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|By Aaron Johnston||September 29, 2004|
Whenever general conference rolls around I think, "What's the big news, what new program will the church institute, what's going to change?"
Normally there isn't a big announcement. More often than not it's conference as usual. But occasionally the brethren surprise us with some new, exciting church program.
Like when President Hinckley announced his plans to build smaller temples throughout the world. Or when the Perpetual Education Fund was first introduced.
I live for announcements like that. They're always inspiring.
That's why I was tickled pink recently to learn that the church tests many of these programs long before they're instituted - making it possible for impatient people like me to find out about the programs BEFORE they're announced.
Take my friend Gary, for example. His real name is Matthew, but for the sake of preserving his privacy, we'll call him Gary.
So Gary says to me yesterday, "Hey, did you hear about the new pilot program the church has going on right now?"
And because I like comic books my first thought is, "Pilots? The church has airplane pilots? You mean like a secret squadron of aces trained to protect the brethren and defend the faith?"
But that seemed farfetched, so I said, "No, I haven't heard."
"Well," says Matthew ... er, Gary, "my wife's father lives in Arizona and his ward is involved in a pilot program in which members attend church for two hours instead of three."
"Come again?" I said. My heart had stopped beating. Surely I had misheard.
"They go to church for only two hours," he repeated.
And then I put Gary in a tight choke hold and threatened him with his life until he swore he was telling the truth and not making some sick joke.
Turns out he wasn't joking, so I let him go. "Wow. Two hours. Which meeting was dropped?" I asked.
Once Gary got air back into his lungs he said, "Sunday School, I think."
That made sense. If one meeting is going to go, it's obviously going to be Sunday School. Sacrament is a must. And the church isn't likely to do away with priesthood or Relief Society.
But when I asked further questions, Gary was no help. He didn't know any of the details.
And so I now I'm stuck with all of these quandaries (which I'm gladly passing along to you unanswered). What were the reasons for going to two hours? How long has this test been going on? How many other wards are participating? Is the church seriously considering doing this?
And most important of all: What other experiments is the church conducting?
And then I remembered my own ward. A few weeks ago, the bishop announced that we would be participating in a special pilot program that combined family history work with the missionary effort.
Basically it works like this: members ask their friends if they're interested in learning more about their own family history. If the friend says yes, the member gives the friend a card to fill out that's basically a three generational pedigree chart.
The member then takes that information to one of the ward family-history specialists, who spends several hours doing additional family history for this individual.
The results can be impressive - with some specialists finding new family lines, additional generations, or even detailed government documents like military records that unlock an ancestor's past.
All of these findings are then gathered, organized, and delivered to the friend via the full-time missionaries. It's a priceless gift, much like the personal genealogical records the church has always given to visiting dignitaries.
So far the response has been good. Some nonmembers are so impressed with the gift that they want to know more about the church and why we place such an emphasis on the family.
It seems like a promising program.
But again I ask myself, What else does the church have up its sleeves? What other programs are currently being tested elsewhere?
My search at the church website shed no light on the subject. Apparently pilot programs are kept hush hush until the church decides to institute them. Good old fashioned gossip is the only way to spread the word.
So if there's a pilot program in your neck of the woods, share. Spread the gossip. Give us the lowdown. I'd feel special if I knew about a program before it was officially announced.
And in the meantime, here are a few of my own suggestions I'd like to see pilot tested.
1. Pulpit Trap Doors
Let's face it. Sometimes crazy people get to the microphone. When that happens, we're powerless. We're stuck. All we can do is sit and listen. I say: No more. Put a big red button on the back of every pew and when someone starts preaching false doctrine, send them to the basement.
Now, I'm not a cruel person. The trap door would open to a slide with a gradual slope and eventually end at a bed of soft foam. See? Nice.
2. Giant Gongs
This is similar to the pulpit trap door concept. We hang a giant gong at the back of the congregation and whenever someone starts talking crazy talk, we whack that sucker and send the person back to their seat.
Note: This idea could combined with the pulpit trap door concept.
3. Nursery muzzles
Some kids are killers. You know the ones I mean. They look as sweet as ginger, but they got a mean streak a mile wide. I say we curb that naughty demeanor with some tight-fitting leather head gear and keep those biting jaws shut.
4. Conveyor Belt Hallways
You know those moving walkways at airports? They're basically giant conveyor belts you can stand on and ride to the next terminal. A marvelous invention. I say we install those in the hallways at church. That way, people can't crowd the hallway while you're trying to get to class. No more lollygagging.
And more importantly, no more walking!
5. Kitchen Crooks
Why is it that food left in the kitchen is always mysteriously eaten? Sometimes it's only a few chips from the bag. But other times, the whole blasted cake is gone. It's getting to where no food is safe. I say we end this thievery by installing some food traps by the fridge.
They are many ways to do this of course - my favorite being weight sensitive electric floor pads. If someone stands on this and increases their weight by lifting a single cupcake, they'll get the electric shock of their lives.
6. Missionary Flares
This last one really isn't a church-wide suggestion, but here goes. You know those awkward moments when missionaries ask you if you've been speaking to any of your friends about the gospel? Well, who are you kidding? You've got nothing to report. And instead of having to admit that you're a slacker, wouldn't it be nice if you could distract the missionaries and make them forget what they were asking?
YOU: Hey look, Elders. A flare.
ELDERS: Oooo. Pretty.
The flare burns out and falls to the earth.
ELDERS: Now ... uh, what were we talking about?
So there you have it. A few suggestions.
Keep your ears open at conference. I wouldn't be surprised if one of my ideas was put on the fast track and instituted immediately.
Copyright © 2004 by Aaron Johnston
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