We’re four weeks into the NFL season and reality is rearing its ugly head. If your team is 0-4 (sorry, Bronco fans) you don’t have much hope for the rest of the season. You’ve got that sinking feeling (sorry, Dolphin fans) that things won’t get better this year and will likely get worse. Even a team that’s fun to watch (hello, Cardinal fans) doesn’t bring much solace if the team’s record starts with a zero. Sports fans know highs and lows: elation after a big victory, hope and cheer if the team is doing well, that ho-hum feeling of a mediocre team that wins a few but loses all the big games, and the gloom that settles over a team that is, once again, in the cellar.

We’re two years into the Nelson presidency. How are you feeling? Are you happy and feeling good, realistically hoping for more changes that make your church life better? Or do you have that sinking feeling that things are headed in the wrong direction, that it’s worse this year than last year and it will probably be even worse next year? To help you read your own personal church vibe and report in the comments, go read Peggy Fletcher Stack’s latest article at the SL Trib reviewing the events and changes that have take place under the leadership of President Nelson.

We’re Sinking. That’s my take. Here are the losing events that give rise to my sinking feeling about the recent direction of the Church over the last couple of years. (1) The Day 1 release of Pres. Uchtdorf from the First Presidency was, in retrospect, a clear signal. Good-bye grace, hello conditional love. Doubt your doubts … or else. (2) Ministering, that clumsy word that now gets used a lot in church. I don’t really miss home teaching, but no one can figure out what ministering is, what you call the people who visit or call a-ministering (they are not ministers), and so forth. An institutional muffed punt. (3) Mormons, a perfectly useful moniker for you and me and other members of the Church, is now verboten. Members of the Church now self-consciously struggle to describe themselves and their co-believers in church settings and discussions. It’s almost embarrassing. (4) Temple movie, gone. It wasn’t Hollywood quality, but it was nice to just settle in and watch the movie. Who doesn’t like beautiful landscapes and nice wildlife shots? The slide show, not so much. I don’t just settle in and watch the slide show. Instead, my own personal still small voice whispers to me, “Am I really sitting here watching a slide show with dialogue?”

You May See Things Differently. I’m not saying Team Nelson is quite 0-4. There are some positive changes: two-hour church, missionary phone calls once or twice a week, one step back from the November Policy (and maybe they’ll even update the Handbook someday). Even just the fact that the leadership is now willing to change a lot of little things is good news. But I can’t get too excited about them finally making changes that should have been made twenty years ago. I expect some readers to feel otherwise and make their case in the comments.

Just Around the Corner: General Conference. The SL Trib article and this little exercise is a good warm-up for General Conference. There might be an announcement or two this week prior to Conference as well. If you are in the hopeful camp, feel free to throw out a good change you think might be coming. If you’ve got that sinking feeling, pick a bad change and grumble about it.