Here’s the First Part in a Nine Part Series on Correlation written for Patheos.com. There were four different versions, and a synthesis of that work appears here. Enjoy.
Though under its sign Mormonism was dramatically reshaped, Correlation remains an altogether mysterious thing to most Latter-day Saints. Like religion, it is a term whose referent is constantly shifting.
Let us try to pin it down, and then, full of history and hollow hubris, follow its pinned-down trajectory far into the flying-car future.
Industrialization of the American West rewarded Capital to many groups, Mormons no less than farmers, rail road barons, mining companies, and, of course, banks. By 1923 Mormons surrendered personal capital to be aggregated, counted, and put to work as “tithes” by administrators at LDS headquarters in Salt Lake City. These funds financed the new corporations that emerged hydra-like after the U.S. smote from the “Mormon Octopus” the heads of polygamy, communal economics, and theocracy.
Modern accounting methods made the counting of tithing efficient, centralized under the eyes of a few men, and thus they created diagrams from which Church reviewers could assess past donations from particular areas in the Mormon region. And then, perhaps, they might project future income, careful to match it closely to planned expenditures, building their kingdom one chapel at a time. Yet often the speculations missed the mark, and by 1959 the corporations that now comprised the entity called the Mormon Church were deeply in debt.
Despite the decades of failure, such spanning of time on the wings of financial statements would become the principal speculative practice that governed the new Mormonism of Correlation. In the 1960s a few ambitious churchmen saw the future – twelve million members, a majority outside the U.S. – and argued that this future demanded certain changes in the organization, curriculum, cost, and administrative structures of the religion. First, manuals were revised and made to fit a nine-page list of phrases, terms, and other “essential concepts” which were to be the backbone of the posture of the future’s education. Organizationally, a new “Priesthood Executive Committee,” and a “Correlation Committee,” were formed. Charged with ensuring the implementation of local correlation – in “priesthood welfare,” “priesthood home teaching,” and a few other new programs – these committees planned to restore “the priesthood” to the head of the Church, at the head of the congregation, and even the home (now regarded as a “unit” of the Church). With such a head, it was said, the mythical City of Enoch would soon, inevitably, descend. Correlation was the answer to economic, social, political, and religious upheaval, even to the temptations of sex, drugs and rock and roll. Correlation was the word, the banner any answer would fly if it hoped to build a future inside the church headquarters.
There remained a concern over words.