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.

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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.

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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.

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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.
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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)
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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.

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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...]

Correlation: An Uncorrelated History (Part 9 — History Done Backwards)

This is the final, and longest, post of the series. Read the first eight installments: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, and Part 8. You can download and read Daymon’s dissertation here.

Remember, Daymon has made his dissertation available for purchase in bound form here. All of the proceeds will go to the Utah Food Bank. [Read more...]

Virtue, revisited

At the beginning of 2009 I published my most inflammatory post ever–the one about the church announcing the addition of an eighth value to the Young Women Personal Progress program, Virtue. I took the press release, which invited parents and leaders “to teach the doctrine of chastity and moral purity to help each young woman to be virtuous,” as an indication that the church and the Young Women program particularly were aiming to put a special emphasis on chastity. [Read more...]

P.S. What are you wearing?

So the other day I tossed off this post about teaching our girls (okay, “our children, especially daughters”) the importance of modest dress, and then I promptly went off to play with my three-year-old (who was respectably clad in an oversize t-shirt and long pants) and subsequently spent the rest of the day de-cluttering and reorganizing the toy room. I didn’t re-visit the post until late that afternoon, when I was not remotely surprised to learn that aforementioned post had generated more feedback than usual. More than usual for me, I mean. Most of what I post doesn’t provoke much of a response. When I post on a topic like modesty, however, it is guaranteed that the same arguments will get trotted out and re-hashed ad nauseum in the comments section. At first I felt a little guilty for writing something so predictably inflammatory and then abandoning the thread to pursue my own selfish interests, but as I read what everyone had to say, the guilt completely dissipated and I felt that, if anything, I had served the greater good by letting nature take its course and thus prove my satirical point more effectively than I ever could have, had I taken the time to formulate thoughtful responses to everyone’s arguments. [Read more...]

Teaching modesty to our youth: ur doin it rong

Silvia H. Allred, second counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency, had an article on modesty in the July 2009 issue of the Ensign. In the sidebar, “Teaching Modesty to Our Children,” Sister Allred wrote the following:

Girls might not recognize that the physical display they create when they dress immodestly affects boys more than it does them. Help children, especially daughters, understand that attracting someone of the opposite sex solely by physical means does not create a lasting relationship.

[Read more...]

SEWING!

John C. and Scott B. collaborate to bring us another installment of BCC Labs.

Dear Sisters of the Church,

While we here at BCC Labs are deeply concerned with the ongoing conversations found in the Daily Universe, we are also multitasking. This is thanks to our development of a robot named Millie, who does most of the cleaning, and to a system for connecting computers together by giving them unique addresses and encouraging them to connect to new computers (for a small piece of the action) that we are tentatively calling the “NuSkinternet.” We were just getting ready to leave for a very important series of experiments to be completed in Tahiti when Millie brought to our attention an item of interest, one that could radically affect the growth of the Church and the raising of the bar for missionaries. We speak, of course, of lingerie.
[Read more...]

YW Virtue Lessons

There have been several posts recently about the new Young Women’s value of virtue, with people wondering what exactly it is supposed to mean and what to do with it. So I’ve kind of had that question in my head, and as a result I’ve been noticing a few possibilities for lessons I would teach if I were a YW leader (which of course is never going to actually happen IRL!) Part of the point of this post is for you to add your own suggestions for lesson ideas. [Read more...]

Virtue, Part Two

Part Two has had to undergo a major overhaul because since posting Part One I have had the opportunity for reflection and come to regret its censoriousness. Upon reading this special issue of the Church News (dated December 27, 2008—about a month after the First Presidency letter announcing the change in the Young Women theme), I feel like I can accept the purity of intentions behind the Young Women value known as “Virtue.” The article cites a 2003 address by James E. Faust, given at the General Young Women Conference, “The Virtues of Righteous Daughters of God.” In the talk, President Faust discussed ten virtues all young women should aspire to: faith, honesty, chastity, humility, self-discipline, fairness, moderation, cleanliness, courage, and grace. These ten virtues are now ten aspects of the Young Women super-value Virtue.

I concede that “Virtue” is a much better name for a value than “Everything but the Kitchen Sink,” though not quite as catchy as “All-Around Awesomeness.” I would like to see a group of young ladies getting up in church each week and reciting the list of “Young Women values, which are Faith, Divine Nature, Individual Worth, Knowledge, Choice & Accountability, Good Works, Integrity, and Awesomeness.” That would be thrilling for at least a few weeks. [Read more...]

Virtue, Part One: More modesty, please

Depending on your personal circumstances and inclination to pay attention to stuff that goes on at church, you may or may not be aware that for the last twenty years the Young Women’s program has revolved around seven “Young Women values”: Faith, Divine Nature, Individual Worth, Knowledge, Choice & Accountability, Good Works, and Integrity. Each value has a corresponding color. Faith is white, Divine Nature is…blue…I think. I’m pretty sure Choice & Accountability is orange. I don’t know, I was on my way out of Young Women when they came up with this stuff, so I never really got around to mastering it. [Read more...]

Negotiating modesty (a series of random events)

A while back–maybe a year or two ago–my daughter came home with a new complaint about Primary: they were forcing her to sing songs about “touching private parts.” I asked her what on earth she was talking about, and it turned out that the offending song was “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.” Get it? Because your shoulders are supposed to be covered–that makes them private. Okay, so we had a little talk about the difference between shoulder-type parts and actually-private parts. And here my troubles began. [Read more...]

Modesty and Adornment: Spring Fashion Issues

So, here in Massachusetts, it’s starting to seem safe to put away the snowpants. Which means, of course, that (by the fashion industry’s bizarre calendar) the stores will soon be full of back-to-school fashions, and I’ve got to hurry to buy shorts and swimsuits for my kids. The boys are easy enough–plain t-shirts and longish, comfy shorts are easy to find. But shopping for my daughter is tedious and annoying as a practical matter, and downright infuriating as a philosophical and spiritual problem. [Read more...]

The Rise of LDS dot Org and the Decline of Everything Else

The title of this post is a blatant rip-off of Hugh Nibley’s The Rise of Rhetoric and the Decline of Everything Else. Nibley was working with a rather narrow definition of rhetoric and saw it simply as an insincere form of speech, what we today might call spin. It is my belief that the search function of the official Church website, combined with our native laziness, has brought about a decline in the quality of speaking and teaching in our meetings. [Read more...]

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