My next GD lesson --HELP!

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MayB
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My next GD lesson --HELP!

Post by MayB » 17 Aug 2013, 14:31

So, my next lesson is coming up in a little over a week and I'm having a hard time with it. I'm teaching lesson #32: To Seal the Testimony. It's about the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum Smith. The purpose of the lesson reads: "To teach class members about the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith and to strengthen their testimonies of his calling as a prophet of God." The manual suggests comparing Joseph to other scriptural prophets who died for truth, like Abinidai. Then tells the story of what happened at Carthage(the official church version of course). Then it proceeds to use the John Taylor quote about JS doing more for mankind than anyone except Christ and go over every doctrine he brought about, why they're so wonderful and true, how he willingly laid down his life as a testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel, etc.

Here's the problem: I have a conflicted relationship with JS right now. I no longer see him as THE prophet of God who restored THE ONLY true church to the earth. Some of these lessons that feel like JS worship can really get me in a tizzy.

I'm thinking I might prefer to use other religious or political martyrs who died for what they believed in rather than BOM ones to begin the class. I'd like to teach about the events that led to JS being in Carthage and his death, rather than simply tell the story of what happened when he was killed. This would mean bringing up things like why William Law left the church (over plural marriage), Thomas Sharp and his influence on public opinion, the charges that brought Joseph to Carthage in the first place, etc.
I don't really want to go over all the revelations and doctrine that JS taught and how wonderful and true it all is because I don't feel like I could do that in an honest way right now with where I am in this whole faith crisis/transition thing. And I don't want to compare him to Christ. I want to present him as a man who believed in what he was doing and felt it was right. I want to present him as a human being complete with strengths, weaknesses, faults, and wonderful moments.

Any ideas, suggestions, references for how I could do this in a way that won't cause too many waves? Maybe just little ripples?
MayB

Curt Sunshine
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Re: My next GD lesson --HELP!

Post by Curt Sunshine » 17 Aug 2013, 17:01

If I was teaching the lesson, I certainly would go over the main issues that played a part in his death, which means I would bring up polygamy and the destruction of the press - and probably only those things. They are well-established and can be addressed very briefly.

I would bring up the lamb to the slaughter quote - but emphasize that Joseph still didn't die willingly (that they had guns to defend themselves), even if they were sure they would die. I don't think there is any conflict there - since many people throughout history have known they would die but refused to be killed without a fight.

I like the idea of using non-scriptural examples of people who died for their beliefs, and I probably would point out that most of them believed something that others found threatening and were killed as a result - and many of them believed things we personally don't believe. I might ask them to think seriously about whether or not we can accept others who are different than we are. Perhaps at that point, I would start a discussion about how we should be careful of dismissing and persecuting others who see things differently than we do - that we ought to act more like Alexander Doniphan and less like Governor Boogs in our dealings with people with whom we disagree. I might take a quote or two from mackay11's excellent quotes post (whatever it's called) and/or Pres. Uchtodorf's talks and discuss how much we need differing perspectives in the Church in order to learn from each other.

Alexander Doniphan is a great example, I think, for a lesson like this - since he wasn't a believer in Joseph's prophetic mission. He simply was working to avert what he considered to be a terrible moral wrong.
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

Minyan Man
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Re: My next GD lesson --HELP!

Post by Minyan Man » 17 Aug 2013, 20:38

A little different approach, I would probably look at others that are not as famous to discuss. For example, this is a list
missionaries that have died for their beliefs. www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Latter_Day_Saint_martyrs
There are Sister missionaries on the list too.
One of the missionaries on this list use to baby sit for my sons.
I believe that missionary work is more dangerous than we like to admit sometimes.

Just a thought.

church0333
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Re: My next GD lesson --HELP!

Post by church0333 » 17 Aug 2013, 22:10

I couldn't do it at this point. I know what I would want to say but after this last few weeks and getting released from my calling I would find someone else. I know that doesn't help you at all and I'm sorry but I do wish you the best. Don't teach it as you described the manual said because you will feel dirty afterward.

Brown
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Re: My next GD lesson --HELP!

Post by Brown » 17 Aug 2013, 23:34

You were given the assignment to teach a class and were given curriculum to teach. Your job isn't to filter or teach the gospel according to you. Just teach what it is in the book and let the class participate and carry the conversation where they will. Trying to rewrite the manual only makes your job harder and robs the class of what they showed up to hear. If you want to preach your own understanding of the gospel, then I think you should rent your own building and teach it there. If you want to present some of your own opinions as such or open them for discussion, then that is probably not a bad idea.

I struggle with many of the same things you do, but that's irrelevant in this case. If you can't teach the curriculum as provided by the church, then I think you should step down from the calling of GD teacher because you aren't fulfilling it. Sorry if this seems blunt.

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mackay11
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My next GD lesson --HELP!

Post by mackay11 » 18 Aug 2013, 05:17

I'm not sure I agree Brown. MayB has been called. If they call someone on the "middle way" the that's what they get. Her Bishop has already told her that he supports her giving a nuanced lesson.

May, I'd really struggle too. I had tge lesson on liberty jail for primary today. We briefly discussed the jail and circumstances and what the awful conditions were like, and then spent the rest of the lesson on "my yolk is easy and my burden is light."

This article is quite detailed (including the gun fight and his lawyer trying to get him out)
http://www.lds.org/ensign/1994/06/martyrdom-at-carthage

You could run through the events of the 48 hours in detail from this. Possibly get a big map of the area and map out what happened.

I might move the second half of the lesson to how we're asked to "live" for our convictions today, not die for them.

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On Own Now
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Re: My next GD lesson --HELP!

Post by On Own Now » 18 Aug 2013, 07:44

MabB,

A few thoughts:

- I like your bringing in other martyrs and discussing what patterns lead to this situation. Peter and Paul were martyrs. Many early popes (including Clement of Rome, Pontian, Fabian, and Sixtus II) were martyrs. Jesus was the greatest martyr of all. What's interesting in all these cases, and in the case of JS, is that the death of the leader was expected to be an act that would help bring down the movement. But it didn't.

- You could focus, not on JS, but on his followers. What did the death of JS do to them? What was it about JS's teachings that had brought about a church that was able to survive after such a traumatic experience? I think it should rightly be considered an important legacy of JS that he distributed ownership of the church and gospel among its people. In other words, you could focus less on the dead, and more on the living, of the martrydom.

- In regards to the John Taylor editorial that later became D&C 135 and the "has done more, save Jesus only" statement. It's easy to find offence in this statement, because on the surface, it sounds like a comparison of JS with Jesus. But in reality, what JT was saying is that Jesus is in a category all to himself, but when you go way down the line and get to the rest of us mere mortals, JS was the most influential in religious thought compared to any of the rest of us. From a purely LDS perspective, I don't think this is inaccurate. I mean, who, exactly, should the LDS faithful think has had more impact on their religion? I personally, would argue for Paul, but hey, I'm not purely LDS. I used to think I had the "best dad in the world". Was he? Well, logically, I'd have to say probably not. But what is the point of arguing it? He was the best dad in the world TO ME.

- D&C 135 also has this statement that we gloss over: "henceforth their names will be classed among the martyrs of religion." It doesn't say they are the best martyrs ever. It doesn't say they are the only true martyrs since Peter and Paul. It doesn't say "martyrs of our church"... It says, "martyrs of religion." That is a powerful statement because it recognizes a sort of kinship with others who have suffered tragedy because of their beliefs. We are on the same team, not opposing teams. It's a rare unifying statement with others who believe in God. I would use this along with your "other martyrs" discussion.

- Finally, if you don't think you can pull it off, simply get a substitute. I mean that with complete soberness. I have asked people to fill in for me, when the subject matter was too uncomfortable for me. I asked to be released from my GD calling when we entered a BofM year, because I knew I could not teach the lessons from it with proper sincerity.

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MayB
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Re: My next GD lesson --HELP!

Post by MayB » 20 Aug 2013, 13:14

Thanks for all your replies. Sorry it's taken me a few days to get back on here.
Brown wrote:I struggle with many of the same things you do, but that's irrelevant in this case. If you can't teach the curriculum as provided by the church, then I think you should step down from the calling of GD teacher because you aren't fulfilling it. Sorry if this seems blunt.
No need to apologize. I appreciate your straightforward comment. I had only accepted this calling a few weeks before my faith transition/crisis/whatever hit me over the head and my first reaction was a desire to step down. I knew I wouldn't be able to teach the way the manual wanted me to. The bishop wanted me to stay and I've been teaching for about 9 months now. As Ray mentioned, my bishop comes to my class regularly and has repeatedly expressed appreciation and support for my way of teaching. I've also had members of my class thank me for presenting things in a way that is truthful and gets them to really think a little harder or differently about certain things. It looks like I will be stepping down soon for other reasons that I won't go into here. (I'll probably vent/whine/explain over on the support board) This will probably be my last lesson.

I had sincerely considered getting a substitute for this one as a couple of you mentioned. However, after doing some more reading and thinking about it, I'm pretty sure I can teach it in a way that honors Joseph's dedication to his beliefs and to the people that he led without turning into all-out idol worship.

Mike, thank you for the list of missionaries who died while serving and for that line of thought. Mackay, thanks for that Ensign article. I really enjoyed reading it and feel like it paints a pretty good picture of the events surrounding what happened at Carthage.
On Own Now wrote: D&C 135 also has this statement that we gloss over: "henceforth their names will be classed among the martyrs of religion." It doesn't say they are the best martyrs ever. It doesn't say they are the only true martyrs since Peter and Paul. It doesn't say "martyrs of our church"... It says, "martyrs of religion." That is a powerful statement because it recognizes a sort of kinship with others who have suffered tragedy because of their beliefs. We are on the same team, not opposing teams. It's a rare unifying statement with others who believe in God. I would use this along with your "other martyrs" discussion.
Thank you. I really like this.
Ray Degraw wrote:I like the idea of using non-scriptural examples of people who died for their beliefs, and I probably would point out that most of them believed something that others found threatening and were killed as a result - and many of them believed things we personally don't believe. I might ask them to think seriously about whether or not we can accept others who are different than we are. Perhaps at that point, I would start a discussion about how we should be careful of dismissing and persecuting others who see things differently than we do - that we ought to act more like Alexander Doniphan and less like Governor Boogs in our dealings with people with whom we disagree. I might take a quote or two from mackay11's excellent quotes post (whatever it's called) and/or Pres. Uchtodorf's talks and discuss how much we need differing perspectives in the Church in order to learn from each other.
Ray, I love this idea! Sometimes I feel like a lot of my lessons boil down to looking at the way we think about and treat each other, not just in the church but in the world. That's what Christ taught was to love one another and sometimes I feel like, especially with all the rules and checklists that our particular religion seems to employ, we get too caught up in judging one another and forget to simply love, accept, and treat each other well.

Thanks for all of your help guys! This place is such a wealth of knowledge, ideas and perspectives. :smile:
MayB

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mom3
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Re: My next GD lesson --HELP!

Post by mom3 » 20 Aug 2013, 20:57

Good Luck May-

I wanted to add 2 thoughts. The first one is a quote from church history that may be helpful to add with D&C 135. It is a quote Packard used in GC.
"The Prophet Joseph Smith had borrowed the volumes of the Book of Martyrs by the sixteenth-century English cleric John Foxe from the mother of Edward Stevenson of the Seventy. After he read them, he said, “I have, by the aid of the Urim and Thummim, seen those martyrs, and they were honest, devoted followers of Christ, according to the light they possessed, and they will be saved.”
The second part is that for me in the knowledge of the other martyrs is very important to my faith, and allows me room to allow Joseph Smith the value that he died for his religious convictions. He didn't do everything perfectly or even correctly, but he would answer to God for it.

I don't know if this will help your lesson, either way I really do think you will do fantastically. You have my prayers.
"I stayed because it was God and Jesus Christ that I wanted to follow and be like, not individual human beings." Chieko Okazaki Dialogue interview

"I am coming to envision a new persona for the Church as humble followers of Jesus Christ....Joseph and his early followers came forth with lots of triumphalist rhetoric, but I think we need a new voice, one of humility, friendship and service. We should teach people to believe in God because it will soften their hearts and make them more willing to serve." - Richard Bushman

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