It is often difficult to develop projects for youth that will be fun, and yet will teach them the benefits of service. One of the activities that worked well for our youth was a Service Scavenger Hunt.
The idea was simple. They met on a Saturday morning and divided into teams of approximately the same size. Teams were co-ed, so that the men and women would be working as a group. An adult was also present on each team to supervise the group and watch out for their safety. They were then given a limited amount of time (3-4 hours) to go out into the neighborhood and do service projects. They were instructed to be back at the chapel at the conclusion of the time period.
As they went to houses in the neighborhood, they would introduce themselves as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, explain that they were in the neighborhood as part of a Service Scavenger Hunt, and asked if they could perform a service for the household. They also had a list of suggested services they could perform such as:
Wash Windows (1 point per window)
The adult advisor would determine how many points to award for tasks not on the list, based on the length of time taken, the difficulty, and the enthusiasm and participation shown by the youth.
At the specified time, all of the teams met back at the church. They totaled their service points and awarded small prizes to the winning team. Then lunch was provided for all the youth.
Not only did this provide a good feeling for all that participated, but the reaction of the community was positive as well. The bishop received several phone calls and letters commending him for the fine youth in our ward, and their spirit of service. It goes without saying that to be effective, the teams should go to the entire neighborhood, not just to members of the church.
While the original idea for the scavenger hunt came from an activities idea book, our youth made several changes that made the activity their own. They had fun, and they got to know each other better in the context of serving strangers.
To Go or Not To Go ...
I have a visiting teaching companion who feels very strongly that a visit to each sister on our list each month is somewhat of an in-your-face intrusion. She is a sensitive person, worried that any more than minimal contact will be offensive and overbearing.
When I call to start setting up appointments, my companion resists strenuously, insisting that the woman we are assigned to would far more appreciate a phone call or a card under the door. My first reaction to this has been internal irritation and defensiveness. After I manage to get those small dragons under control, I have to wonder if I'm feeling a bit self-righteous. Well, yeah.
Our ward is well-to-do, you see. Very active membership, lots of talent and participation. Nice ward, easy sometimes to coast. My companion and I are of the singles set, in the middle -- not budding youths nor are we elderly. We visit other single working women, all of us busy in careers that have us working weekends, evenings, nights out of town, taking workshops or studying to just keep up. Then, of course, there are family, friends and ward activities, our own hobbies, not to mention the unplanned little surprises that pop up, like illnesses, cars needing repair . . . and on and on.
It occurs to me that, yes, visits are yet one more thing to squeeze in, commit to regularly, and I feel hypocritical when I wonder if a knock on three doors every month really is pushy. No one of us is in any special need, all of us have friends and family close by. I suppose that becomes the concern over all. How much is too much or even needful?
Visits can take strange twists. In days past I believe I had more crust, was less introspective over what anyone thought of me or what I was doing. I was seeing three inactive sisters and I had a companion who refused to go out at all. I did them alone and, boy, was I diligent.
One of these sisters didn't see the point but let me in with thinly disguised impatience. One liked to see me and always showed off her newest tattoo. And one found it a particular challenge to shake my testimony by bringing out her latest anti-Mormon literature.
They were demanding, intelligent and challenging, and somehow, we found a place where we did get along and found each other interesting -- once I got through the doors.
For me, the premise for the visits was very simple. I was expected. These women knew I was their VT and something in me seemed to detach the personal part of it. I became a church representative and I felt I would have been letting them down; even if they viewed the intrusions with resentment or amusement, I thought they would also have felt somewhat rejected if I had not persisted. I couldn't refute that premise, then or now.
The biggest challenge for me is actually picking up the phone and getting the push under way for the month. My companion is a nurse with twelve-hour shifts and emergency call-ins. I work graveyard in a clinical lab and rotate weekends. When we can actually find simultaneous time off, it feels like it would be a minor miracle to include yet a third woman into that space.
I suppose if I received a pained sigh from any one of the sisters we visit it would be easy to let things go with that phone call or card. They are all so nice and appreciative of the effort, though, even if sometimes we can't coordinate any visits
I've done some re-thinking recently about all of this. I've always prided myself on my own personal vision of visiting teaching, what it's supposed to accomplish, what it's for: imagining a sister fallen ill, bedridden or hospitalized while children and husband languish, then visiting teachers who stumble onto the situation and galvanize the ward into instant action. Inspiring! Tear-worthy.
Why can't any of my visits even one time underscore so clearly what it's all about? Make me the hero?
Well, my sisters are never so accommodating. Or aren't they? In the recent past, I entered a beautiful home with another companion. The woman we were visiting was alone, her husband on a business trip for an extended period of time. Our visits always drifted into an easy hour as she shared stories of her accomplishments, her children's accomplishments, and the wonderful ways she used to keep that family entwined, close to her and each other. She gave me a renewed sense of the importance of family. We heard of her fears and concerns over other aspects of her life, the concerns over her family. She needed us for that time, and we were there.
So, okay. I was flattered that she trusted us as friends and confidantes. I went there for myself as much as anything. I always felt welcome, but more than that, expected -- I imagined there might be a certain trust that we would be there to see her each month, as I'm not sure how close she was to others in the ward, or how many friends she had outside of her family.
The one-time physical act of heroism has its appeal to me, and the unmistakable possibility that each of us might stand in need of that kind of help looms on a daily basis for us all. But it is usually a finite event that happens quickly, has a clear plan of action, measurable results and solid conclusion. The slow growth, long term relationships that are built on quiet and persistent trust reverberate longer and ultimately leave me changed, more introspective, a little wiser and more patient with myself and others.
Our current assignments, well, I've had to do some attitude adjustments on myself. Perhaps I have caught some of the spirit of what visiting teaching can mean. I have had to back away from my over-enthusiastic approach and admit that perhaps all we need or can manage in this current group and situation is a visit every two or three months. Sure enough, upon asking, I was met with overwhelming approval. And so we have it down to some kind of contact in between those face-to-face visits, enough to keep our little network alive and dependable. In place and ready for whenever or whatever.
The visiting teachers I had when I first moved into my current ward acted as the catalysts that got me re-activated after nearly five years of lonely disillusionment. Those women listened, never critical, never outwardly shocked, as I poured out my heart, my frustrations. They never preached or doctrinized. They told me they understood my point of view and even sometimes agreed! Well, I had to start returning, had only needed a reason to go back where I'd left my heart in the first place: with the sisterhood, the church family.
Why does visiting teaching mean anything to me? Hmmm....
A Poet Ordains His Teenage Son
Michael R. Collings
Sunday, Michael-Brent was ordained an Elder. It was an important mark in his life, and one in mine as well. I remembered the ambiguity of my feelings when I was ordained a high priest several years ago -- the first time someone other than my father had laid hands on my head and performed such a service. And now I would be ordaining my elder son and my father's name would not appear in his Melchizedek priesthood lineage. The result was a second ambivalence: pride and wonder and respect for this young man who was in some ways a stranger even though he has lived in my home for nearly nineteen years; and a reminder of emptiness when I recalled how my father would have felt had he been able to assist.
Later that night, I was struck by the intensity of the experience, by the flood of memories that compressed nineteen years into a few moments as I laid my hands on his head and spoke words I hadn't known I would speak, and welcomed him into the priesthood that we now share. I wanted to write something for him, but at the same time struggle to suggest the intricacy of the experience. Here is the result:
Beneath rough hands, a
Lips and tongue form
A Changed Man
Let's Get This Show on the Road
Orson Scott Card
Nobody actually takes road shows on the road anymore, do they? And in some stakes, road shows have gone the way of the dinosaurs and the dance festivals and the speech festivals. They've drifted into a vague memory of a time when teenagers actually worked hard and prepared to perform for a ward or stake audience. Nowadays if you actually are preparing for a road show you have to beg and plead (or rant and rave) to get the basketballs out of the gym -- er, I mean, cultural hall. Hardly worth the effort. Right?
Except that after our last road shows, the mother of three of our performers took my wife aside and said, "I want you to know how much our kids loved doing the road show. The whole time it was in rehearsal, it's as if they couldn't talk about anything else. And my older son has been getting compliments about his singing. Me, I'm just stunned that he sang a solo in front of an audience at all."
As we directed the road show, we watched kids who were painfully shy -- so shy they wouldn't even sing in the try-outs -- start to relax and have fun, until finally their performances became far more flamboyant and funny. Then, in performance, the audience actually laughed at the right places, and these kids were hooked. The audience loved them! They were a success!
We watched kids who could barely carry a tune work hard until they were on key at least as often as your average Broadway performer.
We watched kids whose voices were soft learn to belt out songs at the top of their voice.
And then there were the natural performers, the kids who took to acting, singing, and dancing as if this was what they were born for. Some of them were the very kids who are always humiliated playing basketball, since they aren't particularly gifted athletically. But the approval that the basketball or Scouting programs never gave them now was theirs, and they loved it.
No, road shows aren't outmoded. They are a wonderful once-a-year chance for kids to learn poise and stage presence, to cut loose and cut up in front of an audience, to stretch their talents, and to shine in a different activity. But you have to do them right.
Preparation. That means you have to have a good show. I know this is obvious, but it's often overlooked. Every coach knows that kids lose heart if they never get a sense of playing well, but many youth leaders have the ridiculous idea that road shows will be fun without regard to quality. Nonsense. If kids have to perform in front of an audience in a play that is embarrassingly bad, they will hardly regard this as a thrill. Instead, the idea of doing another road show will make them ill.
But making sure of a good road show has less to do with talent than with more accessible virtues. First, adult leaders must keep on top of the road show and not procrastinate. Get the script written months in advance. Plan before each rehearsal what the rehearsal will accomplish. Call everybody and make sure they have rides to the rehearsal. Make sure the music people know where the songs go and have plenty of time to rehearse the music with the cast. I know these things should go without saying, but many a road show collapses in ruins precisely because the adults dropped the ball.
Then you have to make sure you have, not necessarily a brilliant script, but one that the kids believe in. This year, grimly determined not to write another road show myself, I gathered together in my living room all the volunteers we could muster from the ward. There, together, we brainstormed story ideas. My main function was to keep the naysayers from nipping every idea in the bud (you know who they are, the ones who always say, "That's dumb," when somebody comes up with a thought, until finally nobody is willing to say anything).
After a few hours, a consensus about the story emerged -- what should happen, the general flow of events. Only at this point did I allow practical concerns to interfere with creativity, putting the kibosh on furbelows that would have been utterly unstageable or that would have run us wildly beyond our budget or that would have made the stake president's face explode if such a thing had ever been done on an LDS stage ...
Then, when all were in agreement on what the road show was about and what the basic storyline was, we finally assigned the actual writing. Several people volunteered to put particular scenes on paper. And one young man, who had already proved his enthusiasm by writing some sharply funny lyrics, was assigned to put all the scenes together and write everything else.
When the script was done, half the youth in the ward felt as if they had played a part in creating it. Those who really wanted a chance to write had a chance to show their stuff. And since half our cast had been on the writing committee, they would be getting onstage to perform songs and scenes that they had helped create. They believed in the show.
Casting was easy -- our script had far more parts than we had actors to fill them, so there was a lot of doubling up and everybody had plenty to do on stage. But I laid down the law from the start: "My job as activities committee chairman is to make sure that you look good up on that stage. I won't let a show go on if it isn't good. I've cancelled productions two days before performance, so believe me, I'm not joking. If you work hard and come to rehearsals, you'll do a great job. But if the show is a mess, nobody but us will ever see it."
Timely reminders of this helped maintain discipline. "Hey, goof off all you like. But no audience has ever said, 'Well, the show may be lousy, but I'll bet they had a lot of fun during rehearsals!'" They kept their perspective -- someday we're going to have to do this in front of an audience! -- and as a result, our cast was memorized the first week and by the time of performance, the show was so tight you couldn't squeeze a sneeze between the lines or you'd miss something.
So that's the first part -- making sure the show is good. But the second part is almost as important, and if you do it wrong, it can undo all the good you did by preparing well.
Validation. There was a day when road shows were competitions. Judges would watch the shows and return with evaluations like "Superior," "Excellent," "Good," and "Fair."
This method is deplorable. Basketball has winners and losers with every game, but art has no need of such a thing. It's possible for every show to be excellent, and the brilliance of one show doesn't interfere in any way with the chance of any other show to shine. So why should any kid go home from the road shows feeling as though his "team" lost? And why should the participants in one show be given a motive for wishing for other wards to do badly?
By performing many shows on one night, we already get an unavoidable element of competition -- some shows will win over the audience better than other shows. So the judges should be there, not to proclaim winners and losers, but rather to reward excellence with public recognition -- and to do it without making anyone feel put down.
Our stake has long had policies that help achieve this goal; I think there are ways to refine the system even more.
Money Matters. First, you have to remove financial competitiveness. This is especially important in stakes where some wards have members with a lot of money or with access to special services (for instance, our ward has one member who manages a costume shop -- but for the road shows, we don't "borrow" any rental costumes because that wouldn't be fair). Our limit is a flat $20. Now, we know that there's always some fudging on this -- people donate a bit of this or a bit of that, and if it were all calculated together it would go over $20. But no road show is allowed to look as if more than a sawbuck were spent on it.
What makes this possible is that many years ago, the stake built a bunch of painted plywood boxes: a dozen 2x2x2 cubes, a half dozen 2x2x4 blocks, and a couple of 2x2x6 beams. These boxes are available to every ward -- they only need to arrange them however they want on the stage. They can represent furniture or a mountain or a steamboat with equal ease. This doesn't mean that nobody builds sets -- one of the road shows this year made a great bunch of "houses" for the three little pigs out of available materials, including a lot of painted cardboard. But by and large all the road shows start from the same financial level.
Judging. Now comes the tricky part. If there were no way to use judges noncompetitively, I'd be all for abolishing them. But as the Oscars, the Emmys, the Grammys, the Tonys, the Pulitzers, and the Nobel Prizes all show, giving awards provides a powerful sense of validation. It's a tool of encouragement that is not to be thrown away lightly.
At the same time, every award you give is one that is not given to somebody else. This is why the best judging I've seen is the judging that never, ever uses the word "best" or any of its equivalents. That means that no award should be given that carries with it the implication that anyone who didn't get it must have failed. And words like "best" and "superior," when used in the judging, carry those implications every time.
In our stake we have no award for a show as a whole. Instead, awards are given only for components of the show. You can give awards for script, for lyrics, for music, for singing performance, for acting, for directing, for participation, for enthusiasm, for comedy -- but not for the overall production.
Also, the judges make a serious effort to make sure that no ward goes home empty-handed. Yet nobody is fooled by "consolation prizes." So instead of filling in a bunch of predetermined awards, the judges look at the road shows and notice anything that stands out as particularly excellent; also, they try to determine where each road show put its greatest efforts -- what they tried hardest to do.
Even the most terrible road show has something that they tried hardest at, or at least some individual who deserves special recognition for talent or accomplishment or good humor. Then the award categories are devised to fit the actual accomplishments of the shows.
This year we still made one mistake -- we still used the word "best." This has the unfortunate result of allowing only one award per category. I hope that in the future we can get our judges to used the word "outstanding," in which case the decision to recognize one supporting actress doesn't mean that another one, almost as deserving of recognition, must be ignored completely
This mustn't be carried too far, however. No award is credible if everybody gets it. But by having the chance to give two or at most three awards in a few of the categories, the judges can see to it that the truly outstanding work in every road show is recognized. While there will still be an element of competition, every cast member can feel that he or she was part of a venture that received recognition from the judges. Nobody loses; everybody receives validation.
This sort of award-giving requires real thought, and that means real time. I remember all too well the endless waiting for the judges to make up their minds. So our stake found a solution that we have carried on ever since:
We judge the dress rehearsals.
I can imagine some of you shuddering, remembering truly horrible dress rehearsals. And even if all goes well, a dress rehearsal is not a performance. There's no audience. Judges, concentrating on being analytical, can completely miss things that the audience absolutely loves.
But the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. Each ward is given one hour in the stake center on the Saturday of performance. Since road shows are under fifteen minutes, this gives them a chance to have two run-throughs, getting used to the stage setting and working out the last-minute bugs. Then the judges are brought in for the last fifteen minutes of that ward's hour, and that is the rehearsal that is timed and judged. (Shows that are a few minutes over are not penalized; egregious overtime leads to the director being asked to cut a few minutes out of the show to bring it nearer to the time limit.)
The judges have to be heroes, of course. We do give them a lunch hour, but they pretty much spend their whole Saturday watching road shows. Then they spend that evening watching the final performances. All the award certificates have been filled out, and the prizes (this year, beribboned bags of chocolate kisses) are ready to go. Only if something goes surprisingly well in performance -- one actor really comes alive, or the audience falls apart laughing at a show that the judges didn't realize was so funny -- are additional awards created at the last minute.
This way, the awards can be presented immediately after the end of the shows. And when they are presented, nobody has to feel sullen or resentful or hurt. People can rejoice in each other's successes.
In addition to the awards determined by the judges, there could be additional awards, given by the stake but determined by each road show's director in advance. For instance, a Personal Growth Award for the individual in each cast who achieved the most improvement during rehearsal. Or the Professionalism Award for the cast member who set the best example of arriving on time, working hard, and helping and encouraging others.
If the preparation and validation are well-handled, road shows can be a good and memorable experience for our youth -- and a wonderfully satisfying experience for the audience. Outmoded? I don't think so!
I spent a number of years inactive, due partly to my wife's insistence that we couldn't afford to pay tithing, and partly to some other things in my past life that made paying tithing important to me personally.
My wife had been called to print the program/bulletin for sacrament meeting, and had been doing so for a couple of years. When she had the opportunity to take our two children on vacation for six weeks to stay with her parents in Utah, I agreed to print the bulletin for her while she was gone.
It became obvious the first Sunday that I would either have to deliver the programs myself, or impose on someone else to take them for me. Since asking other people to do things for me has about the same effect as chewing tin foil, I decided to deliver them myself.
The second week of my wife's absence, two things happened: first, I got laid off from my job, and second, my laser printer, on which I had printed the ward bulletins, quit printing. This second happening meant I would have to print the bulletin on regular paper on my dot matrix printer and then take it to the chapel to be photocopied. I decided that since I was going to have to go in and use the copier, I might as well attend sacrament meeting.
The third week of having to print the bulletin on the dot matrix and copy it at church, I was standing in the copier room, waiting for the machine to finish, when one of the sisters in the ward came in to copy something. Her son and mine went to school together, and were in Cub Scouts together. So, as is often the case, she knew my son and wife, although she and I had never actually met. She asked me how my wife and kids were and eventually it came around to the point where she asked me how work was going, and I told her it would be going a lot better if I was actually employed, and I explained I had been laid off.
She then told me that her husband had been laid off from his job for many months and had just recently been offered a position with a university 90 miles south of where they currently lived; they were going to have to move. She then related to me how, when she had first learned of her husband being unemployed, she became very depressed, almost to the point of being immobilized by the sheer weight of the depression, and that the only way she was able to overcome this oppressive feeling was by starting to read the scriptures, specifically the Book of Mormon.
I had not mentioned to her that when I first became unemployed I had spent days sitting on the couch wallowing in self-pity and depression. I had attempted to be as upbeat as possible while I was at church, mainly because of how I felt about asking other people for help, and "knowing" that as soon as the Relief Society found out I was unemployed, they would immediately want to be doing something for me -- bringing meals over or something. I was doing my best to avoid that.
But somehow even without knowing it, she had known just what to say, she had known just what I needed, to bring me back from the edge of, at the very least, severe depression, if not worse. I went home that afternoon and started to read First Nephi. The next day, I returned the half dozen library books (some by and some about Einstein) that I had checked out the Friday before, only one of which I had finished reading. By the following Sunday, I found that I was no longer spending the majority of my time sitting on the couch feeling depressed and reevaluating my life.
That following Sunday, I went not only to sacrament meeting, but to priesthood meeting and Sunday School as well. Somewhere along the line I started praying again. At first I prayed at night before going to bed, and then after a while I began to feel a need to pray also in the morning when I got up; and there were times when I thought the two were going to become one, with no going to bed in between. Needless to say, I had a lot to pray about, and a lot to ask forgiveness for.
Before I realized what had happened, I was not only active in the Church again, but also growing and progressing in the gospel in a way that had never happened in my life before, and I was enjoying it. All this because a sister in the ward "just happened" to say the right thing at exactly the right time. I became very close to that sister and her family during the several months that followed, and although I am still not employed, I will never again in my life sink to the level of despair I had reached, and I will never stop loving that wonderful sister and her family for helping me find my way out of that abyss.
And if you want to believe she "just happened" to say the right thing at the right time, that's up to you. I would like to think that maybe there was a bit more than random chance at work there; of course, I also believe that I have a Father in Heaven that actually cares what happens to my life, and I am grateful to him for that. This is certain: What we say can have a profound effect on the lives of those around us.
I have been one of the instructors for our elders' quorum for about three years now and I have used many things to supplement the study guide and the scriptures in quite a few of my lessons. I have read poetry by Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson. I have read fiction. I have shown bits and pieces of movies like Anne of Green Gables and Glory. I have read whole articles from the Ensign and essays on such subjects as suicide, the brain, and mythology. I have quoted the likes of Hugh Nibley, Richard Restak, Thomas S. Monson, Joseph Campbell, B. H. Roberts, William Shakespeare, Robert L. Heilbroner, James E. Talmage, George Howe Colt, and William Saroyan.
Nothing has been of greater help, however, in terms of supplementing the scriptures, than the Oxford English Dictionary (OED).
I think the OED offers the most comprehensive definitions available for the words of the English language. The OED even places words in all their historical contexts.
I discovered its value as a help with the scriptures one Sunday as the quorum was discussing the Holy Ghost when one of our members said, in effect, "You know, I don't think the Holy Ghost is always with us. I mean, even if I was good 99 percent of the time -- which I'm definitely not -- I still don't think the Holy Ghost would be right there beside me, looking over my shoulder, camped out in my heart, whatever, 99 percent of the time. I think he's going to leave me to myself from time to time, maybe just to see how I'm going to handle things, or see if I'm going to call on his help. I know the scripture says he's our constant companion when we're worthy, but I don't buy it."
Well, that comment caused quite a stir. And I couldn't come up with an immediate reply, which is rare for me. I don't usually get caught in front of the class with a stupid look on my face.
As soon as I got home I looked up "constant" in the OED. What a revelation! Here are the nine definitions:
1. Standing firm in mind or purpose; steadfast, unmoved, resolute.
2. Steadfast in attachment to a person or cause; faithful, true.
3. Firm in opinion, certain, confident.
4. Of things: Remaining over the same in condition, quality, state or form; invariable, fixed, unchanging, uniform.
5. Math and Phys. Remaining the same in quantity or amount under uniform conditions; retaining the same value throughout an investigation or process.
6. Of actions, conditions, processes, etc; Continuing without intermission or cessation, or only with such intermissions as do not interrupt continuity: continual, incessant, perpetual, persistent. (Three other meanings were listed as obsolete.)
That list of definitions enriches the possibilities implied by the idea of the Holy Ghost as a "constant companion."
I have since used the OED several more times as a help for my priesthood lessons and personal study. It has even contributed to settling a dispute or two. For instance, a few weeks ago I said to the quorum that Satan was in control here on the earth, quoting D&C 1:35. Some of the brethren balked at my statement. Defining "dominion" helped settle the issue.
Words have meanings, but the meanings change over time. Seeing all the overtones of the prophets' and translators' words can bring new light to the scriptures.
Sister Higgins's Little Guide to
Part 2: Thou, Thee, Thy
It's easy to know when to use thou and thee instead of you. We use thou and thee when we're talking directly to the Lord, and the rest of the time we don't! Thus we can end a prayer by saying "in the name of thy son, Jesus Christ, amen," but we would end a talk by saying, "in the name of our brother, Jesus Christ, amen." What causes people real fits is knowing when to use thee and when to use thou. I used to think that thy as a possessive, was easy -- until I lived in a stake where the dear sweet stake relief society president and her husband used the word thy for everything. "We pray that thy will bless us ..." I finally realized that they had got this grammatical atrocity from a misunderstanding of the phrase "thy will be done." Think about it.
I think the clearest way to learn how to use thou, thee, and thy is by analogy. We usually keep track of the difference between I, me, and my without a problem. We'd never say, "Give I this day me daily bread." Nor do we often confuse he, him, and his. "Give his that book at once! It's he book!" No, not likely.
So all we need to remember is to use thou in places where we would use I or he in a sentence, and to use thee where we might use me or him. For instance, in a prayer you want to say "We ask you to bless us." Thee or thou? Just try changing the sentence and see which word you'd use. "We ask he to bless us?" No, it doesn't sound right till you say, "We ask him to bless us." Therefore, since him sounds right, you'd use thee in second person.
Or suppose you want to say "We ask that you extend your mercy to your children who are suffering from famine." Change it to third person: "We ask that him extend his mercy"? No, it has to be "We ask that he extend his mercy." And, therefore, you would use thou.
Eventually this will become second nature to you, but for now, just remember "me-thee-him." Or even think of it as a piece of music: "The Me and Thee Hymn." (Oh, I'm so embarrassed.) That will help you remember that wherever you would use me or him in a sentence, you will want to use thee.
As for thy and thine, you use them exactly as you already use my and mine.
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