SEVEN of NINE: (mal)Content

Posted on August 9, 2010

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Content: here is matter to Correlate.  Long ago, perhaps, “content” was a category for texts which housed our sensibilities, hopes, histories, gods, and so on.  No longer: “Content” is a category for what remains to be Correlated; every day, every media product, talk, webpage, curriculum text, and mission statement.  How is Brother Content Correlated? 

Three ways:  Self-Correlation – that is, self-surveillance by self-constraint to some, most often imagined, standard – has pumped the heart of Correlation since the 1980s.  Even so, a Correlation Department took on the perhaps weighty responsibility of ensuring that only true doctrines be found in Church-produced materials.  (Correlation Department, twin to the Priesthood Department, is feed by capillaries that stretch across every aspect of the corporate headquarters.  No austerity measures will disentangle it.)  Third, informal “Correlation” also can be read in the size of a work’s presumed audience, since Correlation Department, in truth, makes truth and fact out of two or three witnesses.  Millions of watchers is, then, collectively speaking, instant Correlation (in the future).  And so the cost-efficient logic of self-correlation blossoms into complete repetition of popularly Correlated materials.   Aside from scripture, bound paper texts disappear (see above: “Cost”).  Mass-circulated talks mass repeated instead occupy the front-of-room and rear, in every congregation’s digital Sunday School.  So old talks (that is, post-1971) will be cut-and-pasted, edited, voiced through digital persona and recirculated across YouTubia.  But these offer no real challenge to the unlocked treasure houses of historical texts daily released and read by Mormons able to “Google” the word “Mormon”. 

But onward:  that part, delivering the official lesson and ignoring everything else, is easy to orchestrate.  Yet, what of the members of these classes? 

What about the members, though?  Will they be any less or more correlated in the future?  To speak of “correlated” people is something of a misstatement, of course.  Materials produced at the COB are correlated; but the intended consequence is that a unified people, a Zion, will emerge after encountering correlated materials, and only correlated materials.  Thus, the common request that teachers in LDS Sunday schools and other educational spaces teach “only from the manual.”  But the manuals, as any attendee might admit, are rather thin on content (this was the result of pruning content in order to ship materials overseas, but also a consequence of “thinking globally”; that is, of attempting to write generic materials designed to be translated, and read, across all cultures).  But Mormons, apparently, read blogs, books, and watch films which have not been approved by Correlation.  They may ask the question, “Has this been Correlated?” and perhaps some ambitious web-designer will write the software, or app, which ensures that only correlated materials appear on one’s monitor.  But this brings up the question: What is it even to be “Correlated”? 

Functionally, material that is correlated has passed the scrutiny of employees and volunteers in said department.  What criteria are used for evaluation?  They use a special book filled with approved quotes, descriptions, summaries, definitions: much of this made its way into the Encyclopedia of Mormonism.  That is to say, the qualities of an exemplary, correlated text were drawn from Utah culture, and have been now recirculated into other spheres, all without the banner of Correlation draped across their bodies.  Much of what Correlation aimed to do in the 1960s has been “outsourced,” as it were, into the various productive agencies of Mormon culture.  To speak of Correlation now is to speak of authorized Mormonism, in short. 

So, since it makes no sense to ask the question of curriculum, web content, or DVDS – which will always be correlated, even if the definitions of “Correlated” change, as they inevitably will – let us ask again, Will members be any more or less Correlated?  That is to say: Will members imagine a process whereby content is subjected to the scrutiny of The Prophet or of the Apostles, and suppose that what they read has the divine seal of approval, and attempt to read only that which they suppose has this seal?  As with the changing criteria of what is considered essential to Correlation, how members read, or discern, unofficial “correlation” will undoubtedly shift.  Certain phrases, terms, style, dramatic structure, prose – questions of genre, in large part – will become indicators of informal Correlation.  This might become a Mormon creative, perhaps even “artistic” genre.  Other signs, like the title of the person speaking or writing (e.g., General Authority, Seventy, CES Instructor), will allow for expansion and consolidation of the discursive signs of correlation.  And finally, the simplest sign of assuredly correlated materials, in the future, will be the supposed audience –  the market share, to be crass – enjoyed by some YouTube sermon, some DVD, some talk, or phrase, or term.  In short, Correlation even as a departmental function merely describes the authorization by a person who imagines other persons (e.g., prophets, apostles, Chileans) will not take offense at a text, DVD, or website.  In the future this is more cheaply done by a web counter or clicker, or overtly “viral” media campaign.

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