Monday, December 22, 2014

Final Thoughts on Sharing and Our Mormon Project

I shared this email with my dad via email in a PDF format. My parents’ knew about this relationship and they watched the ups and downs for about a year before they didn’t want to hear about it anymore. It got to the point where my mom wouldn’t talk to me and I didn’t want to talk to my dad because he was very negative. I recognize now that their behavior occurred because they felt helpless and didn’t know how to help me; they also felt my behavior was aimed at them as a way to hurt them (which it wasn’t). I felt hurt that they weren’t there for me when I needed them most and they made the experience about them, but when I decided to kick him out of my life they came right back into my life and were very supportive.

Sending him the essay felt like opening that wound a little bit because it brought out the sadness he and my mom experienced.  But I hadn’t told him about the dream so that clarified things for him and we were able to talk about it through email and then more in depth when I got home. My favorite quote from him about the situation was this: “It probably goes to show how blinded in bad relationships people can become; as perplexing as it is, the loving explanation of one or both parents sometimes don't shed light on the situation for the person involved - even creating resentment which is of course, exactly not what is needed.”

Sharing our stories

I learned a lot about my friends and the way people react to our essays through sharing my story as well as a few others with people I know.

One of the main responses I got was actually about Viridianas essay, which I shared with a few member and non-member friends in Argentina. Many were quick to respond to her conversion story, and one friend was willing to share it with five people and then invite them to listen to the missionaries. I'm still waiting for a response from him on whether they accepted The invitation or not. Another non-member I shared her story with said it really helped her to remember why she converted in the first place.

With my personal essay, I shared it in person with one of my roommates who just lost his grandfather. As my essay was focused on the passing of my own grandmother, I felt this would be appropriate. He didn't say much, but I could tell he appreciated it, and I feel our friendship has grown since..

The last mentionable person that I shared my essay with was my father. As it was his mother that passed I wasn't sure how he would respond, especially with it being so candid in the essay how my grandmother had passed. He was surprisingly very happy that I had shared it with so many and that endured a good conversation about the people I had shared it with and how it had helped them.

All in all, it was a very good response, and more than I had expected to come from our activity of sharing our personal essays with others.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Final Reactions

I had the opportunity to try to connect with a few people and share my essay with them. I tried to share my essay with my former mission president, my grandpa, friend from home, a convert in my mission, my aunt and my roommate who was a missionary with me.

I emailed my Mission President asking him to read my essay. I know he checks his email regularly and that would probably be the best way to contact him while still letting him take care of his responsibilities as a Mission President. His phone is constantly ringing so calling him didn't seem like such a great idea. He is yet to respond to my email, I am not terribly surprised due to all he has going on.

When I was at my grandparents I asked my Grandpa to read my essay. He was fun to watch as he handled the computer. I had to scroll down for him to continue reading. I found that sharing in person was really the most effective. I shared in person my essay with my roommate and former mission friend. Sharing in person just allowed me to make sure that I knew they read it and then it provided an opportunity for more discussion.

On Facebook I tried to contact and share with my aunt and also a convert from my mission. It went well sharing with the convert. She is fairly regular on Facebook, my aunt is not as regular but is occasionally on their. I am surprised she has not responded.

I got brave and tried to share my essay with my friend through instagram by sending him a picture of our blog post and adding a link to the blog. It notified me that he had looked at the instagram post, but he never responded to me about reading or not reading my essay even though I asked him to. I am not surprised that Instagram was less than productive.

What I have learned front his process is that you have to really know your audience when trying to share with people your essay. If I wanted my grandpa to read it I have to do it in person. Social media and electronic ways are not productive to reach him. Same with others, its important to know who uses what media the most then go that route. The other thing was maybe people need more time for some follow up. We only had a week of follow up. That can be plenty of time but having more time could tell us more about what is productive and what isn't.

From those that read my essay, I feel I received the classic comments of "Great job." "that was fantastic" you know the nice friendly comments. It was a good experience sharing though.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Sharing and Responding

I sent an email to the people in my family, explaining to them a bit why I was asking them to view/read this. I also spoke with my sister and mother on the phone to tell them more about it. With my roommates, I approached them in person and asked if they would be willing to read it and share their thoughts. My friend from high school and work I was a little more careful about approaching because we hadn’t spoken in quite a while. I texted one of them and Facebook messaged the other and we chatted about life and caught up before I mentioned anything about the essay. I also tried to bring the topic up in conversation so it didn’t seem like I was using them. I actually had my mom share my essay with my former seminary teacher, simply because he is super technologically challenged and wouldn’t read in unless it was in his hand.

I’ve talked to almost everyone I personally shared it with and will hopefully speak with my seminary teacher over the break, looking for opinions and reflections on what they read. I talked a lot more in depth with my roommates about the subject matter and we all had a big heart to heart where we talked about hard things we had gone through and things we missed and such. It was actually a really beneficial thing for us to do because it helped us form a deeper connection and get out of our own bubble and understand everyone else’s bubble for once.

My sister was an interesting one to share it with (she’s the one mentioned first in the essay) because it’s a topic we’ve spoken about quite frequently over the years. She was actually really surprised by some of the things I wrote because she’d never thought about it in that way. We went through almost the same experience and we were there together at both funerals, but there’s a fourteen year age gap between us that distinguished the experience. It was kind of a bonding experience and just a learning experience in general.

Sharing Katie’s essay with my friend from high school was such an incredible experience, because she was actually baptized while we were sophomores. She mentioned a time where we had gone to the park for lunch and ended up just talking about life and she told me that that was the first time she had ever thought she might want something more in life. I vaguely remember the conversation, but it made an impact on her as I shared my stories and thoughts, similarly to how Katie and her friends sat in the car and shared stories. It was a very uplifting and completely unexpected experience.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Results Are In....

Being able to share the personal essays and videos with my family and friends was pretty good.

I posted it on my ward Facebook page and got a couple likes and comments about my essay.  The cool thing was that a couple girls danced in BYU Luau with me this year so they really enjoyed it.  They also enjoyed a couple other people's videos as well.

I'm planning on sharing it with a couple friends when I get home for Christmas break.  I think sharing it with them in person will help our friendship because it's been a long time since we've seen each other.  This will also give me an opportunity to leave them with another invitation.

I shared it with my roommates and they liked my personal essay.  They know how much work I put into luau and so they enjoyed being able to read more of my back story to why I did it.  It brought us closer together since they're both moving out and this is our last time all living together.

I didn't get much feedback from the people I shared it with about wanting to read more personal essays.  They enjoyed the 5 second videos of other people's essays and have the link to check them out if they're interested.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A God of Miracles

View the final version of this essay at Mormon Personal Essays

A God of Miracles
As I laid in the hotel bed that night, I thought about my mom, laying in the bed next to mine.  She had been acting suspiciously detached from the group all night.  I was beginning to get really concerned about her, because she is usually very active and engaged with those around her.  She is a certified elementary teacher, so she has to be.

I faded into sleep and began dreaming about mansions, museums, informative plaques, and our charter bus which had become our home away from home.

My Sharing Plan in Action

I was able to contact two of my good high school friends and share my personal essay and personal essay video with them.  One of them has already gotten back to me, but the other won't until later.

In order to share with these two friends, I simply messaged them on Facebook and asked them if they would check out my personal essay and personal essay video to help me out for a class.  I explained that we were trying to find ways to share our beliefs with those not of our faith, and, since they both knew me fairly well in high school, they were open to help me out.  I have since had a good discussion with the one who got back to me, and it was a really successful way to share my beliefs with him in a way that wasn't preachy or pushy or weird.

I really liked the approach I took because it was very casual and it didn't come off as if I was trying to throw my religion in their faces.  I think having assignments like this helps because, when something is due for a class, it makes it seem like it isn't just another proselyting effort.  However, because of the content, it should at least get those who check it out to be interested and hopefully want to learn more somewhere down the road.

I would also suggest being honest about the fact that this is actually about trying to share our faith.  If we don't mention that and then all of a sudden our religion pops up, it can seem very deceiving and maybe even annoying.  I wouldn't like it if that happened to me, because I would feel like the person sharing with me was trying to shove his/her religion in my face by tricking me.

Report Draft: C. Experimenting

The process leading up to the final drafts of our personal essay project was very experimental.  Each step, from generating the ideas for the essays, to incorporating literary tools in our writing, to video and media production, and even to sharing with audiences, was an experiment.  

First of all, the way in which we chose topics about which to write was very creative.  Dr. Burton read a list of different topics or experiences, and if something interested us, we were supposed to begin generating raw material about that topic.  We then wrote multiple blog posts to narrow down the topics of our essays. The elimination process depended highly upon our taking in account of other people's comments about what what they found most interesting.  That was experimental in itself in that we had to find ways to collaborate with classmates to review, edit, and share our material.  As the essay topics were narrowed down, we began experimenting with different forms of Mormon personal essays.  We studied examples of personal essays written by several authors, like Edward Geary, "Disorder and Early Joy", Tessa Santiago, "Take, Eat", and Gideon Burton, "In an Open Field, Near a Gravel Pit".  We then analyzed ways to include Mormon Humor from Personal essays like DeNae Handy’s, "Falling for You.", and we even experimente with how to make our writing more like poetry.

Secondly, whilst actually writing our essays, we experimented with different ways of incorporating imagery, description, figurative language, and the inclusion of the Book of Mormon aspect in our writing. As a result of several differnt writing stages, we concluded that it was most effective to establish respect with the reader by building up our credibililty through the application of literary tools in our writing, and then bringing in the Book of Mormon content.

Lastly, we experimented with different ways of sharing the content of our essays.  This included experimentation with video production, as well as selecting audiences or individuals with whom to share our material through social media and offline interaction.   The video production included each member of the class developing their own minute-long video to advertise their essay with their own preferences to background, content, and inclusion of the Book of Mormon, as well as whose essay we talked about.  Our initial videos helped us to determine what the effective aspects were.  As a result of this experiment, and differences in aspects like sound and lighting, the final draft of our videos was much more uniform in the above-mentioned components.

Report Draft: G - Initial Responses

In getting initial responses, it seems like not many people posted their personal essays publicly on social media. Because of this, we don't have many examples of casual responses (likes on Facebook, etc.). We did have a few people get likes on Instagram and Facebook though.

However, we did get a lot of personal interaction responses. Jeremy and Andrew both had similar experiences sharing with their friends. After good responses from their friends, both Jeremy and Andrew plan to talk to their friends further about their personal essays over Christmas break.

Tori, however, didn't have such luck. Tori tried to contact a friend through Facebook, but her friend was unresponsive. Without other contact information, Tori is still awaiting a reply. This is an example of how social media may have not been the most effective sharing method.

Scott sent a personal message to a friend who he had not spoken with for over four years. In the conversation he had with this friend, they reconnected and talked about getting lunch sometime with their childhood crew. Scott was glad that he shared his essay, since this gave him a reason to contact him.

Ryan Parker was able to connect with an old mission companion about a tough experience they both shared. They were able to understand each other better, and this helped them to relate more. However, Ryan's old mission companion asked him to not share the essay publicly on social media since it was so personal. Some essays may not be suitable for public exposure online.

Elijah had a good experience talking on the phone with a friend about his personal essay. Elijah noted that it was natural and personal to reconnect over the phone. These personal essays can be a good way to start conversations and renew old friendships.

Ryan W shared an essay by Viridiana with a member from Argentina who said he would share the essay with at least 5 people he knows well. This shows the great missionary opportunity that can come from such personal, natural essays that share our beliefs.

Draft Report. J. Doing it Better

This project has been effective in many ways, however we see a few ways that it could be improved in the future.

First we would have liked to become more familiar with everybody's essays. This could be done by allowing more class time to share our work with others. This would have improved the sharing process because we would better know who we could share with and what we have to offer the people in our lives.

It would have been helpful to have a more cohesive end goal in mind when we started the process. If we went into the process with the idea of sharing meaningfully with other people it would have changed how we would have started our essays.

The addition of The Book of Mormon content into our essays felt limiting to the writing process. If we were able to include The Book of Mormon in ways other than connecting our essay to a story we feel we could make a stronger and deeper connection. That aspect of the essay wouldn't read as forced if we could have more freedom to make it meaningful for us.

The five second video would have been more effective if it was separated from the group and placed with our essay instead of strung together with the rest of the class. Another aspect of the videos that could be improved is individualizing the backgrounds. That would improve the personalization of these videos. The videos could be more dynamic if pictures, or other content were added in, so it wasn't only a talking head. This could create more interest in actually reading the essay underneath the video.

With the goal of sharing our essays in a meaningful way in mind, it would have been beneficial to develop a sharing plan from the start. If this was created in the beginning of the process we could have focused more on developing our essays and sharing plans to work together.

Sharing our class blog at the beginning of the semester could be helpful in developing consistent readers. If we shared our blog posts throughout the semester on social media people might become more interested in what we are doing and the stories we are developing. This could lead to more people reading our final product.

We experimented with humor in reading and writing in that genre. We felt we could have developed a better sense of writing in other genres through having specific prompts to work with throughout the semester. Having specific prompts would have provided a better venue for experimentation with our essays and would have allowed students to figure out what genre they work best in.

This project has so much potential to do good in the lives of the student's writing and in the lives of those who they share their writing with. We think it has done a lot of good in our lives and hope that the adaptions we have suggested will yield even greater results.

Report Draft H: Further Invitations

Sharing and following up with others could be the most critical part of this project. Sharing was done in a wide variety of mediums, all of which brought an array of reactions and responses from the public.  

As a result of sharing our personal essays with friends, family, non-members, or distant acquaintances, it allowed for further invitations to be extended; such as rekindling a friendship, exploring more LDS content, having face to face interactions, and ultimately reading the Book of Mormon.

One of the main successes of this project is that it has sparked a family’s desire to share their experiences and beliefs on a blog. Taylor, and his family are now going to be contributing to a family blog to share with others, so the invitations to kindle relationships and gospel knowledge will be further extended.

Another success story is that, Keegan, a student, reconnected with his high school teacher by initiating conversation; he informed him of what has happened in his life these past few years. By providing a small background of his life updates such as serving a mission and getting engaged, it allowed for him to share with his teacher about his mission experiences which he might not have had the opportunity otherwise. The teacher responded immediately with great appreciation--which spurred an invitation to reconnect face to face. This could lead to further and more missionary opportunities.

These essays were a powerful outlet for many students to springboard further invitations with those they shared content with. Because of this, we can see how effective personal Mormon literature can be within circles of friendship -- with hopes that it’ll continue to spread virally to be an effective missionary tool amongst the public.

Emily Lewis, Lizzy Sainsbury, Ryan Parker

Report Draft D- Videos

From our experience recording and distributing our videos in this effort, we saw a lot of potential for more accessibility in sharing as well as several flaws that might be best to work out before the next round.

We saw the most success in sharing video when the content shared was unfamiliar to the contact receiving it.  Having a video was useful when we tried to share other classmates posts with our friends but on the other hand this seemed to add little to the table when sharing our own content as the viewer was already familiar with us personally and didn't need an introduction to who we are per say.  In my experience it seemed to be more effective just to personally introduce the essay over the phone or in a more directly personal way instead.

Having videos also added to the overall feel of the website, as it made the blog feel both more complete and put together. It diversified our methods of displaying the content we worked on. As Mandy said on the report outline, "By having an introduction page we are welcoming viewers to our project and connecting our faces with our names. This personal appeal allows people to get to know us more, and shows we are real people (rather than just students doing an assignment for a class)"

One flaw we saw in the final video collection was that it really wasn't a good way to showcase our diversity. The visual composition was uniform and well-put together, but this uniformity came at the expense of more individualized videos that may have more visually intrigued viewers and prompted them to view more content. As Taylor pointed out, it would have been an asset to have "more of a variety to watch and having different scenes/locations would have given more personality to each essay and video"

In short, despite excellent production in the final videos the lack of individuality in display seems to have limited any particularly overwhelming or response from either viewers or students in reaction to video contribution. From the body of experience in the class so far, it seems fair to say that the 5-second videos were the more successful of the two and that we could easily opt for shooting those short clips alone. If we were to do this, it could more easily be arranged to film these independently and thus promote greater creativity and individuality.

Report Draft: E

The foundation for personal sharing came from the sharing plan that people created. Mary and Lizzy both said that creating this plan made them sit back and think about who would be able to connect with their message. Justin said “It made me choose carefully who I would open my personal life up to.” Another important preparation for sharing the final form was sharing our drafts with people inside and outside of class. Some people (like Andrew) received critical feedback, while others (like Mandy) received encouragement to go a specific direction. Regardless of the feedback, people felt that sharing their rough drafts helped them strengthen relationships.

Because people had thought about who they wanted to share with in advance, many people sought out the most appropriate content to their circumstances. This meant that often they were sharing other people’s content. For example, Tori and Clark both shared Keegan’s content about his experiences in Africa on his mission. Since people knew who they intended to share with, they made efforts to reach out to and rekindle those connections prior to sharing. Finally, because we produced many versions and formats for our essays we were given the option to share according to our audience. For example, Keegan shared a PDF version and his YouTube video with his grandma because she is not very tech savy with the internet and blogs. Through these forms we shared our essays to different individuals for different reasons. The reactions of our audiences were different, but most found success because of their sharing plans.

Group 4: Keegan Brown, Clark Nielson, Katie Roper

Essay Drafting

Over the course of the semester, our class worked on a personal essay project that taught us how to embrace our identity as Mormon writers while remaining true to our literary roots. We went through multiple drafts, striving to develop focus on topics and moments in our lives that would be engaging to readers while also incorporating connections to the Book of Mormon. This was a difficult process that had frustrations as we tried to find balance and triumphs as we shared our stories and learned just how powerful opening up in a literary way can be.

To help you (future ENGL 268 writers, English Department faculty, friends and family, random internet trolls) understand how we got to this point, we've compiled a record on our experience with developing solid personal essays.

Report Draft: I. Other Benefits

1. How has doing this project been personally beneficial?
For my group, the project did not necessarily strengthen our testimonies, but it helped us to see the gospel in a good light. It strengthened bonds of friendship and family because it forced us to share things that we would not usually share with each other. It was also rewarding to see how other people reacted to what we wrote. Usually when we write something it goes to a professor and we do not hear much response about it, but sharing it with the class and the world makes us proud of it.
"I really felt that writing down this experience with some time separating myself from it allowed me to not only understand my role in the experience but also how it has shaped me since". Quoted by Ryan Parker.
2. How has doing this project enabled you to do something that was overdue in a relationship, or in dealing with a problem?
The project gave us an excuse to share personal things. It was almost like an outlet to feelings that we wanted to share, but did not know how to share. Sharing these details about our lives brought people to tears through laughter and sorrow. It also showed the people that we cared about them and wanted them to know these things about us.
3. Did doing this project help you think of other things you might do for yourself or for other people that are not directly related to our goals of sharing essays and videos?
"YES! Although this experience didn’t go as viral as I thought, I realized that I feel more competent and wanting to write more personal experiences that benefit myself and others. I feel more confident to post on my own blog, or seek out for opportunities to share it on other blogs. I feel that it has been the most useful and beneficiary thing I have contributed to my own history, and so even if it isn’t something that goes viral, I have a greater ability, and responsibility to record these experiences down" quoted by Emily.
4. Other benefits, expected or otherwise?
The project benefited our relationships because it makes us want to keep in touch with people. It helped us identify who we were comfortable sharing with and if we were not comfortable sharing it with certain people then what we could do so that we would be comfortable sharing our essay with them. It was also an outlet to pay tribute to influential people, friends, and relationships in our lives.

Strengthening Ties Through Sharing

I will admit that, like many people in the class, I was hesitant to begin to share my personal essay.  I started off where I felt most comfortable.  So I shared it with all of my siblings, except for my brother (whom I talk about in my essay).  I emailed the link to them, and they quickly responded with positive feedback.  They were suprised that I would write something like that.  I had never shared any writing with all of them before.

Then, this last weekend, my brother flew into town from North Carolina, and I was able to share my essay with him face to face.  It honestly was a little weird having him read what I had to say about him.  I left the room while he read it, and came back in when he was done.  I had predicted how he would respond. Being the humble person that he is, I knew he would begin to compliment me and tell me how cool I was.  That is exactly what he did. It was actually a pretty cool moment.

Next I shared my essay with my girlfriend.  We were just passing the time with my roommates one evening, and I asked her if she could read my essay.  She was flattered that I would share that with her, and told me that it was apparent that Idaho, Guatemala, and my brother, were three very important things to me.

I began sharing my essay through email and personal facebook messages to my friends around the world.  Some responded, some others have yet to respond.   I received very positive feedback from sharing Viridianas essay with my converts in Chihuahua, México.

Once I gained momentum, and began sharing my essay and my classmates essays with other people, I began seeing more opportunities to reconnect with old friends and to leave further invitations.  For example, as I was preparing to share Jeremy's essay with my Christian friend from high school, I texted her to find out how her medical school interviews went with the University of Utah School of Medicine.  She responded to tell me that she had been accepted and will be moving to Salt Lake City.  After reconnecting, I felt much more comfortable sharing Jeremy's essay with her.  So one day, we skyped, and I emailed her the link so she could read it.  She loved it.  She said that it was really well written, and asked about the Book of Mormon reference.  I had given her a Book of Mormon in high school, and when she asked me about it, I found a perfect opportunity to invite her to actually read it.  She promised that she would.

What I have found is that it is easier for me to share other people's essays first, and then invite them to read my own essay as a further invitation.  I am still fairly self conscious of sharing my own work, but I have enjoyed the feedback that i have received.

A Seed to be Planted

We are taught that "through small and simple things do great things come to pass" and that the seed of faith will grow if we plant it in good soil. As I was sharing my essay I was hoping that my testimony of these things would be true. My essay is about my friends and so it only seemed fitting to me for me to share it with them.

I texted Austin a few weeks ago and asked him what he would think if I wrote an essay about our group of friends. We hadn't really talked in a while and so his response was simply, "If you want to". So it was only fitting for me to text him last week and tell him to check his facebook. He followed the link I had sent to him and after reading my essay he responded telling me it was great but not really saying much more about it. I thought that was the end of it because I didn't want to force it onto him (he doesn't take that kind of stuff well) but a few hours later he messaged me again with a picture and we started talking and catching up a bit. It was really nice to get to talk to my friend again and it shows that friendship will always be there if we continue to reach out in whatever form.

My best friend Erynn read my essay in some of it's earliest drafts. She is always so positive and complimentary that it felt safe to share it with throughout the process. She hadn't read the finished project when I shared it on her wall. Along with the link I thanked her for her help along the way.We talk about the essay every once in a while in passing. I'm not sure if it was because of my sharing that on her wall or simply because she is such a close friend but everyday since the day I shared that we've been texting each other motivational pictures to get us through finals week. It is always a relief to look at my phone and see one of those little messages from her. I am so grateful I got to share it with her and she says she really enjoyed reading it.

My friend Lance struggles with depression and has had more than one girlfriend who has used him and it wasn't necessarily the best position for him to be in. He recently decided to change his life, which for him and his stubbornness is an extremely difficult thing to do. We've shared our writings with each other since high school and we're very supportive of each other. Now that we're both off at college we don't talk as much but try to catch up at least once a week. He never understood why I was always so invested in the gospel, though he is also a member his testimony has struggled like any young adults would. I shared not just my essay but the entire website with him and asked him to read a couple of the essays, especially Mandy's in hopes that he would realize that deciding to change his life and pulling away from those people who were doing him harm would help him move forward with his life and really change. I'm not sure how he took it but he liked the post on his wall so I think it was a good idea.

Though I shared my essay and the entire website with a few more people these responses where typical of what I saw happen. It was a bit discouraging. I went into this feeling optimistic and excited to share the gospel in this new form but after a bit of sharing I began to get disappointed. I then remembered about faith, and that simply planting a seed can do so much. So this project has helped my testimony grow that perhaps through my sharing of simply things more and more people will be exposed to the gospel and it is  my hope is that as a result of that more people's hearts will be open to that.

Listen to Every Word

Making the list of people I wanted to share my personal essay with was extremely easy. Actually asking the people to read my essay was extraordinary hard for me. I just could not find the right way to ask someone to read it in a personal way. I didn't want to make the people feel like it was my assignment to get them to read my paper, but I really wanted them to read it and for them to enjoy it. I finally picked up the courage and asked the people on my list to read my paper and they seemed to really enjoy it.

My older sister, Meleah, and I were sitting on the couch discussing lesson plans and what we both needed to do to make our clubs better after school. We started to talk about some of the children's stories and the funny things they had said to us that week and we started to laugh until tears were coming down our faces. I then asked her if she remembered Herber, the kindergartener. She told me she had just saw him earlier that day running down the hall and that she had to really get on him about running down the hall. Of course when she told him to walk, he roared at her and continued on his way. I then asked her if she would mind reading my paper. While reading my paper, I watched a tear go down her face. She knew his life was difficult, but she didn't know how difficult it was. She then got up the idea that we should go get him a little toy for Christmas. We decided to get him a spiderman beenie because that was his favorite superhero and we knew he needed some warmer clothes. We plan to give him his gift on Friday and we are both so excited.

I hope that my essay has the same effect on other people as it did for my sister. I want people to know that children are struggling and need our help. It really does take a village to raise a child and we need to be there to support one another.

People DO Listen

I began my sharing by first contacting members of my family and asking them to read through it and tell me what they thought. The reaction I got from my family members was awesome! My mom of course went on and on about how it touched her but I guess that it to be expected. What really surprised me were the responses from my brothers. My oldest brother, who is semi-active" called me right after reading it just to chat. He told me he felt the spirit while reading it and really enjoyed it. He even remarked that he really liked the comparison to the BOM I made. I had another brother read it and after he told me that he felt the spirit quite strongly and it helped him make a difficult decision of what he should study in school. He said that he has been thinking about doing something in the medical field but didn't think he could handle medical school. He said that he loved the experience I showed and felt like he should go into the nursing field. 

After the response I gained from my family I felt better about myself so decided to share it with the people on my plan but also with others that I wasn't planning on sharing with. One individual is named Alex. He and I danced ballet with each other for years and are great friends. He is a non-member so I thought it would be great to get his perspective. He and I talked after he read it and he said that he felt a strong feeling while reading it that made him get emotional. I didn't bring up anything about the spirit but plan on meeting up with him over Christmas break and talking about it then in a more personal setting.

I also shared the concept of our class essays in Sunday school. I wan't planning on anything coming out of it, I just brought it up in a comment I made. Following the lesson I had two guys in my ward walk up to me and ask me about the essays. We talked about them and then they asked me for the link because they had some friends who could benefit from stories that have religious undertones but aren't super explicit. I gave them the link to my essay and told them to read the other essays too. They seemed really excited about the concept and mentioned that they were interested in doing something similar to help share the gospel.

I was shocked about the response I got from my essay and look forward to continuing using writing as a tool for missionary work.

Early Sharing Report- Segments

One way I've had success in sharing my personal essay so far is by sending a small section of it I think would be meaningful to the friend I have in mind.  With how busy everyone can be, especially around this time, I thought it would be a good way to be sure they would read it and from there become more interested in the experience or in reading more.  In sharing my essay in this way, it is has been easier to make a quick reconnection with some of the important people in my life and bond over something meaningful and connected to the gospel.  With nearly all of the people I've talked to we've been able to set up plans for further interaction in the future and I look forward to connecting more with them!

Spreading the Word

I have had some great experiences sharing my personal essay with my friends and family. At first I was a little nervous about sharing it with so many people but I became more comfortable the more I shared it. Connecting with old friends was really neat and this was a fun way to catch up with them.

The experience with sharing the personal essay through social media was new for me. I first sent my essay to my family and some friends through email. I had talked to them previously about the essay I was writing and a lot of them wanted me to send it to them when I was finished. I received some great feedback and some of my family were really interested because they learned things about me that they hadn't known before.

After emailing my essay to my friends and family, I decided to share it with people that were directly involved or mentioned within. One of the people I shared it with was part of a family of 17 kids that I mentioned in my essay. I sent him a personal message on Facebook. He really liked it and we actually talked about getting lunch sometime to catch up. It has been several years since I spoke with him and I think it would be neat to see him and reconnect. 

It was also a good time to call my sister-in-law and spend some time catching up. We talked a little bit about her first few weeks being married and her new job. After talking for a bit, I mentioned that a friend in one of my classes worked in home health care and wrote a really neat essay about Jeremy’s last moments with an elderly woman on her death bed. My sister-in-law is a CNA and was actually in between homes when I called. I sent her the link via text message and she was excited to read it. I am sure that she will be able to relate to Jeremy’s experience.

I actually plan on continuing to share my essay with others even after the class has ended. There are many people who I haven't thought of yet and I am sure many people could benefit from it down the road. Over the Christmas break I will be seeing some of the people I shared my essay with. I am sure there will be some discussion about what they read. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

discovering the unexpected

I guess when I made my sharing plan, I figured it would run on its own, but I was wrong.
I discovered the struggle of having a more consistent conversation with people or being able to contact them and have enough to talk about to eventually get to the sharing part.

I realized its alittle difficult connecting with people across the world, but I am excited to do so. I feel this is the perfect missionary opportunity and reconnect to have a longer lasting relationship.

I was hoping for different results -- and maybe expecting that it would have been spreading virally, but that hasn't been quite the case. And then I realized maybe thats okay too. Maybe its okay to keep it within my circle of friendship. Sometimes things have to start small.

I realized that after I first began to share my work with others, I suddenly became alittle self conscious of my work -- wondering if they really meant their generous compliments.

I hope that I begin to see the fruits of sharing with others more readily tomorrow and in the week to come.

The Good and Bad

I put my sharing plan into action and there were both good and bad things that came from it. I guess most of the negative was personal. Some people are really difficult to get a hold of! Especially this week. I guess it just meant that a few of my hopeful contacts fell through. There were some positive reactions, however, which I have gotten so far.

The easiest ones were the close to home ones. The best friends; the family. My fiancee has been with me through the entire writing process and it was really great for her to see the finished work. She was surprised at the quality of the video and glad to see that some of her suggestions had been implemented.

The best outcome so far was with my buddy, Anthony. He is not a member and so I was very curious to see how this would turn out. Although he made sure to tell me he has no interest in the Book of Mormon, he explained that my essay did make him a little curious. He emphasized the little. Well! Couldn't have asked for anything more, right?
Photo from:

Monday, December 15, 2014

Taking the Time to be Personal

I have noticed through my experience sharing that it takes time. A lot more time than I originally thought. I realized that it is worth it to actually take the time and make a personal connection to share.

So far, I have gotten the most responses from family and those that have shared the experiences I have had. I noticed that people were flattered to know that you thought of them and took that time to invite them to read. I hope to hear back soon from my friends that I have sent them too. In my sharing plan I focused primarily on sharing my own content. Today and tomorrow I am going to start focusing on sharing other peoples essays. I feel like this might result in better participation. We will see.

In seeing the unity that has come about through my own essay within my family, I have decided to start a family blog where my family can share experiences of their own and to keep each other updated. I am deciding to focus the blog in a way where it allows my family members to share authentic life experiences that has helped them in their belief in God. I hope that this side project takes off and that all my family members participate. A couple already have. is my new family blog

Sharing Time

Christmas is the one time of year when we all get to slow down, even if just for a moment, to spend time with our loved ones and to share beautiful messages about our faith in Christ. During this time of the year, people become more sensitive and more willing to listen about the Savior.
Then, since my personal essay is about my conversion to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I thought I would share my essay with specific Facebook friends who are not members of the church, and of course with the other six people I mentioned in my action plan.
Sometimes our own fears and feelings stand in the way to share about our faith but since Christmas it’s approaching, I though it would be a great opportunity. So, I did! I started out making a point about the true meaning of Christmas, which often gets lost in all the craziness of the season and how it’s very important that we share the love we have for others. Then, I introduced that getting to know Christ could be a life changing experience for everyone, and that I had my own story! So, I knew I had their attention to share my essay and video. It was a beautiful experience!
Sharing a Christian experience was a wonderful idea to invite others to come to Christ during this holiday season. I feel like sharing a gift that matters such as a life changing testimony could be more meaningful that a Christmas postcard that everyone throws away.

Seeing Christmas as a sharing time helped me to share my faith with others and to re-connect with people who are precious to me and whom I have not seen in a very long time. As a result, some of my friends thanked me for sharing such a personal message and of course some others such as my sister, who are not active in the church have not responded yet; but I am they know that Christ is the true gift of the season.   

Share Bears

As much as I was hesitant to share my essay with anyone outside of...this class, I found the results to be positive enough to make the experience worth it--even if the results were limited.

I first shared it with the actual Elder Clark from the story (who's name was changed). He said he appreciated me sharing it with him and he thought it was a good essay, but he asked that I not post it on Facebook publicly or share it with anyone who doesn't already know the story. I told him the whole class had already read it and he was fine with that but he was afraid others might connect the dots and find out who it was. There's members of his own family that don't know anything about it

Heeding that advice, I shared it only with people who knew about the experience, which ended up being narrowed down to my family and the mission president from the story. I send it to my parents who sent me an email back telling me they liked it and wondered why I hadn't told them more about it sooner. They didn't realize how dragged down I was during the experience, which made me a little sad knowing that I had a period of great stress but I never bothered to tell anyone about it.

I also sent it to my old mission president yesterday but haven't heard back yet.

So it wasn't the most fruitful sharing experience but I think it made a difference with those that count.

Sharing is Caring

The best experience I had sharing my essay happened previously we I shared the rough draft with my brother that recently left on his mission and my parents. However since I finally finished the essay I was finally able to share it with Brother Miller with whom I wrote the essay about.

The best part was that Brother Miller was not expecting it at all, and he told me that he felt the same way, that we are the best of friends. He even made a joke about cleaning those bathrooms, which is an experience that can't be forgotten. So it was special to be able to share it with the person that was the inspiration behind my essay.

Sharing the Finished Piece

Wow did I really enjoy sharing my essay. I was able to have quite a few people read it. A friend from back home, Haley really was inspired by the essay. I loved her response. I let her know of the website or blog to find the rest of the many great essays that have been presented. She was one who I was able to text back and forth. She told me that after reading a few more of the essays that she was inspired to become a better person. She was able to set a goal for her life that will help in a way that will make her stronger as a person. Haley really enjoyed the essay of mine yet she really enjoyed the many more she was able to read. 

Here came Malexy! My great friend Malexy is non-LDS and a friend of both Haley and me. She heard about the essays from Haley and asked if she could read some. She is Hispanic So I referred her to Viridiana's post or essay. She had expressed her interest more and it lead to a greater conversation. 

Mr. Hamel got back to me with an email I sent. He called and asked for me to send me the blog website so that he will be able to read the post I have written. I had given him the 5 second youtube website of the Essays. He had asked to read mine because Mr. Hamel knows both the guy I wrote about and I. He was intrigued with the writing and really enjoyed how meaningful the essay had been. He also liked learning a little about the Book of Mormon. He said " I enjoy that you can tie your religion in with stories of your life."

Sharing my essay was very interesting. I shared on the phone then directly from the blogging website. I noticed that the more I had shared the essay the more feedback I was gathering. The feedback had made my essay seem like it is more incredible then I had thought. I really enjoyed going a little out of my comfort zone to share a life story of my own. Others will be getting back to me later. I am excited to here there feedback and was so captivated by each response from the friends I had made. 

Implementing the Sharing Plan (Updated)

While putting my sharing plan into action, I thought of different people to share with and decided on sharing different essays than I originally intended. It has been cool to relate the messages of other's essays with the experiences and personalities of my friends and family. And I have been encouraged by the positive reactions I have gotten so far.
Like Clark, I started by sharing, face-to-face, with someone who I am very comfortable with. I shared Mary's video with my roommate Rachel and in our conversation afterwards, I was surprised by how much I learned about her. She told me about kids she worked with that influenced her and showed me pictures. She was very animated and she was very willing she was to accept my invitation to read Mary's essay and check out more of the blog.
Also, I was able to share Emily's essay with my little sister, who has experienced similar setbacks in trying out for theater productions. I emailed her the link to her essay and then we talked on the phone about it later. She liked how Emily used Nephi in her essay and the Einstein quote. She also wanted to hear my essay so I read it to her over the phone. It was interesting how our perceptions of the same events were different. It was nice to spend some time talking to her.
 I was able to share my essay with my Dad and talk with him on the phone about it for over an hour. He liked it a lot and we were able to have a good conversation on the importance of family. It became a kind of teaching experience for me; we talked a lot about what church leaders have said about families and the decline of the family unit in much of society today.
I have been Facebook messaging an old Sunday School teacher, and I was able to talk more with her and learn what she has been up to. I sent her my video through that medium. She has not yet responded but I think she will like hearing more about my family and my incorporation of the Book of Mormon.
I also emailed my essay to my non-member best friend Devin, who is currently going to school in Virginia. We edited each others essay throughout high school and we still edit back and forth. I emailed her my essay and asked about everything going on with her. She loved my essay and I invited her to read my brother's essay about his mission because I shared with her a little bit about Elijah's mission before. I also sent her the mormon message "He is the gift." We plan to meet up over break and I might follow-up a bit more then. It was a great opportunity to catch up and increase familiarity with the Church.
I shared my brother's essay with a friend in my ward that is leaving for a mission in a few months. She really liked the part of his essay I shared with her and wanted me to send it to her. I was able to talk to her about her mission and learn more about her.

"The More You Share, The More You're Gonna Get"

- Song from All Dogs Go To Heaven.

I did get to read my essay to a few people personally and I sent it to a few people.

I haven't heard back from a few people that I sent it to, but the ones I read it to have really enjoyed my essay. One of the readers said she cried when she read it, and she would love to share it with her family.

The hardest part has been contacting some old friends. They will not respond to me, so I'm still working on that. I know she wanted to be really good at Spanish, and I wanted her to read Viri's essay in Spanish.

I have made contacts to see people over the break to have them read my essay. So I haven't completed it all, but I'm planning on meeting them.

Yesterday, I actually used an essay in my Sunday School lesson. I am a gospel doctrines teacher, and we were talking about Daniel in the Old Testament, and how he interpreted dreams. So I read them Mandy's dream from her essay and told them to interpret it. Obviously it was just an activity for me to start into Daniel's story, but I gave them the link if they really wanted to know what it was about.

It has actually been really fun to read everyone's essay and look for ways to share it. I'm excited for the break so I can see the rest of my people to share my essay with.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Process of Sharing

         So far sharing has gone pretty well this weekend. Through these sharing efforts I have been able to make some good connections, and continue to make more and make them meaningful.

       The first people I reached out too was my two high school teachers named Mr. Snedeker and Mr. Tinker. I haven't really been able to talk to them a whole lot since I got back from my mission, but they were always supportive. I shared the link to my essay on the blog, and they were very thankful that I thought of them and shared something so personal with them.

      I also reached out to a ward member from back home that runs that Mormon Faces Instagram account, and she has agreed for when I get back home for break to be interviewed and featured on the account, explaining positive ways to use social media, and linking to our class blog. I've also reached out to some of my family members, close and extended, and sent them my PDF version to read, as they have followed my mission adventure throughout the two years, and this makes a good little epilogue to it.

     I'm still in the process of sharing, still trying to get in contact with some people, but overall so far, the sharing has been a very positive experience. I feel this is exactly what Elder Bednar meant when he gave his devotional talk about social media, and its positive impact it can have on people and their relationships. We just have to have the courage to share, and allow the spirit to work through us and inspire us who to share it with.

Just Share It!

At first I was dreading sharing my essay with people. So I decided to start slow and share with someone that I was very comfortable with. That ended up being my cousin, Scott. We are pretty close, and the essay I wrote is about our grandpa, so I thought he would like it. And he did! In fact, he asked if it was alright if he shared it with his mom (my aunt). It was really encouraging to hear back positive feedback, and it emboldened me to share more.

I also decided to share Keegan's essay with a recent convert who is considering going on a mission. I had thought of this friend and thought he could appreciate a story about someone's missionary experiences and how it had affected their life. Because of this, I chose to share Keegan's essay and this led to some meaningful discussion. We talked about where he would want to go if he could choose, and I told him about where I had served my mission too.

Because of my success sharing someone else's essay, I decided to share Katie's essay with my little sister. My sister is a sophomore in high school, so I thought she would appreciate this essay because Katie talked about going to dances, which is something that my sister is fascinated with. My sister said the essay was fantastic, and she wanted to read more, so I sent her my essay. After reading it she told me it was "srsly awesome" and she compared me to one of her favorite authors. It was a cool chance to connect with her, even though we are at very different stages in our lives.

Here are some short tips from my experiences about how to best share personal content like this.

-Have a plan, and think about who you will share with and how to share it
-Don't be scared, these people are your friends
-Start with the lowest-pressure sharing, such as a close friend
-From that expand to others that you feel the message could help
-Share in a natural way: feel free to tell them you're doing it for a class, and why you thought of them
-Ask what they thought

I hope this helps others with their sharing!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Successes with Sharing

So far, sharing has gone really well for me. I haven't completed all my sharing at this point, but I am working through each experience trying to make it meaningful.

My focus with sharing my own essay was to share it with people that would understand it the best, who either went through my experience with me or saw me through it. I shared my essay with the best friend that held my hand during the funeral. I was really nervous to do this because I had tried to talk to him in the past about Jared's death, but he just wasn't ready to talk about it. It has now been 1 1/2 years since Jared's passing, so I was hoping that talking about it now would be a good experience, and it was! I sent the essay over a Facebook message to this friend and got a very positive response from it. I felt like it was really appreciated and helped with some healing my friend is still dealing with.

I also shared it with a teacher I am fairly close to and who knew Jared very well. She was happy to see me portraying Jared in such a positive light and trying to teach others to learn from his life.

I did share a few other's essays in various places. I read Hailey's essay to my brother, who loves video games, and he got quite the kick out of it! I also just generally shared Hailey's essay on Facebook because I am friends with lots of mothers who I think need to better understand how loved they are, especially for their quirks! I have gotten three likes on the post so far.

I sent my sisters Emily's essay because they are both applying for college right now and could use the encouragement. One of them responded saying that she is motivated to keep on trying no matter what happens in her future and that Emily's essay gave her hope.

I am going to continue sharing in different ways and am excited to see what kind of reactions I will receive from others!

How Sharing has gone for Me!

I followed my sharing plan, and shared with the people I had thought of before. To be honest, I got nervous to share it with some of the people. I wasn’t sure how to bring it up, or what to say. But I went for it anyway! I think I was most nervous with sharing it with the people in my ward who I work closely with…I wasn’t sure the best way to bring it up or share it. Since I interact with them often, I figured I would just send them an email (since we correspond that way too). I sent some emails, sharing my essay, others’ essays, or all of the essays in general depending on the person. I haven’t received any response from them, however. So I will try to follow up with them tomorrow when I see them next.

I also shared my essay and video with my family. I was surprised at their responses. I was honest with them, and told them that I didn’t feel like my essay was where I wanted it to be, but they all thought it captured our previous home and some of the memories perfectly. This was by far the most rewarding group to share it with. Even if no one else gains anything from reading my essay, I’m grateful I wrote it. For me and for my family, it is full of wonderful memories that definitely needed to be written down somehow. My parents were touched (my mom said they even got choked up!!—I wasn’t even intending for that). But I think for them, it was nice to read, but in a different way. They created my home, and that environment for me. I think they were grateful for my gratitude towards them, and that I had and do feel that way. My brother Jake was also very excited about it. I brought up some memories and details that he didn’t remember. So it was a fun treat for him! And he was excited for me to share it on Facebook so the “family friends” who own the house now could see it and just be reminded that he wants it for good reasons!

34 "likes" thus far on Instagram!
I also was able to share my essay with my friends who I grew up with. They really enjoyed it. And I was surprised, because after I shared it with my original “share plan” group, I decided I would post the link on Instagram and Facebook too—just to get it out there a little bit more. And I was surprised at the people who have read it and commented on it. I had people from my childhood ward read it and it brought back memories for them. I had my older sister’s friend (who is 11+ years older than me) read it—and she remembered coming to my house before and after the remodel, and she enjoyed it. I even had cousins, in-laws, and others read it who enjoyed it and who had some great memories of their own to share. (Which was fun to hear from them and their memories.)

Thus far, it has been a very rewarding thing. I was apprehensive about putting my work out there, but it has been very fun to connect with people over it!

-Lizzy S.