Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Praise for LDS Church Resources

Since the beginning of Mormonism, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has never shunned modern technology. Its foundational text was printed by press. During the trek West an Apostle developed a way to record mileage. Once in the West its leadership rejoiced in the building of the first intercontinental railroad. Soon to follow was telegraph wires reaching out to communicate around the nation. During the age of the radio, then President Grant utilized it to make addresses and let the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing to whoever wanted to listen.

Visual mediums were no less serviced for the good of the Gospel. Early films by the LDS Church might be lost from history, but there is no denying ambitious undertakings. Probably the greatest coup in the golden era was influencing a Hollywood film about Brigham Young that remains classic even with shortcomings. A Mormon is credited with inventing the television used in almost every American or European household. He warned of its perverted use and cursed that it wasn't used for more educational purposes. Regardless of the predominant negative effects, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir plays on national television as the longest running program. Satellites send out General Conference messages all around the world.

Handcarts to airplanes and beyond sets up the modern era of mass communications and computers. It makes taking the Word to the world that much easier. How blessed to live during a time when resources can be found at the click of a button. Bad or horrible has come with the good, but turning into farming Amish will not extinguish the existence of the harmful. Better to engage in the hopes of a small improvement than languish in inadequacies. For the faithful there is so much more than ever imagined.

Starting off is the wonderfully made homepage. There is too much to cover for any complete treatment. Anyone interested can go to LDS Media Talk for a greater perspective and updates. Where to begin is difficult enough. A tools section contains maps to locate a ward building and times, names and contact for ward members an leaders, and even the ability to request a copy of patriarchal blessings. The menu has an even larger selection with easy access to Scriptures, lesson manuals, current messages and much more. Videos can be downloaded for viewing General Conference talks, world wide leadership broadcasts, and general directions.

The unsung new additional resources are the Teachings of the Prophets manuals. Incomplete so far as an historical record is concerned, but as teaching and reference materials I have found them pearls without price. Long quotes and even lengthy sermons by Joseph F. Smith, Brigham Young, and the often neglected long serving Heber J. Grant are at member’s fingertips. They only need to pick them up from the home bookshelf to see what each said about charity, temples, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There is even mini-history lessons about the life and ministries of these great  LDS leaders. My own respect and awe for George Albert Smith, who I never thought of as more than a minor figure, has jumped ten fold thanks to these sometimes criticized texts. A short time ago it would have been nearly impossible for the average member to find more than a handful of their words. My hope is that Pres. Ezra Taft Benson, Hunter, and Hinkley will soon follow.

Another great manual is the Preach My Gospel guide for missionaries. For years the LDS Church has gone farther away from the scripted sermons that missionaries used to recite. Decades ago the lessons become more open to use as a tool to bring a more open discussion. This one opens up even more, combining the lessons with teaching methods. A missionary who wisely utilizes its text can learn more than the Gospel. They will know how to invite the spirit and use better judgement in engaging the investigators. Members of any calling need to get a copy and study it.

The text for the most part seems based off of modern educational theories, reconfigured for a religious context. For example, each chapter works off the other as it builds bridges from one concept to another where they used to be spaced apart. Not only that, but they integrate subtext and teaching recommendations allowing for immersed lessons. The brilliance is in teaching the missionary some skills while at the same time presenting the Gospel. There is little doubt professional teachers developed this manual.

Knowing that no actual person in charge will read or at least take this seriously, I do have some suggestions for improvements. The new Joseph Smith papers project is a wonderful addition to historical research, but they leave much to be desired for the general membership. It would be nice for a paperback and more reader friendly stripped down version of the works in progress. How cool would it be to have a one volume Journal of Joseph Smith, or Doctrine and Covenants source book? I know that price and shelf space keeps me from owning them.

Because Deseret Book is owned by the LDS Church, I am sure more thought could be done for the missionary library. Other than Jesus the Christ's continued inclusion, I'm afraid it has been watered down to near irrelevancy. The insightful, although outdated, A Marvelous Work and a Wonder and Articles of Faith have been replaced by the thin volume of Our Search for Happiness. I think many entries in The Encyclopedia of Mormonism could be cobbled together and revised for a new Articles of Faith equivalent study book. As an added bonus, take the best of the Teachings of the Prophets manuals and combine them under one volume in relation to Preach My Gospel with expanded Scripture guide. The book Our Search for Happiness could still enjoy a place in the collection.

Even though there is much still wanting, there are so many great resources that weren't available to the average member even ten years ago. I would mention all the Genealogy resources as well, but this is already long. If all the resources could be used and appreciated more, I think the spiritual quality of Mormons can improve. We just need to be more thankful they exist and thoughtful how to use them advantageously.

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