Inoculation Works

June 18, 2010 | 40 comments
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I finally picked up and read a copy of Simon Southerton’s Losing a Lost Tribe: Native Americans, DNA, and the Mormon Church (Signature, 2004) a couple of weeks ago. Yet I still attended church last week and have not drafted a resignation letter. Inoculation works.

There’s nothing particularly new in the book — it summarizes mainstream academic views about the origins of the native inhabitants of the Americas, reviews more recent DNA evidence that confirms the mainstream view, then critiques mainstream LDS beliefs about the Book of Mormon and the peopling of the Americas. It is not a book that should have stirred up much controversy. That it did suggests we LDS have a problem, but it’s not a DNA problem. Our problem can be described in two words: Correlation and inoculation.

Problems With Correlation

What is Correlation? It is an organizational unit within the LDS bureaucracy with a staff and a budget. What does it do? It reviews most or all material published by the LDS Church for compliance with whatever guidelines they are (hopefully) given by senior LDS leaders. Lesson 42 of the D&C and Church History manual lists six things that Correlation does:

  1. Maintaining purity of doctrine.
  2. Emphasizing the importance of the family and the home.
  3. Placing all the work of the Church under priesthood direction.
  4. Establishing proper relationships among the organizations of the Church.
  5. Achieving unity and order in the Church.
  6. Ensuring simplicity of Church programs and materials.

One problem with LDS Correlation is that it isn’t working. The doctrinal impurities Correlation is supposed to protect against would likely include unfounded speculation, personal opinion, and various folk doctrines that circulate among the membership or the leadership of the Church. Yet the Introduction to the most recent (1981) LDS edition of the Book of Mormon informs the reader that “the Lamanites … are the principal ancestors of the American Indians.” It’s not just scientists who would disagree with this claim — LDS apologists uniformly tell us this principal ancestors statement is not warranted by the actual text of the Book of Mormon and that critics like Southerton are incorrect in taking that statement to represent the official LDS view. But if that statement is not the official LDS view and is not warranted by the text of the Book of Mormon, what is it doing in the Introduction? Isn’t this exactly the sort of statement Correlation is supposed to detect and edit out before it is published? If Correlation can’t catch a whopper like that, what’s the point?

A second problem with Correlation is that it has unintentionally elevated the status of curriculum manuals. Now, it seems, all such materials are assumed to carry the Correlation seal of approval, which some members seem to think is equivalent to a claim of prophetic inerrancy for every statement in the manual. The natural consequence of this heightened expectation is a good deal of defensive editing by the Correlators. Given that the best way to avoid saying something incorrect is to avoid saying anything at all, it is not surprising that manuals entirely avoid most controversial topics. Somehow, this elevated expectation needs to be recalibrated so manuals aren’t taken to be “statements of the Brethren.” Only then will some editorial space be opened up for badly needed substantive discussions of potentially troubling issues. Wouldn’t we rather have the membership encounter these issues on friendly turf (Sunday School class) than from unfriendly sources in some other forum or book?

Problems With Inoculation

Inoculation refers to any proposal to systematically provide helpful and accurate information about troubling LDS doctrinal and historical issues to members of the Church so they aren’t taken by surprise when presented with such information from unfriendly sources. Obviously, this is no silver bullet. Done poorly, inoculation solution could be worse than the present state of affairs. Even done well, it’s not clear there is much net benefit to be had. What keeps inoculation on the menu is the conviction that, with negative information so widely available via the Internet, something must be done. But what?

Obviously, curriculum materials are the best option for presenting helpful material to the general membership of the Church. Perhaps personal accounts showing how real people encountered controversial issues, then dealt with or resolved that issue, is the mildest way to proceed. “When reading my daughter’s high school textbook, I was troubled to learn that most scientists think all Native Americans came from Asia rather than the Middle East …” To really put some meat in the manual, let qualified onymous authors write chapters or entire manuals rather than the present practice of anonymous authors (or, even worse, committees of anonymous authors). By naming authors, the inference that senior LDS leaders are approving and adopting every published word will be gently refuted and editorial space will be created to carefully address troubling issues. This is not a radical suggestion — once upon a time, LDS manuals were written by single authors who were identified by name.

However, it’s not necessarily the case that inoculation needs to be directed at all members of the Church. Material discussing troubling issues could be included only in English-language materials, for example. This would avoid the tricky problem of explaining to Saints in South and Central America that they are not really Lamanites (although better they hear it in church than when reading a translated copy of Losing a Lost Tribe). Of course, any attempt to segregate the curriculum market and deliver additional material to some segments but not others would need to sidestep the Correlation push toward a simplified and uniform one-size-fits-all curriculum (see items 5 and 6 in the Correlation organizational goals listed above).

Perhaps a more promising approach would be to integrate material discussing troubling issues with the Institute curriculum, as the young and restless college-age cohort is most likely to benefit from the material. Some might think that CES is part of the problem rather than part of the solution, but I have been impressed with the Institute teachers I have met. They almost certainly deal on a regular basis with students who have troubling questions or who have been confronted with material critical of LDS doctrines or beliefs. I think they would likely welcome and appreciate material in the curriculum directed at tough doctrinal or historical issues.

Please add your own ideas for how inoculation might work. Do you agree that something must be done? If so, what?

PS: LDS responses to Losing a Lost Tribe are available at FAIR (the DNA and the Book of Mormon page lists many helpful links), FARMS (a review of and response to Losing a Lost Tribe), and Jeff Lindsay’s site (Does DNA evidence refute the Book of Mormon?). The LDS Newsroom even has a DNA and the Book of Mormon page. Southerton has posted a response to the review published by FARMS.

40 Responses to Inoculation Works

  1. Liz Busby on June 18, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    Um, the online edition of the Book of Mormon has the new official text, as of a few years ago, I think, which reads “they are among the ancestors of the American Indians.” (http://scriptures.lds.org/en/bm/introduction) Have print copies not been updated? I realize that most church members will have older copies, but things have to change more slowly with printed books than with e-texts.

  2. J. Stapley on June 18, 2010 at 5:00 pm

    Enjoyed your thoughts, Dave. I’m glad that you have had good interactions with CES folks. That is encouraging. CES has often not given me similar encouragement.

    The interview with Elder and Sis. Oaks on lds-radio, highlights some of the international challenges that correlation is trying to meet. Complexity is something they aren’t interested in, I think. So inoculation is likely going to come outside of its imprimatur.

  3. L-d Sus on June 18, 2010 at 5:16 pm

    Dave,

    My idea? Dave should write a concise book called: “Inoculation for LDS: A Faithful Approach to the World Outside of Correlation.”

    I would buy a copy (as long as it was autographed).

  4. Paradox on June 18, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    Correlation works just fine. The purpose of it isn’t to make the membership a bunch of intellectuals to our critics. Our critics don’t deserve such attention in light of the greater work we have to do. If anything, correlation has a job to keep us from becoming people who think that what we know is more important than what we do.

    We have something greater to offer the world than historical claims and arguments. We have the authority of God Himself to build His kingdom. We have the power to heal His children and prepare them for the Second Coming. Our greatest problem isn’t that we don’t know enough. Our problem is that we as a membership need to be more valiant in the cause of Christ before the Church can lead us all–together–to where we need to go.

    As a young member of the Church to whom so many of these intellectual efforts are directed, I find them quite frustrating. Where the Nephites lived and what evidence we have to argue the point doesn’t make anyone a better Christian. We need teachers and manuals that teach us how to come more sincerely and readily to Christ. Anything that doesn’t do that for us directly enough is a waste of time.

  5. Jared on June 18, 2010 at 6:18 pm

    Dave said:

    “Inoculation refers to any proposal to systematically provide helpful and accurate information about troubling LDS doctrinal and historical issues to members of the Church so they aren’t taken by surprise when presented with such information from unfriendly sources.”

    In my opinion, there are two types of “inoculation”:

    1. Acquiring some kind of manifestation from the Holy Ghost that is sufficient to create a genuine testimony of the restoration of the gospel through Joseph Smith (Moroni 10:4-5.

    2. The kind you outlined above.

    I’ve experienced both kinds. Having done so I can say both are important, but the first kind opens the door to greater, and greater Spiritual growth and experience.

  6. Matt Evans on June 18, 2010 at 6:20 pm

    I think inoculation is too complicated to pull off. Given my experience discussing challenging issues with members, my sense is that for the majority of people the most effective approach is to simply assure them that the brethren are intelligent and well-educated, and since the brethren still believe the church to be true there’s no reason for members to bother investigating issues that would only confuse them. Not very satisfying to me, but it seems to work for lots of people.

    Now of course it could be that the reason it’s so hard for most members to weigh challenging information in the first place is due to Correlation, and the accompanying message to be wary of anything not approved by Correlation. Presumably members would feel free to discuss Joseph Smith’s polyandry, for example, if that had been the subject of the Sunday School lesson. (It is fun to imagine the perpetual Sunday School question, “How can understanding ____________ help us to apply the gospel in our own lives today?” when the blank is “Joseph Smith’s polyandry.”)

    It seems to me that the weakness of inoculation is that all of the main controversies have enough controversial pieces that it would be impossible to address them all, and that as members encounter these controversial pieces later they’d still be left to wonder if the church had withheld the controversial information because they had no response; that there was something to hide.

  7. DavidH on June 18, 2010 at 7:07 pm

    I don’t think institute teachers are the challenge in CES as much as the manuals, many of which are outdates and heavily reflect the doctrinal views of brethren who are no longer in the leadership of the church.

  8. Geoff J on June 18, 2010 at 7:10 pm

    If Correlation can’t catch a whopper like that, what’s the point?

    Word.

  9. Geoff J on June 18, 2010 at 7:14 pm

    Although I must thank Liz Busby for pointing out the fact that apparently the Correlation committee finally did catch and amend that whopper. I didn’t know that until today.

  10. John Mansfield on June 18, 2010 at 7:44 pm

    Inoculation is a popular metaphor, but how valid is the mapping. Are we triggering our antibodies by feeding ourselves weakened, dead forms of information instead of the real thing, which would kill us? Or are we doing it like 18th Century small pox inoculation, where the patient experiences the full disease, approached in strong, healthy state under a physician’s watchful eye? Perhaps the pathogen is more like heavy metal poisoning, for which the proper regime is: avoid contact, good nutrition to reduce uptake into the cells, and in severe cases, measures to metabolize the substance out of our body.

  11. D.H. on June 18, 2010 at 7:53 pm

    Presumably members would feel free to discuss Joseph Smith’s polyandry, for example, if that had been the subject of the Sunday School lesson.

    You mean JS shared Emma with other men? I hadn’t heard that one, or did you men polygyny?

    I finally picked up and read a copy of Simon Southerton’s Losing a Lost Tribe: Native Americans, DNA, and the Mormon Church (Signature, 2004) a couple of weeks ago. Yet I still attended church last week and have not drafted a resignation letter. Inoculation works.

    Yeah, I was “foolish” enough to expose myself to any anti-mormon literature I could get a hold of on my mission. And, like you, have yet to draft a resignation letter. :-)

  12. Ben S on June 18, 2010 at 8:38 pm

    Very nicely expressed, Dave. I’m in agreement with much of what you say.

    “I don’t think institute teachers are the challenge in CES as much as the manuals” True, but I’ve never seen anyone at BYU or CES actually *use* or require the manuals. The problem may be that the manuals are still often reflective of the/a CES mindset.

    I’ve had little experience with CES (only took 1 class in my life, as a freshman,)except in my years of volunteer teaching, and I’ve never had anyone put the kibosh on me.

    I think “primary ancestors” is a meaningless statement, though apparently many people don’t realize that it implies a plurality. But how does one determine which ancestors are the “primary” ones? Patrilineal? It really doesn’t make a lot of sense.

    #11- See here for polyandry.http://en.fairmormon.org/Polyandry

  13. Kaimi Wenger on June 18, 2010 at 8:57 pm

    D.H.

    Joseph Smith and Brigham Young married a modest number of women who were married to other men. This is generally referred to as polyandry (though it’s not polyandry in the broader sense of women actively seeking additional partners, rather it’s a particular, more narrowly constrained type of polyandry). The numbers are up for debate sometimes, but most scholars agree that Joseph had about ten polyandrous wives. Some were married to nonmembers. Others were married to prominent church members (such as Orson Hyde’s wife).

    There is no agreement on further details.

    Critics have a field day with polyandry — Joseph as a womanizer chasing married women. Apologists generally argue that there is no evidence of sexual relations in most of these marriages; that some of the marriages involved women married to nonmembers or less active members; and that the marriages may have had dynastic functions of linking families to Joseph’s tribe.

  14. D.H. on June 18, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    Thnx for the clarification. I haven’t studied much into this topic so I didn’t realize some of the women they married were still married to other men. Wow, living arrangements must have gotten confusing back then. lol

  15. WVS on June 18, 2010 at 10:26 pm

    I don’t think the Church is ready for “commission attrition.” They prefer “omission attrition.” There would be a certain casualty rate I suppose with systematic inoculation. And has been pointed out, it’s a process that may require customization, at least in the post vaccination period. That in itself is a can-o-worms. Can you imagine the “ordinary Mormon” committee selected from the Wasatch Front units to write the new manual on Ungospel Principles? The “inoculation” would be breathtaking. As it is, even in CES there are very wide variations in opinion on any number of questions. Any such system of inoculation would seem to inevitably generate “Salt Lake Unsavory” explanations on the ground in CES, say, let alone in Sunday School.
    That’s in the nature of open-ended problems. Not saying I wouldn’t enjoy a bit wider ranging discussion in Sunday school. The skill level of instruction makes this unlikely I think. But interesting idea, Dave.

  16. WVS on June 18, 2010 at 10:30 pm

    Meant to write,- “omission attrition” if they have to have any at all. -

  17. Brian-A on June 18, 2010 at 11:23 pm

    The ToPotC: Joseph Smith manual used last year contains a paragraph with both good and bad examples of inoculation within the Church curriculum. Page 315 briefly describes the apostasy in Kirtland in 1837 and mentions several hundred members left. It explains, “Some blamed Church leaders for economic problems caused by the failure of a Kirtland financial institution established by Church members. This failure occurred in 1837…” The texts omits that Joseph Smith was one of those founding Church members and that he had predicted its success.

    I don’t know which is less scandalous: the magnitude of apostasy or Joseph’s shortcomings as a financial analyst. Yet, after the lesson, hearing about the size of the Kirtland apostasy shouldn’t upset anyone, but I’d understand someone learning about Joseph’s predictions feeling annoyed that something had been withheld. (Lest I withhold anything, I’ll mention Brigham Young much later backed some of the bank notes with gold to fulfill Joseph’s statement about the notes one day trading at full value.)

    Neither the inoculation the manual performed nor the one it didn’t required a special lesson, distracting tangents, or considerable time. Rather the manual writers had to go out of the way to avoid mentioning Joseph’s role in the Kirtland Safety Society. I think their approach with the size issue was better: give brief, accurate information when a subject is relevant instead of avoiding it as though it was a source of shame.

    Comments 11-14 form another good example of how this can work here. T&S practices what it preaches.

  18. Paul on June 19, 2010 at 12:28 am

    I once learned a lesson that I have been able to apply to my own life. In my previous ward, a graduate student in my ward sent me an email saying he was leaving the church because of historical issues. He was willing to meet with me and the bishop to talk about it. In the discussion, the bishop was able to perceive that in this case the real issue was personal discouragement and was able to help my friend understand this in a gentle but very powerful way. Some inspired encouraging advice about how to deal with his personal life was enough to help him get past this crisis and my friend worked things out pretty well. The coupling between how we feel about historical issues and the emotional issues of our personal lives is often strong. This means that each person has an individual response to each historical issue and the pain caused by a historical issue might be related to personal events in our lives. My issues with the brethren, for example, are more closely related to trust issues that developed in my childhood than anything they have done or said. At best inoculation would be like a preliminary version of a flu shot: it would only help some of the people who got it and it would not immunize against lots of other nasty diseases. I think that faith in the Savior is the best inoculation and also the best cure, and that is where the general authorities are pointing us.

  19. Dale on June 19, 2010 at 8:22 am

    How can inoculation against something that is clearly true be a positive thing? Isn’t the truth supposed to set us free?

  20. Brian-A on June 19, 2010 at 8:56 am

    Inoculation refers to any proposal to systematically provide helpful and accurate information about troubling LDS doctrinal and historical issues to members of the Church so they aren’t taken by surprise when presented with such information from unfriendly sources.

    This sentence from the original post does a good job identifying the pathogen and the antidote. The inoculation isn’t against doctrine or historical facts, it is against the misrepresentation of them and the feeling that they’ve been covered up.

  21. James Olsen on June 19, 2010 at 9:41 am

    Dave, I enjoyed your post and think you’re raising very important ideas. Reflected in this overall discussion, however, I see the potential for an approach to inoculation that mirrors the damaging impact of the institutional minimalization of substance that you mention: a belief that tailored and selective messages will be of benefit to rank & file who aren’t capable of handling everything (i.e., I see this position reflected in a number of the comments, though your post doesn’t explicitly ward against it). Understanding inoculation as giving the members pieces or casually/carefully acknowledging historical facts in a buttressed fashion, so that they’ll be alright, is a relevant possibility when one assumes that rank & file really are too weak and silly to handle knowing what we know or to struggle through what we’ve struggled through. I really do think that the conviction of self-superiority vs. rank & file inferiority is at the root of the institutional problem.

    I think your ideas concerning onymous and well-qualified authors writing manuals within an healthy editorial space is a great suggestion, as is the biographical bit. Matt Evan’s comment about referring to our educated Brethren is just as potent, sometimes more so, given more personal biographies to refer to. I’m convinced that the best policy is rigorous candor and honest dialogue coupled with a multiplicity of unofficial biographical accounts. In this sort of an atmosphere, inoculation isn’t really even the right word – it’s a form of straightforward immunity – not by gritting one’s teeth and ignoring the facts, but simply by being fully informed and recognizing that the facts not only fail to close off the possibility of faith, but that lack of faith has no greater normative foothold than faith when rigorously confronting the facts.

  22. Dave on June 19, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    Thanks for all the comments.

    Matt(#6), I agree that giving detailed or even general responses on troubling issues isn’t what many people need or want. That’s what makes inoculation so problematic.

    John(#10), I use “inoculation” as a handy term, but you are correct that pushing the medical metaphor is not paricularly helpful.

    WVS(#15), I think you are right that how a manual that gives expanded coverage to troubling issues would actually be planned and written — within the existing curriculum arrangements in the Church, which is what we have to work with — is a challenge. But it would be fun to see what they came up with if asked to write an Ungospel Principles manual.

    Brian-A(#17), that’s a nice example. Add some detail and multiply, and we might get somewhere.

    Paul(#18), I think it’s wrong when some people explain every exit as an example of the person leaving being offended. But I believe you are correct that many who get hung up over troubling issues do so because of an experience in their personal or family history makes them sensitive to that issue. Good for your bishop for helping someone work through a problem.

    James(#21), I suppose that whether one is withholding information from the general membership (by omitting issues from the manuals) or trying to do inoculation by presenting information on selected issues presents a danger of adopting a condescending attitude. On the other hand, I think it is true that most people, especially youth, just aren’t that interested, at least until they get hit with an issue and suddenly want answers. My stock commentary on the matter is: Just try to get a teenager (or college kid) to read a book-length history of the Church. Maybe if you could tweet a history of the Church …

  23. Jared* on June 19, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    I think the Newsroom page on DNA and the Book of Mormon is a nice example of how inoculation (or whatever) could work. It links to a number of outside sources of information with the disclaimer, “The following are not official Church positions or statements. They are simply information resources from authors with expertise in this area that readers may find helpful.”

    This shows that the Church is aware of controversial issues while allowing it to avoid getting involved in the details, it provides potentially helpful information, and it cultivates a sense that it’s OK to look beyond correlated materials to find answers to questions.

  24. anonymous on June 19, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    see i had a different problem. On the mission i read the scriptures, and began to notice where the correlated lessons teach mormon culture and not what the BoM says, thats my personal beef.

  25. John C. on June 19, 2010 at 2:29 pm

    anonymous,
    I don’t believe you. Correlation teaches a way to read the scriptures (albeit only one of many). It is grounded in the scriptures. That you approach them differently does not indicate that the Curriculum department is ignoring scripture.

  26. Kevin Barney on June 19, 2010 at 5:31 pm

    Interesting post, Dave. (And I’m with you on the onymous manuals; I have some of the old ones that belonged to my father, and they’re terrific, much better than what we’ve gotten the past several decades.)

    I’m an advocate for inoculation. That feeling is grounded in my personal experience; I’ve done a lot of it on my own motion in church classrooms and i’ve had very good success with it. I feel as though I could teach even the very hardest issues to a GD class. Being taught those things in a faithful, supportive environment makes all the difference in the world.

    So I know it can be done, if approached with a great deal of sensitivity. But there’s the rub; I can well imagine people trying to do such a thing ham-handedly and making a royal mess of it.

    I’m not sure what the right institutional approach should be, I just know that in individual cases it can work really well.

  27. Daniel Peterson on June 19, 2010 at 5:54 pm

    “I’m an advocate for inoculation. That feeling is grounded in my personal experience; I’ve done a lot of it on my own motion in church classrooms and i’ve had very good success with it. I feel as though I could teach even the very hardest issues to a GD class. Being taught those things in a faithful, supportive environment makes all the difference in the world.”

    For what it’s worth, I strongly agree with the above.

  28. Julie M. Smith on June 19, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    The risk of inoculation is that the _scholarly theory_ that we offer to explain the problem will be confused with the _eternal truths_ in the rest of the lesson. The solution to this problem is to offer multiple theories as part of the inoculation. A sturdy pattern to follow is this: “Some people think there is a conflict between X and Y. Possible solutions to that paradox include A, B, and C.”

    I’ve seen up close what a lack of inoculation can do to the testimony of friends and family. It isn’t pretty. Too many good people have already been lost to the Church (and the Church lost to them) because they got a blank look from an Institute teacher instead of reassurance that plenty of people who are still active in the Church have known about X and Y forever.

  29. BHodges on June 19, 2010 at 7:39 pm

    Dave, thanks for this short and useful discussion, and thanks to the people who have piped in with their own perspectives. I anticipate that this subject will be in the back of my mind fir a while.

  30. BHodges on June 19, 2010 at 7:39 pm

    *For a while.

  31. Naismith on June 19, 2010 at 8:10 pm

    I know that I always bring this up, but there is a whole body of research on how this principle of social inoculation works in other fields, notably health marketing and political communication.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inoculation_theory

    I would love to see a randomized study with new converts to provide data to back up our stories. And one of the thing these scientific articles point out, which Julie touched on, is that it must be done carefully.

    Also, one of the non-official LDS-oriented publishers came out with a “Setting the Record Straight” series of paperbacks on some of the common controversies (available from Amazon). I haven’t read them all but Marcus Martins wrote the one on blacks & the priesthood, and we’ve found it very helpful.

    And I love correlation in principle. Last Sunday I attended church in a small branch in Indonesia, and it was so cool that they were having the same Sunday School and RS lessons as at home.

  32. D.H. on June 19, 2010 at 10:44 pm

    Naismith:
    I think you can also get them from deseret book. I haven’t had the chance to pick any up, but I’ve definitely coveted them. :-) (uh oh, broke the 10th commandment)

  33. SUNNofaB.C.Rich on June 19, 2010 at 11:34 pm

    At first I thought this was going to be about getting vaccinated, but it turned out to be about something infinitely more boring…

  34. Kaimi Wenger on June 20, 2010 at 2:28 pm

    Inoculation causes autism and ADHD! This blog won’t tell you the truth, because they are in the pocket of the FAIRmaceutical industry!

    Sorry, couldn’t resist. :)

  35. D.H. on June 20, 2010 at 6:41 pm

    #34: now thats funny! :)

  36. Aaron R. on June 21, 2010 at 5:14 am

    Like many others, I agree that onymous and area-specific manuals would be an excellent idea.

    In addition I want to add a few thoughts. Inoculation seems to require two different processes depending upon the group we are speaking to. For example, I think one approach to inoculation for our youth is to just simply re-write the seminary and youth manuals. My reasoning is that if we raise the next generation with this material then I suspect they will be not ‘shocked’ or surprised when they learn some of the ‘controversial issues’. In addition this will also provide a context where teachers are being taught through manuals directed toward our youth (i.e. not the adult material of GD) these issues. I think this would actually create a space were they will be inclined to accept and learn about these issues in a way where they would except themselves to remain faithful (because it is for the youth).

    The second approach for adults would be different. I think the first step requires that once a lesson, instead of asking a question where the answer is scripted.we ask a question which highlights ambiguity and allow this question to be discussed.

    I think inoculation is not so much about sharing specific ideas about encouraging diverse ways of thinking.

  37. D.H. on June 21, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    I just remembered a discussion I had with my wife earlier this year along the lines of correlation and inoculation. I was asked to substitute teach in the EQ one Sunday and the lesson from the GP book was the Fall of Adam. To prepare for the lesson, I grabbed my copy of the Catholic Catechism, Articles of Faith by Talmage, and one of my Hugh Nibley books to see what they said. My wife got concerned because, from what she had seen, I had hardly even opened the actual lesson manual and she brought up that we’re supposed to stick to the manual. I had looked through the manual, it was a super-short lesson, so I decided to use it as a starting point. She still wasn’t keen on the idea, but I brought them anyways and did use them and everybody thought it was a great lesson. (religiously, she’s a little more conservative than I am).

  38. Brad Dennis on June 22, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    Thanks for the article Dave. I really like how you distinguish between inoculation and correlation.

    Correlation can only do so much. It can really only establish basic and foundational beliefs. The people at signature books offer more nuanced and academic approaches to Mormon history and the Book of Mormon to which correlation cannot fully deal with. The hope is that through a business approach, some blanket answers can be developed that will save the core membership.

    But I disagree that the church should make an effort towards inoculation. By having different authors write chapters in church manuals may constitute a minor threat to the authoritativeness of church statements. While I myself, having almost received a PhD, am comfortable with ambiguity and recognize that not all that is said in church manuals is necessarily authoritative, most of the church membership does not see it that way. In addition a part of me feels uncomfortable with the likes of Hugh Nibley and FARMS gaining more authoritativeness among the main body of the church. While they provide some interesting theories that some church members may accept as a way to negotiate tough issues in church history, they are reviseable and replaceable.

  39. Raymond Takashi Swenson on June 28, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    I have assumed that one of the explicit purposes of the Bloggernacle (including FAIR) is to perform the role of inoculating Latter-day Saints against the distorted versions of Church history and doctrine that are promulgated by anti-Mormons.

    One subject matter area where the Saints need more inoculation concerns science and religious belief. It becomes apparent every time a Gospel Doctrine class discusses the creation of the earth as discussed in Genesis and the Pearl of Great Price, that some members think that the Church is committed to a Fundamentalist Christian Speedy Creation interpretation of the scriptures. Many members are totally unaware of Brigham Young’s statements about the age of the earth and the lecture by James E. Talmage that was officially endorsed by the First Presidency along the same lines. I don’t recall that they are presented in the Seminary or Institute manuals. My sense is that there is a reluctance in the church curriculum production system to challenge the Speedy Creation mindset of so many members, even with such authoritative saources as those, and even though it ill equips them and their children and the people they teach to deal with the information of the sciences. Admittedly, having a scientifically credible understanding of the creation and Noah’s Flood is not an essential element of salvation and exaltation, but lacking such an understanding is certainly a major rationalization that members use when they apostatize, regardless of the other reasons they do so.

    When people confront the conflict between Speedy Creationism and science, they then have to try dealing with it on their own, taking the initiative to talk to a trusted Church leader, who may or may not be able to offer anything other than “I take it on faith”. We get pointed to the fact that Henry Eyring and other LDS scientists have found a resolution, without much insight into precisely what picture of the universe they held in their minds that is consistent with both science and the scriptures. Only if we take the initiative to visit the web sites of some LDS scientists do we get an understanding of how they confronted and resolved these issues.

    The Intelligent Design movement is largely, as I see it, an effort by scientifically educated Christians to seriously address the issue of how scientific knowledge accommodates Christian faith. Scientists like Michael Behe are explicit in rejecting Speedy Creationism, while nevertheless seeing plenty of reason to see evidence in scientific reality of the work of a Creator. It has been disappointing to see a number of LDS scientists adopting the (in my opinion unjustified and even at times dishonest) out-of-hand rejection of the arguments of Behe and other ID supporting scientists, rather than addressing them seriously from an LDS viewpoint. Most of all, that response does little or nothing to help an inquiring LDS student resolve the gap between the materialist view of science promoted by militant atheist and biologist Richard Dawkins and the testimony of the scriptures about the reality of God and our own eternal intelligences.

    Do Seminary and Institute instructors currently get training on how to deal with this issue? Those persons (like the National Center for Science Education and the National Science Foundation) who vehemently oppose any questioning of Darwinian Evolution in public school science classes often say that “Intelligent Design” is a religious issue that is more properly addressed in courses on religion and philosophy. We have such classes held every day across the US; are we taking up the slack of addressing this issue? I taught a home study seminary class for four years back in the mid-80s, but I don’t recall anyting in the curriculum or in the training given to instructors that addressed it.

    With this and other issues of controversy, at the very least we should make members of the Church aware that other members have dealt intelligently with the issues and that there are approaches to resolving them that amount to more than an endorsement of eternal cognitive dissonance, and point them to where they can find those faithful guides. One of the most basic things we should be teaching is that, quite often, the resolution of apparent conflicts between science and Church doctrine is better-developed science, and a more scientifically literate Church membership (as in the case of the alleged DNA vs. the Book of Mormon “controversy”). Any resolution that suggests it is better for one’s eternal welfare to remain scientifically ignorant should be clearly denounced as contrary to the Lord’s commandment to the Saints to learn about the reality we live in.

  40. Tim on June 30, 2010 at 11:19 am

    I’m sure it’s quite unintentional, but there’s something subtly racist about proposing inoculation materials only need to be printed in English.

    Perhaps you can clarify why you think only English readers need to be subjected to inoculation.