First Presidency Letter

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Ishmael
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First Presidency Letter

Postby Ishmael » Wed 11 Jun, 2008 03:01 pm

A letter from the FP was read in my ward on Sunday outlining guidelines for Sacrament Meeting talks. The use of visual aids was discouraged, but this has been the case as long as I can remember.

What left me flummoxed was the new rule that speakers should not ask the congregation to follow along in their scriptures as the speaker read the verses aloud. Not only has this practice been followed by church leadership at virtually every level, but I specifically remember my mission president instructing us to do this whenever we read scriptures as part of a talk.

So I'm wondering what could possibly be the purpose of this new guideline. Were people abusing the practice so much that they had to go and take it away from everyone as a general rule? (I'm imagining an obnoxious speaker belittling members who had forgotten their scriptures or were slow in locating the correct verse.) It doesn't seem likely. With so many bigger fish to fry, why would SLC concern itself with micromanaging talks on this level?

Here's my idea. I may be way off, but I'm predicting that this new rule is actually a precursor to a forthcoming guideline discouraging the use of all handheld electronic devices during Sacrament Meeting.

You know there is a lot of cell phone texting and palm pilot gaming going on under the guise of looking up scriptures that have been downloaded to said devices. I've done it myself. Of course, a lot of people actually do use their palm pilots and other devices to look up scriptures--I've done that myself, too. So they can't really outlaw that stuff during SM because they still have a legitimate use.

Unless...they remove the legitimate use. If you're not supposed to look up scriptures anymore, then there's no reason to have your palm pilot or any other electronic device out during SM. It's all a big conspiracy to force everyone to go back to hangman and dots--er, paying attention to the talks during sacrament meeting.

What do you think?

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Postby hotel manager » Wed 11 Jun, 2008 03:20 pm

I have no guess as to what the goal is behind speakers not asking congregations to follow along when reading scriptures. However, I think if their goal was to prohibit use of PDAs and cell phones in Church, they would have just said "don't use PDAs and cell phones in Church," like my wife does every Sunday.
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Postby InOregon » Wed 11 Jun, 2008 03:27 pm

My sister said it was read in her ward. I wasn't in my ward on Sunday, but because I recently used a visual aid in a talk (for comedic effect)(and prefaced it with "I know we're discouraged from using visual aids, so I'm hoping that by using one, I won't be asked to speak for another 7 years.") I'm guessing the bishop is waiting until this Sunday, when I'm there, to read it.
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Postby InOregon » Wed 11 Jun, 2008 03:35 pm

As for the scriptures thing, I imagine they're just trying to avoid the awkward pauses those moments create while the speaker is waiting and everyone in the congregation is fumbling for their scriptures or feeling guilty for not looking it up. They don't ask us to look them up in Conference talks.

I can't imagine they would say they don't want us to have cell phones or PDAs in church. The church website provides PDA files for a lot of the church publications.
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Postby steelem » Wed 11 Jun, 2008 04:05 pm

I remember a long time ago hearing something from a General Authority about not asking people to look up scriptures in Sacrament Meeting, that that was more for Sunday School and not for a talk. I couldn't tell you who said that or when, but I remember darnit. Bonus points and a toaster for someone who finds out the reference.

I tend to think that it makes it more like General Conference, where they just read the scripture and be done with it, without a gadzillion people riffling through their scriptures. I guess if someone was really struck by the scripture you incorporated in your talk they could ask you later again which is was so they could mark it down.
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Ishmael
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Postby Ishmael » Wed 11 Jun, 2008 04:06 pm

InOregon wrote:As for the scriptures thing, I imagine they're just trying to avoid the awkward pauses those moments create while the speaker is waiting and everyone in the congregation is fumbling for their scriptures or feeling guilty for not looking it up. They don't ask us to look them up in Conference talks.


But they use visual aids in Conference talks all the time, so that can't be the guide we're supposed to follow.

And as long as I'm making predictions, look for these other guidelines to come down:

No more citing the dictionary definition of your topic. ("Webster's defines faith as...")

No more accounts of how the invitation to speak was extended. (...and when I looked at the CallerID and saw Bro. 1stCounselor's name, I knew what it must be about...)

No more "Brothers and Sisters, Aloha!"

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Postby InOregon » Wed 11 Jun, 2008 04:18 pm

I would LOVE to see "aloha" gone.

Humbug.
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Postby jds88 » Wed 11 Jun, 2008 04:18 pm

Ishmael, didn't Eric write a column about things like that?

InO, FWIW, I was in a "Sharing the Gospel" class taught by Randy Bott (former mission president in Fresno, CA, but not a GA) back in 1998 and he strongly discouraged the practice for more or less the reasons you state--it directs the audience's attention away from you as a speaker, which is the last thing you want.

Not sure why SLC would really care about that, though. Perhaps in some uber-Utah wards, "turning with" the speaker is becoming a sign of obedience and harried parents who don't put down their Cheerios are getting the evil eye?

--Jim

[Edit: Eric did indeed write a column about stunts like those Ishmael refers to: How to be a Gooder Speechist]

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Postby Ishmael » Wed 11 Jun, 2008 05:36 pm

Hey, what do you know. I'm a plagiarist.

Although, it doesn't look like Eric brought up the dictionary definition thing, but I'm sure if you look hard enough you'll find Robert Kirby or someone else has made fun of it. It's low-hanging fruit, after all.

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Postby Ishmael » Wed 11 Jun, 2008 05:45 pm

InOregon wrote:I can't imagine they would say they don't want us to have cell phones or PDAs in church. The church website provides PDA files for a lot of the church publications.


I'm imagining as SM only rule. You can still use visual aids and ask people to look up scriptures in other lessons, for example. Those handy PDA files would still be useful for PH/RS, Sunday School, reading on the bus, etc.

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Postby The Don » Wed 11 Jun, 2008 07:04 pm

InOregon wrote:I would LOVE to see "aloha" gone.

Humbug.


Amen.


And on the topic at hand. Why worry about it. So now you don't ask everyone to follow along. Big whoop.
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Postby pizzocalabro » Wed 11 Jun, 2008 08:21 pm

Um, the dictionary-definition time-filler dodge has ALWAYS been lame. No need to wait for a General Authority to confirm it.

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Postby AdamOndi » Thu 12 Jun, 2008 09:08 am

Ishmael wrote:But they use visual aids in Conference talks all the time, so that can't be the guide we're supposed to follow.

And as long as I'm making predictions, look for these other guidelines to come down:

No more citing the dictionary definition of your topic. ("Webster's defines faith as...")

No more accounts of how the invitation to speak was extended. (...and when I looked at the CallerID and saw Bro. 1stCounselor's name, I knew what it must be about...)

No more "Brothers and Sisters, Aloha!"


In addition to those excellent guidelines, I would like to add:

No more announcing the topic you were assigned to speak about. Hopefully, people will be able to deduce the topic by listening to what you say.

No more repeating the same scriptures the youth speaker and the other adult speaker used in their talk because you were all assigned the same topic. (Have a couple of backup scriptures ready in case the ones you were going to use are used by the speakers before you)

No more reading entire Ensign articles in your talk. Or even worse, in lieu of writing an actual talk.
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Postby steelem » Thu 12 Jun, 2008 09:32 am

Oh man--the copied scripture thing. The summer before my senior year of high school I spoke on Father's Day. I had a long talk planned with lots of scriptures of fathers in the Book of Mormon and Bible--you'd think with like 15-20 scripture references you'd be able to find something original, right? No. The guy who went before me took literally EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM. I didn't get up and repeat everything, but argh, it was frustrating and a little creepy.

Anyhow.
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Postby ImAdhis » Thu 12 Jun, 2008 12:10 pm

pizzocalabro wrote:Um, the dictionary-definition time-filler dodge has ALWAYS been lame.

I hate it when the speaker asks for all of us to get our Webster's dictionaries out and turn to the appropriate page and definition with him. I always stand out as the naughty Mormon who never brings hers.
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Postby Mrs. Goofy Gordon » Thu 12 Jun, 2008 03:22 pm

I so agree about announcing the subject or the talk you were to take your words from. The dictionary thing is a given, just don't go there.

Being new here, people didn't know us well and we each had to speak and I was also asked to sub in RS. ( same week)
I am not sure I will be asked to either again. I did not use the dictionary or announce the subject.

When I teach I never stand behind the table, comes from working in school.
I had the sisters participate and really applied the message to real everyday life, while presenting what was assigned. I think a few were taken back by the approach.
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Postby Momma Snider » Thu 12 Jun, 2008 05:02 pm

I don't mind hearing what the topic is going to be. Sometimes it makes it easier to follow whatever he's trying to say.

I like a good, lively talk, but I don't especially like it when they follow the speech-making guidelines, like starting with a joke or other attention-grabber. In many ways, giving a sacrament meeting talk is not the same as giving a speech.

The letter that was read didn't surprise me, though. It really can disrupt the flow of the talk to wait while people try to find the scriptures. And the letter didn't say not to do that in a classroom setting, just sacrament meeting and probably stake conference.

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Postby ImAdhis » Thu 12 Jun, 2008 05:05 pm

Mrs. Goofy Gordon wrote:When I teach I never stand behind the table

Me neither. It feels to me like the equivalent of standing behind plexiglass and speaking through the little cut-out circle. I have no problem with other teachers doing it; I just don't do it myself.
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Postby Momma Snider » Thu 12 Jun, 2008 05:13 pm

I'm teaching Institute tonight, but I expect that I will stand behind the podium. It makes me uncomfortable if a teacher wanders around too much, and in the RS room where the front row of chairs is right there, it feels like I'm invading the personal space of the front row if I were to come out from behind the table.

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Postby Mrs. Goofy Gordon » Thu 12 Jun, 2008 08:30 pm

I have at times moved the table back, for just what you said Momma, that personal space issue.

The lesson I taught was about being prepared when people ask us questions about the church, the gospel, and just some things they notice about our families. So I forewarned the presidency that I was going to have them be my neighbors and put them on the spot as though I was a non- member asking about the church. I went up to them, and shook their hands and introduced myself, and then asked my questions. One of a young mom or RS Pres, with many kids. I asked her "Why don't your children play out on Sundays?" things like this, I also pretended to be a coworker, asking about the Word of Wisdom, and as a friend asking about the bible, and the BM, why did she need two Bibles?

It took many by surprise that I walked out among them, then I returned towards the front , writing on the board etc... but we had a great discussion.
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