In a 1926 Improvement Era the M.I.A. reading course included four books: ‘The Book of Mormon, 50c; by mail, 60c. Prophecies of Joseph Smith and Their Fulfilment, by Nephi L. Morris, $1.50; by mail, $1.50. Hugh Wynne, a novel, by S. Weir Mitchell, $1.25; by mail, $1.35. Wild Life in the Rockies, Enos A. Mills, $2.50; by mail, $2.60.’ (Priesthood Quorums, Improvement Era, 1926, Vol. Xxix. July, 1926 No. 9 .)
The ‘Joint Advance Senior Class’ had two manuals to choose from ‘1. Heroes of Science, by Dr. F. S. Harris and N. I. Butt. 2. Rational Theology, by Dr. John A. Widtsoe.’ (Priesthood Quorums, Improvement Era, 1926, Vol. Xxix. July, 1926 No. 9 .)
Although, I was aware that the Church used other literature in their Auxiliaries I was not aware that they used a quite wide selection of literature. Although my initial reaction to these efforts was positive, I am not convinced that this would be a good thing today.
My positive reaction centered around the possibilities of a Church that encouraged its members to fulfill the admonition in D&C 88 to become educated. However, on reflection I began to wonder whether I needed to be told what books to read, or what interests to have. The Church has explicitly directed its members to try and learn all we can and this seems sufficient.
Perhaps the Church’s growing assimilation (both socially and economically) has also made it less-important to direct and supply its members with other reading materials. Further is it possible that the Church’s correlation programmes, in trying to focus more directly on ‘core’ gospel principles, has decided to become less pro-active in directing the secular learning of the members of the Church. Although some have lamented correlation as a form of dumbing-down, I, for one, am grateful for this change.
In contrast, I wonder whether the Church could provide low cost literature for Saints in other parts of the world where access to books is something of a luxury, so although I feel that this is not something that I would benefit from, I sense that it might be positive for some other areas. In addition, the Elders Quorum President in our ward has recently asked that once a month someone share something that has inspired them that is not specifically LDS; a piece of poetry, art or music. Although I think there is something to be said for bringing in outside influences to our Sunday classes, I am not sure whether I want that to be too tightly controlled.
What are your thoughts about whether the Church should offer such materials to the Saints?