The “Doctrinal Sheen”

Gospel Doctrine on Sunday featured the parable of the ten virgins, accompanied by this picture:


Apparently it’s a well-known picture, but I’d never seen it before. The instructor read the picture’s accompanying interpretation. It’s too long for me to share in its fullness (which can be found here), but here are some of the bits that I found a little bit jarring in the context of a Sunday school lesson:

  • “The third virgin represents the ordinances necessary on this earth to enter the kingdom… She is dressed in blue, trimmed with gold – blue and gold are the colors of the priesthood.”
  • “The fifth virgin represents charity… There are few, perhaps one in ten, who will reach her level of charity and service.”
  • “The seventh virgin represents the sins and pleasures of the world. This virgin is very appealing to people. She is fun-loving and fun to be around.”
  • “The eighth virgin represents addiction and excess…such as alcohol, tobacco, drugs, sugar or excess eating, etc., …also addictions of the mind and soul, such as soap operas, unrestricted T.V., listening to the wrong kind of music, R-rated or filthy movies or books… She has a weak will…”

At first these sorts of sound bites just kind of bothered me. They seemed too much like judgmental personal opinion (except the one about the priesthood colors, which is just kind of odd — do we have a mascot too?) being presented as doctrine. But why should that bother me? I’m no fan of correlated Sunday school lessons. I want to see and hear more of the teachers’ personal views come through in their lessons. So why am I uncomfortable when it actually happens?

Here’s my theory. It comes back to…*bum bum bum*…correlation! One side effect of correlated Sunday school lessons is that it has created the expectation that materials used in a lesson are approved and doctrinally correct. When something is taught in Sunday school, we don’t expect the teacher to defend the principle’s doctrinal status, e.g. requiring the teacher to cite the scriptures or prophetic statements that support the teaching. We assume that the fact that it’s taught in Sunday school is defense enough. There’s a sort of doctrinal sheen, a correlational fairy dust, that falls on top of anything presented as part of the lesson in a Sunday school class.

When teaching aids (a picture and its interpretation, in this case) are presented in the course of the lesson, they automatically assume some of this doctrinal sheen. Unless the teacher makes a point of saying, “This isn’t really part of the lesson, but I like this picture and the ideas it represents,” the picture sort of falls into line with the long parade of correlation-approved images used in the course.

Take the condemnation of sugar given as part of the interpretation of the eighth virgin. If the teacher said, “I believe the principle of the Word of Wisdom means we should avoid sugar,” then I think that’s great. I disagree — I think sugar is wonderful — but the teacher presented it as her or his own opinion, and I can respect Sunday school as a place where many opinions can mingle together. But when the teacher just presents a picture and then reads an official sounding explanation without creating space for dialogue or disclaiming it as personal opinion, the whole exchange becomes part of the undifferentiated experience of a correlated Sunday school lesson.

If this weren’t Gospel Doctrine, the class for adults, but were instead Valiant 10, a children’s class, I wouldn’t expect the students to identify that this particular presentation and explanation of the picture is somehow qualitatively different (and thus more suspect) than any other part of the lesson. It would receive the doctrinal sheen. I would expect them to leave the lesson with the impression that good Latter-day Saints don’t eat sugar (or that it’s dangerous to be “fun-loving and fun to be around”…or that the colors of the priesthood are blue and gold — what?!)

(And what’s up with the eighth virgin being the only one who’s overweight? Apparently your bathroom scale can measure your righteousness as well as your weight — it’s obvious that if you’re heavy that it’s because of addiction! The other nine virgins are more or less little Barbie clones. Ugh.)

54 comments for “The “Doctrinal Sheen”

  1. Cameron N.
    June 22, 2011 at 9:40 am

    That’s not correlation, just stupidity and stupid art.

  2. Paul
    June 22, 2011 at 9:57 am

    The only art the correlation committee approved for the lesson is the second coming pic, I think you had an instructor used something that was way, way off the correlation path.

  3. June 22, 2011 at 10:10 am

    Paul, that’s kind of my point. This post was made possible by the fact that there is such a thing as “approved art”. The approved art grants a doctrinal sheen to unapproved art used in an official context.

  4. E.D.
    June 22, 2011 at 10:18 am

    Not to be all “eighth virgin” and all but WTF.

    I’ve never seen that “art” before and the explanation is absurd.

  5. Jax
    June 22, 2011 at 10:22 am

    I’ve seen the art, not heard the description though. Dane is right though about correlation adding the ‘sheen’ (good word BTW) of official approval for the picture. Unless a teacher specifically says “this is my opinion” or “this isn’t from the manual” then everything is assumed to be doctrinally accurate. Out here in the “mission field” most of our units members wouldn’t be able to identify poor doctrine and can easily be taught something misleading and they wouldn’t question.

  6. Ben S
    June 22, 2011 at 10:23 am

    Yep. Never seen it before, and the interpretation is crap…with a doctrinal sheen.

  7. stephen hardy
    June 22, 2011 at 10:36 am

    Well, I followed the link and read the whole thing. I find the artwork to be poorly done, smug, self-rightous, judgmental, shallow, and even creepy.

    However, I applaud its use in a class, and I would even be happy if it were displayed, at least for a while, in my meetinghouse.

    I don’t have to like it for it to portray a valid point of view. Anything that can jolt us from the dreadful prospect of once again reviewing this or any other over-done parable from the same point of view leading to the same conclusion is a good thing. Yes, we have all heard from Talmage and from President Kimball that the virgins represent members of the church. Yes, we have been told over and over and over and over we need to find a way to be prepared for the bridegroom. I cheer anyone who finds a new way to make us look at this.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if more members felt free to put such a personal mark on a lesson? I know that it would expose us all to all sorts of wacky ideas and concepts. But let’s be honest: that’s what church is. We believe a lot of wacky things, so I say let’s go ahead ahead and expose ourselves to a few other ideas. I am always interested in what drives people, and what motivates them. Artwork is a wonderful and symbolic way of saying many things all at once.

    So, I applaud the attempt to make us consider the parable from a new perspective. But let’s face it: the artwork is lousy, the concepts are over-simplified, and the ideas are shallow. (Sort of like most “approved” art work :))

  8. tisheli
    June 22, 2011 at 10:40 am

    I taught this lesson on Sunday as well, and as I was preparing (with my usual course of non-correlated sources and materials) I visited the house of a friend who has this piece of art on her wall. I’d seen it before, and I used to think it was an interesting painting, but after having studied the parable more than superficially, I couldn’t feel anything other than disgust for the image. Other than the fact that there are ten of them, and they have lamps in their hands, this painting has absolutely *nothing* to do with the parable, and it’s popularity, I think, detracts from the truth of what Jesus was trying to teach.
    I rarely use the manual, other than to know what chapters to study for the lesson, and occasionally to get an idea of what the theme of the lesson ought to be. I receive compliments on my lessons and know several people in the ward who only come to class when it’s my turn to teach. I don’t tell them that my secret to preparing engaging lessons is avoiding the correlated materials.

  9. Jax
    June 22, 2011 at 11:05 am

    Stephen, I think all of us appreciate more ‘wacky’ness in church, when people can feel free to express opinions and comments that aren’t straight from the manual. The only problem is that because of correlation the wackiness seems church approved. We aren’t saying stop the wackiness though, we’re saying something closer to ‘away with correlation’ – though in a politer, round-a-bout way.

  10. chris
    June 22, 2011 at 11:06 am

    You’re right guys. Good thing we have the Holy Spirit to testify to us whether something is true or not. Take the grains of good from the lesson and discard the nuggets of bad.

    That is not an argument to say nothing should be correlated and we should have lessons filled with a bunch of personal opinion so we can better rely on the spirit. That’s what the other 6 days of the week are for! I think the scriptures themselves are an act of correlation. I’m not sure what’s so bad about this boogey man that keeps getting blaimed for everything online.

    I think some problems occur as a result of correlation (just like problems occur as a result of two seemingly contradictory scriptures). But when confronted with this problems we can either seek to find unity between them by seeing the light inspired truth in each and thus grow in our ability to discern truth from error through the gift and power of the Holy Ghost. Or you can avoid the learning process the experience presents altogether by getting upset about the correlation boogeyman.

    A bad lesson gets blamed on correlation. A bad manual gets blamed on correlation. A lesson with uncorrelated materials gets blamed on correlation. And surprise! The solution to all of these problems is to have less correlation. It sounds to me like some are taking a proposed solution in search of problems doesn’t it?

  11. RickH
    June 22, 2011 at 11:13 am

    Sounds like someone got confused by the Cub Scouts’ “Blue & Gold” banquet. But wait – if Scouting is “The Activity Arm of the Aaronic Priesthood” and Cub Scouts is part of scouting, maybe she’s on to something…

  12. Dane Laverty
    June 22, 2011 at 11:15 am

    chris, you’re right that correlation isn’t the horriblest thing in the world. It’s useful. Like any other development, it solved some of the problems that preceded it. And, also like any other development, it comes with its own set of problems. Hopefully the process of improvement and progression will continue, and we will continue to seek for better solutions.

  13. Scott Armstrong
    June 22, 2011 at 11:24 am

    This reminds me of that awful “One Nation Under God” painting that even the BYU bookstore won’t sell anymore. You know, the one where the good guys (generic serviceman,white middle class people, Ronald Reagan) all stand on one side of Christ and the bad guys (pregnant woman, guy talking on a cell phone, guy clutching ORIGIN OF SPECIES, regretful Supreme Court justice, lawyer counting a wad of hundred dollar bills) stand on the other.

    I do think it’s kind of cool that your teacher brought in that weird piece of art for the lesson, though. Of course, we ought to not call these things “art.” I nominate “creepy didactic paintings.”

  14. Scw
    June 22, 2011 at 11:27 am

    I’m surprised it’s not a McNaughton painting. Does he use a pseudonym?

  15. Dane Laverty
    June 22, 2011 at 11:37 am

    Ha, I thought the same thing. I almost included a pic of the McNaughton painting in this post, but decided it would be too distracting.

  16. Ray
    June 22, 2011 at 11:39 am

    #13 and #14 – That was my first thought, as well – the connection to McNaughton.

    Everyone who is skinny has a weak will?!

    Yeah, the ideal is somewhere between the glory days of extreme stupidity being taught all over the place and an attempt to eliminate extreme stupidity completely. All I can say is that finding a good balance institutionally is much, much harder than most people realize. I hope we keep striving to find it, but it really is a difficult task.

  17. Ray
    June 22, 2011 at 11:40 am

    “Everyone who is NOT skinny . . .” Don’t know how I missed that.

  18. Dane Laverty
    June 22, 2011 at 11:56 am

    To my mind, the solution is to teach members to approach teachings critically, with a questioning mind. Sunday school lessons today are often essentially the spoken equivalent of Mormon Doctrine (am I really going to bring in that other bogeyman too? Yeah, I guess so — Correlation and Mormon Doctrine, the twin bogeymen of bloggernacle Mormonism). Like the McConkie book, correlated classes are built on some basic assumptions: (1) Complex gospel topics can be reduced to simple sound bites; (2) There’s a right answer to everything, and that right answer applies to everyone; and (3) We can only know that right answer when it is taught by authority — any attempt to apply questioning and reason in place of authority constitutes dangerous speculation. I don’t think the lesson format can be improved without first addressing those unspoken underlying assumptions.

  19. Jacob M
    June 22, 2011 at 11:56 am

    That is a really silly painting. After all, the good virgins are standing on the left hand of God, at least if He is looking at them like the painter is. Get it right dude.

  20. James
    June 22, 2011 at 11:59 am

    Interesting…the parable of the ten virgins in about the church in the last days which says that half of the virgins weren’t ready when the bridegroom came…reading all of the comments I am wondering which virgins you all are…remember this is a church of love and we all are doing the best we can…I hope

  21. Al
    June 22, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    How would you prepare lesson manuals that needed to be used in Africa, Asia, South America etc. etc. ?

  22. Dane Laverty
    June 22, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    James, please don’t passive-aggressively damn my readers to hell. It doesn’t reflect well on you either.

  23. Scott Armstrong
    June 22, 2011 at 12:17 pm


    I’ll be the chubby one!

  24. Marie
    June 22, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    Several years ago I had an Institute teacher, an expert on John Taylor who had a PhD in history and who was selected for the committee that wrote the John Taylor RS/Priesthood manual. He told us that at first he struggled with the correlation department, as it eliminated all mention of controversial aspects of Taylor’s life, all mention of polygamy (of which Taylor was, of course, a fierce defender), etc. But he ultimately realized what Al mentioned — that these manuals are meant to present doctrine in a way that is clear to the spiritual milk-drinkers: investigators, new members, those of vastly different cultures, etc. His conclusion was that Sunday church instruction was not intended to be a feast for the spiritual meat-eaters — that those who want more meat are to seek it in personal scripture study, prayer, and CES classes.

    That said, the painting is awful and the McNaughton-esque pre-chewed “interpretation” is awfuler, and while I understand the point of the OP and have personally struggled to teach correlated lessons in engaging ways (and frequently supplement them myself with other materials), I’d say the painting strengthens the case for correlation more than it weakens it. We’re all given a copy of the same Church-generated material the teacher has in teaching Sunday church lessons, so if we want to know whether something presented in class is “official” or not, we can read the lesson and see.

  25. oudenos
    June 22, 2011 at 12:54 pm

    Hold on just a gol’darned minute. I think that those of you bashing on Gayla’s art have been bamboozled. Did anyone read her bio on her website? I am calling BS on the whole operation. Nobody, nobody writes this about herself and work:

    “Gayla Prince-Wallace has been called “the most inspired artist in modern history”. Her creative expressions have assisted in inspiring and changing the lives of millions of people around the world. She is currently one of the most successful and collectable artists alive and prints of her painting “The Ten Virgins” have sold over one million copies. She has been invited to give over 500 presentations of that paintings symbolism to groups around the United States. She then developed a slide and script presentation that has been given by thousands of presenters to millions of people worldwide. She went on to create “Come unto Me”, the only painting that contains the entire Plan of Salvation visually on one canvas. This painting has been called “the most important painting ever created” and is used as a missionary tool wherever Christianity is preached.”


    But really I am afraid that I have been double-crossed and that she is a real person and that her art is, well, real.

  26. June 22, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    I agree it does appear to be from the McNaughton School of “art.”

    My experience in that class last Sunday was only slightly heretical. The teacher asked, “What would make us more like the wise virgins rather than the foolish?” A perfectly good, thought-provoking, probably correlated question, and I couldn’t help but smart off with “Not making lists about who the wise and the foolish virgins are for a start.” The teacher responded with a “Touche” as there was general hilarity and I apologized for being an overly frivolous smart-alec. But my comment was provoked by an earlier comment from the back of the class from someone who said the foolish virgins were the ones who weren’t at church. And that really bothered me for some reason. So, maybe my point did have some merit.

  27. Last Lemming
    June 22, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    that those who want more meat are to seek it in … CES classes.

    I was with you right up to that.

  28. Marie
    June 22, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    #27 Last Lemming: Ha! Yes, CES is a mixed bag, I grant you, but there are gems to be found. I prayed my way to a couple amazing ones and found myself violently allergic to several others (not to mention a couple high school seminary teachers preaching all sorts of hilarious false doctrine…) I think my Institute teacher’s point was that we are not to expect to have our desires for discussion of more obscure doctrine met on Sundays, and that one of the purposes of the CES program (whether or not it is usually/always achieved) is to be a supplement of what we learn in Sunday church classes. He certainly achieved it in his classes — they were always packed with hungry seekers.

  29. chris
    June 22, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    Also, I think the artwork isn’t my favorite, but I don’t think breaking down the elements of a piece of art needs to be demagogued as coming from source (McNaughton) you consider “less worthy.”

    If you want to accuse someone of taking imagery and assigning black and white meanings to it, you might as well condemn the angel, which showed Nephi the meaning of the imagery in the tree of life dream. The angel also described the vision (art?) Lehi and Nephi saw and then described each aspect of it from the tree to the waters to the gulf, the building the tree, the people, etc. in pretty black and white terms.

    If you want to bash this artwork and the interpretation of it for anything, I’d say it was just plain wrong.

    If, as Pres. Kimball said, oil comes in our lamps drop by drop from righteousness, then those 10 virgins must have had a history of righteousness behavior. In fact, they went to church, unlike the commenter in Grant’s class apparently suggested. The difference was, their oil ran out…

    I’ll take my own understanding and combine it with a bit of personal experience with revelation and say that the extra oil in the vessel is found in having the Holy Ghost as our constant companion.

    Righteousness (of a true form, not just performing the outward actions of it) which flows out of and proceeds from having the Holy Ghost is never ending. When you take the Holy Spirit for your guide your lamp will never run dry. If you merely just go through the outward motions but do not do those things which enable the constant companion ship of the Holy Ghost (namely following Christ in word, deed, and thought practicing virtue and charity) then the oil in your lamp will indeed run its course.

  30. June 22, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    I’m surprised someone in class didn’t object. Really, distinguishing between the parable (scriptural) and someone’s weak expansion of the parable (decidedly non-scriptural) is a very helpful exercise.

    It would be nice if Sunday School teachers would indicate the source of the quotes or other material they choose to present in class: text from the manual; a quotation given in the manual and by whom; an old Ensign; a book published by Deseret Book; a book or article by a scholar with something to say on the topic.

    I think teachers ought to consult whatever sources they want to help them understand the material when they are preparing, but be very selective about what, if any, supplementary material to present to the class.

  31. Brad
    June 22, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    This is precisely why I, as an uncorrelated Mormon (to use John Dehlin’s terminology), support correlation. If correlation were not imposed on the Sunday School/Gospel Doctrine and Priesthood/Relief Society lessons, then the outcome would be unleashing of more and more ultraconservative opinions and ideas. It is fallacious to believe that lifting correlation would result in more intellectual and well-balanced discussion. Even if the discussion were intellectual, I imagine that people would be bringing the ideas of FARMS and Nibley into the classroom, which are more tolerable than McConkie or Verlan Anderson, but still somewhat unsettling.

    Correlation does keep complex notions overly simple. But it saves us from crazy ultraconservative doctrines being injected into church discourse. Furthermore it saves us from having to discuss third rail issues (polygamy, the role of women in the church, historicity of scripture, etc.) I do enjoy discussing those issues, but only either one on one, or when I am in charge of the discussion.

  32. June 22, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    This smacks of spiritual Twinkie-dom. The gospel doctrine is such a fascinating and wondrous thing that is amazing as one peels down the layers to reach the deeper and deeper pieces, that it is a damned shame members have to resort to such crap.

    Instead of spending their time looking up cutesy stuff, teachers should spend their time truly studying and understanding the gospel. For one thing, all the 10 virgins are virgins. They are not evil, so they cannot represent R-rated movies, etc. They just have not served or as diligent as they should have been.

    How are the members to learn true doctrine with this garbage around? As it is, I can teach doctrine while abiding by the correlation committee’s decisions. But how they justified this, when it does not come close to fitting correlated material, much less true doctrine of the gospel. Such stuff is for evangelicals who are only interested in cutesy eisegesis (note: not all are into such), and not for Mormon readers.

  33. Dane Laverty
    June 22, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    Brad, in my experience, correlation doesn’t prevent teachers from injecting ultra-conservative (or ultra-anything) messages into their lessons. What it does prevent is allowing members to discuss the merit of the ideas being presented. The teacher’s pet ideas receive the doctrinal sheen provided by the context of appearing in a correlated lesson.

  34. Al'Lan Mandragoran
    June 22, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    I’ve never once heard someone say,

    “Well, it was a correlated lesson so it must be true.”
    “Well, it was taught in Sunday school, so it must be true.”

    I would assume the classroom was simply too polite and just sat their quietly listening to the silliness being presented. Maybe one or two nodded their heads even…but that doesn’t mean anything.

    Now, if you’re saying the “sheen” is some kind of subconscious thing were it is internalized by those who you consider too weak to know better (either they are gullible or they are critical thinking and don’t know better not to judge a flock from a single sheep) then you might have a point.

    But I’ll suggest to you, if it’s the subconscious-case, that we’re all pretty much damned if that’s the approach. Because your post could then be argued that it is having a subconscious effect on people to distrust authorities, teachers manuals, and even their brothers and sisters in Christ. Subconsciously, of course.

    Really, I don’t believe any of it. I like this post for pointing out the material presented. I would really have liked it more if it said, let’s talk about the painting and in what was is it wrong. Rather than going off against correlation and teachers with their idiosyncratic ways.

  35. Dane Laverty
    June 22, 2011 at 3:05 pm

    Al’Lan, I don’t think it’s the sort of thing where someone explicitly states, “I was taught this in a correlated lesson, therefore it is true.” Where it comes into play is when you’re a missionary and someone asks you a question about why the church opposed Prohibition, or when you’re a parent and your kids ask you why they can’t play with their friends on Sunday. The person in those situations doesn’t usually respond with, “Let me give that some critical consideration and research, then get back to you.” We pull out the response from that part of the brain that contains a general worldview. When we say that that the church opposed Prohibition in order to prevent ganster-driven prostitution rings (like I told my high school English teacher, grabbing at an explanation that my seminary teacher had given me) or when they say that you can’t play with friends on Sunday because the church teaches us to keep the Sabbath (which really has nothing to do with playing with friends), we are reaching into that worldview that was largely created without our permission or awareness. As you say, it is subconscious, but I’d say it’s not about gullibility. We’re all susceptible. It’s just how people and brains work. My point isn’t that correlation allows teachers to teach wacky things; it’s that correlations encourages students to accept wacky things without examining them.

  36. Raymond Takashi Swenson
    June 22, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    The gloss put on the parable strikes me as “looking beyond the mark” and trying to lard on pharisaic rules that can be used to judge people, when the message is clearly “You have an equal chance of being in one group or the other. You cannot think that you are ready for the Second Coming. You must watch at all times, whoever you are in my Church.” It’s a simple question, but it calls for an honest self-appraisal, and that is all too rare.

  37. Hans
    June 22, 2011 at 7:28 pm

    If I want to experience the Parable of the Ten Virgins I’ll listen to Johann Sebastian Bach’s Cantata 140, “Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme” (Sleepers, awake!), BWV 140.

  38. June 22, 2011 at 8:09 pm

    I’m surprised your bishop didn’t say something. It’s his job to monitor what’s taught in Sunday School isn’t it?

    What’s the beef with the manuals anyway? Is it just that the US is too well versed in church doctrine? In our London, UK ward we’ll never establish the doctrinal principles contained in the manuals and the notion of having people apply all of the basic principles is so far away from present expectations I can’t even imagine a world where all of the members are not only familiar with the doctrines presented in the manuals but are living them all too.

    I enjoy our Sunday School lessons but reading the comments I’m beginning to feel that the only reason I’m enjoying them must be because I’m a spiritual moron…

  39. Ray
    June 22, 2011 at 9:03 pm

    “I’m surprised your bishop didn’t say something. It’s his job to monitor what’s taught in Sunday School isn’t it?”

    No, that’s the job of the Sunday School Presidency. The Bishop only has a responsibility if he is attending the class, and his responsibility in this case is no more official than that of any other member. We have auxiliary presidencies largely in an effort to make sure the Bishop isn’t over-burdened by stuff like this.

  40. chris
    June 22, 2011 at 10:06 pm

    Ray, well Hagoth is just as right as you are. You can’t go wrong with blaming the bishop :)

  41. Cameron N.
    June 23, 2011 at 12:34 am

    38 – Hagoth, you’re not a moron. I have found that no matter how many times I hear something, if the Spirit confirms it, then it is renewed and my boredom is swallowed up in a renewed testimony of a principle, idea, or insight on how I can do beter.

    Luckily in most gospel doctrine classes I’m in, someone always challenges tangents or non-doctrinal topics. I submit that if Dane is in a position to recognize these, then he has the stewardship to speak up and correct them.

    Also, Dane, I think many more members, probably a majority, would admit that they know everything covered in all sunday school lessons isn’t doctrine, but they only briefly talk about it with their spouses, since they want to be nice.

  42. June 23, 2011 at 8:19 am

    I don’t think the painting is “awful,” just simplistic and highly symbolic. When I was a child, I loved it because it visualized abstract principles (something a lot of children find useful.) AND it gave me something to read and ponder over when I was sitting in sacrament meeting.

    Now that I’m adult, I’m not so fond of it. I like Walter Rane’s rendition much better.

  43. Last Lemming
    June 23, 2011 at 9:39 am

    When we say that that the church opposed Prohibition in order to prevent ganster-driven prostitution rings (like I told my high school English teacher, grabbing at an explanation that my seminary teacher had given me)

    Your seminary teacher was in need of some serious correlation. Not only was his explanation undoctrinal, it was flat out contrary to the Church’s actual position, as the following quotes attest:

    I have never felt so humiliated in my life over anything as that the State of Utah voted for the repeal of Prohibition.
    – President Heber J. Grant, Conference, Oct. 1934

    From this very stand he pleaded with us not to repeal the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. He didn’t speak as Heber J. Grant, the man, he spoke as the President of the Church and the representative of our Heavenly Father. And yet in a state where we could have retained what we had, there were enough Latter-day Saints . . . who paid no attention to what the Lord wanted . . .and what is the result? Such delinquency as we have never known. . . .
    – George Albert Smith, Conference, Oct 1943

  44. Ray
    June 23, 2011 at 9:57 am

    #40 – Chris, nothing in the handbook says it’s the Bishop’s responsibility to “monitor what is taught in Sunday School”.

    As far as blaming the Bishop, yeah, that is the default for too many members.

  45. Rob Perkins
    June 23, 2011 at 11:45 am

    The quote in #25 makes paints the whole thing with the sheen of low-grade priestcraft, which is a pity, since her landscape and other non-folk-doctrinal paintings are works I’d totally hang on my wall.

    I asked a relative of mine who grew up in rural Utah about the “colors of the Priesthood” thing. She got a funny look on her face and promised me she’d never heard of that in her life. And naturally I’ve not heard of it in over 30 years of Church membership.

  46. Dane Laverty
    June 23, 2011 at 11:58 am

    Whoops, thanks Last Lemming — I had meant to say “opposed the repeal of Prohibition”, not “opposed Prohibition”!

  47. Glenn Smith
    June 23, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    Hmm, and I complain that a Ten Virgins picture is not to be found in my ward library. I don’t care for this particular one and its analogies.

    If you want some non-correlated material in Sunday School, come attend my youth Gospel Doctrine class. I throw in personal tidbits and analogies all the time. As I review the lesson, I ask myself how I can adapt it to the age group, and what can I add to involve the kids? See Creativity in the Classrom, Ensign / Liahona, April 1978

  48. Chris
    June 23, 2011 at 5:05 pm

    Seventy two years old. Raised in the Church. Seminary, BYU, etc. Never heard before that the virgins were members of the Church. But then, I am not an intellectual. Thank goodness.

  49. Ellis
    June 23, 2011 at 5:47 pm

    This picture has been around for quite a while. There is a program that the painter that goes with it. It has music and slides and is very dramatic. It was presented in Relief Societies in various wards. It is always presented as though it is something super spiritual and important. I am so glad to learn that I am not the only one who thinks the whole thing is well, crap. Green and Gold were the colors of MIA. Blue and Gold are the colors on the Relief Society shield.

    I grew up believing the virgins represent church members but not necessarily women. D.& C. 45: 56: & 63:54 can be interpreted to mean that.

  50. Ellis
    June 23, 2011 at 5:48 pm

    Darn that second sentence the words that the painter should be striken.

  51. J.A.T.
    June 24, 2011 at 11:08 am

    FYI this is one of the Ten Virgins painting provided by’s ‘resources’ page

    It was painted by Walter Rane whose bio (besides being a polar opposite to Prince-Wallace’s) states that he emphasizes the human figure in his artwork. This fact is obvious when viewing his paintings, and putting Prince-Wallace’s work next to his, one can truly see the difference this emphasis makes in the final product.

    Prince-Wallace’s stiff and unproportioned figures are unnaturally draped in heavy clothing, unsuccessfully hiding a multitude of mistakes in the women’s forms and structures. For some reason, painters can never camoflauge problems with the skeleton and anatomy with clothing. It never works. (Many LDS and Christian artists shy away from studying nudes and human anatomy . . . and consequently struggle with the human form.)

    So, Prince-Wallace’s amateurish execution and obvious symbolism might succeed very well as 21st century religious folk art. Was that her intended genre? I’m all for including different genres, abstration, impressionism, etc. into the LDS context as I think we cling too tightly to realism. I’d hate for us to adopt ‘twinkie-ism’, but it rears it’s head quite commonly.

    *BTW the way I can tell that Prince-Wallace’s work was not McNaughton’s is that the faces of the women were generic. McNaughton would have inserted the faces of Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, Rachel Maddow, Rosie O’Donnell and Pamela Anderson into half and Sarah Palin, Abigail Adams, Martha Washington, Nancy Regan, and Phyllis Schlayfly on the other half.

  52. Julie M. Smith
    June 24, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    I think what I find so disturbing about this (on an exegetical level, not an artistic one) is that this simply isn’t the parable that Jesus told, and yet it is pretending to be that story.

    The story Jesus told divided the young women into two groups, but did not distinguish them individually. The focus of his story is on the concept of preparedness/watchfulness (verse 13, people!), and it fits into a context of three other stories in the surrounding verses that also divide people into only two groups based on their preparedness/watchfulness. All of those stories also emphasize the point that you can’t visually determine who is in which group until it is Too Late.

    To then invent backstories that divide the young women into ten groups (each of which is physically distinguished from the others) is to entirely change the focus of the story, as if Jesus didn’t quite get it right when He told it.

    People think theologians are dangerous, but we’ve got nothing on the artists. At least we have the decency to hide our crazy theories in dense pages of impenetrable prose that no one but ourselves ever reads, instead of trotting it out there for public display where it can be instantly (mis)apprehended by the youngest child.

  53. Suleiman
    July 2, 2011 at 9:15 am

    I think we appear to be attacking the artist. But it does remind me of medieval art… symbolic, even didactic, with Pre-Renaissance attitude regarding the modeling of the forms. But the artist does possess talent.

    And who is to blame for the quality of the art in the LDS community? Art generally follows the state of the culture within a community. Great art is a “symptom” of a vital spiritual and intellectual culture. Is this painting a result of a declining cultural vitality within the church? Are we refusing to ask and struggle with the great questions and problems? Are we so used to being spoon-fed doctrine on Sunday that raw and rough opinions, ideas and even art smash our sensibilities?

  54. HarrisJ
    July 7, 2011 at 4:12 pm

    quoting 24: “those who want more meat are to seek it in personal scripture study, prayer, and CES classes.” um, CES classes as a source for more “meat”? Did i miss something? :-)

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