An Insider's Look at Mormon Culture

A Voice from the Dust

A link  to a March 1990 address by Boyd K. Packer to the Regional Representatives expressed a poignant frustration with the office of General Authority: “I have felt . . . that we were losing the ability to correct the course of the Church.” While not a GA, I do feel this kind of frustration with Church policies and programs myself.

Elder Packer’s talk explained a change in local financing as well as a retrenchment from centralized direction over ward and stake programs.  The “budget allowance program” replacing ward building and budget offerings with monies from the general tithing fund was a blessing for families of small means. Implemented ten years earlier when we were struggling to raise five kids on a single income, it would have been a real blessing to our family. Paying 10% of our gross income for tithing, then adding on1% for ward budget, another 1% for building fund, plus fast offerings hurt. We did without some necessities in order to meet these church obligations. Yes, I know the Lord blesses us when we sacrifice to pay tithes and offerings, but He apparently reserved our blessings for the next life.

Almost twenty years later, I would evaluate the attempt to rein in the “over-regimentation of the Church” caused by “too many programmed instructions” as less than a success. One result of simplifying programs was the recycling of lesson manuals. The result, of course, was mindless repetition and probably an attendance drop in the second and third hour of the block. Gospel Doctrine standard works study was also put on a four-year cycle. No longer did the Old and New Testaments each merit a two-year in-depth study. Studying the background history of the scriptures was no longer deemed necessary for understanding. Bible study was replaced by doctrinal lessons with supporting scriptures from the book of the year.

“Milk before meat” was the theme. Two decades of skim milk have left me feeling spiritually starved  when I attend Church classes, but maybe I’ve missed the point. Perhaps repeating standard lessons over and over does promote more family time—one of the goals of the streamlining program. Once the lessons are memorized, perhaps members are expected to skip irrelevant portions of the block.

For a program that was supposed to “teach correct principles and let them govern themselves,” a heck of a lot of regulations still emanate from headquarters. Teachers in auxiliary classes are now instructed not to supplement lesson manuals with any materials except the scriptures, Church magazines and personal experience. Auxiliary teachers have no leeway to use materials that meet the needs of their students. The Course 4 teacher in my ward found the Primary manual, designed for children ages 4 through 7, incomprehensible for the 4-year-olds in her class and substituted a Course 3 manual which had stories and activities her class enjoyed. The Primary president informed her that she must use the designated manual.

I can’t help wondering how many of the General Authorities were totally on board for this streamlining program introduced during Howard W. Hunter’s brief tenure as Church president. The idea of decentralizing control and lessening financial and time obligations on families flies in the face of Church involvement in Prop 8 last year. How does the pressure placed on members to donate time and money in support of a political proposition meet the 1990 goal, “let them govern themselves.”

Reading Elder Packer’s 1990 address is like hearing a voice crying from the dust. Most of the benefits he foresaw have not happened. And I don’t think it’s entirely the fault of “local leaders [who] have been effectively conditioned to hold back until programmed as to what to do . . . .” The General Authorities do have a tough job, but the buck stops at 50 North Temple.

Comments on: "A Voice from the Dust" (2)

  1. Dorothy J.D. Guinn said:

    I am starting to feel crazily redundant- after most of your posts I want to simply say ‘thank you’. I have started writing it several times and deleted it, thinking it is too simplistic and a waste of your time to have to respond ‘you’re welcome’ ten or fifteen times a week depending on how fast I read to catch up.

    Tonight I will say it. Thank you. Skim milk sums up nicely the drought I have been struggling to consume off and on for a decade or so. I think that the church has become as unwieldy as an over-grown public school district, which has to teach to the lowest common denominator. There are many willing to accept that concept and stop there thinking that going farther will put them in some sort of danger. I am not longer able to accept it, nor even to stand it. I want more and I know we have it! I want deep water, strong truths and the opportunity to sharpen my soul against them.

    A friend of mine recently pointed out that those of us striking out to find ‘more’ often feel that we are somehow backsliding because we no longer match what is commonly accepted, and yet we are confused to find the Spirit showing up in even stronger and more powerful ways than ever before, which would contradict the idea that we are ‘apostatizing’ in our desires. She then gave the analogy of a father teaching a child to ride a bike. In time, the father lets go of the bike but is still standing right there, ready. That is what is happening. God is trusting us to experiment and try out our agency at another level. He already told us it would happen when He told us it was inappropriate to be commanded in all things. When we leave the ‘slothful’ lifestyle of being spiritually fed and turn instead to feasting and feeding ourselves, we progress more and more and need less and less ‘commanding’. He doesn’t abandon us, but does give us more room to grow and practice ‘eternal progression’.

    After watching Sheri Dew years ago and then reading her book “No Doubt About It” based largely on the talk she gave at Women’s Conference
    I came up with my theory I call the “Celestial S.E.O.P.”

    In my neck of Utah the school system has a yearly planning session with the students starting in Jr High called the Student Educational Occupational Plan (SEOP) where they attempt to inspire kids to figure out who/what they want to be when they grow up and match their educational goals accordingly. It is mostly disastrous. However, it occurred to me that if God had taken the time to remind Moses, Abraham, Nephi and Joseph Smith and others about the Big Picture and their parts in it in a manner that implies it was a repeat performance from the pre-existence…I feel pretty confident we each got a turn to hang out with our Heavenly Parents and talk about “Who do you want to be when you grow up?” We had a tremendous amount of input regarding our earth circumstances and the preparations we made prior to our arrival. I think we were rather naive in some of our expectations and ideas as to how well we would pull all of this off–rather like a high school graduate getting ready to go out on their own or off to college.

    Why would I feel so confident about this? Because the main point is for us to ‘inherit the Family Business,’ and be able to create spirit beings and worlds without number, etc. It seems crazy to me that God would create a plan for us to be like Him and not put together some sort of apprenticeship program to train us to not run the family business into the ground. Those of us who are here, managed our first big project rather well (we kept our ‘first estate’), though 1/3 of us got kicked off the island right up front for mismanagement of the Family Resources, attempted spiritual murder, fraud and blackmail.

    So the life mission we are struggling so hard to figure out, is something we already chose–for the most part (others have their agency, too)–and our Father/ CEO still knows it and gives us bits and pieces of remembering, validation and spiritual nudging to encourage us to continue.

    I also believe that “God” is more like a last name; Father God, Mother God, The Son, Jesus Christ God and our Cousin Holy Ghost God… incidentally, it is our last name as well, but we are still in ‘short pants’ as it were and do not use it yet–it would be like forging checks with your Dad’s name on them, I guess. We do spend an enormous amount of energy trying to get our daughters to think about being Princesses of the Great King, though.

    To sum up: we need to step up and find our own depth because it simply is not available in a global church that has to be the foundation to all people, kindred, tongues, etc. Truth may be narrow, but it is crazy-deep!

    Thank you for listening.

    In His Care,

    • Dorothy

      Thank you for your great comment and insights. I’m so grateful for the Internet and blogs which allow us to learn from people outside our limited social environment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Tag Cloud