LDS Conference April 1971 – Meetinghouse Libraries and UX for Gospel Learning

Continuing our ongoing series retrospectively writing about sermons given in past LDS General Conferences, today we are looking at talks from the Priesthood Session of the April 1971 General Conference. Articles by other bloggers about this conference session will be included at the end of this post.


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Today in the church we take resources like teacher training and meetinghouse libraries for granted. It is really interesting looking back at when these programs were new to the church and get a glimpse into the reasons and ideas behind their introduction.

In the Priesthood Session of April 1971, in a talk titled “Prepare Every Needful Thing,” Elder Howard W. Hunter spoke about the progress of establishing resource libraries in every church meetinghouse to facilitate better teaching in the church. He explains:

The Church Library Coordinating Committee was organized in 1968 under the direction of the First Presidency and has been given the responsibility of coordinating the methods and procedures to be followed in all of the library functions of the Church. This committee supervises the meetinghouse library program, which has been in operation for only a short time. Details of the program were carried to all areas of the Church during the first half of last year.

[…]

The meetinghouse library program is now a permanent program of the Church to assist in better teaching of gospel principles. The quality of teaching will be greatly improved by the implementation of this library of instructional materials, and it will be needed in every meetinghouse. The statistics presented yesterday to the meeting of the Regional Representatives of the Twelve indicate that 72 percent of our meetinghouses now have such libraries. We strongly urge that those who have been slow in moving forward do so as rapidly as possible.

I admit that as a teacher in the church, I have often not used the meetinghouse library other than to pick up chalk and an eraser for the backboard, and occasionally to get artwork related to the lesson of the day. Looking back at the time when they were established, I think that my neglect has been a mistake.

Elder Hunter started out his talk discussing how salesmen and marketers use appealing visuals to engage and interest people.

Merchants tell us that customers are influenced to make purchases by the way products are displayed or by the way they are packaged. The color of the container, the attractiveness of the wrapping, or the shape of the package has an effect upon the consumer’s decision to buy. The visual image often makes or loses the sale. […] The same principle applies to the teaching of lessons. Good visual aids and instructional materials increase the interest and assist in the learning processes.”

I will be the first to admit that I have an inclination to be suspicious of sales techniques that seek to manipulate potential customers senses in order to make a sale. So my initial reaction to comparing Gospel teaching to a sales pitch is somewhat negative.

However, I work in technology, and concerns about User Experience (often abbreviated to UX) are very important. Good UX can help users comprehend information better, and navigate tasks in more intuitive ways. I recognize that good design and attractive presentation are valuable tools for improving user experience. Elder Hunter isn’t talking about dressing up a product in order to manipulate. He is talking about applying good principles of UX (though of course it wouldn’t have been called that at the time) to facilitate Gospel learning in the church.

In many ways, the technological resources that are available freely from the church today, like lds.org, and the Gospel Library and other apps for mobile devices, and the church’s online Bible Videos are a very real, modern extension of the meetinghouse library system established in the early 1970s. Some of my friends have been involved in the UX efforts related to these technologies.

I am thankful for this chance to look back at the origins of the meetinghouse library system in the church, and the resources that we have to help each other learn and apply the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Had I more time, I would also review with you Elder David B. Haight’s talk in the same session of conference introducing the teacher training program for the church. Also an interesting look at a program that we often take for granted.


Other bloggers writing about the Priesthood Session of the April 1971 General Conference of the LDS Church today:

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