Minor heresies caused by the new Joseph Smith Manual

December 5, 2007

So that we understand each other, you need to know that my religious side is deliriously irrational. It does not really question or ponder. It accepts, adapts, and moves on. I have never spent much time pondering the whys behind my share of church callings. I bloom where I am planted or, at least, remain there until I am planted anew.

For the past 4 years, I have been teaching children. I was a youth Sunday School teacher, then I worked in Nursery, and now I teach the ten-year-old Valiant boys. I get along well with my own children, but I am uncomfortable in conversation with other people’s kids. I find that I spend too much time trying to view the world through their eyes and don’t really hold my own conversationally with them. Trying to fit in never works. 🙂

In any case, upon hearing about the upcoming manual, I experienced an emotion quite unlike any I have ever before felt in church: calling envy. I wanted any calling that would allow me to attend priesthood on those weeks we went through the manual. This had not happened with any of the other manuals that I had missed because of my callings (Wilford Woodruff, Spencer Kimbell, the end of the George Albert Smith manual). I really wanted to be in Priesthood and not in Primary.

So, I talked with my bishop. I explained that I was not demanding a release. I explained that if the Spirit moved him (or if it moved our Primary President, who is awesome) to keep me in Primary that I would not complain. But I wanted out. I wanted to participate in the discussions stemming from the Joseph Smith manual. I wanted to go back to Priesthood. He said that it was good to know and that he was talking with the Primary President the next night to talk about callings for the upcoming year. I, knowing that I was acting from sheer selfishness, felt really guilty and, once again, noted that if he or she felt I was best used in the Primary, they should keep me there (I also helpfully noted that they should not act against any promptings. Considerate am I).

I have not yet been released, but it may happen. If not, it isn’t really that big a deal. I have the manual and can still read it (although I am, judging from the posts so far, the only member on earth who hasn’t read it yet). But I haven’t done that with the other recent manuals and am not sure that I would do it with this one. I want to though.



  1. I have not read the manual yet. I have been in Young Men’s for several years, and feel a bit like you do.

    Perhaps time to talk with my bishop….

  2. This was a fun post. Calling envy is something that seems to sneak up…. On a more serious note, I think the fact that you just was open with your bishop and yet have a willing heart is a really good example of how things can and should work in the Church…we can give feedback, but we also step back and support the leaders in what they end up choosing to do.

  3. I started reading the manual today and have been impressed and dismayed and conflicted at the same time. I love reading what Joseph Smith taught. What I don’t like is that is left out of the historical sketches. There is zero controversy. I see things this way probably because I have read Rough Stone Rolling almost twice and consider it to be the best history to this point about Joseph Smith. I feel that some controversy should be in the manual because Joseph Smith was controversial and continues to be a polarizing figure in the history of Religion in America.

    I guess that I have never understood or appreciated the arguments for faith promoting only history. I know that this is because when I started reading and studying Church history I skipped over the faith promoting stuff and went straight to the Leonard Arringtons and Richard Bushmans of Mormon history and know that my testimony only increased as a result.

    So I guess this how things will go. I am going to love the teachings of Joseph Smith contained in this manual but will always feel that the history is wanting. The question now is should keep my mouth shut in Elders Quorum, or share the things that I have learned as they apply to the history contained in this manual?

  4. Chris, keep your mouth shut. They don’t want to know.

  5. I think the classes have never been designed to be about the history; they are about focusing on doctrine. We find this even with lessons on the pioneers. We study the doctrine that is applicable to us. The classes are designed for doctrinal application, not historical analysis.

    It’s always hard when we know more than what is being discussed, but I would say that unless the Spirit really prompts you, to let the classes be what they were designed to be. Our leaders don’t pretend that they are complete historical representations, but they were never meant to be. To me, it helps me to remember that — to understand the purpose of the classes and let whatever we don’t cover just go and let people study and discuss those extra things on their own.

  6. Our leaders don’t pretend that they are complete historical representations, but they were never meant to be.

    It’s one thing not presenting some historical matter. It’s another thing to present it in a false way. For example, my dad (who is very conservative) is now bothered whenever he sees the church portraying Joseph Smith translating the plates like a book. After reading RSR, he realizes that such portrayals by the church are dishonest.

  7. I appreciate the comments by m&m. Concerning calling envy, it is fine for us to express concerns, desires or thoughts about our service within the church. All the leaders I have ever been around appreciate that kind of feedback and honesty. The biggest point though, is that we support them in their decision after that, regardless of their decision. It seems that you have approached this in a very mature, responsible manner.
    To Chris, I think prudence needs to be used when disclosing thoughts and information that is beyond the manual material. It is like the saying, give bread before meat, and walk before running. When surrounded by peers who are aware of such things historically it is fine to discuss them and delve into those topics. If you are a member of a class where all the participants are on the same level, than by all means bring it up for some thought provoking and testimony building conversation. But in a church sunday school or priesthood/RS class there are members who are still developing their understanding of the gospel and don’t need to be exposed to info beyond what they are capable of, as truthful as it may be.
    It’s like in the mission when teaching the discussions. Missionaries shouldn’t delve into discussions of Kolob, and calling and elections, and polygamy in the first discussion. It’s not the I am ashamed of those topics or the controversial history surrounding Joseph Smith or the church (neither are the Bretheren). It’s just that the info, even thought it’s available for all to find if they go searching for it, isn’t appropriate for everyone. Another cliche phrase that applies here is: there is a time and place for everything.

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