This Won’t Make It Past Correlation!

John Nilssonapostasy, babies and bathwater, christ, church, curiosity, doubt, education, faith, General Authorities, God, Jesus, LDS, Leaders, liberal, Mormon, Mormons, orthodox, prayer, questioning, religion, spirituality, testimony, thought 43 Comments

Hi everyone,

Welcome to my new series where I provide you, the reader, with an excerpt from an LDS church manual, uncited, which I LIKE. That means no Journal of Discourses nonsense like blood atonement, racism, or Adam-God for starters. (Sorry to disappoint some of our readers with that caveat).

You can guess if you want, such things as the author (the Church used to have individual authors stand behind their words), the title, the era, or which church program the lesson was used in. But that’s all trivia, really, compared to this: You get to list ALL THE MANY REASONS why the excerpt I give you wouldn’t make it past the Correlation Committee today!

Here’s our first one:
Young people sometimes doubt the truth of the Gospel or some part of it, and feeling the worthy desire to be sincere, they cease to be active in the Church. The answer to them is to be sincere always. One must never violate one’s integrity, whatever it may cost. But must one believe all or nothing? Must one cut off Church participation-the great source of righteousness in one’s life and in the community, because there is some doctrine doubted or disbelieved? Rather, is it not wisdom to begin, not with doubts and faults, but with the simple truths and virtues one can believe, then move on from there to others? Surely no one would claim to know all the Gospel. Great truths are always just around the corner for those who seek. Jesus told us to knock, seek, and ask, not just once, but continuously. One step at a time applies to progress in the Gospel as it does to education or any worthwhile achievement. One is not a hypocrite if he has honest questions and is active in the Church at the same time. The leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would offer this suggestion:

Start where you are. What do you believe? Start with that and take it as far as you can down life’s highway. Another truth will meet you at nearly every bend in the road. God has never intended that an honest mind should be humiliated or made unwelcome in the Church by any other member because of honest inquiry. Above all, keep the virtues of integrity, sincerity, and genuineness. Nothing else can be right in a man’s life if he is not sincere.

Go for it (here’s a hint regarding the author:)

Comments 43

  1. I’m not sure of the author, but what’s her husband’s name? 🙂

    Btw, excellent quote. It sounds like something Hugh B. Brown would have said at BYU, but the picture . . .

  2. Oddly enough, I’m pretty sure I remember that quote from somewhere. I fail to see anything controversial about it, which may show some of my personal views, but whatever. No idea who said it.

  3. I cheated, I looked it up. I also have the book this came from. He was a good guy and very much more in the mode of the older time church Leaders.

  4. I don’t think it’s Loren C. Dunn – I think he was balder than that. I’m guessing the era was the mid-sixties (correlation began in earnest in 1970, right?). The part that would nix it is the very first line, where doubt is acknowledged to cause a loss of activity. I think the Church “as it is today” (Elder Ballard, Oct. 2007 Conference) would not want those two concepts to be related. They would acknowledge doubt, and also inactivity, but not want to give young people the hint that the one can justify the other. And then the counsel to be sincere always and use integrity – holy cow, that’s just an invitation to trust your own judgment, which I think they would consider dangerous. Today they would rather that young people follow the prophet, getting their own spiritual confirmations of his counsel.

    This is a good idea – I hope you come up with some more. It gives a great perspective on the mentality of the Church and its membership then vs. now.

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    Hymn 331,

    EXACTLY! You nailed why this wouldn’t make it past Correlation.


    Nothing controversial about it. You’re right. But it still is too dangerous a linkage of ideas to make it past correlation. It’s more the type of advice you would get unofficially from an understanding great-uncle at a family gathering or from an experienced bishop behind closed doors than anything you would ever read in a priesthood, Relief Society, or Sunday School manual. Imagine reading this in the Ensign or hearing it in General Conference! It’s a justification of menu Mormonism, which the Brethren do not want to encourage. They want us to come to a unity of the faith, not a diversity of opinions, it seems.

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  8. Seriously, whether it would pass correlation in a manual – who knows. I certainly agree with Eric (#15) that it wouldn’t cause a stir at all in General Conference. I wouldn’t blink if it came from any of the FP.

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    Not only would I blink if a member of the FP uttered these words, I would stare. I would drop my spoon onto the carpet, spilling milk and cocoa puffs everywhere. Then I would frame the quote and put it on my wall.

    For Ray, Eric, adcama, and others who disagree,

    If the Obert Tanner quote could get past correlation or be uttered in general conference in today’s Church, wouldn’t the best evidence for your position be something similar to these words having been printed in the Ensign, correlated church manual, or General Conference? In this situation, the absence of such evidence is the evidence of the absence of the attitude Tanner espouses.

    In General Conference and official church publications from the 1970s on, doubt is not natural, (or is only as natural as the natural man) and inactivity is caused by sin, weakness, or social maladjustment (not being given a calling). I have never heard a talk or read a church manual which gave me any clue that church leaders are aware that doubt can cause people to leave activity, and especially not one which would acknowledge the supremacy of sincerity and personal integrity.

    Come on, guys! You might be thinking along these lines, but something in our culture prevents us from speaking these words in official church contexts. I find it tragic.

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    Jay, Obert, and Jeff,

    You’re right.

    The quote is taken from a lesson titled “Sincerity” from the 1954 Sunday School manual Christ’s Ideals for Living.

    Obert and Grace Tanner were the owners of the O.C. Tanner company, which started out in jewelry retailing and now specializes in employee recognition awards. (I have a fishing pole from them for working at the U of U for a number of years!)

    Obert was a Renaissance man, one of the (in?)famous Swearing Elders, and the son of polygamous wife Annie Clark Tanner, whose autobiography A Mormon Mother was required reading in my BYU intro to historiography course. I recommend it highly.

    Obert loved to donate fountains. Fountains at BYU, the U of U, Stanford, etc. are just a few examples of his philanthropy.

    His best known fountain is the spraying fountain in front of the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City. He rejected a reflecting pool (which is ironically now in front of the Salt Lake Temple) as static and hence unrepresentative of Mormonism, which is dynamic and in motion.

    He taught philosophy at the University of Utah, and his autobiography, One Man’s Search for Freedom, tells that President David McKay asked him to write a manual for Sunday School use. Tanner replied he was too liberal-minded to pass the reading committee of General Authorities. President McKay said, “We’ll change the committee” and placed liberal apostle Adam Bennion in charge. The manual passed just fine and was used throughout the 50s and 60s as the Sunday School text, known as Christ’s Ideals for Living. 🙂

    Tanner also had a hand in writing texts on the New Testament for Church use and had many other interests. Several of his children died at an early age, acquainting him with grief and helping him have empathy for those who had suffered similar tragedies.

    I find him one of the fascinating figures of twentieth century Mormonism.

  11. Like Benjamin O., I swear I have heard this very quote growing up in church, and it’s a great one. I did not think it was faith demoting at all nor justifying apostasy, just reminding people that doubt is part of faith.

    Anyway, I would not be surprised to hear it at GC, but would absolutely not expect it in any teaching manual today.

  12. John, I could see Elder Wirthlin saying this. Without the picture, I might have guessed Elder Wirthlin. Elder Maxwell would have used different words, but I could hear it having come from him. I could see it being said by Elder Hales or Elder Uchtdorf or Elder Eyring. Wouldn’t shock me one bit.

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    I could see the apostles you mentioned saying something similar, but none of them ever has…I still think the priority Tanner puts on personal integrity (i.e. putting it ahead of activity) would not be countenanced today.


    I have never heard this quote in church. Man, who was disobeying the counsel to stick to the current manual by quoting this?!

  14. John N. – I met my first “Utah Mormon” when I was about 15. Not sure there was much oversight in my neck of the woods. I heard lots of interesting stuff growing up in church.

  15. These are moments that make me thankful for the Bloggernacle, because without it, old quotes like this would have disappeared forever- since they are NEVER EVER appearing in another official Church manual again. I think that the idea of honest inquiry is seriously out of vogue among both the leadership and membership of the Church right now. Inquiry is fine, as long as it leads to the “right” answer- namely activity in the Church. If there is doubt and a subsequent decrease or departure from activity, it is invariably the result of sin.

    Another good example would be Elder Packer’s widely-quoted opinion on the historian’s craft (courtesy of DMQ).

  16. I dunno about ‘current manuals’, but I’ve read a lot, and I’ve been taught out of some pretty old stuff. I’ll say it again–I could see several of the current Twelve saying things along these lines–the linkage between doubt and inactivity seems to be pretty obvious and to have been made frequently enough. Frankly, people need to hear this kind of thing–that it IS okay to have doubts and still come to church and that just because one has doubts it isn’t the end of the world. If the current correlation committee doesn’t see the wisdom of that position, then I’d say they need to get a few more psychologists and folks who REALLY understand what the younger generation are going through.

    Everyone who is growing up today is going to face doubts. There’s just no escaping that. I have doubts despite my very strong experiences that I can’t possibly ignore. Yet doubt is something I live with. Yet I go to church every week despite that. Young people need to know that sort of thing. Faith isn’t a magic power that you suddenly gain all banishment of doubt–it’s a process whereby doubt is slowly removed–and it takes time for most of us.

    Enough said.

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    Yes, his daughter is Carolyn Tanner Irish, who was (is?) the Episcopal Bishop of Utah. The brand new Humanities building at the University of Utah bears her name. President Hinckley, who was close to the Tanner family, was unable to attend the groundbreaking ceremony last year, but he sent words of praise for Carolyn.


    Glad to be of service! This is one of the reasons I like the Bloggernacle too! It preserves and circulates an unofficial or folk memory of the Church’s past which is not carried over into the present by current Church programs. Now, I’m too young to have gone to any Green and Gold Balls, or whatever those were, but I’m old enough to see some things like Know Your Religion disappear…

  18. John,

    Enjoyed the quote, the format and the dialogue! Interesting to compare the “doctrinal culture” of the different decades. It’s sad that general authorities must be so cautious with advice even given “unofficially” as “an understanding great-uncle at a family gathering.” As much as I respect a Bishop or other leader 99 percent of the time, the other one percent of the time, I may inadvertently comment on a character trait or singular bad moment to my wife in confidence that could be construed, if overheard, as discontent…even though it doesn’t reflect my sustaining of his calling or unity with his counsel. Thank goodness my wife doesn’t blog about me!

    “Unofficial advising” has become the substance of blogs intended to portray lack of unity between members of leadership quorums. Feeling some responsibility for the negative information that is out there, a resolve to refrain from further “unofficial advising” is a natural response.

  19. I thought it was a great quote too. (And and interesting discussion.) The only part of the quote that I thought might need to be clarified before passing correlation is “Church participation-the great source of righteousness”. Of course the scriptures are clear that Christ is the source or fountain of all righteousness, but sincere and full church participation, without hypocrisy, definitely leads to Him and helps us better follow Him. Some might not need such a clarification, but I can see others jump on that to wrongly assume that our faith is in our Church and our righteousness, not in the head of the Church and His righteousness.

  20. “Young people sometimes doubt the truth of the Gospel or some part of it, and feeling the worthy desire to be sincere, they cease to be active in the Church. The answer to them is to be sincere always. One must never violate one’s integrity, whatever it may cost.”

    I wonder what the Bishops advice would be if a sincere young person came back and said I have really studied the History of our church the uncorrelated history as well as our history and I need to follow my heart on this I’m not buying it. May be that’s one of the reasons why this would never make it past correlation.

  21. Good Point Clean Cut-

    I guess it comes down to two scenarios if the young person was using his brain and doing what he thought was right but still felt the church was wrong I don’t think God would punish him or her in the next life. “The Glory of God is intelligence” we teach that at church.. We’re suppose to use every method we can to seek the truth and to live our lives in a pleasing way.

    You can’t blame a young person who start learning about things they have never heard of like , 9 versions of the first vision, Gold Plates not used in the translation of the book of Mormon, Why doesn’t Joseph Smith’s translation of the facsimiles in the Book of Abraham and the Egyptian papyri match what Egyptologists say they mean. Etc Etc

    Likewise if the church isn’t true, then I don’t think a just God would punish anyone for believing in it if they really believed it

    I guess if you were brother Tanner or believe in what he said you would have live up to your convictions

  22. Thanks for the quote. I am going to share it with my son. Being true and sincere seems to be a much higher priority in the life of today’s youth. This quote needs to be put in “Teaching, No Greater Call” in a section dealing with working with youth. Whoops, that would have to pass correlation too.

  23. I went to Gospel Library at and put in a search word “doubt”. 3622 hits. Most of them (didn’t read them all!) seem to be about someone saying how you should not feed doubts, but an example from a New Era article from August 2002 that quoted Pres. Hunter as saying: “I have sympathy for young men and young women when honest doubts enter their minds and they engage in the great conflict of resolving doubts”.

    Really, the leaders talk about the real issue of doubts entering the minds of the people. They encourage activity in the Church along with study, pondering and prayer to help resolve doubt. Integrity is also talked about.

    The quote above did not endorse inactivity for doubting individuals, on the contrary. The one thing that anybody could find objectionable is that it could be said to condone “smorgasbord” approach to the gospel. But on closer study it doesn’t. It just says that if you can’t figure something out right now, give it some time. Nobody learned everything at once. Remember the often-quoted “line upon line”.

    In summary, I see nothing controversial in the quote in light of what’s available at the Gospel Library.

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    Wow. What WOULD constitute controversy for you?

    The linkage of doubt to inactivity, the priority of personal integrity over church activity, and the endorsement of menu Mormonism would make this quote too hot to handle for today’s church.

    The Hunter quote is nice, but very dated. President Hunter died in 1995. It also states nothing of the above.

  25. The potently controversial statement is “must one believe all or nothing?” and so on. It may endorse menu Mormonism, if you want to read that into it. But I can’t by any stretch state that I have a testimony of everything. I don’t even know everything!

    To reiterate, he doesn’t encourage doubters to become inactive, on the contrary. If the oblique admission that some have become inactive because of doubts, somehow thinking their “integrity” dictates that, he tries to *debunk* it, not endorse it.

    I’d hate to have my statements parsed this way – I really don’t envy the Church leaders. It is impossible to please everyone, so naturally there’s some tendency to make sure that whatever makes it into official statements are “on message”. OTOH, I am happy that there’s less private speculation in conference talks these days. I speculate a lot, but I don’t share all my speculations. We are not overqualified for gospel basics, IMHO. I know far too many people who live beyond their means, don’t hold FHE’s and family prayers in their homes or the like.

  26. Although we are striving for unity in the church, there will always be diversity as well. There are tons of great talks on having unity AND diversity (which includes beliefs) within the church at the same time, and why it is beneficial. No one should ever be made to feel that they don’t fit the bill as a member of the church because they are not fitting into a certain profile which they may falsely believe everyone else fits. In the end, we are all striving to come to know our God and Savior and to be like them. I like this quote by O.C. Tanner. I think it shows that a “good” member of the church can have questions, and that’s OK. We need to just keep living what we know is true and not allow small doubts to escalate into a complete withdrawal from church activity.

    As we examine ourselves, if we feel there is disharmony between our beliefs and the doctrines of the church, I think a fair question is “Am I living this principle?” It is not possible to be blessed with a love, belief, strong testimony of a principle while we lack the desire to live it. It may be that the Lord (or Holy Ghost) will not be able to give us spiritual testimony of a principle we are not ready to accept. This would prevent us from being condemned for not living it. However, we can have patience with ourselves, knowing that only the Son of God was able to keep all the commandments. It is most important to renew our covenants each week, receive forgiveness and keep moving on, repenting as we go. Eventually, we will have the ability to live and have testimony of gospel principles we struggled with in the past.

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