Before 1972, the auxiliary organizations of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including the Relief Society, the Primary, Sunday School, and the Young Men and Young Women Organizations were largely directed at the stake or ward level, and the curriculum could vary from ward to ward. A Correlation Committee had existed since 1908, but the First Presidency of the Church under the direction of President Harold B. Lee placed all organizations, curricula, and periodicals under the direction of the priesthood and established departments to standardize and correlate the programs of the church.
As recently as the April 2010 General Conference, President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles referred to this change in his talk “The Power of the Priesthood“, asserting that it is an inspired program, and quoting President Monson, who was an Apostle at the time:
Years ago we began correlation under the direction of President Harold B. Lee. At that time President Thomas S. Monson said: “Today, we are encamped against the greatest array of sin, vice, and evil ever assembled before our eyes. … The battle plan whereby we fight to save the souls of men is not our own. It [came through] the inspiration and revelation of the Lord.”
During those years of correlation, the whole operating face of the Church was changed. The entire curriculum was restructured. The objectives and relationships of the organizations one to another were redefined. The key word during those years of correlation and restructuring was priesthood.
With that background, I want to draw your attention to an interesting article posted recently on the On the Square Blog of the religious periodical First Things:
The author, professor Geoffrey M. Vaughan, talks about a practice common among Catholics which he calls “Church Shopping” in which church members shop around for a parish which matches not only their aesthetic tastes, but their ideological views. He refers to parishes where the language and order of mass has been altered to conform to liberal cultural attitudes, such as omitting gender-specific language.
In contrast, the LDS Church’s approach of not letting members “ward shop” and instead assigning congregations by geographic location prevents, for the most part, the aggregation of members with non-mainstream views into like-minded wards. So while the Catholic Church has whole parishes where they omit gender-specific references to God, or introduce their own variations on Mass, such modifications in any LDS ward would be considered a clear case of apostasy.
However, according to the article, the Catholic Church, under Pope Benedict XVI is about to impose its own form of “Correlation”.
The Vatican has produced a new English translation of Mass and they want all parishes to discontinue their current presentation and use the new official translation and implementation instead. The new translation officially goes into effect on November 27th, the First Sunday of Advent.
This will be a test of the hierarchical priesthood authority construct of Catholicism on the parish level. The liberal parishes that have assiduously removed gender-specific language from their presentation of mass, or made other changes, will have to choose whether to submit to or flout the authority of Rome. Also at play is the fact that the members in general have not been well prepared for the impending change. Many are unaware that it is coming. So if the selection of their particular parish when “church shopping” was dependent on certain variations in the liturgy, they will be surprised if their parish submits to the new official liturgy.
It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out in the Catholic Church.
Some members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints like to carp and murmur about Correlation, but it really does seem to be a very effective way, along with geographically assigned wards, to prevent the kind of fragmentation and apostasy that could arise otherwise. Of course, that is probably why some of them hate it so much. As President Monson testified, and was reaffirmed last year by President Packer, Correlation came through inspiration and revelation from the Lord and was implemented by those holding the Priesthood Keys for the direction of His church. It protects the church from sin, vice, and apostasy.