Category Archives: Mormon Church Policy and Procedure

184th Semiannual General Conference – Saturday Morning General Session

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The family is gathered together and we are set to get started. Since my oldest is now 12, he is going to watch all of the sessions with us. The younger two will watch half an hour of each session, all of Sunday morning, and then President Monson’s conclusion on Sunday afternoon.

Let’s get going…


The Mormon Tabernacle Choir sang The Morning Breaks

President Henry B Eyring conducted

The choir sang High on the Mountain Top

Sister Bonnie L Oscarson offered the invocation

President Thomas S Monson

  • 90-year anniversary of radio broadcast
  • 65-year anniversary of tv broadcast
  • 1 new temple dedicated (Florida Fort Lauderdale) by President Uchtdorf
  • 1 temple rededicated (Utah Ogden) by President Monson
  • New Phoenix temple will be dedicated next month
  • In 2015 there will be 5 temples dedicated or rededicated, with more possible depending on how things go
  • When all previously announced are done there will be  170 operating temples
  • No new temples to announce
  • The Church continues to grow
  • Over 88,000 missionaries serving

The choir sang Beautiful Zion, Built Above

President Boyd K Packer (he looked good, but seemed to have a hard time speaking)

  • Told story about giving Oxford a copy of the scriptures, and pointing out the 18 pages about Christ in the Topical Guide
  • Our scriptures are full of references to the Savior
  • The mercy and grace of Chris is available to all
  • No matter how large the Church becomes, the true success of the Gospel will be measured by the spiritual strength of its individual members

Elder Lynn G Robbins

  • Which way do you face?
  • We should not flip/reverse the first two great commandments
  • We should not try to please others instead of pleasing God
  • If we are facing the wrong way, we can turn around
  • Lowering our standards to meet the world is apostacy

Sister Cheryl A Esplin

  • What do you wish you had known when you were younger?
  • I wish I had understood the significance of the Sacrament
  • Spoke all about the Sacrament

The choir and congregation sang Guide Us, O Thou Great Jehovah

Elder Chi Hong Wong (spoke in Cantonese)

  • Reach out and rescue
  • He compared the story of the man with palsy being lowered through the roof to our efforts to rescuing
  • There are sometimes obstacles, but we can’t give up
  • With so many missionaries in our units, we need to get them involved
  • Our combined faith can help others

Elder D Todd Christofferson

  • We see God’s love through His commandments
  • The Gospel opens the path to what we may become
  • Christ died not to save indiscriminately, but to offer repentance
  • Freedom comes not from resisting it, but from applying it

The choir sang If I Listen With My Heart

President Dieter F Uchtdorf

  • A century ago, we thought we were alone in the universe, that the Milky Way was the only galaxy
  • With greater light, we have been introduced to glorious vistas we had never before imagined
  • If people haven’t experienced things, received the more complete light of truth, then they don’t believe new truth
  • As humans we believe we are right, even when we are wrong
  • We can know truth for ourselves
  • Read the scriptures, ponder, and be grateful
  • Ask Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus Christ to manifest the truth of the Church unto you
  • Put the Gospel and Church teachings to the test in your life
  • Spiritual truth will fill your heart

The choir sang From All That Dwell below the Skies

The benediction was offered by Bradley D Foster


Read the recaps and other notes from the 184th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:

True Shepherds – President Monson speaks about Home Teaching

I was surprised to hear President Monson speak about home teaching at the Priesthood session of General Conference. It isn’t that I think that home teaching isn’t important, it’s that I don’t remember the last time a President of the Church has addressed the topic directly. It has been mentioned in passing, or spoken about by others, but this was different.

You can go and read/watch the talk yourself, but I did want to highlight some quotes:

  • …as the priesthood of God we have a shepherding responsibility.
  • The home teaching program is a response to modern revelation commissioning those ordained to the priesthood “to teach, expound, exhort, baptize, … and visit the house of each member, and exhort them to pray vocally and in secret and attend to all family duties, … to watch over the church always, and be with and strengthen them; and see that there is no iniquity in the church, neither hardness with each other, neither lying, backbiting, nor evil speaking.”
  • To assist in our efforts, I share this wise counsel which surely applies to home teachers. It comes from Abraham Lincoln, who said, “If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend.”
  • Home teaching answers many prayers and permits us to see the transformations which can take place in people’s lives.

Hearing this talk made me think back on a talk that Ezra Taft Benson gave in 1983. He spoke about home teaching, but rather than “preaching”, he asked a bunch of questions. I’m not sure exactly how many questions were asked, but there were 46 question marks in the published talk.

I find it a challenge to go home teaching, but I still make an effort and am able to visit most of my assigned families each month (at least the ones that let me in). Every time I leave a home, I feel like I’ve been doing a sacred work. The circumstances of life then creep up on me again the following month, and it is a struggle to go out again, but I remember the feelings and out I go. It’s worth it for sure.

One more tidbit I learned about General Authorities

One more bit of information I learned this past weekend…

General Authorities and Area Seventies are required to keep a journal. They sign an agreement that says they will keep one and that it belongs to the Church. When they pass away, their families will get a copy of the journal, but it will be redacted so any private/confidential information is removed.

Interesting stuff!

The greatest force for good in the world

As mentioned in my General Conference summaries, our Stake President, David P Homer, was called to be an Area Seventy. Our Stake Conference was already scheduled for the end of this month, so we will be getting a new Stake President. Elder Eduardo Gavarret of the First Quorum of the Seventy will be presiding at the Stake Conference and he will be accompanied by Elder Jeffery E Olson. I figured that since I am no longer in a bishopric that I was “off the radar”, but I received an email earlier this week requesting that I meet with them for a few minutes on the Saturday of Stake Conference. I’m not sure how I can make it work out, as I am scheduled to work that day and the person who I work with is on vacation. Oh well, somehow things will work out.

Anyway, this got me thinking about my short meeting with Elder Nelson when the Stake Presidency was reorganized the last time. I met with him for 5 minutes in the morning of the Saturday of Stake Conference. There was a form I had been given ahead of time that I was to fill out that had questions like the following:

  • Do you believe in God the Eternal Father, in His Son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost and do you have a firm testimony of the restored gospel?
  • Do you sustain the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints as the Prophet, Seer, and Revelator; and do you recognize him as the only person on the earth authorized to exercise all priesthood keys?
  • Do you sustain the other General Authorities and local authorities of the Church?
  • Is there anything in your conduct relating to members of your family that is not in harmony with the teachings of the Church?
  • Do you affiliate with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or do you sympathize with the precepts of any such group or individual?
  • Do you earnestly strive to do your duty in the Church; to attend your sacrament, priesthood and other meetings; and to obey the rules, laws and commandments of the gospel?
  • Do you live the law of chastity?
  • Are you honest in your dealings with your fellowmen?
  • Are you a full-tithe payer?
  • Do you have prayer regularly in your home?
  • Do you keep the Word of Wisdom?
  • Do you hold weekly family home evening?
  • Have you ever been divorced?
    If the answer is yes, has it been cleared by appropriate priesthood authorities where required?
    If you have ever been divorced or separated, are you presently fulfilling your obligations for the support and maintenance of your family?
  • Have you ever been subject to Church discipline?
  • If you have received your temple endowment:
    Do you keep all the covenants that you made in the temple?
    Do you wear the authorized garments both day and night?
  • Has there been any sin or misdeed in your life that should have been resolved with priesthood authorities but has not?

There were some places to record biographical information (age, wife and children, education, occupation, etc).There was also a chance to leave some comments. I wrote the following:

I love this church, its organization, and its teachings. It has brought such joy into my life and family. I cherish the eternal relationship that I have with my family and am grateful for the priesthood keys that have allowed that to happen.

At the end of my brief interview, Elder Nelson said it was a very nice thought and that “the Church is a great force for good in the world.” He then paused, and corrected himself, “No. It is the greatest force for good in the world.” It was interesting to watch him during this brief exchange. He made an initial comment that was perfectly valid, but then almost looked troubled and corrected what he said. That second line was said with surety, and I believed him. I’m sure there are those who would disagree with the statement, but I too believe that the Church is the greatest force for good in the world!

182nd Semiannual General Conference – Press Conference Regarding Lower Missionary Service Age

This morning I watched the press conference that was held between the two general sessions yesterday regarding the lower missionary service age. It was pretty good. Michael Purdy, Director of Media Relations for the Church led the press conference. He briefly introduced Elders Russell M Nelson and Jeffrey R Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Elder David F Evans of the Seventy. Elder Nelson spoke for a few minutes, and then Elder Holland spoke for the rest of the time. Elder Holland fielded most of the questions, but did have Elder Nelson and Elder Evans contribute.

Here are my notes from the press conference. I didn’t make note of who said what, but most things were said by Elder Holland.

  • no one knew that this was coming. President Monson wanted to keep it confidential, so only the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles knew
  • the main qualification for missionary service is total personal worthiness
  • new missionaries will spend approximately 1/3 less time at their MTC, regardless whether they are speaking their native language or learning a new language
  • prospective missionaries need to have improved preparation
  • there is a fairly new 12-week training program that has been implemented that is done in-field by Mission Presidents that has helped
  • there are no new missions yet, but it is expected that there will be new ones (currently there are 347)
  • the Lord is hastening His work and needs more missionaries
  • parents need to take a strong hand in helping prospective missionaries prepare
  • prospective missionaries can be recommended for a mission up to 120 days before their 18th birthday or when they are finished high school
  • young men can enter the Missionary Training Centre after they have turned 18 and finished high school
  • young women can enter the MTC after they have turned 19
  • missionary work remains a priesthood responsibility
  • why the difference in age at which they serve? Years of experience has shown them this is the best way
  • young men can serve any time between the ages of 18 and 25
  • young women can serve from 19 onward. There is no upper limit
  • two years ago President Monson asked for more missionaries. In those 2 years, the number of YM becoming missionaries has increased by 6%, young women by 12% and couples by 18%
  • they considered many options when making this change including ages and length of service, but they decided to go with this for now. One miracle at a time.

Read the recaps and other notes from the 182nd Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:

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

Exploring how media changed the church

Mormon Times has a short, but good, article about how the Church has changed as media has changed. There is a link to a lengthy document (113 pages) by Associate Professor Sherry Baker that covers the period from 1827 to 2007. It covers printing the Book of Mormon, to creating a temple video, to using the Internet.

The timeline focuses on technological and organizational developments rather than on what is written or broadcast in the media. It charts the church’s adoption of new technologies including telegraph, film, radio, television and Internet. It also looks at the introduction of church-produced media such as Mormon Tabernacle Choir broadcasts, Web sites like FamilySearch and the beginnings and endings of church newspapers and magazines. She also notes major events that received extensive coverage by non-Mormon media.

I haven’t had time to read the entire thing, but I’ve skimmed over it, and it looks very interesting.

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without”

We received a memo from the First Presidency in January saying that there was going to be some new welfare training material arriving soon. The memo instructed stake presidents to gather applicable leaders in the stake and to review the material. Well, the materials arrived, and on Sunday afternoon I headed to the stake centre for some training.

Leading up the meeting, I wondered what could possibly be different. Now I know… not much. The principles of self-reliance are consistent, and the training was actually a DVD with talks by Elder Robert D. Hales, Sister Julie B. Beck, Bishop H. David Burton, and President Thomas S. Monson. They didn’t really go into any detail of how to handle situations. They just emphasized those time-tested principles. Without going into it too much, here are a few thoughts that I had:

  • Elder Hales said that it takes great faith to say “I can’t afford that”.
  • A couple of speakers talked about downsizing your life to fit within your budget restraints. This includes moving if necessary.
  • Sister Beck brought up the phrase “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without” and how we would all be better off if we followed it.
  • A couple of speakers talked about the importance of using a budget
  • Bishop Burton mentioned that there is no requirement for wards or stakes to have their expenses and contributions remain in balance. Note: Perhaps it is just wording, but this seems to be different that it used to be (our stake president agrees that it is different). Before, if a ward or stake were to go “into the red” in their fast offering funds, then it needed approval. The implication was that this should not be. At the very least, it appears that the Brethren understand that in this economic time, more units will be using more fast offering funds than they collect.
  • President Monson emphasized that no member of the church who has served in a welfare project ever forgets or regrets the experience of helping provide for those in need. This is very true!

Note: I left the house at 6:20 am Sunday morning to go to my administration meetings, attended Church, had meetings after Church, drove to the stake centre for the training, and ended up getting home at 6:30 pm. What a long day!