The Problem With Correlation

February 21, 2013 | 91 comments
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Over at Worlds Without End, Seth posted Overcoming Correlation, or Mormon Studies and Pastoral Care. Why do we keep talking about Correlation? Obviously, there’s something wrong, but there are various opinions as to what exactly that is and how one might go about fixing it. After recounting his own scholarly engagement with Mormon Studies, Seth offers a couple of conclusions about Correlation, its problems, and how Mormon Studies might help solve them.

Here is his first observation:

Correlation has watered down religious and spiritual education in the Church to a point of absolute absurdity.

Well, maybe not absolute absurdity, but everyone admits it has been watered down. I understand the rationale for the standardization program pushed by Correlation, but one has to consider costs as well as benefits, and the costs are substantial. How bad would things have to get before someone within the hierarchy would start pushing for some un-correlation?

Here is what I take to be Seth’s second observation:

Correlation has created a shortage of intellectual stimuli for active, believing, and committed Latter-day Saints. … It has been my experience that Latter-day Saints are hungry for intellectual stimulation relative to their Mormon spirituality.

Is it possible that some Mormons go inactive simply because they are bored with what happens on Sunday? How many Sundays have you spent three hours in LDS meetings without encountering a single new idea? So, because of Correlation, bright, curious Mormons (and we’re all bright and curious, aren’t we?) have to look elsewhere for interesting discussion about their faith. And you find a lot of troubling material as well as helpful material if you start Googling about Mormonism.

So what can be done? It’s helpful to distinguish between global and local solutions. The global solutions (better manuals, shorten LDS Sunday meetings, combat the anti-intellectualism that still pervades LDS education) are easy to articulate, tough to execute, and might actually create new problems. In any case, global solutions are beyond our reach. That’s someone else’s calling.

What about local solutions? Interestingly, Seth doesn’t rehash the usual global recommendations (see above). He suggests action at the local level, aimed in particular at helping those who, looking elsewhere for intellectual discussion of LDS issues, encounter doubts or concerns. This is where he sees a positive role for Mormon Studies.

I propose that Mormon Studies can be an effective tool for those who provide pastoral care within the LDS Church. … Students of Mormon Studies can be invaluable resources to local priesthood leaders seeking to help ward members study important questions. On more than one occasion my local leaders have asked me to help provide scholarly works that they could provide to congregants.

We have stake public relations reps and stake employment reps and stake activites reps. Why not a Stake Faith Specialist? The quick response to such a suggestion might be that there is no need for such services or that, if they are needed, bishops or stake presidents should be the ones to provide it. Well, there is a need, and bishops and stake presidents are often not the right persons to provide needed responses or information. But there are a host of challenging details to consider before making this particular suggestion work.

So is Correlation a problem or a solution? If changes need to be made, do you have any better suggestions to offer?

91 Responses to The Problem With Correlation

  1. Unknown on February 21, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    There might be another solution to the intellectual boredom that may be experienced by members. That is for the church to spend more effort emphasizing members’ personal responsibility for studying and learning the gospel, having religious experiences on their own and, in general developing their own relationship with God and working out their own salvation. After all, at the end of the day, we are each responsible for our own intellectual and spiritual development.

    If followed, the correlated curriculum provides a baseline doctrinal education. It also teaches a set of spritual habits, practices and principles that, if applied, will lead to greater intellectual knowledge and spiritual growth. (For example, the basic Sunday school teachings on revelation, which we can all recite in our sleep, can literally open up entirely new worlds, if applied consistently.) A baseline eduction and emphaisis on doctrinal habits is necessary given the strong influx of new members worldwide.

    I have never seen anyone say, however, that individuals should limit their personal doctrinal study or personal spiritual practices to the correlated curriculum. Certainly, many of the leading brethren of the Church have not done so, which is likely why they are where they are today.

    Thus, I think that a more realistic understanding of what the correlated curriculum is designed to do and a greater emphasis on personal responsibility might also solve the problems that you address.

  2. JT on February 21, 2013 at 12:27 pm

    Correlation has become a broad and loaded term in the bloggernacle. Perhaps a definition would be in order.

  3. Brian on February 21, 2013 at 12:44 pm

    Unknown #1, I don’t think the “bright and curious” are personally irresponsible, but even how to learn needs to be learned. Correlation leaves little room for locals to meaningfully engage with each other intellectually within the structure of the Church. Those you point out, like the GAs, are rarely accessible and so those with the desire to study beyond the baseline have no real modus operandi to do so. Simply telling them they need to be more responsible (i.e., study harder) is not going to be very successful.

  4. chris on February 21, 2013 at 12:44 pm

    I think people are too harsh on the correlation boogey man. I have found some of the most insightful quotes or “throw away” sentences in the various manuals of the church that I still have in memory today that give me a penetrating insight into the Savior and what I can specifically do to be like him.

    In a sense, the value I feel I’ve gained is worth thousands of pages of junk to have the few gems.

    On the flip side, I think the problem is not so much with correlation, but that we give away the answers to easily. We usually don’t value what we don’t work for. So we dish out answer after answer, truth after truth in a systematic, institutionalized way regardless of whether or not the teacher and/or individual class members are “ready”. It cheapens the experience, and doesn’t seem to be how God works with us and yet we take knowledge acquired through lifetimes of testimony and sacrifice and just teach it in a institutionalized way.

    However, if people study, and put in the effort, the manuals and lessons aren’t the “end” or the “answer” of revelation, but the starting point for it.

    But it seems as it is now we’re filling up kids (adults) heads with knowledge of answers and just hoping someday they’ll act in their own capacity and those answers will suddenly “click” and they’ll internalize it and the answers won’t become the manual but will become their own.

    I realize my comment says nothing about correlation and its accused terrible affects on factual history, warts and all and other grievances that are trotted out from time to time. But that’s because I don’t see that as the real problem. Maybe if other approaches were taken we could be better at placing history and context.

    But the problem I see is much deeper than that and gets at once was once suggested to be institutionalize and strangling revelation right out of the church (it’s members). To the degree we just sit back and show up every Sunday and listen to the answers and not using our agency to act, engage, and build upon them this seems to happen a bit.

  5. Dave on February 21, 2013 at 12:53 pm

    JT, good question. Here’s a link to the Encyclopedia of Mormonism’s entry on Correlation:

    http://eom.byu.edu/index.php/Correlation_of_the_Church_Administration

    Highlights: coordinating committees established in 1960; a formal Correlation Department established in 1972; starting in 1987, “All proposed official Churchwide materials, programs, and activities must be submitted for evaluation by the Correlation Department”; in the 1990s, Correlation’s focus redirected to “simplifying and reducing programs and materials.”

    There’s also lengthy discussion of Correlation in Chapter 42 of the D&C and Church History manual.

    http://www.lds.org/manual/doctrine-and-covenants-and-church-history-gospel-doctrine-teachers-manual/lesson-42-continuing-revelation-to-latter-day-prophets?lang=eng

    Not surprisingly, that chapter talks about Correlation in glowing terms.

    None of the LDS sources actually identify who is on the committee directing Correlation, who is on the staff (full-time employees or volunteer callings), what specific directives they are given, or what specific activities they perform.

  6. john roberts on February 21, 2013 at 1:01 pm

    within the standards of the correlation outlined lesson the local teacher has the ability and even the responsibility to adjust and even upgrade the lessons. What I have experienced most often is the lack of insightful, quality teaching.

  7. Unknown on February 21, 2013 at 1:06 pm

    # 3 – Brian – I agree with your statement that “even how to learn needs to be learned.” My proposed emphasis on members own responsibility does not ignore that. To the contrary, teaching one how to learn herself is part of encouraging personal responsibility.

  8. log on February 21, 2013 at 1:13 pm

    Do correlated materials prevent someone from repenting of all their sins, calling upon the name of the Lord to be redeemed from them, being baptized by water, and being baptized by fire and the Holy Ghost, and receiving revelations, angelic visitors, and visions?

    If not, then I would suggest the focus on correlation is misguided at best. After all, every last one of you has a set of scriptures which are of almost infinite depth and breadth.

    If one has the Holy Ghost, one needs not that any man should teach one (1 John 2:20); on the other hand, spiritual things are foolishness (read: “boring”) to the natural man (1 Corinthians 2:14).

  9. DavidH on February 21, 2013 at 1:51 pm

    I think the Brethren recognize the problem, and are making efforts. For example, the new church history website providing context for the Doctrine & Covenants is pretty open and honest and professional. I think the change in youth curriculum frees up teachers from super scripted lessons. I wish some of the statements were removed from manuals or other materials implying that one should only use lds.org type materials. I actually like the “watering” down of what Mormonism means through correlation, in that it simplifies or reduces what I have to believe to more core and more narrow beliefs. The narrowing down of what I HAVE to believe reduces the limitations on what I can believe as an observant member.

  10. Tim J on February 21, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    Piggybacking on DavidH’s comment, the new Youth Curriculum I think is also a step in the right direction. It really forces teachers to study and prepare an entire lesson as opposed to reading from a manual. It also allows the teacher quite a bit of latitude on sources and content.

  11. Howard on February 21, 2013 at 2:21 pm

    …pretty open and honest and professional is a welcome change and a good start, how about adding accurate and interesting? How about approved for discussion but contradicting view points so the class can debate, decide and learn something in the process? How about an advanced class or removing the handcuffs in GD? Or maybe a moderated GD and a far less moderated GD or was that what GE and GD were once intended to represent?

  12. Steve Smith on February 21, 2013 at 2:37 pm

    The leadership sees correlation as a means of survival. They believe that whatever damage correlation may caused is much less than the potential damage that could result from undoing it. Correlation proved effective in ridding the church of polygamists in the early 1900s. It helped the church standardize the format of teaching and worship services as it expanded throughout the world. And it serves as a means of promoting good PR, not only to the non-Mormon world, but also to the core membership itself. Keeping things simple in the manuals certainly may annoy some of the T&S types of Mormons, but it is effective at integrating much of the core membership who like it that way. Now as the internet has contributed to the growth in the numbers of T&S types of Mormons who engage in more critical thinking about the church, the leadership has appeared to have made some adjustments. But it is only going to go so far.

    I think Mormon Studies is great in terms of enhancing the study of the Mormon church. Having graduates of Mormon studies interact in their individual Mormon communities as, say, Ward Faith Specialists also may help maintain activity in the church a little. But the question is how would they do that. Would they simply serve as advertisers for FAIR, or would they try to turn people into John Dehlins and Joanna Brookses (cultural Mormons who aren’t there because of belief in the official doctrine but out of respect for Mormon tradition)?

  13. Cameron N on February 21, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    I agree with Steve.

    Correlation isn’t necessarily for intellectual fulfillment. It is for correct doctrine to laid as a global foundation for an international faith.

    The responsibility was, is, and always will be on the teacher and participants to invite the Spirit, the ultimate intellectual fulfiller. The Spirit renews doctrine when it gets boring, so even though I’ve heard something dozens of times already, it is always fresh to me.

    Most teachers I’ve had spanning a few decades and locations, and most lessons I’ve taught, draw on the manual for general direction/inspiration and then go down their own path, led by the Spirit. Very few use the manual as a crutch.

  14. Mike S on February 21, 2013 at 3:14 pm

    Correlation is a part of it, but it is perhaps a necessary evil in a global Church – seeking the least common denominator.

    More importantly to me, however, would be a change in attitude from the highest levels on down as to what is acceptable to talk about. For issues to truly be explored, and allowance needs to be made to talk about pros & cons, good & bad, traditions & alternatives, etc. Only through a thorough discussion can beliefs truly be strengthened and can interesting discussions exist.

    Unfortunately, for years and decades, this has been frowned upon. We aren’t supposed to talk about true things unless they are “faith-promoting”. Our lessons are sunshine and rainbows. It is hard in most settings to have a discussion that truly and honestly talks about the “hard issues”. Granted, there are isolated wards and classes where someone can get away with this, but this is certainly the exception and not the rule. And after a while, being fed happy pablum gets tiresome.

    I don’t see this changing, however.

  15. SilverRain on February 21, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    Lessons in my ward are not sunshine and rainbows. All it takes is one person sharing raw personal truth, and the floodgates open. Nervous teachers make it less inviting to open up that way, but when the Spirit is invited by anyone, even nervous teachers respond.

    I’m grateful for it since it gives us a chance to exercise compassion and charity, the greatest opportunity offered by church worship.

  16. MC on February 21, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    The number one problem is teacher laziness in preparation. You end up with really penetrating questions like:

    “Why would it be important to have a good relationship with the Savior?”

    “Why is it important to love one another?”

    I’m not saying questions like these can’t be answered in an interesting way. But rather than provoking thought, they require class members to do all the work in making class interesting, instead of steel sharpening steel.

  17. MC on February 21, 2013 at 4:51 pm

    “Very few use the manual as a crutch.”

    I have holy envy for Cameron’s ward.

  18. Jeff G on February 21, 2013 at 5:06 pm

    My 2 cents:

    Who ever said that the church is or should be in the business of “intellectual fulfillment” or “spiritual education” in the intellectual sense of that word? The church is here to provide us with solidarity and salvation, and all other intellectual virtues should be measured by those standards, not the other way around. From that perspective, correlation seems like it’s doing just fine.

  19. Kevin L on February 21, 2013 at 5:20 pm

    SilverRain,

    Your comment echoes my experience that one person opening up and being vulnerable can shift the entire tone of a class. I wonder what the effect would be if we resisted the urge to focus on the systemic problems we perceive and asked instead, what would the Lord have me do in this place at this time about my concerns?

    Do you think that on some level, those of us who have a negative reaction to “Correlation” (I readily admit to my share of grumbling!) are willing to cheat others of the very experiences we value? I know that I am often tempted to rush to the rescue someone with the profound insights I have gained from similar experiences. After all, I’ve done a lot of study above and beyond the basic material. I think that well-intentioned effort is not really different than the efforts of CES teachers when they present non-doctrinal explanations.

    While my answers may or may not accurately represent spiritual reality, the more important factor is the character-molding process I experienced by having to search for and grapple with difficult issues. I know I have a tendency to get too focused on the short term outcomes of trials and believe that I could better at ministering or administering than the status quo. However, when I look back and imagine what my life would have been like without my trials. . . . I’m not so sure I’d be any closer to the Savior. Honestly, I doubt it. I guess it’s easier to believe that a wise and loving Heavenly Father is able to do His own work.

  20. Howard on February 21, 2013 at 5:24 pm

    Who ever said that the church is or should be in the business of “intellectual fulfillment” or “spiritual education” in the intellectual sense of that word?

    Well, the church caters to a diverse audience, since attendance is pretty much mandatory it would be nice of them to offer something for those above the lowest common denominator.

  21. Jeff G on February 21, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    Howard,

    Lowest common denominator as measured by what standard? Again, my point is that intellectual stimulation and doctrinal education are NOT ends which the church is our ought to be interested in pursuing.

  22. Howard on February 21, 2013 at 5:33 pm

    Jeff G.
    The glory of God is intelligence! What’s wrong with a little intellectual stimulation at church?

  23. Dave on February 21, 2013 at 5:40 pm

    Thanks for the comments, everyone.

    DavidH (#9), I agree the new D&C website at LDS.org has very nice historical background on some D&C sections and topics is very encouraging. On the other hand, the site is almost impossible to find if you start at LDS.org, even if you know what you’re looking for. It doesn’t seem to be listed as a resource at the D&C or Sunday School manual pages or as a teaching resource.

    Tim J (#10), yes, the new Youth curriculum is a step in the right direction. But Sunday School is keyed to the LDS standard works and ought to be somewhat content based. A good manual would provide more of the content to enrich the teacher’s knowledge and to share with the class if appropriate. I think an upgraded Sunday School manual should take a somewhat different approach than the updated online youth manual.

    Steve (#12), I have news for you. You read T&S posts and make comments here … you, too, are a “T&S type.” Welcome to the club.

  24. Neal on February 21, 2013 at 5:50 pm

    Amen Howard!

    There’s a great interview on Mormon Stories with Daymon Smith, who wrote ‘The Book of Mammon”. He talks a lot about the rise of correlation in that interview. Worth a listen. It was all based around 72 principles written on index cards. It also might scare you to know that there are just a couple of COB employees who manage the entire Correlation process – and they’re not GAs.

    I think Correltation really has to be separated into two components in order to fix it. The first would be the Church History component. This is the part that has so many inaccuracies and the blatant ‘whitewashing’ that sends unsuspecting TBMs into faith crisis. It will be a thorny, delicate task; but in my mind this must be done.

    The second component is Doctrine, and this one is less in need of a fix. However bored one becomes with the lesson material, the doctrines of the Church bear repeating and study, and much of this is the responsibility of the individual to do on his/her own. Still, it might be nice to have an Advanced Gospel Doctrine class for those who feel they have reached the limits of what current curriculum can offer.

    In addition, I think the whole Church needs an attitude adjustment. We’re totally averse to anything that might be seen as criticizing leaders or ‘not following the Brethren’. Its mass paranoia. Voicing of opinions should be something we encourage and respect.

  25. Dave on February 21, 2013 at 6:19 pm

    Jeff G (#23), it’s not an either/or decision. It’s not like beefing up the curriculum means one can’t also teach first principles or talk about home teaching or encourage continued commitment to institutional goals like payment of tithes and temple attendance. It seems like your argument is this: Sure, the Church can do a lot of things, but one thing it should avoid is serious doctrinal education and intellectual stimulation.

    We don’t live in a vacuum. There’s plenty of detailed doctrinal education about twelve seconds away, and many Mormons use it from time to time: Google “Joseph Smith” or “LDS history” or “Mormon polygamy.” The sense of urgency in beefing up the curriculum is, in part, a response to these changes in the environment. Members are already getting plenty of doctrinal details, it’s just a question of whether the Church wants to get equal time by providing the membership with LDS-friendly coverage of tough events and tough issues.

  26. Lew Scannon on February 21, 2013 at 6:20 pm

    Most Mormons don’t know much about Correlation. In fact, most posters and commenters who complain about Correlation don’t know much about it. I’ll give my identity away here for anyone who cares to do a little research. I spent over seven years as an editor for the Liahona and the Ensign, so I got to deal directly with Correlation more than a few times. Let me make four broad points.

    1. What most people call Correlation is really only a small branch of the larger department, which also includes a research division that studies the Church and its members in a variety of ways. The branch of Correlation referred to in this post consists of review committees, which are made up of unpaid volunteers who are called to serve on these committees as their primary (and most often only) Church calling. One committee member I knew said this was the loneliest calling he’d ever had. These individuals review materials before they are published by the Church through numerous platforms, including magazines and manuals. Sometimes we editors would complain about how strict the reviews were. Sometimes we were surprised at what sailed through the committees. And sometimes we had a good laugh. My favorite statement from a Correlation report, on a “Random Sampler” idea for something to do with yard sales, was the edict: “We should resist yard sales.” Mostly we learned to work within the sometimes unpredictable bounds of the review committees’ likes and dislikes, but it was possible to go over their heads to the department managing director, who was reasonable and would override the committee’s report if we presented a good case.

    2. Correlation gets more blame than it deserves. Yes, Correlation is rather restrictive, but often it was not Correlation but some other manager or General Authority who killed certain content. That was one of the most difficult aspects of my job: trying to get some articles past all the hurdles. I had articles derailed by managing editors, department managers, GA advisers, and even Area Seventies in remote locations (if the article dealt with his particular area). For one article, I had to get 14 different approvals (I counted them) before it was printed. This is problematic, because if 14 different people have veto power, they tend to use it rather frequently, and the most conservative or narrow view will always be the governing one. So it’s not just Correlation but a whole line of readers who have to give their approval. This may explain why Church curriculum is so bland and unadventurous. The corporate climate that prevails at Church headquarters is also a factor. Middle management tends to avoid anything that would raise eyebrows up-line.

    3. The Church is in a period of transition right now, which creates what appears to be a disconnect between, say, the Church History Department and the Sunday curriculum. The Joseph Smith Papers team is producing all sorts of fascinating materials, and a spirit of openness and intellectual curiosity prevails there. At the same time, the Gospel Doctrine curriculum, which this year covers the D&C and Church history, appears to be completely unaware of what the Church History Department is doing. I believe this will change, but it will take time (see points 1 and 2). The new youth curriculum is a move in a new direction, but it is still rather “safe,” which indicates that Church leaders are grappling with the question of how to educate the youth (and the adults) regarding certain difficult questions without breaking down faith. This is not an easy challenge. The Sunday curriculum is intended to build faith, but how do you do that while honestly addressing the difficult questions these kids (and adults) will face in our information-saturated world? I think, at some point, that the Church is going to just have to bite the bullet and be frank and open about some of the more difficult events in Church history, the changes the organization and even some doctrines have undergone over the years, and the fact that even prophets aren’t perfect–and trust that the members will learn to listen to the Spirit and discern truth without being told exactly what to think. This is a big step. In some ways, the Church has retreated in this arena. I think of what I was allowed to read as a missionary many years ago and compare that with the short list of approved books my son is allowed to read as a missionary today. I’m not sure all this sheltering will produce the results we want.

    4. “Correlation” today is far afield from what it was when President McKay gave Elder Lee permission to form a committee to correlate the curriculum of the auxiliaries. Of course Elder Lee went much further than President McKay anticipated and ended up revamping the entire organization, but that history is recounted elsewhere. My point is that what began as an attempt to eliminate redundancy in Church curriculum has now become largely a doctrinal and cultural policing function. The Church ought to either rethink Correlation or rename it.

    Well, that’s plenty for one comment.

  27. Neal on February 21, 2013 at 6:25 pm

    Lew,

    That was incredibly informative. Thank you.

  28. Howard on February 21, 2013 at 6:30 pm

    Lew,
    Thanks for the great summary! but how do you do that while honestly addressing the difficult questions these kids (and adults) will face in our information-saturated world? Ummm, stop being deceptive, immunize and tell the truth?

  29. Adam G. on February 21, 2013 at 6:48 pm

    Intellectual stimulation is mostly a form of entertainment for smart people.

  30. Steve Smith on February 21, 2013 at 6:58 pm

    Yes, I sure am a T&S type of Mormon, Dave. And I wasn’t speaking of T&S types negatively in my previous comment. In fact I wish more LDS were of the T&S variety. But allow me to reiterate my point: the LDS church is somewhat uncomfortable with the critical thinking LDS. They are the ones who ask challenging questions and hold the leadership accountable. They are not as willing to just do and believe as they’re told. The leadership likes the rank and file LDS membership; the Mormon mob, so to speak. They always go to church, they are willing to sacrifice lots of time and resources for the church, and they never question its truth claims (at least not to any major degree). Correlation serves to protect the existence of the rank and file membership. It doesn’t want to risk creating too many questioners by loosening correlation too much. The church can only handle so many.

  31. Neal on February 21, 2013 at 7:10 pm

    Yes, Howard.

    Example of what has GOT to stop: If you look up Joseph Smith Jr. on Family Search, it will show his plural wives listed in his pedigree chart. However, the birth dates for some of them say “about 1820″ or some other bogus date. Take Helen Mar Kimball – which Family Search says was born ‘about 1820′, yet we know her exact birth date was Aug 20, 1828, and she married Jospeh at the age of 14! So rather than put in their real birth dates, which we actually do know, they put in a ‘generalized’ date so their true age won’t be as evident.

  32. mapman on February 21, 2013 at 7:30 pm

    Neal, that actually has nothing to do with Correlation. In fact the false date comes from the opposite of correlation. It is part of Ancestral File and so was something that some anonymous genealogist put into an old system at least a couple decades ago (you can still see Ancestral File results when you search because sometimes they contain useful information, but they are not part of the church’s current system, Family Tree). I have my problems with how the church portrays some of its history, but that sure isn’t one of them.

  33. Owen on February 21, 2013 at 7:33 pm

    We could also do service instead of sitting around agreeing with each other for several hours each Sunday. We all need the refresh of knowledge and there are always people who need to hear it for the first time of course.

  34. Neal on February 21, 2013 at 7:50 pm

    Mapman,

    Thanks for pointing that out. Family Tree does show the correct dates. However, Ancestral File should be corrected considering who this is, don’t ya think??

  35. Howard on February 21, 2013 at 8:30 pm

    Adam G,
    Something wrong with entertaining smart people at church? It might help offset Pres. Monson wiggling his ears.

  36. Chet on February 21, 2013 at 10:11 pm

    1. I would like to nominate Clayton M. Christensen as head of the revamping process.
    2. One of the Sun School teachers in our ward is 80+ years old, he tends to teach “lecture style” and really doesn’t ask many questions to the class. I’m sure he reads the manual and thinks, “damn the torpedoes.”
    3. Confession – I am not afraid to turn on my kindle and read RSR or Turner’s Brigham Young at any point during the three hour tour.

  37. Cameron N on February 21, 2013 at 10:50 pm

    A few supplementary thoughts:

    A – The Spirit provides all the intellectual satisfaction I need, no matter how crappy the teacher is. As Elder Scott pointed out a few years ago in a conference talk, the teacher has almost no bearing on the capacity of someone attending to have fulfilling and revelatory experiences, as evidence by his example of having such experiences both with a simple, inexperience good teacher and a showy, intellectual teacher.

    B – Correlation isn’t the problem, bad teaching is. I’ve been in 6-7 wards in several states and countries over the past decade.

    C – If you experience bad teaching, it is your duty to study the scriptures personally during a lesson, like President Kimball suggested. Possibly chat with the Sunday School Presidency in general terms about your concerns.

    D – People who lose testimonies because of newly discovered church history likely are not praying/reading scriptures regularly and having regular confirming experiences. They likely have not learned how to recognize the Spirit, or recorded their lifetime of experience interacting with the Spirit. A lesson dedicated to the mistakes and fuzzy anecdotes of prophets is not the answer. Better teaching is. Better teaching invites the Spirit. The Spirit trumps all.

  38. Howard on February 21, 2013 at 11:22 pm

    I see your point but I can have fulfilling and revelatory experiences without even being in church, so can you! So what’s the point of a boring stoic 3 hour block? Sacrifice?

  39. Chadwick on February 22, 2013 at 12:06 am

    Regarding 37 above, I absolutely agree with your Point C, but also absolutely disagree with your Point A. When the lesson is not going in the direction I want, I take matters into my own hands. That being said, if the teacher doesn’t matter, then why have a teacher at all? Why not have circle time? Or make the second hour of church a study hall? I think perhaps the teacher DOES matter.

    I really can’t speak to your Item D, and I’m not sure you can either. It seems unfair to blanket state that all lost testimonies are the result of laziness or apathy. It also seems unfair to discuss a lifetime of experience interacting with the spirit when, in my experience as a missionary, most people who fell away for the reasons noted in your D were so newly converted to the church, they had no lifetime spiritual experiences to fall back on. But hey, if they’re going to leave, then they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population of the church.

    The point is, correlation does have its flaws. And people are here freely discussing how we could improve it. To come and say all is well and correlation needs no physician because you can effectively tune out a poor teacher isn’t particularly helpful to the discussion. If you like the current system, fine. But can’t the rest of us discuss the various ways to make it better in peace?

  40. Ben S. on February 22, 2013 at 2:55 am

    “When the lesson is not going in the direction I want, I take matters into my own hands.”

    Feel free.
    http://timesandseasons.org/index.php/2011/12/teaching-from-the-pew-when-the-manual-authorizes-subverting-the-teacher/

  41. Neal on February 22, 2013 at 7:22 am

    #37
    “D – People who lose testimonies because of newly discovered church history likely are not praying/reading scriptures regularly and having regular confirming experiences.”

    That is way too dismissive. People aren’t losing their testimonies because they’re lazy or uninvolved. In fact, we’re losing some of our ‘best and brightest’.

    This is the only study I know of that addresses the reasons why people leave the Church and what that demographic looks like:

    http://mormonstories.org/top-5-myths-and-truths-about-why-committed-mormons-leave-the-church/

  42. h_nu on February 22, 2013 at 7:44 am

    Neal, it really doesn’t matter if it’s dismissive or not, it matters if it’s true? Bring me evidence that it’s not true and THEN you can dismissive of the above comment.

  43. Doug G. on February 22, 2013 at 7:46 am

    Thank you Dave, for expressing EXACTLY where I am these days. Something was missing for me and correlation provided no safe opportunities to find truth in the midst of class teaching that strove to cover all the points. Not all that appears on the internet is “anti-Mormon”. Many authors who question points of doctrine, scientific truth, or historical fact – relative to our understanding, are sincere in their presentation. To characterise Cowdery, Rigdon, or Joseph Smith as deities is to stray beyond the search for truth. The truth need not take away from what we believe.
    I like the idea of a Faith guru to help us answer questions. Perhaps the expansion of the ‘Bishop-at-Large’ role to include one for each Stake might be a solution?

  44. Ben S. on February 22, 2013 at 9:27 am

    The main problem with Dehlin’s survey is it was largely self-selecting, which skews the results. To be statistically above suspicion, it would have to be a random sampling. Ask reader’s of a sci-fi mag about their favorite genre, and it’s likely to be sci-fi. I’d wager most inactive/former LDS have never heard of Dehlin.
    I take his results with a large grain of salt.

  45. Howard on February 22, 2013 at 9:36 am

    I would take his results with much more than a grain of salt, they are certainly more valid than “someone must have offended you” folklore and the church while admitting there is a retention problem seems to be looking at them seriously.

  46. Ben S. on February 22, 2013 at 9:49 am

    Howard, it’s possible to reject both the folklore and Dehlin’s study.

  47. Neal on February 22, 2013 at 9:50 am

    #42

    I DID provide evidence. You just didn’t look at it.

    Dehlin’s survey acknowledges its limitations right up front, but that does not mean its inconsequential or ‘skewed’. I agree with Howard, and apparently the Church does as well, since they’re taking a serious look the study. Like I said, its the only one of its kind that I know of, and is certainly more valid than conjecture.

  48. Ben S. on February 22, 2013 at 9:59 am

    What’s the source on “the Church” taking “a serious look” ? Check out Seth Payne’s study of exit narratives, in which doctrinal reasons tend to come later.
    How can it not be skewed when the respondents are not randomly chosen?

  49. Steve Smith on February 22, 2013 at 10:21 am

    “People who lose testimonies because of newly discovered church history likely are not praying/reading scriptures regularly and having regular confirming experiences.”

    That’s a myth. John Dehlin recently conducted a survey with a sample size of over 3,000 about why people leave the church. Here is his presentation about that study: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EP3GJeYIN3s.

  50. Steve Smith on February 22, 2013 at 10:37 am

    Oh sorry, didn’t read the comments past #37. Yes, Ben S., Dehlin’s study isn’t perfect, and he acknowledges that. But what better way is there to research why people leave the church? Besides, a sample size of 3,000 is really large.

    At any rate I think the study helps put to rest a lot of the poor explanations for why people leave the church, such as the notion that people not praying or reading the scriptures enough. What I hear from many of those who left over belief related issues is that they turned to prayer and scripture-reading even more during their faith crisis, but that after they had their “epiphane,” so to speak, about church history, they just couldn’t see anything the same way. Dehlin himself said that reading the scriptures for him just made things worse.

    But I be curious to hear from you Ben S., since you don’t appear to be too keen on Dehlin’s study, how do you explain the main reasons that people leave the church, particularly in the Mormon belt?

  51. Steve Smith on February 22, 2013 at 11:01 am

    Just read Seth Payne’s study of exit narratives: http://www.sethpayne.com/?p=369. It’s rather good and definitely worth reading, but his sample size is only 136 and he looks only at exit narratives posted on ex-Mormon sites, which he chose himself. So his study is skewed towards those who are acquainted with social media, are comfortable with people knowing about their disaffection, and have taken the time to post a narrative online. Dehlin’s study is much more comprehensive than his.

  52. Ben S. on February 22, 2013 at 11:04 am

    Oh, I’m sure there’s a wide variety of reasons. Causality is complex; it’s rare that I can explain and attribute my own decisions of import to one cause. Members who rely on the “sinners” narrative have something personal at stake in defending their view of the Church, and ex/disaffected similarly have something personal at stake in defending their reasons for disaffection.

    But if I’m suspicious of the “folklore”, which simplistically attributes it all to sinners who want to party and quit reading the scriptures (thus offloading any causality onto the individual), so also am I suspicious of Dehlin’s narrative from the self-selecting survey, which simplistically offloads all causality onto “the Church.”

    As I mentioned above, Seth Payne’s study shows that many exit narratives begin with a feeling of not-belonging or not-fitting-in, and doctrinal reasons tend to come later. I’m not saying doctrinal factors aren’t problematic, only that there seems to be some fuzziness around what is primary, secondary, and tertiary.

    The Church has its own long-standing research/statistics branch. I’m sure higher-ups have a fairly good idea of what factors most affect people deciding to leave or to stay; I’ve been present for training meetings that refer to some of the latter, and various kinds of emphases and policy decisions take these into account.

  53. Ben S. on February 22, 2013 at 11:07 am

    (wrote 52 without seeing 51) Please note, Seth and John were looking at two different things, as I recall. Seth was simply trying to study exit narratives themselves; John was trying to see why people leave.

  54. Ajax C. on February 22, 2013 at 11:12 am

    The sample size is not 3,000, because a self-selected group of any size is not a sample, and the instrument used to generate the responses was not designed in a way that would allow statistically meaningful results. Dehlin’s survey tells us exactly as much about why people leave the Church as collecting whatever anecdotes are at hand does. In other words, not much at all. See what Daymon Smith said about Dehlin’s survey: http://daymonsmith.wordpress.com/2012/02/16/why-mormons-leave-surveys-as-scripts-for-a-new-culture/

  55. Howard on February 22, 2013 at 11:44 am

    The surveys are what they are, not scientifically fact, all variables were not controlled but they are a step away from folklore and toward dialog and eventually answers which up till now has never been encouraged by the church! Debating their accuracy is a waste of time but that they point to church deception regarding history and doctrine cannot be denied.

  56. Steve Smith on February 22, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    Yes, the sample size is over 3,000. And yes, Seth Payne and Dehlin pretty much look at the same question. Look, Dehlin’s study is significant for one major reason: it confirms that in the age of the internet, more and more of the core membership is having trouble reconciling official doctrine and history with facts about church history and that the resulting cognitive dissonance is a major driver of people leaving the church. And yes, the reasons why people leave are complex, but there are recognizable trends that we have to acknowledge. It isn’t that the church leadership isn’t aware of why people are leaving, it is that they don’t know exactly what to do about it. The apologists just aren’t as effective as they used to be in helping avert faith crises. And defending many of the church’s truth claims is becoming an increasingly hard task that many just aren’t buying.

    Sure there are some legitimate criticisms of Dehlin’s study, but it certainly isn’t worthless. I get the sense that much of the pushback against Dehlin’s study is rooted in the fact that many just don’t want to accept peoples’ reasons to leave as valid. Being a member of the church requires sacrifice and hard work, and the explanation that people leave because of a personal issue with other members or the culture or because they were easily duped by something they read gives many a sense of comfort that those who leave are weak people who are in the wrong and that those who stay are strong people who are in the right. Dehlin’s study tells people many things that they just don’t want to hear.

  57. Seth Payne on February 22, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    Hi Ben and Steve,

    My study of exit narratives was a pilot study at best. Were I do it again I would try to get a sample size of at least 300 and choose from a wider range of sites. At the time I wrote the paper I just wasn’t familiar enough with the breadth and diversity in the online ex-Mormon community so my results are heavily skewed towards RfM. Having said that …. as I have continued to read/study narratives from elsewhere I have found that the basic structure I propose is correct. But, of course, I’m only reading stories from those who are internet-savvy and so if anything, my work can highlight some interesting possibilities but no strong conclusions should be drawn from my paper.

    Interestingly, when I first started with the idea my goal was to find out if Church history did, in fact, drive people out of the Church. I traded some emails with Armand Mauss and even met up with him once while I was in CA. He explained something that I already knew but wasn’t properly considering. In order to answer that question with any confidence I would have to find a random sample of Saints and then monitor their reading habits and Church activity over a long period in order to establish any real correlation between Church history and disaffection. I strongly believe that Church history does play a factor but remain convinced that if stronger social structures were in place within the Church to support members who struggle, less people would end up leaving.

    Countless ex-Mormons have expressed to me privately that they really wanted to find a reason to stay but felt that the “greatest truth or greatest fraud” dichotomy made them feel they had to leave. Some people will leave and you know if they feel it is right for them, God speed. But if people are looking for reasons to stay and remain active contributors to the LDS community, we need to be able them discover those reasons.

    Seth

  58. Neal on February 22, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    Steve – right on the mark.

    Seth – the other important piece I got from the Dehlin study is that a lot of members quit believing (or only partially believe), but actually don’t leave. I think your comments speak to the importance of not just dismissing these people as lazy, faithless sinners and instead finding a way to reach out to them and address their concerns.

  59. Ben S. on February 22, 2013 at 12:37 pm

    Thanks for coming by, Seth!

    Steve, I don’t think it’s worthless, but I’m also not about to bear testimony of it, as Howard is.

    “The resulting cognitive dissonance is a major driver of people leaving the church.” If so, it’s very hard to see on the local level. I’ve asked numerous Bishops and Stake Presidents about this, and with rare exceptions (I have one specific example in mind), they don’t report people leaving in droves over doctrinal/historical issues. That may be due to a few things.

    a) ignorance, because they were simply never asked. That is, people may be going inactive over doctrinal/historical issues, but none of the leadership knows because the person never raises the issue with them. We don’t have a good culture of asking questions, though that is shifting a bit. Sometimes a genuine question (as opposed to a conclusion posed as an enlightened question) is perceived as a lack of faith, and local leadership varies as to how well that is handled. Here’s one particularly good one.

    b) a shift in perception over the root cause (as per Seth’s study), i.e. doctrinal/historical issues only become the primary issue after a decrease in activity, and then become the perceived original issue.

    c) Dehlin’s study and the internet create a skewed perspective. There are plenty of LDS of various stripes who don’t frequent any LDS-related blogs, sites, podcasts, etc. Those of us who do tend to generalize from our experiences, and inaccurately so.

    To list two that don’t fit anywhere, I’ve known people who go inactive because they’re simply burned out, had personal issues with leadership (personality clashes), or felt shame at getting released. Those don’t really fall under either the folklore on one extreme or Dehlin’s doctrine/history-heavy survey on the other.

  60. Adam G. on February 22, 2013 at 12:43 pm

    *Something wrong with entertaining smart people at church? It might help offset Pres. Monson wiggling his ears.*

    Nope, just not a particularly pressing need either.

  61. Ajax C. on February 22, 2013 at 2:00 pm

    Holy crap, Steve, how dense are you? Did you read Daymon Smith’s evisceration of Dehlin’s methodology? If you had, you’d realize that Daymon Smith is as far from an apologist for the Church as you can get. Faulty studies don’t show that a trends is increasing. They don’t prove anything at all. Dehlin’s survey didn’t even rise to the level of junk science. It told Dehlin and his friends exactly what they wanted to hear. Why should anyone else take it seriously?

  62. Jeff G on February 22, 2013 at 2:17 pm

    Dave,

    “It seems like your argument is this: Sure, the Church can do a lot of things, but one thing it should avoid is serious doctrinal education and intellectual stimulation.”

    That’s not too far off. I think that history has shown that most communities which have made a priority out of education and intellectual stimulation (symposia, academia, school of the prophets, etc.) have never been able to effectively foster solidarity or salvation. Therefore, since church meetings are primarily aimed at developing solidarity and salvation, they ought to leave education and intellectual stimulation to other venues.

  63. Cameron N on February 22, 2013 at 3:11 pm

    I don’t think it is dismissive to say that if one loses their testimony they aren’t having daily interactions with the Spirit. That is exactly how one loses it. If the Spirit validates the Book of Mormon, temple worship, prayer, etc and that is maintained, it is nearly impossible to lose a testimony. As said before, the Spirit trumps all doubt, all unanswered questions, all distractions.

  64. CJ Douglass on February 22, 2013 at 4:46 pm

    There’s some truth to the “read scriptures, say prayers” prescription. If Mormons actually read the scriptures (esp. the Bible) their “crisis of faith” would have come much earlier – since there’s no committee in charge of watering down the Bible etc.

  65. Porter on February 22, 2013 at 5:41 pm

    “Is it possible that some Mormons go inactive simply because they are bored with what happens on Sunday?” Yes! That’s what started me down the path, Proposition 8 helped me stay on the path, and once I discovered the “difficult” church history I was done. I can now say that the best thing I have ever done is leave the church. Thank you Correlation!

    As for Cameron N’s Comment #37 that “People who lose testimonies because of newly discovered church history likely are not praying/reading scriptures regularly and having regular confirming experiences. They likely have not learned how to recognize the Spirit, or recorded their lifetime of experience interacting with the Spirit.” All I can say is BS, you dont know what you’re talking about. I was doing all of those things. My decision to leave was thoughtful prayerful, and involved a more intense study of the scriptures than I had ever undertaken. I have received spiritual confirmation of my decision to leave.

    I taught gospel doctrine for 20 years in 5 different wards and was in several bishoprics. The church is truly losing the best and the brightest — every day more leave. But methinks they will not figure that out until its too late.

  66. Jim Cobabe on February 22, 2013 at 6:00 pm

    I am always surprised by such “confessions” as the article regarding “correlation”, from LDS members who seemed to have come up in the Church without absorbing anything substantive. Seems as if such individuals all express shock or disappointment with the Church for failing to do whatever they see as reasonable, at least in their own view. I have always been inclined to attribute such “deficiencies” to myself, instead of blaming the Church for supposedly failing me. I consider myself friends with many whose intelletual interest range far and wide, but I don’t have any grudges against the Church for failing to cater to my every interest.

    A few weeks ago, I talked online to a man who likens himself to Martin Luther, and advocates a “Mormon Reformation”. He told me that among other things, he was upset at the Church for printing Arnold Frieburg paintings in the Book of Mormon as though they represented doctrinal truths. And he held the Church as culpable for his misplaced trust all these years that these paintings represented canonized doctrine. I had to laugh at this foolishness, in spite of my effort to control myself. I don’t know how anyone can honestly expect the Church to serve more sophisticated appetites, when most of the members invest their ignorance in such beliefs. It would be a massive waste of time and effort.

    I honestly believe, for myself at least, that each individual holds complete responsibility to inform his own intellect, with learning out of the best books, and by pursuing the pathway to true faith. The Church cannot lead each one, step by step, through lifes challenges. It can only point the way.

  67. Aaron on February 22, 2013 at 6:13 pm

    Porter provides a good example. Boredeom + political disagreement were primary, then “difficult Church history” became the justification.

  68. Steve Smith on February 22, 2013 at 6:37 pm

    Yes, Ajax, I read the review. Dayman Smith makes some interesting points, but ultimately his review is too lost in post-modernistic rhetoric for him to really make any useful critique. He seems to believe that while someone can leave the church, they can’t actually really leave Mormonism. Lots of words but little substance.

    Ben (59), I get your point about not generalizing, and I agree with it. However, I think that it is important for us to try to identify trends (and of course accept their existence) and for the church organization to inform itself of the trends and try to develop strategies to shift trends in their favor. But I really believe that John Dehlin’s study is good evidence that doctrinal/historical issues are significant, and much more significant than many believers like to admit. And I think that his study is more substantive than just asking church leaders. You seem to like the idea that many become disaffected over something else first and then later adopt the belief that their disaffection is rooted in historical/doctrinal issues. At some point, can’t we just have to take peoples’ words for what their reasons are. I could say something similar of believers who claim that they go to church simply out of belief. For instance, “they go to church or on a mission because that’s what’s expected of them, not out of some deep-rooted belief.” I could say the same of the apologists: “they don’t really believe what they are saying, but that it is just difficult to get someone to understand something when their pay check/social status relies on them not understanding that thing.”

    If anything, I really think that Dehlin’s study is simply confirming something that was already obvious: the age of information is leading to an increasing number of people who take issue with organized religion over what they perceive to be ludicrous truth claims. The number of people who identify as atheists/agnostics/non-religious in the US and Western Europe has been on the rise in recent decades. And I don’t think that Mormonism is immune to this growing social trend.

  69. Steve Smith on February 22, 2013 at 6:40 pm

    Aaron, you could make the case that Porter may have been salvageable if it were just boredom and political disagreement, or that he had not yet fully left because of those factors. But then doctrinal/historical issues put the nail in the coffin of his desire to associate with Mormonism. So in essence, historical/doctrinal would then be the primary reason for full disaffection.

  70. Neal on February 22, 2013 at 7:08 pm

    #68

    Well said, Steve.

    #69

    Salvageable – Just as important as why people leave is the question of what do we (and the Church) do with the disaffected? For many or perhaps most, once they start heading out the door we make sure to SLAM it firmly behind them. Too often families, friends, spouses and members label them as parriahs and avoid them like the plague, even when they’re just at the stage of questioning. As a people, and many times as individuals, we have no idea how to respond when someone we love is having a faith crisis.

  71. Howard on February 22, 2013 at 8:19 pm

    The church offers family values that range from truly wonderful if you are in a traditional nuclear family to less wonderful even not wonderful at all if you are in a nontraditional family and on the negative side if you happen to be gay. There is a high tax to be paid for membership in this club in the form of time, money, peculiarity and conformance to rules often rote and unnecessary . You must pledge alliance or pretend to to it’s leaders and truth claims some of which are contra scientific…the ability to turn of your questioning, not look too closely and just blindly believe plus having a Pollyanna denial filter helps with things like BoM histocracy. If you are awake and alert you will also notice that your time is being filled up with activity instead of being still and knowing God. Despite doctrine rich and more than abundant enough to offer a Christianity Plus Gospel you find yourself attending 3 stoic boring hours on Sunday at a Pharisaical Mosaic church that gives lip service to the beatitudes while enforcing the Ten Commandments. While you’re there you prospect for a spiritual nugget or three to take home so you can tell yourself it’s all worth it! Now thread your way through this maze adding up your personal membership satisfaction score. If it’s high chances are you love it the way it is – don’t allow those liberals to change a thing! If it’s low chances are you’d like to see some changes so there is enough room for you there too! Now add in the land mines of church deception on history and doctrine waiting to be detonated by an innocent, highly taxed and less happy member. Imagine the betrayal they feel when they find out the only true church that is led by Jesus Christ himself through a living prophet lied to them! The irony of such a betrayal often exceeds their ability to B.S. themselves any longer and their belief collapses. Shouldn’t these land mines be cleaned up?

    As to the Spirit being the key to keeping your testimony, yes you will keep your testimony of the gospel not necessarily the church by staying close to the Spirit but as your communication skills with him improve and you begin to walk in the Spirit you may also find yourself prompted to leave so that your spiritual growth may continue beyond marching in place with this lowest common denominator congregation.

  72. Jim Cobabe on February 22, 2013 at 10:32 pm

    “The responsibility for each member’s spiritual, social, emotional, physical, or economic well-being rests first upon himself, second, upon his family, and third, upon the Church. Members of the Church are commanded by the Lord to be self-reliant and independent to the extent of their ability. (See D&C 78:13–14.)

    “No true Latter-day Saint, while physically or emotionally able, will voluntarily shift the burden of his own or his family’s well-being to someone else. So long as he can, under the inspiration of the Lord and with his own labors, he will work to the extent of his ability to supply himself and his family with the spiritual and temporal necessities of life.” (See Gen. 3:19; 1 Tim. 5:8; and Philip. 2:12.)

    (Statement of the Presiding Bishopric, as quoted in Ensign, March 1978, p. 20.)

  73. Bonita on February 23, 2013 at 4:12 am

    You know something is wrong when a very devout elderly woman leaves Sunday School and walks the halls because she says she’s heard the same stuff over and over again and she’s bored out of her mind. It’s not just about providing your own religious education. It’s about communing and learning together as a people to increase knowledge and community. There’s no reason to sit in church for 3 hours if we just should do the learning on our own anyway. If all we’re ever going to get out of church/Sunday School is watered down skim milk, we might as well stay at home and do our own studying.

  74. Chet on February 23, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    If I may amend my comment(36)- I lean more towards doing my own learning while at meetings but I am strengthened by others’ personal experiences. The Spirit confirms the truth of someone else’s testimony and how they have benefited from the Gospel. I get no value from someone reading that which is widely available in magazines or manuals, but I appreciate thoughtful answers to the standard lesson questions. That’s when Mosiah 18:8-9 comes alive for me.

  75. Bonita on February 23, 2013 at 2:10 pm

    I rarely leave church feeling edified and I take issue that it’s all my fault or failure. I find myself zoning out because the information and the way it is presented is mind numbing and fails to feed me intellectually or spiritually. The text books deliberately elicit the same responses to every lesson. The proverbial “pay, pray and obey”, as well as read the scriptures, are the pat answers that are repeatedly given for every lesson. If this isn’t mind numbing in an of itself, I don’t know what is. At best this is indoctrination, and dare I say, a subtle level of brainwashing. Several years ago we had a Sunday school teacher that rarely taught directly from the church manual. Classes were engaging and interesting. People actually WANTED to come to class and looked forward to it and often were seen talking about the lesson after it was over. I loved his classes. I was so disappointed when he moved. And as usual, we went back to the same mind numbing garb. It didn’t take long before people were in the halls avoiding Sunday school. In fact, many people dreaded it. The bishop would have to comb the halls and ask people to go to class. I think this speaks volumes to the quality of the lessons being taught. Life is too short to be wasting it in shear boredom. For those of you who still are attending I’d like to suggest Mormon Stories Sunday School podcasts. Jared Anderson is well educated and has a much broader and interesting approach to the lessons. He follows the lessons in the manual and presents them a week in advance to give someone a better ability to contribute to Sunday school from a more knowledgeable approach. It would behoove any Sunday school teacher to give the pod cast a look. http://www.mormonsundayschool.org/

  76. Kevin L on February 23, 2013 at 2:47 pm

    I appreciate Chet’s addition. The value of the three hour block isn’t in our own satisfaction or edification. Rather than asking what I can get out of a lesson prescribed through a correlation process, I prefer to ask myself what I can contribute that will benefit others. I find this process not only intellectually stimulating and spiritually edifying, but even more importantly, it strengthens my relationships with other ward members.

  77. Cameron on February 23, 2013 at 4:28 pm

    I think we all need that attitude Kevin.

  78. Shawn on February 23, 2013 at 4:47 pm

    I find this whole issue one of saddest and most interesting at the same time. I am an LDS convert and, after 32 years, i look back on episodes of strong activity followed less activity in my own attendance.

    I absolutely love the beauty and the glory and the truths of the Restored Gospel. I rejoice in Joseph’s teachings and in the depth of potential discipleship offered in the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl if Great Price.

    However, our Sunday services are the pits.

    A religion is to provide three simple things;
    1) Doctrine / Theology
    2) Communal WORSHIP service
    3) a Fellowship community

    We bury and water down and hide our doctrine / theology behind a kindergarten level bureaucratic group of geographically limited employees.

    We have NO communal WORSHIP service which celebrates Christ each Sabbath with Adoration, Praise and Joy.

    And, as mentioned by other commenters, our fellowship community is so confining for the non-traditional single or family types that it is pure heck to feel a part of.

    Why did the missionaries tell me to question all the traditions of my fathers and then have me throw many of them away when they were superior to Christian worship than our LDS traditions? And why am I told that questioning is not appropriate once I become a member?

  79. Steven B on February 24, 2013 at 12:32 am

    Years ago I taught GD in a ward of university students. The lesson manual seemed so bland that I thought that I would insult the intelligence of the members, which included graduate and doctorate level students. I commented to a close friend, “I can’t teach this stuff to this group!” He questioned back, “if you personally had to write the manual, what would YOU do?” Reflecting on that question, and considering the task of preparing a manual for the WHOLE church, I responded, “I would probably write it just like the current church manual.”

  80. Howard on February 24, 2013 at 2:50 am

    If I were in charge I would hire retired professors with seminary, institute or religion experience who are interesting to listen to and record the lessons with discussion breaks designed in. The teacher could choose to teach the class themselves or download the interesting and entertaining video and lead the class in the discussions.

  81. Bonita on February 24, 2013 at 3:18 am

    #80 YES!!! With technology what it is today there’s no reason why we can’t learn from those who are most knowledgeable instead of those who regurgitate what’s in the manual. Great idea.

  82. Cameron on February 24, 2013 at 2:57 pm

    Another thing to consider is that teaching callings are opportunities for teachers to grow. True, that means years and even decades of patient on the attendees part, but its an integral part of the whole zion thing.

    I know this because I am one of those teachers.

  83. Bonita on February 24, 2013 at 5:42 pm

    Yes, that may be so to some extent. however, do we sacrifice the many for the few? Far too many people are bored just so one person can benefit? That makes little sense. Besides, we are all capable of learning without being THE teacher. More people learn better when there is an expert in a particular field that does the teaching. Isn’t that the point of going to college? Imagine how well your theory would go over if it were applied to a college. I dare say there would be no students enrolling in that college.

    That logic is what’s promoted by the church to appease the Sunday school teachers and the members. It bears little logic in the real world.

    Again, I recommend you go to Jared Anderson’s podcasts ( http://www.mormonsundayschool.org/) and tell me the members wouldn’t be better off listening and learning from him. As Howard suggested, if we could live stream (or something to that effect) something like this less members would be zoning out, falling asleep, leaving class, or better yet, not even showing up. It’s time for an upgrade in the church’s educational system. Cuz it’s not all that successful at the moment.

  84. john roberts on February 24, 2013 at 6:37 pm

    this thread is probably about played out but I did want to add an experience that may add some insight. a long time ago when I was serving in a stake leadership calling a sister introduced herself as a member of the correlation committee,.(I said it was a long time ago) She had sought me out becouse she wanted me to call to repentance the Stake Relief Society Education Counselor because “she was not using the lessons correctly. It seems the Stake RS was producing a monthly in-serice mailing to each ward educational counselor with additional lesson resource and visual aid ideas. All these resource material came from approved sources including the scriptures. The reporting sister was upset because this gave the teacher material not directly from the lessons manual. After some questions it became clear that she was one of the volunteers referred to in an earlier post whose only church calling was to help create the manuals for the block system. This sister was not a teacher nor a scholar. Her availability and willingness were the qualifiers for her committee calling. Her work on this committee became her gospel life. She was not willing to allow teachers and leaders to magnify their calling in their own sphere. a parable from real life

  85. Bonita on February 25, 2013 at 12:25 am

    Ah, and there in lies the problem. Oh, that authoritarianism, you gotta love it. Control, control, control!

  86. Cameron on February 25, 2013 at 1:31 am

    @84, that is a sad anecdote. I would think the correlation committee that helped product Come Follow Me would differ greatly from that attitude, for the part. The contemporary fruits (EG Preach My Gospel, Come Follow Me) don’t seem to indicate it.

    Having gone to BYU and attended many amazing religion classes by great professors, I still think the current correlation paradigm is superior than the pedagogical ‘kingmen’ spoon-feeding model. The point of a lesson/discussion is to get to know each other better and strengthen each other. Correlation is a bare-bones framework that is flexible enough to allow a huge range of teaching directions dictated by the Spirit and the variety of individuals present. Again, I’m never bored when I feel the Spirit, no matter how counterintuitive it may seem. Sometimes I even wonder to myself why I am not bored during the lesson itself.

  87. Cameron on February 25, 2013 at 1:33 am

    http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2009/10/to-acquire-spiritual-guidance?lang=eng
    A quote from the Richard G Scott talk I alluded to earlier that I think is pertinent:

    Now I share an experience that taught me a way to gain spiritual guidance. One Sunday I attended the priesthood meeting of a Spanish branch in Mexico City. I vividly recall how a humble Mexican priesthood leader struggled to communicate the truths of the gospel in his lesson material. I noted the intense desire he had to share those principles he strongly valued with his quorum members. He recognized that they were of great worth to the brethren present. In his manner, there was an evidence of a pure love of the Savior and love of those he taught.

    His sincerity, purity of intent, and love permitted a spiritual strength to envelop the room. I was deeply touched. Then I began to receive personal impressions as an extension of the principles taught by that humble instructor. They were personal and related to my assignments in the area. They came in answer to my prolonged, prayerful efforts to learn.

    As each impression came, I carefully wrote it down. In the process, I was given precious truths that I greatly needed in order to be a more effective servant of the Lord. The details of the communication are sacred and, like a patriarchal blessing, were for my individual benefit. I was given specific directions, instructions, and conditioned promises that have beneficially altered the course of my life.

    Subsequently, I visited the Sunday School class in our ward, where a very well-educated teacher presented his lesson. That experience was in striking contrast to the one enjoyed in the priesthood meeting. It seemed to me that the instructor had purposely chosen obscure references and unusual examples to illustrate the principles of the lesson. I had the distinct impression that this instructor was using the teaching opportunity to impress the class with his vast store of knowledge. At any rate, he certainly did not seem as intent on communicating principles as had the humble priesthood leader.

    In that environment, strong impressions began to flow to me again. I wrote them down. The message included specific counsel on how to become more effective as an instrument in the hands of the Lord. I received such an outpouring of impressions that were so personal that I felt it was not appropriate to record them in the midst of a Sunday School class. I sought a more private location, where I continued to write the feelings that flooded into my mind and heart as faithfully as possible. After each powerful impression was recorded, I pondered the feelings I had received to determine if I had accurately expressed them in writing. As a result, I made a few minor changes to what had been written. Then I studied their meaning and application in my own life.

    Subsequently I prayed, reviewing with the Lord what I thought I had been taught by the Spirit. When a feeling of peace came, I thanked Him for the guidance given. I was then impressed to ask, “Was there yet more to be given?” I received further impressions, and the process of writing down the impressions, pondering, and praying for confirmation was repeated. Again I was prompted to ask, “Is there more I should know?” And there was. When that last, most sacred experience was concluded, I had received some of the most precious, specific, personal direction one could hope to obtain in this life. Had I not responded to the first impressions and recorded them, I would not have received the last, most precious guidance.

    What I have described is not an isolated experience. It embodies several true principles regarding communication from the Lord to His children here on earth. I believe that you can leave the most precious, personal direction of the Spirit unheard because you do not respond to, record, and apply the first promptings that come to you.

  88. Cameron on February 25, 2013 at 1:36 am

    The above quote was shared because I found the equal potential for meaningful revelatory experiences in spite of two contrasting situations to be instructive, not because I think Mormon Stories or anyone else is looking beyond the mark per se. I don’t know enough about them to have an opinion.

  89. Howard on February 25, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    Cameron,
    I agree the Spirit is the answer. The Spirit converts and the Spirit teaches but once you walk in the Spirit you will gain this learning regardless of where you are or the day of the week so at that point what use is the church?

    Does the church teach how to receive the Spirit much beyond Moroni’s challenge? No! Members are largely left to stumble onto this themselves. In the mean time there are the manuals that can be printed out online cut into numbered strips and read out loud in class for another fun filled inspired learning experience. What a waste of time!

  90. log on February 26, 2013 at 3:36 am

    Does the church teach how to receive the Spirit much beyond Moroni’s challenge? No! Members are largely left to stumble onto this themselves.

    So instruct others in how to obtain it, if you are qualified to do so. Take every opportunity to speak of it in your classes, if you have the courage, and preach how to obtain the Spirit from the pulpit the next time your bishop calls upon you for a pedestrian sermon. Why not preach the doctrine of the Kingdom with your next comment on a blog, rather than snipe at the Church? Make yourself useful.

  91. Cameron N on February 26, 2013 at 1:27 pm

    @Howard, participating the ordinance of the Sacrament, and attending meetings to strengthen friendship, mourn with the mourning, and serving, are also commandments we should follow if we want the Spirit ‘without measure.’ At every level we are taught from scripture and the sharing of personal experiences how to receive the Spirit.