The last few weeks have seen some dissenters express anger at a minor mistake in the new printed version of the “Come, Follow Me” manual on the Book of Mormon, which is being studied in Sunday School classes of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints this year. (One critic called it a “dumpster fire” and another confused “inerrancy” with loyalty.) While these little ruckuses come and go and are nothing more than a tempest in a teapot, they do unfortunately provide critics and activists with a temporary platform to express their anger to a larger audience. Some even proclaim their faithfulness in their critical posts—!?!?!?.
Therefore, it seemed to me that it might be a worthwhile time to share some quotations about Church Correlation and Curriculum writing from a book I compiled years ago called Determining Doctrine, which has an entire chapter on the subject. These quotations from the First Presidency and apostles and prophets might help give some readers a broader perspective, and also an improved viewpoint from which to evaluate the dissenters’ criticisms:
President Boyd K. Packer:
The Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles is the Correlation Committee, with the President of the Twelve and the two senior members acting as the executive committee. (“All-Church Coordinating Council Meeting,”
18 May 1993, 3.)
The First Presidency:
The Evaluation Division of the Correlation Department is responsible for the review and evaluation of all proposed activities, programs, policies, procedures, practices, plans, terminology, and other materials intended for use throughout the Church to ensure that they are consistent with doctrine and with approved policy and procedure. These materials include, but are not limited to handbooks, course materials, supplements, notices, magazine articles, seminar materials, internet, and audiovisual materials. The responsibility of the Correlation Department has been expanded to include content review of general Church communications utilizing electronic and digital technologies. All of these items, prepared by the general Church departments and organizations and intended for use throughout the Church, are without exception to be submitted for review and evaluation.
(Note: this quotation is not in my Determining Doctrine compilation but is newer.)
President Dallin H. Oaks:
The Church does approve or disapprove those publications that are to be published or used in the official activities of the Church, general or local. For example, we have procedures to ensure approved content for materials published in the name of the Church or used for instruction in its classes. These procedures can be somewhat slow and cumbersome, but they have an important benefit. They provide a spiritual quality control that allows members to rely on the truth of what is said. Members who listen to the voice of the Church need not be on guard against being misled. They have no such assurance for what they hear from alternate voices. (“Alternate Voices,” Ensign, May 1989, 28.)
Encyclopedia of Mormonism:
Correlation is the process of identifying the role of each part of the Church, placing each in its proper relationship to the others, and ensuring that each functions properly. The parts include doctrines and ordinances, organizations and agencies, programs and activities, meetings, and printed and audiovisual materials….
Correlation is a unifying process in which each organization of the Church subordinates limited views to the good of the whole Church. It is not censorship in the sense of inhibiting or channeling free expression and creativity. Rather, it is the way the Church ensures suitable and effective use of its resources.
Correlation serves under the direction of the First Presidency and the Twelve. It provides order to the many parts of the Church and systematic reviews of proposed action. It helps organizations avoid unnecessary duplication. Correlation ensures that Church programs, materials, and activities… * Use the scriptures and the words of the prophets as the basis for teaching. * Comply with policies and meet standards approved by the Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles….
As the programs and activities of Church organization expanded in number and complexity, they came to have their own general and local officers, curricula, reporting systems, meetings, magazines, funding, and lines of communication.
Part of the role of correlation was to maintain order among these organizations. In 1907, the First Presidency appointed the Committee of Correlation and Adjustments; in 1908, the Correlation Committee and the General Priesthood Committee on Outlines; in 1916, the Social Advisory Committee (combined with the Correlation Committee in 1920); in 1939, the Committee of Correlation and Coordination, and in 1940, the Union Board of the Auxiliaries. Relying on the mandates found in latter-day scripture, these groups were to correlate Church organization in their structures, curricula, activities, and meetings.
In 1960, the First Presidency directed a committee of General Authorities to review the purposes and courses of study of the priesthood and auxiliaries. The work of this committee laid the foundation for present-day correlation efforts. The committee identified the purposes of each organization from its inception, traced its expansions and changes, and reviewed its courses of study and activities. On the basis of the committee’s recommendation, the First Presidency established three coordinating committees in 1961—one for children, one for youth, and one for adults—and a coordinating council that directed the activities of the three committees. The council and committees, each headed by a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, were to correlate the instructional and activity programs of priesthood quorums, auxiliaries, and other Church agencies….
In 1972, the First Presidency created the Department of Internal Communications to plan, correlate, prepare, translate, print, and distribute instructional materials and periodicals. As part of the reorganization, the First Presidency created the Correlation Department and placed all organizations, curricula, and periodicals under the direction of the priesthood….
In 1987, the First Presidency restated the role of correlation. All proposed official Churchwide materials, programs, and activities must be submitted for evaluation by the Correlation Department. Moreover, no proposed item could be developed under Church auspices or placed in formally authorized use without written direction to do so from the Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve.
During the 1990s, the focus of Church correlation shifted from maintaining order among Church entities to simplifying and reducing programs and materials, and to limiting volume, complexity, and cost.
The present (1990) correlation process at Church headquarters permits representatives of departments and auxiliaries to propose annually the materials, programs, and activities they want to have considered. An originator proceeds with that proposed item only after it has appropriate concept and final production approval.
From Church headquarters, all communications are transmitted through a simple priesthood line from the First Presidency and Council of the Twelve to stakes and wards and thereby to families and individuals. (Frank O. May, Jr., “Correlation of the Church, Administration,” Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 5 vols. [New York and Toronto: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1992], 1:323-25.)
What is the counsel from the church when a rare error finds its way into curriculum, as in this (publicized) case?:
Now brethren, in conclusion, in a church as vast and far-reaching as ours, there must be order. We must have, in addition to the scriptures and modern revelations, guidelines and procedures for the Church to move forward around the world in an orderly manner. There are some elements of bureaucracy which cannot help but occasionally produce some irritation and perhaps frustration. We ask you to look beyond any irritations or inconvenience in Church administration. We ask you to focus and concentrate on the simple, sublime, spiritually nourishing, and saving principles of the gospel. We ask you to stand steady. We ask you to be faithful in your stewardships. . . .
It is my belief, and I have no hesitancy in so saying, that if church members, on their own, really and prayerfully searched and studied and poured over the standard works, and made strong and continual use of the study aids (the Topical Guide, Bible dictionary, footnotes and cross-references, JST, etc.), and equally deeply drank from the teachings of modern prophets and apostles, that the church would need no curriculum writers and very little correlation evaluation. There would be no need for (or existence of) “Come, Follow Me” as church curriculum because its purpose, to encourage strong deep continuous study of the scriptures (and keeping of the commandments), would already be met. Members would have unshakable testimonies.
In the final analysis, the Lord and His prophets want members of the church to hold fast to the iron rod, eat of the fruit of the tree of Life, and then not to stumble away into forbidden paths and mists of darkness when shamed by those in the great and spacious building. Church curriculum is simply a means to an end—get church members to drink of the living waters and eat of the fruit of the tree of Life, and endure to the end and be saved.
But the church as a whole is not on that high of a spiritual level and so we need “Come, Follow Me.” Those members that I know of that study the scriptures in depth often, that keep the commandments, that pray in faith, that attend the temple, that study the teachings of modern prophets closely, that have the spiritual gift of discernment, and that are orthodox in their views, etc., don’t really need the current curriculum (or any manual) and would inherit Celestial glory with or without it. Whether the church provided curriculum or not, they are like this:
Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men.
Behold, he was a man like unto Ammon, the son of Mosiah, yea, and even the other sons of Mosiah, yea, and also Alma and his sons, for they were all men of God. (Alma 48:17-18)
But in these last days, when the devil is running amuck among mankind, most members need “Come, Follow Me” or something like it to help them keep holding fast to the iron rod, the word of God. The Lord knows this and has given His Church this necessary crutch—even if the printed version has a flaw.
Interested readers can read below the further quotations about Correlation and Curriculum, some of which is older and obsolete, but which can still educate on the why and how and what of Correlation in the Church. From what I have seen, there are some folks who could really benefit from perusing this material:
Ezra Taft Benson:
Just a word to you who work in the correlation review process. There is a principle given in the scriptures that applies to what you do. The principle is that "in the mouth of two and three witnesses shall every word be established" (D&C ).
I have seen that principle work time and time again in the administrative councils of the Church. There is great safety in witnesses. This is also true of the review of our lesson materials and programs. It is through the eyes of two or three and many more that the curricula and programs are prepared, reviewed, and approved; and because of this process, we are, as a Church, more doctrinally sound and better correlated than ever before in our history. With recent refinements, and your continual cooperation, we will continue to improve. (Interdepartmental Meeting, Salt Lake City, Utah, 7 September 1982; cited in Ezra Taft Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988], 160.)
First Presidency Letterhead
To: All General Authorities
In the temple meeting on Thursday, March 29, there was read a statement entitled “Routing Procedures for Materials to be Correlated.”
Attached to this letter you will find a copy of this document which should give you direction in implementing these procedures.
Harold B. Lee
N. Elder Tanner
M. G. Romney
The First Presidency
Routing Procedures for Materials to be Correlated.
All materials intended to be used in the programs, magazines, and curricula of the various organizations and departments of the Church should be sent for correlation to Daniel H. Ludlow, the Director of Instructional Materials. Brother Ludlow will then assign these materials to one of the following correlation secretaries and task committees:
1. Adult Curriculum Correlation Secretary and task committee
2. Youth Curriculum Correlation Secretary and task committee
3. Child Curriculum Correlation Secretary and task committee
The respective correlation secretaries and their task committees will then read the materials and submit a written report concerning each item to Brother Ludlow. These reports will be considered by all correlation secretaries in a regular weekly meeting.
If no problems of correlation or doctrine exist, the material will be processed and published. If a correlation or doctrinal problem is found, the Correlation Secretary will try to resolve it with the originating organization. If they are not able to resolve the problem, Brother Ludlow will refer it to Brother Fyans for consideration by him and his associates in the Department of Internal Communications.
If the problem cannot be satisfactorily resolved by Brother Fyans and his associates, it will be taken for a solution to a committee of the Council of the Twelve consisting of Elder Thomas S. Monson, Elder Boyd K. Packer, and Elder Marvin J. Ashton. The committee of the Council of the Twelve may wish to take the matter to the full Council of the Twelve for their consideration.
First Presidency Letterhead
To: General Authorities and Heads of Church Departments and organizations
Dear Brethren and Sisters:
The First Presidency has appointed a Correlation Executive Committee in the Council of the Twelve and has organized the Correlation Department of the Church to ensure more effective correlation of all activities and programs of the various priesthood and auxiliary organizations and Church departments without exception.
The Correlation Executive Committee consists of Elder Mark E. Petersen as Chairman, with the following as members: Elder Howard W. Hunter, Elder Thomas S. Monson, Elder Boyd K. Packer, and Elder L. Tom Perry. The Presiding Bishop (Bishop Victor L. Brown) will attend the meetings of this committee.
The Correlation Department has been organized with Elder Neal A. Maxwell as Managing Director and with the following three divisions: (1) Correlation Review, (2) Long-Range Planning, and (3) Evaluation. This department has been given the responsibility to review and evaluate all proposed activities, programs, policies, procedures, practices, plans, terminology, and other materials intended for use throughout the Church. Thus, all such proposed items prepared by general Church departments and organizations should be sent to the Correlation Department for evaluation. The Correlation Department will not establish any policies whatsoever but will ensure that the policies approved by the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve are consistently and uniformly applied.
Attached are two approved documents: (1) the exact wording of the document approved in the temple meeting, and (2) a statement outlining the “Routing of Materials Sent to the Correlation Department.” We would greatly appreciate it if you would read and carefully observe the procedures outlined in these documents. [These documents were not attached to this particular copy of the letter used by the compiler.]
The First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve have placed the Coordinating Council under the direct supervision of the Correlation Executive Committee. Policy changes and other pertinent information will be communicated to heads of all Church departments and organizations in regular meetings of the Coordinating Council, and those to attend will be notified.
We feel this organization, which is effective immediately, will assist us in helping the Church to become one as our Master has counseled.
Spencer W. Kimball
N. Eldon Tanner
M. G. Romney
The First Presidency
First Presidency Letterhead
To: General Authorities and Heads of Church Departments and Organizations
Dear Brethren and Sisters:
Responsibility for Correlation Reviews
The Correlation Department has been given responsibility to ensure more effective correlation of activities and programs of the various priesthood and auxiliary organizations and church departments.
This department is responsible to review proposed activities, programs, handbooks, curricula, policies, procedures, practices, plans, terminology, training and leadership materials, and other materials intended for use throughout the Church for content, doctrine, and correlation. Thus, such proposed items prepared by general Church departments and organizations should be submitted to the Correlation Department for review.
The Correlation Department is not an origination nor implementing organization, but it will ensure that the policies approved by the First Presidency and the Twelve are consistently and uniformly applied.
Spencer W. Kimball
N. Eldon Tanner
M. R. Romney
The First Presidency
Requirements for Submitting Items to Correlation Review
Explanation of the Major Categories used by Correlation Review Committees.
1. CORRELATION in a broad sense includes matters pertaining to (1) doctrine; (2) Church policies, procedures, and practices, and (3) factual accuracy. Thus, items listed in an evaluation report in this category include:
a. Doctrine of the Church, consisting of (1) the teachings of the scriptures; (2) the clearly defined interpretations placed on the scriptures by the prophets, seers, revelators and [sic] this dispensation; and (3) the exact and appropriate rendering of scriptural references.
b. Policies, procedures, and practices of the Church, involving correctness of a proposed statement as compared with the statement approved by the General Authorities on such matters as policies, procedures, practices, organizational structure, and the content of handbooks and guidelines.
c. Factual accuracy, including such items as correctness of dates, names, places, historical events, etc.
2. INTERPRETATION pertains to problems in one of the following categories:
a. Items not clearly defined nor determined by the General Authorities.
b. Items containing assumptions, inferences, or implications relating to doctrine or to principles of correlation.
c. Items which might cause misunderstanding or confusion among different national, cultural, or ethnic groups.
d. Items which might contain material that might be questionable in such areas as (1) appropriateness of content, graphic design or art, (2) length, (3) level of audience, (4) method of presentation, and (5) cost of production.
The First Presidency (Heber J. Grant, J. Reuben Clark Jr., David O. McKay):
February 29, 1940,
the First Presidency drafted a letter to Franklin L. West, Church Commissioner
of Education, which said in part:
"As forecast by President Clark, speaking for the First Presidency at Aspen Grove on
August 8, 1938,
the First Presidency has, after careful and mature deliberations, reached the
"1. Institutes and Seminaries will hereafter confine themselves exclusively to the following work.
"a. Fostering and promoting the work of the auxiliary organizations of the Church….
"b. Teaching the principles of the Gospel as set out in the doctrines of the Church.
In this work the teachers will use,—The Old and New Testaments; The Book of Mormon; The Doctrine and Covenants; The Pearl of Great Price.
"These four constitute the 'Standard Works of the Church' and are the ultimate authority on all matters of doctrine, save where the Lord shall have given or shall give further revelation through the prescribed source for such, the President of the Church.
"Teachers will do well to give up indoctrinating themselves in the Sectarianisms of the new
Theology…. Divinity School
"In their teaching, the teachers will use verbiage and terminology which have become classic in the Church….
"Furthermore, teachers will not advance their own theories about the Gospel or Gospel principles.
"Profane history may be used when necessary and contributive, but when used it should be obtained from reputable and recognized authorities, not from propaganda sources….”
In 1944 the First Presidency appointed a Church Reading Committee and a Church Publications Committee as indicated by the documents following. Their duties are defined in the documents. Personnel of the committees are given at the head of the documents. [Reference given below.]
Elders Joseph Fielding Smith, John A. Widtsoe, Harold B. Lee, and Marion G. Romney.
As you are aware, the Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve approved, by a formal action, the setting up of a committee on Publications as proposed by the First Presidency. You Brethren were named and approved to constitute that Committee.
The function of this Committee is to pass upon and approve all materials, other than those that are purely secular, to be used by our Church Priesthood, Educational, Auxiliary, and Missionary organizations in their work of instructing members of the Church in the principles of the Gospel and in leading others to a knowledge of the truth. No non-secular materials will be used by any of these organizations that do not receive the approval of your committee. This assignment will cover reference books prescribed or placed at the disposal of our youth by any of the organizations named, as also books used in reading courses.
To meet the required standards for use by Church organizations, such materials must:
1. Clearly set forth or be fully consistent with the principles of the Restored Gospel.
2. Be wholly free from any taint of sectarianism and also of all theories and conclusions destructive of faith in the simple truths of the Restored Gospel, and especially be free from the teachings of the so-called "higher criticism." Worldly knowledge and speculation have their place; but they must yield to revealed truth.
3. Be so framed and written as affirmatively to breed faith and not to raise doubts. "Rationalizing" may be most destructive of faith. That the Finite cannot fully explain the Infinite casts no doubt upon the Infinite. Truth, not error, must be stressed.
4. Be so built in form and substance as to lead to definite conclusions that accord with the principles of the Restored Gospel, which conclusions must be expressed and not left to possible deduction by the students. When truth is involved there is no place for student preference or choice. Youth must be taught that truth cannot be blinked or put aside; it must be accepted.
5. Be filled with a spirit of deepest reverence. They should give no place for the slightest levity. They should be so written that those who teach from them will so understand.
6. Be so organized and written that the matter may be effectively taught by men and women untrained in teaching and without the background equipment given by such fields of learning as psychology, pedagogy, philosophy, and ethics. The great bulk of our teachers are in this untrained group.
Courses on "comparative religion" have no place otherwise than in the Post-Graduate School to be established at the Brigham Young University and there only for the purpose of developing and demonstrating the truth of the Restored Gospel and the falsity of the other religions of the world, and thereby build the faith and knowledge of post-graduate scholars. The subject is one for careful, prayerful study by the mature mind, not for the framing of the thought and belief of the youthful mind.
The work of all these Church organizations must have as their purpose the building up of firm testimonies in the minds and hearts of the Saints, particularly of the youth,—testimonies of the truth of the Restored Gospel, of the Messiahship of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the divinity of the mission of the Prophet Joseph Smith, of the divine origin of this Church established by God and His Son by and through the Prophet, and of the fact that this is and always will be the Church of Jesus Christ with all that this connotes,—all to the end that the Saints may have and enjoy these testimonies, that they may live in keeping with the commandments of the Lord, that they may constantly increase their knowledge of the Truth, thus enabling them so to live that salvation, exaltation, and eternal happiness in the Celestial Kingdom may come to them, and lastly that they in turn may lead others of the world to a knowledge and testimony of the Truth both by their precept and by their example, so bringing to them these same blessings.
No assignments for the preparation of text books or lessons for use by any of the named organizations shall be made without prior consultation with and approval by your Committee. All texts written and lessons prepared are to bear the name of those who write or prepare them. All such materials must have your approval before they are used by any of the organizations of the Church.
In the preparation of all these materials prime consideration should be given, by those undertaking it, to our own Church history and doctrinal literature. In the rather recent past these sources have been too little considered. Sectarian views and doctrines have had too large a place and consideration; the paganistic theories and tenets of the so-called “higher criticism” have not been without their influence; none of these have a place in our Church. They should be wholly eliminated from our literature.
The leaders of the Church have from the beginning been men of stalwart spiritual integrity, righteous in their living, virile in their thinking, profound in their knowledge of the Gospel, and with undoubting faith. They have left sermons and writings which in good part are original sources and should be so dealt with. In recent years they have been too little consulted and too infrequently used. Not mere sectarian scholarship, but Church scholarship coupled with unwavering faith and a deep knowledge of the Gospel should be the test of fitness for the preparation of the materials involved in this assignment. As we have already said: worldly knowledge has its place, but it may not be substituted for revealed truth, nor the inspired utterance of God's prophets. Ethics and philosophy are found in the Gospel, but it is far more than these; whenever either or both of these are used, they must be used with great care and caution, and for the sole purpose of indicating that human wisdom, when sound, supports the divine Gospel truths. All secular knowledge used should be so set forth as to support the Gospel truths.
The discussion of mysteries and of doctrines upon which there is not a recognized accepted view, should be avoided. The aim should be to present the simple truths of the Restored Gospel in as plain and understandable a way as possible. Care should be taken that the Gospel teachings are not cast in an ethical mold. Ethics are man made and vary with man's concepts and development; the Gospel is God's truth and is unchanging through the eternities. Teaching the Gospel as if it were an ethical code will breed questions in the minds of the youth as to the relationship of the Gospel to ethics, to the possible destruction of faith in the divinity of the Gospel.
We are naming a Reading Committee to assist you brethren in your labors. This Committee will operate under your direction. It is contemplated that the Reading Committee will, in the first instance, read all the materials covered by this assignment and then bring to you Brethren of the Committee on Publications their recommendations thereon. It will be the duty and responsibility of your Committee finally to pass upon and approve or disapprove all such materials….
In making this assignment to you Brethren of the Committee on Publications and of the Reading Committee, we wish to assure you that in our view the work you are now called to do is of the very first importance to the Church membership as a whole, and to the youth of the Church particularly. The assignment is given with the intention that no other Church work shall take precedence over it, that you will begin your labors at once, and will prosecute them with vigor and constancy, having an eye single to the glory of God and to the upbuilding of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on this earth, and to the salvation and exaltation of God's children in the Celestial Kingdom.
Praying that the blessings of the Lord may attend you in the carrying on of this important work to which you have been called, and that constantly His spirit will be with you to inspire your minds and give you wisdom in your labors, we are Faithfully your brethren,
HEBER J. GRANT, J. REUBEN CLARK, JR., DAVID O. MCKAY, First Presidency. [See following for source.]
The Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve unanimously decided, by formal action, at a recent meeting, to set up a Committee on Publications for the Church. The function of that Committee is to pass upon and approve all materials, other than those that are purely secular, to be used by our Church Priesthood, Educational, Auxiliary, and Missionary organizations in their work of instructing members of the Church in the principles of the Gospel and in leading others to a knowledge of the Truth. No non-secular materials will be used by any of these organizations that do not receive the approval of that Committee. This assignment will cover reference books prescribed or placed at the disposal of our youth by any of the organizations named, as also books used in reading courses.
The Committee on Publications is made up of the following Brethren:
Elders Joseph Fielding Smith, John A. Widtsoe, Harold B. Lee, and Marion G. Romney.
At the same meeting the Council approved the setting up of a Reading Committee to assist the Committee on Publications in its work….
Faithfully your brethren,
HEBER J. GRANT, J. REUBEN CLARK, JR., DAVID O. MCKAY, First Presidency.
(James R. Clark, comp., Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-75], 6:208-15.)
Encyclopedia of Mormonism:
The Church provides a standard set of curricular materials to all of its units throughout the world. Some matters of basic curriculum had been formatted and distributed to the Church membership since the early days of the Church but as the auxiliary organizations were formed, such as the Sunday School, Primary, Relief Society, and the Young Men and Young Women, each developed its own curriculum to help teach members. Eventually it became desirable to coordinate curriculum materials among these auxiliary organizations to avoid undesirable duplication and to insure the coverage of important topics at all age levels….
The gospel of Jesus Christ, as expounded in the scriptures and supplemented and interpreted by living prophets, forms the basis of LDS curriculum….
In 1961, Elder Harold B. Lee, then of the Quorum of the Twelve, described the objective of the Church curriculum as “building up a knowledge of the gospel, a power to promulgate the same, a promotion of the growth, faith, and stronger testimony of the principles of the gospel” (Lee, p. 79). He also announced a new emphasis on correlation, citing a need for better coordination among the courses of study and for a reduction in new courses of study each year. The outcome of this charge was an all-Church coordinating council, three coordinating committees (one each for children, youth, and adults), and an extensive curricular planning guide.
In 1972, the Church formed the Internal Communications Department and gave it the responsibility for curriculum planning and writing. All the curricular materials were examined, and from that assessment developed Curriculum Planning Charts. The purposes of the charts were two fold: to measure existing materials, and from the measurement to plan a well-balanced future offering. The actions resulted in the formation of an Instructional Development Department and the establishment of numerous writing committees, whose responsibility is to plan lesson content and methodology for courses in all age groups within the priesthood and auxiliary organizations. Once again, the primary curricular resources are the scriptures, supplemented by quotations from modern prophets. (Wayne B. Lynn, “Curriculum,” Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 5 vols. [New York and Toronto: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1992], 1:347-48, 351.)
Carlos E. Asay:
Church curriculum is not a “hit or miss” proposition, nor something that has simply evolved. It has been carefully designed.…
It is in the family setting and the home that members receive their basic gospel training. This training includes reading the scriptures, praying, holding family home evenings, serving one another in a spirit of love and unity, and doing all else that lays the foundation of Christian living.
Many resources have been made available by the Church to assist families in this home training. These resources include the LDS editions of the scriptures, the Family Home Evening Resource Book, the Church magazines, and many other aids….
The scriptures of the Church constitute the heart and core of the curriculum. Simplified scripture stories are used with the very smallest children to help them understand who they are and how they relate to our Heavenly Father, to the Savior, and to their parents and family. Later, as the children prepare for baptism, they are exposed to the first principles and ordinances of the gospel through the use of the scriptural accounts.
When youth enter the Aaronic Priesthood or Young Women program, they receive further understanding of the gospel and are introduced to additional scripture study aids. These study aids are used as the young men and women probe deeper into the scriptures and seek to develop testimonies. The adult curriculum is based upon a systematic, four-year study of the standard works supplemented by the inspired utterances of modern prophets. One year the Old Testament is studied; the next year the New Testament is featured; the third year, focus is turned to the Book of Mormon; and year four centers upon the Doctrine and Covenants and Church history. In fact, the standard works have replaced all other materials as the basic texts in the adult curriculum of the Church. (“‘For the Perfecting of the Saints’: A Look at Church Curriculum,” Ensign, January 1986, 14-15 [at this time, Elder Asay was Executive Director of the Church Curriculum Department].)
Carlos E. Asay:
The curriculum of the Church is correlated. Careful and prayerful plotting of gospel principles with the use of planning charts and computers has enabled Church workers to correlate the Church curriculum….
Weekly Sunday School lessons for the adults in the Gospel Doctrine class provide a systematic study of the scriptures in their historical setting. This broadens our in-depth study of the scriptures by helping us understand the context in which they were written. Simultaneously, priesthood and Relief Society offer a more extensive study and personal application of the doctrines taught in the scriptures. One series of lessons support the other, and together they constitute a well rounded program of searching, understanding, and applying the scriptures. (“‘For the Perfecting of the Saints’: A Look at Church Curriculum,” Ensign, January 1986, 17 [at this time, Elder Asay was Executive Director of the Church Curriculum Department].)
Carlos E. Asay:
The “Church magazines are essential tools in our gospel teaching program.” (First Presidency Letter, Oct. 2, 1972.) This fundamental curriculum principle has been in place for some years and grows in importance as the Church expands throughout the world.
Church publications (the Ensign, the New Era, the Friend, and the International Magazines) are referred to as the voices of the Church and the official line of communication from the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve to the members of the Church. Each month a First Presidency message appears in the Ensign. Home teachers are expected to discuss this article with all assigned families. Quite obviously, the curriculum would become stagnant and lose its relevance if we failed to hear the voices of living prophets.
One of the most significant of all Church publications is the conference edition of the Ensign magazine. This important issue carries the current written messages of the Brethren conveying the mind and will of the Lord. Included with each conference issue is a chart suggesting how these addresses might be used to enrich courses of study currently in use by the various organizations. (“‘For the Perfecting of the Saints’: A Look at Church Curriculum,” Ensign, January 1986, 17-18 [at this time, Elder Asay was Executive Director of the Church Curriculum Department].)
Dean L. Larsen:
I Have A Question: Questions of general gospel interest answered for guidance, not as official statements of Church policy.
Question: Should that which is written in Church publications and lesson manuals be taken as official doctrine?
Church publications fall into four general categories: (1) materials related to the curriculum, such as lesson manuals, teachers; supplements, and student materials; (2) magazines; (3) administrative documents, such as handbooks, leadership training materials, organizational guidelines and bulletins, etc.; and (4) missionary discussions, tracts, and support materials. All of the materials within these four categories are prepared under the direction of some officially recognized Church agency, and they are reviewed and cleared by the Church Correlation Review committees before they are published and issued to the Church.
A wide range of hardbound books, pamphlets, and other printed materials is constantly being printed and placed on the market by independent publishing companies. Many of these materials deal with religious matters. Some are written by Church members, including General Authorities. Publications that fall into this category are not generally authorized by the Church. The authors, compilers, and publishers assume full responsibility for the content and do not seek or receive official Church endorsement.
Over the years a careful selection of these hardbound, independently published books has been made and approved by the First Presidency and the Twelve for placement in Church meetinghouse libraries. They are to serve as approved resource materials for priesthood leaders, teachers, and the general membership. Any additions to this “authorized list” of hardbound books must be approved by the First Presidency and the Twelve. The number of books on this list is small. They can be identified by meetinghouse librarians.
While the content of the approved Church publications identified above does not claim the same endorsement that the standard works receive, nonetheless they are prepared with great care and are carefully screened before they are published. Writers of curriculum materials must be cleared by the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve. Their product is reviewed closely by the heads of the organizations that are responsible for their implementation. Correlation Review committees check carefully for doctrinal accuracy and for harmony with established Church policies and procedures.
The General Handbook of Instructions is not only reviewed by Correlation, but also receives a close auditing from each individual member of the First Presidency and the Twelve.
Church magazines draw their content from a wide range of authors and contributors, in addition to those who serve as professional staff members. Those items that are published in the magazines receive not only the scrutiny and judgment of the editing staffs, but are also subject to clearance by the Correlation Review committees. Committee members are called as a result of their expertise in such areas as Church doctrine, Church history, and Church administration, and serve three different age groups: adult, youth, and children.
Much care is exercised to make certain that the official publications of the Church carry messages that are sound in doctrine and fully in harmony with currently approved policies and procedures. A constant effort is maintained to upgrade and correct the content of these materials so that they can merit the confidence and approval of Church leaders and the general membership. (“I Have a Question.” Ensign, August 1977, 38 [at this time Elder Larsen was a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy and Managing Director of Curriculum Resources].)
Some older examples of the type of doctrinal evaluation performed:
Harold B. Lee:
Some years ago I served the Publications Committee, charged with the responsibility of reading all manuscripts proposed for study by the various organizations of the Church. We had a committee from one of the general boards who were preparing a set of lessons for study in one of the classes, and it was supposed to be an interpretation of the teachings of the Savior. When it came to us for a reading, we were amazed to find that the interpretations followed the sectarian interpretation, rather than that in the Book of Mormon and in the Doctrine and Covenants, in which in some instances there were actual revelations interpreting some of these things not in harmony with the sectarian belief. Well, it was clearly an evidence that these brethren who had studied had forgotten that we have this perfect model by which their teachings could have been measured, and they would not have fallen into the pitfall that some of our teachers allow themselves to fall when they have what I shall call, shall I say, religious education without true gospel knowledge. Now, we need a model. False doctrines shall arise. The Lord said that was one of the signs of His second coming. False prophets will show great signs and wonders. If it were possible, he said, they shall deceive the very elect, and then the inspired translation adds this significant clause, “who are the elect according to the covenant.” Now, that means members of this Church are in danger of being deceived. How important it is then! Just like I tell you, this group of fine men were deceived because they hadn’t followed the model. Just so, we as teachers can be led into the same trap if we do not have the understanding and knowledge necessary to save us. (“The Place of the Church,” Address to Seminary and Institute Faculty,
Young University June 24, 1960,
Bruce R. McConkie:
Pursuant to your request I have read the Sunday School lesson…and have the following comments:
Throughout these lessons the expression “Heavenly Father” is frequently used when it would be far more appropriate and accurate to refer to the Deity involved simply as “the Lord.”
Lesson [ _ ] sets out to show that we should have faith in our Heavenly Father the creator of the world. Wouldn’t it be better to follow the Articles of Faith and teach that we are to have faith in Christ and as Brigham Young expresses it “through him in the Father” and also teach that Christ is the Creator.
Page [ _ ] speaks of the Father telling Abraham certain things. Actually Christ is the Deity here involved.
Page [ _ ] It is not quite accurate to say that Adam and Eve were happy in the Garden of Eden. See 2 Nephi 2:22-25….
Page [ _ ] This page shows the extreme to which these lessons go in attributing everything to the Father. It even says that the “Heavenly Father told Joseph that none of them was the true church.” Also it would be better to say that Joseph and Oliver had the power to baptize people for repentance after the visit of John since nearly a year was to elapse before there was a Church.
Page [ _ ] I doubt very much if Joseph and Oliver baptized each other using the same words that thereafter were revealed for use in the baptismal service. In any event no one has any way of knowing what words were used….
Page [ _ ] I think the statement that the Holy Ghost is a member of the Father’s family should be deleted. Who knows whether this is true or not?
Page [ _ ] The reference here to the appearance of the Spirit of the Lord to Nephi and identifying such spirit as the Holy Ghost is at least controversial if not highly questionable. Some of the Brethren have taught that is was the Holy Ghost, others have categorically denied this. Why not skip the matter entirely?
Lesson [ _ ] It would be very profitable to insert in this lesson an explanation of the difference between the Holy Ghost and the Gift of the Holy Ghost and also an outline of what it means to work by the power of the Holy Ghost. Some of Joseph Smith’s statements could be used and also those of President Joseph F. Smith in Gospel Doctrine.
Lesson [ _ ] Why not add in this lesson that the miracles such as the crossing of the
Sea took place because of faith resident in men who held the
priesthood. It was not just
priesthood. Faith is the power
Lesson [ _ ] This lesson does not clearly set out whose plan was involved in pre-existence. It should show that the plan of salvation was ordained and created by the Father; that he presented it to the hosts of his spirit children; that he called for volunteers so that a redeemer might be chosen who would operate according to the terms of the Father’s plan; that he received two offers—one from Christ and one from Lucifer; that Lucifer wanted to modify the plan of the Father and deny men their agency. Properly speaking there were not two plans; Christ did not offer one and Lucifer another. Christ offered to follow the Father’s plan and do his will. They did not talk over the matter in pre-existence and give forth their ideas and suggestions as is found on page [ _ ]. The ideas of the plan itself originated with the Father; it was Christ’s plan only in the sense that he adopted what the Father had announced.
Page [ _ ] Repentance calls for people to do more than try to do better….
Page [ _ ] speaks of the Father telling Solomon something when in fact it was Christ doing it….
Page [ _ ] I do not believe the statement that the fire which surrounded the Nephite children was just a heavenly light. Why not delete this?
Page [ _ ] It has never occurred to me that the Indians thought the Great Spirit was Jesus; I always assumed they thought it was the Father. The Great White God they did think apparently was Christ. What is meant by “the Great White Spirit” I do not know.
Page [ _ ] It may be inaccurate to say that it was at the time of the grand council in heaven that we learned that an earth was to be created etc. It well could be that we were taught this ages before the formal council.
Pages [ _ ] These pages contain a mythical story about someone named Mark and his dealings with Jesus. It seems to me wholly inappropriate to create mythical stories of people who had contact with the Lord. Children will not be able to distinguish between the myth and the fact. Why not delete the story?...
Lesson [ _ ] This lesson on the salt of the earth is not nearly as good as it might be. Why not write it from the standpoint of the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants which teach that those who are the salt of the earth are the faithful members of the
. Church of Jesus Christ
Page [ _ ] A story is here recited, presumably a true one, of the Prophet anointing the throat of an ill person with consecrated oil. Since this is contrary to the [current] counsel and practice [of the Church] and since it leaves the impression that it is proper to anoint afflicted parts of the body with consecrated oil, perhaps this illustration should be deleted.
Page [ _ ] Reference is here made to three wise men. This is a sectarian tradition. The Bible account does not tell how many wise men there were. Signed, Bruce R. McConkie.