Comparing Correlation with the Supreme Court

September 21, 2010
By

As I mentioned before, I am enjoying Greg Prince’s biography of David O McKay.  Under the McKay Administration, correlation of LDS church materials made a great deal of headway.  While correlation has cut down on duplication of church materials, it has become a bit unwieldy. I found a quote by Paul Dunn that discussed how correlation has had some unintended side effects, and he likened these problems to the Supreme Court.  We are all familiar with “legislating from the bench”, and there seems to be a similar problem with correlation.  Paul Dunn gave an interview in 1995 and said on page 158,

I think what happened is what’s happening in government today, as I see it now, thirty years later.  For example, the Supreme Court is supposed to determine the constitutionality of a law, but very gradually, the Supreme Court starts to make the law.  That’s what is happening to correlation.  Correlation creates nothing.  That’s the process.  It has no authority to make a statement that creates a position or direction.  That’s totally out of harmony with what President McKay set up.  Brother Lee understood that, and carried it out.  Since the 1970s, I’ve seen the drift, where correlation is now telling me, if I write something to get through correlation, “You can’t say that.”  And I write back and say, “Why?”  And they say, “Well, because we think this is the interpretation.”  And I write back and say, “You’re not the interpreter.”…And that’s where we got lost.  Today, I see correlation, like the Supreme Court, becoming more and more the originator of the thought, rather than the coordinator of the thought….So, while I think correlation is good, I think it’s gone past its original commission.

I think one of the reasons why the church has decided to focus on “the basics” is because it is the “safe” thing to do.  Correlation doesn’t want to deal with controversial theology.  It seems to me that Correlation is all about “dumbing down” the curriculum, because it is easier to deal with.  It is much harder to deal with controversial comments from previous leaders.  So, in order to be safe, correlation removes such hard to explain topics.  (I mean, who can really argue about the need to pray more, read the scriptures, do service, etc?)  Hence, spiritual growth isn’t nearly as vibrant as it used to be.  Only milk is served, without meat, causing spiritual malnutrition.

So, what do you make of Correlation?  Do Paul Dunn’s comments bother you?  Is Correlation too much of a good thing?  Do you think Correlation can ever be restrained, or reversed?

  • http://latterdayspence.blogspot.com Clean Cut

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head, here, MH. Both with the Dunn quote and your commentary afterwards. I REALLY enjoyed that McKay biography. I see the pros and cons of correlation, but the cons are more frustrating than the pros. Which means that I’m quite underwhelmed at Church far too often than I’d prefer. :)

  • Hawkgrrrl

    MH – great quote, and I too loved Prince’s book. You asked whether correlation can ever be reversed or the pendulum swing back in the other direction, and here’s what I think. Efforts like mormon.org profiles demonstrate the diversity that still exists in the church, despite correlation. Yes, they are “approved” but by a group of BYU/MTC folks who are really just a subset of members anyway, not the actual correlation committee, and based on what I’m seeing, they are allowing some things correlation wouldn’t. Basically it points out the obvious – you can “correlate” the curriculum. You can police & crack down on teachers you don’t like with guidelines that are impossibly bland to create a meaningful lesson. But there are a few things you can’t correlate: the students, personal experience, and frankly, the Spirit.

  • http://patheos.com Ben S

    Nice pull MH. After reading this post and comments, I realized that Correlation has become the punching bag of most of my Church frustration. (Granted, some of it is merited.)

  • http://www.alatterdayvoice.blogspot.com Paul

    Let’s see — ask this crowd if there’s an issue with correlation, and what kind of a response do you think you’ll get?

    Agree that the McKay biography is great and that there are some great insights into the development of correlation.

    I would also add, however, that with the advent of a real worldwide church, there is likely value in a simplification and a return to basics.

    It also seems that with correlation, there is also an acknowledgment of the need for continued rigorous scholarship, particularly as it relates to church history. We see evidence of that with the emergence of such works as The Massacre at Mountain Meadows. Perhaps there is a place for correlation to ensure the commonality of curriculum and scholarship as well. And perhaps, in time, there will be more merging of the two.

  • Peter

    I think the problem with correlation has its roots in the teachers who misunderstand the material’s purpose. It’s to help guide discussions, not circumscribe it entirely. When I was gospel doctrine instructor, we had vibrant discussions on history, prophecy, and we even did some -gasp- speculation. The bishopric loved attending because the members were engaged. More often the not, you have instructors who are lazy and give no thought to the lesson–they just want to get through their hour and you can see it. Correlation only amplifies this problem because it is the same discussion over and over and over again.

  • http://ndbf.blogspot.com R. Gary

    Sweet. Another verse from the forgotten book of Paul Dunn. Interesting choice of sources. Did Greg Prince just ignore Dunn’s 1991 letter (published in the Church News) about not always being truthful. According to scripture and the apostles and prophets, the First Presidency is the Church’s supreme court. And you can be sure that Correlation works for the First Presidency, not the other way around.

  • http://mormonheretic.org MH

    Thanks for the comments everyone. It does seem that I’m preaching to the choir a bit.

    Peter, I agree that there are a great number of lazy teachers in the church. My frustration comes from the fact that I tried very hard not to be one of those lazy teachers. I probably spent 2-3 hours preparing each week, yet because I supplemented my lessons with non-approved sources, I was called in the Bishop’s office (at the request of a member of the Stake Presidency) that was concerned I didn’t read the lesson word for word. They replace me and got a lazy teacher, and I guess that’s what the stake presidency wanted.

    Like Clean Cut, I am underwhelmed at church and bring a good book (like the McKay biography.) It is a bit funny to me that one of the speakers in Sacrament meeting this week commented that we should do more study from home. I agree, because church education is lousy.

  • http://mormonheretic.org MH

    I will also add that I think President McKay would hate the current manuals. There is a story in the book where Hugh Nibley wrote a church manual, and some of the brethren objected, saying it was too hard. McKay’s response was to “let them struggle.” As an educator, McKay understood that meat needed to be provided for healthy spirituality. I fear our correlation department is out to make us all spiritual vegetarians.

  • http://blainn.com Blain

    This is an interesting quote. I’m not sure how correlated it is to love Paul Dunn, but I still do.

    I’m finding that I am very much a child of the Correlation. I don’t mind doctrinal speculation, but I do mind when people take some speculative doctrine and teach it as authoritative or obviously true. I think that’s led to a great deal of confusion and conflict over the history of the Church, and I don’t think it’s bad to try to avoid that. I’m not certain that a nameless faceless bureaucracy is the best way to do that, or that everything they’ve done has been the best. But I agree with the idea of honing in on a small set of hard, essential doctrines that are going to be the emphasis of the institutional Church’s curriculum, and then allowing speculation to take place as long as it’s understood that it’s speculation, and that faithful Mormons don’t have to agree with those speculations to be faithful, “good” Mormons. I (perhaps self-delusionally, perhaps hopefully) see things going in that direction. The effort to crystallize that central core of doctrine seems to have reached a pretty stable plateau, and the next stage seems to be some identifying of the realms of speculation and acknowledging the vast world of interesting and potentially fruitful doctrines that may well be true beyond that core.

    I’m not someone who accepts that every trend is a pendulum, which swings to one extreme and then another, but neither do I accept that trends continue linearly toward their apparently obvious conclusion. In the Church, things adjust over time, and trends change. Not often very quickly, but the change never stops.

  • Justin Tungate

    I agree with Blain. Speculation needs to be stated as such. But, speculation isn’t really what concerns me with regards to the church manuals. The manuals present life and moral dilemmas with hardly an idea of gray (life is black and white, right?). There’s no room to wallow in complexity.

    If you dumb it down, people will be dumb, that’s just human nature.

  • Ron M

    Dr. Cornel West at the Union Theological Seminary gave a lecture entitled “The Socratic, Prophetic and Democratic” that was brilliant. He argued that a faith must include the merge “Athens” with “Jerusalem.” What he meant by that is that a grown-up, mature faith must invite and welcome the socratic questioning and to do so is reflective of a mature faith, and that must merge with “Jerusalem” meaning a faith that also embraces the love for the “least” and the disenfranchised” and in fact everyone. Great lecture.
    Frankly, I see our faith as a very immature faith. A faith that treats us like little children and is afraid of rigorous, socratic questioning. It’s time to grow up…not just treating us like children that needs to be told behaviorally everything we must do (WOW precisely, earrings, dress, etc.) but also intellectually and doctrinally have the confidence to allow and invite all challenges/engagement.

  • hawkgrrrl

    I’m with MH on this one. I agree that sucky teachers are a problem, but the guidelines to teachers make it nearly impossible to teach well. For example, things that are not “correlated” (based on personal experience): quoting from an actual letter written by JS (to expand on the excerpted quotes in the manual), quoting an author or making a parallel to a literary work, quoting a GA or apostle not specifically quoted in the manual, gleaning ideas from faithful teacher blogs like Feast Upon the Word, failing to word testimony of principles in a strong enough manner (“I know” testimony – this one was a friend, not myself), and in one case, using a printout of the actual lesson from lds.org rather than the paperback manual. We are straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel. Those are things that are not allowed, but apparently writing an entire lesson about the Love Letters of JS & Emma (which contained zero doctrine and many omissions that created a misleading narrative) is totally fine. Frankly, this last example from the JS manual made me thrilled we went “back to basics” and started teaching from Gospel Principles.

  • Jeff Spector

    Since I am a post-correlation convert, I was not a party to the good old days of pure speculation masquerading as gospel instruction. It was that speculation that many folks seem to complain about now as explanations for such things as the Priesthood ban were created where no God-given reasons were offered. There are a number of other examples which are less egregious than that one which have been borne out of speculation.

    Some correlation was necessary, IMO, to foster the growth of the WW Church and to standardize the lessons to basic gospel principles. And while I am the first to criticize the “one size fits all” mentality associated, with Gospel Doctrine lessons, for example, that is easily remedied by a diligent teacher. I do not like the way the Old Testament is taught for example, so I have enriched the lessons to give the necessary information to help the class really internalize what the book is trying to teach us, not the pat questions given in the material. And I have tried to do that with every lesson I have taught since my first calling in primary.

    I do not ask adults, “So how can that affect your testimony?” for example, unless there is a real purpose to asking it. I might if I was teaching youth.

    I understand the need for correlation, I learned a lot more about it reading the Prince book. I see it as generally positive, see some real issues, but less bothered than others about it. And deal with the limitations of it as I teach.

    On the other hand, it wouldn’t hurt most of us to focus a bit more on the basics of gospel life as opposed to the exact location of Kolob. I don’t recall that being the focus of Jesus’ ministry.

  • http://alatterdayvoice.blogspot.com Paul

    #13 Jeff, I think you’ve captured what I understand to be the fundamental purpose of correlation. Of course there is a difference between correlation and teaching style. In our stake, too, there is an emphasis on teaching “from the manual” — so much that in a recent PH Ldrshp meeting we were instructed (from a variety of manuals) on that subject. Interestingly, if you refer to Teaching No Greater Call, there are plenty of recommendations for teaching beyond the manual — not beyond the subject matter, but beyond the reading of the manual.

    I read commentary of Brother Osguthorpe and wonder why so many teachers think it’s better to read from the manual. When I taught HP group this past week, we read extensively from Lectures on Faith (rather than the GP manual), and no one died.

    FWIW I also agree an update of YW and Aaronic PH manuals is needed, but even those manuals are to be supplemented with articles and talks from the church magazines (to provide a more up-to-date perpsective, at least) — so much encouraged that the church magazines provide indexes in which they cross reference various lessons to make it easier for teachers to use them.

    As much as I enjoyed the Prince biography of McKay (and I did!), I also note that the authors did seem to enjoy placing their own judgement on actors in the story from time to time. (Well, I can’t say they enjoyed it, but they certainly did it enough times for me to notice.)

  • http://ethesis.blogspot.com/ Stephen M (Ethesis)

    Dr. Shipps, looking from the outside, expressed in the fireside I attended that correlation was one of the great positives in the Church. Blain and Jeff I find I agree with you.

  • Jeff Spector

    #14, Paul,

    I think that some take the admonition to “teach from the manuals” a bit too far. We seem to be less inhibited in the HP group than in other forums in Church to be more free flowing in the things we discuss. I really like that.

  • http://mormonmatters.org GBSmith

    I heard Jan Shipps speak about correlation and it’s history at a NW Sunstone many years ago. What I took from that was that it streamlined church administration and allowed it to be able to function as a world wide entity. For example in the past auxillaries weren’t supervised by bishops and stake presidents but by stake auxillary leadership and general boards. Harold B. Lee and others applied a more corporate business model that was felt to be more effecient and manageable. One thing I don’t recall was hearing Dr. Shipps say anything about the change in curriculum and teaching that’s been mostly addressed here.

  • http://alatterdayvoice.blogspot.com Paul

    #17: Interestingly, in its original form (according to the repeatedly invoked McKay biography), correlation was to have been more about curriculum and less about government.

  • Identity

    It should be noted that correlation has been changing their format in some positive ways.

    The new Gospel Principles manual has questions after each point, encouraging the teacher to use more class discussion. This format is a great help, as there are many teachers who simply do not value class discussion, or know how to effectively generate one. To me, the questions seem more effective and useful than in previous versions at the end of the chapter.

    It also contains frequent hints scattered throughout the book that offer useful teaching techniques. One of those hints reminds teachers not to try to cover the entire lesson, but instead follow the Spirit.

    While the manual is not perfect, I appreciate that it concentrates on basics. In a church that has lots of new members with many cultures around the world, a basic, simple curriculum is essential.

    When I want to get deeper into the gospel, I come to Mormon Matters! This is also my church, and I consider all of you my teachers and fellow saints in the gospel. I don’t mind going to church and not being “educated.” I am there to help those who might not be at my intellectual level, and to be reminded of the basics.

    Additionally, correlation humbly requests comments and suggestions for improvement at the beginning of their new manuals. I think it would be great if we send them some helpful suggestions:
    cur-development@ldschurch.org

  • Mike S

    I don’t look to church meetings for any information or learning whatsoever. It is all boring pablum. There are the same boring discussions about the same boring topics with the same boring Church-approved correlated answers. There are much better places to learn about the gospel than an LDS Church meeting.

    I go to participate in the sacrament, the fellowship of other people, and to set an example for my kids.

  • http:mormonheretic.org mh

    identity, I want church to be more like mormon matters. ‘let them struggle’ is a way to create spiritually healthy adults. dumbing down the curriculum to ‘the basics’ only creates dumb members. even here, we discuss ‘the basics’ but we don’t limit ourselves to them. I love hawkgrrrl’s series of mormon.org. she discussed ‘the basics’ of the family proclamation, but did it in an interesting, thought provoking way instead of the correlated, dumbed down way the church teaches. why can’t we have discussions like that at church? are new members too dumb to handle hawkgrrrl’s speculation of appropriate answers? I don’t think so, but it seems the church does.

  • http://blainn.com Blain

    21 — And there I differ to this degree: I don’t want Church to be more like MM. I do want space in Church where I can talk about MM-like things that I want to. But Church is there to serve the needs of the members, and talking about the things we find interesting isn’t a need for many. Some people are happy with the pablum, and I don’t think they need more shoved down their throats because we find it interesting.

    And we do have MM (and BCC/M*/FMH/etc) to be those things for us. Church should be for all who come, with the highest common denominator that can be found, and then we should each be anxiously engaged in our own interests and in doing good for others. If I can have a GD class where we can talk about (say) the symbols being invoked in OT stories, then I’m happier than if not. But, if it doesn’t work for the ward, then don’t do it just to make me happier. I’m not that important.

  • Justin

    I want the Church to be more like a family. To be more like this. Why do people (e.g. #22) think we need a place to go to be bored for three hours on Sunday? Families might meet together, but they certainly do not have “meetings”.

  • jmb275

    Oh man, what a great topic, and great post MH. Here’s my take, and I’m going to be brutally honest, perhaps even unpopular.

    I see correlation as one of those paradoxes which I should learn to accept. First the bad. I am most definitely a child of correlation. After I listened to the MS podcast with Daymon Smith, I see how it affects my view of the church, my previous allegiance to authority, my previous insistence on only quoting from manuals, the Brethren, and other “authorized” sources. I see how much of the richness and culture has been pushed aside paving the way for a streamlined corporation bent on creating a good public image. I see many of the most enlightening, wonderful, and powerful doctrines being tossed into the “I don’t know that we teach that” bin. I see the dumbing down, and the boring meetings in which we teach about God (as if we have a God manual), but we don’t get to actually experience God or the divine. My biggest complaint right now about church is that it is more like a job (depending on your calling), or an elementary school class wherein all the students teach (none of which actually know anything), than an experience. Frankly, I want to experience the divine, much like it seems early members of the church did.

    And now for the good. I find correlation to be almost a necessity to have a functioning church of this size (as Shipps has alluded to). I also see correlation as a necessity to avoid all manner of theological nonsense. I see correlation as the means by which my conservative uber-orthodox friend HAS TO accept me as a valid TR carrying member of the church, when it often feels like he would just as soon see me leave. I see correlation as a baseline from which those truly engaged can derive great spiritual benefit (though I admit I am not one of them). Ultimately, the greatest strength of correlation, in my mind, is that by boiling things down to a few basics we have actually come FAR FAR closer to what Jesus taught in the NT than Joseph’s church. In fact, I have often been shocked at the kinds of doctrines and theologies that have been and continue to be created from the very few words Jesus spoke when it is clear his singular message was one of love, service, and kindness!

    So to be honest, I’m completely torn. My own speculation is that if correlation weren’t in place, I suspect I would have left the church long ago (seriously, had I attended the early temple ceremony I would have been outta here!!). Part of the dumbing down has been to remove all kinds of extraneous doctrines which, personally, I think were part of Joseph’s cosmology, but probably not Christ’s.

  • Justin

    My own speculation is that if correlation…

    Is it a contradiction to speculate about correlation?

  • Jeff Spector

    mh,

    “why can’t we have discussions like that at church? are new members too dumb to handle hawkgrrrl’s speculation of appropriate answers? I don’t think so, but it seems the church does.”

    I have had discussions like that since I joined the Church. I’ve only had a questionable experience once where someone complained, more about perceived arguing than the content of the discussion. If you aren’t willing to challenge the status quo, then why complain about it?

    Church does not have to be a series of rote lessons read directly out of the manual. It is not supposed to be.

  • http://alatterdayvoice.blogspot.com Paul

    #24, jmb: You can have both those experiences, of course, as some others (including #22). My most spiritual moments have generally not come sitting in a meeting at church, but in personal worship either at the temple or in some other setting. Now it’s also true that there are flashes of revelation in sacrament meeting or in a classroom, but rarely just because of what I’m being taught; usually they come because what is being taught intersects with something I’ve been studying on my own.

    #20, Mike S, I’m sorry that your church experience is not positive for you. I guess I’ve been more fortunate in that regard.

  • http://thepierianspring.wordpress.com/ aquinas

    One of the problems with our Correlation discourse is that ‘correlation’ has come to mean so many different things that we often talk past each other. Correlation can mean boring manuals, problematic teaching, internal peer review, coordinating auxiliaries, taking away power from auxiliaries by changing the budget structure, it can mean coordination, re-alignment, and even can mean “growing pains.” It’s not clear exactly whether we are all referring to the same thing. Historically, there have been several instantiations of a correlation committee. A committee is formed with the name “correlation” then it produces a report, then gets disbanded, years later, another correlation committee is formed, and then gets disbanded, and this repeats in Church administrative history for decades. Even without “correlation committees” many of the manuals written by apostles such as B.H. Roberts or John A. Widtsoe were prevented from being published or edited. Would it be proper to say they were “correlated”? I feel it would be anachronistic and imprecise to use the term in that way. There was a committee that edited the D&C for publication but then are we to say the D&C is “correlated”? “Correlation” as a term has taken on an unwieldy life of its own. Even so called pre-Correlation manuals still had to go through Church committees, and instructors still had problems teaching them. We should be very skeptical of the idea that Gospel instruction was without any problems before the days of ‘Correlation.’

    It just isn’t clear whether “correlation” is the cause of all our ills (and I quickly concede that changing the structure of an organization will necessarily change outputs). The whole notion that we are more concerned with answers and not questions is a legitimate point, but not necessarily tied to correlation. It runs deeper than that. Whereas philosophy and even theology are more concerned with the right questions to ask (the question is everything), the Gospel is concerned with answers (the answer is everything). Indeed, the great selling point of “the Gospel” is that it provides answers to life’s questions (i.e. where did we come from, where are we going, why are we here). It seems to me that manuals are merely reflective of this general disposition. It isn’t certain whether ‘Correlation’ as such is the cause.

    Perhaps the main problem I see with Correlation discourse is that it places our problems with a nameless, faceless entity, and it is largely disempowering. Even supposing we had new manuals produced by the brightest minds with cutting edge research and scholarship, excellent and probing questions, magically suited for all age groups, and culturally sensitive to a global church, it is still just a manual. People are still going to meet in a room with chairs for a set amount of time. It isn’t going to teach itself just like the scriptures don’t teach themselves. I wonder whether it is in our best interest to set up a dynamic where we wait Correlation to change (not even knowing what that would look like) in order to have quality teaching, when ultimately Gospel instructors have more influence to direct the classroom than anyone or anything else?

  • http://thepierianspring.wordpress.com/ aquinas

    (edit: “manuals written by apostles such as B.H. Roberts or John A. Widtsoe…” “Apostles” should have read “general authorities” since B.H. Roberts was a Seventy, not one of the Twelve. Thanks).

  • Clark

    As a companion to corrolation, I’ve noticed a strong trend in “official instruction from HQ” to avoid “controversial topics.” What? Are we to hold truth captive to political correctness? I’m aware that contention is of the devil, etc. but I think this attitude is part of the problem

    By avoiding contention and controversial topics, corrolation lesson writers are forced to focus on bland, well-known topics–the milk. To introduce “meat” would create discussion, which might create disagreement, and that could create contention…

  • Thomas

    #11: “Dr. Cornel West at the Union Theological Seminary gave a lecture entitled “The Socratic, Prophetic and Democratic” that was brilliant. He argued that a faith must include the merge “Athens” with “Jerusalem.” What he meant by that is that a grown-up, mature faith must invite and welcome the socratic questioning and to do so is reflective of a mature faith, and that must merge with “Jerusalem” meaning a faith that also embraces the love for the “least” and the disenfranchised” and in fact everyone. Great lecture.”

    If West said that, he was totally ripping off Leo Strauss. Which wouldn’t surprise me.

  • http://thepierianspring.wordpress.com/ aquinas

    Clark, and that is one of the grand tensions. On the one hand we have Joseph Smith saying “By proving contraries, truth is made manifest.” On the other hand we have this strong drive towards unity “If ye are not one ye are not mine” (D&C 38:27). On a practical level, wards are more than opportunities for lessons, and people within a geographically determined unit must find ways to work together in a number of callings. This sets up a dynamic where Latter-day Saints necessarily develop conflict reducing mechanisms. The pinnacle of devotional learning is often thought to result in peace and quite contemplation. Combined with the general attitude that Gospel instruction is largely the inculcation of prescribed Gospel truths leading to moral action, this has provided the environment for the development of the highly ritualized, highly scripted call and answer lesson.

    This greatly runs in tension with the rigorous Socratic pursuit of truth by proving contraries or probing questions, the purpose of such questions being not to solicit the known answer, but to investigate and test the soundness of any proposed answer. The real challenge for Gospel instructors is to create an environment where members can feel free safe to question and probe without someone feeling the need to give pat answers to all questions or the need to suggest that having a question is ultimately a lack of faith. How can instructors develop environments that satisfy the devotional anticipation of “feeling the Spirit” when contesting of ideas, or even “proving contraries” seems to be considered “of the Devil”? It is a difficult challenge. I believe, however, there are ways to go about this that work, but it’s definitely a struggle.

  • Thomas

    I have no problem with “correlation” per se. In a church with a top-down doctrinal model, there has to be some mechanism for making sure that what is taught in the church’s name, or perceived as such, is what the church’s legitimate decision-making authorities actually want taught. We have the right to speculate on gospel subjects; sometimes, the laity’s thinking gets picked up (quietly) by the hierarchy. But because we’re not a Protestant church, we don’t have the right to state authoritative Church doctrine, or give others the impression that our opinions have divine sanction behind them. We have to stand or fall based on our own persuasiveness and example. Nothing wrong with that. If the Church is going to be a quasi-Catholic hierarchical church, it needs a Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

    One good thing about Correlation, is that if it had been in place during Bruce R. McConkie’s time, Mormon Doctrine would never have been published, to the benefit of everyone. A “less effective” result (to borrow the old missionary guide’s euphemism) is that I agree that the depth of our teaching materials — aimed at the lowest common denominator, which seems to be getting lower and lower with each generation (said this crochety old thirtysomething!) — has definitely declined. Compare the 1950s Sunday School manual Christ’s Ideals for Living with today’s materials, and you’ll weep and what our parents generation had and we missed.

    On the one hand, we lost some depth. On the other hand, we don’t have people talking about how they’d be happy to let Negroes drive Cadillacs, if they’d just keep to their own kind. The costs and benefits of the trade are interesting to think about.

  • SkepticTheist

    People need to get over the fact that gospel doctrine, elders quorum, and so on, are not the places for controversy or speculation. I believe that this is the way it should be. I’m not worried whether what correlation establishes as what the Church teaches actually represents what is true anymore. Its more important that everything is standardized. Similarly, after lots of frustration with apologetic groups that I have had something to do with, I have realized now that there is actually something like correlation in apologetics groups. They are after the best apologetic to defend the Church. I’m not worried anymore whether what they have determined as their “party line” apologetic is true or not. If it sounds good to them, and accomplishes what they are trying to do, then more power to them. I don’t have to believe it or get stressed about the fact that I think it is false, or worry about whether what I think is actually true becomes that which is the standard apologetic. For this reason, I am not so energized about apologetics anymore, as much as I am energized by theology in general. I have to step away from trying to have an influence in apologetic organizations, because my beliefs are just too out there for them. That is just the way it is. I’m happy that apologists are defending the Church the best way they know how. But unfortunately, just as Thomas says, things get picked up by authorities quietly. And over time, things that apologetic groups come up with eventually make their way into the Church to become official correlated doctrine. I have made attempts over time to disconnect myself emotionally from these facts, and just live my own life, and have my own personal beliefs about things, and not get worked up over this type of thing.

  • Identity

    I think we are blaming correlation too much for some of the problems in church. Regardless of the curriculum, I believe that a teacher who follows the spirit, has a deep love for her class, and a great desire to change lives, will be able to teach an effective, inspiring lesson through dedicated work and effort. Our problem is not the curriculum, it is the teachers. Some of the best lessons I’ve had have been done by simple, humble teachers, who asked insightful questions, and just let the members in the class give the lesson. If our teachers love and respect their class members, they will seek after, and value their opinions. As a class member, I am not afraid to introduce new insights, or even difficult topics. Before I open my big fat mouth, I try to cross what I want to say with the Spirit, so I don’t offend or disrespect the teacher’s desires, but I have said some crazy things in church, and people have come up to me and thanked me for it.

    If we can have better teacher training, encouraging them to spend more time studying, praying, seeking out other source material, and training them to ask effective questions, we can have great lessons, and the scholars and intellectuals in the class can add their insights to the mix.

    We don’t have to wait for the church to change the curriculum in order to get better teaching. It starts with bishops and stake presidents making it a priority. But this is not a priority. Many bishops I’ve known deliberately call weak and very unskilled teachers to help them grow, and then never give them any feedback or training. It’s sink or swim.

  • http://alatterdayvoice.blogspot.com Paul

    35 — agree teaching should be a priority. And you’re right that the bishop is responsible for teaching in his ward. But it is not his responsibility alone. The Sunday School president is charged with improving teaching. There are resources available. What is missing (oddly enough) is a structure that institutionalizes the process.

    We used to have stake auxiliary meetings monthly to teach teachers how to teach the next month’s lesson. We used to have regular teacher development courses and in-service meetings. Now, in an effort to give more time to families, we’ve done away with most of those, and counseled teachers to read Teaching, No Greater Call on their own.

    This is a great subject for a ward council to tackle, I think. There all the people responsible for teaching are on hand to brainstorm ways to meet the needs of their individual ward and improve teaching.

  • http:mormonheretic.org mh

    the problem here is illustrated when you said ‘stake presidents and bishops responsibility.’ my stake (former-due to stake split) presidency WANTED crap teachers. they didn’t want me to ask insightful questions because it might ‘harm testimonies.’ that is exactly what I was told, along with an admonition to avoid ‘outside materials.’ the current manuals suck, which is why I pulled in outside resources. and no, I wasn’t teaching about kolob, I was teaching isaiah.

    the kjv translations of isaiah are terrible. I brought a different translation to help people understand isaiah. it makes no sense to read the bible if we can’t understand what we are reading. joseph smith read different translations (and I can back it up) but apparently he wouldn’t pass correlation now.

    I mean if a bible isn’t meeting correlation, what is a teacher to do? I talked with my bishop after the stake split and he told me he didn’t want to call me in, but was pressured by the sp 1st counselor.

    this is correlation at it’s worst.

  • Jeff Spector

    Mh, #37,

    I can certainly understand your frustration given your experience. It is certainly not the way you should have been treated. Inspired by this topic, I will be doing a piece on Friday on exactly what the manuals say about this subject.

    Should be eye opening to some.

  • Hawkgrrrl

    The rub is that once a teacher’s compliance is questioned, reality goes right out the window; you are perceived as a troublemaker. I was literally taken to task (albeit kindly) over a printout of the lesson from lds.org. Apparently that’s an “internet source.” I’m sure that wasn’t what people were told (there was surprise when I stated that was what the paper I referred to during the lesson was), but why let the truth get in the way of a good story, especially when you don’t know what you are talking about?

    I really don’t mind taking correction, even if it’s based on misinformation, but even if you toe the line it’s irrelevant once a question is raised; your teaching days are numbered. Jeff, I’ll be interested in the actual guidelines, but as with everything, it still relies on local leadership to enact it.

    As a student, nobody’s taking you to task for what you say or what you’ve read or what you happen to know. Correlation would like to lobotomize the teachers if possible. By that I mean that as a teacher, the contents of your head are deemed an outside source. But students don’t have that restriction. It’s just that many of them are zoned out or blackberrying and therefore don’t participate.

  • Jeff Spector

    Hawk,

    “Jeff, I’ll be interested in the actual guidelines, but as with everything, it still relies on local leadership to enact it.”

    I’ll give you a little preview….. it depends on which manual you look at. My prevailing attitude is that local leadership tends to be more zealous than Church HQ intends, but sometimes the message gets lost in the translation. King James Version only, of course.

  • Jeff Spector

    MH, 37

    Since I am preparing to teach the first lesson on Isaiah this week, I ran across this quote which is ironic given your experience. It comes from Victor Ludlow, former BYU professor, whose father was a revered LDS Scholar and member of the correlation committee.

    “It is also very helpful to read more than one translation of Isaiah. Obviously, reading his book in the original Hebrew would be of greatest value, but any foreign language version or alternate English translation helps the reader view Isaiah from a different perspective. An additional English translation is also helpful because it often provides alternate meanings for troublesome words, idiomatic expressions, and language patterns. The main value of a second translation is that it stimulates a closer evaluation of the text itself. As one reads the material in a different language, new meanings appear. This is important, since all scripture must be read, pondered, and prayed about before it can be fully understood. (See Moro. 10:3-5.) A second or third reading of Isaiah, especially if one reads an alternate translation, stimulates meditation and enhances understanding.” (Why and How to Study Isaiah, Victor L. Ludlow, Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet ( 1982))

  • dmac

    I taught Primary, Sunday School and Relief Society and never once attended anything like an instructional session or received any feedback from the leadership whatsoever. So either I was doing a good job or they were oblivious. Either way, I think there is an ongoing tendency to think that anyone can be a teacher and that its a soft calling that requires simple reading praying and turning up and standing out front. Anyone who has taught and wanted to do a good job knows otherwise.

    I’m sort of glad I’m not teaching it now if Hawk’s experience is a reflection of the ‘policing’ of content. I would never have passed that gauntlet…

  • http://mormonmatters.org GBSmith

    “My prevailing attitude is that local leadership tends to be more zealous than Church HQ intends, but sometimes the message gets lost in the translation. King James Version only, of course.”

    It’s the LDS version of being more Catholic than the Pope. I was a Sunday School president recently but finally was exiled to a YSA branch. I was charged with improving teaching but couldn’t get teachers called when they were needed and when one of my teachers was needed elsewhere I’d hear about it in sacrament meeting when they were released and called to a new position. I finally realized I was there to ring the bell on time but otherwise not make waves. It’s all very strange given the “Teaching, No Greater Call” initiative.

  • Thomas

    “I was literally taken to task (albeit kindly) over a printout of the lesson from lds.org. Apparently that’s an “internet source.””

    Oh, for Pete’s, Paul’s, and Mary’s sake.

    And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest. And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. (Luke 22:24-26.)

    One of the unintended (?) consequences of multiplying rules and standards, is that it gives people leverage to elevate themselves, as they see it, above other people.

  • http://ethesis.blogspot.com/ Stephen Marsh

    I’ve taught a lot of lessons from primary to high priests group.

    One thing that the adult manuals focus on, over and over again, is that the instructors are to lead discussions based on the material, to facilitate the members teaching each other, not to lecture. The questions at the end are to help launch discussions.

    Jeff Spector — again, well said.

  • http://blainn.com Blain

    43 — I feel your pain. I have held every ward-level SS calling except teacher. When I was president, I only managed to have full teachers for my youth classes for a couple of months (in two years) — once, I had teachers who had only been in the calling for those few months called away to teach YW. I also had my counselor called away to teach Primary. My job was to try to keep teachers in the class rooms every week (with subs, if necessary, including myself), and then to see to it that bells rung and to be hall cop when I wasn’t teaching.

    SS is the red-haired step-child of Church auxiliaries.

  • hawkgrrrl

    Going back to the quote again, I’m wondering if there is really that much difference between interpreting doctrine and creating it. Isn’t all doctrine in essence an interpretation? Correlation started out by reviewing all the existing materials that were created at the auxilliary level. But now, yes, they do essentially create the content. Heavy editing or highly censored creation probably yield a similar result over time. The other inevitable outcome seems to be a simplification spiral. It’s not that new doctrine is being created. Old doctrine is being edited, distilled and interpreted.

    Sometimes, though, that interpretation alters the meaning. For example: eternal progress (implying personal development) becomes eternal increase (implying progeny), give them correct principles and let them govern themselves (empower them) becomes teach them how to govern themselves (manage them), and other seemingly minor edits that actually represent pretty significant changes in doctrine.

  • Will

    HG,

    I love that quote from JS, it is my favorite ‘teach them correct principles..” I also love your descriptions parenthed by each quote. Where, or when did that get changed? Whoever changed that needs to be taught correct principles.

  • Jeff Spector

    The most ridiculous use of the ellipse … was for the Teachings of Brigham Young manual. Where the manual writers basically removed any reference to polygamy or any other idea that was not basic doctrine. The Joseph Smith manual was much, much better but still was heavily edited to make the points they wanted, not exactly how Joseph taught some doctrine.

  • Arnster

    I see a whole bunch of interesting viewpoints here. I don’t remember who said it, but our homes are supposed to be centers of gospel learning and scholarship. That means we can buy and read whatever we want and struggle and figure out answers at our home, and with our family and friends. I guess you might say I’ve been exposed to a good chunk of speculation and what not, and very little of it has been within the walls of the church.

    Faith is the first principle of the gospel, not knowledge, and not speculation – faith.

    Powerful spiritual experiences are needed in church, this comes from testimony and faith, not from speculation. When people start getting into what they think are the deeper things of the kingdom, it usually turns into people trying to be more clever than the next guy, and hearing themselves talk, and trying to prove they are more righteous than the next because they happen to have a copy of the first edition of Mormon Doctrine, or they read all of the Skousen works, or all of Nibley, or whatever.

    Sure people should struggle, but they with the church population growing as rapidly as it is, a huge portion of any sample congregation all over the world will be composed of fairly recent converts.

    My advice is free and worth every penny.

  • http://truthmarche.wordpress.com Tom

    My biggest issue with correlation (among not a few) is the result it tends to have outside of church. I have several friends (not including my wife, though she fits this bill) who only adhere and read “official” (read “Correlated”) material. No matter the topic, if it doesn’t come from an LDS manual, or an LDS “approved” book or magazine, it’s not fit for reading. If it’s not from Deseret Book, it’s not fit for buying. If it’s not in the Ensign, it’s not doctrine. For example, I had a discussion with one of these friends recently on the Word of Wisdom, what it said and didn’t say. I wasn’t even allowed to use the LDS Online Scriptures (even when I showed the web page to this friend) because what I was showing might be co-opted by some foreign website. Only a “hard copy” would suffice. And, if the scripture happened to be in the Old or New Testament, it’d have to be read from the LDS Quad.

    Through this, and other conversations, I’ve come to understand that there are many members out there who are scared of the “uncorrelated Boogeyman” (or woman). I’m not sure if this stems from actual teachings at church, though certainly there are many who believe and think that we’re all deceived if we venture outside of church approved sources, but certainly the effects of a “correlated mind” ripple throughout the church and into private conversations.

    Correlation might be great, per some of you, for the distillation process it enables inside the walls of a church building for 3-hours every Sunday, but it’s a veritable nightmare when you approach these same members in their own homes and try to have a conversation with them on a gospel topic. It is now possible to be a “Mormon heretic” or an “apostate” (even against all scriptural injunctions to the opposite) for believing doctrine which someone else has determined should be discarded.

    Today, this process has been expanded to even include excommunication for mere doctrinal errors. This ensures that years go by before such an “independent” person is welcomed again into the church, and then only after receiving permission from the First Presidency. Correlation of doctrine has slipped, if this pattern I see proves true, into a coercive use of authority (D&C 121 seems a propos here). Instead of persuading (D&C 121) someone by using better doctrine to correct an error, we punish and silence through a pattern that is altogether anti-scriptural. Correlation produces the effect that the institution is the end-all, be-all in all discussions: the voice of God comes solely and exclusively through the institution, the COB, the correlation department. If you need to know something, the institution will tell you it. Unless you hear your orders from it, we stay (and must stay) as we are, unchanging, unflinchingly staunch in our rigid and pharasical views.

    If Correlation continues down it’s present path, we won’t welcome converts who might challenge the basic assumptions that they, having received revelation to come on-board in the first place, now see as amiss. It could even be said that we openly suppress (or encourage the suppression of) the Spirit which raises so many questions about how things are proceeding. To be Mormon, in the near future (if not already) will mean “correlated”. Then again, I guess I should realize that independent thinkers are now getting lumped into the [url=http://nestmann.sovereignsociety.com/2010/09/16/are-independent-thinkers-mentally-ill/]“mentally ill”[/url] crowd (please fix that link if it doesn’t show properly), so a “correlated” mind might be defined as a “mentally sound” mind, whereas an “uncorrelated” mind as “mentally ill”. Correlated body and soul. An institutional man or woman.

    No longer distinct, separate, different, unique, or creative. Instead we will be praised for our discipline, for our orderliness, our subservience, etc. Sort of sounds like today, if you ask me. Appealing to governments (who love subservience), industry heads (who love diligence) and those looking for good employees (and servants), but perhaps not so to the Spirit.

    That is the view some of my friends (and wife) take. So far persuasion hasn’t helped because I’m facing an iron fist. We’ll see if that changes.

    Who knows.

  • http://mormonheretic.org MH

    Jeff, I look forward to your post, and I enjoyed the Victor Ludlow quote. However, Ludlow wouldn’t have done me any good with the bishop. If quoting Joseph Smith won’t help, Ludlow is surely less prominent or persuasive.

    I have been been known to read blogs on Sunday on my phone–it’s much more interesting than the correlated lesson material… I keep thinking I’m going to run into someone else as frustrated as me at church who blogs, but I haven’t found anyone yet.

  • Jeff Spector

    Tom, #51

    “Today, this process has been expanded to even include excommunication for mere doctrinal errors.”

    You had me up until this. I do not believe that a ‘mere’ doctrinal error gets one excommunicated. First, the trend is away from excommunication even in cases of adultery. So I highly doubt anyone would get ex’d if they spouted a doctrinal incorrect statement and was willing to correct it. Even going back to the September 6, they had repeatedly been told to cease and desist before anything was formally done.

    but I can relate totally to what you are saying.

  • http://ethesis.blogspot.com/ Stephen Marsh

    I had a discussion with one of these friends recently on the Word of Wisdom, what it said and didn’t say. I wasn’t even allowed to use the LDS Online Scriptures (even when I showed the web page to this friend) because what I was showing might be co-opted by some foreign website. Only a “hard copy” would suffice. — ok, so you are dealing with someone who is paranoid. Not sure that correlation is to blame for craziness.

  • jmb275

    the problem here is illustrated when you said ‘stake presidents and bishops responsibility.’ my stake (former-due to stake split) presidency WANTED crap teachers. they didn’t want me to ask insightful questions because it might ‘harm testimonies.’ that is exactly what I was told, along with an admonition to avoid ‘outside materials.’ the current manuals suck, which is why I pulled in outside resources. and no, I wasn’t teaching about kolob, I was teaching isaiah.

    the kjv translations of isaiah are terrible. I brought a different translation to help people understand isaiah. it makes no sense to read the bible if we can’t understand what we are reading. joseph smith read different translations (and I can back it up) but apparently he wouldn’t pass correlation now.

    I mean if a bible isn’t meeting correlation, what is a teacher to do? I talked with my bishop after the stake split and he told me he didn’t want to call me in, but was pressured by the sp 1st counselor.

    this is correlation at it’s worst.

    Dang MH, you need a new ward, seriously!! That’s what you get in Happy Valley I guess. So sorry to hear of the nonsense you endure. If I were in your shoes I probably wouldn’t even go to church anymore (or at least go to a different ward).

    Re Arnster

    Powerful spiritual experiences are needed in church, this comes from testimony and faith, not from speculation.

    No offense, but this sounds so Mormon-ey I have to bring it up. Powerful spiritual experiences come from ALL KINDS of different things, many of which center around EXPERIENCING the divine through a kind of hero journey (consider the Orthodox ceremony, or the endowment). In any case, speculation very well COULD provide many with powerful spiritual experiences as they may be opened up to new ways of looking at things. To me, hearing the same thing over and over again (be obedient, be obedient, be a member missionary, be obedient…) does absolutely NOTHING for me spiritually.

  • Jeff Spector

    I’m in line with Stephen on this point that some are paining correlation was a pretty broad brush. Correlation seems to be an attempt to insure the WW church is singing from the same doctrinal song sheet. To me, anything else is in fact something else. A local leader or members paranoid actions are not a part of correlation.

    Now, having said that, I mentioned my own run-in with the correlation committee a number of years ago while preparing my presentation on the Passover for the Seminary and Institute Symposium at BYU. they claim came back, through an intermediary at CES that the last support was not a Passover Seder. Of course, I argued that the scriptures are very clear on that point that Jesus was celebrating the Passover. Turns out what they REALLY meant was there was no relationship between the Last Supper and the modern Jewish Passover Seder. Which i could agree with and made sure that in my presentation spoke mainly of the symbolism which is present in both events as well as in the book of Exodus. they we came to agreement. But, you sometimes have to fight back against ridiculousness.

    Most of what passes for protecting Doctrinal Purity at the local level is more about spitting hairs and absolutism in interpreting the guidelines (and, I do mean guidelines). Oh, and control. A lot about control.

  • http://truthmarche.wordpress.com Tom

    I think it should be pointed out that I never said (or implied) that an individual members actions, be they paranoid or not, are part of correlation. I did say and do imply that many of these individual actions are results of correlation. Correlation, by itself, is merely another program implemented by a program driven, trademarked, institution that has no idea how to live or operate outside of programs. However, though the actual bounds of the program may be finite, the results of that program are much broader than the general membership assert.

    Take the example I shared above. That person is the direct result, I’d argue, of a correlated curriculum that teaches that the Institution and her leaders are the (and only) doctrinal authorities. Anyone without a title of “President” or “Elder” isn’t worth listening to, especially if they aren’t published in the semi-annual Conference Report of the Ensign or other Church periodicals. The problem I see is that we’re so quick to discount the far reaching effects of correlation on individuals. It may be a mere result of our society at large, as there are movements afoot outside of the LDS church which essentially bring the same result, but our culture is inundated with people looking for authority figures to tell them what to think, how to think it and then to defend it at all costs. In the church that’s called “correlation.” Though Correlation (big ‘c’) doesn’t necessarily imply or assert that control (though, I admit, I’m not privy to internal discussions which may be to the contrary), the effect correlation (little ‘c’) has on the average member can be extreme.

    Maybe it’s just my luck, but I’ve never had much trouble finding someone who will attempt to control what I think or say (under the guise of “apostate” behavior) because it diverges outside the 52 cards placed on some wall somewhere in the COB.

    And, re: #53, I’ve actually known a couple of people ex’d for what were defined as “doctrinal” issues, which then were lumped in with “apostate” behavior. One for believing that Jesus was the Jehovah of the Old Testament, and another for teaching that Polygamy was a true doctrine. The latter would only respond to a direct question on the issue, as he knew it’s volatility in the ward he belonged to at the time, and would always redirect the question back to the scriptures, but that “doctrinal” issue was then turned into “teaching apostate doctrine.” He admittedly was up against a particularly controlling Stake President, but the result was the same. I looked through the CHI and the brush is broad enough to paint many an issue as “apostate.” See p. 110 of the 2006 edition. Maybe that will change with the new instruction manual. So long as you run up against a particularly Pharaisical, controlling leader you can and will run a certain risk if you think believe something other than what’s in the manual du jour. And, you’re right, it wouldn’t be just a statement or two, but it would involve a visit or 3 to the Bishop’s office for teaching testimony harming material and then continue from there. That’s if you made it that far.

    As for the “trend,” do you have any figures on that “trend”?

  • JrL

    “Some of the best lessons I’ve had have been done by simple, humble teachers, who asked insightful questions, and just let the members in the class give the lesson.”

    I heartily agree. I’ve often found references to “uncorrelated” materials interesting and enlightening. But for me,m the best moments of Church classes — certainly spiritually, and often, frankly, intellectually — almost always come from unscripted, unprepared comments by class members during a discussion led by a teacher willing and able to have the class members, with their widely varying experiences and backgrounds, take up most (better yet, nearly all) the time.

  • http://alatterdayvoice.blogspot.com Paul

    58 – I agree. I have a friend who is in my HP group. He seems always ready with an interesting scripture which casts an intereting light on whatever subject we are discussing. His doing so does not call attention to his knowledge of the scriptures (though he knows them well), but rather draws us (back, sometimes) to the center of the topic at hand. I love having him in the class when I teach.

  • Thomas

    jmb @ #55: “many of which center around EXPERIENCING the divine through a kind of hero journey (consider the Orthodox ceremony, or the endowment).”

    OT, but I’m interested in that reference to the Orthodox ceremony as a “hero journey.” I think I remember reaading something briefly about similar imagery being used in that ceremony and the endowment. Could you briefly elaborate?

    #57: “One for believing that Jesus was the Jehovah of the Old Testament…”

    Isn’t there supposed to be a “not” before “Jehovah”? Because I think it’s pretty much undisputed Mormon doctrine that Jesus was Jehovah.

  • http:mormonheretic.org mh

    in some church meetings, we have been encouraged to follow the commandments ‘with exactness.’ I think that some of our leaders are doing this with correlation. we all know here when these people go over the line, but I don’t think they realize it.

    jmb, I did put my house up for sale, but wasn’t willing to take a bath to sell it. I need to be a good example for my kids, and want them to enjoy church (especially primary). you will often find me in the hall during sunday school and priesthood meeting.

  • jmb275

    Re Thomas

    OT, but I’m interested in that reference to the Orthodox ceremony as a “hero journey.” I think I remember reaading something briefly about similar imagery being used in that ceremony and the endowment. Could you briefly elaborate?

    Well, I should have been more specific. I have attended a Russian Orthodox Sunday meeting. I was touched by how much there was to experience! Each member of the congregation is communing with the divine, and the symbolism is extraordinary. They have a veil, an altar, and an individual who sort of speaks on behalf of those in attendance (should ring some bells). I’d like to relate more but most of it was in old Slavic, so even knowing Russian I couldn’t get the whole of it. The most startling difference, at least for me, was the chanting/singing that takes place. Very unlike anything in Mormonism. The “hero journey” in Orthodoxy is definitely different compared with the endowment (which I think is one of the best re-enactments of the “hero journey”), but it is their version of the “hero journey.” I guess that’s all I meant.

    Re MH

    in some church meetings, we have been encouraged to follow the commandments ‘with exactness.’ I think that some of our leaders are doing this with correlation. we all know here when these people go over the line, but I don’t think they realize it.

    I think this is the Mormon equivalent of a pissing contest (sorry if that offends). Who can be the most obedient, the most zealous, the most righteous? Let them be seen in all their white-shirt-and-tie glory!! Very Pharisaical in my book.

    jmb, I did put my house up for sale, but wasn’t willing to take a bath to sell it. I need to be a good example for my kids, and want them to enjoy church (especially primary). you will often find me in the hall during sunday school and priesthood meeting.

    Man, I wish I lived around there. I’d come find you and we could have great discussions!! I understand and sympathize with the need to elevate family priorities over personal ones. At least I better understand now why you take a book to church!

  • Jeff Spector

    “As for the “trend,” do you have any figures on that “trend”?”

    I only have a Bishop friend who told me that he has a Ward member (male) not ex’d for a single adultery incident because it was felt the offender was better in the Church on probation than out of the Church. He also related being taught that the Brethren eere re-thinking separating people from the gospel because most do not return.

  • Jeff Spector

    “you will often find me in the hall during sunday school and priesthood meeting.”

    I like hanging out in the halls as well. but then someone always comes out and says, “Jeff, please come in and teach your class!” ;)

  • http://truthmarche.wordpress.com Tom

    re #60: You are correct, my typo.

    re #63: Don’t need to point out the obvious, but that’s hardly a trend, per se. If true, it would likely be welcomed. However, I don’t think the issue is the ex’ing, per se, but rather the manner that “pissing contests” happen in local units or the way “trends” are set in stakes/wards. Now we require a full 7-step repentance process, and an allotted time frame which dictates when repentance is complete. Instead of leaving that process up to the individuals, its circumscribed for them. “This sin requires a 3 month repentance process, whereas this other one is a full year, if not longer. That one over there, 2 months and community service.” Another box to check on the checklist to full fellowship. Contrasted with times past, we probably look like some hard taskmasters who are very slow to grant mercy.

    I thought this might be worth sharing, from Daymon Smith’s website on correlation:

    Priesthood Correlation merely names, in the future, the coordination of scheduling software and surveillance apps among agents of the Church who hold keys to its real and virtual properties (How long until “hearing confession” is a Facebook status for LDS bishops?). This streamlined referentiality trimmed some of the congregational fat from the present-day term Priesthood, as “ward functions” like moving families in and out of homes, holiday parties, visiting the lonely, healing the sick, and Sacrament meetings, are deemed outsourceable.

    The Sunday meetings occur online, as heavy investment in digital technologies rendered maintenance and upkeep of chapels unviable strategies once their full costs were calculated against the entirely unexpected and very real devaluation of real property. Podcast General Conference airs weekly in its place, and Saints are asked to supply their own bread and water for sacrament services conducted by online priests (and a few hold-out neighborhood High Priests). Digital bread and water are also available for digital avatars. So to the ether of the digital realm Mormons will flock, as the avatar of the Prophet sets its IM status on “prophesying”, and also correlates its Facebook status to the same. The vicarious rites conducted at the LDS temples continue, but in order to increase efficiency one body is made to carry hundreds, and then thousands, of “names”, until each attendee is simply named for a ward, and then a stake, where congregate thousands of the dead. Direct deposit of tithes all but eliminates the remaining functions of ward bishops. They remain, however, as volunteer administrators whose job-description is the referral of Mormons to various for-profit social service-providers (e.g., psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, and counselors, depending on one’s income), thus converting the ancient category of “sin” into the modern “illness.”

    Yes, Priesthood Correlation has become so natural to the religion, even by the turn of the recent century, that few more-active LDS would consider a non-Priesthood Correlated Mormonism any Mormonism at all. He is assured of a dusty seat, but one yet under the wagon’s canvas. And far from the ground, too: in the airs of the digital, most likely, he draws breath, for local and global blend well online, and new spatial and temporal relations fulfill the old Sixties aims of Priesthood Correlation: to summon the general authority of priesthood at every locality.

    Economies of scale work in favor of Correlation. Indeed, Correlation had as its aim the construction of a generic Mormonism, one that could be circulated around the globe and speak the same words, give the same meanings, no matter the cultural or historical context. Practically speaking this has certain limits: only a few select commodities, fashions, terms, logos, architectural styles, graphic designs, furniture, and so on can be mass produced and circulated around the globe under the banner of authorized Mormonism. Church leaders are realizing that one cannot, however, generate a unified, faithful body of Christ (let alone prove, or know that such a thing exists) by specifying dress codes, vocabulary (“content”), right books, approved internet sites, proper beverages, film genres, sofas, pews, paint, fixtures, and chapel designs. (Unless one simply redefines “faithful,” of course.) This has all been the result of Correlation – that is, every change somehow was required to explain its subordination, organizationally, administratively, cultural, to that term. And yet the loftiest goal of Correlation – the descent of Enoch shadowed on the horizon – has no serious expected Arrival Time.

  • http://ethesis.blogspot.com/ Stephen M (Ethesis)

    I only have a Bishop friend who told me that he has a Ward member (male) not ex’d for a single adultery incident because it was felt the offender was better in the Church on probation than out of the Church. He also related being taught that the Brethren were re-thinking separating people from the gospel because most do not return.

    I’ve been to regional training where that was emphasized, that with changes in the community (the LDS are no longer an ethnic group living in a narrow geographic area, but instead a religious body spread across the world) there needs to be much less excommunication so that people can be ministered to and loved and cared for in the repentance process so they will not be lost.

    Digital bread and water are also available for digital avatars — yep, services in Dalaran for both Alliance and the Horde ;)

  • F Bisti

    Paul, in comment #4 said: “I would also add, however, that with the advent of a real worldwide church, there is likely value in a simplification and a return to basics.”

    I have heard that several times but do not get the logic. The premise may be (and I don’t disagree) that those being converted are less knowledgeable and need the simplified and basic gospel (hence, the Gospel Essentials class). The fact that they are more and more from Africa or other 3rd world countries doesn’t change that need. What doesn’t follow logically is that I should be expected to return to the same lessons I had in Primary, and Jr Sunday School (I am dating myself), and that my grand children are currently getting in Primary (compare the first few lessons in GP with those in the Sunbeam and Valiant manuals). What is the value for me of this dumbing down?

    If the logic is that we need to learn fewer new things, or gain no more depth of understanding so that we might become more spiritual–then I suggest prayer and meditation rather than going to church and listening to these choloform-laced lessons!

  • Justin

    Why do I have to have the same lessons as we give the new members in Africa or Lithuania? Why can’t newer units just be given the dumbed down manuals — while seasoned areas can get lessons that apply better to their knowledge? Is the concern that we wouldn’t “all be one” b/c we have different manual needs? Is producing material according to the needs and conditions of the children of men too difficult?

  • Jeff Spector

    Because we are all just as dumb about the Gospel. The minute you think not, you’re probably in trouble…..

  • http://truthmarche.wordpress.com Tom

    re: #69.

    That might be one of the dumbest things I’ve read since, well, this morning when I read how someone “had a testimony” that the “general authorities know more than we [non general authorities] do.” Nibley’s short talk on “The Day of the Amateur” seems to cover what I think about that.

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  • Anonymous

    I htink Correlation has been the single most destructive influence to the spirituality of the church.