Wednesday, January 20, 2010

LDS Church News Article About Correlation Triggers An Avalanche Of Questions And Criticism By Faithful Mormons In The "LDS Blogosphere"

An article on correlation published by the LDS Church News on January 9th, 2010 seems to have generated more questions than answers throughout the LDS blogosphere. And these questions are not being asked by skeptics, dissidents or apostates, but by obviously faithful members of the Church.

The article is entitled "Use Proper Sources". It starts off by portraying a stereotypical frazzled woman scrambling to prepare a Relief Society lesson. The woman was sitting at her dining room table, buried in dozens of books and magazines, wondering just where to begin. Her daughter walks up, sees the problem, pulls out a copy of the latest instructional manual, and tells her mom to begin there. The point is that inspired Church-writing committees have already done the laborious hunting and pecking.

But just what is "correlation". Is it an attempt to impose a Soviet-style ideological orthodoxy upon the Church, or is it simply intended to promote greater efficiency and consistency? Correlation is actually an inspired effort conceived nearly 50 years ago to simplify the programs of the Church and unify Latter-day Saints in faith and doctrine. The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve exercise oversight. Specific objectives include:

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

The bottom line - to ensure that the Gospel preached at an LDS ward in Paris, Texas is the same as the Gospel preached at an LDS ward in Paris, France. Makes sense, right?

Except the Church News article, which is not attributed to a specific author, goes on to counsel Church members to restrict themselves only to the manual, the scriptures, and perhaps official Church magazines, and to avoid using "uncorrelated" sources such as unofficial lesson plans, resources and information found in books and on the Internet, even if they are pro-LDS. And this is what got many people's panties bunched up.

Mormon Matters was the primary LDS blog to pick up the story, and it left many people shaking their heads in wonderment and frustration. Some of the commenters thought the new guidance too restrictive. Others were concerned that it would result in too much superficiality; one person commented that while the teenagers he taught can recite doctrine, they know very little about the church, its history, and its interpretation of scripture. Still others thought it would curtail their ability to personalize and tailor religious doctrinal lessons to fit the unique needs of their respective audiences. Of the 101 comments appended to the post, nearly all were critical in one way or another.

In contrast, Dave Bannack is more supportive of the Church News article over at Times and Seasons. You can also listen to an MRM roundtable discussion by Aaron Shafovaloff and Bill McKeever embedded below:

But is the concern legitimate or is it an over-reaction? Perhaps one of the General Authorities or some stake presidents may have discovered that too many instructors were only paying lip service to these manuals, and turning their classes into gabfests. Hard-earned tithing revenues are expended in researching, compiling, and publishing these manuals, and perhaps the General Authorities simply want to make sure the manuals are actually used so that members get the biggest possible bang for the tithing buck.

The bottom line - the real intent and purpose of this counsel is to get people back to using the correlated sources - the manuals and the scriptures - FIRST, before consulting uncorrelated sources. But Church leaders need to remember that much of this "uncorrelated" material consists of books written by faithful LDS authors such as W. Cleon Skousen, Duane Crowther, Bruce R. McConkie, and Hugh Nibley, just to name a few. Some of these books are big-time testimony-builders. Many of the "uncorrelated" websites, such as the one you're viewing right now, present LDS doctrine as accurately and faithfully as possible. These unofficial "faith-promoting" sources can add valuable augmentation to the contents of an official manual and can help instructors personalize their lessons more effectively.

I don't really believe the Brethren want instructors to completely ignore unofficial sources. Just make sure the official sources are used FIRST and FOREMOST. The purpose of Sunday School, Priesthood Meeting, Relief Society, and Primary is faith-promoting; material presented therein should be exclusively faith-promoting. Side issues such as how many wives Joseph Smith and Brigham Young had, or how many times the Book of Mormon has been "tuned up" have no place for discussion during an official Church meeting; such issues can be discussed outside Church.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am one of those teachers that teaches from the cuff and I beleive that the youth today ahve to be tailored to their environment. Love the blog!!!