Quinn on Benefits of Correlation

Michael Quinn gave a fascinating interview on a wide range of topics on Mormon Stories.  There are a lot of topics I could discuss, but I was surprised to hear Quinn defend correlation.  In response to a question about correlation, Quinn said (at about the 29 minute mark of Part 2),

In correlation’s defense, it’s not a threat but it is a challenge.  The church, ever since the 1960’s has faced a fundamental challenge of centrifugal growth.  With that massive growth in the hinterlands of the church, in particular for different cultures where English is not the common language, it was a question of losing the identity of Mormonism that it might become what the Irish Church was to Catholicism and Rome, what the French Church was to Catholicism and Rome–national churches with their own way of doing Catholicism, sometimes in opposition to the Holy See in Rome.  Well, the leadership of the church didn’t want to re-live that experience, and that’s a major reason why correlation came into effect was to standardize the manuals, the instruction, and I”ve often said that–and this is unfair but I’ve said it–this is to make the General Authorities feel at home no matter where they are in the world.

But it’s also to make sure that Mormonism is the same, and that you don’t get a Mexican version of Mormonism, which happened in Mexico in the 1940s.  Some of those–they don’t have living memories because they have most of them are too young, but some of the much older men do remember that.  They remember that what was called the Third Convention in Mexico.  They built their own chapels, they gave their own lessons, they ran a parallel and rival church, called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Third Convention.  So Correlation is one defense against that happening, and for that reason, I don’t think they will ever give up the idea, philosphy, and the engine of Correlation.  But I am hoping that it will be more adaptable to the differences that are inevitable in the multi-cultures that the Church enters.

I don’t know–it may not, because there are many people in Latin America, Africa, and Asia, who are happy to be Americanized, and they are very happy to become a part of an American religion.  Other–I think a vastly larger population in those areas– do not want to be Americanized, and resist the American trappings that are offered by missionaries to the gospel and by mission presidents.  That’s a tension and I expect that’s going to remain a tension.  My hope is that Correlation is going to loosen it’s grip. But like I say, historians are terrible as prophets.

This made me want to find out more about this “Third Convention” church.  Apparently, between 1925 and 1933, all foreign clergy were expelled from Mexico, leaving the church in Mexico quite isolated for many years.  Because of these restrictions, Mexican saints asked for a local leader as their mission president, however the request was not granted.  After their third request (giving name to the Third Convention), Mexican members broke away and were excommunicated.  However, in 1946, President George Albert Smith traveled to Mexico for 10 days and changed the punishment to disfellowshipment. Church members eventually reconciled and came back into the church.  For more information, you can read about in in this 1972 Ensign article, as well as the Orson Pratt Brown website, which gives more biographic information on the men involved in this episode in history.

Except for Fundamentalist Mormons, I wasn’t aware of other schismatic groups, or their reconciliation.  I guess Quinn sees this as a way to prevent national churches, and to that end, it does seem that Correlation has prevented that.  What do you make of this?

16 comments on “Quinn on Benefits of Correlation

  1. It’s unfortunate the Spirit isn’t trusted for the role of correlation if he were we might enjoy a much richer and more eclectic menu of Mormonism instead of the comfortable, familiar and well managed but 50s corporate culture McDonald’s type chain of wards and stakes.

  2. Howard, I agree with you about the corporate culture, but how does the church prevent schisms like this one that occurred in Mexico?

  3. I fully expect the church to be broken up into a multitude of different churches with their own leaders. Correlation has no power to stop it. In fact, I doubt it could have stopped that fascinating Mexican situation. Correlation is merely a last ditch effort to delay the inevitable.

  4. LDSA, so is the unity of the Bible “over-rated”? How are we supposed to be one with God, if we can’t be one with each other?

  5. MH,
    Do we know the Mexico schism was actually a schism? I think local cultures could work within a framework of the standard works, articles of faith, four-fold mission of the church, etc. Then if we truly believe in a church led by revelation use discernment to select cultural regional leaders based on their ability to follow the Spirit and finally trust in the Spirit. Now this will NOT produce the consistency we have today. Contrary to popular TBM belief, in my experience and in the experience of those close to me the Spirit is not consistent person to person and the Spirit does prompt in different directions than the sitting president of the church or the brethren vocalize. Instead the Spirit custom tutors each of us utilizing our highest level of knowledge and if we are willing to follow Him He teaches at our fastest learning pace. Different cultures will be at different places in their enlightenment some ahead some behind the U.S. Parables and teachings translate differently due to both language and cultural differences. This will produce what we perceive to be different “churches”. So what? Who cares if each unit is optimized? They will all be under one divine umbrella. What a rich religious experience foreign travel will bring. Of course as Quinn implies letting go of the illusion of control probably makes the brethren very uncomfortable.

  6. Howard, quoting from the Ensign article I linked above,

    Apostasy and Reconciliation. A few years prior to World War II, the spirit of apostasy broke out among some of the Mexican Saints. A group known as the Third Convention organized themselves and demanded, among other things, that the First Presidency name a mission president of their own nationality. When the First Presidency reiterated that Church leaders are called by the inspiration of God, many of the group separated themselves from the Church. They carried on their own extensive missionary activity in the small mountain communities of central Mexico.

    Thanks to the skillful leadership of President Arwell L. Pierce and others, most of the Third Conventionists eventually recognized the authority of Church leaders. President George Albert Smith spent ten days in Mexico in 1946 holding conferences in various districts of the mission. He accepted back into full fellowship 1,200 individuals who had followed the Third Convention movement.

    Wherever President Smith spoke, he manifested love and kindness, stressing the need for harmony and unity. One of the Third Conventionists leaders stood in conference and declared, “There is only one president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and he is here today. There is only one president of the Mexican Mission, and he is here today.”

    The Pratt Brown link says this:

    And so the break was complete. The Third Convention went its own way, taking with it a large number of people, some chapels, furniture, and records. But the going was not easy. Within weeks Margarito Bautista challenged the convention’s leadership on a number of doctrinal points. Some people thought Bautista was using doctrinal issues simply to camouflage his own jockeying for leadership in the convention.32 The more likely truth is that Margarito was substantively serious. He advocated the reestablishment of polygamy and the United Order, Mormonism’s own largely abandoned cooperative economy33 and discussed uniting with the LeBaron splinter group.

    Of course, the LeBaron group still advocates polygamy (to this day) and is a Fundamentalist schismatic group (nvolved in some odd scandalous murders of other polygamists in the 1970s, and apparently threatened Spencer W. Kimball’s life as well.)

  7. Interesting. Thanks for posting that MH.

  8. MH, I’m not sure I know what you mean when you say the unity of the Bible. Are you referring to the unity of the Christians who believe only in the Bible?

  9. Please look at this first:


    How might this relate to the ‘correlation’ agenda of the LDS church?

    As “for me and my house” (it would seem that my wife is in agreement, as well) the following quote is more what I ascribe to rather than than the hand-me-downs of someone else’s ‘correlation’:

    “Stay close to home, to your mind, your body, your life. If you can discover a meaningful question right here, it will probably apply to someone else as well–and maybe to the motion of the planets. You never know.
    A spiritual question is primarily one we ask ourselves and process alone. Just as our answers must come from within, our questions come from inside us too. They come from the same place. All our questions are connected to something we already know. Each question will lead to an answer that will lead to further question and so on. As our understanding grows, our questions become clearer and our answers more meaningful. This is how the spiritual path progresses.
    At some point, you’ll be certain that you have reached a full understanding of your question. You’ll recognize it because it’s not someone else’s answer–it’s your own.”
    – Dzogchen Ponlop

  10. LDSA,

    Jesus prays that the 12 may be “one”, and he and the Father are “one”. In the Daymon Smith interview (which I should really write a post about), Smith says that President Harold B. Lee wanted correlation because the City of Enoch was unified that they ascended to heaven. So the idea is that we should all become one with God, and theoretically, there should only be one way to do that.

    Now, as an anarchist, it seems like anarchy is against any sort of centralized authority, and I know you’re into this tribal model, but such a stance doesn’t appear to be exactly united if we’re all in our own tribes. My comment above about unity being over-rated was a bit tongue in cheek, as I know you have some different interpretations of scripture, and I’m sure you’ll somehow reconcile unity with anarchy, but anarchy and unity seem to be strange bedfellows for most of us.

    Cali, I don’t understand how the link relates to the conversation.

  11. “Cali, I don’t understand how the link relates to the conversation”

    When the cartoon states, “that preserving your current identity is more important to you than gaining a more accurate perception of the world” this is, in other words, like saying that it’s so much more important for the LDS church to preserve it’s current identity and myopic, religious “one true church” arrogance (hence, correlation) than ascribe to and acknowledge the worth and merit of other cultures, which can most assuredly contribute to the ‘world church’ that Mormonism purports to be now. The tragic ‘comedy’ is that the LDS church pats itself of the back (“very kind of you to say so”) for taking this stance and is not able (or refuses) to recognize “that (the church) responds to criticism in ways which may appear stupid”. Because of it’s “sense of identity“ “hitched” to it’s “religious beliefs” the LDS church will defend it’s deleterious, closed system, dumbed-down correlation paradigm “at all costs”, or so it seems. Unlike Quinn, I don’t see correlation as a “challenge,” but rather as a dogmatic instrument for cultural disparagement and deconstruction, as well as intellectual asphyxiation.

  12. Thanks Cali, it seems a bit of a stretch for me to see that correlation=”dogmatic instrument for cultural disparagement and deconstruction, as well as intellectual asphyxiation”, but I see better where you’re coming from now.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am no fan of correlation, but I was interested in hearing Quinn’s point of view.

  13. […] defends correlation, but I think the culture of trying to control what can be said is one of Mormonism’s biggest […]

  14. As a newcomer to your blog I hope I am not intruding or coming across as being way off base with my comments. I stumbled upon your writings just today as I was researching material for my autobiography. Thank you for holding a forum of open and honest talk amongst the believing and non-believing but at least thinking individuals who have a some sort of interest in the Mormon Church.

    I consider myself a member of the ‘three strikes’ club. I’m referring to Boyd K. Packer’s talk back in 1996ish when he said, something to the effect of ‘the three greatest enemies of the church are 1-Intellectuals 2-Feminists and 3-Homosexuals.’ (oops, three strikes I’m out). However, I still have connection to the church through family and friends.

    Sorry, I digress, now to the topic of correlation:
    Back in my other life as a Sunday School teacher (of the 17 year old class), I was given permission, by my bishop at the time, to create my own curriculum. I came up with a seven week course on religion. Each week we had a member of a different religion come and talk to the teens about their religion then we would discuss similarities and differences between these religions and our own. Suddenly interest in my class amongst the rebel 17 year olds sitting in the foyer grew and my class size went from three to about twelve. Sadly my bishop brought a stop to it after three weeks telling me I needed to stick to the standardized/sanitized manual. Ho hum, I suppose he had received complaints from parents or something.

    I also had some interesting experiences in Taiwan, while on my mission, not so much an example of correlation or curriculum but an example of a church gone rouge or more interpreting things within their own culture. One time a branch president (native Chinese) called a group of members to the rear of the chapel to do a prayer circle and commenced to enact the prayer circle done in the temple ceremony. Another time, in the same branch, the sacrament was being passed by the ‘brethren’ and they wouldn’t allow any sisters to pass the tray down the row. It was hysterical watching them watching us to make sure no sister tried to hand the tray to the person next to them. I actually had a little battle with the deacon serving me the sacrament as I tried to take the tray from him to pass it down the row. For the sake of saving face I acquiesced and allowed the deacon to stumble over top of me to continue serving the sacrament down the row.

    Neither of these experiences speaks so much to the topic of correlation or no correlation; they are merely experiences I’ve had within the confines of the the church. Now that I am outside the church looking in I see the narrow mindedness that the ‘unity’ brings with it. If the church wants to stick to their curriculum for control and order it would be nice if they would, at the very least, make it more interesting and truthful. The whitewashing of the lessons presented in the manuals is nauseating. Hopefully those who teach the curriculum follow their own hearts and infuse the lessons with more real and honest experiences.

  15. Jill, welcome. I hope you find the blog interesting. I too struggle with correlation and it’s over-reach. That’s why I created the blog–to talk about uncorrelated stuff.

  16. When we talk about unity, we have to talk about what we are unifying on. If we unify on false principles does that mean we’ll be exalted? When Jesus prayed, he prayed for the kind of unity He and His Father enjoyed: unity in righteousness. I don’t understand this blind reaching for unity for unity’s sake. It’s like saying “Let’s all stand united on this sandy foundation.”

    No amount of standardized and castrated material will bring unity. The only thing that will unify people is the power of the Holy Ghost which is for the most part is absent at church. People will convert to the truth and give up some of the most difficult addictions because they want to, because they have felt the Spirit. No amount of number charts, hopes for a higher calling or leaders without testimonies of home teaching will convince anyone to do their home teaching.

    As I understand LDSA’s concept of anarchy, a tribe of family and friends naturally becomes united and share common beliefs. That doesn’t mean that every united tribe will become translated, rather the tribes that have a shared belief that is correct and exalting will be translated.

    The Church is a temporary structure for the patriarchal order the same way the Law of Moses was a temporary structure for the Gospel of Christ.

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