Saturday, June 1, 2013

My Sunday School Lesson Recap: Unique Concepts of the Restoration

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.

We 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.

This 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.

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