Correlation has a bad name among Bloggernacle participants, I think. We seem to have the impression that the Correlation Department is a pale gray, shadowy bureaucracy, endlessly sanitizing our history and purging our lesson manuals of anything remotely interesting but not suitable for and accessible to the youngest child or the newest convert in the remotest corner of the world.
Personally, I have a far higher opinion of the work they do to vet materials going out with the church’s official imprimatur (and that’s only one part of their work, I realize). My appreciation for this work grows the more I spend time with old lesson manuals and magazines. Much of that early-to-mid-20th century material is wonderful and holds up well under the passage of time. Some of it is fine of itself, but because it is essentially secular doesn’t fit well into our current ideas of the best use of church printing presses. Some of it is dated because of the growth of our understanding, a change in church emphasis, and even because of revelation that has come in the intervening years.
Some of the published material strikes us as bad today – and, I believe, would have been recognized as bad at the time of publication had there been a correlation review that considered whether an idea really was gospel truth, or at least whether it had been adequately thought out.
Example: Here is a poem that appeared in an issue of the Improvement Era in 1921.
The childless woman! Ah, pity her
As her graces fall from her one by one
Like the petals sweet from a rare, rare rose,
Under the heat of the noon-day sun.
No one to care for; just herself,
Nothing to live for, only pelf.
The childless woman! Oh, God, forgive
That pitiful person with heart of clay!
A loveless life, a life unlived;
A useless strife at the close of day.
No childish lips to renew her youth,
Her faith in God and her love of truth.
Poor childless woman who never knew
The welcome note of a babe’s first cry,
Who never bent o’er a little bed
With terror rent – would he live or die?
And no one to leave when her life is done,
Poor childless woman, not anyone!
– Mrs. A.J. Reid
I expect that most of us, with our 21st century awareness of infertility and other issues, cringed from beginning to end. Yet with the exercise of a little charity, most of us can probably see that Mrs. Reid intended to praise motherhood in a backhanded sort of way by condemning selfish childlessness … but in seeming ignorance that selfishness is not always a factor in childlessness.
Correlation almost certainly would have caught that problem.
In this particular case, an unknown person (probably a woman, and possibly a staff member, published an unsigned challenge to the poem in the Young Woman’s Journal), in 1923:
Pity the childless woman?
Yes, either kind.
Let that pity be so broad that the judgment will indeed be merciful and well seasoned with justice, for no one can be sure just why she is childless. Too many times the judgments are cruel and unjust, often conclusions are drawn from deceiving appearances, and many heart aches result.
Did the reader ever consider this from the standpoint of that little woman who goes through life with an intense longing for motherhood?
Do you know that every day she misses the love of little children because observation has taught her what it would mean to her?
I know that she even considers what it means to her never to be grandma.
Do you know that she is willing to go to the very gate of death just to hear “the welcome note of a babe’s first cry”? Yea, even though it be the last time she ever hears the cry.
It may never occur to you that she has even been jealous of that mother who
Bent o’er a little bed
With terror rent, would he live or die!
She has been jealous of the hours of patience; the hours of endurance; the hours of toil and care a mother spends for her children.
She realizes the power of character building there is in true motherhood.
A young mother once said, “I wish I had never married. I wanted a career.”
I said, “Well, to me, there is no career equal to that of a good homemaker, a true wife, and a successful mother.”
Often the childless woman is told to adopt children. She is truly blest when she can, but perhaps the very causes depriving her of having children of her own may deprive her of taking others to raise.
Let us then be careful in our judgment and if we err let it be on the side of mercy.
Without correlation, I can see our publications becoming increasingly filled with such thoughtless pieces, followed by ever-more contentious corrections, especially as the church grows less and less homogenous with members drawn from ever more dissimilar backgrounds.
Correlation helps to keep our church publications from resembling, well … internet Mormonism.