Friday, January 29, 2010

Determining Your Optimal Religion

Ok, so I found this online and thought it was really funny, so hopefully you'll enjoy a good laugh for Friday. The more I thought about it though; I realized that this could greatly simplify the missionary discussions. Just hand the people this chart at the door, and see if it peaks some interest. From my personal experience, it'd be difficult to reduce the effectiveness of the door approach.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Year in Review

So, I’m one year in as a Bishop, and I feel that I’ve learned a great deal about myself, about the Ward members, and why the Church now requires two men to be placed together in the Primary. No offense, Brother Perkins.

The year in review of what I've learned as Bishop:

Don’t speculate out loud about polygamy or being neutered in the afterlife (TK Smoothie)

Speaking about Satan gets Ward members as excited as a new Jello recipe (That We Could All Be Like - Satan?)

When speaking about stay-at-home-moms, those that stay home love the positive reinforcement, while those that work hate the guilt trip (Staying Home… Again)

We have some great resources to help young men beat (no pun intended) the urge to masturbate (The ‘M’ Word).

Uber-Tithing program a huge boon to the donations (Uber-Tithe Initiative)

Wearing a Speedo at a Ward swimming party is not humorous to most members.

Well, I'm sure I still have much to learn, and I'm looking forward to a productive 2010.

Friday, January 22, 2010

If Any of You Lack Wisdom

Back in the day, whenever I lacked wisdom, I would frequently turn to God for an answer. I’ll admit that it was hit-and-miss at times, but such are the mysterious promptings of the Spirit.

Working a lot with the youth at Church, I was pondering the other night on how a young man of fourteen might search for answers to life’s questions these days, and how different it may be when compared to Joseph Smith in the 1820’s. Back then, to search for answers to profound questions in life, one might have sequestered himself/herself in the woods, prayed, and hoped for a vision or spiritual experience.

Fast forward to today. How many youth or adults out there think of posing difficult questions only to God these days, hoping for some discernable or tangible answer that’s reliable? Wouldn’t most people just start with Google and do some in-depth online research into the options? I imagine that this is the reason the Church has been pouring so many resources into online information, advertising, encouraging pro-Mormon blogging, etc.

So, the question struck me: In what areas these days is God more reliable in clearly answering questions than Google? Perhaps Google is God’s new-and-improved conduit to man for communications from on-high? Have we finally been given a reliable source for near-instant answers to hard questions? I’ve felt this possibility many times while receiving Google’s answers to age-old questions. How do I lose that extra holiday weight? Does a certain Ward member have a criminal record that I should be aware of before calling them into the nursery?

So, perhaps an update to the oft-quoted scripture is due: If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of Google, that giveth to all men liberally; and upbraideth not; and it shall be given to him. As a bonus: no faith required to use Google.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Use Proper Sources!

So, as most of you know, the Gospel Doctrine class this week fell into chaos when the teacher, Sister Simms, “went off the reservation,” and started talking about nuances from the Book of Abraham papyri that made others in the class uncomfortable. I have to apologize. Clearly there was a misunderstanding about the need to stay on-task and teach strictly from the manual, and the buck stops with me. (Well, I suppose that Brother Squires also shares some responsibility, as Sunday School President, in not training teachers properly).

So, talk about inspired timing! This Monday - as every Monday - I eagerly unfolded my crisp, new Church News and there was the answer to the dilemma - straight from the inspired-horse’s mouth, if you will. The article, Use Proper Sources,” from the January 9, 2010 edition of LDS Church News provides a terrific example that all teachers should study and follow.

In the article, a poor woman was trying desperately to plan an interesting lesson from the not-always-thrilling lesson manual by bringing in additional information. The process was, "time consuming and frustrating." Her kind daughter found her in this condition and had some loving, thoughtful advice (and I quote from the article):

"Why," the daughter asked, "are you trying to boil down information? An inspired Church-writing committee has already done that for you."

The committee's work, the daughter continued, has been approved by the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency. It has been translated into dozens of languages and sent around the world. It corresponds with the lessons and information taught at the same time to other auxiliaries and quorums in the Church.

"Everything you need — and more — is in your manual," the daughter said."

The article continues with:

"We may be tempted to do more, to turn to unofficial lesson plans, resources and information found in books and on the Internet. Sometimes, the material might seem like an easy solution to meet the time-consuming demands of Church service. Other times it might feel like a way to spice up a lesson or activity.

But leaders and teachers in the Church do themselves and the people they serve a disservice when they turn to unofficial — not correlated — materials in the planning of lessons and activities.

The woman then turned off her computer, shut the dozens of books open on her dining room table and picked up her manual and scriptures. The frustration she had previously experienced disappeared. She knew the material was doctrinally accurate. She knew its source was valid. She knew it had been approved by the men called to lead the Lord's work on the earth today and that it was what they wanted her to teach.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks said in his October 1999 general conference address that as he traveled the Church he had been pleased and impressed with how Relief Society and priesthood lessons were presented and received.

"However," he added, "I have sometimes observed teachers who gave the designated chapter no more than a casual mention and then presented a lesson and invited discussion on other materials of the teacher's choice. That is not acceptable. No matter how brilliant he may be and how many new truths he may think he has found, he has no right to go beyond the program of the Church."

Well, I have to admit, that this brought a tear to my eye. Such a simple, inspired solution to all the needless and time-consuming lesson planning! I know way too many members (well, Sisters), that instead a quick once-over of the lesson manual during Sacrament meeting like the Elders and High Priests, spend countless hours at home trying to figure out interesting methods of enhancing their lessons. No more!

Additionally, I've now heard rumors that by next year all classes Church-wide will be delivered via DVD videos. Classes will still have teachers, but solely for noise control and pushing the DVD ‘play’ button. Classes will be allowed the last 2 minutes of the alloted class time to discuss the current topic and have a closing prayer.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

New Year Resolutions

Since the calling of Bishop is such a public position in the Church, I thought I might as well make my New Year Resolutions open to all, just in case I need some reminders during the year.

  • Take at least one No-Doze before Sacrament meeting to reduce head-nodding caused by my deep pondering that takes place during the ever-fascinating talks by our members. In the past, some members have misinterpreted this deep pondering as sleeping
  • Equalize the budgets between the Young Men’s (including Scouts) and Young Women’s organizations
  • Refer to the leaders of all auxiliaries as, ‘President,’ including Primary, Sunday School and Relief Society, instead of just Elder’s Quorum. Hopefully this is okay with The Brethren, as it makes sense to me.
  • Stop referring to the non-LDS in our neighborhood as, ‘Them,’ ‘Those,’ ‘Gentiles,’ or, ‘non-members,’ and use their actual names
  • Keep the same Primary teacher for the Schumer twins’ class for more than a month
  • Refrain from using, ‘gives me the creeps’ when referring to any Ward member
  • Find a calling for Brother Hicks that does not involve personal interaction with any other Ward members (see previous resolution)
  • Reduce Sisters anti-depressant use in the Ward to under 40%
  • Reduce male teenage and adult porn addiction to under 70%
  • Shake hands before Church meetings without wearing surgical gloves and trust the Spirit to keep my hands clean of all horrific infectious diseases commonly spread by this behavior. Is it the Spirit that’s responsible for this, or Jesus? I’ll cover all my prayer-bases on this one.
  • Don’t let my immense popularity in the Ward and neighborhood go to my head
  • I was going to try and lose 20 lbs. in 2010, but I decided a life without steak, Coke and jello is not a life I want
  • Reduce the meeting block to two hours on Sunday. Why not shoot for the stars?
  • Read scriptures every day, say prayers, have FHE. (Had to throw those in!)