When looking for a picture to show in Sunday School, the ward library is sure to have an image. Plenty of Scriptures are available if not all the students have them. There is also a collection of Presidents of the Church manuals for Relief Society and Priesthood meetings. A well used copy machine exists for handouts and the latest Conference Report lesson. Occasionally there might be a video produced by the LDS Church to pass the time or make a short point during class. It also has pencils, paper, and even crayons if the occasion requires. These are the most common uses on any given Sunday for the small room often taken for granted staffed by familiar faces.
Maybe “library” is the wrong name at times. It is a place of resources more than reference or reading material. The collection of books is small and often of old vintage. Almost none of them are ever checked out. Books of any consequence can easily be found in the local public library. There are some places owned by the LDS Church that do have good collections. It isn’t surprising the Brigham Young University in all of its franchises probably has the best and most number of Mormon reading and resources for average members. That includes writings that its critics would not believe would be carried. Scattered all over the United States are college seminary libraries of varied quality. Good as these places might be, they are few and far between. The problem with public libraries can be a lack of control over what might be available, even for Mormon majority populations. The needs of ward members are not always the same as the community they belong. Continue reading
Having finished partaking of bread and water in memory of the Savior’s atoning sacrifice, a young man walks up to the podium. He pulls out notes copied by printer from information found on the LDS Church website. Nervously he clears his throat and prepares to face a group of people familiar to him, but often no more than acquaintances. He puts on a smile to cover true feelings of discomfort.
“Hello.” he starts. “The Bishop wants me to talk about happiness. I first learned of the assignment Saturday morning soon after getting out of bed. The phone rang and woke me up. I climbed out of bed and started dressing when my mom called out that I had a call. ‘who is it?’ I begged. It seemed too early for it to be my girlfriend who was probably just getting up. ‘You’ll find out. Just pick up the phone.’ I wish I hadn’t,” the young man says, turning to the far older man sitting between two other men. “You caught me at the only time to reach me.” He turns back to the audience, “The minute I said hello and the Bishop said hello back, I knew what this meant. I’ll get back at the Bishop,” he chuckles in good nature. No one takes him seriously. That is part of the problem.
He clears his throat to start the rest of the talk. For a moment he looks out among the bored adults, screaming babies, inattentive busy children, and self-absorbed teenagers. It seems the only ones paying attention are his parents; siblings not caring. “I am going to base my talk on Elder _________ of the Seventy who gave this excellent talk about what Christ did for us.” The young man proceeds to read paragraph after paragraph, interjecting a few short comments of his own. By the time he ends most in the meeting are taking a cat nap or reading the latest Church magazine or scriptures on mobile devices. He sits down and the next speaker gets up to more or less repeat the process.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Although the example was from a young man, adults often follow this same pattern. Part of it is a general nervous reaction to getting up in front of a group to communicate. The American culture is extremely individualistic with only the most extroverted getting noticed. Exhibitionism is the norm for public presentations and lectures set aside for teachers. No matter. There are some suggestions anyone can follow to give a better Sacrament meeting talk that is engaging and less uncomfortable. Most who read this probably already know these tips, but hopefully it can be shared. Do in our own talks what 1 Timothy 4: 12 says, “but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” Continue reading
Picture this scenario: You’re in Sunday School, and the teacher has just given a passionate lesson, full of scriptures and quotes from the prophet and personal testimony, about the importance of keeping the Sabbath day holy. Throughout the lesson, she repeatedly invites members of the class to think of ways they could do better at making the Sabbath a holy day for them and their family. At some point, towards the end of the lesson, someone raises their hand, and says something like this (probably in different words, but to the same effect): “This is all true, but we need to remember that we can’t run faster than we have strength. Also, we shouldn’t beat ourselves up if we aren’t perfect. God will accept us as we are, and we should remember that. Let’s remember that most of us are probably doing alright.”
Have any of you had this experience? I have, and I suspect many others have too. In fact, I suspect most of us have been in a position where we’ve wanted to make a comment like this. This is because all of us can probably think of ways we could do better at keeping the Sabbath, fasting, missionary work, home teaching, scripture study, loving, praying, or whatever the specific topic of the day is. And since we all know that there are things we can do better (since there always are and always will be), teachers, leaders, and bloggers who remind us of the disparity between our ideals and our practice often incite a hidden guilt within us, a guilt that calls out for reassurance. We realize how truly inadequate we really are, and we want so badly to hear instead that we are doing ok. We sometimes experience these invitations as accusations that we aren’t doing enough. Continue reading
I remember when I was very small—maybe four or five, sitting on a cushioned chapel bench and staring up into Mama’s face during the Sacrament prayer. Her face looked very serious, and her lips moved in sync with the words the priest spoke. Always. I asked her why she did that. She told me it helped her think about the words that were being spoken. As she sat with her head bowed and eyes closed throughout the passing of the bread and water, I thought about the words she had spoken.
I usually go to Gospel Essentials rather than Gospel Doctrine just because the way reading through the scriptures is typically done in most wards doesn’t excite me much. (There’s the usual assumption that no one read the reading assignment. Ever in their life. Then there’s the idea that everyone needs help figuring out what you should have figured out by doing the reading assignment.) Gospel Essentials is just more interesting to me.
Today we covered the Word of Wisdom though. I have some questions and I thought I’d throw them out to everyone. Continue reading