Sunday, June 29, 2008

Signs of the Times

Two interesting items from church this morning, both of which relate to the family:

Bishop read the latest letter from the First Presidency this morning that dealt with California's struggles to keep marriage defined as being between a man and a woman. Given the overwhelming majority that passed Proposition 22 in 2000, it is an especially grave thing to have a majority of the California Supreme Court reject the voice of the voters in allowing same-sex marriages in this state. The Church is strongly encouraging us — as it always does when the family unit is under attack — to do everything we can to support the new ballot initiative that will make the traditional definition of marriage a constitutional amendment.

In a related discussion, our 5th Sunday lesson in the 3rd hour was a Bishopric discourse on the dangers of texting among our youth today. The visible problem is that the kids are seen to be texting during the passing of the Sacrament, and even during events such as Bishop's firesides. Our Bishop said today that there are few things as frustrating as trying to talk about deeply spiritual topics and having one group of kids laughing at something that someone else had just texted to them from across the room.

But the visible dangers pale in comparison with the more hidden problem: the content of those messages. Texting is a (pardon the seeming contradiction) disconnected form of communication that gives the texter a feeling of anonymous power. This means that kids will do and say outrageous things using their phones (or, of course, their computers) that they might never have done in person. Bishop disclosed that some of the things these kids are doing to each other are downright pornographic in nature, and that the problem is steadily increasing.

I call this a related issue because, as with most social activities, the boundaries that our youth observe should be well established within the family unit long before they get turned loose on their social networks. If a righteous set of parents are working together to set reasonable limits on what kids can and (more importantly) cannot do, it becomes more difficult for those kids to wander outside of those boundaries as they get older.

Notice I do not say "impossible." I'm no fool. My own experiences as a parent remind me that every child has his or her agency and will ultimately do what they decide to do. My job is to help them make the best-informed decisions possible, hopefully before they arrive at a critical junction.

Fortunately, Mrs. Woody and I do not live in a vacuum. We have both come from technophile backgrounds and fully understand the impact of the information age. It was, after all, the power of the internet that brought us back together after a mutual absence of more than fifteen years. We know as well as any expert in the field what dangers exist in this day of instantaneous communication. We have therefore established rules of engagement in this battle that have been in place since before our kids were born, and even in advance of the current craze of texting that kids seem to do 24x7 these days.

Our daughters are being raised to understand the need for privacy in their internet dealings. We have parental controls in place, obviously, but one of our counselors in the bishopric reminded us today that these are not enough. In fact, any tech-savvy teenager can overcome just about any form of parental control given time and privacy. This same counselor is a lawyer by profession and exploded for us one of the greatest myths under which parents seem to operate today. Too many parents, he said, seem to labor under the belief that once they hand their teenager a cell phone their privacy is somehow inviolable. This is nonsense. For as long as those kids live under your roof — and certainly until they reach 18 — you have every right and responsibility to understand what they are involved with. Pick up those phones, he advised, and read those messages. If your service has such an option, make sure you get reports outlining your kids' phone usage, including the content.

I agree with one of my co-workers who refuses to activate texting on his sons' phones. If it's important enough to communicate, he told them, you can take the time to dial the number and talk. Talking is somewhat less private than texting because it's easier for parents to listen. Even if we're only getting one side of a story, it's generally enough to help us know whether this is something that needs our attention before it gets out of hand. With texting it's generally already gotten out of hand before we even become aware of it.

When my Elders Quorum President told me essentially the same thing after the meeting this morning, it basically confirmed what Mrs. Woody and I had already decided. Our daughters will not become text addicts until they're old enough to choose that (and take responsibility for that) themselves.

I know that social "networking" is one of the new trends that everyone says will represent the world in which the next generation lives. I even understand what the benefits may be. But in order to benefit from this trend, controls must be in place in order to keep this new world from devolving into a full-blown anarchy.

So I will be pounding the pavement later this year to support the marriage amendment in California. I want to make sure that traditional families have all the support they need because, based on the discussion above, they're gonna need all the support they can get. This fight is a long way from being resolved. But it is a fight that requires my participation.

This is, after all, what Inner Dads do. They fight for their families.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Lesson 3

Oh, boy, this is embarrasing. The recorder stopped for some reason with about 20-25 minutes of lesson to go. Fortunately it saved the first 42 minutes, so I'm grateful for that. For those of you who happen to be my mother, I'll send my notes along under separate cover.

This lesson attempts to discuss the events of the births of John the Baptist and the Savior, including those which occurred in ancient America. Next lesson (July 9) will cover the period between Act I and Act II of "Savior of the World," which includes the Savior's childhood and his ministry leading up to the Garden Tomb.

Lesson 3 (Don't forget: QuickTime!)

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Lesson 2

This lesson moves into the historical backdrop in the 600 years immediately preceding the Savior's birth, including the annunciations of the angel Gabriel. Mini history lesson for the first half, then a discussion of why the Jews seemed to be so confused with the scriptures that foretold the coming of the Messiah.

Lesson 2

Friday, June 13, 2008

Lesson 1

This past Wednesday we had our first Summer Institute session and I'm pleased with the result. For those who happen to be related to me and may therefore find this of some interest, I recorded the session. Unfortunately I move around a lot when teaching, so I'm not always at the best position to be picked up by the mic. You may need good volume control when listening.

The lesson ran just a hair over one hour. When you click on the link below, you'll be taken to a file sharing service (no worries... this stuff is most definitely not copyrighted!), and you'll have to scroll down to see the download button. It's about 25MB, and will require either iTunes or QuickTime to listen ( or anything that supports MPEG 4 or M4A format).

Lesson 1

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Family Home Evening - Doodle Style

Mrs. Woody documented Jelly's first official Family Home Evening that she planned and executed all by herself a couple of weeks ago. Tonight was Doodle's turn.

Not unreasonably, she used the same sort of template that Jelly had created when planning her lesson. She created a basic agenda which included the songs, prayers, and a brief outline of the activities we would have. She taped this agenda on our entertainment center so we could follow along. (The girls are big proponents of "following along." They have a pathological need to read the cover of whatever DVD or video we happen to be watching, no matter how many times they've seen the silly movie! They can't stand it when Mommy and Daddy have "adult" conversations and they happen to miss a phrase or two because they have to ask us repeatedly what it was we were talking about while we repeatedly remind them - gently of course - that it's none of their business.)

Doodle got a bit of guidance from Mommy when planning her actual lesson, of course. Repentance is one of those topics that can only improve with age, and the first time out takes a bit of learning on the part of the teacher. Particularly when it comes to finding just the right object lesson. These are miniature females, I remind you, and they will all too soon be part of the doily-and-crocheted-table-cloth set in just a few short years.

Daddy got assigned to read a story from the Friend; something about muddy rain boots. The girls are not only avid readers themselves, but they love to hear stories. Doesn't matter whether you're reading to them, or making one up out of whole cloth, the girls love 'em all. Jelly has also reached that age where she peppers Mommy and Daddy both with questions about their pasts: "Daaaaaddy, when you were little did you...?" And of course this prompts another story where I have to admit that I did, which seems to give her no small relief. Whew! Daddy did that when he was younger! I'm not so bad after all!

(You may ask what, precisely, it was that Daddy did when he was little. It's none of your darned business, is what.)

(I seem to say that an awful lot these days, don't I?)

The object lesson (Jelly did the treasure hunt last time) involved Doodle's "Kerplunk" game. She couldn't find the actual Kerplunk marbles, of course, prompting Mrs. Woody to ask whether some repentance was in order. But we made do with some of those decorative — and decidedly UNround — marbles that people (who are not guys) generally put in glass jars. They don't roll well, but that wasn't the point of the object lesson. The point of the lesson was that the marbles represented the yucky feelings we have whenever we do something bad, and the sticks represented the process of repentance that help us to release those yucky feelings. Boy, when you get more than just a little trickle of bad feelings come crashing down into the tray, you're feeling pretty excited, I must say. In fact, when I got my first deluge of bad feelings, I began to wonder just how much repentance I might personally require, since I was apparently oblivious to those feelings in the first place.

The neatest part is when they get it. As Mrs. Woody and I listened to the banter after closing prayer as they shuffled off to put things away and play for awhile, we realized that they were using points they'd learned in the lesson whilst chattering with one another. It's similar to what happens when they read the scriptures (Mrs. Woody has them do this for 15 minutes every school day) and they begin to ask questions specifically related to whatever they happen to be reading at the time. And they're not just "what does 'iniquity' mean?" types of questions, either. Just this evening, for example, Jelly asked the question about whether heaven really exists. "After all," she said, "it all seems too wonderful to be real." It was one of those neat opportunities to bear your testimony to your child about the fact that, yes, heaven truly exists and it's just as wonderful as you can possibly imagine. That was all she needed to hear. Tomorrow she'll be back to reading about the Anti-Nephi-Lehies and smirking about the fact that she's farther along in the Book of Mormon than Daddy is right now. (Quite a bit farther, actually... I'm just starting Mosiah!)

So, good job tonight, Doodle! We all had a wonderful time in our Family Home Evening. Looking forward to next week!