Daniel Peterson: “Some of our manuals I think are not very good.”

by: Mormon Heretic

November 28, 2011

Daniel Peterson, professor or Arabic at BYU

Dan Wotherspoon put together a 4 hour interview with BYU Professor Daniel Peterson on a variety of topics.  It is available on the Mormon Stories Website or at iTunes.  I really enjoyed the interview, and decided to create a transcript for part 3 where Peterson talked about his (futile) experience trying to improve the church manuals.  On Part 3 at the 34:48 mark:

Dan Wotherspoon, “I sense that there has to be some level of frustration at times with for instance, FARMS has been doing all this work for 25 years.  We have the Limited Geography thing.  That message is not getting out to CES. We still have kids that are coming through seminary and then they’re going to hit this wall.  So inoculation isn’t happening.

Peterson, “Right”

Wotherspoon,”Talk more about that.”

Peterson, “Well, we’ve talked already about the fact that I wish church history were taught better than it is. I served for 8 or 9 years on the Gospel Doctrine Writing Committee for the church, and I remember when I was called (by George P. Lee by the way), I said ‘I’m not sure I’m the person you want because I don’t like the church’s manuals very much.’  [Lee said], ‘You’re just the person we want because we want to improve them.’  Well, when I got onto the committee, in fact, there wasn’t much we could do.  We were constrained within certain limits…”

Wotherspoon, “Was it Correlation Committee or was it certain personalities that had…?

Peterson, “I was never clear—I think it was Correlation, I think it was the Curriculum Committee.  They would lay out certain things about the way they wanted us to do it.  For example, we were doing the Old Testament one year and we wanted to put in some historical background.  People can’t make sense of this if they don’t know what’s going on.  I think a big aid to understanding Isaiah is to understand the politics of his day. Isaiah and Jeremiah were reacting to great power politics, and if you don’t know any of that, you can’t make any sense of it.  A lot of it is talking about their day.

We tried to put some of that in and we were rebuked by someone, some nameless bureaucrat up in Salt Lake who said, “you’re just trying to show off.’  I thought ‘How?  We’re anonymous.  Who would know?  We’re just trying to help people out there by saying, look: one paragraph.

The Assyrians were doing this, the Egyptians were doing that, Israel was caught in between.  Isaiah is warning against x, y, and z. Half the passages make sense once you know that.  It doesn’t take a lot to make sense of those passages, but we weren’t allowed to do it.  We went through a period where we were allowed only to have bullet points, scriptural references, and Life Applicational questions.

I remember some of mine I had put in jokes sometimes.  We all did.  [We would] come and discuss on Sunday morning, [and] critique each other’s proposed lessons.  Mine was Life Applicational Questions.  “Do you think it would be a good idea to be a wicked Judahite king? What steps can you take toward this?”

My favorite was one that I actually told on numerous occasions where they really wanted Life Applications and no history.  I was doing the passage in Acts where you have Uticus up in the rafters at Troas.  Paul drones on and on so long that he falls asleep, and falls out of the rafters. He’s taken up dead it says and Paul has to restore him to life.  So I thought, “Alright, have a class member read Acts–whatever the passage is.  Now, have you ever killed anyone with a Sacrament Meeting speech?  How did it make you feel?  What steps could you take in the future to avoid this?”  The funny thing is that it passed Correlation.

Wotherspoon, “That part did?” [chuckling]

Peterson, “It did, I can only assume that people chuckled at every point and it made it.  When I saw the final draft, final gallies, it was still there!”

Wotherspoon, “No way!  Wow.”

Peterson, “I went through a real crisis of conscience there.  I thought, ‘I would love to see this go into the manual! But I finally called them and said, “I’m not sure that you’d want that particular bundle of questions there.’  [and they said] ‘Oh good grief! good grief! We’ll take it out!  We’ll take it out!’  And I thought ‘it would have been great to see that in Tagalog, Chinese, German, and Spanish all around the world.”

Some of our manuals I think are not very good.  They’re not very deep. I understand the danger.  I think if you allow people to simply go wild, you’ll get some really weird Gospel Doctrine classes out there with people grinding their own axes and having little hobbies, teaching false doctrine, and so I understand the need to sort of reign people in, but on the other hand, the lessons can be really, really pablum and boring.

Wotherspoon, “And completely without any context—no link to context”

Peterson, “Yeah, and I love to give historical context and background.  I don’t care if it’s Doctrine and Covenants, Old Testament, whatever.  Right now I’m back into teaching Gospel Doctrine, which is my favorite position in the church. I mean I love it!  I just have a lot of fun with it. But I remember once, I had a letter once when I was serving on that committee that exempted me from all local callings, which was something that I treasured.

I remember being called in once by the stake presidency and they’re all sitting there and they had me and my wife come in and it was obvious they were up to something.  The stake president said, ‘I understand—I was just told that you’ve got some sort of letter from the brethren?”  I said, “YES!  I do.  Here it is!”

Wotherspoon, “In other words, we’re using up enough of his time that…”

Peterson, “Yep.  Because we met every 2 weeks for 2 or 3 hours every Sunday morning to critique each other’s lessons, and so on.  It was a lot of time involved in that, so that was my church calling for a long time, except I did teach gospel doctrine in my home ward—that I was willing to do because I love it! Now if it had been Scoutmaster, I would have said I’m sorry, I’d love to do it but I can’t.

Well then, at one point the stake Sunday School president came into my Gospel Doctrine class and he sat through the whole thing.  My lessons still is the way I teach them.  I look at the lesson to see what the passages are that I’m supposed to teach, then I put it away.  I mean I mean to read it, but I don’t.  I never do.  Then I read the passages, and then I comment on them and come up with what I think is the theme of the passage and try to give a historical background and so on.

Well this guy sat through my lesson and came up afterward and rebuked me, that I wasn’t using the Gospel Doctrine manual. Did I not realize that these were given by revelation and so on and so forth?  [I responded] Well, you should know that I’m on the committee that writes them, and I don’t like them at all.

So, that would be one of my complaints about church practice.  I would love to see better teaching.  I don’t know if we’re capable of it in a typical ward.  Maybe this is the best we can do and those manuals are necessary.  But there are some places where there are really superb teachers, and I hope they’re not constrained by the manual.

Wotherspoon, “Yeah I hate that fact that the manual mentions no outside sources and some people take that so seriously that people do feel constrained.”

Peterson, “I understand the danger. I’ve been in some pretty weird lessons where people were using it to teach some bizarre form of politics or just plain false doctrine, bizarre racial theories, and things like that so maybe without those manuals, we’d sink to a lower level.  But still, I’d like to see us do better.  I’d like to see us teach out history better.  That is a concern we’ve already mentioned.  I think it does us damage when our people grow up and hear about things that could have been conveyed to them in a faith promoting way.

Even Mountain Meadows, I think can be conveyed in a faith promoting way.  I think it’s a lesson to us about the fallen nature of human beings, and how even good people can get sucked into doing bad things.  I would love to teach a Gospel Doctrine lesson on the Mountain Meadows Massacre.“

I’d love to hear that lesson.  How about you?

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51 Responses to Daniel Peterson: “Some of our manuals I think are not very good.”

  1. Douglas on November 28, 2011 at 3:25 AM

    “and how even good people can get sucked into doing bad things.” – I believe that’s called the “Nuremburg Defense”…e.g., many Nazis put on trial in effect proclaimed “Ve vas only following orders”. Seems lame, but Americans, who have their own tradition of dissent starting in 1776 with that nasty declaration showing their lack of gratitude towards their protector, good King George III (before his madness as portrayed by Nigel Hawthorne) and Sovereign before God, don’t understand the mentality that “orders are orders”. For some German officers, it amounted to choosing to be shot for insubordination in the field (though one of the most notorious, one Eric Von dem Bach-Zelewski, got away with it when even he wouldn’t effect a massacre as ordered), or be hung as a war criminal after trial and conviction by the Allies in a court that amount to “Siegerjustiz” (Victor’s Justice). For some LDS under then Bishop Lee’s leadership, it was seen in the same manner, only being responsible to God. I can’t fathom how they could still shoot women and children, as did the fictional Private Joker…just don’t lead ‘em so much???

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  2. hawkgrrrl on November 28, 2011 at 4:01 AM

    This hits very close to home. I love teaching. Teaching both RS and GD have been my favorite callings. But the current constraints on teaching confine us to manuals that are not accurate, out of context, and soul-crushingly boring. Moving to GP from the Teachings of JS manual was probably an improvement.

    CES and seminary instruction are frankly the worst in terms of accuracy. We are leaving our members vulnerable to attack from readily accessible information on the internet. It’s so bad that often detractors merely have to tell the truth to derail a person’s testimony because it has been fed steadily on a diet of watered down history.

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  3. Chino Blanco on November 28, 2011 at 5:26 AM

    Kudos to the OP for transcribing/excerpting some of the funnest minutes from those four hours.

    Since that podcast, I’ve run into/across DCP in the comments sections of various heathen online venues. My reaction then was similar to my reaction now: Considering that Dan’s apparently admitted/identified a real (internal institutional LDS) problem, isn’t that where he ought to be directing his (formidable) energies?

    Because, otherwise, my sentiment remains the same:

    “Once the most well-known Mormon apologist on the planet has been reduced to defending Book of Mormon historicit­y in comments here at Huffington Post, I’m no longer sure there’s much left to defend. Seriously, Dan, pick your battles. You might as well be arguing the truth of transubsta­ntiation with Zen Buddhists for all it matters. It’s nuts. Let it go.”

    Anyway, getting back to that podcast, it left me feeling that rank-and-file members would stand to benefit if Dan ever decided he was gonna step up to the plate and deliver what’s in his heart.

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  4. hawkgrrrl on November 28, 2011 at 6:05 AM

    Chino brings up a great point. We need someone to do a “soundbite” recap of these podcasts like they do for TV recaps of Modern Family and other TV shows. Any takers?

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  5. Stephen M (Ethesis) on November 28, 2011 at 6:34 AM

    I’d love to see the book “xyz in context” each year for the various lesson manual lessons.

    Not to mention, some more corrections in the free Bible dictionary we got from the publisher. It still has the definition of Ba’l that comes from the 1800s (identifying him as a sun god, when he, like Thor, Zeus and others is a storm god).

    Maybe we could solicit him for a weekly column here with his historical context thoughts.

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  6. Chris Gordon on November 28, 2011 at 7:27 AM

    Full disclosure: I’m a correlation apologist. So, take with a grain of salt that I think the manuals, while weak in many departments are more than adequate. Looked at in isolation, they’re admittedly poor. But, they’re not to be taken in isolation.

    Much of the end-of-the-year Ensigns devote themselves to providing history and context for the upcoming year’s materials. All teachers are to be receiving regular feedback from their leaders via Preach My Gospel and Teaching: No Greater Call. The weakness I find larger than that of the materials is in the prioritization of monitoring and fostering good teaching and learning skills.

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  7. Chino Blanco on November 28, 2011 at 7:37 AM

    “We recommend that people marry those who are of the same racial background generally, and of somewhat the same economic and social and educational background (some of those are not an absolute necessity, but preferred), and above all, the same religious background, without question” (“Marriage and Divorce,” in 1976 Devotional Speeches of the Year [Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 1977], p. 144).

    Any correlation apologists wanna explain how *that* is still in the manuals? Or has Aaronic Priesthood Manual 3, Lesson 31 been recently updated?

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  8. Chino Blanco on November 28, 2011 at 7:43 AM

    P.S. Memo to correlation cheerleaders: “monitoring” is a creepy word.

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  9. Ben on November 28, 2011 at 8:01 AM

    Chino, it’s not bad advice, and it clearly wasn’t an absolute. If you want to cherry pick miscegenation comments, go back further.

    Excellent excerpt from the interview.

    Chris Gordon- It’s true that manuals don’t exist on their own, but the problem is the Ensign doesn’t exactly provide depth nor high reliability. It quoted the Johannine Comma (1 John 5:7-8)sometime in the last few years, which everyone recognizes to be a medieval fraud. Did no one at the Ensign know that or did no one care?

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  10. Jeff Spector on November 28, 2011 at 8:05 AM

    I teach Adult Gospel Doctrine and I use the manual. but I am not married to it in any way. I generally use the scriptures, but not all the questions. Some are so dumb, it embarrasses me to read them while preparing.

    I use a variety of sources, mainly from other Church educators but sometimes from other Christian historical sources.

    I spent a lot of time while on the Old Testament on background and context. But, I can get away with it because my class expects me to be an Old Testament expert, which I am not. but I try to do the homework.

    A lot of things are said about our teaching. But, the most important thing is to teach by the Spirit. Can that be abused? Sure it can. But, more than the manuals themselves, this is the way we are expected to do everything in the church–by the Spirit.

    I was thinking about how to handle the Book of Mormon this next year, because there is not a ton of context outside of the book itself. So we might rely more on the manual than for the other standard works which have a historical side as well.

    But I agree with Dan Peterson completely. And I try to do right by my class. They depend on me to deliver an interesting, thoughful lesson.

    And it takes work and effort to do it. Not just a quick read in Sacrament meeting.

    I’ve had my own personal run-in with the Coorelation Committee that not only was dumb and incorrect, but they wouldn’t allow me to talk to them directly. We did, negotiate an acceptable compromise.

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  11. MIchael on November 28, 2011 at 8:11 AM

    Jeff,

    You definitely have to tell more about the run-in with Correlation Committee! You can’t leave us hanging like that. Who are these strange and anonymous people that decide the future education of all Latter-day Saints. Please let us see the wizards behind the curtain.

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  12. Chino Blanco on November 28, 2011 at 8:15 AM

    Hey Ben, by all means, go ahead and have fun characterizing my commentary as “cherry picking” when the best you’ve got is praise for obviously racist advice … LMAO.

    What you’re bringing with that attempt is no different from DCP’s (extensive) wasted efforts … In other words, instead of amusing me with the seemingly infinite supply of gamesmanship on offer from Mormon apologists, how about ignoring folks like me and actually effectuating some meaningful improvements for a change? Do that and you might be surprised at how quickly folks like me can be stunned into silence.

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  13. Ben on November 28, 2011 at 9:34 AM

    Chino- Your talents on display, as ever.

    It’s not racism to suggest, in general, that minimizing differences (whether cultural, economic, etc.) leads to stronger marriages. I don’t see racism in there. On the other hand, as I did say, there are plenty of others that fall into that category if you want to go back and quote-mine them.

    You see apologists around every corner, and nothing seems to stun you into silence.

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  14. Dovie on November 28, 2011 at 9:43 AM

    There is someone in my ward that has served in curriculum development. This person has served in gospel instruction callings before but never as gospel doctrine teacher in our ward, when they get the opportunity to sub in that class it. is. awesome. Because of their profession they are very versed in ancient scripture and texts languages and history. I remember one lesson I was teaching and someone that is a close friend of the the person (they were not present) raised their hand and said, “That paragraph right there _______ lobbied hard to have that included.” It really was an important point. It illustrated when something changed in the way things were done in the restored church. Who was responsible for the change when it happened and why. Previous to that lesson I didn’t know things had been done differently in the past. It didn’t seem terribly controversial so it was interesting that there needed to be a lot of lobbing involved.

    I have a very smart daughter that is attending a state school in Utah and some of the crazy ideas that got taught in seminary really soured her towards the CES programs. She will not even consider the idea of institute. Her last year in HS she volunteered assist in special needs seminary so that at least when the crazy things started to be taught they would be diluted by service to others. It makes me really sad. She is bright curious spiritually sensitive girl that has an extrodanarilly low tolerance for baloney it makes her crazy. I feel like the curriculum lets her down. Not that it is all their problem but it is frustrating from my mom perspective.

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  15. Chino Blanco on November 28, 2011 at 10:15 AM

    Ben-

    And if the passage I quoted from that Aaronic priesthood manual happened to offer the opposite message, you’d be here arguing that it’s not outlandish to suggest that the in-group impulses of the “natural man” lead to debilitating inbreeding… and your sparring partner would be arguing that you were making a high-falutin’ argument in favor of eugenics/hybrid vigor on the basis of nothing more than something you took for Gospel truth in a church manual somewhere.

    Back in the real world, you’re just the latest Mormon apologist to pretend that marital advice that foregrounds race isn’t somehow racist.

    At the end of the day, what’ve you got for me? Can *you* get that manual changed? Apparently not. Otherwise, you’d be celebrating the progress in your own church rather than taking potshots at me.

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  16. Chris Gordon on November 28, 2011 at 10:43 AM

    “Monitoring” might be creepy, but the best experience I ever had as a gospel doctrine teacher was under a Sunday School presidency who took seriously the responsibility to foster good teaching. A member of the presidency attended every lesson and spent at least 5 minutes afterwards giving me encouragement on things that had gone well with one or two pointers for next time.

    The larger fault is not the materials but the apathy in using the entire system of gospel teaching well. All the “improved” materials that the best and brightest (or let’s face it, even the “average”) could come up with won’t substitute for lack of ownership of the whole process on the part of instructors, learners, and leaders.

    I concede that the Ensign does not provide the type of historical data that the minority craves on Sunday but already knows where to find elsewhere and that the majority would benefit from. I only point out that there are under-utilized resources within the existing construct that would help, and that initiative is needed by all parties before it would make a difference.

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  17. Douglas on November 28, 2011 at 10:59 AM

    Jeff – thanks for being the type of instructor that considers the needs of his charges first and sees the manuals as a guide, NOT as “revelation from above”, to be disseminated in rote to the class w/o question. Wish that I had more teachers like you.

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  18. Ray on November 28, 2011 at 11:53 AM

    I agree with Chris that a good teacher can teach a very good lesson using the manual as a foundational starting point – on any topic. Yes, I would like to see meatier manuals – but I’d prefer our resources go toward helping teachers teach meatier lessons.

    Given the instruction teachers often receive on how to teach, the quality of the lessons in too many situations wouldn’t increase very much even with better manuals.

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  19. dpc on November 28, 2011 at 12:01 PM

    @chino

    The quote you mentioned was already debated at Main Street Plaza and the issues I raised there remain unanswered. Is this advice wrong given that interracial marriage is at a greater risk for divorce? There are plenty of recent studies on that. This link is a good recent one (2002)

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1741-3729.2008.00491.x/pdf

    Shouldn’t those getting married know every risk they face? Or does raising valid concerns automatically make one a racist?

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  20. Jeff Spector on November 28, 2011 at 12:06 PM

    Michael #11,

    I was presenting at the Seminary and Institute Symposium at BYU when they still had it. I was giving a presentation of a demonstration of the Jewish Passover Seder as part of the Old Testament Study.

    Someone on the “committee” took exception to the fact that I referenced that the Last Supper was a “Passover Seder.” The CES coordinator faxed me the marked up copy of my paper and I came unglued.

    I told him that I had a number of scripture references that the Last Supper was indeed a Passover and I could not remove that from my paper. I asked to speak to the person who review the paper was told I could not.

    Basically, We came to a compromise that I would not insinuate that the Last Summer was exactly the same as the modern Passover Seder celebrated by Jews today. I changed some of the wording of the paper and they were happy.

    Now, I never would have made a point of tying the two celebrations that tightly, but you can from the scriptures tie certain actions, like the Sacrament directly to what Jews do today. And, the major symbols called out in the Old Testament and the New Testament are still the same today.

    But at any rate, They didn’t need to make a big deal out of it and if they would have talked directly to me, we could have cleared it up in two mintes or less.

    It’s the nameless/faceless stuff I didn’t like, let alone the incorrect facts.

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  21. Chino Blanco on November 28, 2011 at 12:15 PM

    @dpc

    If this is an issue that’s already been debated and settled over at Main Street Plaza, I’m obviously keen to submit to whatever consensus was reached at that preeminent and authoritative Mormon blog.

    My bad.

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  22. Chino Blanco on November 28, 2011 at 12:49 PM

    Or maybe not my bad. Maybe it’s just dpc pretending that he wasn’t roundly renounced by the august commentariat over at MSP for defending this drivel:

    “We’ve always counseled in the Church for our Mexican members to marry Mexicans, our Japanese members to marry Japanese, our Caucasians to marry Caucasians, our Polynesian members to marry Polynesians… Plan, young people, to marry into your own race. This counsel is good, and I hope our branch presidents are listening and paying attention. The counsel is good.”

    And what race was BKP? “Merkan”? No doubt he’d be proud that it shows up in the Encyclopedia of Races before “Mexican”…

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  23. Mormon Heretic on November 28, 2011 at 1:02 PM

    I just have to say that I LOVED this interview. Pretty much the same thing happened to me–a member of the stake presidency complained about my gospel doctrine lessons. It’s kind of nice to see that it can even happen to Daniel Peterson. However, I don’t have the clout Daniel does, and was released soon after.

    I just don’t get why some members think they’re the purity police when it comes to gospel manuals. Incidentally, Daniel Peterson also mentioned that he brings a book to church when the lessons get boring–I do too! (I was reading about the Hoffman case yesterday during church–post coming in a bit.)

    While I agree with Ray that a better manual won’t make a good teacher, it would still help. I can’t think of how many lessons I’ve sat through (especially priesthood lessons) where the teacher admits that they hate teaching. Why would someone feel inspired to call a person who hates teaching to teach? It doesn’t bring the spirit into the room–in fact I’d say it does just the opposite.

    A real inspired leader would pick someone that enjoys teaching, IMO.

    Hawk, it’s hard to condense 4 hour interviews into a single post, but I’ll see what I can do. This transcribing stuff is easy, but time consuming. I guess I have a hard time summarizing sometimes, because I don’t want to be accused of quoting out of context, but there are some other podcasts at Mo Stories that are worth blogging about.

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  24. Jeff Spector on November 28, 2011 at 1:27 PM

    I don’t think that quote from the youth manual is so bad and i’ve said it before. It is causionary advice, not a directive as some ascribe it to be.

    But, in the wrong hands, it can be used the wrong way. So, I’d perfer it be out of there, just like the following have been used in the wrong way.

    “When the Prophet speaks, the thinking is done….”

    or this gem,

    “I’d rather see my child come home in a pine box than have come home unclean…..”

    Again, in the wrong hands, or should I say, out of the wrong month, they are a problem….

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  25. Morgan D on November 28, 2011 at 1:49 PM

    Great post MH. I feel the same as DCP as I often try to include appropriate context and outside sources in my gd classes. I keep joking with my leaders that I’m surprised I’m haven’t been fired yet, but they keep telling me I’m doing great and I’m going to get “promoted” to teach more. So while I share DCP, Jeff, and your concerns I haven’t faced the same pushback.

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  26. dpc on November 28, 2011 at 2:44 PM

    @chino

    Considering the fact that you are always right, it came as a big surprise to find out that you might have misinterpreted what I said. Why bring up this quote in the first place? It’s something that slipped through? My position on MSP is that a racist interpretation is only one among several that could be made of this statement. My understanding of the MSP debate was that the commentators decided it was racist and any other interpretation was to be completely ignored even with evidence to the contrary because the statment didn’t accord with their pre-conceived notions. But let’s end the threadjack here.

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  27. dpc on November 28, 2011 at 2:47 PM

    I can’t recall a time in my secular education when I felt that if the textbook was better, the teaching would have been better. I don’t know if the manual is the problem. I think the problem is that the teaching is bad. Or perhaps, the manual is not good enough to elevate a bad teacher, but I doubt that it would have much impact on a good teacher.

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  28. Chino Blanco on November 28, 2011 at 3:03 PM

    Thanks for popping up to remind me, dpc, that I’d forgotten to attach a Q.E.D. to my last comment, which you’ve now graciously provided, cheers.

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  29. hawkgrrrl on November 28, 2011 at 5:17 PM

    Bad teachers in the church exist because they are called to teach, given no training (the training I’ve had was really bad – a video with people who were giving the standard ten answers in very animated fashion – totally realistic), and they don’t know jack about the context of the scriptures or church history. The first one has to be on those extending callings as does the second one, but the third one is really either on the teacher to find out the context (because the manuals do not provide it) which leads them to the internet and down a slope the church doesn’t want them to take.

    A good teacher is held back by the purity police who frankly also don’t know jack about what they are talking about. I’ve said before I was taken to task for using a printed copy of the lesson from lds.org (apparently this was deemed “an internet source”) and for focusing on “personal revelation” as a way to ascertain whether we should “follow the brethren” in a lesson that was actually ON “personal revelation” (NOT on following the brethren).

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  30. Stephen M (Ethesis) on November 28, 2011 at 6:52 PM

    Chino, then you do know the genesis of that quote, which had to do with experiences at BYU Hawaii. Cherry picking that one is a bad choice to go about baiting people with.

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  31. Stephen M (Ethesis) on November 28, 2011 at 7:26 PM

    Hawk, the trouble you got was criminal. I confess that had I gotten that harassment I would have been tempted to turn it into a discussion of people who are attacking the Church for putting the material on line and who feels the brethren made a mistake in letting people download the lesson material.

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  32. hawkgrrrl on November 28, 2011 at 7:36 PM

    On the mixed race marriage question, puh-lease. Doesn’t it occur to anyone else that our youth, many of whom are the products of mixed race marriages and the rest of whom will think this contradicts their core values of diversity and inclusion, will have a problem with this so-called teaching that isn’t even doctrinal anyway? Why not tell them how many earrings to wear while we’re at it? Oh wait . . .

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  33. Paul 2 on November 28, 2011 at 10:51 PM

    Our ward’s YM lesson was given by a teacher in a mixed race marriage and one of the YM is also mixed race. It was taught with a wink, in the same way that the teacher winked at Elijah getting the Priests of Baal slaughtered. By the way the Priests of Baal story is the beginning of the Faith in Christ lesson. YM get the OT fire from heaven & slaughter of the wicked version of Christianity.

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  34. Paul 2 on November 29, 2011 at 1:41 AM

    I appreciated our YM leader’s sense of humor as he comes across this kind of material. I suppose a smile or a laugh is a pretty good response in many a case. Choosing to be angry hasn’t got me anywhere, and it hasn’t changed the church either. The people I see who are most successfully Mormon keep their sense of humor and are very good at not taking some things seriously.

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  35. hawkgrrrl on November 29, 2011 at 3:48 AM

    “The people I see who are most successfully Mormon keep their sense of humor and are very good at not taking some things seriously.” That’s my observation, too. But for converts & kids, it can be tough for them to learn this. Also, what does it say of our culture if you have to have a great sense of humor to navigate it?

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  36. Stephen M (Ethesis) on November 29, 2011 at 7:12 AM

    Hawk, the particular essay that the pamphlet/lesson was drawn from was a BYU Hawaii presentation. It starts with the observation that at BYU Hawaii, where the gospel is practiced, racial issues do not matter.

    However, when the kids go back to their home islands, they often discover that back home people are not so understanding. The initial conflict was more on the line of Samoans marrying Tongans, etc.

    I think the context is important, though I also think that you can make just about any mix work. Think of all the Ulstermen who married others in Ireland.

    Or Normans and Saxons.

    I think the later permutations lose the introduction that where the gospel is lived, race does not matter (after all, Jesus Christ made of one race all nations), nor does class, or education or political party.

    I’ve heard rumors of democrats successfully marrying libertarians, though have not seen it myself. I know that a number of bloggers have stated they would not marry a republican (e.g. J.L. of Celibate in the City). Just too far away from compatibility.

    But it takes straining, and pulling the matter away from context.

    Would make a good by-line “divorcing context since 1997 …” ;)

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  37. hawkgrrrl on November 29, 2011 at 7:26 AM

    They quoted that mixed race marriage thing in my ward in Pennsylvania, and it’s in the YM manual. Once it’s removed from context and made into general advice, it starts to crystallize into teaching, and another word for teaching is doctrine. That’s my point.

    Maybe it was good advice in the time and place it was given, or maybe it wasn’t. But that doesn’t mean it’s generally applicable to the world at large 40 years hence.

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  38. Roberta on November 29, 2011 at 9:43 AM

    @Daniel Peterson: At the risk of taking this thread off topic (my apologies)what author/book would you recommend to someone (like me) who is interested in learning a lot more about the political history behind Isaiah’s writing (and other Old Testament authors)? As long as the author is accurate and objective, I don’t care what religious persuasion the author subscribes to. Many thanks!

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  39. Stephen M (Ethesis) on November 29, 2011 at 10:04 AM

    I think the part that Christ made of one race all nations is good doctrine. I suspect that they left out in your ward that in the gospel we are neither black or white, bond or free.

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  40. Chino Blanco on November 29, 2011 at 7:42 PM

    Has anyone seen Margaret Young’s “Nobody Knows” DVD? One of the bonus clips features an interview with an über-Mormon interracial couple describing their experience. And one of their anecdotes involves LDS magazine staff locating a complete stranger with “more appropriate” skin tone to replace the husband for a photo shoot.

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  41. Ben on November 29, 2011 at 9:15 PM

    @Roberta- I can’t speak for Daniel Peterson, but here are some old recommendations from an LDS blog made of grad students in religion, bible, etc.

    http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com/2009/11/otftw-1-out-of-the-best-books/

    http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com/2007/10/five-recommended-books-for-understanding-the-old-testament/

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  42. Douglas on November 30, 2011 at 1:17 AM

    Hawk, being a stepdad to adult-age mixed-race children, methinks I can comment a bit more objectively about the Church’s “teaching” on mixed-race marriage. Even as far back as the fifties, when many states forbad it anyway (Loving vs. Virginia didn’t happen until ’67), the Church leaders did generally speak out ‘against’ IR marriage, but in the context that they felt it was a bad idea, not that “Gawd” forbad it. In fact, wherein an IR marriage was legal, as far as the Church was concerned, such a marriage was no less deserving of acknowledgement and respect. Mark E. Peterson’s 1954 BYU talk on the subject, oft quoted for his then well-meaning (but laughably condescending) statement about ‘letting’ a “Negro” (the then polite term) drive a CADILLAC if he could buy one (well, thank yuh, Brothah Petersen, we just appreciates dat), just about sez it all! It’s like watching a Looney Tunes cartoon featuring black people caricatured in blackface (like Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs). Do you get your panties in a wad about how “racist” it is, or do you appreciate how much society has changed in 70 years and also enjoy the talents of the Dandridge mother-daughter team?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rXFSsKFrCgY

    Of course, nowawdays you see the IR mesaage either toned down or virtually ignored. It’s not that most leaders have changed their mind, it’s a matter of picking your battles. Since there’s no doctrinal reason to prohibit IR marriages, especially those solemnized in the temple, the leaders are content to let the younger generation that is generally more accepting of it to decide for themselves and simply not chip in their two cents worth.

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  43. Heber13 on November 30, 2011 at 7:54 PM

    There was a good discussion over at StayLDS where wayfarer made an interesting point, and I quote:

    “I remember years ago as a NOM I was the GD teacher, and really getting into trying to be accurate and factual about the history of scripture, and what the stories actually meant. I loved to stimulate; except that every week people were complaining to the bishop. I think it hit a peak during the Monica Lewinski scandal that I was teaching about Judah and Tamar, Onan and the whole smear, and took a copy of the Washington Post and wrote on it in Magic Marker, “Sex, Lies, and Genesis”. Ah, more complaints.

    I was working at an office in DC at the time, and the office director was a part time African Methodist Episcopal preacher. I sat down with him to get some insight on some of the Old Testament stories from his vantage point, and told him of my ‘stimulating’ lessons. He said to me that I was doing the wrong thing — I wasn’t edifying my class. He used the terms, you’re not preaching, you’re not teaching. He taught me a valuable lesson. People come to church mostly to be fed and provided something comforting from the challenges of the world. They want to feel the spirit, and they want to feel good about themselves. Making them uncomfortable because of my own dissonance does not preach, does not teach.”

    The challenge with being a good teacher is trying to see what the members of the class want to hear, balanced with enough challenging ideas to push their thought a bit, without going too far that the teacher assumes what the teacher likes is what all need to hear. Anyway, wayfarer said it better than I did.

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  44. hawkgrrrl on November 30, 2011 at 11:07 PM

    Douglas, I think I am firmly in the panties in a wad camp on folksy blackface cartoons, anthropological value notwithstanding.

    Heber13 – I loved the wayfarer quote. He’s got plenty of good ones. I agree that teachers of adult classes cross the line when they cease to be learners with the students.

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  45. Ray on December 1, 2011 at 7:26 AM

    The issue I have with keeping out-of-context statements in manuals, no matter how factually correct they might be, can be summed up by the following link about a church in KY that has banned inter-racial marriages:

    http://news.yahoo.com/kentucky-church-votes-ban-interracial-couples-003419318.html

    I’m not saying we do the same thing; we don’t, and it would be preposterous to claim we do. However, anything that can be misconstrued so easily, given that it is included totally out of context, shouldn’t be included at all.

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  46. Roberta on December 1, 2011 at 7:55 AM

    @Ben: Many thanks!

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  47. Douglas on December 4, 2011 at 11:24 AM

    #44 – only the ignorant would find outdated “blackface” or similar entertainment actually “funny” or fit for polite society. It’s the same as I haven’t told a “Polack” joke in many moons, especially not after Lech Walesa and the Solidarity thing (fortunately, the joke was ultimately on the Commies). The “Racial Sensitivity” thing CAN get overblown. Disney retired “Song of the South” years ago over concerns that it would be considered outdated. Pity. What do we weld the can on next, Gone with the Wind?

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  48. Bob on December 4, 2011 at 12:51 PM

    #45: Douglas,
    I think the term “commies” is outdated. You may want to take that off of your list of things “fit for polite society”.

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  49. Douglas on December 4, 2011 at 2:55 PM

    #48 – my disdain for “Commies Rats” nor the moral and political bankruptcy that Communism is will NEVER be unfit for “polite society”. It is the very impoliteness that Communism wreaked on those unfortunate enough to live under it that will make it always so. Else explain desperate attempts to leave Communists countries, or that their governments had to resort to turning their countries into a prison, with order to shoot escapees on sight. If you’re not old enough to understand what I’m talking about, it’s because you live in a world where the menace of Communism has been rendered largely irrelevant. Of course, we must always be vigilant, lest…

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  50. Bob on December 4, 2011 at 5:23 PM

    #49: Douglas, I am 66__did I make your cut?
    Communism is alive and well in the world today for billions of people. We have more people leaving non-Communist counrties today than communist ones.
    I think you drank too much Cold War kool-aid.

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  51. Douglas on December 4, 2011 at 11:38 PM

    #50 – Hafta disagree with ya, “young man”. Ya remember “Duck and Cover?”
    Mao Zeodung (current sp.) would roll in his grave at what the “capitalist roaders” are doing to his beloved China. Same with what the current regime running Vietnam do to the memory of HoChiMinh. Not that I mind. Of course, I haven’t used “ChiCom” in quite awhile. As for the remainder – Laos and Cambodia have likewise opened up dramatically since the “Old Guard” have either been overthrown or retired or passed on. As for Cuba…well, Fidel is on his eleventh US President, and he’s still in business (effectively) after almost 53 years. But his time to join Lenin, Stalin, Brezhnev, Mao, Ulbricht, and the other Commie notables in Hades is coming soon…and it’s then I predict the end of the Communist state of Cuba.
    Of course, Communism isn’t the only threat to freedom in the USofA. We manage to be our own worst enemy at times. In some ways, the US has behaved towards some other countries much the same as we have self-righteously professed we were saving from the perils of Communism. Let it not be said that we are immune to a severe comeuppance!

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