I received an email from a viewer the other day pointing out that there were some bad links on my Emergency Preparedness page on 72-hour kits over at MormonShare.com. I wrote that article what seems like a hundred years ago and haven’t thought about it in ages. It was good to get some feedback and a reminder to keep updating some of these old bad links.
Or webmasters could do the right thing and include legacy links for their sites…..
Even I’m bad to forget to updates links as the old URLs change, though I have worked over the years to correct them as someone points them out to me. If you see a bad link, please let me know. I try to update things as I have time.
We had a school holiday and so it has been two weeks since our last lesson. This was a super interesting experience. Another random person showed up for class. As class started going on, it came out that she had studied with the Mormons before briefly, and her husband was a “priest in the Mormon church” who left in order to marry a Catholic woman. He’s had a hard time with his decision to leave the church.
Anyway, this woman seemed to be genuinely interested if not fully open, and she has a very solid understanding of the scriptures. Not shy, she dominated our conversation. It was interesting to see how the interaction went down.
I was SUPER anxious as I started teaching because of the newcomer. Most of my lesson material was coming from D&C 82 and D&C 84 (oath and covenant of the Priesthood). It was crazy how well-prepared she was to hear this material. She says she’ll be back next week because obviously the Lord is directing her to study with us. I agree with her. I hope she isn’t too hardheaded to learn what she can from us, and I hope I can have the spirit with me to be able to cover topics in the right way. I think there was a lot I could have done better. I am a terrible missionary.
Anyway, I used the material from the manual for the first few verses of D&C 82. I rarely teach very long straight from the manual, but this really stuck out for me when I read it, and I taught it nearly word-for-word. It went well, especially for our visitor.
For D&C 84 I really struggled. Could that section be any more random? I ended up using an interview with Elder Perry on the Priesthood to provide a structure to present the material. I paused after the questions and we had short discussions. Worked fine.
Visitor does not believe she needs to be baptized, so I talked with her about John 3 (which fortuitously we had just talked about during Sunday School last Sunday, so I was poised). I gently challenged her to think about being baptized (this is 15000000% out of character for me, but the spirit was very strong and had been prompting me for some time), which she rejected flat out. I didn’t push, but it’s pretty clear this is the reason she’s been sent to us: she has some things to learn about authority and ordinances.
Anyway, it was a crazy experience. Good, but stressful.
I went to voice lessons again last week. I’m trying to learn to sing better and more loudly since I’m also the ward music leader. I don’t enjoy the calling at all, but I’m doing my best.
Student with the question wondering what the mammon of unrighteous is didn’t show, but for your information, here is what that phrase means. The text below is taken straight from two parts of the old Seminary student manual:
D&C 82:22. Why Is the Church Commanded to Make Friends with the “Mammon of Unrighteousness”?
“The commandment of the Lord that the saints should make themselves ‘friends with the mammon of unrighteousness,’ seems to be a hard saying when not properly understood. It is not intended that in making friends of the ‘mammon of unrighteousness’ that the brethren were to partake with them in their sins; to receive them to their bosoms, intermarry with them and … come down to their level. They were to so live that peace with their enemies might be assured. They were to treat them kindly, be friendly with them as far as correct and virtuous principles would permit, but never to swear with them or drink and carouse with them. If they could allay prejudice and show a willingness to trade with and show a kindly spirit, it might help to turn them away from their bitterness. Judgment was to be left with the Lord.” (Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:323.)
The phrase “mammon of unrighteousness” is taken from the parable of the unjust steward (see Luke 16:11).
The scriptures teach that the station and rewards we inherit in the life after this are determined by how firmly we commit ourself to the gospel, seek the power of the Atonement to overcome our sins, and take responsibility for our stewardship over temporal blessings.
In what has for some people been a troubling parable, the Savior commented on the prudence of a steward who prepared for his future by cheating his master (see Luke 16:1–8). The Savior said, “The children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light. … If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?” (Luke 16:8, 11). Elder James E. Talmage explained:
“Our Lord’s purpose was to show the contrast between the care, thoughtfulness, and devotion of men engaged in the money-making affairs of earth, and the half hearted ways of many who are professedly striving after spiritual riches. Worldly-minded men do not neglect provision for their future years, and often are sinfully eager to amass plenty; while the ‘children of light,’ or those who believe spiritual wealth to be above all earthly possessions, are less energetic, prudent, or wise. By ‘mammon of unrighteousness’ we may understand material wealth or worldly things. While far inferior to the treasures of heaven, money or that which it represents may be the means of accomplishing good, and of furthering the purposes of God. Our Lord’s admonition was to utilize ‘mammon’ in good works, while it lasted, for some day it shall fail, and only the results achieved through its use shall endure. If the wicked steward, when cast out from his master’s house because of unworthiness, might hope to be received into the homes of those whom he had favored, how much more confidently may they who are genuinely devoted to the right hope to be received into the everlasting mansions of God! Such seems to be part of the lesson.
“It was not the steward’s dishonesty that was extolled; his prudence and foresight were commended. … The lesson may be summed up in this wise: Make such use of your wealth as shall insure you friends hereafter. Be diligent; for the day in which you can use your earthly riches will soon pass. Take a lesson from even the dishonest and the evil; if they are so prudent as to provide for the only future they think of, how much more should you, who believe in an eternal future, provide therefor! If you have not learned wisdom and prudence in the use of ‘unrighteous mammon,’ how can you be trusted with the more enduring riches? If you have not learned how to use properly the wealth of another, which has been committed to you as steward, how can you expect to be successful in the handling of great wealth should such be given you as your own? Emulate the unjust steward and the lovers of mammon, not in their dishonesty, cupidity, and miserly hoarding of the wealth that is at best but transitory, but in their zeal, forethought, and provision for the future.” (Jesus the Christ, pp. 463–64.)
I was really nervous about teaching D&C 76. There is so much information, and since I only teach weekly, I was pretty confident we would not get to all the material without rushing. Additionally, because I teach adults it’s extremely difficult for me to judge how much people already know about the harder/deeper doctrines of the gospel, like the degrees of glory.
I had the feeling that I should really push the idea of scripture study aids with this section of scripture. I think it’s very important for gospel teachers to teach gospel students how to use the scripture study aids to enhance their personal study and to learn how to find answers to their own questions. It’s something I worked hard to encourage in my seminary class, and I felt like this was my first real chance to do it in the gospel study class. For pretty much the first time ever, the manual seemed to align with this line of thinking, too, and so I was able to use a couple of quotes from the manual to kick off our discussion.
After this discussion, we began practicing some of the things we talked about. I made students follow the footnotes as a chain and practice using the Topical Guide and Bible Dictionary. It was instructive to see how some of the women who had the gospel library app didn’t even know they could turn on footnotes, much less click right over to the TG. I showed them on my tablet and in my paper scriptures how much easier it is to read the TG in e-scripture format than in paper scriptures. I still prefer my paper scriptures for much study, but the e-scriptures have many benefits. For me, choosing between paper and electronic scriptures is like knowing whether I need to grab the power drill or manual screwdriver. You need the right tool for the job. I’ve actually taken to reading my paper scriptures with my electronic scriptures beside me so I can use the search tools on my electronic scriptures.
(Did you know that the Android version has more search options than the Apple iOS version? It’s why I have an Android tablet.)
Another technique we discussed is to keep your study tools nearby. We talked about how it helps to keep books like Mormon Doctrine or Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith at your study area so you are more likely to use them during study. Letting your device read scriptures aloud is a method that students were particularly excited to talk about. Journaling and writing impressions was another. I even taught them my latest e-scripture trick, which is instead of trying to type on my phone or tablet, I use the little microphone button on my keyboard to dictate or read text. It’s not perfect and I end up editing some words (thank you Mississippi accent), but it’s a lot faster than typing.
We spent a good bit of time learning how to use the tools and even spent some time training. I had students go through a couple of verses of D&C 76 and practice using the footnotes and studying deeply. Naturally we didn’t get far, so I asked students to re-read D&C 76 again, but this time, choose one or two of the scripture study methods we had talked about during class and see what happened.
The next class started with informal teaching about LDS scripture citation index as a student had a question about a particular phrase “mammon of unrighteousness” that I wasn’t prepared to answer. I told the class I’d be back with an answer (assuming I could find it) next week. The class was really interested in the index. I hope some of them use it.
We opened with a discussion about the things we had learned from using a scripture study method we talked about the previous week. Went well. I used some quotes from scripture study power quotes to answer some questions students were having. One student was frustrated that she was getting bogged down in her study, and this quote helped:
It is better to have a set amount of time to give scriptural study each day than to have a set amount of chapters to read. Sometimes we find that the study of a single verse will occupy the whole time (President Howard W. Hunter, Ensign, Nov. 1979, 64).
Anyway, the discussion was wide-ranging and a little bit less controlled than even I prefer, but it was a good set of lessons. I think it’s always best for students to share their experiences with the scriptures whenever we can. There were a few times that students tried to get off into the weeds, but I think we handled it pretty well. Overall, the lessons were successful, if not expertly administered by me.
Despite years of fighting with Drupal to try to speed it up, I’ve just never been able to get things going fast enough. We tried everything — even paid for a second file server for downloads — to try to handle the load. Never could do it. A few months back I decided to switch to WordPress. Here’s the result:
That’s out of the box. I’m using Vantage theme for WordPress.
Yeah. That’s why I’m switching.
I’ve spent more money on WordPress than I did on plugins for Drupal (it’s so easy). WordPress is so much easier to use.
The one disadvantage WordPress has is that it doesn’t do multisite correctly, but I understand why. Whatever — I can live with multiple WordPress installations, though it’s not ideal. It’s just so much easier than freaking Drupal. God bless you, WordPressers.
This lesson didn’t turn out how I expected, but it was a nice lesson. This is one of those rare cases where I probably got more out of the lesson than anyone, but I think we all learned something.
To open the lesson, I reminded them of the overview we had last week about the Saints gathering to Ohio, and shared a story from the manual about Lucy Smith leading a group of Saints to Ohio, asking the students to listen for how the Lord showed he was aware of the Saints as they traveled:
Lucy Mack Smith led a group of 80 Church members from Fayette, New York, to Ohio. As they traveled by boat on the Cayuga and Seneca Canal to Buffalo, New York, Lucy reminded the Saints that they were traveling by commandment of the Lord, like Lehi of old when he left Jerusalem. She counseled the Saints that if they would be faithful, they “had the same reasons to expect the blessings of God” (see History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, ed. Preston Nibley , 195–96; Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual, 2nd ed. [Church Educational System manual, 2003], 91).
When they arrived in Buffalo, they found that the harbor was jammed with ice, preventing boats from coming and going. “After several anxious days in Buffalo, a number of the children had become sick, and many of the group were hungry and discouraged. They took deck passage on a boat, put their things on board, and obtained temporary shelter for the women and children until early the next morning. When they were back on board, Lucy persuaded the still murmuring group to ask the Lord to break the twenty-foot clogs of ice that jammed the harbor” (Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual, 92).
Lucy exhorted her group to have faith in God and promised that if they would unite in prayer and ask God to break the ice that jammed the harbor, it would be done. Lucy described what happened next: “At that instant a noise was heard, like bursting thunder. The captain cried, ‘Every man to his post.’ The ice parted, leaving barely a passage for the boat, and so narrow that as the boat passed through the buckets of the waterwheel were torn off with a crash. … We had barely passed through the avenue when the ice closed together again” (see History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, 197–205). (Quoted in D&C Seminary Teacher Manual, D&C 41)
My students really enjoyed this story, and we had more discussion on this than I expected. We only had 5 present — one showed up later — but it was still a nice group. Paige, Betty, Lillian, Connie, and later Marie.
I had created a handout to go with the lesson, and I used it to guide my discussion from this point forward. After my opener “Let’s talk about SEX!” <– this is one of the fun bits of teaching adults. Sex isn’t “so awkward, Sister Smith”. :) We read the scriptures on Lust and the quote on the handout, and it started a great discussion. That one topic went over 40 minutes. I tried three times to move on, but the ladies kept bringing it back. I shared some of my experiences with a porn addicted son and hinted about issues with other family members. I learned some things, and I hope some of the other women were reminded to consider the position of others when they share scary stories. I am acutely, painfully aware of the research about pornography addiction. And as the mother of a son who has struggled with addiction for years, I have to believe that the Atonement will work for him — that he can be healed totally and can live a good clean life. And I really do believe that. I finally had to cut the discussion off, but it was very good. After the lesson was over, I stayed over an hour talking with some of the ladies about this and other topics. Connie said something that has really stuck with me, and I’m thinking about writing an article to submit to the Ensign on the topic: she said you MUST remember who you’re fighting: Satan. If you can focus on the source of this evil instead of putting the evil solely on the spouse (or child), your perspective will change. I can’t tell you how much I love that. Spouses are a team fighting Satan. Parents and Children are teams fighting Satan. This does not negate agency, but it changes where the energy goes.
Anyway, also covered healing the sick in some depth. The manual does not treat this very deeply, but for my audience of mostly 60+ year olds, it’s important. After reading the scripture aloud, I told the class they probably had some questions, but “don’t ask them yet!” I used this video by Dallin H Oaks and asked students to take notes during the talk to share. Worked great.
After class one of the little ladies came up to me and said she was sitting there thinking how lucky she was to be a part of this “elite” group that gets to study the gospel every week. I’m glad she likes it. :) I get tired of doing it sometimes, but it helps to get the positive feedback.
I’ve completed the move to WordPress, or at least, I’ve completed it far enough to take the website live, anyway. I’ll blog another day about why I moved to WordPress from Drupal, but for now, I’m just going to make a quick run-down of the new features of the site.
I hate to admit it, but LDS.org may have gotten this right. Less menu options is better on the top-level pages of a site. For the past ten years I’ve usually put all the menu options on the site, linking to all of the main pages, but at this point when I’ve got thousands of pages of valuable content to link and index, the time had come for a change.
Operating under the assumption that the people who visit this site are looking mainly for two things: lesson planning help and calling help, I’ve rebuilt my menus to help people follow that organizational structure. Things are much simpler, and I’ve created new page templates that load menus based on the top-level items.
No more custom posts
I’ve eliminated custom posts for now, and I’m not likely to go back to them. It is an extremely time-consuming activity to try to theme for multiple content types. I’ve gotten rid of that convention now, and I hope that it’ll make my life easier.
Now that I’m not grouping content by post type, I’m using categories to group content. I’ve included a link to the archive of each category at the bottom of the page along with a count of the numbers of content available in each category.
I’m keeping the same link structure as the old site for SEO and legacy linking purposes. While tag names have, for the most part, not changed, the links won’t work any more because of the way WordPress handles them.
Still RSS feeding
I’m still using RSS to help index more great content posted out there, but a significant addition has been the new RSS feed from our Seminary Facebook page. Finally, seminary teachers will be able to find ideas by scripture.
As you may already know, I used assigned reading for my Seminary class. Here is my lesson schedule/reading chart for Seminary.
The scriptures in italics are Scripture Mastery passages we will repeat each day. We will repeat longer passages more times and shorter passages only a few times. I tried to put them about the time we were studying them, but that doesn’t always work.
This document is under construction, but I thought I’d post it in case others have questions.
The yellow highlighted part is the dates that I am out of town for our fifteenth wedding anniversary cruise!