Underwhelming Thoughts on Correlation

I confess that I am not a regular reader of the Church News, but I did happen to run across this recent piece, “Using proper sources.” I will note a couple of quibbles I have with the piece (which, as an unsigned post in the “Viewpoints” section, I take to be essentially a staff editorial), but in the end I think I agree on the need to avoid the use of “uncorrelated” supplementary sources or materials in class.

Here’s how the article starts out.

A woman sat at her dining room table, buried in dozens of books and magazines. She looked discouraged. Her daughter asked if she could help.
The woman said she was preparing a Relief Society lesson. She told her daughter she didn’t know how she could possibly “boil down all the information” she had collected for the lesson. The process, the woman acknowledged, was both time consuming and frustrating.
The daughter looked surprised.
“Why,” she asked, “are you trying to boil down information? An inspired Church-writing committee has already done that for you.”

I’m sure you’re familiar with this sort of account: a short, generic, made-up story used to illustrate a point in the form of a story rather than by making a straightforward statement. You know, the sort of well-intentioned but phony story that got Elder Dunn in trouble. Memo to the Church News: Don’t just make stuff up in an article telling Church members to be careful about sources. [Note: Comments following this post and elsewhere claim that the story relates an actual conversation of the author of the editorial, explaining that such actual accounts are written in a generic third-person form when presented in the Church News and, in addition, stating that the Church News does not print generic stories that lack a factual basis. My apologies to the author.]

Here’s a second quote. See if anything jumps out at you.

But leaders and teachers in the Church do themselves and the people they serve a disservice when they turn to unofficial — not correlated — materials in the planning of lessons and activities.

Planning? The counsel as I have generally seen it expressed in the past directs teachers to avoid making supplementary materials part of the lesson. But consulting supplementary materials, correlated or not, as part of the planning and preparation of the lesson seems like the sort of thing that good teachers are supposed to do. Here’s a paragraph from a different source, the introduction to the new Gospel Principles manual (italics added):

If you have been called to teach a quorum or class using this book, do not substitute outside materials, however interesting they may be. Stay true to the scriptures and the words in the book. As appropriate, use personal experiences and articles from Church magazines to supplement the lessons.

The counsel here seems to be use the manual (and not outside materials) to “teach a quorum or class.” It makes reference to “the lesson,” as in what happens in the classroom. I think this statement in the introduction to the Gospel Principles manual is in line with earlier statements. So I am thinking that the editorial unintentionally overstated the directive. However, if you have someone in your ward who’s a stickler for this sort of thing, this guidance in the Gospel Principles introduction offers you a safe harbor: Church magazines. There is some really good stuff in the older Ensigns and Improvement Eras.

My last quibble is with the use of a quotation from Elder McConkie to explain the nature and purpose of Correlation. That’s ironic because, as reported by those who have compared the revised edition of Gospel Principles with the original edition, all quotations from Elder McConkie’s Mormon Doctrine have been correlated right out of the newly revised edition. Maybe the writers of the editorial are unaware of these edits. Or perhaps this is just an inside joke from the staff of the Church News.

My final point is really the main issue, as opposed to the quibbles noted above: I agree that teachers should refrain from using outside materials in class. [And I’m thinking magazines published by the Church and books published by Deseret Book qualify as “inside materials” if used with discretion, but there may be specific statements on this point.] Sure, I know that some teachers would select additional materials that complement the material in the lesson and that are appropriate for LDS teaching. But others would, from time to time, select additional materials that introduce speculative, irrelevant, political, or simply false concepts into lessons. Weighing these possibilities in the balance, I think we’re better off keeping the bad stuff out. In any case, a good teacher with a valid point to make from a supplementary source can usually make it using a scriptural passage or a personal experience anyway. And hopefully they won’t just make up a story to get their point across.

The article quotes two clear and concise paragraphs from Elder Oaks that provide, I think, better guidance than the editorial as a whole. I believe they are a good way to end this post.

I have sometimes observed teachers who gave the designated chapter no more than a casual mention and then presented a lesson and invited discussion on other materials of the teacher’s choice. That is not acceptable.
A gospel teacher is not called to choose the subject of the lesson but to teach and discuss what has been specified. Gospel teachers should also be scrupulous to avoid hobby topics, personal speculations, and controversial subjects. The Lord’s revelations and the directions of His servants are clear on this point.

83 comments for “Underwhelming Thoughts on Correlation

  1. Randy B.
    January 13, 2010 at 11:11 am

    The fact of the matter is that not all manuals are created equally. I have my quibbles with the MP/RS manuals, for example, but as a general rule, they are passable. That simply is not the case for the YM/YW manuals. Those outdated lesson manuals are just woefully deficient. In my view, adhering to those manuals is a disservice to the youth. I realize some, including perhaps even Elder Oaks, have a different view. But it’s still my view.

  2. Dan
    January 13, 2010 at 11:12 am

    I confess that I am not a regular reader of the Church News,

    Sheesh, I think you need to talk to your bishop and maybe have your temple recommend revoked!

  3. January 13, 2010 at 11:28 am

    Randy B, as YW leaders we’ve gotten lots of discussion about your precise point. Amen.

    Dave, your comment about the apparently unironic use of a made-up scenario in an article about not using stuff with dubious provenance is dead-on, hilarious.

  4. January 13, 2010 at 11:33 am

    This topic is also being discussed at one of the LDS discussion boards. In that thread, a poster who apparently knows and works with the author of the editorial claims the story told about the woman with dozens of books and magazines piled on her dining room table, which offers verbatim quotes of dialogue, is a factually correct recounting of an actual encounter between a mother and her daughter. If this is so, I stand corrected and apologize to the author of the editorial for suggesting otherwise.

  5. January 13, 2010 at 11:34 am

    Well said, Dave.

  6. ESO
    January 13, 2010 at 11:47 am

    I accept your apology. I call my mom to repentance all the time! We talk about inspired Church-writing committees regularly at our house.

  7. January 13, 2010 at 11:59 am

    Thanks for the gracious comment, ESO. It was not clear in the editorial that what was being recounted was a personal experience.

  8. Mark B.
    January 13, 2010 at 12:11 pm

    Does this mean that we won’t have to hear any of those damnable Edgar A. Guest verses in general conference again? Sauce for the goose/sauce for the gander and all that.

  9. Steve Evans
    January 13, 2010 at 12:11 pm

    This is the first time, to my recollection, that the stupid editorials of the CN have ever been taken seriously. I wonder what the author would think! Shocked, I suppose, that anyone had read the article at all.

  10. DavidH
    January 13, 2010 at 12:11 pm

    I disagree, Dave. I think the core points of the lesson ought to be made. But just as the Brethren feel free to quote broadway plays, poems, news articles, movies, and even Halle Berry, N.T. Wright and Henri Nouwen in making points in conference talks, it is a mystery to me why lay members cannot be trusted to do the same. Jesus, I suspect, made reference to nonscriptural stories and customs familiar to audiences.

    Julie reminded us that the Teaching No Greater Call suggests we look for lessons all around us as we prepare for lessons.

    And, by the way, I do not see the CN article as permitting use of Mormon Doctrine or Doctrines of Salvation, because they are noncorrelated publications. However, I think most people will read it similarly to you–that it is okay to quote uncorrelated McConkie (as an “inside publication”), but not okay to quote uncorrelated N.T. Wright (unless one is quoting Holland quoting N.T. Wright).

  11. Singularity
    January 13, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    Thanks for dedicating a post to a topic I raised in Julie’s thread yesterday. I think it merits discussion. Does anyone know the review process for editorials that are published in the Church News? I am not sure how much weight to give them. I guess the editorial could just be the opinion of an unknown staffer but don’t the Brethren review everything that is published in something like the Church News or the Ensign? Is it possible that an editorial could be published in the Church News that does not reflect the mind and will of church leadership? And if that does happen, have the Brethren ever issued corrections in such instances? Would our response to the editorial be different if it were signed by President Monson?

  12. Mike Parker
    January 13, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    Correlation is a lot like McDonald’s: You know you can go anywhere in the world and eat the same crappy food.

  13. January 13, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    DavidH, in this instance I do actually trust senior LDS leaders to quote from a wide variety of sources in their Conference talks in a way I do not trust the teachers of the Church to quote from a wide variety of sources in their Sunday School and other lessons.

    Steve, the editorials in the Church News are, in fact, widely read … although not necessarily by the average denizen of the Bloggernacle. In addition, I have it on good authority that articles and editorials published by the Church News are, in fact, subject to review by senior LDS leaders prior to publication. I don’t know, however, how often that right of review is exercised. No doubt standard in-house review by managing editors takes care of most items that would be of concern to senior LDS leaders.

    In contrast, while I suspect books published by Deseret News are reviewed in-house with an eye to not ruffling any feathers at the COB, I doubt that books published there are reviewed prior to publication by senior LDS leaders in the same way that manuals and the Church News are reviewed. Books published by Deseret Book are not official publications of the Church.

  14. John Mansfield
    January 13, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    The bit about “information found in books” transformed this editorial for me. It made me think of Paul McCartney’s trouble-making grandfather in “A Hard Day’s Night” telling Ringo, who’s reading a paperback, that it’s his steady beat that holds the band together, and what does he have to show for it? Books!

    So, our hard-working teacher having been convinced of the paltry rewards that books offer takes off after sacrament meeting, and the Relief Society president tries to track her down so the show can start. Meanwhile, Grandpa McCartney is in the foyer selling autographed glossies of the First Presidency to the young women.

  15. January 13, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    That phony story that is frequently in manuals about Louis XVII seriously has to go (“I am a king of France!”). My sense is that the very questionable nature of the story, both in terms of provenance and morality, have been pointed out to the nameless committee that drafts these manuals and the story still keeps appearing.

  16. SA
    January 13, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    a factually correct recounting of an actual encounter between a mother and her daughter.

    Of course it’s real. The mother was using the dining room table as her work space. If she was using the desk in the home office… then we would know it was farce. ;>)

  17. Sterling Fluharty
    January 13, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    I am grateful for all the stuff that made it into the scriptures without having to pass first through correlation.

  18. Porter
    January 13, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    Let’s be serious, the only lessons that keep anyone’s attention are those that use material from outside the manual. Does the list of “correlated” church magazines include the original T&S? We may as well replace our gray matter with a few circuits and just plug ourselves in to download the Sunday school lesson each week.

  19. Megan
    January 13, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    So, I’m guess that this suggests that using material from Rough Stone Rolling in RS last year wasn’t okay?

    Because I definitely had a RS teacher who always brought her copy when she taught, and I thought it was awesome.

  20. Kristine
    January 13, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    It’s possible that the last time such an editorial got this much attention was in 1945: http://en.fairmormon.org/Authoritarianism_and_Church_leaders#When_our_leaders_speak.2C_the_thinking_has_been_done.3F

  21. Raymond Takashi Swenson
    January 13, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    That statement inviting teachers to use “personal experiences” is an exception you can drive a semi-trailer through. The longest tangents I have experienced in Sunday School lessons have been travelogues by the teacher, in order to eventually lead us to an event that is somewhat relevant to the lesson topic. If we can talk about the weather, about natural disasters (like Katrina and the Teton Dam disaster), about events in the world at large that correspond to the prophecies about the Last Days, why can’t we bring in insights from our research, so long as the way we use them is consistent with the doctrine taught in the lesson and the scriptures?

    My personal experiences include making discoveries supporting LDS doctrine in sources outside the Church, such as N.T. Wright, C.S. Lewis, and Margaret Barker, not to mention Irenaeus and Josephus. Such sources are especially relevant when we are studying the Old and New Testaments, where they can help us understand the world in which the Old Testament prophets received their revelations, and the very different one in which the Savior lived and the apostles took the Church to the Gentiles.

    If there is something inimical to Church policy in teaching this way, it was never brought up by the General Authority who bought a house in my ward in Idaho in preparation for his retirement and sat in my Gospel Doctrine class several times a year. He was ready, willing and able to correct me and the class on how we ran the class, such as admonishing them to give me some help with retrieving the TV for a lesson, or telling me that I should NOT ask for volunteers to say the opening and closing prayers, but should call on them. But he never called me to repentance on the material I brought in from outside the lesson manual to illustrate a point or help us understand a scripture passage or show the reasonableness of the LDS teachings versus those of traditional Christian churches.

    On the other hand, I recall one Sunday visiting my son’s ward, when the substitute instructor for the High Priests who had been assigned to teach a lesson about death and the Spirit World instead chose to talk about estate planning for 40 minutes. There wasn’t a single spiritual thought in the whole presentation. He could have given the same lesson to Buddhists or Muslims. That clearly violates the charter to teach the lesson topic within the gospel context.

    I feel that teaching classes is one of those areas where we are given an assignment to study correct principles and govern ourselves, to seek out all those things that are of good report and praiseworthy, and to do many things of our free will, and bring to pass much righteousness.

  22. January 13, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    Dave, you took a much more civil tone in response to this underwhelming “viewpoint” article than I would have. And since I agree with you–thanks all the more.

  23. Kestrel
    January 13, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    Regarding the adequacy of the YW lesson manuals – while I agree they are dated, they are officially supplemented by excellent resources and if you gather all the materials sanctioned and available for supporting YW lessons, they will fill an 8 foot dinner table!

  24. January 13, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    Use of outside material is discouraged in the same sense that using marijuana is illegal in the US — true, but taking it at strict face value is misleading. In reality, you can do quite a lot of either without fear of serious consequence if you apply a little discretion to your use. And you will find lots of people happily ranting about the injustice at the restrictions and never acknowledging the wisdom behind those restrictions.

    I like that this post points to that wisdom. Correlation is not the Gestapo jumping into the middle of GD every time someone wants to quote from RSR or Skousen. But, you know, there’s nothing wrong with somebody thinking twice before bringing in an outside source, and there is wisdom in having some restriction of what kinds of materials can be used, just like the 12 Step fellowships limit the materials that can be brought up in their meetings to Conference Approved Literature. Canons can do with a bit of restricting. It helps keep all of us at the same table, instead of getting pissier and bickering more than we already do until we can get enough learning to understand that how we treat each other counts for far more than being right about some silly point of doctrine does. “Thou shalt love being right” is not a commandment, great or otherwise. Neither is “Thou shalt be rude to those who are wrong.” But if you can find anybody we aren’t commanded to love, I’d be happy to hear about it — I have a hard time trying to love everybody I’m supposed to, and could use the break.

    12 — And, just like McDonalds, there are plenty of snobby people who will look down their nose at what’s plenty good enough for most folks — better than most get, in fact. If you have the resources for more and better, then go right ahead, but you might want to make sure that what you have is either more or better and not just that it makes you feel like you’re better.

  25. January 13, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    You should be doing your own personal study of the scriptures and gospel. The learning will help you be a better teacher. However I think that referring to other resources is typically inappropriate – especially because there are so many members who go off the deep end with it. Seriously given a choice between the current system and “every lesson the gospel according to Bruce R. McConkie” I remember from the early 90’s I’d take the current system each time. I mean do you really want someone teaching the lesson from Skousen’s writings on anti-communism a?

  26. Alison
    January 13, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    Re. the Gospel Principles manual instruction to “not substitute outside materials,” surely that means that we don’t *replace* what’s in the manual with material from other sources – not that we can’t use it in addition to the printed lesson materials. Within reason, obviously.

  27. January 13, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    Blain, now that you mention it, the sudden re-popularity of the Cleon Skousen stuff is one of the things that helped me see the wisdom of the “no outside materials in class” position. The originals were published by Bookcraft in the sixties and seventies, but the reprints have apparently been published by Deseret. So even my idea that a book published by Deseret is okay in class is open to questioning if not subject to the “if used with discretion” qualifier. At a minimum, discretion means avoiding “hobby topics, personal speculations, and controversial subjects” as stated by Elder Oaks. And just about anything political is controversial.

  28. January 13, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    It must feel awkward having a Church News editorial come out specifically calling your viewpoint suspect. Thank goodness nothing like that has ever happened to me.

  29. charlie
    January 13, 2010 at 3:39 pm

    Is Church News Correlated material? If so, my GD teacher is in trouble. We get a story each Sunday from CN. Some of which are culturally insensitive or politically charged (though probably not to the writers who seem to think that St Ronald is not controversial)

  30. January 13, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    I love using (and when others use) outside material. No Church News editorial is going to change my mind or behavior.

  31. January 13, 2010 at 3:51 pm

    So… if Church News isn’t correlated (is it?), this exemplifies how we should be mistrustful of non-correlated materials. It would be inappropriate to support this editorial’s viewpoint in class (even by example) since it has not been approved by “an inspired Church-writing committee.”

    (Incidentally, the use of the hyphen in “Church-writing committee” is very telling. I am so glad that we have this committee to write the Church for us.)

  32. queuno
    January 13, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    “Why,” she asked, “are you trying to boil down information? An inspired Church-writing committee has already done that for you.”

    Ahem. I have family members who have served on committees to write curriculae for the Church. They are not particularly inspired. (And, gasp, some of the people in that department are *PAID*.)

    The Church News is not considered one of the core magazines of the Church. It’s mostly for Utahns, anyway.

  33. Raymond Takashi Swenson
    January 13, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    The following is from a presentation on Mormon apologetics made by John Lynch at the August 2009 FAIR conference (http://www.fairlds.org/FAIR_Conferences/2009_Uh_oh_to_Ah_ha_in_Apologetics.html):

    “The manuals published by the Church—I know, I know, they are almost perfect but they are not. I got a couple of stories, one of them Louis Midgley was kind enough to let me share a story of a gentleman in his ward.

    “William Barrett, who was a vice president at BYU and was head of CES for a while, was teaching Sunday School in his ward on the Book of the Mormon and a sister in the ward repeatedly asked where was he in the manual, ‘Where are you teaching from?’ And he kind of kept putting her off and finally said, he wasn’t paying attention and had no idea. Finally, he admitted he wasn’t really teaching from the manual, at which point she began to chastise him for not teaching from the manual. His reply, ‘Sister, I wrote that manual and I can’t stand it! I have learned a lot of things since I wrote it, so I am teaching what I know.’

    “There is another story that Dan Peterson tells, and I just love this. Dan gave me permission to share this with you last night. He was on a committee for developing some of the church materials and one of them was a gospel doctrine lesson on the new testament and he had a particular section which was Paul when he was preaching and the story of when he preached and Euticus fell from the high wall and died. And, you know, they were under a lot of pressure and in a little attempt at humor, Dan thought it would be fun for those that would be reviewing his manuscript to throw in a little inside joke and whatnot, and so he wrote three questions. One of them was after this passage he writes, ‘Have you ever killed anyone with a sacrament meeting talk?’, ‘How did it make you feel?’, ‘What can you do in the future to avoid this?’

    “The worst part is, it made it all the way through correlation and it wasn’t but Dan’s good conscious that caused him to make sure that that didn’t make it all the way to publication. I told Dan last night, you know, if he’d left it in there, he could have avoided having to be bishop.”

    For me, this tells me that the lesson manuals are not scripture, and we should be willing to apply the inspiration we ourselves receive when we use them to teach. The old 1945 statement in the Ward Teacher message that “When the Brethren speak the thinking has been done” was repudiated by the Brethren themselves. We shouldn’t teach, “When the manual has been written, the thinking has been done.”

  34. Crick
    January 13, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    I try to follow the guidance given in the manuals and have found that Raymond is correct, you can get a lot through the “personal experience” exception. I use that one to quote people off the top of my head, but I use quotations from the manual when I am having people read them.

    Church talks are different and I think its OK to come up with your own stuff–including quotations of secular folks like GA’s sometimes do(hopefully inspired after prayer and sticking to the assigned topic).

  35. Crick
    January 13, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    Raymond: I would point out though that Dan Peterson’s “conscience” may well have been the spirit instructing him to keep the manual inspired. Afterall, why should a GA have to get a new revelation to remove the joke, when one man who knows better already knows there is a problem?

    But the overall point is well taken.

  36. January 13, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    27 — Yes. I’m not persuaded that the manuals are the most correct account of the material, but I could be persuaded that they are the most correct account of the material that is palatable to the median member, and/or least likely to start a fight.

    As Clark said, we should be doing our own study, rather than relying on 40 minutes a week to be all the study we engage in. Our short lesson times in Church just give us a chance to share and consider some different ideas about the material we’re studying. There are ample outside resources we can use in our own study without any fear of retaliation.

    I’ve seen an arc in my own approach, where I initially wanted to show off in GD/EQ how clever I was to know something more than what was in the lesson material and, now, I often choose to leave out some idea or tidbit that I find very interesting and cool, because it’s not important, and nobody cares about it but me. I’ll either make a mention of it to a friend I might be sitting next to, or that I chat with in the hall, or that I meet for lunch. Or I might write something about it in my blog. Or, often best yet, I just drop the whole thing and do something important instead.

    33 — I’ve seen those stories before and loved them. They’ll be on my Facebook shortly.

  37. January 13, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    I teach the CES curriculum in early morning Seminary. This is my first year.

    In the “Teacher Resource Manual” provided to me, every scripture block section has a note which reads, “Choose from the ideas in this section, or use some of your own, as you prepare to teach the assigned scripture block,” while also providing references to the Institute manuals, both old edition and new edition.

    This is coupled with explicit direction not to use internet-rumor type material in the class. These would be things like the “generals in the war in heaven” and so forth.

    (Does anyone else here know how difficult it is to keep a discussion going with 12 drowsy teens, while one is oneself just as drowsy?)

    So there is an example of a correlated manual which explicitly directs teachers to use their own ideas. Seen in that light, the Church News editorial appears to me to be more about where you start when developing teaching ideas, than what you use. After all, the learners in the class will bring in the most unpredictable elements. No lesson plan will survive that.

  38. January 13, 2010 at 5:16 pm

    Many years ago, I was called as Elders Quorum Instructor. This was before the Brigham Young manuals came out. I decided to make up my own lessons about stuff I thought was really cool — I based one on Clifford Stoll’s “The Cuckoo’s Egg” and Satan’s attempts to get through our defenses with temptations, and how we needed to be vigilant. They fell flat on their faces. I learned to not make up my own lessons out of whole cloth after that (with the exception of the year I’d run out of lessons, and based one off the hymnal to fill in), and have always followed whatever manual or talk I was assigned. Now, what I made of that lesson or talk is not what some others might make of them — I was asked to do the lesson based on what I would bring to the material, as well as what the material could bring to me — but I always bend my lessons in the direction the class members want it to go.

  39. DavidH
    January 13, 2010 at 5:39 pm

    When I served a mission, we were instructed to present the discussions word for word, no changes. Not a single missionary in my mission did so. Every single one adapted them to the culture, to the language, to the understanding of the people being taught. They changed the official questions, the order of concepts, even the order of the discussions. I was among the few tate kept quite close to the word-for-word presentation, but made fairly extensive changes in the way I presented them.

    It was refreshing a few years ago when the Church formally and officially blessed what missionaries in my mission were doing 35 years ago, and instructed missionaries to use their own language, their own thoughts and experiences and examples, and even order of presentation of materials. To make the lessons “their own”, so to speak.

    It is fascinating, though disheartening, that the Sunday lesson portion of the Church seems to be moving in the opposite direction from even CES (and from the Missionary Department), in an attempt to standardize the Church even more, and, in my opinion, squeeze out individuality and adaptation.

    I, of course, concur, that if the effect of this apparent directive is to remove Mormon Doctrine, Doctrines of Salvation, Cleon Skousen, and Meridian from being regularly used in Sunday lessons, then I to some degree see a benefit.

    It is an fascinating conundrum. I personally think that more people are less active in the Church because Church is boring than because teachers (or speakers) diverge from correlated sources. But I may be wrong. Perhaps what we need more of in the Church is people who can tolerate boring lessons, rather than people who enjoy thinking about lesson principles as they might apply broadly to “things both in heaven and . . . earth, . . . at home [and] abroad.” D&C 88:79.

    I have said in jest before, but if this editorial means a complete prohibition of use (jokes, poems, stories, newspaper articles) as illustrations unless they appear on lds.org, then I see a need for a new Especially for Mormons volume (would probably need a different name). One that includes quotations from Broadway plays, movies, poems, Shakespeare, N.T. Wright, C.S. Lewis, and Halle Berry that have appear in conference talks or in Ensign articles, and are therefore “pure” enough for Mormon ears (and minds) on Sundays.

  40. January 13, 2010 at 7:31 pm

    I think it’s socialization that tends to be the largest contributor to inactivity – i.e. how involved do you feel; how many friends in the ward do you have.

    That said I think the key to a solid enjoyable lesson is relating personal interesting stories tied to the lesson. And that’s encouraged by the manuals.

  41. January 13, 2010 at 7:33 pm

    That story of Dan Peterson never gets old…

  42. January 13, 2010 at 7:39 pm

    #12: “Correlation is a lot like McDonald’s: You know you can go anywhere in the world and eat the same crappy food.”

    The main difference being that at McDonalds at least you can get a decent Diet Coke.

  43. January 13, 2010 at 10:00 pm

    42 — Yeah. But the Diet Dr. Pepper is terrible there.

  44. Left Field
    January 13, 2010 at 10:20 pm

    DavidH, if you were on your mission 35 years ago, then you used the same discussions I did (The Uniform System for Teaching Families). Missionaries were actually encouraged to make modifications as directed by the spirit. I happen to still have my copy here…

    “At first memorize the discussions exactly as they appear. As you use them more, you may be more comfortable and effective using your own words…The discussions appear in a suggested sequence, which you probably will use for most families. They can and should be used in any sequence you feel inspired to use, according to the needs of each family.” (pages A1-A3)

    I’ve seen several sets of discussions come and go, and every time we get another set, the buzz is that NOW the missionaries are finally allowed to use their own words and teach by the spirit. But in fact, every previous set of discussions has also encouraged missionaries to use their own words and teach by the spirit.

  45. MCQ
    January 13, 2010 at 10:58 pm

    I’m in favor of using all kinds of outside sources in teaching gospel lessons, as long as I am the teacher or I approve of the outside materials. Otherwise, it’s bunk, and the teacher should be pilloried.

  46. January 14, 2010 at 12:22 am

    #33: “The old 1945 statement in the Ward Teacher message that “When the Brethren speak the thinking has been done” was repudiated by the Brethren themselves. We shouldn’t teach, “When the manual has been written, the thinking has been done.”


    And ditto to DavidH.

  47. January 14, 2010 at 6:40 am

    Yeah, your “out of the preparation” vs. “out of the lesson” notice was good!

    The sad part, IMO, is that many people will take the CN editorial for “official sources” and omit reading the directions in the manual etc.

  48. JamesM
    January 14, 2010 at 8:24 am

    I just finished reading Rough Stone Rolling. It was a tremendous “personal experience” and if there was ever a good reason to include some of the insights I gained through reading it, I would not hesitate. The same would go for any other resource I felt applied within the context of the lesson and principles I would be assigned to teach. Would I substitute it for the manual completely? No, never. I appreciate the framework lesson manuals provide so I don’t have to start from scratch, but I retain the right to inject complimentary “non-correllated insights” as I see fit.

  49. Porter
    January 14, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    33 — Raymond, thanks for bringing some humanity and color to the reality of church manual writing – I think your comments hit right on.

  50. A Shadow
    January 14, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    Regarding the so-called “crappy” food at McDonald’s:

    Instead of focusing on the problems with McDonald’s food, perhaps you should put in a little more effort and find other ways to make the dining experience at McDonald’s more rewarding for yourself and for others at the same location. ;)

  51. January 14, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    Shadow, thanks for the input, but I’m not sure you’re on the right frequency. However, with a little editing you would have a fine comment:

    “Instead of focusing on the problems with [LDS teaching], perhaps you should put in a little more effort and find other ways to make the [classroom] experience at [your friendly neighborhood LDS chapel] more rewarding for yourself and others at the same location. ;)”

  52. January 14, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    I like the insider’s Elder McConkie joke idea….

    I would like to see if the Brethren refrain in the future from using uncorrelated outside sources in future General Conference talks. I’d really cringe if they chose to quote C.S. Lewis or Charles Dickens. (Not that that ever happens….).

    I’m not saying that we should be covering strange things in our classes. We shouldn’t. As a high priest group leader, I’m not interested in discussing speculation. I am interested in deeply considering and researching the doctrines of Christ. But if one finds a great quote that supports the doctrine – why not? Also, is the instruction solely for classrooms? Isn’t the PH/RS manual for personal and family study, as well? Does that mean I should toss out all of my non-correlated LDS books? I think we could go too far, if not careful.

    OTOH, do we really need to teach high priests that tithing means 1 out of every 10 pennies? Wouldn’t it be great to change up the lesson a little with how tithing creates miracles or blessings in life, or how it can enrich our devotion to Christ? I’m hoping for some really good Church magazine articles to help out….

  53. Mike
    January 14, 2010 at 5:39 pm

    When you ask me to teach, you get…..me!

    If they want robots, then build robots to teach the lessons.
    (If they want robots to pay tithing, then… oops.)

    “do not substitute outside material”

    “stay true to the scriptures”

    Does anyone else see the obvious contradiction in these two statements? The scriptures tell us repeatedly to use outside material and so does the Spirit.

    How many places in the scriptures can you twist into directly telling us to not substitute outside material? How many places does it clearly tell us “out of the best books” or teach as directed by the Spirit or a dozen other similar oft repeated admonitions that directly contradict no outside sources?

    Isn’t The Book of Mormon an “outside source” relative to The Bible?This cuts completely against the grain of the LDS belief in an open cannon and a broad definition of the sources of inspired material, so fundamental to the Restoration.

    How many of the teachings and parables of Jesus were limited in this way? I see Jesus going out of his way to openly defy these kinds of rules, healing on the sabbath and such. Read one of the synoptic gospels and tell me that the spirit of the Pharisee is not alive and well in the church today.

    What people require desperately in a lesson is authenticity. When you teach someone else’s lesson, you deprive your class of it. Your lesson becomes fake at the most basic level, even if it is technically good and doctrinally true. Next comes boredom, meaninglessness, and eventually mysticism.

    You know what I find crazy is that so many of the above comments from highly intelligent people give as much credibility to this foolishness as they do, looking for some sort of middle way. When you are told to do something that you know is stupid, just ignore it and forgive with a smile and do what you know is right. As a humble and prayerful teacher the Lord will lead you into the green pastures of righteousness.

  54. Ellis
    January 14, 2010 at 7:58 pm

    May I add a few random thoughts?

    I used to teach the Gospel Principles class. Someone didin’t like it that I didn’t read out of the book. Someone didin’t like that we talked about answers to questions from the book, copied in to my notes, that seemed political to them. One of the questions on the lesson about the creation had to do with taking care of our world. One of the non members present talked about taking care of the environment. We talked quite briefly about the disappearing rain forest and the damage done to fish when people left the plastic rings from their six packs on the beach. In my mind that was then and still is a legitimate answer to the question suggested by the book.

    The most work I ever did to prepare lessons was when I taught the five year olds in Primary. The manual was meant for use by the five, six and seven year old classes. There was very little in it that was age appropriate. I spent most of my preparation time preparing activities and materials that they could understand and had the coordination to do. It was the hardest calling I have ever had.

    My OT manual tells me that there is too much information in the lessons to cover in the time allotted and I should pick and choose what is most relevant, needful and valuable to the people in my class.

    There are people in every class who are at different places in their study, experience and understanding. Since we are all admonished to teach by the spirit I don’t think we can go wrong when that is the source we look to when deciding what information to use and how to use it. That would be true as long as we stick to the main concepts in the book.

  55. January 14, 2010 at 8:15 pm

    I forgive you, Mike. :)

  56. J.A.T.
    January 14, 2010 at 10:01 pm

    baaaaa baaaa baaaa.

    Jesus didn’t compare us to sheep for nothin’.

    This conversation depresses me terribly. We need to learn to evaluate resources and teach from the spirit ourselves. It’s part of learning and growing.

    I work in the educational field and have a few insights into teaching. First, you have to be passionate about the students and the content. That passion comes from the content being relevant to both the teacher and the students. Another word for this passion is ‘enthusiasm’ meaning ‘en’ with and ‘theu’ God. This is how we connect ourselves, God, and the students with the message. Another truism is that the teacher learns more than the students during the teaching and the preparation of a class. I feel sorry for the mother in the CN article who denied herself of the blessing of organizing and making that content relevant. She cheated herself of a teaching opportunity for the most important pupil–herself! What a sad story.

  57. Singularity
    January 15, 2010 at 1:48 pm

    “The old 1945 statement in the Ward Teacher message that “When the Brethren speak the thinking has been done” was repudiated by the Brethren themselves.”

    Which Brethren and when? “Repudiated” is a strong word. Do you have a quote and a cite? Because that statement seems to be well in line with other oft-quoted statements from the Prophets and found in the scriptures, to wit:

    “Always keep your eye on the President of the church, and if he ever tells you to do anything, even if it is wrong, and you do it, the lord will bless you for it but you don’t need to worry. The lord will never let his mouthpiece lead the people astray.” President Marion G. Romney (of the first presidency), quoting President Heber J. Grant “Conference Report” Oct. 1960 p. 78.

    “When the Prophet speaks the debate is over”. N. Eldon Tanner, August Ensign 1979, pages 2-3

    “The Lord Almighty leads this Church, and he will never suffer you to be led astray if you are found doing your duty. You may go home and sleep as sweetly as a babe in its mother’s arms, as to any danger of your leaders leading you astray, for if they should try to do so the Lord would quickly sweep them from the earth.” Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 9, p. 289, 1862.

    I find it interesting that people here seem to be willing to follow as examples church apologists like Daniel Peterson, who holds no position of ecclesiastical authority while finding ways to ignore the clear dictates of the men who are called by the Lord to lead us. You may call me self-righteous or “holier-than-thou” but all I am advocating is obedience to our church leaders who are the ones called by God to tell us what we should and should not do and say in our church classes. They have the keys, not the apologists and not you and me.

    “The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray.” President Wilford Woodruff (considered scripture as it is canonized at the end of the D&C)

  58. TinMan
    January 15, 2010 at 5:44 pm


    President George A. Smith repudiated it shortly after it was published. You can read about it here:


    Part quoted
    “The leaflet to which you refer, and from which you quote in your letter, was not “prepared” by “one of our leaders.” However, one or more of them inadvertently permitted the paragraph to pass uncensored. By their so doing, not a few members of the Church have been upset in their feelings, and General Authorities have been embarrassed.

    I am pleased to assure you that you are right in your attitude that the passage quoted does not express the true position of the Church. Even to imply that members of the Church are not to do their own thinking is grossly to misrepresent the true ideal of the Church, which is that every individual must obtain for himself a testimony of the truth of the Gospel, must, through the redemption of Jesus Christ, work out his own salvation, and is personally responsible to His Maker for his individual acts.

  59. TinMan
    January 15, 2010 at 5:54 pm

    53: “When you are told to do something that you know is stupid, just ignore it and forgive with a smile and do what you know is right.” So, is the CN editorial “stupid,” or are the manual instructions “stupid”, or both?

    How do you sort out what is “stupid” and what is “good counsel?” By the Spirit? Would He tell you one thing and me another?

    Help me out here, please.

  60. January 15, 2010 at 6:05 pm

    FWIW, the “Alison” up there wasn’t me.

  61. TinMan
    January 15, 2010 at 6:08 pm

    Thinking more about my own question: Perhaps the Spirit would tell #53 that the counsel in the CN editorial and the manual introduction is “stupid” and ignore it because he is a better, more experienced teacher than I am, so the Spirit tells me to “follow the counsel.”

    Perhaps we should not worry so much about how others follow or don’t follow the counsel.

    Secondly, and not mentioned so far is what a difficult position a leader might be put in if he/she has a teacher that pushes the limits.

    It is a fine line to walk sometimes.

  62. January 15, 2010 at 8:05 pm

    Thanks for the comments, everyone.

    I think what Mike (#53) and those who share his opinion forget is that the counsel to not use outside sources isn’t directed to them individually … it is directed to everyone, every teacher. It has to be a general statement. In making policy, what those making the policy must weigh is the net benefit (or cost) to teaching if all sources are allowed at the discretion of each individual instructor, versus the net benefit (or cost) to teaching if no outside sources are allowed.

    If, from time to time, a given individual teacher nevertheless brings in some material from a supplementary source and that material complements the lesson material and enhances understanding (rather than displacing lesson material and confusing some class members) I doubt anyone is going to complain. In other words, it is likely only when a given teacher both exercises their own discretion AND does so unwisely that the policy will come into play. It’s those “hobby topics, personal speculations, and controversial subjects” that some teachers just can’t refrain from indulging in that create the problem and necessitate having a policy in place.

  63. TinMan
    January 17, 2010 at 10:53 am

    #62: Dave

    Could you expand a little more on your late thoughts please? What about the general counsel to “Pray for the Spirit before you begin preparing your lesson?” Is that counsel also left up to the discretion of each individual instructor or is it directed to them individually?

    Not trying to be argumentative, although it sounds that way, just trying to understand your thought process here. IOTW, is there some counsel in the guidelines for teachers that should apply to everyone and some that is not and how do you know the difference?

  64. Servant @ Dothan
    January 18, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    Thanks for that link Tin Man.

  65. January 18, 2010 at 10:21 pm

    TinMan, thanks for the comments. I am not saying the counsel is left up to the discretion of the instructors. The counsel applies to every teacher. That’s what I’m saying.

    Nevertheless, it is a fact that some teachers do exercise their own discretion and bring in supplementary material. What are the consequences? In most cases, there are none. That’s a valid point to raise in response to commenters who take particular issue with the policy. It’s not like Sunday School thugs haul an offending teacher out back and toss the offending books or papers into the dumpster.

    It should also be noted that Elder Oaks’ frustration is more particularly directed more at those who use supplementary material as a substitute for topics addressed in the manuals than for those who just use supplementary material to amplify of explain a particular point that is addressed in the lesson. Again, I am not construing that distinction as “permission” to use supplementary material. I didn’t create the distinction, I am just noting that it has been made.

    And just to reemphasize the point I think many critics of the counsel miss: evaluation of the policy turns on the global impact. The gains from some teachers bringing in helpful supplementary material needs to be netted against the loss from other teachers using inappropriate supplementary material (and I suspect that for senior leaders the harms from inappropriate material carry greater weight than the gains from helpful material). So just because for this or that teacher the policy actually bars that teacher from using helpful supplementary material is simply not a sufficient basis for claiming the policy is counterproductive.

  66. January 18, 2010 at 11:19 pm

    The lesson for yesterday’s Gospel Doctrine class was structured to present/ discuss/ reinforce three ideas: Moses sees a vision of God’s creation; Moses learned that God created all things; and Moses learned that men and women are created in God’s image. The class I intended covered none of that — instead, the teacher substituted a garbled, convoluted pastiche of weird things he had garnered from a superficial reading of who knows what. He told us solemnly about “spirit fluid” filling the veins of Adam and Eve until they fell, at which time it was replaced by blood, and that when we are resurrected our blood will be replaced with spirit fluid. He talked about Brigham Young’s not having written down the endowment he received from Joseph Smith for more than 30 years. He preached his “young earth” theory, with his handout containing the unsourced lines: “There is no conflict between science and religion in regards to the age of the earth. Since its materials or elements are eternal and have existed in a living universe, they should contain the marks of antiquity. These eternal elements were organized into a physical earth in relatively more recent times” — his way of dismissing the fossil record. We talked about how there is no conflict between religion and science, because science is only science when it agrees with religion, and them thar scientists will someday learn what people like the teacher have known all along through revelation. We did not read or refer to a single verse of scripture during the entire class period.

    In short, it was an excellent example of what happens when teachers DON’T teach the principles outlined in the lesson manual (even if they punch up the lesson with personal experience and illustrations brought from outside the manual), and an excellent example of substituting one’s own ideas and “study” in place of the outlined lesson. If the choice is between what I sat through yesterday on the one hand, and a sincere but inexperienced teacher reading the manual to us on the other hand, I’ll take reading the manual. That’s far from ideal, but it’s better than the trash dished out by a teacher who thinks he knows better than the church curriculum committee.

  67. January 19, 2010 at 12:54 am

    Ardis –

    Are you in Alaska this week? I swear I had almost the exact same lesson last Sunday.

  68. January 19, 2010 at 10:10 am

    That’s scary, Ivan.

    The teachers who need to have the brakes applied by the cautions of the CN editorial — over-the-top as it is — are never going to recognize that THEY are the problem, are they?

    (And I hope it’s obvious that my #66 should have read “The class I attended …” because that’s sure not the class I intendedhad I taught it.)

  69. Bob
    January 19, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    It’s like the book ” Cider House Rules”. The ‘Rules’ are nailed to the inside wall of the worker’s bunkhouse. The rest of the book is a medation on why they were written and what they mean.

  70. Mike
    January 19, 2010 at 1:14 pm


    For me “stupid” does not require very much analysis. It does not require voices from heaven or anything like that. It is pretty obvious. We all have our various experiences and thoughts and perspectives. Any particluar example of “stuipd” may not be obvious to everyone. But to do something you think is stupid because a manual told you to do it is… stupid. I went back and read the questioned section and find myself in agreement with all other points of instruction with the exception of no outside material. I think that one point is stupid. You may not. Fair enough?

    I am sorry you had such a terrible Sunday school lesson. Would you have rather been in my place at that time? I was camping (somewhat stupidly) with about 20 non-LDS scouts. By Sunday morning many of them(not me) were in near-panic mode from many hours of pelting cold rain and inexperienced leaders and pitiful scouts in leaky tents with soaked sleeping bags and the wrong cloths, all of who had labored for 12 hours to get that far away from the cars the previous day. That 20 pound 40 X 20 ft tarp was stupid; we told the scoutmaster before we left and he made us take it anyway. My 16 year old sherpa ended up with over 110 pounds in is pack, much of it other scouts expensive wet gear and the tarp. At the end of the 5 rugged miles to the closest road, the plan was for him and I to run 12 miles in hiking boots to where we left the cars. A ranger saved us that trouble.

    The ranger was an answer to prayers. Was the rest of this a sort of punishment for not listening to the Bishop who told us years ago to not camp on Sunday with the “other” troop? Or were we where we needed to be to help sincere but misguided people avert a real disaster? Everyone got home early, safe and warm with the usual wet muddy gear and learned more than you coud teach in a year about camping in the cold rain.

    Rather than tell the teacher Ardis describes with so many fables and rumors, to stick to the manual, don’t you think he might have some potential if he was trained properly? What if he really cares about his class and is intelligent and spiritually sensitive and just needs to be directed towards better sources? This process may take decades.

    In my opinion he is the expected product of years of sticking too close to manuals with very little substance, coupled with a sincere desire to break out of the eternal cycles of boredom and making a effort to strive for excellence, as he sees it. It is easier to re-direct a fanatic than breath life into a corpse.

    What is needed is better training of our teachers so that they don’t have to be told exactly what to teach at every turn.

  71. Kevin Barney
    January 19, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    A few years ago I was asked to sub for a GD lesson. The curriculum year was OT, and the lesson was on the Psalms. I might have glanced at the manual, but then basically ignored it. We talked about some real basics such as what a “psalm” is, how the book is structured, some of the different genres in the psalms (such as acrostics), and the basics of parallelism in Hebrew poetry. We then let people name their favorites, and we would read them (or for longer psalms parts of them) together as a class, slowly, pointing out their poetic features as we went, so as to increase both comprehension and appreciation of the text. A lot of people went home that afternoon and actually spent time on their own reading the Psalms using the tools they had gained in class. One inactive brother just happened to be attending with his family, and he decided to return to activity with the proviso that I be assigned as his HTer (which I was).

    I always took the view that the scriptures themselves are the true texts for those classes, not the manuals, and so long as we stay focused on the scriptures I felt I had all the leeway in the world.

    Leaders knew how I taught, and they were free to either call me or not (or release me) as they pleased. I’ve always just taught the way I feel is appropriate and left it to the local leaders as to whether that is something they want in their ward.

  72. Jonathan Green
    January 19, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    Mike, please note that “fables and rumors” is not at all the same thing as “eyewitness account of something Ardis experienced two days ago.”

  73. Raymond Takashi Swenson
    January 19, 2010 at 4:12 pm

    Ardis: My sympathies. In my Gospel Doctrine class, the teacher simply opened with a question about what things we consider evidence for God’s creation, and it took off from there, without any scriptures, although the instructor had (as he usually does) prepared a handout with the substance of the lesson, including cripture cites and questions, and several helpful statements from GAs over the years that were completely relevant.

    That experience points out to me that non-scriptural material is going to come into class anyway, through comments from the students.

    I was really amazed at some of the comments. One member said she is an elementary school teacher and a girl whom she knows to be LDS asked her “Are dinosaurs real?” and she said she didn’t know what to say. (I pointed out that the natural history museum at BYU says they are real, as do the professors who teach paleontology and geology.) Our instructor (who also teaches in public schools) admitted that, when a student asked him if he personally believed in Darwinian evolution, he said he did not. Actually, I think there are rational reasons to doubt the capacity of the neo-Darwinian synthesis to completely explain the devleopment of living things, but the other teacher’s problem with accepting the reality of dinosaurs and other fossilized life makes me think that even the First Presidency’s very constrained statements about evolution have not gotten through to the membership.

    Another member volunteered the idea, which she claimed to have heard in a “know your religion” talk by a BYU professor (and which was promoted by Joseph Fielding Smith), that dinosaur fossils are remnants of former planets that were used to construct the earth. I have no idea why it is comforting to think of dinosaurs living on another planet millions of years ago, but troublesome to think they lived on our planet millions of years ago. The subordination of not just biology but also all other sciences to the procrustean bed of a 7 day (or even 7,000 year) creation period is plainly not required by the scriptures or by the modern prophets. Indeed, our instructor’s first quotation was from the 1909 First Presaidency statement affirming that “days” in Genesis could mean periods of time of any length.

    There are all kinds of folk beliefs among the latter-day saints, and if instructors don’t grapple with them, they will persist unabated. In a lesson where class members are going to make statements that wildly contradict science, isn’t it a good thing to have a teacher who can introduce some information that is a corrective to it, that does not stray from the scriptures and the assigned message but reinforces them by showing how the message relates to the world we live in day to day? If we allow faulty interpretations of scripture to be set out by class members, without response, are we not failing in our duty to teach the meaning of the scriptures?

  74. January 19, 2010 at 4:42 pm

    Thank you, Jonathan.

    Raymond, I agree that faulty interpretations, whether of scripture or of any other material presented as instructive commentary by teacher or class needs to be corrected if it is substantive (trivial details not so much). The trick is how to do it so that the message is received while still respecting the feelings and sometimes the position of the one who errs. I can’t be tactful on the spur of the moment, so usually keep my mouth shut in class unless the error is repeated and actually becomes the basis for the lesson (as it did recently in a Relief Society lesson on Joseph Smith). Fortunately, in this case, the next Sunday lesson is on Adam and Eve, and it ought to be perfectly doable in an introduction to briefly review the creation as setting the background for that lesson, working in some statements correcting the worst from last Sunday. It can be done using the manual and scriptures almost exclusively, even if that means saying “… and that is all the scriptures and modern prophets have told us. Anything more is the speculative attempt of early-day apostles to extrapolate beyond revelation, and is not doctrinal.” Or something like that.

  75. Glenn Smith
    January 19, 2010 at 6:56 pm

    #71 – Kevin,
    You really are a chip off the old block! I love it! I wish I knew your father. His (April 1978) Ensign article about creative teaching stayed with me through 30 years of teaching mostly young men. I, too, use the manual as a guide or outline, with the scriptures as the focus of the lesson.

  76. TinMan
    January 20, 2010 at 10:20 am

    Mike: Fair enough. I guess I just bristle at calling any instruction to teachers in the introduction of a Church approved lesson manual, “stupid.”

    To each his own.

  77. January 20, 2010 at 10:44 am

    Thanks for the comments, everyone. A few quick additions to this long-tailed thread:

    1. It is obvious that what the next edition of the Old Testament manual needs as Lesson #1 is “The Natural History of Planet Earth.”

    2. It is obvious that leaders (the bishopric, the Sunday School presidency) need to fulfill their responsibility of supervising what is taught in classes and take corrective action when there’s a problem. If someone teaches “the gospel according to Brother Jones” once, it’s the teacher’s fault. If it happens repeatedly, then it’s the fault of the local leaders.

  78. Mike
    January 20, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    I got it Bro. Green. Grammar problem. I did not intend to imply that Ardis was the one passing around fables and rumors. I take it as a fact that Ardis actually witnessed and accurately described the dissemination by a feckless teacher of fables and rumors. Fables and rumors should refer to the teacher not Ardis.

  79. TinMan
    January 20, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    77 Dave:
    “He is in a regular room (333), but is going to check himself out and come home to die.”

    The problem with that is no matter what the lesson says, half the teachers would teach what is in the manual, the other half would bring in their own ideas with the opposite viewpoint.

  80. TinMan
    January 20, 2010 at 3:09 pm


    #77 Dave said:

    “1. It is obvious that what the next edition of the Old Testament manual needs as Lesson #1 is “The Natural History of Planet Earth.””

    The problem with that is no matter what the lesson says, half the teachers would teach what is in the manual, the other half would bring in their own ideas with the opposite viewpoint.

  81. Mike
    January 20, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    Dave, Amen and Amen.

    I am amazed at how two people can have the same experience in a classroom or in life and process it entirely differently. I am also surprized at how far the Principle of Unintended Consequences extends.

    I interpreted my Sunday school lesson-substitute or previously described disaster camping trip as the fertile soil out of which would spring future successful trips. My 16 year old son, the troop sherpa has “pulled the fat out of the fire” so many times now and based on his experiences this last weekend and similar others, he has decided he does not want to return to Philmont next summer for a ~10 day trek with these pitiful scouts. There were unexpected injuries on this trip entirely unrelated to hypothermia or stiff muscles. Sherpa was dry and warm and not tired, but he had to come home a day early in defeat.

    My sherpa could probably carry 150 pounds up the highest mountain and build a fire in a hurricane. But the way I understand it, he ran out of the emotional reserve and patience to constantly be saddled with solving the worst problems and compensating for the weakness of those scouts around him. When he was actually in charge (Senior Patrol Leader) it was not so bad. He was a tyrant and we didn’t have as many problems. But his turn for that ended last summer. He is angry and frustrated and feels lonely.

    We are already $500 into the Philmont trek with thousands more due last week and only one other father currently willing or able to go. The scoutmaster is going to talk to him and see if he can straighten out his feelings. I couldn’t after we talked for many hours last night. Please pray for us.

    By inference, I believe the things said and taught in Sunday school can have similarily far reaching consequences beyond our imagination. For Ardis, Sunday’s damage seems minimal. For my beloved sherpa it was not. Like parents we teachers owe our students our level best, no less. If we sincerely think the manuals are not giving us the best and we are not allowed to strive for that which might be better, then what?

  82. JMaxx
    January 25, 2010 at 7:13 pm

    The comments on this thread appeared to have died about a week ago. That is a real shame. I learned a lot.

    But I think the discussion missed two major problem with the Church’s “no outside materials” policy: 1) the cure is worse than the disease; and 2) the policy shows a lack of respect for both class members and teachers by Church leaders.

    The cure is worse than the disease because the cure discourages the teacher and students from following the spirit if it guides them to anyting “outside” the lesson materials. Is it better not to follow the spirit? So what if an occasional ward crazy spouts off about “spiritual fluid” or Skousen’s end-times theories? Its the crazy comments that make Church interesting. And who knows, maybe the crazies are right.

    The policy is also offensive in that it assumes that we members are too stupid or spritually numb to know what is and is not appropriate. It shows that the leadership or the COB bueracracy or whoever came up with the policy doesn’t trust us little people.

  83. January 26, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    I’d have lost my job lecturing in a university on very short notice if the materials I taught from contained no references newer than about 30 years ago. I am very grateful we have the excellent scholarship that continues to add to our understanding of the gospel. If we were not to make use of them, why make the Neal A Maxwell Institute and other sources of LDS scholarship available to us? Why encourage scholarship at all if it’s to be off limits for time dedicated to learning? Of course we shouldn’t rewrite the gospel or the scriptures, but goodness, let’s be grateful there are fine minds among the faithful who are dedicated to serious research, often finding evidence that supports the restoration that Joseph Smith claimed, from material that has emerged long after his time. That some of the scholarship comes from outside LDS circles and still harmonizes with revealed truth is very satisfying indeed. The Truth can take any amount of serious investigation.

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