LDS Church News Says: “Use Proper Sources” With Gospel Teaching

John Dehlin correlation, Mormon 101 Comments

(Hat tip to Michael Carpenter)

This just in from LDS Church News.  Correlation remains king.

“A gospel teacher is not called to choose the subject of the lesson but to teach and discuss what has been specified. Gospel teachers should also be scrupulous to avoid hobby topics, personal speculations, and controversial subjects. The Lord’s revelations and the directions of His servants are clear on this point.”
and
“The Church — through its inspired correlation program — has given us official sources of information to help us prepare lessons and plan activities. Instead of turning to unofficial books and Web sites, let’s use those sources.”
Thoughts?

Comments

comments

Comments 101

  1. I find it disappointing that lessons produced by the correlation program are designated as “inspired” while the hypothetical teacher apparently cannot be blessed with the same inspiration in trying to personalize their lesson for their local ward audience. Also, what about those times when the manual (and its external sources) are just plain incorrect, like last year in the Primary lesson on the Willie and Martin Companies? My lesson manual quoted from a highly embellished source published in the forties (and, to be honest, is not a source I could easily find, let alone find at the Distribution Center). So, am I to assume that in teaching my Primary students the real story of the Sweetwater Crossing based off of sources found in BYU Studies is somehow inferior to teaching the correlated manual wanted?

    Sadly, it seems to me that if they wanted to prevent people from talking about Adam-God and other odd things they’re casting the net far too wide. We want to eliminate the fringe ideas like the White Horse and Horseshow Prophecies, to be sure, but I don’t think anyone benefits by telling teachers not to prayerfully make use of FeastUpontheWord.org and other similar sources.

  2. Who wrote this article? This is the first time I’ve taken a proper look at Church News, is this an authoritative website? do people look to church news as some would look to GC or the Ensign?

    IMO this arguments in this article are overbearing, unbalanced and weak.

  3. What if the Lord, through his Holy Spirit, inspires an instructor to go beyond the correlated lesson manual in his/her lesson? Should a Church member follow that prompting of the Holy Spirit, or follow this Church policy?

  4. Wow. They might as well just say “Once the manual has been correlated, the thinking has been done.” I wonder if the church won’t end up withdrawing or at least softening this article.

  5. I agree that the quotes in the O.P seem to discourage adapting the material to the local audience. Also, what if the material (like the Aaronic Priesthood manuals I teach out of) are woefully out of date? Quotes from Hugh B. Brown and Vaughn J. Featherstone mean nothing to deacons born in 1997.

    I find the word choice in the recent Ensign article on this topic troubling(Teachings for our Time Nov. 2009)
    “You may be *tempted* to prepare the lesson using other materials, but the conference talks are the approved curriculum.”
    Imagine if it started, “You may be *prompted* to prepare….” Entirely different meaning, huh? SO all thoughts of material outside the lesson manual are from the devil?

    If there is no room for any deviance, why include “Pray that the Holy Spirit will be with you as you study and teach the talk(s).”

    I’ve sat through lessons that give the manual only a passing glance, and I think I know what Elder Oaks intended with his quotes, but I beliove the pendulum has swung too far. If I ran the circus, I’d take the “Preach My Gospel” approach. Speaking of which, why are they loosening up on what missionaries teach, trusting they’ll rely onthe Spirit, but take the exact opposite approach in Sunday School? These conflicting approaches to gospel teaching need to be corrolated 🙂

  6. Well, I have taught SS and EQ quite a bit in my 30 years. I have always personalized.

    But I have always fulfilled these (also from the CN article):

    * Maintain purity of doctrine.
    * Emphasize the importance of the family and the home.
    * Place all the work of the Church under priesthood direction.
    * Establish proper relationships among the organizations of the Church.
    * Achieve unity and order in the Church.
    * Ensure simplicity of Church programs and materials.

    I am sure that at some of those points, we could reasonably disagree, but also I have found that I have had completely free hands, as long as it’s obvious that I’m not turning every single lesson to a discussion about my favorite topic. And I bring up some “interesting” stuff, too. I try not to be too “controversial,” though.

    One could say, that for some, point three is controversial as it stands…

  7. Actually, I don’t have a problem with the above quotes. I’ll continue to base my lessons around those in the Church manuals and use outside sources as I deem fit until someone in charge of me says not to do so. Then I’ll wait ’til they leave.

  8. If correlation is necessary to maintain “purity of doctrine,” does that mean that a significant portion of Church instruction prior to correlation presented false doctrine?

    Should Christ’s Ideals for Living be placed on the Index?

  9. I find this very distasteful. One of the things I love about visiting other denominations around the world is how the gospel of Jesus Christ is “customized” to that particular area – be it in architecture, emphasis in teachings, etc. The world is not the Wasatch Front, Utah or the US. I think this is another well-meaning policy that will actually have a detrimental effect. But I’m not an inspired leader and that’s probably not what it says in the manual, so, please ignore that last sentence.

  10. I definitely agree with the broad principles here, and I’ve heard more than my share of truly speculative junk (e.g. Satan & Jesus were twin brothers). However, there should be some distinction between sites like FeastUpontheWord, which is essentially like attending the class before you teach it and listening to a thoughtful discussion of the material and sites that contain materials that have obscure sources. Additionally, who wants to sit through a lesson that is completely free of teacher input and personalization? Not me. There needs to be a happy medium. The correlation committee is going too far here, and the pendulum will swing back.

  11. I think you guys are missing the real significance of the article in question. Didn’t you read the part that said “the frustration [the woman] had previously experienced disappeared” once she “picked up her manual and scriptures”? You can’t argue with results.

    I think this is a great example of the problem members of the church run into when they attempt to straddle the gap between hard directions given by the brethren, and the idea that each member of the church should think for themselves and be led by the spirit. The article says “she knew [the manual’s] source was valid. She knew it had been approved by the men called to lead the Lord’s work on the earth today and that it was what they wanted her to teach.” So there’s nothing the lord would have any SS or RS or Priesthood teacher in the world teach that isn’t found in the lesson manual or other approved church materials? How many times in my life have I heard a speaker, even GAs, change the topic of their talk at the pulpit, on the promptings of the spirit. Such promptings are not available to teachers in the church?

  12. I’m from the UK, I have never heard Church News quoted previously in church and I doubt it will without quoting a name. (especially without citing someone with an initial in there name), I don’t think that “Church News” has any power to impact the way that our wards conduct PR/SS or any policies within the UK. I may have to eat my hat, I’ll keep an ear out during announcements for the next few week.

  13. Thoughts?

    This stinks! Let’s go back to the good ol’ days when old, crackpot Utahans can ramble on and on about any old crazy crap they once dreamt up or maybe heard their great-aunt say.
    It was so much better when people could bring in their favorite books, like “Tuesdays With Maury” or books of their niece’s poetry, or show “Saturday’s Warrior.”

    That’s *so* much better than being told to teach the doctrine of the church in the Gospel Doctrine class.

    As much as the bloggernacle seems to belly-ache about sermonizing on (‘conservative’ political)/personal topics from the pulpit, you’d think they would be glad to have someone clamp down on (similar) sermonizing in the classroom by telling the teachers to just use the frakkin’ books.

  14. N – I think the key here is to find a happy medium. Teachers have always been instructed to be prayerful and thoughtful in teaching, and to use the HG as a guide to meet the needs of their class. This instruction goes a bit too far in actually discouraging preparation and personalization. No one wants crazy crackpot speculation, but the correlated materials don’t meet the high standards they imply they do in terms of source material (see comment #1 and a lot of the JS manual from last year).

    The thinner the material, the more time will be filled by class members who will bring in their personal experiences (good), personal theories (so-so) and even their own crackpot stuff. You can silence the teachers (sort of), but not the students. As an example, a friend of mine taught lesson #1 in the new GP manual last week. The correlated materials specifically cut all references to Heavenly Mother (that were in the previous version of the manual). Given the little material provided, guess what filled the time? A student spent 10 minutes talking about (wait for it) Heavenly Mother.

  15. Our HP group has two instructors. One believes that every correlated word in the manual (whichever manual) should be used in the lesson. He calls upon the members of the group to read paragraphs to the rest of us. The other instructor uses the manual, the 1979 version of the manual, the scriptures and whatnot – mingled with questions out of the blue for discussion – for the lesson. Both instructors remain in their callings, and the HP group remains nearly as alert during one lesson as during another. Are they led more correctly by the Iron Rod instructor, or less correctly by the Liahona instructor?

  16. “The Church — through its inspired correlation program — has given us official sources of information to help us prepare lessons and plan activities. Instead of turning to unofficial books and Web sites, let’s use those sources.”

    From a perspective of teaching in the church, I can see where they are coming from (kind of). The problem is that this message perpetuates the potential for mass and ongoing “Shaken Faith Syndrome” (for lack of a better way to describe it) for those who understand the church to be saying, “READ ONLY CHURCH APPROVED MATERIAL” (because that other pile of junk and lies about the church you’ll find on the internet, in books, and from non-LDS historians ain’t inspired, and are really tools of the devil).

    Then, when you finally discover the historical and doctrinal issues not in the church approved material, you are criticized by FAIR and FARMS who ask “where have you been for the last 30 years?” “We’re not hiding anything!”

    Bugs.

  17. This article leaves a bad taste in my mouth much more than I find it helpful. I’m all about encouraging edifying teaching. But this simply comes across as propaganda from an untitled source. Multiple times in this article alone this “correlation program is inspired” idea is presented as if to to force it down our throats.

    I absolutely disagree with the following quote: “Leaders and teachers in the Church do themselves and the people they serve a disservice when they turn to unofficial — not correlated — materials in the planning of lessons and activities.”

    I feel that this article is doing a great disservice in perpetuating the idea that the correlation committee is the only group can be inspired in preparing a sunday school lesson. As if all inspiration and promptings come through correlation. God help us.

  18. PS: The downside of the “everything you need is in the manual” approach was aptly summarized by John C. at BCC recently:

    “We don’t teach the scriptures in Sunday School, we teach these streamlined doctrines supplemented by scriptural proof texts. Standardized lessons are great for emphasizing basic gospel messages, but at the expense of real experience living the gospel and interacting with the scriptures. If we can’t teach people how to live a gospel life without resorting to a series of platitudes and scriptural cliches, then all we are serving folks is fried froth. Like spiritual fast food, we are filling folks up on easy answers and spiritual mediocrity because it is fast, easy, and standardized. Instead, we should invite them to the table to feast with us on the real, wholesome, messy, tasty, pulpy, and savory word of God.”

  19. I am not shocked by this article, nor do I feel compelled to change my MO.

    I teach YMs, and as was mentioned previously, the YMs manuals are WAAAAY out of date. I respectfully use the topic du jour, but teach it as I feel my youth would best respond to it. Many times, I use the scriptures, personal testimony, and “other” items to shape the lesson to the topic. I don’t think that i am violating the spirit of the correlated material. I just don’t see why it’s necessary to use their cheesey object lessons or rhetorical questions that don’t really get the kids to think for themselves.

  20. My question is (and great comments btw) is when exactly is something an “other” item, and when is it just something out of my brain? Obviously we’re not supposed to just “read” the lesson to the class… which would take all of 5 minutes anyway. Obviously we still have to construct a lesson out of the material. When we’re constructing said lessons, it is inevitable that we would draw on things NOT (*gasp*) written verbatim in the manual.

    I’m going to reframe this entire news release with noble intentions, and assume they actually mean they actually just want us to REALLY make sure we stick to the topic, and “keep the main thing the main thing,” as my MP used to say.

  21. If I were to draw a venn diagram of my thoughts it would intersect with Clean Cut and Hawkkkgirl’s major points.

    It leaves a bad taste in my mouth too, yet I don’t want to haves teachers drawing on sources that have no place in LDS classrooms.

    I don’t think our church leaders want to do this, it must be a problem they feel required to address.

    I also think this is evidence of a decline in spirituality.

  22. I actually think the church as an instution misplaces the emphasis. Its as if the idea is that there is this perfect content that bad teachers might mess up. Fear concerning the “bad” things that might happen in a teaching environment is a terrible starting place for a consideration of teaching or course content.

    I think we should start by asking if we actually have teaching in the church at this point? What should teaching look like in the church? I am not seeing good answers to such questions coming from the institutional church. My feeling is that we don’t have teaching anymore, at least not in any meaningful sense.

    In most contexts there is a connection between “teaching” and new knowledge, or a deeper understanding of what is already known. Official church materials are structured to work directly against both of these concepts so the question that I need answered as a teacher is: “If new knowledge, or more detail are not teaching, if reading and interpreting scripture in context is not teaching, if working with theology is not teaching,if class content that is spiritually and intellectually challenging (in the positive sense) is not teaching, THEN what are we supposed to be doing for 2 hours each Sunday?”

    I subed for the teens a few weeks ago. they are a difficult group to work with, good and smart kids but they know very very little about the church, its history, interpretation of scripture, etc. They can recite doctrine though. Anyway, they tend to be difficult to engage in a discussion. So when I subbed, I brought up the topic of their silence, addressed it head on, and also told them that they are not the only one’s for whom silence is an issue. One of the first things that was mentioned is that they have had the same lessons over and over again for their entire lives, thus all the questions and all the answers are already known. Their silence is a LEARNED silence, They are silent because they have learned that they don’t need to speak, because the only speech act they believe they are capable of is to repeat what has already been said! To me that is an outrage! And this is not a criticism of the kids or their teachers. It a criticism of a education system that has tautology as its ultimate structural goal. If correlation is inspired why doesn’t it bear better fruit?

  23. adamf – “when exactly is something an “other” item, and when is it just something out of my brain?” Well, my brain hasn’t been correlated; nor has yours I suspect. 😉 Anyone who thinks 100% correlation is possible with human beings involved has drunk some serious Kool-aid.

  24. As a church, I think we are seriously confused.

    There are very rigid churches like the JWs. They publish a lot of material, have a very rigid set of doctrine, and expect people to stick to the material in their manuals.
    There are flexible churches. I’d guess that most protestant churches allow a good bit of freedom both in belief and in what is taught.

    We are just confused. We claim to have great truths that the world needs and then publish manuals that have almost no content and then expect teachers and students to limit themselves to these manuals in their classes. We claim to have living prophets and apostles, but technically aren’t supposed to use their books or sermons in lessons.

    Its actually very difficult for members to know what it is that the church actually teaches. Pick almost any issue or doctrine–you’ll find active members on both sides of the issue. In many cases, there are quotes by church leaders supporting each opposing position. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing–but it is inconsistent with our claim that we have some great truths to teach the world. We claim to have so much and then we seem to deliver so very little.

  25. Just wanna say, I love the new Resource Guides they have for the YW and Aaronic Priesthood manuals that they started using in 2009. I think they’re great. I still use some old quotes too, but I love the newer talks they reference and the discussion questions. I think this is more a “spirit of the law” type thing. I stick to the scriptures, words of latter-day prophets and the manual, and occasionally I’ll use an example from outside of those. Like, I was teaching a YW lesson that had to do with setting goals, and instead of one of the examples in the manual, I used Stephanie Nielson’s story she’d posted on her blog about making a goal to hike the “Y” after surviving a plane crash. I don’t think anyone would object to that.

  26. #31 We are confused–

    The major purpose of the church is to teach the Doctrine of Christ so that those who have been baptized can fulfill their baptism covenant and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. All other considerations are a subset of this. When members enjoy this gift confusion isn’t a big issue, without it confusion is an issue.

  27. Maybe what we need is RS/Elder’s quorum for lifelong (generations-long) members, and another for newer members. It seems the push to get back to basics is an attempt to meet the needs of all. The thing is, despite being a lifelong member, I still struggle with meaningful prayer and scripture study. Maybe I’m unique, but I think focusing on the basics wouldn’t hurt most of us.
    In reply to #29, I know I felt that way as a child/teen, but I also feel like that now in my adult classes, so I think some of it has to do with teacher development–I’d love to see the Teacher Development manual amended to address this issue of how to balance what this post is discussing.

  28. #33–I’d say that there are other Christian churches that do a much better job of sticking to the doctrine of Christ as described in 3 Nephi 11:31-40. What little we do teach in our classes mostly seems to be establishing things other than 3 Nephi 11:31-40 for the doctrine of Christ.

  29. 31. We Are Confused: I agree. When I was a member, and was falling away, even though I’ve participated in Mormon theological discussions with family all my life, there were certain issues that troubled me. My Home Teacher suggested that instead of talking to people, I should go directly to the source to find out what the church teaches about a certain thing. He said the “Source” would be scripture and Conference talks. Well… to me, those sources don’t seem any less varied than the folk-doctrines I get from talking to members. On some issues, like polygamy in the CK, I found it not really possible to know what the church officially teaches.

    Some members have counseled me that all I’m ever going to get at church is the “milk” and the “meat” comes from personal study and discussion among like minded friends. I think this is pretty sad. I agree with the person who suggested that their ought to be levels of teaching in church, though, because out here where I live now, I’ve gone to church a couple of times, only to find that I am a lot more knowledgeable then the young folks teaching the classes. I ended up answering some of the people’s questions in GE, because I was the only one in the room who knew things, for example, like the year the church was founded!

  30. #33: Jared

    While I agree with your assertion that the major purpose of the Church is to teach the gospel of Christ, I fear that the “Church” was moved quite a distance away from the “gospel” in many ways. We should teach of Christ, speak of Christ, etc. We should focus on the two great commandments: loving God and loving our fellowman.

    Unfortunately, get have added layer upon layer to this. When I think of a Protestant church, or a Southern Baptist church, I think of members getting up and praising Christ. I picture youth wearing WWJD wristbands. I daresay that when people think of “Mormons”, they are focused on far more petty things. Coke and wine hang-ups. No tobacco. Lots of wives. Guys in white shirts and ties. A gold book. The majority of these things have little to do with the actual gospel, but for some reason had taken on significance to many people in the Church.

    We need to refocus on the gospel, on loving our neighbor, on having a beer with the non-member next door (ok, maybe the last one is pushing it, but to be honest, I could see Joseph Smith doing it if he dropped in someone’s house)

  31. The next logical extension of inspired correlation is to have a correlated student study guide with correlated questions and allowable responses to questions from the instructor

  32. Another thought. How many children do you know that would go to their mother and bear their testimony that they “know the correlation committee and it’s products/manuals are true” and inspired. The mother then has an epiphany and puts casts off the “books” and “outside sources” that were tempting her to fact checking, research, and independent thought. Right! So was that “story” true/authentic or fictional? Regardless, once this touching story and the Footprint Poem that are mentioned in an official medium (Church News) are they now no longer “outside” resources and, therefore, acceptable to use without fear?

  33. The final words of 1984 come to mind:

    “He gazed up at the enormous face. Forty years it had taken him to learn what kind of smile was hidden beneath the dark moustache. O cruel, needless misunderstanding ! O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast ! Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother. ”

    So this article should have ended thus: “The mother finally saw that all those years of reading, searching and wrestling with uncertainty and doubt was in vain—it was all there, it was always there. The tears streamed down her face as she finally learned complete obedience and servitude to those who could only master her mind and soul and give her an everlasting peace..” The end. And so the end comes not with a bang but a whimper.

    Incredible…

  34. Orwell? Seriously?

    There’s a HUGE difference in a voluntary church and an oppressive city-state. Just saying.

    I have never felt oppressed by the church. If I ever did, I’d leave.

    As far as this odd article: Inspiration has seen fit to have me teach the youth of my ward, I feel assured that i have the autonomy to teach the pure doctrine as I deem appropriate and as I am guided by the spirit. And, I do. As mentioned above, I treat my lessons much like the missionary discussions are treated these days. I know what the topic is I am supposed to cover, and I teach it as I see fit. I have not used the manual material since I was called into the YM 18 months ago. The Bishop is in my class most Sundays, and has never counseled me otherwise. And, we are often blessed with the fruits of the spirit.

    As far as the youth being taught the same thing year after year — I blame lazy teaching for not applying those lessons or those principles to the youth’s situation at hand. And, the youth are being lazy for not demanding more of their Sunday worship.

  35. #34 -“I know I felt that way as a child/teen, but I also feel like that now in my adult classes, so I think some of it has to do with teacher development–I’d love to see the Teacher Development manual amended to address this issue of how to balance what this post is discussing.”

    I think many people feel that way in their adult classes, that is the next step in the analysis to be sure. I just used the youth example because it was a personal experience that happened within the last six weeks and because I am so saddened by bright young mind / spirits that at the age of 17 have already learned to expect very little from church.

    I agree with your point about the teacher development materials, but I see the same problems / emphasis in those materials as I do in the class materials. I’m in the Sunday School presidency in my ward and we are starting to do teacher development, Its a real struggle since there is so little substance in the teacher development materials.

    I don’t think we can have meaningful teacher development or teaching until the institution actually begins to trust the teachers in the church. Then we might be able to do some teacher development.

  36. #44: hcl

    While we can always be more engaged teachers and students, I don’t think the point is that we’re all too lazy. In your reply, you say the following: “I know what the topic is I am supposed to cover, and I teach it as I see fit. I have not used the manual material since I was called into the YM 18 months ago.”

    Contrast this with a direct quote from the article, from Elder Oaks: “A gospel teacher is not called to choose the subject of the lesson but to teach and discuss what has been specified.”

    So the question is, do you continue acting like Winston Smith and ignore the counsel of an apostle, or do you give in to the incessant demands of the correlation committee, backed by quote like above, and acquiesce?

  37. I guess this article means they’ll be closing Deseret Book down now. People may be *tempted* to use material from non-correlated books sold there.

    Or maybe (I hope, I hope), by cutting lessons in the manual to bare bones and insisting that we can only use that thin outline, the Correlation Committee is pushing the Church in general to cut Priesthood/Relief Society and Sunday School to only about a half an hour each. As mentioned above, if the lesson goes on much longer than that, classess start filling the time with non-correlated comments.

  38. Whoops, hit submit too early. Was going to say that the Primary manual is already like that, supplying “correct” answers to the questions. Now granted, I’m not complaining–not only is Primary intended for young children, but there really aren’t a lot of other answers to the question “Does it please Heavenly Father when you do you chores?” than the correct one.

    But I can easily this principle being applied someday in the adult Sunday School manual. If we’re going to have a catechism or a strict doxology, let’s just go ahead and call it that.

  39. What are we supposed to teach Sunday School?

    Look, when you’re taught American history in your schools, what are the stories they tell you? Do they start by “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” or similar stories about the Europeans’ uncivil, untrustworthy and downright racist genocide ideas. How many peace treaties were discarded like used toilet paper, when more land was wanted from the Natives’ areas?

    My point is not to expose Europeans’ lengthy continuance with uncivilized and racist ideas in North America; my point is, that nobody, who wants you to get to know them better, starts with the worst things he’s ever done.

    I will continue to think for myself. Some things take longer to understand than others, but if there’s a “factoid” that doesn’t seem to fit the general picture of the Church or anything else I have preconceived notions of, I study and pray. Usually I come to a good understanding.

    If you want an organization, which is run by humans in practice — humans with freedom of choice, or moral agency, whatever you call it — to be perfect, good luck finding one!

    Is that a Utah thing to think Sunday School should be more like a “comparative religion” class in university? Around here I don’t that. Also, around here we also speak quite freely in SS.

    And, the new Gospel Principles manual has a quote from Joseph F. Smith about how we are all born or heavenly parents. You see, we have two parents. Tf the Church doesn’t want us to publicly speculate on Heavenly Mother, so be it for me — I’ll do it in private. But we still have the song, Oh, My Father which explicitly states the Mother thing. If it’s approved material, produced by the evil correlation, how can it be?

    There’s plenty of other examples, but my idea was just to remind, that some things are hidden in plain sight.

  40. #32 and #35,
    I agree wholeheartedly with HeidiAnn and disagree with BoredinVernal.

    I feel that General Authorities would not object to basing a lesson doctrinally on the materials in the manual and drawing on compelling experiences from others from books, the internet, and life, to make the doctrine applicable to class members.

    I believe the Church is trying to get us to teach the principles and doctrines in the manuals, not necessarily ask the questions and tell the stories in the manuals. Also, I believe the Church is trying to get us to avoid introducing principles from outside the lessons in the manual that we believe are good, lest those we teach believe those principles to be doctrine.

  41. That last sentence is wretched. I’ll try again. I believe the church is telling us to avoid teaching principles that are not included in the manuals, even if we believe the principles are good and true, so that we do not give the impression that those principles are doctrine of the Church.

  42. I do not believe that this is a pro LDS article, the use of the word correlation seems to have a malignant tone, I’m suspicious that the article highlights “Since the early 1960s, Church members have seen the results of more than four decades of correlation efforts”

    I have some issues with correlation and I believe that there are those out there who are more blood thirsty in there attack of correlation and this article is just too delicious to be a genuine authorised church release.

    I cast my eye of suspicion over the whole thing.

  43. I wrote this in BiV’s blog on the same topic:

    I find that I don’t need to “stray” too far from the lesson materials in order to have a reasonable discussion. I am also mindful that many folks in the room have as much or more experience in the Church and knowledge of the gospel as I do. So, it it important to have an intellectually stimulating discussion. Otherwise, people sit in the hall. Likewise, it is important to teach by the Spirit.

    Since we are studying the Old Testament, I usually bring in materials that add context to the Old Testament portions that we are studying. In fact, I had a whole lesson at the end of last year that mirrored my blog posts at MM. Because most people are not familiar with that aspect of the Old Testament. Most adults in the church can probably do a 15 minute talk just from the lesson title alone. So, in my mind, it is a question of balance. Use the materials, trust the teacher and away we go.

    BTW, that mother-daughter dialog was just plain dumb. I too, remember the days of speculation. It happens almost every week!

  44. #50: “Look, when you’re taught American history in your schools, what are the stories they tell you? Do they start by “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” or similar stories about the Europeans’ uncivil, untrustworthy and downright racist genocide ideas. How many peace treaties were discarded like used toilet paper, when more land was wanted from the Natives’ areas?”

    Would to God the schools taught anything but that.

    It isn’t 1954 anymore. The average schoolteacher these days came out of an educational establishment that marinates them in the notion that America is a uniquely racist and oppressive civilization. I guarantee you that for every ten school kids who know about Wounded Knee and Sand Creek, there isn’t one who knows Fort Mims or the Minnesota Uprising. That’s the reason we get grossly inaccurate descriptions of European-Americans’ dealings with the Indians as “genocidal.”

  45. I’m ok w/ the church news article if they are ok w/ cutting out SS/RS/YM/YW and we’ll just all read the lessons ourself w/o additional thought or materials and add a couple more hours of family time per week.

  46. MQA – “I do not believe that this is a pro LDS article” Are you accusing the Church News of printing an anti-LDS article? I’m not really being facetious. Correlation committee overstepping bounds is going to have some friendly fire fallout. That’s the nature of the beast. The universalists seek to expand the tent, while the exclusivists seek to shrink it. When the tent shrinks, some are left out in the cold. That’s why I always bring a jacket.

    I agree with CS Eric that a logical extension of this would be shortening the 3 hour block. There is insufficient material for 2 hours of correlated instruction.

    HeidiAnn – “I stick to the scriptures, words of latter-day prophets and the manual, and occasionally I’ll use an example from outside of those. I don’t think anyone would object to that.” What you think is reasonable is one thing, but it may not coincide with someone else’s views. Just as an example, once I printed the lesson off lds.org once rather than the manual because the manual was hard to prop open, and I was accused by some anonymous person of using internet sources. In the lesson in question, the only internet source I had used was lds.org. So, it’s fairly arbitrary what will drive someone to think you’ve wandered off the reservation. I don’t think you can worry too much about it, though. Worst case, you end up in some other calling.

    A positive role the b’nacle can take, IMO, is to point out errors in the manuals that are there accidentally or with misattributed sources. It’s a thankless job, but I have to think it will bear fruit.

  47. brjones/Hawkgrrrl

    I have never read an article in the Church News before so I’m not sure what the usual tone of the paper is but what I’m suggesting is the writer of the article (who is unnamed) has propagated an argument that they knew would cause contention, and undermine the correlation committee. I would not necessarily say this is anti-lds I would say it is anti-correlation.

    I appreciate this is a bit of a conspiracy theory, and perhaps is just a wacky as twin towers, waco, and area 51 etc.

  48. MQA: “I appreciate this is a bit of a conspiracy theory, and perhaps is just a wacky as twin towers, waco, and area 51 etc.” Wow, the correlation committee would have a heyday with your GD lessons!

  49. Hawkgrrrl #61

    I think that is a fair assessment I’m a bit off the cuff with my lessons, whilst I attempt to stick to the subject as much as possible sometimes I can get a little carried away. I do my best and enjoy what I do but I’m just not a great teacher.

  50. Mike S.

    I don’t see how anything I teach is outside of what Elder Oaks suggests. I don’t choose the topics or subjects for the sunday lesson. Those are chosen for me.

    Last Sunday, for instance, the title of the lesson was “Who we are” (or something like that). The gist of the lesson was that we were children of god and what that meant. I taught those principles in a completely different way as suggested by the manual. I bore my testimony, the spirit was there. Amen.

    How is that flauting Oaks’ statement?

    This week I know that my lesson is on the Nature of God. I will take any good suggestions the manuals have, use some of their sources, but mold and adapt the message for my young men.

    I don’t see myself as being a rebel, just as someone who is trying to magnify a calling in the church and have the spirit present when i teach my youth.

    am i wrong?

  51. hd: “I don’t see myself as being a rebel, just as someone who is trying to magnify a calling in the church and have the spirit present when i teach.” Yet if you read the CN article, you are clearly outside the bounds of the correlation committee’s instruction, along with 80% of teachers (the other 20% are generally NOT trying to magnify their calling and instead just read the lesson straight out of the manual). Will anyone in your ward care? Maybe, maybe not. Personally I applaud your approach and say keep it up! Your reward will be in Heaven, even if you get called on the carpet on earth.

  52. Here’s the quote from the Gospel Principles manual (of which I am teaching this coming week.)

    “If you have been called to teach a quorum or class using this book, do not substitute outside materials, however interesting they may be. Stay true to the scriptures and the words in the book. As appropriate, use personal experiences and articles from Church magazines to supplement the lessons.

    The personal experiences is a bit of a wildcard, but I feel pretty handcuffed if I must stick to only the manual and Church magazines–unless we can bring in FARMS, FAIR (which aren’t my favorite sources, but they do reference some of the other things I might find interesting.) I taught the Eyring lesson a few weeks ago. I downloaded his talk and played it on my laptop for the class. Now I’m beginning to wish I could teach that once/month instead of this.

  53. I laughed out loud when i read this Church News article. It’s a strange alternate reality this little publication is part of. The daughter in that story sounds like some kind of Stepford zombie.

    I teach priesthood meeting (selected conference talks) once a month. As I prepare, I tend to find materials from all kinds of sources that support the points of the lesson. I type up an outline that includes those quotes, but don’t always get to them. What I do find most enlightening for the class is the right combination of discussion questions. I don’t like to talk for 40 minutes, so asking the right questions about the material brings out plenty of interesting ideas. Isn’t that what classes do: react to gospel teachings?

    As for the official guidelines–“As appropriate, use personal experiences and articles from Church magazines to supplement the lessons”–my “personal experiences” often include ideas from outside sources. I don’t use those sources as the basis of the lesson, but they usually provide excellent starting points for class discussion.

  54. I can appreciate the fact that the Church wants to protect its message, but I am puzzled that a Church restored in the latter days, equipped with Priesthood and revelation, feels that it’s message per history must be strained through an institutional colander. In short why have they limited the scope of accepted material to the teachings of Modern Prophets and the scriptures? I could understand that request. I could even appreciate a press release which suggested that before materials be used in class, that a teacher has thoroughly studied the source to make sure it is official. They could say something like:

    “while we encourage members to search the words of the Prophets, we have noticed at times in a zealous effort to promulgate an intriguing notion, members have falsely attributed quotes obtained from hearsay or simple internet searches to modern Prophets. We encourage all members to seek an official trusted source before relaying any quote or teaching to class members in a Sunday School setting. Doing so will promote integrity of doctrine, and contribute greatly to gospel learning.”

    I guess the point is, what they call “outside sources”, I tend to think is former generation Mormon teachings. I recognize that at times when studying the OT for example, teachers have at times given a lesson from ecumenical sources that have had protestant undertones which conflict with LDS core doctrine. Even so, I think the greater tendency is for members to search the internet for Church history and come across a version of history that the Church has tried to forget. For example if someone were teaching a lesson on Celestial Marriage and were to come across some quotes from Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, or others, which was more overt on Polygamy, “correlation” begins to shudder. This is evidenced in the way all such things have been extricated from the “inside” publications. So in short, this article almost sounds like the Church is conceding no confidence in Prophets. It will never be acknowledged in this way, but really that is how it sounds. I have found it very peculiar that along with the practice of polygamy, so has the doctrine become a thing of the past. In the Joseph Smith manual from a few years ago, there was a blurb on the inside jacket that said something to the effect of “all references to polygamy in the quotes from this book have been removed, as since 1891 through revelation, the Church has discontinued that practice”. Sure we stopped the practice because as Wilford Woodruff said, the Church property would have been seized and the Quorumn of the Twelve imprisoned. Yet, does that mean it is no longer part of the fabric Eternity? Do we no longer believe that? And if so, am I to believe that God has litterally altered the nature of marriage in both heaven and earth in order to appease the U.S. government?

  55. “In short why have they limited the scope of accepted material to the teachings of Modern Prophets and the scriptures? I could understand that request.”

    Should read:

    In short why HAVEN’T they…

  56. #42, 43

    I have to admit that there is something disconcerting about the similarities between oversimplified, unsubstantive drivel supplied from the correlated manuals, and Newspeak from “1984”.

  57. Hawkgirl and MH…

    DAMMIT! I was merely transgressing up until now! But, now that you have shown me the quotes from the Doctrine and Correlation, clearly my teachings this week will be a full-fledge SIN because I won’t follow it.

    Actually, I still think there’s some wiggle room with the “stay true to the scriptures and the words in this book” statement. I am pretty comfortable that I do that. And, I RARELY supplement with anything other than the scriptures, personal stories, or words from the prophets. I just don’t read from that darn manual verbatim. Ever.

    Where I MIGHT raise some eyebrows is in the little innoculations I throw in from time to time. I figure some of the tougher questions and church issues can be brought up — tactfully — in a safe setting during priesthood.

  58. Last year I was preparing a priesthood lesson based from testimonies of Joseph Smith, these testimonies were strong and powerful however there was no real context given to these accounts it was just a list of positive testimonies. As an EQP I had an appreciation of some of the concerns of those in the class and I felt that teaching of the lesson without deviation from church authorised materials would only inflame the sense of “whitewash” that some of the quorum members felt, and so with a podcast called The Other LDS Heroes from John Dehlin fresh in my mind, I restructured the lesson.

    I practically copied his opening point about heroes of the past Martin Luther King, Ghandi, Churchill are great heroes of our past they achieved brilliant things, but they had flaws, whilst the quorum could recount the achievements of these men few knew of there personal issues. I then said whilst Joseph Smith was not perfect and made many errors of judgement and is known for both good and evil as Moroni prophesied, he is mainly remembered for his contributions to society, for his service and love, whilst we read the Testimonies of Joseph reflect on what you what you would like to be remembered for what is the legacy you want leave behind.

    Although a member of the stake presidency was in the class and was not happy he made a quiet comment about sticking to the manual in future, I believe this struck the right balance for the class.

  59. #67: “but I am puzzled that a Church…feels that it’s message per history must be strained through an institutional colander.”

    The message becomes holier when you pass it through a holey filter.

  60. I think it ridiculous to criticize the church. It is hypocritical for one to sustain the leaders of the church on one hand and then use the other to write in opposition to them. There are plenty of references and doctrine in the manuals provided by the church to provide a heartfelt and edifying discussion. I have never seen a need to expand the lesson material beyond the scope of church provided and approved lesson manuals. I think doing so leads to speculations. Every time I see a stray from the lesson manual it almost always produces the same result: tangents and contention.

  61. Good for you, Celestial. Good for you. Can you explain the contradiction that, as members of the church, we are expected to never quote from a non-authorized source in church talks or lessons, and yet every six months in general conference, our leaders freely quote from poets, novelists, secular magazines and newspapers, and other sources? Obviously, if I teach a lesson and invent my own theology and present it as inspired, I’m not doing my job. But if during the discussion of a point I find a particularly moving story or quote from, say, Mother Theresa or C. S. Lewis (both quoted in general conference), do I really need to ask permission from church leaders? Will such quotes harm the faith of my fellow ward members? “Straying from a lesson” can indeed produce contention, which is not usually helpful, but I don’t see the problem with tangents as long as they are not the sole focus of the lesson. My life experience is nothing but tangents, and if I can’t explore those in a supportive religious environment I believe I’m being unnecessarily shackled. In a church where every member is assumed to learn how the Holy Spirit guides, why would we prevent each other from seeking inspiration in presenting a lesson?

  62. “heartfelt and edifying”
    Often in the Church this is code for “everyone stays on script and doesn’t work to develop their own ability to gain understanding.” Well, then why all the talk about the “listening to the spirit?” If members are to just be prophet following robots whose conclusions are only valid if they agree with the leadership, then why do the Brethren go through this song and dance. To me this is what hypocritical.

    “tangents and contention”
    To me this is otherwise known as a ‘discussion’ or ‘the process of critical thinking.’ I personally think the Church is better for such engagement. A diversity of voices is good for Mormonism, IMO.

    That said I understand why it’s important to the Church to be clear on it’s position— and to promote the teaching the approved message in lessons. All organizations want to control the message. The unfortunate, and I think, completely intentional side effect is a perceived prohibition on any study by members of unapproved sources…ever. For a Church that talks so much about the pursuit of truth, this is pretty sad.

  63. I’m kind of surprised I haven’t seen this mentioned yet. I wonder how much of this is due to the fact we’ve lost a lot of GD teachers over the years after they started doing research to supplement their lesson plans. Tal Bachmann is probably the most famous example, but in my area we’ve had two GD teachers go inactive over a five year period.

  64. I was talking to my carpool buddy about this topic. he helped me realize that ‘personal experiences’ is a pretty big loophole. just about any topic one can think of can be turned into a personal experience. you may not want to quote jewish encyclopedia or catholoc encyclopedia (as I like to do to contrast lds doctrines), but if you generally refer to an experience with a jewish or catholic friend, you can tie in the point. I guess I will be sharing many more personal experiences rather than authoritative quotes as I have in the past.

    one other thing I want to bring up. wasn’t enos ‘struggling in prayer’ and jacob’s wrestle with the lord a form of ‘contention’? not all of these struggles are bad and I think many can be productive. pondering scriptures led to removal of polygamy, joseph f smith’s revelation on Christ’s visit to the spirit world, and the lifting of the priesthood ban. are such episodes of pondering scriptures only reserved for prophets?

  65. Ok, I guess I got a bit carried away there Cowboy. But I think my point remains still. While external forces played the leading role in the removal of polygamy, still it was Woodruff pondering on what to do which led to the banishment of polygamy. It is evident to me he did great pondering, on what must have seemed a heretical position. He states in his own words (found after the Press Release in Official Declaration 1):

    “I have had some revelations of late, and very important ones to me, and I will tell you what the Lord has said to me. Let me bring your minds to what is termed the manifesto. . . .

    The Lord showed me by vision and revelation exactly what would take place if we did not stop this practice. If we had not stopped it, you would have had no use for . . . any of the men in this temple at Logan; for all ordinances would be stopped throughout the land of Zion. Confusion would reign throughout Israel, and many men would be made prisoners. This trouble would have come upon the whole Church

    . . . I saw exactly what would come to pass if there was not something done. I have had this spirit upon me for a long time. But I want to say this: I should have let all the temples go out of our hands; I should have gone to prison myself, and let every other man go there, had not the God of heaven commanded me to do what I did do; and when the hour came that I was commanded to do that, it was all clear to me. I went before the Lord, and I wrote what the Lord told me to write. . . .

    I’m sure Woodruff wasn’t the first Mormon man to advocate the principles of the Manifesto. Certainly there must have been others who advocated issuing the Manifesto much sooner.

    As for the priesthood ban, it was people like Sterling McMurrin (1950’s) and Newel Bringhurst (early 70’s) who studied the scriptures and came to “speculative” conclusions that the ban was not doctrinal. McMurrin brought it to Pres McKay’s attention, and Bringhurst wrote the famous Dialogue article. Are we to assume that such “speculation” was inappropriate? It sure seems like history comes down on the side of these 2 men, who were decades ahead of the 1978 revelation. I note that McMurrin brought “conflict” into his Sunday School class, yet Pres McKay said if any trouble were to come to McMurrin, Mckay would come to his aid if he found himself in trouble. If only we all had a prophet to back us up when we bring such conflict to Sunday School… (See my post on the Priesthood Ban if you aren’t familiar with this story.)

  66. To me this sums it up:

    “The following is an excerpt from a talk delivered by Elder Bruce R. McConkie to the Church Sunday School Department in 1977. The entire excerpt is a direct quotation.
    In all our teaching we represent the Lord and are appointed to teach His gospel. We are the Lord’s agents, and as such we are empowered to say only those things which He wants said.

    Agents represent their principal. They have no power of their own. They act in someone else’s name. They do what they are told to do. They say what they are authorized to say—nothing more, nothing less.

    We are the Lord’s agents. We represent Him. “As ye are agents,” He says, “ye are on the Lord’s errand; and whatever ye do according to the will of the Lord is the Lord’s business” (D&C 64:29).

    Our business as teachers is to teach His doctrine and none other. There is no other course we can follow if we are to save souls. We have no saving power of our own. We cannot create a law or a doctrine that will redeem or resurrect or save another person. The Lord only can do these things, and we are appointed to teach what He reveals on these and all gospel doctrines.”

    Source: Teaching, No Greater Call: A Resource Guide for Gospel Teaching

    I don’t know about you but I don’t mess with things like this. If the Lord, through his chosen servants, wants me to stick to a lesson manual to teach His gospel, then I will stick to a lesson manual. It is really that simple. Again, it’s His gospel. Not mine. Emphasis on “His.”

  67. Celestial,

    Pres Kimball used to quote from Les Miserables. Pres Monson gave a talk referencing the movie Home Alone. Such references would be unauthorized if a Sunday School Teacher used them. How is personal revelation compatible with following the manual? It does seem that some of our leaders don’t practice what they preach if we can only use church magazines and scriptures, doesn’t it?

  68. #81 – I appreciate your position, Celestial, and within the context of the church, I don’t think you’re wrong. That said, I think this is a decent example of why the church has a reputation for exercising thought control over its members. It’s not just that the church has commanded the members to only use correlated material. It’s the idea that “the lord, through his chosen servants, wants [you] to stick to a lesson manual.” The prophets speak, and you are left with the choice of either obeying “the lord” or using your own judgment to determine the best course to meet your gospel responsibilities. The point is, the lord’s way, at least in this instance, does not allow for much individual judgment or reasoning. If you’re convinced that such messages truly are coming straight from god, then there’s no problem. But if you believe these messages come from other human beings, as most people in the world do, then the pattern is problematic, and a little disturbing.

  69. Celestial – to add to BrJones’ well-reasoned thought, as members of the church in good standing, teachers are entitled to the assistance of the spirit in executing and magnifying their callings. As written, the correlation committee’s statement limits the role of personal revelation in teaching and prayerful addressing of the needs of the students. The correlation committee has converted “promptings” into “temptations” in order to discourage following them. Were they prompted (in service to the needs of the membership) or tempted (in a need to reinforce their authority) to do that?

  70. In one example to a couple of missionaries the Lord taught this principle: “And let them journey from thence preaching the word by the way, saying none other things than that which the prophets and apostles have written, and that which is taught them by the Comforter through the prayer of faith.” (D&C 52:9) I think a commonly misunderstood principle is recognizing the spirit teaching you something through a prayer of faith. I don’t think it’s a question whether or not the prophet or apostles can stray from a lesson manual. They have the keys of the kingdom and are authorized by the Lord himself to do so. I, on the other hand, walk a fine line between what my own voice can say verses what the Lord wants me to say as prescribed by his authorized servants. I can pray and ask the Lord for guidance about how to present the lesson (approved by authorized servants) in an edifying manner. Here, in faith, is where the spirit will enlighten me. I know the Lord doesn’t want us to read the manual word for word to the class. This would take the entire class time in some cases just reading. Reading parts and allowing for discussion is more appropriate. Reading referenced scripture is excellent and allowing for discussion is even better. You might not get through the entire lesson, but if planned well you can teach the main points of the lesson. Good preparation on the part of the teacher is necessary to accomplish this.

  71. celestial,

    before we were born, there were 2 plans presented. jesus wanted to give free agency, knowing we woulf grow and fail. satan wanted to take away free agency to force all to be good. this message from the correlation committee sounds like the latter, not the former. don’t you agree? could you answer my question about the double standard of ga’s not practicing what they preach?

    paul told us to ‘covet to prophesy’, and joseph smith said we all can get revelation. apparently the correlation committee feels otherwise. I think these quotes from the correlation committee harm spiritual maturity. jesus wanted us to be free to make mistakes and learn from them. but the correlation committee seems to want to prevent mistakes. I understand (and agree to an extent) the correlation committee’s concerns but I think such statements are throwing the baby out with the bathwater and have some undesirable results as well: spiritual maturity is stifled and pondering scriptures is discouraged for fear that people like sterling mcmurrin are speculating too much. while that can be the case, in hindsight, such speculation was entirely appropriate and confirmed by the 1978 revelation.

  72. All things must be done in order…the church teachings that have standards to teach by are a great blessing to me that I can go anywhere and hear the same things being taught. Correlation is a great blessing, even if it comes at some cost.

    There are many times I am bored with the lessons and wish for deeper teachings (sometimes even speculation to make things interesting for me) – but what I would want does not mean that is what the church leaders want in the classroom experience for all involved.

    I think it is a far stretch to equate “A gospel teacher is not called to choose the subject of the lesson but to teach and discuss what has been specified” with “Satan’s plan to take away free agency”. The teacher should teach the curriculum with his/her own talents so that all may be edified, and use free agency to study the tenets of the gospel on his/her own time.

  73. I think a subtle point here is the idea of individualism. Ultimately this is what we are talking about. As teachers we would like to feel licensed to be able to use all things at our disposal to make gospel points in class room setting. So while this may not be exactly tied to free-agency per se’, as the right to choose, I do think it is tied to this idea of individual importance and self worth. We are being told explicitly that as members we have no other insights or value to the Kingdom other than stand in the public square as the town crier shouting out a standardized message. At the end of the day our own opinions, faith, and spirituality are squelched by a tidy message. This is the shame because as a member, particularly one who does not buy the general message of the restoration, the only value I get out of Church is my own individual spirituality and communion with others.

  74. Cowboy, there is certainly value to your position. Look at how the missionary program has moved to finding it of greater value to teach by the spirit, rather than a memorized flanel board presentation. I think accepting diversity and challenging people to think is what class should be about.

    However, there is a limit where the topics and materials to draw from should be correlated so there is order.

    I don’t think the message is “Only teach this tidy message” but instead, it is “Don’t reinvent the wheel. Lesson material is already provided, make use of that rather than finding material from unapproved sources.”

    Sometimes I think people try to complicate their callings too much, when it can be kept simple and straight forward, and focus on teaching with the spirit rather than trying to be a teacher that can find some material no one has heard of before.

  75. Heber, that is a valid point. I’m not trying to equate them–rather I’m trying to show the similar lines of thought. As a parent, we must all wrestle with when to give our children freedom. Would we allow our 5 year old the freedom to operate a motor vehicle? Of course not! While the law allows 16 years olds this privilege, it is evident from insurance records that this can be problematic. Some would to better at 18, others can do it at 14 or 15. The law has made a decision that 16 is appropriate to grant this “freedom” to operate a vehicle.

    I think the same principle applies to correlated lessons. What I get from these correlation quotes is that they don’t feel we can operate a vehicle, and treat us as if we are closer to age 10-12. Of course, the church has to worry about new members, recently activated members, etc, who probably do have the spiritual maturity of a 10-12 year old. These lessons are great for them. But to treat all members this way is irritating. There needs to be a way to talk about other topics. If the church refuses to provide an acceptable forum for this and continually focuses on the need to return to basics, they are ignoring all the 16-21 year olds. Pretty soon, we turn to the bloggernacle, historians, or anti-mormon sites because we’re tired of the 10-12 year old lessons. Sure, they have value, but please. It’s like eating the same 4 meals–surely there must be some way to add a few spices to the meal to change things up. Yes, bananas are good to eat, but not every meal!

    There is a constant “milk before meat” mentality among the leadership. Well, when can we actually talk about meat? Apparently the church is only for spiritual vegetarians, because meat is considered “speculation”.

    Am I the only one who has noticed that many people chat in the halls because they lessons are so boring? Is my ward the only one with bad teachers?

  76. Mormon Heretic,

    I guess I consider the milk, meat and maybe that is the difference here. I still get a lot out of the so called basics. Sorry if I am holding you all back and maybe the Lord is waiting on folks like me to progress. Who knows! I have read the BOM, it seems, a billion plus times but I still get constant nourishment out of it and I still learn new things. I look forward to the lessons on Sunday and each time the spirit teaches me new and exciting things. I have many weaknesses and need a constant reminder of who I am and that I have the power to overcome my challenges in life. I feel these lessons are designed for people like me.

  77. “What I get from these correlation quotes is that they don’t feel we can operate a vehicle, and treat us as if we are closer to age 10-12. Of course, the church has to worry about new members, recently activated members, etc, who probably do have the spiritual maturity of a 10-12 year old.”

    I think this whole notion smacks of pre-Martin Luther Era mentality that suggested “common” people were too crude vessels to be given access to the scriptures. I have read some articles recently that suggest part of the appeal to Mormonism was the idea of personal revelation to the common man. In short, previous traditions placed great emphasis on clergy for interpreting scripture, and declaring doctrine. To counter, Joseph Smith taught the idea of a personal God, even corporal in the form of man, a father in whom each member could approach in the spirit of revelation to recieve the keys to tge mysteries. Now, we have come full circle. Once again man is too mean and vulgar to embark upon self discovery and proselytizing. No, we must rely upon the clergy to spoon feed us immature parishoners, and to protect us as children from the religious fire that will can only due harm in our childish hands. Suffice it to say, history ill regards the dark ages, and this position on religion is all too similar.

    As a second point I sense a common but false misunderstanding that convert/new member, most often = spiritual immaturity. While new converts are often (but certainly not always) less versed in Mormon doctrine, history, and literature, I think it is unfair to suggest that they would be unable to “handle it”. I find very perplexing in fact, that there is a common thinking that information which would cause a person who is considered rational and mature enough to be baptized, to question their faith, is some how indicative of yet “spiritual immaturity” none the less. If they are too immature to appreciate polygamy or the Priesthood ban, for example, perhaps their baptism should be postponed until they are spiritual enough to accept “Gods ways”.

    Lastly, to echo sentiments already mentioned, milk before meat implies a progression towards meat. I find it interesting that it was the Savior who coined this phrase, and spent his entire ministry gathering spiritual infants and then progressing them to succeed him after his mortal phase was to be completed. In short, to argue milk before meat is only valid if there is a plan to get the child off the breast, and at the dinner table. I see it more as a convenient put off and nothing more.

  78. Mormon Heretic,

    You posted about agency and a double standard. I guess I look at that different too. Satan wanted glory unto himself and did things his own way to, in his mind, to exalt himself above God. I don’t see a similarity between what Satan wanted to do and how the Lord set up His church through the system of revelation and the foundation of apostles and prophets. I guess when you truly know that Jesus is the head of this church and His apostles are truly called of Him you will look at this in an entirely new light. I know that they are true servants of the Lord. It is the Lord’s way to give these men authority to act in His name on earth. They truly receive revelation from Him to lead and guide His church on earth. I take what they say as if the Lord himself said it. I truly believe that when it is all said and done we will know that this church was entirely lead by the Savior himself. Does that make the apostles blind agents who have no choice? No! Satan has no agency. Agency is truly the ability to progress or move forward in greater degrees of righteousness and light. Satan literally cannot do this. He is unable to change. He is unable to forget. His memories are perfect and his state is forever set. Without agency we would never be able to progress or have children. Adam fell that men may be and men are that they might have joy. This is why Satan’s plan would have never worked. Without agency, how would Adam have progressed beyond the garden? Without agency, how would they have ever had children. They would have never moved forward at all in their progression. We would have never been born. The Lord is trying to teach us that by following His strict commands in perfect obedience gives us the gift of being a free agent. We are not bound to unchangeability. We can create, love, move forward and help others along the way. Satan can do none of those things. Those who wish to follow him will have a similar fate in various degrees.

  79. Just to show what true agency is lets compare God and Satan. God can create worlds without end, spirit children, physical and spiritual objects beyond human comprehension. Satan can only influence things created by God. He of himself cannot do anything good. All good cometh of God and the Lord does not let Satan have any part in it. It would be like studying really hard for a test and getting all the answers right but never receiving credit for it and watching all the other students pass and progress to the next grade while you are stuck in this eternal limbo state of being. Even if he helped a lady across the street his state would still be the same. The act would be neither good or evil. Since the Lord will not give him the credit for helping someone, there is no good there. He can never ever progress to greater things. Heavenly father can continue to create worlds and people forever and experience the joy therein. Satan cannot create life and get pleasure from his creations. He literally cannot create anything, only influence things created. The Lord wanted to help Adam understand agency when Adam chose wrong. The minute he transgressed the freedoms he once enjoyed was gone. He could not do as many things as he once could in the garden. His state had changed. He had knowledge now that he once didn’t have, but it came at a price. This was more of a learning experience than anything else. The difference between Adam and Satan is the fact that Adam can progress in righteousness and ultimate get out of the hole he fell in. This is free agency in its purest form, the ability to create life and experience joy forever and ever.

  80. Nicely said Cowboy.

    “I don’t know about you but I don’t mess with things like this. If the Lord, through his chosen servants, wants me to stick to a lesson manual to teach His gospel, then I will stick to a lesson manual. It is really that simple. Again, it’s His gospel. Not mine. Emphasis on “His.””

    This is another example of how we so perfectly miss the point. His gospel is his, but it is not a reductionist gospel, nor is it a formula, nor is it a simple method, or program. Its structure eludes us every time we try to describe it. Thus we need to bring everything we can, or everything that is necessary to teaching it.

    I do not often use materials other than the manual to teach a class, but I will never limit myself to the manual in preparing to teach the class. As a teacher it is a necessity that I bring my very best knowledge, theology, intrepretation, prayer, insight, historical understanding, etc. etc. etc. to the lesson. This REQUIRES using outside sources: from different translations of the texts, to examining issues in comparative religion, to reading philosophical texts that with unique religious insights, to knowing something about the cultures that produced the texts we use as scriptures, to knowing when the manuals contain mistakes, or contain obvious revisionist history, OR knowing when the manuals make radical and compelling claims that are treated as bland and run of the mill. In fact one of the problems I often see with the manuals is that they are so willing to take radical and challenging aspects of our religion and present them as assumptions to be glossed over, assumed and quickly forgoten.

    Anyway, how all the above elements interact can’t be predicted ahead of time. It all depends upon the needs of the people in the class, the inspiration that the instructor gets, and the content of the lesson. Myself, One week I may lean heavily upon the work of Levinas in preping a lesson. Another week, I may be equally dependent upon just a few lines of scripture. Another week I may need to focus closely on a section of text from the manual. The goal of creating a lesson that makes the gosple new and wonderful and that meets the needs of the people in the class remains constant. The one thing I refuse to do though, is to pretend that simplistic formulas, or terrible questions, or revisionist history, or proof texting, are inspired. They aren’t, and by definition can’t be.

    I think this has a lot to do with why such huge numbers of youth and converts leave the church. They want to grow spiritually but can’t find a way to do it in the face of a religious education defined largely by repetition and scholasticism.

    Only two types of people can survive in such an environment. Those who(for what ever reasons good or bad) don’t really need or want to learn and so are satisfied with the status quo; and those who (for what ever reasons good or bad)must learn and find ways to do it on their own.

    Exceptional teaching is a powerful answer to the spiritual challenges faced by both groups.

  81. Perhaps my biggest issue with this is NOT whether the information they chose to put in the manual is adequate to teach a lesson – as it likely is. This whole thing is emblematic of the increasingly fine level of micromanagement that the Church has developed over the past few years. Instead of focusing on the Gospel, they want to tell us what color shirt we should wear to Church, how many earrings we should have, what words we should say when we’re giving a lesson, etc.

    I fear that in their attempt to put the Wasatch Front stamp of approval on everything in a mass-produced and correlated Church, it is instead going to be like a watermelon seed or a bar of soap – it is necessary to keep a relatively firm grip to keep either one in your hand, but if you squeeze too hard, it will shoot out. Perhaps it’s emblematic of my own failings, but having been a life-long member, married in the temple, having served a mission and in a number of callings, etc., it’s getting to the point where the Church is getting in the way of the Gospel in my life. I’m considering more and more refocusing on the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and ignoring the Church’s multiplying rules.

  82. Douglas Hunter: “The goal of creating a lesson that makes the gosple new and wonderful and that meets the needs of the people in the class remains constant. The one thing I refuse to do though, is to pretend that simplistic formulas, or terrible questions, or revisionist history, or proof texting, are inspired. They aren’t, and by definition can’t be.” This is my sentiment and sums up a lot of my experience with the JS manual last year. The new manual is an upgrade, mostly because the topic is a return to basic gospel principles. Perhaps this admonishment from the correlation committee wouldn’t be necessary if last year’s manual hadn’t created a problem with its shoddy methods. If this is intended to be a great improvement on that, I applaud it. But I would hope that the committee has learned a valuable lesson about the poor tactics of yesterday. I’m not sure there’s much basis for that hope, but I’ll try to hang onto it anyway.

  83. Cowboy, I couldn’t agree with you more in 92. I’ve been thinking the same things: that ‘“common” people were too crude vessels to be given access to the scriptures.‘ I fear the church is falling into this idea. To borrow a phrase from politics, it seems there is a bit of spiritual elitism among the correlation committee that we’re not capable of pondering and understanding the scriptures, and therefore need highly focused, structured lessons with no room for ‘outside sources’ such as Home Alone though with Pres Monson’s skilled spiritual mastery, such outside sources are apparently only worthy of an address in the Tabernacle, rather than an individual teacher’s personal inspiration.

    Your comment about the false misunderstanding that convert/new member, most often = spiritual immaturity. While new converts are often (but certainly not always) less versed in Mormon doctrine, history, and literature, I think it is unfair to suggest that they would be unable to “handle it”. You’re right on the money. I do know a few recently activated people in my ward who are pretty illiterate when it comes to Mormon history and doctrine, but there are other new members who know the doctrines quite well and can handle polygamy and the priesthood ban quite well. We seem to focus only on individuals who need to know the so-called basics, and all others must just suffer through these same basic lessons year after year.

  84. “I fear that in their attempt to put the Wasatch Front stamp of approval on everything in a mass-produced and correlated Church, it is instead going to be like a watermelon seed or a bar of soap – it is necessary to keep a relatively firm grip to keep either one in your hand, but if you squeeze too hard, it will shoot out.” Also, you won’t get very clean from a watermelon seed. 🙂

  85. Thanks Hawk.

    “The new manual is an upgrade, mostly because the topic is a return to basic gospel principles. Perhaps this admonishment from the correlation committee wouldn’t be necessary if last year’s manual hadn’t created a problem with its shoddy methods. If this is intended to be a great improvement on that, I applaud it. But I would hope that the committee has learned a valuable lesson about the poor tactics of yesterday. I’m not sure there’s much basis for that hope, but I’ll try to hang onto it anyway.

    Yea the JS manual was pretty tricky to work with, I think a lot of folks were frustrated by it. What I think is interesting though is that the new manual is so slim and so basic, I can’t help but see it as an invitation to teachers to really apply themselves to the lessons in a way that has not been encouraged in the past, and to draw on outside materials of many sorts since there is so little content in the lessons. Yet we have the statements in the OP. So the tension continues.

    You raise a good point: what has the committee learned, what are they thinking? They are sort of a black box. I wish the church was more open and there could actually be a broad based dialogue on teaching that wasn’t centered on these strange mandates from on high. Debating these mandates makes it harder to get out of the starting blocks with lessons. Teaching is so important and yet its handled in this very strange way. I’ll try to hold on to hope as well.

  86. Pingback: What is Mormon culture? « Irresistible (Dis)Grace

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