New Joseph Smith Manual

A new Melchizedek Priesthood/Relief Society lesson manual is available on Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith. I skimmed through it and didn’t find anything unusual. For example, it only mentions the 1838 account of the first vision and avoids discussion of Joseph’s polygamous marriages. It’s more of the same pablum it seems, but what did I honestly expect?

What interested me is that the LDS church is soliciting comments on the manual:

Your comments and suggestions about this book would be appreciated. Please submit them to Curriculum Development, 50 East North Temple Street, Room 2420, Salt Lake City, UT 84150-3220 USA. E-mail:

Please list your name, address, ward, and stake. Be sure to give the title of the book. Then offer your comments and suggestions about the book’s strengths and areas of potential improvement.

It seems that this is not unprecedented. In fact, this same message appears on the other lesson manuals. This may be a golden opportunity for those favoring inoculation (and willing to put their church memberships on the line) to suggest a more forthright approach about Mormon history.

I’m thinking about writing a letter myself (because I don’t do enough futile things in a day). If nothing else, it would give me a chance to practice nonviolent communication.

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10 Responses

  1. Hellmut says:

    I think that this is an excellent idea, Jonathan. May be, we should mention that we expect them to be forthright since we are entrusting not only our money to them but the instruction of our children.

  2. Seth R. says:

    Once. Just once, I would like to learn something new at Church….


    This is a good basic manual for our teenagers. But I predict a lot of napping High Priests and Elders.

  3. Hellmut says:

    I’ve thought so many times myself, Seth.

    May be, the way to do that would be to dedicate Elders and HP lessons to the gospel in action.

    For example, we could have a basic social work curriculum. One could discuss how various concepts of social work relate to gospel principles. There are many home teachers, quorum presidents and bishops who would benefit from qualified instruction.

    Topics might include marriage counseling, practical food storage techniques, sex education from a gospel perspective, or how to organize adult education and job application efforts.

  4. dpc says:

    Seth R

    “Once. Just once, I would like to learn something new at Church…”

    That’s what the other members are there for. The manual is a gateway to a discussion of the principles and their application in every day life. To the extent that someone merely reads the manual with no meaningful discussion (e.g. asking inane questions like, “Why is it good to pray?” etc.), even with stellar, edge of your seat stuff, people will fall asleep or tune out.

  5. dpc,

    How about a good teacher training program then? 🙂 Teaching No Greater Call is a good first step… if it is taught by a competent teacher. I know that most members are proud of their mostly lay ministry, but a bit of training and professionalism among the teachers couldn’t hurt.

  6. Guy Noir Private Eye says:

    Seth R: “Once. Just once, I would like to learn something new at Church.”

    sorry; I think the Whole Idea is HOPELESS.

    TBMs are SO hooked into only listening/paying attention to “authority”, But the authorities haven’t come up with Anything New (since correlation, have they?)…

  7. dpc says:


    I completely agree. When I took Teaching No Greater Call, it was taught by a school teacher with over thirty years experience. Needless to say, the people who took that class profited immensely. I think ‘magnifying your calling’ includes upgrading your teaching skills. I think a lot more people would stay for Sunday School and Priesthood/Relief Society if the quality of the teaching were to improve.

  8. My wife teaches Relief Society once a month, and she has been discouraged from brining in materials outside of the lesson in the manual, including personal stories. Was there something mentioned in General Conference about this? It seems like a measure to stifle heterodoxy, but it also stifles the creativity of the teachers. It seems that the members of the church are so concerned about preserving orthodoxy that they have lost the capacity for genuine discussion and exploration in a church setting.

  9. Hellmut says:

    I don’t know, dpc, if exonerating the correlation committee and its staff by placing the burden on local teachers is reasonable.

    Arguably, it would be a lot easier for full time staff to creatively compile a quality curriculum than the amateur teachers who also have to meet the obligations to their children and employers.

    Besides, LDS leaders instituted correlation. That was their choice. Therefore they have to take the responsibility for the outcomes.

    In the army, I was warned against bicycling: bowing to the top and kicking those below me. Unfortunately, bicycling is quite common in Mormonism.

    I appreciate people’s efforts to protect the integrity of their testimonies but when that requires us to cross ethical lines, such as exonerating the leaders at the expense of less powerful individuals, then we need to reconsider our commitments.

    That does not mean that we abandon our testimonies but it requires us to reformulate testimonies such that they are compatible with our obligations to our neighbors.

  10. If anyone is interested, I just posted the message I sent to the Curriculum Development department on my personal blog.