Over at Worlds Without End, Seth posted Overcoming Correlation, or Mormon Studies and Pastoral Care. Why do we keep talking about Correlation? Obviously, there’s something wrong, but there are various opinions as to what exactly that is and how one might go about fixing it. After recounting his own scholarly engagement with Mormon Studies, Seth offers a couple of conclusions about Correlation, its problems, and how Mormon Studies might help solve them.
Here is his first observation:
Correlation has watered down religious and spiritual education in the Church to a point of absolute absurdity.
Well, maybe not absolute absurdity, but everyone admits it has been watered down. I understand the rationale for the standardization program pushed by Correlation, but one has to consider costs as well as benefits, and the costs are substantial. How bad would things have to get before someone within the hierarchy would start pushing for some un-correlation?
Here is what I take to be Seth’s second observation:
Correlation has created a shortage of intellectual stimuli for active, believing, and committed Latter-day Saints. … It has been my experience that Latter-day Saints are hungry for intellectual stimulation relative to their Mormon spirituality.
Is it possible that some Mormons go inactive simply because they are bored with what happens on Sunday? How many Sundays have you spent three hours in LDS meetings without encountering a single new idea? So, because of Correlation, bright, curious Mormons (and we’re all bright and curious, aren’t we?) have to look elsewhere for interesting discussion about their faith. And you find a lot of troubling material as well as helpful material if you start Googling about Mormonism.
So what can be done? It’s helpful to distinguish between global and local solutions. The global solutions (better manuals, shorten LDS Sunday meetings, combat the anti-intellectualism that still pervades LDS education) are easy to articulate, tough to execute, and might actually create new problems. In any case, global solutions are beyond our reach. That’s someone else’s calling.
What about local solutions? Interestingly, Seth doesn’t rehash the usual global recommendations (see above). He suggests action at the local level, aimed in particular at helping those who, looking elsewhere for intellectual discussion of LDS issues, encounter doubts or concerns. This is where he sees a positive role for Mormon Studies.
I propose that Mormon Studies can be an effective tool for those who provide pastoral care within the LDS Church. … Students of Mormon Studies can be invaluable resources to local priesthood leaders seeking to help ward members study important questions. On more than one occasion my local leaders have asked me to help provide scholarly works that they could provide to congregants.
We have stake public relations reps and stake employment reps and stake activites reps. Why not a Stake Faith Specialist? The quick response to such a suggestion might be that there is no need for such services or that, if they are needed, bishops or stake presidents should be the ones to provide it. Well, there is a need, and bishops and stake presidents are often not the right persons to provide needed responses or information. But there are a host of challenging details to consider before making this particular suggestion work.
So is Correlation a problem or a solution? If changes need to be made, do you have any better suggestions to offer?