My church’s website, lds.org, recently got a makeover. At first, I had a hard time finding things, but I pretty much have navigation down after a couple of months with the new site. And I must admit that it does look very nice now. Since we live in Tunisia, where there is no organized unit of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons), and most of our books are still in storage, I use the website quite a lot. And it occurred to me that some of the things I do there might be useful even to people who aren’t driven to lds.org out of sheer necessity.
1. Finding a place to go to church. One of the first things we do when we are about to move to a new place (or go on vacation) is figure out where the nearest Church building is. With the nifty new maps tool, all you need to do is type in a place (it can be an exact address, a city, or even a whole country), and the tool will locate the nearest L.D.S. church meetings on the map. It will even tell you what time the meetings start, and usually will also give you a phone number for a local leader. One caveat is that congregations in the Middle East are not listed, out of respect for local government prohibitions against Christian proselytization. So when we were moving to Tunisia, we had to contact the Church’s Middle East Desk directly, and they gave us contact information for the few families who meet together informally here. If you need it, here is the email for the Middle East Desk: firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. Church music at home. Unhappily, my piano is in storage too. We like to sing hymns and primary songs during our morning devotional and Monday night family home evening. The Interactive Church Music Player will pull up any hymn in the hymnbook, as well as all the primary songs, display the sheet music, play the song, and even allow you to play just one voice (e.g. alto, tenor, etc.) so you can practice singing parts. What we usually do, though, is just download the songs as mp3’s. They can be downloaded either with vocals or just instrumental accompaniment. Even better, you can also listen to the hymns in other languages, like French and Spanish. The singers are native speakers, so it is perfect for language-learning. Even non-Mormon homeschooling (or other) families might find this useful, since many of the hymns in our hymnal are also found in hymnals from other Christian churches.
3. Pictures from the Scriptures. All my pictures of scripture stories are in storage too. Luckily, the Gospel Art Picture Kit is available online. I guess you could print them if you wanted (it’s probably cheaper to just order the pictures, though). But we usually just have our laptop out during family home evening, and show the pictures there. Here, for example, are the pictures from the Old Testament.
4. Church magazines for people who change addresses too often. Yep, the current issues as well as back issues from 1971 on are available on the website. And you can even submit articles online too. One thing I have done for language practice is to read articles from the Liahona (the Church’s international magazine) in my target language. They are not difficult reading, and the exact same articles are available in English, in case I can’t figure out a word or sentence.
5. Church Meeting Lesson Manuals. With the other L.D.S. family here in Tunisia, we rotate teaching both Sunday School and the children’s Primary class. Rather than lug the manuals back and forth on the bus to Tunis, we just read the lessons online, and then use the manual when we get there. Here is the link for the Manuals. It also includes the Church Handbook, which is useful if you want to look up the exact responsibilities and scope of your current calling.
6. The Scriptures. Of course! We packed one copy of our “real” scriptures, but I love the hyperlinked online scriptures because footnotes, the Bible Dictionary, and cross-references are just a click away. You can also download the audio version, and I find the voices of the narrators very pleasant. Sometimes I put on a chapter for the children while I make dinner , and they listen raptly. Again, the scriptures are available in dozens of languages, so they’re also great for language study. You can also get the scriptures as an app for your iPhone, Android, etc.
7. General Conference. We had our own family Conference Weekend in April. We also watch a Conference talk during Sacrament Meeting each week (otherwise we would each be giving a talk every month, as well as teaching Primary and Sunday School). I especially like to re-listen to the music from conference, because the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sings some really beautiful hymn arrangements. You can either download or stream an entire Conference session, listen talk by talk (and song by song), or just watch the lite “Highlights” version.
8. Other Fun and Inspirational Videos. Whether for family home evening, sharing with friends, or just a personal uplifting moment, the Church website has a great database of videos, from the short, funny Church T.V. ads to feature films about the the Prophet Joseph Smith. Our favorite thing to watch is the World Report, because we love finding out what the Church has been up to around the world, from building new temples to humanitarian projects and Tabernacle Choir tours.
Did I miss anything? What do you do on lds.org?