Feast upon the Word Blog

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RS/MP Lesson 27: “Work and Personal Responsibility” (Gospel Principles Manual)

Posted by joespencer on February 6, 2011

I have tortured feelings about this lesson. In many ways it seems quite dated, something perhaps indicated by one small—but obviously necessary—change made to the manual for the new edition. The paragraph on page 157 that reads “A prophet of God has said, ‘Work is to be reenthroned as the ruling principle of the lives of our Church membership’ (Heber J. Grant, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant [2002], 115)” used to be introduced with the three words “In this century, . . . .”

More troubling for me, though, is the removal from this lesson of a beautiful statement by President Kimball: “I feel strongly that men who accept wages or salary and do not give . . . [fair] time, energy, devotion, and service are receiving money that is not clean.” The quotation went on to describe filthy lucre as including money obtained through “oppression of the poor” and “exploitation,” and clean money as that received as “fair profit from the sale of goods, commodities, or service.” All this has disappeared from the lesson, and I worry that its non-presence is a lost opportunity. I have many concerns about our collective wealthy self-satisfaction in Mormon culture, and I’d love to see a direct word calling it into question.

But I don’t want to bother with criticisms and concerns. Instead, I’ll take up a few passages drawn from the Doctrine and Covenants that—thankfully—appear in the lesson. They have long needed close attention, and I think they go directly to the core of the idea of “work and personal responsibility,” much more directly than much of what else appears in this lesson.

The scriptures that interest me here all deal with “idleness.” The theme is introduced at the top of page 157: “In the early days of the restored Church, the Lord told the Latter-day Saints, ‘Now, I, the Lord, am not well pleased with the inhabitants of Zion, for there are idlers among them’ (D&C 68:31).” This appears under the heading We Are Commanded to Work. But then the topic reemerges on pages 158-159 under the heading God Condemns Idleness:

The Lord is not pleased with those who are lazy or idle. He said, “The idler shall not have place in the church, except he repent and men his ways” (D&C 75:29). He also commanded, “Thou shalt not be idle; for he that is idle shall not eat the bread now wear the garments of the laborer” (D&C 42:42).

All together, then, that gives me the following list of texts to interpret: D&C 42:42; 68:31; and 75:29. In turn . . . .

D&C 42:42

Allow me to begin my discussion of this passage by quoting Hugh Nibley, who spoke of:

one of those neat magician’s tricks in which all our attention is focused on one hand while the other hand does the manipulating. Implicit in the [contemporary ideology of the] work ethic are the ideas (1) that because one must work to acquire wealth, work equals wealth, and (2) that that is the whole equation. With these go the corollaries that anyone who has wealth must have earned it by hard work and is, therefore, beyond criticism; that anyone who doesn’t have it deserves to suffer—thus penalizing any who do not work for money; and (since you have a right to all you earn) that the only real work is for one’s self; and, finally, that any limit set to the amount of wealth an individual may acquire is a satanic device to deprive men of their free agency—thus making mockery of the Council of Heaven. These editorial syllogisms we have heard a thousand times, but you will not find them in the scriptures. Even the cornerstone of virtue, “He that is idle shall not eat the bread . . . of the laborer” (D&C 42:42), hailed as the franchise of unbridled capitalism, is rather a rebuke to that system which has allowed idlers to live in luxury and laborers in want throughout the whole course of history. The whole emphasis in the holy writ is not on whether one works or not, but what one works for: “The laborer in Zion shall labor for Zion; for if they labor for money they shall perish” (2 Nephi 26:31). — Hugh Nibley, Approaching Zion, p. 48, emphasis added.

I quote this in order to dispense in advance with a common but terrible interpretation of the verse I’ll be discussing first: to say that “he that is idle shall not eat the bread nor wear the garments of the laborer” is not to say that the poor deserve their poverty, but precisely that the idle rich have to stop taking bread out of the laborer’s mouth!

The passage in fact appears in the most significant of places: section 42 of the Doctrine and Covenants is the law, according to Joseph Smith, and even a short reading of the revelation makes clear that by the law, Joseph meant that this revelation outlines the law of consecration. It is clearly of significance that this verse about idleness appears immediately following the crucial verses (verses 30-39) in which the order of the law of consecration is first laid out for the Saints. What do those verses say? They state, in no uncertain terms, that all in Zion must work for Zion, and whatever anyone makes in excess of their needs is to be given over for the poor and the needy. And what of those who can’t work? The revelation goes on immediately to address that question as well, speaking of those who “are sick, and have not faith to be healed, but believe” (verse 43). And what is to be done with them? “They who have not faith to do these things, but believe in me, have power to become my sons; and inasmuch as they break not my laws, thou shalt bear their infirmities” (verse 52).

But does verse 42 not state outrightly that what one earns one gets to keep? It does say that the laborer is entitled to his or her bread and garments. But one can only eat so much. And what kind of garments does the Lord have in mind? Verse 40: “And again, thou shalt not be proud in thy heart; let all thy garments be plain, and their beauty the beauty of the work of thine own hands.” I’m not sure the Lord could be any clearer. Those in Zion work for the building up of Zion, for “the building up of the New Jerusalem” (verse 35) and in order give “the riches of those who embrace my gospel . . . unto the poor of my people who are of the house of Israel” (verse 39). All work in Zion is focused on pushing along the work of the Abrahamic covenant. It is in that that we are not to be idle.

D&C 68:31

This emphasis on Zion is unmistakable in the next passage to be discussed: “Now, I, the Lord, am not well pleased with the inhabitants of Zion, for there are idlers among them.” But who are these idlers? The Lord goes on: “they also seek not earnestly the riches of eternity, but their eyes are full of greediness.” The idlers are, all over again, those who are focused on earthly reward. One becomes idle the moment begins to “seek not earnestly the riches of eternity.” This is made clear also in the verse immediately preceding this one: “And the inhabitants of Zion also shall remember their labors, inasmuch as they are appointed to labor, in all faithfulness; for the idler shall be had in remembrance before the Lord.” What is being avoided by the idle in question is not the capitalistic desire to accumulate wealth, but the hard work of building the kingdom. Indeed, it is precisely because their eyes are turned towards earthly rewards that the idle in Zion avoid the work they have to do.

Now, let me not be misunderstood. I see that these passages are addressing those who do not work. But they are not for that reason addressing those who do not work for money; they address those who refuse to work for Zion but who believe that Zion should give them the means to live anyway. The fact is that these passages come from a historical setting that is somewhat foreign to our present circumstances, but a historical setting that we ought to let deeply inflect the way we approach our own present circumstances. So let me leave aside my somewhat heated rhetoric in order to address this issue responsibly and head-on.

So what is the historical setting of these passages that complicates their immediate “application to our everyday lives”? These first two texts were given in the context of the project of Zion, the first in order to lay out the then-still-future project of Zion, and the second once the Saints had already begun their work in Zion. The aim was first and foremost to create a community of stewards, thereby replacing what otherwise would have been a loose gathering of individual owners. Exchanging ownership for stewardship, each person involved in the Zion endeavor would exchange the individualistic aims of the modern capitalist ethic and assume instead an accountability for what one does with what is in one’s “possession.” The idea was, in essence, to ensure that everything was put to use, and that everything was used for the building up of the kingdom of God.

The mistake made both then and now was to regard this project as a communalistic endeavor, to see it as an attempt to forge the right kind of community, a kind of social utopia. Without a doubt, many who went to Zion at the time saw the project this way, and this unquestionably influenced many of them. But it is precisely this that ruined Zion, in my opinion. Too many came to Zion looking for a perfect society and not for a project with theological foundations. And many of those who came—as the revelations bear record—came hoping that communal living meant less work.

The idler in Zion was thus a very particular kind of creature. The idler in Zion was not one who refused to work at all. The idler in Zion was one who refused to work for Zion. The idler was one who refused to cooperate, who was more interested in gain than in Zion, who believed that a new social order would solve social ills and so became quickly disillusioned with a project that aimed elsewhere and otherwise. And these are the idlers that are criticized in the revelation.

What, then, of those who can be said to be simply idle, those who are not idlers in Zion, but idlers in general? Doesn’t the Lord have an unkind word for them as well? That brings us to our next passage.

D&C 75:29

Here we have a more straightforward statement about idleness outside of the Zion project: “Let every man be diligent in all things. And the idler shall not have place in the church [note: no talk of Zion here], except he repent and mend his ways.” The preceding verse helps to make clear that this is not a statement about idlers in Zion: “And again, verily I say unto you, that every man who is obliged to provide for his own family, let him provide, and he shall in nowise lose his crown; and let him labor in the church.”

Here, then, things begin to sound a bit more like what we might expect: idlers in general are bad, and have no place in the Church. But a closer look at the text makes it clear that things are a bit more complicated. Verses 24-26 set up the context:

Behold, I say unto you, that it is the duty of the church to assist in supporting the families of those, and also to support the families of those who are called and must needs be sent unto the world to proclaim the gospel unto the world. Wherefore, I, the Lord, give unto you this commandment, that ye obtain places for your families, inasmuch as your brethren are willing to open their hearts. And let all such as can obtain places for their families, and support of the church for them, not fail to go into the world, whether to the east or to the west, or to the north, or to the south.

It is only with this said that the Lord goes on to say, not that “every man is obliged to provide for his own family,” but “every man who is obliged to provide for his own family, let him provide.” What is the point? The Lord is saying that those who can’t, for whatever reason, find those in the Church who will help to provide for his family so that he can attend to the work of preaching the gospel, should attend to his family and not leave them in poverty. And if he is so forced to remain at home to provide for his family, “he shall in nowise lose his crown.” Instead of going out into the field: “let him labor in the church.”

Here, then, verse 29 finally begins to take shape. “Let every man be diligent in all things.” The point here is clear. First, be diligent in looking for a way to ensure that your family is taken care of while you go out to serve in your assignment. If no means are forthcoming, then be diligent in providing for your own family and laboring in the Church. “And the idler shall not have place in the church, except he repent and mend his ways.” The point here? Simply that all this has to be done. The idler would be the person who tries to find a way between the two tasks outlined by the Lord. That is, the idler would be the person who looks for the Church to support his family but then refuses to go out and serve in the mission field. Or, perhaps, the idler would be the person who decides to provide for his own family but then refuses to labor in the Church.

So yet again, the idler talked about in the Doctrine and Covenants is not the person who refuses to sell his or her soul to the modern work ethic, to capitalist ideology. The idler is the person who is looking to use the Church to his or her personal economic advantage, the person who refuses to see the Church as anything but a social organization.

A Concluding Word

How central is work to the gospel? Absolutely central! But is “work” here to be understood as it is in our late capitalist world, in this world thoroughly saturated by the desire always to have more than we need? Never! God has indeed called us out of idleness, but idleness takes more forms than just “failing at the capitalist game.” Indeed, one of the most pernicious forms of idleness today is precisely to succeed at the capitalist game. To be paid three times what one actually works for, to have a well-paying job that actually leaves us more time to Google around on the internet than to do serious work, to earn more while doing less, etc.—idleness is all too rampant among those we would never regard as idle.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with signing a contract for a well-paying job. But there is something wrong with believing that we have then earned the right to do whatever we please with what we “earn.” Zion is not, I have suggested, a communalistic endeavor, but a question of replacing ownership with stewardship. In that guise, the law of consecration has never been revoked, as any endowed member of the Church well knows. Whatever we earn through our work, it is ours only as a stewardship. And whatever we don’t need—anything we don’t need—is not ours to dispose of. We would do well to give it over to outfit all those we are far too inclined to regard as “idle” because their salary is lower, because their work requires less “education,” because they work with their hands, or because they aren’t required to be at work sixty hours a week.

Nibley called the law of consecration the great stumbling block. I’m convinced all too often that he was right. But I worry that it is so only because we mystify what the scriptures have to say about consecration, about work, about accountability, about stewardship. Perhaps something in what I’ve ranted about here will be of help in pulling back the veil with which we too often obscure the meaning of the scriptures.

23 Responses to “RS/MP Lesson 27: “Work and Personal Responsibility” (Gospel Principles Manual)”

  1. Robert C. said

    Joe, I really like your focus on the three D&C scriptures that you focused on, and how you focused on the meaning of idleness. Very interesting, esp. in light of how the term idleness is used in the Book of Mormon (e.g., in 2 Nephi as Nibley cited).

    Here’s one thought as to how we might understand the Kimball quote. The idea of dirty money can easily be abused. Dirty money has connotations today regarding the means of how money is earned. If I work for a hotel, and that hotel earns significant profits from its adult entertainment revenue, then the hotel earns might be considered dirty, and therefore the money I earn as an employee might also be thought to be dirty. These kind of issues are, though perhaps interesting, a distraction from the main points of the lesson, I would think. Best, to leave the politcally-charged language of dirty money out of the Sunday school classroom.

    Also, somehow I think language of dirty money is also too easily taken up into a self-righteous and/or judgmental attitude: “Well, the money I earn isn’t dirty, because I give X amount, but Brother Jones earns a lot of money and only gives Y amount.”

    Regarding the new Grant quote emphasizing the importance of work, I read it as an attempt to substitute for the strong language of Kimball’s that was taken out. But, it requires that we understand work in terms of working for the Kingdom, not working for oneself, as you have nicely discussed….

  2. Deb Cark said

    I’m really glad that somebody thinks the way I do when I read this old scriptures. Some people are idle for a reason beyond their control and I feel that our Father understands this just as long as they continue to have faith in him. We can quote everything in the Book but if we don’t follow the rules why say you believe.

  3. Mike B. said

    We had combined elder’s quorum and high priests today and a member of the stake presidency taught us. He listed the three fatherly duties listed in the proclamation, “preside, provide, and protect.” He told us that our to-do lists were completely filled up in the provide category. He then asked what we thought we were providing. “Temporal needs” was the immediate response. He then read a few scriptures with the point that everything we have comes from the Lord. Then he said, “Do not lie and say that you provide for the temporal needs of your family.” In fact, he came back to that exact sentence a couple of times in his lesson. He told us that our responsibility as husbands/fathers was to provide covenants. His whole point was to get us to stop focusing so much on our duty to provide and focus a bit more on our duty to preside.

  4. NathanG said

    Nice stuff Joe. That is a helpful reading of those three passages, especially the tie-in to the law of consecration. I think a lot about another aspect of what is to be consecrated, time. Without the United Order in place there isn’t much to bring accountability for consecration of possessions (nobody ever asks me if I’m giving my excess to the cause of Zion, just if I’m giving 10%, but I recognize areas where I can fill I keep that covenant, just not formal). I think we can substitute time for possessions in our understanding of the law in a way that should work well with your discussion of idleness. We become stewards of our 24 hours a day. We are to use what time we need for the maintenance of our own lives: 6-8 hours for sleep, 8-10 hours for work, 1-2 physical maintenance (eating, exercising). This could leave another 4-9 hours that is uncommitted. A little R&R is healthy, but I think the consecrated person is going to use that time in ways to build up the kingdom. Scary to me how easily that time gets lost on the computer, on the smart phone, on games, on TV (when we had a functional TV). Idlenss as you discussed, seems to deal mostly with our use of that extra time that can be wasted away or put to good use, or even using so much time on work that there is no time for Zion.

    As I have spent the last 10+ years just getting trained to start a still future job, I have seen how my commitment to getting out and building Zion has waxed and waned. I can see it in how I fulfill callings and priesthood responsibilities. I think of the many small service projects that I have either been eager to assist with or justiifed that my short time off should be spent with the family (debateable, but time sitting around the house yelling at the kids to do their work probably isn’t all that helpful:)).

  5. BrianJ said

    Joe: You do a great job making something meaningful out of this lesson. As you point out, the most important discussion points (honest work and filthy lucre) were taken out in the new edition.

    On the other hand, I think what you discuss here—the scriptures—is decidedly not what this lesson is about. Yes, the lesson quotes the scriptures you discuss, but the lesson does not quote them in order to make sense of what they are actually saying. This lesson really is about work in the very capitalist sense of the word.

    And that makes it difficult for me to find the value of this lesson. “We need to work and teach our kids to work.” Yes, but who is saying otherwise? I don’t want to be too negative, but replace the word “work” with the word “breathe” in the lesson manual and see if it makes a difference: I think either way it’s all fairly obvious or so vague (as in the first section where it talks about how God “worked” to create the universe—as though we have any idea what that creative process entailed).

    Again, I don’t mean to be negative, but I seriously can’t see the point of this lesson in the manual. We discussed it today in church and I still can’t see the point. Only if we discuss “work” as something spiritual/metaphorical does the lesson lend itself to a meaningful discussion, but that’s not the sense of the word the manual is using.

    • Becky said

      Brian (and others), I am a mother with grown children. One of the families is struggling right now with some huge issues in the home, relationships, parenting … well overall functionality. As I read the manual, I took it for face value. These lessons are for all of us to remember the importance of the ‘basics’. In our classes, there are those like yourselves that are deep thinkers and many others that are still on basic concepts. The lessons are inspired and I think it is because of the way society has gently tweaked our thinking that we need to be reminded to get back on track without having to think so deep.

      I read this blog every month and appreciate having my mind opened and I generally take a thought or two into my lesson planI will be teaching this lesson with the “Keep it simple”, “Line upon Line” method in mind. :)

      • ks said

        I have an double reaction to the idea of “basics.” What I see so valuable at a site like this is a chance to think through what is behind the basics so we can actually present something straightforward and basic. The reason to “get to basics” is because we layer lots of “stuff” on top of the scriptures that doesn’t really mean much (our own cultural viewpoints, or whatever) so I think that it’s impossible to really get to the foundations without taking the time to go deep and see what’s really here. It doesn’t mean you present all your investigations in class, however! :) But in order to get to the core of what is doctrine, it takes some work to uncover it from all the “stuff” we’ve put on top. And that’s real work.

        Anyway, that seems to be the work going on here at Feast, which I appreciate very much.

  6. joespencer said

    Brian:

    My thoughts exactly. Hence my departure into the scriptures. I’ll be teaching this lesson next week, and the only way I can bring myself to do it is to depart into the scriptures….

  7. Robert C. said

    Thanks, guys, for your (subtle) expressions of dissatisfaction with the lesson. It provokes me to want to find the value in the lesson!

    I find the section “We Can Enjoy our Work” especially interesting and productive. The scripture in that section, Mosiah 2:17, only obliquely says what the manual is trying to make it say, but I think it does say it. Moreover, I think there are many other scriptures that teach this idea of cheerfully embracing the not-obviously-joyous aspects of work that unavoidably comprise our lot in life in this lone and dreary world.

    First, regarding Mosiah 2:17, King Benjamin talks in subsequent verses (vv. 19ff) about “thanks and praise . . . that ye should rejoice” (v. 20). There is a strong link here between service and joy, and the lesson manual is talking about work and service in the same vein. Now, I don’t think this idea of embracing work, of enjoying work, is something that is being widely taught in the Church. True, perhaps there aren’t a lot of people explicitly “saying otherwise,” as Brian asks, but I think that it is very common to have a bad attitude regarding work. I think that this part of the lesson is very valuable, and is very much different than typical capitalist understandings of work.

    Also, since Brian mentioned capitalism, I think there is actually a great critique of Marx here, though quite implicit: rather than overcoming capitalist alienation via some outward socio-political revolution, King Benjamin is suggesting an inward spiritual and trans-political revolution, where the individual embraces the work of the laborer as a consecrated form of service that is rooted in joy and thanksgiving—thus, alienation is not overcome by a change in outer social structures or politics, but via an inner change of heart.

    In fact, perhaps a productive reading of the large plates of the BoM, in general, would be tracing out how the socio-political changes among the Nephites mostly failed to realize the vision King Benjamin is offering. This theme, then, could be seen as reaching a kind of thematic climax in Helaman 5:9 where King Benjamin is explicitly referred to, amidst social and political turmoil. Moreover, Nephi’s lament in Helaman 11 and 12 should also be read as a kind of denouement lamenting the relative failure of wars and famine (as “outer” socio-political events) relative to the power of the word of God (as an “inward” event). Of course this theme of the word vs. the sword can be traced from the very beginning of the Book of Alma, from the standoff between Gideon and Nehor (Alma 1:9 esp.), including the standoff between King Lamoni’s father vs. Ammon (20:16 esp.) and the mission to the Zoramites (30:5 esp.) and Captain Moroni’s confrontations with Zerahemnah (44:12, 15 esp.) and Pahoran’s letter to Moroni (61:14 esp.). Again, all of this is closely related, I think, to the question of resisting vs. embracing the work ethic implicit in capitalism.

    Since I got so carried away with this enjoying/redeeming work issue, I’ll just support my second point above, about many other scriptures teaching the idea of cheerfully embracing “tedious” things like work, by just lazily pasting this link to scriptures with the term “cheerful” in them….

    • BrianJ said

      Robert: Good points. I can see a helpful discussion of “cheerfully embracing the not-obviously-joyous aspects of work that unavoidably comprise our lot in life in this lone and dreary world.”

      Also, I’m intrigued to re-read the BoM as a progressive “losing of the vision of King Benjamin,” as you suggest.

      Thank you!

    • Karen said

      I too am intrigued by this reading where “the Nephites mostly failed to realize the vision King Benjamin is offering.” That certainly could be followed out into quite a study!

    • joespencer said

      To add my appreciation for what you’re spelling out here, Robert:

      I think you’re spot on with your interpretation of Benjamin’s importance. There are strong elements in the framing of Benjamin’s speech that make clear that he was aimed at a kind of revision of the Nephite understanding of the monarchy, aimed at letting the outward form of the monarchy continue while promoting the Nephites to a kind of sovereignty themselves. (There is a complex argument for this I’d have to spell out in detail.) I see Mosiah as having gone in the direction of simply dissolving the monarchy in part, obviously, in response to the presence of a non-statist church introduced by Alma the Elder, but also in part in response to his own father’s speech, which in many ways unsettled the monarchy as such. The problem is that Mosiah’s governmental reform was strictly an outward revision—meant, to be sure, to open up a space for, if not actually to secure, an inward revision—and so it didn’t accomplish what he was aiming at….

      There is much more work to be done on this Benjamin-and-his-aftermath business!

  8. NathanG said

    Brian, here’s a weak attempt to find value in the lesson.
    “Who is saying otherwise?”
    What I have heard from classmates and colleagues, and observe in some of the attendings I work under is that there is a large drive for people to get paid as much possible for as little work as possible. At the very least, we can teach people to work rather than teach people they need to have an job. The irony in my present department is those who do the least work (but get paid handsomely by any standards) complain the most, leading to a negativism spreading to many, while those who work when they are at work, don’t complain at all. Of course, this is along the filthy lucre line that Joe references as being removed from the current manual.

    • BrianJ said

      Nathan: yes, I think you make a good point, and also agree that that line of thinking was kinda removed in the new edition.

    • Karen said

      Yes, there is something in what you said: those who engage in their work don’t complain at all.

      It’s a lesson I’m still learning, even with housework and such: just jump in and do it well, and you find it’s something simple and rewarding. But try to not really do it, and it becomes annoying and something to complain about.

  9. queuno said

    I’m preparing to teach this lesson on Sunday and I am going to fill my 25 minutes with a discussion about work-life balance. There are few sections in the lesson about enjoying work and rest/recreation. I’m simply focusing on that, banning political discussion.

    • Becky said

      Queuno,
      I am glad someone else is thinking more like me, I was planning to talk about balance too. I see so many young families stuggling, young mothers and fathers, and when I present my lesson, I always like to help the class be able to apply it to their daily lives. Maybe I am the Simple Simon? But I think that is what the lessons are about.

  10. BrianJ said

    Becky: thank you for sharing your perspective. It’s good to see that some will find immediate value in the lesson manual, even as I (and others, like Joe) have to stretch it a bit before we can feel edified.

    Ks: Thank you for your comments on “the depths behind the basics.”

  11. Robert C. said

    Regarding Becky’s concern/suggestion in #5, in the spirit of what I think Ks is getting at, the reason I try to think hard about these lessons include the following:

    (1) I think it is very easy to avoid truly repenting, and truly calling to repentance (esp. for teachers), because of the worldly attitudes we are so enmeshed in. For example, Queuno talks in terms of “work-life balance.” I think I get the idea he’s getting at, which I generally agree with, but I don’t know if “balance” is really a very good term that fits with what the Gospel teaches. Rather, I think we are adamantly commanded to make the Gospel a priority and then to make our job a consecrated part of our living of the Gospel. To allow one’s job to crowd out other parts of life (in the work-life balance) is symptomatic of a much deeper problem about priorities, and simply trying to rebalance does not, I think, get at the heart of the problem. Moreover, to think that this is an issue without political implications is, I think, a bit naive (though I understand the desire of banishing the use of political cliches in the classroom, since that is a good way of stunting thought, the spirit, and actual engagement of the lesson material…). The problem, as I see it, is that our capitalist/consumerist culture tends to propagate its own religion that entails giving priority to the notion of working for money (as opposed to working for Zion).

    There are surely many productive ways to resist this false religion, and I think the manual offer’s what is, indeed, a potentially-productive, and inspired approach, since embracing the ethic of work is a first step in resisting the means-ends logic that the false religion teaches, where getting money is the end and work is merely a means to that end. However, I do think that identifying the deeper issues can make it much more clear as to what is going on, what needs to be changed, what the common day-to-day struggles will be, etc., etc.

    (2) I think there is more than ample material out there for thinking about these lessons and their topics in ways that are inspiring but not particularly thoughtful. As I see it, the contribution of this site is primarily in terms of taking a thoughtful approach to the material in these lessons. And what I mean by “thoughtful” is probably more accurately described as being intellectually engaging, stretching the mind, and drawing from the best books—including the most rigorous of scholarly, academic, philosophical, theological, etc. books…. Sure, I’m happy if others who are throwing a lesson together at the last minute can gain an insight or two from these posts to use in the classroom, but my hope is that there is a bigger work that these lesson posts will prove to be a part of—a work that requires the absolute best efforts our minds can muster (as I think the form of these posts is less amenable to evoking the best from the heart, might and strength, I’m happy just getting the mind awakened..!).

  12. joespencer said

    My thanks to Becky, KS, Brian, and Robert for this conversation. I won’t respond in this thread, since my thoughts in response to it all—in connection with some events of yesterday’s experiences at church—have quickly given me the impetus to write a full post on the subject. Watch soon for a post I believe I will call: “Wanted: A Saint Paul of Mormonism.”

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