We Each Have a Story

Given in the Holladay 10th Ward

Intro

Thank you, Brother Clayton. As he said, my name is Nat Harward and I have been attending the ward off-and-on since September of last year, when I moved into one of the extra rooms with Josh and KC Brothers at the big red house on the corner of Wander and 45th that everyone knows.

It really has been a blessing in my life to be here in this ward. I appreciate the warmth and outreach that I have received from so many of you. And I hope that through the duration of the time that you get to be in this ward, that you will continue offering the goodness that you have to your neighbors and receiving and welcoming the nurturing spirit of those who are around you here.

The Start of our Story

Today I’ll be reflecting on Elder Gong’s talk from April 2022 conference, entitled “We Each Have a Story.”1 And as I continue, I’ll keep coming back to a foil of themes:

  • having vs choosing and
  • inheriting vs creating.

Each of our stories, as unique as they are, starts with family.

Whether or not we know them, we are each born of a mother and a father. And each mother and father is likewise born of a mother and father.

Elder Gerrit W. Gong, “We Each Have a Story”

And regardless of who and how and whether the mother-father roles in our lives were filled, “we are ultimately all connected in the family of God and in the human family.” Perhaps it is because our first relationships are with a mother and father that “When asked where meaning comes from in life, the majority of people rank family first” (Gong).

And so there begins each of our stories — with our mother and father and the physical inheritance that they bestow on us: our bodies encoded from a combination of their DNA.

Family Inheritances: Biology and then Some

In the book, It Didn’t Start With You a psychologist named Mark Wolynn suggests that at birth we inherit a lot more than just our parents’ biology:

When your grandmother was five months pregnant with your mother, the precursor cell of the egg you developed from was already present in your mother’s ovaries. This means that before your mother was even born, your mother, your grandmother and the earliest traces of you were all in the same body — three generations sharing the same biological environment. […] Your inception can be similarly traced in your paternal line. The precursor cells of the sperm you developed from were present into your father when he was a fetus in his mother’s womb.

emphasis added; Wolynn

You’ve probably already considered inheritances received from your parents beyond just their biology. Things like:

  • tradition
  • habits
  • mannerisms
  • recipes
  • stories
  • favorite vacation places
  • ways of speaking

and things like this.

All of these you might have found traces of further up the family tree, as things — not just from them (your parents) but from their parents or many, many generations back — all of these pieces of culture that get handed down from one generation to the next.

“If you look deeply into the palm of your hand you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors. Each of them are live in this moment. Each present in your body. You are the continuation of each of these people.”

Thich Nhat Hanh, A Lifetime of Peace

So in this way, our ancestors are all “Still very much alive” and “deserve to be remembered,” as they are the sources of so much that exists in our individual lives (Gong). By remembering them, we can be conscious of where and when pieces of our current lives or our inherited stories come from and perhaps even why they exist. And that understanding gives us a chance to make a clearer choice as to whether or not we will continue to nurture those pieces of ourselves, keeping them alive; or, if we will choose to retire those things, to prune them, or trim them — thanking those contributions for what we may have learned and saying it’s time to let them go.

This idea reminds me of the allegory of olive tree in Jacob 5, where not only is the House of Israel as a collective represented in the tree, or in the vineyard — with pieces that get grafted and moved around, and some that are productive, and some aren’t and get trimmed and burned — this is an image that works for you and I as individuals, too.

Why Remember Family?

On remembering our ancestors, I thought about the Disney Pixar movie from 2017, Coco,3 which touched me so much when I watched it. It was based on the mythical supposition that “if there’s no one left in the living world to remember you, then you disappear from [the spirit] world [or the afterlife].”

As Miguel, the main character, ventures into the world of the dead to connect with his long-past family, one of the matriarchs in his line tells him:

Miguel, I give you my blessing to go home and never forget how much your family cares for you.

Mamá Imelda, Coco

Now why might she say that?

Perhaps, it is because if you were to imagine your life and what your life would be like if you woke up every day and felt not only the infinite love of God and Christ for you, but also, if you had just an ounce of understanding and feeling of the love that your entire family tree has for you — everyone who has passed before you, all of their love, all of them rooting for you cheering you on, available to teach you something every day; if you could close your eyes, and see the faces of a hundred of your progenitors, and feel their strength and the lessons they have available to pass on to you from generation to generation — if all of that was welled up in you in a moment each day, wow. What a resource.

The Power of Family Stories

[Some] myth-shattering research years ago has reshaped our understanding of dinner-time discipline and difficult conversations [at home. They found that] The single most important thing you can do for your family may be the simplest of all: [which is to] develop a strong family narrative.

It was in the mid-90s, [when a psychologist at Emory University] was asked to help explore myth and ritual in American families. There had been a lot of research at the time [about what was causing the family to break down]. But [these researchers] were more interested in what families could do to counteract those forces [and be stronger together].

[At] that time, [the researcher’s wife … ] noticed something about [the] students [that she had in her classes, which was that] The ones who kn[e]w a lot about their families tend[ed] to do better when they face[d] challenges.

[The researchers went on that] Every family has a unifying narrative [… some are ascending, some are descending … but] the most [helpful and] healthy narrative [… they] call[] the oscillating narrative[, which might go something like this:]

Dear, let me tell you, we’ve had ups and downs in our family. We built a family business. Your grandfather was a pillar in the community. Your mother was on the board of the hospital. But we had setbacks. You ha[ve] an uncle who was once arrested. We had a house burn down. Your father lost [his] job. But no matter what happened, we always stuck together as a family.4

Bruce Feiler, NYT, “The Family Stories That Bind Us”

This narrative best lines up with the actual, observed realities of all individuals and families in mortality: we win some, we lose some. “The Lord Giveth and the Lord Taketh away.”5

So whether we like it or not that’s what’s going to happen to each of us.

And note that this little aphorism at the start of the Book of Job immediately precedes an indication of his (Job’s) choice of attitude with regard to that reality:

So the Lord giveth the Lord taketh away and … “Blessed be the name of the Lord” … in His giving and taking, and in our receiving and losing.


When Family Fails Us

Back to Elder Gong:

Just as joys come in families, so can sorrows. No individual is perfect, nor is any family. When those who should love, nurture and protect us fail to do so, we feel abandoned, embarrassed [and] hurt. Family can become a hollow shell.

[…] Yet, with heaven’s help, we can come to understand our family and make peace with each other.

emphasis added; Elder Gong

We can choose to not be bound by the inheritance given to us by the stories that have already been told. We can choose to learn to keep the best, to trim the worst, and improve that which yet has untapped potential.

As Elder Gong urges us:

Learn and acknowledge with gratitude and honesty your family heritage. [By honesty, I think what he means is don’t gloss over difficult truths. He continues:] Celebrate and become the positive and, where needed, humbly do everything possible not to pass on the negative.

Let good things begin with you.

emphasis added; Elder Gong

Write a New Story — But Keep the Good

I’ll be the first to say that it takes a lot of work to prune an inheritance that hurts and to do everything that’s possible to not pass on the negative. It’s a whole talk on its own. I can briefly summarize it by saying: feel completely and forgive wholeheartedly. The endeavor is a heroic effort to heal the wounds in a family tree.

But on becoming the positive, I’d like to look to a narrative structure that has shown up in stories told around the world through the millennium of the hero’s journey — wherein, an individual

  • decides to wander out beyond the gates of the home that he grew up in, get lost, find something new, see a problem that they decide is worth solving … and
  • once taking on that adventure, to go through a phase of suffering, being in an unfamiliar place, facing challenges and failures and setbacks, but continuing on and on and on and on, working towards solving that problem, which, at some point,
  • will culminate in the darkest moments — reaching the deepest pit, the dragon’s lair, the scariest cave — where we at least want to go … and, in that space,
  • discovering, finding something new — a solution, or a treasure — and with that,
  • returning home a new person,
  • sharing new knowledge with our families and communities that raised us.6

Jesus Redeems the Whole Family Tree, the Entire Family Story

The promise of Jesus Christ is that we can become our best story and our families can become happy forever. In all our generations, Jesus Christ heals the brokenhearted, delivers the captives, [and] sets at liberty them that are bruised.

emphasis added; Elder Gong

This promise applies to those who have already passed on.

We all have skeletons in our family tree, which, upon discovering may be kind of hard to swallow — especially when we find traces of those skeletons in ourselves, and in our shadows — our dark urges that seem out of line with the light that we seek and hope to radiate to others.

But, I believe in the infinite mercy and love of God. That, could we see to the other side of the veil now, we would more often than not see people in our family restored, humble in heart, and perhaps urging us to have courage to do better than did they, as well as pleading our forgiveness for the scars we have felt from that which they passed on.

I too believe that in the garden and on the cross, every bit of our life experience that’s hard to swallow was consumed on the altar. There isn’t a hurt, an urge, a nightmare, a habit, a scar or a wound that Jesus has yet to feel and heal.

[So] we each have a story. Come [and create] yours. […] Find your voice, [write] your song [and sing] your harmony [to] Him, [our God]. This is the very purpose for which God created the heavens and the earth and saw that they were good.

emphasis added; Elder Gong

We’re each a son or daughter of Heavenly Parents, born to mortality of fallen, earthly parents — yet, eternally endowed with unbounded potential.

The ultimate question of man is not who we are, but who we could be.7

Jordan B Peterson

I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior, amen.

Sources

  1. “We Each Have a Story” by By Elder Gerrit W. Gong – Apr 2022 General Conference
  2. It Didn’t Start with You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle by Mark Wolynn, 2016
  3. Coco, Disney-Pixar, 2017
  4. “The Family Stories That Bind Us” by Bruce Feiler, published March 15, 2013 in New York Times
  5. Job 1:21 KJV
  6. Notes on The Hero’s Journey from Damon D’Amore
  7. Beyond Order by Jordan B Peterson,
By |2023-10-30T21:23:07-06:00July 10th, 2022|Faith, General Life|0 Comments

Ideas for LDS Sacrament Meeting Talks

A friend posted: “I need some good topics for Sunday speakers. Hit me up with topics you have liked or would like to hear about.” Without any hesitation I banged out this list of ideas for LDS sacrament meeting talks.

A few of the immediate reactions:

Reaction to my ideas for LDS sacrament meeting talks

“If I ever write a book, you’re picking the title.”

“Holy cow! Where did all these come from? Seriously the titles alone speak a sermon.”

“Nat holy cow. If you just came up with those that is mind blowing.”

Spice up your Sunday meetings with these starting points off the beaten path.

If you write a sacrament talk or ask someone to speak from one of these titles, send me a copy or comment.


34 Ideas for LDS Sacrament Meeting Talks

When People Don’t Apologize: Forgiving and finding reconciliation with God

Would borrow from Forgiveness + Tribulation, a talk I gave fall 2019.

Honoring Fallen Parents: The Fifth Commandment and Romans 3:23

The Fifth Commandment enjoins: “Honor thy father and thy mother.”

Romans 3:23 says: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”

How can we, how do we, honor parents … when they have ALL fallen short—at best—and done real harm, at worst?

Mediating Identities: Being an independent agent AND part of a family, part of a ward, part of a Church at the same time

… for there is a God, and he hath created all things … both things to act and things to be acted upon … Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself.

2 Nephi 2:14-16

[M]en should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will … For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves.

D&C 58:26-27

vs.

And let every man esteem his brother as himself … And again I say unto you, let every man esteem his brother as himself. For what man among you having twelve sons, and is no respecter of them, and they serve him obediently, and he saith unto the one: Be thou clothed in robes and sit thou here; and to the other: Be thou clothed in rags and sit thou there—and looketh upon his sons and saith I am just? Behold, this I have given unto you as a parable, and it is even as I am. I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine.

D&C 38:24-27

And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one.

John 17:22-23

Forgiving Ourselves: Letting go of shame, expectation, guilt and perfectionism

The Appeal of Hakuna Matata, and Gospel Prompts for Finding + Making Meaning in Shouldering Responsibility

“Time Isn’t Found, It Is Made” — and other pedestrian truisms the gospel turns upside down

I believe “time isn’t found, it is made” is a Henry B Eyring line. Need to verify.

We’re All Wart: How The Sword and the Stone helped me rediscover what it means to be a child of God

There’s so much to unpack from these opening 8 lines.

Heavenly Mother & The Tree of Life: Symbols of Divine Femininity

7 Years of Plenty and 7 Years of Famine: What I am really learning to lay up in store for my family

The Good Samaritan: Seeing myself in every character

I Am Alma Too: Conversations with my present-day children of varying degrees of faith

(I don’t have kids. To someone who does, go for it.)

From Obedience to Integrity: The personal transformation to leader from follower

Skeletons in Our Closet: What to do when family history uncovers unsavory characters

The Prodigal’s Sibling: Learning to love as my father did

Cardinal Truth: Spiritual directions intimated by North, East, South and West

Seeing Thru a Glass Darkly: The beams that got in the way of knowing my parents, siblings and spouse

The Kingdom of God is Within Me … so why do I place so much stock in others’ accusations?

The Tarnished Rule: Consequences of misapplying The Golden Rule, and how I finally buffed out the error

Why Hope When You Can Ask … and Act?

Being Nice and Cowardice: Which, really, am I being?

Being Even As He Is: A Chapter on Courage

Every Day is a New World: Living with Creative Force in Every Moment

Clinging to Dregs: The unseen upside to keeping ourselves dirty and why we make that horrible tradeoff

Embracing Possibility: The absolute terror of becoming the best possible versions of ourselves

Letting Others Grow: The petty ways I’ve kept my friends & family small

No One is Coming: Stand Up and Lead Your Own **** Life

Taking Responsibility: Voluntarily shouldering the burdens of mortality and climbing upward to The City on a Hill

Empty Handed at the Pearly Gates: Coming to grips with my own vapidness from a life of ease

Oh, So You Think YOU Could Be a Prophet?

Admitting Laman and Lemuel are there to Mirror Me

Lehi and Alma: Grace for parents who “failed”

Ether 12:27: Weaknesses and Epic Fails which only now, a decade later, I can appreciate and be grateful for

Leaning on The Atonement to Overcome Humiliation

The Sound of Silence: Answering my own prayers

There you go. What ideas for LDS sacrament meeting talks do you have now?

By |2021-12-22T17:15:01-07:00April 27th, 2021|Faith|5 Comments

Neal A Maxwell: A Complete Chronology of His Talks and Speeches

In mid 2016, I read a book by Neal A Maxwell. Shortly after, I embarked on listening to his entire BYU Speeches archive, in chronological order.

I listened to many of these talks while making the long drive from Salt Lake to Heber City. At the time I was seeing someone who lived in Heber, and each time we made plans to get together I looked forward as much to her company as I did to the drive from my home in Millcreek, up Parley’s Canyon, past Park City and back down into the neighboring valley — my quiet, private time with Neal. The drive being an hour each way, I listened to one talk there and another on the way home.

In 2017, I started listening to the entire archive of his General Conference talks.

His perspectives certainly colored this piece I wrote, where I included just one of his golden nuggets.

I thought I’d put together all the speeches and talks of this man who seemed so well to maintain proper perspective for all life’s experience. For as he once said, “This world is not the one we are preparing for.”

The first book I read was We Will Prove Them Herewith. I think it’s out of print, but you can find it on Amazon.

Will update this with all of his Ensign articles, books, etc. I have a book that isn’t on the Wikipedia books list, so I think it will take some work.

I also recommend his biography, A Disciple’s Life: The Biography of Neal A Maxwell, which I finished fall 2017.

Neal A Maxwell - A Disciple's Life

From the Life of Neal A Maxwell

b. Jul. 6, 1926

1970 – Appointed Commissioner of Church Education

1970 – Feb. 23 – Spiritual Ecology – BYU/CES

1971 – Oct. 23 – Mormon Milieu – BYU/CES

1972 – A Time to Choose – Deseret Book

1972 – Apr. 27 – Freedom: A “Hard Doctrine” – BYU/CES

1974 – Jan. 15 – Family Perspectives – BYU/CES

1974 – Apr. 6 – Called as Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

1974 – Apr. – Response to a Call – LDS General Conference

1974 – Sep. 1 – But for a Small Moment – BYU/CES

1974 – Oct. – Why Not Now? – LDS General Conference

1975 – Apr. – The Man of Christ – LDS General Conference

1976 – Jan. 4 – Taking up the Cross – BYU/CES

1976 – Apr. – “Jesus of Nazareth, Savior and King” – LDS General Conference

1976 – Oct. 1 – Called to the Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy

1976 – Oct. – Notwithstanding My Weakness – LDS General Conference

1976 – Oct. 26 – Insights from My Life – BYU/CES

1977 – Nov. 8 – All Hell Is Moved – BYU/CES

1978 – Feb. – The Gospel Gives Answers to Life’s Problems – Ensign/Liahona

1978 – Apr. – The Women of God – LDS General Conference

1978 – Oct. 10 – Meeting the Challenges of Today – BYU/CES

1979 – Nov. 27 – Patience – BYU/CES

1980 – Apr. 21 – In This Time of Complexity and Challenge – BYU/CES

1980 – Oct. – The Net Gathers of Every Kind – LDS General Conference

1980 – Oct. 7 – True Believers in Christ – BYU/CES

1981 – Jul. 23 – Called to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

1981 – Sep. 15 – Grounded, Rooted, Established, and Settled (Ephesians 3:17, 1 Peter 5:10) – BYU/CES

1981 – Oct. – “O, Divine Redeemer” – LDS General Conference

1982 – Apr. – “A Brother Offended” – LDS General Conference

1982 – Sep. 5 – Meekly Drenched in Destiny – BYU/CES

1982 – Oct. – “Be of Good Cheer” – LDS General Conference

1983 – Feb. 18 – Try the Virtue of the Word of God – BYU/CES

1983 – Apr. – “Shine As Lights in the World” – LDS General Conference

1983 – Oct. – Joseph, the Seer – LDS General Conference

1984 – Apr. – The Great Plan of the Eternal God – LDS General Conference

1984 – Oct. – “Out of Obscurity” – LDS General Conference

1984 – Dec. 4 – If Thou Endure Well – BYU/CES

1985 – Mar. 19 – Part of Destiny – BYU-I/CES

1985 – Apr. – “Willing to Submit” – LDS General Conference

1985 – Oct. – Premortality, a Glorious Reality – LDS General Conference

1986 – Feb. 7 – Good and Evil Spoken of Among All People – BYU Management Society

  • Address given at a dinner event of the BYU Management Society, Washington, D.C. Chapter.
  • Only exists as two print copies — no known recording or transcript. Print copies on file at HBLL Special Collections – Americana Collection, BX 8608 .A1 no.2968.

1986 – Mar. 30 – Joseph Smith: “A Choice Seer” – BYU/CES

1986 – Apr. – “Called and Prepared from the Foundation of the World” – LDS General Conference

1986 – Oct. – “God Will Yet Reveal” – LDS General Conference

1986 – Oct. 11 – Great Answers to the Great Question – BYU/CES

1986 – Oct. 21 – “Meek and Lowly” – BYU/CES

1987 – Apr. – “Overcome … Even As I Also Overcame” – LDS General Conference

1987 – Oct. – “Yet Thou Art There” – LDS General Conference

1988 – Apr. – “For I Will Lead You Along” – LDS General Conference

1988 – Oct. – “Answer Me” – LDS General Conference

1989 – Mar. 26 – “A Wonderful Flood of Light” – BYU/CES

1989 – Apr. – Irony: The Crust on the Bread of Adversity – LDS General Conference

1989 – Oct. – “Murmur Not” – LDS General Conference

1990 – Feb. 4 – The Children of Christ – BYU/CES

1990 – Apr. – “Endure It Well” – LDS General Conference

1990 – Oct. – Put Off the Natural Man, and Come Off Conqueror – LDS General Conference

1991 – Mar. 31 – “In Him All Things Hold Together” – BYU/CES

1991 – Apr. – “Lest Ye Be Wearied and Faint in Your Minds” – LDS General Conference

1991 – Sep. 27 – On Consecration, Scholarship, and the Defense of the Kingdom (pp 12-21 in the PDF, printed as pages x-xix) – FARMS

  • The version linked to above is the transcription Daniel C. Peterson published in the Interpreter in 2003. Peterson got the transcription from Matthew Roper, who was present and recorded the speech, and then transcribed it on 5 October 1991, slightly more than a week after the event. As far as anyone knows, that recording (and no others) exist.
  • This speech is more commonly known by the title “Discipleship and Scholarship,” under which it was published in condensed and polished form by BYU Studies in 1992.
  • That he would speak at the FARMS annual banquet in the Wilkinson Student Center at BYU is reported in the Sep 1991 FARMS newsletter, INSIGHTS, page 5.

1991 – Oct. – Repentance – LDS General Conference

1992 – Apr. – “My Servant Joseph” – LDS General Conference

1992 – Aug. 18 – The Inexhaustible Gospel – BYU/CES

1992 – Oct. – “Settle This in Your Hearts” – LDS General Conference

1993 – Apr. – “Behold, the Enemy Is Combined” (D&C 38:12) – LDS General Conference

1993 – Jul. 4 – Provo 1993 Freedom Festival Fireside – BYU/CES

1993 – Aug. 25 – Wisdom and Order – BYU/CES

1993 – Aug. 26 – Out of the Best Faculty – BYU/CES

1993 – Oct. – “From the Beginning” – LDS General Conference

1994 – Mar. 27 – “Called to Serve” – BYU/CES

1994 – Apr. – “Take Especial Care of Your Family” – LDS General Conference

1994 – Oct. – “Brightness of Hope” – LDS General Conference

1995 – Apr. – “Deny Yourselves of All Ungodliness” – LDS General Conference

1995 – Oct. – “Swallowed Up in the Will of the Father” – LDS General Conference

1996 – Jan. 23 – “Brim with Joy” – BYU/CES

1996 – Apr. – “Becometh As a Child” – LDS General Conference

1996 – Oct. – “According to the Desire of [Our] Hearts” – LDS General Conference

1997 – Apr. – “From Whom All Blessings Flow” – LDS General Conference

1997 – Oct. – “Apply the Atoning Blood of Christ” – LDS General Conference

1998 – Jan. 4 – The Pathway of Discipleship – BYU/CES

1998 – Apr. – “Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel” – LDS General Conference

1998 – Oct. – Hope through the Atonement of Jesus Christ – LDS General Conference

1999 – Jan. 12 – Sharing Insights from My Life – BYU/CES

1999 – Apr. – “Repent of [Our] Selfishness” (D&C 56:8) – LDS General Conference

1999 – Oct. – Lessons from Laman and Lemuel – LDS General Conference

2000 – Feb. – Jesus, the Perfect Mentor – BYU/CES

2000 – Apr. – Content with the Things Allotted unto Us – LDS General Conference

2000 – Oct. – The Tugs and Pulls of the World – LDS General Conference

2001 – Apr. – “Plow in Hope” – LDS General Conference

2001 – Oct. – The Seventh Commandment:A Shield – LDS General Conference

2002 – Apr. – Consecrate Thy Performance – LDS General Conference

2002 – Oct. – Encircled in the Arms of His Love – LDS General Conference

2003 – Apr. – Care for the Life of the Soul – LDS General Conference

2003 – Oct. – How Choice a Seer! – LDS General Conference

2004 – Mar. 16 – “Free to Choose” – BYU/CES

2004 – Mar 19 – Blending Research and Revelation – adaptation of remarks made at BYU President’s Leadership Council Meetings

2004 – Apr. – Remember How Merciful the Lord Hath Been – LDS General Conference

d. July 21, 2004

Neal A Maxwell: A Man with Perspective

Sources:

BYU Speeches by Neal A Maxwell

LDS General Conference Archive of Neal A Maxwell

More Interesting Neal A Maxwell Resources:

Maxwell Bibliography. An on-going project by Tyler Snow. Elder Maxwell’s lifetime cited works, grouped into Books, JD, HC and CHC, and then sorted by frequency of citations.

From “A” to “Z”: A is for Alliteration, Z is for Zion. By Don Duncan. 1997. (Working on converting this to a spreadsheet format.)

By |2023-08-15T14:52:00-06:00June 29th, 2017|Faith|73 Comments

Sang in General Conference

My stake and a neighboring YSA stake were asked to staff the choir for the Priesthood Session of April 2017 General Conference.

I sang T1. About 40 guys I go to church with each week spread themselves out across T1/T2/B1/B2.

#ThisIsWinmill

We sang . . .

Rise Up, O Men of God

Jesus, Once of Humble Birth

(Made the camera on this one, around 0:48)

Redeemer of Israel

and

Hope of Israel

Great times. Hats off to our conductor Brett Taylor, music boss over at Mountain View High School.

Takeaways:

  • There are 364 seats in the Conference Center choir loft.
  • Brett embraced his choir-geek music-nerdiness so much that it worked in his favor and won over the cooperation and trust of 364 mostly-amateur-singer dudes to sing with form and sound like a choir.
  • A teacher who loves what they do, cares, finds simple ways to convey and teach building blocks of technique, who provides lots of “this way, not this way” demos, and who provides lots of “see, you’re improving” feedback makes a world of difference in short time.
  • “The more in-tune that 5th is, the more truth there is in it. And thereby, the more the Spirit can testify of the truth of what we’re singing.”
  • “If you come to the performance unshaven and with unkempt hair, heaven awaits you . . . but the choir does not.”
By |2023-11-05T21:02:18-07:00April 3rd, 2017|Faith, Music|0 Comments

[For Your Reference] Your YSA Ward Is OPTIONAL

This post is for my fellow Latter-day Saints with regard to one particular way that we organize our congregations for worship: the YSA Ward.

In my current YSA ward I’m serving as co-chair of the fellowship committee.

My co-chair and our committee take on the responsibility of supporting everyone who begins attending our ward for roughly their first three months. We ensure they feel welcome. We ensure they connect with resources they need. We ensure the Relief Society and Elders’ Quorum Presidencies are aware of them and arrange visiting- and/or home-teaching assignments. We ensure the executive secretary invites each member to meets a member of the bishopric and establish a relationship there and perhaps receive a calling to serve in the ward. And so on.

Materially, this means every week on Sunday I co-host a Sunday School class for people who are attending our ward for the first time (about 4-8 people every week), and also the ward clerk gives me a report of all the new records we receive that week from Church headquarters … which is usually another 4-8 people who supposedly now live in our boundaries and who haven’t yet shown up on Sunday for us to meet them.

Recently, we got a batch of 40-something names, and it turns out a nearby family ward sent this huge batch of records to us.

Here’s the problem with that: there’s a pervasive belief (at least in U.S. Mormon culture) that if you meet the parameters of a singles ward, then that IS your ward.

Translated: if you are 18-31 years old and not married, then where you “belong” is in the YSA ward in which you live.

But that’s not true.

Let the record show … being in a YSA Ward is OPTIONAL. It’s not the default. It’s a personal choice for any Young Single Adult member of the Church.

I’m writing this post for two reasons:

  1. So I have an easy reference point whenever this comes up in the future.
  2. Almost no one I talk to knows the policy, and I value our pro-agency doctrine. This false belief is a chink against that glorious doctrine of total governance of the self.

The false belief sounds like and looks like this:

  • Leadership (bishopric members, EQPs, RSPs, etc.) expecting that single members of their stake will participate in that ward.
  • Leadership (bishopric members, EQPs, RSPs, etc.) expecting that college students home for the summer will participate in that ward.
  • Leadership (bishopric members, EQPs, RSPs, etc.) expecting that leadership and members of surrounding family/conventional wards will “send” their YSAs to the YSA ward.
  • Bishoprics and/or ward clerks from family/conventional wards mass exporting the records of all their YSAs to a YSA ward.
  • People saying, “Oh you should go to the YSA ward.”
  • People saying anything that implies participating in a YSA ward is preferred, especially before inquiring AT ALL about what a YSA thinks his/her spiritual needs are and whether those are better met in a family/conventional ward or a YSA ward.
  • Any member of a YSA ward lobbying a fully active YSA attending a family/conventional ward to participate in/transfer records to/worship with/accept a calling in the YSA ward.
  • There are countless more ways … leave a comment or email me with your favorite way of seeing people defaulting (or pressuring) to YSA ward participation, and I’ll add it to the list.

WHY is this a problem?

I can think of two reasons:

  1. It’s NOT the design of YSA wards to have ALL “eligible” YSAs in them [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][Policy].
  2. It assumes policy of the institution is smarter than agency of the individual [Spiritual].

Let’s tackle policy first.

From Handbook 2 (my emphasis added):

YSA Ward is optional - Handbook 2 cover

16.4 Young Single Adult Wards

Where local circumstances and the number of young single adult members make it desirable, priesthood leaders may recommend the creation of a young single adult ward according to the guidelines in Handbook 1, 9.1.6.

Eligible members may, in consultation with their parents, choose to be members of the young single adult ward or to remain in their conventional ward. The stake president may authorize the young single adult ward to find and fellowship other young single adult members of the stake who are less active. Those who become active may then choose to belong to the young single adult ward or to their conventional ward.

With approval from the stake president, the bishop of a young single adult ward may organize a second Relief Society for young single adult women and a second elders quorum for young single adult men to provide additional opportunities for young single adults to serve and associate with each other.

Membership in a young single adult ward is temporary. Leaders help young single adults prepare to return to a conventional ward when they marry or reach age 31. This transition should provide sufficient time and communication to help the bishop of the conventional ward plan for a calling that helps each transitioning young single adult feel welcome and needed.

May. May. Choose. May. May. May. Temporary.

That seems like A LOT of optionality and ZERO compulsion.

Need I say more?

All that’s needed on my point about policy is this: “Eligible members may, in consultation with their parents, choose to be members of the young single adult ward or to remain in their conventional ward.”

Boom.

It’s up to each person to choose being in the YSA ward. Home base is the family/conventional ward in which they live. That’s “where they belong.” YSA ward participation is totally voluntary. It’s a temporary option for those who choose it.

On the spiritual side…

Not complicated: wards exist to support and strengthen families. A single member of the Latter-day Saint Church is his/her own 1-person family. As the head of his/her own family, a YSA gets to decide what his/her spiritual needs are and choose how they are going to meet those needs.

Shuttling all YSAs into a YSA ward by default is having an institution choose on behalf of the YSA. That’s not the spiritual design of this faith that we have.

So cut it out.

To all my fellow YSAs who are reading this or ever will … the choice is YOURS.

Which means your choice is yours and every other YSA’s choice is THEIRS.

Choice. Choice. Choice.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

By |2021-01-15T15:37:23-07:00May 27th, 2016|Faith|0 Comments