Stake MLS access

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jltware
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Stake MLS access

Postby jltware » Sun Aug 23, 2009 4:33 am

I know some of these topics have been mentioned before, but no action seems to have been forthcoming in response. Can mls please be changed at the stake level to allow stake leaders to be able to fulfil their responsibilities according to the church handbook of instructions without having to drive to each building and log onto each ward's computer individually, especially if remote access is discouraged or disallowed.

My two main examples are the monitoring of missionary contributions and the recording of Melchizedek priesthood ordinations.

Stake is responsible for monitoring missionary contributions and ensuring that serving missionaries' families are current in their contributions. However, we cannot see the details of any donations or the balances or ward missionary subaccounts from the stake computer. So the only way to do this is to physically drive to every building every month, which is a terrific waste of time and resources. Consequently, this very frequently gets overlooked in favour of some other task that is a more efficient use of time, and the stake's ward missionary fund account soon has a negative balance with no information available on the cause.

Similarly, recording Melchizedek priesthood ordinations are a stake responsibility according to the church handbook of instructions. Certainly the ordination paperwork and certificates have to be signed by the stake president. So why do we have to log on to a ward computer to record these ordinances. I can understand that you don't want stake being able to change any membership details at will, but these specific details are a stake responsibility, and it wastes a lot of time travelling to every building in the stake after every conference to record every ordination. Worse still, there is confusion about whose responsibility it is, and some wards look after it and others don't, which has resulted in the past in ordinances not being recorded because everyone assumes the other person will do it. If the direction in the handbook is clear (and it is), why do the official church programs not follow this direction?

I know this has been discussed at length in the past, but it was some time in the past (years), and it does not appear that anything has been done to bring the official church programs into line with official church policy.

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Postby aebrown » Sun Aug 23, 2009 5:10 am

jltware wrote:I know some of these topics have been mentioned before, but no action seems to have been forthcoming in response. Can mls please be changed at the stake level to allow stake leaders to be able to fulfil their responsibilities according to the church handbook of instructions without having to drive to each building and log onto each ward's computer individually, especially if remote access is discouraged or disallowed.


Stake leaders can certainly fulfill their responsibilities without driving to each building. I will supply some suggestions below.

jltware wrote:Stake is responsible for monitoring missionary contributions and ensuring that serving missionaries' families are current in their contributions.


I'm a stake financial clerk, and I am unfamiliar with any policy that states that the stake is responsible for "ensuring that serving missionaries' families are current in their contributions," or even for "monitoring missionary contributions." Could you please supply a reference for this?

The stake is indeed responsible to make sure that the Ward Missionary account in each ward has a positive balance, and to reallocate funds among the wards and the stake to help keep the missionary efforts properly funded. But the monthly Stake Financial Summary supplies the balances for each Ward Missionary account and the charges for each missionary serving from each ward. The stake can fulfill this high-level responsibility without monitoring the abovementioned details at the ward level.

jltware wrote:However, we cannot see the details of any donations or the balances or ward missionary subaccounts from the stake computer. So the only way to do this is to physically drive to every building every month, which is a terrific waste of time and resources. Consequently, this very frequently gets overlooked in favour of some other task that is a more efficient use of time, and the stake's ward missionary fund account soon has a negative balance with no information available on the cause.


It is true that the stake cannot see the detailed contributions or missionary subcategory balances, but that is rarely a problem. The bishop has the responsibility to make sure adequate funds are available for the missionaries being supported through his ward. He needs the details, and has access to them. Only if he has difficulty meeting those needs with ward resources does he need to work with the stake president to request additional funds from the stake. The stake doesn't have to micromanage how the bishop fulfills this responsibility.

If the stake on occasion needs more details from a specific ward, the stake clerk can work with the ward clerk. The ward clerk could generate an MLS report supplying the needed information in a PDF and send it by e-mail to the stake clerk. Even if this information were needed every month (which I doubt is necessary as standard procedure), this could all be done electronically through cooperation by the clerks involved, with no need for extra travel.

jltware wrote:Similarly, recording Melchizedek priesthood ordinations are a stake responsibility according to the church handbook of instructions. Certainly the ordination paperwork and certificates have to be signed by the stake president. So why do we have to log on to a ward computer to record these ordinances. I can understand that you don't want stake being able to change any membership details at will, but these specific details are a stake responsibility, and it wastes a lot of time travelling to every building in the stake after every conference to record every ordination. Worse still, there is confusion about whose responsibility it is, and some wards look after it and others don't, which has resulted in the past in ordinances not being recorded because everyone assumes the other person will do it. If the direction in the handbook is clear (and it is), why do the official church programs not follow this direction?


The stake is not responsible to record ordinances. The stake is simply responsible to make sure that the ordinances are recorded properly. This is quite clear in the handbook and in MLS.

Review the instructions that are on the Melchizedek Priesthood Recommendation Record. These clearly state that the ward clerk is to record the ordinance. So it would be contrary to policy (and any reasonable practice) for a stake representative to login to MLS in each ward to record ordinations.

There should be no confusion if the stake is fulfilling its responsibilities properly: the wards record the ordinances, and the stake makes sure it gets done. If wards are not recording ordinances, then the stake needs to improve its training of ward clerks, and make sure the process is communicated clearly so that these important ordinations are recorded properly.

There has been discussion of this topic many times on this forum, most recently on the thread Mel. Priesthood Form Process. From that thread you will find additional helpful links.

jltware wrote:I know this has been discussed at length in the past, but it was some time in the past (years), and it does not appear that anything has been done to bring the official church programs into line with official church policy.


I see no conflict between the programs and policies of the Church. Fundamentally, it is priesthood leaders who need to fulfill their responsibilities according to the policies of the Church, and they can certainly do this. Technology can assist in accomplishing these goals, and it has made amazing strides in recent years, as anyone who was a clerk before great tools like MLS were available can attest. Certainly, there are additional improvements that can be made, and progress is made all the time -- perhaps not as quickly as everyone would like, but it is happening.

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Postby jltware » Mon Aug 24, 2009 3:38 am

Thanks for the response. That does clarify some things a little. The reference for my assertion that stake is responsible for Melchizedek priesthood ordinations being recorded was based on page 42 of book 1 church handbook of instructions. However, I have reread the entire section and when taken in context, I believe you are correct in stating that wards should be recording the ordinations. The reference only says stake is responsible for certificates and recording the ordinance on the form and distributing it.

However, I am unsure how we are supposed to be responsible for the certificates when they are usually produced automatically as part of the process of recording the ordination in MLS. Then again, I don't see how the ward can be responsible for it when it needs to be signed by the stake president. All in all, I don't see how stake can be primarilly responsible for ensuring ordinations are recorded when it is something they are unable to do, especially when MLS records on the stake computer are only updated monthly and there would be a huge lag before we could be expected to notice a missing ordination even if we were checking. By this time the details needed to complete the process would be long forgotten and inevitably end up being fudged. However, it appears from the handbook that this is the case, and that is enough for me. I will take great pleasure the next time somebody complains to me that their Melchizedek priesthood ordination doesn't show up on their record two years after it took place in referring the whole matter back to the Bishop and ward clerk.

I have also reread the sections on the ward missionary fund, and it appears from the handbook that you are correct. However, it appears that at least in our area, these procedures are not being followed. In our area (Australia / New Zealand), all ward missionary funds are swept into the stake's ward missionary account at the end of each month. This takes place automatically, without any input from the wards or stake. The stake president is sent a statement each month stating the names of the missionaries in the stake currently serving and their contribution amounts. This amount is automatically deducted from the stake account each month, not the ward accounts. This appears to be a contradiction to the handbook instructions that say it should be coming out of the individual ward accounts, and that the Bishops should be responsible for ensuring sufficient funds are available. To the best of my knowledge, the Bishops never receive the statement that the stake president receives saying what their obligations are, and this is perhaps why the system doesn't appear to work in our area. Bishops are missing half of the equation and the stake is missing the other half, so nobody is able to do the maths.

Is this the same in other areas, or are we unique in this regard? The reason for my assumption that it was our responsibility is because our area office appears to handle the whole thing out of the stake account, and it has come up as an exception in stake audits before when we were unable to show how we were tracking this.

Either way, it is the stake that gets reamed if the account gets overdrawn, not the wards, and we have no way of knowing who to blame if we can't track the payments so the issue still exists. However, the handbook supports what you say, so I have to assume the problem arises as a result of our area's failure to follow the handbook, and I can't expect MLS to be changed to make it easier for us to breach church policy. I have a snowball's chance in a very hot place of convincing our office to change anything though, so I imagine we will have to carry on driving around. I would be curious to know though whether this is the situation everywhere or just in our area though.

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Postby jltware » Mon Aug 24, 2009 3:41 am

Oh, and Alan, I appreciate very much you taking the time to answer my question in so much detail. It really did clarify a lot for me. Thanks for that :).

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Postby lajackson » Mon Aug 24, 2009 12:13 pm

jltware wrote:All in all, I don't see how stake can be primarilly responsible for ensuring ordinations are recorded when it is something they are unable to do, . . .


The stake is responsible for a lot of things that it is unable to do. That is why it is called priesthood leadership.

We have this thing called agency. Successful leaders learn how to lovingly influence other leaders and members to use their agency wisely.

I will admit that I have entered a clerks office and remained there until an ordination was recorded and the certificate printed. I then thanked the clerk, took the certificate to the appropriate stake leaders for signature, and returned it to the ward to be given to the new elder. When I first told them why I was there, they said they would get to it. Since they hadn't gotten to it in several months, I simply smiled and said, "I will wait while you do it."

In 1970, a member of the First Presidency desired to hear the testimony of a full-time missionary who did not wish to bear his testimony. There was no way he could compel the elder to do so. It was impossible.

So he waited at the pulpit, encouraged and loved him until he came up. He asked the elder simple questions that the elder answered. The questions led to the sharing of one of the most simple, real, and overwhelming testimonies I have ever heard. It was amazing to watch, and I paid attention to how it was done.

With regard to the missionary funds, your area seems to have a different process than the process used in North America. I would have to defer to your area presidency on those matters, and your stake will have to work with the wards in properly handling those funds.

However, the same principle applies. Some folks need a little more motivation than others when they are asked to do things they should do.

I am very grateful that the Lord has been loving and patient, but firm, with me.

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Postby jltware » Mon Aug 24, 2009 2:38 pm

I understand the principle you are teaching, and appreciate the response. It does however still result in us physically driving to each chapel and watching over shoulders while somebody else does something that would only take us a couple of minutes to do ourselves. Best case scenario would involve either us driving out and checking each computer personally or waiting a couple of months for it to trickle through to the stake computer. I am reasonably confident that MP ordinations don't update straight away on our computers as the linked post implies, as we have had scenarios in the past where we wished to record somebody's calling to the High Council, and we had to wait some time before we could record the calling as he still showed as an Elder in MLS and there was no way to override the requirement that he be a High Priest before the calling is recorded. This was with a ward in the same building as the stake offices, so we knew it had been recorded properly. However frustrating I may find it, that is the policy though and we will follow it.

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Postby jbh001 » Mon Aug 24, 2009 3:53 pm

jltware wrote:All in all, I don't see how stake can be primarilly responsible for ensuring ordinations are recorded when it is something they are unable to do, especially when MLS records on the stake computer are only updated monthly and there would be a huge lag before we could be expected to notice a missing ordination even if we were checking.
Alan_Brown is a better source than I on this, but while the ward info is automatically pushed to the stake monthly, there is a mechanism within MLS to transmit this info to the stake manually as needed. I can't remember where in MLS it is at the moment.

With that in mind, one possibility would be to call the unit via telephone requesting they record the ordinance and mark the checkbox in MLS to manually update the stake after the ordinace is recorded. This would be equivalent to "I will wait while you do it" like lajackson described, except that your waiting is done via telephone instead of driving to each unit.

Another alternative is a weekly MLS message reminder to the ward that you are still waiting on them to record the ordinace.

I wouldn't think you would need to do this more than a few times with each unit before they get the hint of how important it is to record ordinances quickly before the details are lost and forgotten.

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Postby jdlessley » Mon Aug 24, 2009 5:34 pm

jbh001 wrote:[T]here is a mechanism within MLS to transmit this info to the stake manually as needed. I can't remember where in MLS it is at the moment.
It is File > Send Membership Data To Stake.
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Have you tried finding your answer on the LDS.org Help Center page or the LDSTech wiki?

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Postby aebrown » Mon Aug 24, 2009 5:45 pm

jbh001 wrote:Alan_Brown is a better source than I on this, but while the ward info is automatically pushed to the stake monthly, there is a mechanism within MLS to transmit this info to the stake manually as needed. I can't remember where in MLS it is at the moment.


But ordination information is always sent on each send/receive, even if the ward doesn't do the Send Membership Data to Stake option. The lag is only a matter of minutes or at most hours, certainly not days, from the time it is sent from the ward to the time the stake can download the updated record.

See this thread where the topic was recently discussed.

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Postby lajackson » Mon Aug 24, 2009 9:10 pm

jltware wrote:Best case scenario would involve either us driving out and checking each computer personally or waiting a couple of months for it to trickle through to the stake computer.


I think I would try to go for something in between these two options. [grin]

But, as Alan said, the priesthood ordinations really do update quickly IF they are actually recorded on the ward computer AND successfully Sent/Received. If this is not working for you, either your area office processes information in a different manner and there is a delay there, or there is an actual glitch in the process or the software that is causing the delay.

An ordination in our stake performed last Sunday, recorded by the ward that day and transmitted, showed up on the stake computer Tuesday when the stake did their Send/Receive.


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