Saturday, December 25, 2010

Teaching uncorrelated lessons

I live in a quiet residential neighborhood, speed limit 25. Let's imagine that a teenage boy drives past my house every day doing at least 40. Because I want to slow him down, I plan to paint a crosswalk in front of my house with stop signs facing both directions. But even though it's the street where I live, it's not really "my street," so I'll need approval from the city.

Let's now suppose the Church's priesthood manual contains a lesson I view as deficient. Because I'm the high priests group instructor, I plan to teach my own lesson instead. But even though it's the Church I attend, it's not really "my Church," so I'll need approval from the bishop — at least that's what the latest Church handbook says.

Handbook 2: Administering the Church.

"Church-approved curriculum materials are to be used in classes that are held during the Sunday meeting schedule. These materials include Church-produced manuals, magazines, and supplementary teaching resources. New manuals and courses should not be developed at the local level.

"Bishops and branch presidents may occasionally teach or authorize a special priesthood or auxiliary lesson when they feel there is a need." (Section 17.1.10.)

"Leaders ensure that teachers use the scriptures, the teachings of latter-day prophets, and the approved curriculum materials as outlined in the current Instructions for Curriculum. They help teachers understand how to supplement the curriculum with Church magazines, particularly the general conference issues of the Ensign and Liahona." (Section 5.5.3.)

"Teachers and leaders use the scriptures, the teachings of latter-day prophets, and approved curriculum materials to teach and testify of the doctrines of the gospel. Approved curriculum materials for each class or quorum are listed in the current Instructions for Curriculum. As needed, teachers and leaders supplement curriculum materials with Church magazines, particularly the general conference issues of the Ensign and Liahona." (Section 5.5.4.)

"Leaders ensure that teachers use Church-approved materials for quorum and class instruction. The publication Instructions for Curriculum provides information about how to organize Sunday classes and which materials to use for lessons." (Section 21.1.13)

The handbook says nothing new. It merely formalizes what the apostles and prophets have previously taught.

Elder M. Russell Ballard, 1983.

"Teachers would be well advised to study carefully the scriptures and their manuals before reaching out for supplemental materials. Far too many teachers seem to stray from the approved curriculum materials without fully reviewing them. If teachers feel a need to use some good supplemental resources beyond the scriptures and manuals in presenting a lesson, they should first consider the use of the Church magazines.

"Teachers can stay on safe ground when they use the standard works, the approved manuals, and the writings of the General Authorities." (Ensign, May 1983, 68.)

Elder M. Russell Ballard, 1993.

"Those who teach must make sure the doctrine remains pure and that it is taught. Teach by the Spirit, using the scriptures and the approved curriculum. Do not introduce or dwell on speculative and questionable topics." (Ensign, Nov. 1993, 76.)

Elder Dallin H. Oaks, 1999.

"As I have visited in quorums and Relief Societies, I have generally been pleased and impressed at how these Teachings of Presidents of the Church are being presented and received. However, I have sometimes observed teachers who gave the designated chapter no more than a casual mention and then presented a lesson and invited discussion on other materials of the teacher’s choice. That is not acceptable. A gospel teacher is not called to choose the subject of the lesson but to teach and discuss what has been specified. Gospel teachers should also be scrupulous to avoid hobby topics, personal speculations, and controversial subjects. The Lord’s revelations and the directions of His servants are clear on this point. We should all be mindful of President Spencer W. Kimball's great instruction that a gospel teacher is a 'guest':

"'He has been given an authoritative position and a stamp of approval is placed upon him, and those whom he teaches are justified in assuming that, having been chosen and sustained in the proper order, he represents the Church and the things which he teaches are approved by the Church. No matter how brilliant he may be and how many new truths he may think he has found, he has no right to go beyond the program of the Church.'" (Ensign, Nov. 1999, 78.)

Elder Dallin H. Oaks, 2007.

"In the past, some teachers have given a chapter of the Teachings manuals no more than a brief mention and then substituted a lesson of their own choice. It may have been a good lesson, but this is not an acceptable practice. A gospel teacher is called to teach the subject specified from the inspired materials provided." (Ensign, Nov. 2007, 104-8.)


Uncorrelated lessons, such as those discussed by Dave Banack (click here) and Ben Spackman (click here), are appropriate in any setting except "in classes that are held during the Sunday meeting schedule." And such lessons would also be okay there, if authorized by the bishop or branch president.

(read more...)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Benson's conspiracy above communism is an acceptable point of view for Mormons

What the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches in general conference is an acceptable point of view for Mormons until a more recent Prophet says otherwise.

Speaking as Prophet in the Oct 1988 general conference, President Ezra Taft Benson authoritatively warned:

"A secret combination that seeks to overthrow the freedom of all lands, nations, and countries is increasing its evil influence and control over America and the entire world." (Ensign, Nov 1988, p.86.)

Notice he identified "a secret combination" (singular), not "secret combinations" (plural).

It had long since become apparent to Benson that much of communism was influenced and controlled from the outside — by a group of elite non-communists. In short, Benson believed communism was under the influence of a conspiracy above communism.

In 1988 he warned that this conspiracy was increasing its influence and control over the entire world, including America.

Some people will say outright that Benson was wrong. Others simply disregard his previous ministry and pretend he was talking about street gangs, drug cartels, or some such. Fine. Benson's view is NOT binding on Mormons anyway. It clearly is NOT the official position of the Church.

However, Benson's point of view on this is perfectly acceptable among Latter-day Saints until a successor Prophet authoritatively says it isn't.

(read more...)

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Mormon Heretic: How is blogging exempt?

In priesthood meeting on Sunday, our high priest group studied Elder Quentin L. Cook's talk given during the April 2010 general conference. The following excerpt seems to have been written especially for bloggers:

"We need to be civil in our discourse and respectful in our interactions. This is especially true when we disagree. The Savior taught us to love even our enemies. The vast majority of our members heed this counsel. Yet there are some who feel that venting their personal anger or deeply held opinions is more important than conducting themselves as Jesus Christ lived and taught. I invite each one of us individually to recognize that how we disagree is a real measure of who we are and whether we truly follow the Savior. It is appropriate to disagree, but it is not appropriate to be disagreeable." (Ensign, May 2010, 83.)

This counsel stands in contrast to a recent Mormon Heretic blog discussion where there was a lot of mocking and belittling of President Ezra Taft Benson. I myself was severely criticized in the post and in the comments for trying to control uncivilized, disrespectful discourse on this, my own blog. One can only hope that our future blog discussions will more closely follow Elder Cook's wise counsel.

(read more...)