I should note that the dissertation chapters that coincide with this portion of the discussion are among the most accessible of the entire work. They’re also rich with detail in a way that this conversation can really only approximate. Remember, Daymon has made his dissertation available for purchase in bound form here. All of the proceeds will go to the Utah Food Bank.
Brad: So we’re going to shift back from theology to the more historical narrative. We’re in the 1930s, we’re located in the administration of President Grant. Just to recap a few of the key developments of this time, perhaps the most significant of which being the formal and forever break with polygamist Fundamentalist Mormons. This is also a time when the administrative structure of the Church, with the help of several key figures including Charles W. Nibley and J. Reuben Clark, is increasingly corporatized organizationally. There’s a major move toward financial solvency, toward centralization of virtually all productive and distributive operations. A lot of the local autonomy that had been distributed at the level of individual stakes by John Taylor—in order to give the sealing keys to patriarchs—that was all reigned in, even to the point that beginning in Grant’s administration patriarchs began to be subject to a kind of surveillance, an approval process of sorts. They would have to bring in representative copies of their transcribed blessings for the Stake President to examine, to give suggestions on changes and improvements, etc. This whole centralization process is under way, under Grant, at the same time as real productive processes are being implemented and are growing under Church welfare. This all coincides with the rising star of an individual who is going now to take center stage in our conversation and that is Harold B. Lee.
Daymon: Lee’s entrance on the scene coincides with the functional breakdown of the economy. One of the key points regarding this structural reorganization of the Church in the 20s and 30s is that centralization is only possible because you’re dealing with mostly liquid assets. When you’re dealing with monetized offerings—that is revenue streams—as opposed to, say, chickens it is much easier to consolidate all of the assets you control in a centralized place. Lee comes onto the scene and this impulse toward centralized productive efficiency is almost like the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon.
Brad: It’s the dominant new paradigm.
Daymon: It becomes the basis for a confidence and even a promise that we can finally be led to Zion.
Brad: And owing in no small part to his success as an administrator overseeing the welfare program, Lee is called as an apostle by Grant, and is in place as an influential member of the Q12 when the guy who ends up getting most of the credit in our minds for what Grant and Lee did takes over as Church president, and that’s David O. McKay. McKay’s a key figure, looks more like a modern Mormon than Grant, and his administration is typically associated with modernization, with a lot of the organizational and structural changes that actually took place under Grant.
Daymon: McKay really, despite his typical association as the kind of founder of Modern Mormonism, actually seems a bit dismayed by a lot of these transformations that were going on, particularly by some of what Lee was doing. In 1960, however, he gives Lee this pretty modest task. He asks Lee to form a committee to edit some manuals. To look over the curriculum and make sure there aren’t any major redundancies or inconsistencies, etc.
Brad: To basically streamline the production processes involved in a handful of Church curricula. And part of what motivates this is a number of demographic and cultural changes that the Church is undergoing right now. In the post-war era, they’re getting internal sociological data projections suggesting that enormous international growth is coming, and that by the year 2000, we’re going to have maybe 10 or 15 million Church members.
Daymon: An irony here is that while theological speculation had pretty much disappeared in the Church, financial and sociological speculations start to really run wild. My work is not unique in highlighting some of this. The Church was involved in all kinds of financial speculation, deficit spending under Henry Moyle—all this is driven by sociological speculation and by projections that soon there are going to be so many millions more Church members, and they’re all going to be outside the United States. In particular they’re going to be in Latin America. How are we going to make these manuals accessible to Latin Americans?
Brad: And accessibility here is not just about the logistics of shipping and distribution, either. There’s a kind of colonialist logic embedded here. It’s important to remember what this period of history is like in America, the jingoism, the paranoia about non-Americans, there’s still a lot of racism, of both the overt and more subtle varieties, including in the Church and among Church leaders, and a lot of these projections for growth involve non-white, non-American populations. They’re going to need milk, not meat.
Daymon: They’re often illiterate, they’re of course not aware of all these doctrinal complexities.
Brad: They don’t even get capitalism, let alone the Gospel.
Daymon: A number of these guys that Lee brings on to help him revise the curricula in 1960-61 had missionary experience working with Native Americans, with “Lamanites,” Boyd K. Packer being a leading example. Their experience among Native Americans led them to believe “these folks just don’t get the Gospel.”
Brad: You had to teach them like children, reduce everything to simple, abstract, basic gospel principles.
Daymon: And even then they didn’t seem to understand very basic things, like how to properly perform ordinances, how to lay your hands on somebody’s head. These guys returned from that experience in the 1950s, working with Church Education down on the reservations, really quite dismayed by the prospects of rapid Church growth outside of white Utah.
Brad: And add to that general concerns they had even about white Utahns, so to speak. The threat of communism, the new sexual permissiveness. This is not just the era of the rise of Correlation but also the era of hippies and Honor Codes.
Daymon: So you’ve got pinkos, hippies, Native Americans, sexual revolutionaries, beatniks, Latin Americans, etc. And concerns about all these figures animate Lee’s new curriculum-correlation project.
Brad: There’s the Cuban revolution, there’s Che Guevara.
Daymon: The world is tearing apart. But Lee, who has been honing this organizational plan for quite some time now, sees an opportunity to really fix things. It was mostly an accident that circumstances came about permitting him to actually put these restructurings into place. And part of it was possible because, despite his own misgivings, David O. McKay didn’t stop it. So in 1960 he’s got a letter in his hands, from McKay—form a committee, revise the manuals. By 1961-62, however, he’s got a new name for this project, called Priesthood Correlation. He forms an All-Church Coordinating Council, which eventually becomes the Priesthood Correlation Committee. And David O. McKay is really quite dismayed by this, and voicing his concerns in discussions with the first presidency. They start talking about this in somewhat derisive terms, McKay refers to it as the “Super-Priesthood Coordinating Council,” or the “Super Priesthood Board,” but Lee is completely serious and all business about this stuff. And, perhaps most importantly, Lee himself attributes all credit for what he’s doing to President McKay. In General Conference, he says that David O. McKay has been thinking about this for some time—and of course McKay had been on a “church correlation” committee way back in the 20s, and that committee had suggested fairly modest organizational realignments and centralizing reforms that, at the time, were rejected because they would change things so radically. However, 40 years later, Lee begins, by small degrees, to reorganize everything.
Brad: And it’s important not to put the cart before the horse here in describing what Lee was able to accomplish. We’re describing the emergence of a kind of organizational and administrative authority. You can’t just talk about Lee having all this unfettered power to make this changes, because the kind of organizational structure that would enable Lee to have this power is an outcome of these changes, rather than a precondition for them.
Daymon: Right, that would be a very anachronistic reading. That anachronistic reading is in some sense authorized by Correlation only after it’s already in place. All these developments noted earlier with regard to Fundamentalism, theology, shifting notions of priesthood, centralization, etc., set the stage for Lee to step into this vacuum. There are a number of different issues here, that come together in a kind of serendipitous, if happenstance, manner and this allows Lee to organize his priesthood board.
Brad: Really, in some sense, the only thing you can blame Lee for doing is magnifying his calling. And an important ingredient here is just the extremely non-confrontational nature of President McKay.
Daymon: And McKay really had his hands full over the race and priesthood question, over Church finances, and he’s also getting quite old in the 1960s and is not entirely well.
Brad: I want to return for a moment to General Conference reports. You detail in the dissertation the really astonishing enthusiasm with which these men—Lee for sure, and Packer, but also a very young Thomas Monson—describe Correlation, what it could mean for the Church, what it’s capable of bringing about in the Kingdom, in the world.
Daymon: What began as a mandate for streamlining and coordinating the curriculum-production process and from there evolved into a project to simplify and reduce the doctrines of the Church so we can efficiently circulate them around the world to folks who might have a hard time understanding them, and, you know, get it to teenagers so they’ll stop messing around, turns into a kind of mythic source of potential power. They start to tell some pretty remarkable stories about what Correlation is going to accomplish. This goes back to a meeting that Lee had with a couple other guys in his new correlation committee. During this meeting, they took 72 note cards on which they wrote important “ideas.”
Brad: Abstract principles, abstract nouns.
Daymon: “Faith,” “repentance,” “obedience,” these kinds of abstractions—he organizes them on a wall in his office. This organization becomes a kind of representation of the mind of God and of the mind of the Ideal Mormon. They’re supposed to have these ideas in their head hierarchically organized.
Brad: You can now literally map out the mind of an ideal, generic Mormon which his equal to the mind of God, which can literally be diagrammed on a flow chart. All according to a series of hierarchically organized abstract nouns.
Daymon: And what’s the reason for arranging these nouns in this particular hierarchical order as opposed to some other order? It’s because these guys decided that that was the way it should be. So it seemed completely natural to them, like they had just discovered something that was already there, what God had ordered in terms of the ideas of the universe. This board of 72 terms becomes the taxonomy and the scheme that they will use to rewrite the manuals.
Brad: In a certain sense this becomes almost a constitution of the modern Church.
Daymon: Right. When he organizes this, it really is a sort of birth of the mind of a new kind of correlated god.
Brad: And a correlated Mormon.
Daymon: The two cannot be separated, in either the 19th Century or the 20th.
Brad: The one thing they have in common, regardless of how much they’ve been driven materially apart, the one thing that God and Man still have in common is Mind.
Daymon: That becomes the link. Not bodies. Lee might be very concerned over what teenagers are doing with their bodies, but he’s not so concerned with reorganizing the Gospel around bodily practices. That’s what the Fundamentalists are doing. His concern, rather, is, How do we structure people’s minds to reflect the Mind of God? And there’s a surprising amount of resistance to this enterprise initially. Lee encounters quite a bit of resistance from the first presidency. And these problems he encounters become, for Lee, a kind of affirmation that the Church is not efficiently organized or structured in a sufficiently centralized and hierarchical manner, particular as regards the definition and articulation of doctrine. So he succeeds at organizing this priesthood board that will soon, in some sense, be more powerful than either the FP or the Q12. Because these guys have final control over the production of all of the materials of official Mormonism.
Brad: They have absolute surveillance authority—and this, by the way, this kind of organ isn’t even remotely uncommon in any large corporation.
Daymon: This is where the resistance comes from, particularly from the first presidency. They (the FP) articulate concerns in their discussions about the loss of priesthood power, about the loss of their right to represent God, because it seems like the Church is being structured around quiet domination and around notions of absolute authority—I can tell you what to do because I exist on an organizational diagram positioned vertically higher than you.
Brad: It’s incredibly interesting, because in their private conversations, which McKay writes about in his diary, which is publicly available, the analogy and the language they use to describe their concerns over the new committee and its power come from section 121.
Daymon: So during one of their meetings as they talk about this they collective quote section 121, as soon as a man gets a little authority, he immediately begins to exercise unrighteous dominion. And the other story that they talked about was the analogy of the Roman part of the Catholic Church taking over.
Brad: In other words, the Great Apostasy.
Daymon: McKay was saying that this is how the Great Apostasy happened, that you removed the head from the Church, and it was now governed by, say, the shoulders, rather than by the guy who held the keys of revelation. But McKay doesn’t do anything about it because that fits perfectly with his notion of priesthood authority. He’s not going to coerce or dominate Harold B. Lee to keep him from doing this. And the end result is that Lee takes this lack of opposition as a mandate from McKay, as a signal that McKay completely supports what he’s doing. And by the late 60s we’re no longer just talking about an administrative change or organizational change. By 1967 as they’re beginning to implement correlation of stake and ward manuals, they meet together and one of the heads of the church correlation committee, a guy named Paul Royal, starts to tell the story to a group of BYU students. He tells them that McKay held up the new, correlated manual and said “this is the mind and will of the Lord.” But of course if you read McKay’s journals, McKay describes it rather differently.
There’s a lot of resistance to this at the local level, and a particularly rigorous resistance by the auxiliaries. In particular the Relief Society and the Primary, which at that point were more or less independent entities. The way that one of the Correlation managers described it to me recently was that it was as if you had four different Churches.
Brad: So this authorization that Lee’s been given to streamline and simplify doctrine and just get things in more efficient working order, these are not the only changes. In addition to Lee and his committee being given the tools and authority to streamline church curricula, to make sure that everything is produced and distributed in an efficient manner, making it all both logistically and conceptually accessible for a wide variety of populations—in addition to all this you have a kind of reigning in and centralization of Church authority. The auxiliaries are moved from a degree of relative autonomy into a position of subordination to Priesthood Correlation, and everything must fall under the same head.
Daymon: And they’re using “priesthood” increasingly, in these contexts, to refer to this group of guys who form this committee, and this is why the manuals are so important—it’s the manuals that were being produced, sponsored, and edited by the different auxiliaries, but Lee is given a mandate to look them over and review them. And he follows the thread from the manuals to the sources of independence for the different auxiliaries.
Brad: So the mutual associations, the Relief Society, the Primary, whereas they had previously been putting together their own curricula, writing their own manuals, now they’re going to get stuff that comes from the head, from “the Priesthood,” by which is meant this priesthood committee, but also implicitly has the imprimatur of the Brethren, in that President McKay authorized the creation of the committee in the first place.
Daymon: And this is where the confusion between priesthood as a power, priesthood as a group of guys, and priesthood as a kind of administrative authority really opens up the corridors for realigning everybody and everything under this priesthood committee.
Brad: The entire body of the Church is now capable of being governed and controlled by a single head. And they actually use this analogy. It’s the return of analogies drawn from the body.
Daymon: The analogic speculation starts to work again, and Lee uses the analogy of the priesthood as the head of the body.
Brad: But what, exactly, is the head? Is it the first presidency, the quorum of the twelve, or is it this new oversight committee, this new quasi-quorum of the priesthood?
Daymon: By 1970 Lee is really crowing about the fact that all this stuff—and by stuff I mean Church curriculum, Church education, Church magazines, all the auxiliaries—these are all being run under the governance of the Twelve. Which it wasn’t, really. It was being run by this priesthood committee, which consisted in part of members of the Twelve. And they would assign these guys on the committee to be the head, for example, of the Primary or Relief Society. And you find complaints about this from the general presidencies of both organizations. But what happened is they took all of the resources away from these auxiliaries—they took their ability to write the manuals but they also took their ability to sell magazines to raise money, which had been their foundation for independence.
Brad: If you’re no longer, as a Relief Society, producing magazines and selling subscriptions, you no longer have any possibility for anything but dependence on the central Church.
Daymon: The centralization here of the money opens up the doors for the spiritual realignment and reorganization, and ultimately the hierarchization of these different auxiliaries. And they map the structure of the central Church onto individual congregations. And this is where the real resistance came, at the local level. Now the local Relief Society president was expected to submit to the Bishop rather than to the Stake Relief Society president. There used to be lines of authority from the ward Primary to the stake, all the up to the general. But what they did is they replicated the structure, through the metaphor of the body with the man as the head of the priesthood, and thus as the head of the church, head of the congregation, head of the stake. And this is where Lee really makes perhaps his most lasting and significant contribution, where the man is now the head of the Family.
Brad: So we now have a new administrative unit in the Church. At the same time that these separate, already-existing organizations are brought under a single authoritative and administrative line, and you have the hierarchical structure of the overall body of the Church reproduced through a kind of metonymy at these different levels. The organization of the ward is a smaller replicated version of the organization of the Church. But you also have the introduction of what is effectively a new administrative unit of the Church, and that unit is the Home—a unit in which the husband/father is supposed to preside as a priesthood representative, a priesthood authority, he’s supposed to preside over certain ritualized performances like family prayer and family home evening, and it’s a space into which correlated curricula can now have a proper place as well.
Daymon: And if you look at what they called priesthood-home-teaching and family home evening manuals from the 1960s they’re much more regulated and scripted than even today. In some sense it doesn’t need to be scripted anymore, we already enact the scripts from memory, without it right in front of us. But back then, when people even did things like home teaching and family home evening, it was highly unregulated and unformatted. It was only through Correlation, by turning the home in to an administrative unit of the Church, that they began to describe what they, for example, initially called priesthood-home-teachers.
Brad: They’re representatives of the Priesthood who come into your home with a certain surveillance responsibility—make sure everything’s okay, everyone’s doing okay spiritually, and to report these things to a higher, independent priesthood authority.
Daymon: This was part of the unit-ization of what was once this private refuge of the home. There are all kinds of questions they used to ask, which today people would neither dare ask nor submit to answering, but they were expected to ask them and then to submit these forms to their ward level priesthood leaders and on up the line. So you have there the development of an organizational surveillance as well as the movement of scripts, so that people’s social relationships become already-created for them by their Church callings and the words they’re supposed to speak when they’re playing this role of this calling, as a priesthood-home-teacher, or the father in the home during family home evening. These things begin to become regulated by scripts.
Brad: You step into a scripted social role that is diagrammed for you, in no small part by the language of the script itself.
Daymon: So the home becomes a space where, for example, people can generate testimonies about the prophet. And this is framed as a kind of de-centralization of the Church and a creation of a more domestic Mormonism, though it is in fact very much centralized through the scripts and the surveillance and the productive and administrative processes and forces that make all these things enactable. And this was viewed as necessary for the development of the Church because it was just too expensive to send everything the central Church out into the world, so they thought, if we can get to the grassroots level, in the home, if we can get them to generate testimonies and spirituality, that’s going to take away a lot of the financial burden that encumbers Church headquarters. The reality is the exact opposite. The growth of the nuclear family as a theological unit and the home as a church administrative unit can be traced back directly to the kinds of surveillance and scripts that Correlation was concerned with producing.
Brad: And on a more practical level, it’s one thing to envision this wholly reorganized and newly streamlined Church, where everybody fits neatly into a clearly marked slot from the top of the administrative diagram to the bottom—to envision that abstractly is one thing, but actually implementing its realization is quite another. So in addition to all these organizational changes we’ve been describing, and this creation of a new administrative unit of the home, there’s something else that’s created. There’s a new position, a kind of foot-soldier for Correlation on the ground.
Daymon: The Regional Representative is created at this point to implement Priesthood Correlation within the stakes and the congregations. And part of their charge—they too have scripts, of course—and in the script they’re told that Priesthood Correlation is what allowed the City of Enoch to be taken up into heaven.
Brad: Everybody was on the same exact page, learning the exact same things, reading from the same scripts—everybody was “of one mind.”
Daymon: So this metaphor of One Heart, One Mind becomes the selling point and almost slogan for Correlation. This is going to lead us into the Millennium. It’s Correlation. And they had finally discovered this. All of the societies that failed to achieve this failed because they lacked Correlation. This might sound over the top, but this is stated clearly and repeatedly in these manuals from the late 60s and early 70s. These are stake and ward manuals, about Correlation.
Brad: This is also true of descriptions of Correlation, everywhere from General Conference addresses to the Church Handbooks of Instruction.
Daymon: And BYU classes and devotionals as well. They actually started a new class at BYU about Church Correlation. They really covered their bases here. They taught Church Correlation as really the thing that is going to replace or fill the gap that was once filled by, say, plural marriage or consecration. This is going to perfect us, as a people.
Brad: With all of these changes taking place, the entity which was, in a certain sense thrown under the bus by all of this, which saw its own power stripped from it most forcefully was, in fact, the first presidency. Once everything is really in motion, once it’s clear that there’s just no turning back the clock on the kind of bureaucratic momentum that has been generated, this is really clear in the conversations, once again you have President McKay, President Brown, and President Tanner sitting down and sort of talking about what has taken place and where things stand.
Daymon: They’re lamenting their loss of authority in the Church, which is really the diametric opposite of how things are being portrayed in, for example, the Church News. This is a time where the term “the Prophet”—just the Prophet—began to be applied to the Church president. They’re constantly now referring to McKay as the Prophet, the Prophet, the Prophet. Quinn is an excellent source on this. Whereas prior to this when you used the term “the Prophet” people understood you as meaning Joseph Smith. So on the one hand, administratively and organizationally he is being stripped of enormous amounts of real authority and power, while at the same time he is being represented in the public sphere as the origin point of all of these changes.
Brad: He’s being invested with a tremendous amount of symbolic power.
Daymon: And Correlation is presented as his latest and greatest Revelation.
Brad: It’s going to revolutionize the Church to the point that it’s going to usher in the Second Coming, and President McKay is presiding over this grand transformation as Head.
Daymon: So Correlation is telling a new kind of history, a history of the world that locates Correlation at Beginning, Middle, and End. Correlation is the thread that runs through all things.
Brad: It’s both the foundation and the apex of the whole edifice.
Daymon: So there are organizational and administrative changes, changes in the way we talk about our membership in the Church, in how we talk about the Gospel, how we organize and distribute ideas now from the top down.
Brad: It diagrams a structure of abstract ideas, a kind of topical chart, that come to stand for what we mean when we use a term like “the Gospel.”
Daymon: And all these things are still in operation in the creation of Church curriculum today.