When the LDS Church announced in February that it is going to expand its educational system around the globe, I didn’t know whether to cheer or moan. The idea is great, but I wondered about how it would be launched and who would organize and run it.
According to Corey Barnett writing for World Religion News:
Elder Kim Bryce Clark, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Commissioner of Church Education announced last February during a meeting that was held at Brigham Young University, that this coming fall the Church would launch a new initiative to provide religious and secular education courses to the Church members wherever the Church is organized. The new Doctrinal Mastery program was launched last month during the 2016 Seminaries and Institutes Annual Training Broadcast that was held at the Salt Lake City Conference Center Little Theater. Elder Clark, during the event, said that this initiative would bring education to the Church members all around the world, in the “Lord’s way.” “It’s a greater work than we’ve ever done before… The Lord is working in power to strengthen teaching and learning in his true and living church.” The new initiative would take the Church members into new educational and spiritual terrain.
The initiative has 6 parts:
- Secondary education,
- English language instruction,
- Pathway academic start,
- Technical and skill-based training,
- Undergraduate degrees, and
- Masters degrees
Significantly, religious instruction will foundational to the new education initiative.
I spend about 2 months a year in developing countries, principally Uganda, and an additional 2 months a year in the Navajo Nation. An educational and training program for both members and non-members of the Mormon Church seems like a wonderful and exciting initiative. Half the members of the Church are now living in developing nations. Most are under educated.
The Church has buildings around the world that are underutilized. It also has a very educated membership. Many are boomers, like myself, that are now retiring. There is a huge pool of available teacher and administrator talent. Internet and communication technologies are advancing rapidly. Media options a proliferating. What could possibly go wrong?
The global education program is being organized and run by the Church Educational System and that bureaucracy has a very checkered history. I worry about the commingling of religion and secular education. It is an uncomfortable marriage. I would personally prefer that they be kept separate.
There is also the issue of proselytizing. I would prefer that religious indoctrination be completely separated from secular education and training programs. The LDS Church needs to do this because secular education is important by itself, not because it is a missionary tool. If the LDS Church does this right, great things can happen. If they do this for “innoculation” or to inflate membership numbers then it will not fulfill its full potential.