Thursday, March 29, 2012

Further Thoughts On the Temple, Virtue, Personal Progress, and Family History

When I posted my notes from meeting Sis. Dalton, I didn't add very many of my thoughts. Today, I'd like to offer my commentary on some of what stood out to me the most from those notes. So, this is Sis. Dalton reduced to my notes, and then my notes reduced to my memories of my impressions. (ha! :) ) Hope it's a helpful way to get discussion going though!

(As I'm sure was noticed, I felt a bit uneasy at first about the comments to my initial post on meeting Sis. Dalton. So, for what it's worth, I'd like to make some clarifications. I really don't want to make anyone feel like they are unwelcome. I do, however, want to keep a "positive" tone focused on "being part of the solution," as is mentioned in our Beginnings New header and "about" page. So, please, as always, feel free to share your concerns. "Cast a thoughtful eye on materials and programs and how they get implemented." This might be another way to say "criticize." But - don't be surprised if I push you a bit to teach us how you think we can accomplish something good once we've done our thoughtful criticism! :) I believe we're all of equal intelligence, and so I'm going to push a bit, but I want you to know that this doesn't just mean I don't want to be disagreed with. Thoughtful discussion with those who think differently, has, at times, been when I've felt nearest to Zion.)

So! With that said, here are some of my own thoughts, complete with my trademark typos and smilies! :) (I'm also adding numbers so you can refer to specific parts if you want to):

(1) "Teach the YW so well that you would trust them to teach your own kids someday."

She didn't say it quite this way, but this was the idea I got out of it. Are we preparing them to teach in their families? Are we setting them on the path to keep learning so that someday, they are prepared to be powerful teachers? I thought a good measure of this would be if I would trust them to teach my own kids someday.

(2)"What is the vision for the work we do in the YW? One word: TEMPLE. Everything leads to the Lord and His Holy House. This was an official change in the handbook. The official vision of the YW program is to lead to the Temple." 

(See also number 10 below.)

First, I think it is CRUCIAL to teach that here is more to the temple than marriage. And not just because some won't be married there, or don't have parents married there. But simply because there is a lot more to the temple than just marriage!! And if we don't focus on the initiatory and endowment, then we're not really going to get the sealing clearly. And we're just setting up the girls to miss the whole point of the one thing we do actually talk about. 

I was thinking about that the other night. Why do we just talk about that one part of one ordinance? I think, for one, we like it because we can show a picture of a bride (even outside the temple) to refer to something inside. How could we do that with the endowment or the initiatory? We are all a bit unsure about what we can talk about from the endowment, initiatory, and even the actual sealing words, but we all know we can say people get married there. Is that part (not all, but part) of where the over-emphasis comes from? Thoughts? 

(3) "Being worthy is key to getting there. This is why we added the value of VIRTUE."

I, like many of you, wondered why they added the value of virtue. Interesting to hear a bit of the behind-the-scenes working there. I wonder if we could get away with dropping other values, or if we can only get away with adding them? By "get away," I mean, are we culturally too tied to the tradition? I almost get the feel - and this is totally my own thoughts here - that perhaps if it were more practical, we'd see the values reduced a bit and temple being a bigger focus. Was adding a value a way to promote this from within the existing set-up? 

I really, really appreciated her comments on a "return" to virtue. I had heard her use that phrase, but I always thought she meant it something like "the world has given up. But let's not give up; let's initiate a return to high moral conduct throughout the world." It's not uncommon talk, but it is a bit lofty! :) But her focus in the meeting, anyway, was an individual return to virtue. I liked it. I never quite knew how to get excited about the value, but this opened up a door for me. I like the idea to focus on, as she said, "the atonement and the scriptures" - to teach who Christ really is, how he really sees us. I thought this point was made very nicely when she said "in the scriptures he calls for his chosen ones to return to him." Not the "world," not every one else, but us - the normal, everyday church members. No exceptions. :) No one is above this. Also, as I understand the Abrahamic Covenant, that is one of the promises: God will never give up.

(4) She told that story about how we lose many "because they made one mistake. But that one mistake gnawed at them." She was quoting some YW she had talked to. I don't know that it is the only or main reason we are losing some of our members, but it certainly has got to be one of the reasons. It made me fear a bit for how often we don't teach doctrines clearly. Whatever doctrine it is, when it's not understood it can lead to heartache later. 

I appreciated her point, though. At least what I heard in it (and so even if she didn't say this, I'll put it out there as an idea from my own head you can respond to) is that when we teach the surface-level, life-is-always-great version, we are leading some YW to decide they don't belong with us. That is a caution we need to hear, I think. A friend once pointed out to me that when the Primary children sing "I Am a Child of God," they sing words that often aren't true: "has given me an earthly home with parents kind and dear." While the song has done much good over the years, it can also lead to some misconceptions that we need to be aware of. If a child is not in a good home, do they think they don't belong? Do they think that their (perhaps abusive, etc) parents are what good parents should be? do they think they aren't deserving of a happy home? If a child is in an "ideal" home, are we setting them up to be unaware or uncaring of those families who aren't like that? And, of course, how many families appear healthy and happy from the outside (even to a child), but aren't what they appear to be? My point is just that we need to be careful. Simplifying what we teach might seem necessary when we are cramming a topic into 30 minutes. But please do be careful of what simplifying might be doing.

(5) "with all the work we do, we should already have our medallions! Cleaning up your home? That's a 10 hour project! Some YW will tell her they are too busy doing good things already. She smiles and says that's the whole point - doing good things. You should already have your medallion then!"

This was some good news for me. I haven't even checked out the Personal Progress program with the thought of doing it myself. I got it when I was 18, I'm done, right? :) But what she said reminded me of a stake personal progress day we had here a while back. Someone taught a lesson where she basically said the point is to see your life differently. It's not that you drop swimming to pick up scrapbooking, it's that you come to see swimming with new eyes. Or your swim teammates. Or your daily routine surrounding swimming. Or what you do to and from competitions. Conversion isn't about adding a "church" section of your life; conversion is seeing your life through new eyes. So her comments caught my attention, and I think I might try it afterall! (With some YW as my mentors, I'm hoping... :) )

(6) "spiff it up! Wear it on a long chain, short chain, bracelet, whatever you want."

I included this because since having kids, I hate wearing jewelry! So she gave me the idea to make something else out of it. I don't know what yet. Or maybe I'll donate the $ to the temple fund or something instead! I just decided I couldn't use the excuse of not wanting a necklace in order to avoid the whole program. :)

(7) "The RUBY, do you know what it stands for? Do your YW know what it stands for?" 

I was embarrassed to admit I didn't even know there was a ruby on it. As you can see, I'm much more focused on the teaching aspect of YW... So I know I have a lot to work on here.

(8) "A virtuous woman.. more precious than rubies. Teach your YW: Don't let anyone treat you as not precious and virtuous."

I thought this point was particularly useful, regardless of what one thinks about the virtue value, the necklace reward, etc. Don't let anyone - male, female, old, or young - treat you with disrespect.

(9) "BTW, YW office has a policy to not release anything until it's in at least 3 languages. Working fast to get things in as many languages as possible"

I appreciate it when we can remember we are a worldwide church here. :) So I recorded that part because I appreciated the gesture.

(10) "Why does Personal Progress help us get to the temple? In addition to worthiness, it sets a pattern. Make commitments, keep commitments. Pattern to make and keep covenants."

Good point, good point. A mother in the ward recently got her medallion, and this sparked a discussion about what moms thought about focusing personal progress on getting to the temple. One mom said something like, "My goals as a YW and my goals now aren't that much different. I got to the temple, yes, but I need to be worthy to keep those covenants." I liked how she didn't even mention that the YW program got her to her marriage, but to the covenants there. I think perhaps as we teach that Personal Progress is a way of seeing life, and doesn't end with the medallion, we can also teach that the temple is a way of seeing life, and doesn't end by getting our endowment (or worse, when we get married!) :) It reminded me of Nephi trying to explain that after we get baptized we aren't done at all, but need to keep going just as we did before we went through that gate. 

(11) "Look for Promises in Elder Bednar's talk ... Promises of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob planted in hearts. Deep and Abiding faith. Protection from Satan! Safeguarded ..."

I haven't done much of anything with that talk myself... have any of your wards? What worked well? What didn't? I'll likely set up a post at some point on that topic too... or at least I ought to, huh? :)

(12) "Essentially turned the key to the youth to do Family History"

I really did like the image of "turning the key," because it sounds like Joseph turning the key to the RS to have revelation for their own good works in their own organization. Are we asking the youth to step it up that much? To have revelation pour down from heaven as they work? Perhaps... I wouldn't put it past God to do something like that :)

(13) "This is not fluff. This is not to entertain. See how this (family history was her specific example) resonates with their souls? They'll come to mutual etc. When you hear a prophet speak, you move."

I liked this point as a general point, which should be no surprise coming from me. :) I don't like to think about us entertaining youth in our lessons, or coercing them to mutual by non-stop fun activities. (Fun ones, yes, but not in order to coerce them...hope I made sense there) Anyway I'm behind the general idea on this one. When we avoid fluff, and teach what we believe is truth, it will resonate with them, because they are seeking truth too. The Holy Ghost teaches and prompts us, and it confirms truth to them. Part of the way things work. :) And when we are being fed spiritually, we don't mind missing out on other things. And she's giving the benefit of the doubt to the youth that they won't mind either. :) Again, I included it because it sounded like something else I already believe in. It reminded me of the talk by Elder Holland that our sidebar quotation comes from.

So, as I mentioned already, I can't personally testify that I've done this with family history itself. But I'm curious now, and I'm going to do some thinking about it. (So jump in if you have some thoughts for me!)

Well, this post has reached an enormous length already, so I'd better stop there. :) I'd love to hear your thoughts on my thoughts - I'll share my thoughts and you share yours, and together I hope we can teach each other how to be more effective and more fit for this work of the kingdom!  


  1. (2) i have never struggled with how to teach the temple to the young women - that *is* a major component of our faith, discipleship and covenants. i have however stressed to them that they need to be prepared for whatever comes - whether they enter the temple to serve a mission like i did, or whether they get married young, or whether they are like all of my friends who decided to get endowed when they were single in their 20s. whatever our path - it truly leads us to the temple and we are continually recommitting ourselves to the temple. i think this idea of preparation for LIFE is what we are teaching them - if they are standing on that type of testimony they will be a better employee, a better sister, a better friend, a better teacher, a better missionary, and yes, eventually a better wife and mother.

    (4) yes growing up i remember some primary songs were hard for me, specifically "families can be together forever." but i did not discount the song as a whole - i did not lose hope. i am a child of god still speaks truth in the very title - and it is that that i clung to. now, with my own husband - we discuss how moving forward we are going to make our family *that* kind of a family.

  2. 2) I agree that we need to teach them as much as possible about what happens in the temple, including but not limited to the ordinance of sealing. I find these conversations take place naturally as we drive to and from the temple (we do baptisms once a month at a temple that is, thankfully, only 15 minutes away). I have been surprised by how much they know and how little they know. They will know some obscure little details about a naming ordinance but nothing about the initiatory, which, in my opinion, contains some of the most powerful blessings of the temple. I try to answer questions, as much as possible, rather than lecture and also to paint with broad brushstrokes because they often seem to know some details but not how the whole thing works together (baptisms, then initiatory, then endowment, sealings, etc).

    The truth is that most *MOST* of what happens at the temple is sacred not secret, with a few exceptions that are made very clear in the temple itself. So I think we can tell them a lot more about what happens than we are culturally conditioned to say.

    Also, I recently found out that some sisters in my ward (in their 60's) don't attend the temple without their husbands. Ever. I find this shocking and disappointing! So I am all about teaching the temple as a place for personal communion with God, a place for individual learning through the Spirit, a place where my young women can better understand the plan and the need for the atonement. Marriage is part of all of that, but a marriage takes two individuals who both need all that other stuff, too.

  3. (4) As a child, I resented the line "has given me an earthly home with parents kind and dear." Luckily, a lot changed in my family over the years and I can sing the song without bitterness now, but I do feel the need to be careful not to state as fact such generalities as "you are so blessed to be a part of your family" or "your parents love you so much and work so hard for you." The truth is, we just don't know what goes on inside another family's house, and a little sensitivity could make a big difference in the way a YW perceives the lesson/doctrine being taught.

    (9) I also appreciate when we recognize that we belong to a worldwide church. I was supremely embarrassed when I attended my parent's ward (half of which is Spanish-speaking) and the Relief Society lesson was being taught solely from the Daughters in My Kingdom book, which "sorry, hermanas, it's only in English."

    (2) I really love that the official vision of YW is to lead to the temple. For me, remembering that, along with the intent to build a relationship with our Savior, helps tremendously in lesson preparation. If our Savior isn't mentioned somewhere in the lesson, we are off course.

  4. In the eternal marriage institute manual there is a section on covenants that lists some of the covenants made in the endowment and sealing ordinances. I like to use the quotes to help girls know what they are preparing for, and since it comes from a church publication I don't ever feel afraid I'm saying something I shouldn't.


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