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I Reflected on it again and again . . .

My life circumstances this year have me mulling over the same set of inspirational messages in all aspects of life (work, church calling, family). I think the Lord is trying to tell me something here. If there's a specific message for me in all of this I haven't discerned it yet, but I'm still trying to get to it. 

Meanwhile . . . I hope some of my thoughts and reflections will be of use to you, my online colleagues, if for no other reason than to connect us all again to our Home Office Theme for this semester: Disciple Leaders--Strengthening Testimonies of the 21st Century Student.

Elder Ballard's entire talk "The Opportunities and Responsibilities of CES Teachers in the 21st Century" is worth reading and studying.

It seems to me that this talk -- given by an apostle of Jesus Christ -- opened the way for all related  inspiration that has followed after it this year, including:

  • Sheri Dew's BYU-I devotional, "Will You Engage in the Wrestle?" -- May 2016
  • Dean Rex Butterfield's keynote address at the OLT Conference -- June 2016
  • Which is the foundation piece of our Online Learning Home Office Theme this Semester --September 2016
  • Disciple Leaders: Strengthening Testimonies of the 21st Century Student, which led to
  • Our own Announcements, Discussion Board posts, related feedback, etc. in each of our online classes-- Oct - Dec 2016

(pretty cool trickle down effect, eh?)

And what an exciting year to be involved with education, with helping to build the kingdom of God on the earth.

Key Quotes from Elder Ballard's talk:

"It was only a generation ago that our young people’s access to information about our history, doctrine, and practices was basically limited to materials printed by the Church. 
Few students came in contact with alternative interpretations. Mostly, our young people lived a sheltered life.

"Our curriculum at that time, though well-meaning, did not prepare students for today—a day when students have instant access to virtually everything about the Church from every possible point of view.

"Today, what they see on their mobile devices is likely to be faith-challenging as much as faith-promoting. 
Many of our young people are more familiar with Google than they are with the gospel, more attuned to the Internet than to inspiration
and more involved with Facebook than with faith."

He also reminded us:

"James did not say, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him Google!”8

ASK of God.  


The ASK is part of "Doctrinal Mastery" for seminary, but very pertinent to us and our online students.

For those of you who are studying the Home Office Minute (theme) additional resources this semester, what have you learned from Elder Ballard's talk?  What key points would you add to this discussion?

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  • Thank you Alisha for your post. I am eternally thankful for our leaders who continually work to teach and guide us. I was listening to the last Women's Conference address by President Uchtdorf, "Fourth Floor, Last Door."  I loved the way he reached out to those who may be struggling or having questions. I think it is such a blessing that those with questions feel encouraged to ask them. I also appreciate the advice from the above talks which tell us how to ask questions and get answers. Sister Dew's talk was so amazing. I loved the way she encouraged everyone to work hard, study, pray, and find answers. In this day and age, there are so many wonderful resources from the church that we can find answers to all of our questions. I always say that I would not google how to do a surgery, I would go to a doctor. So, why would I google something as eternally important as Gospel questions. I will go to the church websites and most of all my Heavenly Father.  

    So, this is just a funny side note from two of our sons when they heard the talk 'Fourth Floor, Last Door.' They both served their missions in Russia. When they heard the talk, they both said 'oh, you always start at the top and work your way down...that way you have an escape route if you need it.'  Apparently they must have met up with a few unhappy potential golden contacts.

    • Brenda--Great connection with President Uchtdorf's talk.  That was one of my favorites from Conference this fall. Its principles go right along with Elder Ballard's talk, you're right. I love your comparison to surgery = doctor, gospel questions = God.  

      Great story about your sons. :)

  • Alisha - As a seminary teacher, this focus on Acquiring Spiritual Knowledge has been an interesting journey this year. The youth have really taken ahold of this kind of approach and seem to appreciate the more mature focus on true doctrine. As we have addressed some of the more sensitive topics of doctrine and church history, I have been very impressed with their faith. When we can inoculate them in a setting of faith, their doubts seem to be less and less.

    Perhaps the most interesting thing that I experienced this summer was when Bro. Butterfield was teaching about the "Toolbox." Me and another Seminary teacher were sitting by each other, and we both started thinking the same thing. The principles of the "Toolbox" are amazingly similar to the principles of Acquiring Spiritual Knowledge! 

    Two completely separate entities - BYUI and S&I - were inspired by the Lord and came up with the same solution to help young people strengthen their faith in a world that is so determined to destroy it.

    • Benjamin (Ben?) . . . yes, two separate entities, BUT, same apostle, same inspirational talk that spawned the development of both this year. At least that's my hunch. His talk was originally given in Feb 2016, and I believe Doctrinal Mastery grew out of this talk.  (Correct me if I'm wrong . . .)  I'd also wager that Dean Butterfield's "Toolbox" talk (and the new direction of BYU-I Religion courses) grew out of Elder Ballard's February talk as well.  Like you pointed out, it's great to see the similarities between ASK and the Testimony Toolbox. The Lord's inspiration in both is evident.  You and I are very fortunate to have this overlap!

      • I actually have some "inside baseball" information on the development of Doctrinal Mastery (I work closely with those that wrote the curriculum for it.)

        The idea for Doctrinal Mastery was created, proposed, and written before Elder Ballard's talk in February. About this time of year, some of the best minds in Church Curriculum got together and wrote everything we know about Doctrinal Mastery in a very short time span - perhaps 3-4 months! For the Church, this is incredibly fast!

        I really believe that the speed with which it was created shows that God's hand really has been behind this whole thing.

        • Oh, cool! Thanks for the behind-the-scenes look at how it developed.  And yes, it was very quick.  So quick, in fact, (I'm told) that the scripture mastery on the seminary  Learning Assessment wasn't able to be changed/approved to doctrinal mastery in time, so we will assess students on scripture mastery.  This is no big deal for teachers or students, but just an example of how quickly everything must have been moving.

  • I love Elder Ballard's counsel to "inoculate your students by providing faithful, thoughtful, and accurate interpretation of gospel doctrine, the scriptures, our history, and those topics that are sometimes misunderstood," but he goes on to qualify this by saying that we don't have to act like history or doctrinal experts. Neither should we "overclaim" to know the exact answers to every question.

    Instead, he asks us to include prayer, regular fasting, and thoughtful study as part teaching our students. This guidance seemed very reasonable to me: "It is always wise to make it a practice to study the words of the living prophets and apostles; keep updated on current Church issues, policies, and statements through and; and consult the works of recognized, thoughtful, and faithful LDS scholars to ensure you do not teach things that are untrue, out of date, or odd and quirky." It's a relief to know I don't have to be an expert, but if a question arises, I can thoughtfully consider the best way to approach the issue, and use both the Spirit and Church materials to help me in my teaching.

    • Heather--I find that to be a great relief, too.  I don't have to be the expert!  

      Like Steven asked below, I'm curious to know if very many online students bring their tough doctrinal questions to the attention of their BYU-I online instructors?  Have you seen very many of these types of questions with your online students?  

  • Alisha,

    In my church calling, I often see teachers who don't connect with youth when they're teaching. I do think a lot of this disconnect is due in part that teachers still aren't willing to "get their hands dirty" and talk to the youth about the "hard things" that youth have questions about. Two questions for you and others, then: 1) Why are teachers throughout the Church not willing to address these 21st Century Questions, and then 2) Are our BYUI classrooms a place where we should be encouraging students to talk about honest questions? Unfortunately, I think some students and teachers in our online classes are afraid to be honest because of what their classmates and/or teacher may say. What do you think?


    • I agree with Jarrod.  In the past I feel I was taught (whether on purpose or not) that questioning meant you didn't know and that was not a good thing.  The asker feels insecure in admitting a lack of knowledge.  I also feel that our church community often brings the best face to most situations and we leave all the junk we are experiencing at the door.  We want to appear strong and faithful and valiant, even if we are crumbling on the inside.

      Just this past week in my GS120 courses we were talking about discovering truth.  I love this lesson because students are often prompted to share how they came to know the truth of the gospel.  They often share their conversion stories, how they found the missionaries, or received a witness of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.  Many of them shared they got to adulthood and really didn't "KNOW" that the gospel was true. Sure, they had born testimony and attended church all their life but when it came to going on missions or having to choose to go to church without mom prodding them out of bed, they weren't sure.  They then shared their experiences with seeking and finding that truth.  Such a great lesson.  Perhaps we aren't encouraging our young people to seek those answers and confirmations at a young age.  That way when the big questions come, they can hold on to that faith instead of being shaken on a rocky foundation.

      I also had a student share that recently the statement came out from the First Presidency against the legalization of marijuana.  She bravely admitted that she didn't understand this principle but then did a little research and prayed for understanding.  After some hard work, she came to know and have faith that the words of the prophet were true.  This semester, more than others, I have had students that are more bold and courageous in sharing these questions and experiences.  We need to be prepared for this in this very bold world.

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