Being Inclusive in Church Classes

George Orwell’s 1984, published in June 1949

A few days ago, Rick C. Bennett, Host of the great Gospel Tangents* podcast, posted this quote from David Olster’s new book (which I highly recommend) Bridges: Ministering to Those Who Question* regarding how some leaders (local and general)  want to control or prohibit members from thinking for themselves. Here is Rick’s post:

“I’m loving this quote from David Ostler.

“Being Inclusive in Church Classes

In George Orwell’s classic 1984, a taskforce of secret police is charged with uncovering and punishing “thoughtcrime,” which is expressing information and viewpoints that go against official teachings or are socially unacceptable. Winston, the main character of the book, copes with a society that punishes those who believe differently than the established position. Unfortunately, things do not end well for him. While we obviously do not criminalize “thoughtcrime” at church in the same manner, we do sometimes reprimand those who think differently. I’m sure we’ve all been in a Gospel Doctrine class when someone said something a little unorthodox and their comment was policed or testified against.

Policing isn’t simply stating a different opinion. It occurs when someone wishes to not just correct but stop someone they disagree with or believe to be in error.” (-David Olster Bridges: Ministering to Those Who Question)

Rick also said:

I don’t consider myself in a faith crisis, but my input is not welcome at church, and I feel completely powerless to change the culture of my ward. Who else feels this way?”

I also responded to the post, and so did Ben Spackman,* from Benjamin the Scribe. I really like Ben’s response, and I totally agree with him that the Church’s move away from having teachers actually teach a lesson, to a more  “discussion” style class, is one of the reasons why true Doctrine is hard to come by in Sunday School nowadays. Here is what me, and Ben Spackman had to say about Ricks post:

My response:

“I’ve often pondered on this, and I too have been accused of “not teaching from the manual when I was a Gospel Doctrine teacher.” The good thing about my experience though, is that I had quite a few members come up to me afterwards saying that they “really enjoyed the lesson.” Ben Spackman gives a great response though to the original post, one that I agree with. I think that the trouble with many Latter-day Saints is that they hold onto traditions, even if those traditions are behind what we now know regarding scripture, history, and science.

Here is Ben’s response:

“I’m still not sure how I feel about this quote. There’s an undefined intersection between the competing ideas of “inclusivity” and the pursuit of truth and knowledge. The former has the problem of implying “content doesn’t matter because everyone’s comments are equal and welcome and of equal value” (i.e. the Church’s move away from the teacher actually teaching, towards “leading conversation.”) The latter has the problem that LDS generally don’t know how to make or evaluate scriptural/historical arguments.

Much of what passes for teaching is repetition of tradition, and since we associate tradition with truth and authority, new things cause problems (to say nothing of clearly unorthodox things.)”

I really appreciate Rick for sharing this quote, and for Ben’s response. I hope my readers will also check out their fantastic work and visit their websites.  


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