The quiet revolution in LDS curriculum, which started with the Come Follow Me course for LDS youth a few years ago, will accelerate in 2019 with Come Follow Me courses for Primary, Sunday School, and (new!) for Individuals and Families. Doing my very best to put on my “say something nice” hat, I will look at a couple of recent postings at LDS.org which give a hint about what’s coming. No doubt we’ll hear more about this in Conference from (wait for it …) Pres. Uchtdorf, who is still alive and well as the Apostle in Charge of LDS Curriculum Development (not the actual title but much more descriptive).
First, the undated “What You Need to Know” post in the manuals section at LDS.org. Subtitle: “The new Come, Follow Me resources are not just updated manuals; they are part of a new home-centered approach to learning and living the gospel.” Key word here is home-centered. As noted in the post, “each household in the Church will receive a copy of Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families.” So you’re getting a new book for New Years. Take it home and study it.
Furthermore, everyone at church is going to be studying the same thing. “[B]eginning January 2019 the scriptures being discussed in Sunday School and Primary classes each week will be aligned so that adults, youth, and children will learn from the same chapters of the scriptures.” The addition of a home study version of Come Follow Me might be coupled with the (rumored) move to a two-hour block. If members actually study the topic and scriptures of the week at home, that might support shorter classes, something like a 50-30-30 schedule with two five-minute breaks. Or how about a 50-20-20 schedule with a twenty minute hot chocolate and donuts break after sacrament meeting?
Second, a Sept. 5, 2018 post at the Church News section of LDS.org, “Get a Sneak Peek at the New Church Curriculum for 2019.” The post quotes a couple of LDS employees who work in LDS curriculum development. The post notes that “much of the learning is to be done at home so that church learning becomes a support—rather than the primary source—to teaching and learning in the gospel.” This is consistent with the earlier quotes.
I found a couple of the quotes a little unsettling. Help me find the positives I’m missing. A curriculum developer is quoted as saying: “Conversion is the end goal, and we know that the Spirit leads to conversion. The previous curriculum model … worked under the assumption that better church experiences lead to more of the Spirit, which leads to deeper conversion” (ellipsis in original). That seems to be saying the focus is not on the content of the lessons or on actually teaching anything, it’s on getting students to feel something (the Spirit, which I’m told manifests itself in a variety of ways) and to experience conversion (best shown by commitment to attending church, zealously following the directives of leaders, and paying tithing, a familiar set of themes regularly emphasized in prior LDS manuals).
Another quote, same guy: “And so we came up with our new curriculum model, which still has conversion as the goal, … and the Spirit is what deepens conversion. We’ve added personal religious behavior as the next ingredient in that equation” (ellipsis in original). Personal religious behavior. I’m not sure how that works in the curriculum, but I’m guessing that means that in addition to reading scriptures and discussing gospel principles, the new lesson guides will tell us what to do or, more likely, invite class discussion in which we can all tell each other what to do. I can just imagine the following directive in the new manual: “After reading the assigned scripture, invite class members to verbally judge each other’s religious behavior for five minutes. Point out that the warm feelings that accompany this activity are the Holy Spirit bearing witness.”
Personally, I want more content, not less, in the manuals. Help these poor teachers out, curriculum guy! Give them something to actually teach! I will note that the new Saints volume has 46 chapters, which suggests it will be the “textbook” of sorts for the Church History sequence in 2020 or 2021 (the New Testament will be covered in 2019). How about a good content-based 46 chapter treatment of the Old Testament or New Testament to match what Saints will likely do for the Church History course? Just my two cents worth while hoping for the best in the new curriculum. If it fails, we can always move to a one-hour block.
Your comments and suggestions are welcome, particularly feedback from adults who have been involved with the youth classes that have already been using the Come Follow Me format for a few years.