Category Archives: Mormon Church Bureaucracy

186th Semiannual General Conference – Saturday Morning General Session

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I wish I was at home watching this, but I’m working today, so I’m watching this during my lunch break (and then some). I’ll be able to get home before the next session, and then my sons and I will go out with my father and my brother-in-law for tonight’s session. We’ll watch both sessions at home tomorrow.

It is a brisk Fall day today, so it’s kind of nice to be inside. I’m looking forward to the warmth of the Spirit as we hear from the various leaders.


It looks like the First Presidency has changed the side they are sitting on. They used to sit on the left of the pulpit (when watching from the congregation). They are now on the right side. I wonder if that is so President Monson doesn’t have so far to walk.

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir sang Sweet Is the Work

President Henry B Eyring conducted

The choir sang With Songs of Praise

The invocation was offered by Sister Joy D Jones

President Dieter F Ucthdorf

  • computer analogy
  • see, that’s how you do it
  • 22 years later, he is comfortable with it
  • The more adept I get, the more I take it for granted
  • We can take the gospel for granted
  • We have been given by so much
  • we get distracted
  • we tread a path covered with diamonds, but we can’t tell the
  • ifference between them and pebbles
  • what shall we give for the flood of light and truth we have received
  • live by the truth we have received

The choir sang We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet (it sounded wonderful!)

Elder Robert D Hales

  • Elie Wiesel‘s grandson asked him, “If I loved you more, would I hurt less?”
  • If we loved the Savior more, would we suffer less
  • We may not be able to eliminate our physical suffering, but we can suffer less spiritually
  • Teach your family. Don’t let the time slip by
  • We cannot pray away another’s agency

Sister Carol F McConkie

  • We can commune with God personally
  • Prayer is a gift from god
  • We are never alone
  • Every moment of prayer can be holy time

The choir and congregation sang Redeemer of Israel

Elder Craig C Christensen

  • We don’t need to be timid about Joseph Smith’s mission
  • If any of us lack wisdom, we can ask too
  • We have prophets to this day
  • The priesthood authority of God is on the earth

Elder Juan A Uceda

  • Told a story about how he almost fell off a cliff when he was a missionary
  • Always pray with a sincere heart
  • Let us pray as Jesus taught us to pray

Elder J Devn Cornish

  • Others believe in us when we sometimes don’t believe in ourselves
  • We must stop comparing ourselves to others
  • Yes, you are good enough and yes, you will make it
  • God is not a heartless referee looking to toss us out of the game
  • The atonement is both for sinners and saints
  • This doesn’t mean sin is ok. It always has consequences
  • True repentence is not easy
  • Do not rationalize rather than repenting

The choir sang Take Time to Be Holy

Elder Neil L Andersen

  • Shared story of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream
  • This church is the stone cut of out of the mountain
  • We have a great missionary responsibility
  • The gospel must go to everyone

The choir sang If the Way Be Full of Trial

The benediction was offered by Elder Marcus B Nash




Read the recaps and other notes from the 186th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:

A report on the boundary changes

As I mentioned last week, there was a special meeting planned for this past Sunday where 4 wards would learn about some boundary changes. Our Stake President had decided that since we had General Conference and Stake Conference in the month, he wanted the Sacrament administered to (or is it for?) the members. We had 19 YM (Priests, Teachers and Deacons and a couple of adults) help do this. They passed the Sacrament to close to 400 people. It worked out well and a lot of people were appreciative that they had that opportunity.

Before getting to the changes, let me share one other thing with you… My father emailed a childhood friend who now lives in Utah (he has for decades). My dad said that they were making some changes, and this friend emailed back to say that in the last 10 years he’s been in 10 different stakes even though he hasn’t moved, and that he is now back in the original ward/stake that he was in before all of this started. The bottom line is this was a big deal for many members around here as it is the first time changes have been made in 20 years, but in some parts of the world this happens almost regularly.

So, the meeting ran like a regular sacrament meeting. The boundary changes were taken care of during the business portion near the beginning of the meeting. A counselor in the Stake Presidency announced the boundaries and then the members of the newly realigned ward were asked to sustain the changes. Opportunity was given to oppose, but no one did.

The changes were less drastic than I thought they might be. Our ward only lost a few members and didn’t gain any from any other wards. We’ll miss the members we lost greatly, but they will be well cared for in the new ward.

There were then a couple of youth speakers and all of the Bishops also had a chance to share their testimony. The Stake President was then the concluding speaker. The whole meeting lasted about  1 1/2 hours.

On the wrong (or right) side of the tracks

tracks

For the first time in my time in the Church I will be experiencing the unique Mormon ritual of changing ward boundaries. I know that other churches have different methods of distributing their members, but no one seems to be as “strict” about it as we are.

I live in an area where there are three cities fairly close together with a fourth about half an hour away. The various boundaries were set 20 years ago and haven’t changed since. As demographics have shifted some wards have grown and some have shrunk, and so the existing boundaries lead to an imbalance of membership.

About halfway through my time as bishop we were looking at some boundary changes but nothing ever came of it. At the time it seemed that the wards were doing ok. The boundary work we were doing was just to clean things up. There were going to be very few members affected by the changes. However these days it seems that a couple of the wards are having a very hard time getting people out. Another ward is definitely smaller than they used to be. I’m pretty sure that the ward I am in is the biggest ward in the area  (not that I have much to do with that fact). I have absolutely no inside information, but I suspect that my current ward will be hardest hit by this.

So this coming Sunday all of the area wards will be meeting together and sustaining whatever changes are announced. They are expecting around 500 people and we’ll be having the Sacrament. The YM from two of the wards will be taking care of that. I’ve never been to such a large Sacrament Meeting, so it will be interesting. I don’t think this is a normal part of these meetings, but with General Conference earlier this month and Stake Conference at the end of the month, the Stake President was concerned that we’d only be taking the Sacrament once this month.

On the one hand, who cares where we go to Church? What does that have to do with my testimony and desires of my heart? We talk about ward families, but we wouldn’t just ship off our brother or sister in our real family to be part of another family (at least not by choice). On the other hand it shouldn’t matter where we attend. The Church is the same. We’ll make new friends and stay in touch with the friends that are changing wards. We should be willing to go where we are needed, and build up the kingdom where we are.

The only tough part for me will be not seeing some of my good friends as often as we did. We can obviously still be friends, but when most of our time together was spent at Church and Church activities, it just won’t be the same. We’ll just have to try harder to stay close.

I assume that where we live I will still be in my current ward, but depending on what the needs are in other wards they could shift a border and we’d end up going somewhere else. I guess we’ll find out soon enough…

Note: I’ve never been to one of these big meetings where changes like this are made, so I’ll report back on it next week.

When numbers acquire the significant of language

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a baseball fan. When the book Moneyball came out in 2003, I read it shortly afterward (I haven’t seen the movie yet). Basically, Moneyball is about how the Oakland A’s, a small-market team, used statistics to acquire the right players and build a winning team. At the time I was the Elders Quorum President, and about a year later I became the Bishop of our ward. I couldn’t help but compare some of the thought processes in the book with the Mormon “obsession” with statistics (home teaching percentage, quarterly report stats, etc.)

One part of the book stuck out to me the most:

Bill James did not like the statistic in baseball called error. If you weren’t even close to the ball, it didn’t have a name, but if you had done something, and tried, they called it an error.

The statistics were not merely inadequate; they lied. And the lies they told led people who ran major league baseball teams to misjudge their players, and mismanage their games. James later reduced his complaint to a sentence: fielding statistics made sense only as numbers, not as language. Language, not numbers, is what interested him. Words, and the meaning they were designed to convey.

When the numbers acquire the significance of language,” he later wrote, “they acquire the power to do all of the things which language can do: to become fiction and drama and poetry. …And it is not just baseball that these numbers, through a fractured mirror, describe. It is character. It is psychology, it is history, it is power, it is grace, glory, consistency, sacrifice, courage, it is success and failure, it is frustration and bad luck, it is ambition, it is overreaching, it is discipline. And it is victory and defeat, which is all that the idiot sub-conscious really understands.” What to most people was a dull record of ephemeral events without deep meaning or lasting value was for James a safe deposit box containing life’s secrets.

Lewis, Michael. Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc., 2003. 67-68.

It really is one of the problems with statistics. They can mean anything you want them to mean or they can mean nothing. I particularly like the beginning of the last paragraph. When numbers acquire the significance of language, they acquire the power to do all the things which language can do. Seeing some numbers on a quarterly report never made me want to do better. It was always the discussion of what those numbers represented that helped us understand the work that needed to be done.

Here is a simple example. For the longest time we’ve had a significantly larger group of Young Men than Young Women in our ward. Let’s say that in Q1 we had 22 Young Men attend church and 6 YW attend church. Let’s now say that in Q2 we had 21 Young Men attend church (5% drop in attendance) and 5 YW attend church (17% drop). More than once I had a concern expressed to me because of the “big” drop in our YW attendance. If that person who didn’t come in Q2 now comes out in Q3, there will be a large increase in attendance, and there will be comments about how wonderful the work is going.

I think that we need to do a better job in the Church (or at least in the wards I’ve been in) of putting the numbers in perspective and remembering what they really represent.

Let me be clear here, I think that the biggest problem is that we don’t have a better way to look at our progress. I don’t think the leaders were caring more about percentages than people. It’s just that the quarterly report is the only report they had. Without knowing the circumstances in every auxiliary in every ward, it is almost impossible for stake leaders to truly know what is going on.

I guess we need a Mormon Bill James who can get past the stats that “lie” and help us find the “success and failure… frustration and bad luck… ambition… discipline”.

Church Handbook of Instructions (CHI) Book 2 will be available online

The LDS Newsroom is reporting that after the new handbooks are released tomorrow, they will be available online:

The handbook includes two volumes, one of which will be provided to hundreds of thousands of men and women who shoulder significant responsibilities in administering local Church programs and congregations. It contains the vast majority of revisions and will be posted online Saturday at lds.org, the Church’s website for members, where anyone can view it. Complete video of the worldwide leadership training broadcast will also be posted online late Saturday evening, Mountain Time.

Apparently Book 1 will be available online for Bishops and Stake Presidents only

A recommend to move into a singles ward?

I have a friend who is a bishop of another ward, and he had a student recently move. This student is a “mid-single”, and was told that the Single Adult ward he tried to go to wouldn’t request his records until the former bishop wrote a letter of recommendation. I won’t give the name of the original ward, or the ward the student was moving to, as that isn’t the point of this. I’ve just never heard of this before, and wondered if it was common?

My friend is supposed to fill out this form letter that says he has interviewed the member, and indicate that the member is worthy, and “is interested in dating and seeking an eternal relationship through appropriate service to the Lord in the ____________ Ward.” I told my friend now that he knows the unit, he should just send the records and forget about the letter.

I don’t know the background behind this, but I can’t think of any reason that would make me accept this. If you live within the boundaries of a unit (or are the proper age when it is an age-specific unit), you are allowed to go. We have a YSA branch in our stake, and if that is where the YSA member wants to go, he can go there. It doesn’t matter if the person smokes, drinks, or hates everyone. What if the member isn’t worthy, but is working on it? What if circumstances are such that the member can’t have a calling due to time constraints? What if my friend sends the records… are they going to be sent back if the letter doesn’t come?

I understand what the new bishop is trying to do, but it just doesn’t seem right.

More on church research

One of the most read posts so far was on the Church Information Division. Well, the church does more research other than the phone calls I described. They also do basic surveys, just like ones you might see from major companies (about product satisfaction). No, you probably won’t be asked to fill out a survey about how satisfied you are with how your tithing money is spent, but there are survey’s being done about a variety of topics. I recently received an email about “Improving Family History Consultant E-mail Messages” (the link takes you to the survey). The survey is just a single page with a question about how much the emails help you, what content you would like in the emails, and a comments field. In this case, the survey is run by Inquisite Inc.

In the past, I’ve also done a survey (by following a link at another site) about handheld content (files for your PDA).

If you ever get an email like this, I’d suggest that you complete the survey. Who knows how much they listen, but it is a chance to make your voice heard on these sorts of simple topics.

Research Information Division

I Friday I received a phone call from the Research Information Division of the Church (part of the Correlation Department). This is the division that does the surveys (research) whenever the Church wants to know about things. In this case, they were calling Branch Presidents and Bishops to find out about issues that their members were struggling with. The person did not ask for any names. He asked generic questions asking if since I’ve been Bishop, have I had a member challenged by women issues, the Church and politics, gay rights, etc? How many people? In the last year have I had a member challenged by those issues? How many people?

I was on the phone with him for about 5 minutes, and then he thanked me for my time and said good bye. He gave no indication what they would do with the information they gathered, or who it was for.