Monday, November 25, 2013

Liahona Lane

What about the man in China? Temples and Family History

By Sister V. Johnson

Pictured: A man in China
In order to enter the Kingdom of God, you have to have faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repent, be baptized by someone holding Priesthood Authority, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end. That's all fine and dandy if you live in a nation with religious freedom and missionaries that are allowed to knock on your door. But what if you're a poor man in rural China who lived a good life, but died without ever finding out that Jesus Christ exists? Is he damned for eternity? Nope!
In the afterlife, we'll either go to a spirit paradise or spirit prison, which is a lot like a spirit school. Jesus Christ opened the way for missionary work to go on in the spirit world so we can learn about Him even after we've died. So if this man in China would have accepted Christ while he was alive, he can accept Christ after he has died. God is just and fair and gives this opportunity to all His children, no matter where they live.

Hamilton New Zealand Temple
However, accepting Christ isn't enough. We have to be baptized and make other covenants in the temple, and these can only be done while we're alive and have a body. That's where we come in. At the temple, we perform saving ordinances for and in behalf of our deceased ancestors. They still have the same personality and their agency to accept or reject the work we've done for them. We can't force anyone, alive or dead, to be a Mormon or a member of Jesus Christ's church. But it's important that they at least have that option.

This is why it's so important to do our Family History. You have ancestors waiting to get their temple work done, and they're eager for it to be done before the Millennium -- tomorrow if possible.Get started finding your ancestors so their temple work can be done. So visit your local Family History Center today! Even if you can't get started on your own family history just yet, you can help others do theirs by volunteering to do indexing. Soon, you will feel the Spirit of Elijah working in you!

Family History is Fun!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Reach a Wider Audience

We're not in this for the popularity.

But some good numbers would be nice. Just like we don't use the key indicators for recognition and advancement, hits and comments will mean nothing if we're just trying to be popular online. However, higher numbers reflect the work we're putting into our blog and the people who can be touched by the message of the Gospel.


You have friends. Use them: A blog's popularity is based on the number of people that look at your blog, stay there, and leave comments. Start out by sharing your blog on your Facebook page, and even sharing posts with specific friends. Then ask your friends to share your blog with their friends. Get your ward involved too. In Clayton M. Christensen's The Power of Everyday Missionaries, he describes the roles of different online missionaries. Some wrote the blogs, some commented on them to create discussion, and some shared the blogs with other people. We need all three of these roles to make blogs successful.

Participate on Other Blogs: Help out your fellow missionaries by sharing their blogs on your Facebook page as well. You can even help the discussions along by leaving comments. As you help others, others will be willing to help you.

Gadgets and Widgets

These are the little applications to the side of the posts that are kind of fun to use. I'm trying to find and use as many gadgets and widgets as I can find on this blog. Don't use that many. You don't need to overwhelm your page. A few will help your readers interact a bit more with your blog. I've put as many as I can up so you can get some ideas or just take the ones you want. If you have a widget that I haven't used, please let me know in the comments.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Write With the Spirit

The Spirit is in Charge

Of the Plates of Nephi, Mormon said, "But behold, I shall take these plates, which contain these prophesyings and revelations, and put them with the remainder of my record, for they are choice unto me; and I know they will be choice unto my brethren. And I do this for a wise purpose; for thus it whispereth me, according to the workings of the Spirit of the Lord which is in me. And now, I do not know all things; but the Lord knoweth all things which are to come; wherefore, he worketh in me to do according to his will. And my prayer to God is concerning my brethren, that they may once again come to the knowledge of God, yea, the redemption of Christ; that they may once again be a delightsome people." Words of Mormon 1:6-8 See also vs. 3-5 Emphasis added.

A blog is kind of like writing a mini Book of Mormon. These are our testimonies, experiences, and revelations. Since we are writing about spiritual things, we have to let the Spirit do part of the work.  In the scriptures, we're promised that the Spirit shall give us what we shall write, or dictate to us, if we write with meekness.

I've found that the difference between me writing a blog post and the Spirit writing it through me is astounding. When I've prayed about a subject, studied it in the scriptures, and given it the time it needs, I find my writing flows much better. It just pours out of my pen instead of being forced out. I am so much happier with the post I've written. That's not to say when the Spirit is helping you, writing the post is easy; it still takes work. The results, however, are far better.

The Power of the Spirit

Our readers must feel the Spirit when they read our blogs, just the same as when we teach. It doesn't matter how good of a writer you think you are; the Spirit will still carry the truth to your readers' hearts. Even Nephi didn't think he was that great of a writer.

One of the best ways for investigators to feel the Spirit is for you to bear powerful testimony, which they can read on your blog. Don't hesitate to share it. "Powerful testimony is not dependent on eloquence or the [size of your readership] but on the conviction of your heart.... Bear testimony often to seal the truth of the principles or doctrine you are teaching." Preach My Gospel, Ch. 11 pp. 198-199.  

To write with the converting power of the Spirit, follow these guidelines given in Preach My Gospel ("Write" substituted for "Teach"):
  • "Be edified and have your mind enlightened as you search the scriptures and [write about] the doctrine.
  • "Create a climate when you [write] in which the Holy Ghost can bear witness. You do this by [writing] and testifying of the message of the Restoration. [Write] as directed by the Spirit, and testify that you know by the power of the Holy Ghost that what you [write] is true.
  • "Follow the guidance of the Spirit in adapting the message to [your audience's] needs.
  • "Invite people to act. Their faith will grow as they repent, obey the commandments, and make and keep covenants." Preach My Gospel, Ch. 4, pg. 92.

Writer's Block

Do you suffer from Writer's Block? Do not fear, for we have the greatest secret weapon to combat this foe of writers everywhere. It's called the Holy Ghost.

If you don't feel good about the post you've written, don't post it. Jesus Christ told Oliver Cowdery, "But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; therefore, you cannot write that which is sacred save it be given you from me." Doctrine and Covenants 9:9 

Your next post will come. Just drop what you've been working on for way too long, pray about a new topic, and let the Spirit testify to you what Heavenly Father wants you to write.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Teaching Skills

The Work Your Audience Won't See

Before a missionary hits the streets, they spend two weeks in the Missionary Training Center. On their mission, every day before a missionary goes out to work, he or she studies for two hours, practices how they will teach, prepares for lessons, and role-plays. In between lessons, missionaries evaluate what went well and what they can improve.  There is a lot of work that goes on before a missionary actually knocks on a door.

My Purpose as a Blogger is...

Nephi told us at the start of the Book of Mormon, "For the fulness of mine intent is that I may persuade men to come unto the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and be saved. Wherefore, the things which are pleasing unto the world I do not write, but the things which are pleasing unto God and unto those who are not of the world. Wherefore, I shall give commandment unto my seed, that they shall not occupy these plates with things which are not of worth unto the children of men." 1 Nephi 6:4-6 Nephi began by giving us his purpose in writing the Book of Mormon.

Of course we have the same purpose as every other missionary. But as bloggers, we must present doctrine and our personal experiences in well written, easily accessible, and personable form. We want to reach as many people as possible so the right people who need our words can read them and feel the Spirit.

Teaching Skills

How to Begin Teaching: Explain to your audience what your blog is all about. Create an "About" Page, write a blog description, give your posts labels or tags. This is essential for you and for your readers because if you can't explain your blog's niche simply, they won't understand it either. The best blogs are ones with a more narrow purpose. Ironically, it is a lot easier to write when you have given yourself restrictions. Ask yourself some questions: What is your blog about? Is it about you and "whatever?" Is it on a particular, specific topic? With your blog's current description in mind, can you come up with ten post ideas in the next minute?

Adjust your Teaching to Meet Needs: Be different. Be concise. Be relate-able. Be yourself. You can't write to please every single person on the face of the earth. Just do your best because if your write it, someone will like it. 

Teach With Your Companion in Unity: Look to your right. Or left. If your companion is not there, bring them over. This is your editor, sounding board, and possible guest-blogger. Congratulate them for accepting this new calling that you just volun-told them for.

Invite Members to Help you Teach: Get your ward to comment on your blog. On the actual blog. Comments on Facebook don't do you any good. Members are also good for guest posts.

Use the Scriptures: If you need inspiration, the Book of Mormon is the best blog ever. Really. Link to the scriptures in your posts. It will give power and authority to what you say. Preach My Gospel says to Introduce passages of scripture, read them, and then apply them to the investigator. This would make for a great blog post.

Teach for Understanding: Most newspapers are written at a 6th grade reading level, not because they're written by sixth graders, but so that the general population can understand it. You don't have to write to a super simple level, but make sure that most people can understand it. Also, shorter posts are better. Online, attention spans aren't very long.

Ask Questions: Create some discussion with questions. Make it as easy as possible for people to leave comments. Questions also invite people to act. Also, asking questions is a great way to come up with post ideas.

Listen: It's kind of hard to listen to people online unless they comment. But you can also watch your traffic stats to see what's more popular with your readers and the rest of the world.

Leave Something Behind: Let people know what to expect, such as when you'll post next, what you'll write about next time, or even just what you tend to write about. It's a good idea to have a list of ideas for posts, or even a few posts saved as drafts in case you fall behind. 

Dress Code Applied

The First Impression

Missionaries have a strict dress code that allows some room for creativity. No missionary will look exactly the same as another, but they all look neat and polished. In the same sense, all our blogs are going to be different, but they must be put together and professional. These are some guidelines to work within so that you can do so.


Online, people are picky, judgmental, and have no attention span. If they don't like the look of your webpage or have to put too much effort into understanding the content, they are out of there. Usually, this verdict takes 5-10 seconds. An element or cause that regularly annoys web viewers and makes them automatically leave a page is called a Kickout. There are a few we can avoid.

Wall of Text
Interfering Background
Fancy Fonts
     Comic Sans (Personal opinion, but if I see it, I'll punch your blog in the face)
Web 1.0 Look
     Text changes fonts or colors
Media That Doesn't Load
Bad Spelling or Formatting
Automatically Playing Sounds or Music

Style Guide

Newspaper writers have a book called the AP Style Guide that tells them what to capitalize, what punctuation to us, how to list a birthday or address, how to refer to organizations ... It is often referred to as The Bible. By following the AP Style, news articles are clear, informative, uniform, and politically correct.

These are some guidelines to follow so your blog looks better. This short list is by no means comprehensive, and may change from time to time as I think of stuff. Once you have figured out your blog's style (fonts, colors, formatting...) stick with it. You can certainly break these rules, so long as you understand the principle behind it and have a purpose for doing so. 1 Nephi 4

Headlines, or Post Titles: Short, but descriptive. Eye catching. Try out a few different versions before you pick one.

Body/Post: 3-5 paragraphs long. It should be long enough to cover the essentials, but short enough to keep it interesting. Longer posts are fine, but make use of the page break feature. 1 Nephi 9:3-5

Font: Easy on the eyes. Online, Sans-Serif fonts are easier to read. Text should be formal in the body of post, but can be fancier for titles.

Pictures and Media: Change up your posts! They are good to have above the 'fold' of the page, or the first part of the page people see before they scroll. Media needs to load easily.

Links: Noticeable, but not detracting. Use them to cite your statements of doctrine. Have them open to a new page. PMG p. 106

Dignified Language: No typos, no grammar goofs, don't be too casual.

Preview: Useful for catching mistakes. Always always always preview before you post.

URL: Make it easy to remember.

About Me: Fill it out, make it look good.