


- The Relief Society room is under the sole jurisdiction of the Relief Society President. She doesn't have to let the Bishop and his counselors decide whether to hold the Gospel Doctrine Sunday School class in there if she doesn't want to. It's HER room.

- The Elder's Quorum, the High Priests and any other priesthood quorum and auxiliary have their own rooms and the rooms are for their sole use and benefit. No one else can use their space.


- People who have lived in the ward their whole lives are the important people. If you are new, you have no worth.

- All church guidance is in Handbook 1 and 2 in hard copy. There isn't any other guidance church members need to follow.


- Sometimes church policy can be ignored because the needs of actual people trump it. This includes using candles during a going away party for senior missionaries held in the cultural hall.

- Forget about teaching lessons, all church activity, especially in Young Men and Young Women, should be FUN!


- Young people NEED a church-sponsored and funded trip to Nauvoo, even if you have to spend much of the Stake budget to do it or raid every other unit auxiliary budget to do it.

I could go on, and on, and on . . .

Monday, September 16, 2013

You Should Opt Out of The Numbers Game!

On Sunday, one of the counselors in our Bishopric described something he now regrets. Some years ago, in  a prior calling, he was told to make certain that all priesthood members were assigned as home teachers and all members were assigned a home teacher.

In order to at least superficially comply with this, he assigned all the priesthood members who never did their home teaching as home teachers to all the members who never came to church.

Problem solved, right?

Numbers that can be easily fudged or manipulated should never be relied on. Numbers don't mean that much in the Church and they shouldn't be relied on as indicators of how well individuals or entities are doing.

Numbers can never really be used to determine the depth of someone's testimony or even the existence of it. They don't indicate if members are being fellowshipped, loved or served.

Sending a card to a visiting teachee as opposed to actual personal contact doesn't compare. And if you do show up for personal contact, but spend the whole time talking about yourself that's not really doing things properly either, even though it qualifies as a contact in the numbers game.

So, opt out of the numbers game and stop resorting to gimmicks to make it look like you are doing your spiritual work, when you really aren't. 

You are simply demonstrating that you fear men more than God and you aren't fooling Heavenly Father .

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Force People to be Good. It's for Their Own Good!

There seems to be a new trend in local church leadership. Instead of allowing people to volunteer for assignments or otherwise exercise their agency, people are now being assigned to do things.

Choice is no longer an option. People are assigned to do various acts of church work and they have no say in the matter.

What's more, local church leaders simply pull rank and say you have to obey me because I am (drumroll) your leader and I have authority to do what I do. If you voted to sustain me, then you have to do whatever I tell you to do.

This seems to have resulted from no one doing much of anything, resulting in horrendous local statistics. The answer is force and compulsion.

Force people to do church work. Force them to do their home teaching. Force them to do their visiting teaching. Force them to accompany the missionaries. Force them to come to class. Force them to accept a church position or assignment. Force! Force! Force!

Force people to be good. After all, it's for their own good.

If someone protests, simply assign someone else to take over their calling responsibilities and neuter the protester by undermining them.

If anyone questions a leader on these actions, tell them if they don't comply they will lose their Temple Recommend. That'll teach them. If for some strange reason it doesn't, then excommunicate them. Leaders have the authority and power to do it. After all, they can do whatever they want to do, right?

Some people have to learn these lessons. If they won't, we'll just force them to.

Question: Does anybody else have a problem with the above, except me?

Question: Does anybody else think this resembles Satan's plan in the pre-mortal life, except me?

Question: Does anybody else think this violates D&C 121: 37-41, except me?

Further Question: Does anybody else think this is unrighteous dominion, except me?

Elder Larry Y. Wilson:
We simply cannot force others to do the right thing. The scriptures make it clear that this is not God’s way. Compulsion builds resentment. It conveys mistrust, and it makes people feel incompetent. Learning opportunities are lost when controlling persons pridefully assume they have all the right answers for others. The scriptures say that “it is the nature and disposition of almost all men” to engage in this “unrighteous dominion,”5 so we should be aware that it’s an easy trap to fall into. Women too may exercise unrighteous dominion, though the scriptures identify the problem especially with men.
Elder M. Russell Ballard:
Those who hold the priesthood must never forget that they have no right to wield priesthood authority like a club over the heads of others in the family or in Church callings. The Lord told Joseph Smith that “when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man” (D&C 121:37).

In other words, any man who claims the special powers of heaven for his own selfish purposes and seeks to use the priesthood in any degree of unrighteousness in the Church or in the home simply does not understand the nature of his authority. Priesthood is for service, not servitude; compassion, not compulsion; caring, not control. Those who think otherwise are operating outside the parameters of priesthood authority.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

What Is Equality? How Can You Define It?

If  I'm not a feminist, does that mean I don't care about equality?

Hardly, I just think it is an awfully difficult concept to really get a handle on.

When I taught at the university level, I tried to describe to my students that reasonable people can differ on what equality means.

For example, if I brought a cake to class but stipulated that it had to be shared equally, what would result? Well, Initially students would say all the pieces had to be cut in pieces of similar proportions and everyone gets one.

Sounds good, right? Well, some students are very small people, some students are much larger. Should a five foot nothing student get the same size cake piece as a six feet five athlete? Is that equal? Is that fair?

Well, you can make the case that it isn't. My husband always share food equally with me. Sometimes he likes to give me more, especially things he knows I like. If this system goes on unchecked, I will probably end up weighing the same amount he does. I'm not sure I want this type of equality. I'll either have to refuse it or force him to be selfish.

What about students that aren't there the day I bring in the cake? Do they get a piece? Do we save them one? What if we have a visitor to the class? Do they get a piece of cake or is it only for regular, enrolled students?

What if somebody doesn't like the type of cake I brought? Do I have to provide some other sort of cake they do like? What if they can't eat it at all because they have allergies or a food intolerance. How do I allocate the cake resources if some of the students can't eat it?

What if someone's metabolism is slower than other people's. Metabolism can affect absorption. Absorption of the cake resources is going to be different for every student. Do we need to take that into consideration when equally dividing up the cake resources?

Decisions! Decisions!

I still like the football players idea of equality -- give everybody a fork! Equal access!

I might take these Mormon feminists demanding priesthood ordination, tickets to the General Priesthood Meeting and wearing pants to Church a little more seriously if I accepted their idea of equality.

I don't.

Why aren't they demanding men be allowed to be Relief Society President, Young Women President, etc.? Why aren't they lobbying to get rid of white shirts, ties and suits? Why aren't they demanding the dress spectrum be opened up for men and as broad as what women currently enjoy? Why aren't they demanding that men be given tickets to the General Relief Society meeting, or the General Young Women meeting? Why, Why, Why?

I think the answer is simple. They don't think responsibilities women have are as important as the responsibilities men have.

Not my idea of equality at all.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

My Advice to Mormon Feminists? Shut Up!

Will this tired issue never die? I've addressed it before, but feel obligated to address it again, simply because it dominates cyberspace.

I'm sick to death of feminists telling me I should be discontent.

I'm not.

I'll never be discontent, now or in the future.

All of us have to be content with what Heavenly Father has allotted to us. I'm content with it.

The Founding Fathers agreed that their deliberations would not see the light of day so that anybody could feel free to reverse themselves and change their minds. This technique, they felt, would ensure free and open debate as well as deep, honest deliberation.

Any discontent Mormon feminist that takes a public stand on this issue will have to stick to it or risk losing all credibility.

It doesn't make sense to carve your position in stone.

I think we all know enough about our social world that we know if Mormon feminists try and reverse themselves, the world won't let them.

However, if their position is currently consistent with the Church they can easily embrace feminism in the future and everyone will simply agree they finally saw the light.

Publicly embracing feminist thinking is simply a good way to kick yourself out of the Church. 

Personally, I wish they would just shut up.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Capernaum Cuneiform Chronicle

Capernaum Cuneiform Chronicle
Vol. 1 Issue #2
45 A.D.


Bishopric Message

We want you to know that we love each and every one of you each and every day. As we progress in the Lord's work we need to remember the love he has for each and every one of us. In the world, there will be trials and tribulations. Each and every one of us will experience trials and tribulations each and every day. Stay close to the Lord and you will be able to overcome each and every one of these trials and tribulations.

Ward Activity

Next Friday, we will be holding the annual swimming party. It will be the same place we always have it at the usual time. The same sisters that usually bring the food will be bringing it this time too. If you want to bring something, let them know. Since the ward is getting a little gray, we will have a special place for you stash your walkers, canes and wheel chairs. If you have a scooter, make sure it can go through mud since the area isn't paved and the beach can get a bit wet. If you need directions, ask somebody, but it's pretty easy. Just turn left at the old inn and take a right where Bro. Barabbas used to live before he died.  Take the exit next to where Sis. Joshabel lived before she died. Continue until you see the water. You can't miss it. Bring oxygen tanks and floaties if you have them. Scouts will be on hand to assist with CPR. Some still need to be certified. Hopefully we will have enough scouting leaders available to supervise.

Notice

Please be sure and clean the synagogue on your assigned week. The schedule was made a year ago and if you are new you aren't on it. Just remember to do all the assigned tasks. There might be a list of tasks somewhere in the custodian's closet. You'll have to get a key from someone in the Bishopric. The key will open the building but you will have to get a key from somebody else to open the custodian's closet. If you need a cleaning schedule you might be able to get a tablet from someone who got one a year ago but we don't know who that might be. Trade with somebody else if you can't clean on your assigned week.

Instructions On Library Use

Sister Drusilla wants everyone to remember that they need to get her announcements for the Sacrament Tablet at least six months in advance. It will take that long for her to inscribe them all by hand. (Her arthritis is acting up a bit.) She'll try and get back on a better schedule in the future and only require four months. If you need tablets or other visual resources, please give Bro. Barnabas plenty of notice so he can inscribe them for you. He only needs about a month advance notice. If someone has the key to the library, please let Sister Drusilla know, she hasn't been able to get in it for about two months.

Parking Issues

Some of you have not been taking your camels potty before they are parked. Camel urine's syrupy texture makes it very difficult to remove from the tar in the parking lot. Children are bringing it into the synagogue on their sandals. Please remember to take care of your camels before you park them. Camel's can hold onto a great deal during the three hour block. There is no need for them to relieve themselves while parked. We appreciate your discretion on this matter.

THE END

(Capernaum 7th Ward Grapevine)


"Why are we still using clay tablets? Everybody else shifted to papyrus a long time ago. If we had, Sis. Drusilla wouldn't need six months to carve the Sacrament Tablets. Information is outdated long before six months. This is so silly." Bro. Eleazar

"I agree with Bro. Eleazar, but perhaps we could accommodate the old-timers by commissioning mosaics instead of making the leap directly to papayrus." Bro. Jachin

"Why do we always have to consume copious amounts of food? Couldn't we plan a service activity instead of always having a social event with tons of food?" Sis. Milka

"Activities would not be successful if we didn't provide food. Anybody that's anybody knows that. Every time I've served as Stake Relief Society President, Ward Relief Society President, Stake Young Women's President, Ward Young Women's President, Stake Primary President and Ward Primary President we always provide food at events. People expect food and they probably won't come without it. Every time my husband has served as Stake President, Bishop, in the High Council, Elder's Quorum President and High Priest's Group Leader we always plan food. It's necessary." Sis. Zipporah

"Well, I was reflecting on the life of Jesus Christ. After one of his miraculous feedings of the multitude, they followed him, but Christ said they only wanted the food, not his teachings. Here's the reference in John 6:26-27:
Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.
Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed."
I just think there might be a modern day application for this reference. If people only come for the food, are they coming for the right reason?" Sis. MIlka

"Sis. Milka, I think you need to repent. You are on the high road to apostasy when you question your leaders. I will pray for you and your lost, demented soul." Sis. Zipporah 

"Sisters, perhaps we can just agree to disagree?" Sis. Dorcas

"Sister Milka doesn't have to go to activities if she doesn't want to. Everyone is free to make their own choices. That is what makes the gospel so wonderful!" Sister Damaris, Solace Society President, Sister Susanna and Sister Rhoda, Counselors.

"Papyrus is still the best option, but I'm willing to advance to mosaics for the time being." Bro. Jachin

"Camel Continence Classes have been going on now for five months. We really didn't need to include the parking issue thing. It's old news. Maybe we should shift to papyrus."Bro. Reuel

See prior issues of the Capernaum Cuneiform Chronicle
Vol. 1 Issue #1

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Ethical Issues That Aren't Overt: Moral Decision Making in Mormondom #9

(This is an occasional series that discusses normative questions. Too often we do not consider the inferences and implications of what we do. In short, we fail to realize when a moral decision is necessary. This occasional series will do so. Readers are encouraged to pose their own questions and views in the comment forum.)

Sometimes we wander into ethical quandaries that aren't obvious. I could cite numerous examples, but I'm primarily concerned with one category: priesthood power.

Local leaders are often under intense pressure to perform, whether it's imposed by themselves or by other leaders. Usually it is an effort to improve statistics. Sometimes their answer to this dilemma is to impose requirements on those underneath them. It can often take the following forms:

  • Assigning people to accompany the missionaries in their activities.
  • Requiring people to provide food for an activity.
  • Pulling rank and telling members they should obey you, because you are their priesthood authority.
  • Usurping responsibilities of someone else's calling.
The last example has a business equivalent, it's called "doing an end run." People that allow others to pull an end run around another person are assisting in unrighteousness.

For example, if a local leader starts instructing the missionaries directly, bypassing the Mission Leader, this is misuse of priesthood power. If the missionaries, or others, allow this to happen, they are assisting in unrighteousness.

What do these examples have in common? Answer: force, compulsion, loss of agency, etc.

Often, it doesn't occur to people that they are being little dictators or that their methods mirror Satan's plan (D&C 29:36Moses 4:1–4Abr. 3:27–28). However, they are and it does.

Priesthood power should only be exercised under the conditions made explicit in Doctrine & Covenants 121:41.
No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
This is further explained in the Handbook of Instructions, 2.4.3 Exercising Priesthood Authority Righteously:
The priesthood should be used to bless the lives of others. Effective priesthood leaders preside in love and kindness. They do not try to force their will upon others. Rather, they counsel with others and try to come to a consensus through revelation. The Lord has said that the power of the priesthood cannot be used except in righteousness (see D&C 121:36). The proper use of the priesthood is by persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, sincere love, and kindness (see D&C 121:36, 41–42). If a man tries to abuse priesthood power, “the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man” (D&C 121:37).
Whenever a leader over you says, in essence, do this because I said so, you can be sure that person is exercising unrighteous dominion. If a leader tries to force you to do something, or somehow takes away your agency, that is unrighteous dominion. We all know this is a common tendency. See Doctrine & Covenants 121:39:
We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.
Stop thinking that you are an exception and start evaluating what you are doing, what you have done and what you will do in the future. Don't let these problems creep into your behavior without you noticing. If they already have, then reverse course, FAST.

If you have used priesthood power unrighteously, you need to repent. That includes apologizing to those you alienated, dictated to, forced something on, did an end run around, etc. If others witnessed your action, you need to come clean with them too, not just those who were directly injured by you.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

They Are Looking For It . . .


Apparently, Some Mormons Search the Web and Find Doubt. Articles like this irritate me, but not for the reasons you might think.

The reasons people apostatize never seem to change. It is the same old, same old. These are the same tired issues people have been apostatizing over for decades. None of this is new. It isn't new for the Internet either. All of this stuff has existed for a long time.

The face of apostasy never really changes. I have no reason to even revisit this issue. I covered it all in a prior post entitled, Church History and Limitations of Historical Research.

I'm even irritated by the reporter. A reporter for the New York Times should know better than to refer to the Church as the "Mormon Church." This is poor reporting.


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Used Gum Morality Analogy: Stop Using It!

Ever since Elizabeth Smart spoke out about how her morality lessons affected her ability to value herself after her kidnapping and rapes, I've been thinking about this issue. And, I keep getting angrier and angrier.

I had to endure the "used gum" analogy as well as the "mangled flower" and other similar analogies. These teachings occurred in church lessons and private conversations. I could see the problem in the analogy then. It bothered me. It bothered me a lot.

However, my 9th grade Seminary teacher countered all these flawed teachings. He told us that he didn't like those analogies. Because of the Atonement, we weren't forever altered, damaged or flawed by what we repented of or what was done to us. The gum was perfect, the flower was flawless and bored holes in the block of wood were pristine.

Any prior damage had been completely removed. We were whole. We were clean. We were without sin. It was as if nothing had happened. That was the Atonement's gift to us.

I was a youngster many years ago. What I want to know is why was this flawed teaching still being taught during Elizabeth Smart's childhood?

Why haven't thinking people countered this?

Why haven't people spoken up?

My Seminary teacher fixed the problem for me back in the 1970s. I'm grateful to him. He did me, and many others, a great service. Someone should have done the same for Elizabeth, or else not taught the flawed concept in the first place.

Friday, July 12, 2013

I Am the New Site Guide on lds.about.com!

I've been selected as the new Guide for http://lds.about.com/

About.com is a New York Times company. It is a resource for every imaginable subject. They have chosen me to "guide" the "Latter-day Saints" site. Technically, I am now a journalist. I will update the site and write articles remotely. It is an online job.

I will continue to post on this blog, just more regularly, I hope. The evaluation process for my About.com job has kept me busy for many weeks now and interfered with my regularly blogging.

I'm referring my blog readers to lds.about.com but I am NOT referring my lds.about.com readers to this blog. Their purposes are different and I am keeping them separate.


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Fun, Fun and More Fun!

Why are we constantly planning social events?

Most are poorly conceived, poorly executed and poorly attended. Fundamentally, they have nothing to do with spreading the gospel, strengthening members or redeeming the dead.

People seem to justify them under the guise of strengthening members although it is debatable that they succeed at that most of the time. Social  cliques form, some people get shut out and many are uncomfortable.

Our society of constant entertainment has pervaded the Church and all we emphasize anymore is entertainment.

Church is ill-suited to deliver entertainment. Church is well-suited to church.

When I served in the single adults at the stake level, I came to the conclusion that social events were pointless. You won't get an 18 year old and an 80 year old at the same social event. What they did have in common was their spiritual needs. Also, if you are single, you end up living a selfish life unless you seek out service.

So, I focused on firesides and service events. Ages blend well at these events. Besides, socializing goes on anyway and personal social events can result from people meeting up.

I'm not suggesting all social events should be retired. I just don't think they should dominate the agenda like they do now. I don't think anyone in our current society is in danger of having too little recreation. We aren't like past generations that worked all the time.

No one should be put on a guilt trip if they don't come to a social event. For me, the decision is often preparing my lesson or attending a social event. I prepare my Sunday lesson.

Social events seem so programmed into our mindset now that nobody questions them. Well, I'm questioning them. This position won't make me popular, but popularity isn't the aim of my existence.

I'll just continue to cry from the wilderness.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Violence at Church: Should It Come to Blows?

I hope I'm not the only one disturbed by this.

An article on KSL entitled, "Man arrested for assault after saved seats taken at church" documents a recent violent episode that occurred during and after church in Utah. Here's the coverage in the Salt Lake Tribune.

An altercation over saved seats in the chapel turned into a physical argument where blows were exchanged and one individual hit the other with a vehicle.

From the article:
"(Dodge) ended up throwing a couple of punches and striking this individual. He had some blood coming from his face, so he went inside the church to clean up. And when he exited the church, (Dodge) was in his car. I guess there was another confrontation," Lowther said.
Investigators say Dodge then hit the man with his vehicle.
"Ultimately, the victim ended up on the hood of the car," he said. "(Dodge) exited the vehicle and some other people that attended the church service restrained him. And I don't know how, but he ultimately ended up in the bishop's office until law enforcement arrived."
Is there any precedent for this sort of behavior? I think there is in Alma 1:
9 Now, because Gideon withstood him with the words of God he was wroth with Gideon, and drew his sword and began to smite him. Now Gideon being stricken with many years, therefore he was not able to withstand his blows, therefore he was slain by the sword.
22 Nevertheless, there were many among them who began to be proud, and began to contend warmly with their adversaries, even unto blows; yea, they would smite one another with their fists.

If the violence was entirely one-sided, I might be persuaded to believe this is an isolated incident unlikely to be repeated. However, it wasn't. You will have to draw your own conclusions.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

“You ever hear about this Nephi fellow? What’s his story?”

I've been in the two wards described by Farid Rushdi in the article, "A tale of two wards: Serving 'the least of these.'" Well, maybe not the exact twos ward but certainly their equivalent somewhere in the world.

In the first, a man was treated abominably. In the second, he was treated wonderfully. Both were LDS wards. His conclusion was that he doesn't like The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints but he loves the Mormons.

If this man walked into Church in your Ward and sat down in a pew, what would your reaction be? We all know what it should be, but what would it be? We all like to say we want to help the downtrodden, but usually it is only the socially acceptable downtrodden and on our own terms.

Some of the most selfish people I've ever known in the Church were the ones who did the most service. Why? Because they only helped in the ways they wanted to which wasn't necessarily in the way that was needed most. And, they didn't help in the Lord's way.

Whether we have a leadership position in the Church or we are just acting in our individual capacity, we should act consistent with the principles of the Gospel.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Early Church Teachings Are Now Restored to Us!



Elder Marlin K. Jensen told us about the woman pictured in the video above, the one who can actually read Pitman shorthand. She has been able to translate Pitman shorthand notes of early Church sermons into prose, sermons that were otherwise lost to us. It is nice to see this project online so we can explore hitherto unexplored areas of Church history.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the "Lost Sermons" project.

Brigham Young on mortal death:
We should be in a hurry to receive our rest … but having that desire in our hearts to live causes us to cling to the world that we may finish the work the Lord gives us to do.
Parley P. Pratt on his missionary labors:
Traveling abroad to preach the gospel is one of the pleasantest and easiest of all the labors of the kingdom.
John Taylor on the Gospel:
The gospel of Jesus Christ, the principles of salvation, and the science of an eternal life is a matter so great, so wide, and so comprehensive that it is difficult to know where to commence and where to leave off, difficult to find the beginning the middle or the end. It is something like the Melchizedek priesthood, without beginning of days or ends of years. It reaches back into eternity and forward into eternity.
Orson Pratt on partaking of the Sacrament weekly:
Do we feel and realize these things as we ought from Sabbath to Sabbath? Do we think of these things? Do we meditate upon them? Do we reflect upon the subject or do we merely come and partake of this ordinance as a kind of secondary consideration, not thinking about the object for which it was instituted and thus pass the time without having benefitted?
Heber C. Kimball on abiding by our covenants whether other people do or not:
Suppose you should all turn away from [the] faith. What has that to do with me? Suppose you should all act like devils. What is that to me? What has that to do with my religion? I am to serve God and keep his commandments perfectly independent, that is from the acts of any other person in God’s world. It has nothing to do with me one way nor the other, but it is for me to serve God and keep his commandments, to fulfill my covenants. When I went into the water [of] baptism I made [a] covenant I would forsake the world with all [that] pertains to it, and cleave unto the Lord God with all my heart all my days. This is the covenant that I made, to turn away from the world. That is the covenant you made, or the one you should have made. Now, will you fulfill it?

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Are Online Commentators Really Looking for Enlightenment? I Don't Think So.

My apologies to those of you looking for regular postings on this blog. I want to post regularly but sometimes my health interferes. I now have several chronic conditions that interfere with my good intentions.

My beef today stems from a recent experience online. I occasionally post comments on newspaper articles. Sometimes I even read those posted by others. I'm reconsidering doing this in the future. Here's why:

Once I've stated my views on something I see no reason to repeat myself. I suspect many writers simply rework old ideas over and over. I won't argue with this strategy. However, my intent in writing is to formulate and focus my ideas. Writing is for me, not others although I'm delighted if I actually help someone else.

So, with this in mind, when I happened onto a news article that covered a topic I had dealt with generously in this blog, I simply referred others here and didn't bother to rehash my arguments in 200 words or less.

Something curious happened.

People started attacking me, viciously. Okay, that isn't curious, it is normal for anything online these days. What bothered me most about their comments wasn't so much the venom but the ignorance. I had completely answered their points in my series of blog postings. In fact, I could tell none of them had read my work. I reviewed my blog statistics which confirmed my suspicions.

No one had actually accessed my blog.

After a short time I posted another comment on the news article pointing this fact out. The venom against me surged again. This time, there were about three views of one of my numerous blog postings. Alas, all the others remained unread. I continued to monitor my blog traffic. Nothing changed. There were a handful of future views, about five total. The numbers didn't reach the number of people analyzing me in the news article's comment forum. They weren't even close.

What conclusions should I draw from this experience?

I have decided on the following:

1. I won't waste my time commenting on articles anymore.

2. It is unlikely that any of these people are actually looking for enlightenment on the topic. There is no point in my wasting my time on them.

3. The people who spew the most venom remain anonymous. I never am. I always use my name.

If you have already learned these lessons, my congratulations. I keep learning them. There is always a faint hope in me that human nature may actually improve, however unlikely.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Back to the Basics: How to Excel While Really Trying

Years ago I lost count of how many wards, branches, districts and stakes I have been in.  I think the number is around 50 total. After I stopped moving around and staying put, they started moving wards around me. So, this is not entirely my fault.

What this has given me is a broad understanding of how congregations operate around the country. There are a lot of similarities, as there should be. However, not all of these similarities are good. In fact, some are downright disturbing.

Too many similarities suggest that the basics are getting lost in the frills.

To illustrate this, I need to point out that I have four college degrees and a plethora of awards, certificates, accomplishments and achievements. I have earned, or been awarded, so many that even I can't keep track of them all.

Excelling doesn't come any easier for me than it does for anyone else. So, what is my secret? Pay attention and I'll clue you in.

I do the basics, really really well.

For example, in school I would read all the material assigned. I would do all the assignments. I always went to class and I carefully worked on everything doing exactly what I was told to do. I didn't cram for anything. I learned it and worked hard.

In the long run, this paid off because I didn't cut corners, I didn't cram. I didn't pull all-nighters. I didn't try and B.S. my way through anything. I actually learned and mastered the material. In the long run, school actually got easier rather than harder.

Sadly, most people are ignoring the basics at church, all around the country.

- Few actually read the lessons or the scripture assignments before Sunday.
- Too many teachers try and prepare a lesson the night before or the morning of.
- Too many people don't actually read or study the scriptures.
- Too many teachers never access "Teaching, No Greater Call."
- Too many teachers don't pray or ponder on how to present concepts in the lesson.
- Few people actually watch, listen to or read General Conferences addresses.
- Few actually devote the time to their callings that they need to in order to accomplish anything.
- Too many people devote too little time to talk preparation.
- Too many people don't access any of the resources on lds.org.
- Few actually read Church magazines.
- Few actually read instructions, help manuals or help screens.
- Few actually know how to teach prospective investigators, because they've never accessed Preach My Gospel or any other helpful resource.
- Too many people don't know what is in the Handbook.
- Few people pay any attention to administrative matters.

If you see yourself in the points above; then you cannot reasonably expect to make Church a success, for yourself or anyone else.

People are cutting too many corners. Occasionally cutting corners may be justified; but the number of times is rare in comparison to how often it gets done.

I remember a quote, possibly from David O. McKay, that said something like this: Instead of preparing a talk, why don't you just prepare yourself, then you will always be ready to speak.

Consider programs like EFY and TOFW. I don't think what makes these events so successful is the unique program itself.

I think young people who attend EFY are responding to well-administered events with well-prepared, age appropriate content that is thoughtfully delivered.

I think women who enjoy TOFW are responding to well-administered events with well-prepared, age appropriate content that is thoughtfully delivered.

There is no reason why we can't have well-administered events with well-prepared, age appropriate content that is thoughtfully delivered, with assistance from the spirit at Church.

Too much of church today is poorly prepared, ill-conceived events with age-inappropriate content that is poorly delivered with no hint of the spirit.

Instead, people are devoting most of their time to social events where we prepare and consume humongous quantities of unhealthy food. In addition, we tend to focus our missionary efforts on a handful of  splashy, expensive events that are big on image and low on religious substance. Such events often include public relations press statements and other gimmicks.

These events have their place. However, if we are using them to justify small expenditures on reading the scriptures, thoughtfully preparing lessons or talks and ignoring administrative duties, then we cannot expect to succeed at anything in the long run.

Drop the frills and concentrate on the basics. If we aren't doing the basics, we aren't building on a firm foundation. Our foundation is sand and it will eventually crumble.

When I taught in higher education at the college, university and graduate level I was told to expect to spend three hours in preparation for every hour I spent in the classroom. If I were teaching a new course, then five to seven hours in preparation was the norm. Teaching graduate students usually took a bit more time.

Consider though, that this was for teaching subject matter that I had already mastered myself.

If you put this time into a religious context then we should be spending at least three hours preparing any lesson. I spend at least that much time preparing Gospel Principles every week, often more, and it's a beginner course for new members and investigators. If I'm preparing a Sacrament Meeting talk I'll probably spend about twenty to twenty five hours preparing. The time I spoke in Stake Conference I spent at least thirty five hours of direct preparation time.

This all pays off in the long run. However, I don't think I've attended a church social event in ages. I have never been to a TOFW, or much of anything like it, and I almost never attend the big splashy events that can consume so much of our leaders, and members, time.

I'll stick to the basics, and you should too.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Come Listen to a Prophet's Voice!


Starting right now, Mormons all over the world are turning into General Conference.

There are five sessions. Learn more at this link.

 Join us and listen to a Prophet's voice!