Thursday, January 31, 2013

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

My Answers to Some Random (but Related) Questions

I was kind of free-flowing with a friend online a little while ago, and the following are my answers to some of his questions:
If my views about some things at church really bother my spouse, then I should just keep them to myself?

Yes - or, at least, share them incrementally in dosages that are digestible. Too much of a good thing really can kill - and some things to which some are immune really can harm others.
If they are important and deep feelings, how are we to be close?

First, I don't want to be married to myself. I want to be married to someone who helps make me perfect - complete, whole and fully developed. That means she has to be different than I am in multiple and important ways. Part of being close is learning to accept, value and actually appreciate the differences. So,
I would answer . . .

By loving each other for who you each are, not for how you would like each other to be, as the ideal - and by being willing to do that for the other even if the other can't do that for you fully. (That is my dad's situation, since he simply can't share much of his perspective with my mom.) We tend to value total openness too much, and we forget sometimes the example of Mary when she "kept these things and pondered them in her heart."

The greatest of all is charity for a reason - and, I will add, I'm grateful for a theology that presents God as love embodied. We natural humans try to put limitations on that all the time, but, at the core principle level, unconditionally felt love is a noble, empowering goal. We still can feel love unconditionally even if there are natural conditions that affect how fully we can share love as a verb. I hope that makes sense.
I would assume your dad is able to do that because there are many other things that far outweigh the effort to keep your mom protected from some things, right?

Yes, if I understand what I think you tried to ask.

When her medication is working and she can be "herself", she is a wonderful woman. The thing is, however, that to be in that state, my dad really has had to "lay down his life" for her in all practical ways. Objectively, he has had a very different life than he would have had without her condition - and I'm fairly certain now, looking at it as an adult with my own family, that it wasn't a simple, easy thing to accept. It might have been a relatively easy decision to make given the alternative, but making a decision and accepting it are two different things. I believe he came to accept it more fully AS he lived it over time - and I think a major mistake many make is the false expectation of quick and easy acceptance. I know it wasn't easy for him, but he did it anyway.
Then there is no outlet for my feelings and each Sunday at church the classes bore me?

For thousands of years, for vast numbers of people, talking with God through prayer functioned as their only outlet. In our time, online groups can provide another outlet - but they also can diminish the direct prayer line as an outlet. There always can be an outlet, even meditation for those who just don't feel connected through traditional prayer. However, there is no "universal, natural" outlet, in the sense that we individually need to find what works for us.
Or I feel I just keep feelings to myself and don't feel a deep connection to the ward?

Construct a deep connection in some other way. Intellectual connection isn't necessary to deep connection with all. For example, you might stop going to church to feel intellectually connected and start going with the focused objective of getting to know people better and helping them in some way as individuals.

Also, make sure you make at least six or seven positive comments at church with which pretty much everyone can agree for every different perspective you introduce - and make sure you introduce those different perspectives in a way that isn't challenging in nature. Use me as "a friend" who once said, "_______________" - "which caused me to wonder _________" - if that makes it easier to introduce something that is different. 

These all might seem like idealistic responses, but the point is that instead of demanding that others make you happy and connected, try to be happy and connected independently (internally connected into the true vine, if you will) and work on accepting others simply for who they are at this point in their lives. Becoming more charitable changes the WAY you see people, which changes how close you feel to them, which changes the way you address people, which changes the way people react to you, which changes how close they feel to you.

Notice, how close you feel to them is independent of their acceptance of you, and that how close they feel to you is the last stage in that process. That's important to understand. 

It's losing and gaining and all that jazz.

Monday, January 28, 2013

What Should I Do if I'm Not Sure I Can Accept a Calling?

The following was my advice to a friend years ago when she asked me the question in the title of this post:

Personally, I would say:
"Thank you for asking me. I really appreciate it. I will need to talk with my wife and pray about it. I'll give you an answer by _______ (insert your acceptable time table)."

Then I would do exactly that - talk with my wife and pray about it - with a full understanding that I might or might not "get an answer" but I've done all I can to ask.

If I feel like I get an answer, great. Problem solved.

If I don't feel I've gotten an answer, I would make whatever decision with which I am comfortable.

If that decision is, "No" - then so be it. I would respond with: 
"I have talked about it with my wife and prayed about it, and I just don't feel like I can accept it right now. There's no "worthiness" issue involved, but I just can't accept it."

If pressed, I simply would repeat that same basic message. I've thought about it and prayed about and just can't accept it right now. 

If the decision is, "OK, as long as I can do it my own way in harmony with my own conscience" - then so be it. I would say what I said to my own Bishop once (with regard to being called as the Primary Chorister) - which was, essentially:
"I don't think I can magnify the calling in the way that you want it done, but I am willing to do it as long as you understand that I will do the best I personally can do."

In essence, I was saying:

"If you still feel inspired to call me, you are getting ME - and I will do the absolute best I can, but I still will be ME."

That basically was my response, but I got called into the High Council at the same time, so it was irrelevant in the end.  (*grin*)
I believe in accepting callings as a basic rule, but I also believe in making sure those who are considering calling me understand my situation fully before they formally and officially extend the calling. I also believe in and have done that whenever I have been the person approaching someone about the possibility of extending a calling. 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Advice I Am Giving My Daughter As She Departs on a Mission

Our oldest daughter leaves to enter the MTC in less than two weeks, and she will be speaking in church today - along with one of our other daughters and me.  I will ask them if I can post their talks after they have given them, but I want to share the outline of what I will say.

I am speaking on "What Advice I Would Give My Child if S/he was Going on a Mission".  I will flesh out each piece of advice to match the overall time I have (and I will try to update this post afterward, if possible), but I want to share the overall structure of the talk while I have the chance.

1) Be yourself.  The Church isn't calling "a missionary" to go to Berlin, Germany.  It is calling you.  There is someone there who needs more than just "a missionary.  There is someone there who needs you - your unique perspective, your unorthodox views, your lack of inhibitions, your weird sense of humor - you.

You play the piano and the saxophone; don't try to play the piccolo. 

2) Love unconditionally.  Serve and help in whatever way you can, regardless of whether or not someone accepts the Restored Gospel completely and joins the Church.  Your ultimate goal is not to convert everyone.  The final result is out of your control to some degree, so do what you can: Honor agency, and love people. 

3) Seek to understand before seeking to be understood.  Learning someone's language is more than just learning how to understand and say the words they speak.  It includes learning what they really mean and what they believe, as well.

4) Teach the Gospel, not culture. 

5) Define success as it is defined in "Preach My Gospel", even if some people in your mission define it differently.  The official definition of the Church, recorded in that manual, stresses effort, not numbers.  Never forget that.

6) Pray as if everything depends on the Lord, but work as if everything depends on you.  Always combine the two: prayer and personal effort.  Take his yoke upon you - and remember a yoke joins two in order to balance strength and accomplish what one can't do alone. 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Sunday School Lesson: "What more could I have done for my vineyard?"

Last week in Sunday School, we spent the entire time talking about two things, as a follow-up of the previous week's lesson on Jacob 5 and Moses 7:

1) How God could ask, "What more could I have done for my vineyard?" - as a sincere question, if he could have done anything he wanted to do;

2) Why God wept in Moses 7, and what that says about God and the condition of godhood.

We talked about the caricature of Eternal Life in the idea of endless rest and peace, with no conflict or turmoil, in light of Jacob 5 and Moses 7.

We read the verses with the most vivid imagery ("What more could I have done for my vineyard?" - "the devil looked up and laughed" - "Enoch knew, and looked upon their wickedness, and their misery, and wept and stretched forth his arms, and his heart swelled wide as eternity; and his bowels yearned; and all eternity shook."), and I made them pause to try to picture those scenes and imagine the details and the emotions and expressions they convey. We talked about God getting down and dirty in the mud and the muck - pruning, digging, dunging, weeping, waiting, enduring out of love - being the type of Being who could handle that sort of heartbreaking work willingly.

I told them that it is a hard concept to wrap one's heart and mind around, but it is the heart of why we use the title, "God, the Father". I ended by telling them that they will never be fully Christ-like and godly until they can accept serving others, who often don't appear to deserve it, in ways that leave them heart-broken and weeping - and still continue to endure to the end, even, perhaps, if there is no end.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Homeschooling is Wonderful - and it Sucks

The range of educational experiences in homeschooling is the exact same as in public schooling.

Homeschooling in general is no worse than public education, but it also is no better.  Just like public school, it depends largely on the teacher.  It ranges from awesome to mediocre to bad to "throw the parents in jail, 'cause what the ____ were they thinking?!?!" I've seen it work wonderfully, and I've seen it really screw up kids.

The worst situations are when parents who can't teach take their kids out of public schools to avoid "bad influences" and "the world". They end up with badly educated, paranoid kids. The best situations are when parents who can teach take their kids out of public schools to enhance their educational experiences and tailor to their own learning modalities.

That's my two cents' worth, anyway. I love homeschooling, but I really hate it.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Reconsidering Heaven and Hell: A Profound Post about a Vision of Heaven that Really Is Hell

The Other Place - A Momo's Ode to Rod - Erich / "Observer fka Eric S." (By Common Consent)

The post above is very profound, I believe, in the way it challenges us to reconsider some things we assume about Heaven and Hell.  (and it really is funny that the "angel" in the episode looks just like a temple worker) 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

I Like the Devil of Mormonism

I like the concept and symbolism of the devil - as the opposition in all things to the concept and symbolism of the Savior.
I can accept a literal or figurative Lucifer - but I don't like many of the extrapolations that have grown up around the devil. Having said that, the Mormon take on Lucifer (one of us gone really, really bad) is the only one I've studied that I like.

Monday, January 21, 2013

My Favorite Definition of Religion

Religion is a structured imposition of what can be comprehended and/or imagined on top of the unknowable and mysterious.

In other words, religion is our best understanding of what cannot be understood fully. 

In other words, we see through a glass, darkly - and religion is our attempt to explain what we see. 

Feel free to add any definitions that resonate with you. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Pres. Monson and Mother Teresa: A Shared Heart for Service and Love

Pres. Monson spoke at the women's general meeting in 2010 and said something that cut right to the heart of our natural tendency, even in the Church, to categorize and divide each other based on visible differences.  In doing so, he quoted from Mother Teresa - someone I consider to be a true modern-day saint and hero. 

Since his remarks were delivered to the women of the Church and not heard directly by the men, and since his words apply to the men as well as to the women, I want to excerpt the part that struck me as the most profound.  The highlighting and bolding is my own. 

"My dear sisters, each of you is unique. You are different from each other in many ways. There are those of you who are married. Some of you stay at home with your children, while others of you work outside your homes. Some of you are empty-nesters. There are those of you who are married but do not have children. There are those who are divorced, those who are widowed. Many of you are single women. Some of you have college degrees; some of you do not. There are those who can afford the latest fashions and those who are lucky to have one appropriate Sunday outfit. Such differences are almost endless. Do these differences tempt us to judge one another?
Mother Teresa, a Catholic nun who worked among the poor in India most of her life, spoke this profound truth: “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” The Savior has admonished, “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.” I ask:
Can we love one another, as the Savior has commanded, if we judge each other? And I answer - with Mother Teresa - “No; we cannot.”

Thursday, January 17, 2013

I Couldn't Stop Laughing

Check out the linked video of a prank shopping list.  At the 3:00 mark, there is a Mormon reference that simply is hilarious.  The rest of the video is just as funny, but the Mormon shopping item is my favorite for some reason.

Black Friday Prank - Chris Hardwick (Nerdist) 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

How Should We Respond When People Around Us Denigrate or Condemn Mormons?

I believe remaining silent in situations like this reinforces the negative at the expense of the positive - and that it does so in one way that gets overlooked by almost everyone:

With many people who are Christian, if they respect you but don't know your religious affiliation, they will assume (because they respect you) that you are "like them". At the very least, they will believe you aren't part of a "damnable cult" like Mormonism, as they see it. Your silence reinforces that stereotype and actually contributes to the solidification of their characterization - since they will look at you as an example of someone who knows better than to associate with people who are damned to Hell, like Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses (and, in some cases and places, Catholics).

I believe there certainly are times when it's appropriate to remain silent in the presence of someone who is railing against the Church, but the effect described above is worth considering, in my opinion - no matter how you choose to act.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Monday, January 14, 2013

Not All Temple Experiences Are Wonderful, but It's Wonderful When They Are

One of my daughters went to the temple a couple of years ago, and there were a couple of really neat experiences during the baptisms. The following is what I wrote about it at the time:

1) One of the men in our ward had some family file names, and he really choked up when he baptized his daughter for the first person. I asked his daughter who that person was while she was waiting to be confirmed (while her father was performing some baptisms with his son), and she said it was her grandmother - her father's mother. I didn't have time to ask for clarification, but she said they had found the necessary information while they were in Cincinnati recently - which made me wonder if this is a "biological mother" of an adopted son, or some other unique situation.

I understand fully that it might have been nothing more than emotion, but it still was deeply touching to see a man who obviously cared so deeply about doing something for his mother - especially if it was a mother he never knew. (It also reminded me of how little we really know about many of the people in our congregations.) It also might have been a deeply spiritual experience, and it's important to keep that open as a distinct possibility. 

2) I was baptizing one of the other young women in the ward, and things were going normally. I have a decent short-term memory for names I read, and I know the prayer by heart, so I try whenever possible to take a moment and read the name, memorize it and then close my eyes and say the prayer in the same way we normally think of a prayer being said. I don't like the old rushed way of saying the prayer at a breakneck pace, so I slow it down just enough to articulate each word clearly - and I lower my arm and pause while reading the next name in order to make it a clear break between people being baptized. I then raise my arm and start again.

I baptized this particular girl for ten people, and it was a little difficult at first. She is 12, and she was going down into the water in such a way that she barely was getting immersed, so I whispered some simple directions on how to make it easier - but in trying to do what I had suggested, she ended up complicating it and making it even harder. After about the third baptism, she whispered something about contradictory instructions - and I realized I had complicated it for her with my attempt to help and started to make her frustrated. (There's a valuable lesson there for lots of things in the Church and life, I believe.)

I apologized to her and took a second while I looked at the next name to say a really quick, simple, silent prayer that she would have a good experience during the rest of the baptisms - then I started again. The next one went very well, as did the one after that. The next person had only a first name listed, and as soon as I said the words, "for and in behalf of Eva" - I got all choked up myself and literally had to pause for probably ten seconds just to get my own emotions under control. My voice cracked a little as I ended with, "in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Amen." That feeling disappeared completely as soon as that particular ordinance was over, and there was nothing out of the ordinary for the rest of the time I was there.

I believe that experience was more than just emotional - and I have no idea if it was to help that young woman and/or me. I just know it was a really neat experience - the strongest I've ever had in that situation, and one of only a handful for me like it over the decades in the setting of the temple.

Two things leaped to mind at the time, and another one came to mind as I typed this post:

1) It's important to experience the "normal" (the hundreds of times in the temple where I have not felt such an amazing spirit but, instead, merely was there physically or gained personal insight and revelation) in order to be there to experience the sublime.  Without the numerous normal, I wouldn't have been there that day to experience the singular sublime. 

2) It's important to pray for special experiences in the temple - of some sort, either specific or general. 

3) It's important that we not over-complicate the temple (and other ordinances / programs / activities / interaction / teaching) with a focus on "procedure" - even as it's important to try to prepare ourselves and others to participate and learn.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Michan: We Never Said Good-Bye

I started a Master's of Fine Arts: Creative Writing program this week.  It has a low-residency requirement of one week each semester on campus, and, since it is offered by the college where I am employed (Sierra Nevada College at Lake Tahoe) and this is a busy week in admissions activity for the spring semester (I am the Director of Undergraduate Admissions and am functioning currently as the Transfer Coordinator, as well), I have been arriving at the office around 7:00-7:30 each morning and leaving campus around 8:00-9:00 each night.  I'm tired - but I have loved this week, unequivocally and passionately.  

I am in the Creative Non-Fiction genre, but we had a cross-genre workshop yesterday.  I chose poetry.  We were assigned to write a love poem without using hundreds of words commonly used in love poems.  We then were asked to write a piece, from any genre, focused on a specific moment of importance in our lives that occured within a specific time frame we had identified at the beginning of the assignment that held special significance for us. 

I chose my high school years, and I want to share the pieces I wrote.  I have written hundreds of posts on this blog and literally thousands of comments on other blogs and in discussion groups, but these are my favorites of everything I have written in my life:


We met – unplanned, unanticipated, unbidden – no idea what lay ahead.

16 and 15 – too young and immature, right?  

Quick connection – recognized more instantly by me than her.

That piano bench, just a glance – future recognition of endless past.

Two years to dance, two years not so, then twenty-six years more –

College, children, heartache, joy – peace throughout it all. 

Where she starts – where I end – what is her – what me?

Looking forward toward unknown, enough simply to be.   

We Never Said Good-Bye

The program lasted twelve days; I dreaded its end for eleven days and twenty-three hours. 

We didn’t touch the entire two weeks.  We talked.  Oh, how we talked – hour after hour, minute upon minute, inseparable, the focus of whispered questions and gossip – sharing dreams for the future and experiences from the past.  She told me about her frustrations, her family, past crushes, a former boyfriend; I listened a lot and spoke a bit, content to be with her and moved by her.  I missed the dance – my only chance to hold her. 

We walked, side-by-side, still not touching, not talking about why we were going where we were going.  We ignored it – not intentionally, but completely, nonetheless. 
Her dad was waiting when we arrived.  I said hello, introduced myself, shook hands, exchanged brief small talk.  He said they needed to leave to stay on schedule.  They walked away. So did I, not wanting to see her disappear. 
I learned later she turned and looked back.  I wasn’t there.  She realized at that moment she really did love me. 
Thirty years and six children later, while writing about that moment, I suddenly realize we never said good-bye.  

We never said good-bye.  

The moment I dreaded never arrived. 
I will share this with her when I return home tonight and touch her for the hundred millionth time.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Church Callings and Depression

A friend once told me she was struggling with depression and that not being able to magnify her calling in the Church was making that depression even worse.  She asked for my advice.  The following is what I wrote to her:

If your calling is leading to depression, ask to be released - with an honest explanation of the depression. Say something like:

"I need to get a handle on my depression. I have to focus on getting me right. I can't serve in this calling any longer. I don't want to have this calling, not serve and be guilt-ridden for it, so I need to be released - immediately."

Understand that your health is more important than a calling, so remember that "guilt" doesn't apply in a case like yours. You are not "guilty" if you are doing something constructive and necessary to battle depression.

I can't say that forcefully enough.
Your depression and its effects are covered by the concept of "Atonement" ("redeeming" you from things you didn't choose) - and recognizing that a big part of accepting the Atonement is placing your mental and emotional health first and tackling it as the core issue is a huge step in dealing properly with depression. It's not selfish; it's not wrong; there is no "guilt".
If something you are doing is causing clinical depression, stop doing it - even if it is a church calling.  You can return to serving in a calling (that one or another one) once you have a handle on your depression. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Loving Others with Whom I Disagree Is a Great Lesson for My Children about How I Love Them

I am convinced - absolutely convinced - that there is nowhere I can go and/or worship where everything taught by everyone in every position of authority will match what I believe personally. Therefore, no matter where I might choose to worship there would be times when I would feel the need to talk with my kids about what they've heard at church - to give them my own perspective, while trying to do so in a loving, accepting, non-condemning way.

I have that experience relatively often, but it generally is about the minutiae - the details - the cultural crap. My kids know when I don't agree with what someone says, but they also know I love, sustain, support and serve the person who says it. They also know I don't obsess over what is said, although I do correct occasionally if I feel like it's necessary.

I've learned over the years to chill more often now than I did in the past, and it has let me have WONDERFUL discussions with my children. It also has taught them that they don't have to agree with me to get my love, sustaining, support and service - and that is an important lesson, in my opinion.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Why Is It Hard for Some People to Relate to Jesus?

The following post is wonderfully honest and humble, and the comment thread is very good, as well.  (My own comment is #28.)  I love how the thread highlights how diverse Mormon views are, even with regard to something as fundamental and elemental as how we see and relate to Jesus of Nazareth and Jesus, the Christ.

Believing in Jesus - Steve Evans (By Common Consent)

Monday, January 7, 2013

Maybe the Journey Is the Destination

Maybe it's not what we become; maybe it's what we are becoming. The fact that Mormonism posits no end to progression and growth - that it really is a never-ending journey and not a destination - really rings true to me.

I can deal with all the inconsistencies and idiosyncrasies (and even absurdities) that exist when humans try to understand what can't be understood, as long as the "grand cosmology" enthralls me - and Mormonism's grand cosmology really does enthrall me. Other Christian theologies just don't do anything for me. Buddhism is the only alternative that I really like, but there are some aspects of Christianity that I love and see as "true" (including the concept of a Savior and Redeemer) that keep me Christian at the core level.
Also, taking almost everything symbolically really helps.

Friday, January 4, 2013

My Faith Growth During College - Ironically in Religion Classes That Were Decidedly Not Mormon

I was in college when I had my strongest experiences forming an individual relationship with the Church and forging much of what is my own testimony. I served a mission and had some great experiences, but it was at college that I learned the most about my own perspective - my own personal faith.

I took a number of classes at the Harvard Divinity School, and I was deeply impressed by a few things:

1) "Fundamentals of Christian Theology" just didn't resonate with me - AT ALL. The class was taught by a renowned Catholic theologian, and he did a wonderful job teaching the "fundamentals" of mainstream Christianity (and was an excellent teacher). I loved him and his class, but the actual "fundamentals" themselves did absolutely nothing for me. There were so many "Seriously?!" moments, and it really crystalized in my own mind the difference between what I had come to understand and love as "pure Mormonism" and what these brilliant, dedicated, faithful Christians (whom I respected, admired and loved) believed and taught. It was a real Zen slap for me, if I can mix metaphors.

2) I took a class called "Jesus and the Moral Life" from Harvey Cox - the author of "The Secular City" and one of the icons of liberation theology. In that class, I read a couple of books that had a profound effect on me (particularly "Jesus, before Christianity" by Albert Nolan) - ironically, by re-enforcing the distinction I saw between the Gospel, the Church and church culture.

3) I had a couple of Master's level seminars that were small group discussions, with lots of one-on-one interaction with faculty and Doctoral candidates, that were real eye-openers - introductions to not only "mainstream Christianity" but also lots of movements within "fringe Christianity" (like gay theology and feminist theology). Again, ironically, I had a vision of how the core of these fringe theologies actually could fit into pure Mormonism that was amazing.

It was the "meta-level vision", if you will, that was strengthened in these classes and gave me "outside confirmation" of my own testimony.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

What If The Parable of the Ten Virgins Doesn't Mean What We Think It Means?

The post below, above and beyond being incredibly thought-provoking, also includes a reference to rodents of unusual size.  That alone would qualify it to be linked here - but it also is an amazing post:

The Foolish Virgins and the Song of Songs: A Wistful Exegesis for Advent - Kristine (By Common Consent)

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Working with Those Who Are Struggling to Believe: Teaching Stillness

I've long believed that one of the primary focal efforts of those who are struggling needs to include an understanding of "Be still, and know that I am God" - but, unfortunately, we live in an age when there is a constant barrage of messages focused on always thinking, talking, debating, conjecturing and otherwise "doing something" and being stimulated actively. So many people go to bed tired, wake up tired and spend their lives tired, rushed and thinking about the next important thing - and they forget how to be still and feel. They can be emotional, but I believe there is a big difference between feeling emotional and feeling spiritual - and it's a fading art for many.

I think miracles fade away as much from sheer, voluminous busy-ness as from other things that drive away faith - since busy-ness makes things accumulate to the point where someone just can't deal with it all at once. In an online forum, we can't get people to slow down by physical means, but we can provide a place for people to take a breath, breathe calmly and slowly and start to re-learn how to "be still". We can model calmness, rationality and spirituality, even in cases where we have to express disagreement.
I believe most people who overcome deep crises do so more by a change of mind and perspective (and even character) than by finding the right argument, so online communication can't be primarily about arguments. For that reason, I try to focus on attitude, character, perspective and charity rather than winning an argument.
At least, that's how I see it after working for years with those who are struggling to believe.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2013 New Year's Resolution

I have been teaching the oldest youth Sunday School class (most of the high school students) for the past couple of months, and it has been one of my favorite callings ever.  We have been covering the last few books of the Book of Mormon, and we start the new youth curriculum next week. 

I am starting an online Master's Degree program on Saturday that begins with eight straight days of on-campus instruction, which means I will miss the first two Sundays of the new year, but I am structuring my New Year's Resolution for 2013 to correspond to the monthly themes of the new Sunday School curriculum. 

Thus, my Saturday posts in 2013 will be based on the following schedule of topics:

January: The Godhead

February: The Plan of Salvation

March: The Atonement of Jesus Christ

April: The Apostasy and the Restoration

May: Prophets and Revelation

June: Priesthood and Priesthood Keys

July: Ordinances and Covenants

August: Marriage and Family

September: Commandments

October: Becoming More Christlike

November: Spiritual and Temporal Self-Reliance

December: Building the Kingdom of God in the Latter Day 

The weekly Sunday School "discussion outlines" (which replace "lessons") deal with aspects of each monthly theme, but the instructions given to the teachers say explicitly that we are to teach according to the direction of the Spirit and based on what our students need individually and as a group.  Thus, I don't know in advance exactly what will be taught each week - which is why I will be posting summaries of the previous Sunday's discussions each Saturday.