I may choose to ignore anonymous comments. I consider this type of anonymity dishonest. Also, I don't post regularly. I post when I have something worth writing and something worth reading. I explain all this in: Don't Let Telling Tales Trip Up Your Truthfulness.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Confessions of a Mormon Sacrament Meeting Bulletin Coordinator

(Loosely inspired by Confessions of a Mormon Bishop.)

I got to bed late Saturday night, but I couldn't sleep. I'm sure my fellow ward members were calmly enjoying their Saturday night, while serenely awaiting the spiritual feast that surely awaited us all the next day.

My mind raced. I still had so many questions, so much frustration, such feelings of inadequacy.

Welcome to the life of a Mormon Sacrament Meeting Bulletin Coordinator.

Like other administrative warriors, in many religions, I spent hours on the phone and online, fussing over whether I had managed to collect all the pertinent information necessary for people to make paper airplanes out of my bulletin tomorrow.

My job is not just to compile a reasonably accurate chronology of local as well as stake events; I have to include a ward leadership directory so that people can have accurate phone numbers of anyone they need to call. It must be more accurate than the online directory the clerk's compile, because people actually use mine.

I also have to include who will be responsible for cleaning the building over the course of the next week and beyond. Never mind if they actually do it, but it has to be documented.

Also, I have to make certain the children's assignments for Primary are included, so that parent's have deniability when their children are not prepared for the next week. If I didn't put it on the bulletin, they might actually remember their children's assignments. (Wait, did I get this right?)

Each responsibility in compiling the bulletin is different because every ward is different.

I carefully constructed the bulletin to comply with the golden mean, put information in an inverted "M," selected a typeface and point size so that the visually impaired could read it easily. In fact, I utilized every graphic design principle and information rule that I learned in library school. But, no, they will make paper airplanes. . .

In fact, my husband even coached one young participant on the art of making paper airplanes out of my bulletins. His paper airplanes have incredible glide and distance. My husband's contributions to my efforts are invaluable.

I have learned that no matter how many times I contact someone, they will invariable forget to tell me some crucial detail necessary for fully participating in the Lord's true church.

I have learned that this is not a "calling" it is an "assignment." That is the cross I must bear. There will be no MLS listing for me.

I have learned that no one considers their giving me a bulletin item may actually increase attendance at ill-conceived events better than a cryptic comment; given as an afterthought in one of our meetings, that no one has time to write down.

I have learned that no matter how many bulletins I hand out on Sunday morning (and even though I put the extras close to the door) people will insist they didn't get one.

I have learned that no matter how many people tell me they will call me with announcements, they almost never do.

I have learned that the most important announcements that should be placed in the bulletin will never reach me.

I have learned that, if I do make mistakes in the bulletin, almost no one will bring them to my attention. (How many weeks did I list "Branch and Stake Business" instead of "Ward and Stake Business"?)

I have learned that nobody will notice if I stretch out the picture of our building to fit the column I place it in. Elongating buildings is not a forgiveness issue. (See picture below for how it really looks.)

I have learned that no matter how much education and training I have, even the lowliest church responsibility is a privilege and I must be content with what God has allotted to me.

Mine is a solitary life.

Late last night, as I pondered all of this, I decided I needed to write down what interacting with all of these people is teaching me.

And, I wanted to share it.

"But whoso shall offend one of these little ones . . ." (Matthew 18: 6)

Right after I started doing the bulletin (program) in my current Ward, I closely observed who was reading it during Sacrament Meeting and how it was being used. Instead of handing it out entirely to adults, I hand it out to everybody. I observed numerous teens reading it. Also, I noticed kids coloring the picture of the chapel I include in the upper right hand corner.

That was something I hadn't anticipated.

Since I was having trouble getting announcements to fill up space, I thought maybe a picture on the back might be good. On the Church's "Video, Audio and Images" site under "Images" there is  category entitled "Primary" with a "Line Art" folder in it.

The "Line Art" folder explains that "Line art allows children to express creativity while learning gospel principles." I've included a line art picture in the bulletin every week since, except for last week March 17.

I had so many announcements for March 17 I did not include a line art picture. (There was a particularly lengthy announcement about registering the youth for the upcoming youth conference which took up all my space.)

Well, I had a disappointed little girl on my hands before Sacrament even started. Apparently, she looks forward to the picture every week and was very unhappy there wasn't one in the bulletin. I assured her I would include one from now on and asked her if there was a special picture she would like to request. She said, "Jesus with the children."

So, today it went on the bulletin. See the redacted bulletin below.

I hadn't realized what a hit my "filler" idea was. It makes the bulletin relevant to the children. Just wanted to pass the idea along to you in the hopes other wards/branches can benefit.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Camel Milk, Bat Conservation and Faith in Christ!

In an insightful article entitled, "Wright Words: We share our favorite restaurant — but what about our faith?" Jason F. Wright poses the very simple question:
Why is it easier to broadcast something as temporary as my affection for a new restaurant than to share something as eternal and lasting as my faith?
This same thought occurred to me only it was in the context of camel milk and bat conservation, my two primary causes in life. I can easily share information about camel's milk and the plight of bats in the world much easier than I can share my testimony and the gospel of Jesus Christ. Logically, this makes no sense at all. Camel milk and bats are somewhat obscure causes. Faith in Christ is not.
I understand in the next life it's unlikely anyone will approach me with tears in their eyes and tell me how much they wish I had introduced them to my favorite Chinese restaurant.
It may be easy for me to share my passion for camel milk and bat conservation but it probably won't matter at all in the next life. I can't imagine someone tearfully thanking me for sharing these causes outside of this life.

Perhaps we should all take Wright's challenge to heart:
I invite everyone to share what matters most. If it brings you happiness, share it. If it brings you comfort and peace in a troubled world, share it. If it bonds your family together, share it with other families.
If it’s so delicious, then tell the world why. Because it’s likely to be the most important discovery you’ll ever share.
I use logic, reason and the scientific method to convert people to camel milk and bat conservation. That will not work with the gospel of Jesus Christ. So, I think I'll share a quote from my Mormon.org profile:
In academia, we use the scientific method. This does not work with spiritual knowledge. Spiritual knowledge has to be learned in a spiritual way. If you want to know if what we believe as Mormons is true, you first have to find out what we believe and then ask Heavenly Father if it is true. He will make it known to you in a spiritual way. You won't be able to convince other people, or prove to them that you know, but you will know.
You WILL know! 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The REAL World: From College Presidents to Welfare Dependents

" . . . I lived in the real world for 30 years, enough to know I'm not in it now."
The quote above is from Stephenie Meyer, author of the Twilight novels and a great deal more. Her fame and wealth have eclipsed (pun intended) a lot of us. But, for years she was a normal person and a normal Mormon.

Peculiarities of our manner and mode of worship ensures that just about all Mormons are pretty down to earth and firmly implanted "in the real world."

As Mormons we are assigned to a local congregation on the basis of geography. In the Mormon Corridor this sometimes means that our congregation is no more that a few streets beyond our own. Even Mormon Corridor Mormons end up interacting with those in their "stake" which is a collection of congregations and always has a diverse cross-section of people. Further out it means we sometimes attend weekly services with college presidents as well as welfare dependents. I've gone to Church with members of the Osmond family and those just scraping by financially.

Constant exposure to a wide variety of people insures we experience people across the socio-economic spectrum. This keeps us grounded.

When I was a Ph.D. student, a lively discussion occurred in one of my classes concerning how we all had entered the elite and could no longer consider ourselves ordinary Americans. We discussed how this could lead to flaws in our examining American people, culture, government, etc. because our lives were far removed from the "ordinary.

I could understand what my fellow Ph.D's feared and had to acknowledge it was true for them. But I go to church every week with a cross-section of ordinary Americans. Because of church I interact constantly with "ordinary" Americans. 

I've never lost touch with that and won't as long as I continue to attend church. I have to interact with, and teach, those that are functionally illiterate and those that are brilliant. Since church callings (unpaid jobs) are all temporary and no true leadership hierarchy exists, I've been under the authority of those with a high school diploma or less. At other times I have to direct those with more education than I've got. (Okay, that is rare.) Knowledge, skills and abilities range across the spectrum.

If this isn't the "real world" I don't know what is.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

"Because I said it and nobody's checked."

Years ago I saw Victor Crawford on a 60 Minutes clip where he admitted to doing all sorts of dastardly things to promote tobacco issues as a tobacco lobbyist. He claimed he got away with making false claims, "Because I said it is and nobody's checked."

I've always remembered that.  I decided that in the future somebody better check. With all the digital resources at our fingertips, that somebody can be me, and you!

Right now, the digital wires are burning up over the Church's new 2013 edition of the scriptures. Most of the changes are simply editorial but that doesn't stop people from making them out to be bigger than they are. For example. see the head-note for Official Declaration 2 in the Doctrine and Covenants:
The Book of Mormon teaches that “all are alike unto God,” including “black and white, bond and free, male and female” (2 Nephi 26:33). Throughout the history of the Church, people of every race and ethnicity in many countries have been baptized and have lived as faithful members of the Church. During Joseph Smith’s lifetime, a few black male members of the Church were ordained to the priesthood. Early in its history, Church leaders stopped conferring the priesthood on black males of African descent. Church records offer no clear insights into the origins of this practice. Church leaders believed that a revelation from God was needed to alter this practice and prayerfully sought guidance. The revelation came to Church President Spencer W. Kimball and was affirmed to other Church leaders in the Salt Lake Temple on June 1, 1978. The revelation removed all restrictions with regard to race that once applied to the priesthood.
This has always been the "official" version. What muddied the waters? Speculation! People gave all sorts of views on this matter and they got carried around as official. Over time, fiction become fact.

This is insidious. Do you want more proof? It took being a Ph.D. student for me to discover how the Founders really viewed black people when they wrote the Constitution.

The conventional wisdom will tell you that black people were valued as only 3/5's a white person. This is nonsense, but this nonsense has morphed into fact.

Simple reading of the Constitution and a little logic will debunk this theory.

For the text, see the National Archives. You can't get more official than that. The "infamous" reference is in Article 1, the one dealing with Congress and all the "legislative" issues:
Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.
Does this say black people are viewed as only 3/5's a white person? No, it doesn't.

What it does say is that in counting people in order to determine the number of Representatives in the House of Representatives and for tax persons that free persons are counted as a full person and persons not free are counted as 3/5's of a person.

So, how were free blacks counted in the original Constitution as written? Answer: AS A FULL PERSON. It didn't hinge on race. If any white slaves existed they would have been counted as 3/5's of a person.

The issue was apportionment and taxation not race!

Southerners, slave holders and their supporters wanted to count slaves as a full person!

Abolitionists didn't want to count slaves at all!


Siimple. If slaves were counted, it would give the South more Representatives in the House of Representatives giving it more strength and making it much less likely that slavery could ever be abolished by congressional vote.

If slaves were not counted then the South would have fewer Representatives, making the South weaker in Congress and making it more likely that the abolitionists in the North could abolish slavery through congressional vote.

So, how do we avoid succumbing to these gross inaccuracies whether religious or otherwise?

Simple. Just check!