Recently it was proposed on my discussion forum that we start up a study group for those interested in meeting together to discuss Liberty, the Gospel and related topics. I was somewhat surprised when someone inquired whether the Church (LDS) discourages study groups?
While we certainly don’t need to be commanded in all things, and there doesn’t seem to be anything inherently wrong with a study group, I have found some interesting related counsel from the Church pertaining to this question. Hopefully this will clear up any confusion.
From the LDS First Presidency in 2001 (excerpts):
The First Presidency directed that the following letter be read in sacrament meeting… We repeat the counsel set forth in the Church Handbook of Instruction, page 157: “Church members should not participate in groups that… Challenge religious and moral values… Imitate sacred rites or ceremonies… Meet late into the evening or in the early-morning hours… We strongly counsel against affiliation with any such group…”
Another statement which is more specific to study groups, and especially regarding groups such as this one, was given by the First Presidency when David O. McKay was President of the Church:
“In order that there may be no misunderstandings by bishops, stake presidents, and others regarding members of the Church participating in non-church meetings to study and become informed on the Constitution of the United States, Communism, etc., I wish to make the following statements that I have been sending out from my office for some time and that have come under question by some stake authorities, bishoprics, and others.
“Church members are at perfect liberty to act according to their own consciences in the matter of safeguarding our way of life. They are, of course, encouraged to honor the highest standards of the gospel and to work to preserve their own freedoms. They are free to participate in non-church meetings that are held to warn people of the threat of Communism or any other theory or principle that will deprive us of our free agency or individual liberties vouchsafed by the Constitution of the United States.
“The Church, out of respect for the rights of all its members to have their political views and loyalties, must maintain the strictest possible neutrality. We have no intention of trying to interfere with the fullest and freest exercise of the political franchise of our members under and within our Constitution, which the Lord declared he established “by the hands of wise men whom [he] raised up unto this very purpose” (D&C 101:80) and which, as to the principles thereof, the Prophet Joseph Smith, dedicating the Kirtland Temple, prayed should be “established forever.” (D&C 109:54.) The Church does not yield any of its devotion to or convictions about safeguarding the American principles and the establishments of government under federal and state constitutions and the civil rights of men safeguarded by these.
“. . . We therefore commend and encourage every person and every group who is sincerely seeking to study Constitutional principles and awaken a sleeping and apathetic people to the alarming conditions that are rapidly advancing about us.” (”Statement Concerning the Position of the Church on Communism” 477)
The Lord through his prophets has encouraged us to become educated and informed, whether individually or with a group. There is no problem in forming a study group, any problems would be the result of the group, or members of the group, straying from Gospel principles.