Good Reason

It's okay to be wrong. It's not okay to stay wrong.

LDS lessons: now even less content

I suspect that if I were still a believing Mormon in church classes, I’d have to go insane just as a coping mechanism. The lesson manual they’re now using for Priesthood and Relief Society is ‘Gospel Principles‘, a manual originally intended for new converts. As I remember, the chapters were, shall we say, spartan. How are long-time members coping with this? Will they go mad from repetition? Then again, don’t underestimate the Mormon capacity for boredom absorption.

Now how would I have approached teaching this kind of a lesson as a Priesthood teacher? I might have thought, sure it’s a little sparse, but nothing we can’t fix by bringing in some interesting outside sources. But even there I’d have been stymied; you’re not supposed to use them. Let’s peek in at a fictional Relief Society teacher, and see what the Brethren have in mind for its flock.

A woman sat at her dining room table, buried in dozens of books and magazines. She looked discouraged. Her daughter asked if she could help.

The woman said she was preparing a Relief Society lesson. She told her daughter she didn’t know how she could possibly “boil down all the information” she had collected for the lesson. The process, the woman acknowledged, was both time consuming and frustrating.

The daughter looked surprised.

“Why,” she asked, “are you trying to boil down information? An inspired Church-writing committee has already done that for you.

[L]eaders and teachers in the Church do themselves and the people they serve a disservice when they turn to unofficial — not correlated — materials in the planning of lessons and activities.

Oh, dear. Seems people have been using the Internet to get information, and finding out things that the folks in Salt Lake don’t want you to know. Those who want to control minds need foremost to control information, and this is part of an attempt to do exactly that.

The tone of this article needs to be read to be believed, but the last paragraph is a good indicator.

The Church — through its inspired correlation program — has given us official sources of information to help us prepare lessons and plan activities. Instead of turning to unofficial books and Web sites, let’s use those sources.

Something I realised after teaching Sunday School for many years was that the whole process was essentially stagnant. It was frustrating: I believed in eternal progression, but it was not to be found in church meetings. When I was younger, I thought that eventually I could graduate to — what? moving mountains? At uni, I could delve more deeply into topics of interest and there was always more to study. But at church? Delving into early Mormon history was just asking for apostasy, and who cared enough to delve into the Old Testament? Eventually I realised that there was no higher level. The quest for spiritual knowledge had plateaued, as far as earth goes, and it seemed to me the fault of the religious system. There was just no ‘there’ there.

In hindsight, it makes sense that going over the same books over and over would leave one with that cyclical feeling. The religion couldn’t really offer any answers past ‘goddidit’, and that doesn’t take long to explain. This was a source of profound disappointment for me at the time, but now I’m glad to have escaped that useless hole that I kept digging myself into.

8 Comments

  1. This level of control really bugs me. What bugs me even more is that I think about 18 months ago I would have gone along with the idea that outside sources would be 'dangerous' and counterproductive. Ugh! I was really deeply entrenched in the 'obey and be saved' mantra.

    As my eyes slowly opened I began to use a site called beginningsnew.org written by a couple of feminist Mormons that I had been following on fMh. My Young Womens lessons became so much more interesting and I actually felt like I was teaching the girls something useful.

    It is very sad to think that great resources like that would now be shunned. I tried to share the site with other teacher/leaders but not one gave me any feedback, I assume they never looked at it or if they did they thought it was inappropriate.

    My guess is that the leadership of the Church is madly scrambling to figure out what to do about the easy access to info on Church History via the internet. It was the first place I went to once I realised that the Church manuals weren't about to answer my questions on polygamy and the like.

  2. One of the themes I've picked up from other sites discussing the articles is the principle of comfort.

    Members hearing the same things, week after week, grow comfortable with the material. We know the answers, we know the principles, and so for someone who doesn't like to think, Sunday School and other lessons become something which we know, and can handle without too much stress.

    After reading that article last weekend, I'm on the verge of handing my manual in and releasing myself. The part about the rubber stamp of approval on me from the leadership of the Church has really been bothering me.

  3. Wow. I mean, WOW. I had to follow the link, because you are right, the article has to be read to be believed.

    What a load of crap "correlation" is. Hooray for having escaped!!!

  4. Can anyone say "brainwashing"?

    Daemonising any outside information or ideas is one of the most basic cult tactics. If you can control what ideas people are exposed to, then you effectively control the people.

    So much for freedom of choice (and thought).

    It is telling that the church can't trust its members to stay active, believing Mormons w/o these types of tactics.

  5. I wanted to ask you, Dan, can you tell me more about your experience teaching Sunday
    School? I'd love to get a ton more details about your feelings regarding the church, the
    "spirit", your mission (?), can you explain any of what people call
    "spiritual experiences" and where they come from or if that's just a learned
    phenomenon? Was there any time in your life that you actually thought the church was
    true? If so, what caused you to believe it was? I'd love to know more about your
    life-long experiences involving the church… If you'd like my email, it's totally fine
    if you would rather answer there. Also, I'd like to know what you DO believe. You don't
    believe in God, so do you believe in evolution? What happens to us/our bodies after we
    die? I can completely understand NOT believing in God, but I am not sure what atheist
    believe. Haha! I am a very inquisitive person…so please bear with me =)

    Ok, so for Mareen and Urban Koda (By any chance, does KODA stand for Kids Of Deaf Adults?
    Just wondering..), I assume you two are still members. Do you believe the church is true?
    Certain aspects? What keeps you going? Mareen, I would bet when you told the leaders
    that you were using internet sites to support your lessons, the other leaders gasped
    (maybe not audibly). I started doing that in YW and I was asked to stop and to stick to
    just the manual. Members of the church are scared of finding out the truth (that it's all bullshit), therefore sticking their heads in the
    sand is "safer". Lots of people can't handle using their OWN brains and I think
    some are just keeping the peace by staying quiet and doing what they are told.
    Ok, your turn guys! I will be looking forward to hearing from all of you =) Thanks!

  6. Hey Kim, I chose to go inactive about 5 months ago. It took just over 12 months for me to make that decision. I was a member since birth (31 years). I stayed during those 12 months because I needed to be sure that I wasn't discarding something precious because of the irresponsible behaviour of certain humans. I also stayed because I LOVED being in YWs, I would love to still be there if I could get away with not having to teach them Mormon stuff. After 18 months in YWs they released me (5 mins before sacrament! I was heart broken) and called me to the Relief Society presidency and said they were grooming me to be President. I went to one presidency mtg where the Pres. read a scripture about giving 'our all' to our calling and within a week I had to call Bishop and say 'look this just aint for me, I have a family to look after'. He was concerned, came over and spent 3 hours talking through our concerns (he was wonderful, very understanding and respectful). We never went back. By that point I had found enough information that I could no longer delude myself. I could no longer accept the church as true.

  7. Guess it's my turn now!

    KODA… I just like the name, and I'm a computer programmer by day, and so it fits me – at least I like to think it does!

    Do I believe the Church is true and do I still go…

    The short version is absolutely not, and kind of.

    I consider myself in-active, but with that said, I'm still there pretty much every week to teach youth Sunday School. I refuse to teach anything I don't believe in, but generally I can find something in the manual which I agree with and elaborate on that.

    My daughter is scheduled for baptism in a couple of months, so I'm holding on for that, which brings up the rest of the problem…

    We actually met with our bishop on Sunday, and his intent was to take away our recommends since we no longer pay tithing. I haven't had one for two years, and my wife's expired on Sunday, so it was a lot less dramatic than I think he would have like it to be.

    The only reason we're still involved, has to do with family, and since we live in Utah, we're also concerned about my employment and how neighborhood relations will be as well.

    My family found my blog a year ago. They're really uptight about the Church, and after a fierce storm of emails, and an attempt at an intervention, they sent me a very nasty letter, and while it didn't spell it out specifically, I think I've pretty much been disowned – although they will still have access to our children (Not bloody likely says I!)

    My wife's family are the kind of people that make it hard to leave the Church. Very caring and compassionate. They know I'm no longer a recommend holder and it's causing them a great deal of stress (although they are still being nice about it). At this point, they're unaware that my wife feels much the same way as I, and their reaction to me is making it incredibly hard on her decision as to whether to come out to them or not.

    We're kind of in a holding pattern right now though… Ultimately we wouldn't mind leaving the state, thereby avoiding a lot of this, but you can't always run away from your problems.

    Anyone who says leaving the Church is the cowards way out, is pretty misinformed if you ask me!

  8. Agreed, this is a tough process!

    Also, back to Daniel's thread, I was called to teach Gospel Essentials for about a year and I loved it. Of course at the time I was ok with the doctrine and I enjoyed getting back to the basics.

    Of course the manual for this course skips over the second half of D&C 132 so no discussing plural marriage. Then again, the Gospel Doctrine manuals also skip over this 'insignificant' subject matter.

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