Thursday, March 31, 2011


I am serving as a missionary in the Philippines. My trainer has taught me well and has shown me a wonderful example of an obedient missionary. I find out on Monday that in two days he will be transferring and I will be companions with an Elder to whom obedience is not priority, and I’m faced with the choice: Do I stay strong and true to the example my trainer set for me, or do I become complacent and go along with my new companion’s disobedience?
Regrettably, I made the wrong decision and chose disobedience, but thankfully that decision was short lived.
In my life leading up to this moment, serving a mission was a difficult decision for me. I was not sure if I could do it. I didn’t know if I could be that good. In the MTC and with my trainer in the field I was very obedient, but more out of necessity. The blessings and the Spirit were obviously placed in my life in the largest measure I had known in my life, yet I still was not sure if all that obedience is what I wanted. In the moment, my obedience was blind.
The major ethical issue in place here is my attitude toward covenants I made with God at the time I accepted my mission call to give two years of my life to Him and obey His standards, not giving up a minute. At the moment I had to ask myself, “How do I view my mission? How important is this time to me? How important is my time to God?” It was an obvious choice of right vs. wrong and the choice would reflect my devotion and the platform of testimony and faith I currently stood on.
I was one of the biggest stakeholders in this dilemma. The choice I made here would have an everlasting effect on my life and how I remembered my mission thereafter. How would this decision affect my testimony? How would it affect the rest of my mission? What affect could this decision have had on my salvation? However, it was not just my salvation at stake here. My decision could greatly affect my companion, the ward members, my investigators, everybody living in the area, and even go as far as affecting my future children.
The potential consequences for myself and others are monumental in this decision. For myself, it could have meant either a strengthened testimony and resolve to live the commandments for the rest of my life or an attitude that I am higher than the rules and don’t need to keep the commandments to remain happy. It could have fortified me against the temptations of the devil forever or make me weak and vulnerable, ruining the rest of my mission and potentially my salvation. My companion had the potential to see my example of obedience and change his attitude toward the mission rules, helping him to strengthen his testimony and get back on the right path. However, I chose wrong and it solidified him more in his ways and he continued in disobedience for the rest of his mission. Because of our disobedience trust from the members was lost. If we had chosen to work hard and be obedient, trust would have been strengthened and the testimony of members could have been strengthened and they could have been more inspired to share the gospel with their friends. Had I continued in my disobedience, I could have affected the missions of every one of my companions thereafter, including any other missionary I had influence over, possibly influencing them to follow me in disobedience. That being the case, not only my investigators would have been affected, but the investigators of every missionary that I had influenced. The salvation and conversion of investigators and converts would have been in serious jeopardy, whereas if I had chosen obedience, the investigators would have a better chance at feeling the Spirit from us and experiencing the full conversion process. The consequences of my decision could even impact the lives of my future children. If they were to ever ask about my dedication to the Lord’s work and my testimony of obedience, I couldn’t answer them honestly that I was a good missionary. That kind of response could have devastating effects on the testimonies of my children and their desires to serve the Lord. Based off of the consequentialist theories, I chose the wrong path. My decision, had it been carried on for longer than a couple of weeks, would have only had devastating results on everyone around me. To make the decision the consequentialist theory suggests would have been to remain obedient and help my companion to do so as well.
My chief obligation in this situation is to my Heavenly Father. By choosing the path of disobedience here I toss aside covenants I made with the Lord when I accepted my mission call as well as at the time of baptism. Doing so will lose the Lord’s confidence in me and result in a loss of the Spirit as well. My second obligation is to the wonderful Filipinos that I served. I needed to be choosing obedience in order for me to have the Spirit and the guidance essential for inviting them to come unto Christ. Without the strength of my obedience, the people in my area of responsibility were relying upon my own personal ability to teach the gospel. If I had my obligations in clear view when faced with this decision, I would have chosen obedience.
When considering the Mormon community I was born and raised in and the nature of the work I was doing. I definitely made the wrong decision. If my decision and following actions were published or made public I would have been humiliated and probably would have run off to hide and become a hermit. The things I did were in secret and I was ashamed of them. I would have lost any respect that my fellow missionaries had for me if they knew what I was doing. If I had been called to a leadership position in my disobedience I would have had no moral authority, and other missionaries were bound to have found out. When I realized the disparity between my character and integrity and the level they should be at, I realized with it that I needed to repent and made all the necessary changes.
Looking back now and seeing the stupidity of my decision, I still think it would have been very difficult to change my companion, yet I see a possibility for a few different solutions. Had I chosen obedience, I could have informed my zone leaders of my concerns and asked them to talk to my companion. Disobedience may not have even been a problem if I had simply chosen to be obedient and keep working hard; my companion may have naturally followed. If he were disobedient still and my zone leaders talked with him, I could have talked to my mission president if problems continued. Overall, I believe that at the time I perceived an external locus of control; I thought that because my companion was going to be disobedient, I had no choice but to do the same. I became aware of the problems I created, the consequences, and my obligations when I realized an absence of the Spirit from my life and when I found myself unhappy and seeking for more disobedience to make me happy. I was blessed to be able to recognize my situation as such and be in a humble enough state to repent and return to the correct path.
I have been blessed with a gut inclined towards righteous living and instincts to choose the right. I go against that gut feeling because of selfishness or a feeling of entitlement and that I owe something to myself. In this ethical decision my gut, along with my heart and soul, were sending up huge red flags that I should not choose disobedience. At the time I was prideful and felt that I had been obedient for a good time, and deserved some “fun”. It didn’t take long for me to realize the error of my ways, humble myself, and put myself back on the correct path.
Looking back on the situation I see how I went against what was ethically right. At the time I either was not aware or blinded myself to the ethical frameworks that one usually considers when making decisions. I was only considering myself, thinking I was entitled to a little “fun” rather than remembering my values, realizing the consequences of my decision, and recognizing my obligations to the Lord and the Filipino people. I hate that I made the wrong decision, and if I could go back I would change it in a second. By analyzing the situation and the ethical frameworks involved, it has helped me to see how making the obedient decision will be easier for me in the future.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

To my current employer

I work right now at the MTC in Provo and have worked there for a little over 2 years. Right now we are undergoing the biggest missionary curriculum change since the discussions were done away with late in 2001. This change is coming about because of lack of teaching skills displayed by the missionaries in the field at this time. It is being spearheaded by the bretheren, however there is some misalignment in the 7 S's model for the MTC in implementing this strategy.

The main goal is to better train missionaries to teach by the Spirit in order to invite others to come unto Christ. The bretheren have identified 8 "Preach My Gospel Fundamentals" that we are to focus on in teaching the missionaries. We teach these fundamentals in the missionaries' native language and mission language later in their MTC stay and have them practice teaching skills. As far as the structure, system, staff, shared values, and skills go, the MTC and all of the teachers seem to be pretty well aligned. We all want the missionaries to be more successful and become more skillful and powerful servants of the Lord. However, in strategy and style there seems to be big misalignment.

Currently I am the tutor for the language I teach, so I don't work with a district directly. I am required to attend 2 different training meetings each led by a different training coordinator. In my tutor training meetings we are taught that in helping the missionaries teach with the Spirit in their mission language, they need to stop worrying about what they are saying and how they are saying it and focus on the Spirit and what the Spirit wants them to say and what the investigator needs to hear. After they do that, the gift of tongues will be given for that missionary and investigator. In my teacher training meetings we're learning the opposite, however. We are taught that as missionaries practice teaching in the mission language they should be focusing on saying everything they want to say correctly. However, depending on the training coordinator leading that teacher training, they also emphasize focusing on the Spirit.

As a result of the misalignment of strategy (different steps leading to the same end result) and style (differing opinions on how to achieve the goal from management) teachers (especially those who are or have served as tutors) are confused on how to best help the missionaries gain the skills they need and teach with the Spirit. I have talked to many of the more tenured teachers and they all agree that they are already sick of this new curriculum and that it is being implemented poorly, causing confusion and frustration for the teachers. Because of this confusion and frustration we as teachers are reverting to whatever we have done in the past and the change is being opposed. We all agree that change needs to happen, we just don't think it can happen like this.

I have talked to a few people and I have an opinion on how to resolve all of this. Granted, I do not have the proper authority to receive the revelation (and I should probably just humble myself and sustain for now, but I haven't been called as a teacher so maybe I'm okay in my rebellious thoughts) but I think it would help solve a lot of problems:

Currently each district in the MTC has 2 teachers to teach them both teaching skills and language principles. there are 3 4-hour blocks in the day for missionaries. 2 of those blocks are used in instruction while the other block is for missionary study. Missionary study is needed and so is instruction, but in my opinion if the missionaries in the field are struggling with teaching, we need to get them to teach more here in the MTC. My idea is to take one of the teachers from every district and turn them into "Progressing Investigators" so that each district every day has 4 hours of instruction, 4 hours of study, and 4 hours of practice teaching. Missionaries can sign up to teach certain teachers as those teachers act as investigators finding the gospel who will have real concerns and pitfalls, just like an investigator would in the field. INstruction hours will focus on the necessary teaching skills and also language. This will help the missionaries rely on the Spirit more in their teaching while getting real-life (or as close to it as possible) practice with the teaching skills in their native language and their mission language when they're ready. Training coordinators will focus their trainings for the "progressing investigators" on how to help the missionary know when they are following the Spirit in teaching while teaching the instructor teachers how to help them gain the language skills and teaching skills in the classroom, and apply them to their progressing investigators.

I've put a lot of thought into this. I think it would solve a lot of frustration from the missionaries, teachers, training coordinators, and even the bretheren. But again, I don't claim to know more than the Bretheren, I just don't know if they've even thought of this possibility yet and I know they don't see the frustration and misalignment of the lowest-level workers: the teachers.

Friday, February 11, 2011

To Apple

Apple, kudos to you and your iPhone. I still don't own one, but I still envy those who do. Lets take a look at the market for the iPhone...

There are a lot of competitors when it comes to cell phones, but lets face it, no matter what Samsung, LG, HTC, or Blackberry do, they can't seem to match up with the iPhone. There is something special about it. There is definitely the threat of substitutes, but because you've differentiated your iPhone so well, you still dominate. In the past you've put yourself in the position where the iPhone was only available through AT&T, not giving your buyers a lot of power. Millions of people have switched to AT&T just to get the iPhone, and I am among them (though I still don't own one, I switched because of the warm fuzzy feeling I get knowing that I could easily upgrade when funds permit).

Apple, in your iPhone you have resources and capabilities that are very valuable to average consumers and businessmen. You've got the rare stuff that makes you dominant, and you've done SO well that although literally every competitor has tried to imitate and outdo the iPhone, consumers still crave the iPhone.

Although I did recently make the switch to AT&T, I love what you've done by opening the iPhone up for Verizon customers. You're opening yourself up to millions of people you didn't have access to before. Verizon customers no longer have to settle for HTC or Palm phones that don't quite measure up. They will be more than happy to pay for the coveted iPhone. Yes, you've sacrificed a little by giving the customers more buying power, but you really won't feel the consequences of that; AT&T and Verizon will.

You've set yourself up to capture even more market share in an industry where you were already envied. Yes, I am biased, but I have to ask myself: are companies still going to compete to outdo the iPhone, or are they just going to start competing with themselves to settle for 2nd best (as usual)?

Friday, January 28, 2011

To Hulu

I was gone when you were born, Hulu. As a missionary in the Philippines I had no clue you existed until I got home and decided I needed to catch up on the two years of Lost that I missed.

"What's that? FREE tv shows online? It can't be... I love you Hulu!" That is probably what everyone thought when you started in 2007. You gave the world a way to watch their favorite shows streaming online 24 hours after they premiered on the TV. Your business model was designed by the network bigshots to battle YouTube and take the internet video market by storm. By all accounts you've been very successful. I know you've changed the way I watch TV, and I think I can speak for the millions of others who use you. Over 1.5 BILLION (not a typo) videos were watched on you LAST MONTH and the numbers keep growing. You make your money by advertising. Surely you're making a ton.

You can understand my worry when I open the Wall Street Journal and read that you are considering changing your business model (again), turning yourself into a monthly-subscrition-only site that plays mostly live TV, AKA cable on my computer. To this I hiss and boo and I think it is a poor strategic decision.

The millions who use you monthly use you because we get to watch your shows, that we love and need, on our time table. I love Modern Family, for example, but I NEVER have time on wednesday nights to watch it live on cable. Because of you, I never have to worry about missing a week, though. I know I speak for the masses when I say that I just don't have the resources to be able to tell you that I can sit down in front of my tv or computer at the same time every week to catch a show. Today's world demands flexibility and your new business model will strangle that. By switching to a monthly-subscription setup you will lose millions of users, including me. I would go to Netflix in a heartbeat, because when it comes to subscription video, they dominate (AND they're commercial free, something you probably wouldn't do if you went to subscriptions, and nobody wants to pay to watch commercials on the internet). A subscription makes you the EXACT SAME as cable TV, meaning that people will either dump you for cable (or netflix, or both) or dump cable for you. Either way Hulu (since all you are is a conglomeration of the network hotshots) you're not going to gain many subscribers in the end. People will just choose one or the other.

I know I'm a biased, poor, college student, Hulu, but I think I speak for America when I say you're amazing just the way you are. Don't screw us Americans over just because you all think you're not making enough money as it is. You're doing fine.

Friday, January 21, 2011

To General Motors

Dear GM and new global product head, Ms. Mary Barra:

I've just been reading today's Wall Street Journal and I noticed that GM has been having some problems. Now, to be completely honest when it comes to American cars I'm pretty loyal to Ford, but I want to put in my two cents that may or may not be insightful for you.

I read that in 2007 40% of your sales came from new or heavily redesigned vehicles. This year you expect that only 12% of your sales will come from the same category of vehicles. I see this as a pretty big problem for you. I'm not very familiar with GM and your base strategy, but it seems to me that recently GM has tried to focus on driving innovation and meeting the demand of drivers everywhere for more efficient and safe vehicles. This drop in percentage of sales of new or heavily redesigned vehicles strikes me as a problem, and it reminds me of a problem another company that I am more familiar with once had: Apple.

Upon founding Apple, the CEO Steve Jobs said that he wanted to change the world through technology and innovation. Recent apparent GM strategy has shown me that this is possibly your goal as well. Like Apple in the 1990's, it seems like you have lost sight of this in recent years. When Steve Jobs came back to Apple in 1997 he made an impactful effort to return to their core strategy. It didn't take long for Apple to refocus this strategy and develop innovative new products that have led them to become the consumer electronic giant that it currently is.

It was once said that Apple was like a boat with a hole in it and a treasure on board with everyone rowing in different directions. The hole to me is the loss of focus on the strategy of innovation and as a result everyone loses their direction. The treasure of course is the potential for huge profitability. I see the same thing beginning with the GM boat in recent years. You are possibly losing focus on your strategy for innovation and people are losing their direction. You, as one of America's great auto makers, have an enormous potential sitting in your boat. To you, Ms. Barra and to the rest of GM, I suggest you plug your hole fast. Refocus on driving auto innovation and showing consumers what is possible with their cars and point the company in the right direction.

Live free, drive hard. Go America.

Monday, January 18, 2010

To 2010

2010, I gotta say, you've really been impressing me so far.

I know I sounded a bit cynical and pessimistic when I wrote about the new year, but don't worry, I wasn't taking it out on you. I was taking it out on the holiday.

Anyway, thanks 2010 for rocking so far. Classes are going well. They're a bit intense but I think that they'll be helpful and good for me in the long run. I really don't like some of the guys (aka pretty much all the guys but a couple) in my classes because they're punks and think they're all that, but that will be a good learning experience for me too. Overall I'm glad for the classes I'm taking, minus the $706 I spent on books this semester...

The weather has been awesome too. No snow as of yet. Lets keep it that way. At least here in Provo. I actually really want it to snow hard in the mountains every day.

And the reason I want tons of snow in the mountains is the next reason why I love 2010 so far! The return of snowboarding! Ah man I love taking off after doing some homework for a good night of snowboarding with Jeffy-Boy. Snowboarding freakin rocks, and because there has been lots of snowboarding in 2010 so far, you also rock 2010...

All these times I've let out some serious frustrations with dating. 2009 was a strange dating year for me for sure. However... 2010 has turned over a new leaf. Dating has been AWESOME! hahaha. yeah.

Nuf said 2010. You're freakin awesome. Bye.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

To New Year's Eve

First off, New Year's Eve, I don't know how to punctuate you properly. Is it New Years' Eve, New Years Eve, or New Year's Eve? Get on that and let me know...

So, you were yesterday. And I can't pinpoint the exact moment yesterday, but as I was really thinking about it, I realized you pretty much aren't that cool anymore. As a kid, you rocked and I loved it every time you came around because I got to stay up until midnight! I remember Y2K even and I got bored staying up that late because I was playing WWF Smack Down on my N64 all night while listening to the Willenium CD. These days, I go to bed around midnight every night. Your junk food appeal isn't there anymore either because I can eat junk whenever I want! (And I pretty much do).

You're like that kid in elementary school who everyone wants to hang out with at recess because you have the most Pokemon cards until finally someone realizes that you aren't cool anymore and all the sudden its 10 years later and you still have all those Pokemon cards.

You do have the wow factor still of being a new year. More so this last time because we rang in a new decade (which I still haven't decided between "twenty-ten" or "two-thousand ten").

Moral of the story is, New Year's Eve, you're just not that cool and it's about time someone told you. I don't need you to be able to hang out with friends until ridiculous hours of the night, just like I really don't care about that kid's Pokemon cards.

There. It's about time someone said it...