Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Use Proper Sources!

So, as most of you know, the Gospel Doctrine class this week fell into chaos when the teacher, Sister Simms, “went off the reservation,” and started talking about nuances from the Book of Abraham papyri that made others in the class uncomfortable. I have to apologize. Clearly there was a misunderstanding about the need to stay on-task and teach strictly from the manual, and the buck stops with me. (Well, I suppose that Brother Squires also shares some responsibility, as Sunday School President, in not training teachers properly).

So, talk about inspired timing! This Monday - as every Monday - I eagerly unfolded my crisp, new Church News and there was the answer to the dilemma - straight from the inspired-horse’s mouth, if you will. The article, Use Proper Sources,” from the January 9, 2010 edition of LDS Church News provides a terrific example that all teachers should study and follow.

In the article, a poor woman was trying desperately to plan an interesting lesson from the not-always-thrilling lesson manual by bringing in additional information. The process was, "time consuming and frustrating." Her kind daughter found her in this condition and had some loving, thoughtful advice (and I quote from the article):

"Why," the daughter asked, "are you trying to boil down information? An inspired Church-writing committee has already done that for you."

The committee's work, the daughter continued, has been approved by the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency. It has been translated into dozens of languages and sent around the world. It corresponds with the lessons and information taught at the same time to other auxiliaries and quorums in the Church.

"Everything you need — and more — is in your manual," the daughter said."

The article continues with:

"We may be tempted to do more, to turn to unofficial lesson plans, resources and information found in books and on the Internet. Sometimes, the material might seem like an easy solution to meet the time-consuming demands of Church service. Other times it might feel like a way to spice up a lesson or activity.

But leaders and teachers in the Church do themselves and the people they serve a disservice when they turn to unofficial — not correlated — materials in the planning of lessons and activities.

The woman then turned off her computer, shut the dozens of books open on her dining room table and picked up her manual and scriptures. The frustration she had previously experienced disappeared. She knew the material was doctrinally accurate. She knew its source was valid. She knew it had been approved by the men called to lead the Lord's work on the earth today and that it was what they wanted her to teach.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks said in his October 1999 general conference address that as he traveled the Church he had been pleased and impressed with how Relief Society and priesthood lessons were presented and received.

"However," he added, "I have sometimes observed teachers who gave the designated chapter no more than a casual mention and then presented a lesson and invited discussion on other materials of the teacher's choice. That is not acceptable. No matter how brilliant he may be and how many new truths he may think he has found, he has no right to go beyond the program of the Church."

Well, I have to admit, that this brought a tear to my eye. Such a simple, inspired solution to all the needless and time-consuming lesson planning! I know way too many members (well, Sisters), that instead a quick once-over of the lesson manual during Sacrament meeting like the Elders and High Priests, spend countless hours at home trying to figure out interesting methods of enhancing their lessons. No more!

Additionally, I've now heard rumors that by next year all classes Church-wide will be delivered via DVD videos. Classes will still have teachers, but solely for noise control and pushing the DVD ‘play’ button. Classes will be allowed the last 2 minutes of the alloted class time to discuss the current topic and have a closing prayer.


  1. "Additionally, I've now heard rumors that by next year all classes Church-wide will be delivered via DVD videos. Classes will still have teachers, but solely for noise control and pushing the DVD ‘play’ button."

    lol. Now that would sure be some kind of "correlation".

  2. Awesome News! Now if we can only transition into prepared Sacrament Meeting talks written in MormonHQ at SLC. Can't have people spouting off their own viewpoints. :)

  3. SC - Not sure if you're last Stake Conference was like ours, but it was one step better than you suggest. Not only prepared, but delivered via satellite broadcast. At least I didn't have to worry about doing a cold-call testimony.

    So, perhaps broadcast Sacrament meetings isn't that far of a stretch...

  4. Thanks, Bishop Mike. I came across your blog from an unofficial link in NOM.
    I have to admit that once I prerecorded my son's primary talk. He refused to stand in front of any group. But that day, he stood behind the TV/DVD player while his talk played. Ward members still talk about it.
    I think I may have been ahead of the church in this regard.

  5. SC, they already have HQ prepare the talks. They just assign you to do a redux of a GA talk from General Conference.

  6. Pica - One word: Visionary.

    Brock - So true. Same goes for every first Sunday HP/EQ/RS lesson.

  7. Wow, I threw up in my mouth a little when I read that article. What a subtle way of helping everyone avoid any alternate viewpoint on any church related topic or doctrine. I know I always use the whitewashed fairy tale version of all church related doctrine in my talks/presentations. Hence, I didn't need his reminder. Thanks anyway Bishop. See you Sunday.

  8. Thank you Bishop!! I was preparing for my lesson in Elders Quorum, and I just couldn't think of any questions that would stimulate the minds of 20-40 year old professionals. Then I looked in the Glorious Manual, and there they were!!!

    "Does Lehi Love his Family?"
    "What are the blessing of following the Prophet?"
    "How does this teach us to be more like the Savior?"

    These questions will really tickle the intellect and get a good discusssion in the last 2 minutes of class during our allotted discussion time!

  9. Unstable - I'm glad you're on-board! Just remember that those two minutes need to be managed carefully to accommodate both discussion and the prayer. Honestly, it will be much easier with the DVDs. I think they'll also take care of the discussion and closing prayer for you.

  10. I'm with monomo. Does the manual address whether you should spit it out or choke it back down in these situations? Monomo, any advice? Bishop?

  11. Bishop, I know you are a little miffed at me for turning down the last three callings you have offered to me. I would just like to let you know that I would gladely accept a calling as "Dvd player button pusher". Especially if i could just be the "start" button pusher and then someone else could be the "stop" button pusher. This would give more people a chance to serve and I could sneak out early.

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