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.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the Only Truly Comprehensive Solution

When I was young, many of society's problems troubled me. I would sort them out in my own mind and look for solutions. I also dreamed about implementing all the solutions. Some of my dreams became a reality and some didn't. However, I still have an eye out for solutions.

While studying political science in college, I thought about being a Peace Corps volunteer. However attractive it seemed on the secular level, it failed on the spiritual level. Serving a mission for the Church would consume the same amount of time and accomplish much more. More change. More improvement. More happiness. In fact, more of everything.

There simply isn't any better solution for the problems of the world than the gospel of Jesus Christ.

We can give people food, we can teach them to produce their own food. We can teach them all sorts of skills but nothing, nothing equals the gospel.

We have become accustomed to thinking that if government would just get it's act together, the problems of society would be solved. Nothing could be further from the truth. The answers don't lie with government.

While working on my Ph.D., one of my professors told the following story from his schooling. His teacher assigned them a problem to solve. He presented them with a mythical rural village in the heart of India. The village was backward in every imaginable way. The assignment was to, "bring this village into modern times."

My professor said he worked his heart out. He submitted about 40 typed pages of all sorts of experts and workers operating under all sorts of organizations and grants targeting every imaginable thing. Everything was meticulously researched and documented.

He received a B+ on his paper.

A fellow student received an A on his paper.

However, this fellow student did not submit 40 pages of typed text or even more than 40 pages of typed text. He submitted one page. On this page was one sentence. It read:

Extend bus service into the village.
After delivering his story's punch line, he pointed out that Alcoholics Anonymous is one of the most successful social programs in the world. It doesn't require any experts, grant money or expensive equipment. A room with some chairs is all it takes, and some alcoholics of course.

I've never forgotten the points he made that day. Simple solutions are often the best solutions. Living the gospel of Jesus Christ could eliminate every social program in existence. It is the most basic, least expensive and comprehensive solution we have.

At the end of the day, governments, experts, scholarly research and exorbitant consulting fees cannot achieve what the gospel can.

It makes sense for us all to devote our lives to the gospel, and to help others do the same.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Fudging Numbers, Padding Statistics and False Witness: Is This Really a Problem in Mormondom?

When Church leaders handed down the policy that slide show presentations were not allowed in Sacrament meetings, I was surprised. I'd never seen anyone use a slide show presentation. I could certainly understand the policy; because the problems it could cause were obvious. I'd just never witnessed it myself.

This is not the case for other problems I've seen that exist in the Church. As I've witnessed some of them I would think to myself, "Do Church leaders know that this sort of thing is happening?" So, when President Uchtdorf started his address in the April 2015 Priesthood session I knew instantly where he was going:
In the late 18th century, Catherine the Great of Russia announced she would tour the southern part of her empire, accompanied by several foreign ambassadors.
I thought to myself, "Potemkin's villages!" I remained on the edge of my seat throughout his entire talk. I couldn't believe it. Every sentence he uttered drew pictures in my mind of all the instances where I had witnessed exactly the problems he was addressing.

I had despaired of talking about these problems to distant friends and family. It was so outside their experiences that they could not believe what I was describing actually existed anywhere in Mormondom. Their skepticism was obvious.

When President Uchtdorf finished, I felt I'd died and gone to heaven. Two things had been established:

  1. Without question, everyone has to accept that these problems exist in the Church or else President Uchtdorf wouldn't have addressed them.
  2. Church leaders are aware that this is going on in the Church.

All this time I had wondered to myself, "Do they know?" Clearly they did, and do. President Uchtdorf took action by addressing them in his conference talk.

If you carefully read his address and try to identify the problems he outlines, you should come up with the following list:

  • Trying to appear better than we really are.
  • This isn't trying to look our best, our efforts are deceitful.
  • Your lips are saying the right things, but your heart isn't where your lips are.
  • Jesus was compassionate and patient with sinners, but never with hypocrites.
  • Those who seek worldly praise, influence and wealth by acting righteous are condemned.
  • Men lose their priesthood when they try to shield their sins of pride and vain ambition.
  • This personal deceit has crept into our church assignments.
  • The indicators for success we should have in the Church cannot be measured using human tools. Only Heavenly Father can truly measure them.
  • We may think our successes look impressive; but they are not addressing the real needs.
  • Deity isn't impressed with our programs and our statistics. They look in our hearts.
  • Our motive for acting in the Church and in our personal lives should be our sincere love for Heavenly Father and His son Jesus Christ.
  • We should not hide behind artificial discipleship and fake facades.
  • We are not on display. The Church is meant to help us.
  • We should not seek the praise of the world. Our actions should be humble, sincere and anonymous.
  • We should never draw attention to ourselves.

President Uchtdorf also gave us a mini sermon in management. Having studied and taught management, I'm already familiar with it:
“many of the things you can count, do not count. Many of the things you cannot count, really do count.”7
A colleague once remarked to me, "If we only study what we can measure, I don't think we will end up asking important questions."

If you think about the terms that are used in missionary work, you can see that the Church knows this about measurement and is taking steps to counteract it. Statistics are referred to as "indicators." Lessons taught or the numbers of people met with are just that, indicators.

President Uchtdorf did refer to fudging numbers, falsifying statistics and giving measurement too much credence at their prior General Conference. He certainly hit it hard with this one. Last October he said:
Although the ward had every outward indication of faithfulness and strength, something unfortunate was happening in the hearts and lives of the members. And the troubling thing is that this situation is not unique. Such terrible and often unnecessary things happen when members of the Church become disengaged from gospel principles. They may appear on the outside to be disciples of Jesus Christ, but on the inside their hearts have separated from their Savior and His teachings. They have gradually turned away from the things of the Spirit and moved toward the things of the world.
Statistics must have internal consistency over time. What that means is that if something is inflated, it will show up in other statistics over time. If you have 100 percent home teaching, but families are drifting away from the Church, there is something wrong.

I was actually present in a ward once when the Bishop proudly proclaimed that we had achieved 100 percent home teaching in the prior month. My husband and I looked at each other in astonishment, because we hadn't done our home teaching and no one had home taught us during the prior month. No one had even sought our home teaching report for that month.

Anyone who fudges statistics is more afraid of people than of Heavenly Father or divine judgment. People who try and appear more saintly than they are fear men more than God.

Friday, March 20, 2015

I See No Way Out of This Membership Record Dilemma

Recently, I've discovered that even when people write a letter requesting that their names be removed from the Church membership roles, my ward/stake will not honor this request.

I don't know how many times I've encountered an inactive member through visiting teaching or home teaching attempts and they have asked to have their names removed.

I've always told them what the procedure is. But now, I discover that my local leaders simply won't do it.

They are making a liar out of me.

In good faith, I cannot tell any inactive person about this procedure anymore. In reality, there is no way for them to officially leave the Church. I cannot represent it otherwise, now that I know.

Sadly, I see people getting really angry at the Church for not removing their names, when they have specifically asked the Church to do it.

I can't think of any rationale why local leaders would refuse to do it, other than they don't want to look bad as leaders. Perhaps they don't want to admit these removals are occurring on their watch. I don't know.

I can't think of a really good rationale for this behavior. Can you?

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Manual Wars -- It's Not Over Yet!

So, what did I do last year after publishing the following two posts?

Answer: Nothing, I didn't do squat. I went the whole year without a manual. Isn't that radical! Of course, I barely made it to church at all, with my husband's serious health challenges.

The whole thing had not been resolved when we adopted the new manual this year. I fully intended to get a manual this year. I figured that with a new Relief Society president, she may not require people to sign for it which I found highly offensive.

However, I learned something else that put a crimp in my plans. Apparently, local leaders have interpreted curriculum guidance with a new twist. From the Church website:

The following materials for use in Sunday quorums and classes are available online and in the Gospel Library mobile app. Where possible, encourage members to use digital versions of these materials.
My local unit has decided that this means not to give any out. In fact, they only ordered a handful and ran out before the second Sunday in January. There are no books to be had. We are supposed to access them online.

I still don't have any mobile media. I rely on hard copy stuff while at church. What I don't understand is the seemingly conflicting positions my ward is taking.
  • Conflicting position 1: Not everybody has digital tools, so we aren't going to use LDS.org tools for stakes and wards.
  • Conflicting position 2: Even though not everybody has digital tools, they should use the digital Ezra Taft Benson manual.
  • Conflicting position 3: Of course, we must use the wonderful digital tools on Family Search and do work for our dead. We just shouldn't use the tools the Church has designed for the living.
What's next? Are they going to decide to make up their own email list, even though the Church already provides wonderful leadership email tools?

Wait, they did this already. In fact, they did it the same Sunday (December 1, 2014) they encouraged everyone to sign up for the emails sent out by the First Presidency. Doesn't that make sense!

Gee, maybe somebody should tell them how nutty this is. Wait, I think I did that soon after I moved in. Let's see, I told them in 2013 and then in 2014 and then in 2015...

I give up. I GIVE UP!

My husband and I bought our own manuals for this year and last year from the Church ourselves.

There is one thing I won't do this year -- share my manual with anybody else, so we have enough in church. They better not even ask...

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Why is Losing One's Faith More Newsworthy than Gaining It?

In between all the repetitive claptrap about John Dehlin and his impending disfellowshipment/excommunicaiton, I found a delightful article about a atheist in England who initially logged onto Mormon.org to harass whomever chatted with him. Instead of getting the better of the Mormons, he ended up being converted.

See: The Unbelievable Love Story of an Atheist and a Mormon.org Volunteer

In fact, he ends up marrying the volunteer he chatted with. Now, he lives in Utah, is getting his M.B.A. at B.Y.U. and has a large extended Mormon family.

I never studied probability with much interest, but I have to think the odds of this story are long.

So, John Dehlin. Well, most of us are surprised he's managed to hang on this long. Apparently, he is not attending church and has no intention of doing so in the future. He states quite clearly he does not believe in the basic tenants of the LDS faith. What's more, he weakens the faith of others.

Okay, I made that last one up.

He insists his intentions are to help support those with weak faith and help them remain in the Church. I won't argue his intent. Only he and God know that one for sure. I am still highly doubtful his efforts are consistent with his intent, if he's indeed being honest about his intent.

How could he think his efforts help strengthen people and shore up their faith? Everything he does suggests it achieves otherwise.

In fact, his journey out of the church looks like just about everyone else's. People have been leaving for the same reasons he is. It's the same old, same old. I'm tired of hearing this same story. Even the violins in the background don't change.

Back to my point.

Gary Vahey's journey into the Church is profoundly more interesting, unusual and inspiring than Dehlin's journey out of it. Isn't that what makes a good news story? Interesting. Unusual. Inspiring.

None of these influences are present in John Dehlin's exit.