If you were prophet, what would you change?

John Dehlin Mormon 53 Comments

Here’s an exercise for the ‘Nacle

If you had complete control of the church, what would you change?

The only 3 requirements are that any change must lead to:

1) Equivalent or increase of church membership
2) Equivalent or increase in member’s willingness to commit time to the church
3) Equivalent or increase in tithing receipts

Any takers?

Comments

comments

Comments 53

  1. I would stop teaching sugar-coated Church history in Sunday School. This would spare many members from the “Oh Crap” moments when they stumble upon the Church’s real history thus helping to retain members.

  2. I agree with captainmelody. Completely.

    I’d probably also further emphasize the idea of sacrifice as a source of blessing. Remember a few weeks ago the flashlight metaphor–that the gospel is a tool, and that the tool is a flashlight, not a hammer or a crowbar or whatever?

    Well in all honesty, one of the things I personally think people forget about the church is that we are really supposed to be sacrificing for it. Not in meetings and correlation, but in real and meaningful action. That’s why the Elder’s Quorum is such an interesting place to be. You don’t go to a lot of meetings as an Elder, but you do get a lot of time for service if your quorum is well organized. Because I’ve never been in an EQ where the president couldn’t call up 5 or 10 or 15 brethren on a moment’s notice and say, “I need you to come help with X right now” and get a positive response.

    The question is why we aren’t able to look for those opportunities ourselves, and why aren’t more willing to take advantage of the church’s resources along those lines? I would probably emphasize something like that.

    Then again, maybe not. I’m not in that position, and I don’t envy the man who is. Especially given the current events.

  3. #2–I’d cut back on unnecessary meetings, and that includes Sunday School and maybe Elder’s Quorum, probably, at least on a weekly basis. Increasing available time means increasing time with the family (especially on Sundays); this may justify more calls on it at other times.
    #3, though? We have sufficient for our needs.

  4. I would decrease the duration of Sunday meetings.

    I would also create “expedited” endowment ceremonies that omit the storyline. A person who has been through the full ceremony on any given day could then participate in expedited ceremonies for the rest of the day. (The idea could be extended to “expedited” ceremonies if you’ve been in any given calendar month, but I’m not quite that radical). Now I’m just thinking on the go-what if we had a jubilee temple month where all the endowment ceremonies, except endowments-for-self, were expedited? It’s gimmicky, but fun to think about.

  5. Eliminate stake auxiliary presidencies and call those folks to interfaith activities and service coordination efforts.

    Force each speaker in General Conference to tell a personal anecdote each time they speak. Either that or they need an interesting signature style, like Neal Maxwell’s alliteration or Golden Kimball’s honest swearing.

    Call women to positions of real power and influence, with or without the priesthood.

    Reveal the income and expenditures of church accounts like PEF, Humanitarian Fund, Book of Mormon Fund, etc.

    Reintroduce personality to the church curriculum and magazines by having authors sign and take responsibility for their work.

    Call a good mix of celebrities (Steve Young, Carmen Rasmusen, Rick Schroeder) and competent theologians (Dennis Potter, Blake Ostler, Richard Sherlock, Philip Barlow) as General Authorities and watch the fun begin.

    Destroy the teleprompter and force speakers to deliver memorized or impromptu talks a la David Haight.

  6. 1. Require that one woman and one man be witnesses to all temple sealings (for living and dead) instead of two men.

    2. Abolish ward level High Priests groups. Define the Stake High Priests quorum as consisting of the Stake Presidency, the High Council, the Patriarch, and the various ward bishoprics. All other MP holders would fall under the jurisdiction of the Elder’s quorum, regardless of the office to which they had previously been ordained. (Like what happened after they abolished state seventies quorums). This would eliminate a lot of hassle about dividing responsibilities fairly between the quorums. If size is an issue, break into committees, the memberships of which could be fluid.

    3. Separate civil marriage from the temple sealing. As I understand the current practice to be in Europe, hold the civil ceremony outside the temple, then follow it as soon as possible with a temple sealing. This would (a) dramatically reduce our political interest in civil marriage, and (b) allow nonmember families to be more involved in the ceremony.

  7. Interesting, that of the three requirements:

    1) Equivalent or increase of church membership
    2) Equivalent or increase in member’s willingness to commit time to the church
    3) Equivalent or increase in tithing receipts

    so far no suggestion seems to be able to create that context.

    I’m not sure those are the right limits, but they look like interesting ones.

  8. 1) Encourage a larger range of music in worship services

    2) Lessen the exclusion of non-members at LDS weddings by allowing for temporary non-member temple recommends and/or de-stigmatizing non-temple weddings followed by sealing ceremonies.

  9. I see that Last Lemming already proposed my second point. I guess the chances of making LDS weddings more inclusive are twice as high as I thought :).

  10. 1. Reduce the 3-hour block to 2 hours max. We can then build fewer ward houses, as we can have more wards meet in a building.
    2. Reduce many of the extra weekly meetings. We are just in too many meetings each week, which takes time away from our families. For working parents, we see our kids far too rarely and each extra hour we spend in meetings, reduces valuable family time.
    3. Re-design garments entirely.
    4. In Sunday School, have far more meatier lessons, including giving real history of the church, not the sugar-coated variety.
    5. I agree with the mention above of General Conferences. Speakers should be forced to step away from the teleprompter and speak from the heart. I think it odd that we have monotone delivery across the board.
    6. Enable women to have equal access to power and authority within the church. That means the possibility of women holding the priesthood. Barring that, allow them to have full responsibility in callings.

  11. 1) Equivalent or increase of church membership
    2) Equivalent or increase in member’s willingness to commit time to the church
    3) Equivalent or increase in tithing receipts

    When Jesus came He drastically weakened the solidarity of the Jews. They were under Roman oppression and were looking for a messiah to liberate them politically… i.e. to “strengthen” them. Yet, His message was to follow him spiritually and to choose a personal victory, or a strength of character over a worldly strength. Jesus defined success in terms of spiritual growth and a closeness with God, not in terms of the success of an organization or loyalty to an institution.

    Thus, I think if you are constrained to meet those 3 requirements, you will eventually have to turn away from Jesus. There will be a fork in the road where you have to follow Him and risk a “weakening” of the church, or else you preserve the institution at the expense of discipleship.

    A friend gave this list when ased a similar question, and I totally agree, although they don’t all meet the 3 (faulty) requirements.

    1. Give women the priesthood.
    2. Make humanitarian missions available to young men and women. Allow for min-missions (perhaps May-August during college breaks). Allow women to serve missions at age 19.
    3. Let members attend a temple session as an ‘observer’ before taking out their endowments.
    4. Stress the importance of treating ‘apostates’ in a Christlike manner.
    5. Let non tr holders witness the wedding ceremonies (have their hands concealed to the observers so they wouldn’t see the patriarchal grip).
    6. Focus way more on humanitarian service. Use 25% of tithing funds for humanitarian aid. Let the world see this and possibly become a national symbol for alleviating human suffering (much like the Red Cross).
    7. Disclose church financial records (I know this one may not strengthen the church, but if they have nothing to hide, why not?).

  12. 1- 2.5 hour block, with Sunday School classes 25 minutes long. Keep it short and sweet, and emphasize service and fellowship during RS/Priesthood time, not more warmed over theology. Over time, transition from this schedule to a 2-hour block in which Sunday School is merged into RS/Priesthood time, with lessons for both men and women and then brief separate meetings as needed to organize RS and quorum activities and business.

    2- allow young men/women to choose proselyting or service missions; expand service in full-time missionary work to improve the church’s public image.

    3- encourage wards to hold a coffee hour after that 2.5 hour block so people have a convenient time to meet each other in a relaxed setting. Once people are at the chapel, give them something to do there that doesn’t involve a lesson.

    I’m not sure any of these would increase tithing receipts, but I would hope they would increase commitment and fellowship.

  13. Since the Prophet does Gods bidding in the running of His church; I think you mean what would I do if I was God?
    1 I would let captainmelody he doesn’t need to be angry. I still love him.
    2 I would tell Benjamin O practice what he preaches or “Go and be a light unto the world,” not a hammer. 🙂
    3 I would remind Neal Davis I know all things past present and future and nothing done is unnecessary.
    4 I would tell adam e. go talk to Neal Davis. Oh; and no I’m not putting a drive thru in the temple.
    5 I would remind John Nilsson force instead of free agency is what put Satin in the position he is in. If you want power and influence you’re in the wrong church. (service to our fellow man and no man should have that above another)
    6 I would tell Last Lemming he needs to ask for forgiveness and if he needs help he should talk to one of those High Priest. Really; please?

    Since I need to ask Heavenly Father daily for help so I don’t screw up more than I do. I think I’ll leave it to the ones who know. YES GOD.

  14. NorthboundZax’s first item is what was on top of my list: Why do we need to confine ourselves to the same style of music as the pioneers sang?

    While I personally wouldn’t object to the occasional use of rock music in worship, I probably wouldn’t go that far if it were my decision. But I would encourage the occasional use of contemporary music styles as a part of worship, as I think it would be much more welcoming to visitors (and the members wouldn’t have any choice but to learn to appreciate it).

    The church seems to do very little to make its weekly sacrament meetings inviting to visitors or the merely curious. I’ve been on road trips without an available Internet connection and been unable to find out even when the sacrament meetings begin — not even a sign on the door listing meeting times, and unless there’s someone there to answer the phone, no recording with that information. There are very few churches I’ve seen that seem to be so unaccommodating to someone who isn’t already in the loop.

    Along the same line, I’d make sure people feel welcome regardless of what they’re wearing, and I’d get away from the expectation that men wear white shirts and no facial hair, and that women don’t wear pants. I’m not suggesting we go the anything-goes route that some of the Protestant megachurches have, but I think the rigidity we manifest is offputting to visitors.

    And I’d put missionaries in some sort of contemporary clothing, perhaps even some sort of distinctive dressy polo shirt type of uniform.

    In one sense, these may seem like minor things, and indeed (compared to the importance of loving your neighbor, caring for the poor and all that) they are. But they are all things that at their core have little to do with the gospel, and they are things that make us weird in our society. If we’re going to stand out, let’s stand out for our generosity and service, not for looking like we’re from the early 1960s.

    And I’d agree with those who suggest that we come up with a way for nonmembers to participate in temple weddings. Having the marriage itself in a nearby chapel followed by sealing in the temple would be one way of doing that.

  15. ok, here’s my crack at it:

    1. More missionary work. Do like the JWs do. Have missionary work being done as families, maybe an hour on Sunday. Not mandatory, but use the honor system and encourage members to do more.

    2. Encourage more members to get involved in the community. Cut a few weekly meetings and get them more active in PTA, community councils and other groups with Christian and other faiths. Along with this, more members should be encouraged to get in politics. This is a tricky one, becasue the church probably cant directly encourage them but something on a more cultural level can be done.

    3. Increasing tithing will just come along with more members…unless you want to increase the percentage to 12%, but since its biblically based, I doubt you can change the percentage. Consecration is too much to ask right now, and we dont have the infrastructure in place for that.

    I dont think you should change the garments or dress at church, keep the temple sacred and members only, but maybe a ‘gentile’ wedding could also be encouraged before the temple sealing for those with non-member parents and close family.

  16. are you kidding me? what kinda question is this? Since I believe the church is true, and I believe the prophet is directe by God, I don’t know how this question has any bearing on reality…

  17. I have one more…

    Build a dark dungeon underneath the pulpit. When someone gives their testimony and mentions Joseph Smith more than Jesus Christ the Bishop will push a button that drops them into the dungeon for the rest of the block.

  18. The question is phrased two different ways:
    1) If you were prophet, what would you do?
    2) If you had complete control over the church, what would you do?

    This makes the interesting presumption that the prophet has complete control of the church. I’m not sure even God has that.

  19. I don’t think I can really think at this high level, so I’ll offer some minor suggestions that IMO are totally do-able:
    1 – for church courts with a female being disciplined, always have at least one female leader (e.g. RS president) present in the court. This is the one thing I would do purely on principle, regardless of any of the others.
    2 – I agree with no-man about the 2.5 hour block. Hard to go to 2, but 2.5 sounds reasonable.
    3 – I really like the idea of further disaggregating the temple ceremony to enable multiple names at a time. This has been done in the past. More could be done, allowing temple goers less “repetitious story” time and more private meditation time. This could result in more temple attendance. More attendance = more commitment (on some level).
    4 – move fast & testimony meetings to quarterly. They sometimes freak out newcomers.
    5 – uncorrelate some of the history that some find troubling when it is a surprise.

    When I first read this, I was thinking:
    – 1% cashback on tithing annually
    – free access to airline clubs

    But that’s just the business-person in me.

  20. Three things:

    1. Focus our wards and stakes on providing meaningful, consistent community service; i.e., ensuring the light of our love and concern for others is not kept under a bushel, but is shining far beyond the walls of our own homes and church buildings. This would spiritually nourish the members, be a positive example, and would be doing the things Jesus taught should be our #1 priority (see Matthew 25). I honestly believe if people knew how generous and caring Mormons are, everyone would want to be a Mormon. The problem is that so few people ever get to see that because we’re so busy focusing our service internally on our own Church members.
    2. Emphasize the definition of the priesthood that defines it as the power of God held and exercised by righteous individuals, and eliminate the unnecessary and non-scriptural gender restriction. This would remove the stumbling block that is unnecessarily created when we restrict priesthood to male members only, which creates the obvious impression of sexism. It would also allow the Church as a whole to benefit more fully from the contributions of female leaders.
    3. Return the Word of Wisdom to its original intent as being by way of counsel, and not commandment. This would remove the unnecessary stumbling block of people being dissuaded from joining our church, or being fully active in the church, because they have great difficulty believing that God is at the helm of a church that regards coffee and tea drinkers as somehow being spiritually impure persons; at least impure enough to be disqualified from approaching God in the temple.

  21. I’ll never be prophet, and here’s why:

    1. Since the sacrament is the only saving ordinance we receive every Sunday and since ward business must be done by common consent, I’d have Sunday meetings consist of only those activities. All talks, Sunday school lessons, and Priesthood/R.S. meetings would be included in a weekly newsletter (available in either hard-copy format, email, or RSS feed).

    2. All church forms in electronic format accessible via secure Internet connection. No more having to drive to church to enter home teaching/visiting teaching stats in MLS.

    3. Make garment symbols patches that people can attach to the inside of their clothing so we can wear regular underwear. Even though it would still prevent short shorts and bare midriffs, it’d work with tank tops and sleeveless dresses.

    4. Bring back road shows!

    5. Allow electric guitars and drums in church.

    6. Automatic purging from the rolls after a year of inactivity. If you’re in a situation where you can’t attend that often (i.e. deployed active-duty military, research project in Antarctica), request permission to self-administer sacrament and report to the nearest church authority on a regular basis.

    Of course, the Lord would probably nix most of these, but I see no reason why the Lord wouldn’t at least allow #2.

  22. 2) Equivalent or increase in member’s willingness to commit time to the church

    The effort to support Prop 8 was a huge boost in the amount of time during the week that (most) members contributed to the cause of the church. Albeit temporary – for six weeks we (LDS in California) were donating a lot of time on saturdays and weekedays to the effort.

  23. 1) TV Marketing like the evangelicals do complete with cool bands

    2) Tithing credits ala tax credits

    3) Delete all less active members from list; doesn’t increase tithing per se but does increase percentages.

  24. Some great suggestions that I want to re-iterate and add a couple more:

    Clay, I love your suggestions of…
    1. Humanitarian aid missions available to any missionary of any age!!!!!! Yes yes yes yes!!!! I would do one right now (if I could get away for 2 years).
    2. Definitely observing an endowment session before taking out your own. My gosh, I wish I had!! And trying garments on for a day or two to see if one can really do it before the obligation period begins.
    3. More humanitarian funds from tithing. Fewer elaborate temples (can be smaller and less luxurious).

    And a fe more…

    1. I agree with another poster about getting missionaries out of suits and sister missionaries out of frumpy attire. It makes them stick out (and not in a good way).
    2. Revamp the WofW. It takes a lot more to respect your body than refraining from Tea and cigarettes.

  25. 1) Equivalent or increase of church membership
    2) Equivalent or increase in member’s willingness to commit time to the church
    3) Equivalent or increase in tithing receipts

    Radically renovate the missionary program. Decrease the number of missionaries in a mission by allowing a wider range of humanitarian missions under the authority of the local stake president. Get the keeners to go out and knock doors if they wish, keeping the existing structure of Mission Presidents for that. Allow a greater range of kinds of work available to missionaries. Give stake presidents or bishops the final vote over individuals getting baptized. This meets 1 and 2, by keeping converts and creating a self-selection for the serious psychological demands missions place on people. 3, by decreasing the number of missionaries with health problems (encourage them to stay local), or by using teams of Utahns, Arizonans, and Idahoans overseas and in less ‘Mormon’ areas to do humanitarian work.

    Put Kittehs on all church material. I can haz Book uv Mormun?

  26. What is interesting is that for couples missionaries, much of what they ask for (there is a monthly bulletin sent out) is for service mission type service — and that fits the local part time mission type callings they have for senior missionaries as well.

  27. I would bring back, in a simple way, the symbol of the Cross.
    I would also design garments in a lycra fabric so they could be worn like under armor under gym clothes.
    I would add doughnuts to the Word of Wisdom list. 🙂

  28. I second: KingOfTexas, Confutus, and Hamer.

    The prophet isn’t like a politician who is elected with an agenda of particular action and changes they’ll implement. He is the representative of God on the Earth. So, whatever God wants him to do, that’s what he’ll do.

    (I think there are many with a theory of revelation that is more subtle than the above might imply. If the prophet feels that God wants him to do the poster’s agenda, but is not impelled with any particular method, then this is a reasonable discussion. I don’t think that the post put the question in a realistic context and thereby inspired extremism. I’m thinking it could be rephrased, “God has told you to do a, b, and c, but has asked you to figure out how. What do you propose, given what you know about His past commands, etc?”)

  29. Jay, KingofTexas,

    If I said the pope was the representative of God on earth and that whatever God wants him to do, that’s what he’ll do, I would find as much evidence for my belief as you would for yours.

    Thomas Monson is a real person, not a divine puppet. If you take the view that he tries to do his best to do what he understands God wants him to do, you will come much closer to the image he portrays of himself than by using the mechanistic language you seem fond of.

  30. Let me second what John has said. Inspired does not mean dictated to. if all God wanted was a simple mouthpiece, there would be no need for a First Presidency, Quorum of 12 or other GAs who council with the prophet. he could be a “one-man show.” God expects us to exercise agency, does he expect less of His Prophet?

  31. 1. I’d reorganize VT/HT so that a couple/family w/o great needs could just get a phone call/e-mail checking on them, and then concentrate on widows/seniors/those needing extra. So a family could have 4 hters istead of just a couple.

    2. Shorter meetings/more concentration on service.

    3. Love the idea of being able to go to the temple as an observer first. I married in the temple over 20 yrs ago, and have never felt comfortable there.

    4. Re-do/do away with garments.

  32. Getting back to John Hamer’s comment that these three are not worthy goals, that’s worth consideration. In fact, I think these 3 are not necessarily Christ’s goals, but they are the types of goals a leader of an organization (ahem, a prophet in Mormon terms) might have. Perhaps if I restate them, they will be more palatable:

    1 – Bring more souls to Christ.
    2 – Increase love toward Christ and others.
    3 – Enable the work of the Lord to go forward.

    The ones put forth by administrator are really just taking that a step further to what is measurable. If you can propose superior measures of success, do.

    Everyone feeling better now?

  33. #25—hmmm, paying tithing with a credit card? That would lead to an increase of tithing, but also a definite need to increase Fast Offerings. Unless the church offered its own reward points system…

  34. I would ditch Sunday School. Seriously, who likes Sunday School? No one.

    I’m against letting people preview the endowment ceremony before doing it for real and definitely against letting them try on garments before obligating themselves to wear them. Who would ever make that commitment if they knew what they were getting into? Probably the same people who like Sunday School.

    I’m totally in favor of separating the sealing ceremony from the civil marriage ceremony. I also like the humanitarian mission/mini-mission ideas.

  35. A lot of people seem to think that our weddings do not allow for broad attendance. My wife and I were married in England where (like the rest of Europe I believe), you have to get married in the Church and then in the Temple. The Government does not recognize temple weedings as they are not open to the public, and a wedding must be. Must have something to do with that “if there be any person here present….” part.

    It is definitely the way to go. All your non-member friends can come, along with the whole ward if you want to invite them. You do the whole ‘pomp and ceremony’ thing with the organ and all that. Very traditional. We got to memorize and recite our vows to each other, which for me at least was pretty special. Then you go to the Temple (must be on the same day mind you) and have that experience too. Best of both worlds in my opinion.

    On another note. I’ve often thought the ‘block’ was too long too. Although it’s not that it is so long as it is boring. I want to experience something, LEARN something in those three hours. How about Sunday school teaches a ‘Religions of the World’ class for a year?

    Garments do need to be re-designed to work better. I’m a firefighter in the Southwest, and they are not fun in summer. There are a lot of superior fabrics out there, and do they really need to have sleeves?

  36. All this talk of service! why do you need a change in the Church to focus on service. Everyone can do it now in a million different ways. What is stopping you? Do you really need the church to change its focus on missionary work in order to justify more service.

    Get off your duffs and do it.

  37. I think it would be cool if the prophet were to say the opposite of what early modern prophets said and encouraged everyone to move out into the world. I might also see the need to create a BYU Europe, BYU South America, BYU Asia, etc.

  38. I find those three questions fascinating as they are more like three questions that a company would ask of a CEO and not a Church of a Prophet??

  39. Hawkgrrrl: I think that your “palatable” goals (38) are unrelated to the original goals as defined by Admin. Admin’s goals were entirely anchored in benchmarks for institutional success. Your goals don’t consider the institution and are instead primarily about Christ. If we see the institution as the equivalent of Christ — if we equate God with an institution — we are worshipping the institution. I think that according the new covenant, institution-worship is a form of idolatry, which Christ cited as a violation of the greatest commandment “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37). It is therefore possible that your proposed goals would directly oppose admin’s proposed goals.

  40. Hmmm. I don’t know quite how to answer your comment. My restatement of the goals would likely be viewed as consistent with those in the post by church leaders who propose the measures of success. That was my only point. But the flaw is that it’s like considering one’s weight (a measure) and one’s healthiness (a goal) equivalent. That was what I was driving at.

  41. JNilsson
    FYI Catholics believe the pope is a represenative of God. But even he will tell you he’s not a profit.

    Since the Prophet is the representative of Jesus Christ here on the Earth, he is not able to direct the whole church astray because Christ can’t lead us astray.

  42. I’m finding it interesting that most of the people who have responded have kept in mind the fact that the prophet cannot simply make doctrinal changes based on his own personal preferences or even based on the perferences of the membership of the Church. Policies, however, can be changed and have always been changed as the needs of the Saints change. There is absolutely no reason for any member of the Church to get on his or her self-righteous high horse and criticize any other members for suggesting policy changes. My own suggestions for policy changes are:

    1. Permit couples to have a civil wedding ceremony immediately followed by a temple sealing.
    2. Come to grips with the fact that every man who wears a beard is not some radical heretic, and permit men who wear beards to serve missions, work in the temple, etc.

  43. Kathryn,
    Concerning your #1 you need to know that this way to do is only done in the US as far as I know. In Europe WE HAVE TO be married civilly first to be allowed to be married in the temple. Very often a few days separate the two weddings.

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