Sunday, March 22, 2009

What Worked? Gospel Doctrine Lessons 11 and 12

Our friend Easton suggested in a comment on an earlier post that it might be helpful to hear from others what worked (or did not work) in the lessons we are teaching. Because I am not sure what lesson most people are on, I thought I would solicit thoughts and feedback on Lesson 11 (The Field is White) and Lesson 12 (The Gathering of My People).

Please leave comments about how you taught these lessons and what was successful. I am always interested to hear good questions that generated discussions or topics that really engaged the class.

Let's hear what worked!


  1. Hey, thanks Teach, for running with my suggestion. I actually had a pretty fun time teaching this lesson. I emphasized a few key concepts and built the lesson around them.

    One idea that keeps creeping into my lessons is the fact that the best way to change behavior is by preaching the gospel. Boyd K. Packer and Paul Toscano made an excellent point that the power of the gospel lies in it's ability to change behavior without even the mention of the bad behavior. How do people stop drinking? By contemplating and practicing the atonement, and not by fixating on stopping drinking.

    The atonement and the gospel built around that is not necessarily legalistic, and that it even might be counterproductive to emphasize that. What causes motivation for change is concepts like the First Vision, the Restoration, mankind's eternal progression and destiny (as taught in the King Follet discource, etc). And the only way to get that to people is through missionary work.

    The other thing I always enjoy talking about is how one missionary knocked on my Mom's apartment door in Southern California when she was 18. She was baptized. My brother and sister and I served missions, bringing more people into the church, and we've had plenty of kids who are faithful too. All because of one missionary. We all have stories like that, and it's miraculous.

  2. I taught Lesson 11 this week. I focused a lot on the personal situation and background of the individuals to whom each revelation was addressed. (I recently received as a gift a book called "Who's Who in the Doctrine & Covenants" by Susan Easton Black. It has a biographical sketch on every individual mentioned in the D&C. It is a good resource.) In addition to talking about the individuals, I talked about what it means to be called, what we are called to do, and how we respond to our calling(s). I thought the historical context for the individual revelations made it interesting and easy for the class to understand the desires of these people to serve in the kingdom.

  3. I'm interested in how you generated the discussion on church callings. What a great way to personalize the lesson. Regarding that, what kind of questions did you ask? What kind of responses did you get?

  4. Easton: I asked questions about what was meant by "calling" and what were are called to do. I asked about what it meant to us today to be called because we have desires, and what it meant today to thrust in our sickle with our might. I talked about serving with your heart, might, mind and strength, and told the Joseph Smith, Sr. story. I also talked about how our callings for us today are pretty well defined, but that these people were seeking guidance in a completely new paradigm. What do you think of those ideas?

  5. Sounds like a great direction to take the lesson. I especially like the idea of comparing the way people served in the Church in those days compared to how we do it today. I too asked questions along those lines (how can we serve, or show committment as Joseph Smith Sr. did?), and got some good feedback, but nothing I'd say was unexpected from the group.

  6. I did not teach this week, but had the chance to observe someone else teach Lesson 12. The teacher took a very interesting approach. He framed the lesson in an overall discussion of scatterings and gatherings. He talked about the full range, from families leaving home in the morning and returning at night, to the plan of salvation and God's desire to gather his children all back to him. It was kind of thought provoking. It allowed for discussions on a broad range of topics, like family home evening and family prayer, temple and missionary work, avoiding evil, etc. The teacher discussed why God would scatter his children (growth, experience, etc.) and why he gathers them (strength, edification, safety, love, etc.) The lesson included references to Kirtland, Missouri and Nauvoo but, interestingly, did not include a single scripture.

    I am not sure I would leave out all scripture references. And, I wondered what motivated the teacher (a very well-read and experienced Church leader) to focus on very "macro" issues, rather than on the specific revelations and their context. Was he avoiding some of the sticky issues and questions about what led to the gatherings and scatterings in Kirtland, Missouri and Nauvoo? I don’t really know but, all in all, it was a pretty interesting and enjoyable lesson.

  7. Like you, I observed the lesson, and also like you, our other Gospel Doctrine instructor is a very experienced Church leader and a journalist. He's got "madd skilzz" compared to my measily effort.

    He focused on the move from New York to Kirtland, shared 5 scriptures or so that followed that story. He has spent a lot of time in those areas so fleshed out the environment quite a bit. He really didn't talk about how this applies to us personally, though.

    That tends to turn my wife off. At home, I asked her what she wants out of Gospel Doctrine. Her reply was that she wants practical advice on how to apply the gospel. When pressed further about scriptural based dicussions (my preference) she replied with tongue slightly in cheek, that she wasn't the least bit interested in that.

    I find that many GD instructors fail to turn to the scriptures (a personal pet peeve - why in the world are we there if not for the scriptures?), but to many others, the scriptures are just part (sometimes a minor part) of gospel observance. Maybe your team teacher was going that direction.


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