Seminary Manual vs. non-LDS Scripture Commentary

Public forum to discuss questions about Mormon history and doctrine.
Post Reply
User avatar
QuestionAbound
Posts: 250
Joined: 13 May 2013, 17:57

Seminary Manual vs. non-LDS Scripture Commentary

Post by QuestionAbound » 01 Dec 2019, 09:52

I am teaching seminary.

I like the teacher manual for some things, but I find that I actually gain more insight and love for the scriptures when I use online commentary by those of other faiths.

The commentaries that I read delve into word syntax, historical background and, best of all, thought-provoking insight and real-life applications that make me so excited to be studying the NT!

I mark my scriptures so much more after reading those commentaries. Like, I feel like I am finally "seeing" things in the verses that I missed during my seminary time and things that I would definitely not get from the LDS manual. I feel like I am connecting to the scriptures in awesome ways.

I guess I feel like the commentaries make me learn FROM the scriptures instead of from the manual or from other Church leaders. I am starting to notice things meant for ME after the commentary. It's like I am getting "back to basics" and it feels ... clean and simple. ugh - does that make sense?

I also feel a little guilty for "cheating" when preparing my lessons.

On some level I feel like I can find truth in many places (not just at our church meetings), but on another level, I suppose I feel like Church-published products should be the only source for my lesson prep.

So, I'd appreciate two things from this group:

1 - validation that truth can come from non-covenant members (I do follow my gut...if I read a commentary that is way different from what I believe and if it makes me feel "off," then I move on ... I work based on emotion and feeling).

2 - What the heck am I going to do next year when we study the BOM? :roll:

TIA

User avatar
Ilovechrist77
Posts: 667
Joined: 08 Nov 2011, 21:42

Re: Seminary Manual vs. non-LDS Scripture Commentary

Post by Ilovechrist77 » 01 Dec 2019, 19:33

I think that's great that you use non-LDS commentary for the scriptures in seminary other than the LDS seminary manuals. After I had my faith transition, I hardly ever read, listen, or watch talks or listen to the opinions of the General Authorities, unless it's Uctdorf or a few others I might like. Feeling guilty I believe that I believe is normal. We're often taught so much of what we teach others is supposed to be the official teachings of the church. I don't have a problem, but what makes that hard is when so many of the teachings have changed over time. Because of modern-day revelation, we've had some great changes in the church, like the 2-hour Sunday block instead of the 3-hour one, home teaching changing to ministering, gay couples now being allowed to have their children baptized versus now, and probably many more. Unfortunately, one of the changes that has brought problems in the church is correlation. Now, I have no problem with order. There needs to order in things. Chaos isn't good. I believe there's order in heaven or the celestial kingdom, but I believe it's pretty flexible, not rigid like many things have been and are on this earth. When it comes to your teaching in seminary, just do what the Spirit or inspiration tells you to do. Unless you're teaching things that there too extreme, I wouldn't think you have anything to worry about.

User avatar
LookingHard
Posts: 2918
Joined: 20 Oct 2014, 12:11

Re: Seminary Manual vs. non-LDS Scripture Commentary

Post by LookingHard » 02 Dec 2019, 05:22

The last time I sub'ed for Gospel Doctrine I spent about 3 hours looking mainly at other sources and learned a TON of information. The lesson outline in the book could be read in about 3 minutes. I was able to give the context of what was going on and other meanings that were not touched on in lesson book. The only negative is it didn't really create much of an exchange. It was more me talking.

So good for you.

User avatar
DarkJedi
Posts: 6747
Joined: 24 Aug 2013, 20:53

Re: Seminary Manual vs. non-LDS Scripture Commentary

Post by DarkJedi » 02 Dec 2019, 06:12

Generally when I give lessons or talks I look at other sources, especially for context and word meanings. I use the Oxford Study Bible for my personal study. When I do use church scriptures I avoid reading the little summaries at the beginning of the chapters. I believe Come Follow Me encourages is to gain our own understanding and not rely on what others say it means.

I'm also at a loss for next year.
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

My Introduction

Roy
Posts: 5809
Joined: 07 Oct 2010, 14:16
Location: Pacific Northwest

Re: Seminary Manual vs. non-LDS Scripture Commentary

Post by Roy » 02 Dec 2019, 12:38

In general, I feel that Sunday School, Seminary, and Institute are for the primary purpose of indoctrination (building testimony). Teaching information would be lagging far behind. Because of this I feel that we read the bible with the purpose of confirming our own modern beliefs and not as we might read a manuscript from a long ago people and strange religion. This is proof texting and many churches do the same.

As the instructor, I feel that you would have fairly broad leeway to include other sources as long as what you teach is not faith upsetting (upsetting to the students confidence in and loyalty to the LDS church). Because this is NT, I imagine that there is not too much information that directly challenges any LDS truth claims.

I have really enjoyed Curt's recaps of his SS lessons to the youth. One common theme is that there may be different ways to interpret the scriptures. Curt has his thoughts and other church members (even leaders) have their thought but that there is room for differences and that is ok.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

User avatar
Heber13
Posts: 7145
Joined: 22 Apr 2009, 16:37
Location: In the Middle

Re: Seminary Manual vs. non-LDS Scripture Commentary

Post by Heber13 » 05 Dec 2019, 21:00

Roy wrote:
02 Dec 2019, 12:38
As the instructor, I feel that you would have fairly broad leeway to include other sources as long as what you teach is not faith upsetting (upsetting to the students confidence in and loyalty to the LDS church). Because this is NT, I imagine that there is not too much information that directly challenges any LDS truth claims.
I was thinking this as well. When I'm asked to speak or teach, I try to remember the purpose for the group, over my own interest. I like reading new takes on things, and find truth outside the church. CS Lewis and other non-mormon sources are used often when in support of the lesson. And new takes are fresh and interesting to me over rehashed GC quotes that get boring after a while.

But what is interesting to me may not be interesting to others.

I don't think anyone has all truth, or has it completely figured out any more than others, or I would leave our church and go to the group that is teaching it perfect.

Since I don't believe that exists, I'm fine with my religion and take it cafeteria style, including buffet items from other religions. And teach it in positive uplifting ways.

Seminary is a great program for youth to have positive things in their life on a regular basis as they go through school. The students probably hear a small percentage of what is taught...but there are golden moments of things that impress them from time to time, and I respect your service and time to think of what sources may best help them. The best teachers to my kids have been ones who care enough to find things that make them think. So I applaud your efforts. You're probably doing it better than most.
Luke: "Why didn't you tell me? You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father."
Obi-Wan: "Your father... was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true... from a certain point of view."
Luke: "A certain point of view?"
Obi-Wan: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to...depend greatly on our point of view."

Curt Sunshine
Site Admin
Posts: 16636
Joined: 21 Oct 2008, 20:24

Re: Seminary Manual vs. non-LDS Scripture Commentary

Post by Curt Sunshine » 06 Dec 2019, 18:22

Our Articles of Faith state pretty clearly that we are to take good things from any source.

That is authoritative enough for me. I use any source I believe is a good one. I know that can open up the chance of some crazy crap being preached by someone, but I have to allow that possibility if I want to have that right to try to teach the best lessons I can.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

User avatar
SamBee
Posts: 5418
Joined: 14 Mar 2010, 04:55

Re: Seminary Manual vs. non-LDS Scripture Commentary

Post by SamBee » 07 Dec 2019, 17:36

I have done this before. I even quoted a Jewish idea in a talk. As always discretion is advised. Non -LDS sources are not infallible or even helpful in some circumstances.
QuestionAbound wrote:
01 Dec 2019, 09:52
2 - What the heck am I going to do next year when we study the BOM? :roll:
There are some good books on the BoM, but here are a few suggestions:

* Much of the BoM is related to the Bible, and quotes from the Bible. That's a win for you. All that Isaiah stuff means you can do the same as before.
* Study Terryl Givens and some other writers on the BoM. They don't just fit into the usual TBM vs Anti-Mormon dichotomy but discuss literary style etc.
* There is an excellent online resource about the BoM whose address I forget. Don't bother with Wikipedia. I find it not detailed enough on the BoM and also too anti.
* As a curveball, why not see what the Community of Christ say about the BoM? We are not the only church to use it and their opinion is probably worth looking at (unlike FLDS etc)

As I said above - discretion. Don't try and rock the boat, but do try for different perspectives.
DASH1730 "An Area Authority...[was] asked...who...would go to the Telestial kingdom. His answer: "murderers, adulterers and a lot of surprised Mormons!"'
1ST PRES 1978 "[LDS] believe...there is truth in many religions and philosophies...good and great religious leaders... have raised the spiritual, moral, and ethical awareness of their people. When we speak of The [LDS] as the only true church...it is...authorized to administer the ordinances...by Jesus Christ... we do not mean... it is the only teacher of truth."

User avatar
Gerald
Posts: 406
Joined: 29 Sep 2011, 04:57

Re: Seminary Manual vs. non-LDS Scripture Commentary

Post by Gerald » 08 Dec 2019, 05:59

I have taught Gospel Doctrine off and on for a while and regularly look at outside commentary for assistance. While not all ideas are appropriate for lessons, I have received some wonderful insights from other faiths regarding scriptural interpretation. The New Testament has been particularly rewarding because there is so much secular and scriptural work around that book. Perhaps it's a bit sly, but I always carefully introduce a few of the academic ideas while contrasting them with the strict LDS interpretation. For example, I always begin with authorship of the books (from the secular perspective) as it's a fairly benign way to make those points. And then, I bring in some other ideas. Now in fairness to the Church, there are some good resources via their website that I have relied upon as well. Such ideas may not be in the manuals but they're out there. And it's always good to have that as a resource in case someone challenges you (hasn't happened to me as yet but I still try to be careful).

As for the Book of Mormon....well, there's a whole journal called "Journal of Book of Mormon Studies" (I'm not at all familiar with it so take what I say with a grain of salt) that might provide ideas for "digging deeper." While you may not be able to rely on much scholarly info to enhance lessons (aside from what members of the Church do), you can still explore some of the ideas using other sources. For example, as long as you're not veering from LDS doctrine, I don't see why you couldn't pull in a more "secular" idea like Fowler's Stages of Faith when discussing that topic in, say, The Book of Alma. I think my students (granted, who are adults) appreciate a lesson that sounds just a little different from the standard "let's read the scripture and discuss it in the same way it's been discussed for the last thirty years" lesson.
So through the dusk of dead, blank-legended And unremunerative years we search to get where life begins, and still we groan because we do not find the living spark where no spark ever was; and thus we die, still searching, like poor old astronomers who totter off to bed and go to sleep, to dream of untriangulated stars.
---Edwin Arlington Robinson---

Post Reply