Teaching with authenticity

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Teaching with authenticity

Post by NonTraditionalMom » 31 May 2015, 21:20

My calling for the past couple of months has been teaching Relief Society. I teach from the ETB manual, and sometimes, I really struggle with it. I have been able to carefully choose the quotes that I feel comfortable testifying of, and I bring in a lot of outside quotes, especially from women, and I try to encourage a lot of discussion. My next lesson is on "Following the Prophets," and I'm having a ton of anxiety about it. For one thing, the lesson is filled with the idea that prophets will never be wrong, and I just don't believe that. I even find some of the quotes to have an air of arrogance about them, and I feel like the lesson encourages the idea of prophet infallibility.

Any suggestions on teaching with authenticity without saying something completely contrary to what's in the manual?

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Re: Teaching with authenticity

Post by mom3 » 31 May 2015, 21:34

I have no advice. I just wanted to high five you for taking it on. ETB can be intense trying to navigate. Your willingness and effort are admirable.

We have some seasoned teachers in here, one of them will have a good answer.
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Re: Teaching with authenticity

Post by DarkJedi » 01 Jun 2015, 04:17

Sounds like you do what most of us do already - picking quotes you feel comfortable with, using stuff not in the manual, discussion, etc.

This particular lesson is pretty difficult and I've been expecting a thread to start about it. There are others here who will be teaching and participating in this lesson as well. I'm with you, I don't believe most of what ETB said in the Fourteen Fundamentals (14Fs), either.

I look forward to what others have to say, but as I have looked at the lesson I might start with a discussion of some things (like FHE since that one's in the manual) that prophets have taught us which are generally good. I might also try a discussion about prophets in general, focusing on the idea that there is one and I could use ideas from Elder Nelson's talk in October conference (and the ideas of unanimity among the Q15), or perhaps Pres. Eyring's talk. I might try to a discussion about keys, again keeping it very general - I don't totally buy the whole keys thing, but I like the concept. I might talk about Pres. Monson and what I like about him (his focus on love, the Savior, temples) or what other recent prophets have focused on. The greatest advantage a PH or RS teacher has is that the vast majority of the class has not read the manual.
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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."

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Re: Teaching with authenticity

Post by Curt Sunshine » 01 Jun 2015, 05:24

You might pick one thing about a few Presidents of the Church that you love and open a discussion for others to share what they love about any particular President.

For me, that would include Joseph Smith's willingness to question everything and accept anything he saw as good from other religions - Heber J. Grant's enduring through depression and even mental breakdowns - David O. McKay's support for the research that eventually led to the end of the Priesthood ban and his patience in letting that research happen - Spencer W. Kimball's obvious love of people - Thomas S. Monson's single-minded focus on love and service. I probably would skip Pres. Benson entirely - not because there weren't good things about him (there were) but because I would be intentional in trying to move away from his words in that particular lesson.

I would start with something simple like:
We all know that even prophets are human and make mistakes, as President Uchtdorf said in a recent General Conference talk, but I want to highlight today a few things I really love about a few of the men who accepted their call to be the Presidents of the Church.

I would share one or two and then invite discussion - and share another one or two if things slow down at any point.
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.

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Re: Teaching with authenticity

Post by Heber13 » 01 Jun 2015, 09:17

NonTraditionalMom wrote:I teach from the ETB manual, and sometimes, I really struggle with it.
My assumption is that if I think about it sometimes, or it is a recurring thought...there are most likely others in the class or the ward who feel the same way...perhaps a minority, but still...I can't be the ONLY one thinking these things.

So...stuff that I struggle with...may be stuff to be touched on carefully and responsibly, but not ignored. I often find when I teach HPG with that approach...there are many people who thank me afterwards for bravely stating or asking the questions they had in their minds, but didn't feel safe to say.

One qualifier on this...it largely depends on the type of ward you have and how open they are to different thinking, and how much social capital you've built up so people trust what you are saying and don't block you out for heresy.

To quote CS Lewis again:
If our religion is something objective, then we must never avert our eyes from those elements in it which seem puzzling or repellent; ... the truth we need most is hidden precisely in the doctrines you least like and least understand.
For me, I least like that prophets instituted polygamy. Studying that has helped me, even though I've found no good explanations or answers for it. Simply, studying it has helped me go through a process that is helpful.
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."

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Re: Teaching with authenticity

Post by SilentDawning » 01 Jun 2015, 10:42

Braindump here...

1. Talk about how prophetic statements today are often revised in the future as circumstances change. Stop short of discussing the priesthood disavowal essay. Find examples, such as how tithing changed from giving in kind donations to 10% of increase.
2. Talk about how prophets are human and make mistakes. Share stories about how they weren't perfect at times, and bring it to a soft landing -- how we still value their advice.
3. Ask questions "How do you know when a prophet is speaking as a prophet, or as an ordinary man?". This will help people learn to distinguish between prophecy and opinion -- and will tacitly teach them they can exist in the same prophet.
4. Ask "what is the relationship between prophetic revelation and personal revelation?". This could lead you to discuss the need for personal revelation.
5. Discuss how we should treat people who don't appear to be following the prophet. Throw in my favorite topic -- judgmentalism, and how to avoid it. Address all the black and white thinking in the context of people who do not follow prophets.
6. Explain the article faith which indicates we worship according to the dictates of our own conscience -- relate this to Dallin H Oakes comment that all the GA's can teach are general principles -- that i we have an exception, we need to work it out with the Lord. This implies that we should be cautious of blanket application of a prophet's advice to all people. An internet search might unearth this one -- it's one of my favorites as it elevates personal conscience to the near same level as prophetic utterances.
7. Focus on Bruce R. McConkie's statement that we are all prophets. The president of the church to the church as a whole, the Bishop to his Ward, and each of us are prophets to our personal affairs -- a prophet is anyone who receives revelation for a stewardship.
8. Talk about how to resolve conflicts between personal revelation and advice of a prophet. That could be a discussion item on here at StayLDS all by itself.

Just ideas. Been up all night working and am not thinking entirely straight :)
Last edited by SilentDawning on 01 Jun 2015, 10:59, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Teaching with authenticity

Post by LookingHard » 01 Jun 2015, 10:55

We are going over lesson 14 (the one that goes over the "14 fundamentals of following the prophet") in 2 weeks. I have already started to prepare and think how I am going to comment on this lesson.

I certainly don't want to tell others they are wrong, but I want to try and give some room for those that can't swallow some of what is in those 14 points.

I have already mentioned to my ward that I had a Faith Crisis and I told about it while I was still in the Bishopric. So I am going to use that a bit stating how pointing to this talk as doctrine can actually drive people out of the church.

I am going to point out that ETB was actually called on the carpet by the first presidency for this talk. He had to come and explain himself to the Q12 and 1st Pres. Of course the brethren never come out and say this, but President Kimball's son (Edward Kimball - an active BYU professor until he retired) said in the biography of his father that his father was quite upset with ETB for this talk. Something along the lines of the immense pressure that was put on him as the prophet. I am going to say that I am actually shocked to see this in a church manual. We have been told that doctrine will be preached not just by one of the apostles, but you need to hear it preached over and over. I don't hear "once the prophet has spoken, the thinking is done" nor "the prophet trumps every expert in every field - period" over and over.

I will also bring in that we have been clearly told that the prophet is only a prophet when speaking as such. And I would argue that the only way WE have to know the difference is from the Holy Ghost testifying to us individually.

A few quotes I have on this topic:
Marlin Jensen, Church Historian, talked about how when he read the book on Mountain Meadows Massacre that was commissioned by the church and written by 3 BYU professors - "the main lesson that he learned is that all latter day saints should know is that there is nothing virtuous to blind obedience."
Joseph Smith said, “It sounds too much like the Methodist, and not like the Latter-Day Saint. Methodists have a creed which a man must believe or be asked out of their church. I want the liberty of thinking and believing as I please. It feels so good not to be trammeled” (History of the Church 5:340).
There was also a quote from Bruce R. McConkie stating that he actually said that some false doctrine might be allowed to be taught in the church to see if the church members would figure it out. I read it in the last few weeks and I thought I copied it down, but I can't seem to find it. I may have to go and look in my browser history for a while and see if I can find that.

My summary is that I think to just say "follow the prophet" and do everything he says is abdicating our moral and spiritual obligation to follow the Lord. It isn't that easy. We have to work to get the answers for ourselves.

I might also nudge the question of when is the prophet "revealing" vs. just administering to the affairs of the church? Was changing the age for missionaries a revelation? I don't think so and I didn't hear anything from him that he seemed to say it was. Now the prophet had better be able to say that we have asked the Lord and he approves, but I personally don't call that revelation. That sounds like confirmation from the spirit on an administrative item, not a change in doctrine.

I want to say that I fear we as a church are starting to worship the leaders a bit too much. Placing them on a pedestal and assuming what comes out of their mouths is God's exact words. I have heard that if we have family home evening (and in another case very regular temple attendance) that even if a child strays from the church that they will return. That to me sounds like God is promising to take away someone's freeagency. That isn't right. Also many of the high level leaders did those things and their kids still never came back into the gospel. When people hear these promises and then they don't come true, they are either going to have to discount the leader giving it, or just throw the towel in on the church as a whole.

I have some more thoughts I want to get organized, especially on how to present them. But on this one I am willing to raise a few feathers as I see this one talk as crossing the line and doing damage.

I won't be going into how my digging into ETB makes me feel that until he was the prophet, he did whatever he wanted and lacked humility big time. He was called into the 1st presidency's office more than once and sometimes even after being told not to do something, he effectively did it anyway.

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Re: Teaching with authenticity

Post by startpoor » 01 Jun 2015, 13:40

I think there are basically three approaches to a lesson that troubles you: 1. Don't teach it. 2. Confess to the class that you have some troubles with the doctrine being taught (though don't go to into details, and this is dependent on your ward and comfort level). 3. Take a couple points from the lesson and teach using outside resources.
I think these are equally good approaches.
A good resource is the book Crucible of Doubt. It has a great chapter on prophetic fallibility that you can quote from directly.
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Re: Teaching with authenticity

Post by NonTraditionalMom » 02 Jun 2015, 16:04

Thank you, all, for the insights. It is Lesson #11, the 14 Fundamentals lesson, and I feel like this is one of those topics that is really difficult to say that you don't believe some of the doctrines without causing... I don't know... without causing something that I'm not ready to cause. Either you follow the prophet, or you're an apostate/heretic, right? I mean, Pres. Hinckley told us not to have more than one earring, so if you are dating a girl who doesn't take her second pair out, she is really showing you how shallow her testimony is, right Elder Bednar?? This talk was recently brought up in RS, and several women shared their personal experiences of taking out their multiple piercings immediately, and the general consensus was exactly what the manual is saying: the prophet says it, you do it, the end. And if he's wrong, you'll be blessed anyway, so no worries.

I vacillate between just teaching the lesson and swallowing my anxiety, trying to walk that careful line between supporting the lesson and inviting dissension, and just asking to be released. I feel like the RS sisters need a teacher who can speak from a place of surety and confidence. Frankly, I'm anxious about bringing up any contradictory ideas because I don't feel secure in those any more than I do in teaching the concepts in the lesson. Sigh.

And then, of course, I realize that this is a 40 minute lesson during which at least half of the people will leave with a crying child or diaper change, and likely no one will remember an hour later.

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Re: Teaching with authenticity

Post by Curt Sunshine » 02 Jun 2015, 16:11

We have some long threads in our archives about every one of those things in that list. Do a search and see if there are things you can use - ignoring the comments, for this purpose, that are just complaints. :P
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

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