Ever since a Peggy Statcher Flack SL Tribune article came out a few weeks ago promising changes in the Gospel Doctrine manual, I’ve been wearing out my refresh button on my browser looking for these changes.
Rather than redo the Sunday school manual — a curriculum guide for lay teachers to explore the text and themes in the compilation of revelations, mostly to Smith, called the Doctrine & Covenants (D&C) — Mormon leaders chose simply to add the new material to the end of existing lesson plans as they appear online.
Each lesson will begin with an introduction directing teachers to the resource writings at the conclusion, says Matthew McBride, editor in chief of history.lds.org who oversees the publication of the essays on that site.
It looks like those changes have been added. I checked this morning, and my old links for the D&C Gospel Doctrine manual and lessons were dead and new links are up. The lessons appear to be the same but the promised new references are there now.
Lesson 5 includes a link to the church’s article “Oliver Cowdery’s Gift”, which details Oliver’s attempt to translate a portion of the Book of Mormon with his gift: a divining rod. Kudo’s to the church for this one. I wonder how the discussions will go across Gospel Doctrine classes in the church. The chastisement Oliver received gives huge insight into the Book of Mormon translation process and possibly the revelation process in general. The process appears to be “looser” than the “tight” process many of us assume.
7 Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.
8 But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.
Then of course there is Lesson 31 on Section 132. The church references the essays on polygamy, where the church admits some of the things many of us grew up thinking were anti-Mormon lies, ie that Joseph Smith’s polygamy involved sexual relationships, that Emma didn’t approve and it was done behind her back, and that some of the ways it was introduced to young women appear coercive. Very gutsy of the church.
This will be interesting to see how it goes. The church is making good on Elder Ballard’s promise that it’s time we took control of teaching Church History in an accurate way. It’s not going to be easy, but there is a way out. As Patrick Mason said, there’s a certain version of the church that is unsustainable, and we have been guilty of promoting that version. But there’s a version of Mormonism that’s very sustainable. Passing through this phase where the historical narratives are reevaluated is essential. In my faith deconstruction phase, many of these things were “shelf breakers”, but since then there has been a faith reconstruction phase for me. I once again love the church and find church activity to be rewarding and fulfilling.