Saturday, December 22, 2012

Sunday School Lesson: Moroni 1-7

Since we had the new curriculum training last week, I combined two lessons today and taught Moroni 1-7.

1) We started by looking at the time line note at the bottom of the first page of Moroni. We talked about why it says 400AD-421AD and how that relates to why Moroni is one of my favorite characters in the Book of Mormon.

2) We read quickly through the headings of Chapters 1-6 and talked about how meetings still are supposed to be conducted by the influence of the Holy Ghost (that even though we use a standard format, those who conduct are supposed to have the ability and authority to alter that format when impressed to do so).

3) We spent the rest of the time on Moroni 7:1-19, verse by verse. The main points I made were:

a) verses 5-11 -- Those who do good things for bad reasons "have their reward" and, thus, are not rewarded additionally by God. To use an obvious example, if someone makes friends with someone else in order to rob that person, they will have the reward of the extra money - but it won't change them into a better person and make them closer to becoming like God.

b) verses 12-17 -- We listed things the students thought are good ways to judge if something is good or bad. There were some good suggestions, including if we would do something in front of our grandmothers or Jesus.

I mentioned that there are some things I would do in front of one of my grandmothers but not in front of the other one, so, while that might be a good general starting point, we have to be careful about defining what we should do based on others being able to see us. We then talked for about 5 minutes about how much I am concerned about the idea of doing only what we would do if Jesus was with us - not because I think it's a bad standard, but because I think we tend to focus so much on our perception of Jesus, the God, that we ignore all the evidence about Jesus, the man, and end up thinking we can't do lots of things that I believe would be perfectly fine to do.

I asked if they could think of anything we probably wouldn't do with Jesus now, given our culture, that we probably would do with him back in his time and culture. "Drink wine" was the first response (which answer impressed me, since the girl who gave it was clear that it would have been just fine to drink wine with Jesus back in the day), so we talked about the fact that he was criticized for drinking wine, unlike John, the Baptist. I mentioned that I hope he would enjoy my sense of humor, even the parts of it that I don't share with very many people in church - that I could have a really good laugh with him and just be silly at times.

We then listed the things that are mentioned in chapter 7 (invites and entices to do good, love God, serve him, persuades to believe in Christ -- and their opposites) and discussed how those things are independent of who can see us as we act.

c) Before moving on to the next verses, given the time constraints, I mentioned again the need to not pull verses out of context and in isolation and, thus, miss the "big picture" concept being taught throughout an entire chapter. I stressed that the rest of the chapter to which we wouldn't get deals with charity and how critical it is to obtain. I wrote "charity" above the two lists (good and bad) and then moved to the next verses.

d) verses 18-19 -- I stressed that the focus of these two verses is NOT on avoiding embracing the bad; rather, the focus is on avoiding rejecting the good. That is fascinating and extremely important, in my opinion.

We talked about how I don't agree with lots of things that are taught in other denominations, but that, if I was to hazard a guess about how much of what is taught in any random church is "good" vs. "bad" on any given Sunday, I would put the ratio at no lower than 90% good and 10% bad - and, in most cases, higher than that. I told them that I try really hard to allow charity to influence how I make that determination.

In practical terms, that means I see the "good list" reasons as "either/or" statements (that as long as something does at least one of the things on the list, I accept it as good and of God), while I see the "bad list" reasons generally as "and" statements (that bad things have to do more than one thing on the list or be focused exclusively on one of them). I used the example of Islam teaching lots of good things, even though it can be classified as "denying Christ" if we choose to look at it that way, as well as the example of an evangelical, anti-Mormon rant on the radio that also includes lots of teachings that really do invite and entice to do good, love God and serve him. Just because I don't like some of what is said or the actual people saying it, that doesn't mean I can reject everything that is said. Charity dictates to me that I listen for what I can learn from everything and not obsess so much over the disagreement(s) that I miss the chance to be taught and edified. I told them there is an important difference between hearing something and automatically thinking, "That's bad, so I won't listen to anything being said," and, "What good can I take from this, even if I don't agree with most of it."

4) I also stressed that I want them to let me know what they want to learn next year within the new curriculum - that absolutely no topic is off limits within the categories we will be discussing. I mentioned as an example the month that will be dedicated to Family and Marriage - telling them that there are lots of potential topics we can discuss that month and that absolutely none of them are off limits. I told them that they are old enough that we can talk about anything, no matter how controversial, awkward, difficult, etc. they think it might be.

No comments: