LDS correlation keeps the Gospel simple to a fault

I want to do a quick comparison between LDS Sunday school lessons, one from 1955 (pre-correlation), the other from our current — correlation — times. The topic is Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians in the New Testament.

In a concise but detailed 7-page chapter in “The New Testament: The Acts and the Epistles, by Russel B. Swenson, Deseret Sunday School Union Board, 1955, here is one paragraph, not unlike the others in its attention to details. It reads:

Paul’s answers to the above charges were swift and vigorous. Nowhere does he appear more in anger, not even in Galatians. He does not take time to answer them with a reasoned detailed argument. With sharp biting retorts, ironical sarcasm, bold assertions, which he admits border on extravagant boasting, and an extremely fervent faith in his authority as an apostle, he takes a decisive and resolute stand. Though he admits he does not have a polished rhetoric in speech, he claims he has knowledge. And finally, he is so angered and hurt by the many false charges and attacks against his record and authority that he is led to state specifically what he has suffered for the sake of the gospel. He had been inclined to be too modest and had been ignored and insulted as an insignificant person. Therefore, he felt constrained to enumerate his sacrifices for the gospel, not on account of any personal vanity, but in order to validate his authority and preaching as divinely commissioned. What he tells about himself is of priceless value as history because most of it had been neglected by Luke in his writings of Acts.”

Now, let’s move 58 years years into the future and get an LDS Gospel Doctrine Sunday School summary — for teachers — of Second Corinthians today. At, it reads:

Explain that the book of 2 Corinthians contains prophetic counsel that applies in our day. Paul’s teachings in this letter are similar to the teachings we often hear in general conference. Elder Eyring observed, “When the words of prophets seem repetitive, that should rivet our attention [on them]” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1997, 32; or Ensign, May 1997, 25). Encourage class members to receive the counsel in this lesson and ‘hold it close.‘”

That’s correlation folks, and it’s more or less repeated every four years.

The 1955 Gospel Doctrine book is fascinating. In pithy yet detailed chapters, it offers church-approved lessons that must have sparked interesting discussions. What’s best is you learn things in this lesson, and other manuals of the pre-correlation age.

Look, I have no theological argument with today’s post-correlation LDS lessons. The doctrines taught are in accordance with my faith, and a talented teacher and enthusiastic class can bring the spirit. But these lessons are bland. They are the equivalent of taking an easy path rather than traversing a rough path that requires more thought. To the rejoinder that we are encouraged to study more out of class, I concur. But is that a reason for Sunday School to be bland?

When I entered the LDS Missionary Training Center 31 years ago, we were urged as missionaries to keep the Gospel “simple stupid” when we taught it to investigators. There was a rough logic to that. We were 19 years old and most of us were still pretty “simple stupid” in our knowledge of the Gospel.  But the Gospel Doctrine class lessons today seem as basic as the discussions I presented to investigators 30 years ago in Peru.


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18 Responses to LDS correlation keeps the Gospel simple to a fault

  1. D. Michael Martindale says:

    That’s okay. Get on the Internet and you can learn all sorts of interesting things, if you know what I mean.

    • Alan Meyer says:

      The Gospel Doctrine classes used to present wonderful learning and sharing opportunities. Over-simplification is a mistake.

    • pahoran421 says:

      is only in the
      of the
      ATHIEST or
      so called
      ACADEMIC or
      lost in
      the wilderness
      of today’s
      pop culture
      and evidenced
      in the article
      and the previous

      essential truths
      do not change nor
      need to be changed
      to suit the
      of some blogger
      or dime-a-dozen

      Today’s lessons are
      and spiritual
      and saving.

      That is all
      need to be
      15+ million members
      in 70+ countries…
      70+ languages…

      God and Christ
      will be the

      • Ephriam says:

        Pharoran. It takes just “One voice crying” in
        the “Wilderness” to offset the balance and make
        “rivers currants bend” and make mountains low.

        Be they disciplined by fellows of the “disfellowshipped”
        or leading the Warriors of Helamans’ Army; we
        all have a part to play, and a “cog in the wheel”
        in the Grand Scheme of the Church of [Jesus Christ].

  2. Wendy Brown says:

    When the latest books were written, they were intended to be used for all SS classes from 14 up. For 14 year olds it needed to be simple. The actual lesson manual has always been the scriptures themselves. I would suggest that a teacher’s careful reading of the lesson’s referenced scripture blocks along with the footnotes several times during preparation for the class and taking advantage of the promptings of the Spirit will give the teacher ample opportunity to get meaningful discussion during the class. These manuals are no longer being used in the youth classes however.

    • pahoran421 says:

      are only aides.

      The only real Manuals
      truly needed
      are the
      Book of Mormon
      Pearl of Great Price
      Doctrine and Covenants.

      • Zen Wordsmith says:

        I strongly disagree. Manuals are needed to aide
        in the onslaught of those ap-pauled that there is
        such things as transpiring revelation in ancient scripture.
        Apologetic commentary of [LDS Gospel] Doctrine Classes, by General Boards that not only believe,
        but know.

  3. The difference between what Paul taught and what is taught today in the LDS church is the Gospel. They are different. The Gospel of Christ that Paul taught is simple. The different gospel that the Mormons teach is complicated and cannot save from judgement.

  4. Nicole says:

    Maybe I should hold on to my old Relief Society manuals!

  5. Zen Wordsmith says:

    2 Corinthians 05:10 {transliterated LDS-KJV 1611}

    … For we all must appear before the judgment seat of [Christ];
    that everyone may receive everything done [in] the body,
    according to that he hath done, weather it be good or bad…
    Would Saint [Paul] be ever so more mindful then a [Gospel
    Doctrine Class] interpretation of the “tax man cometh”, or do not
    “pass go”, and go directly to jail ?!

  6. laverl09 says:

    The problem is that the curriculum is published world wide and most of the current members are still learning the basics. However, as has been pointed out, the teacher should be using the basic scriptures and starting the discussion from there. The maturity of the class will lead the discussion to the level they are comfortable with. However, as my Dad used to say: “The Gospel has two functions–to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable.” With the proper preparation and letting the Spirit guide, the instructor can know which direction the discussion should go.

  7. Erick says:

    The problem is that all of the interesting stuff in Mormon theology, scripture study, teachings of the Presidents of the Church (their actual teachings, not the manuals), etc, are polarizing. This is a double edged sword because those polarized to be supporters of the Church represent the core or base of the Church, but ultimately represent a fringe of the population who the hard Mormon doctrine might appeal to. So in an effort to not turn off those outside of the fringe, the Church has been consistently watering down the doctrine, the interpretation of scripture, revising the teachings of former leaders, etc, to make Mormonism more marketable. They have managed to make it a less offensive religion in this process…but they are also on track making it less and less of interesting religion. These day’s Mormon teachings and Mormon Prophets are the theological equivalent of hallmark cards. They say nice insincere things to try and make people feel good about Mormonism. That’s it.

  8. Roger says:

    @Pahoran421. Looking forward to hewing down and level in all who might differ from you?

  9. Diane Henry says:

    The Sunday school IS dumbed down. The example lesson contrast provided clearly illustrates that. Even if no one ever heard of Paul or the gospel, the first example is the better lesson. In Alma, of the Book of Mormon, a prophet is teaching those who are not yet “members of the church” the principles of calling and election made sure. I am tired lines that imply it is a glorious thing to make everyone brain dead, using buzz words like “tender testimonies”, “basics”, “polaring”, “mysteries”, when really the lessons are clearly just boring stupid. Interesting, informative class discussion is cut short or eliminated. Even the primary kids are complaining–how’s that for intelligence. Those who love the Lord’s words are the most disappointed group. Good, interesting, edifying teaching and meaningful class interaction is enjoyed by all. We were made to want to grow.
    To Downtown Dave I say, Don’t worry to much, at this rate our doctrine will be as insipid and meaningless as any protestant or catholic church. Been there.

  10. Jim Hodgen says:

    This is a fun discussion… but what got left out was the individual responsibility part… for the teacher and the student. Followers of Jesus Christ are to prove all things and hold fast to that which is good.

    You can only prove what you can grasp and examine… anything else is taking someone else’s word for it. If the teacher put’s some time and devotion into the lesson… as they are admonished to do to really fulfill their purpose in the calling, then the ‘good stuff’ comes in… it’s called diligence and caring.

    If the student actually reads the lesson material (a.k.a. the scriptures and maybe some other interesting things that help them think about the highlighted chapters) then the lesson will be amazing.

    What this provocateur article implies is that someone is being sneaky in keeping the good stuff away… TRUE! The problem is that the sinister forces are those of unfocused students that do not read, study or pray and hope to be entertained with pithy quotes from daring authors that will supply them with all the essential stuff quickly… kind of like reading modern journalism’s visionary statements of purpose.

    Be not weary in seeking wisdom… only you can feed yourself spiritually and mentally, the teacher can just point you toward enlightenment and spiritual strength, you have to move yourself in that direction.

  11. Pingback: A Simple Correlation: The Apostle Paul and Mormon General Conference | Mormon Coffee

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