A recently issued manual of Mormon doctrine for teaching and missionary purposes suggest new church efforts to reassert Mormon identity while taking a more flexible approach in applying the faith to different cultures, reports the independent Mormon magazine Sunstone (September).
The missionary guide, “Preach My Gospel,” was claimed to be a “major change in direction” in LDS missionary teaching by church leaders for its turn away from standardized practices, such as having missionaries memorize their presentations. Writer John-Charles Duffy compares the guide, which is also to be used by parents in teaching their children and in other church meetings, with earlier manuals and notes that earlier efforts to de-emphasize the LDS church’s exclusive claims to authority and revelation are to an extent reversed.
The 1986 system of missionary teaching tended to teach that Mormons shared some teachings with other churches and to use Christ-centered discourse derived from the Book of Mormon. This “evangelical” approach (in part, taken in the 1980s and 90s to assert Mormon Christian credentials in the face of evangelical Protestant attacks against the faith) is still evident in Preach My Gospel, though it is set in the framework of the “Restoration” of the gospel by church founder Joseph Smith and subsequent leaders.
But on other points, the guide stresses flexibility; instead of centralized strategy where the methods of missionizing and teaching are dictated by the church leadership, the process of conveying church teachings must be adapted to local cultures by the missionary. Duffy concludes, however, that despite the recent emphasis on local adaptability, “uniformity and immutability remain the Church’s central governing values.”
(Sunstone, 343 N. Third W., Salt Lake City, UT 84103-1215)