Feast upon the Word Blog

A blog focused on LDS scriptures and teaching

Worldwide Leadership Training Broadcast: The Gift of Teaching

Posted by BrianJ on February 10, 2007

Here are some of my notes from the worldwide training broadcast (on 10 Feb 2007). This isn’t meant to be a complete summary—just things I found interesting.

 

The meeting was titled, “The Gift of Teaching.” I wondered how this gift would be discussed: i.e. would we hear that we are gifted as teachers or about how to receive the gift?

 

President Packer

President Boyd Packer conducted the meeting, which had a few segments that were recorded at different times.The first was a conversation between Elder Packer and Elder Tom Perry, which took on the appearance of Perry interviewing Packer. Below are some of the exchanges (but they are just my notes, not direct quotes!):

Perry: How can we learn to rely on the scriptures?
Packer: The best subject matter is the Lord—we find him in the scriptures. (It was interesting how Packer didn’t really answer this question, he simply highlights the importance of the subject of the question. In some ways that is the answer: we will rely on the scriptures once we fully appreciate their worth.)

Perry: How do you make the scriptures come alive?
Packer
: Stay at it. I read Nephi as a teenager and it was interesting until I got to the Isaiah chapters. This happened time and again, until I wondered why they were in there. Finally, I read through them and learned persistence.

Perry: What counsel would you give to a recent convert before they are called to teach?
Packer: That they can do it. That they should pray for the gift of teaching by the Spirit—you have to ask for it.

Perry: How do you get the Spirit in the classroom?
Packer: Let the students know that you love them—get on their level, walk and talk with them. (Joe, I was thinking of your post at this point.) If you have something to teach then they will want to learn—teenagers especially.

End of ‘conversation’

 

President Packer introduced the next segment with a couple points:

To be a good teacher you must be a good learner. No one method is right for all teachers and situations; what follows is one way of teaching a class.

The following segment was conducted by Elder Jeffrey Holland. It began with him at a desk talking to the camera. He then moved to a classroom where he led a discussion on the videotaped conversation between Packer and Perry. Holland’s class had 15 students—various Church leaders from SLC area—and the dialogue was completely unrehearsed.

 

Elder Holland

It is indicative of the importance we place on teaching that this entire broadcast is dedicated to it. Note that the Lord’s final word to his discioples was a commandment that they teach (“go therefore and teach…”). However much good there is to do in this life, we can’t do it unless we are taught what and how. Think of the song I Am a Child of God: “…teach me all that I must do…”

President Hinckley said every member needs a friend, a calling, and nourishing by the good word. Note how the Apostle Paul elevates teachers when he lists: “Prophets, Apostles, teachers….”

Elder Holland then states that he is trying to prepare a lesson (the class discussion below) and refers to materials on his desk. “I read through and pray about the lesson the week before. I don’t finalize it that early, but I look for helps during the week. Obviously, I have too much material in front of me to cover in one lesson.”

Avoid this temptation: trying to cover too much material—either in time or in the student’s capacity. There is always too much material to cover—so get over it.

We teach people, not a subject.

An unrushed atmosphere is essential to having the Spirit. If not, then we rush right past the Spirit.

 

Below are some notes on the classroom discussion. I was actually a bit surprised at Holland’s teaching style and I would be happy to hear if others saw it a different way. Despite what he said above, he seemed quite rushed, pressed to get through certain points about the Packer/Perry interview, and even finished the sentences of class members a few times. Holland frequently asked questions, but most of them had only one correct answer (e.g. “What was the scripture that Packer referred to?”). Holland asked students to read verses from the scriptures, but he almost exclusively took up the interpretation and discussion. Holland was very encouraging with words and thanks and excitement toward his students whenever they contributed some comment or question to the discussion; however, in several cases he did not spend much or any time discussing that input as a class, and at least one sincere (and desperate-sounding) question was clearly not answered.

 

Holland: What did Packer say he would say to new teacher? {answer from student} Then he cited scriptures that supported that. What were those scriptures? {answer from class and commentary on it by Holland} {again}

Holland: I’m thinking of one more scripture in the NT. Turn to X:X (I didn’t catch the verse). {student reads, Holland comments} {asks a student to be scribe at board—see the final list they create below.}

{Student shares a new idea with a scripture—Luke 21?} {another student shares thoughts about Moses in Exodus as a role model for teaching}

{Holland brings up next point from Packer—using the scriptures—and turns to Alma 31}

{student asks question “Why do we ignore manuals?”} {Holland remembers a story told by Perry about deer trapped in a valley who died with bellies full of hay—they had been fed but not nourished}

{Holland moves back to lesson plan—goes into D&C 50:13-14 (unto what were you ordained? To teach the Gospel by the Spirit)}

{Class member asks a question about preparing lesson notes; Holland turns question to the class; class member answers; no discussion of the answer; student persists with question (apparently feels it was not addressed); another student offers help} There was a general idea put forth by the class that one should prepare with the Spirit and then teach with it as well.

{another class concern: how do I have confidence that I am teaching by the Spirit?} {class member reads quote from Elder Scott about making sure that there is class participation because that is what authorizes the Spirit to affect the student} {Holland and Snow comment that sometimes we will just not know whether we had the Spirit}

{Holland moves to #4, below} {Sister Dahlquist suggests that we must bring out questions from the students—in her words, “It doesn’t matter what I am asking as a teaching, but rather what the students are searching for.”} {Holland turns it around, by showing how a good teacher (e.g. Jesus) asks questions} (I think Sister Dahlquist’s point was missed: she is saying that the teacher’s questions are good, but that the questions the student comes up with for himself are more important.)

{Sister Vicky Matsumori, a primary leader, points out that #4 is an advanced concept, and not one that many primary students will “get”}

{Holland points out that maybe the students will not be responsive ever, so all we can do is love them!} (This was a pretty touching moment, and for me the most important part of Holland’s teaching.)

Holland says that we all must end class by testifying. He tells a story (told by brother Barrett) about rowdy group of boys being taught by very old Danish man. Barrett related that “We could have warmed our hands by the fire of his faith.” Holland comments, “Every student deserves at least that.” {Holland really wants teacher to give a summary statement, a close-the-books-and-look-in-the-eye moment} Holland quotes from JR Clark, “Never let your faith be difficult to detect,” and adds, “above all, testify to them.”

Here is the chalkboard list Holland’s class made:

Gift of Teaching:

1) Ask knock

a. We will receive—so make sure to listen

2) Teach from the scriptures

3) Teach by the Spirit

4) How to help students who come not ready to learn—the learner assumes responsibility

5) Testify (but Holland has scribe write it at the top, to emphasize its greater importance)

Holland ends with testimony of God, Church, Gospel. In that testimony, he says “I know these things because people like you taught people like me.” (What an ecouraging thought for all of us who worry about the quality and usefulness of our teaching!)

 

Conclude meeting with President Thomas S. Monson

Monson related a few stories about different teachers he had in his life, from Prophets to Primary teachers to his parents. He ended with his testimony and encouragement to follow Jesus.

 

53 Responses to “Worldwide Leadership Training Broadcast: The Gift of Teaching

  1. A couple of my own responses to the broadcast today.

    I imagine that President Packer and Elder Perry’s conversation would be important for many teachers in the Church, but it did not do anything for me personally. I can always tell how much something affects me by how many notes I take (the more notes, the less it affected me, because when it affects me I refuse to take the risk of missing something while writing down a note).

    President Monson’s talk at the end also did little for me except in the way of encouragement. I think I had heard or read all of those stories except for the onions one at the beginning, and so it was something like review… though not entirely.

    Elder Holland’s talk and classroom experience were obviously the centerpiece of the broadcast (they took up perhaps an hour and ten/fifteen minutes!). It was certainly the most helpful part of the broadcast for me, but it was also one of the more curious things I’ve sat through. In the end, I’m still not sure what happened there.

    My overly critical eye noticed, as Brian noted above, that Elder Holland did a few things he had just warned about (he really did seem rushed, didn’t he?). For the most part, I chalked that up to the fact that Elder Holland spends very little time nowadays teaching in classrooms, because of the authoritative nature of his calling. To some extent, you just can’t set up a model classroom by sticking an apostle in it, because the situation is fundamentally changed by his very presence.

    But it was nonetheless filled with marvelous teachings. I think Elder Holland’s strongest moment was in his discussion of testimony. That is something perhaps he can speak about better than most anyone else in the Church (he does an amazing job at stopping and seeing “where we’ve been, where we’re headed” and so forth in his talks). In fact, I might add here that I think Elder Holland is by far the best speaker (preparer and deliverer of talks) that we have had in the leadership of the Church in my lifetime. His demonstration today suggested to me that that is very closely connected with testimony, and with love (as Brian mentions in the post above).

    The really curious thing about the classroom situation was what I hesitate to call (because it might be misunderstood), but will nonetheless call (because I hope my parenthetical remarks will forestall any misunderstandings), the sexual dynamics of the situation (“sexual”: of or pertaining to gender). I was fascinated to notice that (pretty much) only the sisters asked questions while (pretty much) only the brethren gave answers. And I don’t mean by that that the sisters were clueless and that the brethren were in the know: the sisters were asking genuine questions that recognized the complexity of the call to teach, and the brethren in the group were too often (almost universally) outrightly dismissive of that complexity. Sister Beck’s question about D&C 50:18 was fascinating. She seemed to be saying, “I believe the scriptures, and I think this verse is telling me that the way I teach–the way most of us teach–is ‘not of God.'” Answers were too easily forthcoming, and I could tell that she was not satisfied with them. When Sister Hughes asked her question, something much the same happened. And again when Sister Matsumoro (?) asked her question. I suppose I got the sense that the sisters were there to learn, while the brethren were, for the most part, not there to learn. I hate to make a blanket statement like that, but so it seemed. And these dynamics concern me, but I’m not sure yet what to think.

    I think the most productive part of the classroom situation was the discussion about the responsibility of the individual. And this not so much because of what came out of it, but because of what did not come out of it. Elder Holland even admitted at one point along the way there that this was a “hard” or an “advanced” thing, and that it was fourth on the list because it was not something many teachers are even prepared to think about. It might be better if we could feel that way about all five steps the class listed.

    Anyway, my thoughts for the moment. I’d really like to see some substantial discussion on this broadcast. It is certainly at the heart of what we are trying to do on this blog.

  2. Robert C. said

    I wasn’t able to attend the broadcast, so I really appreciate this summary and discussion (it won’t be available online or anything will it?).

    I’m also interested in #4, precisely b/c I think there is a very deep tension here between Elder Holland’s very rich confession “all we can do is love” and what was written down (albeit 3rd hand for me…): “the learner assumes responsibility.”

    This reminds me of some very surprising and somewhat heated discussions we had in an honors class at BYU on Dostoevsky. In the Brothers Karamazov, Father Zossima advocates an attitude of “I am guilty for all.” I was surprised at how much resistance there was in the BYU class for this idea b/c I see it as a good way of defining love, what amounts to an infinite and selfless concern for others. I’m still puzzled why others were so resistant to this idea, but I think it has to do with the idea of personal responsibility/accountability that we hear a fair amount about in the church (and surely related to the traditional emphasis on works in Mormonism). I completely agree that love is crucially important for teaching to occur, but I’m not sure I see how “the learner assumes responsibility” is consistent with an attitude of love. My guess is that this should be viewed as loving the other person sufficiently to recognize and respect their individual agency–recognizing it to the degree that I will try to do everything I can to reach that person’s agency, which is a very different than a “well, I gave it the old college try, I guess it’s on these students’ shoulders now” (symbolically washing one’s hands) attitude….

    I mentioned this on some previous post, but I always wonder if I do a good enough job when I teach. But, quite frankly, I think this kind of doubt is healthy (though I understand the importance of having confidence in other ways) because it seems the only outcome of love that I can conceive of. Did I reach everyone? Could I have done more? We’ve talked a lot on this blog about asking questions in order to get more out of the scriptures–similarly, I think we should ask questions of our teaching in the same way: should I use a different teaching style or method? should I cover different topics? should I cover more material or should I dwell on questions longer? My view is that it’s the process of struggling with these types of questions that is most important (and, it should go without saying, praying about these issues–though I’m not sure the asking of these questions can or should be separated from praying about these issues…).

  3. Matthew said

    The thing I loved best was the unscripted nature of so much of it. It was also interesting that the opening/closing hymns/prayers were given locally. It was like I could see this as a step toward a meeting where there was a recorded unscripted discussion had among the global leaders of the church followed then by a local discussion on the same topic and then ending with a talk by a global leader. I think would be a great way to combine both global and local into the same meeting. Maybe that’s the direction things are moving ?

    I thought Elder Holland’s response was interesting when he was saying to focus on the scriptures and then someone in the class turned that into focusing and making use of all the materials available from the Church. (Someone who said they were responsible for the Church materials–so you can’t blame that guy.) Elder Holland didn’t disagree with him, in fact it sort of sounded like he was agreeing with him but then the example he used was recent conference addresses (as opposed to say a recent ensign article). Further as I saw it Elder Holland quickly then brought the discussion back to focusing on the scriptures. Then (and warning this is all from memory) someone else said–so many people don’t use the lesson manual, why don’t we do use it more? (Clearly implying we should.) And Elder Holland’s response seemed to me to be something like — we need to be open to doing what the Spirit guides us to do that is best for the class. At that point (or maybe it was earlier) he referred to the lesson manual as something there so we didn’t feel all alone and unsupported in our teaching–a sort of safety net.

    But anyway, it was interesting that, as I saw it, in both cases Elder Holland did not agree with the questioner in any substantial way the result being that a) we should truly focus on the scriptures in our lesson in a different way than other Church materials, and b) the way to judge whether a lesson is good is not by how closely it follows the lesson manual but rather how closely it follows the guidance of the Spirit.

    Finally, I want to address brianj and Joe’s comments about the fact that Elder Holland didn’t seem to take his own advice on several points. In one sense I think this simply reflects the fact that this wasn’t really a true class. As Joe points out Elder Holland is an apostle which does change the dynamic. I think it also changes it substantially to be recording it for millions (?) of people to watch. I guess what this adds up to for me is that this was really just a “pretend” lesson, we can’t judge it based on the criteria of a real lesson.

    Now for a related meta-point. Consider this analysis of what it means to be a participant (i.e. student) in Church meetings. I think pedagogical analysis of the speaker/teacher is antithetical to learning the Gospel. At least, that is my experience. If I listen to a great teacher and throughout I am thinking about what makes the teacher great and how they are doing as a teacher, I may learn a lot about how to be a great teacher, but I won’t have learned really much at all about what they were teaching. I won’t have felt (in my experience) the Spirit. That doesn’t mean there is no place for this type of pedagogical analysis in the Church. I see the distinction I am making as similar to the difference between analyzing the plot of a great novel versus reading the novel. Both have there place–but you can’t do both at the same time. As a fiction reader you have to suspend disbelief to really read the book. In a similar way, as listeners we have to suspend pedagogical analysis in order to really hear. (If that seems like a criticism, note that it is a self-criticism as well.)

    Maybe I am a bit off topic, but I never felt like I completed the discussion on application. It is probably on obvious point but a lot of great lessons have been given by people who do all the “wrong” things when they teach. So pedagogical skill is a nice to have but interestingly, it doesn’t ultimately make or break the lesson. Anyway that is my anti-analysis analysis of it all.

  4. I’m very glad to read all this further discussion of the broadcast. A couple of thoughts.

    Robert, one point of clarification, since you couldn’t attend. The “point” of the “individual’s responsibility” discussion was to emphasize that it is only as a classmember willfully participates that she will get anything lasting out of a lesson. The discussion moved from a sort of blanket assumption that this was a task on the teacher’s part towards a more tempered “all you can do is love.” If I can ignore the actual contours of the discussion and focus on the words and ideas, though, I think this is a powerful way of thinking about the “individual’s responsibility.” If you want a classmember to be responsible (that is, response-able), you have to issue a call, and that call issues forth in love and in nothing but love. Love is itself a call (Marion would say that Love is the pure Call). In fact, if we love–which is all we can do–we summon the individual to cease to be an individual, to transcend her individuality by joining a community. In the end, all we can do is love.

    I really like your thoughts, by the way, on self-analysis. We must be our own gadflies.

    Matthew, thanks for the several points you raise here. I too would love to see the global broadcast, local discussion, global broadcast structure happen in a single meeting. Especially done on a stake level, where I think things would be far more productive.

    I read a similar ambivalence about the manuals in the discussion. I think you saw more approbation of the scriptures over the manual than I did, but that may be because I was hoping for a more explicit statement of it (nothing in the way Elder Holland approached things will change the minds of leaders in my ward who believe you are being disobedient if you stray from the manual in any substantial way). Might this be the beginning of many changes on that subject!

    I very much appreciate the way you discussed the ways Elder Holland broke his own rules. That expresses better what I was feeling. Thank you.

    And I’d really like to take some time and work through your meta-point, but I think this will get too long. Would you mind writing up a separate thread on the subject? I think this is an important point, one that almost emerged in our discussion about the role of the student, but one that never ultimately did. I think you can draw “application” into the thread too as an example, and it would be fruitful.

    Real quick, let me add something I probably should have mentioned in my first comment. Because I am in a ward that struggles a lot with these kinds of things (teaching, etc.), I am always hoping for some very explicit, unmistakable course corrections in these kinds of meetings. I’ve learned in this ward that even the most explicit and shocking things have a powerful effect only on a small number of the people, but those few then begin to change things in the ward. When things are said in a beat-around-the-bush style, nothing happens at all. The consequence: if anything sounds critical in my comments, it is because I was hoping for something very particular for my ward.

  5. Robert C. said

    Amen Matthew. I remember hearing a really good Conference talk by Elder Holland several years ago, and then wondering later what made the talk so good. This post-talk analysis was very insightful for me, but was indeed a separate process from what I experienced while listening to the talk. Also, I think it’s very important we have lots of charity to our leaders, but I don’t think that means we should learn from their mistakes and weaknesses (else charity would become trivial I think–it would be too easy to love perfect leaders!).

  6. brianj said

    Joe: “I suppose I got the sense that the sisters were there to learn, while the brethren were, for the most part, not there to learn.” I kind of got the same feeling, but could not quite articulate it. The sisters asked some very good questions, and I would love to take each one as a separate post here (perhaps once the DVD/text of the broadcast is available?). I was particularly impressed with Sister Matsumori.

    Also, I think it is so strange that the talks you find most interesting are those you take the least amount of notes on. I am exactly the opposite.

    Matthew: Thanks for providing more details on the way Holland encouraged focus on the scriptures. I didn’t bring that out very well in my notes, but I thought it was an important point he made.

    Here’s my anti-anti-analysis. {smile} I think in this case we are justified in analyzing Holland’s style because, after all, he and President Packer set up that segment as a teaching illustration. I recognize some of the challenges that went into making this lesson, but if we are going to say, “It was just a pretend lesson,” then we should discuss the ways in which a real lesson should not emulate the pretend lesson.

    I agree that we risk missing the teaching when we focus too much on the teacher. As I note in my post, however, there were several points Holland made that I found helpful, including two points that I found very important to me personally. So I disagree when you say, “As listeners we have to suspend pedagogical analysis in order to really hear.” Of course it could be argued—probably inconclusively—that I would have gained ten times more if I had suspended analysis.

  7. robf said

    This training sparked some good discussions in our ward today, including 20 minutes at ward council reviewing the teachings and discussing how to we want to get the message out to those who couldn’t make the broadcast. We also had lessons in RS and MP about teaching.

    One former bishop in our ward noted Elder Holland’s lesson delivery and thought it was great that everyone has things they can improve in their teaching.

    I thought the broadcast was interesting because it showed several types of teaching:

    1) Giving/seeking council from a quorum president or leader (Pres. Packer and Elder Perry). This was pretty informal, and it was nice to see Pres. Packer chuckling and telling stories. I think this underscored that role of “teaching” as frank discussion in counseling settings.

    2) Lesson delivery–the Elder Holland example we’ve been discussing here.

    3) The Talk–Pres. Monson giving a pretty standard address for him. Sometimes we forget that talks are teaching opportunities, rather than performances. Pres. Monson is the master of using personal stories to illustrate his teaching, which leads to…

    4) Teaching by living gospel principles. Pres. Monson has taught me more about how to be a disciple of Christ than maybe anyone else as I listen to the stories of his involvement with the gospel. I always leave his talks thinking, man, I want to have experiences and stories like that.

    On a personal note, I felt more inspired in Pres. Monson’s talk than in some of the rest of the broadcast, and recorded many thoughts and impressions–not things that Pres. Monson said, but things that the Spirit impressed on me. I really liked that. I was edified. I rejoiced. That’s the hallmark of the Spirit.

  8. Graham Ambrose said

    I confess, I was not able to attend the broadcast due to other church callings. Since I could not download the broadcast from the Church’s website, I did the next best thing and “googled” to your blog…for which I am grateful.

    From all of your posted comments, I discern a certain tension over the following issues: scriptures vs. lesson manual, student questions vs. teacher’s answers, teaching by the spirit vs. “getting through the lesson.” Since I’m currently teaching 14-year-olds in SS, I struggle with the same issues.

    I was once a SS president. We devised a simple method for figuring out what was going on in a class during a single class visit. It had to do with questions:

    Good: The teacher asks questions of the students.

    Better: The students asked questions of the teacher.

    Best: The students asked and answered questions of each other (with the teacher acting as facilitator and moderator)

    Why I call this last scenario the “Best” has to do with what I call the “Curse of Didacticism.” Webster’s defines didactic as “designed to teach” or “to convey instruction and information.” My feeling is, I cannot teach anyone or anything unless I first know where my students are coming from. Of course, you may say that if I’m teaching by the spirit, then I can “discern” the needs of my hearers. What’s more, if I do not have the spirit, I cannot teach anyway. No argument there.

    Except, the rubric fails to address the issue of what to do with a class of restless students who have yet to discern the spirit themselves. I might know by the spirit precisely what the class needs to hear. But if my hearers fail to hear the knocks at the door, I’m at a standstill. In other words, I can’t teach by the spirit if my students aren’t ready to learn by the spirit.

    Questions to the rescue. If—at least for a moment—I lift off the burdensome yoke of “teacher”, and assume the role of a kind and gentle interrogator, then perhaps I have a better chance of prying open the door to my students’ hearts and minds. And not just any questions.

    Enter those wonderful and powerful interrogatives: Why? What? Who? Where? When? Then, and only then, do I have a hope of getting my students to stop their aimless chattering and bring to attention their drifting thoughts: “What did he say?” “Huh?” “That’s interesting.” “Hey…I never heard that before.”

    But that’s only the start. If, during the course of the lesson, I don’t move from “Good” to “Better” where my students ask me questions, then the time has not been spent as well as it could. Now you know why I slam on the brakes when a student has the courage to raise his or her hand and ask…dare I say it…a question. That’s when, as a teacher, I should see that the tables have turned: “What did he say?” “Huh?” “That’s interesting.” “Hey…I never heard that before.”

    Sure I’ve got a gas tank full of high-octane eternal truths. My foot aches to floor a powerful eight-cylinder lesson that will transport my students along the “straight and narrow path” at break-neck speeds. And, alas, I have only 8 minutes and 35 seconds left to get to my lesson’s finish line—before the bell rings.

    Except, in my rush to the finish line, do I want to risk covering this student’s question in a cloud of didactic dust? Am I willing, instead, to pull over to the side of the road, leave the lesson manual on the car seat, open the doors to my own mind and soul, and genuinely listen to what this lone and yearning student has to say? If I’m teaching by the spirit, I can think of only one answer.

    What think ye, fellow bloggers and saints?

  9. Matthew said

    #4: re: helping others recognize that following the Spirit is more than hitting every point in a lesson manual.

    Joe, maybe it would be helpful to point out the difference between old-school missionary teaching and the current approach. Elder Holland mentioned several times “what we are teaching our missionaries” and “we are always telling our missionaries…” Also on a related note, I think there are several reasons why the First Presidency and the Twelve prefer to nudge versus push. If Elder Holland is too strong in his comments 1/2 the people will over-react and the other 1/2 will ignore. Culture takes some time to change.

    I just realized I’ve got to get to bed, but also wanted to say in response to #6 anti-anti.. (where I assume anti means no doubt the same thing it does in anti-nephi-lehi) Brianj, I think what you say does a good job of balancing my comments.

  10. BrianJ said

    robf, #7: I think we would all appreciate hearing what you learned during Pres. Monson’s talk. Please feel free to post it here as a comment.

  11. Robert C. said

    Graham #8, I really like your thoughts here, and the car metaphor you use is wonderful. I think the real challenge is in figuring out how to go from good to better and from better to best. And as many have suggested and hinted here, I don’t think there’s any fail-safe formula on how to do this….

  12. robf said

    Most of what I wrote down from Pres. Monson’s talks came in the form of questions:
    –Are our lives as exemplary of gospel living as Pres. Monson’s?
    –Are we ashamed of the gospel?
    –Are we having Divine visits with each other–where the Lord can work and teach through us?
    –Do we look the part we are playing in this Divine mission?
    –Can we give everyone a reason for our belief?
    –Do we have childhood memories of service?
    –Are we giving our children these kinds of memories?
    –What do I need to change in my life so that I can focus on giving my children these kinds of experiences, rather than being focused on my own problems?
    –What lessons are we teaching through our actions and by how we live our lives?
    –If someone were to watch me for a day, would they be able to see what I believed in?
    –If everyone has a valuable story to tell, am I listening?
    –Am I writing down all my experiences, so that I can draw upon them later?
    –Am I a disciple of the Lord who happens to work in my profession, or am I a member of my profession who happens to do some work for God on the side?
    –How would Christ perform my duties at work, or would my work even be worthy of his (or my) time?
    –While I think I would be inclined to do anything Pres. Monson asks of me, would I do the same for the president of my organization at work? If not, what does that tell me?
    –How can I teach gospel principles, touch others for good, and bring people to Christ, through my work?

  13. Rob, thanks for your comments on President Monson. His “narrative theology” always strengthens me a great deal, though I seldom learn anything from him. He has a curious way, but it is very, very important.

    To go out on a limb here, I am more and more convinced that the best way we could get teachers to begin asking questions, getting questions asked, and allowing students to answer the questions being asked, is to scrap every last manual in the Church (maybe not the Presidents manuals, since they are material rather than lesson plans). I imagine that much of the concern of the Brethren would be that the older traditions would immediately creep in all over the place: Shakespeare and Eleanor Roosevelt are suddenly our text, after a rousing song by Julie de Azevedo is played on a CD player and before a clip from “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” is shown. On the other hand, since I mention all of these because I’ve sat through them in the past year and a half in my ward, perhaps the problem hasn’t been done away with by the manuals.

    In short, I think much more would happen in every classroom if the teacher spent all week studying whatever material and then went into the classroom with no plan about what to do with whatever material except maybe to ask some very specific questions that really struck her/him. While preparing a lesson on “profanity” this last week for the priests, I suddenly received a very clear impression to put this lesson off for a week and to take a specific discourse of Joseph Smith to class without any outline. Both priests that were there told me afterwards that it was the best lesson they have ever been a part of. They talked as much or more than I did, and they asked many, many questions. And on and on. Matthew points to the recent missionary focus… when will the teachers in the Church be allowed to do the same?

  14. […] the spirit of the leadership development broadcast over the weekend, I thought it would be appropriate to go over my thought process in preparing this […]

  15. robf said

    Joe, I think the teachers in the Church are allowed to do the same as the missionaries. The manuals are just there as helps. When I used to teach the YM lessons, I would often just take a 3×5 card to class with a list of questions based on the lesson material. We had some great discussions.

    BTW, this was how I was taught to teach the missionary lessons when I was in the MTC in 1988. I was told that instead of teaching the principles, and using the canned questions to see if the investigator was listening, that I should ask questions and listen to the investigator. We practiced teaching the discussions by coming up with questions for each principle–questions that would elicit a statement of belief from the investigator. The text of the principles were then just back up support for the real discussion that occurred when missionaries and investigators approach gospel principles this way.

    The problem isn’t that teachers get too far away from the lessons in the manuals, it may be, like you said, where they end up going when they wander off. While The Grinch has some great lessons, they don’t really compare to the pure testimony of Christ which we should be sharing. I like to ask myself sometimes, when I teach, am I taking full advantage of the restored gospel in my lesson? Or am I just teaching a nice message that someone could get at any number of good churches in my neighborhood–or even at a business leadership seminar?

  16. Rob, a little background on my own relation to the manual might help articulate my position here. I was told in the MTC (in 1999) that different mission presidents had different takes on the discussions. I have since found that to be true, talking with people that were out at the same time I was. My mission president was very much a “teach by the Spirit” kind of guy. He told us specifically that we should NEVER have discussions in front of us when we taught (I have been told of missions where they were required to have them out). We were taught to use the discussions as study material, not as something to memorize. And we were to go wherever the Spirit led. (I have to confess that I get a little frustrated when missionaries now say something to me like, “Well, we’re allowed to follow the Spirit now when we teach, instead of just repeating memorized discussions like you had to.” I want to point out–but don’t–that most of the missionaries I’ve watched teach since the program “changed” teach almost identically to their unfortunate forebears, using the same cliche phrases, the same silly examples, the same misunderstandings of scripture….)

    After coming home from the mission, I have taught in that same style constantly. My present bishop, however, is very uncomfortable with that style. Not knowing this, when I was called as a YM president, I instructed my counselors to prop up their kitchen tables with their manuals and to teach by the Spirit. Success–incredible success–followed in the whole YM program. But the bishopric has asked us not to teach without the manual. More specifically, I have been asked to stick to the manual, because the young men like me and hence trust me too much (I guess the logic runs thus: they like me so much that they will believe anything I say, and if I say anything besides what is printed in the manuals they will believe something false). Hence, I am not presently “allowed to do the same as the missionaries.” I still do, as best I can under the situation, but with far less success (though in a recent ward conference our stake president strongly emphasized teaching by the Spirit and not by the manual, and so I’ve been taking some further liberties, testing the waters I suppose).

    I suppose I was hoping to hear in the broadcast a statement like “Manuals are helps only. Never have a manual in front of you in class. If you use only the manual, you have denied the Spirit’s place in the classroom. We really ought to do away with the manuals. The manuals are terribly written, archaic, reductionistic, etc.” My hope was grounded in the fact that nothing less would probably change the present situation in my ward.

    As a final note, let me just say that the two questions you ask at the end of your comment there are key: “am I just teaching a nice message that someone could get at any number of good churches in my neighborhood–or even at a business leadership seminar?” Amen, amen, amen!

  17. robf said

    Joe, sorry to hear what you are facing there! I would just as soon teach with the manual in front of me as teach with a six inch ketchup stain across the front of my shirt. Does the Bishop know if you are using the manual, or can you just prop it open on a table there in front of you and look at it occasionally for effect?

  18. Actually, bringing the manual and propping it open is something I’ve never tried. Perhaps that would lessen the tension that too often seems to be there when he is there. Hmmm….

  19. Robert C. said

    I usually try to read through the lesson in the manual before teaching and always seem to find something useful in it. So I think there’s a lot of good to find in the SS manuals (I confess I have a harder time with the RS/MP manuals, but I’m hoping Douglas’ post will help me see more in that manual; I think some of the teaching I’ve seen from these manuals has unduly biased me against them…). Nevertheless, I see definitely think the manuals are merely tools to help members teach better–doesn’t it say this explicitly in the intro? Also, I think the SS manuals are rightly aimed primarily at members who are the least comfortable with the scriptures themselves and are therefore the most in need of some sort of teaching help.

  20. Interesting, Robert, that you say this: I find the MP/RS manuals far more interesting than anything in the SS manuals, and especially than anything in the YM manuals! I’ve certainly noticed how the intro is written, and I’m quite prepared to use that in my defense if I am ever called to account. :)

  21. m&m said

    Hence, I am not presently “allowed to do the same as the missionaries.” I still do, as best I can under the situation, but with far less success (though in a recent ward conference our stake president strongly emphasized teaching by the Spirit and not by the manual, and so I’ve been taking some further liberties, testing the waters I suppose).

    I think the spirit of what the missionaries do can apply (prepare with the Spirit, pray for guidance to know what the focus of the assigned lesson should be (there are a million ways a lesson could go even as we follow the manual’s order, etc., etc). The thing is that the missionaries do end up getting all the lessons in, and they can move things (order) around a bit because they are in control of the end-to-end process, and it’s more one-on-one. We don’t have the same flexibility in terms of the order of things (we need to respect the whole correlation thing for the sake of other teachers, for people who visit or travel, and for the sake of unity of focus throughout the Church). But I think there is lots of room for the Spirit to help the teacher know what in that particular lesson will be of most benefit. Just because we follow an order of lessons doesn’t mean that we can’t “teach like the missionaries” IMO. In fact, I think they WANT us to take the spirit of that approach, within the constraints of following the order of assigned lessons.

    Also, I think the SS manuals are rightly aimed primarily at members who are the least comfortable with the scriptures themselves and are therefore the most in need of some sort of teaching help.

    Robert, while I can see why you say that, I’d add, though, that if this is true, we shouldn’t underestimate the Spirit’s ability to teach more to those who aren’t at that basic level. It doesn’t matter how many times I learn the basics…if I have the Spirit, I can learn something new. It happened recently, for example, while teaching my son about baptism (he was recently baptized)(OK, so HOW many lessons and scriptures have I encountered in my lifetime about that subject?) and *I* was taught by the Spirit. I believe this can happen in our lessons as well. I think we may sell ourselves and class members short when we look at the manuals and think they are only elementary level. That leads us to maybe want to “teach something new” which can then create problems of teaching “our” teaching rather than letting the Spirit do the teaching (leaping mentally to the other thread on mingling). The more we have faith that the Spirit will be able to fill in whatever each person needs, at the level he/she needs it, the better our lessons can be, IMO.

  22. Graham Ambrose said

    Whether or not lesson manuals are straight jackets or spiritual joggers, there’s a more fundamental issue floating out there.

    Last year, I purchased Steve Robinson’s “Believing Christ.” (For those of you who read this book when it first came out in 1992, I envy you!) For those of you who haven’t read it, Bro. Robinson is chair of BYU’s Dept. of Ancient Scripture. When he began teaching incoming freshman, he was surprised at the lack of understanding of gospel fundamentals: the atonement, justification, sanctification, etc. While his students “believed in Christ”, they failed to “believe him.” That is, they did not understand what, in fact, the Savior had done for them when it comes to the idea of “returning to live with Father”–even though (and this is the main point of the book) they have yet to attain “even-as-I-am” perfection.

    So here’s the big question: Why is it after 18 years of attending primary, priesthood and SS classes (1,728 by my count), taught from all those church-approved lesson manuals, we have smart, accomplished college students failing to “get it”?

    (After reading the book, I confess, in many respects I also failed to get it!)

  23. robf said

    Graham, this may deserve a post all of its own. After years of teaching the youth, I think maybe we expect too much of “the system” and too little from the youth themselves. I think Pres. Monson’s talk at the leadership training really struck me, along with the article by Elder Christensen in this month’s Ensign (Elder Christensen was just at our Stake Conference a week ago)–we have to engage the youth in meaningful service. “Book learning” of the gospel isn’t enough.

    That said, Joe and others here have pointed out how we can better engage the youth during the lesson periods. But its really worse than you say–because you have to add four years of daily seminary lessons in there. Too many kids are just going through the motions. I’ve seen new converts with stronger testimonies after six missionary lessons than some of the youth I’ve dealt with. That’s a crying shame.

  24. BrianJ said

    Graham (#22) and robf (#23): I think it’s because we teach students ‘what’ instead of asking them ‘why’. When I read scriptures with my daughters (ages 3 and 5) I ask them “Why did Nephi do this? Why did the Lord say that?” Then they get to try to explain their thoughts and understanding. If I just told them what happened in the scriptures, they wouldn’t have to think about them at all.

  25. #’s 21-24.

    m&m says: “I’d add, though, that if this is true, we shouldn’t underestimate the Spirit’s ability to teach more to those who aren’t at that basic level. It doesn’t matter how many times I learn the basics…if I have the Spirit, I can learn something new.”

    (m&m, please forgive me for what follows. I hope you understand that I say anything and everything I say with the best intentions and from my very fallen, very fallible point of view. I very much like your comments on this blog, and I hope what I say is understood in the spirit of charity and friendship. At the same time, I am very convinced of what I’m about to say, so don’t throw it out either.) :)

    m&m’s comment here is a sort of preface to this question raised by Graham. It seems clear (and please correct me if I’m wrong, m&m… I kind of hope I’m using your words to speak about others besides you) that these words betray the attitude we’re concerned about. How can we get through so many lesson manuals, so many classes, so many seminary and institute programs, etc., etc., etc., and still not get it? I think the answer is quite simple: we think we are supposed to be learning “facts.” If I’m reading m&m right (and I hope I’m not), there is a hint here that we are supposed to be learning something new all the time, that there is always some new thing to learn about the basics as well as about the rest. Whether or not I’m reading m&m right, such an attitude is absolutely pervasive in the Church: I am confronted day in and day out by members of the Church who are looking for something new.

    And that is not what the gospel is about at all. At least not on those terms. I think this comes from our modernistic belief that knowledge is encyclopedic. That is, we think that knowledge is a collection of so many facts. And our task is then to gather up those facts until we have them all (that would be perfect knowledge, omniscience, godhood). We get frustrated at classes that do not give us new facts, and we almost jump for joy when we realize we’ve missed a fact here or there along the way about the basics.

    I do not at all believe that the knowledge God would have us seek is made up of facts.

    As I read the scriptures, they seem to me to suggest–even outrightly to claim–that what we are seeking is a radical reinterpretation of the same things, over and over again. That what we are doing is not trying to add something to what we already know, but to undo and then redo what we know. That is, learning in the gospel is a disorientation and then a reorientation. Learning is rethinking, not coming across something new. This is the meaning of conversion: conversion is not an addition, but a full rearrangement of what already is. And that is the process we are constantly engaged in.

    The problem with the manuals and with most of our teaching is that we are looking for interesting insights, new facts, cool things that other people don’t know. On one extreme this becomes the “I’d never read Proverbs before, and I learned a lot” lesson, and on the other extreme this becomes the “Did you know that Brigham Young said such and such crazy thing about the location of Kolob?” lesson. They are both manifestations of the same problem, two hands of the same devil.

    Isn’t this why Alma tells his people to teach nothing but faith and repentance? We are trying to convert constantly, to change everything and not just to add to things. We are constantly trying to think and rethink and then to rethink again. The basics are the things we have to do this with the most! How many ridiculous discussions of faith have I sat through, discussions where it was clear that absolutely nobody in the room had ever taken the time to think about the nature of faith for more than three minutes at a time? And how many times have I heard charity paraded about as if it were the simplest thing in the world? But faith and charity are boring because they are not new, right?

    Our youth are dying spiritually! We are having lower success rates with the youth churchwide now than ever before, and yet we trust in the manuals to save them. We will lose many, many more if we can’t turn this around. To teach by the Spirit is to have God in the classroom. It is for these youth to encounter God Himself, and to come to know Him. It is NOT (and let me say NOT a thousand times!) to “apply this material to their everyday lives,” to “make this relevant to their school experience,” to “help them with a problem they’re facing today,” or any of the other little phrases we use to deny the gospel itself! To teach by the Spirit is to allow the students to encounter God Himself, and standing before God, we rethink everything: EVERYTHING!

    My priests caught onto the fact that I don’t believe anything I teach, and one of them came to me a little troubled. So the next week I taught a lesson about “why they shouldn’t believe a word I say, and yet why they should believe every word I say.” There was more of the Spirit in that lesson than any I had taught previous to it. The point was clear: this gospel is not about knowing facts, don’t reduce what I say to facts, boys. Rather, you have got to come to know Christ. And every word here is a word spoken in faith that He really is, in hope that He will come to us today, in love for Him and for His children.

    This is what I mean when I say that I’m not allowed to teach by the Spirit. To do anything like this, we have to leave the manual behind. I don’t even know what it means to “prepare by the Spirit,” nor do I know how to find what in this particular lesson will be “most helpful.” As I read the scriptures, I’m not at all convinced that the gospel is about making us happier this week. They seem to me to be about introducing us into the heavens, about building Zion, about saving the world. And we don’t do anything like any of this by “applying this to our everyday lives” or by “setting a goal of something we’d like to do better this week.” We do this by changing all of our thinking right now and then living our whole lives different. I don’t want these kids to change one thing this week, I want them to change everything this week. And I have got to teach as if they will. And they will! They want it, and they will do it. I have seen that over and over and over again. It is amazing what can happen in an hour.

    Okay, so I’ve been raving here for a bit. I’ll take a break now and let all my comments be misunderstood.

  26. m&m said

    As I read the scriptures, they seem to me to suggest–even outrightly to claim–that what we are seeking is a radical reinterpretation of the same things, over and over again. That what we are doing is not trying to add something to what we already know, but to undo and then redo what we know.

    Ah, the limitations of language, esp. online. :) What you said here is more along the lines of what I meant. I agree that if we go into teaching and learning classes thinking there has to be something “new” today, then we are setting ourselves up for trouble. But the Spirit can deepen the meaning for something, or impress some action or application on my mind, or can simply infuse my soul with yet another wonderful confirmation that, yes, this is all good and right and true. My soul can expand, even if I don’t “learn any new facts.” And THAT is a key, IMO, to what our classes should be about.

    Our youth are dying spiritually! We are having lower success rates with the youth churchwide now than ever before, and yet we trust in the manuals to save them. We will lose many, many more if we can’t turn this around. To teach by the Spirit is to have God in the classroom. It is for these youth to encounter God Himself, and to come to know Him. It is NOT (and let me say NOT a thousand times!) to “apply this material to their everyday lives,” to “make this relevant to their school experience,” to “help them with a problem they’re facing today,” or any of the other little phrases we use to deny the gospel itself! To teach by the Spirit is to allow the students to encounter God Himself, and standing before God, we rethink everything: EVERYTHING!

    I want to take issue with this, though, Joe. I think it’s not wise to take teaching so much into our own hands and hearts that we recreate a new approach (alas, there is that word again: new) to teaching. I feel strongly that we should obey our leaders and use what we have been given. I also disagree that we can’t help our youth (or adults) feel God and come to the Savior by using and applying the lessons. I believe there is power in obedience and I believe the Lord can bless our efforts to reach out to those we teach within the bounds set by our leaders. We can and should most certainly focus less on “facts” and more on experiences with the Spirit, but since the lessons are focused on the scriptures and words of prophets, that is definitely do-able. I don’t believe we need to leave the manual behind to do this. I always get a little uncomfortable with someone who wants to do things their own way, thinking that is better, rather than trusting in the program the Lord has given us through His leaders. What would happen if everyone thought they had a “better” approach? It would likely be chaos. I just believe we can teach at the level you are discussing while still covering the different focuses that the manual gives us. But that’s my perspective.

  27. m&m said

    Our youth are dying spiritually! We are having lower success rates with the youth churchwide now than ever before, and yet we trust in the manuals to save them.

    Focusing on this part of the comment — I don’t understand why you think we trust in the manuals to save them. Any teacher worth his/her salt will trust in the Spirit while using the manual simply as a guide and focus. I think you are shortchanging the benefit the outline the manuals give us has — not because I think we need to do a checklist, but because each lesson has something to bring out about the Savior and His gospel. The missionaries are not absolved from following an outline even as they teach freely by the Spirit. Why should we expect that we are any different?

  28. I’m not sure I see how using the manual amounts to “obeying our leaders” except where a local leader commands such use. Especially because it was not “our leaders” who wrote them, but a committee of people we can only hope had the Spirit. To point out that something has gone through correlation is not to say that it has the stamp of approval of our leaders, but to say that there is nothing in it that they strongly disapprove of. And besides, the YM manual that is still being thrust on me was written in 1983! A couple of things have changed since then.

    As for being “uncomfortable with someone who wants to do things their own way, thinking that is better, rather than trusting in the program the Lord has given us through His leaders”: if I am proposing a different way here, it is the one described in the scriptures, not my own. And I assume that what the scriptures have to say about teaching is better than “the program,” because programs change but that text remains scripture. I understand programs to be systematic attempts to help the broad population of the Church come to understand how to do what the scriptures themselves instruct them to do. Where there are teachers who understand how to do what the scriptures themselves say, shouldn’t they scrap the program?

    Isn’t the concern about “what would happen if everyone thought they had a ‘better’ approach” really a concern about whether people can really follow the Spirit? If “it would likely be chaos,” aren’t we assuming from the start that no one knows how the Spirit teaches or how to teach by the Spirit? I’ll concede that there have been seasons of perfect chaos in the history of teaching in the Church (Missouri comes to mind), and that that chaos was a result of “innovative” teaching. But if we rivet the teachers of the Church to a systematic outline from the very beginning, aren’t we just saying that we would rather have meetings without the Spirit than have meetings that sometimes become chaos? I would rather there be chaos! Isn’t this why the bishops are to have the power of discerning spirits according to D&C 50, so that they can curb in the chaos by the power of the Spirit? I’m not sure that systematizing the teaching in the Church is a good way to keep chaos from ensuing.

    As for why I think “we trust in the manuals to save them,” I imagine that I’m speaking there from my own ward’s experience more than anything. But I can’t imagine that this is all too idiosyncratic a ward in this Church.

    As for applying, see the post on the subject for my views explained at length.

  29. robf said

    In recent years I have had one of my YM murdered in a drug deal gone bad, another one get ordained to be an Elder than immediately go inactive once he went off to college, and have another one spending the rest of his youth in a detention center for drug and burglary charges. A few have gone on missions, others I’m still wondering about. It really breaks my heart, and makes me wonder how much I have failed them. We can’t make choices for them, but I’m convinced that there is more that I could have done, and can do, to help these YM. It may be too much to expect for them to take the gospel more seriously than we do, but I have to ask myself, have I taken it seriously enough. When they see me, and we interact, do they know that I know? Do they have reason to take the gospel seriously? Do they have a relationship with the Savior, or just with a bunch of guys at Church who they may or may not respect or care about? I’m currently SS president in my ward, and not meeting with the YM every week. But I’m still concerned about them. And need to think about these things with my youth SS teachers.

  30. Robert C. said

    Joe #25, I still think I’m only grasping what you’re getting at in bits and pieces–I really appreciate your patience in explaining and reexplaining yourself. I tried to describe the same sort of problem you are describing on Douglas’ RS/MP Lesson #4 here (I provide the link b/c I plan to discuss this more on that thread, since I think this is intimately bound up with the idea of repentance itself).

    I keep going back to the actor metaphor you’ve mentioned before, where we become the actors on a stage rereading God’s words (perhaps b/c I rarely like to see movies twice, this emphasis on acting rather than merely watching hits home for me). And I think this metaphor can be used to see how our discussion (well, might thoughts at least) on mingling and the “precepts of man” fits in. The point of those scriptures seems to be largley to emphasize the sincerity (for lack of a better term, whatever is the opposite of “hearts far from me”) of one’s heart in performing rituals. To me this seems very similar to what you are saying in terms of the need to rethink everything.

    (I’ll have more to say and ask about this, but likely on other threads.)

  31. m&m said

    I’m not sure I see how using the manual amounts to “obeying our leaders” except where a local leader commands such use. Especially because it was not “our leaders” who wrote them, but a committee of people we can only hope had the Spirit. To point out that something has gone through correlation is not to say that it has the stamp of approval of our leaders, but to say that there is nothing in it that they strongly disapprove of.

    Joe, I’m going to beg to differ with you here.

    Just a few quotes from some of our materials:

    “The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve oversee correlation in the Church.”
    “Church correlation was initiated and continues to operate today by revelation from the Lord to His prophets.”
    “[T]the purpose of Church correlation is to preserve “the right way of God” (Jacob 7:7). Ultimately it is intended to help accomplish the mission of the Church, which is to invite all people to “come unto Christ, and be perfected in him” (Moroni 10:32; see also D&C 20:59).”
    Purposes of correlation include: a. Maintaining purity of doctrine. b. Emphasizing the importance of the family and the home [it also allows parents and youth to be studying the same things so they can discuss at home]. c. Placing all the work of the Church under priesthood direction. d. Establishing proper relationships among the organizations of the Church. e. Achieving unity and order in the Church [which I think is HUGE]. f. Ensuring simplicity of Church programs and materials.

    Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve said that correlation is a process “in which we take all the programs of the Church, bring them to one focal point, wrap them in one package, operate them as one program, involve all members of the Church in the operation—and do it all under priesthood direction” (Let Every Man Learn His Duty [pamphlet, 1976], 2).
    (Lesson 42: Continuing Revelation to Latter-day Prophets,” Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual, 243)

    Also, consider what Elder Oaks said about our correlated materials:
    “[T]he Church does approve or disapprove those publications that are to be published or used in the official activities of the Church, general or local. For example, we have procedures to ensure approved content for materials published in the name of the Church or used for instruction in its classes. These procedures can be somewhat slow and cumbersome, but they have an important benefit. They provide a spiritual quality control that allows members to rely on the truth of what is said. Members who listen to the voice of the Church need not be on guard against being misled.” (Dallin H. Oaks, “Alternate Voices,” Ensign, May 1989, 27, emphasis added).

    Where there are teachers who understand how to do what the scriptures themselves say, shouldn’t they scrap the program? NO. Again, it’s our job to seek the Spirit’s guidance within the program’s guidelines, not to create our own program! Even if we were all seeking to teach by the Spirit on our own (without any guideline/outline/schedule to follow), we would be undermining a huge purpose of correlated materials: to bring us together as a church in unity. We focus on gospel principles in an organized, unified way for a reason. And this is overseen by our leaders — it IS what they want us to do.

    It feels to me like maybe you think that using the manuals and teaching by the Spirit are mutually exclusive. I think they are completely complementary. I guess I don’t understand why you think that following an order of focus (one week, focus on one topic, another week on another) inhibits your ability to teach by the Spirit. Again, even the missionaries do that…there is certain material they need to cover, but within those constraints, they seek for the Spirit’s guidance on how to teach the different principles. And, again, there is more to the manuals than just having a lesson — there are “big picture” purposes to correlation that are important as well.

  32. Jeff Batt said

    I would like to point out a couple of things. I think the manuals are excellant to helping create structure and making sure that things are taught.

    Let me point out an observation though. I believe that we should be using the manual, but I don’t believe that we should only teach the manual. I see a lot of teachers just use the manual, it kind of comes across more of an excuse not to really study the topic at hand in depth, but just to memorize what is in the lesson and be able to repeat it while teaching. Is the spirit lost in this? Of course it is, the teacher took no time to find the imformation out themselves and gain a stong testimony of it.

    No let me suggest, perhaps a better way to study. I love to use the manual and kind of read it to begin with. As I do I pay attention to things that point out to me. I then go into my scriptures and research the topic at hand without the manual. I look in books, I look at notes, talks etc. I try to make the priciple my own. By doing that I think of other things that may not be in the manual that I feel are important. If I say to my self I have to stick with the manual, then perhaps I will neglect what the spirit wants me to say at that moment in that time.

    Liken it as the discussions in the mission field. Just as the discusions were memorized, I felt it important to teach by the spirit, and perhaps go off the lesson if the spirit directs.

    I think Joe brings up an important issue. We shouldn’t be so confined to just the manuals and making sure that we memorize the topic as we should be about those that we teach, making sure we are sensitive to what needs they have and what needs to be taught to those that we are teaching. Although the manual can serve as a great guidline, we should be flexible to the spirit to make sure we are teaching that which is needed to be said at that moment in that time, even if it is not part of that weeks lesson. Streching ourselves to think beyond the format. The format may not be what needs to be taught at that week. Someone may be struggling with something that if you are sensitive enough to pick up on it, then you can change that persons life.

    I can tell you this, if a teacher is going by the book. I tend to shut off. If a teacher has really thought out the lesson, and used their own creativity and spirit. Then I am all ears.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think there should be manuals. But I think there should be more teachers willing to follow the spirit, more teachers willing to go into the scriptures and really develop the concept for themselves, than do I think that there should be more manuals.

  33. m&m said

    We shouldn’t be so confined to just the manuals and making sure that we memorize the topic as we should be about those that we teach, making sure we are sensitive to what needs they have and what needs to be taught to those that we are teaching.

    I agree, and I hope that what I have said didn’t suggest otherwise. All I was saying about the manuals is that we have them as a guide for the general topic and possible approaches (just options, not fixed) and the Spirit can help guide us as we study and prepare (and give) the lesson. But I think that’s different than scrapping the program altogether and saying that the manuals and correlation are all disposable, which is a little more what I felt Joe was saying. :)

  34. m&m said

    p.s. Sorry I’ve been so vocal…just had a lot on my mind with all of this and sort of ended up sorting through thoughts “out loud” here. On another thread, I just said I should probably listen a bit more before jumping in…should probably try to understand more first. Thanks for your patience with me.

  35. Thomas Parkin said

    My experience is as an EQ teacher, and now as a Gospel Essentials teacher. I missed the training, and appreciate the recap.

    Joe – I agree with you in a broad sense, but think you might be rather over-stating your point here and there, and might be accidently causing some confusion. ;)

    I personally use the manual as a touchstone. I read it through thouroughly before doing any additional preperation. Before or soon after, I pray to know how and what the Lord would have me teach. I particularly pray that, while I understand there may be useful things in my understanding and experience that I can draw from, my deep desire is to get my ego out of the process and to teach what would be most beneficial – for those people on that day. I will sometimes review in my mind people I know will be in the class – not so much to understand their individual needs, but to remember them as individuals who I should love. I try hard to remember that the Lord loves them, and wants to reach them – and me. If I can get to this place: where I feel genuine love for the people in my class, and, so connected to this, where I want to teach what the Lord would have me teach, then the revelations can really flow. And once they begin flowing, I pick and choose from whatever is at hand. Sometimes we do use the manual quite a bit; there have been other times when I don’t use it at all.

    I have had some of the most profound and unexpected spiritual experiences of my life preparing to teach this class – and am deeply thankful for that.

    Once the lesson begins, though, much of this preperation might go out with the wash. The Spirit bloweth where it listeth. I use the notes I’ve created to keep us moving in a general direction – but I allow things to move broadly within that direction, calling things back when neccesary, or when we reach topical dead-ends. I rearrange or drop bits, allow class members to tkae things their own direction (within reason), encouraging them to ask their honest questions and express their concerns freely, and most often do not reach the end without skipping to the coda. As a Gospel Essentials class, I think there are “essentials” that need to be covered on a given topic – at most three or four – and I will use the manual to try and discover what those might be.

    Other than this presence as a touchstone and occasional gut check, I don’t find the manual terribly useful. But for these, I’m very glad to have it.

    I still have weeks where I feel I haven’t done particularly well. I especially feel this if I’ve done more than about 30% of the the talking. But, on the whole, I think I’m starting to get it.

    re: correlation and manuals. My reading in the ‘bloggernacle’ has convinced me even more that if correlation broke down, a church as increasingly diverse and divergent as this one has become / is becoming, would be about fifty churches in about two months. (I appeciate Joe’s comment that there would be no problem if we all were relying on the Spirit – I just note that human nautre being what it is, that’s still a mighty big if.) If Peter, James, John, Paul and crew had had correlation, we may have never had the great apostacy – or, on the downside, the Nag Hammadi Library. Now, if you think you get more spiritual meat out of the Nag Hammadi than the New Testament, then I can hear the beef about correlation. If vis-a-versa, we might be pleased to have someone keeping us all in the same boat – as well as being grateful that more and more they trust us to do the rowing and steering (which is the very encouraging message I hear in the recap of the training meeting – and other places).

    ~

    ~

  36. BrianJ said

    m&m, #31: I want to understand your point. I think you are right when you say about Joe:

    “[Joe thinks] that using the manuals and teaching by the Spirit are mutually exclusive.”

    Conversely, I think that you are saying:

    “Teaching by the Spirit and ignoring the manuals are mutually exclusive.”

    Thus I think you and Joe represent two extremes (though by “extreme” I do not mean to say that there aren’t people with much, much more extreme views). And since I use the word “extreme” you can guess that I disagree with both of you, preferring a middle ground.

    I’d like to discuss what I see as middle ground, but first I’d like to confirm that I’m reading you correctly.

    Thomas, #35: Thanks for your last paragraph on correlation and the bloggernacle.

  37. In taking a class from Stephen Robinson, I picked up a tendency of his: I often overstate the case I’m trying to make so that, having seen both extremes, something more like the truth emerges. Brian has picked up on this. I am quite aware that I overstated the case, and I meant to do so. Having said that….

    I don’t at all believe that we can’t teach by the Spirit if we use the manuals. I think that one can teach by the Spirit if one uses a bookmark! But this is precisely the point: the Spirit outstrips all of these things. They are so many bodies, but the Spirit has to take them up and make something more of them.

    So why make things sound so radical in my comments? Well, part of that is because of the teaching situation in my ward. Though this has been changing bit by bit over the past few months, for a while, if I–or the class members–would stray from the manual pretty much at all, there was friction, which was enormously frustrating for me. This is changing, but I have hardly passed through that nine-month experience without regarding the manual a little differently.

    But this means that my concern is not what is in the manual so much as how the manual is regarded. My comments have not particularly been trying to argue about the relative worth of the manuals (though I must admit that I’m not impressed with them, for the most part). I’m trying to think about how we regard the manuals. I am not at all convinced that one is disobedient or unfaithful when one scraps the manual entirely, as long as that scrapping has been pressed upon one by the Spirit. And I have to confess that I think there are many teachers who would teach far better if the manuals exist (though I also think that there are many teachers who teach far better because of the manuals). Essentially, I think I’m trying to call into question the “canonical status” of the manuals, a status that has been imposed on them by a common misunderstanding.

    The Handbook itself: “Teachers should teach only the gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed in the scriptures and the teachings of the latter-day prophets.” “Teachers should prayerfully determine the best ways to use lesson materials to accomplish the lesson’s purpose or objective.” In fact, the very order of topics under “Teaching the Gospel” is instructive: first, “Teach by the Spirit,” second, “Follow the Savior’s Example as a Teacher” (which includes teaching from the scriptures), and then “Use Church-Approved Lesson Materials.” This last one is there, no question. But I think it is third for a reason: we should be in the Spirit, in the scriptures, and then allow the outlines to guide us.

    From the manual I’ve been given: “Prayerfully select lessons that will meet the needs of the young men you teach,” which seems to mean that they should not necessarily be taught in any particular order. And then every lesson has this in bold: “SUGGESTED LESSON DEVELOPMENT,” which I take to mean that this is only a suggestion.

    As long as we regard the lesson manuals as these official publications suggest, I am more than happy to have them in the Church and to use them. I haven’t the slightest problem with that. But my concern is that they are understood to be something other than that. To many leaders in the Church regard them to be something like scripture. And I don’t believe we can regard them that way and still teach by the Spirit. The letter killeth, that seems clear.

    It was because this was my point from the beginning that I opened this can of worms. It seems clear to me that at least m&m and I have been talking past each other. I have to confess that every time you (m&m) write something, I entirely agree with it.

    Which leads me to a last point: please, please, please, nobody think I was trying to denigrate correlation! Correlation was something revealed to Joseph F. Smith that took the Church sixty years to put in place. But correlation is something far larger than the committee that okays publications. Correlation is the priesthood structure of the Church’s organization. I love correlation, and, though I’m not sure we would become the gnostics without it, I recognize as much as anyone else here that there would be MAJOR problems without it. It is a revealed order from God. My point was to say that the part of correlation that “checks” manuals, etc., does not write them, but only gives a nod to their doctrinal accuracy or to the Church’s willingness to publish them. That part of correlation is not a writing organization, but a protective measure. And I am very glad it is there (because our manuals would be far, far worse without correlation’s hand in that process). But I do think it is problematic if we regard something that has passed through correlation to be something more than “safe” or “doctrinally accurate.”

    I hope all of this clarifies my thoughts for everyone, makes me look less apostate, and helps to contribute something to this discussion.

  38. m&m said

    Conversely, I think that you are saying:
    “Teaching by the Spirit and ignoring the manuals are mutually exclusive.”

    This is not what I am trying to say, and I’m sorry it came across that way. I think a lot in this conversation has hung on what it means to follow the manuals, and I think perhaps I’ve been misunderstood in this regard. If the following doesn’t help explain, ask again and I will try to clarify more. I’m also interested in your point of view. I think I actually am more middlegroundish than I have come across.

    It seems clear to me that at least m&m and I have been talking past each other.

    Joe, I’m sorry about this. Like I said, I think I need to do more listening and seeking for understanding rather than assuming that I understand. I will say that the “extremes” approach threw me off. There’s an awful lot of anti-curriculum/correlation sentiment in the ‘nacle and I respond to that, but obviously sometimes too quickly. Thanks for clarifying your thoughts for me.

    Let me try to clarify what I have been trying to say. I have never meant to hold up the manuals as canon. I agree that we ought not cling to them and think that we need to follow them strictly. We should be teaching from the scriptures and with the Spirit, to be sure. The manuals are there as guides. But they are there and shouldn’t be ignored, either (and I think we agree on this). They have a place in our effort to teach by the Spirit. They help us keep focused, stay unified with others in the Church in our study (think about the potential power in that), allow students to come prepared (to read material beforehand, which can increase the chance they will feel the Spirit in class), and brainstorm possible directions a lesson can take. If nothing else, taking a glance at the lesson’s purpose statement and possible discussion/focus points can be helpful in seeking the Spirit’s guidance, beginning with a potential end in mind as it were.

    I think Joe and I started talking past each other when he said that following the manuals isn’t like following our leaders. Really, my point has been less about having to us the specific content of the manuals (“To be obedient, I have to cover all the manual material” — NO) but rather following the order of lessons as we have been asked to give, and using the Spirit to guide us each week as to what to focus on within that specific topic we have been assigned. Not doing so should be the exception, not the rule. (e.g., instructions to AP advisers, “Advisers normally should follow the sequence of the lessons in the Aaronic Priesthood curriculum manuals.”) If the Spirit really bonks a teacher on the head while preparing the assigned lesson and says, “You need to teach something different this week” then that is one thing. In general, though, I worry about encouraging this approach because I think more often than not, the Spirit will give us the guidance within and related to the assigned topic, not to veer off into something completely unrelated. I am simple-minded enough to believe that we will put ourselves more readily in a position to receive the Spirit’s specific guidance if we do what we are asked to do (follow a sequence, study the manual as part of our preparation (in its proper place, as Joe pointed out))…sort of a “do all we can do” approach so that grace can take over. In my mind, part of the “do all we can do” is to work with the topic we have been assigned first and foremost and focusing our scripture study, prayer and openness to the Spirit on that topic, helping that topic come alive.

    Here’s part of my concern: How easy it would be to look initially at a topic (think of your favorite, seemingly mundane or repetitive topic that makes you want to roll your eyes) and immediately dismiss it as something not worth discussing, rather than giving the Spirit a chance to work with you to help the students see the spiritual value in something that at first glance may seem insignificant. I’m not saying that those here would want to do this, but I do worry about this kind of thing in a general sense (and often I make comments less toward a specific person and more toward general concerns I have).

    (As a general comment, I’m a bit weary of the ‘nacle’s culture that breeds an “The Church needs to change” attitude, including seemingly endless complaint about the manuals and lessons and such. I’ve seen too many people express their disdain for the manuals and (what seems to me to be cavalierly) approach lessons their own way, not necessarily out of inspiration but out of frustration and thinking they know better (not that the Spirit can’t attend such lessons, but it seems to me more likely that as we humbly accept and approach what we have been given (correlated materials, assigned lesson topics) with an open heart, the Spirit will be able to work with us all the more allow us to be instruments in God’s hands and take whatever topic we have and allow it to become a spiritual experience for the class. (In fact, I would argue that it’s perhaps that much more important to take seemingly mundane or repetitive topics and help the students catch the vision of how all things to the Lord are spiritual and should and can be in our lives!) Anyway, I think this general weariness I am feeling has affected my conversation here and I’m sorry. I appreciate the care and concern you have for gospel teaching and appreciate your patience in discussing these topics with me.)

    Don’t know if that makes my thoughts any clearer. I suspect that in the end, we probably all see things more similarly than not…Brian, Joe, whaddya think? :)

  39. robf said

    I used to be a manual disdainer, then at some point when I was teaching the YM, I decided to be more “letter of the law” and follow the manuals. I usually ended up distiling each of the lessons down to a handful of scriptures and questions that we would discuss for the lessons. Most of the scriptures and questions came from the manual. I skipped most of the stories and other suggested helps, and just focused on the scriptures and the questions. To my mind, I was “following the manual” as well as allowing enough room with my little notecard to “follow the Spirit.”

    Of course, the jury is still out on whether those lessons had any real impact on the YM, or just me.

    As far as the adult lessons are concerned, since I’m now the ward SS president, I’m very happy that there is a schedule we can follow for GD class, so that, at least potentially, the whole ward can be united in feasting upon the same scriptures each week. Of course, we still have a long way to go to serve up that feast in a way that is more than a snack buffet–and to get the rest of the ward joining together to mutually prepare that Sunday School feast.

  40. Jeff Batt said

    robf: I really think that is the right idea for the manuals. Helping the teacher start. But the true progression and spirit comes when you do in depth study as you did. That to me is the best way to use the manuals. Thank you for sharing that, very eye opening.

  41. m&m says: “How easy it would be to look initially at a topic (think of your favorite, seemingly mundane or repetitive topic that makes you want to roll your eyes) and immediately dismiss it as something not worth discussing, rather than giving the Spirit a chance to work with you to help the students see the spiritual value in something that at first glance may seem insignificant.”

    That, m&m, is my whole vision of teaching.

    But I confess I would like the liberty–and this probably comes from having taught in the CES program–of expanding or contracting the lesson topics/blocks of scripture. That is, if the Spirit seems to push in this direction, I would like the opportunity to spend four months on one lesson sometimes, and at other times the opportunity to capture five or six lessons by teaching from a scripture passage that unites them or brings them together with clearer vision. Where and when I have had leaders who will allow me that liberty (I have even had leaders who refused to give me a manual/schedule!), I have taken it. And of course in teaching CES, I have often taken this kind of liberty, as it is simply part of how CES runs things. I imagine that much of my passion concerning all of this derives precisely from the stringency with which the “canonical manual” is imposed upon me presently.

    Perhaps everything I’ve said in this conversation can be summed up like this: (1) I am very uncomfortable with programs or rules being put in place precisely to keep the Spirit from having a place in the classroom. (2) I’m not at all convinced that any of the programs or rules that have been passed down from Salt Lake City are put in place for such a reason. (3) So I’m baffled and frankly frustrated when they are interpreted as such on a local level.

    On, then, a more personal note: thanks, m&m, for this conversation. I’m glad we’ve talked this through to point where we’ve seen eye to eye (or at least to where it seems to me that we see eye to eye). I get the sense, as you say, that we are far more agreed on this than either of us realized (ah, the blessing and curse of communication by internet). In fact, I share the same general frustration with the culture that is generally fostered in the bloggernacle, and it is for that reason that I have only consistently participated on this blog, which I see as so closely bound to the wiki that it can avoid most of the major pitfalls most blogs fall into.

  42. robf said

    I was fortunate enough to take Hugh Nibley for Pearl of Great Price at BYU. If ever there was a teacher to toss out the manual, it was Brother Nibley. I loved that he could take a month and only make it half way through Moses 1. If ever there was a model of Elder Holland’s injunction not to rush through the material, it was Brother Nibley! While I usually appreciate dialogue type classes, Brother Nibley was such a fountain of information, that it was also a joy to just sit and try to soak it all in. He helped confirm the depths of my feelings for the scriptures, by taking them seriously, and taking them farther than anyone most of the other religion teachers I had at BYU. He taught as much by his example of engaging the scriptures, as he did in expounding them to us. I also respect him for giving me the only C I ever got after 7th grade!

  43. Rob, you can only guess how much Brother Nibley has affected my thinking on these kinds of things.

  44. m&m said

    (I imagine that much of my passion concerning all of this derives precisely from the stringency with which the “canonical manual” is imposed upon me presently.

    I’m sorry about your present situation. I hope it improves in a way that is meaningful to you. I’m sure in the meantime that the Spirit will continue to be able to help you work within the constraints that you do have. :)

    I guess that sums up what I have been trying to say: I believe the Spirit can flow — and flow freely — within the “constraints” of a schedule and the guidelines we have been given. And I think there are purposes of those “constraints” that are worth trusting in, even if we don’t even know what they all may be (I can’t communicate what I feel about all of that, but my trust level in correlation and all that works in the background has been increased a lot in the past few years.) As crazy as it may sound, I think we are blessed for doing what local/general leaders ask, even if we don’t agree with them. I see the schedule as something our leaders want us to follow, barring any rare exceptions that might show up.

    That said, I am very envious of missionaries who get to serve missions with the new program. I was a diligent missionary, memorizing my scriptures and all, and I would have loved to have more freedom to approach each situation with more flexibility. So maybe I’m a walking contradiction. :) But I guess the point is that I wouldn’t have felt right doing that against my mission leaders’ instructions and what I felt we had been asked to do, and I’m not convinced I would have been blessed with the Spirit had I done so. I can’t shake the feeling that if we approach the current situation with teaching in the Church with too much flexibility, we will end up with what Thomas describes in 35. :) (Not to say that I don’t think you are capable of doing so with the Spirit…again, I think at a general level, not just addressing a specific situation.)

    In fact, I share the same general frustration with the culture that is generally fostered in the bloggernacle, and it is for that reason that I have only consistently participated on this blog

    Hence part of the reason I have been hanging out here. :) I love good discussion, but am weary of the ‘nacle’s “typical” approach to things. Thanks again for your patience with me jumping in here. Really…I hope I haven’t worn out my welcome. :)

  45. Graham Ambrose said

    Robf says: If ever there was a teacher to toss out the manual, it was Brother Nibley.

    Now there’s the profound exception that proves the rule. Need I say, Nibley’s erudition and breadth of understanding was unmatched. Like you Rob, all I can do is sit back in awe at such a giant…as I did when listening to one lecture of his at BYU.

    But what’s the rule? Perhaps we’ve failed to discuss one key element of correlation and manuals: What do you do when you’re a general authority of a church that covers the earth. As we all know, with over 11 million members made up from dozens of cultures and languages, how can you avoid the idea of correlation and “streamlined” curriculum.

    Back in the early ’70s, I once did a project for the Seminary & Institute department at church headquarters. I spent six months on it. Years later–after correlation had become entrenched policy–I talked to my former supervisor and asked him how the church approachs the development of new curriculum today. He leaned back in his chair and picked up the standard works, a couple of books written by general authorities (one was “A Marvelous work…”), and stated that that was the core of what the church is using to teach the gospel worldwide.

    My point is, what you do with a class of 11 million is different, I would argue, than what you do with a class of less than a dozen. If I’m right, the question becomes: Do I have license to dig deeper into my understanding of the gospel and the scriptures to better touch the hearts and souls of my students? From where I’m standing, the answer can only be yes (especially, of course, if I’m being sufficiently meek and teachable that the spirit can direct me).

  46. m&m said

    ever there was a teacher to toss out the manual, it was Brother Nibley.

    I love those kinds of classes. I really do. I love being a sponge and soaking in someone’s knowledge and understanding. I had a GD class once that was taught at an intense learning level like that. And I ate it up.

    But, I don’t think (this is my understanding, and I could be wrong) that is what GD is supposed to be, what our church classes are supposed to be. Nibley knew more than anyone ever in any of his classes, and he knew it and his students, of course, knew it. He could WRITE the manual for his class if he wanted to! (There is no manual for professors! Church leaders don’t give them too many specifics, else I think we would see a lot more consistency in classes taught there.)

    Also, BYU classes are designed so that teachers impart their info to the students. There’s an unequal standing there. CES is similar, to a great degree. Is that the model of church classes, though? It seems to me we are told to focus on the basics so the Spirit can teach…not putting ourselves or seeing ourselves in a role of imparting information in a teacher/student relationship…or am I wrong here?

    Another example of what I’m mulling over…When I hear Elder Holland say not to rush, I hear him focusing on ONE class period, and not beyond that…but maybe that is because that is where I’m “stuck.” Am I misunderstanding what I think we have been told? (I’m really trying to get my mind around what we are really supposed to be doing in our classes, not trying to be a pain here. These are genuine questions I have.)

    Do I have license to dig deeper into my understanding of the gospel and the scriptures to better touch the hearts and souls of my students?

    I think the answer can be yes, but I think that license has limitations in terms of what is approached in class and how, and that is what I’m trying to more clearly understand. What would an ideal class look like from our leaders’ point of view? What do they expect from us in terms of correlation vs. inspiration? How long is our leash, so to speak? These are questions I’m mulling over.

  47. I sense a tension in the middle of all of this, and it is this tension that is producing all of this discussion. The tension is between the teacher as teacher and the teacher as facilitator. This is an important question, and it obviously deserves its own post. I’ll work one up over the weekend.

  48. Ben said

    No one invoked Daniel Peterson’s experience writing one of the manuals.

    “Having, some time back, served on the Gospel Doctrine writing committee of the Church for nearly ten years, I would never, ever, take a Gospel Doctrine manual to be an official and binding declaration of Church doctrine. We tried to get things right, we prayed about our work, and what we did was reviewed in Salt Lake before publication, but it scarcely constituted scripture.

    A story:

    Once, the scriptural selection about which I was assigned to write a lesson included, among other things, Acts 20:7-12, in which the apostle Paul drones on for so long in the course of a sermon that a young man (ironically named Eutychus or “Fortunate”) dozes off and falls from the rafters. Paul has to restore him to life. As a joke, I inserted a passage in my lesson manuscript that read somewhat along the following lines:

    Have a class member read Acts 20:7-12. Have you ever killed anyone with a sacrament meeting speech? How did it make you feel? What steps can you take in the future to ensure that it does not happen again?

    Members of the committee laughed, and the committee chairman sent my lesson on up, incorporating their suggested revisions but also still including my little joke, to Salt Lake City. Where it passed Correlation. (I can only assume that each member of the committee chuckled and then passed it on, expecting that somebody else would remove it.) When I received the galleys of the lesson back for final approval just before it went to press, the joke was still there. I faced one of the greatest moral crises of my life, but finally called Church headquarters and suggested that they probably didn’t really want the lesson to go out to Church members entirely as it stood. So the joke was removed.

    The point being that Gospel Doctrine manuals are not to be confused with authoritative divine revelations. ”

    Source: http://www.mormonapologetics.org/index.php?showtopic=15333&st=0&p=432044&#entry432044

  49. brianj said

    Joe and m&m: thanks for clarifying your views.

  50. m&m said

    Ben,
    That story does more to show faults in Dan Peterson than in correlation, IMO. As much as I like the guy, I hate this story because it isn’t really proof of anything, except maybe that the Lord won’t bail us out when we do dumb things. In the end, anyway, the Spirit prevailed, only it was on Brother Peterson. I wish people would stop passing this story around. No one has tried to equate correlated material with divine revelation, but apostles have given that committee charge to approve things in the name of the Church. It’s not perfect, but it’s an inspired program that works pretty well. I wish I could communicate what I’ve learned about it all. The Lord’s in the work, that’s all I can say.

    (I know I’m probably sounding defensive here…my weariness coming through again. It bothers me, though, that Brother Peterson tells a story of one isolated prank (a prank!) and people think that is somehow proof that we can dismiss correlation as useless. It’s just wrong.)

  51. Daniel Peterson said

    While my faults are legion, I don’t agree that the story illustrates any of them particularly well (other, perhaps, than the damning defect of having a sense of humor), and I certainly don’t agree that it demonstrates the correlation committee to be “useless.”

    It simply demonstrates that correlation isn’t infallible — which (since we don’t believe the scriptures, the prophets, or the apostles to be infallible) I should have thought fairly obvious and uncontroversial.

  52. m&m said

    Daniel,

    I made a hasty comment out of frustration; never a good idea. I’ve just been frustrated at how this story has been used (and I feel misused). Infallible though we may be, the Lord still uses us in His work, and correlation is part of that work. I think it deserves more respect than it often gets in the online community, as I suspect you would agree.

    Apologies for my comment made in haste. I know you have a great sense of humor (one of the things I actually admire about you)…something I obviously need a little more of once in a while.

  53. Cheryl said

    This broadcast is online now.

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