This Won’t Make It Past Correlation!

John Nilsson church, curiosity, education, LDS, religion, seminary, theology, thought 32 Comments

Who wrote this, and why wouldn’t the Correlation Committee allow it to be published today?

Every teacher is obligated by his responsibility to others to become a scholar in the gospel. He must obtain a sound and full understanding of the theology of the Church.  He must not give erroneous beliefs to his students or permit them to develop unsound inferences from what he says.

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  2. Maybe the use of the word, scholar?? But I’ve seen that language used in recent GC talks. I’m not convinced that Correlation would put the kibosh on it.

  3. Why wouldn’t correlation like it? Because ‘teaching’ in the church today doesn’t really have anything to do with teaching. The idea that you teach real things and people learn real things in a church class is soooo outdated. ‘Teaching’ in the church is about giving your students a nice warm feeling inside. Its about letting them feel good about some inspirational story–whether or not that story is factually accurate or not. You are supposed to leave a class feeling good, feeling that you believe in the church, feeling motivated to carry out the church programs. Noboday cares if you leave the class having ‘learned’ anything. It doesn’t matter if church teachers know anything about the theology–as long as they can motivate and get people to feel the way the church wants people to feel.

  4. THere is nothing in the statement itself which wouldn’t make it past correlation. It may be someone other than a general authority, as quotes don’t get past correlation unless a GA or the scriptures said them, with the rare exception of a few poems and show tunes.

  5. (I tried changing to my real name but it’s not working. Forgive the anonymity and somewhat absurdness of my current handle.)

    I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that it might create a perception of proficiency in the teacher or the class that the instructor is the most knowledgeable of all. “He must obtain a sound and full understanding of the theology of the Church.” I’m not sure there are many, if any at all, who fit this description.

    It also leaves no room for error on his/her part which could become stressful in the calling or worse, nurture a sense of self-righteousness and narrow-mindedness thus inhibiting growth of the person and the class as a whole. I tend to want to speak up more to add my understanding or interpretations when I think there’s more than one definitive answer. If I percieve them to be “scholarly” I prefer to keep my mouth shut rather than be wrong or simply viewed as wrong, but that’s just me. I get more from class when I remember and see the teacher as teachable and from classroom discussions more than lectures.

  6. I agree with Anon. There is nothing wrong with the quote itself, but it does suggest proficiency that many members called to teach do not have. With a lay clergy and as the Church continues to grow, making sure every teacher is a “scholar” of the Gospel isn’t realistic.

    I also believe it is recognized in the Church today that to create an atmosphere where the Spirit can dwell is much more important than a teachers aptitude in the Gospel. You do need knowledge to create that atmosphere but it can be accomplished by a humble new member of the Church that is willing to carefully plan their lessons.

    Also, the Church has moved away from teaching in depth Gospel discussions in general. I think it is realized that when discussions get too deep false doctrine creeps in, even from strong members. If you compare an Ensign from the 70s to one today, there aren’t as many deep discussion on doctrinal issues.

  7. I think it’s because of the word “theology.” We don’t like that word in the Church. It implies to many (including, I would suspect, the white shirts in Correlation) that God is something to study and try to figure out using the philosophies of men. It hints at councils and creeds and debates over angels dancing on the heads of pins. The revealed, restored gospel is supposed to be above that, right?

  8. I back Jay’s response (#8): its about the term “theology”, which the LDS church doesn’t seem to really have, at least in the form of a fixed, creedal base. Continuing revelation allows new “doctrine” to trump the old.

    One other thought that interests me, which discovering the source of this statement might elucidate, is conjecture about what is meant by the word “scholar”. To Joe the plumber ( 🙂 ), a scholar might be anyone who went to college. To a college graduate, a scholar might be anyone who received advanced training and education in a particular field, or who wrote a book on a particular topic. To a college professor, a scholar is one that has been trained in focused, established methodologies of research, interpretation, and exposition; who can be relied upon for in-depth analysis of a topic using establish rhetorical and logical tools, all the while acknowledging and considering multiple perspectives; who reads widely in a discipline but profoundly in a narrow subdiscipline, of which he or she is considered an expert; who is careful (usually) not to speak, teach, or write on topics for which he or she has not studied; and, who is able to draw from a vast well of knowledge and experience when approaching new texts.

    The broad definition of a scholar (anyone with a college degree) seems to function more on social class levels (based on chances for education and aptitude). The church might be reluctant to use the term because it tends to exclude from teaching positions those who could not or chose not to seek higher education. The narrow definition of a scholar would require a professional clergy to perpetuate and promote: indeed disqualifies the vast majority of the membership of the church, GAs included, because they haven’t taken the time and trained the mind to interact with texts in the “proper” manner.

    I think the author of John’s quote used the term scholarship rather loosely. The “full understanding” the author asks for probably simply connotes that a person called to teach should have a commanding grasp of basic gospel principles, a good memory for scriptural stories and references, and be actively engaged in learning the most recent word of the Lord through General Conference addresses. The “sound understanding” the author asks for probably means that the information gained with the “full understanding” is put to good use in testifying of the truthfulness of the Church and its doctrine, and in promoting faithfulness among the membership. The final sentence of the quote seems to confirm this reading.

    One final observation, just for fun and unrelated to the rest of my comment: does the author of the quote assume that the gospel teach will be male, or is he simply using the universal “man” in place for “mankind”? The author refers to the teacher by using masculine third person singular pronouns 5 times in 50 words.

  9. Wild guess: Jos. Fielding Smith. It would not pass correlation today because you are supposed to be sticking to approved materials, not expounding your “sound and full understanding of the theology of the Church”! (I should have been born pre-correlation).

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    Good answers, everyone. Don’t I sound like a Sunday School teacher? The quote is from Asahel Woodruff’s “Teaching the Gospel”, a text used to teach teachers how to teach. Do we still have complete manuals in the Church for that? Woodruff was the department chair of education at BYU in the 1950s and 1960s.

    Does anyone know when women historically began teaching adult Sunday School classes? The assumption in this 1961 manual seems to be, from the language and illustrations, that men will be the instructors.

    The word theology would never make it past Correlation, but the central reason this quote wouldn’t fly is that it strikes at the heart of the Correlation project of simplification and standardization under priesthood control. Teachers are not so much teachers now as discussion moderators who have, unlike their class, read the text beforehand and have an idea of how to fill time.

    If teachers actually are gospel scholars, it can help in the Correlation mission, but in most cases, the lesson manuals now are supposed to teach themselves and be dummy-proof.

  11. Your religion, and all religions, are a sham! Your hippocracies are evident in the way your “church” conducts it’s business. And after all, your church is not a religion, but a business–and it should have it’s tax exemption status revoked, you sumbags!!!

  12. Why not today? Wild guess:

    They’ve changed the way we do classes, from a ‘lecture’ in the past (when teachers/lecturers did need to know what they were talking about) to a ‘discussion’ session today, were all are equal and learn together according to what (sanitized) version of events they add to Teachings of the Presidents of the Church.

    Personally I prefer the ‘discussion’ setup, even though I think the manual could be more user friendly.

  13. Bill has it right. The logical implication is that Sunday School should be eliminated. Sacrament Meeting is more than adequate for inspiration. PR/RS meetings can pick up the slack.

    One might well wonder what the point of Institute is either – surely not to teach anyone anything. Extra hours of cheerleading practice perhaps.

  14. “The logical implication is that Sunday School should be eliminated”

    Please do! its a terrible waste of time. If there is ever a petition…I’m in.

  15. Eric,

    I missed your comment.

    “Your hippocracies are evident in the way your “church” conducts it’s business….but a business–and it should have it’s tax exemption status revoked, you fucking sumbags!!!”

    What are ‘sumbags’?

    But tax exempt or not, history teaches us that the church will probably do well over time; when it comes to money there are plenty of MBA’s and (f’n) LLB’s there to set things up, or maybe its because God himself is on our side?? 🙂

  16. #11 John – “Does anyone know when women historically began teaching adult Sunday School classes?”

    I’m going to guess somewhere around 1978. Around the same time the GA’s clarified for Regional Reps that women could offer prayers before meetings (Sacrament, Sunday School, Stake Conference, etc). It’s also my guess that this wasn’t so much a doctrinal issue as it was a matter of assumption and what was common practice up to that time.

  17. “The word theology would never make it past Correlation” I disagree.

    I’m going to go ahead and admit that I disagree with John on this one across the board.

    I have never seen the Church downplay the need for teachers to have “gospel scholarship” (i.e. personal study of the scriptures and familiarity) so while I think they currently would say you don’t have to have it to be called as a teacher, they would always encourage it once you are called.

    I think the main problem with the above quote is not it’s content, but a change in the way we perceive the word “scholar.” Back when this was written the word “scholar” meant “someone that reads the scriptures and studies them a lot.” Today we are far more likely to think of the word scholar much more literally as someone that has a degree. So it would not make sense to say it in the way it’s currently worded. I think this is what John is sensing about the quote.

    But I have no doubt that the actual content of this quote would easily fly through correlation if we accept that the thought requires different words to mean the same thing to today’s audience.

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    I suppose my reasoning for the word theology not being kosher would be it’s complete absence in the correlated lesson manuals of the church. Church magazines will print the word, especially when it’s written by a General Authority who doesn’t know better that we don’t have a theology. The word theology would not see print in a correlated, unsigned lesson manual because the voice of the lesson manual is the voice of God, or the official voice of the church, at the very least. We can always pooh pooh an individual’s comments and say, “He’s not the president of the Church”. Can’t do that with a faceless lesson manual.

  19. John, I think we can agree to disagree here. I think you’re taking a dismissively negative tone when you say things like a href=”http://www.newcoolthang.com/index.php/2007/12/does-mormonism-have-a-theologyies/478/”>”General Authority who doesn’t know better that we don’t have a theology.”

    I am curious about one, thing, John. How are you finding all of these things? Are they books you happened to read? (Do you collect old manuals and read them for fun? Are you a researcher?) And how did you figure out that outside of GA’s, correlated manuals don’t use the word theology? I’m not arguing here, I think you are probably right.

    But I’ve never even thought to look for a word like that. And if I did, I don’t really have a search engine available to search for it. How do you find things like this? I’m honestly curious.

    Your series is fancinating even if I can’t agree with you on this one.

  20. The word “scholar” can’t be used because it is too close to “intellectual” and we all know that intellectuals (along with gays and feminists) are the three greatest enemies of the church. (According to Boyd K. Packer.)

  21. LOL mcarp. Except I think that quote by Packer was made in earnest. And its no laughing matter that it inculcates the majority of us here at Mormon Matters, perhaps in more than one category. What to do? I for one, am working on becoming an anti-intellectual, homophobic misogynist (but loving others despite their choices and faults all the while). Cheers.

  22. SteveS writes “What to do? I for one, am working on becoming an anti-intellectual, homophobic misogynist (but loving others despite their choices and faults all the while).”

    OK, so one LOL deserves another!!! Nice!

  23. I have read numerous blogs in regards to teachings and teachers within the LDS religion. I concur that most are accurate and enlighting, but I have a question I hope some of you can answer. Are professors at BYU bound by the BYU Honor Code? Are they not required to have a Temple Recommend to teach at the university? I am aware of a former humanities professor at BYU ( name will be given if responses so indicate it should be), who was asked to take an “early retirement” due to his sexual relations with numerous BYU coeds. This professor was in his early 40’s, his students, early 20’s. An investigation was conducted by the school, but the female coeds were afraid to speak up as to concerns of being dis-fellowshipped or excomunicated from the LDS Church. The school did feel it had enough evidence to warrant his “early retirement”, and he left the school. This professor still denies any wrong doing, but now there are women who willing to speak out on this matter. Beside the two initial questions, who and how should one bring this to the attention of the school or the church? Any advise will be greatly appreciated.

  24. Michael – I don’t remember sleeping with any of my humanities professors while at the Y. Are you sure it was humanities? 🙂

    I really don’t know the answers to your questions either. I assume professors are bound by the Honor Code (or a non-student variation of it), and are bound to enforce it. I also know they are evaluated on the spiritual content of their classroom, regardless of subject matter. If a student was sleeping with someone (professor or not), and the student confessed it that would be a matter for the bishop to determine in confidence; I don’t believe the student would be subject to an Honor Code violation (please correct me if anyone knows otherwise).

    I don’t believe professors are required to have a TR. There are visiting professors who are non-LDS, and while they would be bound by Honor Code, they would not be bound by TR requirements. (When I was there, the same went for football players).

    Because there was no crime committed (the girls were presumably consenting and at least 18), and the professor no longer works there, I’m not sure what the school would do at this point other than yell at his dust.

  25. Hawkgrrrl, you are amusing also. Thanks for your reply…..it is gratly appreciated. I am not certain how all this blog thing works but if possible I would like to ask you other questions in regard to Mormonism….I am Catholic, living with a Mormon…..is there any way to “talk” offsite?

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