Despite my propensity for nonconformity and insubordination, I did my best to assimilate when I went on a mission. I followed a lot of rules, even most of the ones that seemed unnecessary. However, sometimes my contumacious nature could not be contained.
One of the things I rebelled against was the encouragement to memorize. Much of the scripture memorization seemed to stem from a lack of creativity and depth in scripture study. After reading the stories a bunch of times, some missionaries seemed unsure as to how to proceed, so they started memorizing. Probably that is not an entirely charitable interpretation, nonetheless, I felt like I could spend my time much more profitably studying rather than memorizing.
No one really gave me a hard time about not memorizing scriptures, but I did get some jazz about not memorizing the discussions. Every now and then some companion or zone leader or AP would ask me how my memorization of the discussions was going and I would reply honestly. Not only had I not memorized the discussions, I was opposed to anyone doing so. I thought it was generally a detriment to teaching, rather than an aid. I remember arguing that we should be tailoring the message to the person we were teaching, not reciting a canned lesson. I argued that we should know the outlines of the discussions like the backs of our hands, but that we should put them into our own words, tell stories from our own lives, and follow the spirit when teaching.â€ I received a fair amount of resistance to these dangerous ideas, not by everyone, but not uncommonly either.
Fast forward to present day. They have since scrapped the discussions and introduced Preach My Gospel which emphasizes personalizing the message and teaching by the spirit. I am constantly floored by talks and lessons in which adults get up and talk about how we used to do a terrible job with flip-charts and memorized discussions, but now our missionaries are trained to do a far superior job in their teaching. I want to stand up and say “Oh, so now you get it. Why did you give me so much crap on my mission!”
In a related story, when I am prophet, you can expect to hear me stand up at the beginning of a Sunday session of conference to announce that the after Eliza Dushku offers the invocation, the choir will stand and sing Amazing Grace. I am sad to report that I have had several arguments with ward members about the appropriateness of this classic hymn. Some people feel compelled to come up with some justification for why it is not in our hymnal, even if they reasons they come up with are stupid.
But, mark my words, once I give official sanction for members to love Amazing Grace by adding it to the hymnal and having MoTab sing it at general conference, it will quickly become one of the most beloved Mormon‡ hymns.
Feel free to share any of your favorite things which people currently oppose like sheep, but which they would embrace if official sanction were given.
â€ Of course it is true that memorizing does not preclude those things, but I would argue that neither does it appreciably increase them. I served with companions who had memorized all the discussions and they would frequently recite whole paragraphs in their teaching. I didn’t find this to be particularly effective, even if it was perfectly acceptable.
‡ Obviously I mean that it will be beloved by Mormon people, but I’ll also change a couple of random words in the hymn as we are wont to do. That way we’ll be able to call it a Mormon hymn and when we sing it with gentiles we can have the “saints and angels” experience we all love at Christmas time.