It occurred to me that the various programs of the church have different purposes for different people, and those purposes often go unquestioned. At least among lay members, there are unquestioned assumptions about why such and such a program exists, and if you ask any two people, they might confidently assert that their reason is the reason.

It’s a reductive exercise because, of course, most things don’t exist for only one purpose. Many things have multiple purposes. And yet exploring why we do what we do can be a valuable exercise. Some things are so embedded in our experience that we don’t think to question them at all. Why do we hold elections? Why do we prefer buying to renting? Why do we (as bipedal, air-breathers) swim?

So I’ve decided to launch a new series called “What’s the Point of…” and address various topics over time. In my business experience, we would often address projects or departments in this manner, discussing what that project was supposed to accomplish or why that department needed to exist. Often, the original purpose no longer existed or other competing priorities had changed the company’s needs.

This is a discussion healthy organizations have on a frequent basis, to ensure that our programs are relevant and optimized. It helps you avoid a solution in search of a problem (in which someone has a pet solution they love so much that they misapply it to problems or deliberately misunderstand or misrepresent problems to justify the existence of their favorite solution). It can also help identify new solutions that have become available since the original one was devised.

Here are a few topics I am working on. What’s the point of:

  • The Priesthood
  • Relief Society
  • Parenthood
  • Church attendance
  • Baptism
  • Missions
  • Temples
  • Genealogy

What I will not be doing is giving the following non-answers. Any appeal to authority is not an answer in my book. The [program / practice] exists because of [revelation / God / scriptures / prophets]. C’mon, folks, that’s just saying “the reasons are above my pay grade” or “I don’t know” or “I don’t want to say because if I quote a person higher than me, that carries extra weight and I win.” This is intended to be a rational discussion between people trying to understand why we do what we do as an organization, not individuals trying to out-righteous each other in a game of GA-quoting brinksmanship. If you want to do that, I’m sure someone out there is happy to host such a discussion. That person is not me.

For purposes of this series, pretend you are part of a council deciding how best to achieve the goals of the church, and as such, you are discussing the church’s practices and programs with an eye toward achieving those aims. You are a decision-maker (one of many) whose input is valued. Act accordingly.

What other topics or programs would you like to see addressed?

Can you think of a time when you had an unquestioned assumption about why a program existed that you discovered differed from someone else’s?