Monday, June 29, 2009

Teaching the Ideal

As a Primary, Sunday School and Seminary teacher in three different decades, I have taught literally hundreds of children and adolescents in the Church, and there is one constant for almost all of them. Almost without exception, they want to be taught an ideal that will help them be happy - either as happy as their own family example or happier than that example. That applies to BIC kids from traditional families just as much as kids from any other situation. Of course, we need to be sensitive, but we can't teach the ideal to some and a compromise to others - ironically, simply because those others haven't experienced the ideal.

This same issue applies just as much to YSA & SA members. How do you discuss the ideal family, when there is a significant percentage of adults in the congregation who are divorced, separated or never married (be they gay or straight)? How do you teach adults to honor parents who were abusive - especially if they were sexually abusive? How do you teach respect for Priesthood authority to adults whose fathers (active, inactive or non-member) exercised unrighteous dominion - or whose mothers were critical of all men? What about the women married to active men who don't feel loved and respected and valued - or are abused in some way themselves? How do you teach respect for modern prophets to a Black investigator who risked her life for equal civil rights and has a testimony of the Gospel and the Book of Mormon but has a hard time accepting pre-1978 church history?

You do it by being open and empathetic and aware and sensitive - and direct and frank and bold and unyielding - and, most importantly, in tune with the Spirit. You teach the ideal but recognize and acknowledge and don't trivialize the less than ideal. There is no collective magic bullet for all; there only is a caring heart and open mind and spirit for each individual. At least, that's my experience.

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