We often go from bad to good by small incremental changes. These changes often seem imperceptible while we are in the middle of them. Ultimately, they lead to corruption.

A stack of scriptures and other study materials in Spanish. Accessed June 7, 2020
However, there are steps we can take to avoid these pitfalls. Review the examples below as well as the suggestions on how to identify, prevent, and solve these problems.

Using unauthorized resources and materials

We are to use the curriculum materials designated by the Church, the scriptures and nothing else when teaching lessons. If we adhered to this guidance, false doctrine could never infiltrate the Church.

No one can argue with this example because the abuse is so pervasive and Church leadership has been so clear on this subject.

A teacher in a class I was in once told us exactly what resources she relied on to prepare a particular lesson she was giving that day. There were three books which she showed us by holding them up. I gasped inwardly. All were far removed from the Church-approved curricula. I do not think her teaching that day strayed from the truth, but it easily could have.
A teacher sits in front of his class and uses a tablet to show his students a talk by
Elder Bednar. Accessed June 7, 2020 from 

On another occasion, a local leader actually endorsed an upcoming private publication for use in Church lessons. The leader had a member of the class explain how it was designed and told us how it could be purchased for use – all during a Sunday class that was part of official church meetings.

I used to think that the Church just had a bloated sense of how good its materials were and that is why it told us not to use outside sources. After the academic legal training I have received, I can see different motives and compelling ones – copyright laws as well as keeping our doctrine pure.

By restricting materials used in a Church setting to those produced by the Church, we avoid the problem of violating copyright. By using something else, we may be breaking the law. I wonder if the Spirit can be present in lessons where the teacher is violating the law?

We have been instructed not to show slide shows in Sacrament meeting. We've been instructed not to encourage people to look up particular scriptures when giving Sacrament talks. There have been other instructions as well.

There is enough corruption in the doctrine based on what people access on their own. At church, we should be scrupulous in avoiding this pitfall. ONLY use church approved materials in teaching or presenting anything at church.

It isn't just doctrinally that we can mess up.

Excesses in money, food, music and/or decorations

In general, we are told that the authorized budget should cover all expenses for any events, including food. Exceptions are not prohibited but they should be rare and carefully thought out.

Sticking to a budget is a crucial component of self-reliance. If we don't adhere to it in the church, how can we expect families and individuals to do so in their personal financial situations?

Fees for activities, materials and requests to bring food to church events can quickly get burdensome. Decor and preparation for events can quickly become excessive.

Often, local units get around Church budget guidelines by some of the following:

  • Requiring people to bring an item, usually food.
  • A person paying out of pocket for additional things and providing/donating them.
  • Requiring people to pay for something.
  • Raiding other church entities' budgets to pay for the excesses.

A picture of a decorated cake. Accessed June 7, 2020 from

If budget guidelines are not adhered to, then things often escalate into people being required to bring 
food to every activity. This is obviously a burden.

New members will be trained improperly; because they will inaccurately conclude that this is okay and continue the practice on their own, nary the wiser.

Excesses can escalate when the above measures are resorted to. When a wealthy and willing individual volunteers to cover expenses or donates money or goods, it can still have negative effects. It creates expectations.

If a person of modest means later serves in the same calling; will he or she be viewed as a failure if future events cannot be funded or supplied as they have in the past when an individual(s) has augmented them?

Fee-based activities create the illusion that spirituality can only be “bought” and bought only by those who have the money. Being a member of the Church can quickly become expensive.

Believe it or not, I have been served the following items at Church events (all examples occurred after the Church’s massive revamping of the budget program) – chicken cordon bleu, chocolate-covered strawberries, Baked Alaska, flan. Sometimes the amenities included fine china, linen napkins, fine stemware, and other similar items.

Are we eating our way through local unit funds because of our activities? Can we justify this? Isn’t this hard to justify – especially if we are all overweight anyway?


Music should be gospel praise. It should be conducive to producing an atmosphere of worship. Often, it crosses the line into a secular performance where people and their accomplishments are extolled.

Elder Oaks cautions:
A young woman plays the harp during a performance. Accessed June 7, 2020

Soloists should remember that music in our worship services is not for demonstration but for worship. Vocal or instrumental numbers should be chosen to facilitate worship, not to provide performance opportunity for artists, no matter how accomplished.

Sometimes decorations have been so elaborate, I have wondered what private fortune was expended to pay for them.

Occasionally, announcements like event publicity or programs were privately and professionally printed on expensive paper. I have had to commission similar items in my secular activities. I know how much this costs.

We have been cautioned not to love money, our substance, our "fine apparel” or “the adorning of [our] Churches” more than we love “the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted.” (See Mormon 8:37, 39). Can we really assume this scripture is only referring to permanent, rather than temporary adorning of our Churches?

One lavish event seems to lead to more lavish events, where people are determined to outdo each other in unhealthy and unholy competition.

Often, events are food and decorations. If you remove the food and décor there is nothing left.

Excess unchecked is then used as justification for excess in the future.

It is difficult to force oneself to follow rules and guidelines that you know will not be enforced and others will not follow.

Local unit leaders should not allow excesses in time, effort, and money, that should be better spent elsewhere or conserved for something more important. Our goals and objectives for Church events should be spiritual. If they are spiritual, then why are so much time and money being expended on them?

Adding procedures, embellishments, and events to authorized activities.

Additions to authorized activities can be as seemingly innocuous as “lunch group” and “book club.” These activities are now easier to justify under the new flexibility and latitude with Relief Society meetings than they were when I experienced them.

Filipino women participating in ministering. Accessed June 7, 2020
However, we should never let these additions usurp the core activities or the purpose of the core activities.

I once had a visiting teaching companion tell me that she could not come with me to visit one of our sisters because she was going to the Relief Society lunch group. I decided it was wrong to subordinate visiting teaching/ministering to the lunch group, especially given that the sister in question was only available at that particular time. I visited the sister on my own and never made it to the lunch group for that reason.

In one unit, and later a stake, besides having neat hair and a somber expression and needing to wear white shirts, ties and dress conservatively, young men were “required” to have black or dark pants and solid color ties to pass the Sacrament.
Blessing the Sacrament; GAK 603; Joseph Smith Translation, Matthew 26:24
(in the Bible appendix); Moroni 4:3; 5:2; Doctrine and Covenants 20:75–79.
Accessed June 7, 2020 from 

What's more, all young men were “required” to serve the Sacrament with their right hands, even if they were left-handed. Left arms had to be held behind the back with the elbow folded so that the arm was covering the belt. Leadership would watch and police the young men accordingly.

I could write numerous other examples. I will limit myself to a few.

In one unit, men were required to wear a suit coat and white shirt to do anything in Church, whether it was to speak, pray, teach, or anything else. No exceptions were ever made.

Talmadge in The Great Apostasy illustrated how pagan influences were incorporated into the Church. We may not be susceptible to incorporating “pagan” practices today, but we are certainly in danger of incorporating “secular” ones.

Often introductions, profiles, bios of members in Church events, or Church literature contain nothing except phrase extolling secular accomplishments.

PowerPoint presentations used in Church events outside Sacrament meeting sometimes become more reminiscent of a business conference than a spiritual event.

Removing authorized parts

Removing authorized parts of activities and events usually goes hand in hand with adding what you want to add.

Often, people assume that because an event is going overtime, for example, that it is okay to remove a hymn, prayer, or something else from the program, in order to move the event along. Eventually, this can become more common than including the item. When that happens, then authorized parts have, in effect, been removed.
A Relief Society meeting in Manaus, Brazil. Accessed June 7, 2020, from

Often things that get removed are not as “fun” as what has been added. Opening exercises have gotten so excessive that sometimes they take up more time than the lesson or the talks. Is it any small wonder why the Church keeps trying to limit all this front matter in our meetings?

Reviewing what was behind the Great Apostasy can help us identify what we may be doing wrong now.

The early Church went so far as to eliminate baptism by immersion in favor of sprinkling. Similarly, tithing and baptisms for the dead were eventually removed entirely.

Stake and unit leaders are given latitude to make exceptions where exceptions are warranted. I respect that. But, they cannot be labeled as “exceptions” if the same ones are made year after year. When “exceptions” become the norm then it is accurately termed as “intentional disobedience.”

Exceptions are when guidelines are temporarily altered.  Permanent alterations are intentional disobedience.

Best ways to avoid these pitfalls

Elder Dallin H. Oaks
Teachers should always keep this quote from Elder Oaks in mind:
“President Packer has often taught, in my hearing, that we first adopt, then we adapt. If we are thoroughly grounded in the prescribed lesson that we are to give, then we can follow the Spirit to adapt it. But there is a temptation, when we speak about this flexibility, to start off by adapting rather than adopting. It’s a balance. It’s a continual challenge. But the approach of adopting first and then adapting is a good way to stay on sound ground” (“A Panel Discussion with Elder Dallin H. Oaks” [Seminaries and Institutes of Religion satellite broadcast, Aug. 7, 2012], lds.org/broadcasts).
We should meticulously adhere to church instructions, on everything. In order to do that, we need to know what they are.

Just because we don't currently have a calling in a particular field, doesn't mean we should not be familiar with Handbook guidance.

When you receive a new calling, you should carefully review what scriptures guidance there is on the subject. Then you should review all the possible guidelines in the Handbook.

Then and only then, should you look at what's been done by the predecessors in your calling. You should never cavalierly continue something just because it has been done, or is currently being done.

Two ward clerks in South Africa counting rands given for tithes and offerings.
Accessed June 7, 2020 from 
Also remember, you are using sacred funds when administering anything in the Church. 

Think of what it took for people to donate the money. Think of Heavenly Father's purposes for the Church. Then, keep all these sobering facts in mind when you help decide how to spend it.

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