gmfptyooue asflkjhtr tlaeiew.
There are probably people in your ward or branch who see something like the previous sentence when they see the ward bulletin. Adult illiteracy is a problem in the United States, with about 10% of the population over age 16 judged to be unable to read or write. People in that situation struggle in many ways, since they cannot fill out a job application, read the instructions for a medical prescription, or understand correspondence from the bank, not to mention read the scriptures.
The church’s official response to adult illiteracy is the Gospel Literacy program, administered by the ward Relief Society. A ward can order the materials, which consist of a workbook, a teacher’s manual, and a training video, from the distribution center. The books and video all have the title of Ye Shall Have My Words, and are available in English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish.
The program functions in a ward when a literacy specialist is called, under the direction of the Relief Society president. The specialist helps identify people who need help learning to read, and those persons are invited to participate. They meet as a group, and the participants are assigned two or three homework lessons per week. Additional specialists can be called to give individual help.
Mary Ellen Smoot, a former general president of the Relief society, spoke often of the good results of the literacy program. In one case, women from a ward had organized themselves to go into a nearby penitentiary and teach inmates how to read. When the program was officially started in 1992 as part of the Relief Society sesquicentennial observance, Gordon B. Hinckley said this:
“Now a great new project is to be undertaken. It is a practical and much-needed part of this 150th anniversary celebration. But its consequences will go on and on and be felt in the lives of generations yet to come. It is a program to teach those who suffer from functional illiteracy. It is designed to bring light into the lives of those who can neither read nor write.
This lack of literacy skills is far more common than many believe. In some areas of the world 75 percent are unable to read or write. Illiteracy’s effects are tragic. Those who are its victims are denied the opportunity to become acquainted with history and the great minds of the past. They cannot read the daily newspaper. They cannot understand the word of God set forth in the immortal scripture. For them there is little light of ages past, and only diminished knowledge of the vast and intriguing world of which they are a part. The darkness that surrounds them, the bleak shadow of illiteracy, condemns them to poverty, hunger, and ignorance. Theirs is only half a world, a world in which they are literally blinded from much of that which goes on about them. Now there is to be provided a means to open the doors of communication and let in the light of understanding. Women old and young, in various nations, will be taught by their sisters to read and write. Imagine, if you can, the potential of this inspired program. Who dare dream of its consequences?”
I think the literacy project is a great thing, but I have some questions.
1) Why does the church not promote this program more? I think it is just as needed as the perpetual education fund, but we hear relatively little about it. The program hasn’t been dropped because the materials are still available, and they were just revised this Spring.
2) Does anybody have experience with this program? I can see several potential problems with implementation.
3) I have been involved with a class teaching English as a second language which was held at the church building as part of the ward’s effort in promoting literacy. We had about thirty people attending, most of them not LDS. It worked very well as a means of outreach and building goodwill. Are there reasons the RS literacy program could not function in the same way?