Monday, July 14, 2014

Planning With a Purpose

The How Report,” an independent study that LRN conducted with the Boston Research Group and Research Data Technology found that CEOs are six times more likely than "average workers" to believe they work in a company where people are inspired.  Employees said they were primarily coerced (84%) or motivated (12%) by carrots and stickes at work rather than inspired by values and a commitment to a mission and purpose (4%).

I remember how challenging it was, as a YW leader, to help our YW presidency and our class presidencies to get out of the "carrot" mode and into the "principle based purpose" mode.  It was also a challenge to move to thinking about principles beyond the handy color-coded YW values (though they are a fine in and of themselves).

On there is a series of short-lesson resources for YW leaders to use to help young women catch the vision of their calling.  It's described as a tool to help class presidencies figure out their responsibilities and how to carry them out, but they are excellent for every young woman to know and it is easier to include them in a regular Sunday discussion than it is to try to incorporate them into class presidency meetings.  And by teaching them to all young women you prepare those who will be called to leadership in the future (in other words, all of them).

There's a link to those short lesson resources HERE

The second lesson listed, "Planning Activities with Gospel Purposes in Mind"  is the lesson resource that introduces the idea of planning with a purpose.

THIS web page as some good explanations of how to plan with a purpose and some excellent worksheets to facilitate that.

The author, who learned these methods as a student at BYU, uses the worksheets as she works with 8-11 year old girls, but they can be used with good results for any group effort.  You can look at those worksheets and print them off from that page.

I personally found that a vital part of this process of planning with a purpose is the final step of reviewing the activity after it had happened.  Actually taking time on the Sunday following the activity to discuss what worked and what didn't and what they'd do differently next time was empowering and instructive.  And, true to the truth that "I remember most what I have said", articulating what they'd do differently next time helped them to remember to actually do that the next time.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Young Men, Young Women, Leadership and the Great Outdoors

I have served as a Young Women president as a Young Women's adviser and as a stake camp director. I am firmly converted to the notion that time away from civilization can be profoundly good for the soul. I have raised a son through the Young Men's program and my husband has served for the past 6 years as a Varsity Team (14-15 year old boys) coach in our ward. This is what I have learned about young men and young women in the church, leadership and their time in the great outdoors.
I do not live in the Intermountain West, so I cannot speak specifically to how those programs are run there. My experiences are from the East Coast and the Great Plains. But the handbooks we work with are the same.
Who Does What
The handbooks for leaders of both young women and young men of all ages are clear. Scouts and Young Men are supposed to be “boy led” programs that help young men prepare to become men of God. Both quorum work and scout work are supposed to be united together in that purpose, not run as a duality with different young men in different organizational leadership as they so often are. Young men, actively involved in scouting or not, are supposed to be the ones who come up with the weekly activities in counsel with their adult YM leaders, plan how to do them and carry them out. Their ability to do so and the breadth of their responsibilities in relationship to those of their adult leaders increases as they move from boy scouts to varsity team to venture crew, from deacon, to teacher to priest quorums.
The handbooks also are clear that the purpose of the young women program is to prepare young women to become women of God. As part of that process they are supposed to be the ones who envision their activities, and plan and carry them out in council with their adult leaders. And likewise, the breadth of their responsibilities and projects are designed to increase as they move from Beehive, to Mia Maid and Laurel.
However, in both Young Men and in Young Women programs, it is rare that it works that way. Why? For the same reason that many parents of young children on family camping trips do the dishes themselves: it is easier and takes less time and is more thorough to do the work yourself than to teach a young person how to do it. It is hard to make the time to do that leadership training. It is easier to just run a program than it is to work with girls to help them create ways to transform their lives. And so way too many leaders simply do the planning themselves, and then hand out tasks. And, even worse, when some young man or young woman comes up with a very grand idea, instead of taking the time to help that young person learn how to make it happen, they decide that it's too big a project and discourage the idea. This happens in both young men and young women programs.
Scout Camp and Girls Camp
Time out of doors is good for the soul. Scout camp, if it's done right, sometimes works fairly well for 12-13 year old boys. A few 14 year olds who have not yet started high school may sometimes attend as well, but by the time a boy is 15 there is no way he's interested in scout camp. Girls camp, if done right, can also work well. It is a little more flexible in its structure and has activities that are designed to increase in complexity with each year, so though attrition does occur, 15 year olds are still in attendance. But the 16-17 year old attendance can be counted on one hand.
Some wards or stakes fight this downward trend of young men involvement in the outdoors by organizing “High Adventure” activities for the young men. Again, it is often organized by adults, with the young men being handed assignments to bring stuff. If an adult didn't think of High Adventure as something that needed to be done, it wouldn't happen. And no young men volunteer to organize it. They generally assume that it's part of the program that the adults will make happen.
The Junior Leader program at Girls Camp was originally created as a leadership program for 16 and 17 year old young women. However, nowadays, in a far-flung stake, it rarely is put together on a stake basis in a way that meets those goals, and the young women sense that and vote with their feet.
Some Ways Some People Have Changed Things
I have lived in two wards and watched two more where individuals have been able to make effective and promising changes to the above scenarios. It takes work, it takes vision, and it takes paying attention to the handbooks and it's exciting to watch. Here is what I've seen:
One stake invited a member of the church YM presidency to come speak about scouting. The young men leaders in attendance laughed out loud when he stated that scouting should be “a neighborhood organization” due to the fact that most boys in the stake traveled many miles to attend scout meetings, but a couple of the wards caught the vision the unity of purpose of boy led scouting, quorum work, and leadership. They called varsity scout coaches and, if they could manage it, a venture crew leader too, and worked to teach them how to run a boy led program that dovetailed well with the boys priesthood quorum objectives. Mutual nights changed gradually from one where the 12-13 year olds were in scout meetings, the 14-15 year olds tried to avoid them, and the 16 year olds who showed up played basketball, to programs and activities that were created and carried out (with good adult support) by young men in distinct age groups regardless of their interest or disinterest in scouting advancement. And high adventure was planned and carried out on a ward level under the direction of young teachers and priests.
One ward had a Young Women presidency who recognized that Girls Camp was not filling the needs of their older girls and started talking to them about what they thought would be better. The girls floated the idea of a week long canoe trip and so the idea began to take shape. The adult leaders spent countless hours helping young women to figure out how to make it happen. The Mia Maids and Beehives wanted in too and so the ward let me (the stake camp director) know that they wouldn't be at Girls Camp that year because they'd be canoeing instead. That was fine with me (though I had to persuade the Stake YW president that this was perfectly fine...people sometimes feel let down when someone doesn't come to something they've put a lot of effort into.)
Another ward had a well organized scout troop that went to Philmont one year and came back awed and inspired by their experience. A number of young women expressed jealousy and a wish to do so as well. Their adult leaders and parents heard them and instead of saying “no we can't” said “why not”? They got the girls to research Venture scouting, a program that would enable them to register as scouts and organize a Philmont trip. The girls figured out what needed to be done, and with the support and resources of their leaders, figured out a way to do that and spent the rest of the next year and a half learning and participating in regional scout activities as part of their Personal Progress projects, culminating in their own Philmont trek two years after they started planning (reserving a Philmont trek needs to be reserved long in advance). It was the girls inspired idea and the leaders and parents assisted them.
Making Changes
My experiences have led me to believe that it is not the programs of the church that need to change, it is the the minds and vision and dedicated time of ward and branch youth leaders and parents. The handbooks teach the principle of programs that teach and encourage the development of character, spiritual awareness and understanding of God's work and the skills required to help, envisioned and carried out by young people, supported by adults. Our problem is that we adults (parents, teachers, scout leaders, advisers, presidencies) do not have the vision of training young people as leaders who are on their way to becoming men and women of God, nor do we feel like we can make the time to do that. So we create adult run programs. We run programs instead of opportunities to practice, in a supportive environment, early learning about what it means to be prepared to lead and act in the service of God and your fellow beings. The handbooks could change and make both the young women and young men programs exactly the same in structure and the problems found in both would still persist.
This situation is, in reality, one that will only change as we dedicated adult women change, volunteer to assist, and tell a YW president we would be happy to help a girl create something that that inspired girl feels needs to happen, instead of just getting upset when a YW president or adviser feels too overwhelmed to tackle it along with everything else she feels she's supposed to do. We can open the eyes of our daughters about how they can use Personal Progress projects in ways that support their good dreams instead of just doing what they've seen others do. We can teach young women how to determine needs, seek inspiration and then create, lead and carry out plans to do good whether or not they have a specific leadership calling. And then can we lend the support they need as they struggle to learn how to do that.
It will only change when men catch the vision and work as Quorum Advisers, Assistant Scoutmasters, Varsity Scout coaches and Venture Crew leaders, take seriously the training the church has about how scouting can be employed as a way to further the objectives the boys have developed in their quorums, and then, with parents, put the time and effort to teach boys how to make YM/scouting work the way they are supposed to: led by boys who are mentored by men of God.
Though changes in existing programs as outlined in the handbooks might be interesting to consider or marginally helpful, I do not believe that is the the answer to our youth program challenges. One could make a world of changes to the programs in the handbooks and still the obstacles to youth leadership and youth-led programs and young people envisioning and creating and leading good experiences would exist. I believe that the key answer is a change in us adults who have our boots on the ground in our wards and branches.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Speculating about Heaven, Trusting the Nature of the Creator

"[Jesus] said we must not think of heaven in terms of this earth. Life there will be quite different because we will be quite different. It would save a mass of misdirected ingenuity and not a little heartbreak if we ceased to speculate on what heaven is like and left things to the love of God."

~William Barclay, "The Gospel of Luke", p. 250-251

And this is life eternal:  to know God.

To really know, sense, feel and stand in awe of the reality and magnitude of Being and Love.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Living Far Below My Privileges. Compiling Quotes.

You Cannot Utilize What You Do Not Understand

What has been your past experience or attitude when you have listened to or taught a lesson on the  priesthood? Be honest. Was your first reaction something like, “This doesn’t apply to me. This is for the men and boys over 12.” Or when you have read your scriptures and come to a part that mentions  priesthood, have you thought to yourself, “I’ll just skip this part. I don’t need to know this”? In the recent 2013 Worldwide Leadership Training, Elder Oaks emphatically stated: “Men are not the priesthood!” To me, that is a wake-up call as well as an invitation to all of us to study, ponder, and come to better understand the priesthood. Sisters, we cannot stand up and teach those things we do not understand and know for ourselves.
Linda K. Burton, General Relief Society President, BYU Womens' Conference 2013

The Call to Seek, Learn and Understand in a Holy Way

We rejoice that we are privileged to live in this season of the history of the Church when questions are being asked about the priesthood. There is great interest and desire to know and understand more about the authority, power, and blessings associated with the priesthood of God.
We hope to instill within each of us a greater desire to better understand the priesthood. I testify
that the Lord is hastening His work, and it is imperative for us to understand how the Lord accomplishes His work so that we may receive the power that comes from being aligned with His plan and purposes
I would invite you to ponder Doctrine and Covenants 121:34–46. Look for the principles in
these verses that govern the righteous exercise of priesthood power. Look for warnings and promises from the Lord, and apply them to yourself. In order to qualify for the blessings of priesthood power, we would do well to ponder these verses and ask ourselves questions such as:
• Is my heart set upon the things of this world?
• Do I aspire to the honors of men or women?
• Do I try to cover my sins?
• Am I prideful? 
• Do I exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon my children, my husband, or others?
• Am I earnestly striving to practice righteous principles such as:
o Persuasion
o Long-suffering
o Gentleness
o Meekness
o Unfeigned love (meaning genuine, sincere, or heartfelt love)
o Kindness
• Does virtue garnish my thoughts unceasingly?
• Do I long for the Holy Ghost to be my constant companion?
Linda K. Burton, General Relief Society President, BYU Womens' Conference 2013


29 And again, the offices of elder and bishop are necessary appendages belonging unto the high priesthood.

30 And again, the offices of teacher and deacon are necessary appendages belonging to the lesser priesthood, which priesthood was confirmed upon Aaron and his sons.

~Doctrine and Covenants Section 84

It is truly said that Relief Society is not just a class for women but something they belong to—a divinely established appendage to the priesthood.
~ Dallin Oaks, April 2014 Gen. Conf.

Keys, Authority and Power

This [the Relief Society] is an organization that cannot exist without the priesthood, from the fact that it derives all its authority and influence from that source. When the Priesthood was taken from the earth, this institution as well as every other appendage to the true order of the Church of Jesus Christ on the earth, became extinct.” Eliza R. Snow Deseret News April 22, 1868

We are not accustomed to speaking of women having the authority of the priesthood in their Church callings, but what other authority can it be?  
~ Dallin Oaks, April 2014 Gen. Conf.

Those who have priesthood keys—whether that be ... a bishop who has keys for his ward or the President of the Church, who holds all priesthood keys—literally make it possible for all who serve faithfully under their direction to exercise priesthood authority and have access to priesthood power.
~M Russell Ballard, BYU address, August 20, 2013

There is no office growing out of this priesthood that is or can be greater than the priesthood itself. It is from the priesthood that the office derives its authority and power. No office gives authority to the priesthood. No office adds to the power of the priesthood. But all offices in the Church derive their power, their virtue, their authority, from the priesthood.”
~Joseph F. Smith

"When men and women go to the temple, they are both endowed with the same power, which is priesthood power"
~M. Russell Ballard, Liahona, April 2014

No, It's Not "Motherhood-Priesthood"

Just as a woman cannot conceive a child without a man, so a man cannot fully exercise the power of the priesthood to establish an eternal family without a woman. … In the eternal perspective, both the procreative power and the priesthood power are shared by husband and wife.”
~M. Russell Ballard, ibid.

Moses was commanded to place holy garments and priestly vestments upon Aaron and others, thus preparing them to officiate in the tabernacle.   
~Carlos Assay, Ensign, August 1997
12 And thou shalt bring Aaron and his sons unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and wash them with water.
 13 And thou shalt put upon Aaron the holy garments, and anoint him, and sanctify him; that he may minister unto me in the priest’s office.

 14 And thou shalt bring his sons, and clothe them with coats:
 15 And thou shalt anoint them, as thou didst anoint their father, that they may minister unto me in the priest’s office: for their anointing shall surely be an everlasting priesthood throughout their generations.

~Exodus 40

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Compassion, Doctrine and Covenants 121

Christlike compassion doesn’t mean that I agree, or that I excuse. It doesn’t mean that I stop standing firmly where I stand or saying, with clarity, what I believe. But it does mean that I treat others with kindness, with a sincere desire to understand, with a willingness to see their fears and passions as real to them as mine are to me. 
To see rather than to dismiss, to feel unthreatened because I am anchored in the Spirit, to speak gently and clearly with unfeigned love. And when we disagree, to make my love more obvious* so that you understand that even though we may deeply disagree and see things very, very differently that does not change my love for you and that I will not harm you.

*Interesting to note that Doctrine and Covenants 121 was received shortly after some of the most painful excommunications in early LDS church history and at a time when Joseph Smith was facing some of the most egregious persecutions born of extreme fear and unwillingness to seek to understand by those who thought he was dead wrong and dangerous.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Pretty strong words... Luke 15

Der Berufung des Matthaus by  Pieter Claesz Scoutman 1593(?)-1657 

"No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one and love the other; or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon."

The "servant" here is actually a slave.  A man or woman nowadays can work two jobs or work for two different people.  But a "servant" in this context cannot.  His time belongs totally to his master, as does his energy and direction.  A servant of God, therefore, cannot serve God part-time.  Agreeing to become his servant means full-time, wherever we are, we are serving him.

And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things and they derided him.

They, who enjoyed spending resources on satisfying their own desires for material things or for ease and comfortable experiences looked down their noses at this idea.  They likely thought this idea was financially impractical and/or overly idealistic.  Do I?  What keeps me from fully embracing servanthood?  Fear of loss of stuff?  Desire for ease?  Comfort? Worry about not having enough?

And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts;

I can try to justify my less than full commitment, or my torn allegiances using the reasoning and assumptions of the culture in which I live, but I can't fool God.  God knows exactly what it is I love more than I love giving my whole self to serve.  I need to be as conscious of that about myself as He is.  I need to wrestle that.

for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.

Whoa.  Abomination is a strong word.  It's easy for me to point to things that OTHERS esteem in their lives, but that I don't, and say, "Yes.  That's for sure."  But it's foolish to think that because I might be able to  pick out those stumbling blocks in someone else's life I don't have any of my own.   And suddenly it's not just "mammon" it's  "that which is highly esteemed among men". It is not only things and experiences and comfort that money can provide, but also honors, recognition, goals, hopes, desires that the world has taught me are worthy of esteem that I long for or cling to and whose pursuit, conscious or unconscious, divides my loyalty.

How to change my heart, let go, and fully serve?

Friday, May 30, 2014

What is this, thou hast done?

I have learned that clearly articulating past events is essential to my ability to repent, to forgive and to move forward

If I do not write down or speak my innocent mistakes as well as my on-purpose sins, I do not face them.  I may try to make myself believe that simply my cognizance of them is sufficient to be a true catalyst for change, but, I have learned that for me such is insufficient.  By not speaking them I can pretend that they are taken care of, or not important, or sufficiently addressed.  But in reality  I must fully face them and speak them in order to truly learn and make the necessary changes in my life and move on to a better way of living.

If I do not articulate the sins against me, I do not know them well enough to fully forgive them.  I may try to make myself believe that because I choose not to dwell on them, I have forgiven and that is enough. But I have learned that I must fully write or speak them in order to see the damage they did as well as see them for what they are and what they are not.  And it is only when I see them fully that I can begin to fully forgive those who sinned and hand that pain up to God.

I am not always ready to articulate either of those.  It takes honesty and courage and vulnerability, more, sometimes, than I have at the time.  But with time and distance, persistence, and faith in Christ's love and willingness to take me under his wing, I can arrive there as needed.

Which gives me a new perspective on God's questions to Adam and Eve, "Who told thee?",  "Hast thou...?",  and "What is this thou hast done?"

Painting by Lucas Cranach der Altere, 1472-1553

God obviously already knew what had happened and what they had done.  Why, then, would He ask?  I believe it is because He already knew something that I have learned, that articulating a past action is a crucial step towards learning and change.  And certainly both Adam and Eve were facing an imminent need to be prepared for both.  Giving them the opportunity to articulate what had happened and what they had done was a blessing.

And if God was asking the question with the intent of assisting them to be better prepared for the changes that were coming, I believe also that the words he spoke about briars and thistles and sweat and sorrow and childbearing were not words of cursing or punishment, but rather words of instruction (severely edited in the extant versions) and education, preparing them for the changes that would occur in their newly telestial world (as he said, "for thy sake", facilitating their future growth) as well.