One recent afternoon, two new elders were visiting our neighborhood. There is another Mormon family up the street, and after stopping in to see them, they came by our house. For all I know, missionaries have been doing these drop ins for years. I’ve never been home during the day before, but since my husband and I are starting up a small business, we are now both home during the day until our new office is open. This was a new experience for me. [Read more...]
A little over six months have passed since the Church held its mission president training meeting that was double-billed as a worldwide leadership training meeting relating to missionary work to which all members were invited (either in person at the BYU Marriott Center or virtually, by way of the internet) and which was preceded by unprecedented fanfare. [Read more...]
One of my most vivid memories as a boy growing up in the gospel-centered home that I did is of a Family Home Evening that we had when I was maybe four, in the basement of our little starter home in Bountiful, Utah. Mom and Dad helped my little brother and me trace our hands with blue marker on poster board. We cut those out, and then wrote on the five fingers of each hand our life’s goals, which we arrived at with Mom and Dad’s gentle persuasion:
1. Get Baptized and Receive the Holy Ghost
2. Receive the Aaronic Priesthood
3. Receive the Melchizedek Priesthood
4. Go on a Mission
5. Get Married in the Temple
That remains a pretty ideal life’s plan for young men in the Church today1—and there is a lot of good to it. Speaking personally, those were good goals for me, and they served me well. Over the years, I have also become more sensitive to the fact that sometimes ideals aren’t attainable, and that within Mormon culture the pain of unmet expectations or attainments can be really acute, even brutal. I want to speak in this post to a slightly different set of expectations that I wish we laid more cultural emphasis on—expectations that, in my view, are more attainable for a larger percentage of our willing young men and that might be more easily adapted to young women, as well.
This Sunday marks my 10th anniversary of entering the MTC. This was back before they made you say goodbye to your family at the curbside, so I have vivid memories of sitting in the large room, watching the short video of missionaries singing “Called To Serve,” parents walking out one door while missionaries walked out another, and absolutely everyone weeping uncontrollably. (It’s probably for the best that saying goodbye is now like ripping off a bandaid.) While my opinion of my mission in particular and LDS missions in general have changed over the years—for instance, whoever thinks those were truly “the best two years” must have had a lousy post-mission life—I am still very grateful for my time spent in the Washington DC North Mission, for the people I worked with, and especially the people I served.
As I’m sure is the case with everyone, I have mixed memories. So without further ado, below are 10 of my favorite Mission moments, followed by 10 of my most painful regrets. [Read more...]
It’s sometimes hard to tell the difference between righteousness (that needs no correction) and self-righteousness (that can’t bear or acknowledge the need for correction). Put another way, it’s difficult to confidently consider something personal revelation unless it differs from our own conscience or our own self-justifications or what we would do (even if we are tempted to do otherwise). Yet, the more we live the gospel, the more righteous and godlike we become and the less likely revelation will contradict our own views. [Read more...]
(Video clip from Habitat for Humanity, http://www.habitat.org)
For the last couple of weeks, our ward has been announcing a worldwide leadership training meeting that will be held on the afternoon of Sunday, June 23, 2013 in BYU’s Marriott Center. The meeting is being billed as a very big deal. Church leaders have requested local units to even modify their meeting times if they conflict with the 4:00 pm meeting time (which will be the case for us). If I understand correctly, the meeting is technically part of the mission presidents training but, unusually, all members of ward and stake councils and their spouses and all other members of the Church who are interested are invited to attend. My understanding is that all members of the First Presidency and Quorum of Twelve Apostles will be in attendance. The upshot is that they have an important message to deliver, presumably about missionary work. [Read more...]
I have never been a big fan of testimony meetings for a variety of reasons, but maybe my opinion is starting to shift.
I recently taught the May Sunday School youth lesson from Come Follow Me “What does it mean to bear testimony?” Since I teach 12-13 year olds, including my own son, I wanted to find a game or object lesson to help illustrate testimony. I found the idea for a puzzle on the church’s website.
I showed the class a partially constructed puzzle. My son immediately shouted out “It’s a goldfish in a bowl. Boom!” I said it wasn’t a goldfish. Another boy agreed with my son: ”It’s definitely a goldfish.” I assured the class again that the picture was not a goldfish. The puzzle object lesson seemed to be working in ways not intended, demonstrating that some people draw wrong conclusions based on scant evidence and their own personal assumptions.
I am happy to introduce a new monthly youth Sunday school series at BCC: adapting the youth Sunday school curriculum to train future missionaries.
In my own ward I’m fortunate to teach 17-18 year-olds. Some of them already have turned in their mission papers and are awaiting calls. Others are working on their papers. The Sunday school curriculum adapts itself easily to teaching the youth how to share the gospel both with investigators in a formal setting and with friends. [Read more...]
O be wise, what can I say more?
A Mormon boy from an affluent neighborhood in Utah, barely 18 years old, will leave a few days after graduating from high school for the crushing poverty, suffering, and misery of Sierra Leone. This isn’t the plot of an off-color Broadway musical. It’s going to happen in a couple of months to a real person. He’s not going to experience mere culture shock; it will be an entirely different world, a different universe. Nothing in the boy’s lived experience up until this point is going to have prepared him for even the smallest percentage of what he is going to observe landing there. I hope and pray he survives!
There isn’t much difference between an 18 year old boy and a 19 year old boy — both are teenagers still, both usually as green as can be. On paper it’s a wash. [Read more...]
I cannot, in good conscience, recommend that my gay friends investigate the church. [Read more...]
Notes, commentary, and questions for LDS Sunday School teachers using the ‘Doctrine & Covenants and Church History’ manual. Feel free to share your thoughts or ideas regarding the lesson in the comments.
This covers much the same material as the last lesson, historically and thematically. The emphasis continues to be on Oliver Cowdery’s experiences translating the Book of Mormon and, specifically, his attempts to recognize the spirit of revelation in his own life. While the emphasis of last week’s lesson was more on preparing yourself to receive revelation, this week’s lesson has more to do with recognizing what on earth is going on when it happens.
First of all, go to the new Revelations in Context resource at lds.org and read the article by Jeffrey Cannon on Oliver Cowdery’s Gift. While you are hopping around, go to Robin Jensen’s post on last week’s lesson and read that as well. Now return to this post and feel bad; I’m neither as knowledgeable, nor as good a writer as those guys. Oh well.
If there is one message to take from all of the sections being covered this week (and last week) it is this: revelation is not easy work. [Read more...]
We’ve all heard the anecdotal tales about BYU bishops being flooded with interview requests from newly prospective missionaries. And now we have quantitative confirmation of the coming surge, as church spokesperson Michael Purdy released some startling numbers tonight:
“Typically approximately 700 new applications are started each week. The last two weeks that number has increased to approximately 4,000 per week. Slightly more than half of the applicants are women.”
That’s an increase of almost 6X! DesNews reminds us that these are “not submitted applications, rather online applications that have been opened and started.” Nevertheless, the ginormous spike will surely translate to a ginormous spike in submitted applications. Which raises lots of fun questions. For instance:
I’m reading a loved one’s latest missionary letter, and it’s a blow-by-blow account of some righteous argument he reportedly “won” while tracting. It’s a hilarious/sad/scary story, as the argument focused mainly on theodicy (and are there ever winners in theodicy debates?). His letter drips with hubris, righteous fire, and above all, familiarity–that used to be me (and perhaps you as well).
Everyone told me as a missionary that we shouldn’t “bible bash” and argue because “the Spirit can’t work where there’s contention.” Nobody told us not to bible bash because we were stupid 19-year-olds who didn’t know anything.
There’s probably a lesson in here for adults, too…
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.
I am a recent convert to “Mormonism” myself. Not too many years ago you could find me vigorously arguing on Mormon-themed blogs about the importance of avoiding the word “Mormon” as a nickname for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. At the time, it felt like a concession to detractors of our faith to self-identify by the nickname they derisively gave to us in the nineteenth century. Ironically, however, it was precisely our nineteenth-century ancestors in the faith who had made peace with the descriptor and good-naturedly co-opted it to describe themselves, leaving us with the lasting nickname. [Read more...]
We’re on summer holiday, but I dropped by the school to check on something. In my mailbox I found a gift from a student. It was the eighth bottle of wine I received this year. Clearly I have failed to make my status as a Mormon known to my students. It’s not their fault: the only clues to my Mormonism are a BYU diploma on the wall and what they perceive as an eccentric interest in herbal teas, neither of which signify any meaning to my international students.
I’m afraid this is not an isolated incident. A few years ago, I had a former student email me, a bit out of the blue. She had graduated about six years before, but I remembered her well. She had been a stage manager when I directed the school play, and we had a fair number of quite serious conversations. In this email, she explained that something had happened to her that she wanted to share with me. As you’ve already guessed, she had joined the LDS church, and she wanted to share her testimony with me. She wrote that the gospel would help me find the answers and (I remember the quotation very well) ‘leave my confusion behind.’ I sheepishly returned her email, explaining that I had been a member of the church when she knew me, although perhaps not very deeply involved with the church at that time.
So: please share your failures as a member missionary. Think of this as the anti-missionary moment.
I was thinking today about Alma’s little wish:
O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people!
We all know that Alma self-smacked himself down soon after writing this, but let’s say, for argument’s sake, that he (or, you) got this wish. Then what? [Read more...]
Early in my teens, my mother and her sister got the idea that they should take ship to England and pick up my aunt’s daughter who was serving a mission in Scotland. I got drafted as guardian, being a robust youth. Not really. I think Mom worried about my fate in the hands of my brothers and father in her absence. Wise woman. There are many tales of this trip and I won’t bore you with most of them, but I will offer you a few.
I guess I could say that I’d prefer someone else baptize her, but that wouldn’t be true. I want to baptize her, and she wants me to baptize her, too. She’s been part of our family pretty much since she came to visit. No one else really knows her, except some of the old women. Still, all we have done is give her a ride to church every week and talk a little bit. Why did she agree to be baptized? I didn’t think she’d taken me seriously when I told her that I wanted to baptize her as soon as she believes that I won’t let her drown. No, there’s no one else that should do this if I don’t. Maybe Bishop. No, me. I just don’t think that baptizing visitors who are leaving soon is a very good idea. In fact, I think it’s almost uniformly a bad idea. I think it’s an even worse idea when that visitor is 82 years old. And when her knees don’t bend. [Read more...]
Yesterday I attended a meeting at which Gary Lawrence spoke about the research he conducted which forms the foundation of his book, How Americans View Mormonism. His firm contacted 1,000 randomly selected Americans and asked 55 questions. The answers given by the respondents clearly demonstrate that we are doing a poor job of communicating.
Behold my bi-monthly, post-mission ritual: I’d be strolling across the BYU campus, minding my own business, when suddenly I’d bump into a returned missionary from my mission who’d returned home after I did. I myself had only been back for 6 months, but this was long enough for me to view each RM as a potential gold mine of information and updates about my old areas. So I’d make the predictable inquiries … about my baptisms, my investigators, my favorite ward members, my mission companions. Interesting tidbits of information were few and far between, but the potential was always there, so I never stopped asking. Occasionally I’d get some morsel of gossip, but nothing to write home about. Until one fine afternoon – as I interrogated a recently returned elder about each of my junior companions – I participated in the following bombshell exchange:
RM: “Dude, did you hear about what happened to Elder Sorenson?”
Me: “No, I didn’t. What happened to him? He was my comp, you know.”
RM: “Yeah, he got sent home a few months ago. Something to do with homosexuality.” [Read more...]
Armand Mauss has recently written on the costs of membership in the Mormon Church for European Mormons. They are high. Read any of Wilfried’s old T&S posts and you will have this view confirmed. I would like to note another way in which European Mormons shoulder a heavier burden than do their American co-religionists generally: missionary service.
My insight is largely anecdotal and Britain-specific. It may not elicit any sympathy (after all, Zion is a city of sacrifice). However, some realisation of the specific challenges of international Mormons is useful for an American audience, I hope. [Read more...]
I find it interesting that the new Broadway show THE BOOK OF MORMON throws a freshfaced missionary into Uganda, where the setting is supposed to show the ludicrousness of mormon faith and idealism when confronted with the hellish realities of man’s cruelties to man.
The reality is that Mormons are already in Uganda, and we’re doing just fine, thanks. [Read more...]
You can read the full paper here.
Grant Hardy, “The King James Bible and the Future of Missionary Work”—Synopsis
The King James Version of the Bible has a long and storied history, but the LDS Church is entering a period when the drawbacks of that 400 year old translation will become more and more apparent, for several reasons: [Read more...]
In this episode, Scott B. listens in while Aaron Brown tells a story from his mission that probably should have stayed in his mission.
Links for your convenience:
In my mission, they were called investifakers; I preferred inventigators, but the name is immaterial. At certain times, companions and I deemed it necessary to report that we were teaching an investigator who did not exist. I built up considerable talent in this creative endeavor, and now I would pass my experience and knowledge on to any who might find it useful.
Before I begin, I need to acknowledge those who gave me so much. Of my four companions who were ‘older’ than me, three described having created investigators. (My trainer, a steadfast fellow who went on to become AP, never mentioned having done so: he was merely willing to round any segment of an hour up to the full hour and was generously inclusive in the definition of street contacting [including playing chess in the park and video games in an open arcade]). Truly I stood on the shoulders of giants. [Read more...]
And now for something completely different!
In this episode, Scott B. interviews the Cyber Elders–a pair of missionaries who have been called to serve in an experimental mission devoted solely to online missionary work. And no, we are not making this up. [Read more...]
The second area I served in was Burlington, Vermont. Our mission was referred to as the New England Mission. It no longer exists. Huge by today’s standards, it has long since been broken up into many smaller missions. I was in Burlington during the winter months. Our apartment was the attic of a building very near to Lake Champlain. Down below was a rest home. The apartment had no provision for heating or cooling and that is the beginning of a number of fun stories, which I will not go into here.