Can this Primary lesson be saved?: Being pure and righteous

My husband and I teach the CTR 6 class.  Actually, Brother J has been teaching Primary for the last four years, so he’s an expert.  But our ward split and the other gentleman who team-taught with him went to the new ward, and so a few weeks ago they called me to be his new teaching partner.  I’ve served the majority of my adult years in Primary, starting when I was 18; I’ve been a Primary pianist and a Primary chorister, but I’ve only served as an actual in-the-trenches Primary teacher once, and that was thirteen years ago and only for a few months before they had to release me.  If you must know, I had a nervous breakdown.  I blame the five-year-olds.  But that’s another story. [Read more…]

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich lecture: “Stirring up LDS History” Live Blog

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

Updated to now include video of the lecture.

Sponsored by Sunstone and Friends of the Marriott Library at the University of Utah

Relief Society sisters now have a new resource—a compact history of the Relief Society called Daughters of My Kingdom. The new manual, which is to be used from time to time for lessons given the first Sunday of each month, is not only unusual for its focus on women but for its chronological organization. Most Church manuals are organized thematically, offering little scope for discussing change over time. Despite its uplifting narrative, this manual may require a new set of skills. As teachers of women’s history know, you can’t just “add women and stir.”

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich taught her first Relief Society lesson more than fifty years ago, when she was an undergraduate attending a student ward at the University of Utah. She began teaching women’s history at the college level in 1975 when she was a graduate student at the University of New Hampshire. She is the author of many books and articles on early American history and women’s history and is now completing her first book-length work in Mormon history, “A House Full of Females: Family and Faith in Nineteenth-century Mormon Diaries.” She is 300th Anniversary University Professor at Harvard University.

[Read more…]

Goal Tending and Missionary Work

In our ward council last month, the ward mission leader gave a short address on the importance of setting achievable goals. He’s new in the calling and in the ward, and because our ward doesn’t baptize much, momentum is somewhat against him.

As a first step toward reversing this, he assigned us to go to our quorums and auxiliaries and set specific goals for each group, which he can then collate into an all-up ward missionary goal for 2012.

The key to baptisms, he told us, is to set achievable goals and work toward them with faith. It’s a quantitative message which I’ve heard in countless missionary-themed meetings, as I’m sure you have too.

I’ve generally rolled my eyes at such talk, but the way I think about goal-setting has changed significantly in the two years since I started working in the ad industry. You might not know it from watching TV commercials, but good ad agencies are experts at setting goals and measuring results.

[Read more…]

The Psychology of Foreordination

This guest post comes from frequent BCC reader Erich (comments under “Observer fka Eric S.”).

We took up Ephesians 1 and “predestination” last Sunday in Gospel Doctrine. After performing the requisite semantic dance with various terms, we got to discussing the concept of being “chosen” and “foreordained” for this or that. What struck me most was the way LDS culture perceives these concepts. The lesson dialogue focuses on prophets, leaders, and esteemed historical figures in the gospel and restoration period (e.g., Jeremiah, Abraham, Paul, Joseph Smith, etc.). It is reiterated that these individuals were foreordained and then chose their stations. Invariably, the discussion resorts to how grateful so-and-so is to be born in America, post-restoration, into a Mormon family, and on and on . . . . This seems to be the consensus of thinking around the topic.

Then, whether by express statement, omission, or by implication, the idea is presented that those who are not so privileged to live in Post-Restoration Mormon America were not valiant in a pre-mortal existence. Again, this is the consensus of thinking around the topic. [Read more…]

A Chieko Okazaki Sharing Time Lesson


This was originally posted one year ago. It is being re-posted in honor of Sister Okazaki, who passed away this week.

Continuing with the theme of how awesome I am at my callings, I thought I would share one of the more successful Sharing Time lessons I’ve done in my current calling in the Primary presidency.

The theme for Sharing Time was “Family members have important responsibilities” (last year’s program). I was to do a week on mommies’ responsibilities, a week on daddies’ responsibilities, and a week on kids’ responsibilities to the family. Sis. Okazaki gave a great talk about the Japanese word kigatsuku, which means being aware of one’s surroundings and doing good without being asked, which fits perfectly with kids’ responsibilities in the family.
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Chieko Okazaki (1926 – 2011)

Chieko Okazaki

Chieko Okazaki

What is the appropriate way to mourn the passing of an individual with such limitless optimism and cheer as Chieko Okazaki? How can our hearts not ache and rend at the loss of someone whose life deeply influenced so many? And yet, can a memorial full of anguish appropriately honor the one with the sunny spunk to tell us to Lighten Up?
[Read more…]

Sanctified Memory

Last Tuesday, I attended the funeral of a long-time English department colleague, Richard G. Ellsworth, who was also in the Provo ward of my childhood: Oak Hills II. Richard was our enthusiastic chorister, the kind of conductor who invested his body and his hair (it was long enough to react to his arms’ energetic movements–and he always led us with both arms) in every phrase of music.

When I was about ten, he was my Sunday school teacher for the simple reason that his son was the most mischievous child in class. I’m sure the bishop pulled Richard out of whatever other calling he had so that the Ellsworth kid would have his father right there. [Read more…]

Church-Hacker #9: For Type-A Teachers

When I taught Gospel Doctrine, I completely gave up hope that any class members would ever read the material ahead of time. BCC regular Chris Gordon says there’s another way:

I had a teacher once who, you know, actually did something other than beg to try to help his class read ahead and participate in the discussion. Nearly every week around mid-week I’d get an email like this:

Dear Gospel Doctrine Class,

For those of you who missed class on Sunday, we hope to see you soon. We had a great discussion on [insert lesson name with hyperlink to lesson and related scriptures], in which we focused primarily on x and y.

As a reminder, for Sunday we’ll be covering [lesson name with hyperlink]. I’d like to spend some time discussing a and b, but we’ll see where the discussion goes.  Hope to see you there.

Have a great week,
Teacher

It was never particularly long, worked great for when I was in toddler limbo, and was a great way for me to at least glance at the lesson ahead of time via hyperlink. I also understand that the teacher made it a point to include on the mailing list those whose callings keep them from attending Sunday School, to help them feel included.

Occasionally the teacher would also include links to talks or other resources related to the subject matter, probably depending on how much preparation had already been done by email time. The teacher would often also include attachments or links to resources and/or quotes used in lesson prep in lieu of or in addition to handouts.  There are always the folks who don’t use email and I’m not sure what the teacher did to help them.

Love the idea. And if sending the email becomes a part of a teacher’s regular lesson prep, it might not even be that much of an extra burden. The only issue for me would be revealing my sources (I wouldn’t be able to crib quite so liberally from Feast Upon the Word Blog and Wikipedia anymore).

Teachers, would you be up for this level of engagement with your class members? And class members, would you care?

____________

Got your own Church-Hacker idea? Submit it! (the church-hacking guidelines are here.) See all entries in this series here.

Resource Constraints & Shifts In Religious Behavior Patterns

The recent issue of BYU Studies contains a paper written by my co-blogger Jonathan Stapley regarding the Relief Society’s burial services the early 1900’s.  The paper addresses a decline in Relief Society burial preparations, and largely attributes this decline to the Relief Society’s inability to compete with professional burial service providers. I think this is reasonable, but found it somewhat incomplete when I looked at the data.  In particular, I was curious about the speed of the decline in burial preparations over time, and wondered if there might be more to the story than an inability to provide equally good burial services. In any case, it seemed like an excellent opportunity for rampant speculation. [Read more…]

Church-Hacker #7: The End Time

This week’s Church-Hacker was submitted by BCC reader Raymond, and should immediately be instituted in every ward throughout the church.

Why is it acceptable to go over the allotted time in meetings, but taboo to end early? Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

It kills me whenever I see a teacher nervously look at the clock wondering how to “fill” more time. Just stop. No one will complain if we finish early. Another recurring problem is teachers who can’t stop until they get through their material. We appreciate the effort you put into preparing your lesson, but we’d appreciate it even more if you stopped on time. I tune out the teacher as soon as it’s time to leave anyway.

[Read more…]

Church-Hacker #6: Make ‘Em Pray

A great discussion or lesson in priesthood meeting can be the highlight of my Sunday, but it’s tough to squeeze a great discussion into the small window that quorum teachers are allotted. Sometimes the teacher has as little as 15 minutes left by the time priesthood opening exercises are over. And yet the brief window doesn’t have to be a limitation—I can think of several ways we can use that 15-30 minutes to strengthen the quorum. Some of these ideas involve looking outside the classroom/lesson paradigm we’ve adopted for quorum meetings, but maybe that’s OK.

[Read more…]

Church-Hacker #5: Missionary Moment 2.0

This week’s Church-Hacker idea comes from BCC’s own Kevin Barney:

My ward has a tradition that every Fast Sunday, the conducting bishopric member reads excerpts from letters sent home by the missionaries from our ward out serving in the field.  This might not be practicable in a Utah ward with a dozen people serving, but we’ve never had more than three so it works for us.  I love it.  It helps us remain connected to our young people so far away, and when we hear the things they are going through it gives us a greater appreciation for their sacrifices.  And this is far superior to some strained “missionary moment” in priesthood opening exercises.

Think this would work in your own ward? Already tried it? Let us know in the comments.

Got your own Church-Hacker idea? Submit it! (the church-hacking guidelines are here)

Church-Hacker #4: The Fifth-Sunday Swap

This week’s Church-Hacker idea comes from BCC reader Chris Gordon:

We make it a tradition on 5th Sundays to swap presidencies in Elders Quorum/Relief Society. The RS president comes to priesthood to teach and vice versa.

The focus is generally on something family-oriented, but it’s been fun and enlightening.  The best, though, was in an early iteration when it was done in lieu of a first Sunday presidency message.  The visiting rep from the RS wrapped up with 10 minutes to spare for testimony time.  The class enjoyed 10 minutes of crickets chirping as the brethren stared blankly at this development.

Think your ward could benefit from this leadership swap? Already doing it? Enlighten us with a comment.

[Read more…]

Easing the transition from Young Women to Relief Society

So I understand we have a problem retaining our young adults, who tend to go inactive once they leave the youth program and transition to being adults in the church.  The good news is that I don’t think we are any worse off than typical Christian churches; for all I know, we could be better off.  (Somebody who has read a study should tell me.)  The bad news is that I’m not sure there’s much we can really do about this problem.  I’ve observed a lot of conversations about this issue, and of all the explanations that are given for why our young adults stop going to church, the one that seems to get mentioned least often is the one that is the obvious, most-likely culprit:  young adults, at least the ones who are not living at home and don’t have parents to force them to go to church, would much rather sleep in and do whatever the heck they want on Sunday than go to church.  I mean, who wouldn’t?  Have you ever skipped church before?  It’s kind of awesome.  It’s like having another Saturday, one even freer of obligation.  (I have noticed that Sunday is the one day of the week my non-church-going friends and acquaintances always have available.  Always.) [Read more…]

Harmonizing the Text with History

Tomorrow is stake conference, and then a week from tomorrow I’ll be teaching GD lesson 21, which is JS-M. I haven’t actually prepared the lesson yet, but in pulling some stuff together I noticed something that was new to me and which I thought was interesting. [Read more…]

Church-Hacker #3: Speaker Upgrade

This week’s Church-Hacker idea comes from BCC reader Gdub:

This is something that a former bishop of mine did, which greatly improved the quality of speakers in our ward. [Read more…]

Church-Hacker #2: The Romper Room

This is the second installment in our new series of tips and ideas for optimizing the three-hour block of Sunday meetings. The first installment (and the full explanation) is here.

There exists a state of limbo for children who are too young to attend nursery, but too old to sit quietly in the adult classes. These pre-nursery children and their parents are neither here nor there; they’re lost in the fog of the foyer, the parents chasing their toddlers around and sympathetically rolling their eyes at the other parents in a similar state.

I was recently one of those parents. Once Sacrament Meeting was over, if I wasn’t responsible for teaching a lesson, I had to decide between ducking in and out of class with my rambunctious daughter, roaming the halls with her, or just going home. Church was at 11, so most Sundays I headed home after Sacrament Meeting and put my kid down for her nap. And why not? I wasn’t going to be in a class anyway.

[Read more…]

Church-Hacker #1: The Guest Professional

We’re running low on recurring series here at BCC (Scott B., I miss our Thursday Morning Quickies terribly), so I’m launching a new one. It’s called Church-Hacker—it’s basically Lifehacker, but for church. Each week, we’ll post an idea that you can try in your ward or calling to make the meeting block more engaging, more spiritual, or even more fun.

[Read more…]

Spiritual History

General Relief Society President recently said at Women’s Conference in regards to the upcoming manual on the history of the Relief Society,  “There are some things that have come out in that preparation that have delineated some themes for learning. It’s not so important to have a linear history in the Church, but it is important to know our spiritual heritage and history, what themes emerge in that spiritual heritage, and what the Lord wants us to accomplish.”

Is it possible to have a grasp on spiritual history without the context of linear history?

Unfairness

We arrived late to church on Sunday. So instead of entering the chapel, the three of us remained in the foyer during Sacrament meeting. As my wife prepared her Relief Society lesson on the couch, I sat with my 4-year-old daughter, Annika, on a table against the wall. To our left, enclosed behind a protective glass case, hung a large wooden plaque with pictures of almost all the past Relief Society presidents in chronological order of service: Emma Smith thru Mary Ellen Smoot.

Annika: “Dad?”
Me: “Yes.”
Annika: “What is this?”
Me: “It’s all the past Presidents of the Relief Society. That’s the class that Mom goes to while you’re in Primary.”
Annika: “How come there are only girls in the pictures?”
Me: “Because only girls can be President of the Relief Society.”
Annika (after a short pause): “I don’t think it’s fair to the boys that they can’t be in the pictures!”
Me: “Indeed.”

Follow the Prophet

I donned the mantle of Primary chorister yesterday. This was a first for me (and presumably a last). Our regular chorister asked me to sub for him the night before. Never in a million years did I imagine I’d find myself leading groups of children in song, so the invitation gave me serious pause. But I relished the embarrassing travesty I imagined might result if I participated, so I quickly said yes.
[Read more…]

In praise of the handbooks

When the new church handbooks were released last year, our stake president advised us to “press the reset button” on the way we administer the kingdom. Like everyone else, Mormons are susceptible to cultural accretions which soon take on the patina of gospel truth. For all the great questions of life (e.g. should we sit or stand for the intermediate hymn?), someone could point to some instruction by some visiting authority or something some leader heard when visiting some relative in Salt Lake or some such. [Read more…]

Why being a “Guardian of Virtue” is a terrible metaphor

I know it has been a couple of weeks, but I only just now read the talk given by President Elaine Dalton of the General Young Women’s Presidency in their annual meeting. The talk boils down to an admonition to be chaste and virtuous, both of which are good things. So, I am not here today to tell you the message of the talk is bad; I am here today to tell you that the way in which that message is conveyed is bad, distorting the message itself. [Read more…]

Mormon Merit Badge #2: Mormon Cuisine

As part of BCC’s continuing mission to assist the PTB in the development of new methods and materials designed to improve Gospel consumption, we seek the collective wisdom of the bloggernacle regarding the creation of revamped merit badges and requirements for implementation into a youth program that will better meet the needs of young men, women, or anyone who seeks to do a good turn daily. Your input on the requirements for each new merit badge will be requested, collected, and formalized in due time. Today, we ask each one of you to contribute your knowledge of Mormon Cuisine.

BCC’s Mormon Merit Badge #2: Mormon Cuisine
(Replacing: Cooking)
[Read more…]

Theft at Church

I stole today…during church…in the church building…in front of the young men I was about to teach a lesson to.

Our stake is collecting donations for a rummage sale/street fair that we do every year, and the donated stuff is sitting in the room where the young men meet for priesthood meeting.

Sitting right on top of the pile this morning was D. Michael Quinn’s Early Mormonism and the Magic World View. I figured it was an odd choice for a donation, and an even odder thing for our stake to sell for 50 cents to some guy munching on a funnel cake.

[Read more…]

Do We Still Teach Homemaking?

The title of this post isn’t a snark; it’s an open question, about which I am genuinely curious. (I’m also giving a presentation on this topic next week at the Midwest Sunstone/Restoration Studies conference, so my ulterior motive is a fishing expedition for anecdotes from the Collected Saints of the Bloggernacle.) [Read more…]

Mormon Merit Badge #1: Membership In the Ward

As is so often the case, BCC has been asked by the PTB to assist in the development of new methods and materials designed to improve Gospel consumption. This time, the PTB have specifically requested that we revamp the Scouting program by creating new merit badges and requirements for implementation into a youth program that will better meet the needs of young men and young women, but also adults seeking to increase the number of good turns they do daily. Your input on the requirements for each new merit badge will be requested, collected, and formalized in due time.

BCC’s Mormon Merit Badge #1: Membership In the Ward
(Replacing: Citizenship in the Community)
[Read more…]

Modestly played

So this past weekend I was visiting my sister, who is a Young Women leader in her ward, and she showed me this skit that they did for their New Beginnings. (I found it via a Google search. Apparently it is from Sugardoodle, but I couldn’t find a writing credit, unfortunately. Heck, I couldn’t find a title.) It is about the Value Heroes–Lady Faith, Diva Divine Nature, Individual Worth Woman (“My worth goes to INFINITY AND BEYOND!”), Queen Knowledge, Captain Choice and Accountability, Good Works the Great, Princess Integrity, and Virtue Girl–who safeguard the young women of Mutualopolis. Sadly, some dastardly villains capture the Value Heroes, leaving the poor young women of Mutualopolis at the mercy of the evil opposites of those values which have always protected them. But happily, the young women turn to the scriptures and realize that the Lord is their strength and if they live the Young Women values, they can be their own superheroes. And so the city of Mutualopolis is saved! (At least the young women are in pretty good shape. It’s an all-female play, you see. Like The Women, only without the adultery.) [Read more…]

Elder Holland and the Adversity Gap: A Modesty Proposal

Recently, I read Elder Holland’s talk from the October 2010 General Conference. Entitled “Because of Your Faith,” Elder Holland describes the sacrifices and support that has been offered to him personally and to the Church generally and says thank you. It is a heart-felt act of gratitude for the many people who serve in the church; specifically, gratitude for the many people who serve in the church in the Mormon corridor today and therein lies the rub. [Read more…]

Tuesday evening poll: modesty and being tall

As a tall woman whose garments fall about 4″ above the knee (regular, not petite size), am I obligated to wear skirts or shorts that cover the garment well, or that go all the way to the knee?

My thoughts: the church can’t be bothered to manufacture garments to fit too-tall freaks like me (update: see comments #36 and #38), I get that, totally. But, guess what, neither can any commercial clothing company. [Read more…]

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