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The Power Of a Chocolate Bar

May 31, 2016

It’s only 66 words. Any of the 12 year olds in the Sunday School class could read it in less than a minute. But, they weren’t trying to read it, they were trying to say it from memory, and it wasn’t going well.. 

Have you ever sung Karaoke? Serveral years ago I was in China adopting my son. I had to spend 10 days in the country. The guide from the adoption agency was a native named Richard. (I’m pretty sure that wasn’t his birth name.) Because my son was born in Shenzhen, I spent the entire 10 days in Guangzhou. It’s a city very close to Hong Kong in Southern China. Richard and I spent a lot of time together. At one point he asked me,

Would you like to go to sing karaoke tonight? 

Sure, I love to sing.

Do you mind if I invite my friend? We rarely get to sing with an American. 

Karaoke bars are a big deal in China. At least they were when I was there 12 years ago. We had dinner brought in and sang for hours in a private sound proof booth.

At my work they have started a monthly karaoke night. They have a sound system, I play MC and my “co-host” plays guitar and sings. At times, as the MC, my role is to keep the event moving. I love to sing. I have an eclectic collection of music. I assumed I’d do great stepping in to sing if we lacked for any singers. 

I’m very comfortable behind a microphone. And yet, when I stood up to sing, even with the words, I struggled. 

Really? THAT is what they are saying in that lyric? I totally am singing that wrong. . .oh wait, I missed that entrance. Maybe I can catch it on the chorus. .

Yes, it’s harder than it looks. And that’s because we don’t know the songs as well as we think we do. Listen to yourself the next time you are singing along to the radio in the car. Do you nail the entrances? Really? Or, are you like me and you are awesome at starting on the third word. 

That was the problem we had with the boys in my Sunday School class. They were supposed to repeat a verse out of the LDS scriptures. (In addition to the Bible, Mormons also have scriptures called The Book of Mormon, The Doctrine And Covenants and The Pearl of Great Price.) The boys were supposed to repeat D&C 13. 

If there was a strong leader, they did great. Just like singing along with the car radio, the boys would jump in on the second or third word and finish out the phrase. And honestly, I was doing the same thing. Sure, I sort of had it memorized. Until the day the boy who lead the rest moved into the next older class. 

Sixty-six words never took so long. We all, boys and leaders mumbled our way through 45 seconds of awkwardness and then we gratefully sat down. 

How do you get a group of 12 year olds to memorize something? How do you get them to want to memorize it? I had an idea. And within a month all 12 boys knew it word for word perfect. 

Leadership starts with the leader. The first thing I did was memorize it myself. I repeated it on my way to work. I repeated it while walking the stairs at work. I repeated it before I went to bed. For my plan to work, I had to know it perfectly. Not a word out of place. The following week I explained my plan to the boys. 

With Charles gone, it’s obvious the rest of us need some work memorizing D&C 13. Here’s my idea. We will leave a little time at the end of the lesson for any of you who want to try to pass off. You have to get it absolutely perfect. 

What do we get when we do?


And I pulled out a box of 12 of the biggest chocolate bars that WalMart sells. I set them on the table where the hungry boys could see them. 

Remember the rules, though. You can try to pass off once each week. If you don’t want to participate in trying to get a chocolate bar, you don’t have to. If you miss even one word, you need to wait and try again the next week. And here’s the key. I will go first. And I want all of you to get out your scriptures and let me know if I miss a word. Remember, I have to get it 100% correct to get a chocolate bar.

The last part was the key. If I had told the boys that I was going to be the one to decide if they met the standard, they would have still worked on it, but they would have been tempted to figure out how lenient I was willing to be. Can they drop a “the”? Can’t they leave out an “of”? But, by making them the judges I ensured that the standard was going to be absolute perfection. They were just looking for a chance to ding me on my recitation. And once they had set the standard, they would have to follow it themselves. 

The second key to the success was the fact it was 100% voluntary. No one should feel anxious about going to church. No one should feel like they have to take a test to visit a house of worship. The first week, no one got a candy bar. .. .until the very last boy tried. We all agreed that Gary nailed it. I was relieved. I worried I’d set the standard too high. Gary proved it was attainable. Over the next three weeks every one of the boys and most of the leaders stood up in front of their peers and flawlessly recited a text that just a few weeks earlier they had awkwardly stumbled through. It’s been six months since we handed out the last candy bar. Every Sunday I’m reminded of the power of the right motivation. The candy bars are long gone, but the lesson they taught is repeated every week. 

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2016 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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