6/12/2009

precedent?

From what I can gather, John's impending church council for apostasy would be either the first or second incidence of a church member receiving discipline for blogging. Right now I am pondering the possible significance of this. For those of you who are LDS, does it concern you that this could set a precedent for future ecclesiastical discipline against blogging? If so, how do you think this might affect online conversations, which up to now have been uncensored by church authorities?

42 comments:

Marc said...

When someone is comparing temple ceremonies Mormons hold sacred to the molestation of a 13 year old on his or her blog, I'd say I'm not too concerned with the precedent this is setting.

jana said...

Except that he didn't say that at all in the comment you referenced.

Do you have a better metaphor?

jana said...

PS to Marc:
Thanks for stopping by PilgrimSteps, BTW. Kaimi speaks highly of you and I'm flattered by your attention to my writing. :)

Alli said...

I do Jana. To be quite frank, I had a successful blog 5 years ago and I was honest and spoke my mind and was truly myself. I had over 10k visitors per day and it even gained me a book deal and an international literary agent. Long story short (the blog is still up, but I have not written in 2 years, although I still get daily comments) I was called in by authority in the church and asked to remove swear words, and to edit content. I even had this same bishop tell me that I was walking on ground that might lead to a disciplinary council. I did not stop writing because of that threat, rather because my dad had a heart attack during this time and my guilt associated with that.

I do think this affects our conversations here, and on the other LDS related blogs. I'm honestly a bit afraid to hit "PUBLISH YOUR COMMENT". I am so sad about this whole thing. So much for free agency.

Alli said...

By the way, pardon my poor grammar and incomplete sentences. I was typing angrily and quickly!!! My point was made however, and I know you love me either way. ;)

xJane said...

As Gerald Breinholt (comment #82) just noted at John's post, LDS is a theocracy, so they get to strong-arm whomever they want for whatever they don't like. As JohnW said (comment #4), this puts them in the same company as Scientology. As far as religions go, they have to protect their membership by enforcing rules of conduct, but it would be nice if they did it consistently. And if the fact that blogging is an easier medium for them to track means that bloggers will be disciplined more often, that is a chilling moment for religion on the 'net.

Marc said...

I don't mean to be combative, but I don't see how you can dispute this. The Church 'coercing' your husband into silence about the temple and the potential harm it causes to people is akin to an older teacher 'coercing' a thirteen year old into silence about a sexual relationship. In both instances your husband seems to claim he would be "morally bound... by the need to protect potential victims from harm."

To quote specifically:

"I do feel strongly that the oaths are part of a pattern of coercion and abuse of power by the Church. Ultimately, this may be the key point that I suspect I’ll be ex’d for: I believe the contract was done under coercion and under false pretenses, and that I have a moral obligation to speak openly about the potential of the temple institution to harm people.

Here’s a parallel: let’s say I had a consensual sexual relationship with a much older and caring adult teacher while I was, say, thirteen. S/he swore me to secrecy, and out of affection, I complied. I grow up and realize that the relationship was wrong and that the same teacher was still sleeping with their students. Would I be morally bound by my promise to secrecy or by the need to protect potential victims from harm.

I don’t want to turn this thread into a debate about the harm the temple causes: you both asked to understand my reasoning. There you go."

I wish both you and your husband well in the new path you have chosen, but, if these comments are in any way indicative of other comments your husband has made with regards to the temple, I hardly see this as somehow a harbinger of future ecclesiastical discipline to come over blogging.

Jason B said...

Jana, for those of us non-Mormon's, what is process for apostasy in the Mormon Church? As much as I hate to say this, I find this to be a fascinating study on religion in the age of the internet. What example is the church setting for it's younger members who must embrace social media and networking to be successful? I would imagine that there would be more than a few media outlets interested in a story like this.dista

jana said...

Well I'm not necessarily saying that John chose the best analogy, but I think it is hard to do--I've often found myself at a loss to describe the impact of the church on my life to those who've never known a religion like Mormonism.

Perhaps if you saw yourself as a 13 year-old Fundamentalist Mormon who was married to a middle-aged man w/o full knowledge of what that marriage would entail, you could imagine the desire to speak out to his future wives so they wouldn't enter marriage and/or make covenants with God w/o knowing what they were getting into.

FWIW, I don't see why the temple ceremony can't be openly discussed--how does it affect its sacredness to know the covenants and/or penalties beforehand?

jana said...

Alli:
What a shame. I'm so sorry.

jana said...

Jason:
Spoken like the journalist that you are!

The Stake President still hasn't put anything in writing about the discipline. Until that happens, the possibility of censure is still not sure. So we're waiting on a letter, which I've heard is typically hand-delivered by two men from the church. :)

Kaimi said...

Hi Jana,

I think you're right that this is a somewhat unusual step. I'm not aware of it happening often.

Possible precedents:

-John Dehlin has mentioned on blog a few times that he was asked to speak to his bishop about his blog. However, that did not result in any discipline or other negative fallout that John has mentioned.

-I believe that Equality's blog led to some official action, but I'm not sure of the details. I believe that he resigned voluntarily.

-I've been told by a few DAMU friends that a DAMU solo blogger who was already functionally out of the church was formally disciplined (excommunicated, I believe) because of writings on his blog.

As far as I know, that blog was primarily or strongly critical of the church.

So, the answer to your question, I'm not aware of any case like John's, where a relatively friendly still on-the-rolls member who has joined another religious tradition is called in for church discipline based on blog writings.

JohnR said...

Marc, the full context of the conversation is that someone was trying to understand why I might see the temple rite as coercive. I tried to think of a situation of questionable morality, with a clear power hierarchy and with an initial positive connection between the parties involved. It was clearly a problematic example.

Jana, sorry to feed Marc's distraction from your original query.

Simeon, of the DAMU community and Simeon's Peepstone, was ex'd a couple of years ago, ostensibly for his blogging. It looks like his old site is down, but here's where he's blogging now. I think he's a local.

This isn't a blog per se, but the author of lds-mormon.com and 2think.org (a site I visited a lot during my early involvement in Sunstone) was ex'd for his online material. We corresponded a couple of times 4-5 years ago. He was very congenial.

Jason B said...

Once a journalist...

So, when you receive the visit from the two men, can you be sure to have a camera or two rolling? :)

I just did a Google search on Mormon Temple Ceremony, and found a number of articles that discuss, in depth, what happens in Temple. I think it's safe to say the cat's out of the bag...

Now if someone would just tell the church that.

Alli said...

The whole point is that the covenant that you make specifically says that you covenant to never reveal the things we do/promise in the temple. I have never heard in the temple the words "or you will be excommunicated" but now maybe they'll add the clause "If you're a blogger and you talk about this, you'll be excommunicated immediately".

Hellmut said...

The point of John's metaphor is that some promises of secrecy are unethical, particularly, when a powerful party extracts that promise by manipulating a weaker party.

Hellmut said...

Regarding your inquiry into precedence, Jana, a Scottish friend of mine published a mission experience under pseudonym on his blog.

His stake president or bishop figured out who he was and threatened my friend with church discipline. There are not that many RMs in Scotland, after all.

It turned out that Scottish law protects the privacy of anonymous writers. My friend's solicitor threatened LDS authorities with legal sanction.

That was the end of it.

Kaimi said...

I'm sorry I haven't been able to comment more, I've been dashing between meetings today. Don't take it as an indication that I don't care about you both.

It's interesting to see different reactions to this, including some very different reactions from friends of mine.

(By the way -- Jana, Marc. Marc, Jana. I consider each of you as friends, and I'm happy to vouch for both of your sincerity.)

Now, on to the details.

1. I've listened to John's podcast, and I think that the reaction is at least somewhat predictable.

During the podcast, John discusses the penalty in the pre-1990 temple ceremony, and briefly likens it to a cult. He also discusses the punishment portion of the ceremony.

He explicitly tries to distance himself from mockery of the ceremony, and wants to have a serious discussion of ways that the temple ceremony, especially the punishment portions, made him personally feel uncomfortable.

Now, I think there is room for debate over whether John's podcast analysis violates any specific covenant. There is no covenant made not to talk about the ceremony generally. That's a common enough understanding, but the exact requirement of non-disclosure is that he will not reveal the signs or tokens.

I think that John can say that he indeed has not revealed these in his podcast discussion. *However* -- and this is where he may technically be in violation -- he did paste in a portion of the Big Love clip, which shows a portion of the veil ceremony. Is that a violation of the covenant not to disclose signs and tokens? I don't know.

(One could also argue that a variety of the general covenants -- law of God, lightmindedness, etc. -- may have been implicated by John's podcast. It's my read of John's post that this was not the allegation; that the allegation was rather that John had violated secrecy requirements. But I may be reading it incorrectly.)

more to come . . .

Hellmut said...

There are also cases where Mormons resisted church discipline online. Grant Palmer comes to mind.

There is also the LDS Safe Space Coalition that supported a gay Mormon who was being threatened with excommunication for getting married.

In the latter case, the stake president actually backed down, albeit not because of the Internet. My hunch is that the man realized that gay bashing would not be well received at work.

Bullies are always the same. They tug in their tail when someone confronts them.

Davis said...

I don't really see how this has anything to do with blogging. The precedent is already defined. If what John said on his blog was discussed in a public speech, or published in a magazine, the result would be the same.

The medium that the discussion is carried out in is irrelevant. If he is called in by the Stake President, it will not be because he published something that wasn't already out there. It will be because of the attitude he has toward the Temple and the Church.

Blogging, speaking, writing, emailing, its all the same. The precedent was in place long before the ability to blog was. Blogging is just another way to preach about how you feel.

Kaimi said...

2. I don't think that John is or was saying that the church is like a child molester.

I think what he's saying is in fact a couple of things:

a. There are good types of secrecy and bad types of secrecy. This is actually pretty uncontroversial, I think.

That is, there are promises that are probably good to keep. But promises of secrecy can be abused as well. While one could argue for a theory of absolute promise-keeping even for very abusive promises, I think that most people would prefer a rule that recognizes the possibility of abuse of secrecy, and allows for some disclosure in those kinds of cases.

b. John is also saying that, to him, the temple covenants -- even the agreed-upon secret portions -- may come within some reasonable exception to a secrecy requirement. That's a more complicated claim, and I think that most active church members would disagree with him on that point.

John has suggested one rationale for an exception (and his commenters have suggested another). John's major rationale is coercion. He has stated that he did not make the promise with full information about what it entailed, and that aspects of the community led him to do so, perhaps against his free will.

That rationale, if correct, could be a legitimate reason for voiding a promise of confidentiality. That is, a before-the-fact promise of confidentiality is probably constrained by some reasonableness factors. If your friend says, I'm going to tell you a secret, but you can't tell anyone, you're in this situation. You don't learn the secret until you swear confidentiality. A lot of times this is fine (as when the friend's secret is that he likes a particular girl).

But there is some boundary there. If your friend's secret is that he is a serial killer, you probably have an obligation to turn him in.

Which brings us to the ultimate inquiry. Which is this: Is the nature of the temple ceremony (pre-1990, with throat-slitting) sufficiently offensive, harmful, or otherwise problematic that it should void John's promise of confidentiality (given before full understanding of the content of the ceremony)?

And here we're at a place where the remedies are wildly divergent. If the ceremony itself is not harmful or offensive, then John is in breach and should not be discussing it. But if it is harmful or offensive, then not only is John excused from discussing it, he probably has an affirmative responsibility to do so, in order to prevent others from suffering the same harm.

JohnR said...

Davis, in practice the Church has allowed for a considerable range of discourse online that it has historically been less tolerant of in traditional media. Take, for example, the disciplinary action taken against the likes of Grant Palmer, Maxine Hanks and Lavina Fielding Anderson--all for publishing books containing ideas that are echoed throughout the web arguably to much wider readerships. Members feel much freer to speak critically online in ways that they never would in print or in public speaking positions. So I think Jana's question has some validity.

Anonymous said...

John,

When you say:
"Members feel much freer to speak critically online in ways that they never would in print or in public speaking positions. So I think Jana's question has some validity."

I do agree with you in many ways. I suppose you have to view my comment from the standpoint that many people (in any aspect of web discussion - not just religion) do not have the guts to blog under their actual identity. I think that is why more lee-way is given.

I view blogs done with full traceability as being much more like actual publishing.

I guess you could compare the two to receiving random bulk rate junk mail expressing the opinion of someone you cannot identify vs a handwritten letter from a real person you could interact with in the real world.

Davis said...

I'm sorry, that last comment about mail was from me.

Davis

JohnR said...

Kaimi: I responded here, cause I didn't want to draw attention away from Jana's question about precedent.

Anonymous said...

I'm unclear as to what the brouhaha is about.

You have an obviously hostile unbelieving member of the LDS Church who is publishing temple content in a derisive manner, expressing opposition to the LDS Church on a variety of doctrinal and policy issues, is a self-described "exmo," has stated that he retains his membership so that he can pose as a member of the Church when speaking against it. John also made an analogy that likens the LDS Church to a sexual predator that forces a child victim to keep the sexual abuse secret.

He’s surprised that the community of LDS believers may consider terminating his membership?

John if free to think to, believe, and publish as he wishes. The Church is equally free to choose to part company with those who have very publicly moved on.

JohnR said...

I agree 100% that the Church has every right to ex me, but you've missed the point of Jana's post, which places it in the context of discourse and discipline in the Mormon blogosphere.

It does come as no surprise to me that the most critical comments are posted anonymously, though. Jana is being quite vulnerable/brave by posting under her real name (and I love her for it). Show some balls/ovaries, anonymous critics!

And once again, the sex-offense analogy is being taken completely out of context and being boiled down to a mantra. But this kind of irrational reaction proves to me just how programmed behavior is where the temple is concerned. That said, I'm glad that I know a few thoughtful members who are counterexamples to this.

JohnR said...

Jana, I'm sorry to bring this digression up on your post, but since both Marc and brave Anonymous have brought it up, and because some people might be misinformed by reading their sound bites, here's important context:

The pre-1990 temple experience had violent components that were essentially death threats (from God) tied to the oaths. *This* is the coercive, damaging context that is being missed, and it is that context I attempted to parallel with my example.

I think it extremely disingenuous of Marc and Anon to boil down my arguments the way they did w/o mentioning this, esp. because most Mormons reading this will have their much more pleasant and recent experience in mind.

Anonymous said...

For starters, don't read too much into my anonymous" comment. I am just too lazy to set up a google or blogspot account to provide a screen name.

The blogosphere is a public, worldwide means of publishing. If a member of the LDS Church wishes to attack the faith on the this sort of stage, they should reasonably expect to have their membership held in account.

Membership in the Church is a two way street. Members choose to join with the community of LDS believers and to stay with the Church. The community also has the right to decide if they want to be associated with someone in the form of membership. There is absolutely nothing wrong with considering the public writings of members as a part of any consideration of membership.

As for the sexual preditor analogy...it is offensive. The fact that you cannot understand that the temple ceremony is genuinely sacred to many sincere and faithful people. The fact that you would compare any part of it to a sexual preditor is insensitive and crude. The fact that you describe those who take offense as being "programmed" suggests that you are no longer capable of understanding the feelings of faithful members of the Church.

Marc said...

JohnR -

It was your terribly analogy, not mine. One you heretofore acknowledged that it was "clearly a problematic example" but now we're "extremely disingenuous" for having issues with it?

As for being "extremely disingenuous", I'd say bringing up what you claim were "essentially death threats" without context qualifies. Given that these "death threats" largely mirrored similar symbolic oaths performed in Masonic rituals, you're cherry-picking here to try to make your case.

In any event, I didn't comment here to be combative, coercive or manipulative, but to relay an honestly felt reaction to the question of whether the disciplinary proceedings initiated against you could signal some sort of Church crackdown on bloggers. To that question, I hardly think it does. This is hardly the September 6 revisited here. You yourself state that "the Church has every right to ex me.

Marc said...

(I always post under my own name by the way)

JohnR said...

Marc said: "I didn't comment here to be combative, coercive or manipulative, but to relay an honestly felt reaction to the question of whether the disciplinary proceedings initiated against you could signal some sort of Church crackdown on bloggers. To that question, I hardly think it does."

Thank you for this clarification (there were too many ways your initial comment could be interpreted). And knowing that you and Jana actually know who each other are adds weight to your comments, in my mind.

I still think there are problems with my initial comparison, but I felt the problems were being exacerbated by the way they were being characterized out of context (similar to how you feel about my characterization of the penalties), and felt a need to defend it.

John (with an h) said...

Marc writes:

Given that these "death threats" largely mirrored similar symbolic oaths performed in Masonic rituals, you're cherry-picking here to try to make your case.

Oh that's interesting. I'm a non-member and all my information about the temple is second-hand. When the "death threats" were in the ceremony, was the context that you're mentioning here explained to the members going through the ceremony? I'm looking on Wikipedia and asking my friend Google, and though the borrowing from Masonic ritual is mentioned, I can't find any mention about the explanation of that context and how it wasn't to be taken seriously being included. Can someone who remembers it comment?

amelia said...

i didn't go to the temple when these ritualistic punishments were part of the ceremony, but i can authoritatively state that they were not contextualized as borrowed from the masons. nor is any of the ceremony so contextualized. it's presented as direct revelation from god.

given that the temple rites are by their very nature coercive (your answers are even scripted for you; and there's no way in hell someone is going to say no, even if they had a chance to think through what they were being asked to say yes to), these ritualistic death threats could only be characterized as coercive. no "borrowing" from masonry is going to change that.

Marc said...

JohnR - I can understand how one might feel that a ceremony that requires participants to make oaths and covenants without prior knowledge of what exactly those promises are and that entails a vow of silence about those promises outside of the Temple could be "coercive." I clearly don't interpret or characterize these rites in that way, but since it is certainly not uncommon for those entering the temple to be caught off guard and feel uneasy with the experience, I think there are legitimate issues that form the basis of your concern. I should stress that many who through the temple, don't share these concerns and cherish the experience. In my view as a believing member, preparation is the key. I do not think that members should not be encouraged to undertake these vows lightly, and I think people often go through the temple without having been adequately prepared and that is unacceptable.

I don't think there is much chance of us agreeing on the worth of the temple ceremony or the significance of certain changes to it over the years, but as I mentioned earlier, I don't think the questions or issues you may have are necessarily out of bounds. At the same time, however, I also don't think you have much cause to complain when disciplinary proceedings are initiated for apparently publicly discussing aspects of the ceremonies that you at one point promised not to reveal and criticizing rites that the Church considers to be among its most sacred.

My issue with your analogy is that the only reason to use such an analogy is to shock. Ultimately, the reason you used it is because if you'd simply said "should I feel an obligation to not discuss a ceremony that I promised not to ever reveal outside of the temple if I made that promise before I understand what I was promising and if I feel that the ceremony may be harmful to some" it sets up a dynamic where some could engage in a discussion with you and disagree with the merits of what you are saying. Using the metaphor you did, however, there is no middle ground. There is no room for one to say, "no, you shouldn't reveal these things because..." You drawn the line in the sand and disagreeing with you is "akin" to supporting the right of molesters to abuse their victims. I'd say a good rule of thumb is that any analogy involving molestation is on par with analogies involving, say, Hitler or the Holocaust; you're typically better off staying light years away from them if you want to have any sort of productive discussion. Demonizing those you might not agree with is no place to start an exchange of ideas... unless your whole point is to foment anti-Mormon sentiment and demonize. Then it's probably where you want to kick things off.

John with an H - There are plenty of books available on Amazon or in your local library that relay the substance and history of the Masonic rituals.

Amelia - "i can authoritatively state that they were not contextualized as borrowed from the masons"

Er... this statement is so problematic that I don't know where to begin. The specific things JohnR was criticizing are in the Masonic rituals and I think the aspects of the temple experience are appropriately "contextualized" as rituals with a history and origin, and freemasonry is a part of that. All you can "authoritatively" state is that you didn't interpret in both your preparation and study or in your temple experience that the ceremony was "contextualized" as having any association with freemasonry. Given that you yourself state that these so called "ritualistic punishments" weren't even part of your temple experience, you have even less of a leg to stand on here.

amelia said...

marc:

i can state authoritatively that the church makes absolutely no effort to contextualize the temple rituals as originating in masonic rituals. authoritatively because my experience is typical of mormon experience where the temple is concerned. i participated in the typical course of temple preparation. i studied the literature available by prophets and apostles on the temple. and i attended faithfully for a decade. never once did anyone at church attempt to contextualize temple rituals as having origins in masonic rituals.

the point is that there is no effort made on the part of church leadership or ordinary members to contextualize what happens in the temple as anything other than revelation from god. which is going to make any consequences outlined there seem as if they came from god, not from some historical source other than god.

you imply in your comment to johnR that somehow the fact that the ritualistic death threats were similar to masonic oaths mitigates their power. given that this parallel is never mentioned through official church channels, but must instead be ferreted out by individuals so inclined, robs your assertion of any strength in my mind. if they were officially not intended to instill fear in participants, why not so contextualize them officially?

Marc said...

I acknowledged that you could make authoritative statements about your own experience, but that's it. I've attended and taught temple preparation classes and have always tried to give historical context. I wouldn't say the ceremony "originated" with the masons, while there are parallels, there are important differences as well.

Marc said...

By the way, there are plenty of places where freemasonry and its links to the temple are explored (see, e.g., here). I personally think that relaying this history is an important part of preparing people to attend the temple and when I've taught temple preparation classes, I've always made an effort to do so.

As to your question, the Church is not in the practice of explicitly discussing specifics of the temple ceremony outside of the temple, except to stress it's symbolic nature, something that in and of itself gives context to what is being discussed here. To non-believers it may sound like a cop-out, but I hold my temple experience sacred and I'm not comfortable getting into specifics about the current temple ceremony or aspects of the ceremony that have changed. The point I made to JohnR earlier, however, was that were one to discuss these issues, to do so fairly and honestly would be to ensure you are giving proper context.

John (with an h) said...

Marc, now I'm confused. Is there a class with a standardized curriculum that gets taught which explains the Masonic origination of the rituals?

I'm reacting to when you said:
As for being "extremely disingenuous", I'd say bringing up what you claim were "essentially death threats" without context qualifies. Given that these "death threats" largely mirrored similar symbolic oaths performed in Masonic rituals, you're cherry-picking here to try to make your case.

I guess I originally read that as stating that JohnR was bringing up the death threats without the context of borrowing from the Masons. But now other people are saying that this context isn't/wasn't given during the ceremony. But you're saying that it's part of the curriculum of a (required?) class before going to the temple? Or was that just your class?

Marc, I'm not really interested in the Masons personally. Just as part of your description about the context. I'm reading (correctly?) that you're saying this part of the ceremony isn't coercive because of the Masonic context? Maybe I should get that straight in my head first.

JohnR, were you given the context of the death threats as something that came from the Masons and not God before or during the ritual? Or is this something that God passed to Mormons through the Masons?

I'm suffering from personal lack of context.

John (with an h) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marc said...

The temple ceremony itself does not mention freemasonry nor does it explain a great deal about the symbolism of the ritual, it is left to individual temple goers to ponder and reflect on the ceremony and discern the symbolism themselves by way of inspiration. This is why adequately preparing to enter the temple is so fundamentally important in my mind.

In regards to the temple preparation class I referenced, some of the materials given out may have mentioned the freemasonry (perhaps Boyd K. Packer's The Holy Temple or James E. Talmage's The House of the Lord, I really don't remember), but I always felt compelled to distribute the Encyclopedia of Mormonism entry on Freemasonry and the Temple and was encouraged to do so by my Bishop at the time. In the Church, teachers are given leeway to tailor the lessons they give by the Spirit, and that inspiration is as much a part of the curriculum as any book.

In any event, there are plenty of good resources available to members that don't breach what members believe are sacred covenants that, in my view, can greatly aid one in better understanding the temple in context from a historical perspective (including explorations of freemasonry's connection to the temple). In addition to any I might have mentioned and to just scrape the surface of what is out there, these include several works by Hugh Nibley (See e.g., Mormonism and Early Christianity and Temple and Cosmos), Rough Stone Rolling by Richard Bushman, and any number of articles from BYU Studies, Dialogue, Sunstone and Farms (I can give you specific references from each of those publications if you're interested).

In the end, what I feel I've been able to get out of the temple is what I've been willing to put into it, and an integral part of that for me includes the study of symbolism and historical context.

amelia said...

marc:

i have this niggling problem with your continued insistence on the importance of historically contextualizing the temple ceremony. it is this: the church resists historical contextualization to a large degree. sure there are sources and apologists out there that provide historical context. but it's largely ignored in official church curriculum. for instance, the church never gives the historical context to the revelation that gave blacks the priesthood; if anything they go out of their way to *resist* giving that historical context. they similarly resist providing historical context to joseph smith's numerous accounts of the first vision, instead presenting a tailor-made "official" version of this story that ignores the discrepancies between the accounts.

where does that leave us? without historical contextualization as a general rule. is the historical context available to those who want to seek it out? sure. does it make it into some church classes because of individual teachers' styles and interests? sure. but there's no official effort made to provide the kind of historical context you're talking about in the general meetings of the church; if anything, there's an effort to remove such context and instead emphasize the idea of revelation ex nihilo.