20 March 2014


I have lived and served in about a dozen different wards and branches of the church. Each has been the same in organization and doctrine, and each has been different in size, culture and personality. Looking back I think I’ve learned something valuable from each one. And I’ve been thinking about them recently and analyzing their strengths and weaknesses.

The adjective awesome is thrown around a lot. It’s probably among the most overused adjectives right now. According to my dictionary awesome means “inspiring with an overwhelming sense of reverence or fear.” With that definition in mind I’d like to explore the question “What would an awesome unit (ward or branch) be like?”

A unit could be called awesome if it had 75% Sacrament meeting attendance (there’s always someone out sick, on vacation or at work), and at least 90% Home and Visiting Teaching. A unit would qualify as awesome if they had more individuals and families to teach than one set of missionaries could handle, and convert baptisms every month, with those converts staying active because of the love and nurturing they receive.  A unit could be called awesome if it also had ongoing temple preparation classes; and if all the adults who had been members longer than one year had full temple recommends and were endowed and sealed. A unit could be called awesome if there was an ongoing teacher improvement class and graduated members could teach any of the classes on the spur of the moment, and could give inspiring Sacrament meeting talks without wasting time on how they were asked to speak and how nervous they are and how they decided what to talk about, ad infinitum.  A unit could be called awesome if the majority of the members went the extra mile without having to be asked; as it is many of us have to be begged and cajoled to go even the first mile. A unit could be called awesome if it were attracting and retaining people instead of losing them to inactivity. An awesome unit would have more than one person who played the piano and organ, and more than one who could lead music, and would have a choir that practiced and performed regularly and actually sounded great. A unit would be awesome if the members didn’t get offended at every little thing and were humble and forgiving. A unit would truly be awesome if the members acted upon their testimonies and exercised faith instead of just saying the words. If it is true that “by their fruits, ye shall know them” then an awesome unit would include a culture of excellence in all they did from the bulletins to the music and speakers, to the home and visiting teaching, to the classroom lessons and discussions inspiring each other to reach higher, work harder and love more deeply.

At the other end of the scale would probably be pathetic, which is defined as “evoking pity, sorrow, or compassion; miserably inadequate”. How does a unit move up the scale? Just calling something awesome doesn’t make it so or even encourage it to be so. In addition to loving their members, leaders teaching correct principles and practices, sort of like a coach of five year old soccer players would, through demonstration and repetition, could move a unit to actions that would bear fruit worthy to be called awesome. It’s what I’m attempting to accomplish in our Relief Society. I get discouraged because it seems to be such a slow process. But when I stand before the Lord on judgment day to give an accounting I want to be able to say I did my best to both love and teach the sisters and bring them to Christ.

What do you think makes for an “awesome” ward/branch?

18 March 2014

A Parable

Brother Brown was sad; his wife had passed away several months ago and his home was in disarray. His lively, creative children were looking more unkempt as the days went by; the house just got dirtier. He did what he could in the evenings and on the weekends but things were just not as wonderful as when his wife was alive. So he looked around for another woman to help him. He found a school teacher, a delightful woman who loved children and homemaking; so he courted her and then married her.

The new Sister Brown enjoyed getting to know the children and after a little while began making chore assignments to all the children. Unfortunately nothing would get done, and the children came up with all kinds of excuses as to why the chores were not done. Sister Brown continued assigning chores and taking care of the grocery shopping and cooking. She was puzzled as to why the children wouldn't do their assigned chores so she talked to Brother Brown about it. They discussed the adjustments of having a new mother and he assured her that if she would just love the children they would eventually step up and do the chores. Sister Brown thought she had been loving, but redoubled her efforts and tried to be patient.

One day Sister Brown decided to get to the bottom of why the chores weren't getting done and she sat down with the youngest and after a pleasant conversation she broached the subject of chores. The youngster confessed that he really didn't know how to make his bed or clean his room because his real mom had always done it for him. Sister Brown made time for interviews with the rest of the children and found to her relief that the children weren't being rebellious about not doing the chores, they just didn't know how to do them and they didn't understand the benefits to the family if they did them.

Sister Brown began a training program immediately and helped each child learn the basics of bed making and clothes putting away, and then moved through all of the household chores. Once everyone knew he proper techniques and how to use the tools for each task the household began to run smoothly and feelings of love and unity increased in their home.

Many years later, when the children had homes of their own they were so grateful to their step-mother for showing her love by taking the time to teach them skills that would serve them all their lives.