Our local elementary school recently started using a new program called The Leader In Me. After learning more about it, I became concerned that the curriculum was built on religious (specifically Mormon) principles, and that The Covey Institute is using this curriculum to spread the word of the Church of Latter Day Saints to children. I will admit that I could be wrong. I could just be paranoid. I don’t know for sure what the Covey Institute’s objectives are. But many things about this program feel wrong, and even cult-like to me. And I can’t shake the feeling that Franklin Covey is doing his best to make our children and families comfortable with Mormon principles without our knowing he’s doing it.
The 7 Habits Are Rooted in Religion
The Leader In Me is based on Steven Covey’s book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. Stephen Covey was a Mormon. That alone is fine. People of all sorts of different religions write books and teach children, and in my mind that’s a good thing. My concern is not with Covey’s religious beliefs. My concern is that The Leader In Me is teaching religious beliefs to kids in public schools.
The Divine Center
The 7 Habits first appeared in Stephen Covey’s book entitled “The Divine Center: Why We Need a Life Centered on God and Christ and How We Attain It”. This is clearly a religious text. In addition to introducing the 7 Habits in this book, Covey also says that he has discovered how to communicate Mormon truths to non-Mormons by simply changing his vocabulary. He writes, “I have found in speaking to various non-LDS groups in different cultures that we can teach and testify of many gospel principles if we are careful in selecting words which carry our meaning but come from their experience and frame of mind” (Divine Center, p. 240).
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
To reach non-LDS groups, Stephen Covey then wrote “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. In this book, Covey refers to “natural laws in the human dimension that are just as real, just as unchanging and unarguably ‘there’ as laws such as gravity are in the physical dimension” (7 Habits, p. 32). What Covey does not say in 7 Habits, that he does state in The Divine Center, is that these laws of nature are the teachings of the LDS Church which “enable the individual personality to grow and develop until eventually he can become like his Father in Heaven” (Divine Center, p. 246). For example, The Divine Center reveals that Covey derives his principle of being pro-active rather than reactive from Mormon scriptures. (Compare The Divine Center, p. 176, with 7 Habits, pp. 70-77.)
Covey also teaches about “the upward spiral” in 7 Habits. [7 Habits, pp. 304-06.] He writes, “Renewal is the principle — and the process — that empowers us to move on an upward spiral of growth and change, of continuous improvement.” [7 Habits, p. 304.] The Divine Center reveals that he is referring to the Mormon principle of “eternal progression.” [Divine Center, pp. 180, 207, 213.] He claims that this “constantly expanding upward-spiraling movement in the development of the human soul… constitutes the road to perfection.” [Divine Center, p. 207.] Covey explains that “we eventually can become literally like Heavenly Father; we can become perfect, just as he and our elder brother, Jesus Christ, are perfect.” [Divine Center, p. 77.] Covey teaches that we have within us “the eternal seed of godhood.” [Divine Center, p. 206.] Following the correct map found in the LDS Church “liberates man” and “releases his divine potentialities.” [Divine Center, p. 246.] Covey’s belief that people have a limitless potential is derived from the Mormon doctrine that people are gods in embryo. [Divine Center, p. 164-66.] He writes, “Since we truly are sons and daughters of God the Eternal Father, we possess in embryo his nature and potential.” [Divine Center, p. 166.]
The 7 Habits themselves seem innocuous. Being proactive, putting first things first, thinking win-win, these all appear like good, solid advice. But I can’t ignore the religious origins of these ideas, and the thinking and beliefs of the man who presents them as “natural laws”. In Covey’s mind, The Leader In Me program, which is used in public schools, is about teaching our children to “become literally like Heavenly Father; we can become perfect, just as he and our elder brother, Jesus Christ, are perfect”.
And before anyone goes off on me for targeting Mormons, I would be equally as upset if this program had its roots in ANY religious doctrine. My concern is not that this material is rooted in Mormonism, it’s that it’s rooted in religion. Public schools are not the place for any thinly veiled religious principles to be taught, be they Catholic, Islamic, Mormon, Christian, Jewish, or Buddhist.
I encourage you pick any religion that is vastly different from your own, and imagine that a man from that religion created a book for children that represents the principles of his religion, without using any actual religious language. Then imagine that man also said that he finds using non-religious terminology is a good way to help people of other religions accept his gospel principles. Then consider that the book is turned into a 3 year curriculum for your school that is used on a daily basis in every classroom. It alters the terminology your kids use, and parents are encouraged to use the same terminology at home. The school is also encouraged to share this program and its terminology with other schools. Tell me you wouldn’t be worried.