Huh?

Using the new CHI, one of BCC’s long-time friends recently explained to us all what a “correlated lesson” looks like. Being a person who teaches in both Priesthood and Sunday School classes at least once a month, I’m always looking for ways to raise the correlation coefficient in my lessons. NDBF Gary’s post is tethered to the CHI’s statement that “Church-approved curriculum materials are to be used in classes that are held during the Sunday meeting schedule.

In the Introduction to the current Gospel Principles manual, you find a similar injunction:

“If you have been called to teach a quorum or class using this book, do not substitute outside materials, however interesting they may be.[1] Stay true to the scriptures and the words in the book. As appropriate, use personal experiences and articles from Church magazines to supplement the lessons.”

Everyone got that? Stick to correlated materials. Stick to the scriptures, the manual, and Church magazines.

Outside resources are banninated, period.

Unless those outside materials are personal experiences. Those are allowable. Also, comments and experiences from other people. Those are okay, too.[2]

To summarize: Outside materials are banninated, unless they come from people.

Got it?

I’m trying to make a point here, I think. While almost all of us would agree that, per the manual and CHI, it would inappropriate (though possibly interesting!) to print out a copy of Kevin Barney’s recent posts on the Old Testament and use them as the basis for a lesson (NDBF Gary nods head in agreement). However, if Kevin Barney were sitting in the classroom, and shares the exact same insights, the comment would be allowable, and no one would question whether or not he should be banninated for making it.

Does the delivery method actually change the acceptability of content? Does the person delivering the content actually change the acceptability? Can I relate my experience while reading about Kevin’s experience?

____________________________

[1] Although it only specifically calls out “interesting” materials, it would seem that ban would also apply to boring materials, inspiring materials, helpful materials, or any other materials sporting any adjective of your choosing.
[2] The next section of the Introduction states that teachers should “try to involve as many people as possible in the lessons. You can do this by inviting them to read aloud, answer questions, or share experiences…”

Comments

  1. I don’t follow you. Kevin’s posts on the OT aren’t Kevin’s “experiences”. They are his creations, based upon his scholarly study of outside sources. So a literal application of the standard you’re touting would prohibit Kevin from being Kevin every bit as much as it prohibits anyone else from channeling or aping Kevin.

  2. So is it legal to plant a few comment in the audience, a la Pete’s Dragon?

  3. Aaron, I don’t follow you. If Kevin starts a sentence with “I know from experience with this issue that [punchline of post],” how is that not a comment based on his personal experience?

  4. I have some sympathy for the “Don’t use outside sources” idea, since for every valuable Sunstone or Dialogue article it prevents me from using, it forces 99 other nutters to leave the Skousen or MoDoc at home. That’s probably a decent trade-off.

    But one practical problem with it is this: Every teacher comes to the lesson — and the manuals — with some prior knowledge of the subject matter at hand. And that knowledge is going to be the product of some combination of approved and unapproved sources. And the vast majority of us aren’t able to catalogue every tidbit of knowledge in our heads and identify its source. Thus, our outside reading will inevitably inform our lessons, no way around it. If someone in my class asks me a question that isn’t directly addressed by the manual, and I happen to have an answer based upon my outside reading, guess what? I’m going to answer it based upon what I know. Period.

    So for this reason, I don’t get worked up about this subject as much as I used to.

  5. Scott,
    I believe that the point of the post is that Kevin is allowed to bring his knowledge to bear if he is not the teacher. But what the teacher says is always considered gospel by everybody and if they stray from the approved topics, questions, and words of the manual, then there is the possibility of false doctrine creeping in. In our ward, we’ve solved this problem by replacing teachers with ’80s era boomboxes playing cassettes with the lessons recorded onto them, held aloft by the young men of our ward in an effort to prepare them physically and emotionally for their missions and any subsequent courting necessary.

  6. Scott, when you referred to Kevin’s OT posts, I thought you were talking about his scholarly treatment of various OT issues. Am I forgetting the nature of Kevin’s oeuvre? Is he regularly talking about “experiences” that I’d want to share with folks?

  7. Kevin (or anyone else) can use his personal research in the preparation of a lesson. Just don’t quote from it. You might even make the same points as presented in the other material, but use the “canonical” material to support it.

    This is a non-issue.

  8. Thank goodness for the once-a-month entirely uncorrelated Priesthood lessons.

  9. Tim, that’s exactly the point I tried to make with NDBF Gary but he hasn’t posted my comment yet.

  10. Scott, when you referred to Kevin’s OT posts, I thought you were talking about his scholarly treatment of various OT issues. Am I forgetting the nature of Kevin’s oeuvre? Is he regularly talking about “experiences” that I’d want to share with folks?

    Aaron, I guess I don’t see much value in making a distinction between a person’s “knowledge” and a person’s experiences which led to acquiring that “knowledge.” So yes–I was referring to his scholarly posts. I think that information from his scholarly work easily fits under the umbrella of his “experience.”

  11. queuno (7),
    That’s fine–and that’s what we all do. But it’s still not acceptable according to the manual or the CHI.

  12. Excellent points… My opinion of the guidance from COB is that the teacher is perceived as the gospel authority in that setting, and thereby must abide more strictly to the correlated lesson so as not to lead folks down a dark alley of deep doctrinal debate. Participants from the class do not carry that perceived gospel authority weight and are thereby free to carry on however they please subject to the teacher’s classroom management skills, or other participants ability to ‘correct’ them and get the lesson back on track.

    Seems that the tighter focus on the correlated lesson where anything other than the quad or third-hand accounts of early leader’s musings which found there way into a GC address and subsequent lesson manual is a bit misdirected. Instead, if the classroom were separated into 4 sections so that commentators would have an assigned seating area. You’d have the ‘see, here’s another area where the Democrats are wrong’ group; the ‘Brigham Young once said …’ group; the ‘pray, read your scriptures, and go to church’; and the ‘we’re in the final days – time for preparation is over’ group. Then allow each group 3 minutes at the beginning of the lesson to say their spill, and then move onto the lesson.

    I have great empathy for the teachers out there – it really can be a huge task to prepare, seek the spirit, and then walk through the mine-field of unrelated comments each week. Maybe this is more the case in EQ than RS. Oh, and do away with ALL of the announcements at church, or shedule a meeting after the block for announcements… we could shave a full hour or hour and a half off of the church time on Sunday.

    All of that said, do I expect anything different from the COB? Of course not – it’s important to set the standards and expectations, and not dwell on the exceptions to the rule. Teachers, however, IMO need to know that they are free to call an audible from time to time.

    A bit OT, but when will some of the farm examples be ‘correlated’ out of the AP manuals? 99% of YM don’t understand those examples anymore and there are plenty of other stories that can be used to great positive effect IMO. I cringed recently when 2+ pages were devoted to a very lengthy story once – halfway through the second paragraph the audience is lost. I agree that ‘we’ have a great heritage with the pioneers and there are great lessons there, yet we also have incredible people living now with recent experiences that we can relate to – I’d just like a little more balance there… Ok, end of rant.

  13. In other words Scott, when you talk about Kevin sitting in class, sharing the “exact same insights” as are found in his OT posts, I can’t tell if you’re (1) suggesting Kevin’s OT posts are filled with the sorts of experiences that others might want to share (which seems like a misrepresentation of what a typical Kevin-OT post contains), or (2) you’re suggesting that Kevin has carte blanche to introduce substantive OT material as a student that he wouldn’t as a teacher, by virtue of his being a student (though that doesn’t seem to follow from anything you quoted).

  14. Just as a hope of redirecting the conversation, I’d like to restate what I hoped to talk about here:

    Does the delivery method actually change the acceptability of content? Does the person delivering the content actually change the acceptability? Can I relate my experience while reading about Kevin’s experience?

  15. Kevin Barney says:

    I solve this little problem by completely ignoring such counsel. See how easy that is? (My local leaders know how I teach, and if they don’t want lessons that are “interesting,” they know that they shouldn’t call me to be the teacher. I am perfectly happy to be released at any time.)

  16. “you’re suggesting that Kevin has carte blanche to introduce substantive OT material as a student that he wouldn’t as a teacher, by virtue of his being a student (though that doesn’t seem to follow from anything you quoted).”

    I’m suggesting that this is the case, based on NDBF Gary’s logic.

  17. OK, I think I just missed the point of the post, initially. If what John C says is, in fact, the point, then I wasn’t reading it right. Carry on …

  18. Aaron (13),
    What I’m saying is that we put a tight filter on what paper-rock-and-scissors materials we can bring into the classroom. The CHI and the manual sit nicely as judge and juror for that question.

    However, there is no judge and juror for our own personal knowledge, experience, or thoughts. It mattereth not whether my experiences are inspired or truthful, because no one puts my comments in moderation for an hour so they can research and verify them before releasing them.

    And no one seems to have a problem with this–including me. My question is, thus, why do we allow potentially uncorrelated words to proceed out of our personal minds, but don’t allow potentially uncorrelated words to be read from a piece of paper?

  19. Scott,
    I think that the understood position of the person making the statement affects how it is taken. Kevin as teacher saying something implies something that Kevin as student doesn’t. In this case, as Kevin says, it implies tacit approval for his ideas and position (“My local leaders know how I teach, and if they don’t want lessons that are “interesting,” they know that they shouldn’t call me to be the teacher.”). Being in front of the class, instead of speaking from the 4th or 5th row matters.

    As to whether you can relate your experience of reading Kevin’s scholarly work, sure. But it will run afoul of the same problems that quoting Bro. Skousen or Elder Orson Hyde will.

  20. And Kevin Barney (15) completely makes my case for me:

    We allow people to SAY whatever they want. What is the point of getting our panties in a wad over any of this when no one is going to ever, ever, ever know whether 0%, 10%, 90%, or 100% of my lesson plan comes from FeastBlog?

  21. I think that the understood position of the person making the statement affects how it is taken. Kevin as teacher saying something implies something that Kevin as student doesn’t….Being in front of the class, instead of speaking from the 4th or 5th row matters.

    But John, the allowance for personal experience applies for both students and teachers. Both are allowed to decide if their own comments are “acceptable.” It doesn’t really matter to me who you or I think carries more weight, because neither of us has any way of predicting the influence of the words on any particular listener.

  22. Here’s an odd conundrum. I recently taught an EQ lesson on the sacrament, part of which dealt with the administration of the sacrament. To cover this section, I turned to CHI 2, which outlines the guidelines for the administration of the sacrament, and quoted parts of the CHI 2 in my lesson. Since the CHI 2 is not on the approved list of materials (manual, scriptures, church magazines, personal experiences), I feel like, ex post, I broke the lesson rules.

    Should I have been banned?

  23. Fletcher,
    I’m pretty sure you’re safe, but maybe NDBF Gary will correct me.

  24. I agree with queuno. IANAL, but in my tax research class, one thing we learned was that sometimes it’s ok to begin our research process with secondary sources, law reviews, tax journals, etc., but our final research memo should be supported with the primary sources of law.

    Relating to the questions about whether delivery methods change acceptability of content…well, does it in other circumstances. Is libel treated differently than slander? Are publishing rights offline equivalent to publishing rights in e-book format? Etc.,

  25. Cynthia L. says:

    Scott, I think Aaron does have a point that the content itself (not just the delivery/speaker) is different when you’re comparing “experiences” and Kevin’s posts. Experiences are things like “one time my brother died and I felt sad but then I prayed.” There is no right or wrong argument being made, it is just a personal narrative about events and feelings. “There is progress between kingdoms” can be true doctrine or false doctrine. “I felt sad then I prayed” isn’t just not false doctine–it isn’t even something to which the labels true doctrine and false doctrine can be affixed.

    I don’t think Kevin sharing his own research would fall under the intended definition of experience. Unless he removes all the actual research content and makes it, “I was translating something from Greek then I lost my page and I felt sad, then I found it and I felt happy.”

  26. Is it a stretch to imagine that some bishop somewhere will take it upon himself to call a ‘correlation cop’ for the ward? Maybe not by express calling though nearly every ward I’ve been in there’d be a couple of willing contenders.

    I think that the downside to all of this is that it shifts us from an equal setting where we are all in this struggle of learning and gospel growth together to a place where we have a lesson-reader in place to share with us only the approved teaching. I’d take the occassional wandering off the path in a lively and engaging lesson over the former any day.

  27. “Does the person delivering the content actually change the acceptability?”

    I can see the argument that it would. Though in my view, rather than putting extra-strict restraints on the freedom of the teacher — out of fear that students are prone to give teachers’ views too much authoritative weight — I’d rather foster a culture where we all develop such horribly nuanced views about what is and isn’t church “doctrine” that the danger disappears, since all students would just assume that all Mormon doctrinal teachings are in a constant state if flux. (I won’t hold my breath waiting for this, though). :)

    I personally try to refrain from advocating any particular view as “the” church view, and I try to share multiple viewpoints, and I try to be constantly mushy and intellectually “big tent.”. In so doing, I think I avoid the problem chuch leaders are trying to avoid, albeit in a different manner than they may have in mind.

  28. Scott (20),

    The church has produced, though seldom used, a student guide to the SS lesson plans. This might be considered a means by which SS students can police the content of the teacher. For example, the teacher is supposed to touch on scripture blocks; (list of scripture blocks). SS students, therefore, have some degree of informative prior information as to the direction and major points that are supposed to be made.

    Now, like I said, this little booklet is seldom used, so the majority of SS students will not know what fraction of your lesson plan came from FeastBlog. However, there might be some busy body who does, and may be busy enough to call you out on it.

  29. Cynthia L. says:

    That said, I wish I were in Kevin’s class, with him openly flouting this guideline.

  30. Cynthia,
    I totally disagree, and think you and Aaron are really hitching yourselves to an overly stringent definition of “experience” here–one that is not reasonably inferred from the statement in either manual.

    Also, is it really a stretch at all to find ways to teach false doctrines through stories? Of course it’s not.

  31. Cynthia L. says:

    Fletcher, I think the CHI (ironically even the one now available on the church website) contain strict instructions to not share the contents with anyone other than those who are supposed to get a copy (quorum and auxiliary presidencies–but not secretaries, etc.). So you’re doubly in trouble! On the other hand, maybe the two rules you broke cancel each other out instead of compounding each other. :-)

  32. Cynthia, youre correctly raising the point I was trying to raise. However, I think the bottom line is that Scott is trying to focus on a different distinction than the one I thought he was focussing on. (And yes, his choice of the word “experience” is what threw me).

  33. Aaron,
    I guess my point with the word “experience” is that, when someone raises a hand in a meeting to make a comment, the teacher doesn’t typically say, “Okay–before I grant you permission to speak, first categorize the nature of your comment: Is it a story? Is it something you read in the WSJ? Is it from your sophomore paper at BYU? Or is it something you were just thinking about one day?”

    In other words, in my view, the injunction to encourage class participation through sharing experiences is not limited to such a strict defintion of the word “experience” but is to be understood as “Let people contribute their thoughts.”

  34. Left Field says:

    “Outside resources are banninated, period.”

    Well, I dunno. If that’s what they intended, they did a poor job writing the instructions. The CHI doesn’t say that *only* church-approved materials are to be used. It simply prohibits church-approved materials from *not* being used. The GP manual only prohibits using outside materials *instead of* the standard curriculum; it doesn’t prohibit using them in *addition* to the curriculum.

    The January Ensign (p 49) reads: “Do not *substitute* outside materials, however interesting they may be. Although some *additional materials may add to the lesson, the manual cautions, ‘Stay true to the scriptures and the words in the book…’ There is a *difference between supplementing material and substituting material.* Appropriate supplemental materials include [no "only" here] the scriptures, Church magazines, and uplifting personal experiences.”

    emphasis added.

  35. And I suspect that by “personal experiences”, the injunction you cite means to refer solely to “personal experiences.”. But whatever. I’m not convinced church authorities would disagree with what you’re saying, even though I don’t think they actually said what you think they said in the quoted section.

  36. Scott,
    Thanks for the post, I spent one year teaching in EQ and then last year teaching to YM and YW. I walked a pretty tight rope in bringing “outside” materials into the lesson and didn’t want to rock the boat (I’m noticeably different than most folks in the ward). With the teens its very easy to bring their life experiences and discuss them in class, but bringing in a copy of a magazine and weaving Justn Bieber in the lesson wouldn’t float.
    One interesting note that you do bring up is the deliverer of the outside material. Whoever the person is teaching brings credibility to the table, but if a fairly new convert or a substitute brings in outside material, I think folks would cock an eye at him/her.So, to add to your question- who could get away with it?

  37. I substitute often in primary. I don’t think I’m doing anything against the handbook when I have brought: costumes for the kids to act out The Good Samaritan, a picture for them to color, little clip art pictures on paper for them to glue onto their paper, magazines and clip art for them to cut out pictures, Children’s songbook CD, CD player to play CDs, music board with pictures I drew for them to choose songs to sing, crayons, glue, etc.
    I think the church handbook is merely trying to make sure that the lessons are actually used, not discarded by an arrogant teacher who wants to do their own thing instead.

  38. Observer (f.k.a. Eric. S.) says:

    The printed materials can’t teach the class themselves. So it’s impossible–unless you just read verbabim for 45 mins–for a class to be “taught” without an instructor who orally conveys his/her personal perceptions of the written material. Personal perceptions are personal experiences that will almost always vary from one person to the next. And how can anyone adequately and definitively fit the spectrum of human perception into a meaningful set of guidelines?

    The next sentence begins with, “As appropriate.” So there is a distinction, at least a suggestion, between appropriate and inappropriate personal experiences. Read together, these sentences may mean that appropriate personal experiences are those that relate and are limited to the materials used. This would not be inconsistent with giving a personal narrative of a scriptural account or life-experience after referring to the materials. But again, whenever anyone speaks, how can the listener–let alone the even speaker–possibly pin point the complete source of the related perception? Our statements are founded on a complex matrix of things we’ve already experienced and retained here and there. So following this CHI guideline then becomes a self-accountability issue for the speaker.

    I don’t know exactly what these words actually mean. They are someone else’s thoughts and words, so I’m just guessing like everyone else.

  39. I agree that the general outlines simplify how someone A) gains knowledge and B) utilizes past experiences and/or knowledge while preparing a lesson and trying to edify fellow saints.

    One fun experience that shows how these outlines can be interpeted differently by different people: while preparing a lesson on Abraham and Isaac this last year I–just as any graduate student in theology would do–planned on using Kierkegaard’s ‘Fear and Trembling.’ Many in the class loved it, but one member stood up and challenged me quite confrontation ally, demanding that I do not corrupt the pure doctrine of the scriptures with ‘the philosophies of men.’ before I could respond, several other members jumped to my defense and a verbal debate commenced over whether we could look to outside sources for truth.

    The next week, a counselor in the bishopric called me in his office. He said that the bishop wanted him (the counselor) to inform me to no longer quote from non-scriptural sources. However, he (the counselor) enjoyed how I used outside sources, so he encouraged me to just use them when the bishop wasn’t in attendance.

    I do, on the other hand, sympathize with Aaron in #4: I once had a ss teacher who brought skousen to class every week and read from that as much as the scriptures.

  40. NDBF G’s proscriptions are more about watchdogging “libruls” like Dave and Ben than about teaching the gospel. His dogmatism gives lesson periods a form of gospel teaching, but denies the power thereof.

    But I can’t support the other extreme, either, of substituting one’s own topic and material in place of the designated topic. I’ve sat through several years now of miserable Gospel Doctrine lessons where I seem to be the only one in the room aware that the teacher is doing just that, and making a terrible hash of it. We go weeks on end without referring to a single scriptural verse; in place of that, the teacher dredges up a dozen clips from the past several dozen years of Conference talks that kinda sorta relate to the lesson topic, and tediously reads them to us one after another. He announces that “the Brethren” don’t want us to read the scriptures (honest, he says that!) and that we should use the Conference Ensigns instead. Even when he designs a lesson on the general scripture assigned, his purposes have nothing to do with the outlined purpose: when the scripture is D&C 25, he gives a stupid lesson on the hymnbook and how you can sing the words of Hymn A to the tune of Hymn B (instead of the manual’s “husbands, support your wives” purpose); when the scripture is from Moroni, we get a half hour of Moroni-dedicated-the-Manti-Temple-site and planes-can’t-find-LAX-unless-the-temple’s-Moroni-statue-is-properly-lit; when the scripture is Genesis, we get rambling nonsense about the “spirit fluid” that filled Adam’s veins before the Fall.

    Even when a teacher is more interesting than ours — Kevin, undoubtedly — teachers who discard the basic intent of the lesson in favor of their own material, no matter how interesting, do a disservice to class members because they always, always, always lose sight of the overall purpose of PH/RS/SS teaching: The purpose of the Sunday curriculum is not to impart information, no matter how true or interesting or accurate that data is; it’s to give members a chance to explore how doctrine does or should shape our lives, and to bear testimony to each other about that doctrine.

    So no, the delivery method doesn’t change the acceptability of content if the content is outside of the central purpose of Sunday teaching, and the person delivering the content doesn’t change its acceptability.

    When content is *within* the purpose of the curriculum, if it supports and supplements and doesn’t replace the scriptures, then I think teachers have a far broader leeway. The problem is just that teachers writing their own curriculum are generally more interested in showing off their personal accomplishments, or in entertaining, than in actually teaching the gospel — and that’s as deadly as NDBF G’s dogmatism.

  41. I apologize for channeling RTS with that last.

  42. Aaron,

    And I suspect that by “personal experiences”, the injunction you cite means to refer solely to “personal experiences.”. But whatever. I’m not convinced church authorities would disagree with what you’re saying, even though I don’t think they actually said what you think they said in the quoted section.

    As long as we’re all being anal retentive for the New Year (I know I am!), only one of the injunctions says “personal” experiences. The injunction for class participants does not qualify it all.

  43. Also, fwiw, I have absolutely no idea what Aaron and I are arguing about, or really even if we’re arguing.

  44. I second what Ardis said, and groan at memories of lessons like that spiritual fluid one.

    When a teacher starts by saying, “I just didn’t know what I could teach about this week’s lesson…” it is *always* a prelude to a bad lesson.

    I loved teaching the Gospel Doctrine and priesthood lessons because it led me to study a wide range of sources, LDS and other. But, that was to prepare me, not to make up a substitute curriculum. To the extent that I forgot that, the class suffered.

  45. I was trying to figure out how to say what I wanted to say, and then I read Ardis’ comment.

    What I now want to say is, “What Ardis said.”

  46. Kevin Barney says:

    My lessons reflect the training I received as a young teacher from my priesthood leaders, to the effect that the lesson “manual” is to be the scriptures themselves, not a handbook generated by some committee, and we are to drink deeply from the fount itself. Times have changed, but I still teach the way I was originally acculturated to do. And I’ll be honest, I couldn’t teach the lessons as written if I tried. The pervasive prooftexting that goes on there is deeply problematic in my view. Teaching the scriptures with a little more context is the only way I can make the lessons make sense.

  47. As one of two singled out (yay me?) for my Jonah lesson (see here for the expanded podcast version and follow-ups here, and here) , I’m writing my own response to Gary, which will echo some of the comments here.

    One thing I’d like to post here as well as there, though, is I didn’t bring any foreign material into the classroom at all. Nothing. We read Jonah, more Jonah, and something from the First Presidency. Aaron B’s #4 is exactly a propos. “Every teacher comes to the lesson — and the manuals — with some prior knowledge of the subject matter at hand. And that knowledge is going to be the product of some combination of approved and unapproved sources. And the vast majority of us aren’t able to catalogue every tidbit of knowledge in our heads and identify its source. Thus, our outside reading will inevitably inform our lessons, no way around it. ”

    Now I couldn’t do this with every chapter, but with Jonah I could have been called on with 2 minutes warning, and it would have been the same lesson.

    This is already a long comment for me, so further thoughts in a similar vein here.

  48. Comment in moderation…[released now -admin]

  49. I don’t think the idea is to never, ever use a quote or story outside of correlated materials. Most of President Monson’s talks are full of stories and quotes from literature, songs, poems. I think the idea is just to not substitute an outside lesson for the core of the lesson. (or what Ardis said)

  50. I can’t teach the lessons as written, either, Kevin. I still feel bound to follow the curriculum to this extent: If the designated lesson centers on Daniel’s prophecy, I have to discuss Daniel’s prophecy even if I can’t make quite the same points outlined in the manual; or, if the designated lesson topic is temple worship or the Second Coming or whatever, I have to teach that topic even if I draw on different scriptures or other sources to make the points outlined in the manual. Either approach lets me teach the scriptures themselves and avoid proof-texting and overly simplistic answers (to the extent that I’m aware of such problems and can avoid them; admittedly, I’m a long way from being confident that I know enough always to recognize and avoid those traps).

    Because it’s what I have to offer, I sometimes draw on incidents of church history to reinforce the specified lesson goals and build a bridge between ancient history and contemporary life, just as you may draw on linguistics or ancient history or your other special skills. But I can’t substitute a lesson on whatever aspect of church history currently intrigues me in place of an Old Testament lesson on Daniel’s prophecy or temple worship or the Second Coming.

  51. In a previous OP the question was what was the social costs of appointing people to positions. I pointed out that the Church was in the business of minimizing either social costs or gains. I pointed out that if a bad bishop did not have much social costs associated with him because of the CHI, then how much less does a bad teacher? Using these guidelines anyone can be a teacher because now even the good teachers have to be bad.

  52. Someone mentioned correlation police: it happens all the time. So a good teacher with depth and breadth strays outside the narrow guidelines, he or she gets reported to the bishop and likely released. It is the gospel as seen through a keyhole.

    But I can see that some recent convert from an animist religion is appointed to teach the GD class needs these guidelines. Maybe the keyhole is a necessary filter. But in order to limit damage the Church limits benefits. What is the worth of a good teacher?

  53. Ardis 40: [Applause]

  54. Stan Beale says:

    I believe that this discussion has not really touched upon the key element of any lesson–what are it’s objectives. I am sure nearly all of you look to the manuals to list those goals, select the ones that you want (or have time) to cover and develop your lesson around thoem. The materials that you use will be the ones that best achieves your (handbooks) objectives.

    Frankly, Provided or suggested materials are often not very effective teaching tools. Asking class members to read a manual or have it read to them on little strips of paper by others is about the least utile technique one can imagine. If a scripture “works,” fantastic. If something from an approved source does, “great.” But if an outside source does the best job, so be it. I have used Milgrim’s obedience to authority experiment, Pastor Martin Niemoller’s “First they came for” speech, and the “tell someone how to tie their shoe” exercise to lead into discussions that dealt with some of the objectives of various lessons. None of those were in the manual or suggested supplemental material. but they worked and they furthered the point of the lesson.

  55. “since for every valuable Sunstone or Dialogue article it prevents me from using, it forces 99 other nutters to leave the Skousen or MoDoc at home. That’s probably a decent trade-off”

    But it doesn’t work that way. As others point out, the rule to use only-lds.org stuff (like the perceived rule that church music should only come from the green hymnal) is enforced by the squeaky wheel mechanism. If a quote reinforces what people already thought was true, then they do not care that it comes from a noncorrelated source, including Mormon Doctrine, Glenn Beck, Cleon Skousen, Will Rogers, or Rush Limbaugh. But if the quote wakes someone up in the audience (like a quote from Kierkegard), the teacher better be able to demonstrate it is also in some Church manual (or at least Mormon Doctrine) or all h— may break loose.

    By the way, I have never heard of a teacher being criticized (or being released) for having quoted Mormon Doctrine or Doctrines of Salvation or Answers to Gospel Questions. Although I have been present when other class members have challenged whether the quotes represented the official position of the Church or whether all the Brethren were agreed about it.

  56. Ardis,
    Amazing comment, and not even close to an RTS comment.

  57. DavidH, fair enough. Hard to disagree with what you say.

    Scott B, I’m not sure what we’re disagreeing about either. But I do know you’re a very disagreeable chap and I hereby call you to repentance for all your perversions, both real and imagined.

  58. Senile Old Fart says:

    Hmm. I use the Gospel Principles manual as the basis for my lessons. Usually, the 30-ish year old version – augmented with the recent updates (no MoDoc citations). I open the lesson by asking the class to help me reconcile two apparently inconsistent passages (from the manual or from the scriptures) that escaped the notice of the Correlators. Thus awakened, my high priests are generally happy to assist in correcting my ignorance. Where experiences of class members (or those of their wife’s second cousin’s father-in-law’s mission president) are related, I remember that some things that are useful aren’t very true.

  59. Kevin Barney says:

    Ardis, it sounds as though our approaches to teaching are actually very similar. I normally follow the suggested reading curriculum. The difference is that I do, only occasionally, go off the reservation. This discussion just happens to pop up while I’ve just gone through such a deviation. My own feeling is that we should not just jump from the OT to the NT, but that we need a transitional lesson to take account of the 450 years of history and development that leads from the one scriptural collection to the other. So it’s true that, on occasion, I’ll make a judgment call like that and take the responsibility and go with my gut to teach what I believe is needed, even if my judgment is not the same as that of the correlated manual writing committee.

  60. One of the things I most appreciate about having the CHI 2 available online is making sure that when I say something about church policy, I’m not just talking out of my butt. Good to know. More specifically, in response to the question about a bishop calling someone to be the correlation police, that calling already exists in the position of the Sunday School President who, among other tasks, is responsible for “help[ing] teachers understand how to prepare a lesson. They give teachers the approved curriculum materials for their classes and explain how to use them. They also review the article titled “Preparing Lessons” on pages 98–99 in Teaching, No Greater Call. (For a list of approved curriculum materials and instructions on how to order them, see the current Instructions for Curriculum.)”

    Getting to Scott’s restated question:

    “Does the delivery method actually change the acceptability of content? Does the person delivering the content actually change the acceptability? Can I relate my experience while reading about Kevin’s experience?”

    Yes, delivery method does change the acceptability of content. When my Institute teacher, either the former one in the person of Ben S – double mention! – or the current one, who used to write for various LDS apologetic periodicals, invokes his research and understanding of the scriptures beyond the CES manual, he should be sure to mention that this information comes from his experiences in research. Otherwise, it is (mostly likely falsely) implied that it comes from authorised church materials. So then someone in the class gets his or her hands on the manual, reads the lesson, and finds nothing from the lesson in the manual. This can cause all sorts of confusion. But if the student knows the material is coming from the teacher’s experiences with learning the gospel, it removes that gap.

    Also, teachers are in positions of authority, so they need to be sure to not make their personal experiences come across as authoritative. When a student in the class speaks up, he or she is speaking as a layperson, essentially, and not as one with authority.

    That being said, I think that the inclusion of being able to use personal experiences is the loop-hole that allows us to quote from movies, musicals, the Wall Street Journal, songs, and books by C.S. Lewis, among the many other examples of non-correlated materials that show up regularly in conference talks.

  61. Those instructions from the new GP manual (which are similar, if not identical to those found in other Church manuals) contain the seeds of their own destruction. “Stay[ing] true to the scriptures” and following the manual are sadly, in many cases, mutually exclusive objectives. I am no scriptural originalist, but words have meanings, and the lessons drawn from the scriptures by the manual tend to be based on highly abstracted or attenuated interpretations of those verses.

  62. It is interesting that the bloggernacle, in general, decries schmaltz. However, bathos and schmaltz are the bane that limiting things to correlated materials is supposed to counter.

    I’ve yet to have anyone quote Beck or Limbaugh or others in a lesson since the directives came out.

    Though, as DavidH points out, if a quote is the same as something people already believe, they sleep through it.

  63. I very much agree with Ardis’ (40), however, I don’t think that what she’s saying: “When content is *within* the purpose of the curriculum, if it supports and supplements and doesn’t replace the scriptures, then I think teachers have a far broader leeway.” can be inferred by a literal reading of the CHI passages that R.Gary quotes.
    Same thing can be said for Stephanie’s (49) and many similar comments. That’s just not how I read the CHI passages.

    At the same time, I totally disagree with the intent of those passages. So in the words of the immortal Empire Records – “Damn the man!”

  64. Kevin, I intend to do much the same thing this week — in part because I agree that a transition is needed (it isn’t as if the worlds of the Old and New Testaments are as sharply divided as the curriculum makes them appear), and in part because I think the assessment of last week’s teacher that the non-King-James-Bible-documented 400 years between the testaments as evidence of apostasy is both untrue and unfair, and in part because I think there are some wonderful and easily grasped parallels between our own Mormon history and the Israelites’ shift from a nation-state to their emphasis on personal behavior and a knowledge of the scriptures to mark themselves as the people of God. But I’ll cast all that as a subset of coming to know that Jesus is the Christ (thereby supporting the purpose of the lesson as outlined in the curriculum materials) rather than as a history lesson.

    Anyone who isn’t in my classroom to judge the spirit in which this is presented, and who objects to such supplementing — which fully supports the manual-mandated goal and which will be interwoven with the manual’s testimonial examples — because the material doesn’t come straight from one of the CHI’s specifically listed sources, can only be pharisaically objecting to the form and not the content or purpose of my lesson.

  65. Observer (f.k.a. Eric. S.) says:

    Ardis (40) – The Northern CA version is that the freight barges coming into The Bay can’t maneuver into port properly unless the Oakland temple is lit. That’s there’s some good lore.

  66. Anyone who isn’t in my classroom to judge the spirit in which this is presented, and who objects to such supplementing — which fully supports the manual-mandated goal and which will be interwoven with the manual’s testimonial examples — because the material doesn’t come straight from one of the CHI’s specifically listed sources, can only be pharisaically objecting to the form and not the content or purpose of my lesson.

    I fully, 100%, without reservation agree with you. I hope that was apparent from my comment.

  67. If there’s anything we all know about you, B.Russ, it’s that you’re no pharisee!

    Yes, Observer, whatever did those ships at sea do before 1964? It’s just terrible that civilization and industry in the Bay area couldn’t begin until we got there to light the way!

  68. My wife and I were debating about this all morning, and I think one element that may cause some disagreement in this area is that of whether or not the teacher is viewed as kind of de facto authoritative. If that is the case, then the words of an instructor are rightly assumed to carry more weight than the words of a commenter and, accordingly, the instructor should be careful to specify which resources he or she is drawing upon.

    The thing for me is that I guess I don’t view the instructor as being any more authoritative than anyone else in the room. There are times when this has been true, but the vast majority of my experience in church meetings is that knowledge about the scriptures and topics being discussed isn’t disproportionately concentrated in the instructors. In fact, the very reason I think most people make comments is precisely because they feel like they…you know…have something important to add, which the (presumably authoritative) instructor is leaving out.

    This is not to say that I assume equal knowledge, understanding, spirituality, inspiration across all people in all times; rather, I just don’t take what a teacher says in church any more seriously ex ante than I take a comment from the person sitting next to me.

  69. In further discussion with my wife this morning, we talked about what I would like to see–do I want to toss all manuals? Do I want to use “uncorrelated” materials? Do I want to use blogs and conversations as source materials?

    I think that this is what I want:

    I want everyone who is, as Ardis said, “pharisaically objecting to the form” or writing opinions about how correlated lessons should look and about what is allowable to understand the simple fact that each and every lesson we hear on every single lesson is filled to the brim with uncorrelated materials, whether we like it or not. It does not matter if we use only the scriptures and the manual, because each of us reads, comprehends, organizes, and presents those materials through a window in a house constructed over decades of experience through sin, repentance, education, work, relationships, and myriad other uncorrelatable influences.

  70. It does not matter if we use only the scriptures and the manual, because each of us reads, comprehends, organizes, and presents those materials through a window in a house constructed over decades of experience through sin, repentance, education, work, relationships, and myriad other uncorrelatable influences.

    So if I understand correctly, you want to start correlating my experiences and influences? I like it! Send the correlation committee to my office asap so they can decide which bills reach my desk before I put them into Quickbooks. Make my boss go through the committee before she talks to me. Oh sweet correlated life that awaits me.

  71. I was going to quote what Left Field quoted (34) but he beat me to it. You’re not supposed to subsititute things but you can add things. The Church wants to make sure that teachers are actually teaching the lesson they’re not trying to make it so that you can’t add insights into the lesson or keep you from doing research elsewhere from lds.org

  72. B.Russ,
    Forgive me if I’m missing some intended playfulness; if I take your reply at face value, then no–that’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying that correlating our experiences and influences is impossible, and I wish everyone would acknowledge that, so that we wouldn’t ever have anyone say that all materials used in lessons should be correlated again.

  73. Nate J (71),
    I was going to disagree with Left Field last night, but it was too late and I forgot. Thanks for giving me chance to disagree with you, instead!

    You’re not supposed to subsititute things but you can add things.

    If you take that to the people who wrote the CHI/Manual, and they agree with that interpretation, I’ll give you 1,000,000,000 Internet Bucks.

  74. Forgive me if I’m missing some intended playfulness; if I take your reply at face value, then no–that’s not what I’m saying.

    Probably not a good idea to take my reply at face value. It was pure snark (making fun of people who would like to correlate everything – quite obviously not you).

    If you take that to the people who wrote the CHI/Manual, and they agree with that interpretation, I’ll give you 1,000,000,000 Internet Bucks.

    Way to upstage my 50 IB offer last week.

  75. Good comment, Alex 60.

  76. #65: I lived in LA when the LA Temple was built. LA had a 13 story building limit due to EQs. The Temple was 13 stories, and with Moroni, the tallest building in LA. It was in an open area and could be seen for miles.
    But, I don’t think it was needed as a lighthouse. LAX is about five miles away. If you sailed, at night, in the Santa Monica Bay, you could see the Temple, but the Santa Monica Pier would be your landmark.

  77. Scott B:
    Well, it’s at least the way that one of the guys at church magazines interprets it. And unless they get more specific I’m not going to feel bad interpreting it that way.

  78. I hereby nominate Kevin and Ardis to the correlation committee. Problem solved.

    I’ve never been chained to the lesson material-rather liberated by the scriptures in the block. However, I Just found out that I was demoted (I mean called) to Stake Sunday School. So while I hover on auto-pilot the one question that I do have is: Is it appropriate for me to share with other teachers my “un-orthodox” teaching methods?

  79. #61- “Those instructions from the new GP manual (which are similar, if not identical to those found in other Church manuals) contain the seeds of their own destruction. “Stay[ing] true to the scriptures” and following the manual are sadly, in many cases, mutually exclusive objectives. I am no scriptural originalist, but words have meanings, and the lessons drawn from the scriptures by the manual tend to be based on highly abstracted or attenuated interpretations of those verses.”

    Exactly! If you have any knowledge of the scriptures reading the lessons can be really painful. The disjunction between the two is often stunning. I find it heart breaking at times, specifically when dealing with the OT. Perhaps future manuals will be truer to the scriptures.

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