Changes to Institute of Religion Programs

lds-instituteNew Classes: Beginning August 2015, four new courses will be offered at all Institutes of Religion and at BYU, BYU–Idaho, BYU–Hawaii, and LDS Business College. These courses are titled Jesus Christ and the Everlasting Gospel, Foundations of the Restoration, The Eternal Family, and Teachings and Doctrine of the Book of Mormon. These and other institute courses are intended to assist young adults in deepening their conversion through an in-depth study of the scriptures and teachings of modern prophets.

Graduation Emphasis: In addition to the new classes and in an effort to better meet the needs mentioned above, young adults are invited and encouraged to make graduating from Institute of Religion a priority, similar to the current expectation that exists with seminary. Course credit leading to graduation is earned by:

  1. Attending at least 75 percent of classes.
  2. Completing assigned readings.
  3. Completing a course assessment intended to help them apply what is being taught to their personal lives.

By actively participating in and graduating from institute, young adults will strengthen their testimonies of Jesus Christ, increase their scripture study skills, learn from others and through the Spirit, and gain confidence in making life decisions.

Invite All: Institute is a resource to assist priesthood leaders in providing gospel instruction and social opportunities for young adults. Continued efforts are being made to sincerely encourage all youth to attend and graduate from seminary and all young single adults to attend and graduate from institute. Priesthood leaders can play a significant role in this effort to invite all young single adults ages 18 to 30 who have not graduated from institute to do so.

To learn more about the new classes, visit institute.lds.org.

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FamilySearch Worldwide Indexing Event Aug 7-14

familysearch-indexing-event-2015Join volunteers around the world to “Fuel the Find” during the Worldwide Indexing Event on August 7 to 14. You have one week to participate by indexing one batch in the language of your choice. FamilySearch especially needs help indexing records in French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish. The goal is for 100,000 people to participate in one week.

Learn more in the article “Volunteer for FamilySearch Worldwide Indexing Event.”

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Teaching Children About LDS Temples

The July issues of the Friend magazine has several articles to help children learn about the temple:

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Keeping Kids Safe on Instagram

instagramInstagram has grown in popularity over the last few years among teens. It is a photo sharing application that has over 200 million active monthly users, putting it in the league with Facebook and Twitter when it comes to popularity.

Instagram’s page Tips for Parents contains great information parents should be aware of to guide their children’s use of Instagram.

For many kids, part of the fun of Instagram is developing a big following. If you have a public account on Instagram, that means anyone can follow you. A private account mean you have to approve anyone who wants to follow you. Therefore, you may want to have your kids start using Instagram with a private account.

Another key to safety is to discuss and set boundaries with your children. Although there is nothing inherently dangerous about Instagram, it can be used in inappropriate ways, just like any other form of communication technology. Talk with your children about the possibility of things like mean behavior among peers and inappropriate photos or videos that can hurt a child’s reputation or attract the wrong kind of attention. Teach your children how to manage these risks.

Adapted from “Social media sites offer safety tips for parents.”

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LDS Movies on Netflix

LDS-related-movies-NetflixThe blog Chicken Scratch n Sniff has updated its list of LDS-related movies currently on Netflix.

The author has recently updated her list by checking Netflix’s lists of upcoming and soon-to-be-removed movies for June, so all the movies on her list should be around for at least the next month, if not longer.

Below is a partial list. See her article Watch these LDS Movies on Netflix Tonight! for the full list.

MEET THE MORMONS (PG)

Meet the Mormons examines the diverse lives of six devout members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints found around the world including the U.S., Nepal, and Costa Rica.

17 MIRACLES (PG)

Grab the tissues because this movie will probably make you cry. A mix of true experiences from the Mormon Pioneers crossing the plains (Martin and Willie handcart companies).

JOSEPH SMITH: PROPHET OF THE RESTORATION (NR)

This movie doesn’t flow like other movies, rather it’s a combination of all the events of the restoration. My kids were shocked when they saw the scenes with the tar and feathering and other persecutions. It was good for them to learn about how much the early saints had to suffer through and why they chose to do so (especially Joseph Smith). However, it is something to be aware of so you can talk about it together.

SARATOV APPROACH (PG-13)

A true story of 2 LDS missionaries kidnapped and beaten while serving in Russia. It really shows how you can still have faith and hope in the face of such a great trial. It might make you cry as well. This movie is not ideal for young children because it is such a serious and intense movie.

SAINTS AND SOLDIERS: THE VOID (PG-13)

The newest Saints and Soldiers movie is available for streaming on Netflix. Jesse Owens struggles with racial prejudice among his own team as he tries to help them all survive. Takes place at the end of World War II.

SAINTS AND SOLDIERS:AIRBORNE CREED (PG-13)

A group of American paratroopers risk their lives after landing in enemy territory to save a group of French resistance fighters. Takes place during World War II. Keep in mind these are war movies so there will be shooting and blood.
SAINTS AND SOLDIERS (PG-13)

The first of the Saints and Soldiers movies- all based on real events during war. This one is about a small band of Allied soldiers trying to survive behind enemy lines. One of them is a U.S. soldier that had previously served as a missionary in the same area. During the movie they are trying to get information back to their supervisors so they can save thousands of lives.

FOREVER STRONG (PG-13)

The star rugby player is sent to a reformatory for a DUI. While he is serving his sentence, a tough rival coach allows him to play for his team. This movie is said to show the importance of good values and making champions out of each player not just a champion team.

MITT

A Netflix original. See behind the scenes during Mitt Romney’s two presidential campaign runs. Gives insight into what it really takes to go into politics.

See the article Watch these LDS Movies on Netflix Tonight! for the full list.

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Helpful LDS Music Resources

helpful-lds-music-resourcesMusic is an important part of personal and congregational worship. “Music can help you draw closer to your Heavenly Father,” President Thomas S. Monson taught. “It can be used to educate, edify, inspire, and unite.” In Doctrine and Covenants 25:12, the Lord tells us that “the song of the righteous is a prayer unto [Him].” Here are some resources that can enrich your life musically at church or at home.

Music.lds.org

This is the Church’s main music site. If you have a music calling, look here for answers to frequently asked questions. You can use the interactive music player to listen to and download hymns and children’s songs. In the music library, you’ll find sheet music for any Church occasion.

Youth.lds.org

Did you know that the youth website has free, uplifting music for teens to listen to and download? Click “Music” on the right-hand menu to find a treasure trove of MP3 files from Especially for Youth and other popular albums.

Friend.lds.org

Click “Music in the Friend” and look for the “I Can Play It!” series if you want sheet music and audio files of simplified Primary songs. New this year, the Friend site also features music videos with beautiful pictures and captions for the sharing time songs.

Primary.lds.org

The “Leader Resources” page contains a section on music callings. There are videos from recent leadership training broadcasts that share ideas for teaching music to children.

Store.lds.org

Click the “Music, Media, and Art” category at the top of the page to order CDs of hymns and children’s songs that can be used when no accompanist is available. Under “Serving in the Church,” select “Specialists and Committees” and then scroll down to the music section to find kits that can help you learn to play the keyboard or conduct music.

Printed Materials

Diagrams for conducting music, chord charts, suggestions for fulfilling callings, and other helpful tips can be found in the back of the printed hymnbook and Children’s Songbook. Similar sections are found in The Choirbook and Young Women Camp Manual. Music is usually published at least twice a year in the Church magazines.

From the article “Helpful Music Resources” in the Ensign magazine.

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Video: What Mormon Boys Think About Girls

mormon-boys-girls-ldsThe video “What Mormon Boys Think About Girls” contains a series of candid interviews with LDS teenage boys about their thoughts on dating and girls.

Here is a list of other member-created videos I have shared. If you find other videos you think I should share, please post a comment below.

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10 Apps That Make Any LDS Calling Easier

Check out these 10 popular apps that could be used to make your church responsibilities easier.

The following article originally appeared on LDS Living as “10 Apps That Make Any Church Calling Easier:”

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Given the overwhelming number of apps being developed daily, chances are that there’s always one that’s exactly what you need: an app for Visiting Teaching reminders, an app to help write your talk, or an app that will let you transfer your Gospel Doctrine lesson plans to a substitute when you’re out of town.

But is there really an app for everything?

From Sunday School to Mutual and more, check out these already popularly used apps you can repurpose to help you with your calling:

 20134FamilySearch Tree: Great for family history consultants, area family history advisers, stake indexing directors, and family history center directors, this app is a must-have. Encourage those you teach to download FamilySearch Tree and guide them through mobile family history. This app automatically links up with your LDS account, so you’ll be able to do family history no matter where you are. Record conversations with your parents or grandparents and add photos right away to help make your ancestors’ stories come alive.

20129 Any.Do: This app acts like a to-do list, but instead of jotting appointments down on a piece of paper, you can see your tasks at a glance and prioritize your to-do list. This app is perfect for reminders to do Home and Visiting Teaching, to prepare lessons, and to make it on time for after-church meetings.
20135LDS Memory: This app is great for helping children learn to recognize the current Apostles and First Presidency as well as help them learn the names and faces of the previous Prophets. If you need to help quiet your kids down during sacrament meeting or teach a Primary class, this is a great way to teach them while giving them something to do.

 20130Cozi: If you can’t remember who has choir practice or when this week’s Mutual activity got rescheduled to, then Cozi is perfect for you. Cozi coordinates schedules and can be used across iPhones, Androids, and desktop computers. As long as everyone knows the shared account password, you can use this among friends as well as family and help coordinate schedules for Visiting or Home Teaching, service assignments, and other scheduled church activities.

20138Scripture Mastery: With the announcement of new seminary tests, this app is perfect for anyone looking to help out their seminary student, or brush up on scripture mastery for themselves. The app features a scoring system that can help track progress on memorization. Not only is it ideal for seminary students, it’s great for Gospel Doctrine teachers and Young Men and Young Women leaders. It’s also a good sacrament meeting activity to keep teens spiritually minded.

20131Dropbox: With Dropbox, you can put up to 2GB of files into your own personal storage for free. You can also share these files with anyone just by sending them a link. Send documents or spreadsheets to people for ward councils, activity planning committees, or any other callings where you need to coordinate digital files with others.  You can also transfer files across multiple devices and your home computer with one account. This app is also great for backing up lesson plans in case the unforeseen computer crash occurs Saturday night.

20132DuoLingo: DuoLingo teaches you a foreign language of your choice, but does so in a fun manner that feels like a game instead of a boring lesson.  This kind of knowledge is great for family history, indexing, ward missionaries, or even just brushing up on your mission language. DuoLingo developers are constantly working on new languages.

20133Evernote: Have you ever had a burst of inspiration for a lesson or a talk you’re preparing but weren’t near your computer to write it down? Evernote is perfect for putting your ideas into one place. It even allows you to take pictures, record audio, and store it based on keywords. These bits of information are also searchable in case you end up having a lot of great ideas on the go and need to sort through them later.

20139WardPlan: This recently released app is designed with bishops in mind. This app encourages leaders to make assignments and know they’re getting fulfilled. It also encourages ward members to reach out to investigators and give specific assignments to those families. It comes with a built-in group and private messaging feature so leaders can communicate across long distances.

20136LDS Youth: Designed for the younger members of the church, this app is chock-full of youth-oriented content. Videos, articles, photo galleries, and even music are all at their fingertips. Young Men and Young Women leaders could even use some of this content to create a lesson and connect with their classes better. This app can help young men and young women generate ideas for talks as well.

Other apps many members use to assist in their callings are things like the Gospel Library for Sunday School lessons, LDS Hymns for when you can’t find a hymnal, and LDS Tools to find the phone number of other members. These apps and others made by the Church can be found here.

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Serve an LDS Technology Mission

The spread of technology around the world is creating a greater need for technology lovers to serve LDS full-time missions. You can enjoy this unique opportunity to serve as an Area Technology Specialist (ATS) missionary.

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ATS missionaries work with Information and Communication Services managers in area offices, with Facilities Management (FM) groups, and with stake and local leaders. The technical challenges vary from place to place. For example, ATS missionaries learn how to make adjustments for low bandwidth or unreliable power. They work with members to foster self-reliance with technology.

If you have a technical background, know something about meetinghouse networks, and have some general office skills working with spreadsheets and word processing, chances are very good that you could be a perfect fit as a technology missionary couple. Together you can complement one another, and what you don’t know you can learn.

If the ATS experience piques your interest, see the Introduction to Technology Specialists for a video and a short overview. More comprehensive training is available at MHtech.lds.org and is open to anyone.

Ask an Area Technology Specialist (ATS) missionary what a typical day is like and you won’t get the same answer twice. The ATS mission experience differs for each couple and the area where they serve. Ask technology missionaries where they find their greatest rewards, and most will say working with people, being ambassadors for the use of technology, and training leaders. Learn more about the life of an ATS missionary in the article “Area Technology Specialist Missionaries Have Unique Opportunities.” That article also provides information on who to contact if you would like to know more.

There are immediate openings in South Africa, Tonga and Fiji. A dual role for ATS and Family History is needed for Cambodia, Thailand, or Moscow. Not all locations require foreign language skills.

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Aerial Views of Utah LDS Temples

In the video “Soaring above all 16 Mormon Temples in Utah!,” a flying drone captures some stunning aerial views of all 16 of the Mormon temples in Utah.

Danesdrone posts weekly aerial videos every Wednesday.

Here is a list of other member-created videos I have shared. If you find other videos you think I should share, please post a comment below.

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My Plan: Resources for Returning LDS Missionaries

my-plan-lds-missionaries-logo

lds-missionaries-2My Plan is a new resource to help LDS missionaries create a post-mission plan and set goals for how they will continue to live the gospel after their missions.

They will begin this plan before and during their missions. Then, they will be invited to share their goals and plans with family members and leaders who can encourage and support them.

My Plan is a new online course that will become available in August at myplan.lds.org and also on the Missionary Portal accessible by full-time missionaries. A printable workbook version of the course will be available for areas where Internet technology is less prevalent.

My Plan consists of 8 learning experiences that missionaries should complete in the following order:

  • After receiving a mission call but before entering the MTC (one learning experience).
  • Halfway through their missions (one learning experience).
  • During their final six weeks in the field (six learning experiences).

This new resource will be implemented throughout the missions of the Church between August 2015 and April 2016. It will provide a structured opportunity for missionaries to set goals and make plans under the extraordinary spirit they experience while serving their missions so they can continue learning, growing, and progressing after they return from their missions.

My Plan was announced in the July 2015 issue of the Ensign magazine and in a letter to leaders. Parents and leaders can read the guidelines for My Plan.

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Religion and Government

couple-on-tracksReligion and government travel different but parallel tracks. They are most successful and most effective when they protect and encourage one another.

That’s the message of the article “Religion and Government” by Elder Wilford W. Andersen in the July Ensign and Liahona.

Here are some excerpts from the article:

Governments play an essential role in protecting and maintaining religious freedom and in fostering the role of churches in society. Fortunately, most governments in the world today recognize at least some degree of religious freedom and ensure to their citizens the right to worship and to practice their religion according to the dictates of their own conscience. That has not always been the case.

Many generations have seen the stifling loss of freedom that results when government imposes a state religion. Others have experienced the moral collapse that accompanies governmental prohibition of religion altogether. We are thankful that a growing majority of the constitutions of countries in today’s world envision a society where religious belief and observance, though separate from government, should be protected and safeguarded against persecution.

As people of faith we should be thankful for governmental protections that allow us to embrace and practice our religious beliefs as we desire.

The Essential Role of Religion

It is perhaps less obvious to some that religion and morality play an essential role in maintaining and promoting good and effective government. The only real solutions to many of the serious problems facing our world today are spiritual, not political or economic. Racism, violence, and hate crimes, for example, are spiritual problems, and their only real solution is spiritual.

Societies depend in large part upon religion and churches to establish moral order. Government can never build enough jails to house the criminals produced by a society lacking in morality, character, and faith. These attributes are better encouraged by religious observance than by legislative decree or police force. It is impossible for government to control the attitudes, desires, and hopes that spring from the human heart. And yet these are the seeds that grow into the conduct government must regulate.

While governments enforce the law written on the books, religion teaches and encourages adherence to the law written in the heart. Those who abide the latter will seldom if ever violate the former. As we read in the Doctrine and Covenants, “He that keepeth the laws of God hath no need to break the laws of the land” (58:21).

But where matters of the heart are ignored, the black letter law and the legal machinery of government will eventually bog down. Civility in society is achieved when the majority of people do what is moral because they believe they should, not because they are compelled by law or by police force.

Government oversees the conduct of its citizens. It tries to get them to behave in a decent and moral way. Religion, on the other hand, tries to get them to desire to behave in a decent and moral way. President Ezra Taft Benson (1899–1994), a cabinet member under U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, taught this most important distinction:

“The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of people, and then they take themselves out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature.”

Over time all free governments must ultimately depend on the voluntary goodness and support of their citizens.

To that end, good government protects religion and fosters religious freedom. And good religion encourages good citizenship and adherence to the law of the land.

Good government need not take sides. It should not foster or favor one religion over another. Its representatives must be free to believe and practice according to the dictates of their own conscience. By the same token, good religion should neither endorse nor oppose any political party or candidate. And its believers must be free and even encouraged to participate in the political process and to support whichever party or candidate they think best.

Elder Andersen concludes the article by encouraging Latter-day Saints to engage in the political process and to add their voices to the public debate.

I highly recommend the entire article “Religion and Government.”

I also recommend the video below, “Preserving Religious Freedom.”

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LDS Leaders Active on Social Media

monson-facebook-ldsLeaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have joined the online conversation in recent years and are embracing the church’s challenge to “share goodness” by posting messages and photos to social media.

LDS.org announced in 2013 that the church had created official social media pages for the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Other general authorities and general auxiliary leaders also have official Facebook pages now.

Elder David A. Bednar, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, addressed the use of social media in an August 2014 talk, asking church members to “sweep the earth with messages filled with righteousness and truth — messages that are authentic, edifying and praiseworthy — and literally to sweep the earth as with a flood.”

Read the rest of the story “LDS Church leaders share posts about fathers, temples and trials on social media” to see examples of what LDS leaders have done on social media.

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10 Apps to Keep Kids Learning During Summer

mobile-aps-kidsFor most kids, summer is a break from the mundane — a chance to enjoy time away from school on family trips, barbecues, and activities with friends.

But it’s also the time of year many young students lose a grip on what they learned the previous school year. In a few months away from the classroom, many students get lower scores on standardized testing at the end of the summer break compared to the end of the school year.

Although you want to have your children involved in many physical activities during the summer, there are some mobile apps that can help keep kids keep learning while they’re away from school.

The article “10 Apps to Keep Kids Sharp Over Summer” provides a list of 10 such apps:

MathPop (Ages 6-10, Apple and Android devices, Free-$10)

Kids using this app answer math questions quickly, and correct answers are rewarded with access to a game called Aqua Ride, where kids help kids navigate through a mazelike landscape.

Math Board (Ages elementary school and up, Apple and Android devices, $4.99)

This app is not only configurable to an individual child’s age and learning level, but also functions as a math tutor. Students can use the problem-solver feature to walk through how to solve different sorts of math problems step by step. Kids who prefer to work problems out by hand can show their work on the scratchpad feature.

Star Walk Kids (Ages kindergarten and up, Apple devices, $2.99)

This app was made with family time in mind. Parents can help their kids learn the constellations with the tap of their device with Star Walk Kids. The highly reviewed app allows users to point their phones or tablets at the night sky and the app will identify it with cartoon graphics. Full narration also tells users about the constellation being explored.

See the rest of the list in the article “10 Apps to Keep Kids Sharp Over Summer” in the Deseret News National Edition.

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lds-Missionaries_elders

Mormon male missionaries, or “elders,” are recognized in many parts of the world by their suits and black name tags. However, in some parts of world with hot climates, suit coats are impractical.

To reduce the financial burden on missionaries and their families, elders who are called to serve in missions identified by the Church as having hot climates will no longer be required to purchase or wear suit coats. This includes selected missions in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Pacific, and the Philippines.

Missionaries called to serve in these missions will be notified in their call packets. See the list of the missions where suit coats are no longer required (PDF document).

Although these official changes are new, missions have long adapted for climate and culture. For instance, some missionaries in warmer climates have for years worn short sleeved white shirts and dress pants on regular days, reserving suits for Sundays, conferences, and special occasions.

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