Sunday, August 12, 2018

A Senior Missionary Opportunity

In 2015, I finished 40 years as a computer programmer. For the last 20 of those years, I was developing and enhancing credit union software to manage assets and liabilities, income and expense, debits and credits, payables and receivables.

Beginning April 1, 2016, my wife and I served 26 months in the office of the New York New York South Mission (now the New York City Mission). She was mission secretary and I was finance secretary.

Accounts receivable and accounts payable

Receivable: When a business sells goods or services on credit, the purchaser becomes indebted to the business for the amount of the purchase and the unpaid amounts—not yet received—are accounts receivable.

Payable: When a business buys on credit things to sell (or stuff to make things to sell), the deferred payments for those purchases are accounts payable.

The Missionary Department provides amazing computer support for accounts payable, but leaves missionaries to their own devices when it comes to collecting accounts receivable. In fact, collecting receivables is, by nature, more difficult and takes more time than payables because the collection process involves sending periodic notices to the debtor and a receipt each time a payment is received.

Accounts payable in LDS missions

During our 26 months in New York, I paid more than 2,500 rent invoices and more than 3,200 utility bills—plus other miscellaneous invoices. Preparing those payments was fast and efficient because the process is computerized by the Missionary Department's IMOS (Internet Mission Office System), making entry quick and easy, and virtually eliminating human error.

Not so with accounts receivable.

Receivables and missionary prepaid debit cards

On the payables side of missionary support cards, monthly funding is automated by IMOS. However, during our 26 months in New York, I encountered hundreds of other questions and problems related to these prepaid debit cards.

Often, the missionary simply needed help understanding his or her card balance. Fortunately, the bank provided office staff access to missionary account histories which allowed me to quickly resolve these issues.

But sometimes fraudulent transactions were discovered on a card and sometimes the card was lost or stolen. In these cases, I would call the bank and they would cancel the card and issue a new one.

According to policy in our mission, when a card was cancelled, funds were added to the companion's support card for the support of the cardholder while waiting for his or her replacement card.

On the receivables side of missionary support cards, when the replacement card arrived, the temporary support loans had to be repaid from the cardholder's account.

Tracking the collection of these receivables was handled external to IMOS because IMOS isn't designed to manage missionary debit card loans (receivables).

Traffic and parking fines as receivables

In our mission, some fifty missionary companionships drove Church-owned cars which were registered to the Corporation of the Presiding Bishop with the mission office as the mailing address. During our time in New York, the mission office received notice of more than 150 traffic and parking fines from courts in the New York City area.

The policy in our mission was to pay these fines immediately and then collect the amount paid from those missionaries assigned to the vehicle at the time of the violation. This resulted in more than 300 accounts receivable. Again, the tracking and collection of these fines had to be done external to IMOS because IMOS isn't designed to manage traffic and parking fines as receivables.

Mission processing of payables and receivables

The number of temporary card loans and traffic and parking fines to be collected was small compared to the number of payable items. But without receivable software, these accounts were the source of more frustration and mistakes than all of the payables combined.

Even today, hundreds of senior missionaries assigned to mission offices throughout the world have to invent their own solutions for handling receivables. Those without accounting background are unaware that the rest of the world has receivables software and, being unaware, they just bravely press forward without complaint.

The resulting lack of complaints has the Missionary Department believing there is no problem. Nevertheless, IMOS could and should process receivables just as efficiently as it does payables and it is unfair to senior missionaries who could use receivables software for the Missionary Department to withhold it.

Yes, Virginia, missions have receivables

During my first month in New York, I asked mission support in Salt Lake City about the lack of accounts receivable functionality in IMOS. The answer given was that LDS missions do not sell goods or services and, therefore, have no accounts receivable.

This logic is the result of a superficial analysis, based solely on the fact that missions don't sell goods or services. In reality, however, mission offices do have accounts receivable, in the form of support card loans and traffic and parking fines as discussed above.

This will not be a quick or easy fix

The lack of accounts receivable in IMOS is a design flaw. The omission traces back to a lapse in the original planning for the mission office system.

The addition of accounts receivable to IMOS is long overdue. It is the correction of a fundamental error in the original design of IMOS.

It is claimed that the Missionary Department budget is too small to accommodate this project, therefore, very little can be done at this time to fix IMOS.

The cost to correct this oversight is not a valid reason to perpetuate the error. The Missionary Department can provide the best estimate of that cost but, for discussion purposes, we will use the large, round number of one million dollars.

Where will the needed funds come from

Reuters is a London-based news agency with worldwide offices. In a 2012 news article, Reuters reported:

"Relying heavily on church records in countries that require far more disclosure than the United States, [Ryan] Cragun and Reuters estimate that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints brings in some $7 billion annually in tithes and other donations." (See "Mormon church made wealthy by donations".)

"Seven billion dollars annually" (six years ago).

The funds are in the Church's overall budget

Seven billion dollars is one million dollars times seven thousand. Consider this simple illustration. A standard ream of copy paper contains 500 sheets. Fourteen reams contain 7,000 sheets.

Let us use a stack of 14 standard reams of copy paper to represent the estimated donations received by the Church in one year. Let a single sheet of paper, removed from the top ream, represent a budget of one million dollars set aside to correct the IMOS receivables design flaw.

It would require special equipment just to measure the difference in weight or height of our 14 ream stack of copy paper before and after removal of that single sheet of paper.

In other words, compared with the Church's income for a single year, one million dollars is relatively insignificant, especially in view of the Church's long-term commitment to missionary work.

The Missionary Department budget will be adequate after the correct allocation of available funds. The only thing lacking is a solid commitment from the Missionary Department to fix IMOS. And the sooner the better.

In the meantime, there is a senior missionary opportunity for couples willing to manage mission finances without IMOS accounts receivable.

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Sunday, April 22, 2018

A bug in thousands of LDS.org links to scripture

[Friday, November 2, 2018. The scripture references in many general conference talks appear to have been corrected. It can be done. When will it be done?]

[This discussion pertains only to browser based LDS.org and not to any version of the Gospel Library App.]

General Conference talks quote scripture. On LDS.org the scripture references are linked to the online standard works.

How it looks when it works

In this example, we will see how these links are supposed to work.

  1. Go to the main LDS.org menu.

  2. Select Scriptures and Study > Study Helps > Topical Guide.

  3. On the Topical Guide alphabet bar, click the letter G.

  4. Scroll down and select the topic "God, Foreknowledge of."

  5. Find the phrase "called … according to the foreknowledge of God."

  6. Click the link for Alma 13:3.

The screen will jump to chapter 13 of Alma. Verse 3 will be highlighted and centered vertically on the screen. This is the intended behavior.

How it looks when it doesn't work

Thousands of scripture links in General Conference talks jump to the correct chapter, but do not display the correct verse.

You can see this for yourself. Lookup President Russell M. Nelson's April 2018 Priesthood Meeting closing address. At the end of the talk, click "Show References." In footnote 12, click the link for Alma 13:3 (the same scripture verse we looked at previously).

This time you see the chapter heading for Alma 13 instead of verse 3.

So what exactly is the bug

To see the actual bug, we compare the two address bar contents:

a. Topical Guide link
a.    https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/alma/13.3?lang=eng#p2
b.    https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/alma/13.3?lang=eng#2
b. General Conference link

Notice the lower case "p" just before the "2" at the end of the Topical Guide link (the link that works).

Now go back to President Nelson's April 2018 General Priesthood Meeting talk and click on the footnote 12 link again. When you see the chapter heading, navigate to the browser address bar, manually add the missing lower case "p" just before the "2" and hit enter.


LDStech: Now that you've seen this bug, could you please fix it?
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Saturday, July 30, 2016

Out of Zion shall go forth the law

The Prophet Isaiah was shown the establishment of the United States Constitution. He prophesied that the U.S. Constitution would be the pattern of government for the whole world, "for out of Zion shall go forth the law." (Isaiah 2:3.)

Harold B. Lee explained: "I have often wondered what the expression meant, that out of Zion shall go forth the law. Years ago I went with the brethren to the Idaho Falls Temple, and I heard in that inspired prayer of the First Presidency a definition of the meaning of the term ‘out of Zion shall go forth the law.' Note what they said: ‘We thank thee that thou has revealed to us that those who gave us our constitutional form of government were men wise in thy sight and that thou didst raise them up for the very purpose of putting forth that sacred document [the Constitution of the United States—see D&C 101:80]....

"‘We pray that kings and rulers and the peoples of all nations under heaven may be persuaded of the blessings enjoyed by the people of this land by reason of their freedom under thy guidance and be constrained to adopt similar governmental systems, thus to fulfil the ancient prophecy of Isaiah that "out of Zion shall go forth the law and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem."'" (Ensign, Nov. 1971.)

Ezra Taft Benson, as President of the Church, affirmed that Isaiah did prophesy about the U.S. Constitution: "The coming forth of the Constitution is of such transcendent importance in the Lord's plan that ancient prophets foresaw this event and prophesied of it. In the dedicatory prayer for the Idaho Falls Temple, President George Albert Smith indicated that the Constitution fulfilled the ancient prophecy of Isaiah that ‘out of Zion shall go forth the law' (Isaiah 2:3). He said:

"‘We thank thee that thou hast revealed to us that those who gave us our constitutional form of government were wise men in thy sight and that thou didst raise them up for the very purpose of putting forth that sacred document [the Constitution of the United States].'" (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson.)

Dallin H. Oaks has pointed out that "the United States Constitution was the first written constitution in the world [and] it has become the United States' most important export. After two centuries, every nation in the world except six have adopted written constitutions, and the U.S. Constitution was a model for all of them. No wonder modern revelation says that God established the U.S. Constitution and that it 'should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh.'" (Ensign, Feb. 1992.)

Are we maintaining the U.S. Constitution and keeping it where the Lord put it, for the rights and protection of all flesh?

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Thursday, June 30, 2016

All things denote there is a God

This post was taken from the July 2016 Ensign, inside front cover. The photograph of the Milky Way was taken from Jackson Lake, Wyoming, USA.

Milky Way

All things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.

Alma 30:44

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Monday, May 30, 2016

Creation: By God's hand or by evolution?

During more than a decade of blogging, I've discussed evolution with faithful and committed Mormons who believe that the world was created and peopled by the big bang and evolution.

Scripture, however, doesn't support that point of view. According to scripture, God was directly involved in the Creation. For example, He said, "I, the Lord, stretched out the heavens, and built the earth, my very handiwork; and all things therein are mine." (D&C 104:14.) The apostle John introduces Jesus as "the Word" by whom "all things were made ... and without him was not any thing made that was made." (John 1:3.)

So, it seems to me that if God can make stuff without being directly involved, as some people claim, then so can I. In fact, using that approach, I created the building pictured below.

It's true. I created this beautiful building. Here's how: Every day for three years, I drove past this street corner on my way to and from work. In the beginning, it was just an empty field. But using a policy of strict non-interference, I checked up on its progress twice a day every Monday through Friday for the entire three years that it was under construction.

In other words, I created the above building. Of course, all I really did was watch. But that is exactly what certain LDS evolutionists believe God did. He just stood by quietly and watched, while the big bang and evolution created the world and everything in it.

Elder Neil L. Andersen said recently:

"The Lord declared, 'I am able to do mine own work.' (2 Nephi 27:20.) ... Under the direction of His Father, He created this world. 'All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.' (John 1:3.) As we are spiritually awake and alert, we see His hand across the world and we see His hand in our own personal lives." (Ensign, May 2015.)

I believe Elder Andersen. I believe it's important to see God's hand in the Creation as well as in our personal lives.

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Saturday, April 23, 2016

Dallin H. Oaks affirms NDBF

According to LDS doctrine, there was no death before the Fall. The creation was paradisiacal. There was no mortality. Death for all forms of life began when Adam fell.

During the April 2016 general conference, Dallin H. Oaks affirmed the doctrine of no death before the Fall. He said: "Adam and Eve ... made the choice that introduced mortality." (Ensign, May 2016.) "Introduce" means to bring something into operation for the first time.

In the October 1993 general conference, Dallin H. Oaks said: "It was Eve who first transgressed the limits of Eden in order to initiate the conditions of mortality." (Ensign, Nov. 1993.) In this case, "initiate" means to cause something to begin.

The English definition of "mortality" is the state of being subject to death. Therefore, according to Dallin H. Oaks, there was no death before the Fall.

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