Monday, August 25, 2014


Saintspeak is a tongue-in-cheek book written by Orson Scott Card that pokes fun (from within) at Mormon cultural norms and attitudes.  Published in 1981 and styled as a dicitonary, he skewers programs, practices and traditions alike, though it lacks a few contemporary entries.  Here, I'm posting a few that pertain to Youth ministry (this is a coed list):

Agency: Within your stewardship, complete independence to do what you’re told.

Beehives: Twelve- and thirteen-year-old girls in Mutual. Ask your local Beehive teacher whether the beehive was chosen as their symbol because of their cooperation, their buzz, or their sting.

Calling: Mormons are content with what ever job they are called to do, for they know they will get exactly the same love and friendship and respect from their fellow Saints whether they are stake president or ward librarian.

Cultural hall: A basketball court, sometimes used as an overflow room for the chapel.

Deacon: A twelve- or thirteen-year-old boy who passes the sacrament, collects fast offerings, runs errands for the bishop, and plays poker on the front bench during sacrament meeting.

Duty to God: A prize given to LDS boys for outward signs of righteousness on the theory that boys too wicked to be virtuous for love of the Lord will nevertheless pass up all the interesting sins of adolescence in order to win some praise and a little pin.

Instructor: In a priesthood quorum, the referee.

Keys: Something that only prophets, apostles, and meetinghouse custodians are permitted to have.

Laurels: What no one in the Church is permitted to rest on.

Missionary: A Saint who has put on the whole armor of God, even though it’s heavy, out of style, and three sizes too big.

Osmondize: To give something such a slick, polished surface appearance that no one will notice there isn’t any substance underneath.

Passing the Sacrament: An elaborate ritual in which nervous twelve-year-old boys try to remember whether they’re supposed to go to the back of the right side section or the front left corner of the center section, all the while making sure that the presiding authority gets first pick from the tray.

Personal Priesthood Interview: The prize you get for having done your home teaching.

Priest: A junior or senior in high school who says the sacrament prayers, performs baptisms, plays basketball, and is constantly trying not to think about girls.

Priesthood, the: 1. The authority to perform ordinances and govern the Church in God’s name. Only males are ordained to the priesthood, and even then all their actions are subject to ratification from beyond the veil. Apparently women were worthier in the preexistence: They usually have some of the power of God as their birthright and, without being ordained, can take part in the work of creation. 2. All male members of the Church over twelve: ‘The priesthood did better than usual on the welfare assignment - five of us showed up.” 3. More specifically, all unmarried but marriageable male members of the Church: “I came to BYU because that’s where the priesthood is.” 4. Priesthood meeting: “Today in priesthood we talked about how to be a real leader in the home without actually having to be there.”

Priesthood meeting: A contest in which priesthood holders pretend not to hear the quorum leaders ask for volunteers for various jobs, after which all the members compete to see who can ask the question that has the least relation to the lesson.

Quorum: A group of men or boys who compete to see who can go the longest without volunteering to do anything.

Rebellious spirit: What tempts some Mormons to think before doing what they’re told.

Road show: A ten-minute musical play in which as many teenagers as possible are crammed onto a tiny stage where they sing silly songs while swaying back and forth with their arms raised above their heads. This is done in order to acquaint Mormon youth with Shakespeare’s art.

Seminaries and Institutes: The Mormon equivalent of medieval monasteries, manned by scholars who sacrifice all hope of wealth, and dedicate their lives to discovering all the secrets of the universe, so they can impart them to boys and girls who don’t understand them anyway.

Seminary: Where you got all the doctrines that you can’t find anywhere in the scriptures.

Service Project: The festive springtime ritual in which teenage Mormon boys and girls descend upon the home of a defenseless widow, trample her garden, break down her fence, and gouge chunks out of her lawn, all in order to paint large sections of the walls and windows of her house a color that she doesn’t like.

Spaulding theory: The theory that every boy who touches a basketball one thousand times in the cultural hall will eventually go on a mission.

Sticks: What Mormon young men call their scriptures to show they’re familiar enough with them to use their nickname, yet don’t understand them well enough to refer to them with respect.

Strong testimony: What they tell Mormon girls that Mormon boys are looking for in a woman.

Take you to the temple: If a boy can’t do it, a Mormon girl can’t date him.

Young Adults: Mormons at that awkward age when they’re too old to be told what to do anymore and too single to be given any real responsibility.

Youth, the: Mormon teenagers—the hope of the future. To prepare them for the great responsibilities that lie ahead of them, the girls are trained to be competent wives and mothers and the boys are trained to play basketball and tie knots.

If you laughed at any of these, you recognize that there is truth in humor, and you are a subversive who under no circumstances should be allowed near The Youth Of The Church.  Saintspeak is published by Signature Books, who make the entire text available to read online for free.  If you have even a mote of cynicism in your "true blue, dyed-in-the-wool, through-and-through" body, you owe it to yourself to read the entire thing.

Prepared. | For Life.™

Friday, August 22, 2014

Raising the Youth Protection Bar

Recent events in my extended family have me contemplating the importance of Youth Protection Training, and the cavalier way in which we go about it (I am probably projecting my own ideas here). I have a feeling that there are four years in which a boy talks about this topic with his parents, but only because the Wolf, Bear, Webelos and Tenderfoot badges require it, and after that, we're silent on the subject. When is the last time a Priest Quorum/Venture crew had this discussion (to say nothing of our young women!!)? What about their parents?

The last time I took the YPT course, my wife watched it over my shoulder. (Full disclosure, she's my Primary boss, as a counselor in our presidency, whose responsibilities include Activity Days girls.) When I was done with the training, she commented that all the parents of Scouting-age children should be required to complete it. She was particularly disturbed at the section on grooming, and how a predatory individual will ingratiate him/herself with a potential victim.

I wholeheartedly agree.

I wonder, is it common to gloss over this subject with our youth (well, our boys, since to my knowledge there's nothing like YPT in the AD/YW curriculum) up until they "pass off" Recognize-Resist-Report?  Because if that's the case, the last time a kid talks about this in a Church setting is before his 12th birthday. (I'll admit, I haven't had these discussions with my daughters, partly because there isn't a reminder to do so; that' something I can and will do something about.)

For that matter, how many parents are aware of the tactics commonly employed by child predators, and the warning signs that something is amiss?  Do we count on our cultural isolation, or on the Wasatch Mountains (speaking metaphorically), to protect us? Because Evil doesn't respect those barriers. Are we emphasizing statistically irrelevant Stranger Danger™ while ignoring the much higher statistical likelihood that an uncle, cousin, teacher or neighbor (and it's not limited to homo sapiens with a Y chromosome, either) is involved in something untoward?

In the larger BSA, Youth Protection is a subject revisited by Troops annually, because it is important that youth internalize these principles.  I'd add that just as we repeatedly tell our LDS youth to avoid porn due to its spiritually destructive nature, we ought to repeat YPT with them too. It's at least as important as the annual retelling of (sometimes historically dubious) Pioneer Day Stories, even though not everything can be a sunshine-and-roses, "everything is awesome" talk.

If we are really serious about preparing youth for the future, we owe it to them to equip them with the tools they need to confront the world they live in now, as well.  And that world is oftentimes an ugly place, with chameleons biding their time to take down unwary prey. We need to teach our kids what these chameleons look like, how they work, and what to do about them. In the context of this week's Primary lesson about David and Bathsheba, I wonder if it would be out of line to talk to the 9yo kids about what to do if someone propositions them, even if it's a "friend." At the very least, I can send an email to their parents with discussion points for taking on this topic.

Prepared. | For Life.™

Monday, August 4, 2014


A text message conversation with my wife:

Her: Why does it bug me so much when other parents let their kids do cop-out eagle projects? Tell me how to let it go because it's driving me crazy.

Me:  Because I've rubbed off on you a little?

Her:  Maybe. Maybe also because I used to believe Eagle Scout actually meant something.  Now the reputation of an Eagle has been marred by all the people who filled the requirement with little to no actual effort.

Starlings just getting by.
Image courtesy of Paul Brentnall,
Me:  That's why. Paper eagles, or perhaps starlings.

Her:  C. Jr. High principal sent out an email asking for scout groups to help: [Edited: We are in need of a volunteer group (church group or Boy Scouts) to (do about an hour's worth of pretty minimal, really, work).  If your group is available this coming Tuesday or Wednesday morning from 8-12 please contact me directly at principal@email].

Do service where needed, but don't accept mediocrity as a symbol of accomplishment.  That's not an eagle project. I'd rather B. (our 14yo son) not get his eagle than settle for what was convenient.

--Alternate title: Eagles or Seagulls?--

I think the reality is that many people, both parents and leaders, are more concerned with Git-r-dun than Do Your Best, and the quality of the work reflects that.  It may be a symptom of the larger cultural problem of getting rewarded for just showing up.  A simple question for a Project approver would be: "does this project proposal represent your best effort at identifying a need in the community, and marshaling the personnel and resources to fill that need?"

Seagulls may be the state bird of Utah, but they're still rats with wings, opportunists who will do the least amount of work necessary. Which do you want to be: eagle, or seagull?

Probably too late, I emailed the principal:  Mr. Principal, I sure hope you don't let someone try to call this his Eagle project, because it isn't eagle-worthy work, it's an hour of plugging in cables (and as the beneficiary, you have the authority to sign off on eagle projects, as I'm sure you've done before).

Prepared. | For Life.™