Dumbing Down/Simplifying the Gospel

By: Mormon Heretic
February 27, 2012

Correlation often gets a bad name on the bloggernacle.  That’s part of the reason why I brought up a quote from Michael Quinn (who is hardly “correlated”) discussing the benefits of Correlation.  Yet Correlation can make church extremely boring.  A few weeks ago, I discussed with my bishop that I am really bored at church, and tired of poorly prepared lessons.  I said I was tired of “the basics”.  Joseph Smith didn’t only teach “the basics”; he gave the King Follett sermon publicly at a funeral, for example, and didn’t seem concerned that the theology was more advanced than “the basics”.  My bishop responded that we are supposed to follow what the brethren today want us to learn, and not focus on old topics.  I disagree, but that’s why I like to talk about this stuff here.

Daymon Smith gave an interview with Andrew Ainsworth on Mormon Stories back in 2010.  Smith’s Ph.D. dissertation was on Correlation, and By Common Consent did a 9-part series on the topic.  I wanted to quote some parts of the Mormon Stories interview that I found interesting.  I think it gives some insights into why the church seems to focus so much on the basics.

Smith, “[church leaders] begin to speculate about the growth of the church in the future, which is of course, what we expect from prophets, seers, and revelators is this kind of speculation, and the speculation is entirely future oriented and statistical, so rather than enunciate how spirit children are conceived and what kinds of carrots they eat, now they’re talking that there will be 12 million members by the year 2000.  And so the puzzle here for [Harold B.] Lee is–

President Harold B. Lee

Andrew Ainsworth interrupts, “Which ended up being pretty of prophetic in hindsight.”

Smith, “That’s right, and I could go into some of the reasons why they sort of made this true.  But what happens is Lee decides in order to keep the church pure, to keep it consistent and whole, he’s going to have to ensure that people in Guatemala have very simplified manuals that they can work from so that the church doesn’t spin off into 100 different churches.  Part of the drive for this is the experience of many young apostles like Boyd K. Packer, Harold B. Lee and a few others, Mark E. Peterson, who had spent time on the Indian Reservations on the Utah border, in Arizona and New Mexico. Their experience convinced them that these guys, you know these Native Americans, just didn’t seem to quite get it.  They didn’t really seem to understand the doctrine of the priesthood or the atonement or these things that were viewed as being foundational to what every Mormon should know.  And they came back from there convinced through their experience with the Church Education System that they needed to simplify, and so you’ve got here three different lines or sort of vectors as it were.

You’ve got these guys from CES who had experiences in non-protestant America, you had speculations about the growth of the church as it moves into new areas, Latin America in particular, and then you’ve got Lee’s concerns over how to make everything efficient, and that was sort of his guiding light was How do we make something efficient?  And specifically exercise priesthood authority efficient in the church so that we don’t get a lot of schisms, we don’t get a lot of resistance to a new kind of manual, or a new kind of canning program.  So Lee is commissioned by President David O McKay, to an editing committee which David O. McKay had been on the previous time it was instituted in 1920.”

Ainsworth, “And just to keep us on our timeline, is this about 1960 when President McKay asked Harold. B. Lee to review these curriculum manuals?”

Smith, “That’s right, ‘60, ’61 and McKay had been on a similar committee in 1920 and had made recommendations that were viewed as far too radical in terms of how to structure the writing of curriculum, and so McKay gives Lee this commission.  It’s a very small thing.  Basically go through some of the manuals and kind of reduce redundancy and overlap.  Because at this point they’re producing all kinds of manuals.  Any of the auxiliaries, the Relief Society, could ask anybody to write a manual for them. They could ask Hugh Nibley, they could ask Sterling McMurrin, they could ask, you know John F. Kennedy.  They could ask anybody to write these things, Primary as well, Young Mens/Young Womens as well.  Any of these could have their own curriculum writers.

So of course you got a lot of overlap, and Lee’s concern was not necessarily that there was redundancy and overlap was a problem, but that we need to sort of structure the redundancy in a way that is going to ensure the creation of a pure people who are going to be qualified for Zion.  And so he really does take what is a very small commission, and an editorial committee and revolutionizes the modern church and really does in some sense create a new kind of Mormonism, which really was a sort of bubbling into some kind of organization up until then. The church was still trying to figure out what it was going to be from 1920, 1930, 1940, and into the 1950s.  Harold B. Lee says this is what it’s going to be, and what it’s going to be in some sense is what I’m calling Correlationism.  It’s this concern that we are correlated, is in some sense the principle that makes you a Mormon.

Ainsworth, “So in some sense, we’ve got this thing called the Correlation Committee.  So how does it go about achieving correlation of doctrine?”

Smith, “Yeah this is one of those things that historically you see a lot of transitions in.  In the 1960s the way that they started to do it was really to kind of discern what the foundations of the gospel were.  And so this is where they took an empty room and filled it with notecards.  They had 72 notecards, and they filled the notecards with phrases or abstract nouns.  These were for the most part terms which were broken away from any kind of tent system so it wasn’t like you needed to know when this particular event happened, for example when Elijah came to the Kirtland Temple.

On these notecards, you find things like members need to know about priesthood authority, or they need to know about repentance, or they need to know about obedience.  They need to know about the restoration of the Gospel.  So they sort of mapped out 72 different terms which they regarded as like ideas.  72 ideas.

Ainsworth, “Do you know why?  Where does the number 72 come from?  I mean other than 6 times 12 equals 72.  Is there some sort of ancient, mystical Hebrew numerology behind 72?  I’m joking, I’m joking.”

Smith, “There is actually.”  [he chuckles]

Ainsworth, “You’re kidding.”

Smith, “No, No, No. There is.”

Ainsworth, “I’ve just stumbled on one of the mysteries in a Mormon Stories interview.  Ok, so what is the magic behind 72?”

Smith, “Well the idea is that they divided the earth up into—the fallen angels had divided the earth into 70 different quadrants, and they were each going to be a god or a steward or a shepherd into each of these 72 segments of the earth, or 70, it sort on depends which ones you’re looking at. There’s also sort of a notion that God has 72 names, so you know I don’t think they were sort of re-enacting a sort of mystical kabbalism, but it was probably that there were 72 notecards in the pack they bought, you know that’s sort of my guess of it.  I think what they had gone through, maybe they had taken 100, maybe 150 and then sort of boiled it down into 72 essential ideas.”

Ainsworth, “Ok, each one has a word on it like tithing, restoration, repentance.”

Smith, “Right.”

Ainsworth,”This seems to be the sort of the defining—well first of all you’re defining the gospel, you’re defining Mormon Doctrine, you’re creating it seems, I don’t know if it’s the first time, but you’re creating what we now sort of term ‘essential doctrines’, or ‘core’ doctrines or principles.  Is that what we have going on?”

Smith, “That’s right.  And this is the sort of things they teach converts, the flood of converts that they’re going to be having because they’ve now sort of stumbled on a new kind of financial way of leveraging debt into a missionary system.  So this is the work of N. Eldon Tanner, or actually Henry D. Moyle, who had decided that they we’re going to fund the missionary work through deficit spending.  And so the problem of course then is that you’re going to have all of these people converting to the gospel on the basis of a financial speculation, a model of financial speculation.  How are you going to keep them all in?  Of course you can reduce and boil down the gospel to 72 words, that’s a good place to start.

Of course the dilemma is that you can’t really sort of test to see if anybody understands the word repentance just by putting it in a manual.  But, you know the concern here was with sort of formal replication, and the principal behind this was that the mind was going to be kind of forced into public scrutiny through this regulation of doctrines that ultimately became Correlation.

You have Lee in the 1960s formulating some basic doctrines that the few manuals that he was going to be editing needed to teach 3 times, when you’re a child, 3 times when you’re an adolescent, and then 3 times when you’re an adult.   The idea was that if they taught it 3 times, in these 3 different segments, again sort of Trinitarianism run amok, talk about numerology, then you would have in a sense, the best shot at being a pure religion, sort of creating a foundation for Zion.

I guess I can identify with Lee’s desire to help new converts, but I don’t quite understand the “one size fits all” approach to theology.  While I think it is good for converts to focus on the basics, the fact of the matter is that a lifelong Mormon is going to get taught these 72 ideas a LOT more than 3 times.  It’s great that we have a good focus on the basics, but it’s also like repeating high school over and over and over.  It stunts our growth, and we never become theologically intelligent if we are in essence repeating algebra over and over and over.  At some point, if we want to get smarter, it would be good to move on to tougher classes that will expand us more.  We don’t have any theological Einsteins in Mormonism precisely because we can never learn anything more than the basics at church.

Correlation is excellent for new converts, but it stunts the growth of long-time members.  While I can appreciate the need to learn the basics, especially for new converts as Packer, Brown, and Lee saw this problem up close and personal on the Indian reservations, it seems that Correlation is really dumbing down Mormon theology.  I can see it is a difficult concept to teach people of varying knowledge.  Do you have any ideas on how to stimulate both new converts and old members? Is “one-size-fits-all” really the best way to handle the problem?

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93 Responses to Dumbing Down/Simplifying the Gospel

  1. Bro. Jones on February 27, 2012 at 5:16 AM

    1) The Bloggernaccle–seriously, it’s a space for members to discuss advanced topics, where older religions might have had schools of thought (or literal colleges of like minded theologians) or informal gatherings. What’s more, participation is not compulsory, allowing those members uninterested in our highfalutin discussions to ignore them. If anything we should encourage more extracurricular discussion of gospel topics, in a forum available to youth and new members, but I’m not sure how that would look or be internationalized.

    2) Ben S is totally a Mormon theological Einstein.

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  2. hawkgrrrl on February 27, 2012 at 6:28 AM

    When all we are serving up is milk, there are 2 basic approaches: 1) give teaching callings to those who are most knowledgeable and they indoctrinate the newbies, or 2) give teaching callings to the newbies, and they learn by teaching and the old timers kindly keep them in check. I think the 2nd approach somehow works better.

    Yet, I cannot tell a lie. For some of us, the milk is way past its expiration date.

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  3. Chris on February 27, 2012 at 7:02 AM

    Yeah, it’s just like that pesky Book of Mormon that they keep asking us to read over and over again. Seriously, it’s getting old.

    I’m no defender for bad teaching and I think the manuals could use an overhaul for a lot of different reasons, but I change year to year. My experiences change, my family life changes, my professional life changes, and I need to constantly be evaluating my feelings vis-a-vis plain ol’ faith, repentance, and prayer on a regular basis. I’ll take my correlated milk, thank you.

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  4. NewlyHousewife on February 27, 2012 at 7:51 AM

    Do we know what the 72 words were?

    For a life-long member, it could be more beneficial to have each year be focused on one word and all the lessons be about developing our understanding on that one word. Then again, I would give it a month before members started repeating themselves.

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  5. Jake on February 27, 2012 at 8:44 AM

    This is where I am torn. On the one hand correlation makes sense as an institutional efficiency system. On the other hand it can result in generic lessons.

    But ultimately I think correlation is reinventing the wheel. Hasn’t Christ already distilled the gospel down into two basic principles? Love your God, and love your neighbour. Its always struck me how little actual doctrine Jesus teaches in the New Testament. Perhaps this is a way of saying that what we believe is not as important as what we do. This whole business of regulating what people believe misses the point of religion which is about serving and blessing the lives of others.

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  6. Jeff Spector on February 27, 2012 at 9:02 AM

    Correlation is not the excuse for poor preparation such as doing lessons during Sacrament Meeting or not putting effort into making the lessons the least interesting other than reading out of the book.

    It doesn’t make up for poor teaching, period.

    We all know the manuals need a major face lift.

    But, Really, the Gospel is about personal progression and charity toward others.

    How would making the lessons less correlated improve that?

    And, what other Church is more interesting given that they are generally liturgical in nature and teach the same things over and over again as well.

    Seems to me any effort on the personal studying front could alleviate much of this so-called problem.

    In other words, maybe folks want the church to solve their problem.

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  7. Bob on February 27, 2012 at 9:06 AM

    #5:Jake,
    Consider: “… the point of religion which is about serving and blessing the lives of others”.
    This is(IMO), a “correlation” phrase, you have been taught over and over and over again. I will bet “sevice” is one of the 72 words.

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  8. Steven on February 27, 2012 at 9:33 AM

    The post seems to imply that all learning is done at church during the 3 hour block. If one wants to delve into the deeper things of the gospel, it seems a simple matter a dedicating the time and effort some other time. Another problem is the divide between ‘doctrine’ and teachings and opinions, etc. What exactly is doctrine? I’ve sort of conceded that if it isn’t something found in the Gospel Principles manual, or laid out in tried and true church publications, then it might be conjecture. Many of us love a lively discussion on the fringe elements of our doctrine, but the bottom line? If 15 prophets, seers and revelators think the current approach is what is needed, there’s more to the issue than every day members can appreciate.

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  9. ji on February 27, 2012 at 9:38 AM

    Thanks, Jeff, for your no. 6.

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  10. Michael on February 27, 2012 at 9:51 AM

    Another challenge of correlation is that it does not allow for any actual communal worship during our Sunday meetings. All three hours (with the small exception of the passing and blessing of the bread and water) are dedicated to learning. There is no place for adoration in our services. We emphasize developing Christ-like traits (emulation) and learning gospel principles but we leave no room for true worship and adoration.

    #6 – Jeff mentions that liturgical services are also repetitive in nature but they focus more on adoration of the Saviour and emphasize the Eucharist much more than we do. Even the unstructured services of the various evangelical churches handle praise and adoration much better than us.

    Our services are just plain old boring and malnourishing. They neither facilitate communal adoration and worship nor allow for deepness of theological intelligence.

    In discussing the origins of LDS correlation and the concerns about converts in other countries I always wondered how the Catholics were able to maintain a deep theology and strong liturgical service as they grew around the globe. Why do we need to simplify everything down but they don’t? Are their converts more intelligent than ours? Do we end up with the intellectually challenged people in South America or Africa?

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  11. Mike S on February 27, 2012 at 10:13 AM

    The problem with the “dumbing down” of our faith is several-fold:

    1) It’s boring. I’m perfectly willing to admit that the problem is me, but when my mind has turned to jello, it’s hard to expect any sudden insight from the spirit or an a-ha moment as we struggle together discussing hard issues. Church can often become merely something to get through.

    2) We hear warnings about not going to non-authorized sites. We are told not to have non-approved discussion groups in our wards. We are told to basically stick to the pablum.

    So here we are.

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  12. Mormon Heretic on February 27, 2012 at 10:29 AM

    There is a part of me that feels like the general membership of the church is “paying the price” because some members on Indian Reservations didn’t understand the gospel. I guess my biggest problem is the one-size-fits-all approach to the gospel. If a ward needs simplified gospel principles, then there should be some manuals (such as Gospel Principles) that should be emphasized. On the other hand, 6th generation Mormons that have been doing Family Home Evening could use some more advanced topics.

    President Lee is right–one size fits all is efficient, and probably has brought up the “lower” end of church membership that didn’t understand repentance, faith, etc. But it has simultaneously dumbed-down the upper half that already knows this stuff. Essentially the church has sacrificed the top in favor of the bottom. I think a more granular approach, where local leaders try to cater to the needs of the ward would be more inspired, and a better overall approach, but it would require trust in local leaders–something that seems to be lacking.

    I’ve been reading Mark Staker’s book “Hearken O Ye People” on the early church in Kirtland. The spiritual experiences were amazing (sometimes odd), but church meetings were not boring!!! There were angelic ministrations, speaking in tongues, and all sorts of ecstatic religious experiences. People of the Kirtland days would truly not recognize our church services, as they are night and day different. (That’s both good and bad–some things they did needed to be reined in, but there were quite a few things than Joseph tolerated and encouraged that are discouraged today.)

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  13. Jeff Spector on February 27, 2012 at 10:30 AM

    Michael,

    “#6 – Jeff mentions that liturgical services are also repetitive in nature but they focus more on adoration of the Saviour and emphasize the Eucharist much more than we do.”

    How is that? They say exactly the same words every week, as we do and the service is performed exactly the same each week, as we do. Is it in the eye of the beholder. The worship itself is personal. Of course, if you are busy chatting or playing with your phone, I suppose it might not be as meaningful.

    “Even the unstructured services of the various evangelical churches handle praise and adoration much better than us.”

    Why, because they scream and yell and get all excited?

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  14. Mormon Heretic on February 27, 2012 at 10:35 AM

    Jeff, I thought you made some really good points when you said Correlation is not the excuse for poor preparation such as doing lessons during Sacrament Meeting or not putting effort into making the lessons the least interesting other than reading out of the book.

    It doesn’t make up for poor teaching, period.

    One of my frustrations with poor lessons is that leaders often put people in teaching positions (1) who HATE to teach, and (2) don’t try to prepare. Correlation has nothing to do with good/bad teachers, but I would think that a leader should be able to recognize that a bad teacher is not conducive to having spiritual experiences at church. Frankly, a well-prepared teacher can use correlated material to teach a good lesson, but many teachers teach out of duty, not out of a desire to help class members have spiritual experiences. I think a lot could be done to select good teachers, or at least help bad teachers improve.

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  15. Jeff Spector on February 27, 2012 at 10:43 AM

    MH,

    I agree with you 100%. That is how it SHOULD work, but often does not.

    We had our Ward Conference yesterday and our SP asked me how I liked my membership clerk job. I said I liked it but I’d rather be teaching. But I did follow that up with change is good as well. He just kind of looked at me. I try to be honest about that kind of stuff.

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  16. dpc on February 27, 2012 at 11:12 AM

    I doubt that there will be any radical change in how church services are performed. I see the issue as a kind of “Emperor’s New Clothing” situation. Church services are moving and spiritual for those who are listening spiritually, but will staid and boring for the spiritually deaf, i.e. if you’re bored and not feeling the spirit, that’s on you. That’s all good and fine, but if the church is for wicked people, it ought to appeal to evil, wicked sinners like me who have a tough time ever feeling the spirit. Or are we not really all that welcome to participate?

    The problem with correlation is not that we have it, but the content and presentation of it. Take a few moments to visit the Vactican’s website on the Catechism of the Catholic Church (which, I presume is their version of correlation). It is basic and doesn’t delve into the long history of how it got to be this way. Nonetheless, this is some deep, interesting stuff. It is theology, not vague concepts. Mormon theology is just as deep and interesting, yet we never get it presented to us in any way except the most infantile manner.

    The problem with concepts in Mormon correlation is that they don’t tell you anything. I think that people would much rather discuss theology. Rather than talk about the Word of Wisdom, why not ask why God varies diet restrictions for people in various times. Teach the history of it. Tell that early members either followed it or didn’t. Say that Heber Grant got a revelation that we had to abide by it more strictly rather than just by way of advice. Talk about how the Word of Wisdom can change over time, not because the ‘standards’ are changing, but because God is revealing new information as we move along. Show that God is the author of any and all changes. It therefore becomes a lesson, not just on the Word of Wisdom, but on the process of modern revelation.

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  17. SilverRain on February 27, 2012 at 11:23 AM

    After reading all of this, I have a few questions mulling around my head.

    If the “basics” or the “milk” were deemphasized, what would we be teaching? What would be said that isn’t in correlation? How would those things be learned in order to teach them?

    What really is “the meat” of the Gospel?

    Also, for anyone who distinguishes between the “dumbed down” version for the ignorant, and the “higher” version for the more educated, which side of that line do you find yourself on? If you want more out of boredom, how could manuals help alleviate that boredom?

    And what would “communal worship” look like? Is it just the singing, hallelujahs, etc? Or are there other ways to worship communally?

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  18. Jake on February 27, 2012 at 12:19 PM

    Bob,

    I’m sure that service is one of the phrases, I think your slant misses my point that correlation focuses on beliefs rather then practice and even within correlation how they describe service has become so watered down that its not really service at all. Service is seen to be more about going home teaching, giving a lesson in church, tidying up someone’s garden then it is about actually doing something to help the whole of humanity, in my experience anyway.

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  19. Michael on February 27, 2012 at 12:32 PM

    #13 – Jeff, I would like to ask you how you view our Sacrament Meeting. What parts of the meeting would represent praise, adoration and worship of Our Saviour? Which parts of the meeting actually allow for communal expression of worship?

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  20. Justin on February 27, 2012 at 12:35 PM

    Newly #4

    Do we know what the 72 words were?

    The words are in a document called the Curriculum Planning Worksheet — basically an outline. BCC posted an excerpt of a copy of one of them.

    I have a copy — but I’ve been unable to find the file to share with you. But if you’ve been Mormon for long — you’ll recognize the key-words in it. And it’s interesting to see the nested hierarchy that the terms are arranged in.

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  21. Justin on February 27, 2012 at 12:39 PM

    SR #17:

    And what would “communal worship” look like?

    It’s funny that the most recent post I wrote is called Group worship in the church of Christ.

    I’ll copy just a short bit here that answers your question — based on what Jesus taught the Nephites in 3 Nephi 18:

    In this pattern of group worship, described by Jesus, and commanded of the church of Christ — we are to:

    * Bring forth bread and wine
    * Sit down upon the earth
    * Have one man set-apart among the group to break the bread, bless it, and give it to the group in remembrance of the body of Jesus
    * Eat the bread until filled
    * Have the one ordained man take the cup, bless it, and give it to the group in remembrance of the blood of Jesus
    * Drink from the cup until filled

    This should be done “always” to witness to God that we always remember Christ – and if we do always remember Him, then we will always have his Spirit to be with us.

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  22. Chris on February 27, 2012 at 12:43 PM

    After surviving a significant crisis of faith last year (when I researched Joseph’s polyandrous relationships and learned many disturbing facts about Church history), I started anew to reclaim my faith in Jesus Christ, on whom my testimony has always been centered.

    As I came to know and love Him better, I realized that our worship services are lacking in sincere worship of the Savior. Many Saints lack a reverent, worshipful attitude in Sacrament Meeting, something that is more prevalent in other Christian faiths. Our talks seldom focus on Christ, and too often His life and Atonement is marginalized in our lessons and meetings.

    Perhaps the opportunity to partake of the sacrament is the one hushed moment when we can truly worship God at church and renew our commitment to always remember Christ. There is much that we as saints and leaders can do to help members accomplish that powerful goal, to remember Christ is all that we say, do and think.

    Perhaps that is the meat of the gospel–and the milk: to understand how much Christ loves us, how much He has done for us, and how willingly He forgives us when we repent.

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  23. Jeff Spector on February 27, 2012 at 12:44 PM

    Michael,

    “#13 – Jeff, I would like to ask you how you view our Sacrament Meeting. What parts of the meeting would represent praise, adoration and worship of Our Saviour?

    The opening hymn, The innvocation, the Sacrament, the talks, the intermediate hymn or musical number and the benediction. Plus our private thoughts and worship throughout the meeting.

    Which parts of the meeting actually allow for communal expression of worship?

    See above, we are all in the room together.

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  24. Justin on February 27, 2012 at 12:59 PM

    #23:

    I think our current practice of assigning everything before church meetings — the hymns, prayers, talks, etc. — is based on the doctrines and commandments of men and not the commandments of the Father that Christ gave to his church — which is why there is no one prophesying or healing or speaking in tongues, etc. during our meetings.

    The commandments of men are not accompanied by any manifestations of power [just good advice, nice music, etc.]

    Aren’t we missing a reliance on the Spirit — a state in which it is the Spirit that directs and guides the conducting of our meetings [and not any man or group of men]?

    I think the problem is that the current way of organizing things has the church of Christ “have meetings” — instead of the various churches “meeting”.

    The perspective seems a bit backwards.

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  25. Joe on February 27, 2012 at 1:02 PM

    This is why, effectively and pragmatically, now that we have correlation, Church is not for the theological development of members advanced enough to be “bored”. That is what Institute of Religion and personal study are for. Church is what advanced members need to “endure” in order to serve their fellows in callings and so forth.

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  26. SilverRain on February 27, 2012 at 1:08 PM

    So, Justin, based on #24, can you elaborate on what you think a meeting directed by the Spirit would look like?

    So, Joe, you would say the definition of an “advanced member” is one who is bored?

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  27. SilverRain on February 27, 2012 at 1:13 PM

    After reading your post, Justin, would it be fair to say that you perceive that the Spirit cannot be present where there is a lack of spontaneity? So in order for there to be the Spirit, there has to be a lack of planning? Is this a fair estimation of your opinion?

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  28. Justin on February 27, 2012 at 1:17 PM

    can you elaborate on what you think a meeting directed by the Spirit would look like?

    Lol — wouldn’t that kinda go against the meeting being directed by the Spirit?

    For our tribal worship services — we look to the pattern of the church of Christ in the Book of Mormon — I’ll quote here from Moroni 6:

    and after they had been received unto baptism
    and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost
    they were numbered among the people of the church of Christ
    and their names were taken
    that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God
    to keep them in the right way
    to keep them continually watchful unto prayer
    relying alone upon the merits of Christ
    who was the author and the finisher of their faith
    and the church did meet together oft
    to fast and to pray
    and to speak one with another
    concerning the welfare of their souls
    and they did meet together oft
    to partake of bread and wine
    in remembrance of the lord Jesus
    and their meetings were conducted
    by the church
    after the manner of the workings of the Spirit
    and by the power of the Holy Ghost
    for as the power of the Holy Ghost led them
    whether to preach
    or to exhort
    or to pray
    or to supplicate
    or to sing
    even so it was done

    And I know that Jeff, et al. will say, “But we do those things in the Church meetings we currently have…” But it’s not about what we’re doing it — but what the informing principle behind the activity is [the Holy Spirit, the doctrines and commandments of men, or the spirit of the devil].

    But — to answer your question — I’ll say that as family sacrament meals — we “meet together often” to:

    * Fast
    * Pray
    * Hear the word of God
    * Speak about the welfare of each other’s souls
    * Partake of the bread and wine in remembrance of Jesus
    * Preach
    * Exhort
    * Pray
    * Supplicate
    * Sing

    Now “often” doesn’t mean every Sunday – it doesn’t even mean once a week. To determine ahead of time how “often” or on what days the church will meet prevents it from being conducted by the workings of the Spirit.

    These “meetings” happened as often as they are desired to happen or as often as they are needed to happen.

    In a meeting directed by the Holy Spirit — I’d also say that it would mean that nobody speaks a word unless the Spirit came upon them and led them to speak that word.

    The scriptures say that if the Spirit is not given to a person, then they should not speak. And the scriptures say that everything must be done at the very moment, which means spontaneously, as the Spirit directs.

    Doing this would make the discernment of a dead congregation [a group without the Spirit] easy because, in practical terms, unless members are cleansed from all sin and therefore can be moved upon by the Holy Spirit – the meeting will be dead silent.

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  29. Justin on February 27, 2012 at 1:24 PM

    would it be fair to say that you perceive that the Spirit cannot be present where there is a lack of spontaneity? So in order for there to be the Spirit, there has to be a lack of planning?

    We double-posted above there — but in simplistic terms, I’ll answer “Yeah” — I take my point-of-view from the scriptures describing the Spirit working at the “very moment”, which means spontaneously.

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  30. prometheus on February 27, 2012 at 1:29 PM

    “Correlation is not the excuse for poor preparation such as doing lessons during Sacrament Meeting or not putting effort into making the lessons the least interesting other than reading out of the book.

    It doesn’t make up for poor teaching, period.”

    Totally agree with this, Jeff. I have seen *Gospel Principles* lessons that were interesting and relevant, and I have also seen lessons where the manual was read verbatim with not one single piece of input or commentary from anyone in the class.

    I think that SilverRain brings up a really good point as well: “What really is “the meat” of the Gospel?”

    That could be any number of different things, depending on who you talk to – history, theology, higher criticism, typology, specifics of praxis, and so on.

    In any case, although I have my concerns about correlation, I wonder if we are perhaps misframing the discussion to some extent. From my own personal experience, I didn’t really care about learning more until I was really converted – not just a testimony that the Book of Mormon was true, but a real desire to know my Heavenly Parents and my Savior, and to come into Their presence, to live in unity with Them.

    Now, how much of that could have happened earlier with better materials, I don’t know, but I think that there are a lot of us who haven’t caught on fire yet, who are just going through the motions – reading the lesson in class because it’s what we do, not because one cares about it particularly.

    In any case, I think that correlation contributes to this malaise of indifference, but I am not convinced that it is the cause of it. I wonder what would happen if we threw out the lessons on the small details and really focused on convincing every member:
    - to have a personal, intimate relationship with Deity
    - to seek out revelation and further light and knowledge rather than wait for it to be handed down from the 15 men at the top
    - to really understand that we can experience a progressively greater fullness until we are like the brother of Jared, where the veil cannot contain us anymore
    - to stop selling ourselves short and relying on our leaders to carry us into heaven

    Now, it’s hard to say that without sounding like I am blowing my own horn here, and I really am not meaning to, it’s just that I look at where I was a few years ago, before I really engaged with the gospel and took it seriously, and where I am now, and it is a world apart – a whole different mind view. I have soooo much farther to go, and some days I have to recover so much ground, but it is tremendously exciting and has literally transformed my life.

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  31. Howard on February 27, 2012 at 1:35 PM

    I think correlation to the extent that it is honest is a useful newbie tool but meat should also be provided for others.

    But, Really, the Gospel is about personal progression and charity toward others I agree with this but isn’t facilitating this part of the church’s role in perfecting the saints?

    If one wants to delve into the deeper things of the gospel, it seems a simple matter a dedicating the time and effort some other time. Okay and maybe sleep through the block then?

    Essentially the church has sacrificed the top in favor of the bottom. I think this, plus boredom and dishonesty sum up the problems with correlation.

    Church services are moving and spiritual for those who are listening spiritually, but will staid and boring for the spiritually deaf, i.e. if you’re bored and not feeling the spirit, that’s on you. This may be true for you but I don’t think it fair to place this judgement on others. I feel more of the Spirit at the beach or on a hike or meditating than during most blocks and I’m not spiritually deaf.

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  32. Michael on February 27, 2012 at 1:39 PM

    #23 – Jeff, it would seem that you and I have significantly different definitions for worship and adoration.

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  33. Jake on February 27, 2012 at 1:44 PM

    I think Justin brings up an important point. When we over plan and organise too much it almost eliminates the spirit from the meeting. If you have a prewritten talk that you are simply reading out from, then where is the spirit going to be able to inform you on what to say? Of course, this is not to say that we should throw all planning out the window, but that we should rely on the spirit rather then the structure of planning.

    Its like the directive to missionaries take no thought before hand what you will say. In the church this simply isn’t the case. We over plan our lessons, with visual aids, props, stories, hand outs so that everything is structured, the same is true of talks. The problem is that this makes for very dull talks and lessons. The best lessons and talks are the ones that are not that well planned, (note this does not mean the teacher has not prepared for it just that they do not have every minute of the lesson planned) as that means that they focus on following the spirit and the direction of the classes needs. Instead of taking no thought, we take too much thought.

    I think this is why I love testimony meetings sometimes, as when people are not following the generic testimony formula (another instance of structure killing the spirit) its refreshing and edifying because they are speaking from their heart.

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  34. Howard on February 27, 2012 at 1:44 PM

    I think lessons can be made both interesting and easy to give. Hire interesting retired teachers and video professionally produced lessons with several discussion breaks built in. The video makes it fun and interesting and the local “teacher” leads the discussions. No more reading the manual together while struggling to hear.

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  35. SilverRain on February 27, 2012 at 1:52 PM

    Justin, just the other day, I was in a Sunday meeting where that was the case. It was basically a spontaneous fast and testimony meeting. I liked it.

    However, I don’t think that is the only format in which the Spirit operates.

    I find your comment, prometheus, interesting because that is exactly what I’ve been led to do with every lesson I teach. Also interesting, is that most of the lessons suggest doing just that: helping the members focus on their personal relationship with deity.

    I just wonder if “correlation,” and by that, I actually mean the dry read-from-the-book style of teaching, isn’t a tent of safety for those who haven’t yet caught on fire.

    Because if we HAVE caught on fire, the tools are there for our use. I have my doubts that we can blame standardized lesson manuals for our own boredom. The real manuals are scripture. The real classroom is our life, and the real teacher is the Spirit. The correlated lesson manuals don’t really interfere with any of those things. They’re just convenient scapegoats.

    To me, the “boring” things ARE the meat of the gospel. All those words, faith, repentance, baptism, charity, etc. hold the mysteries of the kingdom. Anything else, the history, translation differences, theology, etc. are like seasonings. They can be tools to flavor and enhance the meat, to help us comprehend and enjoy it. Too much of them overpower and mask the meat (to take an analogy dangerously near the end of its usefulness.)

    One thing I have noticed as I get older is that the same tired scriptures I’ve studied inside and out twice or more over take on new richness and depth as I live life’s experiences. All the mysteries of the kingdom are in scripture, plain as day. But it takes our eyes being opened in order to see what is really there. And no revamping of the manuals is going to give us that. We have to make it happen for ourselves.

    Another stretch to the analogy: producing milk takes nothing from the cow. Producing meat is ultimate sacrifice. Perhaps the milk/meat analogy is not about lower/higher levels of learning, but about what has been sacrificed to gain the understanding.

    Hebrews 5, where that analogy is first mentioned, would certainly seem to support that reading. D&C 19 and 1 Corinth 3 also make more sense that way.

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  36. prometheus on February 27, 2012 at 2:16 PM

    “To me, the “boring” things ARE the meat of the gospel. All those words, faith, repentance, baptism, charity, etc. hold the mysteries of the kingdom. Anything else, the history, translation differences, theology, etc. are like seasonings. They can be tools to flavor and enhance the meat, to help us comprehend and enjoy it. Too much of them overpower and mask the meat (to take an analogy dangerously near the end of its usefulness.)”

    I think that your extension here makes a superb point, SR, and I agree with your weighting of priorities here. Repentance, forgiveness, the atonement – these are the meat of the gospel. Truly approaching and understanding these ideas takes us to the borders of ourselves and forces us to open all those locked closet doors, which can be a bit terrifying at first.

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  37. Mormon Heretic on February 27, 2012 at 2:55 PM

    The best lessons and talks are the ones that are not that well planned, (note this does not mean the teacher has not prepared for it just that they do not have every minute of the lesson planned) as that means that they focus on following the spirit and the direction of the classes needs.

    Jake, that is great. Maybe I am critical because I am a teacher. (I teach college math.) My normal class goes like this: answer questions from the homework (approx 10 -15 minutes), take a quiz on previous day’s homework (10 minutes), introduce new material (20-30 minutes). Well, apparently yesterday’s material was very hard, because I had about 30 minutes of questions. So, being led by the spirit, I dispensed with the quiz, and introduced new material. Tomorrow we can have a quiz on that, if needed.

    Some teachers at church just have no clue how to lead a lesson or a discussion, or that it is ok to deviate from the normal pattern. I think we could take some examples from our church history, and really delve into them. Frankly, I think that many of the topics we discuss here would be absolutely fine to discuss in church. I’ve talked about Consecration, and how difficult it may have been to live. I think this story about an enterprising young man got a new pair of pants could be a fun topic to discuss the pros and cons of Consecration. I think understanding the differences between United Order and Consecration would be good to know as well. Such concepts of selflessness would be the obvious “basic doctrine” that would be a nice tie-in with the current correlation.

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  38. Mormon Heretic on February 27, 2012 at 3:11 PM

    The real manuals are scripture. The real classroom is our life, and the real teacher is the Spirit.

    Yes, but how often do we talk about real life? I mean usually we pontificate about how evil the world is becoming, not about how hard it is to get out teens to do their homework in a loving way. We rarely talk about our life in specifics, but more generally talk about “trials and tribulations”, using these worn out phrases instead of talking about how we’re hurting.

    I remember when my brother died in a car accident, leaving a wife and 4 children behind, I read the Proclamation that “Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother.” My nephew and nieces would not be raised by their father. How does this apply to them? Asking such questions can seem faith-less to some, and when I asked it, I remember getting an uncomfortable silence in response.

    I mean there’s an aspect to grieving in the question, but I did not feel it a safe space to discuss the question at church. Such questions put us out of our comfort zones, but are spiritually very important, pertinent questions. Instead the lesson was probably on repentance, or service, or something like that. There was no spirit that said it was ok to “grieve with those that grieve, or comfort those that stand in need of comfort.” The 72 cards said repentance was the topic, well by golly, repentance is going to be the topic.

    It reminds me of the time that Jana Reiss mentioned that she went to church on the first Sunday following the 9/11 attacks, the opening song was “There is Sunshine in My Soul Today.” She asked how we can be so spiritually tone-deaf.

    There just seems to be no flexibility to customize our lessons, or our services. I’m sure the bishop could have done some customizing, and perhaps this is a problem with a lay clergy–we don’t have time to think about customizing, so it is easier just to go with the correlated flow. But such things are not led by the spirit as Justin has mentioned above.

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  39. SilverRain on February 27, 2012 at 3:30 PM

    Thanks, MH, for your comment. I think that 5-7 years ago, when I first moved into my ward, I felt much like that. I got into big trouble and caused a lot of interpersonal conflict when I first moved in by asking probing questions. But, over the past two or three years, I have found things changing. I don’t know if it is me who has changed, or truly the members of my ward, but two specific examples come to mind.

    There was a RS teacher whom I HATED. Not as a person, but as a teacher, for just these reasons. She would say things that were so trite and insensitive that I often found myself having to leave the room. And, if I tried to share something personal or outside of the book, she would cut me off and belittle what I said.

    But, because I’m a stubborn cuss, I decided that I wasn’t going to let her teaching style drive me into the hallways. So I kept making comments and forced myself to stay in class. Over time, she became more and more relaxed as a teacher. She never became perfect, but she felt more comfortable inviting actual participation from the class. It was a stunning example of how the Spirit can work change in a person’s heart. Had I not sent myself back into that setting, I would have never observed it.

    A similar change has happened in my ward. I would occasionally feel moved to share very personal and painful experiences in class, some of which challenged the comfortable way of seeing things, but all of which involved my developing relationship with God. Over time, other women began to open up, sharing their own difficulties in life. As a result, the RS became closer knit. People who annoyed me before have blessed me immensely. All because they were invited to be vulnerable by my vulnerability.

    And bored was the last thing I felt . . . . Most of the time.

    But I don’t think that a revamping of the books would have caused these changes. The books already invite the sharing of personal experience. But the books aren’t other people. They can’t make up for human weakness.

    Now don’t get me wrong, I would like to see most of the manuals written a little differently. But I admit that this is my personal taste, and not any grandiose, Spirit-granting change.

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  40. FireTag on February 27, 2012 at 4:28 PM

    I’m fascinated that correlation originates in the experience of Apostles in the 60′s that non-”Americans” didn’t GET the Restoration message.

    CofChrist Apostles had the same kind of experience at the same time, but took the opposite lesson — they went back and tried to reinterpret the Restoration in terms of broader Christian theology. The result has been a movement toward both association with progressive Protestantism in North America, and the devolution of doctrinal authority to national churches worldwide — seemingly even if “100 churches” DO eventually result.

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  41. Jeff Spector on February 27, 2012 at 4:36 PM

    “#23 – Jeff, it would seem that you and I have significantly different definitions for worship and adoration.”

    I suppose so.

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  42. Justin on February 27, 2012 at 4:48 PM

    Since there was discussion of the down-votes being a passive-aggressive way to anonymously bully people — I noticed SilverRain’s #27 to me is down-voted — but in the sake of openness, I wanted to say that I didn’t down-vote it or think it was bad in any way

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  43. hawkgrrrl on February 27, 2012 at 6:33 PM

    I think SilverRain’s point about seasonings is an apt description. My issue is mainly with the manuals and how deadly dull and basic they are. The topics chosen are so threadbare, and then they are not presented in a fresh or interesting way. This meat is presented in such a bland way that it is unpalatable.

    Then we, the teachers, are told not to engage the class in any way that strays even a smidge from the manual. As a teacher, I have been questioned for using the following so-called “outside” sources:
    - on-topic quotes from apostles that were not specifically in the manual
    - an original copy of the Wentworth letter in a lesson about the Wentworth letter
    - a printout of the lesson from lds.org (this was called an “internet” source)

    A teacher who is interested in magnifying the teaching calling is going to run afoul of TPTB in the current “no outside sources” environment. Hence, the bloggernacle. In some cases, people are literally being bored beyond belief (into apostasy).

    I am generally a fan of correlated materials. Some of its byproducts, not so much.

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  44. FireTag on February 27, 2012 at 6:39 PM

    SilverRain:

    I really appreciated the insight of the milk as not-so-costly nourishment and meat as sacrificial to obtain.

    Justin:

    Can’t agree with the spontaneity requirement as you’ve stated it. In preparing sermons, I’ve often felt the sense that I needed to switch something that I’d been intending to say and go off-topic. My sermon notes often contained whole paragraphs of text that I felt I needed to say exactly as I composed them, intermixed with bullet points, and single word memory cues.

    The confirmation would come when I arrived at church to discover that the Elder presiding for the service had also, without any conversation with me, altered the order of worship in a way that better fit what I intended to say.

    Don’t restrict the Spirit by restricting when the Spirit can make the change. :D

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  45. mh on February 27, 2012 at 6:48 PM

    I have been thinking about justin’s ‘meetings with the spirit’ comment. I used t attend a singles ward in slc. about every 2-3 months, the bishop wouldn’t assign any speakers. after the sacrament, he would call people with no notice to bear their testimony. these meetings were spontaneous and very good. everyone in the congregation wondered if they would be next. I wish more wards did this.

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  46. Stephen M (Ethesis) on February 27, 2012 at 7:13 PM

    Jeff, I’m at a loss as to why the dislikes on your posts.

    I’ve enjoyed the large scope of discussion here in this thread.

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  47. Mormon Heretic on February 27, 2012 at 7:25 PM

    Stephen, I’ll venture a guess as to why Jeff’s comment #13 got thumbs down (though it didn’t from me.) His comment ended with because they scream and yell and get all excited?

    That seems a bit denigrating to other churches (probably Pentocostal is the reference). If you read Mark Staker’s book, early Mormon services in Kirtland had a bunch of “scream[ing] and yell[ing] and get[ting] all excited.” Yet I don’t think most Mormons would appreciate this characterization of early Mormon services, as it would sound very denigrating. However, Staker notes that such services were very common in the Second Great Awakening, of which Joseph Smith and all early Mormons came from this culture.

    Truth be told, I didn’t thumbs down the comment, but it seems disrespectful to other religions that believe that ecstatic religious experiences are an important aspect of worship.

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  48. Justin on February 27, 2012 at 8:53 PM

    Firetag #44:

    Can’t agree with the spontaneity requirement as you’ve stated it.

    Then it is probably in how I stated it. Jake #33 replied to what I had written in a way that I thought worded it well:

    I think Justin brings up an important point. When we over plan and organise too much it almost eliminates the spirit from the meeting.
    [...]
    Of course, this is not to say that we should throw all planning out the window, but that we should rely on the spirit rather then the structure of planning.
    [...]
    The best lessons and talks are the ones that are not that well planned, (note this does not mean the teacher has not prepared for it just that they do not have every minute of the lesson planned) as that means that they focus on following the spirit and the direction of the classes needs. Instead of taking no thought, we take too much thought.

    The tribal sacrament meetings that my family holds are largely silent. Because the scriptures say that unless a person has received the Spirit, then they shall not speak. No one opens their mouth unless the Spirit moves that person to pray, speak the word of God, speak about the welfare of each other’s souls, preach, exhort, supplicate, or sing — then they will do so.

    Of course — how can I bring a word of the Lord to my meetings if I myself have no word in me to bring? “Take no thought … it will be given in the very hour … etc.” doesn’t mean we do nothing. But it doesn’t mean we assign people to speak, topics to be spoken on, songs to sing, who’s going to pray, etc. — no matter what.

    If we want to see the spiritual gifts of the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, healing and to heal, the working of miracles, prophesying, discerning spirits, speaking in tongues, interpreting tongues, etc. — manifesting in our meetings, then we’d have to get out of the box of 72 approved Paths for the Spirit to take within the 3-hours, one day a week that we allot for Her to work in.

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  49. Badger on February 27, 2012 at 9:56 PM

    Reading the discussion here I was reminded of accounts I have read about the adoption of public high school textbooks. They are written by committees, adopted via complex administrative processes, decisions on content are subject to political pressure and curriculum demands very effectively transmitted by the economic power of the largest states’ school systems, and publishers demonstrate a remarkable degree of convergence on a mediocre consensus.

    Advanced college texts are written and selected by individual experts, and are incomparably superior to high school texts as intellectual achievements. However, the processes that lead to high school texts were not created out of pure perversity and undertaken in pursuit of low quality (which is not the same as admiring the results).

    Secondary schools give up intellectual merit in exchange for other genuine benefits, such as easing the difficult day-to-day job of bringing along less motivated students, or giving school boards partial protection from parental outrage over “inappropriate” material in the classroom.

    Before correlation, there were lesson manuals written by named individuals, much more like college texts than today’s correlated offerings. As with their textbook parallels, they were intellectually superior, but church lessons do not have a primarily intellectual purpose. As with textbooks, an exchange has been made, but the specific losses and gains are different. For some of us, it’s easier to see what has been gained for the “school board” (i.e., church leaders) than for the general membership. There are not very many (adult) Sunday School students who aren’t interested but sticking it out because they need a diploma. On the other hand, it’s not a group comparable to a college class of students majoring in a subject, either. The textbook analogy works better for describing the nature of the manuals and the process for writing them than the environment in which they are used.

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  50. hawkgrrrl on February 28, 2012 at 1:31 AM

    Badger – that was a fascinating bit of information I did not know. Excellent point and perfect analogy.

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  51. Jake on February 28, 2012 at 4:32 AM

    Something that we also forget about Church Manuals, is that not everyone is as capable of teaching as most the people here are. I am fairly sure from most of the comments here, that many would be able to deliver wonderful lessons without the need for the manual, that I am sure I would enjoy. However, not everyone is able to do this, the church works to the lowest denominator, and a lot of people find the idea of teaching terrifying, so manuals that tell them exactly what to say, read and do, are very useful for them because they are not professional teachers.

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  52. Jeff Spector on February 28, 2012 at 7:37 AM

    Stephen,

    “Jeff, I’m at a loss as to why the dislikes on your posts.”

    Simple. It must be the Church’s problem. It cannot possibly be them. Either that, or they have never attended other Churches that have a strict liturgy and it is the same every week, but those who worship still derive some level of spiritual satisfaction from it.

    Just like many LDS members do from our Sacrament Meeting.

    To others, it can be perceived a boring.

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  53. Justin on February 28, 2012 at 7:46 AM

    Yeah — but the problem is that it’s never framed in a “Oh, well that liturgy is best for you to derive the most spiritual satisfaction and level of fulfilling adoration of Christ“-kinda way.

    It’s instead framed in rhetoric like — “Well, this is the One-True Way of experiencing Jesus and you’re on the high-road to apostasy if you feel differently about it“.

    So really — it’s not quite fair-minded to say:

    To others, it can be perceived a[s] boring.

    When “it” is presented as the “Prophetically Revealed, One-True Sunday Block” — and people who perceive it as boring are told to get with it or go somewhere else where they,

    * have a strict liturgy that’s the same every week
    * scream and yell and get all excited
    * etc.

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  54. Jeff Spector on February 28, 2012 at 7:54 AM

    Justin,

    You can probably tone down the hostility a notch or two.

    Worship in the final analysis is personal. So no matter how it is conducted, it comes down to how we each feel in our hearts and souls.

    LDS Worship has been pretty much the same for a long, long time. In spite of what some may believe, heavenly manifestations were few and far between. Enough so, that it made the history books.

    I don’t know if it is ““Prophetically Revealed, One-True Sunday Block”” or not, but it is the procedure at this time.

    Since I grew up in a quiet, reverent, liturical synagogue setting, I found and find the LDS worship Service to be equally reverent and I like that we teach each other.

    It’s not boring to me.

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  55. Justin on February 28, 2012 at 8:04 AM

    Jeff — I write with no hostile feelings towards you — if that’s what you meant.

    Just know that:

    Worship in the final analysis is personal.

    is great — but it’s not really what our missionaries are telling the people.

    It’s “personal” maybe only to the extent that a convert will personally come and do it this way, where there is the “Priesthood Authority” to ensure the maintenance of an “Inspired Procedure” — to keep any screaming, yelling, and excitement at bay.

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  56. Jeff Spector on February 28, 2012 at 8:41 AM

    Justin,

    I just meant the way you are responding.

    “It’s “personal” maybe only to the extent that a convert will personally come and do it this way, where there is the “Priesthood Authority” to ensure the maintenance of an “Inspired Procedure” — to keep any screaming, yelling, and excitement at bay.”

    Frankly, I do not understand what all the concern is about.

    We come together often, which is once a week to partake of the Sacrament. That is the main purpose and reason we attend. the prayers were given through inspiration to the Prophet Joseph Smith and have not been altered except for the water instead of wine.

    The procedure of administering the Sacrament is essentially unchanged since that period of time. We are quiet and reverent durign that time which is our time for reflecton.

    The rest of the meeting should be in support of that purpose. How would screaming and yelling enhance that?

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  57. anonlds on February 28, 2012 at 9:31 AM

    Correlation is largely about making sure the church provides a consistent message. That is laudible as far as that goes, but it has huge unintended consequences.

    It is a sort of forced assimiliation. everyone must believe exactly the same way. I think we have gone much too far in that direction. As a culture we need to value tolerance and differences of opinion even on spiritual matters. We need to embrace the idea that there are lots of different perspectives and interpretations of historical events.

    Instead we get entire generations that believe Thomas Marsh left the church because of a dispute over cream. When members find they can’t agree with the correlated version they face a crisis of faith. When you find out you don’t agree with the widely held version of history that is sold by people who claim they “will never lead us astray” that creates problems.

    We need to instill in our culture an appreciation for diversity of opinion an acceptance that we don’t “know” everything. Correlation has caused us to believe that things are doctrinal, when they are really just current policy.

    People are bored at church because they aren’t participants. They aren’t participants because the lessons are so scripted that their is no room for any disagreement or alternative opinions. It is merely role playing. Everyone already knows the exceptable answers to the discussion questions. Typically pray, read your scriptures, be obedient. When you don’t fit in the narrow circle of correlated beliefs it is hard to get validation at church. If going to church for 3 hours doesn’t give you a sense of community then why are we going?

    The church needs an authenticity mission. I like what Silver Rain said about vulnerability. We need to stop pretending we know things that we don’t and that we are more perfect that we are and be more accepting. When we talk about moving beyond milk to the meat of the gospel I think we are really talking about accepting uncertainty.

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  58. Howard on February 28, 2012 at 10:01 AM

    Jeff,
    “Jeff, I’m at a loss as to why the dislikes on your posts.”

    Simple. It must be the Church’s problem. It cannot possibly be them.

    The dislikes are not coming from me and I’m sure it’s hard for you to see but I do think the reason is included in your answer but I suspect it’s between the lines and I wouldn’t call it simple.

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  59. Jeff Spector on February 28, 2012 at 10:35 AM

    Howard,

    ” I’m sure it’s hard for you to see but I do think the reason is included in your answer but I suspect it’s between the lines and I wouldn’t call it simple.”

    I suppose this type of response is easier than actually addressing the issue head-on.

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  60. Howard on February 28, 2012 at 10:44 AM

    Jeff,
    Not really it was more of; Hi Jeff would you like to discuss this? I think I can explain it if you’re open to it.

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  61. Jeff Spector on February 28, 2012 at 11:15 AM

    Howard,
    I am open to it so long as it isn’t the same old “Church is boring” dialogue.

    I am not saying we cannot improve our meetings, because I suppose we can.

    I am just not sure that any “improvement” would affect those who now critize it. They would just find something else to complain about.

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  62. anonlds on February 28, 2012 at 11:30 AM

    Jeff,

    I offered a substantive thing that we can do to keep church from being boring. Change the culture to accept more disagreement and uncertainty, yet you disliked my post. I would be interested to hear why you disliked it.

    I think the reason people are disliking your post(I was one) is because I feel it was a straw man that didn’t address the issue as I saw it. I don’t believe we do very well at worshiping christ. It isn’t about the what we do, but how we do it. I think your comment was dismissive of those who feel that way. Sure we sing hymns and talk of Christ. But our talks are lessons, meant to teach. They aren’t about reflection and devotion. The hymn singing is sub par compared to any other congregation I have been to. That being said, I think the sub par hymn singing is a symptom not a cause. If we want church to be more devotional, that takes cultural change, not just someone giving a lesson guilting us in to singing louder.

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  63. Michael on February 28, 2012 at 12:03 PM

    anonids #62 – You hit the name directly on the head. Jeff dismisses those of us who have a strong testimony of the Restored Gospel but find the delivery method (the Church and LDS Culture) seriously stifling and unnecessarily confining.

    A church delivers three products:

    1) A doctrine / theology (Eternal Truth)
    2) Opportunities for communal worship (worship is not the same as teaching).
    3) A community in which to find acceptance and love.

    We have one of the richest and deepest theologies on the face of the planet but we refuse to allow it to be discussed in its fullness during our Sunday services. We even ban the discussion of it outside of approved Church meetings.

    We have inherited a low-church, modest mode of Sunday gathering from the early Saints which we have taken and made incredibly bland, boring and lacking in true adoration and praise of the Saviour. Instead we celebrate personal development and family dynamics during our meetings.

    Lastly, we have created a community that is built primarily for the raising of children in a moral and behavioral-reinforcing way. It does not easily adapt to those who are not on the conventional straight, hetero, patriarchal family path.

    As a convert I have a strong, unshakable belief in the BoM and the doctrines of the Restored Gospel. However, after many years of trying, I cannot say the same about our Sunday meetings or our sense of community. It creates tension for me but it also forces me to separate out my discipleship from my membership. Many people cannot separate the three different products and evaluate them on their own merits because our LDS mindset conflates all three together – if one is true then all three must be true. Lord forbid we question one of them separate from the other.

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  64. MH on February 28, 2012 at 12:25 PM

    FireTag, I’m interested on your comment #40. While LDS went the correlated route, you’re saying that the RLDS went the uncorrelated route, and it seems that with the latest announcement on section 163 (I think?) with RLDS allowing for national churches to rule on how they want to handle the gay marriage issue, this will lead to further schisms in the RLDS church. We already know that there are many Restoration Branches that came about due to schisms about lineal succession, ordination of women, etc. Do you think this uncorrelated approach is a good thing in the RLDS church?

    Because if we use the RLDS as a case study, it may not be a viable entity in the future, or will schism into 100′s of different bodies. That seems to have it’s own set of challenges that some would view as worse than correlation.

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  65. MH on February 28, 2012 at 12:31 PM

    I am hesitant to get into the dislikes discussion of Jeff’s comments, as it may devolve into a direction that I didn’t really want to go, but Jeff, I think I did address your comments head on. When Justin used your terminology about “yelling and screaming”, all the sudden you complained about tone. I don’t think the yelling and screaming comment contributed to good tone, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that you took offense to Justin’s tone when he used the same words you chose earlier. I think it was a poor choice of words to characterize other churches, especially if you don’t like it turned back on you.

    Just sayin’. And now to quote Forrest Gump, “that’s all I have to say about THAT.”

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  66. Jeff Spector on February 28, 2012 at 12:32 PM

    anonlds,

    “I don’t believe we do very well at worshiping Christ. It isn’t about the what we do, but how we do it. I think your comment was dismissive of those who feel that way.”

    My problem is that the excuses are always the same that of blaming the Church, other people and the meeting itself.

    When you say “I don’t believe we do very well at worshiping Christ” who are you referring to?

    I don’t think that everyone falls into that category. You might, the person next to you might, but not everyone.

    It seems like the only remedy to the problem is to turn Church into a 500-level graduate class in theology.

    If there is a problem with each of our worship of Christ, then it is up to each of us as individuals to change that. Radically changing the tone and nature of Sacrament meeting may not keep people off their cell phone during the meeting.

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  67. anonlds on February 28, 2012 at 12:34 PM

    “it also forces me to separate out my discipleship from my membership”

    This is incredibly sad to me and far too common.

    The church should be inclusive. Not to pick on Jeff, but I think saying things like “They would just find something else to complain about.” make it very difficult to have meaningful constructive discussion. This is a form of ad hominem attack. It isn’t an attack based on issues, but is attributing bad faith to those that disagree with him. I do have real issues with the church. But it upsets me to be attacked by saying if they did something about those issues I have that I wouldn’t be grateful.

    Correlation is detrimental for much bigger reasons than that it makes church boring though. I don’t feel that Jeff has tried to understand the argument and just has a default position that anyone who believes that is a crank.

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  68. Jeff Spector on February 28, 2012 at 12:37 PM

    MH,

    “When Justin used your terminology about “yelling and screaming”, all the sudden you complained about tone.’

    Had nothing to do with why I made the comment.

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  69. Jeff Spector on February 28, 2012 at 12:42 PM

    anonlds and others,

    Just because someone does not agree with you does not mean it is a personal attack on you or that attribute bad faith or anything like. I don’t attribute motive.

    All I am saying is that I do not agree. I am sorry you do not like it.

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  70. Justin on February 28, 2012 at 12:47 PM

    A ha — NewlyHousewife #4 — I all full copy of the Curriculum Planning Worksheet here.

    Jeff:

    Boredom in the church is a manifestation of a problem with the leadership, not the members. Inspired leaders do not preside over bored congregations.

    Ammon’s congregation had a 100% activity rate:

    and as sure as the lord liveth
    so sure as many as believed
    or as many as were brought to the knowledge of the truth
    through the preaching of Ammon
    and his brethren
    according to the spirit of revelation and of prophecy
    and the power of God working miracles in them
    yea
    I say unto you
    as the lord liveth
    as many of the Lamanites as believed in their preaching
    and were converted unto the Lord
    never did fall away

    Ah, but surely [you say] the members carry some of the blame, too — right?

    Wrong. We are talking of members of the church, not non-members.

    These people have already received the word and are already willing to receive more of the word. They believe in the word, they believe the word will be at church and they go to church willing to receive it.

    They expect and believe their leaders will give them the word in the Spirit of truth — meaning that it will be dispersed “according to the spirit of revelation and of prophecy,” by the gifts and powers of the Holy Ghost, “the power of God working miracles in them” — not in the correlated 72-ways.

    If members go and listen to their leaders and remain bored — then the fault is entirely on their leaders. The leaders are uninspired. Period. Without the manifestations of the Spirit, boredom sets in.

    And it’s not being fair to good, truth-seeking members to tell them that it’s their fault — they just need to get with the program — or that they just wouldn’t enjoy any meeting anyhow — just because the rigid, dead, One-True, correlated way of experiencing Jesus on Sunday doesn’t satisfy them.

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  71. Justin on February 28, 2012 at 12:49 PM

    I don’t know what I was attempting to write in the first part of #70…

    It should say that “I found a full copy…

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  72. anonlds on February 28, 2012 at 12:56 PM

    -My problem is that the excuses are always the same that of blaming the Church, other people and the meeting itself.

    response: I think you don’t appreciate the nuance in other peoples opinions. I am sure some people place blame. But I don’t think that should be the focus of discussion. It is great that the church works for you, but I think you should try and understand and develop some empathy for those who struggle to fit in.

    -When you say “I don’t believe we do very well at worshiping Christ” who are you referring to?

    -I don’t think that everyone falls into that category. You might, the person next to you might, but not everyone.

    my response: This seems to still be from the paradigm of figuring out who is right/wrong and who gets the blame. The people who you complain against don’t see the world from this black/white viewpoint. I am referring to the church membership generally. As a church body I don’t think we do that very well. I personally think I do some devotional type stuff. It doesn’t happen within the four walls of the church as well as mush as I wish though. It doesn’t happen as much as I would like from a communal experience perspective.

    -It seems like the only remedy to the problem is to turn Church into a 500-level graduate class in theology.

    My Response: I don’t think this is the argument being made at all, at least not from me. I think the remedy is to foster an environment where if you here someone say that Thomas B. Marsh left because of Cream you are free to correct them. Admittedly this is a tough line. but people need to feel they can share their true beliefs, otherwise they are bystanders and not participants. It is not a discussion if you can’t share your viewpoint. Too many sit in church, agree with the doctrines, but don’t agree with the current meme’s that sell the doctrine short. For the Thomas example. That is the church creating an incident out of wholecloth to dismiss people who have issues with the church as being offended instead of discussing why they really left. Just maybe Thomas Marsh left because he didn’t like church members looting non-members homes. Maybe people who have issues with the church today aren’t just offended by some members callous remarks. But today’s church culture doesn’t allow meaningful discussion, only roleplayed discussions with pre-perscribed acceptable responses. I understand how someone who doesn’t have an issue with these things has trouble relating to the “cafeteria/internet/dissaffected” crowd, but I argue that if the church is to move forward, these to groups are going to have to find a way to exist together. I think most on the cafeteria side think they understand the orthodox side because they used to be there, but that the orthodox side is dismissive of their real concerns.

    -If there is a problem with each of our worship of Christ, then it is up to each of us as individuals to change that. Radically changing the tone and nature of Sacrament meeting may not keep people off their cell phone during the meeting.

    my response: Once again, this is restating the argument in an inaccurate way. We aren’t discussing peoples individual worship, we are talking about communal worship. Cell phone during the meeting is an effect of them not feeling apart of the community. It isn’t the cause. maybe they don’t relate to some controversial talk about how women should be homemakers and are using their cell phone to read something uplifting about christ. Maybe it is a way to escape from not feeling uplifted because the culture isn’t tolerant of who they are and what they believe.

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  73. anonlds on February 28, 2012 at 3:34 PM

    “They would just find something else to complain about.”

    “I don’t attribute motive.”

    Jeff,

    I don’t understand how you can say you don’t attribute motive. I believe my motive is to make positive change in the church. You say my motive is that I like to gripe because I am a gripy griper who likes to gripe. I don’t that isn’t fare. You say you don’t attribute motive, but you dismiss arguments as something you’ve already heard before you even hear them on the basis of a complainers complain attitude. It sounds like you have clearly made up your mind and aren’t open to hearing the other side.

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  74. Howard on February 28, 2012 at 4:00 PM

    Jeff,
    While I was away anonlds did an excellent job of explaining much what I would have said and more and I think Michael contributed to it as well. However I would have taken it deeper from a psychological view point. anonlds said straw man and I agree but I wonder why. Did you mean to set up a straw man in 23? Do you really believe the actual words spoken during the sacrament meeting program are praise, adoration and worship of our Savior? If so have you ever been to a christian worship service for comparison? I wondering if you are conflating your intention, love and unspoken thoughts for the Savior with the words actually spoken during the program line items you mentioned because the typical LDS service doesn’t have much of this.

    anonlds and Michael both said dismissive and I completely agree.

    Also there is much in this line; Simple. It must be the Church’s problem. It cannot possibly be them. It really reads: It’s not me. It’s not the church. It’s the dislikers I can read their minds and it’s because they blame the church and I defend it. And finally, it’s anything but simple Jeff because it’s really you and you just don’t want to see that.

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  75. Jeff Spector on February 28, 2012 at 4:02 PM

    anonlds,

    “It sounds like you have clearly made up your mind and aren’t open to hearing the other side.”

    I have a POV no question. I am open to hearing the “other side.” I am open to agreeing with the “other side” at some level.

    But I am not sure that you are any more than you accuse me. if people use cell phone in Church, it isn’t because they are bored, it is because they are rude. Just like people who take calls in the middle of meetings or during dinner.

    So, let’s analyze where this “boredom really comes from?

    My 13 year old says he’s bored all the time, but is unwilling to do certain things he is asked to do. Is that my fault he is bored because I don’t let him play video games or watch hours of television?

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  76. anonlds on February 28, 2012 at 4:31 PM

    Jeff,

    I will agree that using a cell phone during church is rude. Rudeness stems from a lack of respect. Respect is a two way street though. I think the people using cell phones in church don’t feel the culture respects them and so don’t feel obligated to show that respect back.

    This isn’t a either or black and white issue. It isn’t just the church, and it just isn’t the individual member on the phone. The relationship between the member and the church isn’t as good as it could be. Both sides of the relationship need to work on it. Saying that I wish the church would work harder on respecting its members isn’t the same as absolving individual members of any fault. I do see a lot of members trying really hard to have a good relationship with the church, but the church pushing them to the margins.

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  77. FireTag on February 28, 2012 at 4:35 PM

    MH (re 64): The relevant Section is the newest, 164. Yes, national churches have their own problems, but this policy may be less a solution than an acknowledgement that we’ve run out of time to reach a solution as a unified body.

    An American church can not impose its values on a world church in which the hopes for future growth all lie abroad, particularly when the nations abroad start from a position that differs markedly from that of domestic church leadership.

    But the issue becomes even more problematic within the American church itself. My mission center (stake equivalent) crosses multiple state boundaries so that in some congregations, gay marriage is perfectly legal, and in others it is blatantly illegal and gay marriages performed in one part of the mission center have no recognition under law in the other part of the mission center.

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  78. Jeff Spector on February 28, 2012 at 5:35 PM

    anonlds,

    I don’t have a lot to disagree with on your last post, really. but,

    “I think the people using cell phones in church don’t feel the culture respects them and so don’t feel obligated to show that respect back.”

    Frankly, this is a bit of a stretch. Firstly, you cannot really know what anyone else thinks other than yourself, so you are kind of projecting there.

    And secondly, it isn’t the Church they are disrespecting so much as the Savior himself as that is the reason why we are there in the first place.

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  79. hawkgrrrl on February 28, 2012 at 7:37 PM

    anonlds has made some great points very articulately. Here are a few things I wanted to comment on:
    - the issue of not being participants but rather having a script we have to recite with the “Sunday School answers” is really true. That is mind-numbingly dull to do, and it happens so often that teachers and students alike joke about it.
    - using a phone during church is perhaps questionable etiquette. Is it better than leaving entirely? What about using it as one’s scriptures? What about using it to check on a fact the teacher just spouted (I have done this myriad times which does engage me more in the material, although the teachers are often spouting wrong information).

    I’m not sure it’s entirely true that people who want reform of the manuals and culture will just find something else to complain about. Some of these manuals are really bad. I do agree in general that people who want to improve things are not satisfied with the status quo – they want eternal progression, not to just passively sit by without sharing their views. Any organization should value the input of those who care enough to give input and participate. Does every suggestion have to be implemented? Of course not, but this is a pretty faithful-friendly observation. I think you would be hard pressed to find a majority of faithful members who don’t find our meetings dull.

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  80. MH on February 28, 2012 at 8:18 PM

    FireTag, I appreciate the acknowledgement about problems with schism in RLDS. I am one that has complained about Correlation for quite some time, but the situation in the CoC makes me feel that there is more merit to the idea of preventing schism than I previously have acknowledged. I just wish correlation would either loosen the stranglehold on “approved” materials, or that they would update the manuals to some better standards. Either solution would be very welcome to me.

    I agree that anonLDS (is that a-non-LDS, or anonymous-LDS??? Probably the latter) has made some good points, especially
    but people need to feel they can share their true beliefs, otherwise they are bystanders and not participants. It is not a discussion if you can’t share your viewpoint. Too many sit in church, agree with the doctrines, but don’t agree with the current meme’s that sell the doctrine short.

    Frankly, this contributes greatly to the boredom, or perhaps helplessness that you can’t actually speak your mind, and start a spiritually enlightening discussion. Sunday School is too scripted with the right answers, as Hawk mentioned.

    As for cellphone use, well, I admit to bringing books or my Kindle to church. Sometimes I’m reading scriptures, sometimes church history, a McKay biography, or a multitude of more interesting topics than another dreadful talk from someone who gets up and says “I hate speaking in church” as they begin their talk. People should know that phrase should be banned as an introduction to a talk. Frankly, when I hear that, I know that it’s going to be a bad talk, and I’d rather do something more productive with my Sacrament Meeting. Perhaps some say it’s rude, but to me I’m being proactive to at least make my sacrament meeting time useful. If I had a phone that would support scriptures, you’d probably find me on that instead of a Kindle. So perhaps we ought to cut some people some slack before blanketly condemning them as rude.

    Now, I have seen some people playing solitaire, Bejeweled, or Sudoku during church. I agree, that’s rude.

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  81. hawkgrrrl on February 28, 2012 at 8:35 PM

    Here’s the one cure to boredom I’ve found. Teaching the youth or younger. Never a dull moment. Even if the materials are staid, the kids are interesting and never fail to entertain!

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  82. Jeff Spector on February 28, 2012 at 9:33 PM

    We all know the manuals suck. We all know the talks can be dull and the music can be slow and not very uplifting. We all know that some teachers aren’t very good and from time to time they even teach bad or wrong information.

    But it that an excuse to thwart our own personal progression or our own personal ministry to others,

    I am not so sure about that.

    If you get to stand in front of the Savior and say that i would have been a better disciple if the meetings were not so dull, I am not sure that is going to count for much.

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  83. MH on February 28, 2012 at 10:21 PM

    Then I guess we’re in agreement: the manuals suck and should be improved! Is that going to cause a schism?

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  84. MH on February 28, 2012 at 10:28 PM

    Here’s the one cure to boredom I’ve found. Teaching the youth or younger.

    Hawk, I’m currently serving as Webelos leader. We have about 10 rowdy boys that really want badges, but don’t want to listen. It is an exercise in frustration for me. So yes, I’m not bored, but I’m not feeling like I’m accomplishing much with the boys either. because I pretty much have to yell to get them to pay attention.

    About half like arts and crafts stuff, while the others hate it. The other half like sports, while the crafty boys hate it. You can please some of the people some of the time, but the scout leader gets supremely frustrated…..

    (My old bishop knew I hated working in scouts, so I was free of it for 5 years. But the new bishop felt “inspired” to call me. I don’t know where that revelation came from…I’m almost at my wits end 3 years in… It seems to me my old bishop was much more inspired than the new.)

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  85. hawkgrrrl on February 28, 2012 at 11:45 PM

    Jeff: “If you get to stand in front of the Savior and say that i would have been a better disciple if the meetings were not so dull, I am not sure that is going to count for much.” I for one have worked out quite a defense on this one. For one, MY classes aren’t boring, so consider my calling magnified. Furthermore, I do think I will merit extra points for sticking around DESPITE soul-crushingly boring meetings. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. But the guys in charge of writing the manuals? Not sure how they will fare. ;)

    Ad hominem attack plus Jesus used as a guilt inducing weapon? Nicely played, sir.

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  86. GBSmith on February 29, 2012 at 6:43 AM

    Daniel Peterson’s interview on either Mormon Matters or Mormon Stories was interesting in his description of the manual/lesson writing process when he was on a curriculum committee. Just for the fun of it they put in some questions in a lesson that asked if anyone had killed someone with their sacrament talk and how did they feel about that. It made it through the first level of correlation until he called the editors and pointed it out. Another funny bit was when he was chastised for diverting from the manual in his gospel doctrine lesson and asked if he didn’t realize that those lessons were given by revelation. That gave him pause. Anyway deadly dull or inspiring, we’re all we’ve got.

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  87. Jeff Spector on February 29, 2012 at 7:01 AM

    Hawk,

    “Ad hominem attack plus Jesus used as a guilt inducing weapon? Nicely played, sir.”

    Hardly. I am not attacking anyone. It is nothing but an observation that can stand a bit of self-reflection by all of us.

    What’s really going to matter? Is that guilt-inducing? I suppose to the guilty. We have have our short-comings.

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  88. Howard on February 29, 2012 at 2:52 PM

    Jeff,
    Considering another person’s view point requires listening, clear uncontaminated thinking, the absence of conflation, setting aside one’s own bias and permeability of thought. Many people find other view points threatening and therefore employ a broad variety of conscious and subconscious defenses in order to to deflect, redefine or deny them. Others suffer from impermeability of thought and simply cannot see that the optical illusion sketch of the old woman is also a sketch of a young woman. Dismissive behavior during this exchange is discounting, condescending, egocentric and narcissistic. It assumes you suffer from none of these things and the other person’s view point is unreasonable.

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  89. Jeff Spector on February 29, 2012 at 4:15 PM

    Howard,

    What is your point, really?

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  90. Howard on February 29, 2012 at 5:38 PM

    Jeff,
    I wanted to bring these things to you attention with the goal of fewer dislikes in the future.

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  91. Anselma on February 29, 2012 at 9:16 PM

    I’d really rather not get into the whole Jeff-versus-other-people thing, but I have to say that I don’t know how to get more out of church, especially sacrament meeting. It doesn’t feel communal (except for the singing); it doesn’t feel participatory. There is an emphasis on feeling things, which–in spite of much effort and prayer and wondering why I was insufficiently spiritual–I can’t seem to manage. And while I don’t expect Sunday School to be a graduate seminar in theology, I would like to learn more. When, after having faithfully attended meetings and read my scriptures for years, I realized I wanted to really get into the gospel, I had no idea where to start. I had no idea that there was a whole wonderful world of there of analysis that I could get into, that would help me finally feel like I was getting closer to God. It’s saddening and frustrating at times, but church has started to feel like cafeteria lunch: it isn’t that good, but it’s served every day and you enjoy sitting with your friends. I want to be faithful, and I want to be as anxiously engaged with the gospel inside the chapel as I am outside it, but I don’t know how to make that happen when the issue is one of presentation and style.

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  92. ji on February 29, 2012 at 10:54 PM

    I think our mode of worship is beautiful — we meet together, sing together, partake the sacrament together, and teach and testify to each other of the simple truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s us and the Lord, for wherever a few of us are gathered together in his name he is there with us.

    Do I sometimes wish for more robust singing? Yes. And talks more focused on Christ rather than programs? Yes. But I still think our simple mode of worship is beautiful.

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  93. [...] read so many Bloggernaclers argue that at least correlation keeps the ward crazies from preaching “folk doctrine” as real doctrine. I completely [...]

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