Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Handling Politics in Church Classes

Handling Politics in Church Classes

By: Ardis E. Parshall - June 08, 2010

This past Sunday while we were talking about the story of Jael, a brother who often participates in class discussion stood and said, “This reminds me of our duty to wage just war.” He went on and on about a supposed duty to wage offensive war, and how we neglect that duty too often today, and … and … and it took me quite a while to find an opening to break into his monologue and change the subject.

Two months ago during the Gospel Principles lesson on prayer, our Relief Society teacher read an interminable list of things we should pray for. When she got to the political section of her list, she instructed us to pray for the Tea Party agenda in specific detail. Oh, she didn’t mention the Tea Party by name, but she told us we needed to pray that our taxes won’t be raised any higher, and that our leaders won’t take this country down the path to socialism, and that we can replace all our bad leaders at the next election. She returned to the theme of “taxes are too high” several times during the lesson without any specific tie-in to prayer other than, I guess, we were supposed to pray that her friend doesn’t lose her house when “they”  raise taxes.

One ward member has a standard symbol dredged up whenever she wants to point out how fast the world is sinking into anarchy and evil: “Those people who want us to pay for their health care.”

A while back a man in my ward who escaped from a Communist country during the height of the Cold War seized on some slight excuse in a class I was teaching to go on a rant against illegal immigrants. “I followed the rules – they should too.” There was no acknowledgment that being a trophy refugee for whom the State Department rolled out the red carpet might have entailed different “rules” from those expected of a migrant Mexican farm worker.

Last year when I taught the lesson based on the Willie and Martin handcart experience, I asked class members to consider (not discuss, but just react privately) when I read several statements taken from today’s political debates against welfare and against immigration, and think how uncharitable and unholy they sounded when spoken against people we have come to think of as heroes and martyrs.

We all like to think that our political views are informed by the gospel, don’t we? And if the gospel informs our views, then they must be right, and any contrary view must be evil, no? And no brother or sister in the gospel would have a contrary view from my own righteous view, right?

Yet the truth is that politics are not spelled out definitively and unambiguously by the gospel. For every person who thinks that there is some Mormon concept of “just war” that justifies us in waging offensive war, you can find at least one other person whose understanding of the gospel decries war of any kind. Tax rates and the use of public tax monies (including health care, or not) are policy decisions, not eternal principles spelled out by the gospel. A nation’s immigration laws and methods of enforcement are policy decisions to be made in the political arena and are not spelled out in scripture, no matter how often or how loudly someone shouts “Remember the 12th Article of Faith!” And it wasn’t fair of me to twist people’s emotions toward the suffering handcart companies into a commentary on very different conditions of the 21st century.

But how do we handle it when a teacher or class member preaches politics rather than the gospel? If you’re like me, you probably do nothing. And I’ll probably still go on doing nothing if possible – that is, if a casual political comment is made, I’ll let it go. But I’m not sure that’s the right thing to do in all circumstances.

I’ve been rehearsing (yes, out loud, to myself, so that I can actually say it pleasantly without choking) some possible comments to use as a class member: “You know, sisters, we’re probably all aware of the poisonous political atmosphere out there. I think we can only maintain the sisterhood we need in here if we’re careful to keep our focus on the gospel and not on partisan political agendas.” If that hint isn’t enough – and it may not be, for someone who is convinced of the gospel-centered righteousness of a political view – I might raise my hand again later and say, “You know, tax rates are a matter of public policy; they aren’t spelled out in the gospel. I’m happy to pray that your friend can work out her financial problems, but I’d prefer that no one tell me to pray for a specific political tenet.” If that didn’t do it and the issue was raised a third time, I’d probably walk out of the classroom.

Or is that the right thing to do? Should I wait for a Relief Society leader to intervene, instead of me? (So far, no one has.) I don’t want to harbor the feelings I have toward ward members who have no trouble preaching that my views are of the devil. But do I have the right to chastise the teacher, however gently?

It’s even harder to know what to do as a teacher. On the one hand, I have the responsibility to see that the lesson is Gospel Doctrine, not Partisan Speculation. Yet I don’t want to embarrass a class member in front of his peers.

I’d appreciate your thoughts on how to handle political remarks in church classes, whether you’re a teacher or class member.

Remember, the topic is handling these remarks. Any comments that debate a specific political issue will be removed.



  1. Oooh. These are tough questions. I suspect my political views fall farther to the right than most other readers of this blog (although the ‘just war’ argument is a doozy even for me) so I’d be smart to keep my fingers silent and just read everyone else’s response.

    Comment by Clark — June 8, 2010 @ 10:00 am

  2. When I hear such conservative politicizing in official church meetings (and occasionally I do), I tend to ask something like (with a smile on my face): “Is it OK for us Mormons to be Democrats?” Inevitably, my question has caused the politicizing teachers or commentators to back off.

    Of course, my Ward may be different. My Bishop is an avid and active Democrat (although NOT in a church setting). Thus, Ward members seem to be acclimated toward the need for political sensitivity among the membership.

    Comment by S.Faux — June 8, 2010 @ 10:00 am

  3. I think your plan of action sounds terrific, particularly since the RS presidency has show no willingness to intervene. Steps 1 and 2 would be appropriate as either a teacher or class member. (But don’t try step 3 when you’re the teacher.)

    May I paste a copy of your proposed responses in my manuals and use them myself?

    Comment by Last Lemming — June 8, 2010 @ 10:11 am

  4. I think the problem here is that people sense the day for Zion is coming, but they don’t understand what the scriptures have taught about Zion and what is expected of them. These people do not understand who is going to be there and how Zion is going to be built. It’s not going to be with political agendas and campaigns. It’s going to be according to the doctrines and power of Jesus Christ.

    I’m not the type to mince words, so what I would say would be akin to: “Because the gospel of Jesus Christ is the only thing that will ever build Zion, I think our efforts are best kept on the gospel until we’re instructed otherwise by the Church.”

    Comment by Paradox — June 8, 2010 @ 10:15 am

  5. My FIL is an active Democrat, a former mission president, and teaches GD in his SLC ward. There are a lot of die-hard Republicans in that class, and he deftly handles the discussion by allowing the political mention, parrying it with a quip like “I wonder what the Saints in France or Russia or Latin America think” and moving on. He also stresses at times by introducing a topic as “Ignoring the localized political issues, what about xyz”.

    I’m struggling with my EQ at the moment dealing with the idiots who want Texas to secede. Although, I’m not teaching EQ (just a participant) and my calling gives me ample excuse to miss EQ when I need to.

    Comment by queuno — June 8, 2010 @ 10:16 am

  6. On a personal level, I do attempt to say things like “A lot of what you’re talking about are implementation issues or things not core to the doctrines of the gospel. There are lots and lots of ways to bring people to Christ, and the history of the Church shows that multiple ways have worked and failed.” You could bring up instances of how we had 18-month missions for men and then went back to 24 months, or how wards and stakes in different areas do things differently. And in a similar fashion, how the leaders of different countries are inspired by God to make decisions for those states and countries based on their needs.

    Personal revelation is personal and tailored to the recipients (even politicians). Why would we ever expect every politician to get the same answer?

    I also try to point out that the straight and narrow path does not bend to either the right or the left, and that both political views can become extreme and fall out of favor with the Lord.

    Comment by queuno — June 8, 2010 @ 10:23 am

  7. I’ve had the luxury of living in an almost entirely apolitical branch or ward for the last 30 years. So, I’m not sure that I have any tested suggestions on how to deal with commenters in class.

    But, on a related subject, I think it’s extremely important for leaders (bishops and branch presidents, especially) to be careful about what they say. I certainly don’t want anyone to think that my politics are somehow inspired from on high! (Even though I think that some of the politics on the other side are straight from the devil himself.) I’ve heard rumors, however, that not every bishop or branch president thinks that way.

    Comment by Mark B. — June 8, 2010 @ 10:25 am

  8. This is more than a theoretical problem in my ward. Many of our recent converts are African-American. As a ward missionary I often sit by them in priesthood meeting. When a quorum member makes Obama jokes and everybody starts yukking it up, it is very painful to look at the confusion on the faces of these new members for whom the president is an authentic hero. Welcome to Zion, I guess.

    Comment by Mark Brown — June 8, 2010 @ 10:42 am

  9. Ardis, my suggestion is to ask those questions, in regards to your teaching of the GD class, of the Bishop. After he responds, then you can segue into how similar things are happening in RS.

    My understanding is that the guidance (on how to handle those situations) for the RS lesson-teacher should come from the RS president. And the guidance for the RS pres (on how she should instruct the RS lesson-teacher on how to handle those situations) should come from the Bishop.

    I’ve made some bone-headed tangential comments in GD, which fortunately, the teacher just let slide and she moved on. I think everyone realized I said something stupid, and she didn’t need to “save” the rest of the class from my stupidity.

    Comment by Bookslinger — June 8, 2010 @ 10:54 am

  10. I think it’s important to remember that contention should be avoided in church meetings. It may be tempting to make a sarcastic remark back to the teacher when their political views slip through but we need to do our best to create an uplifting atmosphere in our meetings. That said, I think we all know that some teachers would respond positively to an opposing point of view from a class member while others might take offense. It might be better to discuss the situation privately after class the first time we find ourselves in this situation. If it continues to be an issue week after week it definitely calls for someone to speak up and be direct.

    Comment by JakeF — June 8, 2010 @ 10:56 am

  11. If a teacher insists on politicizing a lesson, I ordinarily just get up and walk out. Admittedly I’ve become quite cynical about the possibility that anything I say or do might cause these instructors to become any more tolerant of my views or any less outspoken in their lessons.

    However, I have occasionally directed concerns to members of the Elders Quorum presidency, and they have generally been sympathetic. They are probably in a better position to (gently) broach the topic with an outspoken instructor.

    Comment by Ah Q — June 8, 2010 @ 11:02 am

  12. The best thing to do is to address it BEFORE it becomes a problem. Explain that the classroom is for teaching doctrine, not politics of any brand. That if comments are made in class, they should meet the gospel standard set by the Brethren in General Conference – note: no politics.

    There is a time and place for politics, but it is outside of RS/PH/Sunday School/Sacrament meetings. In this Sunday forum, we need to focus on spiritual growth and our relationship with God and Christ.

    Then, if someone does broach such subjects later in the class, ask them if they wouldn’t mind doing some research on the topic later in the week for you regarding the topic. Then give them quotes, etc., to read that contradicts what they’ve taught. They will find out that they either want to avoid an assignment, or will find in the assignment that they’re view isn’t necessarily the only way. The problem does not get discussed in class, there is no public embarrassment, yet it will reduce the discussion in the future.

    Comment by Rameumptom — June 8, 2010 @ 11:05 am

  13. Great topic.

    I like #4. It does more than just avoid the topic–it causes people to stop and think. In my own classes, as GD teacher, I usually avoid political commentary. When it does raise its ugly head, usually in a manner similar to what you’ve described here, a few questions aimed at broadening people’s perspectives can help redirect the discussion. Sometimes a comment or two will get by me, but I try.

    I think the more difficult question is what to do when you are the student. While the main responsibility for instruction falls on the teacher and the auxiliary presidency, I’ve always thought that we all suffer when false doctrine is taught and shouldn’t hesitate to lend a hand. If the teacher is truly focused on delivering the Lord’s message, they will appreciate a gentle nudge out of the fray.

    Comment by Rob M. — June 8, 2010 @ 11:06 am

  14. As a student in your class, I was uncomfortable with the just-war comment. I was able to deal with it by closing my eyes and pretending that he was saying “The Iraq war is unjust by any definition of just-war theory, and as Christians, we need to encourage our government to refrain from such invasions…” Such a comment would also have been inappropriate, of course, but I was able to stay calm in my imaginary happy place where all church members lean more pacifist than republican.

    The comment that got to me was the insistence that the moral of the story was honesty, in that Jael had refused to be dishonest… Surely inviting a man into your tent with the premise of safety, and then killing him, is less than honest?

    Anyway, as a former GD teacher, I’m clueless about the best way to handle inappropriate and/or nonsensical comments. I used to ignore them and move on with the lesson, but it was difficult, especially when my personal opinions differed from the opinions strongly held by class members.

    Comment by Ariel — June 8, 2010 @ 11:16 am

  15. @JakeF there’s a difference between a sarcastic and a thoughtful remark. The question is will people listen to either if it goes contrary to their worldview.

    The ward in which I grew up was rather kind and considerate, and decently conservative. For most of my time there I was the only non-white person (there was a Dominican Family for a while, and my brothers till they moved out of the ward, Mom and Dad went to the local Spanish ward). And for the most part, people treated me as they did any other youth, but on occasion there was an insensitive comment or two (again, not the norm).

    One guy told me that MLK jr was part of a communist plot to destroy the US, but I think that’s about as far as I ever heard there.

    More often I’ve heard complaints about illegal immigrants, with no consideration for the human element of the matter.

    @Bookslinger I can understand the reasoning for guidance to generally come from the Bishop, through aux/Phood leaders, but they too have their own politicization which impacts their thoughts. The guiding principle should be “what does the Lord think about this?” not “how can I prove my point of view with the scriptures?”

    Comment by Andrew Gonzales — June 8, 2010 @ 11:18 am

  16. When this happens when I teach I simply tell everybody that politics are for outside the church setting. That always stops it.

    Comment by bbell — June 8, 2010 @ 12:02 pm

  17. bbell, I think the problem often is that people don’t realize that what they’ve just said is political. For them, the idea is such self-evident truth that they see it as gospel, not politics. If I had responded to my “just war” man’s comment with “politics are for outside the church setting,” I think he would have interpreted that as a non sequitur and not have had the slightest idea why I had said it.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 8, 2010 @ 12:23 pm

  18. Ardis, Ed Firmage wrote in a book about Paul and the modern church a statement that has been a big help to me, especially when I am tempted to put some of my own left of center comments in play. I’ve actually used this statement from time to time to try to get discussions back on track.

    I don’t have the exact quote here at work, but it goes something like this:

    The church has existed in all sorts of situations, from small family units, to tribes, kingdoms, and modern republics. To link the eternal Gospel of Jesus Christ with political institutions that have within them the seeds of their own expiration is to deny the timeless and eternal truths that the Gospel represents.

    IE, political parties are institutions of men, not of God, no matter how much we admire those men.

    Comment by kevinf — June 8, 2010 @ 12:48 pm

  19. Ardis,
    On you “just war” member, what if you would have mentioned the Anti-Nephi-Lehites, and then asked him which was higher: just war theory or burying the weapons of war? Then explain to him that the answer isn’t always as easy as we wish it were, and that sometimes the answer is war and sometimes the answer is burying our weapons for peace.

    Comment by Rameumptom — June 8, 2010 @ 12:52 pm

  20. Rameumptom, that would have been off-topic for the lesson and would also have opened the class to a full-blown political debate. See, that’s the problem with political discussions when people think their political views are gospel: for every point you could raise on one side of the question, someone whose political views were in opposition could raise an opposite view — and they could all be based on interpretations (or perhaps misinterpretations) of gospel principles.

    We might get into debates over the application of “keep the Sabbath Day holy” or “pay tithing” or “obey the Word of Wisdom,” but those debates, lively as they may be, are seldom as painful or as acrimonious or as filled with personal contempt as are our debates over the application of gospel principles to public policy decisions. I don’t know why that is, but I am convinced we need to avoid such debates in church classes.

    I like your (or Ed’s) idea, kevinf. It would work best in a classroom setting if someone had already acknowledged that the point under discussion was political, but with the right lead-in it could also be used to courteously close off such a discussion. I’m going to work on — rehearse — some variations of a lead-in, because this is a statement I can definitely see myself using.

    Thank you all both for your ongoing discussion and for your avoidance of debate on any particular political issue.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 8, 2010 @ 1:47 pm

  21. Reprove with sharpness!

    But I find that reproval goes over a lot better if you start with “No offense” and end with “all due respect.” Like the great Broadway Danny Rose: “I don’t wanna badmouth the kid, but he’s a horrible, dishonest, immoral louse. And I say that with all due respect.”

    Comment by gst — June 8, 2010 @ 1:55 pm

  22. I’ve never responded consistently to such incidents. Sometimes I challenge the point, other times I stay silent, and other times I talk to the teacher after class. I think the best, long term way, is to communicate well with the individuals who do this, who politicize our religion and let them be aware that others who they fellowship with, whose fellowship ought to be a higher priority than their political leanings, might not really enjoy or be comfortable hearing requests for prayers for Tea Party principles (or leftist principles if that is the case). In our ward, here in New York City, I feel comfortable with the relationship between the conservative Mormons and the liberal Mormons. There is some tension on occasion, but our leaders in the ward are smart enough to be respectful of all political beliefs.

    Comment by Dan — June 8, 2010 @ 2:02 pm

  23. “…our debates over the application of gospel principles to public policy decisions…”

    That, Ardis, is the challenge with the Gospel of the Mormons. We’re taught to apply gospel principles to all areas of our life, and “gospel principles” covers both sides of just about everything.

    Some examples:
    WAR: The “just war” crowd holds up Captain Moroni, Joshua, and the First Presidency Statements from WWII, while the pacifists back their claims with scriptures from the “Prince of Peace,” the Ammonite converts, and Pres. Kimball’s remarks about renouncing war and our war-like natures.

    SOCIALISM: One side has the United Order and the “help the poor” mantra. The other cites free agency, independence, and Ezra Taft Benson.

    ENVIRONMENT: Was Adam a “steward of the Earth” or was he to dominate and use it?

    For many of us, our political views are inseperable from our understanding of the gospel. The problem is that “the other side” feels the same way, and has backing that is just as valid.

    Comment by Clark — June 8, 2010 @ 2:22 pm

  24. Re#4: I think there are some parallels here with New Testament times: Because of the political views of the Jews, they missed recognizing their Savior. I hope we don’t fall into a similar trap, where we miss–or disregard–prophetic counsel because it doesn’t fit our world view.

    And I sure hope #21 was sarcastic…

    Comment by Clark — June 8, 2010 @ 2:25 pm

  25. In the Church there will always be those who hold strong political beliefs. Christ’s apostles held divergent political beliefs. Ezra Taft Benson and Hugh B. Brown did (and we got some great conference talks out of that, too). Oh, yes, there were some differences of political opinion in the Third Reich! I am often troubled when I people make political comments as gospel doctrine. I believe this can be quite counter-productive to the growth of the Church for a number of reasons. How we address this in the Church is problematic. We don’t want to offend the one who made the comment and at the same time it is important to separate the gospel from political dogma. I admit that I have to watch myself and my comments as well. Being in the branch presidency of my unit, I did take the liberty of addressing political issues prior to the 2008 election in which I used statements by Church leaders past and present to emphasize the Church’s political neutrality. I also went over the Church’s stance on some issues that often get misrepresented in class discussions. I don’t know how much good I actually did, but my hope was to stress the point that this is what the Church believes and this is the Church’s stance on this and that. While this doesn’t address the question Ardis raised about what to do as a teacher or while in class, I do think that should be more proactive in teaching correct principles regarding this issue.

    Comment by Steve C. — June 8, 2010 @ 3:02 pm

  26. And I sure hope #21 was sarcastic…

    #21 was gst. Case closed.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 8, 2010 @ 4:11 pm

  27. I had the unmitigated joy of being an HPGL in a ward that was mostly in an important Republican Primary state during the 2008 election cycle. The ward was filled with people stumping for good Brother Romney. It started to take over everything.

    One Sunday a Brother started to pass around Mitt stickers in Group meeting as I was slightly detained in the hall. I admit I lost my cool a bit, but strongly (paraphrasing from memory now) said that we had six days each week to discuss, debate, and promote politics, but only one day each week where we are supposed to set aside those things and learn about the Savior and his Gospel. Given the specific Church policies against mixing the Church and partisan politics, couldn’t we please keep this space reserved for the things of the Lord?

    I don’t know if the politicking stopped or just moved out of my eyesight, but I did get a strong “attaboy” from the Bishop the following week. I guess word got back to him.

    Comment by Chad Too — June 8, 2010 @ 7:27 pm

  28. What is that passage in the Book of Mormon about some “some returning railing for railing” and others not?

    On the other hand, take a look at Pres. Kimball’s astonishing June, 1976 Ensign message, essentially his Bicentennial statement.

    Comment by Stephen Taylor — June 8, 2010 @ 10:36 pm

  29. I am torn on this one. Although I am fairly liberal politically and regularly hear statements represented as gospel truths that make me uncomfortable, I value hearing what people really think and I value being able to say what I think, even in Church. Too often people zone out and don’t participate, and when they they do it is often to express the “right thing” in the “right way.” I enjoy and benefit from a true exchange of ideas, even ones I find distasteful. So while I don’t like people expressing extreme political views as the gospel, I don’t fault them for letting their religious views inform their politics and vice-versa. I just hope people won’t be dogmatic and will be willing to discuss the merits or their views. I have not given up the hope that church meetings can involve an honest exchange of ideas. Your post is a good reminder to me, however, to be careful and considerate when I express myself.

    Comment by Sanford — June 8, 2010 @ 11:36 pm

  30. My last sentence in #25 should read: …I do think that Church leaders–Bishops, Stake Presidents, etc.–should be more proactive in teaching correct principles regarding this issue.

    Comment by Steve C. — June 9, 2010 @ 9:43 am

  31. I’ve been tempted to walk out of meetings after repeated, blatant, not on topic or gospel based political commentary. I try to resist because I don’t think that helps anything. I haven’t always been successful.
    Recently I did speak up in an awful Gospel Doctrine class and said that I thought we should focus on what the church teaches us about dealing with evil in the world, rather than just categorize everything the teacher felt was evil. I think the teacher took offense, though I tried really hard to make it not an attack. And it didn’t change the lesson.
    I’d love to hear from someone who has done this better.

    Comment by Eliana — June 9, 2010 @ 9:54 am

  32. Is the solution then to point out when class discussions cross the line? Of course, anything should be done in a tactful and non-offensive way.

    Comment by Steve C. — June 9, 2010 @ 10:03 am

  33. Hmmm. How about, “Interesting. Now, back to the Gospel topic for today …”

    Comment by Ragena — June 9, 2010 @ 10:17 am

  34. Should I wait for a Relief Society leader to intervene, instead of me?

    Ironically, I think the people in leadership are often in a worse position to police this sort of thing, so I say jump in and say something if you can make it as productive as the suggestions you gave in the post. Those in leadership have so much more risk of embarrassing/alienating the person if they jump in as opposed to a peer class member.

    I think a useful strategy is along the lines of what queuno’s FIL does by talking about how a third party might react rather than opposing the comment yourself. It is much softer (but still effective) to say,

    “There may be other class members or visitors(!) who have different political views about taxes so I hope we can separate the gospel from our politics”

    than it is to say

    “I disagree with you about taxes and I hope you can separate the gospel from your politics.”

    As much as I love confrontation, it goes over poorly in Sunday School.

    Comment by Jacob J — June 9, 2010 @ 12:50 pm

  35. I’m coming a little late to this. I’ve enjoyed the post and comments. I wish everyone had as thoughtful of a teacher as you, Ardis.

    Comment by J. Stapley — June 9, 2010 @ 1:53 pm

  36. Move. This is apparently a problem for our US based members. With the exception of those members I know who have stood for election, I couldn’t tell you the politics of any of the members in any of the wards in which I have lived.Am continually gobsmacked (as Dan will testify) to see the extent to which politics is involved in the Church in the US.

    I don’t envy you one little bit, Ardis!

    Comment by Anne (U.K) — June 9, 2010 @ 3:55 pm

  37. Yeah. It’s an unfortunate and unnecessary — but very real — problem. It has to be dealt with here. I could tell you in some detail the political views of perhaps half the members of my ward, even when I don’t have any idea how many children they raised or what they do/did for a living or whether they attend the temple or if they know how to use email. And that’s true regardless of whether they’re left or right. As someone said about a month ago when she and her husband returned to the ward after snow-birding in a warmer climate, “We’ll be here five months; if the nation hasn’t collapsed by then, we’ll go visit hubby’s family in [Eastern locale].” You sometimes don’t have to know somebody more than three seconds to know a considerable amount about their politics.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 9, 2010 @ 4:49 pm

  38. Ardis, “Tax rates and the use of public tax monies (including health care, or not) are policy decisions, not eternal principles spelled out by the gospel. A nation’s immigration laws and methods of enforcement are policy decisions to be made in the political arena and are not spelled out in scripture…”

    YES. Amen. This is one of the best things anybody’s ever said.

    I also loved Clark’s comment at #23.

    Regarding these tangent’s in class lessons, I can only agree that confrontation is probably not going to help most of the time, and to change the subject back to the scriptures as soon as possible. If it’s a teacher who’s pontificating inappropriately, a calm word with the relevant leader about teachers sticking to the manual–which Church trainings increasingly emphasize–might be productive.

    Comment by Huston — June 11, 2010 @ 5:54 pm

  39. I would just start out a lesson reminding everyone that we should avoid political comments because it may take away from the spirit. That puts everyone on notice and gives you the right to remind anyone during class lest they forget.

    Comment by casey — November 2, 2010 @ 11:32 am

  40. Our ward is pretty good about this, but whether teaching a class our participating in a class I have spoken up to say, “Of course, we have to be careful not to get too one-sided politically…” or “Of course, you might also believe…”.

    I’m always good natured about it. Everyone knows I have no animosity towards anyone.

    Comment by Todd G. — November 2, 2010 @ 11:43 am

  41. I feel that a teacher has a stewardship to teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not a personal or political agenda- either from class members or the teacher. It’s unfair to those who come wanting to discuss the lesson and savor the scriptures to allow contentious political comments to offend the Spirit. Such comments should be “nipped in the bud”, but fortunately, The Lord doesn’t expect a teacher to do it without His help.
    Example: as I was pondering a particular scripture during the week, in preparation for a lesson on Sunday, I felt prompted that the mention of King Noah’s taxes would provoke an anti- tax rant from someone (and I knew who the guilty party would be), A footnote led to another scripture, which prepared me to lead back to a constructive discussion. Other times, I’ve been amazed that the right words to diffuse a contentious remark, just come to mind as needed, and I could say the right thing with light humor and real affection. Preparation and a real desire to keep our focus on the Savior opens a channel to divine help.

    Comment by MK. Pillow — June 8, 2012 @ 2:13 am

  42. Thanks, MIK, for a timely reminder and a concrete example. In addition to the points you make, I appreciate the illustration that as a teacher you know your class members well enough to anticipate this response. Well done.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 8, 2012 @ 6:29 am

  43. I can only recall walking out on a Sacrament meeting speaker because of what he was saying on one occasion. It was the 4th of July and his talk was a condemnation of Reagan and all his works.

    I was kind of surprised I was the only one. But then perhaps I struggle with anger more than most people. The urge to choke the living scatological reference out of an idiot who badly needs it is sometimes difficult for me to suppress.

    I would like to think that I would respond the same whether the speaker was broadsiding Reagan or Obama. Either walk out on both or bite my tongue and hear the speaker out on both. The real issue is the contamination of sacred space with politics, not whether I agree or disagree with the politics.

    It would be best if speakers would refrain from putting me to the test. Just in case, I usually sit near the back, where I am less likely to be noticed if I am struggling not to roll my eyes. Useful even in non-election years.

    Comment by Vader — June 8, 2012 @ 11:37 am

  44. Oh, and:

    Last year when I taught the lesson based on the Willie and Martin handcart experience, I asked class members to consider (not discuss, but just react privately) when I read several statements taken from today’s political debates against welfare and against immigration, and think how uncharitable and unholy they sounded when spoken against people we have come to think of as heroes and martyrs.

    I would have been awfully uncomfortable with that if I had been in the class. Rather overtly political, however worded.

    Comment by Vader — June 8, 2012 @ 11:48 am

  45. Vader, be fair to me. That event was presented in this post as a bad example among five bad examples of the way politics intrudes badly in a lesson. I am not presenting it here as something I was proud of, but something I was ashamed of, so you aren’t telling me anything I didn’t already recognize.

    In fact, when I reported on that lesson (here) I called in “boneheaded,” and apologized, and explained how and why it hadn’t worked.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 8, 2012 @ 11:57 am

  46. Thanks, Ardis, for clarifying that. I was unaware of the earlier post.

    I, too, have been remarkably knuckleheaded at times.

    I love most of what I read here. I could have kissed you after reading the comments at your marijuana post and reading, “Our preferred terminology is “assholiness.”” I’m gonna steal that one for my strategic rhetorical arsenal.

    Comment by Vader — June 8, 2012 @ 12:56 pm