A Little Book of Ministering

LDS Ministering (Mormon)By Paul Wilson

I recently began reading the book, “A Little Book of Ministering” by Kelly Merrill. Kelly is actually a long time friend who I worked with closely in launching his now well established blog, MormonBasics.com.

Out of our friendship I agreed to review this book that he tirelessly wrote in less than 3 weeks. He began creating the book right after President Nelson announced the sunsetting of Home & Visiting teaching. Kelly shared with me that his purpose for the book was, “…to help us become more comfortable with the idea of ministering to, rather than just serving or helping our neighbor.”

To be honest, if it hadn’t been for Kelly’s persistent reminders I don’t think I would have gotten to his book — and I would’ve missed out too. Not only did reading Kelly’s book give me deeper insights into how the Savior wants us to minister, but the powerful Spirit I felt as I read was very real.

As a follower of Kelly’s blog for many years I already knew he had an authentic and powerful voice. Yet, what struck me as I read his book was his ability to truly articulate what I feel President Nelson’s, and ultimately the Savior’s, reasoning for focusing on ministering.

Here are just a few pearls that showcase my point:

“When I pledge my love and devotion to my ministering family it must be a life-long commitment to the welfare of that individual or family. If I don’t do that then I am nothing better than a hired attendant for the True Shepherd’s flock.”

“If we think that ministering is a series of isolated individual events then we have missed the point. Ministering is a way of thinking, feeling, and being.”

“We each have a sacred responsibility to fulfill our covenant obligations in this life. We are all striving to learn to be like our Savior. We each need to be obedient to the commandments and to fulfill the duties of our callings in the Church. As we minister to one another and practice the virtues that make us more pure and holy, we will receive more inspiration and revelation, our relationships will blossom, and our ministries will bear fruits like we cannot now imagine.”

Along with Kelly’s inspired thoughts around ministering, he provides a course of action. Each chapter at the end is broken down into a list form. So, there’s no doubt what we should take from our reading and how we can apply it.

Overall, I was moved by “A Little Book of Ministering,” and I don’t say that lightly. Kelly does a beautiful job capturing the Spirit of ministering and showing how each of us can apply it in our lives. His book furthered my testimony in President Nelson’s revelation and deepened my well on the next steps I need to do live this new inspiration.

Some Help With Your Ward Mission Plan [TEMPLATES]

Ward Mission Plan Template

In March of this year I was called as the Ward Mission Leader. It took me by surprise because I’ve only been in the ward/state for four months. At the time, I really only knew the Bishop and the Elders Quorum President (and that’s because the EQP helped us move in).

However, more surprisingly was when the Bishop shared with me that the Ward Council had set a goal that year for 15 baptisms. The year before the ward saw 7 baptisms and it wasn’t until the end of last month that we had our first baptism for the year.

I’ve never been one to turn down a calling, but if there was one I wanted to turn down it was this one. On the way home from church that day, I lamented to my wife how I never wanted to be the Ward Mission Leader because there always seemed an unrealistic/vague number associated to the success of the calling. I felt there was no way to magnify my calling if I wasn’t hitting that goal.

To compound things, two weeks after I accepted the calling both the Bishop and Mission President requested a mission plan from me. Having never done this calling before I had no idea where to start. The Bishop sent me the plan from last year and from that I was able to quickly pound something out.

I’ve since calmed down about my calling and have gotten into a rhythm with our missionaries (in North Carolina there’s four missionaries per ward). I vowed I would do better than 99% of the Ward Mission Leaders on my mission and I think I am starting to get the hang of the calling.

In fact, I might dare say that after a few months I’m actually enjoying myself. We still have 14 baptisms to go, but I’m not so wound up about numbers and now I am just focusing on doing my best.

To help others, I thought I would provide both mine and last year’s mission plan. They may not be the best, but hopefully they might help a newly called Ward Mission Leader who is breathing into a bag trying not to hyperventilate.

A few notes on these plans:

  • UPDATED: As stated in the comments by John, the Ward Mission plan should be an effort between the Ward Council, Bishop, and Ward Mission Leader. Due to the fact that I starting in March, I was more thrown into the mix of things, and the time to plan the upcoming year had passed. I still worked closely with the Bishop and we sent out a copy to the Ward Council (no one really provided any additional feedback), but the majority of the work fell on me. I still haven’t gone through the process of planning next year, but knowing my ward, I am anticipating that they will want me to write the first draft of the Ward Mission Plan. So, hopefully this post is still helpful and relevant.
  • The plans are simple and basic, which is intentional. I am actually working with our Elders to put together a tactical plan of everything we want to do in depth. However, the last thing I wanted to do was supply the tactical plan to the Ward Council. I’ve learned the less complex a vision is the less people stress about it. In a future post I hope to share my tactical plan.
  • You will notice at the end of my plan I’ve requested the ward goals, which  I’ve not yet to receive.
  • Finally, I make mention about a Youth Missionary Program title Prepare the Way. This is something I’ve been working on and hope to share it here soon. I think implementing something like this will make a big deal.

Again, I hope these are helpful, and if you’re a seasoned Ward Mission Leader, by all means, please share your plan from over the years. It would be nice to see what everyone else is doing!

Ward Mission Plan 1 Ward Mission Plan 2

 

 

QUESTION: Why Does The Church Not Portray The Seer Stones In Church Published Art

seer-stones-js

I received this question from a friend when I posted Elder Uchtdorf’s post about comparing the seer stones to cell phones:

Hi Paul, I saw your post about the seer stone on your FB. I did not want to comment on your timeline to avoid other people attacking me. When I joined the church I knew nothing about the seer stone nor it was portrayed in the church published art. The art shows Joseph Smith looking at the golden plates and dictating to his scribe. Why not tell people the truth the first time?

Here is my response:

Thank you for your message and I apologize for my slow reply. I knew my response would be lengthy and I needed to carve out some time to provide the attention needed for your question.

I understand what you are asking, but I believe it comes from a much deeper concern. However, a quick answer to your question is that an artist’s depiction of the translation of the Book of Mormon hardly constitutes a doctrinal teaching.

My undergrad degree is in philosophy and theology. In my senior year at BYU one of my philosophy professors asked if I would assist him on writing a philosophical dissertation for the Library of Congress on Joseph Smith. My job was to study all the negative material written about Joseph Smith and the Church and provide a summary of it.

For six months I read through a mountain of books about Mormonism. I learned quite a bit about the history of the Church that I hadn’t known before. This doesn’t mean the Church was hiding this material. In fact, most of the history I learned came straight from old Church lesson manuals.

I came across some doctrines that required me to research more into them, and after all my research I gained two very interesting insights. First, many of the attacks on the Church were against people who trusted in the Holy Ghost for revelation. Surprisingly, those who professed a personal relationship with Christ didn’t believe you could gain a spiritual knowledge of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon through Holy Ghost and prayer.

Instead, many of the detractors would state you could only trust the Bible as the ultimate source of truth and would give some scriptures (with their interpretation) about why the Book of Mormon was false.

My struggle with this line of thinking was how do you know the Bible is true? It is circular reason to believe that the Bible is true because the Bible is true. I found many authors answered this question by pointing to the historical accuracy of the Bible. Yet, there are many books that claim divinity that are historically accurate, but no archaeological fact or proven historical event in the Bible could prove that Jesus was the literal Son of God and that he died for our sins.

To me Joseph Smith best answered the question of the authenticity of the Book of Mormon, Bible, and even Jesus being our Eternal Savior by saying, “Could you gaze into heaven five minutes, you would know more than you would by reading all that ever was written on the subject” (Teaching of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 324). He also declared that “the best way to obtain truth and wisdom is not to ask it from books, but to go to God in prayer, and obtain divine teaching” (Teaching of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 324, p. 191).

This brought me to the second point I gained by studying the negativity towards the Church — all that matters is finding and believing truth, no matter how bizarre or strange it may be.

Truth is truth, and we are to seek it out and live it. I don’t care if Joseph Smith used a top hat and glowing rocks to translate the Book of Mormon, or if there is a purple turtle that holds up the entire universe, if it is true I want to know it and follow it.

So far, the only way I have been able to validate spiritual truth has been through sincere and earnest study and prayer. I’ve never seen who I pray to, but not only have I felt an undeniable spiritual force, but I’ve seen it at work in my life.

What is interesting is that the Church never declares that they have all the truth (Article of Faith #13 proves that). What the Church does declare is that they are the only ones to have the Priesthood authority. Beyond that it is left up to us to find all the truth we can.

Is it possible I am wrong with my understanding of the truth, yes, I believe so. However, so far everything the Mormon Church teaches me has pointed me towards something that brings deep and sincere happiness to my life. You are welcome to disagree with my understanding of the truth, but it is difficult to disprove the fruits of these truths I follow (e.g. chastity, service, health code, and sacrifice to name a few).

I’ve written about my conversion, which you will see it follows the same reasoning of finding truth and living it. Yet, I didn’t come to the conclusion of the Book of Mormon’s truth in the usual way. Anyway, I share it so it helps you better understand where I am coming from.

If you have any other questions feel free to reach out to me.

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf on Seer Stones

Last week Elder Uchtdorf posted on his Facebook page the below quote and picture. I shared it on my page and was surprised to receive a lot of interest around it. The quote resonated with me because I think Elder Uchtdorf is spot on. We simply cannot understand an infinite universe with our current finite science (and spirituality for that matter)!

uchtdorf

“Not long ago, the Church published photos and background information on seer stones. People have asked me, “Do you really believe that Joseph Smith translated with seer stones? How would something like this be possible?” And I answer, “Yes! That is exactly what I believe.” This was done as Joseph said: by the gift and power of God.

In reality, most of us use a kind of “seer stone” every day. My mobile phone is like a “seer stone.” I can get the collected knowledge of the world through a few little inputs. I can take a photo or a video with my phone and share it with family on the other side of our planet. I can even translate anything into or from many different languages!

If I can do this with my phone, if human beings can do this with their phones or other devices, who are we to say that God could not help Joseph Smith, the Prophet of the Restoration, with his translation work? If it is possible for me to access the knowledge of the world through my phone, who can question that seer stones are impossible for God?

Many religions have objects, places, and events that are sacred to them. We respect the sacred beliefs of other religions and hope to be respected for our own beliefs and what is sacred to us. We should never be arrogant, but rather polite and humble. We still should have a natural confidence, because this is the Church of Jesus Christ.”

Missionary Picture Goes Mildly Viral on Twitter

I received a message from Elder Ward, one of the missionaries in my Ward yesterday morning asking me to checkout Twitter. Apparently, he had received a message from a friend in California (we live in Charlotte, North Carolina) about seeing a picture on Twitter that reminder her of him.

The picture showed two missionaries playing a pickup game of street ball. When he looked at the picture he was surprised to see that it was actually a picture of a game he and his companion, Elder Spencer, played the day before. Someone observing them took a picture and posted to a Twitter account of almost a million followers (last I checked they had a combined total of 7,000 retweets and likes).

The game was of eternal consequences because if the missionaries won (which they did) the other team had to attend Church that Sunday. Now we just need to work on our branding so that people don’t confuse us with the Jehovah Witnesses 🙂

 

elders

In order for the Elders to send the picture home they asked me to edit out the questionable language. I posted this censored version to Facebook and it was picked up by Mormon Memes, which received some comments about my edits. Personally, I like my version a lot better :).

 

The Bible & Book of Mormon Christmas Nativity Play (with Script) [UPDATED]

You are welcome to jump right to the play, but here’s some background on it. Five years ago I was asked to write a Book of Mormon/Luke 2 Nativity play for our Ward Christmas party. Since that first play we’ve had several different Wards use our script. Each Ward has made requests and changes to their liking, but the number one request back to me was to do a better job on having the complete Nativity play.

This request becomes difficult when you add in the parameters of making the play easy for the primary to do and also not turning into a five hour production (I’m that father who starts to get antsy when the Primary program is more than 30 minutes).

The original play, which you can find here, omitted the wise men and shepherds and focused a lot more on Book of Mormon. Obviously, it’s hard to think of the Nativity play without these key Bible events and therefore I provide the below rewrite of the script.

As always, I’m open to your feedback and suggestions on improving the play. Also, if you use the play we’d love to post any pictures you take of your Ward’s production.

Good luck and may you feel the pure love of Christ this Christmas season!

-Paul Wilson





The Bible & Book of Mormon Christmas Nativity Script

Play Setup

You’ll want to split the stage into two areas (some Wards put a sheet to divide the scenes): on the left side have the Bible scenes and on the right the Book of Mormon scenes. A narrator sits in front of the curtains for the entire program. Most Wards had the narrator sit in a comfortable chair taken from the foyer, some even added a lamp to give a cozy home feeling. The narrator has a book in his lap, as if he is reading a story to the audience, which can hide the play manuscript. When the narrator reads have different primary children come onto the stage and silently act out each of their parts. Other than the narrator and scripture readers the program is created to be entirely done by the primary without speaking parts. Doing it this way considerably simplifies the moving parts of the play and most Wards only did one or two practices before putting on the play.


Scene 1 – Mary & the Angel

[Before the curtains open, the narrator will begin speaking to the audience. Behind the curtains have on the Bible side of the stage Mary and the angel Gabriel. The Book of Mormon side is dark. You can have the children already on the Book of Mormon side, but realize they might get anxious while scene 1 is happening. Also, the voice for the scriptures and Lord is off stage and different from the narrator.]

NARRATOR: During the Christmas season we celebrate the birth of Jesus, but often we only hear the story found in the Bible. Unknown to most of the modern world, the Book of Mormon also prophesies of the Savior’s birth. As we take the stories from both these sacred texts we begin to weave a beautiful picture of one of the most important events in human history — the birth of Jesus Christ.

[The curtains open]

NARRATOR: This great story begins in the New Testament when God sends the angel Gabriel to speak to Mary.

[Have a boy wearing his Sunday best (white shirt and dark pants) or a white robe with colored white hair (or wig). Mary is in a simple robe, sitting or kneeling on the ground. They boy can be lifting his hand up to the heavens pretending to talk, while Mary listens intensely.]

SCRIPTURE VOICE (LUKE 1:28-33): “And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”


Scene 2 – Wicked Nephites

[On the Book of Mormon side of the stage have four or five evil Nephites mocking Nephi when their side of the stage lights up and the Bible side darkens.]

NARRATOR: However, before Jesus was born to Mary, many prophecies in the Book of Mormon had foreshadowed his actual birth and provided amazing signs that would signify the coming of the Savior into the world. Unfortunately, when the time came for the prophesies to be fulfilled there were many among the Nephites who did not believe.

SCRIPTURE VOICE (3 NEPHI 1:9-13): “Now it came to pass that there was a day set apart by the unbelievers, that all those who believed in those traditions should be put to death except the sign should come to pass. Now when Nephi, the son of Nephi, saw this wickedness of his people, his heart was exceedingly sorrowful. And he went out and bowed himself down upon the earth, and cried mightily to his God in behalf of his people, yea, those who were about to be destroyed because of their faith in the tradition of their fathers. And he cried mightily unto the Lord all that day; and behold, the voice of the Lord came unto him, saying:

[Have a spotlight focus on Nephi when the Lord starts to speak (speaker is off stage). Have Nephi look up into the light. All wicked Nephites leave stage.]

THE LORD: “Lift up your head and be of good cheer; for behold, the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given, and on the morrow come I into the world, to show unto the world that I will fulfil all that which I have caused to be spoken by the mouth of my holy prophets.”

[Stage goes dark and Nephi leaves.]


Scene 3 – Christ’s Birth

[The Bible side lights up and a pregnant Mary is on a donkey (a child), while Joseph leads her to the stable with a manger. Have on stage a manger with the baby Jesus already in it and several children acting as animals around it. Direct Mary and Joseph to slowly go towards the manger.]

NARRATOR: As the Lord promised Nephi of his coming, we learn in the New Testament that Joseph and Mary, the Savior’s soon to be earthly parents, traveled to Bethlehem to be taxed. Upon their arrival they were unable to find room in an inn and therefore took refuge in a humble stable for the Savior to come into the world.

SCRIPTURE VOICE (LUKE 2:6-7): And so it was, that, while they were there she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

[Stage goes dark on Bible side]


Scene 4 – Signs in the New World

[Have the wicked Nephites back on stage (do not bring on Nephi). Have all the lights focused on them and have the children acting scared and bewildered.]

NARRATOR: In Jerusalem we see our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ born into humble circumstances, but in the promised land of the Nephites his birth is marked with a glorious sign of radiant light that astonished all those who did not believe.

SCRIPTURE VOICE (3 NEPHI 1:15-21): “And it came to pass that the words which came unto Nephi were fulfilled, according as they had been spoken; for behold, at the going down of the sun there was no darkness; and the people began to be astonished because there was no darkness when the night came. And there were many, who had not believed the words of the prophets, who fell to the earth and became as if they were dead”

[have all the wicked Nephites fall to the ground]

for they knew that the great plan of destruction which they had laid for those who believed in the words of the prophets had been frustrated; for the sign which had been given was already at hand. And there was no darkness in all that night, but it was as light as though it was mid-day. And the sun did rise in the morning again, according to its proper order; and they knew that it was the day that the Lord should be born, because of the sign which had been given.

And a new star did appear, according to the word.

[Have a new star appear over the stable scene with Mary and Joseph and darken the Book of Mormon side.]


Scene 5 – Shepherds

[Bible side lights up with the shepherds tending their flock, with Joseph and Mary cradling Jesus in the background. Have the angel come in once the scripture voice begins and leave when the shepherds go to Mary and Joseph.]

NARRATOR: With Jesus Christ now born into the world to save mankind the heavenly host of angels rejoiced and lead, not kings, but simple shepherds from the hills of Bethlehem to the feet of Mary’s new born baby.

SCRIPTURE VOICE (LUKE 2:8:16): “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them and said,

ANGEL’S VOICE: “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”

[Shepherds go to Mary and Joseph and worship Jesus. The Bible side of the stage DOESN’T darken, but the children focus on the baby.]


Scene 6 – Finale

[Book of Mormon side lights up and stays on. Have all the Nephites pointing to the star and acting like they are talking about it. On the Bible side still have the shepherds, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus on stage, but bring in the wise men with their gifts.]

NARRATOR: From Jesus’s miraculous birth a bright star appeared in the sky. This new star fulfilled prophecies of the Book of Mormon and also guided the Wise men from the East to Bethlehem to offer their treasures of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to Jesus the King of Kings.

[All the lights now focus on Mary and Joseph and the Book of Mormon side of the stage kneels as to honor the Savior.]

With so many amazing and astonishing signs there was much talk and wonder among both the people of the Bible and the people of the Book of Mormon. Yet, for Mary, now the mortal mother of the Son of God all these experiences she cherished for she knew her time with her newborn son would be short.

SCRIPTURE VOICE (LUKE 2:19): Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

[Different ways Wards have concluded the Program]

Original Ending:  A sister wearing all white comes onto stage and stands over Mary and Joseph singing Mary’s Lullaby (Tonight You Are Mine). The Primary is then invited to sing “Away in a Manger” and “Silent Night.”

Different Ending 1: Ended with Luke 2:19 and asked the Bishop to give his testimony and conclude the program.

Different Ending 2: Invited everyone to sing “Away in a Manger” and conclude with a prayer.

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