I Don’t Think We’re A Top-Down Organization

March 13, 2006 | 40 comments
By

This will be my last post at T&S. I’d like to thank those who gave me this opportunity and those who have participated on my posts. It’s been fun.

We appear to be a top-down institution, the higher-ups telling those below them what to do, but my experience indicates to me that we work from the bottom-up.

An example:

The Gospel Doctrine teacher works to prepare her lessons. She seeks revelation regarding her stewardship. After being overwhelmed by the number of people in her class she realizes she would be more effective in a more intimate setting so she suggests to the Sunday School president that they need to split and make another class. The Sunday School president considers this request as well as the similar request from the Gospel Essentials teacher for another class and seeks revelation regarding his stewardship. After whipping up a solution, Gospel Doctrine II, he then goes to the bishopric and submits his idea. The bishop’s counselor over Sunday School sees the need for the class, figures the idea is a sound one and together with the other counselor and bishop they seek revelation regarding their stewardship and determine that the creation of Gospel Doctrine II is a good idea and that they’re going to do it.

(If this were a top-down situation then the bishop would be the one to receive revelation that there is a need in the Sunday School for another class. Then he passes that information on to his counselor over Sunday School, he passes it to the SS president who then doesn’t really have any say, because it’s coming from the bishop after all.)

I understand this to be the order of things on all levels in the Church’s organization. Revelation is contextual, it never exists in a vacuum. Leaders rely heavily on those over whom they preside for information. That information is the basis for their decision-making and revelation.

And thank goodness for this.

To me it means that leadership is the sum of its parts (one part being the Holy Ghost). It means that it’s not the bishop’s responsibility to tell me what to do but rather to help me receive revelation in my own stewardship. It means that the Church is not perfect but continually improving with the assistance of God. It means I can’t blame God or even Salt Lake for all of the problems in the Church.

It means that God trusts me.

40 Responses to I Don’t Think We’re A Top-Down Organization

  1. mark smith on March 13, 2006 at 12:33 pm

    I’m not so sure about that. I think that the sunday school lessons are “correlated” but at a much higher level than the bishop. The sunday school lessons are dictated from church headquarters. I’ve read articles talking about how you can go to a different wards across the church and have the same lesson taught in sunday school no matter where you are. And I’ve certainly seen that proved true. The last time I taught elders quorum(I was subbing), I had my lesson topic assigned to me by the elders quorum president, who got it from the stake president. Of course the teacher can put thier own personal touchs on the lesson, but I don’t think a teacher would last long if the decided to ignore the preset curriculum and ad-hoc thier own lesson topic every week.

    I really think the best example showing that the church is organized as a top-down organization is the fact that to get a “temple-divorce” you have to get permission from church headquarters(I believe it is the first presidency).

  2. Don on March 13, 2006 at 1:16 pm

    I think the “corporate” church in most cases is top down. There are times when bottom up works as in Rusty’s example, however that is a very limited scope in my opinion. The SS president could “suggest” to the Bishop that they combine all SS classes to give better and more varied feedback from the class. But the top down organization says no way, we are split into specific classes by age groups. Or the Bishop says in my ward I want longer SS and shorter Priesthood. No way the Stake Pres and or upper leaders have the times structured the way they want.

    I think there is limited bottom up change. “The brethern” decide what policy, organization, structure, lesson material etc. is going to be used in all the units of the church. That’s why the church is the same all over the world. Bottom up change could easily bring chaos to the church….especially if left to the “inspiration” of local leaders. I’ve seen that “inspiration” make a mess of a lot of things even in our present structure.

  3. Christian Y. Cardall on March 13, 2006 at 1:36 pm

    Rusty, an example like yours in which everyone agrees does little to illuminate whether an organization is better characterized as “top-down” or “bottom-up.” I think two questions to decide the characterization are: (1) Who decides which people hold positions of authority? (2) How are conflicts within the organization resolved?

    In the case of the Church, I think the answer to both questions comes down pretty clearly on the side of “top-down.”

  4. a random John on March 13, 2006 at 1:52 pm

    Rusty,

    I agree that in many many cases the new ideas come from the bottom up. There is no need for leaders to have all knowledge and all ideas in the realm of their stewardship if they are getting good reports and good ideas from those that report to them. Sorting through the ideas and deciding which ones to implement might require revelation, but the initial inspiration that leads to a good idea certain can occur further down the chain of command.

  5. BrianJ on March 13, 2006 at 1:56 pm

    Rusty,

    If this statement is untrue: “…we work from the bottom-up.” does it make the following untrue: “Leaders rely heavily on those over whom they preside for information. That information is the basis for their decision-making and revelation.”

    Also, I am intrigued by your last line, “It means that God trusts me.” What do you mean by that, i.e. trusts you with what? Or to do what? Why is that important to you?

  6. Starfoxy on March 13, 2006 at 2:07 pm

    I get the impression that if I had a concern (say, I’m uncomfortable with the extreme emphasis placed on marriage in the YW program and would like to see more emphasis on spiritual and temporal self improvement, and independence) I would most likely be unable to reach anyone with authority to change it, no matter how inspired my idea might be.

    If I were to write a letter to church headquarters, they would send it back to my stake president, who would most likely return it to my bishop. My bishop would then invite me for an interview in which he would advise me of the danger in not sustaining the prophets. “They’re inspired men, and they put this program together with the Lord’s guidance. This is exactly what the Lord wants these young women to be taught.”

    It is really the local leaders who decide how top-down or bottom-up the organization is. However, the default, and easiest way is top-down.

  7. cj douglass on March 13, 2006 at 4:34 pm

    I think the idea that a class should be split is a great example of a teacher using his/her stewardship and entitled revelation to meet the needs of the class members. However, I don’t think that makes the church a bottom-top organization because of elements like curriculum.

  8. Rusty Clifton on March 13, 2006 at 4:57 pm

    Hm, I see that I didn’t do a very good job explaining what I was thinking. I’ll admit that this is an idea that I’m working through right now (I think it’s fairly obvious by this post) and you have all made good points.

    A couple points of clarification: 1) I understand that final decisions come from “the top”. What I’m trying to suggest is that those on the top get their information by which they base their decisions from those below them. The Prophet doesn’t receive an out-of-the-blue revelation telling him they need to overhaul the missionary program any more than the Bishop receiving an out-of-the-blue revelation telling him that the ward needs to create a second Gospel Doctrine class. Information and ideas come from the bottom up.

    Correlation came from somewhere and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the Prophet sitting in the temple receiving it all as one long revelation. Those below him had ideas, bounced them off each other, gathered experience and information from those below them, considered past and present needs, etc. and combined it all into what we know as correlation. Okay, so the Prophet signs off on it and gives it the final okay, but that doesn’t mean that it came from him.

    Does this make more sense?

  9. mullingandmusing (m&m) on March 13, 2006 at 5:07 pm

    I think many times the seeds of ideas may be planted from the bottom-down, but I’m not convinced there aren’t some out-of-the-blue revelations, too. And some things that don’t concern policy but concern more behavior and counsel issues I think are more likely to be top-down. Interesting thoughts, though.

  10. Rusty Clifton on March 13, 2006 at 5:19 pm

    mullingandmusing,
    Interesting thoughts. The difference between policy and behavior is something I hadn’t thought about.

    Maybe I should have titled this post “Incomplete thoughts: bottom-up or top-down?”

  11. ed on March 13, 2006 at 5:31 pm

    You’re undoubtedly right that church leaders get ideas from below, but I think the church does surprisingly little to facilitate this practice. As far as I can tell, the church does little to encourage experimentation and innovation, although it does occur out of neccessity. Church leaders seem to be more concerned about uniformity, and may actually see innovation outside of very narrow parameters as being dangerous. Moreover, good innovations that do occur can simply be lost and forgotten when leadership changes.

  12. Tim Jacob on March 13, 2006 at 6:08 pm

    There is scriptural evidence of what Rusty is saying is true. See Jethro and Moses. Moses had a problem and it was Jethro resolving it by suggesting to Moses what to do.

    The problem comes from the fact that we are taught that we can ONLY receive revelation according to our individual stewardship–this is utterly false.

  13. cj douglass on March 13, 2006 at 6:32 pm

    Tim Jacob,
    I’m curious…to what degree is this notion of stewardship-only-revelation false? Certainly I do not recieve revelation for the whole of the church. Does it only relate to a close relationships like within a bishopric or can a primary teacher council the SP on who should be called on a senior mission? Aren’t there channels of stewardship and revelation? Is that not the very essence of stewardship?

  14. Tim Jacob on March 13, 2006 at 6:45 pm

    “Does it only relate to a close relationships like within a bishopric or can a primary teacher council the SP on who should be called on a senior mission?”

    Why not? I don’t see a problem here. A primary teacher receives revelation that someone she knows should be called as a senior missionary. She takes that revelation to the SP who then prays about it and confirms that it is true. You don’t think this has ever happened?

    This is how Mission Presidents are called. A letter of recommendation is written on their behalf and sent to the 1st Presidency for review. The Prophet does not simply receive an “out-of-the-blue” revelation as to who should be called.

    The point, is that we as members put limits as to what revelations we can receive when those limits simply do not exist. We are told that the Prophet is the only one who can interpret the scriptures, yet we are also instrcuted to read critically and to pray about what we have read. Or should we blindly read and then simply wait for the interpretation to come to us from the pulpit?

  15. cj douglass on March 13, 2006 at 6:47 pm

    That being asked and said, I think we need to clarify the difference between revelation and observation. The SS teacher has a better understanding of whats going on in her class than the Bishop and therefore can certainly give guidance and council to him on the issues in that class. The same might of occured when they changed the missionary discussions. The missionaries and MP’s could relate to the GA’s the success of the wording and structure in the discussions, something in which the brethren would not know. For example, I told both of my MP’s that I thought teaching the apostosy and restoration would be much more effect every chance I could and I’m sure many others did the same. I don’t think I would call it revelation but observing what worked and what didn’t.

  16. cj douglass on March 13, 2006 at 6:48 pm

    Tim Jacob,
    I agree.

  17. Julie M. Smith on March 13, 2006 at 7:37 pm

    “We are told that the Prophet is the only one who can interpret the scriptures, yet we are also instrcuted to read critically and to pray about what we have read.”

    No, we are told that the prophet is the only one who can offer binding, authoritative interpretations of scripture.

  18. mullingandmusing (m&m) on March 13, 2006 at 8:12 pm

    I do not agree that we can receive revelation for anyone at any level. We may have thoughts or ideas we can share, perhaps even some that might be from inspiration, but ultimately, the revelation about such ideas still comes to the one who has the stewardship. For example, since prophets have already made this issue clear, no one can receive different ideas about the issue and declare them to be true. :)

    For example:
    “There is order in the way the Lord reveals His will to mankind. We all have the right to petition the Lord and receive inspiration through His Spirit within the realm of our own stewardship. Parents can receive revelation for their own family, a bishop for his assigned congregation, and on up to the First Presidency for the entire Church. However, we cannot receive revelation for someone else’s stewardship. The Prophet Joseph Smith declared:

    “‘It is contrary to the economy of God for any member of the Church, or any one, to receive instruction for those in authority, higher than themselves.’

    “’Revelations of the mind and will of God to the Church, are to come through the [First] Presidency. This is the order of heaven, and the power and privilege of this Priesthood. It is also the privilege of any officer in this Church to obtain revelations, so far as relates to his particular calling and duty in the Church.’â€?
    (L. Tom Perry, “We Believe All That God Has Revealed,� Ensign, Nov. 2003, 85)

    and…

    “’[M]ine house is a house of order, saith the Lord God, and not a house of confusion.â€? (D&C 132:8.)

    “That order also defines bounds of revelation. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that ‘it is contrary to the economy of God for any member of the Church, or any one, to receive instruction for those in authority, higher than themselves.’ That same principle precludes receiving revelation for anyone outside one’s defined circle of responsibility.”
    (Russell M. Nelson, “Honoring the Priesthood,� Ensign, May 1993, 38)

    Elder Perry also distinguishes between revelation and inspiration in this talk, which I think is interesting. Inspiration is a subset of revelation. So, someone can have an idea that feels inspired and they can share it. But the *revelation* regarding the final decision does not rest with the person sharing the idea. I have seen this with auxiliary presidents who feel truly inspired to submit certain names but have them not accepted by the bishop because he receives the ultimate revelation for the ward structure. I have also seen bishop’s counselors who have to learn to submit to that order. While counseling together, they can share ideas and thoughts and even inspiration. But once the revelation is received by the leader, that decision should be supported. There is an order for a reason. It helps protect against chaos!

    If there weren’t such bounds to revelation, imagine how the leaders from the ward level on up could be bombarded by people telling them how to do their job because “I received revelation!”

    One of the things I have been thinking about, however, is that, if you think organizationally, there is a lot of decision-making authority pushed down to the local level, which does allow for some individual adaptation (all within some order and bounds, of course re: curriculum, much of procedure, etc.) The individualized part comes in figuring out what callings to issue to whom, what counsel to give to local members, what warnings and concerns, etc. General leaders cannot give that kind of personalized counsel because they don’t have the contact and awareness of the specific circumstances. It’s pretty cool to think about, actually. While I’m a stickler for the Handbook, I think leaders can still see there is some room for individual adaptation.

    Also, knowing someone on the correlation committee has helped me see how revelation does occur at more levels than “just the top.” The Spirit works with councils at many different levels to guide the Lord’s work. And the Lord does trust us to make decisions within our stewardships. But He also has His order to help us figure out if our answers really are inspired! If someone gets something that’s against the prophets’ counsel, it’s pretty good reason to reconsider and pray again. :)

  19. Spanish Prisoner on March 13, 2006 at 8:22 pm

    The organization of the Church is very hierarchal, top-down emphasis, and centralized both in terms of structure and curriculum. This rigidity is both a strength from a “branding” stand-point, “attending church feels the same no matter where you go”, but it is also a weakness from a flexibility standpoint. This blindspot is made evident when institutional break-downs and cracks appear within the organizational system.

    An example of this could be seen by 1) large inactivity and unacceptable member retention rates, 2) fewer conversions and slowing missionary work, 3) statistical fatique associated with HT or regular temple attendance by members. Yes the Church has tried to respond to these unfavorable trends in the above noted metrics – eg overhaul misisonary teaching approach and program, change structure (eliminate stake missionary, etc). But sometimes the best and most creative solutions to these problems could be gleaned from a bottom-up perspective as opposed to a top-down approach. This would involve allowing local leaders to pilot new and creative programs that try to honor the spirit of the gospel as a guide post, without letting the organizational rigidity prevent flexibility and adaptability.

    Clearly this all comes down to one issue: organizational control. To date, the emphasis has been on very strict uniformity and delivery of gospel message and services. While this does provide structure and backbone for a world-wide church, I wonder if it is also perhaps somewhat responsible for our local leaders difficulty in responding to the challenges associated with 1) effective missionary work, 2) member retention, and 3) generically “perfecting the saints.”

  20. Mel on March 13, 2006 at 8:28 pm

    Here’s perhaps a different slant: Isn’t the core mission of the church to perfect the saints, redeem the dead and share the gospel (i.e., love and serve one another)? And doesn’t the heart of that mission boil down to a grass roots effort of individuals exercising their agency to commit to the gospel, to study, to seek the spirit, to attend the temple, to exercise the Priesthood, to share the gospel and to reach out to others in a spirit of love? The church can not and will never *compel* members to love and serve one another. The meaningful power of the church rests with individuals (at any organizational level in the church) and our collective choices. So while the organization may be “top down” in terms of revealed truth, stewardship, and logistics, the mission of the church is carried out on a very individual and local level. It’s inclusive and brilliant.

  21. Bob Caswell on March 13, 2006 at 9:56 pm

    Rusty,

    It’s interesting that you posted your thoughts here a few days after I posted my thoughts at BCC. In my example, I was frustrated by members of the Church ignoring Church growth problems. I bring up limited Church growth in Priesthood and am ignored. What if I have ideas, or better yet, other people have ideas for how the Church could grow. Where’s the suggestion box in this “bottom-up” organization? I just think “bottom up” happens within a limited context and mostly at the local level. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, it just means “bottom up” is limited whereas “top down” has the potential to affect all member, and it does much of the time.

  22. laura w on March 13, 2006 at 10:40 pm

    Does it make any difference that the people at “the top” came from “the bottom”? That technically any worthy preisthood holder could be called to be prophet? So people bring what they know from “the bottom” into their positions within the church hierarchy?

  23. Darren on March 13, 2006 at 10:59 pm

    It has been my experience that any member who is seeking to magnify their calling will recieve revelation to guide them in the responsibilities that are before them. We are not to be robotic in our attitudes, but seek to be agents unto ourselves and do many things of our own free will. That being said there is also a great principle of the gospel that we must strive to achieve… that is unity. “If ye are not one, ye are not mine.” There has to be a unified approach to the gospel and to the standards of leadership. My point is that it works both ways.

  24. Bob Caswell on March 13, 2006 at 11:00 pm

    laura w,

    I suppose that helps if we ignore two factors:

    1) That still leaves women stuck at the bottom

    2) What people bring from “the bottom” is, like, fifty years old at best.

  25. Rusty Clifton on March 13, 2006 at 11:39 pm

    There have been a couple mentions on this thread that you think bottom-up happens in a limited context and at the local level. I don’t think that’s the case. Ask an area authority if all they do is take orders. I doubt it. Why wouldn’t they be having the same back and forth with SP’s and 70′s as the bishop’s counselor has with the SS president and the bishop?

    An example: In the two years that I was on my mission we changed the way we 1) approached homes while contacting and 2) we went from giving out the BoM to selling the BoM. Those were two very obvious changes that came down from our Area Authority (definitely not our MP). I don’t know if either technique was particularly successful or not but that’s beside the point. They were coming up with ideas at the local (Central America) level. And I would imagine the successful ideas are noticed by SLC after which they are implemented more widely until ultimately something sticks.

    Bob,
    You’re right there’s no suggestion box (but there is a prayer box in the temple, though I doubt that will accomplish anything if you write “…the Church isn’t growing as fast as everyone keeps saying it is…” on the paper). Other than writing a letter I don’t know what to say. Perhaps sleep with the Prophet’s secretary? I don’t know.

    I feel your frustration though. The culture of the Church is that we shouldn’t complain about how things “are” because they’re inspired to be that way. Therefore we don’t have any kind of system to improve it.

  26. Mark Smith on March 14, 2006 at 1:10 am

    Honestly the church organization reminds me of the Army. Just as an illustration in my bishops office there are portraits hung of the first presidency and the quorum of the twelve apostles. In the hall of my old reserve unit we had pictures of our chain of command. From the President down to the battalion commander. This was done so we would know whose orders to follow. I honestly believe this is done for a similar reason in the church. This photos show our ecclesiastical chain of command. The military metaphors abound in the church. The church’s organization really does resemble a military organization.

    Honestly to call the church a bottom-up organization is really misusing the term “bottom-up”. Even submitting a suggestion is largely bound to the hierarchy. The GAs of the church have made it very clear that they don’t want letters from ordinary members. They insist that communications travel up through the “chain of command”.

    In a true bottom up organization policy would be largely generated a the “grassroots” level. The individual wards would for instance have a very large say in how the local tithing funds are spent, and what percentage of the funds actually travel to SLC. In a bottom-up organization a ward could decide to create a special youth program to take the place of boy scouts and do what they feel is best. In a bottom up organized ward, you would have votes in ward council, and not the bishop always having the last say.

    Of course there are advantages to both systems. A top-down organization definately tends to be much more homogenous in its presentation and actions. You know where you stand with a top-down organization, and you know who is in charge. A bottom up organization tends to much more chaotic and the end result isn’t always as predicatable. But there certainly is a lot of flexibility in the system. In my opinion, the main difference is that a bottom-up organization scales better. I feel that is one of the main reasons that the church’s growth has stalled. The church has just become too top heavy to continue to grow as it historically was able to. I believe if the church were to allow local units a lot more autonomy, that the church would start to grow again. I think we need to get back to what Joseph Smith taught “I teach them correct principles and they govern themselves”. We definately have gotten pretty far away from that.

  27. mullingandmusing (m&m) on March 14, 2006 at 1:16 am

    Actually, while there might not be a suggestion box, there is an order if you want to give feedback. You can talk to your bishop who trasmits information up the line. Of course, some people write letters directly to the top, but I think that is discouraged. (As a side note, I did write once directly to the RS General Presidency, and got a personal response. I don’t think they took my recommendation, (although there is no way to know…they could have and had it not come through).They were extremely gracious, however, and respectful, even if they thought my idea was half crazy.)

    I also think there *are* sometimes pilots for things, and I am confident that leaders “at the top” don’t work in a vacuum. They travel more than any of us, I would bet, and they talk to lots and lots and lots of people. They have leaders under them all over the world who are more aware of issues closer to the people. General leaders have regular contact with stake leaders, who, in turn, have regular contact with ward leaders. I don’t think we can underestimate the amount that our leaders have their finger on the pulse — both in general with the world and also with what members around the world are dealing with and thinking about. In addition, committees are formed for various issues, and I am fairly certain that many of them include people outside the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. Remember that there are general leaders (e.g., those on boards) who are part of wards and talk to people and know of many local issues. And, from what I gather, the leaders get plenty of mail from disgruntled people who think they should be doing things differently. I think we should trust that they are not as far removed as we might think. And when they are, I think they are smart enough to talk to people and study things out before they go making a decision.

    I liked Laura’s comment, and I think Bob’s reaction was inaccurate on both fronts. Women DO have influence at the higher levels of the Church. Women sit on the curriculum committee. Women meet with the Brethren on a weekly basis. I’m fairly certain they participate in other major committees as well. There are boards of women who work with the general female leaders. I, for one, think women are NOT at the bottom in any way, shape or form! To Bob’s 2nd point, just because someone may have been around for a half-dozen or more decades does not mean that his/her perspectives are archaic or inapplicable.

    Maybe we shouldn’t be frustrated and focus our attention on the things we can control, and the things that have the most impact…our families and personal spirituality (as someone mentioned earlier). I personally think too many people spend too much time worrying about stuff that isn’t in their stewardship, needlessly frustrating themselves and distracting themselves from things that matter. Don’t get me wrong here. My professional expertise is all about business change and improvement, so I like thinking about ways things can change. But I also have a great deal of confidence in our leaders. The thing about grass-roots change is that sometimes it can be based on degrees of ignorance, because, generally speaking, most of us “at the bottom” have a limited perspective on how everything fits together in the Church.

  28. mullingandmusing (m&m) on March 14, 2006 at 1:20 am

    another thought: I wrote a paper in grad school on top-down vs. bottom-up change. Bottom-up is more the exception and doesn’t easily succeed. For true, lasting change to take place, solid top-down leadership is necessary in almost all situations, especially in large organizations. I wonder if we were to talk to leaders of small branches in remote places if they feel they have some flexibility in their stewardships. I would imagine they do. I’m not sure the leadership can be blamed for a slow in growth. If ANYTHING is grass-roots in the Church, it is missionary work. So if anyone is to blame for a slowdown in growth, it’s the grass roots. :) Get those pass-a-long cards a’passing, comrades! ;)

  29. mullingandmusing (m&m) on March 14, 2006 at 2:00 am

    I’m in mulling mode tonite. One more comment. One other reason why this church will never truly be bottom-up is because it’s not ultimately “led by people.” We shouldn’t lose sight of Whose church it is. Of course, He allows for His Church to learn and grow sometimes through trial and error, but I don’t think we can get too excited about wanting too much bottom-up, because ultimately, this is the Lord’s church and He is in charge. That’s exciting on many levels, not the least of which is the grass-roots level, because each of us can have DIRECT access with “the Head” of the Church for things in our stewardship. How many large organizations can boast such direct access for those “at the bottom”? Pretty unique indeed.

  30. John Mansfield on March 14, 2006 at 8:41 am

    Elder Boyd K. Packer, All-Church Coordinating Council Meeting, 18 May 1993:

    “Thirty-eight years ago I came from Brigham City to the office I now occupy in the Administration Building to see Elder Harold B. Lee, who, next to President Joseph Fielding Smith, was the senior member of the Quorum of the Twelve. I had just been appointed the supervisor of Seminaries and Institutes of Religion. I knew there were serious problems in the system and I wondered why they had not appointed someone with more experience.

    “Elder Lee had agreed to give me counsel and some direction. He didn’t say much, nothing really in detail, but what he told me has saved me time and time again.

    “’You must decide now which way you face,’ he said. ‘Either you represent the teachers and students and champion their causes or you represent the Brethren who appointed you. You need to decide now which way you face.’ Then he added, ‘Some of your predecessors faced the wrong way.’

    “It took some hard and painful lessons before I understood his counsel. In time, I did understand, and my resolve to face the right way became irreversible.

    “One of the early lessons was also my first lesson in correlation. The seminaries were sponsoring speech contests. They were very successful–much better than similar contests sponsored by the Mutual Improvement Association. It was an ideal gospel-centered activity for seminaries. They were succeeding beautifully under able teachers who could assist even the shy students. We were instructed to discontinue them!

    “There was something of an uprising among the teachers. They accused Superintendent Curtis of the Young Men and President Reeder of the Young Women of being responsible. Perhaps they were.

    “The teachers wanted Brother Tuttle and me to plead their cause before the Brethren. The logic was all on our side. Nevertheless we remembered the counsel of Brother Lee, and really, just out of obedience, we declined.”

  31. annegb on March 14, 2006 at 10:58 am

    I miss your point, John. Do we follow the brethren, is that what you’re saying? Can’t we have it both ways? Can’t we reach the hearts of those we serve, while living in obedience? Comes a choice, like Elder Packer had to make, I can see. But most of the time, the choice isn’t that clear.

    I struggle with what I perceive to be a “letter of the law vs. spirit of the law” problem all the time. I tend to be a rule follower, it’s easier, but I’ve learned in the last few years through Relief Society that we must, we must, pay attention to the individuals. I think I may have even contributed to the change in Enrichment because I called my friend up and told her I thought it wasn’t working and it had to change. I will have to ask her.

    I’m not saying we change the principles, never that, but many programs are not necessarily based upon principles. They’re not even necessary. And I’ve had a 180 change of heart re visiting teaching which reflects my paying attention to the bottom, as you put it, and has resulted, thus far, in more spirituality in our ward. I first had to be a Nazi about it, and get people in the habit. Then I had to say, “life is tough, God loves you, let’s adapt.”

    I just think we have to do that. Do we then become more moderate, because of course we can’t abandon the basics? I have confused myself. But this is a very good topic. Good food for thought and discussion.

  32. annegb on March 14, 2006 at 11:09 am

    And you know, I’ve griped about this before, but I don’t think it was here. Our ward split about 11 years ago (I still have gotten over the trauma)and a wonderful man was called as bishop. He served us with all his heart for 6 years and then a new bishop was called.

    I was a little surprised at this new bishop, he just wasn’t someone I’d considered, but he is a good man and I just supported the decision. It was all good with me. But a few months later, I found there had been a real battle when he was put in. Another man thought he should have been the bishop, there were nasty letters going back and forth, names were called, and this other man ended up being allowed to attend another ward, although he still lives in our ward boundaries.

    I actually thought this man would be our bishop. I’d worked with him and thought he was wonderful and I would have been thrilled to have him. Now, not so much. Some members of our ward who were on the fence left with him. It sort of tore our ward up and the four years the new bishop served were always colored with the problem. Plus the OLD bishop, that stalwart wonderful guy, supported the guy who objected. He stayed in our ward, but he made it obvious that he thought our bishop was a bad word which Adam told me not to use. And rightly so. Although so appropriate. I digress.

    So, what do you guys think? You who are wise and smart at the same time and also experienced. Have you ever heard of anything like that? If it was top down, it seems like the dissenter should have been excommunicated–this guy went around to members of our ward actually speaking against our bishop, this quiet mild guy who just sucked it up and did his best.

    They never polled our ward, if they had, the majority would have voted to hang the dissenter, we’re all pretty ticked at him. But what was up with that? And you know what, you don’t get an answer, they simply will not give us an explanation. Oh, one other thing, the dissenter was excommunicated, I think actually twice. HUH??? Now he’s the stake executive secretary. How crazy is that?

  33. DavidH on March 14, 2006 at 12:19 pm

    Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

    I have known men who thought they would be called as bishop or to the stake presidency, and were surprised, disappointed, or both, when they were not. Most later find it to have been a blessing (including one I know who now serves as a general authority). And most get over it.

    While there is a strain in Church teaching that calling matters not, there is conversely a cultural strain whereby a person’s significance or worth or worthiness is measured by office.

  34. Nathan on March 14, 2006 at 12:43 pm

    Foolish is the person who wants to be in leadership, especially Bishop. The best consequence of wanting such a position is to obtain it and feel the burdonsome weight that comes with it.

    I aspire to to the Nursery!

  35. mullingandmusing (m&m) on March 14, 2006 at 1:23 pm

    “While there is a strain in Church teaching that calling matters not, there is conversely a cultural strain whereby a person’s significance or worth or worthiness is measured by office.”

    This is one of the things I would like to “write a letter to SL about.” But, of course, since that’s not appropriate, I don’t. :) It is difficult to get over a mindset of “higher up the ladder equals better” because, in most organizations, that is true. But, I think this mindset is reinforced by the way introductions (for devotionals, etc.) and informational profiles are done. Take the newly called mission presidents and wives in the _Church News_. Their bios include all the callings they have ever had, which show experience in Church leadership, but also frustrate me because sometimes it gives a feeling like there’s a contest to see who can have the highest-up callings. Know what I mean? It’s a little thing, and something of which I think they are aware, because I noticed that a while ago, information about contributors to the _Ensign_ no longer included their callings….just their ward and stake.

  36. grego on March 15, 2006 at 2:37 am

    I agree in many ways. It can go both ways, and often does. Though many times, the reason it comes from the top is because it came from the bottom first (in some form or another).

  37. Razorfish on March 15, 2006 at 10:18 pm

    The analogy of the Church to the military is very appropriate in terms of understanding the hierarchy, centralization, chain of command, and how orders flow. To argue the Church is a bottom-up organization is completely devoid of reality.

    The reason this structure is never challenged is due to the inherent reality for a believing member. At the head of the Church is not the prophet, but even Jesus Christ. The prophet is just the mouthpiece, and so all decisions of importance or consequence by the prophet have the added seal or weight from on high.

    Therefore, it puts a member in precarious position to challenge any program, structure or policies of the Church. If the “Holy One of Israel” is ultimately the one guarding the gate by the straight and narrow path, and nobody can enter except by the gate…then a member is putting themselves in a very precarious position, if they directly challenge programs, policies, or Church structure (for a believing member). This probably explains why in general there is such muted discussion by faithful members, who don’t consider it appropriate to question policy or Church structure. Hence, the membership are more than content to accept policy and protocol as it comes down the chain of command.

  38. mack patten on March 16, 2006 at 2:50 pm

    i have, for several years now, had an on-going, albeit, minimal email communication with Elder Jeffrey Holland. How he has time to respond to me is beyond my ablitlity to know. but he does. of course, if many people attempeted such a communication, mine would cease. so. don’t rock my otherwise happy boat.

    Mack Patten

  39. Kimball Hunt on March 18, 2006 at 5:26 am

    Note that the idea of applying pressures against those who persist in the practice of polygamy, such as “splinter-group” polyg sect, has now become mainstream Mormon thinking (with active Mormons who happen to be in government actively spearheading certain prosecutions of members of these sects) yet, in the Brigham’s and Taylor’s times, if you’d asked a dissident member what s/he thought the likelihood of there coming to be bottom-up change to this doctrine, they’d have not given it much chance. Also, many Japanese were shocked after Japan’s surrender to hear of the emperor’s accepting McArthur’s order for the emperor to deny his divinity.

    Those in the grass roots of any organization who agitate for change should take heart from the fact that although more heirarchical societal organizations resist change, they can evolve quickly by fiat.

  40. John Taber on March 24, 2006 at 11:57 am

    “The analogy of the Church to the military is very appropriate in terms of understanding the hierarchy, centralization, chain of command, and how orders flow.”

    Except that in this case, the Commander-in-Chief (the Lord) is no closer to the prophets, seers, and revelators (at least by virtue of their positions) than He is to any other member. How many buck privates can send a message to President Bush and receive an immediate response?

WELCOME

Times and Seasons is a place to gather and discuss ideas of interest to faithful Latter-day Saints.