Saturday, May 10, 2014

Sunday School Lesson Recap: Reverence, not Necessarily Quietude, as a Source of Revelation

Last Sunday, we started the month's topic of Prophets and Revelation. I focused on the lesson outline entitled, "How does reverence help me receive revelation?"

I didn't introduce the topic at first but, instead, pulled out my cell phones (personal and work-provided) and asked each student to name one benefit of having such technology available individually. They mentioned a bunch of things, all of which could be grouped into two general categories: information access and interpersonal connectivity. I then asked them to name something that is a negative about having such technology individually. The answers fell into two general categories: information access and interpersonal disconnectedness / distraction. We talked for a short time about how having so much information available to us allows us to receive answers to many questions almost instantaneously and to stay connected with people from whom we naturally would be separated, but having that same amount of information available constantly also can cause obsession, distraction, non-productivity, interpersonal distance, erosion of communication skills, etc.

I then talked about my experiences blogging and how hard it can be to convey full meaning with just words on a screen - how nuance and emotion can be difficult or impossible to express adequately, which can lead people who actually agree with each other to argue with each other due to misunderstanding what has been written. I mentioned one particular person whom I used to count as a friend who can't discuss anything online without turning it into a debate she is determined to win - and how she isn't that way in person. I also mentioned how anonymity can lead to people saying things they wouldn't say, ever, in person.

I then asked the students to define "reverence". One student said "respect" - while another one said it comes from the word "revere", which is extreme respect. I added the element of awe.

I asked if we tend to talk about revering food or such things, and one of them said, "Yes - chocolate!" After a good chuckle, we focused on the ultimate object of reverence in the context of church and a Sunday School lesson. Obviously, that is God. I asked about prophets and apostles - and they all answered that we should respect them but not revere them in the same way that we revere God, simply because they are human and make mistakes.

I asked how reverence generally has been defined in their years in the Church, especially in Primary. The answers were, "Be quiet," "Sit still," "Fold your arms," "Don't argue with your teacher," etc. We talked about how children need structure from which to learn - and I told them that, at some point, the challenge is to transition from the understanding of children to an individual, adult view. As an example, we talked about the "form of prayer" and how it is important for someone just learning to pray - but that, at some point, we need to learn to talk with God naturally and not in a formulaic manner. We need to revere God, not recite things to God.

In order to illustrate the point about moving to a more mature understanding of reverence, I asked if our hymns are supposed to be reverent. They said the hymns are supposed to be respectful and expressive of awe - but not all of them are supposed to be sung quietly and/or in a subdued manner. I had them open the hymnals randomly and read the titles of the hymns and the word at the top left (above the first line) explaining how they were to be sung. We laughed at the first person's selection, since it was "Reverently and Meekly Now" - but almost half of the hymns were supposed to be sung "exuberantly" or "with rejoicing" or "exultantly" or "energetically" or some other similar adjective. Each and every hymn dealt with a topic for which we should have deep respect, and even awe, but, for some of them, singing quietly and solemnly would be the opposite of reverently.

I told them that I wanted to go through all of that to make sure the last part of the lesson, which is really important to me, wasn't the only thing they took away from the lesson - that there is a very important element of the traditional focus on quietude and solemnity in reverence, which we were about to discuss, but I wanted them to be able to "rock" reverentially, as well.

We read 1 Kings 19:12 and 3 Nephi 11:1-7 (about the still, small voice) and D&C 63:64 and 84:54-57 (about valuing and not making light of sacred things), then we read Psalms 46:10 ("Be still, and know that I am God."). I went back to the discussion about cell phones and distraction / disconnectedness, and we talked about how hard it is to develop a reverential attitude when we aren't "still" and contemplative. I mentioned that when I recruit high school students I rarely call them; rather, I text them and ask them to call me or let me know when I can call them. I do that because most of them won't interrupt multiple, simultaneous text conversations to answer the phone. They have to stop what they are doing and set aside time just for me to have the important discussions that are necessary to get ready to go to college.

I ended with the idea that there is a cause-and-effect relationship articulated in: 1) Be still, and 2) Know that I am God - that, often, we need to eliminate distractions in order to commune with, recognize and gain understanding of the divine. We can be reverential without being quiet, but we can't be fully reverential if we never are still and quiet, especially internally. It is in that stillness that revelation often can come and be recognized - no matter how we reach that stillness (prayer, meditation, pondering, contemplation, etc.). Revelation can come amid chaos, but some revelation only can come in the stillness of the soul.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've been struggling with preparing this lesson. I appreciate your thoughts and the direction of your discussions.