Elder Ballard’s “O Be Wise”

Elder Ballard’s October Conference address deserves careful thought and implementation. He counseled us to be innovative in service, adding that “to innovate does not necessarily mean to expand; very often it means to simplify.” And he suggested we make greater use of the phone, emails and snail mail to minimize meetings.

Several years ago I served as the ward teacher trainer with a directive to reach all the teachers in all the auxiliaries. Meetings were poorly attended. I would have taken it personally but for years the ward had been unable to fashion a viable class. 3 was our maximum and they, 2 teachers and an EQ Pres, had all been teacher trainers and knew nobody comes. They kindly felt sorry for me. I got permission to revise the lessons into 1 page mini-lessons, using the current and past manuals, as well as secular professional teaching materials, and to send them as weekly emails or snail mails. Teacher feedback was great. But I had to discontinue the email course when I couldn’t get staffing updates from the presidencies. Turnover is great in our inner city and university ward. Nothing has been done about teacher training in my ward since.

Our new RS President has conquered her initial fears about putting a great deal of RS business online. Now she’s a true believer. Personal (pleas for housing, babysitting, jobs, etc.) and organizational info go email. No more begging for DI volunteers and temple volunteers at RS or hours of phoning to fill the quotas; now the email goes out to everyone and the volunteers appear.

I think we need to do much more with email. My hope was to get to an interactive experience with the teachers. So many in our ward are grad students or spouses, most with young children hard to leave for meetings and most running flat out with work, home and school. Lots of in service could be done online.

Not bureaucratically inclined, at our house we often end church meetings muttering “If I ran the zoo…” But those ideas never even reach deaf ears. They’re uttered and forgotten. Perhaps with Elder Ballard’s prodding, we could amass a good list of specific ways we could innovate to simplify our processes, change existing programs and otherwise better meet everyone’s needs. Think of the positions you hold or have held. I have no doubt this group has some great ideas. Are your wards using email well? What other innovations are working?

Comments

  1. Seems to me that there are rules against having a ward mail list or websites. That said, my current ward just disregards that and has a ton of stuff online.

    My EQ presidency had a Microsoft guy in it for a while and had a wicked set-up. Still, we have mailists and excel.

    Personally, I have found a great spiritual benifit from interacting with my Mormon friends on-line and have put some effort into figuring out how to get the Elders to be engaged as a quorum beyond Sunday services.

    I’m working on an Elder’s Newsletter (electronic)…we’ll see how that goes.

  2. I *love* email, and would much prefer to do many, many things through email instead of a meeting. I loved Elder Ballards talk. I just wanted to throw in at the beginning of this discussion, however, that being a technophile is not a requirement of activity in the church. Some people don’t have the means or inclination to own a computer, much less high speed internet access, and doing things exclusively over email excludes those people. Somehow, in every committee, presidency, or group that I’ve been a part of in the church there is always someone who doesn’t use email.

  3. Julie M. Smith says:

    I hate meetings. I love email. But I also worry that those without email–which usually means the poorest and/or oldest–will be even further marginalized by this. What can we do about that?

  4. I want to see ward lists spliced into Google maps.

    When I was in the EQP it seems that we were constantly rejigging HT (massive ward, big turnover). Every week we spent ages looking up addresses and trying to figure out which HTers lived closest. If we could have just fired-up the laptop and seen it all on a map it would have been wonderful.

    The taboo against ward e-mail lists has got to go. I noticed that if you’re signed-up to your official ward site you can get email announcements, but it’s all pretty web 0.1.

    Get the Elders off porn and onto EQ email lists. Huzzah! Two problems with one stone!

  5. Julie, Gina,

    Get Huntsman or Marriot to donate a million Blackberry’s to the church, plus ten years’ connection. They will be then be fulfilling the prophecy of the white stone/Urim and Thummim that will be given to all the Saints of God.

  6. A few thoughts:

    1. My mother, until recently, was the stake Relief Society President in a large stake in the “AFC North” area of the country. She does not use email. She has no access to mail. She wouldn’t know what to do with it if she had it. She only got a cell phone recently when we (her children) got her one and tied to my brother’s cell phone plan. Prior to being the Stake RS president, she had stints as the stake YW president (and held similar callings in the ward). So far as I know, her not having email didn’t hurt her in any way. She just used the *phone* to call her counselors and other leaders as needed. I believe her counselors would use email as needed. She also does not use a dayplanner. But she’s one of the most organized people I know, and the stake was very reluctant to release her.

    2. So, not having email is not a great problem. For the poorest and the oldest, I believe this is where home and visiting teachers would step in. In wards where people don’t have email, then maybe it can’t be used. But almost everyone has a phone.

    3. I have had “status” meetings to go over stake assignments conducted entirely over a conference call — and this goes back 5-6 years. One of my stake callings — including some of the counsel I gave stake members — was conducted over email.

    4. My wife handles the building scheduling for a building that is shared between 3 wards in 2 stakes. She keeps the whole calendar on a private website, and all three bishops have read-only access (they specifically requested that they not have write access). She keeps a printed copy in the car and has distributed business cards to all of the leaders in all 3 wards with her cell phone and email. The leaders in the wards love this system — you don’t have to wait a week or 2 to find out if the kitchen is being used 3 months from now; you can find this out by dropping someone an email (and get a response back in 6-8 hours, usually).

    5. Members are not supposed to use email lists or phone lists for non-Church use. That seems to fall by the wayside, but I set up a separate email address for email use, and I tied it to our stake/ward website off of lds.org. I can keep personal and Church mail separated. (My friend/coworker the bishop set up a separate gmail account strictly for email to the bishop, and plans to delete the account when he’s released.)

  7. I’m an executive secretary and I have found Google calendars to be a blessing.

  8. [It may be more accurate to characterize my mother's stake as being in the "Big Ten" area of the country. But whatever. I like the idea of splitting the US regions by football divisions. :) ]

  9. The issue with e-mail lists is fundamentally the same issue with phone lists and address lists. This lists can be taken and used to SPAM people. Trust me, I do it for a living. (Not using the Church lists, but I assume you know that).

    E-mail mass mail is very ineffective as it typically gets killed by a spam blocker and doesn’t reach all intended recipients. Also, Over 30% of people change there e-mail address every year so this becomes porblematic on staying up to date. That said, we attempted to move our Troop Committee Meetings to a Blog setting, which completely failed.

  10. Also, one our our counselors said this week that his son (a BYU student) created a little app to drop the .csv member file into Google Earth and generate a pushpin map of the ward…

  11. My ward has had fantastic success using a google spreadsheet to coordinate and compile information about less active members.

  12. Steve Evans says:

    Nice post, Molly. I wrote on similar lines a while back. I think there are tremendous resources out there that would increase our efficiency 1000% if we would just use them.

  13. The thing with email is that it has to assume an “opt-in” protocol for any mass-mailing (we had extensive discussions about this in our stake prior to the Church nixing ward and stake websites around 2000 before they introduced this on lds.org). I.e., you have to assume that only some people in the ward want to use email, and you can’t force them to use it. You also have to assume that THEY will tell you when they change email.

    Really, the best way is to do what the Church has recommended — use the lds.org ward email function to manage the notifications. This means that ward members have to have accounts and provide their email on lds.org. This then tell you which members want to use email. The leaders with the appropriate access can send out the updates, and those who have subscribed to the appropriate lists receive the notifications.

    Our bishop has continually said that if you don’t have an lds.org account with an updated email, then you aren’t interested in receiving email updates.

    Again, this is for “push” type of notifications. Anything that requires a response, this isn’t the right venue.

    Our ward looked at a yahoogroup-style list back in the day, but the issue of moderation was a dealbreaker.

  14. I thought Elder Ballard’s talk was great but I’m not holding my breath to see any substantial change come from it. Elder Packer gave several talks about 15 years ago expressing much the same thoughts even more forcefully, nothing changed.

    Telling the general church membership in general conference that we must simplify and cut back is preaching to the choir; almost any rank and file member of the church is in favor of simplification or elimination of extraneous meetings and other organizational demands. But busyness is a measure of godliness in the church and most leaders seem to equate simplification or trimming of their personal stewardship as a sign of slacking off.

    In an organizational culture so regimented and ingrained as the church, change like this can only come from the top down. If the 12 really believe this is a problem they must be the ones to bring about a change with concrete changes instituted church wide.

    For example, do we really need PEC meetings every week? Could the bishopric meet weekly and have one PEC/Welfare meeting per month? Do we need two stake conferences per year? How about only one? Do elaborate ward conferences really accomplish anything? How about bringing the stake presidency only to each ward each year? Couldn’t we eliminate quarterly stake priesthood meetings and make them annual? Do we really need quarterly auxiliary leadership meetings? Do we need a fulltime high council? Do we need much of the stake structure as it currently exists?

  15. For example, do we really need PEC meetings every week? Could the bishopric meet weekly and have one PEC/Welfare meeting per month? Do we need two stake conferences per year? How about only one? Do elaborate ward conferences really accomplish anything? How about bringing the stake presidency only to each ward each year? Couldn’t we eliminate quarterly stake priesthood meetings and make them annual? Do we really need quarterly auxiliary leadership meetings? Do we need a fulltime high council? Do we need much of the stake structure as it currently exists?

    I think what the Twelve are doing is signalling to the bishops and stake presidents is that “OK, guys — you’re free to make many of these decisions on your own. You don’t need us to tell you what to do.”

  16. (Of course, FP and Q12 retain the right to tell the bishops and stake presidents what they want, but they are loosening many of the strings. Our ward is being the guinea pig for a new model for home teaching. My wife and I hate it, but the other 98% of the ward loves it, and the leaders love it.)

  17. a random John says:

    queuno,

    Our ward is being the guinea pig for a new model for home teaching. My wife and I hate it,

    I’m guessing that I’m not the only one here that would love to hear some details on that.

  18. queuno, sounds great in principle but it just never works out that way in practice. What stake president or bishop is going to be bold enough to institute any of the changes I suggested? (And I’m not saying they are valid changes, I’m just throwing them out for discussion.)

    Nobody in the church gets rewarded for doing less, but they frequently get rewarded for doing more. If doing less, or doing things more efficiently, is needed the change has got to be from the top down.

  19. Kevin Barney says:

    The potential for increased efficiencies are legion, and I’m all for them. (Unfortunately, I agree that in our church culture the realization will be limited, because people in general are unwilling to be creative if it bucks established practices.)

    I remember I used to do this little dance with this family I was assigned to home teach. I would call and make an appointment, then a couple of days prior I would call to confirm. Inevitably she would cancel for some reason or another–every single time. This went on for more than a year. So once I decided, to hell with it, I’ll just show up at the appointed time without a reminder call. And it was a disaster. That’s when it finally hit me that she really didn’t want me to come physically to her house.

    So I started home teaching her by e-mail. Some people would scream bloody murder at that, but it worked really well. She appreciated this limited and non-invasive form of contact. And a year or so later, when her husband was laid off from work, she knew who her home teacher was and reached out to me for support from the Church, which I was able to provide.

    It would be very controversial, but I think we could make much greater use of e-mail in home teaching people who don’t want to be home taught the traditional way.

  20. On the side, I’d just like to mention that I thought Elder Ballard’s talks was one of the best of this last Conference.

    Besides his plea for simplicity, I really appreciated his counsel to not use guilt as a motivator. “Eliminate guilt.” I think every elders quorum in the Church could profit by heeding that counsel.

  21. Maybe I just live in the real Zion, but around our stake – the general comment to Ballard’s talk has been, “hey, that’s great, but we’ve already been doing this “reduce and simplify and use email” approach for the last several years. Our ward has been doing a monthly welfare meeting. I know of plenty of wards here in TGSOT that only do PEC twice a month, and people are excused if they are not needed.

    As to the home teaching changes I mentioned (which have been sanctioned by at least one 70, I might add), I will prepare a longer discussion of what has changed and find somewhere to guest-post it — what we’re doing, how it’s going, what the reactions are like, etc. Someone contact me at queuno@gmail.com if you can recommend an appropriate place to guest-post it (I’m just too tied up with my dissertation these days to start up my own blog again). I’ll do a writeup tonight during halftime (after FHE is over).

  22. Our Relief Society uses email for the massive details of Enrichment activities rather than going through long announcements in meeting. Printouts are delivered to sisters who don’t use email.

    Two weeks ago when the boiler broke in our church building, the ward activated a calling tree to alert people to dress warmly for meetings the next day. I don’t have a telephone. I must have been the best notified member of the ward, because it seems that everybody who knew I didn’t have a phone sent email or dropped by to leave notes on my door. Same thing for those without email — about half of our newlywed/nearly dead ward.

  23. Kevin, maybe you know this already, but many RS’s use snail mail for visiting teaching (for sisters who prefer it that way).

    Molly when I lived in your ward there was a SS teacher, young guy, who taught my kids’ class. He made a website for the kids with little quizes they could take for “extra credit” or whatever—they *loved* it.

  24. I’d be eternally grateful to anyone who could convince the YW in my ward to stop having so many after-Sunday, ‘oops, we forgot to call you, sorry but you’re the secretary so you HAVE to be there…” meetings. If I were a parent (instead of just a sibling) of a YW in our ward, I’d refuse permission for my kid to have a calling in a class presidency over this issue alone. I don’t know how many other meetings happen in the ward; the rest of the family has no calling at all, and I’m in the Primary, aka the Land of the Lost. They just had a Women’s Conference that the RS never sent any fliers to us about (though I wouldn’t have gone anyway, I’m amused by the fact that I never heard about it at all.)

    If I ever get a calling where I’m dealing with the over-12 set, I’ll probably rely mostly on email for outside of Sunday contact. As it is, most 7/8 year olds don’t check their email often enough for it to be of use now (and the people in the YSA aren’t much better, to be honest.)

  25. Thanks, Steve, for the link to your post. Reminds me of my parents’ Congregational church which has long taped sermons to deliver to housebound members of the congregation. Increasingly, the elderly do have computers and are able to read or listen to messages from the ward. Of course, the point of including those who don’t is well taken. Seems like many of us have computers to donate every few years; I’d rather do it at church than to other charitable organizations if we could get the transfer organized.

  26. Steve Evans says:

    Molly, isn’t it sad how the members are outpacing the Church in that respect? I look at the woeful technology used by ward clerks and bishops for their callings, and it just makes me weep. It seems to me that we really could reach out to people a lot better than we are, but official ward websites aren’t likely to do the trick.

  27. I like this post, and have wondered for some time now how better to use email and the Internet for Church uses. I’m curious about whether other wards actually have other websites they use. I know the admonition about we’re not suppposed to; but, the offical ward websites are of limited use. I’m our ward’s administrator–and we’re trying to generate more interest in its use.

    Some years ago I created a ward Yahoo group here. The problem was getting enough of the ward to join up. I think it only has about 20 total members.

    I’d be curious to hear of others experiences and links to any types of sites you have created.

  28. Guy, Our RS uses the most basic possibility, a single gmail address. Your Yahoo group site puts us to shame. Why aren’t more people signing up?

  29. Molly–I don’t know. I created this Yahoo Group just before the Church really began to push the individual ward websites. Then the Church began pushing the ward websites, and I was called to be our administrator–so I pushed both of them (probably some sort of violation I know); but, I felt then, and still feel a private email list such as you and others have still fills an important need. Only the administrator can send a mass email on the official ward system–but anyone on an email list or Yahoo type group and post and respond, etc.,etc.

    More people now have email and use it than when I first created this site back in Sept of ’03. Our ward emergency preparedness folks are going to really push for people to sign up for the ward website. Perhaps this will generate more interest. It sure is easier hitting the enter key for a mass email, than it is calling on a phone tree.

  30. Our ward, too, has a terrific Yahoo group, very active. The volume is often 5-10 emails a day. It is redundant with the “official” ward website in some ways, but used for totally different purposes. On the latter is maintained the calendar, for instance, but the Yahoo list is a great place to send out the weekly details about Mutual, a plea for a steam cleaner, advertise one’s home business, or ask for a ride to the fireside. Pretty near everyone with a home computer has signed up. Someone volunteers (ie not a calling) to be the list admin. People occasionally post photos (a new grandchild, the Halloween party), and one tech-savvy choir member converts the choir parts into midi files and uploads them to the site so the members of the choir can download them and work on their parts at home. It’s great – though I think we all recognize it does not reach everyone. But, we have some people active on the list who never come to church, so in my mind that’s another real benefit.

  31. any mouse says:

    tona’s yahoo group sounds like our old rs’s email list and it worked BEAUTIFULLY! hey, sister smith is in the hospital and we need a meal and a sitter. brother jones is moving, does anyone need some area rugs? don’t forget about the events this week! i’ve suggested it to our current ward and they all scoffed. in the old ward, we just signed up if we wanted to be a part. it didn’t take many complaints for the rsp to drop her “lds crap o’ the day” emails and just focus in on the nitty-gritty.

  32. I liked Elder Ballard’s talk very much. My concern is that some members get confused when they hear the charge to simplify. Elder Ballard asked us to be more effective in our discipleship not less.

  33. I live in a stake that took to heart Elder Packer’s admonitions to not overschedule members, especially mothers. That may sound wonderful to some, but there are drawbacks. For example, my wife was asked to lead a choir for a stake women’s meeting, but was allowed only one rehearsal, directly before the meeting. Youth activities are not allowed in a week that has a Relief Society enrichment night or stake temple night. The families don’t get overscheduled, but that gain is paid for in loss of cohesiveness and function in the youth groups. A den leader may rejoice in meeting with his boys only twice in a month, but only if he is indifferent to the boys’ experience. One of our simplifications is that our stake has no presence on lds.org, I suppose because otherwise someone would have to spend time managing it.

    One valuable alternative to meetings that is more working with people one-on-one, particularly for training; it is easier to get together and often a better use of everyone’s time. Zion isn’t built by people who will begrudge others each hour of their presence.

  34. John Mansfield, I think your comments are a perfect example of why the specific changes must come from the very top, ie the general authorities. Your stake implemented what they saw as necessary guidelines to follow Elder Packer’s suggestions. But I notice that the stake leaders only limited things that they aren’t directly involved in, cubs, choirs, youth activities. Did they think to limit the stake activities? Did they limit high council meetings, stake bishopric meetings, leadership meetings, stake priesthood meetings or stake auxiliary meetings? I doubt it, but those things also have a direct impact on mothers, fathers and families. Simplifying always means limiting other peoples stewardship but not our own because our calling is too important and vital to simplify.

    It reminds me of the old rhyme about taxing. If we need to raise revenue, if we need to raise taxes, “don’t tax me, don’t tax thee, tax that guy behind the tree.”

  35. KLC, like most participating members of the Church, my involvement in leadership meetings is minimal. My wife has served as primary president in a couple different stakes; she used significant time pondering and arranging things, but meetings with her counselors or the stake took only a fraction of her time with the primary. Sometimes it feels like meetings are just a scapegoat. “I would have finished this project, but I had to spend two hours in that meeting last week.”

  36. I have to agree with John Mansfield (#33). Simplifying is all well and good, but does it defeat the purpose as intended? I was in a large ward, and we had a good system for reporting home teaching via email and text messaging. It was efficient and clear, but we found that we were missing out on the essence of PPI meetings, or the chat about the people involved. We kept the system, but backed it up with informal interviews. But my wife and I have gotten in the habit of sending a quick hey-we-missed-you text message to anyone we HT/VT that misses church unusually. We’ve gotten warm fuzzies a-plenty from that.

    Another nice idea: I’m in the bishopric, and we rarely have to spend more than 10 minutes counting tithing because all but about three people pay their tithing through electronic bank transfers. This probably isn’t even available in the US (it wasn’t in the UK). I also appreciate that our bishop makes a point of having a reasonable ending time for meetings and sticking to them, which is greatly appreciated.

    One simplification we made: we decided the weekly printed bulletin was too much work and too hard on the copy machine for any benefit we got from it. So we switched to a monthly newsletter with feature articles, a monthly calendar and practical information. For instance, we’re preparing for the dedication of the Helsinki temple, and we wanted to make the process of getting recommends clear to everyone, and it was a good place to do that. It’s gone really well for the last few months. People take it visiting teaching, we mail it out to shut-ins and email it to missionaries. I’ve been editing it and have really enjoyed it actually.

  37. I want to speak up in elder Packer’s defense.

    I think meetings are absolutely out of control in the church and I think there needs to be fewer of them. KLC makes the comparison to taxes, and the comparison is apt. Meetings, like taxes, tend to become entrenched and are almost impossible to get rid of.

    When our bishop did away with mutual on HFPE night, I objected. He took me into his office and showed me the calendar for the thirty day month. Between regular Sunday meetings, seminary, firesides, scout activities, dances and service projects, the church had my son scheduled 38 times in 30 days. He didn’t think it was too drastic a measure to cut it back to 37, and now neither do I.

    The church does a good job of reminding parents from the pulpit that they bear primary responsibility for raising their kids, but I think sometimes it weakens that message by the way it schedules parents and youth.

  38. I would love to be hometaught via e-mail or a phone call, preferably in the car while driving home from work. Our family is busy and taking the time out of our schedule to accomodate an in person visit is not necessary for us and often more trouble than it’s really worth. We are not going to go inactive b/c of lack of home teaching or we would’ve stopped attending years ago. However, a regular e-mail or phone call would let me know whom to call to help w/ a blessing or some other crisis.

    In the past I have arranged to home teach some of my assigned families via a phone call. These were families of ward/stake leaders. We all saw each other socially anyway and an actual visit was redundant.

    I’m all for home teaching via e-mail or telephone. Perhaps that’s the test being conducted in other places: limit or eliminate visits to strong, active members and concentrate more on the less active or struggling members. I would not mind never having a living home teacher in my home again except to assist in a blessing or some other ecclesiastical service.

  39. I hope Queuno provides his write-up.

    I’m in an urban stake presidency and, per the authorization of a letter from the First Presidency, we don’t require home teachers to physically visit folks each month. They are to focus on part-member, new converts, reachable less active, youth, and the “sick and afflicted” first, then contact the stalwarts and “hostiles” as time permits and as mutually agreeable. The jury is still out on how effective this will be. On the one hand, it probably creates laziness; on the other hand, we’ve had some real success focusing our limited resources on those that need and/or appreciate the attention, resulting in baptisms, temple recommends, return to activity, etc.

  40. We had a quorum lesson lesson about this: if we couldn’t visit everyone, who should we visit? We’re in inner-city ward as well, and the message has tacitly been given that phone calls and “hey there” chats at church are all right for active members, but new members, inactives who will take a visit and families without priesthood are more needy for visits. But because many HTs have 10-15 names on their list, even those may only see someone quarterly.

  41. John M. in #35. I agree that stake involvement comprises a small fraction of total time in the lives of most LDS. I keep harping on that aspect because I think changing those things would be a huge statement by the church that we are serious about changing the more and more and even more is always better mindset that pervades the church. Stakes are the highest ecclesiastical authority most members have direct contact with. Limiting Cub Scout meetings just doesn’t have the same power as changing the stakes.

    Maybe I’m assuming too much but I think that a talk by an apostle addressing this issue in General Conference means the 12 are interested in changing member’s minds and hearts and not just interested in getting them to eliminate a few youth meetings.

    Doing more is never questioned in the church, it is just assumed that doing more is equivalent to magnifying your calling, and who can object to that? So we have a theological predisposition to that mindset, and we reward it.

    I see a wonderful example of that in my own ward. I have been told repeatedly in my married life by many different women that as a man I don’t really understand how onerous and difficult being in charge of Enrichment night really is. The difficulty of planning and carrying out these meetings is a constant theme among women I’ve known (and by the way, I completely agree that it is a difficult calling). So what happened when the church announced that Enrichment night as a formal activity would now only be done quarterly? Did they rejoice, breathe a sigh of relief and embrace the new order? No, they now tell me that we are a unique situation, their women need the monthly contact. So we still have monthly enrichment, and small group activities and last Sunday they announced a Saturday Super Enrichment Day from 9 am to 1 pm that will take place in a few weeks.

    Is the reaction to this increased busyness concern that they are not following the program? No, because doing more is always part of any program with our current mindset. Maybe there are a few people like me who think it is madness, but I’m far outweighed by the comments I hear that aren’t we blessed to have such a dedicated, wonderful RS presidency who are willing to go the extra mile and to magnify their callings. They got similar praise from the pulpit after announcing the super Saturday activity.

    You can’t go wrong doing more, more and more in the church. How do we change that mindset? How do we convince members that we can be more effective stewards when we take into account the impact this has on families in the church and eliminate the unimportant? Encouraging that change and giving members permission to act on it can only come from the top.

  42. I should add that I also think we have a dedicated and wonderful RS presidency. I’m not faulting these women. They have spent their whole lives being taught by words and by actions that doing more is an indication of their love and commitment to the gospel. But the unspoken and erroneous corollary to that idea is that doing less must therefore mean you are less committed. How can we change our culture so that members can express their commitment, not by just doing more but by being wise and prudent stewards, which may mean eliminating and cutting back the unnecessary? Again, and I promise this is the last time I’ll say it, it can only come from the top.

  43. Ronan (#4):

    I’ve written a script that will take a ward list and produce a .kml file that you can view in Google Earth. I played around with writing a Google Maps app, but the terms of service were unacceptable (basically, they get the data, which is a violation of church policy re: ward lists, I believe).

    If you’re interested, send me an e-mail. In fact, I might just be polishing up the script for use in my new calling — I’ll post on it next week after I’ve been sustained.

    BTW, the script depends on being able to get reasonable latitude and longitude numbers based off of street addresses. There are reasonable free tools for this if you’re in the US. Dunno about Austria (that’s where you are, right?)

  44. Hmm, looks like the guy in #10 did as well. It’s not hard to do.

  45. I would be very, very careful about using tools like Google Spreadsheets to coordinate reactivation efforts. Who gets to see that data? It’s too easy to make a mistake, IMO.

  46. My stake used to hold semi-annual stake priesthood meetings on Sunday mornings. Then each ward held its own Sacrament meeting later in the day. No Sunday School or other meetings. I think that’s a good innovation and a small break for everyone. Unfortunately, now we’re back to holding them on Saturday afternoons.

  47. We recently moved near a medical center with many doctors and health care workers in our ward. Busy people in their professional and personal lives, so much gets accomplished on few meetings. There simply isn’t time to physically gather a bunch of people in a room when the same goals can be accomplished more efficiently by phone or email.

    Speaking of email, I read an article a few years ago about the power of email to transform the lives of the elderly, creating virtual communities of friendship for shut-ins and others, relieving depression and in some cases, extending life. My wife “visit teaches” an elderly sister in our ward by email who attends regularly but loves her privacy and hates formal visits in her home because they feel artifical and rushed. Having the spirit means meeting the needs of individuals, not some computer database in Salt Lake City.

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