As our regular readers know, By Common Consent occasionally gathers experts in certain fields to discuss topics in a round table format. In continuing this grand tradition, we are pleased to release volume 1 in a series on Correlation.
The participants included:
- Claudia L. Bushman, Professor of American Studies, Columbia University. Author of the recently released, Contemporary Mormonism: Latter-day Saints in Modern America.
- Armand L. Mauss, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, Washington State University. Author of The Angel and the Beehive: The Mormon Struggle with Assimilation.
- Gregory Prince, DDS PhD, President and CEO of a Maryland Biotech firm. Co-author of the recent David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism.
- Jan Shipps, Professor Emeritus of History and Religious Studies, IUPUI. President of the American Society of Church History. Author of Sojourner in the Promised Land: Forty Years Among the Mormons
Let me take some space from an already lengthy post and devote it to our participants. Thank you very much. Your words are profoundly important and I have greatly appreciated them. Cheers!
To: Claudia, Armand, Greg, Jan
Subject: Correlation Round Table
I was born in 1976 and am a product of the correlated era. I think it is hard for anyone growing up with Correlation to see what it actually is. I imagine that most Mormons my age (or younger) associate Correlation with the monthly ward council meetings. The recent Sunday School lesson on Correlation stated that under the auspices of the Apostles, Correlation includes:
- Maintaining purity of doctrine.
- Emphasizing the importance of the family and the home.
- Placing all the work of the Church under priesthood direction.
- Establishing proper relationships among the organizations of the Church.
- Achieving unity and order in the Church.
- Ensuring simplicity of Church programs and materials.
To begin with, what were the key changes in the Church and among the Saints as a result of correlation?
What were the factors that induced correlation?
Are there key events in connection with Correlation? Correlation is often thought of being a product of the sixties, is this true?
For those of you that experienced it as members, how did Correlation effect your worship?
If you wrote the Sunday School manual (most of us pray for things like that), would the list have been different? If so, in what way?
To: Claudia, Armand, Greg, Jonathan
Subject: Correlation Round Table
Greetings to all of you,
I’m still pretty covered up with responsibilities tied to the American Academy of Religion and the American Society of Church History. So, I have gone back to an early version of the final chapter in my Sojourner in the Promised Land and copied the section that I wrote on Correlation. Since much of this material did not make it into the book in this form, I will append that section below. It deals with several of Jonathan’s queries.
I will be very interested in how you all answer what it is like to be a part of a “correlated church” and how that differs from the church when it was “auxiliarized” rather than correlated.
During the decade of the turbulent 1960s, many LDS intellectuals were convinced that the denial of the priesthood to black men was the most critical issue the church faced. In point of fact, however, there were so many other issues occupying the time and energy of the Brethren who stood at the head of the church at that time that the placement of the priesthood question in the church’s problem priority order is by no means clear. Other issues that loomed large were
- the need to maintain doctrinal consistency;
- the need to establish unambiguous reporting lines;
- the need to establish an activity program that could be followed by wards, stakes and branches throughout the church;
- the need to reduce the numbers of meetings and activities in which individual Saints were expected to participate so that they could fulfill their family duties;
- the need to stop the drain on church resources and church order occasioned by duplication of effort in departments and church auxiliaries;
In order to deal with these and other matters occasioned by the growing institutional as well as ecclesiastical complexity that accompanied elevated levels of church growth and geographical expansion, the First Presidency revived and refurbished an oversight and coordination program which had been in existence in the church in one form or another since 1907. Originally called the Committee of Correlation and Adjustments, in one of its several earlier incarnations it had been called and it functioned as a Union Board of the [church] Auxiliaries.
By 1960, the necessity of some form of correlation became evident to the First Presidency and the Twelve, which then included on the Council a number of men who, before being called as General Authorities, had been successful as the leaders of large business enterprises). Consequently, a broad effort at correlation was undertaken. It started with a review by a committee of General Authorities of the purposes and courses of study of the priesthood and the various auxiliaries. Following up on the outcome of this review, the First Presidency organized the church’s instructional and activity efforts into three divisions. One of them included everything which dealt in one way or another with children; the other two were the youth and adult divisions. Three coordinating committees, each headed by a member of the Twelve, were then formed and charged with oversight of one of these divisions, with that oversight extending to all the church’s many departments and auxiliaries as they went about serving the children, youth, and adults of the church.
By the beginning of the 1970s, correlation was extended to the planning, preparation, translation, printing, and distribution of church materials. In a related development, the First Presidency established a formal Correlation Department made up of all the members of the Council of the Twelve with a three-man executive committee made up of the president of the Twelve and the next two senior apostles. This brought under the direct control of the priesthood hierarchy all church curricula, all periodicals published with the imprimatur of the church, and all church organizations, including those which had formerly operated with quasi-independence, producing and publishing their own periodicals and instructional materials. (In 1971, the various publications of the auxiliaries were suspended and three new magazines to serve the children, youth, and adults of the church were established. These were the Friend, the New Era, and the Ensign.)
This was not a new system reflecting some newly revealed doctrinal principle; priesthood authority over the whole church had been there in principle from the days when the prophet Joseph Smith presided. In the past, every arm of the church – every department, auxiliary organization (the Sunday School, Primary, the soon to be renamed Mutual Improvement Associations for the youth, and the Relief Society), educational activity (the Church Educational System, BYU, Ricks College), and all departments (missionary, genealogy, building, and so on) had been ultimately responsible to the priesthood and the General Authorities presiding over it. Thus the move to place Correlation in the vanguard was essentially a much-needed systemic renovation. It foreshadowed, however, the demise of the quasi-independence of any part of the church (especially its auxiliaries and its institutions of higher learning) which had grown at a time when the reporting structure in the church was much less straightforward than it would become after 1970.
In the next two decades, along with the development of an elaborate church bureaucracy which also answers directly to the priesthood, the authority of the Correlation Committee has been gradually extended to a point in the 1990s at which all “communications are transmitted through a single priesthood line from the First Presidency and Council of the Twelve to stakes and wards and thereby to families and individuals.” While that reclaiming of direct priesthood ascendancy over the whole did not occur all at once, a striking alteration in the church which did have a one fell swoop feel to it came about in 1980 when a consolidated meeting schedule dramatically decreased the time Latter-day Saints spent in meetings, formerly spread throughout the week, to a three-hour block on Sundays. Coming at what from this end-of the-century perspective can be seen as the mid-point in a reorganization that concentrated LDS religious authority in a single priesthood line, the consolidated meeting schedule spelled the death knell of the auxiliarized church and announced the coming into being of its successor, the correlated church.
To: Armand, Greg, Jan, Jonathan
Subject: Correlation Round Table
As one who, along with Armand, lived and loved the pre-correlation church, I still look back on those days with nostalgia. What a rich and satisfying cultural life we had with constant musical performances, three act plays, hand work projects, welfare farm work, speech contests, instructional and recreational dances, etc. etc. I can say with conviction that every valuable thing I ever learned, I learned at church.
I experienced the changes of correlation, without any idea of what was happening, as an effort to keep more young men active. It is true that the extensive MIA programs were very female-friendly. I remember my mother explaining to me why the boys were getting so much attention, that girls were always good about things like church but that boys needed some extra help. So what I saw in the early years of the program was a simplification that eliminated many of the cultural programs that I valued in favor of more scouting and priesthood programs.
Then there was the energy crisis, the collapsing of meetings every day into the three hour block, eliminating as unnecessary the frills that made the auxiliaries interesting. I was embarrassed to belong to a church that met for three hours at a time. That was what the Puritans did, and we all knew how passe that old Calvinism was. And once that decision had been made, and we now have three meetings of being preached at, I could easily recommend further cuts.
My other explanation for the change was preparation for the international church. President Kimball’s observation that to transport one of every thing the Church published would take two trucks justified the simplification of materials. If the church were to be spread to more people with less education, the complex programs had to be cut or simplified. Fewer items were turned out and simplified to sixth grade level meaning that people needed less help in their church responsibilities. So less instruction was needed. And the money needed to support those infant congregations in foreign climes came from the stateside Church which was impoverished financially and programmatically. The simplified programs meant a loss of richness. The spreading out of the money meant that the Church could not be maintained at several levels.
Those were my explanations from observation. I find the list of explanations in the question puzzling. What does anyone mean by “maintaining purity of doctrine” in our do-it-yourself Church? Where is this pure doctrine available? We don’t get it in general conference or in the Church magazines. We don’t deal with doctrine so much as we do with programs.
I do fear that the emphasis on the importance of the family and home is closely connected to placing the church under priesthood direction. It can be read as an effort to get women out of Church organization. I quote in support of this an interesting comment of Elder A. Theodore Tuttle from an interview of 1977 quoted in David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism, by Gregory A Prince, Wm Robert Wright (2005) pg. 143. [Thank you, Greg.]:
(We) could see the auxiliaries running the Church, as it were…We had no Priesthood board but they had large and talented and powerful Mutual boards and Sunday School boards and Relief Society boards and Primary boards. And they scattered throughout the Church teaching their message, and they were talented people and taught so well that the auxiliaries of the Church were far more effective and powerful in the members’ idea and view than were the Priesthood quorums…So I would say, to characterize the Church prior to Correlation, that the auxiliaries ran it and everything took second place to them.
The authors go on to say
But curriculum reform paled in significance next to Lee’s other goals of reining in the auxiliary organizations and placing day-to-day control of the church in the hands of the Twelve. (pg. 155)
So, according to this, the women were sent back home because they were too effective. The “proper relationships among the organizations of the Church” have been established by putting the priesthood in charge of everything. I think the Church’s ability to build the loyalty of her men is a great achievement, unimaginable in any other religious body, and correlation has contributed greatly to the production of seasoned male leaders. But I think that it might be noted that the women have lost many of the positions and opportunities that they once handled with skill and devotion and that our congregations are the poorer for it.
To: Claudia, Greg, Jan, Jonathan
Subject: Correlation Round Table
I think Jonathan, in his initial “kick-off” of this exchange on Correlation, identified correctly the six major goals of Correlation, and then Jan, in her response yesterday, provided a good overview of the historical process by which Correlation was actually implemented. My own analysis of Correlation has included an analysis of its unintended consequences, including its impact on the grassroots culture of Mormons, at least those in North America (see, e. g., pp. 163-67 of my The Angel and the Beehive). Among those consequences, I include a tendency toward convergence with Protestant fundamentalism in both pedagogy and worship style. In pedagogy (lesson manuals, formal sermons), Correlation has imposed a “cut-and-dried” approach that emphasizes black and white answers that are not hospitable to questions; a dependence solely on the official manuals and on the scriptures studied mostly in a proof-text fashion, with an accompanying avoidance of “outside” sources for any lessons; a preference for literalism in scriptural interpretation and an assumption of inerrancy in the standard works (except the Bible); a definition of “follow the prophet” that is usually interpreted operationally as unquestioning obedience; a suspicion of any portrayal of church history or doctrine that is not triumphalist and faith-promoting; and a growing preference for sacrament meeting talks, testimonies, and music of a “soft” kind – that is, with a basis in emotion (preferably including tears) rather than in exegesis. (I elaborate further on this last point in my essay, “Faith, Feeling, and Folkways,” just published by Signature as part of a collection edited by Bob Rees in honor of Eugene England). All of these traits I associate with Protestant fundamentalism.
These are also the main changes that I sense in the grassroots culture of the Church compared to my experience growing up in the wards and stakes of northern California during the 1930s – 1960s. While these changes seem to have developed mainly from the 1960s on, I attribute Correlation less to a reaction against the Age of Aquarius (the 1960s social upheavals) than to the crisis of managing rapid growth, though both Correlation and other developments from that era are part of the “retrenchment motif” that I trace and document in Angel & Beehive. I readily admit that I don’t like the way the Church “feels” to me now as much as I did when I was young (but that is due to changes in me as well as to changes in the Church). Perhaps paradoxically, however, I will add that despite the “unintended consequences” of Correlation that bother me, I recognize that it is not the Church’s “job” or responsibility to make us feel comfortable. It is instead the mission of the Church to make sure that its instruction or pedagogy is free of error, that its teachings are transmitted effectively (i. e. indoctrination, not necessarily intellectual stimulation), and that it reaches the new convert in both California and Bolivia with the simplicity of its teachings – and not just its Ph.D lifers.
An unnecessary and regrettable side-effect of both Correlation and the rest of the retrenchment program has been a suspicion, and often even a hostility, toward what Arrington called “the un-sponsored sector” of LDS life and culture – namely the private publications like Dialogue, Sunstone, and most of the books not published by Deseret. This wariness about any literature not known to be “approved” spills over even on to the Journal of Mormon History and BYU Studies. Accordingly, a lot of wonderfully inspiring literature that could enrich our meetings both spiritually and intellectually is kept at arms length by local leaders and teachers who feel obliged to avoid any “outside materials” (indeed, such is the official instruction in the manuals themselves). Of course, the overwhelming majority of Church members don’t even know of the existence of such un-sponsored resources : Even BYU Studies, published largely at Church expense, has no more than about 4,500 subscribers, despite its access to the entire BYU alumni list as potential subscribers. The other journals I mentioned have far fewer subscribers. I would not expect the Church or its leaders to endorse or promote these un-sponsored publications, certainly not publicly, but I would settle just for some “benign neglect” and an end to the rumors of dire consequences that still spread among our local leaders, if not among the Brethren.
So if I were writing a Sunday School manual, I would surely enrich it with many ideas, stories, and examples drawn from these other publications. I would make sure that thereby the doctrine would not be diluted but only strengthened in its appeal and beauty. Of course, that’s just another reason that I am ward membership clerk, rather than gospel doctrine teacher!
To: Claudia, Armand, Jan, Jonathan
Subject: Correlation Round Table
I presume you all have access to the chapter on Correlation in the McKay biography, so I won’t include it or summarize it.
There is no question that in McKay’s mind the goal of Correlation was simple: eliminate the overlap in curricula. Period. He clearly told Harold B. Lee that his mandate was not to change anything in Church organization. It is equally clear that Lee had been drawing up plans for a general overhaul of Church organization since the time he was called to the Quorum of the Twelve in 1941, and those plans left curriculum coordination in the dust. To me, the irony is that the eventual effect of Correlation probably went well beyond what even Lee had envisioned. I suspect he would be horrified were he to come back and see what happened.
I spent two hours this afternoon with Florence Jacobsen, whose term as YWMIA General President began in 1961 (the same year Lee was appointed to head the Correlation program) and lasted over a decade. She confirmed what Lynn Richards, who served in the Sunday School General Superintendency, told me, that they had virtually complete control over their own organizations, including the writing of instruction manuals. The only reason I say “virtually complete” is that Jacobsen said they had to submit the manuals to their priesthood advisor, Delbert Stapley, for final approval, but he never vetoed any of them. The autonomy of the auxiliary organizations, including their own lesson manuals and magazines, largely survived the first decade of Correlation, probably because McKay was still alive and would have stood in the way of such sweeping change. Within a couple of years of his death, however, the lasting changes were made, which included the unceremonious release of Jacobsen and her counselors and board members.
One may wonder if the dismantling of the auxiliaries was a swipe at women, or a larger stroke to dismantle all of the organizations, whether male- or female-oriented. I suspect the latter. Reduced to its basics, it was a power grab. Until that time, the auxiliary organizations had exercised near-complete autonomy, and this drove some, like Lee, nuts.
In terms of impact on the younger Church population, I agree with Claudia that the virtual dismantling of the YMMIA and YWMIA was the epicenter. Their programs defined our Church membership, even outside of Utah (I grew up in Los Angeles). There was an energy, an excitement in those years that is not even echoed today. For whatever the merits of Correlation–and there is no question that the manner in which the Church was governed in the decade prior to the implementation of Correlation, when growth made it unwieldy, became outmoded–it unnecessarily stripped the Church of much of its vitality.
A more sinister side to Correlation came later. What had been coordination turned to control. In a sense, Correlation became the Thought Police of the Church. Paul Dunn told me of his battles with Correlation, whose employees tried to control the content of his discourses.
Since Correlation has, in a sense, been the “hub of the wheel” for several decades, it is appropriate to evaluate it in terms of its fruits. Were the engine chugging along at full speed, there would be less room for complaint. However, we see a largely de-energized membership (particularly the youth), declining convert baptisms, appallingly low activity rates in many parts of the world, and even alarmingly low activity rates among returned missionaries. Certainly many factors combined to produce these troubling conditions, but Correlation has to rank high on the short list.