Last Sunday was the last lesson on Revelation and Prophets. We had a purely discussion-oriented conversation about the following concepts that I believe are some of the more central, important, unique aspects of the Restoration. I wrote them on the board and told the students we would talk about any of them they wanted to discuss or about which they had questions, without a formal lesson structure.
In order of discussion:
1) Heavenly Parents:
One of the students asked why we don't have much written about Heavenly
Mother. I asked them what they think, figuring they probably would
repeat some of the common answers I don't accept. Two of them mentioned
the idea of shielding her from blasphemy and (another idea I can't
remember right now). I stressed that we don't have anything official
recorded in our scriptures, so any answer is speculative in nature - the
best people can do to think of something that makes sense to them. I
told them that I think the biggest reason is that our scriptures were
written by men - and that those men related well to Heavenly Father and
didn't have any motivation to even think about a Heavenly Mother.
then talked about what we do have that teaches explicitly about
Heavenly Mother and about what our reasoning is for that belief. We
read the 3rd and 4th verses of "Oh, My Father". They saw that Eliza R.
Snow's wording says, essentially, that she learned to use the term
"Heavenly Father" before she joined the Church but didn't know why until
she gained further light and knowledge - and that it was "reason" that
testifies of Heavenly Mother. We talked about our overall theology of
men and women being sealed and sharing the same potential - how "marital
sealing" is the foundation for this belief.
I told them that
there are some really interesting beliefs about Heavenly Mother within
the church membership, but the lesson wasn't the right place to get into
those unorthodox beliefs.
2) The scope of the Atonement:
A student asked what I meant by that. We talked about how everyone
(except a few Sons of Perdition who are the exception that proves the
rule) is "saved" and everyone has the chance for exaltation - and how
radically different that is than the dominant philosophies within
Protestantism and many other religions.
3) Prophets and Apostles:
One of the students asked if there have ever been more than one prophet
on the earth at the same time. We talked about the difference between a
"Prophet" (the head prophet in an organization) and a "prophet" (anyone
who speaks the word of God, especially about consequences of actions).
They zeroed in on the example of the New Testament and the Book of
Mormon following the death of Jesus - of Peter and Nephi living
simultaneously in different parts of the world as "The Prophet" of their
people; we also talked about the wise men at the time of Jesus' birth
and how they easily might have been "Prophets" or "prophets" - giving us
at least three simultaneous locations. We talked about Lehi being a
prophet but not a "Prophet" and how there were multiple prophets at
various times in the Old Testament.
4) Eternal Progression:
We talked about what it means to progress eternally - to become like
God. We talked about how our perception of God is very different than
within other Christian denominations. We talked again a little about
how godhood includes pain and long-suffering and watching one's
"children" hurt and kill each other. I mentioned at the end how I
believe we must emphasize the importance of this life so we take it
seriously and actually focus on personal growth and repentance, but I
told them I believe "eternal progression" is exactly that - growth
throughout all eternity until we are "perfect" (complete, whole, fully
developed), which, as Joseph Smith said means we will be learning and
growing and progressing long after we die. I told them that I see the
judgment as occurring whenever we are done growing - that our reward
will be whatever type of person we become (telestial, terrestrial or
celestial) - no matter when that completion happens.
We didn't get to pre-mortal life or the nature of the Godhead vs. the Trinity.
was the first time I have used that specific format (completely
discussion-based, according to what the students wanted to discuss), and
I loved it. Now that they are used to it, I hope it will affect future
lessons - both the more traditional ones and more like this one.