The Three-Hour Block, or, On Mormon Catechism

Karen Carter is a historian of French Catholicism. She has been teaching in the history department at BYU since 2006. From her office window she can see the hospital where she was born, but she has lived in other places besides Provo, including Orem, California, DC, and France. Her high score in bowling is 216, and she is currently studying confession and communion in rural parishes in eighteenth-century France.

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in Europe, both Catholic and Protestant churches began to use texts known as catechisms to educate their members in church doctrine. The catechism was a series of questions and answers that the believer memorized and repeated back to priest or pastor. Catechisms had originally been used to teach adult converts Christian doctrine before they were baptized, but the genre disappeared once infant baptism became the norm. With the religious upheaval caused by the Reformation, church leaders of all confessions became increasingly concerned that members know and understand church doctrine so the catechism became popular once again. Luther and Calvin both published catechisms, and many others appeared in the next several centuries.

Catechisms served as a test of orthodoxy. In a time when churches were carefully delineating and standardizing their doctrines, it was important for leaders to have some sort of way to measure orthodoxy, and the catechism was a good tool to test it. Church leaders argued that if you couldn’t recite your catechism, then you couldn’t participate in certain rituals. In the Catholic context, that meant that you had to know your catechism if you wanted to take first communion, marry, or become a godparent to an infant at baptism. (Whether this actually happened in practice is hard to determine, but at least this was the Catholic clergy’s goal.)

The catechism also appealed to church leaders because it was safe: believers memorized the material and (theoretically) internalized it, so they had no need to speculate about doctrine or stray from orthodox beliefs. The catechism was designed to teach believers exactly what they needed to know—no more, and no less.

In Mormonism we have no significant doctrinal tests. Although children are encouraged to memorize the Articles of Faith, they would not be denied baptism if they failed to do so. No one has to repeat any scripture or other text in order to get a temple recommend. Even in the temple, the amount of recitation is minimal, and does not involve any tricky theology or doctrine. Instead, all of our tests deal with behaviors—the wearing of temple garments, chastity, the Word of Wisdom, etc. Therefore, it should follow that a text like the catechism would serve little purpose in the Mormon world.

Yet it seems that the most important texts of Mormonism have in fact become increasingly catechetical. We have manuals for everything—even nursery. Every ward and branch teaches the same thing at the same time. And this one-size-fits-all system means that church lessons are overly general, with prescribed, banal questions like “How does this [insert principle] apply to your life?” These manuals are safe, like the catechism, and require little intellectual thought. Everything has been sanitized and correlated, with anything the slightest bit controversial edited out. Even in sacrament meetings speakers are, more often than not, assigned a conference talk to summarize or read aloud, and thus there is very little room for speculation. As a result, some might argue that we privilege manuals and conference talks over scripture or anything else. Take a look around a typical chapel—you will see the Proclamation on the Family and various mottoes and themes hanging on the walls, but few scriptures, or even pictures that illustrate scriptures. The fact is, scriptures are controversial, while manuals are not.

But if we have no doctrinal tests, why do we require so much doctrinal education? Why should controversies even bother us? A person has to take deviant views to the extreme and then publish them publically before church discipline is put into place; in reality, a wide variety of doctrinal views are allowed within the umbrella of the LDS church. Overwhelmingly it seems that practice—behavior—is more important than anything as far as maintaining membership is concerned. So why do we need to do anything more than what the scriptures ask us to do: love each other, and minister to each other?

I would love to hear other ideas for church services that focus more on the gospel of Christ, instead of the gospel of church correlation committees. I would like to see our church meetings reflect the idea that practice is more important than doctrine. Instead of three hours in classes, how about we spend an hour taking the sacrament, listening to music, and meditating on scripture? Then we could spend the remaining time doing home teaching and visiting teaching, or simply socializing with others in our congregations. There must be better ways to spend our time than sitting in classrooms participating in the Mormon version of catechism class (otherwise known as reading quotes from General Authorities typed on little strips of paper). Few of us remember much about church lessons, but if we build good relationships with people, those will be remembered for a lifetime. Our prescribed church services should help us to create those relationships.

Comments

  1. I more-than-occasionally hear and/or teach good lessons and talks, ones that go far beyond the catechistical nature of a manual as you conceive it here. On the other hand, I can’t imagine ANYthing less interesting and less productive of fellowship or Christian behavior than “simply socializing,” i.e., making small talk,with others in my congregation. {shudder}

  2. marginalizedmormon says:

    good essay; much needed.

  3. Fantastic post, Karen; I really appreciated this. I especially liked this: “The fact is, scriptures are controversial, while manuals are not.”

    It reminds me of a point Craig Harline brought up: that in early Christianity, communion was a social affair, and that our notion of personalized worship where we all sit quiet and not speak during the sacrament is a modern notion. It seems our worship service, nowadays, often distills down to going through organized, albeit broad, rituals of proven our own submission to unwritten orders.

  4. [Stepping up onto one of my favorite soap boxes] Ardis, while I can agree with your abhorrence of “small talk,” can you see that friendship (the word “fellowship” and use of “brother” and “sister” are actual detriments to friendship), mutual support, a strong sense of community, etc. is the primary benefit of a being in a “ward.” That need is far from fully met by occasional quorum socials and Christmas Dinners. The bonding and interconnectedness takes time and many incremental experiences–including small talk just before and after Sacrament Meeting. Home/Visiting Teaching can be very strong contributors. Though those “programs” would be best served by changing the word “teaching.” and dropping any expectation of giving a “lesson.”

    We have long been, and continue to be, reminded by the powers that be that the most important purpose of Sacrament Meeting is partaking of the sacrament, that during the prelude music we should be reverent–the Handbook even states that the bishopric should be seated on the stand 5 minutes early to glower at the members and enforce reverence, etc. I know a bishop that shoos people out of the chapel right after sacrament meeting because their talking together (renewing and forming friendships) violates the sanctity of the room. All of that is over-emphasizing a less important principle, often at the direct expense of a more important one: friendship. I know another bishop that circulated throughout the chapel making small talk just prior to starting Sacrament Meeting–and then the meeting usually started 5 minutes late–a very well-spent 5 minutes.

    IMO

  5. fbisti, I’d wager you’re an extrovert, right? The shallow, trivial, contentless chatter that goes on in the chapel pre- and post- meetings,is destructive of, not contributory, to my worship and feeling part of a community. That is built for me by listening to class members’ thoughts about whatever, if the teacher is capable — as most are — of sparking discussion beyond the level of one-word answers to dull questions.

    I can sympathize with the need for consistently better lessons and talks. These proposals for completely reimagining the Sunday program, though, that come up occasionally on the blogs,miss the mark in my opinion, and would substitute a merely aesthetic and social experience in place of a learning and worshipful one. I don’t need a coffee hour, I need church.

  6. Except, Ardis, back in the day “church” was a lot more like coffee hour and a lot less like our current style. It was the social hub for the community. I worry that as we get further and further from that paradigm the more we risk losing people.

  7. Karen Carter says:

    I understand your critiques, Ardis–believe me, I do. I’m an introvert myself, and honestly most of the time I would rather listen to a good talk or sermon than be forced to socialize. But I don’t think that’s what God wants for me. I think He wants me to create relationships with people, and to truly commune with people. Socializing doesn’t have to mean shallow, trivial chatter devoid of content. If we cut down on programs, and the endless meetings necessitated by such programs, perhaps we would all have a bit more time and energy to truly get to know people.

  8. The governing idea is that the study of “true doctrine” will lead to the proper “behavior” in a way that merely talking about “behavior” cannot.

  9. A question and a thought: where do children fit in a re-imagined Sunday set-up? I’ve been daydreaming about teaching children the power of service through activities within Primary classes and sharing time, but don’t know how to go about beginning something like that.

    And yesterday in Sunday School, a man was asked to read the sacrament prayers and I wondered if anyone would have been scandalized had a woman recited them aloud.

  10. Ryan Mullen says:

    It has long been my experience that the teacher learns far more in preparing the lesson than the class does. This is also true of sacrament meeting speakers. Personally, the opportunity to serve my fellow ward members is the crux of my worship. This is the main reason I think the current system, in which ward size is limited (roughly) by the number of callings to fill, works well. Eliminating classes, then, eliminates opportunities to give meaningful, spiritual-preparation-required service.

    I do agree that the manuals are bland, but that’s a call to toss the manual (and focus on the text) not cancel the class.

  11. Karen Carter says:

    #8: That is exactly what the Catholic clergy thought in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Over and over again, the French bishops I’ve studied told their parish priests that if they just repeated the doctrine enough times, then it would be engrained on the hearts and minds of the laity and they would behave the way that the clergy wanted them too. It didn’t work. Interestingly enough, the parish clergy seemed to realize that this method didn’t work, and made a lot of compromises with their parishioners about behavior for the sake of the unity of the parish.

  12. I agree with some of the thoughts already expressed above–I have been a Relief Society teacher and I never asked the questions in the manual or limited the discussion to what was in the manual. I came up with my own discussion questions. The manual was a jumping off point in preparing my lesson. I have also repeatedly heard the admonition to use the scriptures as much as possible in our teaching and talks–that is why we don’t leave the house without our scriptures on Sundays and why kids are constantly being sent to the library to check out a set for class when they don’t bring their scriptures with them.

    I also agree with Ryan Mullen–I learned a phenomenal amount when preparing lessons because I was thinking so deeply about the material, searching for the best organization for its presentation, and pleading in prayer for the best way to give the lesson. I was always disappointed that I could not convey everything I had learned/all the insight in sharing my lesson. There just was not enough time. However, on the flip side, even with all I learned in preparation, I gained additional insight from the discussion that developed–from listening to what the class participants said.

    Perhaps the lessons are general in their scope and depth to meet the members where they are–line upon line and precept upon precept, as it were. Without going into speculation, we do not have to stay at a superficial level of examination perpetually. We can grow together.

    One final thought–perhaps the manuals are also taking into account how little preparation class members do before coming to class–ie, reading the Sunday School and Relief Society/Priesthood lessons on our own before church on Sunday. Imagine how much more learning/deeper discussions would be accomplished if we all did that. This is not meant as a condemnation at all–I simply recognized that I was often so busy that I did not make time for reading over the lessons before I got to class as a participant, so as a teacher I always presented the lesson as if no one had read it either. Again, I was not angry or disappointed, I just recognized it as the general case. There were people who did read ahead of time. I had two observations about those people–1) They got more out of my lesson because they had already been thinking about the material. 2) I felt sorry for wasting their time sometimes in reviewing material that they had already re-familiarized themselves with over the previous week.

    If we all read the lessons ahead of time, in a perfect, ideal world, I would not be surprised if the lesson manuals changed to reflect that. But, we are human and all making our way the best we can. So, the manuals and the three-hour block meets us there, at that point.

  13. Karen Carter says:

    #10: Yes, teaching others is certainly a way to serve fellow ward members, and I’m glad it is meaningful for you. It has been meaningful for me as well. But perhaps there are still better ways to serve, that can also be spiritually meaningful?

    On the other hand, one of my larger points is that the church leadership feels that they cannot simply “toss the manual” because of the difficulties involved with studying scripture. Because of the controversies surrounding them, scriptures are simply ignored in many lessons and activities. Within the current system, I would love to see a move away from manuals but at the same time more acceptance of doctrinal diversity–more acceptance of the fact that contradictions exist and that’s it’s okay to have questions and doubts. If we can’t make that leap, then a worship service that focuses on building relationships rather than listening to warmed-over conference talks seems a better choice.

  14. EmJen – Our family occasionally attends the Unitarian congregation; our city has an awesome youth program attached. An example of (older) primary or youth doing service during church for them is collecting socks for a month, then making sandwiches and then taking a walk through downtown. (That is where the church is located, so this might be an issue in the burbs.) They then pass out sandwiches and socks to the homeless. Somehow I think those kids get far more out of such an activity than a lesson on service.

  15. By the way, Karen, I really did enjoy your post and learned a lot from it. It gave me a new way of looking at our way of doing things.

  16. Karen Carter says:

    #12: I am currently a Relief Society teacher as well, and I also rarely use the set questions. However, I was specifically told by my RS leaders not to use any other materials besides the lesson manual or the scriptures listed in the lesson manual. I have ignored this advice and so far no one has called me on it. But the larger point that several of you have made is that in order to have a good worship service/learning experience, we have to virtually ignore the manual. Shouldn’t we recognize this, and change the way we think about worship service?

  17. Agghh–depending on which of my blogs I am on when I read a blog, different names pop up for me. Kindra = Kate Sherwood. So #15 refers to what #12 said, being the same person.

  18. This isn’t an either/or proposition. We need lessons…I even dare say that we need manuals. And we need a more social experience. In some ways, I feel like this is happening in the youth program. The new curriculum–while giving narrow topics–really is a great way to promote discussion and investigation. It is both targeted and flexible. And, when organized well, encourages the youth to share with each other.

    I think we could improve our Sunday meetings immensely if we encouraged smaller classes (you’ll never, ever hear me speak in a class of more than 15 people, let alone the 40 in my current sunday school class). Surely, not everyone would get the same instruction in each class, but I’m willing to accept more variance in favor of actual insight.

    For this to work, however, we’d have to expect members to actually, you know, prepare. I think one of the biggest obstacles to that is that we have decades of statements telling us we need to read the Book of Mormon every day, and read the scriptures every day, and do it as a family and as an individual. I swear, if I did all the scripture and gospel study I feel like we’re told to do, I’d lose 2 hours of my day. And I don’t think that much is necessary. In fact, when I think about ‘checking all those boxes,’ I get overwhelmed and just don’t do any of it. On the other hand, I find I feel really good about myself if I manage to get 2-3 hours of study in a week.

    Anyway…church needs to be both educational and social. And we need to make solutions that balance the competing needs.

  19. J. Stapley says:

    There are a couple of ecamples of formal Mormon Catechisms around in our history. But to your point, Karen, I’m reminded a bit of Ronan’s article on unity and the KJV. The unity that is produced from our currently liturgy and curricula is perhaps more the form and not the power of unity, but it is a type if unity nevertheless. I imagine that beyond tradition (which is admittedly a tremendous force) there are church leaders that believe that a communal unity will spring from this.

  20. J. Stapley says:

    …and sorry for the typos, I’m on my phone.

  21. I have two children in seminary right now. Among other things they are hard at work memorizing scriptures. And it is the same 25 scriptures the other seminary students memorize. We don’t say they can graduate unless they memorize them, but we do host competitions and reward those who know them better than the rest.

    They are, of course, also learning from very detailed manuals with lots of correlated commentary. But our seminary teacher has one other bonus. Her husband is not LDS and teaches [the equivalent of Gospel Doctrine] at a protestant Church. He attends seminary with them and adds some wonderful outsider commentary on the New Testament.

  22. My last twang on my one-note piano: I think He wants me to create relationships with people, and to truly commune with people. Socializing doesn’t have to mean shallow, trivial chatter devoid of content.

    Ah, but that doesn’t work for introverts — The surface conversations that happen with strangers do not lead to “getting to know someone.” The chatter in a chapel is never more than meaningless to us. Introversion isn’t shyness, and it isn’t an avoidance of people — it’s a way or processing the world that cannot be changed by extroverts telling us “to come out of your shell” any more than it would work for introverts to tell you to shut up already. We crave relationships just as much as you do — but we don’t form them through idle chatter. There has to be a purpose, a direction, a mutual benefit, for us to get to know someone. Relationships come after working together and discussing something meaningful together; they are not chatter itself.

    I would not like, and could not participate, in your church. Thank heavens I’ll never have to. Except that I do, in the chaos that chatterers make before meetings and while they clog up the aisles as I’m trying to escape their noise and the physical assaults masquerading as hugs.

  23. “The fact is, scriptures are controversial, while manuals are not.” Which is exactly why we’re not talking about what’s in the D&C in Gospel Doctrine this year (at least in my Utah stake) and instead are using class time to talk about general correlated principals that for most are uncontroversial. Yesterday it was being obedient to directions from church leaders–including treating everything they say over the pulpit as scripture. (While I murmured in the background my spouse, who is no introvert, did not let that go unchallenged.) I am hopeful about the new youth curricula. We’ll see. This post also reminded me that years ago when we lived in Virginia the elder’s quorum routinely spent the last hour visiting inactive members. Love the idea of Primary service activities. When I was the Activity Day Girls’ leader a couple years ago we did a number of service activities (and very few crafts)–that’s one place to easily shift in this direction. When we actually do do service I am concerned that most of it (at least what I see young women and the RS doing) end up being indirect projects–things that involve making something cute for a group of people (glorified crafting?!) that will be distributed by a third party rather than by directly serving people and the community. Thanks Karen.

  24. Moderation in all things and not having to be commanded in all things seems like a good balance to me. I think we often ask for more commands in order to escape the responsibility and difficulty of real moderation.

  25. As an introvert, I have to agree with Ardis on this one. I used to come to church 15-20 minutes early to meditate in a quiet, reverent environment. But in my new ward there are always so many people chatting in the chapel, both from the previous ward and my own ward, that it’s impossible. (I understand the need extroverts have to chat. I just wish they could do it in the foyers.) I don’t care much for small talk with lots of people. Its kind of painful and draining for me. I build relationships best with deeper, more meaningful conversations in very small group or one-on-one settings.

    So on the whole, I think I’d still prefer GD (especially on the weeks I teach) and RS. I should mention that I make no attempt to teach the lesson in the manual, other than loosely sticking to the general topic. And I prefer the other teachers who do the same. I feel like we get more meaningful discussion that way. I do think the 3-hour block is a bit long, and when the lessons read like a catechism, I would prefer almost any other activity. Maybe even idle chit-chat. But it’d be a lesser of two evils kind of thing for me.

  26. Yet Another John says:

    if you want to socialize and bond during the block, just join the sunday school class that meets in the foyer between sacrament meeting and church.

  27. Thanks for the insights on doctrine vs. behavior. And, great post!

  28. note to self – no matter what the urge, no physically assaulting Ardis in the hallways ;)

  29. I’d like a mix of these two polarities, actually. While I find the incessant relying on manuals to be dull and stultifying, and find nothing uplifting in overbaked lessons and rote answers, I also am not terribly interested in chit-chat and tons of smalltalk with folks who don’t really see me as a person. Maybe that’s part of the problem?

    I’d like a church where we could allow the scriptures to be controversial and scrap the manuals. I wish our testimony and faith were not questioned when we skipped the memorized answers and asked real questions. I wish my church felt more like a community than like something I endure for three hours once a week.

    This is a fascinating post. Thank you, Karen.

  30. Karen Carter says:

    Tracy, you took the words right out of my mouth.

  31. “There must be better ways to spend our time than sitting in classrooms participating in the Mormon version of catechism class (otherwise known as reading quotes from General Authorities typed on little strips of paper).” This is an excellent insight – and the crux of your argument as I understand it. I think this is possible in the church as-is, even with manuals and correlation, etc. A couple of weeks ago the GD teacher in my ward (who usually struggles to lead a discussion beyond the rote answers) asked what “administering of angels” really meant. Then, wonder of wonders, he let the class discuss this for several minutes. On our own. People quoted scripture and historical context, looked up other scriptures, and referenced their own experiences – all trying to figure out the possible (multiple) meanings. At the end of the discussion he quoted from a general conference address, but only because it was a direct response to an issue raised by a class member. In the end I learned what the general authorities had said on the subject, but I had also learned other views and interpretations that changed my understanding of the phrase. So, I know we have this potential. Sadly, I don’t know how we make this a typical, instead of exceptional, experience.

    Excellent post, Karen.

  32. Kevin Barney says:

    I teach GD, and I regularly remind the class that I don’t do catechism lessons. (And yes, I actually use the word “catechism”). So when I ask questions, I’m not looking for the formulaic response; they are genuine thought questions, and I really want to know what people think about them. I might have my own thoughts on the subject, but I’m not trying to herd the class members into a certain response, and I’m not asking them to read my mind. I find that I regularly have to remind the class of this, because the catechism model is so deeply engrained. But when I do, the floodgates open, and we have some truly fantastic discussions, and I learn as much or more as the class members do.

    My antipathy for the catechism method was born in seminary. My teacher would ask a question, and a student would give a deeply thoughtful response, and she, clutching the manual so tight that her knuckles turned white, would take a certain glee in announcing, “No, that’s wrong,” and then give the approved manual answer. And I”m thinking, “Didn’t she actually listen to what the student said?” That happened over and over again, and it permanently turned me off to that particular method of teaching in the Church.

  33. From the hinterlands says:

    Not long ago my bishop gave a talk during Ward Conference where he praised what he called the “Seminary answers.” He said that we don’t need anything more complicated than those simple precepts, and that those “Seminary answers” will get us all the way to exaltation. His talk was then quoted often for months afterward. Yeah, it’s pretty much a correlated wasteland in my ward, and I often flee as quickly as I can manage it.

  34. If I could just add my voice to the chorus of those who disapprove of anything that encourages more broad socializing of the “chit-chat” variety…for someone pretty far on the introvert side of things, any such activity is already fairly painful. I’m all for finding a way to replace the catechism model of Sunday School, but if more ministering means things like ward activities and even home teaching (aka “uh oh time for ten to thirty minutes of small talk with strangers assigned to pretend like they share my interests”), I’d struggle with that. I guess that wouldn’t be all bad but still…people…socializing…

  35. I’ll take chit chat over catechism class any day. Even as an introvert– at least at church. There is nothing so spiritually deadening and alienating as having to sit through readings of GA quotes and formulaic and/or conservative-politics- inspired answers. (Chit chat enough with someone, even someone with a boob job and designer everything, and it usually becomes something more. (as i discovered working in the nursery one year). I think I’ll be using the “I don’t do catechism lessons” line when I fill in in RS in a couple of weeks!

  36. Karen H. says:

    Karen, I loved that you used an example of the evolution of another church to help us understand our own. It’s interesting how much light can be shed on patterns that we take for granted when they are presented in a comparison. Loved the post!

  37. Joshua B. says:

    29: I’d like a church where we could allow the scriptures to be controversial and scrap the manuals.

    I often feel this way, but am frequently reminded that many people are not capable of exploring this without a trainwreck happening.

  38. Joshua B. says:

    @33: Everytime I have those thoughts, I think, “Well… he could be up there forbidding Twitter or reinstating polygamy. I think I prefer today’s material.”

    @34: Amen. Giving more meaningful service could make a nice alternative?

  39. #33 – Not to deepen your frustration, but when my Bishop asked me to teach the oldest youth class, he told me explicitly that the youth had been taught how to read a flight manual in Primary and that they now needed to learn how to fly the plane on their own. He told me he didn’t want them to hear the same things they had heard multiple times in their lives, and he asked me to approach the class as if I was teaching adults who needed to discover what they personally believe.

    Yesterday, we spent the entire class talking about why pain and suffering exist in this life (not just theoretically, but in practical terms, as well), what part we personally play in both the receipt and cause of pain and suffering (and how we focus so much on the pain that afflicts us that we tend to ignore the pain we inflict – removing ourselves from the reason why Jesus suffered for others) and why a God had to suffer (responsibility and accountability extended to all, even God). We read scriptures, asked questions, discussed multiple possible answers – and I gave them each a copy of Jacob’s recent BCC post on divine responsibility to read with their parents and continue to consider.

    Next week, we are talking about the role of Jesus’ life and ministry in the Atonement – how at-one-ment encompasses much more than “just” the Garden and the Cross. We will talk about what it means to believe God, the Son, really was a man, as well.

    We’re digging deeply into the lesson concepts each month, and the students love being treated like intelligent adults.

    I really love that man.

  40. Well, at least its clear that there is no conceivable Sunday meeting structure that will come close to satisfying everyone…

    Much of this post really resonates with my views and experience, but one point was surprising. Living in Arizona, Maryland, and California, I have seen no general tendency to discard or avoid the scriptures. In GD class, I would have guessed an average of ~2-3 scriptures for each GA quote. As a teacher in various capacities under varied leadership, I have always felt the strongest encouragement to place more focus on scriptures, rather than less.

    That said, I agree we have tons of room for improvement in gospel instruction. Their is a tendency to rote blah answers to uninspiring questions, many of which do come out of the manuals (While I have many times heard the idea that the “primary answers” are still the best, I have also felt a good deal of encouragement to try to get beyond them).

    Controversial topics are often avoided or skirted over because no one wants to jeopardize another’s testimony, but also because of a crushing collective fear that the sanctity of the discussion might be compromised by contrasting views. Contention is of the devil, after all. If one class member should openly disagree with another, the horror…!

    Maybe it’s my imagination, but I often get the sense that we place such an emphasis on “knowing” that people are uncomfortable asking real questions (adults, that is – the deacons I’m in class with are nothing but questions). Not understanding a scripture could, for example, signify a weak testimony.

    I think many of these tendencies are based in (1) American Mormon culture (but that *most* of the encouragement from the top down is to move away from them), and (2) lack of skill, preparation, and effort on the part of teachers and students. There will always be good teachers and “less effective” (okay, “developing”) teachers. The more formulaic the manual, the better it serves as a crutch to the less capable and ill-prepared. The implicit message I heard regarding the new youth program was that it was intended to weaken the crutch. While I question its utility, I believe that replacement of the missionary discussions was intended to push missionaries in the same direction. But there too, as a missionary almost 20 years ago I felt we were always expected to use the discussions as a springboard and tool rather than a catechism – the new program just made it more explicit.

  41. I was under the impression that, as Greg Prince said, “our manuals and our sermons have increasingly focused on behavior rather than doctrine”.

    Anyway, RE: catechism, I think our church often has holy envy for the simple catechisms of other religions. Note how much we seem to enjoy reciting the YW statement, or D&C 4 as missionaries.

  42. #41 it seems to me that our manuals do focus on behavior–but behavior means obedience to directions from leaders and the litany of seminary-approved route behavioral guidelines (pay tithing, pray, attend church, go to the temple . . .). Excellent point about Mormon-style catechism. I sometimes mocked this as a YW myself and now have a hard time when the Laurels come into RS once a month (at least in our ward) and we all have to stand and recite the theme (content-wise–especially the things that have been added recently–this is troubling, and then there’s the whole, this really feels like brain-washing aspect of it). I’m not sure how I’ll address this with my daughter when she’s old enough for YW. We also have monthly scriptures that get recited in Primary. And primary songs, especially certain ones, could also be thought of in terms of Mormon catechism.

  43. “this really feels like brain-washing”

    Says someone who obviously has not expereinced brain-washing. My daughter isn’t starving no matter how loudly she claims she is an hour before dinner is ready.

    Please forgive the sarcasm, but when certain words are used in radically incorrect and elastic ways, it weakens terribly the actual meanings of the words and trivializes horrendous or extreme things.

  44. Doug Hudson says:

    In response to 42, I think one needs to distinguish between “indoctrination” and “brain-washing”. Doctrine (not religious doctrine, but simply the “way things are done”) is often sneered at or viewed as a bad thing, but the reality is, any organization above a certain size needs to have doctrine in order to function. That is, there needs to be a default way of doing basic tasks for the organization, so that members can function without constant supervision.

    This doctrine must be passed on to new members, and rote memorization is one of the most common ways to do it. There is nothing inherently wrong with indoctrination; only when it is forced indoctrination (aka brain-washing) is there a problem. Since, as Ray points out in 43, Mormons generally don’t starve or beat their children for refusing to learn the Articles of Faith or other Mormon “doctrine”, it isn’t brainwashing.

  45. We don’t starve or beat our children when they don’t stand and recite the YW theme correctly. We call them stupid for not being able to memorize a list of virtues. We treat them as unworthy for not taking the time to commit 13 short paragraphs of belief to memory (oops, one is a claim). We pit them in competitions against each other to find the location of a scripture verse as fast as possible. It’s much easier to judge an 11 or 17 year old on if they said the words in the right order than if they understand what they mean. The social consequences of failing this superficial test can be just as coercive as a ruler rap on the knuckles for mumbling the Nicene Creed. This isn’t as powerful as brain-washing, but it is in the same spectrum.

  46. I think you should distinguish between catechism and credo: they serve very different purposes.

    If someone ran up to a Catholic and asked, what do Catholics believe, one might expect a recitation of the credo (hopefully not in Latin!): “We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, …”. The U.S. credo might be the preamble to the Constitution: “We the people, …”

    The key is that credos tend to start with “We”, implying:
    1) this is a communal (bottom-up) belief: one I share with a group, not just my own views
    2) this is an individual intent: believing it declares that I accept the group.
    3) this is an article of faith: it explains what I believe, and assumes that it is true.

    The catechism is a dual to a credo. It tends to start with “Thou shalt (not)”, implying:
    1) this is a normative (top-down) belief: set by authority for me to accept.
    2) this is a group norm: believing it means the group will accept me.
    3) this is a catalog of truth: it explains what is true, and assumes that I will believe it.

  47. it's a series of tubes says:

    We call them stupid… We treat them as unworthy…

    Wow, you and your fellow ward members are harsh on the kids. Never seen anything like that, myself.

  48. RE: 42-45…

    I agree that our religion/church must have a set of beliefs, practices, and “doctrines.” Usually referred to as “doctrine” though a minority of it really qualifies. No way around that–though I would prefer much more emphasis on true, pragmatic principles/skills. I will even agree that it is useful to indoctrinate and propagandize our children with a simple, largely rote, “catechism.” (lists of beliefs, sets of dos and don’ts). However, what we are taught, officially and formally, as an adult curriculum continues to be the same indoctrination-level stuff. It is severely simplistic, limited, shallow, and carefully controlled, That is problematic. What happened to the concept Paul stated: “when I was a child I spake as a child…now I am not a child”

    I know that many have commented here that the classes they usually attend are well-taught and consist largely of discussion among students/participants. I have found that not to be the case in my experience. I have lived in Provo (briefly and not in a student ward), Cincinnati, Houston, and Phoenix. In all cases such teachers and such classes–especially in the past 25 years or so–have been the rare exception, not the rule. The official instructions limit the sources that are “acceptable.” The lessons are extremely simple, edited, and (in the case of church history) qualify for Elder Packer’s (truth is over-rated) definition of “faithful” rather than objective (true). It is rare, in my personal experience, to find a teacher that will not very quickly try to get the lesson “back on track” if comments/answers lead away from the approved outline/answers. The message is clear: stay on the strait and narrow or shut up.

    I don’t know how it could be implemented, but I would begin attending classes again if there were a class akin to graduate school. One meant for serious examination of doctrine, principles, history, etc. It would be a place where we could discuss and learn from one another–keep some of us from “going off the deep end, so to speak. The first problem would be how to keep those with weak (not inoculated) testimonies out of the class–those that would be “offended” by my eating the meat of pagan sacrifices[1]. However, if I shouldn’t worry about the damage my comments regarding knowledge of things I have come to understand very much differently than what is in the “curriculum,” let me know.
    [1]
    1Cor 8:7 Howbeit [there is] not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat [it] as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled.
    1Cr 8:8 But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse.
    1Cr 8:9 But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to them that are weak.
    1Cr 8:10 For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols;
    1Cr 8:11 And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?
    1Cr 8:12 But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ.
    1Cr 8:13 Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.

  49. I may have been too flippant in using the word brainwashing, but agree with Mark that what happens with Mormon children and youth is on the spectrum. (And my ward currently has a rather zealous YW president who likes to use other sorts of ritualistic mantras, hand motions, and songs with the girls.) The indoctrination that happens in primary and youth programs means that few adult Mormons (in the US– or at least who have connections with the Mormon corridor???) are comfortable moving beyond the canned responses they’ve learned to repeat. “discussion” has to follow a particular script or they don’t know what to do.

  50. ” We call them stupid for not being able to memorize a list of virtues. We treat them as unworthy for not taking the time to commit 13 short paragraphs of belief to memory.”

    What #47 said. I’ve never seen or heard that in nearly 50 years in the Church. Competition, yes – and I don’t like that approach; the description above, not once. I’m glad I don’t know anyone who is part of that “we”.

  51. “The indoctrination that happens in primary and youth programs means that few adult Mormons (in the US– or at least who have connections with the Mormon corridor???) are comfortable moving beyond the canned responses they’ve learned to repeat. “discussion” has to follow a particular script or they don’t know what to do.”

    Maybe in your ward, but, again, that’s a terrible mischaracterization of most members I know. Sure, we don’t get confrontational much in church, but that’s a far cry from being nothing but parrots.

    RD, I want deeper, more engaging, more free-flowing discussions as much as you do, I’m sure (and I’ve been on that soapbox for many years) – but that’s a completely different thing than the extreme, stereotypical insults of your last two comments.

  52. I really think that the church is moving away from the obvious answer approach to curriculum. The ‘Come Follow Me’ curriculum is really very good, giving teachers considerable freedom and really emphasizing the importance of getting the youth talking and asking questions and working to answer them. The old youth curriculum was really very problematic–I would essentially use titles and not much else–but the new one is really quite good. And, at least in my ward, a great deal of effort has gone into supporting teachers in it and helping them improve their teaching.

  53. That’s why I clarified-Utah (perhaps Utah valley) And other heavily lds areas. I’ve had very different experiences in other places, and there are exceptions here, of course–Karen, after all, is teaching RS in Utah. And I am hopeful about the new youth lessons. I think it may take a generation raised on the new youth teaching model and with access to new resources like church history archival material to shift cultural norms. I think the new lesson model is also affecting adult teachers who are being encouraged to explore and think on their own ( to a greater extent) about scriptures and doctrine and a range of resources– so maybe things will shift significantly sooner than that. All of this doesn’t mean that great things aren’t happening in ward houses all over the place now– but I think my characterization is reflective of the experiences of most people I know ( we may be a select, and fairly critical group to be sure) in Utah valley. It is probably also reflective of my building frustration and feelings of alienation . . . and fears ( and hopes) for my kids.

  54. In #45 I referred to the uncharitable treatment as social consequences because they usually come from peers. Occasionally it is administered by an authority figure, but in most of the congregations I have been in, it’s the youth emotionally abusing other youth. If you don’t see this happening in your ward, then either the kids are angels, or have just learned to play nice when the grown-ups are around.
    In my calling as a priest quorums advisor, I encourage the boys to ask “what does this mean?” when we read a verse. I tell them that reciting a scripture reference or even the verse itself doesn’t do much good if they don’t have an understanding of the words. The same should apply to lessons for adults.

  55. it's a series of tubes says:

    If you don’t see this happening in your ward, then either the kids are angels, or have just learned to play nice when the grown-ups are around.

    i.e. “What I am saying is true, and if you don’t agree, you’re blind”. No offense, but bollocks.

    Here’s a few other options to try on for size: “If you don’t see this happening in your ward, perhaps the kids are grappling with bigger issues than who can recite what, or perhaps the kids tend to support one another because there are few LDS youth in their schools and they feel a natural kinship as members, or perhaps the parents of the kids modeled things that matter rather than only things that are socially acceptable among upper middle class white Mormons, or perhaps the kids simply don’t give a damn about things that people in Utah get hung up on.”

  56. yvonne bent says:

    Wow, what an interesting Pandora’s box this has opened up.
    I have been a member of the Church all my life. I have participated in decades of Sacrament meetings, watching the beauty and freedom that came from sharing and music to relegated rules on how we are to “worship”. I have raised my children up to believe that serving in the Church and following the prophet was their entire goal, served in ward callings, stake callings, and homeschooled my family. The missionaries have lived in my home; I have been on a quest to talk to everyone I ever met about the Book of Mormon, I have read the book of Mormon more times than most people live at an old age. I have sat in on church courts and have seen members of my family opt out of the church, more because the priesthood leaders were more intent in making a point than fellowshipping and bringing them back to the fold. More than anything else, I have seen over time the dwindling of the spirit in the meetings, the routine and outward performances and ordinances take on the very same power and meaning that belonged to the Pharisees, and I have lived it over and over in my life in the ward. This may sound cynical, but it is more tragic than anything else, because what I found out from all these rules is that it has made my priesthood leaders deaf to the spirit, but precise in following the rules in the handbooks. I have become awakened to the myriad of false beliefs about what worshipping looks and feels like. I have been invited into the company of people who rejoice in the Lord, sing His praises, dance together and give thanks to Him and His glory, see him regularly, serve each other without any hope of recompense, forget about what they have been told all their lives about what “reverence” actually looks and feels like (to revere is to honor and glory in his presence and have joy. I have yet to see anyone in church during the sacrament look remotely like they were having joy) and live to find how to better keep the first 2 great commandments, which will never be taught from a book or manual, no matter how prepared the teacher might be.
    If anything, all these amazing rules in this Church are brought to our awareness to show us how far away we are from the real thing (See D&C 22:3) and to develop inside of us a hunger that can only be quenched with the actual personal visitation and presence of Christ. The minute we get wrapped up in rules, in honoring men instead of praising Christ, in the reinterpretation of the words of any man or even scripture to better suit our puny little minds, we are in serious trouble, and definitely past the road to apostasy, which means rejecting the prophets (those who can claim and testify that they have seen Christ) and know that each and every one of us is entitled to that same experience. Where are you in your worship for the Lord and in serving His precious children? Are you more concerned in your “good standing” in the Church, or are you seeking a place in His kingdom and membership in the Church of the First Born? Have any of these combative questions shown up in the manual lately?

  57. “If you don’t see this happening in your ward, then either the kids are angels, or have just learned to play nice when the grown-ups are around.” That’s an exaggeration meant to suggest that closer examination of some kids in some wards may reveal that they aren’t getting along as well as we hoped.
    Rather than give members of any age an artificial measuring stick like rote memorization to beat each other up with, let’s continue to move towards a model of teaching that emphasizes personal study and comprehension of the gospel. At the same time, we need to be aware that those around us are learning different ideas at different rates, and that even the slowest student can contribute to a class discussion.
    Then again, maybe I’m just bitter because I never won a scripture chase.

  58. it's a series of tubes says:

    That’s an exaggeration meant to suggest that closer examination of some kids in some wards may reveal that they aren’t getting along as well as we hoped.

    I don’t disagree with this sentiment in the least. Rather, just disagree that the source and/or vehicle of such tension is scripture memorization or the articles of faith.

    Rather than give members of any age an artificial measuring stick like rote memorization to beat each other up with

    Again, you must live in a harsh place. Never seen anyone in the church, even missionaries back when memorizing the 6 discussions was a goal, act in the way you describe. That being said, I could be biased in my assessment because I enjoy memorization. I can still recite long sections of Poe learned in elementary school, bits of Hardy that I love, much of Tolkien, Chaucer, Fitzgerald, Joyce… mmmm. Like fine wine in the brain. Not that I would know :)

    let’s continue to move towards a model of teaching that emphasizes personal study and comprehension of the gospel. At the same time, we need to be aware that those around us are learning different ideas at different rates, and that even the slowest student can contribute to a class discussion.

    Sounds good to me.

  59. yvonne bent says:

    I spent years studying the Articles of Faith. I love them. They are the most encoded information you can possibly imagine. Most people just think they are a catechism. They are not. They are the endowment. They actually show a progression of light. The Articles of Faith is the most perfect chiasmus I have ever come across. If you have any interest in learning more, pick up a copy of Discoveries in Chiasmus.
    If more people were given the nudge that simple memorization is just a means to get familiar with words and sentence structure and a basic story, but that there was more, much more to what is deep inside, there might be more people who were excited to learn that they could find the beauty and mysteries available to any who are hungry and desirous to learn more. It was only because I DID memorize the A Of F that I could go further, and I am glad of it. But most people are not interested in that.
    I am not interested in someone else’s story any longer. I am not satisfied with the fictitious stories of the pioneers that we have been carefully spoonfed. I am only interested in having the real thing. Joseph Smith was not fond of Sunday meetings like Sunday School. It wasn’t until David O McKay made the manuals that we even had them. Christ wasn’t big on meetings like that either. He went out into the world to love and bless all who he met. Every day became a Sabbath day for all those who loved him. What I see we have made into Sunday is a travesty, but it is my favorite day to continue to say, “I am hungry for more. I want the Savior. I want to be with those who want him more than anything else in the world. There is nothing like being in the presence of Christ.”
    Since I have friends who have had that privilege, I can now say that wanting what they have is leagues above saying I want to participate in a dried up lesson. I want the real thing. Anything less than that is just that–less. We can all have what Joseph Smith had. Why do we accept so much less and think we have it all? As long as you are going back at looking at catechism, you might want to study the same patterns in the other things that went on in the Catholic church that are taking place in the LDS faith today. Look at people like the Martin Luthers, who went to study theology and came back and challenged the church for all the false doctrines they were teaching. There are so many that you don’t know, but there are plenty that you might. And as far as having differing viewpoints from the brethren, they are all silenced in some way or another. There have been mass excommunications in the church (Passing the Heavenly Gift), or other kinds of atrocities that have been covered over.
    Waking up to the state the church is in is a hard, hard thing. Coming to Christ, which was the entire intent of the Church is the goal and focal point. In all your worship, does it put you in the place to see yourself as Moses when he proclaimed, “Now I know that man is nothing,”

  60. Oh. My. Goodness. Anybody else having nutty pecan pie for Pi Day?

  61. LOL

  62. #60 BCotW. I love you, Ardis!

  63. #60 is a perfect example of why I keep an Ardis-altar in my house – disguised as a memento of my mission in Japan – next to its twin, my Thomas-Parkin-altar.

  64. yvonne bent says:

    Apologies out to all those who I have offended. This is clearly not the place to be discussing these things. Sorry

  65. yvonne, there was no offense – sorry for poking fun that way.

  66. While the impish side of me comes out to play too often (and I apology for its being at your expense, yvonne), as a sober historian I *was* startled by your comments about the Articles of Faith. Understanding for whom the AoF were composed, and for what purpose, and understanding why those particular beliefs were enumerated for that audience while so very many critical doctrines are not mentioned even in passing, and knowing how long it took and by what process the AoF made it into our scriptures at all … a claim that they conceal the highest truths and that their very form is significant (how do you then explain the editing that was done before they assumed their present form?) calls for something more than a simple assertion — especially coupled with the other startling assertions of your comments. You cannot expect to say something like that without the slightest explanation and have it accepted respectfully. That’s not rational.

  67. “That’s not rational.”

    I see what you did there.

  68. Curses! The imp is caught again!

  69. yvonne bent says:

    I am more than happy to expound. If you have a background in Hebrew, geometry, and chiasmus, as well as a background in chemistry, anatomy, cosmography, the periodic table, and gamatria, as well as the pattern of light that flows through all matter, it would not be a difficult thing for you to grasp at all. Joseph told us that if we want to obtain truth and wisdom, it was not to ask it from books, but to go to God in prayer and obtain divine teaching. He also talked about how little he could share with the saints because it was like trying to split a pumpkin with a beetle, which I believe it was some sort of wedge.
    When I decided to homeschool my children, it was because an instructor explained to the group that you could teach children all subjects using the scriptures, with everything else as reference material. I sheepishly decided to take the challenge. I taught my children reading and writing, as well as a number of other subjects. But I got stumped just like everyone else on the math and the science. That is when the Lord sent me heavenly tutors. It was a lengthy process, about 10 years, but I have been given information that I have never heard the likes from LDS scholars. When I realized that as I presented my papers at the BYU Studies 50 year anniversary that none of those lettered papered men could make hide nor hair of what the Lord had shown me, I knew that my life was forever changed and I had something rare indeed.
    I have hosted 2 separate symposiums in the Salt Lake Area, one in 2009 on the discoveries in Chiasmus, and the next year on Sacred Geometry. You can look me up on the internet, I have never done anything but invited others to share. I have worked with a number of famous scholars that are not LDS who greatly appreciate my work, but for some reason there are few people in the LDS pond who find higher and greater knowledge either easy to grasp or will not do it because it comes from an unlettered LDS woman.
    I do not mean to be disrespectful, but I get the feeling that you are a man who loves the safer LDS scholarly approach, and if that is the case, you will have a more than difficult time deciphering this information. Brigham Young was correct when he said that all truth belonged to the Church, but not too many “active and dedicated” Mormons have either the determination or the daring to go out past FARMS or Deseret Book, or even Joseph Smiths papers. Perhaps it came to me a morsel at a time, but I was so hungry for more and every time the Lord gave me a bite to eat, I just asked for more and more. I have found that the more open our minds and willing our hearts, the more pure knowledge will flow into it.
    There is a wealth of information that blesses our lives and we see it every time we attend the temple, but most people haven’t got a clue what they are looking at or participating in. You have to have a desire to grasp the sacred geometry and all that it entails to begin to grasp even the temple construction, let alone the endowment. The Lord taught me and He will do the same with every single soul who wants the pure truth, not something that has been touched by so many people with titles, letters, and church callings. I have learned this for myself. If you are interesting in learning about it, you are welcome to contact me directly at my email.

  70. I stopped reading after the first sentence. This isn’t the humblebrag thread, and something dripping in that much condescension . . .

    Then my internal masochist kicked in and forced me to read the entire comment. I suffered through it, but I’m glad I did, since I’ve never seen a description of Ardis like the following:

    “I do not mean to be disrespectful, but I get the feeling that you are a man who loves the safer LDS scholarly approach, and if that is the case, you will have a more than difficult time deciphering this information.”

    That needs to go in the BCC Comment Hall of Fame – and it needs to be included in the funniest comments of the year on ZD’s recap post next year. I think I will be chuckling for months.

  71. “why do we require so much doctrinal education?”
    You point out our religion focuses heavily on “correct” behavior.
    As Pres. Packer says a study of doctrine will change behavior better than a study of behavior.
    It could be said then that we study doctrine for the “right” reasons. Not to profess true belief, but to endow us with power in demonstrating it.

  72. *sigh*

    Yes, yvonne, as Ray notes, you have pegged me at least as accurately as you have all other matters. It’s only too bad that you have progressed so far in your heavenly ascent that you can not explain in mortal language some small part of your vision rather than merely boasting about your possession of it. I do think, though, that I as well as virtually all other readers have a sufficient grasp, now, of what you have to offer, so I bid you farewell and will no longer deign to annoy you with my “safer LDS scholarly approach.” Good luck. I mean that much, at least, with all sincerity. Good luck, indeed.

  73. That was kind of you, Brother Parshall, to respond to Sister (ahem) “Bent.” Now, back to the discussion on the three-hour block. That is, unless Yvonne cares to come back on and explain the concept of heavenly geometry. I bet it’s real groovy.

  74. Hunter…”Sister” Parshall.

  75. John, I never claimed to be much of a man — I’m not half the man that Steve Evans is — but there’s no reason to chide Hunter this way. He’s only taking his cue from yvonne in 69, which you have obviously failed to appreciate to its fullest.

  76. Doug Hudson says:

    Huh, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Mormon who was into New Age-ey “enlightenment”. You learn something new everyday.

  77. “Joseph told us that if we want to obtain truth and wisdom, it was not to ask it from books, but to go to God in prayer and obtain divine teaching”

    Yeah I’m pretty sure he didn’t really say that.

  78. Going back to the original post, before everything got wacky, one thing I love about our church (and Christian friends from other churches have admired) is how much teaching we have. We essentially sit through three hours of in-depth gospel teaching in an age where other churches have half-an-hour of singing catchy but trite songs followed by a ten-minute homily. Yes, the manuals are often very stilted and cheesy (I threw mine out when I was YW Pres) but we’re moving away from that anyway, as the change in the Youth curriculum shows.

    Those here who know me will know that every Sunday afternoon on Facebook I post “What I learned at Church today”. It’s usually about six or seven things which I gleaned from that morning’s three-hour block that I didn’t know before. I doubt I’d get that with socialising or visiting teaching.

    I didn’t grow up the the church so I don’t have the scriptural grounding that many other members do. I never did Seminary, never had family prayer and was never taught the doctrines of the restored gospel. I really value Sunday School and all the lessons which help me learn how to be a better person, and come closer to God. I couldn’t get that from socialising or visiting teaching.

  79. it's a series of tubes says:

    #69 deserves to become legendary. Just… wow.

  80. I’m reading minutes this morning from the 1890s in southwestern Colorado. One speaker notes that Saints who are converted “out in the world” (please — make allowances for the time and place and don’t be automatically offended) come “to Zion” where they are no longer visited by missionaries and taught in their homes. He says that as a consequence they “become sleepy,” and they need to attend church and study with each other in order to “wake” and continue on the path.

    There’s probably a lot of truth in that today, regardless of where we live or where/when we were converted. We can say we can study and learn more on our own than in a classroom where a dishwater manual is guiding discussion … but honestly, how many of us actually DO study regularly and deeply and productively at home?

    Thank you,Anna (78) for what I think is an outstandingly wonderful comment.

  81. yvonne bent says:

    This is the wrong place to have any of this discussion. By the way, Steve, Joseph did say that about getting our learning from heaven. It is in Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith.

  82. KerBearRN says:

    Sacred Geometry?? Interesting if you are building a pyramid, I suppose. Anything about the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch? If not, then I shall count to three–NOT four; not two, unless going directly on to three; and FIVE being right out– and say goodnight.

  83. Qabbalists are cool.

  84. yvonne bent says:

    Does it bother you that your ignorance is showing 82?

  85. yvonne, you have to admit that the term ‘sacred geometry’ *is* intriguing.

  86. Does it bother you that your ignorance of Monty Python is showing 84?

  87. Claims of this nature are a bit DaVinci Code-ish. They attract certain kinds of people who like to impose order, but ultimately the connections just don’t hold up. (FYI, Yvonne, I’ve taught Hebrew at the University level, managed to make it through OChem for Majors as an undergrad, and have read a bit about sacred geometry.)

    Some LDS see esoteric Mormon doctrine everywhere, reminiscent of the Rorscach inkblot joke.
    A man goes to a Psychologist and says, “Doc I got a real problem, I can’t stop thinking about sex.”
    The Psychologist says, “Well let’s see what we can find out”, and pulls out his ink blots. “What is this a picture of?” he asks.
    The man turns the picture upside down then turns it around and states, “sex”
    The Psychologist says, “very interesting,” and shows the next picture. “And what is this a picture of?”
    The man looks and turns it in different directions and says, “Sex.”
    The Psychologists tries again with the third ink blot, and asks the same question, “What is this a picture of?”
    The patient again turns it in all directions and replies, “Sex.”
    The Psychologist states, “Well, yes, you do seem to be obsessed with sex.”
    “Me!?” demands the patient. “You’re the one who keeps showing me the dirty pictures!”

  88. it's a series of tubes says:

    Yvonne, I have to admit that your comments in this thread have piqued my interest. I’m definitely going to get a copy of both The Law Of the Fast and Discoveries in Chiasmus and read them soon. Here’s hoping that they will be the most entertaining reading I have done since perusing Earth in the Beginning.

  89. “When I decided to homeschool my children, it was because an instructor explained to the group that you could teach children all subjects using the scriptures, with everything else as reference material.”

    I’m refraining from responding completely, and I ignored this sentence initially (intentionally), but I only will say that it’s a great example of an approach I would never take with my own children. I absolutely LOVE the scriptures and ponder them often, and I believe deeply in seeking wisdom from heaven, but I would never order the scriptures above “everything else” in an academic curriculum and categorize “everything else” as “reference material”.

    I think this thread is a perfect illustration of the reason for my decision.

  90. anxiously engaged says:

    Yvonne — I have seldom commented on this blog, but I am ashamed of the way these folks are treating you. My goodness, they usually seem like they are fair-minded but for some reason your remarks (which I very much enjoyed) have struck a nerve. Perhaps they, collectively and personally, are afraid they are NOT the smartest person in the room. I think if Joseph Smith himself commented here, he would by soundly trounced as a “nut”.

  91. “I think if Joseph Smith himself commented here, he would by soundly trounced as a “nut”.”

    AE that is a really interesting thing to say. I suspect you’re on to something. Same if Jesus were to comment. And a call for some civility is rarely a bad thing, so thanks for your comment.

    All, there’s not much point in making fun of Yvonne. It speaks more about us than about her. I say this as one who is certainly guilty of casting some stones in this thread. Yvonne, sorry.

  92. anxious, nuts get the treatment they deserve for writing as they do. yvonne has not merely advanced some esoteric belief system — she has said the Church is apostate, that its leaders are fallen prophets, and that participants on this blog are too blinded by church leaders and church doctrine to know the truth … which SHE claims to have discovered.

    Why are you ashamed of calling someone a nut who is either blatantly apostate herself, or blatantly insane, whichever interpretation fits?

  93. Cross-posted comment, so I’ll apologize to you, Steve, but not to yvonne.

    Although if yvonne is the type of commenter you are encouraging to participate at BCC, it’s *me* who no longer fits in, Ciao

  94. Well, I for one advocate science-fiction-based-home-schooling. I’m sure at least one other perma joins me in this. I say, run with it Yvonne. Go girl.

  95. I think a lot of people understand a gospel principle best when it is put in terms of what they are currently experiencing. I taught gospel doctrine where the contributions from several people seemed to always sound like the same comment, week after week. When I realized that Sister Smith came to church every week trying to find ways to apply the lesson to her inactive children, or that Brother Brown just really loved food storage, it was easier to have compassion for them, and find ways of presenting a topic that they could relate to.

    I am lucky enough to teach (or supervise the youth instructors) a class where the bishop is there quite frequently. One strategy I have used to introduce new ideas is to wait until the bishop is in attendance, and then present them. He can moderate any weird comments the other adult leaders have (’cause I never say anything from left field!). At the same time his presence keeps the young men comfortable that we aren’t turning into fundamentalists or new-age hippies. Sometimes I’ll talk to him before we meet with the boys, and bounce ideas off him then.

    We shouldn’t have to get an official stamp of approval before starting a discussion. It isn’t feasible in most classes, because there’s only one bishop to go around. How do we present a new way of looking at doctrine to a class without having members run off to priesthood leaders complaining of heresy? “Brother Bowman said that jello was just as good WITHOUT grated carrots!” Or in my current calling, how do we get the youth to think outside the box of standard questions and answers?

  96. Thanks, Steve. While I agree with Ardis’ last comment, I also agree with yours. We (all of us, including Yvonne) certainly have strayed from civility.

    You are correct. Since I can’t continue the conversation civilly, I am bowing out of it.

  97. yvonne bent says:

    I know that I have come off pompous, and I apologize. I realize I needed to know my audience, and I have been in the same shoes of anyone just beginning. That being said, sacred geometry has been a study for thousands of years. It was the entire propulsion for Pythagoras and his sacred society, it was the thing that Euclid used that he delivered his 13 elements, but took out the sacred part of it. It encompasses all the great learning in architecture, music, astronomy, the human body, and so many others that are less obvious. I do not mean to insult anyone, and it has only been through years of waking up that the Lord was able to show me what has been right in front of my eyes all along. And even though he has shown me much, the thing I keep learning is that all this learning is not as important as loving people, so for as much as I have said, that is my final stance. You can google sacred geometry and come up with all kinds of interesting pictures and patterns among other things. It has been the most fascinating of journeys for me, for I keep seeing God’s hand in his miraculous and artistic ways. And still I know that no matter how much of this I come to learn, it is a constant testimony of His greatness, glory and love for all his children.

  98. yvonne bent says:

    I will be happy to send you a complete copy of The Law of the Fast. I removed it from my blog for editing purposes.

  99. yvonne bent says:

    I find myself happy that the Lord has shown me my entire ignorance at his majesty. He can teach us everything, and our minds and hearts are primed with the scriptures. Pondering them opens us up to other learning. If you haven’t given the chance to learn everything using the scriptures, you might want to forstall a judgement until you do. I had no idea how rich that mother lode was until I began to tap into it.

  100. yvonne bent says:

    Thank you for that observation. The more I study the Prophet Joseph, whom I adore and am constantly amazed at what he knew but was unable to teach us, I recognize that we are in need of holy tutoring. I never knew how closed my mind and my world was, and it was only when I began to get outside of my strictly safe Mormon world that the Gospel began to spring forth. Anyone can have that kind of teaching. Joseph set the perfect example in the very beginning of his experience. I am so grateful that Father gave us a man like that prophet.

  101. yvonne bent says:

    Think nothing of it.

  102. Yvonne, I can continue the new discussion civilly, so I will add this final comment:

    Your last comment (#97) is totally different than the previous ones and includes nothing that I would dismiss or mock in any way – even though I personally do not use the term “sacred geometry”. If everything testifies of God, as I believe it does, the “sacred” is a given for me.

  103. OK, now I am bowing out officially.

  104. anxiously engaged says:

    Yvonne, would you mind giving us your blog address and/or email? I did not fnd it using a google search.

  105. Yvonne,
    I’m glad that you are happy where you are. This blog, whatever else its faults or strengths, is not a post-Mormon blog. So, while I am happy you are happy, this is not the place to talk about how great life and spirituality is now that you’ve jettisoned the “safe” doctrines of the church.

  106. yvonne bent says:

    Oh Ardis, I am so surprised that you put yourself in the same position as the Pharisees. Have you always been an accuser or a stone thrower? Certainly you are revealing your understanding or lack thereof by accusing me of insanity.
    Jesus had so many things to teach the people, and they said the same things you have. When did I ever say I was an apostate? When did I ever say that I didn’t support the prophets? My greatest love has always been the truth, and I am open to it anyway I can receive it. It just doesn’t come wrapped up from the Correlation committee or the pulpit all the time. Since we are all entitled to personal revelation, who says a person that receives something that is not main stream is a nut? Who would really listen to Joseph Smith today in the church? At BYU? He had no letters. He had a very small education. He wasn’t dressed the best. Sometimes he showed up to church after a few of his well meaning neighbors beat and tarred and feathered him. He couldn’t even take a seat on the pulpit for the lack of his earthly credentials. But look at what he gave us because he was taught of GOD. That is the kind of education I want to have.
    No wonder Winston Churchill said that most people will find themselves bumping into truth, but they just pick themselves up and walk on. How many times have any of us encountered the truth of something and immediately rejected it because it was not stamped with a church logo or a conference talk on it? Has God ever been limited by man’s puny understanding? I for one do not intend to tell God how to teach me. I have learned from my own sad experience and slow progress that I am much better off letting Him be my teacher. Everyone else is faulty, no matter what their earthly calling is. That doesn’t mean that all aren’t putting forth their best for the time.
    Joseph was the first to admit that, as every righteous man or woman of God. He called himself a rough stone rolling, and everyone and every experience helped him to become refined and educated. Everyone was his teacher.
    Your comments have taught me so much about you.

  107. yvonne bent says:
  108. yvonne bent says:

    I am so sorry I do not understand what a safe doctrine of the church is. I only know that when I want to learn more about any of the Gospel subjects, there is a wealth of it in the scriptures, from the Prophet Joseph, and so many other sources. I thought our goal was to become like God, not to stay like little children in our understanding. Please forgive me for assuming that others are hungry for the truth. I always think people are on the same page with me. Wrong again.

  109. Yvonne, thanks again. I think you’ve said your peace but as you indicated, it’s unlikely that most people here will be able to understand those things you hint at in your comments. It is probably time to move on.

  110. I don’t think i can anything positive to this conversation, so I’ll jump right in.

    And on one very minor point–it’s very easy to split a pumpkin, with an axe or a cleaver or even a well-directed karate chop. Just ask Bruce Lee, who’s apparently back from the dead and working as a waiter at a Nando’s on Glasshouse Street just a few blocks from Piccadilly Circus.
    But if you can’t spot the problem in suggesting that splitting (or smashing) pumpkins is difficult, there’s no telling what else you’ve missed.

    If you care, Joseph Smith’s statement was: “There has been a great difficulty in getting anything into the heads of this generation. It has been like splitting hemlock knots with a corn-dodger for a wedge and a pumpkin for a beetle.”

    It seems appropriate.

  111. Having tried corn-dodger, I can say it would work well as a wedge.

  112. Wow! You have so perfectly stated just how I feel! No wonder I am nearly dead from boredom on Sundays. It is all so homogenized now…

  113. Yvonne, for having compared Ardis to a Pharisee, you are dead to me. Go away and do not return or I shall dub thee “Poopyface!”

  114. Two brief points:

    1. Yvonne, while one can learn through the Spirit, one cannot learn through the Spirit alone. If that were the case, there would be far fewer faculty employed at Brigham Young University. Anti-intellectualism is certainly one’s prerogative, but given the Church’s emphasis on education–indeed, on formal education–it strikes me as curious that you would completely reject ideas from a scholar like Ardis or other people “with letters” in your pursuit of truth and knowledge. Joseph Smith may not have gone to Harvard or the University of Illinois at Nauvoo, but he also did not rely exclusively on revelation to expand his knowledge and understanding of the world; the historical record–which Ardis knows quite well–is quite clear on that point.

    2. On the original topic–if we can remember what that actually was–Karen makes excellent points (not surprising…she is an excellent historian and teacher). When I originally (and reluctantly) moved to Utah, our ward was only meeting for 2.5 hours each week. Until we were instructed by Salt Lake to change back to the three-hour block a couple of years later, it was perhaps the most I enjoyed attending church since my family converted (37 years ago this week)–not just because I only missed 30 minutes of the early football games, but also because the gospel discussions felt more engaged and less artificial in the shorter meetings. Quality clearly trumped quantity.

  115. yvonne bent says:

    My sentiments about church belong to me and are not a blanket statement. There is so much good in the world and so many who can contribute. We are taught about the greatest form of learning which is by faith, but what exactly does that mean to you? It was vague to me for so long. The D&C states: as all have not faith, search out of the best of books. Evidently we need to take it in spoonfuls. But if having faith is the best form of learning, and since Joseph did indeed look into the heavens and could testify how much more can be learned, I will always default to the prophet of the restoration. That kind of learning is the fastest, most precise, and least error, in my opinion, and it is the way I want to learn. In the process of learning how to see into the heavens, I learn what is edifying and what is not. That is also my personal journey. Every one of us is on a very different road. I apologize for making you feel defensive. As for me, I have decided quite a long time ago to take very literally the words of the great prophet of the restoration, because he speaks from the greatest personal experience.
    My experience is shared by others, but clearly it is more important to be positive and not negative in pointing out what has made a greater impact upon me spiritually. I have sat in many meetings and enquired of the Lord during many talks over the pulpit. I have never been left empty handed. There are many ways in which I have learned to have a heightened worship service outside of my ward, as things either seemed to be at a stalemate in our ward, or my spiritual path is ready for a next step, but I am thrilled for anyone who is finding any kind of spiritual peace, awareness, truth, and love through whatever means the Lord speaks to them. Please accept my apologies again.

  116. Poopyface,
    Please go away. Nobody here wants what you are selling. I don’t care that the church isn’t enough for you anymore. Go away. You are a Poopyface and shall ever so be.

  117. From the hinterlands says:

    Shame on you, John C. You are an embarrassment.

  118. If you feel that way, hinter, think how my parents must feel!

  119. #32 and #33 — You are a breath of fresh air after a debacle in my son’s seminary last week. His 2 seminary teachers, “clutching the manual” had reported to the bishop that my son was not giving them the “formulaic answers” and might not be ready to serve a mission (he will be 18 in July). No thinking beyond the manual. Since my son has graduated early from high school (we homeschool, rebel that I am) and is attending the nearby college, he enrolled in institute. When my son did not show for seminary on Monday and Tuesday, the seminary teachers made a run to the bishop to report this abhorrent behavior. But an email from the institute director to those teachers, came to our rescue and the sea is calm again; and my son has found a classroom that encourages that adage — to “ponder the scriptures.” And I feel that God has extended His arm — one of those tender mercies.

    Thank you Karen Carter for a great post.

  120. I agree in general, but here are several considerations; surprisingly, the Lorenzo Snow manual includes teaching that are well worth reading. Typically, the correlation committee has watered down the doctrine, etc. But in the case of some of the L. Snow material, his ideas are bold, and I find that its more the teachers who are not willing to use the manual to effect a powerful learning experience. Surprise; the manual on Brother Snow has “heavyosity,” because he was all about spiritual progression (and he set the standard). The other thing is this: understanding sound doctrine motivates good behavior much more effectively than teaching good behavior, to paraphrase Elder Packer. I think the problem is not that we teach too much doctrine, but that the doctrine has been watered down. The good stuff is hidden in “The Words of Joseph Smith” and elsewhere, and requires reading to find it out. The scriptures are fully of valuable hidden meaning as well. Let the classes discuss doctrine; just back off on the orthodoxy. 1–Jesus is the Christ; 2–Joseph restored the Priesthood keys; 3–the Church currently holds the keys. Those three fundamental beliefs are as far as we need to go to define Mormon orthodoxy.

  121. Doug Hudson says:

    Humility and Charity are indeed key Gospel principles, and I thank Steve Evans for reminding us of that.
    On the other hand, one can criticize the idea without criticizing the person espousing the idea–in fact, I believe that certain ideas MUST be challenged, lest silence be seen as consent.

    The ideas espoused in yvonne bent’s 78,et al, are a mishmash of esoteric Christianity and Judaism with a good dollop of New-Age wackiness for flavor, and I strongly suggest that anyone interested in those ideas consult a reliable authority before adopting them.
    Especially the “teach children everything from the scriptures” idea. I mean seriously, eesh. Even if you limit it to the Gospels, those kids are going to get a weird view of the world. And if you use the Old Testament (and or BOM)? oh dear…

  122. Doug Hudson says:

    Oh, by the way, for anyone looking for the true secrets of the world, google “Timecube” and become enlightened!

  123. it's a series of tubes says:

    I strongly suggest that anyone interested in those ideas consult a reliable authority before adopting them.

    Doug, I wouldn’t worry much about that. BCC is hardly fertile ground for that type of wackiness.

  124. This was a great post, Karen. Thank you for taking the time to write it.

    (I would still love to go to France with you. One of these days.)

  125. Whenever we go to another religion’s service, which lasts an hour and a half at most and is usually followed by a social time, my husband and I always have a conversation afterward about how nice it would be to have Sacrament Meeting and then have only 1 meeting afterward, or even no meetings afterward, but just time to get to know the people in the ward outside of meetings and activities. I’m the YW President and spend a lot of time with my presidency, at youth activities or in meetings, but I don’t get much opportunity to just chat with them and really get to know them. On those rare occasions when I get to hang out with people in the ward in a completely unstructured way (like while waiting for a post-Church baptism to start), I find out how great they are. But after 3 hours, everyone is ready to round up their kids and get out of there ASAP!

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