Cubs Scout Program Changes 2015

Cub Updates 2015I’ve spent the last couple of weekends doing Cub Scout training! 2015 is bringing some changes to Cub Scouts and we wanted to get a handle on the implications of these changes for our Cubs. If you want to go through all the details, it’s all available online here.

It’s a lot of information! I don’t know exactly how these changes will play out, but there is one minor difference with LDS Dens because our boys join and depart Dens based on their birthdays not based on the school year. This means that every Cub is at a slightly different place as far as rank advancement. It also means that not every Cub will be finished with their rank by June 1, when the program changes.

We are hoping and encouraging our Cubs to finish up by June 1 if possible! It will be easier for everyone. If we have Cubs who have birthdays between now and June 1, our Den Leaders are going to try to do overlapping activities that will help with rank advancement for both the old and new program. There are a couple of great charts from which show the overlapping activities. I’ve saved them into a PDF below.

We also want our parents to know about the new program, so I wrote the flyer above to share. We also included important Ward Cub dates for the rest of the year. I thought I’d share it here just in case the rest of you guys are trying to figure out all these changes too! I saved it in Word so you can add or adjust it if you need to.

The one thing we’re not talking about with our parents but that you need to know is that LDS programs are grandfathered into the new program. We don’t think this is important because of the way our Webelos and Arrow of Light programs work. It might be important for your ward: there is an exception for the LDS Cubs. Our Cubs have until June 2016 to finish their Webelos or Arrow of Light using the old program. Just FYI.

So, for example, if you had a child who turns 10 on March 8, they could begin working on their Webelos and Arrow of Light in the current (soon to be old) program. If they finished both in one year like our Cubs do, then by March 8, 2016 they could still be awarded their rank advancement (with the “old” program requirements) and then begin the LDS 11-year-old Scout program. I discussed and cleared all this information at the Pow Wow I attended last Saturday! June 1, 2016 is the end of the “grandfather clause” period for LDS Cubs. After that point, only the new program will be valid. You can always find more at

Feel free to leave any questions in the comments. I don’t know everything, but I have really been digging in: I watched the training webinars and attended a local Powwow with a training class just for the new Cub Program. I’m not a Cubmaster or Den Leader (just the counselor in Primary over Cubs) but my interest all along has been on the implications specific to LDS groups, our budgets and limitations.

Baptism Preview Ideas


Baptism Preview

It’s been a busy month in Primary! We rearranged classes for the new year, shifted around opening exercises, started an Articles of Taste memorizing program, and held both the Priesthood Preview and Baptism Preview! I’m looking forward to sharing several of these projects with you. Today I’m going to recap our Baptism Preview.

The Baptism Preview is generally an evening program (think fireside) for children who are turning 8 and their parents. It’s often held in January to help prepare everyone for the ordinance of baptism and answer logistical questions to help with planning. The Baptism Preview is not in the handbook! So it’s definitely optional. My opinion is that when a Primary has three or less children turning 8 during the year, baptism prep information is better communicated one-on-one, from the Primary President, without a Baptism Preview program. But when there are many 7-year-old children, in one ward, it’s nice to address common questions and create a sense of community and celebration together.

In our ward we have a class of twelve 7-year-old children plus four children who are meeting with the missionaries in preparation for baptism. We invited all of these children to the Baptism Preview, so we were careful to keep in mind that some children were planning a baptism around their eighth birthday while others were preparing for baptism with their families or on their own individual timeline. We held our program at our Stake Center in the Relief Society room because it is the room with the font: most of our children will be baptized in that very spot.

Our stake has plenty of “children of record” who are baptized, so there is generally a stake baptism every second Saturday of the month. The stake provides the first part of the program, providing musical numbers and an introduction in the chapel. Then individual children use the font for their individual baptism and adjourn to a third room for confirmation and closing remarks. Two of my children have been baptized with this kind of hybrid program. If your stake doesn’t have this kind of system set up, there are detailed guidelines for organizing an individual baptism in the Handbook, found here.

Baptism Preview programHere’s a copy of our Baptism Preview program (I took out the names for privacy). We tried hard to keep the program short and simple. My *favorite* thing that we did last night was to streamline the Auxiliary Introductions. To start off with, a Baptism Preview is a way to share with parents and children the doctrinal foundations of baptism as well as what to wear, how to get baptismal clothing, what the bishop’s interview is like, and how to plan a baptismal program (what parts the family is responsible for and what parts the Ward or Stake Primary will help with, etc). At some point, Cub and Activity Day Leaders began to attend and introduce their auxiliary programs. It also makes sense to discuss Faith in God because it begins at age 8. That’s a lot of logistical info!

My Primary President had a genius idea which helped keep the focus on the ordinance: we had our auxiliary leaders stand and smile during the program but they did not speak! They each set up tables in the back of the room. After the program, parents and children were able to have refreshments, mingle and ask questions about the programs.


Baptism Preview TablesYou can see their tables above. The Cubs Scouts and our Activity Days leaders set up small tables with a few fun activities to share. We are also lucky (so lucky!) to have someone called to help administer our Faith in God program. She’s starting with the Articles of Taste program I shared earlier which will help the kids get the Articles of Faith memorized. A Stake Primary leader also attended with some baptism clothing for the children and families to check out.

Keeping this information available but separate from the Baptism Preview program itself meant that our Primary president had plenty of time to share the story of Captain Moroni. We were able to show the children how a baptism would work (a “dry run” with an experienced father to show the children where to put their hands and how to bend their knees). We also showed the families the connecting bathrooms and changing rooms in preparation for their own baptisms. And then, we had plenty of time (and attention) left for the Bishop to share his testimony and feelings about baptism.

I’ve never seen a Baptism Preview done quite this way before and I loved it! It was much easier to keep the attention of the kids (and parents) and it rightly keeps the content of the program focused on the ordinance of baptism.

We also gave each of the kids a packet of info with upcoming Stake baptism dates, contact info and all the logistical details on exactly what to expect in putting together a baptism for their child.

Plus! Cute refreshments. White on white on white.

About half of the wards we’ve lived in have held an evening Baptism Preview. One ward held it on the same evening as the Priesthood Preview! My opinion is that this is also something that could be held during church if you live in a geographically distant ward (check with your bishop). I’d love to hear about it if you’ve planned this evening in a different way! Please share in the comments.



I Know This…

I Know This

My dad left the church some time during my childhood. I can’t pinpoint the year and I don’t think he could either. He left in his heart long before he got his name removed from the records. When I hit my late teens, he made sure I got a healthy dose of “straight talk” about Mormonism. In conversations in the car, at the end of weekend visitations with my sisters, or on long walks, he’d slip in stuff about polygamy, sunk-cost Mormons, feminism, and the Mountain Meadows massacre.

By the time I married my conservative, orthodox husband, I was pretty comfortable with where I stood with many of the big sticky issues of Mormonism. I settled a lot of dissonance for myself, on my own. I decided to wait it out on a few thorny issues. And there were one or two that I simply packed away. Placed on a shelf, even though I feel a bit ambivalent about that old analogy. I knew that by choosing to marry Randy I was choosing a life of fairly conservative Mormonism. I knew that was what I wanted for myself. I guessed that the route was the way I’d be most happy raising my children.

It has been the right choice for me. And for us. I’ve loved staying close to our faith. Together we’ve softened a lot of the black and white stances to a more compassionate gray. And I’ve moved more orthodox in other places. But we’re getting old enough that we’re starting to see that many promises that were made to us as children have been fulfilled. We are seeing the spiritual fruit of some of the smaller choices (sacrifices, without defining that word too tightly) of our younger years. Some of the questions that were in my “wait and see” pile have been answered. And wholly.

I still read broadly about all things Mormon. I read pro-Mormon blogs. I read anti-Mormon blogs. The most interesting blogs I read dance through the middle.

I’ve been thinking about this all lately as my church is reshaping its delivery system to fit the ways new technology is changing the way we all consume information, make decisions about information, and think about information. What is real and what is true. Sifting through mounds of data has become second nature in this connected age.

The massive information consumption means that I come across true things and false things every day. Sometimes these things are about Mormonism. What I have noticed is that the True Fact you read doesn’t usually neutralize the False Fact you’ve read. Sometimes you won’t know for quite a while which one was True and which was False. Defining True and False, certain or uncertain, knowing or believing… these intellectual pursuits provide an engaging distraction. But sifting through the facts, the True and False, won’t build a testimony.

And here is my point. The hard won cliche that took me nearly 40 years to learn. The only thing that builds a testimony of Jesus Christ is service. Serving in Cub Scouts. Sunday School. Primary. It doesn’t matter where you’re working. Moving ward friends on a Saturday. Signing up to drop by a meal. Showing up to hold a hand or a baby. Setting up chairs for a funeral. This kind of service wipes the dust from your eyes, gives you the clear vision you need to make the judgment calls you’re going to have to make as a Mormon with a mature faith. Reading and studying more will not give you the depth you are going to need to determine the Truth.

I don’t know why this is so, exactly. I’m not sure I have a scriptural reference or a GA quote to back it up (though these guys here, here, and here are definitely related). I just want you to know that I know it. And I want to encourage anyone who is wondering where to start when it comes to sifting through the piles of True and False. Start with service. Work hard, until you are tired. Sign up for stuff at church. You don’t need a calling to serve. Just start showing up to help. The more you show up, the more you’ll notice other places you could show up. You’ll figure out pretty quickly where you like to show up, how you can serve most meaningfully. Do more than you think you should have to. There is no them, there is only us.

Keep sifting if you want. It doesn’t really matter, as long as you have an open heart. If you keep serving and keep an open heart about your questions, you will sleep well at night.

This experiment won’t take six weeks or one year: it’s a 5-10 year plan. But I think it’s the only way that works. Serving helps you see what’s true. You start to know what’s right. It probably won’t feel conservative or liberal, black or white. It will just feel right, in your gut. Serving trains your gut to know what’s True and what’s not.

All the sticking points, all the biggies, all the shelves and the questions. All the reading and the talking and the blogging. Nothing can resolve the questions but service.

That’s one thing I know for sure.

The 13 Articles of Taste

13 Articles of Taste General

My Primary President had the great idea to plan a party to reward our Primary kids for memorizing the 13 Articles of Faith. It’s going to be an ice cream party, and for each Article of Faith they memorize they “earn” another topping for their sundae! We were brainstorming how to keep track of it all and we thought it would be fun to have each kid add a topping to an ice cream poster every time they passed off a memorization. But then we did the math and figured out that would be over 1,000 toppings. No poster is big enough!

13 Articles of Faith class posters

Instead, we’re having each class work together. The memorization program is called The 13 Articles of Taste. Every class gets a poster (just the size of a standard sheet of paper). Every time the class passes off an Article of Faith, they can add an element of the sundae. I designed each class poster with a different back ground, so that when all 9 of our classes are finished with their sundaes, they can hang their completed poster in the Primary room and they will make a cool, bigger poster together. You could also hang them horizontally, in a row.

13 Articles of Faith Class Posters 2


Some of the older classes pretty much have the Articles of Faith already memorized, so they are essentially done. Other classes can take their time. Junior Primary classes (like the Sunbeams and CTR 4 classes) can pass of Articles of Faith based on something simpler: repeating together or saying big words like “repentance” or “transgression.” We’re not requiring the younger Junior Primary classes to have all 13 truly memorized :) We are leaving it up to the teachers to decide when they have qualified for the topping.

13 Articles of Taste Class Posters 3

I really like that this kind of memorization encourages classes to work together in memorizing. We were lucky enough to have a Faith in God specialist called, so she will be working to track the program. But you could easily enlist the help of your teachers to spend 5 minutes on this every week in class until they are completed.

I printed all of these full color, full page prints at Kinkos! I didn’t want to burn through my ink cartridges. It cost me about $17. I also laminated them at our local teacher supply store for only $4. But I think it would work fine without lamination.

Here are the toppings! The weird puffy one is supposed to be whipped cream.

13 Articles of Taste SundaeI sized them so they will fit into the sundae dish. There will be some overlap. Yep, they do take some time to cut out! But this is a memorization program that will last for several months (all year, for some Primary groups).

And here’s a blank one. You could do this for a Primary class or FHE if you like.

13 Articles of Taste Blank

We already decided we need a copy of the 13 Articles of Faith posters to study in this color scheme! I’m working on them. Stay tuned. I’ll get them up later this week I think.




Martin Luther King, Jr. Ideas

Martin Luther KingLast year I put together a simple Family Home Evening for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: click here to check it out.

We’re taking a quick road trip with our boys today. My husband had the great idea to share a few Martin Luther King songs while we’re in the car. I love this one from U2, MLK. And of course, there’s U2’s Pride. Perhaps we’ll just have to introduce the kids to the whole Rattle and Hum album.

I also like this one from, I Have a Dream.

But my favorite thing to listen to on Martin Luther King Jr. Day is the I Have a Dream speech. All great multi-media resources to make your day just a bit more meaningful.

Join the LDS INstitute Group

I love this vintage find because of the graphics, especially the typography on the title here.

Institute1Because you’re joining Institute, but you’re also joining the “in” crowd. Get it?

Institute completeThe text feels surprisingly relevant! It is a little dated, here and there (the “in group”) but most of the rest of it reads exactly like something the church might be using in the current Institute brochure. It’s the images that I love most.

Institute 3 Institute 2

And one more image, from behind the fold.

Institue fold3

Why Does a Loving God Allow Bad Things to Happen?

My sister, Kjerstin Ballard, gave this talk over the weekend in her ward in Texas. I am so happy that she generously allowed me to share it here. I like the way she writes and thinks! Her talk makes my heart sing. Her testimony is battle tested, deep and broad. The only thing that would make me happier than reading it is hearing her deliver it. I love this woman.

I think you’ll enjoy the talk, too. There are plenty of fantastic links to scriptures, talks, and books, so if you’d like to delve a little deeper, there is plenty available at your fingertips. Enjoy!

Talk from Kjerstin Ballard

I feel really honored to speak this morning. I have maybe never seen the bishop as visibly excited as he was when he gave me this topic and I hope I do it justice. He asked me to speak on a talk by John Bytheway called “Five Scriptures That Will Get You Through Almost Anything” In the talk, Brother Bytheway starts with an old and persistent theological conundrum: why does a loving God allow bad things to happen?

He says, “We’ve seen it all, from international terrorism to the breakdown of individual families. Innocent people, even children, are not spared. Why do these things happen?”

This question persists, I think, both because evil persists in the world and because it’s a question we all have to re-answer in different ways throughout our lives. The answer for one person won’t be sufficient for another, and the answer we find as a teenager doesn’t often hold water as we grow older.

Which is why I like where Brother Bytheway goes: in answer to this thorny question he provides a list of scriptures that remind us of basic truths of the gospel. I won’t review them all here, but they’re worth looking up.

First, from Nephi we’re reminded that God loves us–“I know that he loveth his children;” he confides to an angel, even as he admits “I do not know the meaning of all things.”

With Enoch, we learn that God allows knowledge and agency which can translate, to even God’s distress, into evil: “Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency;”

Alma teaches us about the power of the atonement: “And [Christ] shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.

And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people”

And, through the D&C, we’re reminded that one day we will know more than we know right now: “Yea, verily I say unto you, in that day when the Lord shall come, he shall reveal all things— Things which have passed, and hidden things which no man knew, things of the earth, by which it was made, and the purpose and the end thereof.”

I want to address some of these concepts a little more closely at the end of my talk, because my aim and his are ultimately the same: to challenge all of us to reevaluate the compelling reasons that we believe, and to remember the ways those reasons tie us back to Christ. But first I want to look at the underlying assumptions of the talk. What he’s asking is: what, in the face of the difficult realities of this mortal experience, which we chose knowing it would be difficult, can we hold fast to? Even more basic than that, the compelling message of this talk is: when things get hard, we have a choice to make.

Continue reading…

Art History and the Nature of God: A Come Follow Me Curriculum Teaching Idea

I feel kind of silly posting a teaching idea for the youth curriculum because I’m not teaching there right now. I haven’t been in Young Women’s since just before they switched to the new curriculum. But I noticed that the content for this month is related to the Godhead, and it reminded me of a lesson that I taught to a combined group of Young Women a few years ago. I thought I’d share in case anyone needs an idea for class.

Art History and God

It was the first week of the year and I had just placed a new picture of Christ in our Young Women’s room. The topic was about the nature of God and, on top of all of that, I had a bright laurel who was taking AP Art History. We had made a goal to include a laurel or two to help with the teaching anytime we had a combined Young Women’s class. The result was this lesson on art and the nature of God.

I gathered 2-3 dozen Gospel Art images of Jesus Christ or God (Joseph Smith’s First Vision is important to include) and put them up at the front of the room. I grouped together the images by artist, so we had a big group from Harry Anderson and Del Parsons, but I worked to include images from as many other artists as I could.

To start with I talked about our new picture of Christ. It was a detail of The Wise Young Ruler by Heinrich Hoffman (center left, above) and I talked about how I chose that image because it is one of my favorites. I like the classic depiction of Christ, the light of his face, and the light behind his head reinforces the idea of Christ as divine. We talked about which images of Christ are favorites for the Young Women.

I introduced the idea that artists have been depicting God since the very beginning of time. Sometimes these images are to help encourage worship of Him. All kinds of artists in many different cultures represent their God in ways that feel correct to their culture. (At this point I had our Laurel come up and talk about images of Christ and God in art history–there are some really fascinating articles about it on Wikipedia. Ideas about how some religions ban the depiction of God to avoid idol worship or out of reverence, etc. You can go deep down this well or keep it brief depending on the group you are teaching.)

Then we discussed that no matter why or how artists depict Christ, the consequence is that these images affect the way we think and feel about God and Christ. For example the picture of Joseph Smith’s First Vision communicates many doctrinal truths. We see that God and Jesus Christ are two distinct beings, that they look alike, that Christ is standing on the right hand of God, that they seem “light” or white, and even what they are wearing. So it’s important that the images we choose are communicating the right message!

I asked the young women if any of them had an image in their mind when they were praying. I asked them if any of them could describe the image they imagined. Several of them mentioned the image of Christ in a red robe by Del Parsons. I mentioned that even if we don’t have on concrete image in mind, sometimes we sort of have a person in mind when we are praying to God: like a father or grandfather. And that sometimes we blend together the human characteristics of a human person with the nature of God. In some ways this is good because it helps us relate to God in a more real, concrete way. In other ways, it’s complicated because no person can ever be as perfect as God. So if we have a dad who is very loving but impatient in some ways, we can start to think of God as somewhat impatient. So it’s important to be careful about that.

But we are lucky as Latter-day Saints that we have so much in the scriptures and so much that is revealed about the nature of God. Then we read a bunch of scriptures about the nature of God. The Come Follow Me curriculum has a couple of great lists, including:

Genesis 1:27 (Man is created in God’s image)

Matthew 3:16–17; John 14:16; Acts 7:55–56; 3 Nephi 11:4–11; Joseph Smith—History 1:17; Articles of Faith 1:1 (There are three members of the Godhead)

Luke 24:39; John 1:14; D&C 130:22 (Two members of the Godhead have physical bodies)

John 17:21; 1 John 5:7; Alma 11:44; D&C 20:28 (The Godhead is united as one)

Psalm 82:6; Moses 1:39; Abraham 3:22–26 (Our divine potential is to inherit eternal life)

Luke 15:4–6, 11–32; John 3:16; D&C 18:10–15 (The worth of a soul is great)


I took notes on the chalkboard about what we can learn about the nature of God through the scriptures and closed with my testimony.

It worked well for our group of young women. Obviously, you’d want to adjust it to be a fit for the group you are teaching, but I think the idea of using gospel art as a way to discuss the nature of God is a nice fit for the Come Follow Me curriculum.

Super Simple Tip: Teach the Plan of Salvation with Play-Doh

plan of salvationI think the picture says it all! Four colors of Play Doh helped turn the standard Plan of Salvation lesson into a multi-media experience. The class I was teaching at the time was 10 years old, so they already knew the lesson. We reviewed the basics (and I gave them each one of Courtney Aitken’s excellent printables, found here) and then I just turned over the Play Doh to see what they would come up with! It was fun.

As an aside, this class benefitted greatly from having a table. I eventually replaced the smaller classroom table you see above with one large, long, dining table. We had lots of room for projects, scriptures, and coloring. It also helped the kids keep a respectful distance between each other. If your class is really rambunctious you might want to try it out.