Cross-posted at By Common Consent.
So I was just about to swear off any resolutions for 2010 when I read this story about radio host Delilah pulling her kids out of Crosspoint Academy because the school adopted a book by Stephen Covey as part of its curriculum.
“I would like to say that I am merely ‘deeply concerned’ about a recent addition to the school’s teaching philosophy, but instead, I am forced to admit I am actually HORRIFIED by the recent addition of a book by Mormon author Steven (sic) Covey,” she wrote in a Nov. 24 open letter to Crosspoint parents.
Further, she wrote that she believes in freedom of religion and does not object to Mormon beliefs or the yoga-type, Eastern religion activities Covey advocates. She said in a recent interview, however, that the materials don’t belong in a Christian school.
“It’s not about being intolerant. It’s about being true to my faith,” she said. “I don’t have a problem with Stephen Covey and businesses that use it. I don’t have any problem with people who want to sign up for yoga classes or attend the church of Satan if they want to. That’s their right. But I can’t imagine someone paying money to send their kids to Brigham Young University so they can get a good basis in Mormon faith and then having their kid come home and saying his new teacher was a Catholic priest teaching the Apocrypha.”
Some commentators have said this shows Delilah is anti-Mormon. I really don’t care if she is or not. I don’t blame Delilah for trying to maintain the purity of her children’s Christian education, and where she sends them to school is none of my concern, deep or otherwise. (She could send them to a Satanic school, for all I care!) Her BYU analogy is a little off, though. Surely most Mormon parents would be confused if their kids’ Sunday School teacher turned out to be a Catholic priest teaching the Apocrypha as though it were canonical Mormon scripture, but I don’t think any would object to their kids studying the Apocrypha in a university setting; if nothing else, having a non-Mormon professor would be a missionary opportunity, but more on that later.
I admit that I have never read any Stephen R. Covey books. I think I may have once read a Reader’s Digest article authored by him–something about parenting–but I don’t really remember anything that was in it. I have glanced over Covey’s “seven principles of highly effective people,” and I can only make heads or tails out of the first five. Once he gets to “synergize,” he loses me. But apparently Delilah “is concerned [wait–would that be “merely” concerned?] that the leadership materials [based on Covey’s books] introduce Mormon tenets in a way that is palatable to non-Mormons.”
So look here: I’ve been a Mormon all my life, and despite my lack of BYU degree, I know quite a bit about Mormon theology. I don’t think Brother Covey would be nearly as successful as he is if he’d based his Seven Principles business on something as esoteric and wackado as that. I don’t doubt that Covey’s Mormonism has strongly influenced his personal philosophy–Mormonism is a pervasive corrupting agent–but I suspect that reading one of his books and coming out of it with a greater tendency toward believing in Joseph Smith’s prophetic calling would require more work than most grade-schoolers are willing to perform. (Not that Delilah asked for my reassurances, but there they are.)
However, I am curious about how “Mormon” Covey’s work really is. Delilah says it is “veiled Mormonism.” (Really, is there any other kind?) I don’t think she has any basis for saying this, as pinpointing the distinctly Mormon qualities in something would require a thorough knowledge of Mormon theology and tradition, and anyone who goes to the trouble of acquiring that would probably not be “HORRIFIED” when her children are tangentially exposed to it. But I’m open to the possibility that she has inadvertently hit on some truth here.
Actually, I’m particularly hopeful that she has inadvertently hit on some truth because while the Church strongly encourages its members to share the gospel with all the world, I myself have never been inclined in this direction. Religion is just so, you know, personal, and I hate to make other people feel uncomfortable. I hate it almost as much as making myself uncomfortable. Inviting someone to church or giving them a Book of Mormon is so hard-core. If I could get away with just handing them a Stephen R. Covey book and thereby introducing them to Mormonism in a way that is palatable to them, that would a) relieve some of my guilt over not evangelizing as I ought, b) not make anyone uncomfortable, and c) seduce some unsuspecting innocents into joining the Mormon Love Train. Win-win-win.
Just so we’re clear, I don’t want to debate the question of whether or not Delilah is some kind of religious bigot. Bigot is such an ugly word; I myself would go with “hysterical” and/or “ignorant.” But none of that interests me. I’m sure she’s a very nice person, anyway. No, I want those of you who have read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People or are otherwise familiar with Covey’s work and leadership programs to tell me more about this “veiled Mormonism.” I’d read the books myself, but, you know, I didn’t drop out of graduate school so I could do research on “synergy,” dig? What’s the point of having a blog if you can’t exploit your readership for free information?
Your cooperation is appreciated in advance.