Saturday, June 6, 2009

He Said: How to Combat Chloroform

Recently my daughter and I discussed the concept of whether or not church is boring. Since she is a recently returned missionary she still glows with a missionary's zeal for the gospel. She said she really couldn't understand how anyone who was truly converted to the gospel could find the messages taught each week as being repetitive since every time she hears it she gains a fresh insight and renewed testimony of the truth of the gospel message.

She said she agreed with what a young Henry B. Eyring as a bored teen was told by his father when he wisely instructed him to become involved in the subject even when we think the speaker is boring:

"I finally got up enough courage to ask him what he thought of the meeting. He said it was wonderful... Like all good fathers, he must have read my mind, because he started to laugh. He said: 'Hal, let me tell you something. Since I was a very young man, I have taught myself to do something in a church meeting. When the speaker begins, I listen carefully and ask myself what it is he is trying to say. Then, once I think I know what he is trying to accomplish, I give myself a sermon on that subject.' He let that sink in for a moment as we walked along. Then with that special self-depreciating chuckle of his, he said, 'Hal, since then I have never been to a bad meeting'" (To Draw Closer to God [Desert Book: Salt Lake City, 1997], 23).

My daughter tells me the gospel is so filled with truth that every time she listens to the same topic over the teacher or speaker or students say things that she finds profound.

I have often heard in the church as an argument that only boring people get bored. A wise person once said "YOU are responsible for motivating yourself to find meaning and purpose in what you do. Life is not there to entertain you."

I have to admit that in my ward I am a member of the Sunday School presidency and that every now and then we get a teacher who doesn't really understand pedagogical variety and could use a stint in the Teacher Development course.

I find the manual Teaching No Greater Calling manual one of my most favorite ones since it has some great insights in to making the gospel relevant in our lives. If lessons are relevant than the Spirit is there and makes up for the deficiency of the teacher. Many times teachers follow in to monotonous patterns and need variety. Both the teacher and the students need to be engaged in the gospel discussion.

In the Teaching manual it emphasizes: "The gospel can likewise be presented in a number of different ways. No teacher should fall into a monotonous pattern of presenting the same kind of lesson week after week. When you use a variety of learning activities, learners tend to understand gospel principles better and retain more. A carefully selected method can make a principle clearer, more interesting, and more memorable." Like they say variety is the spice of life.

It also says:

Just as we need nourishing food to survive physically, we need the gospel of Jesus Christ to survive spiritually. Our souls are nourished by whatever speaks of Christ and leads us to Him, whether it is written in the scriptures, spoken by latter-day prophets, or taught by other humble servants of God. The Savior Himself said, “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).

Teaching that is nourishing to the soul uplifts others, builds their faith, and gives them confidence to meet life’s challenges. It motivates them to forsake sin and to come to Christ, call on His name, obey His commandments, and abide in His love (see D&C 93:1; John 15:10).

Many topics are interesting, important, and even relevant to life and yet not nourishing to the soul. It is not our commission to teach such topics. Instead, we are to edify others and teach them principles that pertain to the kingdom of God and the salvation of mankind.

Teaching that stimulates the intellect without speaking to the spirit cannot nourish. Nor can anything that raises doubts about the truth of the restored gospel or the need to commit ourselves to it with all our heart, might, mind, and strength.

Elder Bruce R. McConkie counseled: “Teach the doctrines of salvation; supply spiritual food; bear testimony of our Lord’s divine Sonship—anything short of such a course is unworthy of a true minister who has been called by revelation. Only when the Church is fed the bread of life are its members kept in paths of righteousness” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1966–73], 2:178).

In conclusion: Our mental attitude can really affect our participation in listening to a sermon or participating in a class. Teachers need to have the Spirit when teaching and students need to seek the Spirit when in class. The Spirit brings the gospel down into our heart like fire and drives boredom away.

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