Sunday, August 5, 2012


There is a general belief that all the new stuff is better than all the old stuff.

We just bought a new refrigerator. I wonder if it will last 50 plus like the one we bought just after we got married. While we were at the store we also replaced our dishwasher which quit on us last year. I wonder if it will last the 40 plus years like the old one. We just donated our 1994 Saturn to charity. I wonder if our Prius will still be running when it is 18 years old.

I don’t intend to spend my limited thoughts on appliances and junkies, but the old stuff I really want to write about is why speaking in church has been replaced by reading, why teaching in Sunday School has been replaced by showing videos and having students read prepared statements.

I don’t know when it started; maybe it was with the advent of Teleprompters, but somewhere along the timeline of my life, eye contact and speaking what was in one’s heart got replaced by eyes glue to text resting on pulpits and reading a series of quotes which originated with someone else.

Hint # 1 – A few words spoken under the influence of the Spirit are of more value than volumes ramblingly read.

Hint # 2 – When you look into the eyes of the congregation their attention level increases dramatically.

Somewhere along the line, assigned times for speaking got lost in the necessity of reading all I have prepared as if it were my ‘last lecture.’

Hint # 1 – A double spaced type written page takes a minimum of three minutes to read. If I have 7 pages of single spaced material it will take me 42 minutes to read them.

Hint #2 – If there are three speakers assigned and only 36 minutes left in the meeting I have a maximum of 12 minutes to speak (read) my talk.

Somewhere along the line, elocution got replaced by run-on sentences, mumbling and speeding through the words on the page.

Hint # 1 – Communication only takes place if words are understood and have meaning in their context.

Hint # 2 – Speaking in church is not an intimate conversation in a car and microphones do not make up for hushed mumbled phrases.

While I have your attention let me leave the pulpit and go into the Sunday School classrooms. I don’t know when it started. Maybe it was with the mesmerizing effect of the tube or maybe it waited for flat screens. It seems that sometimes, meaningful teaching has been replaced with an attitude that baking cookies for refreshments and putting on an entertaining show were the most important attributes in the classroom.

Somewhere along the line, talented Sunday School teachers got replaced by video operators and assigners of reading from slips of paper.

Hint # 1 – Teaching is an art which when done properly will cause students to think, internalize and expand upon the original thought given by the
teacher. Without meaningful exchange between the teacher and student learning cannot exist.

Hint # 2 – Meaningful thoughtful questions about what is read or viewed are more important to the learning process than the material in the video or what is written on the slip of paper.

Somewhere along the line, audio/visual resources became time fillers rather than stimuli for learning exchanges.

Hint # 1 – Before showing any video or reading any material the teacher should ‘sign post’ what the student should look for in the video or in the written word.

Hint # 2 – After any video or reading the teacher should have follow up questions to make sure the message of the material was understood and become meaningful to the student.

Somewhere along the line, lecturing has replaced the meaningful Socratic exchanges between teachers and students.

Hint # 1 – No other method will ever replace the effect of meaningful exchange of ideas between two people.

Hint # 2 – Students will remember more about who teachers are than what they might have taught.

Well there you have it. Along with appliances and cars I believe it is strongly possible that new methodologies of speaking and teaching may not be better than the old methods.



    Yarima Rueda

  2. Thanks Bill,
    As a Gospel Doctrine teacher, I couldn't agree more… Even though I have been guilty of forgetting some of the principle you mention. Thanks for the reminder. I think the Church has realized what you are talking about as well. Are you still in our Stake? (MV) We are in a pilot program for teaching the youth (YM, YW, SS classes) using new "manuals" that encourage, require discussion rather than "lessons that have to be completed". For example, we began in July with the Plan of Salvation. It was to be discussed for the entire month, rather than rushing through in 20 minutes. Scheduled to be Church wide starting in January.
    Sorry, you are probably aware of all this, but seems to be in concert with what you're saying.

    Have a wonderful day,
    Rusty Rogers

  3. Nicely said. Amen to this!

    Michael and Connie Packer

  4. This stew cooked long; in the end it's unpalatable. However, if the thought counts, there is an idea somewhere here, so I thought I'd send it anyway, unappetizing though it be. If you begin to choke, just stop eating. "Don't ask, don't tell," who will ever know? :)

    Two tales - - of Two cities - - Twice told.

    Family is, or can, be a guiding light; an anchor in a storm; a still voice in the midst of confusion throughout life.
    Family can be bondage; a blinding to beauty and light; can drown out the voice of reason and a calling to a better life.
    Is there is a golden mean?

    Oh lord my god - - - is god my god?
    Oh Lord our God, Lord of Israel - - - is God our God?
    Can I conceive who "GOD Is"? - - - GOD; not my god or our God, we HIS, not he mine or He ours, but HE GOD?

    I forgive you the conundrum you raised as I reread this miserable "tale of two cities" and your final paragraph here; your final several.
    I am again struck that we are led to perceive the whole family of Lot as worthy of salvation, while not one man, woman or child in the culture in which they lived and raised their families was other than void of good, and therefore worthy of brutal damnation.
    That story may serve as metaphor, but can never pass as true to man's experience. To believe it as such is simply to detach too far from the real world to keep faith with it. Quite apart from the magic, here we have two cities involved in all of the activities, commercial and otherwise, necessary to maintain a viable civilization. Human experience is universally consistent enough for us to generalize it as a law of human interaction that some degree of moral and ethical merit must be present in order for business and trade to be successful, much less to flourish.
    What is it that is actually missing in the morals and ethics of other cultures from our own? It is acknowledgment, acceptance, adherence to those beliefs and practices that we in our culture hold dear or sacred.
    An example might be Mormons serving pork dishes at church gatherings, anathema to some religions. Such behavior would fail minimal standards of religious adherence. In addition, a willingness to collect interest on money could put them beyond the pale. We assume of course that present day Mormons would know better than to do such things in a Muslim or Jewish society. Yet it may serve to demonstrate a strong difference and distaste in belief and acceptance. You are creative, come up with your own better examples.
    Short of a willingness to abandon such willful sin and embrace a true faith, damnation of that society would be justified. Not my will but thine be done; and strap on a body bomb.
    But perhaps this tale should never be read from the perspective of the condemned, but only from the just who witness the condemnation of disbelievers. Ah, that must be it. Now the puzzle is solved and the story may be enjoyed. But wait! What about my doubts? What if God is greater than god and finds me out?


  5. So what more then can Sodom teach me: the good, the bad, the ugly? The good we have been taught all our lives to the exclusion of the other two thirds, so I'll neglect that third here; assuming myself to already be testing your endurance.
    The bad and the ugly:
    Lot the witness: No one in Lot's family had any influence, ANY, either by word or example on any other human being in Sodom, or Gomorrah, adult or child, during their stay there sufficient to move them from total depravity. Furthermore, not one of Lot's family was influenced negatively by another outside the family away to their malignant non-faith.
    Even more astounding, God Himself was willing to just let the decay of evil run it's course in Sodom without either human or other intervention. He was evidently not active in Sodom outside of Lot's household. Not enough to convince anyone outside Lot's family that he existed with sufficient power to command their respect. He reserved any such sign for his final act of destruction. How spiteful, how pitiful a god is that? So God in this tale was as ineffective as Lot's family in making a difference up until his final reign of terror. Then he really showed them, didn't he.
    You expressed God's love to the flock, the family so to speak. Where was it for those outside the family of Lot who needed it the most? This love is not LOVE, but love bestowed exclusively on the inside group. Am I with you here or long gone? :)
    From bad to good: God is not a family affair. We love our families, good for us. Rats protect their nests! Jesus loved John and Mary, his family. But then, Jesus Loved period. He loves with a Love that is LOVE. We are his family and I believe he would have us extend our families. Lot's family appears to have been an isolated unit, set apart.
    Jesus told us to shake the dust off our sandals, but wasn't that to get on to the next city, the next mission, not to get out of a vexing situation but to progress from ineffective to effective? Go in twos, go to work, go to class, to your workout, go however, wherever, but vaya con dios. Wherever you are, there you are, and that's your mission, there you are, on your mission, His mission. Sometimes it is time to flee, not from your mission, but if you find yourself in Sodom, to your mission.
    As for the Sodoms we leave behind, I do not believe that story, or the story in Mormon where God rained down terror and death as one of fact. Yet I believe it.
    God, in my childlike view, reveals his great spiritual truths to us in very many ways, in history, in literature, in prophesy, in the words of Jesus, miraculously preserved for us; and every day in the world in which we live. Sometimes a story, for Jesus, a parable, was a best means to reveal truth, a means of penetrating deeper into man's imagination and understanding. Were these stories told by the Savior less true than history? Why couldn't He have simply used the truth to tell his truths? Many insist that the parables had to have been tellings of factual events since Jesus would never invent a story that wasn't factual.
    What is one possible lesson, perhaps one of several, that we can learn from this tale? If you and/or your family find yourselves in a place, any place, where your mission is unable to be His mission; leave. Shake the dust off your feet and find His mission. Once you realize that you are called out, leave. As with Jonah, only disaster awaits you in your Sodom. Never look back, always ahead. Your past is past, second thoughts can only destroy you.
    It is never really about the evil unworthy others. Trust God to deal with them. Sodom is a place, any place where you are unable to fulfill the mission that God has for you. The failed past is; barren wasteland; worthless salted earth.
    P.S. I am among those who feel more than a little uneasy about the premise of archeology which records the accomplishments of mortals based on a few material droppings.

    Paul Maddox

  6. estoy completamente de acuerdo con usted, de hecho, hoy día se siente en la falta de interés en la asistencia de los jóvenes a las clases de institutos...... y en los edificios se puede observar toda una tecnología para la enseñanza, portátiles, tv pantallas lcd, sistemas sofisticados de audio y vídeo.....pero los resultados son diferentes a los que se veía hace 15 años atrás donde asistir era motivado por los maestros de esa época que solo tenían sus manuales y las escrituras y su gran desempeño en la enseñanza.

    Omar Conde

  7. ¡Excelente... gracias Presidente por su buena influencia...

    Fidel Castro Agresott

  8. Totalmente de acuerdo:LOs metodos usados por nuestro Salvador Jesucristo,como:Parabolas,Preguntas,usando ejemplos reales tales como:Trigo,piedras,el mar de Galilea,mirar a los ojos,y la ayuda del Espiritu Santo,etc.son mas valiosos que los videos de relleno o la lectura de discursos escritos.

    Armando Gomez

  9. Here here.... Bravo my learned old teacher. Great words to pass along.
    Thank you for your astute observations

    John Swapp

  10. One burden of the redeemed: to love Luddites.
    Those wonderful old ways and things:

    Please google: "The Deacon’s Masterpiece or The Wonderful "One-Hoss Shay"

    Paul Maddox

  11. Were this about presenting, or more broadly about teaching, or even more generally about the loss in quality of products, tangible and intangible, in our society, then your observation and opinion might stand and I agree with it. But (knowing you, you may be well aware) you have touched and teased a core of human nature which goes much deeper and is significant (pardon the redundancy) at man's core.

    Within that protected tender part of mankind, so protected by custom, tradition and rationalization that only filtered light may penetrate through that dense shield lies a desire to know, to learn more and be more, i.e., for personal spiritual growth. In addition, that center is not disconnected but connected by an invisible force to like others; and although less strongly, to all others. Within my tradition I have an explanation for that connection, do you?

    Tradition, and the institutions raised in it's support, purports to support that desire and that growth. In reality, in truth, it reinforces the shield, the barrier of rationalization, which selectively filters out light necessary to the growth of that organic longing. Eventually that sacred desire withers and dies and something which prospers and thrives in those selective rays, (selected usually by believing men in which that dark mold has prospered), eventually develops to replace that instinct.

    If we have the will, the guts to look, we see it in our society in whole segments of our population, both religious and secular.

    No, that's clearly antisocial. We shan't go there!

    Paul Maddox

  12. Bill,

    Thank you. We wish every teacher and every bishop could read a copy of this. Perhaps you could work it up for an Ensign article.

    Please keep them coming.

    Ed and Marilyn Curtis

  13. Amen brother. Excellent observations.

    Bryce Porter

  14. hola querido hermano estoy de acuerdo con ud ,soy maestra de seminario y tengo unos cuantos años y siento que la mejor manera de aprender es inter actuar con los jovenes a la manera antigua o mejor dicho tradicional y ud me confirma lo que pienzo

    Isabel Moscoso

  15. Bill: this was one of the best I've read about teaching. You are so right on. Thanks for posting this today.
    I hope it hits home for any and all teachers and educators. Both in and out of the church .


    Clark Smith

  16. Like It!

    Thank you!!!
    Angela M. Stuart.

  17. I will save this in case I ever become a teacher again. Good stuff. We keep up with your health problems from Pat and Dave. Keep improving!

    The LeSueurs

  18. Gracias, Hno Romny tendré en cuenta sus concejos.

    Osiris Navarro

  19. This was so on point I wanted to drop you a quick "thanks"! Well said on all points.

    David Hada

  20. Gracias Presidente Riley.
    Es interesante pero a medida que leía sus pensamientos era como ir viendo imágenes de lo que se ve hoy día en los barrios.

    Por lo menos creo que los que leímos este correo vamos a hacer cambios.

    Un abrazo,

    JC Borda

  21. Amen, from an old school teacher and speaker.

    Jack Rushton

  22. You state so very well, the thoughts that have come to mind about so many things..important (giving talks, or teaching) and less important (Things --- although dishwashers and refrigerators and cars are important if we don't have them..) More to think about! Thanks. It is our "stuff" that is hard to give up! Hope you and Kathy have some time now you are feeling better to enjoy yours!!!

    Jean Seavey

  23. Muy cierto, Pte. Riley, gracias por esos consejos...Lo mas importante en la enseñanza es que tanto el alumno como el maestro se edifiquen interactuando, nuevamente gracias, voy a compartir esto con mis lideres y todos mis hermanos, Cuidese mucho y sea feliz, un abrazo!

    Aura Elena Thalliens Acosta