Last night I noticed a change on lds.org. I’m not sure when it happened, but a new page has been added called “Common Questions for Teachings of Presidents of the Church: George Albert Smith, 2012.” (Notice the site dates the GAS manual itself as 2010, so this is evidently quite new.) Only one link appears in the list, pointing to chapter 6, “Sustaining Those Whom the Lord Sustains.” The new info has its own page, but also appears in the sidebar of the lesson itself under a section called “Applying the Lesson to Our Time”:
Applying the Lesson to Our Time
You may find that parts of this lesson help members answer questions about prophets. The material below could be a starting point for members to form their own answers to such questions. However, discussing these questions should not replace the main focus of the lesson.
How does the prophet lead the Church?
God has revealed many things over the ages through prophets. Prophets testify of Jesus Christ, teach His gospel, and make known God’s will. While the prophet of God receives revelation and inspiration to guide the Church as a whole, revelation flows at every level, including to the leaders of congregations and to individual families and members. In fact, individual members are expected to seek that kind of divine guidance to help them in their own lives. Members are also expected to prayerfully seek their own conviction of the principles their leaders teach them.
How can you form your own answers to this and other gospel questions?
Study by Topic: Prophets
You may find additional resources to form your own answers in the scriptures, the Church magazines, and online from the LDS Newsroom.
This additional info highlights the importance of personal revelation by which members can “seek their own conviction of the principles their leaders teach them,” a point which isn’t clearly articulated in the manual itself but which might have received more attention.
This new “Common Questions” (or “Applying”) section appears in only four other chapters, none of which are listed on the new “Common Questions” page. These include: Do members of the Church believe they can become gods?, Why can only Church members enter temples?, What is the Book of Mormon?, and How could I respond to someone who feels that missionaries are intrusive?
A few observations. First, as the 2012 date suggests, it seems this is a new feature. Also, three of the four examples incorrectly state that these lessons will “help members answer questions about the welfare program of the Church.”* This seems like an editorial oversight. I’m not sure what sort of reach this new material will have, given that it appears unannounced and seems somewhat scatter-shot in implementation.
Second, the focus seems to be on helping members develop answers to outsider questions. The questions themselves are very basic, more likely to be asked by non-Mormons (one question, “Do Mormons believe they become gods?” has actually been removed from chapter 7, “The Immortality of the Soul,” since last night, again suggesting this is a new thing [It reappeared later on 4/24/2012]). Perhaps this is an attempt to create cross-over between the lesson manual and the Mormon.org where members answer basic questions about the Church, although the answers must be approved by an unspecified group before appearing on the site. This reminded me of Elder Ballard’s Oct. 2007 conference address, “Faith, Family, Facts, and Fruits,” which encourages members to prepare basic answers to similar questions. The new section also refers members to other manuals, magazines, and significantly, to the LDS Newsroom, an outlet which is geared more to outsiders than insiders.
Third, this is the first time I’ve noticed an update of sorts being added to a church lesson manual mid-year. From what I understand, new lesson material is currently being developed which takes advantage of the flexibility made possible by online publishing, at least for the Young Women. Are there other examples or rumors of this?
*The “welfare” mistake seems to have been corrected, 4/30/2012.