Pity Past Issues: New Era Bowls Made Easy


“Elder S. Dilworth Young’s article in the February 1976 New Era mentioned a map and a compass. What did they signify?”

Before the “fy” had left the moderator’s lips, three hands flashed into the air.

“Yes, Roger,” said the moderator as the scorekeeper indicated that Roger had been first.

“The map is the revealed word of God, and the compass is the living prophet,” Roger almost gasped.

“That’s correct,” intoned the moderator as a mild rumble among the spectators turned into applause, over which the scorekeeper shouted, “Time’s up!”

“We won, we won!” whispered Roger as he rose to his feet and shook hands with his other three teammates. The girls, Becky and Mary, were only slightly flushed with their victory as they turned to congratulate the other team.

Sister Weston, Roger’s mother, hurried to the front and asked the four to cluster around the trophy as she fiddled with the flash attachment on her camera.

“You never know,” she said, after telling the group to smile. “The New Era itself might be interested in a picture of the seminary regional winners of the New Era Bowl.”

New Era Bowls, where budding Church scholars meet to test their knowledge of gospel topics printed in the New Era, range from well-organized tournaments hosted by seminaries and stakes to fairly impromptu, one-time events staged on activity night. The bowls offer plenty of excitement and fun coupled with the chance to learn gospel principles—and they save “Old Eras” from a fate worse than death.

There are essentially two types of New Era Bowls—formal tournaments and what could be called “activity night events”—and they aren’t difficult to get going!

Following a few simple steps can get your tournament, whether it be an elaborate round robin or a simple class activity, off to an exciting start.

Basic to any New Era Bowl is an understanding between participants on how many issues of the magazine will be covered in the questioning. Twelve issues? Two years? Six months? After deciding how far back to go, some understanding as to the types of questions asked should be agreed upon. Is everything in the magazine “fair game?” (For example, can you ask the name of an 18-year-old auto mechanic who won a state competition that appeared in the FYI section of the New Era?) Or, is the questioning to be confined to feature articles and messages by the General Authorities? Are author’s names important? Will such questions as “What was the page number of the June edition’s Message?” be valid? Such ground rules for question formulation should be agreed upon and put in writing before any competition begins. (This might avoid a “spirit of contention” during the game.) A sample ground rule statement follows:

“Questions for our New Era Bowl will be taken out of the past 12 issues of the magazine, beginning with March 1976. Substantial questions concerning messages from General Authorities, feature articles, and fiction will be included. Questions pertaining to the FYI section will not require memorization of names but may require general knowledge of facts reported in the section. Names of authors, except for General Authorities, will not be part of any questioning. Questions asking for page numbers, number of lines or paragraphs in a story, etc., will not be asked.”

It is important that all participants understand these ground rules.

After basic guidelines for question formulation are agreed upon, the actual questions can be developed. New Era Bowls sponsored by seminaries and stakes may have a committee charged with developing the questions for the competition, while activity night groups planning their own bowl might want to divide into teams the week before to make up questions.

If staging an on-going tournament, a committee to write questions is best. A member from each team plus an adviser or two might be members of this committee. Keeping the written questions secret is not really very important; in fact, secrecy can be detrimental to the purposes of a New Era Bowl. The question committee should mimeograph and distribute a list of sample questions before competition begins. Such a list helps team members prepare. Remember, the purpose of a New Era Bowl isn’t to proclaim a winner—it’s to help people learn.

As already mentioned, questions for an activity night bowl could easily be formulated the week before the actual event. Divide up into the teams that will be used during the bowl and have each team write a specified number of questions, say 20 to 30, to be asked the opposing team. (Be sure you have enough questions to keep your game going! One question per minute of playing time is a conservative estimate of the number of questions needed.)

With this method it probably won’t be necessary to give each team a list of questions drawn up by the other team. Since each team member has just gone through the same stack of magazines as everybody else, each team’s own questions can serve as a study guide for the competition.

Teams for New Era Bowls can range in size from one player to eight or more, but four to six members per team is probably ideal. Fewer members on a team makes each player more responsible for “knowing his stuff,” but too many people on a team can cut participation because not everyone may have the chance to answer a question.

New Era Bowls can be played in rounds or straight heats. When playing rounds, playing time is divided into periods—eight minutes, for example. A game may consist of three periods with a three-minute rest between each period. Played this way, each game would take 30 minutes. The winner could either be determined by keeping a running total score for all periods, or by naming a winner and loser for each period, with the game victor being the team taking two of the three periods. (Whatever scoring method is used, it should be agreed upon before beginning. It could make a difference in who wins!)

With a straight heat, a time limit is set for the game and a running score is kept until time is up.

Rules similar to other bowl-type games can be used or adapted for a New Era Bowl. There is usually a moderator to ask the questions and a scorekeeper/timer for each game. The moderator asks a toss-up question that can be answered by either team. The first person on either team who can answer the question signals the moderator by raising his hand or pushing a buzzer. (A simple electronic buzzer isn’t too difficult or expensive to build, but if you don’t have one, be sure your scorekeeper/timer has a good eye for judging who raised his hand first!) If the question is answered correctly, his team wins one point. His team is then asked a bonus team question. If any member of the team can answer correctly within a specified time period (usually a minute or less), they gain another point. If the original toss-up question is answered incorrectly by a team member, his team is docked one point and the opposing team is given the chance to answer the toss-up question for one point. (They usually aren’t given a bonus question as the other team has already been docked a point for the incorrect answer.)

A variation of these rules might be tried for a less formal activity night New Era Bowl. Since questions for this type of bowl were probably written by the two (or more) teams the preceding week, a simple rotation method of asking each team, in turn, a question written by their opponents might be used. Set a time limit for their response. If the team answers correctly within the time limit, they score two points. If they answer incorrectly or take too long, the team who wrote the question gets a chance to answer it for one point. (If the team that wrote a question can’t answer it, perhaps they should be docked a point!)

Winners of large-scale New Era Bowls might be awarded trophies, or perhaps more appropriately, subscriptions to the New Era. Smaller bowls might still award subscriptions (they don’t cost that much!), scrolls, or certificates. And, as always, refreshments make any activity night just a little better—and the winners might get second helpings! Announce winners in Church meetings or print their names in branch or ward newsletters. New Era Bowl experts, Church scholars that they are, shouldn’t go unnoticed. (You might try sending a picture and story to FYI. You never know … )

To help you get going on your first bowl, a short list of sample questions follows. If you have treated your old issues kindly, you can probably answer them already. If so, don’t delay organizing a New Era Bowl. Who knows? You could already be a champ! If you’ve let a few past issues become lonely and can’t answer the questions, get a New Era Bowl going even more quickly. Your old issues can use the exercise.

Sample New Era Bowl questions:

What kind of “food” is President Romney to his wife, Ida?

(“He’s my dessert in life.” June 1975, p. 19.)

Name two rules of good “school gamesmanship.”

(You’ve got to do it yourself. Find out the course requirements. Pace yourself. Set up your own study area. Set aside a specific time to study. Break it up. Set deadlines. Study your study habits. Reward yourself. Make a contract with yourself. September 1975, pp. 43–45.)

Missionary Jeff Manookian gave a piano concert in Uruguay while demonstrators outside shouted, “Yankee go home.” What event happened later as a result of this episode?

(One 18-year-old demonstrator and his family were baptized and he prepared to go on a mission. September 1975, p. 7.)

Who wrote this quote: “And Earth be chang’d to Heav’n, and Heav’n to Earth, One Kingdom, Joy and Union without end.”?

(John Milton. January 1976, p. 44.)

Who were called as missionaries after prayer and fasting by the elders and prophets in Antioch?

(Paul and Barnabas. February 1976, p. 43.)

What saved Brother Robert Wallace from getting his leg shot off in the Korean war?

(His Book of Mormon in his hip pocket. February 1976, p. 18.)

What are the map and compass referred to in Elder S. Dilworth Young’s article, “Build Yourself a Bridge?”

(The map is the revealed word; the compass is the prophet of the Lord. March 1976, p. 5.)

What General Authority, 24 hours before being called as an assistant to the Council of the Twelve, prayed in despair, saying, “Father, if having money will not be good for me and my family—take it away.”

(Hugh B. Brown. April 1976, p. 15.)