Feast upon the Word Blog

A blog focused on LDS scriptures and teaching

What is the place of historico-critical methodology in LDS teaching?

Posted by joespencer on January 22, 2007

To some extent, I don’t want to comment on the question I’m raising here, but three points will help clarify, at the very least, why I’m asking it (and hopefully that will help “guide” a discussion on the subject).

But before those three points, perhaps I should define the term for those unfamiliar with its use. Historico-critical methodology (sometimes called “higher criticism”) is the study of the scriptures that pays particular attention to the historical aspects of the text itself (not the history the text reports, but the history that plays into the text’s being written): original sources, textual development, historical or cultural influence, textual presuppositions, traces of editors or alterations (even corruptions), etc. In other words, historico-critical methodology is primarily concerned with “the historical situation out of which a writing arose and how it came to be written.” (HarperCollins Bible Dictionary, p. 142, this is Carl Holladay writing). One should notice, then, that historico-critical methodology generally excludes the aim of looking for the meaning of a text (except where that meaning may bear on the text’s history), and that historico-critical methodology is uninterested in the “truth” of textual claims: the purpose, in the end, of the methodology is simply (or really, never so simply) the history of the text itself (it is, after all, a branch of history).

Now, three points I’d like to raise that perhaps explain why I’m asking the question at all.

First, as to LDS teaching. Though this methodology has had many LDS adherents from the very beginning, its reception in the Church has nonetheless been rather poor. The inroads that the method has made have generally been only through the field of apologetics (Roberts, Nibley, et al, could get away with it because they were so undeniably faithful in doing battle against the enemies of the Church). However, now that these inroads have all been paved, there seems to be a sort of emerging LDS historical criticism, embodied by the younger (and celebrated) religion professors at BYU (as well as a number of LDS graduate students who will soon be in the field). My own sense of things is that there is beginning to mature a uniquely LDS form of historico-critical method, one that is not ultimately apologetic, but that is obviously built on the apologetic use of the method for so many decades. Whatever is going on in the Church with historical criticism, it is certainly time to draw attention to the fact.

Second, as to LDS teaching. The place of the emerging LDS historico-critical method in study is probably rather obvious, and its place in the academic establishment is probably also rather obvious (these both on a little reflection). But the place that this method should have in the Sunday School classroom is more difficult to think about. While academics tend to be able to deal with a method that calls into question a religious text, the average Sunday School classsmember may not. How does a teacher balance the emerging LDS historical criticism with the task to teach the scriptures? And, moreover, how does one balance the literalist spirit of manual material?

Third, a personal interest in the question. Because (is it really because?) of my continental ties (ties to continental philosophy), I am less interested personally in historico-critical methodology than I am in hermeneutical (interpretive) or theological approaches to the scriptures. At the same time, Andre LaCoque and Paul Ricoeur’s _Thinking Biblically_ does an amazing job at recognizing implicit connections between these more “continental” approaches to scripture and historical criticism (a more “analytic” approach). The more I work with the scriptures, the more I think that the united approach of LaCoque and Ricoeur is the best way to think about the scriptures generally: we should take up all the weight of historical criticism, and then transition from that (and quite naturally) to theological or interpretive questions. (I would, by the way, highly recommend the book. Absolutely amazing work on the part of both authors. LaCoque writes the historical criticism, and Ricoeur writes the theology.)

Anyway, with these three points in mind, I raise the question. Where are we with historico-critical methodology, and where do we go from here (particularly with regard to the classroom)?

24 Responses to “What is the place of historico-critical methodology in LDS teaching?”

  1. Ben said

    Some excellent questions. I don’t have time to post more than that at the moment. I suspect we’ll be discussing this to some extent at the upcoming Yale conference for LDS graduate students in these fields.

  2. Wow, thanks for the link. I hadn’t heard about this conference yet. I’ll be interested to see what comes of it.

  3. Robert C. said

    My sense of where things will go is that we’ll see more and more Mormon historical-critical scholarship done in Mormon Studies journals and by Mormon scholars in more general journals. Work done by scholars who have a “faithful” reputation will slowly find its way in to Sunday school discussions, though such discussions will remain rather sparse. The focus in SS classes, I think, will continue to be based on the scriptures themselves, with fairly infrequent (but slowly increasing frequency) mention of historical-critical issues (I think other scholarly approaches, viz. literary and post-modern, will find their way into SS disproportionately b/c I think they tend to be more focused on the text as is, and will therefore be received in SS as being more “faithful to the text”).

    I think BYU classes will definitely discuss historical-critical issues more and more. I’m really not sure about Institute and Seminary classes and manuals. I think it will increase as more “faithful” Mormon scholarship is done in these areas, but I think there will be a fairly long lag in terms of these approaches becoming part of the official training and manuals–but this is all just pure speculation on my part….

    As far as what should happen, I think that sometimes hisorical-critical issues can be relevant to a lesson, but I don’t think they are appropriate as the centerpiece of a SS lesson. I guess I’m still a bit ambivalent about the optimal mix between focusing on scriptural text vs. focusing on “personal application” of the text. I’m guessing many people have strong opinions on this issue, but it’s probably best for a different post (I’ll try to post something on this in the next week or so if no one else does first).

  4. Todd Wood said

    Guys, I am just simply not a fan of higher criticism. I know this readily identifies me as a “fundamentalist.” But in all my exposure and the seminary and personal readings on critical redaction, it has been more of a tearing experience than any edifying.

  5. Kevin Barney said

    I will occasionally bring a little historical critical “lite” into the classroom. Sometimes I will raise issues of authorship, date, setting or historical context relating to a given book. (I recall in particular doing some of this when I substitute taught the lesson on the Psalms.) I will do even more of this in an Institute class.

  6. I am sort of yes, sort of no with all this as well as Todd Wood is. The problem is when we say that we love to teach the truth, is it if we are working with *known* forgeries in the scriptures themslves? Is it wrong to point these out? WHY are they still in the scriptures, etc. See the problem? This so-called “faithful scholarship” is a bit of a misnomeer if “faithful” includes still using problem texts in the scriptures simply because they happened to make it through the uninspired and uninspiring political process.

    And if ignoring the history of how and why and who put together the scriptures is “faithful” scholarship, of what value is it then? This has been in my mind for some years now…… interesting situation to say the least.


  7. Mogget said

    As a practicing LDS exegete, I must respectfully disagree with your definition of historical-critical methodologies in at least one very significant respect. Historical-critical exegesis is, in fact, quite interested in the meaning of the text in its historical context. Perhaps Holladay’s work is old or comes from a different strain of thought. I personally, in some six years of graduate work, have never seen an exegete uninterested in meaning. In fact, the word “exegesis” comes from a Greek word which means “to lead or bring out,” in this case to bring out the meaning.

    I also cannot imagine how or why a church that claims to be a restoration of something existing before can be uninterested in the meaning of scripture in its original context.

  8. I am in agreement with this sentiment as well. The trick is once one gets to the historical ramifications of some of the evidences, it becomes obvious that things are not as the church teaches concerning the scriptures. We say we believe the Bible as far as it is translated correctly, but do w also say the same about how it was actually put together and what was included and not, and then act on this? I am not so sure the evidence is in favor. This is why Margaret Barker’s materials are so electrifying. She is showing there is something drastically amiss in many ways concerning the entire Bible as far as that goes, and yet it does have value, but not as what originally and historically actually occurred in history.

  9. Mogget #7: Thank you for the clarification. I wrestled with how to write that “explanation” paragraph, and it was difficult for me (as is at least implied in my comments in the original post, I lean far more in the direction of hermeneutics than historical criticism, and so I am hardly an “expert” on the subject). My language failed me. My point was–is–to say something like this: historical criticism is, over against hermeneutics, primarily a historiological project, a project that, as you say, is focused on meaning “in its historical context” specifically. My sloppy wording emphasizes my predilection towards hermeneutics: historical criticism deals with the meaning then, but leaves open–or perhaps, as LaCoque and Ricoeur understand it, opens in the first place–the question of the meaning now. Please correct anything that still betrays the “real” spirit of historico-critical methodology.

  10. That last point clarified (I hope), let me move on to a response to the discussion thus far. One must admit that Mormonism has a unique built-in and ready-made opening onto historical criticism. From the very beginning of Mormonism, the Bible’s perfect authenticity has been questioned, and Latter-day Saints have been (or theoretically could/should have been) far more open to reconsiderations of the canon than adherents to other religions. That Joseph could simply declare that “and old Jew without any authority” added a Hebrew letter to the first word of the Bible and that Brigham could say he was no longer in need of the fairy tales of Genesis 1-3 because he knew enough of the literal truth… don’t these highlight the point?

    If this unique Mormon relation to the Bible opens a door for historical criticism, does it force such methods onto all scriptural studies in the Church? For example, how much should historico-critical findings on the seventh century before Christ bear on our study of the Book of Mormon? Are Book of Mormon passages regarding the exodus, for example, to be taken as references Nephi simply received through the historical tradition we now believe obtained in the century before the Nephites left Jerusalem? And what are we to do with something like the Book of Abraham (there are those who believe it to be a genuine ancient pseudepigraphical text that was revealed to Joseph… but is this faithful or not?)?

    The apologetic tradition has generally drawn on historical criticism where it seems to point to the strength or truth of a Mormon position. Is this the role this methodology ought to play in Mormonism? Must it be accepted fully or rejected fully? Is there a unique Latter-day Saint approach to historical criticism (for example, one that takes up the question of Isaianic authorship critically, but with an eye to Book of Mormon quotations: parts of Second Isaiah must have been written and ascribed to Isaiah before 600 B.C., but does that mean that we split up the tight structure of Second Isaiah so as to account for this, or does that mean that we assume the historical presuppositions of Second Isaiah are not exilic?)? Where does the unique position of the faithful Latter-day Saint place one in the historico-critical world?

    Lastly, and this is a point I’d really like to engage here: what of this in the classroom? I think Robert is right that historico-critical methodologies will never gain an upper hand in official publications (manuals, etc.) of the Church, though they may be used more and more in institute classes, etc. Also as regards Robert’s point, by “disproportionately,” do you mean that post-modern and literary approaches will gain more ground? It sounded that way, but your wording was somewhat ambiguous? I would definitely like to see these approaches taken more seriously in official publications of the Church, but I wonder whether taking them up without an eye to the findings of historical criticism wouldn’t be, in the end, damaging.

    In the end, I think (personally) that there will have to be some sort of a balance–better: an agreement, partnership–between historico-critical methodology and literary/post-modern (to take up unquestioningly Robert’s categorizations here) methodologies. If the former has a negative relation to the text (taking it apart), the latter have a positive relation to the text (putting it back together): might this negative and positive work together in a sort of dialectic to open the possibility of thinking the scriptures more profoundly? And might this sort of an approach be used in a classroom (I have, myself, used this sort of an approach many times in the classroom, and it is received, in my experience, quite well)? Thoughts?

  11. Robert C. said

    Joe #10: I use “disprportionately” as a hedge: I think historico-critical material will gain ground in the Sunday school class, but that literary/post-modern approaches will also gain ground, and that the latter will gain more ground relative to the amount of content in scholarly publiciations. I just didn’t want to commit to a view on how these two approaches will develop in the classroom relative to each other, though I like your dialectical view which, on my reading, suggests both approaches should develop in roughly equal proportions. I think this is important b/c, in accordance with AWF’s comment and quotes (esp. of Holland), I think a historico-critical taking-apart-of-the-text without something more positive to offer would go against Holland’s “faith fortified and hope renewed” view of what the classroom experience should be. This, in fact, is definitely a problem I’ve encountered: raising too many questions (about the text) and leaving the class feeling more frustrated than edified. When this has occurred, I’ve thought the problem in terms of balance–too many questions relative to the answers or positive insights discussed. Sometimes this has reflected a lack of preparation on my part, though oftentimes it is just not managing class time well (not following the Spirit during the classroom event…). I’m not saying that the disrupting experience that questions precipitate is a bad thing, just that this can be overdone, and that how much of this kind of disruption is ideal for a class varies from class to class. (But perhaps my view of good questions being disruptive of preconceptions is not a very good view, I welcome alternatives….)

  12. nhilton said

    Interesting question. I concur with #7 Mogget, however, as a practicing GD teacher of many years I’ve learned: #1 historico-critical analysis will wake up my students, keep them on the edge of their seats… but #2, never significantly strengthen their testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ or invite the Spirit. It’s simply beyond the measure of the gospel message, irrelevant, if you will–but oh, so much fun!

    It will, as it did with me many years ago, light the fire of their curiosity and perhaps motivate them to further investigation and study. This can be good and this can be bad. Where and how they turn for education is the key. I repeatedly point out in the classroom that J.Smith asked questions, hard questions, of the scriptures but turned to God for answers always with the focused eye of faith, thus the D&C+. Not asking questions isn’t an option, but for some it’s the only option. Until mainstream LDS come to terms with faithful investigation the classroom is not a conducive place to entertain historico-critical discussion. I believe that books such as “Rough Stone Rolling,” published by a non-LDS publisher & read by mainstream LDS spur this kind of evolution and I hope we’ll see more of this.

  13. I’ve certainly been a bit too theoretical in my own comments here. Let me get down to the nitty-gritty of the classroom now.

    I find that I can make almost any historico-critical point once the class knows me as a faithful person (faithful in the sense of “having a strong testimony and having the ‘right’ purposes in mind to bring up such things”). Curiously, however, I’ve found that the best way to develop this “reputation” (yuck, but so that I don’t have to think harder about what word to use…) is precisely to use methods like historical criticism! That is, I have to use the method and then show that it accomplishes something important for the faith-building purposes of God, and then the class trusts me when I bring up something else similar.

    A good example of how this can be done would be with Amos 3:7. This is a verse that is used to ground Joseph’s being called today. However, taken historically, the text never could have meant something like “God will never do anything among the Gentiles unless He calls a Gentile prophet to those Gentiles some thousands of years hence.” The Israelites would have under the very word “prophet” in a very different manner from us. But by helping a class think carefully through the OT meaning of the word, the historical or cultural institution of prophecy, the NT/BoM/D&C phrase “spirit of prophecy,” and what all of this has to do with the covenant made to Abraham will greatly strengthen the testimonies of those engaged in the lesson, even as it dispells a rather weak apologetic argument for the truth of the Restoration.

    I would always finish up such a discussion with a hermeneutic of the passage, though, and here is where the partnership I’ve mentioned comes in. I would try to think with the class through what it means for Joseph Smith to have had the spirit of prophecy, and what it means for Joseph Smith to have been a prophet. I would help the class interpret the verse in Amos in these terms and in terms of the work we are engaged in. In such a case, historical criticism becomes an instrument in the hands of God, rather than something according to which the faith is destroyed.

    A thought (a bit practical for me, but nonetheless).

  14. nhilton said

    Joe, I’m sure you’re an excellent teacher and I’d like to be in your classroom. However, for many students they simply don’t want to dig that deep. When you go anywhere outside of the class manual you become intimidating to some. Perhaps with your credentials you speak with authority and your students have come to trust you. But this kind of instruction is beyond the capability or interest of the average Sunday School teacher. So while you have something valuable to impart the student is thinking, “I hope he never calls on me to substitute because I’d never be able to fill his shoes.” (That’s a kind way of putting it…some students are simply thinking you’re a pompas ___ who enjoys hearing himself speak. A case of pride from the bottom up.) This is why Sunday meetings are a difficult place to insert historico-critical insights.

  15. nhilton, yes, that is very much a concern I have. I have found, however, that there are two ways to avoid the negative side of it, I think. One is in the execution of the discussion: rather than lecturing, I ask questions that helps to lead the class towards thinking about issues along these lines (youth do an amazing job with this). This way, students don’t feel so much like the teacher is a know-it-all who is trying to turn the classroom into a college lecture hall (it probably helps that I have absolutely no credentials at all, that I do this all on my own, so to speak). The other important facet is in what sources are used. As often as I can, I stick to sources the students are readily familiar with (the manual, the institute manuals, commonly read books, etc.). And more importantly, I usually make no reference whatsoever to any outside sources: I rather go straight into the scriptures to make any point (on prophets: I would only choose scriptures to help develop the point that show up in the topical guide, for example, or I would go to very familiar passages on the nature of prophets and spend some time taking a VERY close look at the meaning of the passage). In the end, it is this absolute focus on the text that lends itself to historical criticism: historico-critical points derive from the text itself and from other texts within the canon. My personal experience is that the great majority of participants in these sorts of discussions are excited, not intimidated.

    In fact, I find people far more intimidated by a lesson that quotes from the newest Deseret Book publication, simply because too many members don’t have the time, money, focus, excitement to read such things, though they are interested in the scriptures. And I find that people are far more intimidated by a lesson that makes reference (even in the simplest way) to Shakespeare: “that’s WAY too academic for me!” And so forth. At any rate, my point in adding this comment is that I think I didn’t explain my teaching style quite so clearly (I am very much classroom-discussion, question-and-answer oriented).

  16. Todd Wood said

    Joe, anytime you would delve into a historical context of Amos 3 with your classroom, I would greatly applaud the exercise. The words don’t swirl in a vacuum. (And Nhilton, doesn’t need higher criticism to wake up students, just put me in your class for a day. Because I am the oddity in the traditional LDS paradigm, I can guarantee they will be awake. :) )

    The minor prophets speak of a famine of the Word. This could happen in America, moving the way of bibical illiteracy just like parts of Europe. In judgment, God can give a nation exactly what it desires. Look how much American culture in the desire for religious truth has changed since the birth of Joseph Smith. Perhaps, I am erring in broad generalizations, but what I am observing in my neck of the woods only fuels my passion to get out the Word.

    Often times, as a teacher, I feel the pressure within evangelicalism to not “get very deep.” I consider the warning a lame croc. It patronizes those who are not really interested and does a huge disfavor to those that have hungry hearts. The text made alive by the Spirit, and not soda-pop Christianity on the one end or higher criticism on the other end of the spectrum, is the key for desparately needed reformation in America.

    Joe, you briefly mentioned Isaiah. Have you read any good textual scholarship that defends a unified Isaiah? Academia has tried to stifle this major prophetic book through a rejection of inspiration, predictive prophecy, etc. and etc. It is time to let Isaiah’s message be set free, take wings, and soar. Last night, for an hour, I had an audience all pouring over the text of Isaiah 2. And though we discuss, we chose to not let the higher critics tear to shreds by redaction and then try to piecemeal back together the first four verses in the chapter (as well as in Micah 4 and Joel). Haughty, liberal scholarship gets downright silly. Some of the great intellects need to just be still for a moment and actually apply to their own hearts what God is communicating through Isaiah in chapter 2 (the theme of “in that day”, Who will be exalted and who will be abased). Will the higher critics take for face value that Isaiah (the seer) saw the word or not?

  17. nhilton said

    All your comments are very inspiring. Joe, thank you for sharing your experience as a teacher.

    Mine has been & still is a roller coaster experience. I rotate between two rooms. One is filled with 40+- people 50+ in age & the other room has 15 or less mostly under 30 with several noisy babies (mine included). I also teach every other week and between myself and the other 3 teachers I see each classroom every four weeks. Maintaining continuity between lessons with the class members is near impossible.

    As a teacher (& student) I actually open my scriptures. A couple of the other teachers sometimes don’t even do this. When the others teach, usually a couple verses are read and then the teacher drifts off into some anecdotal sideline he can vaguely relate to the lesson he’s failed to prepare or didn’t know how to prepare. It’s rather dismal.

    In contrast, when I teach, the students must THINK and participate actively. If I ask a question, it’s not a maintenance question and I wait for an answer. There’s a few moments of silence while people ponder before answering. This doesn’t bother me. I don’t see any point in asking, i.e. “So, what happened after the wise men left Herod?” I see some of the class shifting in their seats because it’s too hard to sleep through the class with that kind of kinetic energy milling about them. The contrast is stark. It’s a palpable difference.
    My fellow teachers are intimidated by the students’ after-lesson-comments.

    I think that if I were in the same room week after week it would be easier, but I’m beginning to get a bit cynical and sometimes just want to say, “You’re IT!” and let them teach themselves. I guess I’m mostly whining because I crave a classroom that Joe describes. I’d like to be in the audience of a teacher who’s own heart is hungry for the scriptures and lives to discuss and share the Word. It’s a live testimony I’m looking for…one that can’t sit still. After 41 years of church instruction, including professional full-time seminary instructors and BYU professors of religion touted to be the best on the planet, I have only experienced two teachers with this kind of devotion to the subject and their students: Todd Parker (a seminary teacher I had in 1981 & now at BYU) & Norm Gardner (past ‘Vegas CES & currently UA@Tuscon Institute Director). My sphere is small, I admit, but something needs to happen in those teacher development classes that actually develops teachers.

  18. Laura D. said

    nhilton, It sounds like you’re a great teacher operating under some pretty difficult circumstances. I think most people here agree that teaching gospel doctrine well at least requires reading and talking about the scriptures and asking thought-provoking questins. And I think most of us would probably agree that we have seen all too little of this in our years of church instruction experience.

    But I had an experience some years ago that has made me much more tolerant and forgiving of the admittedly poor teaching techniques we see so often on Sunday. One of our gospel doctrine teachers was a very young, 20+, woman, who was obviously uncomfortable teaching. We were studying the Book the Mormon and her knowledge of the scriptures and the material was clearly confined to the lesson manual. I don’t think she ever asked a non-Sunday School question and they were so easy that no one wanted to answer them. So each lesson was filled with awkward silences, followed by her answering her own easy questions. She had no real teaching skills and, frankly, each lesson with her was painful. I remember feeling very critical and wondering what the bishopric was thinking when they called her. Then one Sunday, she sincerely (and quite sweetly) confided how difficult this calling was for her and how she had been so terrified when called. But she had accepted it because she had been praying for a stronger testimony of the Book of Mormon and felt like the calling was an answer to that prayer. She then bore her since-strengthened testimony of the Book of Mormon. Needless to say, I felt heartily ashamed of my critical thoughts.

    That experience has made me think that many teachers in the Church are called, not because they know how to teach, but for some other, sometimes mystifying reason. It may be for their growth and benefit or it may be for the growth and benefit of others or both. But irrespective of the reason, it seems to me that we promise to support these brothers and sisters when they’re called. I think our baptismal and temple covenants include promises to be supportive of them.

    The reality is, alot of people don’t know how to teach or they are thorougly frightened or uncomfortable to stand in front of others. Many feel inadequate because they think they don’t really understand the scriptures and they don’t know how to go about understanding them and they think everyone else knows more than they do. I’ve taken teacher development classes twice now and I don’t think they are going to change things for many of those people.

    But I think that just makes it all the more important that we as their students bring whatever we can to the classroom to support them and help make their lessons a success by trying to make insightful comments. (I know some teachers make that impossible because they never ask questions or call on anyone). Most teachers are trying to do their best. Sometimes during a particularly painful lesson, I will say a little prayer for the teacher. During the past few years I have made a concerted effort to see what I can glean from a lesson, even from the worst of teachers. Sometimes it will be only an insight that I’ve picked up from some scriptures alluded to, even if it is not well-discussed. This has helped to dissipate the frustration that I have also felt over the poor quality of teaching in the church.

  19. nhilton said

    Alas, I just re-read my post #17 & feel ashamed at my pride. Of course the other teachers are doing the best they can…I guess. Ugh.

  20. A couple of points to pick up here. First of all, though, thanks for your comments.

    Both nhilton and Laura mention “teacher improvement classes,” and that’s not a topic we’ve yet covered on the blog. I’m not sure how widely the word has yet been spread (I’ve talked to a number of people that seem unaware of this), but there was a letter from the First Presidency at the beginning of the year dissolving the teacher improvement program entirely. Teacher improvement is now the responsibility of the several organization leaderships. It would be interesting to start a thread about this and see what comes of it.

    Laura, your comments are well appreciated. I have been in several such classrooms over the years. However, I think that much of this difficulty could be abrogated rather simply: most “unexperienced” teachers are the best ones in the Church if they are willing to scrap the manual (I know “scrapping the manual” is not universally approved, but I’m just trying to talk theoretically here anyway). That is, I think someone who has never read the Book of Mormon before but takes it specifically and it alone as the text for teaching will do far better than someone who has years of Skousen or Millet/McConkie (J.F., that is) under her/his belt. Someone unacquainted with the book will raise genuine questions about the text, recognize themes in the text, etc., that will surprise long-standing members and interest the young, the old, etc. I really think that struggling teachers would do better if they were just given the scriptures and sent to teach. (I know I’m making this too simple, but I think the point stands.)

    nhilton, I have been in that same situation. I taught gospel doctrine in our ward in Provo in an every-other-week situation for a while (we shared that ward with Hugh Nibley: talk about an intimidating calling! to teach him and his family in Sunday School! He was very kind about things, though). I was frustrated just as you are. I talked to the bishopric very frankly about it, and they were very sympathetic. They rearranged the situation so that I could teach every week and maintain some continuity, and they also made some calling adjustments.

    Otherwise, we just have to make do, I suppose. But I know your frustration. Perhaps we could start a thread about “making do” with situations like this?

  21. nhilton said

    Joe, point well taken. 3 yrs ago I asked my bishopric & sunday school president to teach every week & in the same room, at the very least. I was merrily dismissed. I think it came off sounding like I am an egomaniac because…of course, who in their right mind would WANT to teach gospel doctrine every week. In fact on Sunday I was asked to sub for another of the teachers & he wanted to swap days. I told him I’d be happy to sub for him but I’d like to keep the schedule “as is” & not swap but just add his day to mine. I told him I was sure to need a sub in the future & expected it would all balance out in the end. I told him I study for my lessons a bit in advance & so if I’m always swapping here & there I’ll loose my focus. I think it took me about 4 times explaining this to him, as his jaw hung open, until he realized I actually WANTED to teach and I put some thought into the lesson before Sunday morning. Ugh. I’m one of 4 teachers & the only sister. The others are HP (past bishops) & one attorney. I think they’re all perfectly comfortable standing in front of the class. It’s not a case of inexperience or fear.

  22. Laura D. said

    Joe, I agree with your comments about the manual. The key is getting inexperienced teachers to have the confidence to do that.

    Nhilton, after reading who the other teachers are, I get your frustration and I don’t think you’re prideful. I only teach every other week and the other teacher has generally been more than adequate and we teach in the same classroom. Sometimes I would like the continuity of teaching every week, but frankly, it’s almost all I can do to prepare every other week because, like you, I put a lot of time and thought into it. I’ve just learned to let it go and do the best I can on the lessons I teach. I can’t make other people do their jobs. But I’ve found that my over preparation usually spurs the other gospel doctrine teacher to do his best and over prepare as well. But he does attend my class and we talk to the same group. Obviously, your co-teachers aren’t getting that kind of prompting under your circumstances. So, I hope you find a way to make this less frustrating for you.

  23. brianj said

    #13: “That is, I have to use the method and then show that it accomplishes something important for the faith-building purposes of God, and then the class trusts me when I bring up something else similar.” That is very good advice.

    #20, scrapping the manual: I’m glad you clarified, and I agree completely. Oh how much easier it is to lead a discussion that comes from a real, honest, sincere, living, breathing question!

  24. jOHN Smith said

    Whats all this about anyway?

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