OT lesson 3, maybe 4, and maybe maybe 6


MrShorty

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While following and even commenting on the recent topic on evolution (https://mormonhub.com/forums/topic/63530-adam-and-eve-and-evolution/), I have a slight sense of foreboding as we begin our study of the OT this year. Lesson 3 (https://www.lds.org/manual/old-testament-gospel-doctrine-teachers-manual?lang=eng) is on the creation, and, as the other thread (and many of the other attempts to discuss the topic on this forum over the years) shows, it has the potential to become a long debate generating more heat then light and otherwise getting bogged down in some irrelevant sub-topics. My intention is not to rehash the same discussion -- that can continue in the other thread. My intention here is to get advice and counsel from the peanut gallery mormonhub crowd for teachers and participants to make these lessons productive.

  1. What topics should be included?
  2. What should be avoided?
  3. I notice that the manual does not even acknowledge that these kind of debates exist. Is it better for the teacher to follow the manual and hope it doesn't come up or acknowledge the debate and explain that he/she does not want to delve into those kind of questions?
  4. When do you bite your tongue if someone brings up a topic on the "don't talk about that" list?
  5. When do you stop biting your tongue?

 

Edited by MrShorty
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Answers to all those questions can be found with the blanket: rely on the Spirit. During your preparations, pray that those who will be attending and participating in that week's class will be doing so with pure intentions, etc.

In terms of preparing, know your class members. If you don't anticipate anyone bringing it up, you probably don't need any contingency lesson plans. If you know someone well enough to know they're going to bring it up, you probably also know them well enough to know how best to keep the peace in class.

Whenever I plan a GD lesson, I look at the "purpose" header. If you think rabbit holes are going to pop up, refer the class back to it ASAP. Read it verbatim if necessary. 

There's probably also some better advice in the Church's "Teaching in the Savior's Way" which replaced the use of Teaching: No Greater Call. (I honestly don't know how similar the content is, but they were both designed to serve as resources to help anyone called as a teacher of any class.)

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Personally, I would acknowledge the debate and not skirt around it. I might say something like this:
OT Lesson 3 says:

Quote

The Prophet Joseph Smith said: “The word create came from the [Hebrew] word baurau which does not mean to create out of nothing; it means to organize; the same as a man would organize materials and build a ship. Hence, we infer that God had materials to organize the world out of chaos—chaotic matter” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 350–51).

"Brothers & Sisters, we learn from the Church that our world was organized, as we see in this quote from Joseph Smith. While we know our world was organized, we do not currently have revelation one way or another as to how this exactly took place. In the absence of specific details/information, debates often occur to try to fill in this void of knowledge. While we won't turn today's lesson into a debate, it is worth acknowledging Evolution since it so commonly taught to our children and youth as the sole explanation for the origin of life. Unfortunately many of those who teach evolution try to do so by eliminating God from the equation entirely. In like turn many in religion try to discredit evolution entirely leaving God's chosen method of organization a mystery. Since "The Church has no official position on the theory of evolution. Organic evolution, or changes to species’ inherited traits over time, is a matter for scientific study." we should not encourage others and ourselves to feel artificially pitted one side against another. Until said time when further revelation is available on this subject, we should continue to seek out truth wherever it lay as all truth will eventually point to our Father in Heaven as he is it's architect."

My 2 cents.

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@seashmore: I think those are excellent points.

1 hour ago, seashmore said:

If you don't anticipate anyone bringing it up, you probably don't need any contingency lesson plans.

That may be true. Sometimes, though, it is the instructors themselves who bring it up. One recent creation lesson I was in it was the instructor who made a snarky, eye roll inducing "I like The Big Bang Theory......It is an excellent TV show." I resisted the urge to comment, and nothing more was said along those lines, and I don't think it would have been worth the effort to try to tease out the extent (if any -- maybe it was just intended as a goofy joke) of his implied anti-science stance. We can follow the Spirit and avoid bringing up the topic, but it seems that someone somewhere will bring it up.

@NeedleinA [haystack]: If I were asked to teach a lesson like this, I have thought, too, that I might prefer to start with some kind of disclaimer like that. I just can't quite convince myself (perhaps because I don't currently have the stewardship to make such a decision) that it would really be better than not saying anything and hoping it doesn't come up.

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7 minutes ago, MrShorty said:

 We can follow the Spirit and avoid bringing up the topic, but it seems that someone somewhere will bring it up.

 

In which case, we can follow the Spirit and know whether a good tongue lashing is in order or whether it's best to mentally check out of the discussion and into our own scriptures.

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@Anddenex: I completely agree. The difficulty I foresee, as shown in the other thread (and almost every other thread on the topic here and elsewhere) is that we seem to have difficulty coming to a consensus agreement on what the Lord has/has not revealed. In some ways, whether as a teacher or a student, I think this is part of what I fear -- spending too much class time trying to decide exactly what the Lord has revealed. Or, because someone on one side of the debate decides to be vocal, the class discussion gives the impression that the debate is already clearly settled one way or the other.

If I were tasked with teaching this lesson (again, I am not this time around) and wanted to use an opening like this, I might phrase it more as -- "we are going to talk about what is recorded in scripture. and what [spiritual?] lessons we can glean from the creation accounts." Without committing one way or the other to a literal or figurative interpretation of scripture or what kind of implications the creation accounts have for our 21st century Mormon cosmology.

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10 minutes ago, seashmore said:

In which case, we can follow the Spirit and know whether a good tongue lashing is in order or whether it's best to mentally check out of the discussion and into our own scriptures.

That sounds right. We sometimes talk about the importance of "studying something out in our mind" in preparation to receiving such inspiration. Maybe part of what I am trying to do in this discussion is think through some of the possibilities in preparation for receiving that inspiration (whether its me in my class or any of you in your SS classes).

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14 hours ago, MrShorty said:

 that it would really be better than not saying anything and hoping it doesn't come up.

I'm of the opinion that the debate is too great and prevalent to simply ignore. If I were a class member I would actually hope that it is at least acknowledged. I do not think silence is our friend, but rather is our enemy. Take premarital SEX for example:

Quite often, but not always, in our efforts to sway our youth away from premarital sex we simply and continually give them short answers like "No" or "Don't do it". Youth, especially young women, then grow up actually thinking sex is bad or dirty, even after marriage. We have helped program youth by only giving them negative feedback about sex and never telling them how beautiful it really is once married. Often we tend to be silent on the benefits of marital sex as parents and at Church. This silence creates the negative side affect of what is called the "Good Girl Syndrome"

Quote

Parents who are embarrassed or uncomfortable with sex, and even their own sexual relationship, have a hard time communicating to their kids about sex in a way that is positive and affirming and even accurate.

Churches put their focus on helping kids avoid sex outside of marriage, which is great, but unfortunately they don’t always couple that with positive and affirming statements about the goodness of sex within marriage.

Similar to sex, our silence or ineffectiveness is discussing certain subjects like evolution can lead to a variety of problems, concerns & doubts. How many members have left the church because they felt trapped in a mental war between science vs. religion. This war is artificial at times and perhaps we can do better at acknowledging that it is often artificial. If we shy away from the subject we may end up with thinking intelligent members who may feel that the scientific evidence is too overwhelming in light of everyone at church crossing their fingers and simply remaining silent on the subject.

Again, my 2 cents.

Edited by NeedleinA
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@NeedleinA: Good point and good parallel. You expressed a concern that I think was lurking unexpressed beneath my concern. Acknowledging the existence of the debate could be important in giving ourselves permission to talk about it or explore both sides.

With sex ed, we will usually say (and it has come up on this forum before) that such discussion is good, but should be kept out of official Church settings like Sunday. Perhaps another part of the question might be what part of the literal creationism vs. theistic evolution and/or science vs. religion type debates are appropriate for a SS/GD class?

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17 hours ago, MrShorty said:

While following and even commenting on the recent topic on evolution (https://mormonhub.com/forums/topic/63530-adam-and-eve-and-evolution/), I have a slight sense of foreboding as we begin our study of the OT this year. Lesson 3 (https://www.lds.org/manual/old-testament-gospel-doctrine-teachers-manual?lang=eng) is on the creation, and, as the other thread (and many of the other attempts to discuss the topic on this forum over the years) shows, it has the potential to become a long debate generating more heat then light and otherwise getting bogged down in some irrelevant sub-topics. My intention is not to rehash the same discussion -- that can continue in the other thread. My intention here is to get advice and counsel from the peanut gallery mormonhub crowd for teachers and participants to make these lessons productive.

  1. What topics should be included?
  2. What should be avoided?
  3. I notice that the manual does not even acknowledge that these kind of debates exist. Is it better for the teacher to follow the manual and hope it doesn't come up or acknowledge the debate and explain that he/she does not want to delve into those kind of questions?
  4. When do you bite your tongue if someone brings up a topic on the "don't talk about that" list?
  5. When do you stop biting your tongue?

 

I think some good rules of thumb are, in all our class participation (both in sharing and learning) to 1) seek the Lord's will; 2) seek to add light to the conversation; 3) seek to commit and act on the truth you receive. I think our manuals and lesson materials are structured to encourage this. They are certainly not science manuals, but the rules of thumb would help in how we use any science in making a spiritual point. Everything should somehow point to Christ and His Atonement.

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1 hour ago, MrShorty said:

@NeedleinA: Good point and good parallel. You expressed a concern that I think was lurking unexpressed beneath my concern. Acknowledging the existence of the debate could be important in giving ourselves permission to talk about it or explore both sides.

With sex ed, we will usually say (and it has come up on this forum before) that such discussion is good, but should be kept out of official Church settings like Sunday. Perhaps another part of the question might be what part of the literal creationism vs. theistic evolution and/or science vs. religion type debates are appropriate for a SS/GD class?

I am of the opinion that debate, especially non-facilitated debate, is not conducive to the spirit of inspired councils, and our lesson settings are in many ways like councils, if I understand many of the principles taught in "Teaching In The Savior's Way." Some of of the principles guiding the school of the prophets was, "...cease from all your light speeches, from all laughter, from all your lustful desires, from all your pride and light-mindedness, and from all your wicked doings. Appoint among yourselves a teacher, and let not all be spokesmen at once; but let one speak at a time and let all listen unto his sayings, that when all have spoken that all may be edified of all, and that every man may have an equal privilege. See that ye love one another; cease to be covetous; learn to impart one to another as the gospel requires. Cease to be idle; cease to be unclean; cease to find fault one with another; cease to sleep longer than is needful; retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated [I take this to refer to our preparedness to participate in class]. And above all things, clothe yourselves with the bond of charity, as with a mantle, which is the bond of perfectness and peace."

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22 hours ago, CV75 said:

Everything should somehow point to Christ and His Atonement.

I definitely believe this is true. However, there may be a nuance in these particular lessons to explore. These lessons are dealing specifically with 2 of the 3 "pillars of the plan of salvation" (see video for OT lesson 4 from Elder Nelson's October '96 [I think] conference address). Some in the literal absolutely-no-death-before-the-fall-of-any-kind group will argue that any concession to evolutionary theory completely breaks the need for the atonement because it completely changes the fall and creation narratives. Again, my intention isn't to debate the validity of the argument, but more to explore how it should be talked about in a SS class where there could be good Mormons on both sides of the question. I agree with you that " non-facilitated debate, is not conducive to the spirit of inspired councils". I could see this discussion easily degenerating into something unhelpful. Any thoughts on what this looks like for better or worse in these specific SS classes?

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51 minutes ago, MrShorty said:

I definitely believe this is true. However, there may be a nuance in these particular lessons to explore. These lessons are dealing specifically with 2 of the 3 "pillars of the plan of salvation" (see video for OT lesson 4 from Elder Nelson's October '96 [I think] conference address). Some in the literal absolutely-no-death-before-the-fall-of-any-kind group will argue that any concession to evolutionary theory completely breaks the need for the atonement because it completely changes the fall and creation narratives. Again, my intention isn't to debate the validity of the argument, but more to explore how it should be talked about in a SS class where there could be good Mormons on both sides of the question. I agree with you that " non-facilitated debate, is not conducive to the spirit of inspired councils". I could see this discussion easily degenerating into something unhelpful. Any thoughts on what this looks like for better or worse in these specific SS classes?

I think taking a council approach to discuss potentially touchy subjects requires a bit of preparation.

When I see how a council operates, I see very little place for debate, but in the rare case it arises, the council leader needs to facilitate a productive discussion. This requires great skill, a gift of the Spirit. In the January Ensign there is an article about councils as the feature of the first Sunday of the month quorum and Relief Society meetings: https://www.lds.org/ensign/2018/01/to-sit-in-council?lang=eng. There is a section on the role of the leader. It says, “The council functions better as the council leader listens, guides, invites, protects, and validates.” I think this can be applied to the role of a teacher, and much of it is covered in “Teaching in the Savior’s Way.”

I think the teacher can set the tone by encouraging the class to participate by seeking the Lord’s will, to add light, and to commit to act on the principles taught. The first class of the year is a good time to do this, but periodic reminders are worth making.

I’m not sure why or how any class member, right out of the gate and without provocation, would start arguing for or against evolutionary theory when the subject of creation comes up. But I think it important to acknowledge that scripture is not science, that the lesson is designed to use the scriptures for discovering spiritual principles, and that these principles underlie the true meaning and purpose of the physical world around us.

It might be worth pointing out that what we see and understand with spiritual eyes helps us make sense of what we see and understand through our physical senses and the secular and scientific tools that help us properly steward this physical world, which tools we make plenty of time for outside of Sunday School per D&C 88:77-79, 118. Note that the reason for using the “best books” is to build faith in those have do not have it, not to challenge or oppose faith with the secular and scientific knowledge gained thereby.

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I teach in Relief Society. If someone wants to get very off topic for a long period of time, I ask them to talk to me after class. During class, I suggest books ‘Shaken Faith Syndrome’ and Websites ‘Fair Mormon’. The church under ldsnewsroom, provides lectures on sensitive topics like pologamy.

Edited by Sunday21
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I would recommend that the instructor be prepared for such comments. They may never come up, but if they do it is best to be prepared. As a general rule, the principle consideration for me would be:

  • What do I want the class to get out of such a discussion?

That would drive the rest. If I don't think there's anything worthwhile that would come from it, I would table it as @Sunday21 mentioned. If I thought it was really important for the class, I would draw attention to those points as it came up. If I thought there was a strong likelihood that relationships or testimonies could be harmed, I would find ways to mitigate that. Some methods:

  • tactfully reiterate that we aren't getting into that today.
  • recommend some resources for personal study and refer them to that as it comes up
  • frame the discussion at the start (with the Fall for instance, there's so many themes that play out (dominion/stewardship, redemption, work, sacrifice, repentance, revelation) that you have to be extremely focused with your short time - let the class know that and it limits the scope of the discussion)
  • set a hard stop time for any discussion and let the class know upfront what that time allotment is
  • invite a few faithful members to share why they believe as they do, and then refer class members to them for additional discussion (if possible, give them advance notice and remind them that it's not a debate and they need to do so in a way that doesn't drive away the Spirit). You may also consider having another faithful member share that it doesn't bother them one way or the other.
  • Draw attention to the important principles that are agree on by all parties.
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I would point out that the discussion concerning the “Creation” is taking place in a Gospel Doctrine class and that we will discuss the symbolism given us concerning our covenants provided in scripture.  I would point out that if anyone wants to discuss scientific applications – that I would be more than glad to entertain questions and discussions of non-doctrinal possibilities and probabilities outside of the class.

As the class progressed any efforts to hijack the discussion – I would simply table any questions or comments – indicating that they are more appropriate for another circumstance.    Not because they are not true or not needing resolution – just not for Gospel Doctrine Class.

 

The Traveler

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Certainly the instructor has a large (the largest?) part to play here as the moderator of the discussion. I like the idea of "tabling" a discussion if it is getting away from the desired goals of the lesson. Hopefully we as participants in the class are mindful of our instructor's attempts to direct and moderate the discussions and do our best to "follow along" ("go along to get along???") even when we feel we have something important to contribute or the discussion has ended in place we didn't like. This can be important, because not all of our GD teachers are skilled at moderating difficult discussions.

Perhaps an example from mormonhub (I recognize that a mormonhub thread is quite different from a SS class, but I think this will illustrate). Pam recently posted some OT reading threads for discussion. For the Genesis 1 thread (https://mormonhub.com/forums/topic/63593-genesis-chapter-1-january-1-2018/ ), she also included two discussion points, one a quote from Elder Rudger Clawson commenting on the phrase "after its kind" where he states that this " answers perfectly the false doctrine of evolution." I think my questions the OP could be summarized as:

  • Should this quote be brought up in SS?
  • If it is brought up, should I respond with some form of "that is Elder Clawson's opinion, but I disagree with him"?
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If I was the teacher this is what I would say:

1.)  This is not a science class.  Let's leave the science of Genesis to the science class.

2.)  This is a spiritual class.  Let's discuss the spiritual implications of Genesis.

But that's probably why I'm never called to this calling.  :)

 

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@anatess2: I agree that a class like this can and should separate the science from the spiritual. This is one of those lessons where the scientific and the spiritual come close enough together to intersect or nearly intersect. I think instructors and participants could both use a little extra preparation and think ahead about the ways that the science of creation can intersect with the spiritual lessons of the creation.

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  • 1 month later...

I don't know if anyone is interested. Our class finished lesson 6 today, so I thought I would report how our classes went.

Lesson 3 was straightforward, mostly as given in the lesson manual.

Lesson 4 did not get into these issues, but a different issue came up that I don't know if I agree with (God: "I command you not to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Wink Wink nudge nudge because I'm giving you a commandment I intend you to break." Does God give commandments with the intent that we will disregard them?)

Lesson 6  was mostly good. The instructor did go a short ways down the flood was a literal global flood and there was lots of water that came up out of the ground and down from the sky to completely cover even the highest mountains. I did not contradict the class here, so anyone who wasn't sure about the church's stance would have come away believing that the Church teaches a literal, global flood.

I would be curious how other's SS classes went, if any of them tackled some of these questions.

Edited by MrShorty
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