Correlation is Killing Sunday School

September 13, 2010 | 147 comments
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Once upon a time, there was Sunday School, an independent auxiliary whose officers were appointed by senior LDS leaders and whose primary task was to develop a Sunday School curriculum, and commission and supervise the writing of lesson manuals. They did a nice job. Then came Correlation.

Obviously, manuals are still being written and lessons are being taught. No, strike that — manuals are not being written. We are using Sunday School manuals written in the last century, recycled every four years. It is as if Correlation, having successfully shrunk the gospel of Jesus Christ down to a list of a few dozen gospel keywords, has now narrowed the LDS curriculum to a fixed set of lessons linked to the LDS standard works but driven and directed by the Correlation topic list. There is nothing new under the sun.

The Correlation approach also reflects a policy of simplifying (I won’t say dumbing down) the curriculum as apparently deemed appropriate for use by LDS units worldwide. But shrinking, narrowing, and simplifying has costs as well as benefits. Alternate views and broad discussions are dropped. The use of supplementary sources is strongly discouraged. There is surprisingly little care given to actually understanding the context, detail, or range of meanings of a given book or passage. Maximal literalism is the method of interpretation implicitly but invariably applied to every verse or narrative; most prompts for discussion in the manual are designed to encourage class members to talk about cheerfully and energetically fulfilling their church and family responsibilities.

Improvement Is Possible

I’m not complaining, or course, just offering ideas for improvement. You don’t have to look far. Rather than simply blather in generalities, let’s take a specific example that has received some attention lately (see here and here), the book of Jonah. Lesson 33 in the manual (titled “Sharing the Gospel with the World”) launches right into a discussion of the events depicted by the narrative; nowhere is there any discussion of the book itself. Who wrote it? The book is a third-person narrative, not pronouncements by Jonah. What genre is this? Unlike other prophetic books, there are no oracles or pronouncements apart from 3:4 (“Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned,” apparently the entirety of Jonah’s message to the citizens of Nineveh). None of this is discussed, even in passing.

Here’s what a few LDS scholars have to say. Sydney B. Sperry, in The Spirit of the Old Testament (2d ed., revised and enlarged, Deseret Book, 1980, p. 167) discusses “the character of the book of Jonah,” summarizing the view that it is historical, then the view that it is allegorical:

The allegorical or parabolic view holds the following: (a) The stay of Jonah in the belly of the fish for three days and nights is sufficiently extraordinary to warrant the suspicion of allegory. (b) The account of Ninehah’s conversion is very general and no attempt is made to describe precise events. The absence of precise data is very conspicuous throughout the Book of Jonah. (c) The abrupt close of the story when its moral becomes obvious very strongly points to symptoms of the parable.

Here’s from a more recent book, Jehovah and the World of the Old Testament (Deseret Book, 2009, sidebar on p. 278), by Holzapfel, Pike, and Seely:

There are various interpretations of Jonah among modern scholars. Most are content to read this story as a parable or allegory, arguing that the exaggerations in the text seem more like satire than history. Nineveh has been excavated and its ruins are at most three miles across, hardly the three days’ journey described by Jonah (Jonah 3:3). Jonah’s description of the Ninevites as well as their beasts fasting and repenting in sackcloth and ashes seems to be hyperbole and is not attested to anywhere outside the Bible. Some people, including most Latter-day Saints, continue to believe in the historical interpretation — that Jonah was a real prophet who made a journey to Nineveh and preached repentence there.

Even a more conservative LDS scholar (they’re all conservative; this one is more conservative) notes alternative interpretations while affirming the traditional view: “Many Bible critics consider the story of Jonah to be an allegory or a parable. However, Jesus said that Jonah preached repentance to Nineveh (Luke 11:29-32) and that the episode in the whale was a sign of Christ’s own death and resurrection.”

The Time Has Come

I think the bottom line is that, whatever the approach, technique, or agenda used by Correlation, the resulting Sunday School manuals need rewriting. A lesson on the book of Jonah … should talk about the book of Jonah, and likewise for other books. How else are Latter-day Saints going to learn how to read and understand the Bible? If LDS scholars publishing through Deseret Book (!!!) can give a discussion of genre (a preliminary topic for the discussion of any scriptural text), so can the manual. I know the LDS employees and volunteers who work in Correlation have good intentions, etc., but it’s time to tap some of the plentiful LDS scholarship out there to produce a better set of manuals. Better lessons equals better students of the scriptures equals better Latter-day Saints.

147 Responses to Correlation is Killing Sunday School

  1. DavidC on September 13, 2010 at 10:30 pm

    Was the list of keywords ever published anywhere? I don’t remember seeing it in Daymon’s posts. Maybe it would simplify things just to study the list.

  2. queuno on September 13, 2010 at 10:34 pm

    It’s not like the average member reads the material for the lesson, so what does it matter?

  3. Jack on September 13, 2010 at 10:36 pm

    Can anything good come out of Correlation?

  4. Chris H. on September 13, 2010 at 10:50 pm

    Amen.

  5. Dan on September 13, 2010 at 10:55 pm

    I’m with Chris.

  6. Rob Perkins on September 13, 2010 at 10:59 pm

    I’ve always thought the good intentions beyond “Correlation” had to do with winnowing down the body of concepts the Church leadership intends to be taught worldwide, to a point where it can be manageably translated into 30 or more non-English languages without loss of basic meaning. (Yes, I’ve read the BCC interviews on the matter.)

    This can have the effect of providing a solid enough context and basis from which to write scholarly works in more than one language; translating stuff from Deseret Book for audiences that small can’t be profitable.

    But it plays merry hob on attempts to teach those “Gospel Principles” lessons from the 2010 manual in a setting outside the Gospel Essentials classes, doesn’t it?

    Even so, anecdotally, I don’t think it’s ruined Sunday School; my ward’s teachers manage to give very insightful, informative, and doctrinally consistent lessons every week. Google and LDS.org are their friends.

  7. Jim F. on September 13, 2010 at 11:03 pm

    One alternative is to use the lesson materials as a beginning rather than an end. The teacher can take some responsibility to learn and to prepare and then teach the very materials assigned without merely repeating what is in the manual.

  8. wondering on September 13, 2010 at 11:18 pm

    How else are Latter-day Saints going to learn how to read and understand the Bible?

    What makes you think the correlation committee wants members “to read and understand the Bible?” The committee members aren’t stupid. If they give us materials that encourage us to use the Bible at a superficial proof-text level, to reinforce our faithfulness to the church and serve as a devotional aid, then the simplest explanation is that that is what they want us to do.

  9. Ken on September 13, 2010 at 11:43 pm

    All good points, especially in this year of Old Testament study. But here’s a point that veers slightly from the original topic: If we want members of the church to learn to appreciate and love the Bible, when are we going to get away from the King James Translation? In the time of Joseph Smith is was the best available. Not today. After 50+ years of reading KJT and all of its 17th and early 18th century English, loving it, but often finding it quaint to say the least, I’ve finally found a Bible translation that really opens it up: the New Revised Standard Version (get the Harper Collins Study Bible printing, which is fantastic). It’s made my understanding of Old Testament lessons this year so much richer. Wish I would have checked out NRSE years ago. We LDS are locked in KJT by tradition, and it’s long past the point of being a stumbling block.

  10. manaen on September 13, 2010 at 11:45 pm

    Excellent exposition of elitist elusion of understanding typical members’ needs and purpose of this class.
    .
    How else are Latter-day Saints going to learn how to read and understand the Bible?
    Question points to its answer, which is not in ninety-four half-hour class discussions across four years.

  11. Manuel on September 14, 2010 at 12:35 am

    “It’s not like the average member reads the material for the lesson, so what does it matter?”

    Speaking for myself, what this post describes is one of the reasons I no longer read the manual lessons. They are empty! I think the reading level used in the manuals points to correlation significantly underestimating the ability of average members to understand more complex views of ancient texts, cultures and doctrines.

  12. Mark D. on September 14, 2010 at 12:55 am

    What “wondering” said. In its present incarnation “Sunday School” is an dangerously close to an oxymoron. Anyone could learn more in ten minutes of actual reading than ten hours of Sunday School.

  13. aquinas on September 14, 2010 at 2:29 am

    If there is anything that has struck me the most about the plethora of posts on how the scriptures are taught in Church settings it has been the consistent point that people greatly desire better and higher quality teaching.

    Many see the problem and the solution to be found in the manual. As much as I would love to see better manuals, and as much as I do think better quality manuals might improve the situation, ultimately, I believe we shouldn’t put too much of our hope in manuals to raise the quality of gospel instruction. I’m skeptical of viewing the problem of gospel instruction as a problem with these things we call manuals. Even the most carefully written manual does not teach itself.

    In most cases, lessons only last thirty minutes, which means that most of the time, a large percentage of information in these correlated lesson manuals never gets taught. Many members don’t read the class member study guides or the teacher’s manual, and there are many who don’t really pay attention anyway.

    Poorly written manuals will never stop a great teacher from teaching with insight and passion. Even the best written manual, in the hands of an instructor who lacks a vision for teaching, would mean precious little. Elder Holland once pleaded, “Inspired teaching must never become a lost art in the Church, and we must make certain our quest for it does not become a lost tradition.” I could claim that it is a lost art and a lost tradition, and in the minds of many, I would be right. Yet, I still see the faces and hear the voices of teachers who have inspired me in my life. Great teachers are a rarity, but they do exist, because I’ve been greatly influenced by them.

    I completely sympathize with those who desire quality learning. For many members, Gospel instruction in church meetings is little more than ritual. The instructors ask the questions everyone expects to be asked, and the class members offer the answers that everyone is expected to give. We all know our assigned lines in The Play as we act it out every Sunday. It’s ritual, not learning. We’ve substituted “group readings” for “teaching”. Yet, I still can’t deny my experiences that despite these manuals, and despite this tradition of ritualized gospel instruction, great teachers exist and great lessons exist out there, and nothing, not even correlation, can stop them. They are a force even if their numbers are few.

    I realize my comment may sound to some as if I think producing better manuals is unimportant or a fruitless endeavor. That is not how I feel at all. I completely agree they should and can be improved. I wonder, however, whether correlation and the manuals it has produced has, at least in some cases, become the symbol (symptom or scapegoat) for what is in fact a deeper problem. I can’t imagine a Golden Age before Correlation where every lesson was well taught and good time was had by all. I can’t believe that lessons based on manuals written by Talmage, Widstoe, Barker, or Nibley, or by the auxiliaries were great simply because of the manual used. I’m sure many were dull, tedious and boring, because (and I think it’s easy to forget) no matter who writes the manual, it is still in the hands of the Instructor, that person who has an infinitely greater influence in determining the quality of Gospel instruction than any manual.

  14. cadams on September 14, 2010 at 5:22 am

    What’s important in the class manual are the chapter titles, the gospel principles, which are the keywords. There’s no need to read any text; we already know what’s in it. Just make a list of the keywords and do your own study each week. We don’t need textual commentary; we can do that on our own. We need inspired teachers and students who can teach and learn by the Spirit.

  15. Aaron R. on September 14, 2010 at 5:53 am

    aquinas, I agree, though I would like to add another dimension to your comment. I sense a schizophrenic feeling in the CoB when it comes to manuals. They are simplifying the material, and I think with good reason. In addition, I have heard that the hope of this simplifying is that it is easier to add complexity to a simple lesson than to simplify a compelx one. However, this same feeling is coupled with, as Dave rightly points out, counsel to avoid outside sources or deviating from the manual. Hence we are simplifying (in the hope that the people who can complexify will) and then refusing to allow them to complexify. Therefore I agree our manuals will change teaching, but changing the acceptable approaches to our manuals would make a difference, esp. for those teachers who can and should raise the level of discourse.

  16. Rameumptom on September 14, 2010 at 8:01 am

    Jim F #7, this assumes that the teacher is trained as a teacher. The manuals would not be so clumsy if we put effort into actually training teachers. The train the teacher course isn’t a bad one, but is only a beginning, and not an end to itself. It does not stop teachers from just opening the manual and reading directly from it, without giving any additional thought to it. I shudder when I think of all those high priest groups who will be taught that tithing is taking one out of every ten pennies and giving it to the Lord. The manual can be clumsy, but a strong teacher can go in a different direction for the audience: how does paying tithes teach us obedience or to live a Christ-like life, or how has it opened windows of heaven for individuals?

  17. Coffinberry on September 14, 2010 at 8:38 am

    I see others have made a similar point to mine: The problem is really in the teaching skills of the teacher.

  18. RT on September 14, 2010 at 8:49 am

    I’m with aquinas. I have seen a stunningly large difference in the quality of GD classes–but the difference really seems to be about the quality of the teachers, not the manuals (after all-the good ones and the bad ones are both using the same book, right?).

    Given that we’re a lay ministry church, though, that’s to be expected…perhaps inevitable. There are only so many naturally capable teachers in any given ward, and those few tend to be spread around to other callings anyways.

    Incidentally, I think the problem is much more pronounced during the OT year. I think it’s much easier for a bad teacher to deal with the more accessible books of scripture than the OT, which really doesn’t lend itself to easily digestible insights.

  19. R. Gary on September 14, 2010 at 8:55 am

    I seriously doubt Church curriculum writers are self appointed doctrinal tyrants. I believe they’re selected by and do the bidding of senior LDS leaders — the First Presidency and the Twelve — who hold the keys of doctrine. I suspect we only kid ourselves if we think senior LDS leaders are not themselves responsible for Church manuals.

  20. Paul on September 14, 2010 at 8:59 am

    I’ll use the “dumbing down” phrase, if nobody else will. Insipid SS lessons are to be expected, given the manual the instructor is expected to follow. It is not only a matter of teaching skills – no nuanced or non-literal meaning of a scriptural passage is to be taught.

    The SS lessons, like those for RS & PH, are reduced to key words.

  21. RT on September 14, 2010 at 9:02 am

    As an addendum to my previous post–assuming that the quality of the teachers really matters that much, that raises an interesting priorities problem for bishoprics. Every ward seems to have a certain pool of really outstanding people who will excel in any calling. So do you spread them out, or do you always keep certain core callings filled with those people? In one of our previous wards, for example, the bishopric seemed to have very consciously loaded up the YM/YW program with those people. It made sense–we obviously need the youth to be taken care of–but the other auxiliaries suffered as a result.

    Here, the GD teaching problems could probably be solved if bishoprics consciously put the best people there. But if the best people are needed elsewhere, you invariably end up with people teaching GD who really aren’t very well suited for the calling. Which seems to be part of the problem, no?

  22. Gwenydd Mccoy on September 14, 2010 at 9:04 am

    oh the joys of being the primary pianist!!!

  23. John C. on September 14, 2010 at 9:08 am

    R. Gary,
    As I understand it, senior priesthood in curriculum decisions is present but limited (usually just 2 or 3 general authorities participate in the process). Which isn’t to say that they aren’t influential, but the notion that all the apostles and the members of the first presidency had a direct hand in the development and approval of the manuals is inaccurate. Not that that necessarily matters, but I figured I’d better point it out.

    All,
    Of course, better teachers result in better classes. But the manuals are terrible. At best, they provide you with something to talk about if you have had no time to prepare. Usually, people just don’t prepare as a result. As Jim F. notes, they should define the beginning of preparation, not the limits of it.

    They are bad, in particular, because they are designed to get you to say answer “a” instead of to get you to think about and apply scripture to your life. There are application questions in the manual, but they tend toward the vague and the universal, often resulting in thoughtless, bland answers that do nothing to stir the soul of the teacher, the answerer, or the class.

    For beginning teachers, a slightly more rigorous instruction period would be helpful, but I don’t recommend that we use the standardized course in Teaching, no greater call. Instead, just read the scriptures with the teachers. It will do a world of good.

    Dave,
    You know, of course, that I agree with you.

  24. Ben S on September 14, 2010 at 9:30 am

    I was once told at BYU that we’re not teaching the scriptures; we’re teaching the Gospel *through* the scriptures. Well, yes and no. Too often it seems we ignore the weekly passages in favor of the Gospel, probably because we can ramble about the latter without doing any preparation.

    I happened to be in my old home ward once during a lesson on some chapters from Isaiah. The teacher did a decent job, but the comments all tended in one direction. By typical GD standards, it was probably quite good. But afterwards, as I walked out, one man asked me, “why didn’t you say anything about Isaiah?”

    “We didn’t talk about Isaiah. We took some phrases that sounded like familiar LDS principles, discussed those, and then decided that’s what Isaiah was really talking about in the first place.”

    I think, particularly with the OT, that you can get some good meaty lessons on the scriptures that also naturally include Gospel discussions within them.

    I’m now the SS president, and taught Hosea last week, and had some good stuff on 6:6 which was very applicable to us today. I’m also planning on doing a teacher training series (based mostly on Teaching: No Greater Call) in which I’ll be handing out a series of links to blogposts like this one .

  25. R. Gary on September 14, 2010 at 9:39 am

    John C, the number of senior leaders who review and approve the manual is not the issue here. Those two senior quorums have their own procedures in place for supervising and authorizing what is published in the name of the Church. The important thing is that they, not the writers, are responsible for the result.

  26. BTD Greg on September 14, 2010 at 9:46 am

    So, if a Gospel Doctrine teacher (say, for example, me) decided to start a discussion of whether we should look at the story of Jonah as historical or allegorical, even though this isn’t one of the suggested questions in the lesson manual, should that Gospel Doctrine be considered rogue?

    More to the point, is this why I was dismissed from my Gospel Doctrine calling (probably the only church calling I’ve ever truly loved) and quietly reassigned to the primary. And have never been asked back, even so much as to substitute. (Don’t get me wrong, I like being in primary. There’s no better place for a priesthood holder to fly under the radar.)

  27. Ben S on September 14, 2010 at 9:57 am

    Greg, I think this varies based on approach and local leadership. I taught Jonah to the youth and adults with my SP in attendance, and flatly stated my own belief that Jonah was a parable and why. I wasn’t rebuked in public or private, fwiw, but I have experience presenting my views in the most palatable way possible; hide behind little-known GA opinions, like that of the First Presidency on Jonah and Job, which I printed off and handed out to the class.

    My lesson and thoughts here and here.

  28. Dave on September 14, 2010 at 9:59 am

    Thanks for the comments, everyone.

    Jim F. (#7), I certainly agree the manual should be the jumping off point for teacher preparation. It would be nice if the manual provided some basic background material to the instructor and actually encouraged broad preparation.

    Ken (#9), I agree the KJV seems like more of an obstacle than an invitation to undertanding. I use the NIV study bible, and still kick myself for not springing $15 for a Harper Collins NRSV study bible on the discount table at Benchmark Books last year.

    RT (#21), getting the right person to teach the gospel doctrine class is a challenge. Not all wards have “the right person,” and I respect anyone (whether right for the calling or not) who accepts the call and does their best to teach the class. But it’s nice when local leaders find a way to call someone who can bring something extra to the class and the calling.

  29. Brad Dennis on September 14, 2010 at 10:07 am

    Dave,

    You make some good points, but I would still like to make the case for correlation in writing church scripture manuals.

    1. With regard to scripture there is a crisis surrounding how allegorical or literal we should interpret them, and correlation helps keep us from becoming too embroiled in that crisis. While I think that the Book of Jonah can be convincingly presented as allegory for most church members, what do we do with other scriptures where there is no consensus over whether they are allegorical or not? For instance was the Great Deluge global, local, or merely allegorical? Is the Book of Mormon a word-for-word translation of an ancient text, an approximated translation, Mormon’s reading of history, or Joseph Smith’s injection of his own ideas in response to nineteenth century religious debates? As you suggest, correlation may indeed tend to maximize literal interpretations, but it only to play it safe and avoid arousing controversy. If anything, I think that correlation leaves many such questions open.

    2. Correlation at least provides consistency and helps stem the rise of extreme interpretive trends. While I would openly welcome a Sunday school with an instructor who had the mind of Sidney Sperry, I fear the rise of extreme trends that could occur if the church does not tell bishops to enforce adherence to correlated material. Take John Pratt of Meridian magazine for instance. An astronomer at UVU, he is a well respected thinker on the relationship between the gospel and science, but I find many of his ideas quite frightful, to say the least. In his articles in Meridian magazine he has introduced the notion that there is a Bible code secretly embedded in the Old Testament which can be used to predict future events. He has drawn the connection between the natural disasters and the gay rights movement. And he openly and staunchly promotes the notion of a 6,000 year-old human history. Correlation may be sterile, but while it does keep what I consider more enlightened theories of scripture from rising to the surface it helps prevent the rise and tide of more extreme scriptural views from spreading.

    3. The church must ultimately abandon its quest to provide the most correct interpretation of scripture. First in my opinion it cannot feasibly compete with outside scholarship in developing an authoritative understand of scripture without coming into conflict of its own scattered amalgam of past teachings. Second it cannot expect its masses of followers to understand scripture on a scholarly, or even pseudo-scholarly level. It needs to make the scriptures applicable to all and stress the issue of personalization. It needs to make scriptures tangible, palatable, and livable. The church is best off promoting a sort of Mormon Sufism rather than the development of Mormon theology or legalism.

    So I am behind correlation on the construction of church manuals, not because it provides sufficient answers to questions, but because it places the focus on lifestyle and off of interpretive controversies.

  30. Dave on September 14, 2010 at 10:17 am

    Ben S. (#27), thanks for the advice. I certainly don’t advocate an “in your face” approach to alternative interpretations or topics in class. The quotations I included by LDS scholars in the main post are notable for the diplomacy and tact with which alternative interpretations are presented. I recommend that approach for teachers. Blog discussions tend to be a little more wide open than class discussions.

    But I also think that the narrowing and simplifying approach that has gathered its own momentum the last couple of decades is assuming and even enshrining as fixed policy certain conservative views about scripture that have never been adopted by the LDS Church or senior LDS leaders as a group. We do not affirm scriptural inerrancy. We have not adopted Young Earth Creationism as doctrine. Literal interpretations are sometimes misinterpretations of scripture. It’s not like there is One True Interpretation to every verse or passage of scripture.

    Even the LDS Bible Dictionary (!!!) is broader than the manual, noting that the “present book of Jonah does not claim to be from the hand of the prophet” and calling the book “a beautiful poem.” It cites the two New Testament verses where Jesus refers to Jonah, but not as a proof of the historicity of the story, noting simply that “the story of Jonah was referred to by our Lord on two occasions.”

  31. Chet on September 14, 2010 at 10:19 am

    I made the “keywords” comment in Ward Council recently; it was not well-received.

  32. Jonathan Green on September 14, 2010 at 10:29 am

    Dave, what do you think would be the ratio of inspired and inspiring discussions of scripture, to paranoid, politicized trainwrecks, if teachers had no manual? Sometimes stifling certain discussions is a very good thing.

    Also, the question as to who wrote Jonah doesn’t have a simple answer, and whatever answer is currently held to be correct may not offer us any particular insight. In terms of what we do with the text, “it’s allegorical” and “it was written 2400 years ago” are practically neighbors.

    So I guess I’m another vote for Jim’s sentiment that it depends more on the teacher than on the manual.

  33. bbell on September 14, 2010 at 10:31 am

    I am of the view that teachers matter far more than manuals.

  34. Ben S on September 14, 2010 at 10:32 am

    As I taught it, it wasn’t “in your face” and it certainly wasn’t my opening statement. But it was also there on the table, discussed briefly, and then we got the important stuff, what the story is actually trying to teach, the doctrine/principles to be applied in our lives, in manual-speak.

    My handout also had that quote from the BD, along with the FP opinion.

  35. Dave on September 14, 2010 at 10:32 am

    Brad (#29), those are some very good points. Local leaders should take care to call not just good teachers but also persons of good judgment with a sense of what is or isn’t appropriate for a gospel doctrine class discussion.

    What bothers me about your comment is that you are actually making a case for eliminating Sunday School. You seem to be saying that discussions about interpretation or detailed study of scripture is just too controversial for Mormon adults to handle. So maybe we should just eliminate scripture study and focus on lifestyle discussions using the Priesthood and Relief Society manual. You are making a good argument for the two-hour block.

  36. john willis on September 14, 2010 at 10:46 am

    Getting away from the problems in teaching Old Testament, I wish last year when we studied the D&C and Church History there would of been a option to have a second Gospel Doctrine course that used Rough Stone Rolling as a text. Even if not all members were ready or wanted to take such a course the benefits of a critical mass of members taking a look at Joseph Smith and early Church history “warts and all” would be more truly faith promoting than the lessons in the mannual.

    I realize thet ther is zero chance of this happening, but I can dream can’t I ??

  37. Chris on September 14, 2010 at 10:56 am

    I think there is this tension between scriptural history and doctrinal principles illustrated by some passages of scripture. Since we’re latter-day saints, I guess that’s why we prefer the latter.

    Sometimes I think it would be nice if we had a “history” type class that really dug into the issues as they were in the text. But that should probably be in some kind of extracurricular approach (institute? bible study group?)

    The history helps me to know a lot -about- Christ, but the principles he taught helps me to know Christ.

  38. Chris on September 14, 2010 at 10:56 am

    (of course the manual writers should always strive to improve and I hope they do)

  39. Paul on September 14, 2010 at 11:20 am

    One observation: even those who are defending the manual do so from an authority or a usefulness point of view. Not a single person has said that they like the manual. I have never met anyone that did. One likes food because it tastes good, and a garden because it looks good. Books worth reading usually have some beauty and grace in them. This is to a certain extent a discussion between those who are willing to say they want the manual to “taste” better and those who are not willing to say so because they think there are more important things like authority or accessibility.

  40. DavidH on September 14, 2010 at 11:36 am

    I don’t find the level or types of “call and response” expectation or practice to differ, whether the subject is the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, the Book of Mormon, or the Doctrine & Covenants.

    Our lesson rituals, like our talks and our music, are intended to avoid disturbing the comfort of, or offending, long time members who are accustomed to hearing the gospel taught and music sung in a particular way. The gospel, after all, is unchanging, so the talks, lessons, and music should be similarly static.

    I agree that an advantage of limiting lesson materials to the manual or those on lds.org (i.e., correlated materials) would be to exclude from lessons extreme right wing (political or religious) materials, the book Mormon Doctrine, as well as wild faith promoting rumors . In practice, however, I think most members believe that Mormon Doctrine, right wing views,or wild faith promoting rumors are approved by correlation. Accordingly, when there is “enforcement” of the only-use-correlated-materials encouragement, it is usually applied in one direction: to exclude anything that diverges from preconceived understandings and comfort levels (and teachers who use them).

  41. Ardis E. Parshall on September 14, 2010 at 11:58 am

    Chris’s comment #37 made me realize how similar this discussion is to complaints about the teaching of church history — except that nobody is accusing the church of trying to *hide* the Old Testament from us, just that manual-mandated lessons don’t go far in helping us really understand the scriptures and their context.

    I remember a lesson last year on the Word of Wisdom. The substitute team-teaching couple had clearly studied the manual and rehearsed their parts to transition smoothly between the two of them. But it was presented to us as if it were the very first time anyone in the room (consisting chiefly of 70+ year olds, including former mission presidents, stake presidents, bishops, and missionaries) had ever in our lives faced the novel idea that we shouldn’t drink or smoke. This couple did everything right according to all the teacher-training instruction of the church and could have been poster children for the program … except that they forgot that teeny weeny basic principle of fitting the material to the needs of the class members.

    With that model in my mind, I think that no manual revision would be enough to give us better teaching. The need is for better teachers — not merely better in teaching techniques, but better informed and better inspired. The church isn’t hiding the information and inspiration from us any more than it hides our history — it’s there to be found, but it can’t be spoon-fed to people who want it the easy way. Teachers have to take on the challenge to improve themselves.

  42. Derek on September 14, 2010 at 12:45 pm

    I agree that correlation can be a real pain in teaching SS. Over the past three years I’ve been GD teacher, I’ve never really taught from the manual, simply using the lessons as a guide for what books we should cover. It worked fine with the NT, BofM, and D&C/church history, where we more or less covered the entire book and did so sequentially or chronologically. I’ve been much more frustrated with the OT, and the decision of the correlation committee to very pointedly cherry-pick selections which would conveniently fit their pre-determined theme. For example, last week’s lesson on Amos and Joel. I tried to broaden the lesson and lead a discussion on the entire book of Amos, but one stickler complained that we weren’t focusing on the assigned chapters (3, 7-9). I defended my decision and continued.

  43. Jim F. on September 14, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    What Brad Dennis (#29) said, especially his point number 2.

  44. chris on September 14, 2010 at 1:48 pm

    #39, I like the Sunday School manual(s). I think it (they) have often made some very novel and interesting points. I love the way they try to weave in all sources from our rich canon such as recent prophets, early restoration prophets, BoM, and NT. I don’t worship the OT. I don’t worship the NT or the BoM or D&C.

    It can certainly be improved, and some of the “gimme” questions might induce groans, but if there was any one skill all of us should learn to get better at to become a better teacher it’s asking questions.

    What questions to ask, follow-ups, etc. Situational questions, implication questions, problem questions, needs-based questions, solution-oriented questions (who spotted where this is from). Asking the right questions is an art and if we did nothing but update the manual with the right questions you’d be surprised as the discussion and learning that can ensue.

  45. Mark D. on September 14, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    Correlation at least provides consistency and helps stem the rise of extreme interpretive trends

    Correlation is great, as long as there is something substantive to correlate to. If the sum of church doctrine on a subject is a smattering of quotes, lessons will be hollow and meaningless.

    Gospel doctrine class really ought to be teaching gospel doctrine with the scriptures as support. But that won’t work where there isn’t any normative doctrine that actually applies.

    If the Church doesn’t want to adopt normative interpretations of the scriptures, then a class to teach the scriptures might as well be a class to teach a random literary work. Nothing to say except bits of linguistic trivia, historical errata, and ungrounded speculation that the Church doesn’t care enough about to say anything about one way or the other, even to recognize as a viable option.

    In other words, except the handful of takeaway quotes, it can’t substantively be said that the Church wants anyone to learn anything in particular in Gospel Doctrine class. The scriptures are just window dressing. Teaching the scriptures is pointless without a semi-authoritative position on what they actually mean. If the Church doesn’t want to have a position to that level of detail, or even endorse a list of viable positions, then why cover the scriptures at all? So people can come up with random uninformed personal speculation? Silence on these points doesn’t encourage unity, rather it encourages heated debates and hard feelings.

  46. chris on September 14, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    Just to follow-up, I think it’s ironic how much some people I’ve come across wish to handicap our religion and treat our lessons like we were just another protestant religion who only have the bible and have to cling to that for all its worth. I certainly admire their zeal and knowledge of the scriptures they do have. But I’m happy we have a wide variety of sources to draw on to increase our understanding of virtually any gospel principle. I think perhaps one big mistake is in setting the expectations. If you expect to “study the Old Testament” and end up skimming through the books as fast as we do you’re going to be disappointed. I’m not sure how the expectations could be reset, but clearly we’re doing something different than a typical “Study/teaching” of the old testament in our classes. Setting the right expectations are crucial when it comes to being satisfied with the sunday school. And I’m not just saying we should dumb-down the expectations in order to be wow-ed, but perhaps those who are dissatisfied are expecting something else and are doomed to disappointment when it consistently isn’t what they are expecting.

  47. chris on September 14, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    Mark D, I’m curious what bits of doctrine you feel are undefined? If you mean the scriptures have multiple meanings and our church shys away from saying “this is all this means and nothing else” about every passage of scripture, I’m glad it does so. New meanings can be added with every reading, in every age, and after every experience when the scriptures are read in conjunction with pondering with the spirit.

  48. Mark D. on September 14, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    chris, I don’t expect the Church to take a hard position on every passage of scripture. However, classes like this are nearly content free without some level of semi-official commentary on nearly every passage.

    If there are multiple viable positions and the Church doesn’t have a position on which one is right, those positions should be enumerated, and recognized as interpretations that any member can adopt without being considered some sort of apostate.

  49. chanson on September 14, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    @10 Elitist? I think it’s a little insulting to “typical members” to suggest that only the “elite” might eventually master the Gospel Essentials and want to move on to more advanced topics.

  50. manaen on September 14, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    I’ll use the “dumbing down” phrase, if nobody else will. Insipid SS lessons are to be expected, given the manual the instructor is expected to follow.
    .
    This comment from #20 is an example of what appears to be absent from the understanding of most commenters in this and similar threads.
    .
    IMO,
    .
    # An important difference between Sunday School classes and academic ones is that of their purposes. Academic institutions seem to see their purpose anymore to be the gaining of knowledge; their classes focus upon that. The Church’s purpose is “the perfecting of the saints”, to bring us to a “unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ”; and its classes focus upon that.
    .
    The introduction to the teacher’s manual for the Old Testament says, “Covering all the lesson material is less important than helping class members better understand the scriptures and commit themselves to increased discipleship. If class members are learning [this] from a good discussion, it is often helpful to let it continue rather than try to cover all the lesson material.” This class’s priority is to be teaching students how to use the scriptures to become more Godlike rather than adding more details about the scriptures. To this end, the manual’s introduction also counsels, “During class, keep discussion focused [up]on the scriptures. Be judicious in your use of commentaries and other nonscriptural sources of information. Class members should be taught to seek knowledge and inspiration from the scriptures and the words of latter-day prophets.” To achieve this class’s purpose of teaching its members to use the scriptures to gain knowledge and inspiration, its time is to be focused upon scriptures instead of diluted with the commentaries and findings of men. (Emphasis added in all of preceding quotations).

    Universities and other schools used to focus upon creating “the educated man,” but as we became more enthused about for how much we could sell our abilities instead of what we become, the value of ‘education’ became how much more college grads earned in their lifetime, which — in combination with the oxymoronic concept of a “value-free education,” which stems largely from, as Allan Bloom noted in “The Closing of the American Mind,” the movement in liberal education from examining all societies and beliefs in order to select the best that each had to offer to supposing that because all are considered, all have equal value and hence none is best — refocused academic priorities upon the tools to sell instead of their usefulness in bettering the character of the student*. Now, some would impose academia’s recent downgrade upon the Church’s classes rather than use the Church’s model in a quest to restore academia to a higher value for society.
    .
    # Elder Gene R. Cook discussed the development of what some now see as the paucity of material in the manual. In his class re-enactment released by Deseret Book as “Teaching by the Spirit,” he described the process by which the Church’s lesson manuals were cut down to a fraction of their former volume. He was speaking of manuals generally, but I believe his comments include our scriptural classes. They realized that they didn’t need to provide illustrative stories and comments because class members all over the Church had their own insights, testimonies, and stories to share about doctrinal principles. Their hope was that this would free class members to share their with each other personal testimonies and understanding instead of receiving all from unmet people far away. I see this sharing among neighbors as a better way to answer Christ’s plea in Gethsemane that his believers would become one and so I wasn’t surprised to see this counsel in the OT lesson manual’s introduction, “Share insights, feelings, and experiences that relate to principles in the lesson. Invite class members to do the same. Members could also tell how they have applied or taught what was discussed in previous lessons.
    .
    When I used to visit the Amish country in Pennsylvania during the 1980′s, I was struck by their practice of giving their children very simple toys instead of the complex offerings from other parents. Their purpose was to provide a simple foundation for their children’s minds to build the rest, so teaching them to do this instead of relying upon someone else to do all the imagining and creation for them. I embrace the manuals we now have in this light and I see irony in the complaints from those who would be the most free-thinking among us that the institutional Church isn’t doing more thinking for them. As with our callings, the purpose here seems to be to put us into a situation in which we are to work out for ourselves how best to grow and to serve and so to become** something more instead of just know something more.
    .
    As much as some of us know, how are we doing to satisfyi this class’s stated purpose of learning “to commit themselves to increased discipleship”? How are we doing in helping our brothers and sisters with this commitment?
    .
    # The manual’s introduction also has a section about the importance of teaching by the Spirit. I hope you’ll agree that classes are neither boring nor below-grade when the teacher and the students are so led.
    .
    - – - – -
    .
    * “But gaining knowledge is one thing and applying it, quite another. Wisdom is the right application of knowledge; and true education — the education for which the Church stands — is the application of knowledge to the development of a noble and Godlike character.
    .
    “A man my possess a profound understanding of history and of mathematics; he may be authority in psychology, biology, or astronomy; he may know all the discovered truths pertaining to geology and natural science; but if he has not with this knowledge that nobility of soul which prompts him to deal justly with his fellow men, to practise virtue and holiness in personal life, he is not a truly educated man.
    .
    “Character is the aim of true education; and science, history, and literature are but means used to accomplish the desired end. Character is not the result of chance work, but of continuous right thinking and right acting.

    .
    — David O. McKay, “Gospel Ideals,” p. 440.
    .
    ** “To testify is to know and to declare. The gospel challenges us to be “converted,” which requires us to do and to become. If any of us relies solely upon our knowledge and testimony of the gospel, we are in the same position as the blessed but still unfinished Apostles whom Jesus challenged to be ‘converted.’ We all know someone who has a strong testimony but does not act upon it so as to be converted.”
    .
    – Dallin H. Oaks, “The Challenge to Become,” GenCon 10/2000. (emphasis in original)
    Read: http://lds.org/conference/talk/display/0,5232,23-1-138-15,00.html
    Listen: http://lds.org/conference/file/0,17193,3-138-2-15,00.asx

  51. chanson on September 14, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    Of course, better teachers result in better classes.

    To everything there is a season. If the bishop and his counselors are inspired, they should have a pretty good idea of when it’s a good idea to give an inexperienced teacher an opportunity to try (starting with perhaps a simple manual), and when there’s a teacher and ward who would do better with a little more leeway (either instead of or in addition to the essentials class). The “manual only” counsel seems to indicate that the brethren have an incredibly low opinion of the competence of the local leaders.

  52. manaen on September 14, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    49.
    Dictionary.com gives “pride in or awareness of being one of an elite group” as a definition of “elitist.” I meant that meaning in my #10; I see the original posting here as a good example of how those who see themselves as part of a more-knowledgable/wiser group are blinded by their erroneous views to the actual purpose of our Gospel Doctrine classes.
    .
    51.
    The “manual only” counsel seems to indicate that the brethren have an incredibly low opinion of the competence of the local leaders.
    .
    What “manual only” counsel? The OT Teacher’s Manual says, “During class, keep discussion focused on the scriptures. Be judicious in your use of commentaries and other nonscriptural sources of information. Class members should be taught to seek knowledge and inspiration from the scriptures and the words of the latter-day prophets.” (p. vi)
    .
    Counseling the teacher that the class is to teach its students to rely upon the scriptures and to be judicious in that context about using other sources is very different from saying not to use those other sources.
    .
    This simple statement about being “judicious” seems to indicate that the brethren have an incredibly high opinion of the competence of the local leaders and teachers.
    .
    Although this is the first time I’ve commented about it, I’ve heard this “manuals only” complaint repeatedly on LDS blogs. Much like the each-person-in-the-celestial-kingdom-will-have-his/her-own-planet canard floating among our opponents, this is another example of those professing to know more actually knowing less. My experience has been that much of these protestations are born by those who claim to think for themselves actually repeating what others have thought and said rather than finding out the truth for themselves, e.g., reading the actual counsel in the teacher’s manual.

  53. Brad Dennis on September 14, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    Dave (#35), Thanks for the response.

    You are misinterpreting my point. I am not making the case for eliminating Sunday school at all. Rather I am simply stating that I enjoy things as they are now and am pro-correlation. The church should emphasize scripture study as it always has. The church cannot survive without the scriptures, for they provide the legitimacy for the church structure itself. However, it should only maintain a general and non-detailed stance about scripture and leave many questions about belief and doctrine open to interpretation in order to be able to accommodate both the conservative and liberal minded members. It is not in the business of coming up with a new interpretative framework of scripture to challenge secular scholarship, but it is in the business of using scripture to ground itself and to maintain and check the behavior and belonging of its followers.

  54. Aaron B on September 14, 2010 at 3:59 pm

    Great post and subsequent discussion. Both the manuals and the quality of teachers/teaching techniques need to be improved. It’s hard for me to get too riled up about which is more important, since they both are so desperately needed.

    Like several others here, when I get frustrated at the real or apparent frowning on the use of outside sources by Correlation, I try to remind myself that for every potentially fantastic lesson I don’t hear, I’m probably being spared from 10 or 15 crazy, right-wing political rants or McConkie-ite dogma-fests. And then I become happier.

  55. manaen on September 14, 2010 at 4:40 pm

    53.
    Well put!
    .
    There’s a difference between Church classes which really are more about helping class members to become more Godlike and teach how to use the OT, etc to accomplish that and other efforts that are about deepening understanding of the scriptures themselves.
    .
    This posting asked, “How else are Latter-day Saints going to learn how to read and understand the Bible?
    .
    Here are some answers that I’ve heard from the LDS Church:
    * Personal scripture study
    * Family scripture study
    * Parents’ individual conversations and correspondence with their children
    * Seminary classes
    * Institute classes
    * Listening to scripture recordings while driving, etc. (downloadable for free from lds.org)
    * Watching segments on BYUTV, *on demand*:
    – Old Testament, 67 episodes – http://www.byutv.org/show/292
    – Insights into Isaiah, 30 episodes – http://www.byutv.org/show/493
    – Our Savior in the Gospels, 34 episodes – http://www.byutv.org/show/705
    – Acts to Revelation, 30 episodes – http://www.byutv.org/show/917
    – From Bethlehem through Sermon on the Mount, 7 episodes – http://www.byutv.org/show/371
    – From the Last Supper through the Resurrection, 11 episodes – http://www.byutv.org/show/373
    – (Also:)
    – Book of Mormon, 70 episodes – http://www.byutv.org/show/290
    – D&C, 52 episodes, – http://www.byutv.org/show/291
    – Pearl of Great Price Discussions, 11 episodes – http://www.byutv.org/show/721
    * Full-time missions
    * YM/YW presentations
    * RS/Priesthood presentations
    * Some firesides
    * Preparing to share the gospel with our neighbors
    * Writing and reading journal experiences with the scriptures

  56. Jim Donaldson on September 14, 2010 at 4:41 pm

    I teach seminary (“volunteer,” early morning). My usual lesson preparation starts with reading what is called in seminary “the scripture block.” Then I review the manuals and make note of the verses which the lesson emphasizes, to get some idea of what the curriculum drafters think it is important. I usually make note of those verses on a piece of scratch paper along with their general thematic emphasis. Then I close the manual and pretty much never look at it again. I go back to the scripture block and construct my own lesson plan, trying to include those verses and themes which they ‘recommend’ although perhaps not to the same degree the manual would.

    I think this is a workable model for most gospel teaching and used it for the 7 years I taught gospel doctrine. The scriptures themselves can carry the weight and I figured that so long as my teaching was centered on the scriptures (their meaning and application), and was free of collateral wackiness, I was on solid ground. The key is that the scriptures themselves are more interesting that most of the things said about them.

  57. J.A.T. on September 14, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    #50 Manaen——”They realized that they didn’t need to provide illustrative stories and comments because class members all over the Church had their own insights, testimonies, and stories to share about doctrinal principles. Their hope was that this would free class members to share their with each other personal testimonies and understanding instead of receiving all from unmet people far away.”

    Sigh. This leads to what I call the “Oprah-i-zation” of church lessons. Let’s all chit-chat and tell personal stories instead of challenge ourselves. If the peanut gallery already knows enough of the content to make frequent comments, what are they there to learn?

    By the way . . . I like the stories from people far away and sometimes long ago. Isn’t that the point of the written word? Of scripture? Of preserving special voices? Good grief.

  58. J.A.T. on September 14, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    Me thinks we have a mole amongst us.

  59. Ben S on September 14, 2010 at 5:38 pm

    “This class’s priority is to be teaching students how to use the scriptures to become more Godlike rather than adding more details about the scriptures.”

    True. These aren’t meant to be academic courses. But often, especially with the OT, little of it is understandable without “adding more details.”

    I don’t believe it’s an either-or choice.

  60. Kristine on September 14, 2010 at 5:50 pm

    The scriptures reveal the mind of God to us in much the same way as flowers do. If we just look at the flowers, and notice that they are pretty, and think about how best to display them in our houses, we will have learned something. But if we find out what flowers do, how they work, the way that they are related to the ecosystems they live in, we’ll have learned much more.

  61. J.A.T. on September 14, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    1) We have all milk, no meat and we can’t go on forever with just one or the other. We need both.

    2) Did anyone read the Curriculum Committee’s response to Nat Kelly’s pleas (posted on FMH) to revise and update the YW manuals?
    http://www.feministmormonhousewives.org/?p=3274
    Evidently we are ALL wrong, there is no need for change. There are manual supplements out there (somewhere) and we shouldn’t criticize.

    3) We’ve heard a few GAs talk about being edified by the spirit in a lesson even if you know it all. Well, the reverse would be true as well and those who cannot comprehend the entire lesson should be edified sitting in class working to process the content. Also, Gospel Principles classes exist for new converts and special needs adult Gospel Principles classes can be easily organized. (As a matter of fact, special needs branches are being piloted right now in more populous LDS areas.) The main audience in GD consists of intelligent adults – people from various walks of life who have a God-given capacity to be enlightened and grow. They can be challenged to blossom. Time to wean us off the milk and bring about a renaissance!

    4) Here’s a good idea. New converts work through Gospel Principles, then 4 years of the CURRENT manuals (rotated through)taken alongside young single adults . . . then everyone can graduate into regular GD which will use a revamped curriculum.

  62. Julie M. Smith on September 14, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    Kristine, I love that. Thanks.

  63. J.A.T. on September 14, 2010 at 7:07 pm

    Just thought of something.

    Our concern for the manuals and lesson content isn’t really about what is taught, but rather why. If corelation provides only milk for us, in essence, a major doctrinal shift has taken place. We have shifted our very perception of the nature of God through this simple act of ‘dumbing down’ scripture. If man is incapable of learning the principles and operations of the kingdom and universe (and a corelation committee is required for simplification purposes), then man is no longer the same mirror of God Joseph and the other early Prophets professed. The King Follett Discourse kinda goes out the window as a part of the plan of salvation if we don’t practice what we believe and instruct man as if he were a child of God capable of enlightenment. If we are incapable of doctrine, our nature is unlike God’s- we are removed another level from his image. The mere existence of ‘dumbed down’ manuals is a shift in doctrine (by practice, not belief). Please someone here, correct me.

  64. Ardis E. Parshall on September 14, 2010 at 7:16 pm

    J.A.T., I’ll cheerfully correct you. Even accepting for the sake of argument that manuals used on Sundays are dumbed down for any reason whatsoever, nothing stops you or me or anyone else from personal scripture study or from seeking whatever we think we’re missing from supplementary sources. In fact, we’re pretty much constantly encouraged to do just that.

    Your complaint, again, is no different from the complaint that the church doesn’t teach us our history. Okay, so read some of it on your own.

  65. James on September 14, 2010 at 9:39 pm

    For what it’s worth, I don’t have any major problem with the SS manual. I teach SS to teenagers, and I find the manual to be a comfortable guide for choosing important chapters and morals from whichever book we are studying at the moment. The book doesn’t hide the fact that it isn’t a study of the Old Testament. Every lesson begins with an explanation that this lesson is about missionary work, or faith, or repentance. It NEVER says it is a lesson about Jonah. The OT text is used as a backdrop for the real lesson.

    I usually spend an appropriate amount of time at the beginning of every class talking about the author, the genre, the religious and political agenda of the text, etc., and then I spend the rest of the class working through as much of the text as I can. I challenge my students by asking them things like, “Can a man really survive in the belly of a fish?”, to which we all agreed that it is not possible.

    I don’t find it at all annoying that the manual doesn’t include details about genre, author, etc. I find much satisfaction in bringing something new and different to my students, a perspective that hasn’t already been pounded into their heads over the years.

  66. Raymond Takashi Swenson on September 14, 2010 at 9:39 pm

    So what are gospel doctrine classes like in a ward where many of the members are professional academics who actually have an interest in a more contextual understanding of the Old and New Testaments?

    Besides the element of teachers, and manuals, another factor in the quality of a Gospel Doctrine class is the members in the class. If you have people who are familiar with the history of analysis of a scriptural book, how does that affect the class discussions? Does it add to the perceived value for other class members?

  67. J.A.T. on September 14, 2010 at 9:41 pm

    Ardis,
    Okalee dokalle. But then why is communal study and worship a directive from God? Seems like the purpose of sharing and growing together is counter to keeping knowledge in individual silos and not sharing with fellow saints. Is there supposed to be an elitist place for sharing this information outside of church worship? Are you a individual learner as opposed to a collaborative one? I don’t know about you, but my learning is enhanced and my understanding of concepts is expounded with discourse and collaboration.

    The other concern I have for supplemental material is the fragility of relying upon only the written word (commentaries, scripture, history) without education and teaching- discourse and context. Just as Luther contended that teaching without access to the word biased content and impaired study- impeding one from true and accurate discipleship, the word without education is also imperfect (ie Talmudic and Islamic beliefs ).

  68. Ardis E. Parshall on September 14, 2010 at 10:01 pm

    J.A.T., I would take you seriously and engage you … but I’m stopped by the mockery of that “okalee dokalee.” Best wishes for your continued search for whatever it is you are looking for.

  69. J.A.T. on September 14, 2010 at 10:28 pm

    Ardis,
    In short, what can we tell my hubby who doesn’t go to church anymore b/c there isn’t anything left to learn on Sundays? He reads and studies personally very successfully, so what’s the point of church? (Outside of sacrament)? Isn’t personal scripture study enough by your theory? My hubby sure thinks so.

    Here’s an analogy. Say you pay for an advanced econ college course. You pay for parking, for tuition, you show up every day, you ask questions and give it your best shot. You are crunching your calc and trudging through as best as you can. The teacher is a dud and imparts absolutely nothing- provides only the most elemental information about econ . . . like how to balance your household budget- if you are a sixth grader. You learn nothing of macro or micro econ, globalization, or the intersection of politics and society. However, you know the test at the end is a real doozey. So, you study outside class and hope that you absorb as much as possible through personal study- enough to pass, enough to grasp this huge thing- micro and macro econ. How are you to compete in a dog-eat-dog world after that? Worse yet, what happens when a student drops out after the first quarter because of frustration? Shouldn’t there be shared blame for the failure?

    Also, we consider the chain of authority. Personal revelation is for us personally- not dispensed to us for church-wide doctrinal matters. The early saints were chastised for mixing this up and claiming they could receive revelation for the church. God reveals his doctrine through his leaders. So, if more or deeper doctrine is not forthcoming from the church leaders and being dispensed through set apart leaders via instruction, are we to believe that the windows of heaven are closed, and that we are not capable of receiving it . . . as we are not capable of the sealed portion of the plates, lost tribes records, etc.?

    Thanks . . .

  70. Cameron Nielsen on September 15, 2010 at 1:37 am

    I think based on Elder Scott’s recently recounted story, it is clear that even the most miserable of lessons can be an amazing revelatory experience if we are prepared and willing to ask for it. Thus, we are the problem if we have a bad attitude about the lesson, however boring or poorly prepared it may be.

  71. manaen on September 15, 2010 at 2:38 am

    68.
    Your question about your husband gave me a different view of your comments. FWIW, that doozy of a final test will not be about what we know. The 2-part key to passing it, to joining God in the highest reward is simple:
    [1] Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and [2] let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God” – D&C 121:45
    Charity and virtue: love for others and worthiness. Nothing about knowledge.
    .
    Similarly, as I noted earlier, there’s this,
    “To testify is to know and to declare. The gospel challenges us to be ‘converted,’ which requires us to do and to become. If any of us relies solely upon our knowledge and testimony of the gospel, we are in the same position as the blessed but still unfinished Apostles whom Jesus challenged to be ‘converted.’ We all know someone who has a strong testimony but does not act upon it so as to be converted.
    [...]
    “We are challenged to move through a process of conversion toward that status and condition called eternal life. This is achieved not just by doing what is right, but by doing it for the right reason–for the pure love of Christ. The Apostle Paul illustrated this in his famous teaching about the importance of charity (see 1 Cor. 13). The reason charity never fails and the reason charity is greater than even the most significant acts of goodness he cited is that charity, “the pure love of Christ” (Moro. 7:47), is not an act but a condition or state of being. Charity is attained through a succession of acts that result in a conversion. Charity is something one becomes. Thus, as Moroni declared, “except men shall have charity they cannot inherit” the place prepared for them in the mansions of the Father (Ether 12:34; emphasis added).”
    – Dallin H. Oaks, “The Challenge to Become,” GenCon 10/2000. (italics in original)
    Read: http://lds.org/conference/talk/display/0,5232,23-1-138-15,00.html
    Listen: http://lds.org/conference/file/0,17193,3-138-2-15,00.asx
    .
    Again, charity is the key and this is love for God and for others. It includes “lifting the hands that hang down” and “strengthening the feeble knees,” including patience with those who you suppose to be less entertaining in offering their “widow’s mite” in comparison to your bags of riches.
    .
    I suggest this as an answer for your husband who develops unused knowledge alone instead of a charity that impels him to come commune with others, supporting them and, possibly learning charity from those who have suffered or lag behind him in the academic gospel understanding that does not so impel him.
    .
    There is useful guidance available for developing this charity. One source is from Elder Christofferson,
    “How can you become converted? How can you make the gospel of Jesus Christ not just an influence in your life but the controlling influence and, indeed, the very core of what you are? The ancient prophet Jeremiah spoke of the law of God, the gospel, being written in our hearts. He quotes the Lord speaking about us, His people in the latter days: ‘I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.’
    .
    “Do you want this for yourself? I can tell you how that can happen, but it must be something you want. The gospel cannot be written in your heart unless your heart is open. Without a heartfelt desire, you can participate in sacrament meetings, classes, and Church activities and do the things I will tell you, but it won’t make much difference. But if your heart is open and willing, like the heart of a child, let me tell you what you can do to be converted.
    [...]
    “I mentioned praying as you study to understand the scriptures, but your prayers must not be limited to that. In the Book of Mormon, Amulek tells us we should pray about everything in our lives. He says, “Pour out your souls [to God] in your closets, and your secret places, and in your wilderness.” Your Heavenly Father wants you to pray about your hopes and fears, your friends and family, your school and work, and the needs of those around you. Most of all, you should pray to be filled with the love of Christ. This love is given to those who are true followers of Jesus Christ, who ask for it with all the energy of their heart. This love is the fruit of the tree of life, and tasting it is a major part of your conversion because once you have felt your Savior’s love for you, even the smallest part, you will feel secure, and a love for Him and for your Heavenly Father will grow within you. In your heart you will want to do what these holy beings ask of you. Go often to your closet, your secret place, your wilderness. Thank God for your blessings; ask for His help; ask Him to bestow upon you the pure love of Christ. Sometimes fasting will help.”
    GenCon, 4/2004
    Read: http://lds.org/conference/talk/display/0,5232,23-1-439-4,00.html
    Listen: http://broadcast.lds.org/genconf/2004/apr/1/1_4english.mp3
    .
    Gene R. Cook gave an example of two men sitting in a sacrament meeting in which a 14-year-old boy is fumbling through a talk. One says to himself, “this is terrible, the bishop should have a better speaker, someone more prepared, someone like… me.” The other man silently says, “Dear God, this is John’s first talk and he’s having a rough time. Please bless him with confidence and let thy words be in his heart and mouth.” The speaker then set down his notes, said, “I don’t know much about what’s on this paper, but I do have a testimony of prayer and here’s what happened to me…”
    .
    Since hearing this, I’ve never been in a boring sacrament meeting or class because I’m either fed overtly or I find myself caught up in the struggle of my brother’s or sister’s struggle and searching for ways to help and support them.

    I hope this helps.

    I kept picking at an answer to your #56 since I last was on here. Your question about your husband in #68 made that mostly out of context, but I wrote it out so for historical value, if nothing else, it’s appended below. Most of it is related to what I just wrote.
    .
    - – - – -
    .
    56.
    This leads to what I call the “Oprah-i-zation” of church lessons. Let’s all chit-chat and tell personal stories instead of challenge ourselves. If the peanut gallery already knows enough of the content to make frequent comments, what are they there to learn?
    .
    By the way . . . I like the stories from people far away and sometimes long ago. Isn’t that the point of the written word? Of scripture? Of preserving special voices? Good grief.

    .
    I’ll try again, it isn’t the content but the application and results of applying it that are the purpose of this class. As I noted above, the Church’s purpose is to perfect the members and the scriptures are one of the main tools used to do that; the introduction to its manual says that the class members should become more committed to discipleship; here’s part of the DoM quotation again that I cited in #50,
    But gaining knowledge is one thing and applying it, quite another. Wisdom is the right application of knowledge; and true education — the education for which the Church stands — is the application of knowledge to the development of a noble and Godlike character.
    .
    This class’s stated purpose is less about what the “peanut gallery” (nice reintroduction of this posting’s elitism) knows but more about what we become through our scripture-based class discussions and that we learn to use the scriptures for guidance.
    .
    As for stories from people far way and long ago,
    * Christ’s Gethsemane plea that we become one was not so the world would be quieter but because it is essential to our celestialization for us to become one as he and the Father are one; one of his first acts after appearing to the Nephites was to say that his doctrine was that there be no contention among us, to come together.
    * My own spirit’s healing was triggered by the love of my SP.
    * Addiction counselors uniformly cite the impossibility for recovery without help from significant others.
    * David O. McKay noted that, “If priesthood meant only personal honor, blessing, or individual elevation, there would be no need of groups [e.g. families and Sunday School classes] or quorums. The very existence of such groups established by divine authorization proclaims our dependence upon one another, the indispensable need of mutual help and assistance. We are, divine right, social beings.
    * Gangs largely exist so that their members can satisfy the need for belonging we all have.
    * Moroni wrote that church members in his day “did meet together oft, to fast and to pray, and to speak one with another concerning the welfare of their souls.”
    * The family, not the individual, is the basic unit of the Church and perhaps the greatest indication of the spiritual necessity of coming together is that the highest reward only is obtained in the sealing of man and wife together.
    .
    Because of our spiritual need for this joining together, I see that the Church better can meet its purpose by having us nurture each other in class with our experiences and insights and reveal to how others can nourish us. This is not chit-chat and telling personal stories instead of challenging ourselves but, nourishing each other with the word of God and creating the one-ness for which Jesus plead while he worked out the at-one-ment for us. It’s a step in fulfilling the two foundational commandments: to love God and to love each other. I believe this has been a key source of the general unity we have in my well-knit ward.
    .
    Likewise, the point of the written word/scripture and of the special voices who wrote it is to help us to become Christlike, not to amuse us with stories from far away and long ago. Their basic teaching is God’s love for us, specifically as manifested in his gift to us of his son’s atonement and for us to develop similar love for them and each other. This best can be done with people with whom we are in contact.

  72. Wes Dean on September 15, 2010 at 9:23 am

    The problem isn’t with the “Church,” or “correlation,” but with ourselves. Often, I don’t enjoy Sunday School. But did I study beforehand? Did I ask questions when I didn’t understand? Did I ask questions to help the teacher sustain a discussion? My experience as an Elders Quorum instructor was that I was prepared to lead a discussion that would shed light on whatever our topic was, but a lot of the men didn’t want to go down that road (even though I have complete confidence that any one of them could have stood up and given us a spiritual and uplifting talk for twenty minutes on any topic with two minutes notice), and now in Sunday School I don’t take the effort. But isn’t that burying our talent? So I blame me, and you, if we don’t have good and great lessons every week, not the Apostles, or the manual, or the teacher. I’m glad you wrote this post, Dave. I’m inspired to be a better learner and a better participant in lessons.

  73. Sean on September 15, 2010 at 9:34 am

    manaen – great comments, thanks. I appreciate the focus on what we are becoming.

  74. Jonathan Green on September 15, 2010 at 10:05 am

    J.A.T., think of it like this:

    A local institution is offering a basic economics course coupled with an internship opportunity to give you hands-on experience with the principles of economics you’re learning. If you study outside of class, you’ll be a much more productive intern, but experience shows that the hands-on experience of an internship is critical to understanding the principles involved, and that future employers actually care far more about a demonstration of what you can do as an intern, than about what you claim to know.

    And the response is: “Noooo! I don’t want to be an intern. I want you to teach me deep economics. And if you won’t offer a seminar in advanced economics, I’ll just stay home and read about it by myself.”

    In my experience, teachers have limited sympathy for that attitude.

  75. Chris H. on September 15, 2010 at 10:26 am

    “He reads and studies personally very successfully, so what’s the point of church?”

    It is about interacting and engaging with others. Christ-like virtues do not come from reading, but acting. I say this as somebody who would love to work on my dissertation rather than go to church. Heck, I would much rather read Nibley, Bennion, or whoever. But doing so would not challenge me to deal with my prejudices and discomforts. Church forces me to do that. It also provides an opportunity to serve.

    Reading Kant is my comfort-zone. Dealing with others is not. I need that push.

  76. Ardis E. Parshall on September 15, 2010 at 10:37 am

    This leads to what I call the “Oprah-i-zation” of church lessons. Let’s all chit-chat and tell personal stories instead of challenge ourselves. If the peanut gallery already knows enough of the content to make frequent comments, what are they there to learn?

    If the teacher is asking the right kind of questions, and is competently keeping the class on track by engaging on-target comments and politely curtailing the windy wanderings of others, then class discussion is not chit-chat. It’s testifying. It’s challenging. Sometimes the comments in my class are so challenging that I can’t respond and have to ask the class for help — I don’t have anything like the same experiences as many. We’re there to learn from each other’s experiences and testimony, not merely to learn objective facts.

    But a lot depends on the teacher asking the right questions to begin with.

  77. Chris H. on September 15, 2010 at 10:39 am

    Trust me, most peoples personal stories challenge not to scream.

  78. Alex on September 15, 2010 at 11:00 am

    Manean;
    Charity is essential for salvation. But so is knowledge.

    “Knowledge is necessary to life and godliness. Woe unto you priests and divines who preach that knowledge is not necessary unto life and salvation. Take away Apostles, etc., take away knowledge, and you will find yourselves worthy of the damnation of hell. Knowledge is revelation. Hear, all ye brethren, this grand key: knowledge is the power of God unto salvation.” – JSJ

    Knowledge of what, exactly? I don’t know. But I sure wish that JSJ was on the correlation committee.

  79. Michael on September 15, 2010 at 11:08 am

    “It is about interacting and engaging with others. Christ-like virtues do not come from reading, but acting.”

    Chris,

    I will have to disagree slightly with your statement. The gospel is about becoming a disciple of Christ through adoration AND emulation. Neither of these things require attendance at Church meetings. The challenge for many is that the interacting and engaging with others in a Sunday church setting is an exercise in torture as they do not fit the pre-defined cultural box of straight and married with 3.75 children. Attending church from a cultural perspective for a 50 year old gay celibate convert is very difficult. I make my own way and have the confidence to find ways to contribute to the positive energy in the ward but I know that my acceptance as an equal is conditioned upon my “image” as a nice, gentle older uncle. It is not and never will be accepting or understanding of the full range of my personality, attributes or talents. There is a part of me that must be subordinated to the prevailing cultural template.

    To provide an example, I had a single sister in her mid-30s who refused to let me home teach solo when I had a companion that would not measure up in doing our home teaching together. She felt that it was totally a threat even though she knows I am a 100% pure homosexual with not a trace of heterosexual sexual inclination. I even proposed meeting together at a public restaurant (my treat) so she would feel more comfortable. She refused. Eventually, I had to ask for her to be assigned to a different companionship. Just to further elaborate, she has no hesitation is talking and socializing with me at church meetings with others around so I know it was not a personality thing.

    I am sure that the never-married sisters, the single moms, the less-than-articulate geeky men and others feel the same tension.

    My attendance at church is to allow me to serve in the Kingdom (in what capacity I can), to answer truthfully about meeting attendance so I can maintain my Temple Recommend, and to partake of the Sacrament. If it was not for those three things, I would be following the example of her husband and staying at home in private devotion on the Sabbath. I get little to no gospel meat out of our church classes.

  80. Chris H. on September 15, 2010 at 11:13 am

    Trust me, it is torture for me as well (that is why I Facebook about it with Ardis and other while I am there).

    I am not sure if it is really required. But it helps me build patience and charity. That is all. Michael, thanks for your comment.

  81. chris on September 15, 2010 at 11:24 am

    “I am sure that the never-married sisters, the single moms, the less-than-articulate geeky men and others feel the same tension.”

    And ironically the stereotypical “normals” are struggling in a variety of ways that is entirely similar in emotional impact to what you describe. It’s part of the human condition. Just keep on struggling while having faith in Jesus. We’re all trying to do it too.

  82. Manuel on September 15, 2010 at 11:43 am

    I think I agree with everyone that other factors besides the manuals are to be analyzed for a better learning experience during sunday school. I disagree though, that some of those factors are more important than the manual issue that Dave is addressing.

    I agree that the teacher can make or break a lesson, and I also agree that an unprepared and apathic audience will also hinder the lesson to a great extent.

    In an ideal/Utopian world, we would all have excellent teachers with wide scholar backgrounds and an avid group of listeners putting their best effort to learn as much as they can from the lessons.

    Now, coming back to reality, when approaching the subject in a realistic and objective way, these factors are more difficult to control than the material provided for the lesson. They are not impossible to control, but more difficult to control.

    If the material and format of the sunday school lessons are specifically designed for a 3rd grade reading level, and a 3rd grade reading analysis of the material and questions to keep the subject in the shallowest safest area possible, and if additional materials for the lesson are discouraged, then I think we do have an issue to consider.

    All the factors are important, but if average teachers and average audiences are provided with extremely simplified manuals that are redacted and formatted for levels far below the capability of both teachers and audience, then we have an issue with the manuals.

    I disagree with those who simply want to dismiss this content and format issue with “the teachers and the audience should perform better…”

    This is the type of dismissive attitude that prevents from objectively addressing one of the root causes of the problem and thus prevents the actual improvement of the program. Notice I said ONE of the root causes (implying it is not the only one). It may not be 100% of the issue, but it is an important part of the issue and should not be ignored or readily dismissed.

  83. DavidH on September 15, 2010 at 12:12 pm

    I don’t have a problem with the lesson manuals. As has been pointed out, the manuals permit “judicious” use of outside [noncorrelated] sources. But the “unwritten” order of the Church seems to have become that we cannot cite or use anything other than correlated materials in class. But see http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/58411/Use-proper-sources.html (“The Church — through its inspired correlation program — has given us official sources of information to help us prepare lessons and plan activities. Instead of turning to unofficial books and Web sites, let’s use those sources.”)

    I do agree that being a Latter-day Saint means trying to find meaning in mediocre talks and lessons. That helps us develop charity and sharpen our minds by mentally and spiritually converted repetitive (and otherwise dull) statements and thoughts into something useful.
    This is similar to the fact that being a Latter-day Saint means learning to tolerate (and maybe even enjoy) spending three hours in a school like setting, sitting still and listening attentatively.

  84. manaen on September 15, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    77.
    Alex,
    .
    “…knowledge is the power of God unto salvation.”
    But it’s one thing to have power and something else to use it. cf ““But gaining knowledge is one thing and applying it, quite another. Wisdom is the right application of knowledge; and true education — the education for which the Church stands — is the application of knowledge to the development of a noble and Godlike character.” from David O. McKay that I offered in #50.
    .
    I’m not saying that knowledge is not important; I’m trying to get folks to understand what is its importance. Knowledge gained and kept to oneself without developing charity is worthless– both because it fails to help others and because lack of it will mean that you won’t qualify for the greater blessings.
    And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. – 1 Cor 13:2
    .
    Knowledge of what, exactly? I don’t know.
    “With all thy getting, get understanding” and one thing to understand is,
    40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
    45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.

    .
    This speaks more of charity, the pure love of Christ, than the eye-rolling disdain for their less-learned and less-polished brothers and sisters to which some here have confessed. Do we complain about the low level of expertise when we attend our children’s soccer games? No, because we’re not there to be dazzled by technical expertise but because our love for them gives us joy in supporting them in their development. IMO, the Church similarly is for us to learn patience, long-suffering, and love unfeigned for each other. Consider how teachers and speakers exercise greater charity for us in their forebearance of not calling us out on our prideful disrespect for their efforts. Or do we suppose they aren’t hurt seeing our disregard (facebooking) as they try to teach or to speak what they’ve prepared? Yet they still come to offer what they have to us.
    .
    Speaking as someone whose healing was triggered by love from others, with charity, opportunities to use our abilities help others with our abilities fill our vision and we yearn for those who lag our developments. Without it, we complain about their lack of relative development cluttering our lives as we draw away from them. I believe Elder Wirthlin’s comment applies as well to riches of knowledge as it does to financial riches,
    Our Heavenly Father expects us to more with our riches than build larger barns to hold them. Will you consider what more you can do to build the kingdom of God? Will you consider what more you can do to bless the lives of others and bring light and hope into their lives?” (GenCon 4/2004)

  85. Brad Kramer on September 15, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    The specter of non-correlated, locally grown, crazified SS lessons, for my money, is not a sufficient defense of the current state of affairs. The problem with Correlation is not that it exists, nor that it creates a kind of baseline uniformity across space and time. It’s that the uniformity it creates and sustains is mostly rubbish and could be much, much better. It’s not as if Correlation would suddenly dissolve into amorphous, unpredictable, uncontrolled, locally-driven organic chaos if, say, Jim F, Jonathan Stapley, Dave Banack, and Kristine Haglund had their run of the place and sought to create a correlated curriculum that rose above the current combination of dry-heave-incuding sentimentality and lowest-common-denominator, fundamentalist prooftextery.

    In other words, the alternative to really bad Correlation might be no Correlation. But it might also be good Correlation.

  86. manaen on September 15, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    84.
    You and others seem concerned about the result of “really bad Correlation.” Because commenters here seem to be talking past each other, maybe we should set a concrete example to discuss.
    .
    Could you go to this year’s manual and cite the deficiencies you see in this week’s lesson for a class in which “Class discussions should center on matters that help members come unto Christ and live as his disciples” (manual’s introduction) — which is the sponsoring institution’s stated purpose — and not upon the textual details?
    .
    This will help us to correlate our comments.

  87. Mark D. on September 15, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    The main problem with the manuals is not what is in the manuals. It is a big gaping hole where substantive content should be. That hole tends to reduce Sunday School lessons to a mixture of trite repetition and a cheerleading session, making a mockery of the very term “school”. Institute has the exact same problem, if occasionally to a lesser degree.

    If we just want to have a devotional where no one actually learns anything new, we should give Sunday School a new name, and quit pretending that any actual education is going on.

  88. John C. on September 15, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    A movement away from the manual does not necessitate each class becoming Uncle John’s meandering inspired thoughts each week. That said, institutional control is fine so long as it doesn’t stifle individual expression. Too often, the way we use the manual (which isn’t how they say they want us to use it, but it is the easiest way to use it) means that we teach to what is written, rather than using it as a jumping off point.

  89. Brad Kramer on September 15, 2010 at 3:14 pm

    Manean (#84), your explicit separation of the goals of helping people come unto Christ, on the one hand, and the details of scriptural texts, on the other, hits at the heart of the problem at hand. It suggests that the latter is not particularly relevant to the former. If we really, really believe that all the scriptures testify of Christ and bring people closer to Him, then we would demand to engage them as closely as possible. By contrast, our current approach (and your suggestion that bringing people to Christ is a separate and superior concern to aiding them in studying scriptural texts) is evidence that we (and by “we” I mean Correlation) do not, in fact, trust the scriptures to bring people unto Christ but only our modified, abbreviated, proof-text-centered, de-historicized, gap-filled, de-contextualized, superficial, and often manifestly errant “reading” of them. Who needs to actually study the scriptures as a means of coming to Christ when simply digesting what a committee tells you they mean in a devotional setting is a sufficient, or better yet, superior alternative?

  90. manaen on September 15, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    86.
    If we just want to have a devotional where no one actually learns anything new, we should give Sunday School a new name, and quit pretending that any actual education is going on.
    .
    What do you say is “actual education”?
    .
    Do you disagree with David O. McKays’ comment, noted in #50,
    But gaining knowledge is one thing and applying it, quite another. Wisdom is the right application of knowledge; and true education — the education for which the Church stands — is the application of knowledge to the development of a noble and Godlike character.?
    .
    I see true education, if not “actual education,” being exactly what is sought in these classes. The newness each week can be found in the growth of the participants and in the relationships among them if not in acquisition of academic knowledge. This newness is easier to find if understood and sought and is part of one’s own conversion.

  91. Brad Kramer on September 15, 2010 at 4:00 pm

    Again, manean (#89), and despite the quote from President McKay which you so ironically held out, you are treating the acquisition of knowledge as if it were extraneous to “true education”, coming unto Christ, or conversion. President McKay, by contrast, situates knowledge as a foundational precondition to the education for which the Church stands. You can no more write gaining knowledge out of the equation than President McKay did. Knowledge must be had in order to be applied. And no amount of newness or growth of relationships can compensate for the fact that the current curricula are obstacles to obtaining that deep knowledge of scriptural texts that, by all accounts, ought to more fully bring us unto Christ.

  92. Alex on September 15, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    Amen Brad.

  93. manaen on September 15, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    88.
    Bryan, thank you for your comment. It gives me hope that I’m making progress in getting people to understand what I’m trying to convey. However, I’m not saying that there is a separation between helping people to come to Christ and a knowledge of scriptural details: cf #83, “I’m not saying that knowledge is not important; I’m trying to get folks to understand what is its importance.” Your comment was the first from the increased-scholarship advocates here to note explicitly that connection. This absence created the impression that they wanted an increased focus on scholarship that would weaken the focus in a Church class on coming to Christ.
    .
    This impression is strengthened by the lack of evident charity (facebooking, etc.) from these commenters for the teachers and committees who they see as inferior scholars. Would not their implicitly-claimed-superior-and-more-detailed biblical scholarship lead them to a greater patience and solicitude for the teachers they see as inferior to themselves? I’ve been reading those comments through the lens of a couple biblical selections,
    .
    when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” and
    .
    We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification. For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me. For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.“,
    .
    and I haven’t noticed this attitude among them towards the objects of their complaints.
    .
    However, I suppose the recipients of this disdain have been more Christlike towards these commenters in the patience and long-suffering that kept them from calling-out the commenters’ pride towards them. Instead, they continue to offer their widow’s mites. It may be that these teachers are better prepared to meet the class’s objective than the commenters who murmur against them.

  94. J.A.T. on September 15, 2010 at 5:07 pm

    Manaen,

    *We;ve seen several comments which appear to be an anti-intellectual push-back to the overall voice of the thread which calls for an evaluation and strengthening of ss (correlated) content. The plea for more ‘meat’ was rebutted by the reminder that charity is all we need, as opposed to something out of the status quo.

    *Yes, we’re not ‘tested’ for knowledge at the end, but we also can’t progress without it. Why would it be such a bad thing to pursue in conjunction with ‘charity’ and disposition-shaping? Seems like the three form a trifecta, the parts being dangerous without the whole. What happens to charity when it isn’t paired with knowledge? Well intending humanitarian projects include winter quilts sent to the tropics and fridges go to the eskimos. Granted, someone felt a warm fuzzy, but in life-or-death instances, the warm fuzzy might not be reciprocated. Charity includes knowledge-based effort as an aspect of inspired application. Additionally, what happens when you shape people’s character (an outcome of correlated ss) without buttressing it with knowledge? Yikes.

    *I find your efforts to educate me with definitions of LDS terms and true discipleship to be condescending and off topic. Also, you’ve taken quite the liberty in appraising my hubby’s testimony and charity. I don’t feel a need to respond other than to say you couldn’t be farther from the truth if you had tried describing his absolute opposite. But to be fair, I didn’t say enough in the posts to really give adequate context. The point of the blog discussion was instead to focus on the effectiveness of correlated lessons and the appropriateness of and mechanisms for sharing information.

    *Kudos for noting the importance of brotherly communion within the church, and I agree whole-heartedly that it can and does take place, but echo the various posts in this thread debating impediments to that goal. Sorry to say, but there is a gap between the ideal and the practiced and blathery chit-chat exists ad nauseum. We’re lacking critically thoughtful questions (not minutia-based, but truly instructive questions), inspired and talented teachers, and classroom discipline. I’m afraid the often disruptive round-robin ‘storytelling’ aspect of SS is so entrenched in our culture, it is here to stay, whether or not it is the most appropriate mechanism for supporting learning outcomes in the moment.

    *Jonathan- there’s something to be said about coupling knowledge with work experience . . . we all remember a work-experience-based horse judge who wished he had more knowledge in federal disaster protocols and procedure. Along the lines of the class analogy though, I think it is important to say that we (mankind) has an awful lot left to learn, the scope of growth we need to undertake is tremendous, ever so much more than my puny econ example. We need God and each other along the way.

    *Just a last thought . . . the Nicene Creed was a correlated document created by a correlation committee.

  95. manaen on September 15, 2010 at 6:38 pm

    93.
    Looks like your 93 crossed my 92. As I noted, “I’m not saying that there is a separation between helping people to come to Christ and a knowledge of scriptural details: cf #83, ‘I’m not saying that knowledge is not important; I’m trying to get folks to understand what is its importance.’” My point is that scriptural knowledge is not the objective; the Christlike character that the scriptures were written to create is the objective. In the absence of this connection in the increased-scholarship comments, they sounded to me like a call to focus upon the tools instead of upon their purpose. Of course, we’d expect better understanding of the tools to enable better achievement of their purpose; I wanted to not lose their purpose in this thread.
    .
    I recognize the “blathery chit-chat” and it used to bother me very much. However, during my soul’s healing, those were the most Christlike people that helped me. Since then, it doesn’t bother me so much because I see it as their code for speaking one with another concerning the welfare of their souls. Because of my background, it would sound more natural to me to have more scholarly awareness in it, but I know who stepped up and who didn’t in my time of need.
    .
    I apologize for misunderstanding your husband’s position. I wrongly extrapolated your comment about avoiding Church meetings other than sacrament. I’m sorry for that leap.
    .
    Nicene Creed was a correlated document created by a correlation committee — and that committee worked without apostles’ and prophets’ guidance. On the other hand, we have NT epistles by apostles attempting to correlate the early Church’s teachings.

  96. Chris H. on September 15, 2010 at 10:12 pm

    “On the other hand, we have NT epistles by apostles attempting to correlate the early Church’s teachings.”

    Wow, that is completely detached from historical reality.

  97. Dave on September 16, 2010 at 11:05 am

    It’s not correlation that’s killing SS (and the church “experience” in general.) It’s the 3-hour block and the pointless repetition of the same material 40 minutes later in PH/RS…

    [Note: This Dave is not the author of the post ...]

  98. Shelley on September 16, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    I feel like I’ve missed all the good discussion in the 90-something comments above me, but I just want to say this:

    I’ve been a Relief Society teacher twice, and at first I really struggled with the lessons. I was instructed to teach only out of the manual and the Scriptures (okay, sometimes my subversive feminist would come out and I’d read a Snow poem). I didn’t feel like I was actually teaching anything, and I had a hard time thinking I was successfully engaging the class.

    And then I realized that my job isn’t actually to present any new information or expound on any doctrine, but simply to foster an environment where the Spirit could speak to those in the class. If they were bored or passive or unresponsive, I no longer took it personally. That has given me a new perspective on being a student: for example, most of my Old Testament study this year comes from my personal study, and Sunday School lessons are just a springboard.

  99. Shelley on September 16, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    Oh, and just to add, I would love for them to update the “real-life” (I use that in the loosest possible sense) examples in the YW manual. I never, ever, ever related to those stories as a teenager.

  100. manaen on September 16, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    95.
    “On the other hand, we have NT epistles by apostles attempting to correlate the early Church’s teachings.”
    .
    Wow, that is completely detached from historical reality.

    .
    .

    Then, please tell me how I’m misreading these:
    .
    Gal 1:6,7
    I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.
    .
    1 Cor 1:10
    Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
    .
    1 Tim 1:5,6
    Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned: From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling
    .
    1 Tim 1:15
    This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me
    .
    2 Tim 2:16-18
    But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as doth a canker: [...] Who concerning the truth have erred
    .
    2 Pet 2:1
    But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.
    .
    1 John 2:18
    even now are there many antichrists
    .
    1 John 4:1
    Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.
    .
    Jude 1:3,4
    Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.
    .
    Rev 2:2
    I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars

  101. Ardis E. Parshall on September 16, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    If they were bored or passive or unresponsive, I no longer took it personally.

    Well, I’m mostly with you, Shelley, until this point. If more than a very few of my class members are bored and unresponsive, then I’m not doing my job as a teacher — and that *is* personal. There are always better questions to ask, better examples or “for instances” to use, a more lively manner to employ, that will draw out enthusiastic responses from a significant number of class members, no matter how familiar the material that is the basis of the lesson. A teacher may not be able to give new data, but a teacher should always be able to make class members think about old data in a fresh way.

  102. Shelley on September 16, 2010 at 4:35 pm

    Ardis,

    Your point is respectfully taken. I taught in a BYU student ward, and I used the fact that my class was comprised of intelligent young women to my advantage. I did my best to ask engaging questions, and I found that personal stories caught class members’ attention, probably because those personal stories involved applying familiar doctrine and ending up with personal results. But because I was teaching out of the Gospel Principles manual and every single girl in my class could give that lesson, there would inevitably be class members sleeping or chatting with each other. I often received positive feedback on my lessons and teaching style from the RS presidency, Bishopric wives, and RS sisters. I say that not to boast, but to show that there were at least some who benefited from my attempts to bring the Spirit into the class when I wasn’t teaching new material. These sisters were the same ones who actively, rather than passively, participated. Again, this experience as a teacher taught me how to be a student.

    In fact, I recall my one attempt to move away from the manual in my lesson on the Fall. Perhaps my tiny-bit-unorthodox feminist interpretation of Genesis, Moses, and Abraham was a little too uncomfortable for my class…

  103. Mike on September 16, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    A member of my family attends another church. I tell you it is a most enlightening experence to go there, especially in relation to this discussion.

    We are not the only church with this problem. We could peak out of Fortress Mormon and look at how others face it. We don’t have to teach their doctrine and we have more in common than I ever thought. I challenge you to explore SS at other denominations and it might reveal your own religion to you in a new light.

    One of the effects, for better or worse, of a centrally lead church is less reliance on market forces driving everything. If those on this blog were Protestants, most of us would not sit still for what has been described. We would walk across the street to another SS class at another church. This strong selective force drives other churches to a level of excellence in teaching unknown in Mormonia.

    This problem is far worse than I ever imagined before I looked around. In my own experience it has been a huge stumbling block in trying to bring my educated friends into the LDS church. Sometimes I don’t know why I don’t spend an hour on Sunday going somewhere else to a Bible study that might actually benefit me. There must be thousands in this large city.

    At the risk of making a bull s**t allegory, if churches were games played in round areas, my ward SS would be having a game of marbles while some of these other churches would be having a rodeo.

  104. Nate J. on September 16, 2010 at 6:10 pm

    In my experience I have found my sunday school teachers to be competent and engaging. However, if you find yourself dissatisfied I would remind you what is printed on page ii in the Old Testament Gospel Doctrine manual:

    “Comments and Suggestions
    Your comments and suggestions about this manual would be appreciated. Please submit to:

    Curriculum Planning
    50 East North Temple Street, Floor 24
    Salt Lake City, UT 84150-3200
    USA
    E-mail: cur-development@ldschurch.org

    Please list your name, adress, ward, and stake. Be sure to give the title of the manual. Then offer your comments and suggestions about the manual’s strengths and areas of potential improvement.”

    I get the impression that some people think that correlation is making it so that teachers only function is to read ver batim from the manual. I always thought that it was obvious that the manual is supposed to be more of a guide or an outline than a transcript of what the lesson’s supposed to be. Just looking at the table of contents of Teaching, No Greater Call makes it obvious that teachers are to put more into their lessons than that: http://new.lds.org/manual/teaching-no-greater-call-a-resource-guide-for-gospel-teaching?lang=eng

    The manual also states what the Church is afraid of happening without Correlation. It tells teachers to avoid speculation, misquoting, gospel hobbies, sensational stories, reshaping church history, private interpretations, and unorthodox views. It would be a real problem for a world-wide church if different congregations were teaching different doctrines.

  105. J.A.T. on September 17, 2010 at 9:03 am

    This entire thread has identified some of the points of Nibley’s essay ‘Zeal Without Knowledge”. he goes into this discussion in much more depth. It balances out much of what we are wrestling here. Also makes me think a lot of Glen Beck. Take a look.

  106. chris on September 17, 2010 at 10:30 am

    I’d just add my two cents in support of manaen as well as those who are in favor of more meaty education. manaen is on the right track by my accounts (not that it matters what I think), and it’s clear he(she) is very well educated when it comes to the scriptures. I think that kind of vision is what’s needed for all of us. To be able to recall and cite various scriptures as he as done, and refer to the principles which were taught then and compare it to what we need to do now.

    No I’m not saying there’s no need for anything else. But if all of the active members could identify a principle, use scriptures from various books/dispensations to give the principle meaning in our lives that would be great.

    I’m not so concerned with making sure the cultural historical nuances, or how the teachings of Socrates influenced XYZ. That is completely fascinating, and it would be great if we could all get there and explore those additional things. But what manaen is describing seems more foundational. Then its up to each of us to build upon that. — although in all fairness if it’s worth doing, and done well I wouldn’t mind seeing some kind of program to dig deeper. But my feeling is we’d see a tendency to jump to that when clearly we don’t understand the foundational principles. Maybe you need an quota for visit/home teaching and missionary work to advance to the next level – just kidding!

  107. Mark A. Clifford on September 17, 2010 at 10:35 am

    Everything evil makes me think of Glen Beck.

    I substitute teach Gospel Doctrine in a real Mormon ward (North Pole, AK). It is a fun time, particularly when I judiciously use commentary and reflect on the historical (ahistorical?) position of the text. The Mormons seem to like it. Sometimes I read from a non KJV Bible in there. No one has tried me for my membership yet.

    What helps is to not care so much about the “they” want me to do (that is, the Correlation Committee), and focus instead on what I feel “inspired to do”. I have learnt a secret. The “they” in charge do not have any more, or different, Holy Ghost than I do!

    Merry Christmas.

  108. Crick on September 17, 2010 at 2:38 pm

    Dave,
    Most if not all of the manuals I have seen has an address you can send comments and suggestions to. Its one thing to suggest that manuals need to be re-written or updated. Its an entirely different thing to blame problems with the current manuals on the revelation to correlate the auxiliaries. A lack of correlation would not necessarily improve the overall quality of instruction.

  109. J.A.T. on September 17, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    Correlation was reflected upon, bibles were bashed, souls were called to repentance. Fun thread.

    In reading many posts here, I percieved most calls for ‘more meat’ in the lessons to be arguing on the same side as the correlation committee members (or defenders) who are posting. We’re both wanting ss to have more tangibility, more relevancy, to bring about more enlightenment, to be more of a help in our lives. No one is advocating for junking our rich history of teaching for trite trivia. Knowlege and truth are inseperable from gospel principles and faith. We’ve gotta have it all. Many saints (on this blog and in others) are asking for more content, more doctrinal meat, more connectivity to contexts and related doctrines, more depth in approaching a topic, more knowledge and closeness to God, more . . . (insert everything good here). We can still glory in truth and plainness, but we can glory in A LOT of things and live and understand those things completely as opposed to superficially. Primary sources of course are the main dishes for this type of feasting.

    That’s the POINT of the restoration. We have DIRECT conduits with heaven! We don’t need filters. We received MORE KNOWLEDGE and MORE REVELATION. Our knowledge and faith are UNIQUE to us! Why are we saying that isn’t important now by so very carefullly portioning out perceived ‘edible bits’ to the masses? Then manuals never scaffold or progress in level, they rarely change. (Very different than the learners!) More and more is correlated. Milk always. Small portions.

    We were actually given a FEAST! Wouldn’t it be great if we could all sit at the feasting table, talk and share? Let’s teach and talk about it without self censoring! (I’m still confused about why all this gospel- good news– is existing in the silos of minds, unsaid and unshared because it doens’t fit into 3rd grade manuals.)

    We received the priesthood and the church– a mechanism to share all this extremely unique KNOWLEDGE about salvation, our origins, the nature of God, the universe, the plan of happiness, etc. In addition to that we began to each have the opportunity to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, callings, stewardstip, inspiration, and personal as well as Prophetic revelation. Our doctrine is extremely rich! We have knowledge to share and revelation and inspiration to use in sharing it. Why are we boiling it down to 3rd grade Oprah-i-zed bare bones?

    If you present the basics,(3rd grade basics) you essentially strip away everything unique about it and might as well be sitting in any other denomination’s pews in your city that morning. They live and teach the elements of charity just as we do. They share the light of Christ too. We throw in a scripture or two from the BoM or a quote here or there from a GA, but looking at the simplified product, it’s quite mainstreamed in the end. The early saints knew AND lived charity before they met the great LDS orators (Joseph, Parley, Wilford, Brigham, etc.). Those men (any women) provided something new to the early converts . . . additional knowledge and revelation. Any of these early prophets could teach for HOURS on end about the doctrines of the kingdom of God and hold an audience captivated. In those orations, something special was happening. Volumes of truth were being shared and (for the most part) all were edified. Today we suppose we can focus on truth in smaller- more digestible pieces(for an hour) and expect we’ll be edified in the same way. The portions are carefully measured. It’s always milk. What would happen if we started feeding the baby (after 150+ years) a little solid food?

    Did Joseph worry about re-hashing King Follett’s discourse into a 3rd grade level retracable by the most clumsy teacher or most unreceptive student? No. Teach the doctrines of the kinigdom with boldness, say what needs to be said knowing that the spirit is there to help the willing student and that truth will stand on its own. We can’t usurp the responsbilities of the student by withholding information, nor can we minimize the responsbility of the teacher by taking so much of the content burden away. Information is power. Shared information strengthens us all.

  110. Michael on September 17, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    AMEN to J.A.T.! That is what converted me to the Restored Gospel! Otherwise I could have just remained a Catholic and feasted upon the deep theology within her tradition. It is the uniqueness and all-encompassing truth of the Restored Gospel combined with the Gift of the Holy Ghost that defines Mormonism. I am tired of watered-down platitudes. i can get them in any non-denominational evangelical church. I want to feast on meat.

    Just as a side note – the advice to actually send in feedback to the Church curriculum staff will probably not result in much change. I am certain that they are aware of all the complaints raised in this post and have consciously chosen to present the curriculum in the manner we now see it. There are thousands of examples of stronger Christian teaching manuals upon which they could draw if they really wanted to beef up the lessons.

  111. Shelley on September 17, 2010 at 6:24 pm

    JAT, perhaps a possible counterexample to that method of teaching is this: my stake president during my freshman year of college taught our Relief Society that if we wanted to go to the highest degree of glory in the Celestial Kingdom, we ought to get comfortable with the idea of sharing our husbands. You recommend that teachers teach with boldness. My Stake President said this so boldly that I went home and cried for hours, ready to leave the Church over this “doctrine”. I’ve since reconciled that I often have to take someone else’s “revelations” with a grain of salt.*

    Teaching the “milk,” as it were, puts students in the situation of actively thinking about the doctrine, leading them to their own inspiration and personal application. I at least prefer to be the student in this kind of situation as opposed to Sunday School being TheGospelAccordingtoBrotherorSisterSoandSo.

    Further, it seems that the style of teaching you’re proposing really does put some members (my mind is drawn to two older men in my ward, one who has Autism and the other whose brain has been damaged after years of drug use) at a disadvantage in class settings.

    tl;dr: JAT, great in theory, maybe not-so-great in practice.

    *In fact, it’s my understanding that one of the many reasons the big correlation project happened was to dissuade people from making such left-field statements.

  112. Hans in California on September 18, 2010 at 12:51 am

    Somewhat related to this debate on correlation, Sunday School, and the 3-hour block is the role of music which has been greatly diminished over the past 30 years. We used to sing a lot more in our services, particularly Sunday School, where time was devoted to learning hymns and in some cases learning how to sing in 4-part harmony. The new Hymnbook (1985) simplified many of the hymns, in some cases lowering the pitch to the extent that most people only sing the melody. By eliminating hymn practice we have created a younger generation in the church that does not sing all that well, whether it be hymns or more challenging choral works (ward choirs). I have been an ward organist for 42 years, recently released due to a stroke that resulted in a loss of feeling to my left arm and hand. Fortunately I had 2 men (in their 30s-40s) who could step in and replace me. However there are very few younger people (teens-20s) who are able to play keyboard instruments who will be able to fill these positions in the coming years.

  113. BevP on September 18, 2010 at 5:57 am

    It does trouble me sometimes that if I were to use a textbook as old as the lesson manuals to teach professionally, I’d have no credibility at all. However, there is nothing actually stopping us from reading new research on ancient topics and using it in well proportioned doses. The real transgression is to use it instead of the agreed manual, because “doctrine” is focus on what we are expected to believe, not on what’s tasty. I’ve occasionally had a wrist-slap from someone who doesn’t want a bit of chutney on his custard, but the Church does encourage high level scholarship, so it seems ungrateful not to make use of the findings, which often enhance belief rather than trample on it.

  114. chanson on September 18, 2010 at 6:46 am

    Mac users can also just click the image to open the full size view and drag that to their desktops.

  115. Mike on September 18, 2010 at 10:23 am

    Granny used to say “slow waters run deep.” My thoughts may not be deep but they are slow. It didn’t dawn on me until today that I have missed one of the most important effects of the simplified correlation curriculum. It sets people up for apostasy.

    To understand how, you need to visit some of the anti-Mormon websites. You will have to filter out the vulgarity, profanity, whining, and bilge along with some general lying. But beneath that runs an all-too-common story entitled “The Journey of Discovery.”

    It starts with deep devotion, quite a bit of all-or-nothing thinking, a tendency to see only the positive in the church or only the negative outside of it, strong literal mindedness in contrast to appreciation of allegory, unrealistic expectations and projection of modernity onto the past. Everything seems perfect in the little Mormon universe. Then some stray piece of disturbing information is encountered but easily ignored. Later more and more information cracks the eggshell and spawns a trip to the library or the Internet in search of the “awful truth.” Either suddenly or over time a mental light turns on. It is like gaining a negative testimony. More research is done. They now “know” the church is false and it seems impossible to ever go back. The ramifications can be as emotionally devastating as the death of a child or a spouse.

    Another related fascinating phenomenon is “The Inoculation Effect.” Disturbing information that we learn at a young age from those who care about us is not packed with the emotional devastation that it might have if kept from us until later. For example, I had a girlfriend who was 8 years younger than her next youngest sibling. When she found out at age 22 that she was actually her oldest “sister’s” biological daughter and the result of the cover up of an unplanned teenage pregnancy, it all but killed her emotionally and spiritually. She lost basic trust in everyone. To have raised her from the beginning knowing this inconvenient little fact would have been less harmful. The same goes for the negative aspects about our church history and culture. If you think about the things that disturb you, they are not often things that you were taught as a child. Unless you become convinced they are dead wrong.

    Two examples of people I suggest are well-set up for this process:

    1. I am acquainted with an accomplished physician. She was raised in California in a multi-generational LDS family and attended BYU where she got married and had a couple of children. She divorced when she found out her husband was patronizing prostitutes while she was working 2 jobs to keep food in the house and doing all of the housework. She completed her degree, attended medical school, residencies. She is boarded in three medical sub-specialties and is second in command in her department at a top ten university.

    The other day I mentioned to her, concerning the recent SLC tribune article, that it really was too bad that Hoffman never got around to working on the Mountain Meadows Massacre. That might have been really interesting. She had absolutely no knowledge of Mark Hoffman, white salamanders, forgeries and only the most limited idea about the massacre. I spend close to an hour explaining what I knew about Hoffman. She was dubious about the possibility that President Hinckley spent church money to buy forgeries, that he would give a Bishop an undercover assignment that got him killed, that he might tell the police and media a few “stretchers” in a bungled attempt to protect the church, that the LDS DA would cut a deal with Hoffman to plead for 1-15 years and 15- life in prison for two cold-blooded capital murders that coincidentally kept the GA’s off the witness stand and national television in a high profile trial. I suppose she will check out Wikipedia and hopefully it won’t shake her up too much.

    2. Several years ago I had a conversation in the foyer after church with one of the most intelligent women in my ward. Sister A. has a master’s degree and is an educator and mother of 4 children and among our best friends. She is a convert of over 20 years ago and has performed with excellence every responsible calling in the ward a woman can hold. She had just finished teaching a RS lesson from the Joseph F. Smith manual about marriage relationships. She was commenting on what wise and applicable advice he gave. I will attempt a reconstruction of our foyer conversation from memory.

    Bro. Mike: Well he ought to have known how to properly run a family. He had plenty of practice, since he had six of them.

    Sis. A: What do you mean, how could he have six families?

    Bro. Mike: He had six wives, he was a polygamist.

    Sis. A: What? He was a polygamist? He couldn’t have been. He was the Prophet in the early part of the 1900’s and polygamy ended in the 1800’s. You need to brush up on your church history, Mike.

    Bro. Mike: You know his father was murdered when he was a child old enough to remember it.

    Sis. A: That is just awful. I wouldn’t think there were any murders in Utah in those times.

    Bro. Mike: Actually, it wasn’t in Utah. Joseph F. was the son of Hyrum Smith, you know the brother of Joseph Smith who were both killed at the Carthage jail in 1844.

    Sis. A: What? He was born in Nauvoo?

    Bro. Mike: No, before in Missouri. And he drove a wagon across the plains when he was about 10 and he was old enough to marry before the War Between the States in the 1860’s. He died around the end of WWI when he was about 80 years old. He must of had over 40 children. I’ve seen a family picture of them.

    Sis. A: I don’t believe you. You are just messing with me and making up bad stories about the church leaders. You know that disrespect for them is the first step down the road to apostasy.

    Bro. Mike: I guess you don’t want to hear the part about his first wife who was his whacky 16 year old first cousin and she eventually divorced him because he was gone so much on missions and church assignments and….

    Sis. A: Now I know you are lying. None of the prophets in this modern dispensation have been divorced. That just wouldn’t happen. I can not believe a divorced polygamist could say the beautiful things we read in RS today.

    Bro. Mike: … and she claimed he beat her, according to sources you would consider unreliable. At the time beating a wife once in a while was not that uncommon.

    Sis. A: Oh, you are so funny. Outrageous but funny. I ought to have your wife beat you.

    I think you can see how the level of ignorance that the current curriculum has achieved sets both of these people up and thousands of others for a journey of discovery. Add in a little hurt feelings over mistreatment of misbehaving children at church or mishandling of a messy divorce, or some other insult and it is no surprise that huge portions of the bloggernacle are humming with apostasy.

    In the century old conflict between the SS and the Priesthood, Correlation represented a huge victory for one side that had been much less influential before. (Every institution has these inherent conflicts between progressives and conservatives). I would suggest that the solution to the hemorrhaging of members to inactivity and apostasy might be better instruction at church, not more home teaching.

  116. Ben H on September 18, 2010 at 12:48 pm

    We need manuals that will work for beginning teachers with very little in the way of training, and for audiences whose scriptural and gospel knowledge and understanding are pretty simple, as they are for many of our members. I wouldn’t completely rule out the idea of having some more interesting manuals around, for wards and classes where they would be appropriate, but it could be a delicate business to deploy them appropriately, and as long as we have one manual, it needs to be pretty basic.

    Teachers with greater ability can and should step up and prayerfully find the right match between what they and their audience are ready for, crafting lessons that provide a richer experience, according to their strengths. The last thing we want is to have teachers trying to teach beyond their strength, stumbling through complex material and getting it wrong.

    The main problem I see is a lack of good teaching for teachers. However, it is difficult to implement anything much more interesting than the status quo for teacher training in the wards, for similar reasons. One simply cannot presuppose much either in the manuals, teachers, or students for these classes. However advanced some in the teacher training class may be, others are likely to be beginners.

    Outside the wards, however, where we can select the participants more carefully to fit the experience, we may be able to do much more, such as at BYU, whose students then go out and share their strengths with units everywhere. BYU religious education courses themselves still tend to aim at a fairly basic level of spiritual sophistication, but it would be possible to structure courses there in a way that built beyond this level, since there are a large number of students gathered for multiple years, and it would be possible to accumulate more and more teachers there (there are some amazing ones, but I’d like to see more) who are skilled enough to teach even entry-level audiences in ways that greatly enrich their sense of how to read and teach the scriptures.

    Another possibility might be stake-level master classes, bringing experienced teachers together under the instruction of a master teacher, to raise their teaching to the next level.

  117. JA Benson on September 18, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    Mike- Amen and Amen! You have articulated the situation exactly.

  118. Ardis E. Parshall on September 18, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    Mike misses the boat by light years.

    Ben H, however, nails it. Every detail.

  119. Brad Kramer on September 18, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    Ben’s penultimate adumbrates what I think is the biggest issue. The problem, again, is not Correlation per se. It’s not administrative or productive streamlining, it’s not the creation of a degree of uniformity across historical time and cultural space. It’s the fact that the substance of that efficiently produced, substantive continuity ultimately derives from the culture of CES. If the majority “professors of religion and ancient scripture” at the school of religious education over the past several decades were engaged in something that bore even passing resemblance to scriptural scholarship (the reason you couldn’t get a credit from a BYU Old Testament course to transfer to any other university in the known universe is not anti-Mormon bias…), I would expect the bar for SS instruction and the expectations we have for our own collective capacity to think seriously about the scriptures (as opposed to just accepting uncritically the things that whatever dead GA happens to be fashionable in CES circles had to say about certain passages) to be much higher.

    I can see a lot of benefit of having Jim Faulconer and Julie Smith writing the manuals that get mass distributed throughout the Church, and I don’t think anyone could doubt that they would masterfully balance the imperative to seriously study scriptural texts with the imperative to facilitate spiritually enriching devotional experiences. I can’t see any downside whatsoever to it.

  120. chris on September 18, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    JAT, It was cited before above, and I’ll do it again in reference to your 108, (which is nicely said and I agree with a lot of it personally). Only I’ll choose to emphasize a different portion.

    Let thy bowels be full of charity to all men and to the household of the faith and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly, then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God **and the doctrines of the priesthood** shall distill upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.

    Promise? (among other wonderful things in this verse and the following) that we will not only receive these deep doctrines of the priesthood, but they will distill(purify) our soul, from heaven.

    Prereqs? Charity (pure love of Christ) to all, virtue accompanying all our thoughts.

    So I don’t see a problem returning to the focus that perhaps many of us aren’t getting. The deep doctrines can edify us and purify/sanctify us, but I believe that only comes if and after we have achieved those two important prereqs (and it’s not a static thing, obviously we ebb and flow). I’m not speaking for correlation here. Just my own opinion. I know there are times in my life I receive, and understand and am edified by some deep doctrines as taught plainly by prophets in earlier generations. And it’s always when I’m living full of charity and virtue.

    The message as I interpret the actions of the correlation seem to be: return to learning and living these principles. Then it will be added to. And I’d even add the next step, many people might even reject or contend over the deeper doctrines if they are not living the law and state of charity as much as they are able to.

    You seem to suggest we’re living on milk and being denied meat. I think the meat is there for whoever drinks the milk first — perhaps not just spoon fed meat in sunday school. Of course, maybe you are already focusing on the important things, and fully living the gospel. If so, I commend you, and say go and seek what your soul is yearning for. (not like you need my permission anyway) But perhaps for others the only thing holding them back is themselves.

  121. JWL on September 18, 2010 at 5:20 pm

    If you are going to have one uniform Sunday School manual for the entire Church, the need to accommodate (1) teenagers, (2) areas of the Church where most members are new converts and/or less educated, and (3) the fact that most teachers are going to be untrained in either teaching methodology or any substantive background in scriptural studies is going to require that that manual be fairly elementary.

    Here are two ideas which could address the complaint voiced in the original post while still taking account of the limitations I just noted:

    (1) Having gone through the four-year cycle several times, the Church could now perhaps do a new set of manuals focusing on different scriptural texts. This is especially pertinent in the OT where so much is skipped, but even with the other three Standard Works the lesson emphases gloss over substantial amounts of text. Surely the scriptural texts now skipped or glossed over are still true and can yield Correlation-OK gospel lessons to give beauty and variety to our Sunday School study. Obviously, some texts are basic (Creation and the Passion for example) and should not be overlooked, but that still leaves a lot of scripture which is now underplayed which could serve as the basis for useful Gospel teaching, enlivened by being drawn from scriptures which have been overlooked in the current manual series.

    (2) At the back of every lesson there is an “Additional Teaching Ideas” section, which I always understood was there to help teachers whose classes already knew the basic youth-level material in the main lesson. In a new set of manuals these sections could perhaps be expanded with somewhat more background material of the sort called for in many of the comments above, while keeping the lesson proper at the more elementary level needed for the large part of the Sunday School manual “audience” noted at the beginning of the comment.

  122. manaen on September 18, 2010 at 10:01 pm

    114.
    .
    Re: INOCULATION
    .
    (I’ve been absent most recently trying to keep the lid on my real life — will have more later, but thought I’d add this drive-by observation).
    .
    I met my wife at an LDS African-American fireside in 2007 a few hours after she was baptized. (I’m white and what she calls “home grown” LDS). She has been working through the priesthood restriction and we’re gathering answers and material for a this-is-what-happened-and-here-is-why-you-should-join-the-LDS-Church-anyway book for the black community. We attended a church-sponsored seminar this morning and she started conversing with another African-American sister afterwards. I joined them in time to observe the following.
    .
    The other sister explained that an LDS family took in her and her husband some 30 years ago when they moved to the western US after serving as Baptist missionaries in Africa. Aside from showing great kindness, the LDS family also told them that their race was cursed — *after* the priesthood revelation! But their kindness opened this couple’s hearts to the Spirit and they were converted to the restored gospel.
    .
    They moved to Los Angeles after living in Utah and Nevada. She went to the West Angeles (black) Church because she missed the gospel music of her past. In an effort to separate his congregation from the world, the preacher told them that they were swans, so why mingle with the ducks. She took this a different way, saying “I’m a swan, I’m a swan” and planned to join this church so as not to be the only black woman in her ward/congregation. She didn’t doubt the restored gospel; she just felt homesick.
    .
    She came to their belief in a trinitarian divinity as she read their statement of beliefs; she couldn’t deny the truth that she knew. She came to their declaration that the Bible is the complete word of God; she couldn’t separate herself from the spiritual witness and experiences she’s had with The Book of Mormon. So, she decided to remain the black swan in her ward. When my wife asked whether she’s still open to looking at another church, she said, “No, I’m done.”
    .
    My wife then asked her about polygamy. This sister talked about Joseph Smith and his part in it. After they discussed a couple more of my wife’s questions, the other sister said, “Look, I know Jesus is my Savior. I know Joseph Smith was a prophet and that this is the Lord’s church” — to which my wife agreed — ” and I trust the Holy Spirit; I’ll just have to follow where it leads me.” Felt difficulty but no wavering.
    .
    This is the most sure inoculation — learning to walk in the light of the Holy Ghost.
    .
    = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
    .
    Now this from the OT manual’s introduction,
    .
    The scriptures that prompted the disciples’ hearts to burn [the preceding example was Jesus's teaching on the road to Emmaus] were from the books of Moses and the prophets—the scriptures that we know as the Old Testament. As you teach these same sacred truths, the Holy Ghost will testify of their truthfulness to your class as he did to Cleopas and his companion.
    .
    Studying the Old Testament should strengthen class members’ testimonies of the Savior and their commitment to live his gospel. Guided by the Spirit in their study, class members should be able to testify with Job, “I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth” (Job 19:25).
    .
    When preparing for Gospel Doctrine class, it is important that you seek inspiration and guidance from the Spirit of the Lord. “The Spirit shall be given unto you by the prayer of faith,” said the Lord, “and if ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach” (D&C 42:14). Remember that the Holy Ghost is the teacher in your class.

  123. ally on September 19, 2010 at 12:21 am

    I teach Gospel Doctrine. I am not a scholar. I do my best to prepare using the lesson manual and a few other sources that give a historical background, etc. I love GD because I love learning from the scriptures. I can tell you the best lessons I have are where I can tell class members have read the assigned OT reading and thought about it, at least a little. If the general church membership won’t study the scriptures on their own, then no matter how great the manual or the teacher is, there is only so much a class can really get from the lessons, as far as real spiritual progression is concerned. Which is the whole point, yes?

  124. RW on September 19, 2010 at 2:05 am

    #84 Brad,

    You suggest that there might be such a thing as “good” correlation. I think the whole purpose of correlation can not be good. I see correlation as the effective stiffing to individual interpretations of the scriptures, the centralization of the doctrine. In the “old” church each member was given the keys to interpret, and interpret they did. In the new church the doctrine is much to important to be left to simple members but must be interpreted and standardized by committee and passed for review by the top tiers of the church.

    This is why the manuals come out pablumized. That and the fact that the lessons are written for the lowest common denominator teacher and class in the church.

    The solution is good teachers, but bishops do not choose on the basis of teaching or even spirituality. Maybe just on doctrinal purity, or, in a case I know about, because the spouse of a notable was in need of a job but is a lousy teacher.

  125. manaen on September 19, 2010 at 3:32 am

    123
    .
    Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
    – 1 Cor 1:10

  126. Jader3rd on September 19, 2010 at 6:42 pm

    From what I’m reading it sounds like most everyone is saying that they’re bored with the current manuals and need something that adds more. I can’t help but think of a comment made by a good sister in my ward saying that she dislikes it when the teacher says “Now we all know the story of , so I’m going to focus on ” because she wouldn’t know the story/concept. I forget if the reason was because she was inactive growing up, or was a recent convert. I think that Gospel Doctrine probably helps them more than helps members who’ve been attending for 60 years straight.

  127. Charles on September 19, 2010 at 7:52 pm

    I think this criticism is a bit short sighted in two ways but raises one possibly good point.

    First, we are supposed to study the Gospel on our own. Sunday School should not be the main place we get Gospel insights. If that is all we do, then we are just weekend chippers in the Faith.

    Second, Correlation helps us handle a worldwide Church where lessons have to be put into who knows how many languages.

    So those are good reasons for what we do.

    But the criticism raises a slightly different issue as well.. not an issue with correlation but with the content of the lesson manuals. Are the lesson manuals failing by virtue of not being updated? I don’t know. It probably depends upon the objectives.

  128. RW on September 19, 2010 at 10:29 pm

    #124 Manaen,

    That is not what I mean.

    1 Nephi 13, 34
    … saith the Lamb — I will be merciful unto the Gentiles in that day, insomuch that I will bring forth unto them, in mine own power, much of my gospel, which shall be plain and precious, saith the Lamb.

    We have only part of the gospel, there is much remaining to be understood and discovered. One of the main ways we can learn the rest of the gospel is by learning from each other. Each one of us has a different perception of the gospel and it is by discussion (blogs included) that we can enlarge our understanding.

    The absolute beauty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that we all own it. It is not the property of any one person or even the Church. We do not have a doctrinal creed to which we all must swear to in order to be a member. (The closest thing we have to it is the temple interview which is geared to test sincerity and willingness to believe.)

    If the Church limits our ability to communicate the precious truths we have gleaned from our experience this is a shame. What I was lamenting is that a really great time and place for this exchange is being filled with non-informative iteration and stock answers all learned before we were 15.

    The leadership of the Church has the power to discourage informative talk by the membership. We have seen it happen and correlation is an instrument in its execution. For example, in the recent past I have heard general conference talks read verbatim over the pulpit in sacrament meeting in lieu of individual thinking.

    None of us here, on this blog or in the Church for that matter, speak with the same voice. Most earnestly we wish for understanding and respect. We all seek knowledge to take with us.

  129. J.A.T. on September 20, 2010 at 12:59 pm

    Shelley # 110- Sorry to hear of that, but we can’t hold the education of 13 million+ people back because of a few loose screws. I advocate for finding special ways to help them as opposed to loosing precious information from our cultural memory or leaving others to stagnate in mediocrity. I maintain that it is a level of mediocrity we struggle with in moving forward and improving ourselves as a group. We read about societies in the BoM and OT (Enoch) where collaborative progression took place. Is that a lost millenialist goal?

    #119 good points! Yes, charity is the foundation. And I agree wholeheartedly that simple manuals and rudementary instruction have an absolutle place in church instruction. Perhaps what I’m hearing from your post and from others is that if you know the content already, your fanny belongs in the chair sitting and listening to the ss lesson anyway, where (if you are truly living the gospel) you will a) be able to comment charitably and help others grow and b) recieve the deeper, richer doctrines distilled to your mind which will probably not be apporpriate to share (due to the scope of the lesson), but you’ll appreciate the personal growth in the’silo of your mind’). There isn’t a place for discussion, teaching or learning above the basic level. Anything advanced needs to be worked out in your own mind. If one practices the gospel sufficient to receive personal wellsprings of inspiration, there isn’t a need (or a place, or a mechanism after 180+ years) for institutional higher-level instruction. If that’s the case, would an advanced SS class be like the Quaker’s services where everyone sits in silence? Why not have every 5th SS of the month be a Quaker-like service?

    What was the point of the school of the Prophets? What was the point in us receiving richer doctrines in the first place? For 2 of a 3 hr block be set aside for conversational teaching? All the scriptures about learning and teaching and gathering together? Why do we fear the harm that can be done in information overlaod so much that we turn to a very calculated information spigot? Both types of information control can bring about positive and negative effects.

    It just seems to me that charity also includes a desire to teach as much as possible (in appropriate ways, realizing holy things require special environments and times). Doesn’t the ‘silos of the mind’ approach seem like a very isolationist path to a shared doctrine and a shared goal? I sometimes think that many saints by heridity or enculturation are introverts . . . preferring to reflect for hours by themselves as opposed to engaging in any sort of discussion or teaching. It seems to be a more introverted-type approach to growth. Of course it has a place! We all need to develop pesonal relationships with God and work out our own salvation, but it seems to me that charitably including our fellow saints in instruction is appropriate.

    #124

    —-Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
    – 1 Cor 1:10——-

    I don’t think a literal interpretation of this scripture applied to correlation is the best, or only interpretation available. Taken to a far extreme, we get Rameumpton, but similarly take too far in a homogenization of lessons (correlation), we could also see the same type of vain repitions and closed-mindedness which is NOT indicitive of God’s teaching. Being ONE in purpose and spirit can also mean a miraculous coehesive movement and discovery at ANY level. Granted in a typical correlated lesson, there isn’t a verbatum repitition and following, but nonetheless, a similar unengaged parroting (only in paraphrasing- strongly driven by enculturation) of the same content. SS lessons that do not challenge and do no engage by content lend themselves to this type of degeneration. Just goin’ through the motions. (Doesn’t this sounds teeny bit familiar to anyone?) Sigh. On the other hand, I’m sure we all recognize the opposite as well . . . inspired teaching and learning.

    #120 & #123
    Dirth of teachers? I’ve never been in a ward before where there wasn’t a large core of especially female elementary and secondary teachers. We’ve also got a lot of ed aministrators who may strain, but can recall teaching esperience. Many SAHM’s actually have degrees in education (or at least a few years work toward it). Then, we have all those RM’s who return with 18mo-2yrs “teaching” experience. Not to mention the “teaching” required in most any profession from teaching an apprentice plumber or carpenter to teaching a jury or a patient. I hate to see the finger pointed to the saints so often, negating the responsibility of the content and manuals.

  130. Clark on September 20, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    So, to answer Dave’s comment in the original post of “a few dozen Gospel Keywords” Check out the new Duty to God Young Men’s program: At each level (Deacon, Teacher, Priest) it has a list. The Priest list (p.68) is the longest:

    Godhead
    Plan of Salvation
    Atonementof Jesus
    Prophets
    Apostacy & Restoration
    Restoration of the Priesthood
    Preisthood and Priesthood Keys
    Service
    Covenants and Ordinances
    Faith
    Repentance
    Baptism
    Gift of hte HOly Ghost
    Prayer & Personal Revelation
    Agency
    Temples
    Eternal Families
    Family History Work
    Law of Chastity
    Word of Wisdom
    Tithing

  131. Ben H on September 20, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    : ) Thanks, Ardis!

  132. manaen on September 21, 2010 at 4:05 am

    119
    Chris, I like your comments.
    .
    One note, however: after my crash, burn, and spritual healing, I’ve come to understand that charity and virtue are the deep doctrines — much deeper than most suppose. Particularly charity/pure love of Christ, which is “the most joyous to our souls” whose purpose for existing is that we might have joy. There’s profound depth in how God’s and Christ’s love brings the joy that is our purpose; it reveals the nature of what we are, and why that love heals our souls.

  133. Crick on September 21, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    Mike…you make some good points and I have had similar experiences. But the Devil is in the details on the Hoffman case and it sounds like you are going by the “Mormon Murders” version of events. There are other books out there that don’t paint the Church in what I believe to be an unfair and [often] untrue light.

  134. Ken on September 21, 2010 at 11:12 pm

    I haven’t endured the entirety of the thread, so apologies if anyone has mentioned this already, but I think this comment by Nibley is germane to the discussion:

    “Apostasy never came by renouncing the gospel but always by corrupting it. No one renounces it today, and so we have the strange paradox of people stoutly proclaiming beliefs and ideals that they have no intention of putting into practice. … We seek knowledge as our greatest treasure, while the poverty of most of our manuals and handbooks defies description.” – Hugh Nibley, “One Eternal Round,” CWHN 12:395:96 [sic; 395-96?]

  135. Mark D. on September 22, 2010 at 8:09 am

    Ken, I fail to see how the last part of that quote has anything to do with the first part. Doctrinal minimalism / educational oversimplification has something to do with hypocrisy driven apostasy?

    This sort of thing is why I tend to see much of Nibley’s writings, and more especially the most quoted parts, as basically an extended rant, and not a very well thought out one at that.

  136. manaen on September 23, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    Many have complained here about mindless repetition of stories they have heard instead of studying the actual text of the scriptures. They chafe at a dumbed-down discussion outline from a Correlation Committee far away instead of freely sharing the fruits of individual study of the scriptures.
    .
    I recently realized that I’ve been the only commenter here to cite anything from the manual (other than James, #64, Nate J.’s #103 and JWL’s #120) and that none of the complainers have engaged the manual’s description of the class’s purpose and how to achieve it. In fact, some of their comments betray ignorance of this.
    .
    So a question: how many of these complainers are mindlessly repeating stories they’ve heard instead of studying the actual text of the manual? Are they adhering to a dumbed-down discussion outline from bloggers far away instead of freely sharing the fruits of individual study of the manual?
    .
    I’m willing, hoping, eager, for my hypothesis to be disproven because if it stands, we’ve been treated to a week’s discussion by people modeling what they claim offends them. Of the words I considered to describe this, “hypocrisy” seems most apt.
    .
    I’m asking for answers to :
    1. How much of the OT manual had you read before you posted on this thread?
    2. How recently before you posted on this thread had you read in the OT manual?
    from:
    - Aaron B., #54
    - Brad Kramer, #84, 88, 118
    - Dave, #28
    - Jack, #3
    - J.A.T., #60, 62, 93, 108
    - John C., #23
    - Manual, #11, #81
    - Mark D., #12, 45, 86
    - Michael, #109
    - Mike, #114
    - Paul, #20
    - Rameumption, #16
    - R. Gary, #19
    - RW, #123, 127
    - wondering, #8
    (Numbers are comments’ numbers that prompted me to ask these writers; relevant text from these comments is appended below).
    .
    If this hypothesis is not disproven, I’ll regret not having the discussion of what the manual actually presents as its purpose and method while this thread still had people’s attention.
    .
    While waiting for these folks to discover those two questions and answer them, here are some other thoughts and questions:
    .
    Some have suggested that better manuals — maybe written by Julie Smith or some other favored scholar — and greater use of non-correlated instructional material would lift Gospel Doctrine classes to what would be considered, by the complainers, an acceptable level of scholarship. J.A.T. noted in her #108, Any of these early prophets could teach for HOURS on end about the doctrines of the kingdom of God and hold an audience captivated. In those orations, something special was happening. Volumes of truth were being shared and (for the most part) all were edified.
    .
    I’m a business man in real life, so I habitually compare the value of the resources required to the value of the benefit desired from their use (aka “profit forecasting”). There are 48 Gospel Doctrine classes each year. In balancing priorities, the Church decided 30 years ago to consolidate meetings into a 3-hour block with the explanation that this was so families would have more time available to spend together on the Sabbath. The time available in this block for each Gospel Doctrine class discussion — after opening/closing prayers, announcements, etc. — is about 1/2 hour. This means that there are about 24 hours of class discussion each year, or an 8-week course of 3 one-hour classes per week. In our annual curriculum rotation, this is equivalent to an 8-week course every 4 years to discuss the OT.
    .
    So, what kind of manual — written exactly as you’d have it — and what kind of teacher would yield the depth of scholarly understanding the complainers seek? J.A.T. is correct that early prophets (as well as later ones and many other LDS members) could and did teach the doctrines for hours. Maybe that was because it would take hours to achieve the sought depth of understanding — hours that are not available in our Gospel Doctrine classes. The business man in me says that this is not a case of the benefit not being worth the cost of the resources needed to obtain it; it’s a case of seeking an benefit unobtainable with the available resources.
    .
    J.A.T. continued her comment #108, Today we suppose we can focus on truth in smaller- more digestible pieces(for an hour) and expect we’ll be edified in the same way. The portions are carefully measured. It’s always milk. What would happen if we started feeding the baby (after 150+ years) a little solid food?
    .
    This is a major break from what the manual says. It does NOT say that the Gospel Doctrine classes will give the same edification that hours of teaching would give. Here’s what the OT manual does say:
    .
    During class, keep discussions focused on the scriptures. Be judicious in your use of commentaries and other nonscriptural sources of information. Class members should be taught to seek knowledge and inspiration from the scriptures and the words of the latter-day prophets.
    .
    These classes are to teach us “to seek knowledge and inspiration from the scriptures” and modern prophets. Recognizing both the importance of understanding the scriptures and using them as sources of knowledge and inspiration and the impossibility of developing these in 23.5 hours per year, the Church decided to use these classes to teach us how to gain these. Not having the time to take us on fishing trips for hours at a time, these classes teach us how to fish on our own; they actually liberate us from the correlated constraints our complainers imagined the manual imposes. IMO, this fits well with the self-reliance / not-living-on-borrowed-light scenario the Church champions.
    .
    Also,
    Studying the Old Testament should strengthen class members’ testimonies of the Savior and their commitment to live his gospel. Guided by the Spirit in their study, class members should be able to testify with Job, “I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth” (Job 19:25).
    Note that this talks about class members’ study guided by the Spirit, but not about their study in the class.
    .
    So, how does the manual propose to do this?
    .
    First, teachers are encouraged to teach with the Holy Ghost. In fact, the manual calls them to remember that he is the teacher of their classes:
    .
    The scriptures that prompted the disciples’ hearts to burn [the preceding example was Jesus's teaching on the road to Emmaus] were from the books of Moses and the prophets—the scriptures that we know as the Old Testament. As you teach these same sacred truths, the Holy Ghost will testify of their truthfulness to your class as he did to Cleopas and his companion.
    [...]
    When preparing for Gospel Doctrine class, it is important that you seek inspiration and guidance from the Spirit of the Lord. “The Spirit shall be given unto you by the prayer of faith,” said the Lord, “and if ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach” (D&C 42:14). Remember that the Holy Ghost is the teacher in your class.

    .
    Second, the lessons are presented. Note how they are presented:
    1. Scriptural passage(s) for discussion
    2. Purpose
    3. Preparation
    3. Suggested Lesson Development
    Each begins with an Attention Activity that has this explanation, “You may want to use the following activity (or one of your own) to begin the lesson.”
    4. Additional Teaching Ideas
    .
    Taking the first lesson as an example of teaching the class how to use the scriptures for knowledge and inspiration,
    * Scriptural passage: Moses 1
    * Purpose: To help class members understand that (1) we are children of God, (2) we can resist Satan’s temptations, and (3) God’s work and glory is to bring to pass our immortality and eternal life. Note the purpose is to use a passage to gain understanding of a doctrine. This is a workshop in how to use the scriptures for knowledge and inspiration. It is not a scholarly expedition into the text.
    * Preparation:
    – Prayerfully study selected passages
    Study the lesson and decide how to teach the scripture accounts… Which begs the question, where is the rigidity that offends the complainers?
    * Suggested Lesson Development
    * Additional Teaching Ideas
    .
    Each following lesson gives its purpose to be helping class members gain some knowledge and inspiration through use of the selected scriptural passages. To me, this will accomplish the obtainable teaching-them-to-fish benefit AND it walks them through the OT, showing the richness of knowledge and inspiration that it offers.
    .
    As James noted in #64, For what it’s worth, I don’t have any major problem with the SS manual. I teach SS to teenagers, and I find the manual to be a comfortable guide for choosing important chapters and morals from whichever book we are studying at the moment. The book doesn’t hide the fact that it isn’t a study of the Old Testament. Every lesson begins with an explanation that this lesson is about missionary work, or faith, or repentance. It NEVER says it is a lesson about Jonah. The OT text is used as a backdrop for the real lesson.
    .
    Some lessons’ purposes and the scriptures they use to achieve them are:
    .
    4. To help each class member understand that the Fall was a necessary part of Heavenly Father’s plan for us. – Moses 4; 5:1–15; 6:48–62
    .
    13. To encourage class members to (1) trust the Lord to fulfill his promises, (2) increase their appreciation for the Savior’s atoning sacrifice, and (3) make the sacrament more meaningful in their lives. — Exodus 1–3; 5–6; 11–14
    .
    23. To encourage class members to be true to their friends, as Jonathan and David were, and avoid being consumed by jealousy and hatred, as Saul was. — 1 Samuel 18–20; 23–24.
    .
    34. To help class members understand that the Lord is loving and merciful and will forgive us when we repent and return to him. — Hosea 1–3; 11; 13–14
    .
    39. To strengthen each class member’s testimony of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. — Isaiah 50–53
    .
    Note the focus on what we are to become instead of what we are know from these classes.
    .
    So, does the Church give us these lessons and then expect us to find our own way to deeper understanding of the scriptural texts? Didn’t the eunuch ask Philip how could he understand Isaiah unless some man guided him? What is the answer to Dave’s question in this posting, “How else are Latter-day Saints going to learn how to read and understand the Bible?”
    .
    Here are some answers that I’ve heard from the Church and some resources it’s provided for studying the Bible and other scriptures:
    * Individual scripture study
    * Family scripture study
    .
    * Scriptures on line
    – Read: http://scriptures.lds.org/, or listen (button in upper leftcorner)
    – Download mp3 files: http://lds.org/mp3/newarchive/0,18615,5249-1,00.html#TheScriptures
    * Scripture stories for children: http://lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=12f1d9e1ec1cb110VgnVCM100000176f620aRCRD&locale=0
    * Seminary classes
    * Institute classes — manuals available on-line
    * Free BYU Home Study classes: http://ce.byu.edu/is/site/courses/free.cfm
    * BYU Home Study (I went through their NT courses): http://ce.byu.edu/is/site/courses/university.cfm?subject=Religious+Education–Ancient+Scripture
    * Discussions viewable upon demand on KBYU-TV:
    – Discussion on the OT, 67 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/292
    – Insights into Isaiah, 30 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/493
    – No Greater Faith, 1 episode: http://www.byutv.org/watch/679-100
    – Our Savior in the Gospels, 34 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/705
    – From Bethlehem through Sermon on the Mount, 7 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/371
    – From the Last Supper through the Resurrection, 11 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/373
    – Acts to Revelation: http://www.byutv.org/show/917
    – Messiah: Behold the Lamb of God, 8 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/1795
    – Discussions on the BoM, 70 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/290
    – Discussion on the D&C, 52 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/291
    – Pearl of Great Price Discussion, 11 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/721
    – Sperry Symposium, 96 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/880
    * Non-church commentaries. Jeffrey R. Holland quoted “Harper’s Bible Dictionary” in his 10/2007 GenCon address
    .
    A final observation. A convert in my ward in Michigan explained that he’d been fired from three callings in which he’d given his best before he asked the bishop about it. The bishop explained that callings generally are given to help the people called to progress in them and that as this good brother had grown, he’d been released to grow in other areas. This has been my understanding of one of the key differences between our Church and others in which members come to watch the show performed by the hired elite and then go home. The complaints about teachers who are growing in their callings and calls for teachers who do not need to grow in those callings seem to me to be counter to the Church’s purpose and detrimental both to those who could grow in these callings and to those who have but could grow elsewhere.
    .
    IMO, those who call for this elite teaching cadre in the Church could grow in their charity for those who struggle to offer their widow’s mites to the rest of us. The efforts of these people in their callings seem more charitable to me than the lack of support from those who raised their hands promising to sustain them. Do you suppose they see you as a model for what they want? Do not presume that when you look down upon someone, they are looking up to you.
    .
    = = = = =
    .
    Appendix: Comments cited.
    .
    * Aaron B,
    #54: “Both the manuals and the quality of teachers/teaching techniques need to be improved. It’s hard for me to get too riled up about which is more important, since they both are so desperately needed.”
    .
    * Brad Kramer,
    #84: ” mostly rubbish and could be much, much better.”
    #88: “our current approach [...] is evidence that we (and by “we” I mean Correlation) do not, in fact, trust the scriptures to bring people unto Christ but only our modified, abbreviated, proof-text-centered, de-historicized, gap-filled, de-contextualized, superficial, and often manifestly errant “reading” of them. Who needs to actually study the scriptures as a means of coming to Christ when simply digesting what a committee tells you they mean in a devotional setting is a sufficient, or better yet, superior alternative?”
    #118: “the substance of that efficiently produced, substantive continuity ultimately derives from the culture of CES. If the majority “professors of religion and ancient scripture” at the school of religious education over the past several decades were engaged in something that bore even passing resemblance to scriptural scholarship (the reason you couldn’t get a credit from a BYU Old Testament course to transfer to any other university in the known universe is not anti-Mormon bias…), I would expect the bar for SS instruction and the expectations we have for our own collective capacity to think seriously about the scriptures (as opposed to just accepting uncritically the things that whatever dead GA happens to be fashionable in CES circles had to say about certain passages) to be much higher.”
    .
    * Dave,
    #28: “It would be nice if the manual [...] actually encouraged broad preparation.”
    .
    * Jack,
    #3: ” Can anything good come out of Correlation?”
    .
    * J.A.T.,
    #60: “Time to wean us off the milk and bring about a renaissance!”
    #62: ” The mere existence of ‘dumbed down’ manuals is a shift in doctrine (by practice, not belief).”
    #93, ” We’re lacking critically thoughtful questions (not minutia-based, but truly instructive questions)”
    #108: “so very carefullly portioning out perceived ‘edible bits’ to the masses? Then manuals never scaffold or progress in level, they rarely change. (Very different than the learners!) More and more is correlated. Milk always. Small portions. [...](I’m still confused about why all this gospel- good news– is existing in the silos of minds, unsaid and unshared because it doens’t fit into 3rd grade manuals.) [...] Our doctrine is extremely rich! We have knowledge to share and revelation and inspiration to use in sharing it. Why are we boiling it down to 3rd grade Oprah-i-zed bare bones? [...] We can’t usurp the responsbilities of the student by withholding information, nor can we minimize the responsbility of the teacher by taking so much of the content burden away.”
    #128: “leaving others to stagnate in mediocrity [...]SS lessons that do not challenge and do no engage by content lend themselves to this type of degeneration.”
    .
    * John C., #23: ” But the manuals are terrible [...] They are bad, in particular, because they are designed to get you to say answer “a” instead of to get you to think about and apply scripture to your life. [examples?] There are application questions in the manual, but they tend toward the vague and the universal, often resulting in thoughtless, bland answers that do nothing to stir the soul of the teacher, the answerer, or the class.”
    .
    * Mark D.,
    #12: “What “wondering” said. In its present incarnation “Sunday School” is an dangerously close to an oxymoron. Anyone could learn more in ten minutes of actual reading than ten hours of Sunday School.”
    #45: “In other words, except the handful of takeaway quotes, it can’t substantively be said that the Church wants anyone to learn anything in particular in Gospel Doctrine class. The scriptures are just window dressing. Teaching the scriptures is pointless without a semi-authoritative position on what they actually mean. If the Church doesn’t want to have a position to that level of detail, or even endorse a list of viable positions, then why cover the scriptures at all? So people can come up with random uninformed personal speculation? Silence on these points doesn’t encourage unity, rather it encourages heated debates and hard feelings.”
    #86: “The main problem with the manuals is not what is in the manuals. It is a big gaping hole where substantive content should be. That hole tends to reduce Sunday School lessons to a mixture of trite repetition and a cheerleading session, making a mockery of the very term “school”.”
    .
    * Manuel,
    #11: “I no longer read the manual lessons. They are empty!”
    #81: ” If the material and format of the sunday school lessons are specifically designed for a 3rd grade reading level, and a 3rd grade reading analysis of the material and questions to keep the subject in the shallowest safest area possible, and if additional materials for the lesson are discouraged, then I think we do have an issue to consider.”
    .
    * Michael,
    #109: “I am tired of watered-down platitudes.”
    .
    * Mike,
    #114: “the level of ignorance that the current curriculum has achieved”
    .
    * Paul,
    #20: “I’ll use the “dumbing down” phrase, if nobody else will. Insipid SS lessons are to be expected, given the manual the instructor is expected to follow. It is not only a matter of teaching skills – no nuanced or non-literal meaning of a scriptural passage is to be taught. The SS lessons, like those for RS & PH, are reduced to key words.”
    .
    * Rameumptom,
    #16: “The manual can be clumsy”
    .
    * R. Gary,
    #19: “I suspect we only kid ourselves if we think senior LDS leaders are not themselves responsible for Church manuals.”
    .
    * RW,
    #123: “the manuals come out pablumized. That and the fact that the lessons are written for the lowest common denominator teacher and class in the church.”
    #127: “What I was lamenting is that a really great time and place for this exchange is being filled with non-informative iteration and stock answers all learned before we were 15.”
    .
    * wondering,
    #8: ” materials that encourage us to use the Bible at a superficial proof-text level”

  137. manaen on September 23, 2010 at 4:58 pm

    Many have complained here about mindless repetition of stories they have heard instead of studying the actual text of the scriptures. They chafe at a dumbed-down discussion outline from a Correlation Committee far away instead of freely sharing the fruits of individual study of the scriptures.
    .
    I recently realized that I’ve been the only commenter here to cite anything from the manual (other than James, #64, Nate J.’s #103 and JWL’s #120) and that none of the complainers have engaged the manual’s description of the class’s purpose and how to achieve it. In fact, some of their comments betray ignorance of this.
    .
    So a question: how many of these complainers are mindlessly repeating stories they’ve heard instead of studying the actual text of the manual? Are they adhering to a dumbed-down discussion outline from bloggers far away instead of freely sharing the fruits of individual study of the manual?
    .
    I’m willing, hoping, eager, for my hypothesis to be disproven because if it stands, we’ve been treated to a week’s discussion by people modeling what they claim offends them. Of the words I considered to describe this, “hypocrisy” seems most apt.
    .
    I’m asking for answers to :
    1. How much of the OT manual had you read before you posted on this thread?
    2. How recently before you posted on this thread had you read in the OT manual?
    from:
    - Aaron B., #54
    - Brad Kramer, #84, 88, 118
    - Dave, #28
    - Jack, #3
    - J.A.T., #60, 62, 93, 108
    - John C., #23
    - Manual, #11, #81
    - Mark D., #12, 45, 86
    - Michael, #109
    - Mike, #114
    - Paul, #20
    - Rameumption, #16
    - R. Gary, #19
    - RW, #123, 127
    - wondering, #8
    (Numbers are comments’ numbers that prompted me to ask these writers; relevant text from these comments is appended below).
    .
    If this hypothesis is not disproven, I’ll regret not having the discussion of what the manual actually presents as its purpose and method while this thread still had people’s attention.
    .
    While waiting for these folks to discover those two questions and answer them, here are some other thoughts and questions:
    .
    Some have suggested that better manuals — maybe written by Julie Smith or some other favored scholar — and greater use of non-correlated instructional material would lift Gospel Doctrine classes to what would be considered, by the complainers, an acceptable level of scholarship. J.A.T. noted in her #108, Any of these early prophets could teach for HOURS on end about the doctrines of the kingdom of God and hold an audience captivated. In those orations, something special was happening. Volumes of truth were being shared and (for the most part) all were edified.
    .
    I’m a business man in real life, so I habitually compare the value of the resources required to the value of the benefit desired from their use (aka “profit forecasting”). There are 47 Gospel Doctrine classes each year. In balancing priorities, the Church decided 30 years ago to consolidate meetings into a 3-hour block with the explanation that this was so families would have more time available to spend together on the Sabbath. The time available in this block for each Gospel Doctrine class discussion — after opening/closing prayers, announcements, etc. — is about 1/2 hour. This means that there are about 24 hours of class discussion each year, or an 8-week course of 3 one-hour classes per week. In our annual curriculum rotation, this is equivalent to an 8-week course every 4 years to discuss the OT.
    .
    So, what kind of manual — written exactly as you’d have it — and what kind of teacher would yield the depth of scholarly understanding the complainers seek? J.A.T. is correct that early prophets (as well as later ones and many other LDS members) could and did teach the doctrines for hours. Maybe that was because it would take hours to achieve the sought depth of understanding — hours that are not available in our Gospel Doctrine classes. The business man in me says that this is not a case of the benefit not being worth the cost of the resources needed to obtain it; it’s a case of seeking an benefit unobtainable with the available resources.
    .
    J.A.T. continued her comment #108, Today we suppose we can focus on truth in smaller- more digestible pieces(for an hour) and expect we’ll be edified in the same way. The portions are carefully measured. It’s always milk. What would happen if we started feeding the baby (after 150+ years) a little solid food?
    .
    This is a major break from what the manual says. It does NOT say that the Gospel Doctrine classes will give the same edification that hours of teaching would give. Here’s what the OT manual does say:
    .
    During class, keep discussions focused on the scriptures. Be judicious in your use of commentaries and other nonscriptural sources of information. Class members should be taught to seek knowledge and inspiration from the scriptures and the words of the latter-day prophets.
    .
    These classes are to teach us “to seek knowledge and inspiration from the scriptures” and modern prophets. Recognizing both the importance of understanding the scriptures and using them as sources of knowledge and inspiration and the impossibility of developing these in 23.5 hours per year, the Church decided to use these classes to teach us how to gain these. Not having the time to take us on fishing trips for hours at a time, these classes teach us how to fish on our own; they actually liberate us from the correlated constraints our complainers imagined the manual imposes. IMO, this fits well with the self-reliance / not-living-on-borrowed-light scenario the Church champions.
    .
    Also,
    Studying the Old Testament should strengthen class members’ testimonies of the Savior and their commitment to live his gospel. Guided by the Spirit in their study, class members should be able to testify with Job, “I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth” (Job 19:25).
    Note that this talks about class members’ study guided by the Spirit, but not about their study in the class.
    .
    So, how does the manual propose to do this?
    .
    First, teachers are encouraged to teach with the Holy Ghost. In fact, the manual calls them to remember that he is the teacher of their classes:
    .
    The scriptures that prompted the disciples’ hearts to burn [the preceding example was Jesus's teaching on the road to Emmaus] were from the books of Moses and the prophets—the scriptures that we know as the Old Testament. As you teach these same sacred truths, the Holy Ghost will testify of their truthfulness to your class as he did to Cleopas and his companion.
    [...]
    When preparing for Gospel Doctrine class, it is important that you seek inspiration and guidance from the Spirit of the Lord. “The Spirit shall be given unto you by the prayer of faith,” said the Lord, “and if ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach” (D&C 42:14). Remember that the Holy Ghost is the teacher in your class.

    .
    Second, the lessons are presented. Note how they are presented:
    1. Scriptural passage(s) for discussion
    2. Purpose
    3. Preparation
    3. Suggested Lesson Development
    Each begins with an Attention Activity that has this explanation, “You may want to use the following activity (or one of your own) to begin the lesson.”
    4. Additional Teaching Ideas
    .
    Taking the first lesson as an example of teaching the class how to use the scriptures for knowledge and inspiration,
    * Scriptural passage: Moses 1
    * Purpose: To help class members understand that (1) we are children of God, (2) we can resist Satan’s temptations, and (3) God’s work and glory is to bring to pass our immortality and eternal life. Note the purpose is to use a passage to gain understanding of a doctrine. This is a workshop in how to use the scriptures for knowledge and inspiration. It is not a scholarly expedition into the text.
    * Preparation:
    – Prayerfully study selected passages
    Study the lesson and decide how to teach the scripture accounts… Which begs the question, where is the rigidity that offends the complainers?
    * Suggested Lesson Development
    * Additional Teaching Ideas
    .
    Each following lesson gives its purpose to be helping class members gain some knowledge and inspiration through use of the selected scriptural passages. To me, this will accomplish the obtainable teaching-them-to-fish benefit AND it walks them through the OT, showing the richness of knowledge and inspiration that it offers.
    .
    As James noted in #64, For what it’s worth, I don’t have any major problem with the SS manual. I teach SS to teenagers, and I find the manual to be a comfortable guide for choosing important chapters and morals from whichever book we are studying at the moment. The book doesn’t hide the fact that it isn’t a study of the Old Testament. Every lesson begins with an explanation that this lesson is about missionary work, or faith, or repentance. It NEVER says it is a lesson about Jonah. The OT text is used as a backdrop for the real lesson.
    .
    Some lessons’ purposes and the scriptures they use to achieve them are:
    .
    4. To help each class member understand that the Fall was a necessary part of Heavenly Father’s plan for us. – Moses 4; 5:1–15; 6:48–62
    .
    13. To encourage class members to (1) trust the Lord to fulfill his promises, (2) increase their appreciation for the Savior’s atoning sacrifice, and (3) make the sacrament more meaningful in their lives. — Exodus 1–3; 5–6; 11–14
    .
    23. To encourage class members to be true to their friends, as Jonathan and David were, and avoid being consumed by jealousy and hatred, as Saul was. — 1 Samuel 18–20; 23–24.
    .
    34. To help class members understand that the Lord is loving and merciful and will forgive us when we repent and return to him. — Hosea 1–3; 11; 13–14
    .
    39. To strengthen each class member’s testimony of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. — Isaiah 50–53
    .
    Note the focus on what we are to become instead of what we are know from these classes.
    .
    So, does the Church give us these lessons and then expect us to find our own way to deeper understanding of the scriptural texts? Didn’t the eunuch ask Philip how could he understand Isaiah unless some man guided him? What is the answer to Dave’s question in this posting, “How else are Latter-day Saints going to learn how to read and understand the Bible?”
    .
    Here are some answers that I’ve heard from the Church and some resources it’s provided for studying the Bible and other scriptures:
    * Individual scripture study
    * Family scripture study
    .
    * Scriptures on line
    – Read: http://scriptures.lds.org/, or listen (button in upper leftcorner)
    – Download mp3 files: http://lds.org/mp3/newarchive/0,18615,5249-1,00.html#TheScriptures
    * Scripture stories for children: http://lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=12f1d9e1ec1cb110VgnVCM100000176f620aRCRD&locale=0
    * Seminary classes
    * Institute classes — manuals available on-line
    * Free BYU Home Study classes: http://ce.byu.edu/is/site/courses/free.cfm
    * BYU Home Study (I went through their NT courses): http://ce.byu.edu/is/site/courses/university.cfm?subject=Religious+Education–Ancient+Scripture
    * Discussions viewable upon demand on KBYU-TV:
    – Discussion on the OT, 67 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/292
    – Insights into Isaiah, 30 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/493
    – No Greater Faith, 1 episode: http://www.byutv.org/watch/679-100
    – Our Savior in the Gospels, 34 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/705
    – From Bethlehem through Sermon on the Mount, 7 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/371
    – From the Last Supper through the Resurrection, 11 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/373
    – Acts to Revelation: http://www.byutv.org/show/917
    – Messiah: Behold the Lamb of God, 8 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/1795
    – Discussions on the BoM, 70 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/290
    – Discussion on the D&C, 52 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/291
    – Pearl of Great Price Discussion, 11 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/721
    – Sperry Symposium, 96 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/880
    * Non-church commentaries. Jeffrey R. Holland quoted “Harper’s Bible Dictionary” in his 10/2007 GenCon address
    .
    A final observation. A convert in my ward in Michigan explained that he’d been fired from three callings in which he’d given his best before he asked the bishop about it. The bishop explained that callings generally are given to help the people called to progress in them and that as this good brother had grown, he’d been released to grow in other areas. This has been my understanding of one of the key differences between our Church and others in which members come to watch the show performed by the hired elite and then go home. The complaints about teachers who are growing in their callings and calls for teachers who do not need to grow in those callings seem to me to be counter to the Church’s purpose and detrimental both to those who could grow in these callings and to those who have but could grow elsewhere.
    .
    IMO, those who call for this elite teaching cadre in the Church could grow in their charity for those who struggle to offer their widow’s mites to the rest of us. The efforts of these people in their callings seem more charitable to me than the lack of support from those who raised their hands promising to sustain them. Do you suppose they see you as a model for what they want? Do not presume that when you look down upon someone, they are looking up to you.
    .
    = = = = =
    .
    Appendix: Comments cited.
    .
    * Aaron B,
    #54: “Both the manuals and the quality of teachers/teaching techniques need to be improved. It’s hard for me to get too riled up about which is more important, since they both are so desperately needed.”
    .
    * Brad Kramer,
    #84: ” mostly rubbish and could be much, much better.”
    #88: “our current approach [...] is evidence that we (and by “we” I mean Correlation) do not, in fact, trust the scriptures to bring people unto Christ but only our modified, abbreviated, proof-text-centered, de-historicized, gap-filled, de-contextualized, superficial, and often manifestly errant “reading” of them. Who needs to actually study the scriptures as a means of coming to Christ when simply digesting what a committee tells you they mean in a devotional setting is a sufficient, or better yet, superior alternative?”
    #118: “the substance of that efficiently produced, substantive continuity ultimately derives from the culture of CES. If the majority “professors of religion and ancient scripture” at the school of religious education over the past several decades were engaged in something that bore even passing resemblance to scriptural scholarship (the reason you couldn’t get a credit from a BYU Old Testament course to transfer to any other university in the known universe is not anti-Mormon bias…), I would expect the bar for SS instruction and the expectations we have for our own collective capacity to think seriously about the scriptures (as opposed to just accepting uncritically the things that whatever dead GA happens to be fashionable in CES circles had to say about certain passages) to be much higher.”
    .
    * Dave,
    #28: “It would be nice if the manual [...] actually encouraged broad preparation.”
    .
    * Jack,
    #3: ” Can anything good come out of Correlation?”
    .
    * J.A.T.,
    #60: “Time to wean us off the milk and bring about a renaissance!”
    #62: ” The mere existence of ‘dumbed down’ manuals is a shift in doctrine (by practice, not belief).”
    #93, ” We’re lacking critically thoughtful questions (not minutia-based, but truly instructive questions)”
    #108: “so very carefullly portioning out perceived ‘edible bits’ to the masses? Then manuals never scaffold or progress in level, they rarely change. (Very different than the learners!) More and more is correlated. Milk always. Small portions. [...](I’m still confused about why all this gospel- good news– is existing in the silos of minds, unsaid and unshared because it doens’t fit into 3rd grade manuals.) [...] Our doctrine is extremely rich! We have knowledge to share and revelation and inspiration to use in sharing it. Why are we boiling it down to 3rd grade Oprah-i-zed bare bones? [...] We can’t usurp the responsbilities of the student by withholding information, nor can we minimize the responsbility of the teacher by taking so much of the content burden away.”
    #128: “leaving others to stagnate in mediocrity [...]SS lessons that do not challenge and do no engage by content lend themselves to this type of degeneration.”
    .
    * John C., #23: ” But the manuals are terrible [...] They are bad, in particular, because they are designed to get you to say answer “a” instead of to get you to think about and apply scripture to your life. [examples?] There are application questions in the manual, but they tend toward the vague and the universal, often resulting in thoughtless, bland answers that do nothing to stir the soul of the teacher, the answerer, or the class.”
    .
    * Mark D.,
    #12: “What “wondering” said. In its present incarnation “Sunday School” is an dangerously close to an oxymoron. Anyone could learn more in ten minutes of actual reading than ten hours of Sunday School.”
    #45: “In other words, except the handful of takeaway quotes, it can’t substantively be said that the Church wants anyone to learn anything in particular in Gospel Doctrine class. The scriptures are just window dressing. Teaching the scriptures is pointless without a semi-authoritative position on what they actually mean. If the Church doesn’t want to have a position to that level of detail, or even endorse a list of viable positions, then why cover the scriptures at all? So people can come up with random uninformed personal speculation? Silence on these points doesn’t encourage unity, rather it encourages heated debates and hard feelings.”
    #86: “The main problem with the manuals is not what is in the manuals. It is a big gaping hole where substantive content should be. That hole tends to reduce Sunday School lessons to a mixture of trite repetition and a cheerleading session, making a mockery of the very term “school”.”
    .
    * Manuel,
    #11: “I no longer read the manual lessons. They are empty!”
    #81: ” If the material and format of the sunday school lessons are specifically designed for a 3rd grade reading level, and a 3rd grade reading analysis of the material and questions to keep the subject in the shallowest safest area possible, and if additional materials for the lesson are discouraged, then I think we do have an issue to consider.”
    .
    * Michael,
    #109: “I am tired of watered-down platitudes.”
    .
    * Mike,
    #114: “the level of ignorance that the current curriculum has achieved”
    .
    * Paul,
    #20: “I’ll use the “dumbing down” phrase, if nobody else will. Insipid SS lessons are to be expected, given the manual the instructor is expected to follow. It is not only a matter of teaching skills – no nuanced or non-literal meaning of a scriptural passage is to be taught. The SS lessons, like those for RS & PH, are reduced to key words.”
    .
    * Rameumptom,
    #16: “The manual can be clumsy”
    .
    * R. Gary,
    #19: “I suspect we only kid ourselves if we think senior LDS leaders are not themselves responsible for Church manuals.”
    .
    * RW,
    #123: “the manuals come out pablumized. That and the fact that the lessons are written for the lowest common denominator teacher and class in the church.”
    #127: “What I was lamenting is that a really great time and place for this exchange is being filled with non-informative iteration and stock answers all learned before we were 15.”
    .
    * wondering,
    #8: ” materials that encourage us to use the Bible at a superficial proof-text level”

  138. manaen on September 24, 2010 at 2:30 am

    Many of the commenters here have complained about mindless repetition of stories they have heard instead of studying the actual text of the scriptures. They chafe at a dumbed-down discussion outline from a Correlation Committee far away instead of freely sharing the fruits of individual study of the scriptures.
    .
    I recently realized that I’ve been the only commenter here to cite anything from the manual (other than James, #64, Nate J.’s #103 and JWL’s #120) and that none of the complainers have engaged the manual’s description of the class’s purpose and how to achieve it. In fact, some of their comments betray ignorance of this.
    .
    So a question: how many of these complainers are mindlessly repeating stories they’ve heard instead of studying the actual text of the manual? Are they adhering to a dumbed-down discussion outline from bloggers far away instead of freely sharing the fruits of individual study of the manual?
    .
    I’m willing, hoping, eager, for my hypothesis to be disproven because if it stands, we’ve been treated to a week’s discussion by people modeling what they claim offends them. Of the words I considered to describe this, “hypocrisy” seems most apt.
    .
    I’m asking for answers to :
    1. How much of the OT manual had you read before you posted on this thread?
    2. How recently before you posted on this thread had you read in the OT manual?
    from:
    - Aaron B., #54
    - Brad Kramer, #84, 88, 118
    - Dave, #28
    - Jack, #3
    - J.A.T., #60, 62, 93, 108
    - John C., #23
    - Manual, #11, #81
    - Mark D., #12, 45, 86
    - Michael, #109
    - Mike, #114
    - Paul, #20
    - Rameumption, #16
    - R. Gary, #19
    - RW, #123, 127
    - wondering, #8
    (Numbers are comments’ numbers that prompted me to ask these writers; relevant text from these comments is appended below).
    .
    If this hypothesis is not disproven, I’ll regret not having the discussion of what the manual actually presents as its purpose and method while this thread still had people’s attention.
    .
    While waiting for these folks to discover those two questions and answer them, here are some other thoughts and questions:
    .
    Some have suggested that better manuals — maybe written by Julie Smith or some other favored scholar — and greater use of non-correlated instructional material would lift Gospel Doctrine classes to what would be considered, by the complainers, an acceptable level of scholarship. J.A.T. noted in her #108, Any of these early prophets could teach for HOURS on end about the doctrines of the kingdom of God and hold an audience captivated. In those orations, something special was happening. Volumes of truth were being shared and (for the most part) all were edified.
    .
    I’m a business man in real life, so I habitually compare the value of the resources required to the value of the benefit desired from their use (aka “profit forecasting”). There are 47 Gospel Doctrine classes each year. In balancing priorities, the Church decided 30 years ago to consolidate meetings into a 3-hour block with the explanation that this was so families would have more time available to spend together on the Sabbath. The time available in this block for each Gospel Doctrine class discussion — after opening/closing prayers, announcements, etc. — is about 1/2 hour. This means that there are about 24 hours of class discussion each year, or an 8-week course of 3 one-hour classes per week. In our annual curriculum rotation, this is equivalent to an 8-week course every 4 years to discuss the OT.
    .
    So, what kind of manual — written exactly as you’d have it — and what kind of teacher would yield the depth of scholarly understanding the complainers seek? J.A.T. is correct that early prophets (as well as later ones and many other LDS members) could and did teach the doctrines for hours. Maybe that was because it would take hours to achieve the sought depth of understanding — hours that are not available in our Gospel Doctrine classes. The business man in me says that this is not a case of the benefit not being worth the cost of the resources needed to obtain it; it’s a case of seeking an benefit unobtainable with the available resources.
    .
    J.A.T. continued her comment #108, Today we suppose we can focus on truth in smaller- more digestible pieces(for an hour) and expect we’ll be edified in the same way. The portions are carefully measured. It’s always milk. What would happen if we started feeding the baby (after 150+ years) a little solid food?
    .
    This is a major break from what the manual says. It does NOT say that the Gospel Doctrine classes will give the same edification that hours of teaching would give. Here’s what the OT manual does say:
    .
    During class, keep discussions focused on the scriptures. Be judicious in your use of commentaries and other nonscriptural sources of information. Class members should be taught to seek knowledge and inspiration from the scriptures and the words of the latter-day prophets.
    .
    These classes are to teach us “to seek knowledge and inspiration from the scriptures” and modern prophets. Recognizing both the importance of understanding the scriptures and using them as sources of knowledge and inspiration and the impossibility of developing these in 23.5 hours per year, the Church decided to use these classes to teach us how to gain these. Not having the time to take us on fishing trips for hours at a time, these classes teach us how to fish on our own; they actually liberate us from the correlated constraints our complainers imagined the manual imposes. IMO, this fits well with the self-reliance / not-living-on-borrowed-light scenario the Church champions.
    .
    Also,
    Studying the Old Testament should strengthen class members’ testimonies of the Savior and their commitment to live his gospel. Guided by the Spirit in their study, class members should be able to testify with Job, “I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth” (Job 19:25).
    Note that this talks about class members’ study guided by the Spirit, but not about their study in the class.
    .
    So, how does the manual propose to do this?
    .
    First, teachers are encouraged to teach with the Holy Ghost. In fact, the manual calls them to remember that he is the teacher of their classes:
    .
    The scriptures that prompted the disciples’ hearts to burn [the preceding example was Jesus's teaching on the road to Emmaus] were from the books of Moses and the prophets—the scriptures that we know as the Old Testament. As you teach these same sacred truths, the Holy Ghost will testify of their truthfulness to your class as he did to Cleopas and his companion.
    [...]
    When preparing for Gospel Doctrine class, it is important that you seek inspiration and guidance from the Spirit of the Lord. “The Spirit shall be given unto you by the prayer of faith,” said the Lord, “and if ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach” (D&C 42:14). Remember that the Holy Ghost is the teacher in your class.

    .
    Second, the lessons are presented. Note how they are presented:
    1. Scriptural passage(s) for discussion
    2. Purpose
    3. Preparation
    3. Suggested Lesson Development
    Each begins with an Attention Activity that has this explanation, “You may want to use the following activity (or one of your own) to begin the lesson.”
    4. Additional Teaching Ideas
    .
    Taking the first lesson as an example of teaching the class how to use the scriptures for knowledge and inspiration,
    * Scriptural passage: Moses 1
    * Purpose: To help class members understand that (1) we are children of God, (2) we can resist Satan’s temptations, and (3) God’s work and glory is to bring to pass our immortality and eternal life. Note the purpose is to use a passage to gain understanding of a doctrine. This is a workshop in how to use the scriptures for knowledge and inspiration. It is not a scholarly expedition into the text.
    * Preparation:
    – Prayerfully study selected passages
    Study the lesson and decide how to teach the scripture accounts… Which begs the question, where is the rigidity that offends the complainers?
    * Suggested Lesson Development
    * Additional Teaching Ideas
    .
    Each following lesson gives its purpose to be helping class members gain some knowledge and inspiration through use of the selected scriptural passages. To me, this will accomplish the obtainable teaching-them-to-fish benefit AND it walks them through the OT, showing the richness of knowledge and inspiration that it offers.
    .
    As James noted in #64, For what it’s worth, I don’t have any major problem with the SS manual. I teach SS to teenagers, and I find the manual to be a comfortable guide for choosing important chapters and morals from whichever book we are studying at the moment. The book doesn’t hide the fact that it isn’t a study of the Old Testament. Every lesson begins with an explanation that this lesson is about missionary work, or faith, or repentance. It NEVER says it is a lesson about Jonah. The OT text is used as a backdrop for the real lesson.
    .
    Some lessons’ purposes and the scriptures they use to achieve them are:
    .
    4. To help each class member understand that the Fall was a necessary part of Heavenly Father’s plan for us. – Moses 4; 5:1–15; 6:48–62
    .
    13. To encourage class members to (1) trust the Lord to fulfill his promises, (2) increase their appreciation for the Savior’s atoning sacrifice, and (3) make the sacrament more meaningful in their lives. — Exodus 1–3; 5–6; 11–14
    .
    23. To encourage class members to be true to their friends, as Jonathan and David were, and avoid being consumed by jealousy and hatred, as Saul was. — 1 Samuel 18–20; 23–24.
    .
    34. To help class members understand that the Lord is loving and merciful and will forgive us when we repent and return to him. — Hosea 1–3; 11; 13–14
    .
    39. To strengthen each class member’s testimony of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. — Isaiah 50–53
    .
    Note the focus on what we are to become instead of what we are know from these classes.
    .
    So, does the Church give us these lessons and then expect us to find our own way to deeper understanding of the scriptural texts? Didn’t the eunuch ask Philip how could he understand Isaiah unless some man guided him? What is the answer to Dave’s question in this posting, “How else are Latter-day Saints going to learn how to read and understand the Bible?”
    .
    Here are some answers that I’ve heard from the Church and some resources it’s provided for studying the Bible and other scriptures:
    * Individual scripture study
    * Family scripture study
    .
    * Scriptures on line
    – Read: http://scriptures.lds.org/, or listen (button in upper leftcorner)
    – Download mp3 files: http://lds.org/mp3/newarchive/0,18615,5249-1,00.html#TheScriptures
    * Scripture stories for children: http://lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=12f1d9e1ec1cb110VgnVCM100000176f620aRCRD&locale=0
    * Seminary classes
    * Institute classes — manuals available on-line
    * Free BYU Home Study classes: http://ce.byu.edu/is/site/courses/free.cfm
    * BYU Home Study (I went through their NT courses): http://ce.byu.edu/is/site/courses/university.cfm?subject=Religious+Education–Ancient+Scripture
    * Discussions viewable upon demand on KBYU-TV:
    – Discussion on the OT, 67 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/292
    – Insights into Isaiah, 30 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/493
    – No Greater Faith, 1 episode: http://www.byutv.org/watch/679-100
    – Our Savior in the Gospels, 34 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/705
    – From Bethlehem through Sermon on the Mount, 7 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/371
    – From the Last Supper through the Resurrection, 11 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/373
    – Acts to Revelation: http://www.byutv.org/show/917
    – Messiah: Behold the Lamb of God, 8 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/1795
    – Discussions on the BoM, 70 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/290
    – Discussion on the D&C, 52 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/291
    – Pearl of Great Price Discussion, 11 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/721
    – Sperry Symposium, 96 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/880
    * Non-church commentaries. Jeffrey R. Holland quoted “Harper’s Bible Dictionary” in his 10/2007 GenCon address
    .
    A final observation. A convert in my ward in Michigan explained that he’d been fired from three callings in which he’d given his best before he asked the bishop about it. The bishop explained that callings generally are given to help the people called to progress in them and that as this good brother had grown, he’d been released to grow in other areas. This has been my understanding of one of the key differences between our Church and others in which members come to watch the show performed by the hired elite and then go home. The complaints about teachers who are growing in their callings and calls for teachers who do not need to grow in those callings seem to me to be counter to the Church’s purpose and detrimental both to those who could grow in these callings and to those who have but could grow elsewhere.
    .
    IMO, those who call for this elite teaching cadre in the Church could grow in their charity for those who struggle to offer their widow’s mites to the rest of us. The efforts of these people in their callings seem more charitable to me than the lack of support from those who raised their hands promising to sustain them. Do you suppose they see you as a model for what they want? Do not presume that when you look down upon someone, they are looking up to you.
    .
    = = = = =
    .
    Appendix: Comments cited.
    .
    * Aaron B,
    #54: “Both the manuals and the quality of teachers/teaching techniques need to be improved. It’s hard for me to get too riled up about which is more important, since they both are so desperately needed.”
    .
    * Brad Kramer,
    #84: ” mostly rubbish and could be much, much better.”
    #88: “our current approach [...] is evidence that we (and by “we” I mean Correlation) do not, in fact, trust the scriptures to bring people unto Christ but only our modified, abbreviated, proof-text-centered, de-historicized, gap-filled, de-contextualized, superficial, and often manifestly errant “reading” of them. Who needs to actually study the scriptures as a means of coming to Christ when simply digesting what a committee tells you they mean in a devotional setting is a sufficient, or better yet, superior alternative?”
    #118: “the substance of that efficiently produced, substantive continuity ultimately derives from the culture of CES. If the majority “professors of religion and ancient scripture” at the school of religious education over the past several decades were engaged in something that bore even passing resemblance to scriptural scholarship (the reason you couldn’t get a credit from a BYU Old Testament course to transfer to any other university in the known universe is not anti-Mormon bias…), I would expect the bar for SS instruction and the expectations we have for our own collective capacity to think seriously about the scriptures (as opposed to just accepting uncritically the things that whatever dead GA happens to be fashionable in CES circles had to say about certain passages) to be much higher.”
    .
    * Dave,
    #28: “It would be nice if the manual [...] actually encouraged broad preparation.”
    .
    * Jack,
    #3: ” Can anything good come out of Correlation?”
    .
    * J.A.T.,
    #60: “Time to wean us off the milk and bring about a renaissance!”
    #62: ” The mere existence of ‘dumbed down’ manuals is a shift in doctrine (by practice, not belief).”
    #93, ” We’re lacking critically thoughtful questions (not minutia-based, but truly instructive questions)”
    #108: “so very carefullly portioning out perceived ‘edible bits’ to the masses? Then manuals never scaffold or progress in level, they rarely change. (Very different than the learners!) More and more is correlated. Milk always. Small portions. [...](I’m still confused about why all this gospel- good news– is existing in the silos of minds, unsaid and unshared because it doens’t fit into 3rd grade manuals.) [...] Our doctrine is extremely rich! We have knowledge to share and revelation and inspiration to use in sharing it. Why are we boiling it down to 3rd grade Oprah-i-zed bare bones? [...] We can’t usurp the responsbilities of the student by withholding information, nor can we minimize the responsbility of the teacher by taking so much of the content burden away.”
    #128: “leaving others to stagnate in mediocrity [...]SS lessons that do not challenge and do no engage by content lend themselves to this type of degeneration.”
    .
    * John C., #23: ” But the manuals are terrible [...] They are bad, in particular, because they are designed to get you to say answer “a” instead of to get you to think about and apply scripture to your life. [examples?] There are application questions in the manual, but they tend toward the vague and the universal, often resulting in thoughtless, bland answers that do nothing to stir the soul of the teacher, the answerer, or the class.”
    .
    * Mark D.,
    #12: “What “wondering” said. In its present incarnation “Sunday School” is an dangerously close to an oxymoron. Anyone could learn more in ten minutes of actual reading than ten hours of Sunday School.”
    #45: “In other words, except the handful of takeaway quotes, it can’t substantively be said that the Church wants anyone to learn anything in particular in Gospel Doctrine class. The scriptures are just window dressing. Teaching the scriptures is pointless without a semi-authoritative position on what they actually mean. If the Church doesn’t want to have a position to that level of detail, or even endorse a list of viable positions, then why cover the scriptures at all? So people can come up with random uninformed personal speculation? Silence on these points doesn’t encourage unity, rather it encourages heated debates and hard feelings.”
    #86: “The main problem with the manuals is not what is in the manuals. It is a big gaping hole where substantive content should be. That hole tends to reduce Sunday School lessons to a mixture of trite repetition and a cheerleading session, making a mockery of the very term “school”.”
    .
    * Manuel,
    #11: “I no longer read the manual lessons. They are empty!”
    #81: ” If the material and format of the sunday school lessons are specifically designed for a 3rd grade reading level, and a 3rd grade reading analysis of the material and questions to keep the subject in the shallowest safest area possible, and if additional materials for the lesson are discouraged, then I think we do have an issue to consider.”
    .
    * Michael,
    #109: “I am tired of watered-down platitudes.”
    .
    * Mike,
    #114: “the level of ignorance that the current curriculum has achieved”
    .
    * Paul,
    #20: “I’ll use the “dumbing down” phrase, if nobody else will. Insipid SS lessons are to be expected, given the manual the instructor is expected to follow. It is not only a matter of teaching skills – no nuanced or non-literal meaning of a scriptural passage is to be taught. The SS lessons, like those for RS & PH, are reduced to key words.”
    .
    * Rameumptom,
    #16: “The manual can be clumsy”
    .
    * R. Gary,
    #19: “I suspect we only kid ourselves if we think senior LDS leaders are not themselves responsible for Church manuals.”
    .
    * RW,
    #123: “the manuals come out pablumized. That and the fact that the lessons are written for the lowest common denominator teacher and class in the church.”
    #127: “What I was lamenting is that a really great time and place for this exchange is being filled with non-informative iteration and stock answers all learned before we were 15.”
    .
    * wondering,
    #8: ” materials that encourage us to use the Bible at a superficial proof-text level”

  139. manaen on September 24, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    I came to a realization after the thunder passed on this thread.
    .
    Many have complained here about mindless repetition of stories they have heard instead of studying the actual text of the scriptures. They chafe at a dumbed-down discussion outline from a Correlation Committee far away instead of freely sharing the fruits of individual study of the scriptures.
    .
    I recently realized that I’ve been the only commenter here to cite anything from the manual (other than James, #64, Nate J.’s #103 and JWL’s #120) and that none of the complainers have engaged the manual’s description of the class’s purpose and how to achieve it. In fact, some of their comments betray ignorance of this.
    .
    So a question: how many of these complainers are mindlessly repeating stories they’ve heard instead of studying the actual text of the manual? Are they adhering to a dumbed-down discussion outline from bloggers far away instead of freely sharing the fruits of individual study of the manual?
    .
    I’m willing, hoping, eager, for my hypothesis to be disproven because if it stands, we’ve been treated to a week’s discussion by people modeling what they claim offends them. Of the words I considered to describe this, “hypocrisy” seems most apt.
    .
    I’m asking for answers to :
    1. How much of the OT manual had you read before you posted on this thread?
    2. How recently before you posted on this thread had you read in the OT manual?
    from:
    - Aaron B., #54
    - Brad Kramer, #84, 88, 118
    - Jack, #3
    - J.A.T., #60, 62, 93, 108
    - John C., #23
    - Manual, #11, #81
    - Mark D., #12, 45, 86
    - Michael, #109
    - Mike, #114
    - Paul, #20
    - Rameumption, #16
    - R. Gary, #19
    - RW, #123, 127
    - wondering, #8
    (Numbers are comments’ numbers that prompted me to ask these writers).
    .
    If this hypothesis is not disproven, I’ll regret not having the discussion of what the manual actually presents as its purpose and method while this thread still had people’s attention.
    .
    While waiting for these folks to discover those two questions and answer them, here are some other thoughts and questions:
    .
    Some have suggested that better manuals — maybe written by Julie Smith or some other favored scholar — and greater use of non-correlated instructional material would lift Gospel Doctrine classes to what would be considered, by the complainers, an acceptable level of scholarship. J.A.T. noted in her #108, Any of these early prophets could teach for HOURS on end about the doctrines of the kingdom of God and hold an audience captivated. In those orations, something special was happening. Volumes of truth were being shared and (for the most part) all were edified.
    .
    I’m a business man in real life, so I habitually compare the value of the resources required to the value of the benefit desired from their use (aka “profit forecasting”). There are 47 Gospel Doctrine classes each year. In balancing priorities, the Church decided 30 years ago to consolidate meetings into a 3-hour block with the explanation that this was so families would have more time available to spend together on the Sabbath. The time available in this block for each Gospel Doctrine class discussion — after opening/closing prayers, announcements, etc. — is about 1/2 hour. This means that there are about 24 hours of class discussion each year, or an 8-week course of 3 one-hour classes per week. In our annual curriculum rotation, this is equivalent to an 8-week course every 4 years to discuss the OT.
    .
    So, what kind of manual — written exactly as you’d have it — and what kind of teacher would yield the depth of scholarly understanding the complainers seek? J.A.T. is correct that early prophets (as well as later ones and many other LDS members) could and did teach the doctrines for hours. Maybe that was because it would take hours to achieve the sought depth of understanding — hours that are not available in our Gospel Doctrine classes. The business man in me says that this is not a case of the benefit not being worth the cost of the resources needed to obtain it; it’s a case of seeking an benefit unobtainable with the available resources.
    .
    J.A.T. continued her comment #108, Today we suppose we can focus on truth in smaller- more digestible pieces(for an hour) and expect we’ll be edified in the same way. The portions are carefully measured. It’s always milk. What would happen if we started feeding the baby (after 150+ years) a little solid food?
    .
    This is a major break from what the manual says. It does NOT say that the Gospel Doctrine classes will give the same edification that hours of teaching would give. Here’s what the OT manual does say:
    .
    During class, keep discussions focused on the scriptures. Be judicious in your use of commentaries and other nonscriptural sources of information. Class members should be taught to seek knowledge and inspiration from the scriptures and the words of the latter-day prophets.
    .
    These classes are to teach us “to seek knowledge and inspiration from the scriptures” and modern prophets. Recognizing both the importance of understanding the scriptures and using them as sources of knowledge and inspiration and the impossibility of developing these in 23.5 hours per year, the Church decided to use these classes to teach us how to gain these. Not having the time to take us on fishing trips for hours at a time, these classes teach us how to fish on our own; they actually liberate us from the correlated constraints our complainers imagined the manual imposes. IMO, this fits well with the self-reliance / not-living-on-borrowed-light scenario the Church champions.
    .
    Also,
    Studying the Old Testament should strengthen class members’ testimonies of the Savior and their commitment to live his gospel. Guided by the Spirit in their study, class members should be able to testify with Job, “I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth” (Job 19:25).
    Note that this talks about class members’ study guided by the Spirit, but not about their study in the class.
    .
    So, how does the manual propose to do this?
    .
    First, teachers are encouraged to teach with the Holy Ghost. In fact, the manual calls them to remember that he is the teacher of their classes:
    .
    The scriptures that prompted the disciples’ hearts to burn [the preceding example was Jesus's teaching on the road to Emmaus] were from the books of Moses and the prophets—the scriptures that we know as the Old Testament. As you teach these same sacred truths, the Holy Ghost will testify of their truthfulness to your class as he did to Cleopas and his companion.
    [...]
    When preparing for Gospel Doctrine class, it is important that you seek inspiration and guidance from the Spirit of the Lord. “The Spirit shall be given unto you by the prayer of faith,” said the Lord, “and if ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach” (D&C 42:14). Remember that the Holy Ghost is the teacher in your class.

    .
    Second, the lessons are presented. Note how they are presented:
    1. Scriptural passage(s) for discussion
    2. Purpose
    3. Preparation
    3. Suggested Lesson Development
    Each begins with an Attention Activity that has this explanation, “You may want to use the following activity (or one of your own) to begin the lesson.”
    4. Additional Teaching Ideas
    .
    Taking the first lesson as an example of teaching the class how to use the scriptures for knowledge and inspiration,
    * Scriptural passage: Moses 1
    * Purpose: To help class members understand that (1) we are children of God, (2) we can resist Satan’s temptations, and (3) God’s work and glory is to bring to pass our immortality and eternal life. Note the purpose is to use a passage to gain understanding of a doctrine. This is a workshop in how to use the scriptures for knowledge and inspiration. It is not a scholarly expedition into the text.
    * Preparation:
    – Prayerfully study selected passages
    Study the lesson and decide how to teach the scripture accounts… Which begs the question, where is the rigidity that offends the complainers?
    * Suggested Lesson Development
    * Additional Teaching Ideas
    .
    Each following lesson gives its purpose to be helping class members gain some knowledge and inspiration through use of the selected scriptural passages. To me, this will accomplish the obtainable teaching-them-to-fish benefit AND it walks them through the OT, showing the richness of knowledge and inspiration that it offers.
    .
    As James noted in #64, For what it’s worth, I don’t have any major problem with the SS manual. I teach SS to teenagers, and I find the manual to be a comfortable guide for choosing important chapters and morals from whichever book we are studying at the moment. The book doesn’t hide the fact that it isn’t a study of the Old Testament. Every lesson begins with an explanation that this lesson is about missionary work, or faith, or repentance. It NEVER says it is a lesson about Jonah. The OT text is used as a backdrop for the real lesson.
    .
    Some lessons’ purposes and the scriptures they use to achieve them are:
    .
    4. To help each class member understand that the Fall was a necessary part of Heavenly Father’s plan for us. – Moses 4; 5:1–15; 6:48–62
    .
    13. To encourage class members to (1) trust the Lord to fulfill his promises, (2) increase their appreciation for the Savior’s atoning sacrifice, and (3) make the sacrament more meaningful in their lives. — Exodus 1–3; 5–6; 11–14
    .
    23. To encourage class members to be true to their friends, as Jonathan and David were, and avoid being consumed by jealousy and hatred, as Saul was. — 1 Samuel 18–20; 23–24.
    .
    34. To help class members understand that the Lord is loving and merciful and will forgive us when we repent and return to him. — Hosea 1–3; 11; 13–14
    .
    39. To strengthen each class member’s testimony of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. — Isaiah 50–53
    .
    Note the focus on what we are to become instead of what we are know from these classes.
    .
    So, does the Church give us these lessons and then expect us to find our own way to deeper understanding of the scriptural texts? Didn’t the eunuch ask Philip how could he understand Isaiah unless some man guided him? What is the answer to Dave’s question in this posting, “How else are Latter-day Saints going to learn how to read and understand the Bible?”
    .
    Here are some answers that I’ve heard from the Church and some resources it’s provided for studying the Bible and other scriptures:
    * Individual scripture study
    * Family scripture study
    .
    * Scriptures on line
    – Read: http://scriptures.lds.org/, or listen (button in upper leftcorner)
    – Download mp3 files: http://lds.org/mp3/newarchive/0,18615,5249-1,00.html#TheScriptures
    * Scripture stories for children: http://lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=12f1d9e1ec1cb110VgnVCM100000176f620aRCRD&locale=0
    * Seminary classes
    * Institute classes — manuals available on-line
    * Free BYU Home Study classes: http://ce.byu.edu/is/site/courses/free.cfm
    * BYU Home Study (I went through their NT courses): http://ce.byu.edu/is/site/courses/university.cfm?subject=Religious+Education–Ancient+Scripture
    * Discussions viewable upon demand on KBYU-TV:
    – Discussion on the OT, 67 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/292
    – Insights into Isaiah, 30 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/493
    – No Greater Faith, 1 episode: http://www.byutv.org/watch/679-100
    – Our Savior in the Gospels, 34 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/705
    – From Bethlehem through Sermon on the Mount, 7 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/371
    – From the Last Supper through the Resurrection, 11 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/373
    – Acts to Revelation: http://www.byutv.org/show/917
    – Messiah: Behold the Lamb of God, 8 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/1795
    – Discussions on the BoM, 70 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/290
    – Discussion on the D&C, 52 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/291
    – Pearl of Great Price Discussion, 11 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/721
    – Sperry Symposium, 96 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/880
    * Non-church commentaries. Jeffrey R. Holland quoted “Harper’s Bible Dictionary” in his 10/2007 GenCon address
    .
    A final observation. A convert in my ward in Michigan explained that he’d been fired from three callings in which he’d given his best before he asked the bishop about it. The bishop explained that callings generally are given to help the people called to progress in them and that as this good brother had grown, he’d been released to grow in other areas. This has been my understanding of one of the key differences between our Church and others in which members come to watch the show performed by the hired elite and then go home. The complaints about teachers who are growing in their callings and calls for teachers who do not need to grow in those callings seem to me to be counter to the Church’s purpose and detrimental both to those who could grow in these callings and to those who have but could grow elsewhere.
    .
    IMO, those who call for this elite teaching cadre in the Church could grow in their charity for those who struggle to offer their widow’s mites to the rest of us. The efforts of these people in their callings seem more charitable to me than the lack of support from those who raised their hands promising to sustain them. Do you suppose they see you as a model for what they want? Do not presume that when you look down upon someone, they are looking up to you.

  140. manaen on September 25, 2010 at 3:16 am

    (Part 1)
    .
    Many have complained here about mindless repetition of stories they have heard instead of studying the actual text of the scriptures. They chafe at a dumbed-down discussion outline from a Correlation Committee far away instead of freely sharing the fruits of individual study of the scriptures.
    .
    I realized earlier this week that I’ve been the only commenter here to cite anything from the manual (other than James, #64, Nate J.’s #103 and JWL’s #120) and that none of the complainers have engaged the manual’s description of the class’s purpose and how to achieve it. In fact, some of their comments betray ignorance of this.
    .
    So a question: how many of these complainers are mindlessly repeating stories they’ve heard instead of studying the actual text of the manual? Are they adhering to a dumbed-down discussion outline from bloggers far away instead of freely sharing the fruits of individual study of the manual?
    .
    I’m willing, hoping, eager, for my hypothesis to be disproven because if it stands, we’ve been treated to a week’s discussion by people modeling what they claim offends them. Of the words I considered to describe this, “hypocrisy” seems most apt.
    .
    I’m asking for answers to :
    1. How much of the OT manual had you read before you posted on this thread?
    2. How recently before you posted on this thread had you read in the OT manual?
    from:
    - Aaron B., #54
    - Brad Kramer, #84, 88, 118
    - Dave, #28
    - Jack, #3
    - J.A.T., #60, 62, 93, 108
    - John C., #23
    - Manual, #11, #81
    - Mark D., #12, 45, 86
    - Michael, #109
    - Mike, #114
    - Paul, #20
    - Rameumption, #16
    - R. Gary, #19
    - RW, #123, 127
    - wondering, #8
    (Numbers are comments’ numbers that prompted me to ask these writers; relevant text from these comments is appended below).
    .
    If this hypothesis is not disproven, I’ll regret not having the discussion of what the manual actually presents as its purpose and method while this thread still had people’s attention.
    .
    While waiting for these folks to discover those two questions and answer them, here are some other thoughts and questions:
    .
    Some have suggested that better manuals — maybe written by Julie Smith or some other favored scholar — and greater use of non-correlated instructional material would lift Gospel Doctrine classes to what would be considered, by the complainers, an acceptable level of scholarship. J.A.T. noted in her #108, Any of these early prophets could teach for HOURS on end about the doctrines of the kingdom of God and hold an audience captivated. In those orations, something special was happening. Volumes of truth were being shared and (for the most part) all were edified.
    .
    I’m a business man in real life, so I habitually compare the value of the resources required to the value of the benefit desired from their use (aka “profit forecasting”). There are 47 Gospel Doctrine classes each year. In balancing priorities, the Church decided 30 years ago to consolidate meetings into a 3-hour block with the explanation that this was so families would have more time available to spend together on the Sabbath. The time available in this block for each Gospel Doctrine class discussion — after opening/closing prayers, announcements, etc. — is about 1/2 hour. This means that there are about 24 hours of class discussion each year, or an 8-week course of 3 one-hour classes per week. In our annual curriculum rotation, this is equivalent to an 8-week course every 4 years to discuss the OT.
    .
    So, what kind of manual — written exactly as you’d have it — and what kind of teacher would yield the depth of scholarly understanding the complainers seek? J.A.T. is correct that early prophets (as well as later ones and many other LDS members) could and did teach the doctrines for hours. Maybe that was because it would take hours to achieve the sought depth of understanding — hours that are not available in our Gospel Doctrine classes. The business man in me says that this is not a case of the benefit not being worth the cost of the resources needed to obtain it; it’s a case of seeking an benefit unobtainable with the available resources.
    .
    J.A.T. continued her comment #108, Today we suppose we can focus on truth in smaller- more digestible pieces(for an hour) and expect we’ll be edified in the same way. The portions are carefully measured. It’s always milk. What would happen if we started feeding the baby (after 150+ years) a little solid food?
    .
    This is a major break from what the manual says. It does NOT say that the Gospel Doctrine classes will give the same edification that hours of teaching would give. Here’s what the OT manual does say:
    .
    During class, keep discussions focused on the scriptures. Be judicious in your use of commentaries and other nonscriptural sources of information. Class members should be taught to seek knowledge and inspiration from the scriptures and the words of the latter-day prophets.
    .
    (continued in Part 2)

  141. manaen on September 25, 2010 at 3:17 am

    (Part 2)
    .
    These classes are to teach us “to seek knowledge and inspiration from the scriptures” and modern prophets. Recognizing both the importance of understanding the scriptures and using them as sources of knowledge and inspiration and the impossibility of developing these in 23.5 hours per year, the Church decided to use these classes to teach us how to gain these. Not having the time to take us on fishing trips for hours at a time, these classes teach us how to fish on our own; they actually liberate us from the correlated constraints our complainers imagined the manual imposes. IMO, this fits well with the self-reliance / not-living-on-borrowed-light scenario the Church champions.
    .
    Also,
    Studying the Old Testament should strengthen class members’ testimonies of the Savior and their commitment to live his gospel. Guided by the Spirit in their study, class members should be able to testify with Job, “I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth” (Job 19:25).
    Note that this talks about class members’ study guided by the Spirit, but not about their study in the class.
    .
    So, how does the manual propose to do this?
    .
    First, teachers are encouraged to teach with the Holy Ghost. In fact, the manual calls them to remember that he is the teacher of their classes:
    .
    The scriptures that prompted the disciples’ hearts to burn [the preceding example was Jesus's teaching on the road to Emmaus] were from the books of Moses and the prophets—the scriptures that we know as the Old Testament. As you teach these same sacred truths, the Holy Ghost will testify of their truthfulness to your class as he did to Cleopas and his companion.
    [...]
    When preparing for Gospel Doctrine class, it is important that you seek inspiration and guidance from the Spirit of the Lord. “The Spirit shall be given unto you by the prayer of faith,” said the Lord, “and if ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach” (D&C 42:14). Remember that the Holy Ghost is the teacher in your class.

    .
    Second, the lessons are presented. Note how they are presented:
    1. Scriptural passage(s) for discussion
    2. Purpose
    3. Preparation
    3. Suggested Lesson Development
    Each begins with an Attention Activity that has this explanation, “You may want to use the following activity (or one of your own) to begin the lesson.”
    4. Additional Teaching Ideas
    .
    Taking the first lesson as an example of teaching the class how to use the scriptures for knowledge and inspiration,
    * Scriptural passage: Moses 1
    * Purpose: To help class members understand that (1) we are children of God, (2) we can resist Satan’s temptations, and (3) God’s work and glory is to bring to pass our immortality and eternal life. Note the purpose is to use a passage to gain understanding of a doctrine. This is a workshop in how to use the scriptures for knowledge and inspiration. It is not a scholarly expedition into the text.
    * Preparation:
    – Prayerfully study selected passages
    Study the lesson and decide how to teach the scripture accounts… Which begs the question, where is the rigidity that offends the complainers?
    * Suggested Lesson Development
    * Additional Teaching Ideas
    .
    Each following lesson gives its purpose to be helping class members gain some knowledge and inspiration through use of the selected scriptural passages. To me, this will accomplish the obtainable teaching-them-to-fish benefit AND it walks them through the OT, showing the richness of knowledge and inspiration that it offers.
    .
    As James noted in #64, For what it’s worth, I don’t have any major problem with the SS manual. I teach SS to teenagers, and I find the manual to be a comfortable guide for choosing important chapters and morals from whichever book we are studying at the moment. The book doesn’t hide the fact that it isn’t a study of the Old Testament. Every lesson begins with an explanation that this lesson is about missionary work, or faith, or repentance. It NEVER says it is a lesson about Jonah. The OT text is used as a backdrop for the real lesson.
    .
    (Continued in Part 3)

  142. manaen on September 25, 2010 at 3:19 am

    (Part 3)
    Some lessons’ purposes and the scriptures they use to achieve them are:
    .
    4. To help each class member understand that the Fall was a necessary part of Heavenly Father’s plan for us. – Moses 4; 5:1–15; 6:48–62
    .
    13. To encourage class members to (1) trust the Lord to fulfill his promises, (2) increase their appreciation for the Savior’s atoning sacrifice, and (3) make the sacrament more meaningful in their lives. — Exodus 1–3; 5–6; 11–14
    .
    23. To encourage class members to be true to their friends, as Jonathan and David were, and avoid being consumed by jealousy and hatred, as Saul was. — 1 Samuel 18–20; 23–24.
    .
    34. To help class members understand that the Lord is loving and merciful and will forgive us when we repent and return to him. — Hosea 1–3; 11; 13–14
    .
    39. To strengthen each class member’s testimony of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. — Isaiah 50–53
    .
    Note the focus on what we are to become instead of what we are know from these classes.
    .
    So, does the Church give us these lessons and then expect us to find our own way to deeper understanding of the scriptural texts? Didn’t the eunuch ask Philip how could he understand Isaiah unless some man guided him? What is the answer to Dave’s question in this posting, “How else are Latter-day Saints going to learn how to read and understand the Bible?”
    .
    Here are some answers that I’ve heard from the Church and some resources it’s provided for studying the Bible and other scriptures:
    * Individual scripture study
    * Family scripture study
    .
    * Scriptures on line
    – Read: http://scriptures.lds.org/, or listen (button in upper leftcorner)
    – Download mp3 files: http://lds.org/mp3/newarchive/0,18615,5249-1,00.html#TheScriptures
    * Scripture stories for children: http://lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=12f1d9e1ec1cb110VgnVCM100000176f620aRCRD&locale=0
    * Seminary classes
    * Institute classes — manuals available on-line
    * Free BYU Home Study classes: http://ce.byu.edu/is/site/courses/free.cfm
    * BYU Home Study (I went through their NT courses): http://ce.byu.edu/is/site/courses/university.cfm?subject=Religious+Education–Ancient+Scripture
    * Discussions viewable upon demand on KBYU-TV:
    – Discussion on the OT, 67 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/292
    – Insights into Isaiah, 30 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/493
    – No Greater Faith, 1 episode: http://www.byutv.org/watch/679-100
    – Our Savior in the Gospels, 34 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/705
    – From Bethlehem through Sermon on the Mount, 7 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/371
    – From the Last Supper through the Resurrection, 11 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/373
    – Acts to Revelation: http://www.byutv.org/show/917
    – Messiah: Behold the Lamb of God, 8 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/1795
    – Discussions on the BoM, 70 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/290
    – Discussion on the D&C, 52 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/291
    – Pearl of Great Price Discussion, 11 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/721
    – Sperry Symposium, 96 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/880
    * Non-church commentaries. Jeffrey R. Holland quoted “Harper’s Bible Dictionary” in his 10/2007 GenCon address
    .
    A final observation. A convert in my ward in Michigan explained that he’d been fired from three callings in which he’d given his best before he asked the bishop about it. The bishop explained that callings generally are given to help the people called to progress in them and that as this good brother had grown, he’d been released to grow in other areas. This has been my understanding of one of the key differences between our Church and others in which members come to watch the show performed by the hired elite and then go home. The complaints about teachers who are growing in their callings and calls for teachers who do not need to grow in those callings seem to me to be counter to the Church’s purpose and detrimental both to those who could grow in these callings and to those who have but could grow elsewhere.
    .
    IMO, those who call for this elite teaching cadre in the Church could grow in their charity for those who struggle to offer their widow’s mites to the rest of us. The efforts of these people in their callings seem more charitable to me than the lack of support from those who raised their hands promising to sustain them. Do you suppose they see you as a model for what they want? Do not presume that when you look down upon someone, they are looking up to you.
    .
    (Appendix in Part 4)

  143. manaen on September 25, 2010 at 3:21 am

    (Continued in Part 3)

    (Part 3)
    Some lessons’ purposes and the scriptures they use to achieve them are:
    .
    4. To help each class member understand that the Fall was a necessary part of Heavenly Father’s plan for us. – Moses 4; 5:1–15; 6:48–62
    .
    13. To encourage class members to (1) trust the Lord to fulfill his promises, (2) increase their appreciation for the Savior’s atoning sacrifice, and (3) make the sacrament more meaningful in their lives. — Exodus 1–3; 5–6; 11–14
    .
    23. To encourage class members to be true to their friends, as Jonathan and David were, and avoid being consumed by jealousy and hatred, as Saul was. — 1 Samuel 18–20; 23–24.
    .
    34. To help class members understand that the Lord is loving and merciful and will forgive us when we repent and return to him. — Hosea 1–3; 11; 13–14
    .
    39. To strengthen each class member’s testimony of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. — Isaiah 50–53
    .
    Note the focus on what we are to become instead of what we are know from these classes.
    .
    So, does the Church give us these lessons and then expect us to find our own way to deeper understanding of the scriptural texts? Didn’t the eunuch ask Philip how could he understand Isaiah unless some man guided him? What is the answer to Dave’s question in this posting, “How else are Latter-day Saints going to learn how to read and understand the Bible?”
    .
    Here are some answers that I’ve heard from the Church and some resources it’s provided for studying the Bible and other scriptures:
    * Individual scripture study
    * Family scripture study
    .
    * Scriptures on line
    – Read: http://scriptures.lds.org/, or listen (button in upper leftcorner)
    – Download mp3 files: http://lds.org/mp3/newarchive/0,18615,5249-1,00.html#TheScriptures
    * Scripture stories for children: http://lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=12f1d9e1ec1cb110VgnVCM100000176f620aRCRD&locale=0
    * Seminary classes
    * Institute classes — manuals available on-line
    * Free BYU Home Study classes: http://ce.byu.edu/is/site/courses/free.cfm
    * BYU Home Study (I went through their NT courses): http://ce.byu.edu/is/site/courses/university.cfm?subject=Religious+Education–Ancient+Scripture
    * Discussions viewable upon demand on KBYU-TV:
    – Discussion on the OT, 67 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/292
    – Insights into Isaiah, 30 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/493
    – No Greater Faith, 1 episode: http://www.byutv.org/watch/679-100
    – Our Savior in the Gospels, 34 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/705
    – From Bethlehem through Sermon on the Mount, 7 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/371
    – From the Last Supper through the Resurrection, 11 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/373
    – Acts to Revelation: http://www.byutv.org/show/917
    – Messiah: Behold the Lamb of God, 8 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/1795
    – Discussions on the BoM, 70 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/290
    – Discussion on the D&C, 52 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/291
    – Pearl of Great Price Discussion, 11 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/721
    – Sperry Symposium, 96 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/880
    * Non-church commentaries. Jeffrey R. Holland quoted “Harper’s Bible Dictionary” in his 10/2007 GenCon address
    .
    (Continued in Part 4)

  144. manaen on September 25, 2010 at 3:22 am

    (Part 3)
    Some lessons’ purposes and the scriptures they use to achieve them are:
    .
    4. To help each class member understand that the Fall was a necessary part of Heavenly Father’s plan for us. – Moses 4; 5:1–15; 6:48–62
    .
    13. To encourage class members to (1) trust the Lord to fulfill his promises, (2) increase their appreciation for the Savior’s atoning sacrifice, and (3) make the sacrament more meaningful in their lives. — Exodus 1–3; 5–6; 11–14
    .
    23. To encourage class members to be true to their friends, as Jonathan and David were, and avoid being consumed by jealousy and hatred, as Saul was. — 1 Samuel 18–20; 23–24.
    .
    34. To help class members understand that the Lord is loving and merciful and will forgive us when we repent and return to him. — Hosea 1–3; 11; 13–14
    .
    39. To strengthen each class member’s testimony of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. — Isaiah 50–53
    .
    Note the focus on what we are to become instead of what we are know from these classes.
    .
    (Continued in Part 4)

  145. manaen on September 25, 2010 at 3:24 am

    (Continued in Part 4)

    (Part 4)

    So, does the Church give us these lessons and then expect us to find our own way to deeper understanding of the scriptural texts? Didn’t the eunuch ask Philip how could he understand Isaiah unless some man guided him? What is the answer to Dave’s question in this posting, “How else are Latter-day Saints going to learn how to read and understand the Bible?”
    .
    Here are some answers that I’ve heard from the Church and some resources it’s provided for studying the Bible and other scriptures:
    * Individual scripture study
    * Family scripture study
    .
    * Scriptures on line
    – Read: http://scriptures.lds.org/, or listen (button in upper leftcorner)
    – Download mp3 files: http://lds.org/mp3/newarchive/0,18615,5249-1,00.html#TheScriptures
    * Scripture stories for children: http://lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=12f1d9e1ec1cb110VgnVCM100000176f620aRCRD&locale=0
    * Seminary classes
    * Institute classes — manuals available on-line
    * Free BYU Home Study classes: http://ce.byu.edu/is/site/courses/free.cfm
    * BYU Home Study (I went through their NT courses): http://ce.byu.edu/is/site/courses/university.cfm?subject=Religious+Education–Ancient+Scripture
    * Discussions viewable upon demand on KBYU-TV:
    – Discussion on the OT, 67 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/292
    – Insights into Isaiah, 30 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/493
    – No Greater Faith, 1 episode: http://www.byutv.org/watch/679-100
    – Our Savior in the Gospels, 34 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/705
    – From Bethlehem through Sermon on the Mount, 7 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/371
    – From the Last Supper through the Resurrection, 11 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/373
    – Acts to Revelation: http://www.byutv.org/show/917
    – Messiah: Behold the Lamb of God, 8 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/1795
    – Discussions on the BoM, 70 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/290
    – Discussion on the D&C, 52 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/291
    – Pearl of Great Price Discussion, 11 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/721
    – Sperry Symposium, 96 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/880
    * Non-church commentaries. Jeffrey R. Holland quoted “Harper’s Bible Dictionary” in his 10/2007 GenCon address
    .
    A final observation. A convert in my ward in Michigan explained that he’d been fired from three callings in which he’d given his best before he asked the bishop about it. The bishop explained that callings generally are given to help the people called to progress in them and that as this good brother had grown, he’d been released to grow in other areas. This has been my understanding of one of the key differences between our Church and others in which members come to watch the show performed by the hired elite and then go home. The complaints about teachers who are growing in their callings and calls for teachers who do not need to grow in those callings seem to me to be counter to the Church’s purpose and detrimental both to those who could grow in these callings and to those who have but could grow elsewhere.
    .
    IMO, those who call for this elite teaching cadre in the Church could grow in their charity for those who struggle to offer their widow’s mites to the rest of us. The efforts of these people in their callings seem more charitable to me than the lack of support from those who raised their hands promising to sustain them. Do you suppose they see you as a model for what they want? Do not presume that when you look down upon someone, they are looking up to you.
    .
    (Appendix in Part 5)

  146. manaen on September 25, 2010 at 3:25 am

    (Part 4)

    So, does the Church give us these lessons and then expect us to find our own way to deeper understanding of the scriptural texts? Didn’t the eunuch ask Philip how could he understand Isaiah unless some man guided him? What is the answer to Dave’s question in this posting, “How else are Latter-day Saints going to learn how to read and understand the Bible?”
    .
    Here are some answers that I’ve heard from the Church and some resources it’s provided for studying the Bible and other scriptures:
    * Individual scripture study
    * Family scripture study
    .
    * Scriptures on line
    – Read: http://scriptures.lds.org/, or listen (button in upper leftcorner)
    – Download mp3 files: http://lds.org/mp3/newarchive/0,18615,5249-1,00.html#TheScriptures
    * Scripture stories for children: http://lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=12f1d9e1ec1cb110VgnVCM100000176f620aRCRD&locale=0
    * Seminary classes
    * Institute classes — manuals available on-line
    * Free BYU Home Study classes: http://ce.byu.edu/is/site/courses/free.cfm
    * BYU Home Study (I went through their NT courses): http://ce.byu.edu/is/site/courses/university.cfm?subject=Religious+Education–Ancient+Scripture
    * Discussions viewable upon demand on KBYU-TV:
    – Discussion on the OT, 67 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/292
    – Insights into Isaiah, 30 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/493
    – No Greater Faith, 1 episode: http://www.byutv.org/watch/679-100
    – Our Savior in the Gospels, 34 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/705
    – From Bethlehem through Sermon on the Mount, 7 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/371
    – From the Last Supper through the Resurrection, 11 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/373
    – Acts to Revelation: http://www.byutv.org/show/917
    – Messiah: Behold the Lamb of God, 8 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/1795
    – Discussions on the BoM, 70 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/290
    – Discussion on the D&C, 52 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/291
    – Pearl of Great Price Discussion, 11 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/721
    – Sperry Symposium, 96 episodes: http://www.byutv.org/show/880
    * Non-church commentaries. Jeffrey R. Holland quoted “Harper’s Bible Dictionary” in his 10/2007 GenCon address
    .
    (Continued in Part 5)

  147. Dave on September 25, 2010 at 9:53 am

    Thanks for all the comments, everyone. And thank you for the auxiliary post, Manaen. I’m sure the subject of manuals and Correlation will return for another run before too long.

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