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From Local Unit Websites to a Suite of Tools Twitter Facebook Print E-mail
Written by Tom Johnson   
Thursday, 10 May 2012

If you’re in the bishopric or stake presidency, you recently received a letter highlighting the new resources available on the Tools menu on LDS.org. The Tools menu provides a suite of applications, fully replacing the old “Local Unit Website” interface.

LDS.org Tools

The tools available on the Tools menu of LDS.org replaces the old Local Unit Websites. 

You may be familiar with many of these tools -- the replacement of Local Unit Websites has been taking place gradually, tool by tool over the past several years.

Previously, all tools were listed at stakes.lds.org. On that Local Unit Website, the tools were listed on the left: News and Information, Lesson Schedules, Ward Calendar, Membership Directory, Leadership Directory, Missionary, and Resources.  You can still access Local Unit Websites at stakes.lds.org, but there’s little reason to go there. (The site will officially be sunset later this year.)

The new version of LDS.org has a suite of tools. Think of the suite somewhat like Microsoft Office’s suite of applications – each is an individual application, whole in its own right, but with a lot of integration points between the tools.

Rather than listing the applications on the left, the applications are available from the Tools menu anywhere on LDS.org.

Going to one of the tools does not remove you from the LDS.org experience. You can still access all the other content on LDS.org, regardless of the tool you’re using.

Here’s a brief description of each of the main options on the Tools menu on LDS.org:

Tool

Description

Date released

Calendar

The calendar for your ward and stake, showing events, meetings, and other activities.

2010

Directory

A directory of members for your ward and stake, showing contact information for each household.

2010

Maps

Meetinghouse, temple, and other Church facility locations, as well as member addresses.

2010

My Study Notebook

A personal, private space on LDS.org for you to view highlights and notes that you added to content you’re reading on LDS.org.

2011

Clerk Resources

A portal for clerks that includes many features previously only available in MLS, such as statistical reports.

2011

Leader Resources

A portal for leaders, such as bishops and stake presidents, that includes tools to make their responsibilities easier.

2011

Lesson Schedules

A schedule for classes you attend, such as Sunday School or Young Men, showing when lessons are scheduled and links to lesson material.

2012

Newsletter

A blog-like site for local unit leaders to provide news and other updates to members.

2012

For lengthier descriptions of each tool, see LDS.org Tools menu. Note that Newsletter is not yet on the Tools menu because it is still in beta. However, you can access Newsletter by going to https://beta.lds.org/member-news

Clerk Resources and Leader Resources are available, but you won’t see them unless you’re signed in with your LDS Account. You must be a clerk or leader in the bishopric/stake presidency to see the options.

MLS

Even though Clerk Resources and Leader Resources are available, these tools are still evolving as well. MLS will eventually be entirely accessible online through the Clerk and Leader Resource portals. The reporting features are already available. Clerks can process membership updates online too. However, the financial component, still in development, is something that still must be done on MLS (for now).

We’re not too far away from a time when the computer in the clerk’s office, the only computer with MLS installed, will be less important. With meetinghouse Internet available anywhere in a meetinghouse, and the ability to sign in with your LDS Account, leaders and clerks will be able to make updates from their own Internet-capable devices, either in a meetinghouse or from home.

Tools Roadmap

What’s missing from this suite of tools? Right now, two more tools are on the horizon: Home and Visiting Teaching, and Member Resources. The Home and Visiting Teaching application, a long-time request that has been frequently home-built by wards, will eventually see light in an official application on LDS.org. Leaders will have access to sign into LDS.org and input numbers about visits conducted during the month.

Member Resources, also on the horizon, is still in the prototype stage. Member Resources will pull together relevant information across the suite of tools – Calendar, Lesson Schedules, Newsletter, and other applications – to provide a customized dashboard-style view for you and your family. You will be able to see all pertinent information in one condensed spot, with links to click for more detail.

Single Sign On

Because of the sensitivity of the information, nearly all of these tools require you to sign in with your LDS Account. LDS Account provides a single-sign-on experience across all of these applications. Rather than having a separate login for each application, you sign in to LDS.org with your LDS Account, and your credentials are passed from one Church website to another in a seamless fashion.

LDS Account also connects you to a specific ward and location, allowing these applications to customize the information shown to you.

Continual Improvement

The advantages of having a suite of applications (rather than a single local unit website) are numerous. As you explore these individual tools, you’ll see that they have much more functionality and appeal than the previous tools. They’re not just a reorganization of menus or layout. The tools have been entirely re-written, re-designed, re-thought, and re-architected. They align with a modern design, fitting into the landscape of Web 2.0.

Because the Church’s software development follows an agile methodology, these tools are never quite finished. Software teams are constantly working on the next iteration, taking feedback from what has been released to incorporate it into the next version.

This is partly why the Tools menu was not replaced in one big release, but rather replaced piece by piece over several years. Designers and developers have learned a great deal from early releases, and have incorporated this learning into the latest tools.

 

Comments  

 
# Bryan Hinton 2012-05-10 17:10
Tom - great to see more clear roadmap communication in this area as well as the explanation of the thinking behind the plans. Thanks for the update!
 
 
# Jason Hyer 2012-05-10 17:48
While I love the tools and I realize that there are limited resources to work on all of these tools, I am a bit dismayed with the Lesson Schedule tool in particular. I participated in the beta and it was explained that Stake access would not be included at the present time. This leaves it up to each individual ward to enter in the lessons the Stake has a responsibility to assign. It is always a struggle for a stake to get a coordinated message to wards. Without the stake having the ability to set up lessons, this will continue to be a struggle that we thought we had taken care of in the last incarnation of the lesson schedule app. The development team was gracious enough to give stake leaders admin access to the schedule in their respective wards so they could at least learn the system so we could train wards but I feel that it is a flawed approach to throw something out the door so it is available and then try to integrate base functionality later.
 
 
# Mike Ball 2012-05-10 21:08
I agree with Jason about the stake needing more control on the lesson schedule app. The stake gives our ward a schedule that we should try and follow, but currently the RS, HPG, and Elders then have to go and enter those lessons manually. It's a pain and pretty clunky.

The stake should be able to create the master schedule and then we just have to fill in who is teaching each lesson. And if we need to, we should be able to override the topic for special occasions,

Overall I love the direction the church is headed with technology! It's really exciting to have all these tools in our pockets that we couldn't have imagined 10 years ago.
 
 
# Tom Johnson 2012-05-11 10:06
Jason, thanks for the comment. The input about scheduling at the stake level was discussed at length in the forums. See https://tech.lds.org/forum/showthread.php?10609-Will-there-will-be-access-to-schedule-classes-at-stake-level&highlight=lesson+schedules+stake. I don't know all the reasoning behind the decisions that were made. I do like the idea of wards having autonomy, and I didn't see anywhere specifically in the handbook that instructs stakes to schedule lessons for wards. I did add a section to the help material for Lesson Schedules to address the issue: See Staying in Sync with Sunday lessons, https://tech.lds.org/wiki/Staying_in_sync_with_Sunday_lessons_(Lesson_Schedules). Maybe as this application rolls out, things may change. Nothing is set in stone. This is only version 1, and perhaps if feedback is overwhelming about stake scheduling hierarchy, the application will change in version 2. However, as I'm not the project lead, I don't define this direction. Your voice will get more traction in the forums than here. Thanks again for your feedback.
 
 
# Mike Ball 2012-05-10 20:51
I can't wait for the home teaching tool on LDS.org! Right now we have online spreadsheets that we use to track it, but it's a pain.

I wish the newsletter tool had a feature for auxiliary newsletters. We send out a weekly elders quorum newsletter, but it would be nice to have a better tool for it.

That brings me to another tool request. Allow auxiliary leaders to update contact info for people in their auxiliaries. Right now we have to keep a separate spreadsheet with quorum members phone numbers and email addresses, since many peoples info is out of date in the directory. Then the Bishop has to call me to get someone's current phone number, since LDS Tools has the wrong info. It would be nice to allow other leaders (Bishopric) to view the most up to date contact info that an auxiliary leader might possess.
 
 
# JD Lessley 2012-05-10 23:14
Quoting Mike Ball:
I wish the newsletter tool had a feature for auxiliary newsletters.
These types of things are discussed in the LDSTech Forum. The programmers/developers use feedback in the forum to improve the applications.

Quoting Mike Ball:
That brings me to another tool request.
The LDSTech Forum is the best place to make requests, submit feedback, or to report issues/bugs.
 
 
# Tom Johnson 2012-05-11 10:09
Mike, can you elaborate more on why you think the newsletter tool doesn't have a feature for auxiliary leaders? I want to be sure I'm not misunderstandin g anything. You can have as many categories as you want, for as many auxiliary organizations as needed (similar to the way the calendar allows as many mini-calendars as one wants to create).

Re keeping contact info up to date, each member can update his or her email and phone number directly online. I believe the rights to update must remain with the individual for privacy concerns and to comply with privacy laws.
 
 
# Mike Ball 2012-05-11 10:26
Quoting Tom Johnson:
Mike, can you elaborate more on why you think the newsletter tool doesn't have a feature for auxiliary leaders?


When I go to the Newsletter tool I see two links. Ward & Stake. Both of them have the exact same content.

"No Articles Published Yet
Your ward or stake has not published any articles yet. Let your website administrator, clerk, executive secretary, bishopric, or stake presidency know that Newsletter is available for use. Once articles have been published, they will appear here. For more information, click Help."

On the right under Categories the only option is ALL, which links to the current page. I don't see any options to add a Category. From what I see on the page it looks like Newsletters are only for Wards and Stakes. To add a Category, do I need to have a clerk or someone do that? If so, it would be nice if the web page told me that.
 
 
# Tom Johnson 2012-05-11 10:29
Yes, only administrators can add and manage categories. Here's more info on rights and roles: https://tech.lds.org/wiki/Rights_and_roles_(Newsletter).

For example, let's say you wanted to add a category called Scouts. Contact an administrator, such as your ward clerk, and ask him to create the category and add you as a publisher.
 
 
# Russell Hltn 2012-05-12 01:57
Quoting Mike Ball:
That brings me to another tool request. Allow auxiliary leaders to update contact info for people in their auxiliaries. Right now we have to keep a separate spreadsheet with quorum members phone numbers and email addresses, since many peoples info is out of date in the directory. Then the Bishop has to call me to get someone's current phone number, since LDS Tools has the wrong info. It would be nice to allow other leaders (Bishopric) to view the most up to date contact info that an auxiliary leader might possess.


Are you sharing this updated information with the membership clerk? Because that's how the directory gets updated. I'm sure there's a good reason why updates are to go though the clerks.
 
 
# Glen 2012-05-11 07:04
Under the MLS section it says 'Clerks can process membership updates online too'. Where is that? I've been using clerk resources for 4 months (that's how long I've been the ward clerk) but don't recall seeing a feature where I can update membership records.
 
 
# Glen 2012-05-11 07:13
Also under MLS it says 'the financial component, still in development, is something that still must be done on MLS (for now)'

Are these features in MLS that the financial clerk would use? Checking budgets, printing checks, entering tithing? All from the comfort of their personal computer? (Except for maybe entering tithing - you'd need two people comfortable)

What about a member's access to financial info? Will I be able to check my year to date tithing? The tithing for my kids?
 
 
# Tom Johnson 2012-05-11 10:15
Glen, membership clerks should be able to update membership information online. I don't know the specifics, but I know that it was a release about 2 months ago. This is probably something only membership clerks can do, though I'm not sure.

Re the financial component, eventually everything clerks can do with MLS will be available online as well. As for member's access to financial info, I don't think that is currently planned, but who knows what the future holds.
 
 
# kendi 2012-05-11 10:34
I wish there was a "print" or "email" option to share info like this.
 
 
# Lou 2012-05-12 17:46
Ya know... There's still a lot of stuff on the old web site that isn't available on the new one... such as building addresses (you can see where the building is on the map and you can get directions, but you can't get the address for GPS or to put on a flyer). And you can't get the meeting schedules of the wards in the stake.
 
 
# Daniel Lee Fowler 2012-05-15 22:22
Definitely like where we are going - but got a question about how to get info about our ward and ward activities visible online to non-members. ON the old ward website (soon to sunset) we could put information for non-members to know what we were up to in our area. Any ideas?
 
 
# Teresa 2012-05-21 13:07
I have just been called to be the Ward Website Administrator. I previously had the same calling in another ward & stake. I was both ward & stake Website Administrator. I was excited to get the call because I had previously had 5 callings (singles ward) & gone for well over a year with no callings in my home ward. It has been very difficult. I have read here though the the ward websites will be discontinued. I am assuming that this change with no websites will nullify my calling. Is there anything in the new tools that would keep me as the ward administrator??? I do have access to the Stake Calendar where I created a calendar of Single Adult 31+ regional activities & I maintain that. I am just very saddened to lose a calling that I just barely received. By the way, I have been testing apps and the lesson schedule and gospel library for android, kindle, itouch, & lds.org so I know what is coming. Would there be any responsibilitie s for me (e.g., lesson scheduler, newsletter)?
 
 
# Janet Marie Popa 2012-05-27 12:26
I am a stake and ward website administrator. Do we now or will we have the ability to send out an email broadcast? In the past we have really utilized that feature on the old site.
 
 
# Ben Messinger 2012-05-29 16:27
These new features are welcome and appreciated. I can't say enough how wonderful it will be not to have to queue up behind the clerk computer every week or make special trips to the meeting house to access a simple report or update a record. Thank you for all the work being done to help us work more efficiently.
 
 
# Jason Bowne 2012-05-29 17:47
Thank you for making things more web enabled. With our busy lives / cost of gas - the more tools available over the web = more time with family & less money spent on gas to do things you can only do at the church building computer. Keep up the great work!
 
 
# Amy Ogden 2012-05-29 21:11
Will there come a time that auxiliary leaders will have direct access to information for their respective organization? For example Visiting teaching info for a Relief Society President?
 
 
# Scott Pratt 2012-05-30 08:47
In the "Leader" section there's a tab to "Send A Message". It's great and makes it easy to send an email to a certain group. I use this to connect with the Ward Council. Problem is I can't attach an agenda to the message. Any thought?
 
 
# Ken Berg 2012-05-30 14:27
Amen to the remote HT editing and reporting capability! Can't wait to see it! Thanks.
 
 
# Janet Marie Popa 2012-05-30 18:33
My husband is a bishop and he has the "Leader" section and the tab to "Send a Message". I am a stake and ward website administrator and do not have the "Leader" section. I no longer have the option to "send a message". On the old site I could send a message and did so for the ward and stake. Is it possible to give the ward/stake website administrators access to this feature?
Thanks!!
 
 
# Natalie Eames 2012-07-01 15:59
With VT & HT reporting you mention that leaders will be able to access these online. Who will qualify as "leaders" for being able to access and report? Will the VT/HT Coodinators be granted access to complete reports?

Also, will changes be able to be made to HT & VT routes in addition to imputing numbers?
 
 
# Karl Greenwood 2012-09-19 14:16
Regarding lesson schedules and stake access, unless the policy has been superseded, I believe stakes still can assign the Teachings for our Time lessons on a stake-wide basis per the instructions at: www.lds.org/library/display/0,4945,5418-1-2831-1,00.html as well as at: www.lds.org/ensign/2012/05/teachings-for-our-time?lang=eng.
 
 
# Kyle Erickson 2012-09-19 17:00
The NEWSLETTER LINK above doesn't work.

https://beta.lds.org/member-news

It is found in two places in the article.

Maybe it should be this:

https://tech.lds.org/blog/517-newsletter-a-new-tool-now-available-on-ldsorg-for-publishing-local-unit-news
 
 
# Brad Duncan 2012-09-29 10:07
Considering this post was published in May, is there any update for the HT/VT reporting functionality as to when it is projected to be available? I'm definitely looking forward to that!
 
 
# Michael Marvin Lauritsen 2013-03-14 11:11
Quoting Brad Duncan:
Considering this post was published in May, is there any update for the HT/VT reporting functionality as to when it is projected to be available? I'm definitely looking forward to that!

Was this answered?
 
 
# Nathan Swenson 2012-10-11 16:43
I would like to know about email broadcast. Our stake and wards use this feature quite a bit and we have been unable to find it in the new directory application. Before we abandon the classic sites for good, we need this feature.
 
 
# Mike Monroe Mattinson 2012-11-12 05:01
Has anyone else noticed that some of the street addresses no longer show up in the member directory. Not sure what conditions are generating this situation or issue. What would cause a member of the ward not to be able to see the address of another member in the same ward? or another member's address in the same stake?
 
 
# Bill Kofoed 2013-01-01 04:44
Gee I saw this for the first time on 1/1/2013. It is the thing of this type I have ever seen and I have been a ward web admin since this first started. Good work getting the word out for all fews years!
 

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