A Simple Correlation: The Apostle Paul and Mormon General Conference

LDS_office_buildingAs defined at Wikipedia, the Mormon Church’s priesthood correlation program is “a program designed to provide a systematic approach to maintain consistency in its ordinances, doctrines, organizations, meetings, materials, and other programs and activities.” The Church began its correlation efforts in the early 1960s, to bring all aspects of the Church under one large umbrella (so to speak). A few months ago Doug Gibson at The Political Surf noted the effect that correlation has had on Mormon Sunday School lessons. He wrote,

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.” [See 2 Corinthians 11]

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

new-testament-gospel-doctrine-teacher-manualThe correlated manual Mr. Gibson spoke of is the New Testament Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual (specifically, Lesson 35: “Be Ye Reconciled to God”). The copyright date on this manual is 2002, but it is the current manual used today (and was last used throughout the entire Church in 2011 Sunday School classes).

Mr. Gibson complained that the correlated Sunday School lessons are “bland” and remind him of the dumbed-down “simple stupid” lessons he taught to investigators while he was on his mission 31 years ago. This may be true, but to me, the post-correlation changes in this lesson are much more than merely bland and basic. The whole emphasis of the lesson has changed.

In the example Mr. Gibson cited from 1955, the lesson focused on the biblical text: how the apostle Paul responded to false apostles — his anger, his rhetoric, his faith, his sacrifices, his authority, and the calling on his life from God; and how Paul’s actions and words fit into a larger biblical context.

The correlated manual Mr. Gibson cited, on the other hand, does not appear to try to help students understand the details and context of God’s Word at all. Rather, its focus is on validating Mormonism.

The newer manual uses 2 Corinthians and the apostle Paul to direct the student toward the Mormon Church’s General Conference and latter-day apostles, without much consideration of what Paul actually says in his second letter to the Corinthians and why he says it. Of course, there is more to the lesson than what’s cited here, but nothing in that lesson even comes close to an exposition of the biblical text. It is indeed “bland” and “basic”; it also misses some very significant aspects of Paul’s teachings.

For example, the correlated manual skips over 2 Corinthians 11:1-21 entirely. Students don’t look at Paul’s warning against accepting another Jesus, a different spirit, or a different gospel (2 Corinthians 11:4). They’re not directed to Paul’s description of false apostles, deceitful workers who fraudulently transform themselves into apostles of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:13). The lesson never discusses Paul’s caution that Satan transforms himself into an angel of light and that the devil’s servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness (2 Corinthians 11:14-15).

How unfortunate. This is such important counsel for Mormons (and everyone else) to understand. Wouldn’t you agree?

About Sharon Lindbloom

Sharon surrendered her life to the Lord Jesus Christ in 1979. Deeply passionate about Truth, Sharon loves serving as a full-time volunteer research associate with Mormonism Research Ministry. Sharon and her husband live in Minnesota.
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6 Responses to A Simple Correlation: The Apostle Paul and Mormon General Conference

  1. falcon says:

    I think it’s either that the leaders don’t think the followers are very smart and therefore need simplistic explanations or that it’s to the advantage of the leaders to keep the followers dumb, uninformed and therefore less apt to ask pertinent questions.
    I’m guessing it’s the latter. It’s by keeping information from the followers that the leaders insure that they have a bunch of dupes that will comply with the leaders’ directives and do what they are instructed to do.
    The LDS church has a lot to hide not only in it’s history, doctrine and practices, but also in keeping people away from the Bible and what it actually teaches. Lynn Wilder, and others, have commented on how it was through reading and studying the Bible that they were led out of Mormonism.
    Ignorant, unquestioning and trusting followers is what false teachers need in order to continue to propagate their false gospel and keep the money rolling in.

  2. Mike R says:

    I don’t think that Mormon leaders want their rank and file followers to get really into a quality study of the New Testament . There’s enough in there to open their eyes to the
    fact that Jesus’ apostles and Mormon apostles are’nt directed by the same Lord .
    Mormon leaders have ran way past what Jesus’ apostles taught about important
    issues ( God/ salvation etc ) , that’s why Paul penned verses like 2 Tim 4:3,4 , and it’s
    good counsel for us today . Why ? Because in the latter days prophets would come
    on the scene claiming Jesus has sent them , but He did not . They may be well meaning
    but they are false prophets , the modern day counterparts of those Paul and John
    dealt with in their day — 2Cor 11:4 , 13 ; 2Jn 7-9 .

    We can’t trust Mormon leaders to be reliable guides in teaching ” gospel truths ”
    as they have exhibited a pattern , a track record of unstable teachings since 1830 .
    We simply don’t need to follow these men . People have been forgiven , reconciled to
    God and given the gift of eternal life long before a Mormon prophet appeared on the
    scene with the alleged ” restored ” gospel making salvation again available to mankind
    on earth after 1700 years of spiritual darkness . That lie has fooled many sincere
    people and the Mormon people are victims of it .

    We get to share the same good news about salvation that Jesus’ apostles preached far
    and wide . It’s all about Jesus ! Mormonism is not the answer .

    ago . 2Cor 11: 4, 13 ; 2Jn 7-9 .

  3. Rick B says:

    Hey everyone,
    Not sure where everyone lives, I just know everyone is all over the map.
    August 13th is me and my wife’s 20 year wedding anniversary. So to celebrate were going on a road trip. Were leaving Sat the 24th at 4pm from Saint Paul MN. Were going to drive through Chicago, head up to Mount Morris Michigan then over to Detroit, and a place called Frankenmuth. Then were going down to Nashville Tenn, then down to New Orleans, then over to Oklahoma City, then back to Saint Paul MN. We will be getting back to Saint Paul on Sept 1st.

    So if your a mormon or non-Mormon and you post here and have always wondered what it would be like to meet me or someone from this blog, I will be in these areas and if your close by and want to meet let me know and we can try and meet up. Most likely if we meet with anyone it would only be for maybe a 30 minute visit since we have a long drive and not many days to do it, but I’m up for meeting people. Rick

  4. MJP says:

    I am not sure how to respond to this particular article. While I agree with Sharon that the manual seems problematic in a number of ways, I don’t know enough as to what else exists, and how similar the two referenced are.

  5. Mike R says:

    May the Mormon people take time to study the New Testament . By putting their Mormon
    publications down and taking up the New Testament and spend time reading and re reading it .
    Did early Mormon leaders drift away from what Jesus’ apostles taught by mixing in man made
    doctrines ? What does the New Testament teach about a personal relationship with Jesus
    Christ ? When Jesus asked , ” Come unto Me ” , what does the N.T. reveal about this ?
    What about God ? Does the New Testament apostles sound like Mormon leaders when they
    teach about God ?

    These are a few examples of important issues to be explored in the New Testament for those
    Mormons who see the importance of going back to the beginning , the New Testament , and
    see if their leaders have not slowly drifted from the church Jesus established through His
    apostles or the gospel of salvation that they preached far and wide .

    It is vital that the teachings of any one claiming to be a prophet today be compared to the
    teachings of Jesus’ apostles . Spiritual imitations can be detected by a concerted study of the , New Testament , and remember that prophets who are well meaning , well dressed , and polite
    does not prove they have been sent by Jesus . Sincere people are fooled by appearances every
    day .

  6. Bloom says:

    II Corinthians is full of good counsel for those who are being led by false prophets. As mentioned already, chapter 11 talks about recognizing false apostles and deceitful workmen; chapter 2 warns against following leaders who gain financially from “peddling” the Word of God (verse 17); chapter 3 describes the veil of confusion and misunderstanding that can only be removed through the work of and faith in the Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit (verses 14 and following). It’s a book I’ve encouraged LDS friends to read and one that I can see would be “glossed over” by LDS teachers.

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